I’m going to run down all 30 Major League Baseball Franchises and pick one player as the representative for each. This ambassador, live or dead, is the crown jewel of the organization; the player whose abilities make them stand out above their peers.
Bear in mind, these evaluations are team-based. Meaning it doesn’t matter how the player did in his overall career, we are only looking at their career in the organization.
Also, with minimal exceptions, I can’t evaluate players whose careers were in the dawn of the game to the early 20th century. The game was just too different. So, I will be inclined to pick players from about 1920 on.
Anaheim Angels, est 1961
Mike Trout OF
Trout is likely go down as the best player in the modern era of baseball. He can do it all offensively and shows no signs of slowing down. When it’s all said and done, Trout will be the gold standard for every subsequent Angels hitter.
Others to consider- Jim Fergosi, Chuck Finley
Houston Astros, est 1962
Jeff Bagwell 1B
Bagwell was offense to the max with the ‘stros. Career 149 wRC+ and a remarkable .244 ISO. Not only that, he was one of the best hitters ever in high leverage situations.
Others to consider- Roy Oswalt, Craig Biggio
Oakland Athletics, est 1901
Jimmy Foxx 1B
Foxx gets the nod over Rickey Henderson because he was a better hitter and had more power. Henderson also played for a half-dozen other teams and had a sharp drop-off his last ten years in the league. In six of his 20 seasons, Foxx’s WAR was never less than 4.1.
Others to consider- Henderson, Eddie Plank, Lefty Grove
Toronto Blue Jays, est 1977
Roy Halladay, SP
The late Roy Halladay was a pitching extraordinaire for the Jays. In his 11 seasons with the team, only twice did he have a below average FIP-. In 2002 and 2003, he was absolutely dominating in the American League.
Others to consider- Dave Stieb, Tony Fernandez
Atlanta Braves, est 1871
Hank Aaron OF
I shouldn’t have to explain this one. You can make a middling argument for Eddie Mathews, but you’d still be wrong.
Others to consider- Mathews, Chipper Jones, Warren Spahn
Milwaukee Brewers, est 1969
Robin Yount OF/SS
I really wanted to go with Paul Molitor, who you could claim was the better hitter, but Yount was a terrific defender playing the two toughest positions in baseball.
Others to consider- Molitor, Ryan Braun, Ben Sheets
St. Louis Cardinals, est 1882
Stan Musial 1B/OF
Another I shouldn’t have to explain. Rogers Hornsby was great as well but Stan The Man stands alone in Cardinal Red.
Others to consider- Hornsby, Bob Gibson, Albert Pujols
Chicago Cubs, est 1871
Ron Santo 3B
It’s true that Cap Anson has the highest WAR among all Cubs, but he played in an era where the game is completely unrecognizable to us even as far back as 50 years ago. Santo is the guy. From 1963 to 1969, he was a top five player in baseball.
Others to consider- Anson, Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg
Arizona Diamondbacks, est 1998
Randy Johnson, SP
The DBacks are a young organization and the pool is a bit shallow. Nevertheless, Johnson was an elite pitcher for nearly ten years in MLB and had some of his best seasons in Arizona. Gotta go with him.
Others to consider- Luis Gonzalez, Paul Goldschmidt
Los Angeles Dodgers, est 1884
Duke Snyder OF
This was a bit closer than the other picks thus far. In the 1950’s Snyder was a force at the plate and instrumental to the several National League Championships and World Series wins for the Dodgers. Of qualified hitters (>=500 PA), Snyder is the Dodger leader in HR, wRC+, and Batting Average.
Others to consider- Don Sutton, Pee Wee Reese, Don Drysdale
San Francisco Giants, est 1883
Willie Mays OF
Before the huffing and puffing start, remember this is a measurement of careers with an organization, not overall; so no Barry Bonds. Mays belongs in any discussion for greatest player ever. Not only could he rake but he was one of the best defenders the game has ever seen.
Others to consider- Bonds, Mel Ott, Christy Mathewson
Cleveland Indians, est 1901
Bob Feller SP
Nap Lajoie or Tris Speaker could be slotted in here but, I have to evoke the era edict. Feller was not only the best pitcher in the organization but the most productive player. He pitched nearly 4000 innings and was 100 wins over losses. Feller tended to walk batters more than he should, but he still held a 2-1 K/BB rate.
Others to consider- Lajoie, Speaker, Lou Bordreau
Seattle Mariners, est 1977
Ken Griffey, Jr OF
This is actually a lot closer than you’d think. Griffey’s WAR in Seattle was barely higher than Edgar Martinez. Martinez was a DH, played with the team longer, but Griffey left a stronger legacy.
