MLB 9s: Chicago White Sox—Albert Belle, Eddie Collins in Chi-Town Lineup
Who was more valuable to the White Sox: Robin Ventura or Joe Crede?
Which outfielder would you rather have in your all-time Sox lineup: Jermaine Dye or Shoeless Joe Jackson?
Is Luis Aparicio the greatest shortstop the Windy City has ever known?
More importantly, which Chicago White Sox player had the greatest ever offensive season at his position?
Major League Baseball has been asking fans this question in an effort to choose each team's best collection of stars. They are calling it MLB 9s.
Here I separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream White Sox lineup. Have your say by commenting below, or by voting on the MLB site here.
My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:
Catcher: Carlton Fisk (1983)
Fisk hit 26 home runs, drove in 86 batters, and scored 85 runs during the ’83 season.
His 26 home runs are the second most all-time by a White Sox backstop (behind his own record of 37 set two years later), while his RBI tally is also good enough for second place within the franchise.
He stole nine bases and batted .289, which is what makes his ’83 season stand out from the crowd. It is the fourth best by any White Sox’s catcher in history, and it was second all-time, until AJ Pierzynski broke it first in 2006 and then again in 2009.
Fisk, aged 35, finished third in the AL MVP voting, losing out to the Baltimore duo of Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray.
Highlight Game: July 12, 1983 vs Cleveland. In his only multi-homer game of the ’83 season, Fisk went deep twice against the Indians in an 8-0 shutout.
Competition: I think Sherm Lollar had the second best offensive season by a White Sox’s catcher. In 1959 he hit 22 home runs, recorded 84 RBI, and batted .265. If his average was even slightly higher, I would probably have given him the nod over Fisk just because he was playing in an era when the home run wasn’t as prevalent.
Pierzynski’s 2006 season—which featured 16 home runs, 65 runs, and 64 RBI was also impressive for a catcher.
First Base: Frank Thomas (1993)
The ‘Big Hurt’ won his first of back-to-back MVP awards in 1993, powering 41 home runs and 128 RBI.
While the then 25-year-old didn’t lead the American League in any single category, his .607 slugging percentage ranked third, his .426 OBP ranked fourth, and his 41 jacks were good enough for a spot in the top three.
Thomas also hit 36 doubles and walked 112 times, striking out just 54 times—rare for a hitter with that much power.
Frank Thomas’ following season certainly would have been even better, had the season not been cut short with a players’ strike with Thomas in the running for the Triple Crown.
Highlight Game: July 27, 1993 vs Cleveland. Thomas hit two home runs and drove in five batters in a 4-for-4 showing at home to the Indians.
Competition: Dick Allen is a close second for the greatest single offensive season. He hit 37 homers and batted .308 during the 1972 season, in which he had 119 RBI, 90 runs, and 19 steals.
Second Base: Eddie Collins (1923)
Batting .360 and stealing 48 bases, Collins is my pick at second base. Bettered in the MVP race by only Babe Ruth, Collins led the league in steals for the third time in his career, scoring 89 times and batting in 67.
Collins also led the White Sox in walks with 84, helping him accumulate a .909 on-base plus slugging percentage. His 150 singles ranked third in the AL.
Highlight Game: September 13, 1923 @ New York Yankees. In the fourth inning of a game in the Bronx, Collins hit the eighteenth inside-the-park home run of his career. Not known for his power, it was just the 34th home run he had ever hit.
Competition: Ray Durham had quite the year in 2000, combining speed with power in helping the White Sox to their first AL Central crown since 1994.
Durham hit 17 home runs and stole 25 bases, scoring 121 times to fall just five behind the all-time White Sox record by a middle-infielder (set by Durham himself in 1998).
Third Base: Robin Ventura (1996)
By third baseman’s standards, Ventura had a dandy in his eighth year with the club.
Ventura hit a career-high 34 home runs and he drove in 105 men—the most he would bring in during his tenure on the south side of Chicago.
105 still remains the high mark in the White Sox franchise for a third baseman, while his 34 jacks eclipsed the 33 hit twice by Bill Melton in 1970 and 1971.
Ventura’s 168 places him seventh on the all-time single-season list by third baseman and 21st by an White Sox’s corner infielder.
Highlight Game: August 9, 1996 vs Baltimore. Ventura hit a walk-off home run to deep right center field off Randy Myers, which broke a tenth-inning 3-3 deadlock and sent the Sox fans’ home happy.
Competition: With the exception of Don Burford who stole 51 bases in 1966, Ventura’s competition comes from the power bats of the last four decades. Most of them fit the same profile too: a .265-to-.285 average, 25 or more home runs, 70-plus RBI, 80 runs.
Of those, Joe Crede put up 30-94-76 in 2006 and Al Smith posted 28-93-88 in 1961.
Shortstop: Luis Appling (1936)
All Star and Hall of Fame inductee Luis Appling led the league with a .388 batting average in 1936 on his way to second place in the MVP race with Lou Gehrig.
