How does one pick the single best Major League Baseball player at each position, of all-time? It is by no means a simple task. So many legends have graced the game with their incredible skills and equally impressive statistics.
But with the 2011 All-Star Game right around the corner, why not take a shot at naming each league's all-time All-Stars?
This list will be built primarily based on stats, but other factors will be involved. Such as, what the players meant to their teams and the game itself. This is in no way meant to be a set-in-stone list, and I encourage disputes and disagreements.
Who are your all-time All-Stars? Here are mine...
The starting pitcher position is certainly the most difficult on this list. There are about a dozen names that could have made it. But of all of them, Nolan Ryan stands out the most to me.
Ryan pitched for an astounding 27 seasons, and is the all-time leader in strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (seven). The eight-time All-Star never won a Cy Young Award. But he led his league in strikeouts 11 times. He won a World Series championship with the New York Mets in 1969.
The "Ryan Express" was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, and is now the CEO and President of the Texas Rangers, the team which he spent the last five seasons of his career with.
Other considerations include: Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Sandy Koufax, Roger Clemens, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Warren Spahn, and Phil Niekro
One of the game's greatest backstops ever, Yogi Berra was a 15-time All-Star. He spent 19 seasons in the big leagues, all in New York (18 with the Yankees, one with the Mets). He amassed 358 home runs and a .285 batting average during his legendary career.
But not only was Berra a terrific player, but he was also a very successful manager. He was a player and manager for the Yankees in 1964, his final season in the Bronx. He then managed the Mets from '72-'75, where he won 292 games. He took the team to the World Series in 1973.
He went on to manage the Yankees for another two seasons before calling it a career. Overall as a manager, Berra had a 484-444 record.
Berra and his "Yogi-isms" were inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1972. He won 10 World Series championships as a player, and was a three-time MVP.
Other considerations include: Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk
According to baseballreference.com, Lou Gehrig has been voted the third best hitter of all-time. And why not?
The "Iron Horse" played 17 seasons for the New York Yankees, and collected 493 home runs and 1,995 RBI over his career. He also held the record for most consecutive games played, until Cal Ripken Jr. snapped that in 1995.
The two-time MVP won six World Series championships with the Yankees, and was an All-Star each year from the first All-Star Game in 1933 until Gehrig's final season in 1939. His lifetime .340 batting average is tied for 16th all-time.
Other considerations include: Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton, Rafael Palmeiro, Willie McCovey, Jim Thome, Eddie Murray, Harmon Killebrew, Albert Pujols, Hank Greenberg, Jimmie Foxx.
Another legend, another icon. Rogers Hornsby is certainly one of the all-time greats to have played the game of baseball.
Hornsby played for 23 seasons as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Browns. The two-time MVP owns a lifetime .358 batting average, which is second all time.
He won the National League Triple Crown twice in his career, one of just two players ever to win it twice (Ted Williams). He was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1942.
Other considerations include: Rod Carew, Craig Biggio, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, and Joe Morgan
Michael Jack Schmidt is enshrined in Cooperstown, as well as outside Citizens' Bank Park in Philadelphia
What a career Mike Schmidt had, huh? The lifelong Philadelphia Phillie was a master at the plate, and at the hot corner on the field.
Schmidt, selected by the Phils in the second round of the 1971 draft, played all of his 18 big league seasons in the City of Brotherly Love. And in those 18 seasons, Schmidt put together on heck of a resume.
His 548 career home runs currently rank 15th all-time. He was a three-time MVP, and the 1980 World Series MVP. Schmidt was a 12-time All-Star, and twice hit 40 or more home runs in a season.
He was slick with the glove also. The 1995 Hall of Fame inductee led the National League in fielding percentage in 1986, and was a 10-time Gold Glove winner.
Other considerations include: Alex Rodriguez, Brooks Robinson, Chipper Jones, Eddie Matthews, George Brett, and Paul Molitor
Derek Jeter became the 28th member of the 3,000-hit club on Saturday
Have there been shortstops with flashier numbers than Derek Jeter? Quite possibly. But on the day in which Jeter became the latest member of the 3,000-hit club, why not make him our all-time All-Star shortstop?
In the third inning of Saturday's matinee against the Tampa Bay Rays, Jeter smoked a 3-2 slider from LHP David Price over the left field wall at New Yankee Stadium for a game-tying, solo home run. And after his 3,000th career hit, Jeter became the 28th member of the exclusive club.