Others to consider- Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki, Felix Hernandez
Miami Marlins, est 1993
Giancarlo Stanton OF
Sorry, Marlins fans, but there isn’t much to pick from. Stanton is the easy choice.
Others to consider- Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson (yikes)
New York Mets, est 1962
Tom Seaver SP
Seaver’s ERA with the Metropolitans was 2.71, he pitched 3000+ innings, and over 2500 strikeouts. Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry are both Mets legends, but they didn’t have the longevity and type of success with the team that Seaver did.
Others to consider- Gooden, Strawberry, David Wright
Washington Nationals, est 1969
Gary Carter C
You might think NY Mets when you hear Carter’s name. However, he had by far his best years with the team once known as the Montreal Expos.
Others to consider- Tim Raines, Steve Rogers
Baltimore Orioles, est 1901
Cal Ripken, Jr SS
Another that needs no explanation (further reading). You could make a case for Brooks Robinson but it wouldn’t be a very good one.
Others to consider- Robinson, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer
San Diego Padres, est 1969
Tony Gwynn OF
Might as well just gloss over this one. It’s not even debatable. Also, best Jheri curl ever.
Others to consider- Jake Peavy, Dave Winfield
Philadelphia Phillies, est 1883
Mike Schmidt 3B
Maybe Steve Carlton. Maybe. Can’t go wrong with Schmidt.
Others to consider- Carlton, Robin Roberts, Pete Alexander
Pittsburgh Pirates, est 1882
Roberto Clemente OF
3000 hits, 1416 runs scored, 240 home runs (third in organization). Again, no Bonds? Clemente’s WAR was double that of Bonds.
Others to consider- Arky Vaughn, Willie Stargell
Texas Rangers, est 1962
Ivan Rodriguez C
I’m on the fence about Rafael Palmeiro; Rodriguez could be thought of the same way. If there was a better defensive catcher in his time, I’ve never heard of him. He wasn’t too shabby at the plate, either.
Others to consider- Palmeiro, Adrian Beltre, Buddy Bell
Tampa Bay Rays, est 1998
Evan Longoria 3B
I mean, Carl Crawford was great with the Rays but not to the extent Longoria was. He’ll be missed in the sunshine state.
Others to consider- Crawford, Ben Zobrist, David Price
Boston Red Sox, est 1901
Ted Williams OF
When you have whom is widely considered the best hitter the game has ever seen, it’s not hard to pick.
Others to consider- Carl Yastrzemski, Roger Clemens
Cincinnati Reds, est 1882
Johnny Bench C
I love Pete Rose, I really do. He belongs in the Hall. He also played maybe five years longer than he should have. Bench is the benchmark of modern catching, no pun intended. He was one of the first prominent hitting catchers who was also a wiz behind the plate. When I think of the Reds, I think Bench.
Others to consider- Rose, Barry Larkin, Frank Robinson
Colorado Rockies, est 1993
Todd Helton 1B
The ToddFather it is. When you’re the only player in your organization that is a serious contender for the Hall of Fame, the face of the franchise is you. No disrespect to Larry Walker, Helton was just better.
Others to consider- Walker, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez
Kansas City Royals, est 1969
George Brett 3B
Brett is thought of as one of the greatest third basemen ever. Not only that, his WAR is double, or better, of any other Royal.
Others to consider- Kevin Appier, Mark Gubizca
Detroit Tigers, est 1901
Al Kaline OF
Kaline is tops in hits, home runs, and second in runs scored. He played with the team much longer than any other player. You hardly ever hear his named mentioned in top player discussions, let alone in the Tigers organization. Its silly considering he produced ten more wins than any other player who entered the Tiger clubhouse.
Also to consider- Charlie Gehringer, Lou Whitaker
Minnesota Twins, est 1901
Harmon Killebrew 1B/3B
Rod Carew was a better hitter but he didn’t have Killebrew’s game-changing power (.256 ISO). Second only to Jim Thome in runs created, Killebrew had the offensive potency to carry a team.
Others to consider- Carew, Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat
Chicago White Sox, est 1901
Frank Thomas 1B
Luke Appling is the longest-tenured White Sox and also leads the organization in WAR. Thomas was a much bigger threat and force at the plate. He was about 50 HR away from 500 while in ChiTown, was third best in wRC+, and had the highest OBP of any White Sox player with at least 1000 plate appearances. Oh and he was great in high-leverage; 62.79 WPA/LI (next highest has a 18.93).
Others to consider- Appling, Nellie Fox, Ted Lyons
New York Yankees, est 1901
Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, Yogi Berra…..
Each of those players could replace just about anyone on this list had they played for other teams. It doesn’t matter who you or I pick for this team, there is always going to be a reason why we shouldn’t. The most storied, successful, and hated franchise in any sport is too stacked to have one ambassador.
Others to consider- too many…