His 128 runs batted in set a career high and were good enough to rank sixth in the AL that year. Appling also set new highs in runs (111), hits (204), and home runs (six).
Highlight Game: While no one individual game stands out from the records that I have available, I can tell you that four of his six home runs hit in 1936 came during a double-header, and that he never hit a grand slam in his career.
Competition: Three main choices dominated the shortlist here. Stolen base king Luis Aparicio’s ’59 season where he stole 56 bases and scored 98 runs, Jose Valentin’s production across the board in 2000 with a .273 average, 25 home runs, 92 RBI, 107 runs, and 19 steals, or Appling’s high average and nasty RBI totals.
Outfield: Albert Belle (1998)
Belle exploded for a career year in ’98, justifying the eight-figure paycheck he received upon moving from Cleveland at the start of the previous year.
Belle hit 49 home runs and drove in 152, recording his first 200-hits season and batting an above-average .328. His 48 doubles ranked second in the American league, while his 399 total bases topped the standings for the third time in five years.
His home run and RBI totals were beaten only by Ken Griffey Jr and Juan Gonzalez respectively, while he lost out on a batting title to Bernie Williams of the New York Yankees by just 11 points.
Highlight Game: July 17, 1998 vs Cleveland. Belle hit the 300th home run of his career in the sixth inning against the Indians. Trailing 2-1, Belle tied things up with a solo blast to deep left field—his sixth home run in the past five games.
Magglio Ordonez (2002)
Ordonez had his best year as a Chicago White Sox outfielder in 2002 when he hit 38 jacks and batted in 135.
In 153 games in right field, Ordonez batted .320 with 47 doubles and 116 runs, racking up a .597 slugging percentage, and a silver Slugger award.
Ordonez ranked inside the AL top five in total bases, doubles, RBI, and extra base hits, as well as inside the top ten in a host of other statistical categories such as hits, homers, and runs scored.
Highlight Game: July 2, 2002 vs Detroit. In one of five multi-homer games of the 2002 season for Ordonez, the outfielder hit a solo shot in the first inning, followed by a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning, to put the game to bed. Ordonez officially finished with a 2-for-3 game, five RBI, and two walks.
Joe Jackson (1920)
Shoeless Joe Jackson makes an appearance in my rankings, edging out Jermaine Dye for the final spot in my White Sox all-time outfield, based solely on a single offensive season.
In 1920 Jackson batted .382 with 115 runs batted in, scoring 105 runs himself, hitting 12 home runs, and stealing nine bases.
In his final season in Major League Baseball—his sixth with the White Sox—Jackson recorded 42 doubles, 20 triples, 218 hits, and 56 walks.
His batting average ranked third in the AL, while his .444 on base percentage was fourth. He also ranked third in the league in doubles, hits, and total bases, and fifth in home runs. Remember, 19 home runs would have put you second on the AL home run list in 1920. Babe Ruth’s 54 was just ridiculous. A true one-of-a-kind.
Highlight Game: August 20, 1920 @ Philadelphia Athletics. For a man who hit few home runs, he sure hit them in bunches. After hitting three of his 12 home runs in the space of five days in July, Jackson then went deep in each half of a day-night double-header less than a month later.
Competition: The one big name who I didn’t really want to leave off this list was Jermaine Dye. His 2006 season was awesome, and while he may have only finished fifth in the AL MVP voting, I would argue that he was better than Justin Morneau who eventually edged out Derek Jeter for the award.
Dye hit 44 home runs and batted in 120, winning a Silver Slugger trophy and a trip to the All-Star Game. His .622 slugging percentage and 335 total bases were both good enough for third in the AL, but not enough for him to sneak his way into my Chicago White Sox outfield.
Designated Hitter: Jim Thome (2006)
Jim Thome’s power in 2006 was as fierce as Jermaine Dye’s, but unfortunately for Dye, Thome has a lot less competition at the DH spot.
Thome put up numbers of 42-109-108 on his way to a .288 batting average and, while he was no longer good enough to play at first base as he had done with the Phillies and Indians, the White Sox were more than happy to have Thome on their bench to swing away four times each day.
Highlight Game: July 6, 2006 vs Baltimore. Thome only hit one grand slam in the whole of the 2006 season—a shot off of Russ Ortiz to give the Sox a 5-3 lead. Two innings later, Thome tagged Ortiz again, launching a two-run shot to pad Chicago’s lead to four. Thome finished with a season-high six RBI.
Competition: Harold Baines brings the most competition to Thome, hitting 22 home runs with 95 RBI in 1996. Baines’ .311 average gives him a narrow edge over Thome in that respect, but otherwise Thome’s numbers are much stronger across the board.
Julio Franco’s .319-20-98-72 line of 1994 is joint second along with Baines. There is really nothing to separate them, but that doesn’t really matter when Thome is so far ahead.
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