Michael Young and 15 MLB Stars Who Most Deserve Their First Ring
Baseball writers and commentators have spent so much time breathlessly recounting the great story of Josh Hamilton's comeback and speculating on what it would mean for him to win a World Series, that they have overlooked the anchor of the Rangers, Michael Young.
Michael Young has represented the Rangers on seven All-Star teams, batted .304 lifetime with 2061 hits, and offered Texas great flexibility on defense by ably playing at all three bases and shortstop, as well as designated hitter. Young is also known to be a true leader and positive representative of the Texas Rangers franchise. Young was recognized for this when he was given the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award in 2008.
Young had to wait for nine full seasons before his first postseason appearance in 2010. Now he stands two victories away from his first World Series title, a win that would bolster his attempt to be one of the greatest Rangers in team history.
As deserving as Michael Young is of a World Series ring, there are many other stars who have played great baseball for years without winning a World Series ring. Here we take a look at 15 stars, in addition to Michael Young, who most deserve to win a World Series ring.
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With his "damn the torpedoes" approach to pitch selection and a cannon for a right arm, Vladimir Guerrero has long been perhaps the most exciting player in the game. From the time he left the baseball backwoods of Montreal to sign with the Angels, he has been a fan favorite and the cause of more "did he really just do that" moments than just about anyone in the game. His talents, while winning him personal success, have not translated into postseason success for his teams.
With the exception of a terrible performance in the 2010 World Series for the Rangers, Guerrero has been a decent postseason player. Excluding 2010, he has batted .286 in five postseason appearances, and though his power was lacking, he was a key contributor to the Angels postseason hopes.
Guerrero will be 37 years old at the start of next season, and despite putting up solid numbers since leaving the Angels—he batted .290 with 13 home runs—he has entered the point in his career where he is likely to be a vagabond, moving from team to team.
Vlad will almost certainly not lead a team to a World Series the way he led the Angels, but if he can attract the talents of a contender, he could contribute significantly to a World Series run.
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Since his 1999 rookie season in which he went 11-2, Hudson has never had a losing record. He is currently third amongst active pitchers in career wins, and though he has never won a Cy Young Award, he has finished in the top five in voting on three occasions.
Hudson looked like his career might be coming to a close when he missed most of the 2009 surgery to recover from Tommy John surgery, but he won the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2010, and has gone 35-20 since his return. He no longer throws the fastball with as much heat as he used to, but excels due to his ability to mix a variety of speeds with pinpoint location.
Six times Tim Hudson has pitched in the postseason, and six times his team has been eliminated in the first round. Hudson is under contract with the Braves for at least another season—two if the club picks up their option—and will hope to help the club bounce back from their late 2011 collapse that caused them to miss the postseason for the fifth time in six years.
Hudson is still only 36 years old, and should have more opportunities to contend for his first ring.
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Todd Helton's career accomplishments have been viewed with suspicion by fans for his entire career as a result of playing in the dry, thin air of Coors Field. Six times in his career, Helton has batted over .300 without being named to the National League All-Star team.
Yet, despite the advantage of playing in Coors Field, Helton's career accomplishments have still been remarkable. He is a lifetime .323 hitter with a remarkable .421 career on-base percentage, 347 home runs, and 554 doubles. He has collected three Gold Glove Awards, won a batting title with a .372 average in 2000, finished as the runner up for the batting title three additional times, and is one of three players in MLB history to rack up over one hundred extra base hits in more than one season.
When Helton retires, he will get serious consideration for induction into the Hall of Fame. His detractors will claim that he is little more than a next generation Dante Bichette, a player fortunate to play the prime of his career in Denver. His supporters will point to Helton's .391 on-base percentage, .291 batting average, 258 doubles, and 135 home runs that he earned while playing on the road.
Helton led the Rockies to a surprise National League pennant in 2007, but the Rockies were swept by the Red Sox. The Rockies earned a spot in the playoffs again in 2009, but lost to the Phillies in the NLDS. Colorado has struggled since 2009, their win total decreasing by nine games in 2010 and 10 games in 2009.
Helton is 38 years old, and though he's not quite the dominant force he used to be, he hit .302 this season while hitting 14 home runs. He still has some gas in his tank, but Colorado needs a great deal of improvement in order to give Helton another shot at his first ring.
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It's hard to believe that Magglio Ordonez has been in the big leagues for 15 seasons, but the 37-year-old is one of the senior statesmen of the game. Ordonez has been selected to six All-Star teams, collected 2156 hits, and has a lifetime batting average of .309.