But even more impressive, he is the first Yankee ever to reach that milestone. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle—none of them recorded their 3,000th hit in pinstripes. Jeter also became just the second player (Wade Boggs) to hit a home run for his 3,000th career hit.
The Yankees captain was recently voted in to start the 2011 All-Star Game, but has since withdrawn from the contest. But he'd definitely be part of our All-Time All-Star team.
Other considerations include: Cal Ripken Jr., Robin Yount, Honus Wagner, Luis Aparicio, Ozzie Smith
August 7, 2007...baseball has a new home run king.
Say what you will about him, the record books show that Barry Lamar Bonds is the all-time home run leader. That alone should give him a place on this team.
Bonds finished his magnificent, and tumultuous, career with 762 home runs over 22 big league seasons. But his most famous long ball came against Mike Bacsik of the Washington Nationals, on August 7, 2007. On that night, he hit his 756th home run, surpassing the great Henry Aaron for first all-time.
Aside from that, Bonds was a 14-time All-Star, six-time MVP, and eight-time Gold Glover. Amazingly, despite the home run record, Bonds only led the league in home runs two different seasons, including his single-season record of 73 in 2001.
Bonds also stole more than 500 bases in his career, making him the only member of the 500-home run and 500-stolen base club. He's also the all-time leader in walks, with 2,558.
He also ranks all-time in: runs scored (third, 2,227); total bases (fourth, 5,976); RBI (fourth, 1,996); and extra base hits (second, 1,440).
Other considerations include: Ted Williams, Manny Ramirez, Ralph Kiner, Carl Yastrzemski, Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Stan Musial, and Pete Rose
The "Say Hay" Kid - arguably the greatest athlete to play the sport.
In my mind, there hasn't been a better athlete to play this game than Willie Mays. He could literally do it all.
He hit (660 career home runs; .302 batting average). He ran (338 stolen bases). He caught (the infamous back-to-home plate catch in the 1954 World Series). Mays was the ultimate five-tool player.
Overall, Mays was a two-time MVP, a 20-time All-Star, the 1954 Rookie of the Year in the National League, and a 12-time Gold Glover. He is a Giants legend, and among the best the game has ever seen.
Other considerations include: Ty Cobb, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Duke Snider
Tony Gwynn was one of the classiest men to ever play the game of baseball.
"Mr. Padre" Tony Gwynn was an incredible baseball player. But his legend goes beyond the white lines. He has become an ambassador for the game, and his attitude and personality remains a prototype for all future generations of the game to follow.
On the field, Gwynn put together a very impressive Hall-of-Fame career. He currently sits in 18th on the all-time hits list with 3,141. He was a 15-time All-Star and a five-time Gold Glove winner.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Gwynn's resume is his 319 career stolen bases. Rather big in stature, Gwynn was a terror on the base paths, including his 56 stolen bases in 1987.
Finally his .393 batting average in 1994 still stands as the highest single-season average since 1930.
He was enshrined in Cooperstown along with fellow great Cal Ripken Jr. in 2007.
Other considerations include: Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Larry Walker, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Babe Ruth, and Paul Waner
With all due respect to the all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera is the most dominating closer the game has ever seen. Teams facing the Yankees pretty much have the understanding that they are playing an eight-inning game, because the ninth belongs to Rivera.
After Saturday's victory of the Rays, Rivera has 22 saves, and 581 for his career (20 behind Hoffman). But Mo's specialty comes in the postseason.
Rivera has appeared in 94 playoff games, and has an astonishing lifetime ERA of 0.71. In other words, River has allowed just 11 earned runs in just under 140 postseason IP.
He appears to be defying nature, as he seemingly gets better each year, now 41 years old. We could be looking at the next all-time saves leader.
Other considerations include: Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, Billy Wagner, Troy Percival, Lee Smith, and Rollie Fingers
For the better part of the 1990s, there may not have been a more feared hitter in the American League than Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt was a powerhouse for the Chicago White Sox.
He spent 16 of his 19 Major League seasons with the South Siders, and was the AL MVP in '93 and '94. Overall, Thomas smacked 521 career home runs and was a five-time All-Star.
Other considerations include: David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez, and Jason Giambi