Ordonez's success has not extended to the postseason. He is a lifetime .227 hitter in his three postseason runs. He reached the World Series in 2006 with the Tigers, where he batted an anemic .105, collecting only two singles in 19 at bats.
Ordonez played well in 2011's ALDS, batting .455 against the Yankees, but was injured in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Rangers.
Ordonez is coming off the worst season of his career, which will not help him as he enters free agency. Ordonez still has a good amount of baseball to be played in his tank, and he will hope to catch on with a contender to play either his native right field or at designated hitter.
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There are many reasons to root for Jim Thome to win his first World Series. He's hit 604 home runs, been selected to five All-Star teams, and participated in nine postseason runs. These are all great accomplishments, yet the best reason to root for Thome is that he is one of the nicest guys in baseball. He's regularly cited to be one of the best teammates and all-around good guys in the game.
Thome's tried going into the postseason with four different teams, and has twice been to the World Series. Yet, his teams have never been able to get over the final hump and deliver him a ring. Thome, 41 years old, is running out of time, and returning to the sub-.500 Indians did not help his case.
If Jim Thome ever manages to earn a ring, expect a lot of players around the league to tip their hats to him.
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Bobby Abreu was traded from the Phillies a season and a half before they won the 2008 World Series, and left the Yankees for free agency a year before they won the 2009 World Series. Abreu's unluckiness in his timing has been unfortunate, as he has been one of the most consistent performers over the past decade and a half.
Abreu has 554 career doubles, 393 stolen bases, 2384 hits, and a lifetime .397 on-base percentage. His production has fallen dramatically over the past few seasons, and he will likely have to accept a more limited role in his future, but he could still be beneficial to postseason contenders.
Abreu has seemed quite content playing in Anaheim, but could be looking for his fifth team in the near future. Then again, based on his track record, the Angels will win a World Series soon after he leaves.
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Francisco Cordero has climbed up the all-time saves list to #13, earning 327 saves in his 13-year career. Cordero did not earn his first trip to the postseason until 2010, though he didn't have a chance to pitch in the NLDS as the Reds were swept by the Phillies.
The Reds have an option on Cordero for the 2012 season, and after another dominant season in 2011, they are likely to bring him back for their 2012 campaign. The Reds will have to do a great deal of rebuilding if Joey Votto leaves, but the team still has quite a bit of young talent and promise for the future. Cordero might have to stick around for awhile if he wants a shot at winning a ring as a Red, but his arm appears to have plenty of fastballs left in it.
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Carlos Beltran had to be hopeful when he left the hapless Kansas City Royals after being traded to the Houston Astros. He couldn't expect, however, that he would go on to have one of the best postseasons in history, batting .435 with eight home runs, tied for the most ever in a postseason; had the Astros advanced to the World Series, he would have had an excellent shot at having the record to himself.
Beltran only reached the postseason once more in six and a half seasons with the New York Mets, though he racked up five All-Star selections and three Gold Gloves while playing in Queens.
Beltran was sent to the Giants midway through the 2011 season in order to add to the Giants weak offense. The Giants will likely spend the 2011 off-season trying to bolster their offense, and this will likely mean attempting to sign Beltran at the right price. If the Giants can retain Beltran and find another bat to help him produce runs, they have an excellent chance to give Beltran his first postseason run since 2006.
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In five postseasons during his career in Minnesota and Anaheim, Torii Hunter has batted .305 with a .858 OPS, but has not yet managed to play in a World Series. Hunter has been one of the best defensive players in the game in the past decade, winning nine consecutive Gold Glove awards, while providing speed on the base paths and a solid bat in the lineup.
Hunter has another year of his massive contract in Anaheim, and will almost certainly have to take a paycut after that if he wants to stay in Southern California beyond 2012. Though he is not quite the force in centerfield that he used to be, he is still a valuable asset for the Angels, and would be a critical factor in a playoff run.
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Joe Mauer is only 28 years old, the youngest player on this list. While Mauer hasn't suffered as much as the others in search of his first ring—he's only appeared in three—Mauer is the kind of player who most deserves to win a ring. In an era where small market teams often serve as little more than farm systems to the wealthy teams who lure their best young players with big contracts, Mauer represents what we hope for in our superstars.
Before the 2010 season, Mauer accepted an eight-year, $184 million contract. Though the long-term security and huge payday that came with the contract was no doubt the main motivating factor in Mauer signing the contract, a significant motivating factor was his desire to stay in the Twin Cities, his hometown.
Eight seasons into his career, Mauer already has won three batting titles, an MVP award, and a lifetime batting average of .323. The Twins have made three postseason runs during Mauer's career, but the team has struggled mightily and failed to win a single postseason game.
Mauer has plenty of time left to capture his first ring, a ring that would validate his decision to stay in Minnesota rather than chase riches and a perhaps greater chance at a ring in a bigger market.
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Ichiro's resume is second to none. In his first ten seasons, he was selected to ten All-Star teams, won ten Gold Glove Awards, collected both the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in his first season, and set the single-season hits record. Yet the one accomplishment that has eluded him is postseason success. The Mariners advanced to the postseason in his rookie season, but lost to the Yankees in the ALCS. Ichiro batted .421 in the 2001 season, but it was not enough to lead the Mariners to the pennant.
Despite Ichiro's monstrous production, the Mariners have not returned to the postseason since 2001. The Mariners have become a model of futility, and despite predictions before each season that they have improved, they continue to disappoint.
Ichiro, 38 years old, had by far the worst season of his career in 2011, batting .272, the first time in his career he has fallen below .300. Yet he's still been an omnipresent force for the M's, making a remarkable 721 plate appearances.
The Mariners have a long way to go in rebuilding if they want to help Ichiro earn his first title. Ichiro had thought about exploring free agency before his most recent contract extension due to the Mariners lack of success, an idea he will surely weigh again when his contract is up after the 2012 season. He's a beloved figure in Seattle, but it doesn't seem like he has a chance of winning the World Series anytime soon if he continues to play for the Mariners.
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Cliff Lee pitched seven seasons in Cleveland without a single postseason appearance. In the three seasons since leaving Cleveland in a trade to Philadelphia, Lee has appeared in the postseason each year, twice for Philadelphia and once for Texas.
Lee is 7-3 in the postseason with a 2.52 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 82.0 innings. He was dominant in the 2009 World Series, but struggled in the 2010 World Series. He sought to redeem his 2010 performance this year, but pitched poorly in his single postseason start.
Though the Phillies are an aging team and will likely take a look at many of their contracts, their pitching staff is one of the best ever assembled, and they figure to give Lee another chance in the near future to win his first ring.
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Cliff Lee's rotation mate, Roy Halladay, has struggled just as hard to win his first ring. Unlike Lee, Halladay has yet to win his first pennant. His first postseason appearance was in 2010 after pitching 12 seasons in Toronto, where he was forced to endure the Red Sox and the Yankees taking the American League East playoff spot year after year.
Halladay is perhaps the game's best pitcher, and is a throwback to the great pitchers of yesterday who went deep into games and could work out of jams without giving up the ball to the bullpen. Despite the Phillies regularly being on the receiving end of animosity from fans of other teams, Halladay is one of the most liked and respected pitchers in the game.
Halladay is under contract to Philadelphia for a few more seasons, and he will have plenty of chances to win his first pennant and World Series.
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Andruw Jones was promoted to the Braves Major League squad in 1996 when he was just 19 years old. Sadly, this was a year too late for Jones to collect a ring with the 1995 World Series winning Atlanta Braves. Though Jones excelled in the 1996 World Series, batting .400 with two home runs, the Braves lost to the Yankees.
Jones played for the Braves in the 1999 World Series as well, and has played in nine additional postseasons, but Jones still hasn't managed to win a World Series title.
Jones is most known for his outstanding defensive play at center field; he won ten consecutive Gold Glove Awards. His offensive output, however, hasn't been as consistent. He's a lifetime .256 hitter, but he's amassed 420 home runs, including a career high 51 in 2005.
After spending the first twelve years of his career in Atlanta, Jones has become a rolling stone lately, playing for four teams in four seasons since leaving the Braves. It is hard to know whether Jones will be able to sign on with a World Series contender next year, but 2011 was his best season since at least 2007, and Jones still offers teams a variety of talents. He definitely won't manage to be the leader of any World Series winning team, but he still has a chance to collect a ring as a role player.
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When it comes to Lance Berkman, there's something about October. In his last appearance in the World Series in 2005 against the Chicago White Sox, he batted .385 with a 1.065 OPS in the series. In this year's series, he has so far batted .417 with a .878 OPS.
Berkman is up for free agency next year, and though there is a good chance the Cardinals will re-sign him, there is a great deal of uncertainty for the organization as Pujols considers leaving in free agency. 2011 might be the last chance Berkman has to win a World Series. Whether Berkman or Michael Young most deserves the World Series ring is up for debate, but in a few days, one of the two will graduate from this list.