MLB History: Greatest Players to Wear Jersey Numbers 1-57, and Beyond

Jason Lempert@MetsPride84Correspondent IMarch 8, 2012

MLB History: Greatest Players to Wear Jersey Numbers 1-57, and Beyond

0 of 60

    For some, jersey numbers are just that—numbers. No special meaning, no significance. Just a number.

    But for certain players, that number on their back holds true meaning. For instance, Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki wears No. 2 to emulate Derek Jeter. Former Mets outfielder Benny Agbayani wore No. 50 to represent his home state of Hawaii, the 50th state to join the Union.

    The following is a list of the greatest players (in my opinion) to wear each jersey number, from 1-57 (with a few extras just for fun). I chose players based on their individual statistics, postseason performances (if applicable), league awards and accolades and overall impact on the player's team and the sport as a whole. All players listed have either retired or are active and have played at least 10 seasons.

    Certain players who wore many jersey numbers were excluded. For instance, Vida Blue wore five different numbers during his nine seasons in Oakland. Thus, he is not on this list.

    Included with each pick (where applicable) are: "close calls" for other players that very well could be the best at that particular number, "honorable mentions" representing additional solid players at that number and "the younger crowd," showing the top active players at that number who have played fewer than 10 seasons.

    Some of these choices were no-brainers, and some are indeed argument-starters. Players may have been left out, and some may not actually belong in this list. Thus, I encourage all readers to comment who they feel are the best at each jersey number. I look forward to seeing your picks. Enjoy, and let the debating begin!

1. Ozzie Smith

1 of 60

    Ozzie Smith was a treasure both on and off the field. The Wizard was indeed just that—a wizard at shortstop. He made plays that no one had any business making.

    Smith began his 19-year Hall-of-Fame career in 1978 with the San Diego Padres. In 1982, he was dealt to the Cardinals, where his career took off. He helped the Cards win the World Series that year and became an instant fan favorite.

    He also had a knack for hitting in the clutch, evidenced by his classic home run in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS. That blast tied the series with the Dodgers up at three apiece—a series the Cardinals would eventually win, earning Smith NLCS MVP honors. It's also linked to one of the most infamous calls of all-time, Jack Buck's "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!"

    After collecting 13 Gold Gloves and 580 stolen bases, Smith entered Cooperstown in 2002. The Cardinals retired his No. 1 in 1996, his final year in baseball. He was a 15-time All-Star over his career, including 12 straight seasons.

    Close Calls: Richie Ashburn

    Honorable Mentions: Billy Martin, Luis Castillo

    The Younger Crowd: Elvis Andrus

2. Derek Jeter

2 of 60

    And here come the Yankees. It's almost unfair to the other players who wore jersey numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, because who can compare to these legends?

    Of all the greats to ever don the Yankee pinstripes, no one has more career hits than Derek Jeter. And on July 9, 2011, Jeter became the only Yankee to amass 3,000 hits (sounds incredible, doesn't it?).

    Jeter's strengths stem from his longevity, his defense and his ability to read pitches as good as anyone in the game. He's never been much of a power hitter—albeit his 3,000th hit was a home run—but he's never needed to be a power hitter. The captain of the Yankees is a sure fire first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and is certainly the legend of this generation.

    Close Calls: Nellie Fox, Red Schoendienst

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury

3. Babe Ruth

3 of 60

    He's the most notable figure in American sports history. George Herman "Babe" Ruth defines what it means to be a legend and an icon. 

    Seven hundred and fourteen career home runs, 2,213 RBI and a .342 lifetime batting average will make you one of the original members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Few names in the history of professional sports have ever (or will ever) be compared to that of the Babe.

    Close Calls: Dale Murphy, Harmon Killebrew, Jimmie Foxx

    Honorable Mentions: Harold Baines

    The Younger Crowd: Evan Longoria

4. Lou Gehrig

4 of 60

    Before Mantle, before DiMaggio, there was Gehrig. Lou Gehrig—the "Iron Horse"—remains one of the best hitters in the amazing history of the Yankees. 

    After making his debut in 1923 as a 20-year-old, Gehrig went on to win two MVP awards and was a member of six World Series champion teams. Up until 1995, Gehrig held the record for most consecutive games played, with 2,130. 

    Gehrig's 17-year career came to a tragic end in 1939, when he was forced to retire due to his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which later came to be known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. In July of that year, the Yankees forever retired Gehrig's No. 4, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame that same season as special election. He died two years later at age 38.

    His legendary farewell speech still resonates today and is an iconic moment in baseball and American history.

    Close Calls: Mel Ott, Duke Snider, Paul Molitor, Luke Appling, Ralph Kiner

    Honorable Mentions: Brandon Phillips

    The Younger Crowd: Alex Gordon, Yadier Molina

5. Joe DiMaggio

5 of 60

    Another Yankee legend, Joe DiMaggio holds a record that many believe will never be reached—a hit in 56 consecutive games.

    The Yankee Clipper played in only 13 seasons for the Bronx Bombers, but they were 13 of the greatest seasons the game has ever seen. Of course, DiMaggio spent some time serving in the American Armed Forces, which cut into his playing years. He was an All-Star in every year he played and was a three-time MVP. He hit fewer than 20 home runs in a season just twice, including his final season in 1951.

    DiMaggio retired in '51, and a year later, his number was retired by the Yankees. In 1955, Joltin' Joe was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

    Close Calls: Johnny Bench, Albert Pujols, Hank Greenberg, George Brett, Brooks Robinson

    Honorable Mentions: Jeff Bagwell, Nomar Garciaparra

    The Younger Crowd: David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez, Ian Kinsler

6. Stan Musial

6 of 60

    Stan Musial could be considered one of the more underrated players in relation to some of the other all-time greats. But when you look at all he accomplished over his 22-year career, he absolutely ranks among the best.

    His 3,630 career hits are good for fourth all-time (and second among left-handed batters). He was a three-time MVP and will forever be a St. Louis Cardinals legend, as he led them to three World Series victories.

    The Cards retired Musial's No. 6 in 1963, his final season in the big leagues. He was inducted into Cooperstown six years later. 

    Close Calls: Al Kaline

    Honorable Mentions: Steve Garvey, Tony Oliva

    The Younger Crowd: Ryan Howard, Dan Uggla

7. Mickey Mantle

7 of 60

    Mickey Mantle was the head of the class for his entire 18-year career. The three-time MVP collected 536 career home runs. He was an All-Star in all but his debut season. And of course, he collected enough World Series rings for each day of the week.

    He retired in 1968, and his jersey was retired by the Yankees a year later. In 1974, Mantle added the Hall of Fame to his legendary resume. 

    Close Calls: Ivan Rodriguez, Craig Biggio

    Honorable Mentions: Kenny Lofton, Joe Medwick

    The Younger Crowd: Joe Mauer, Jose Reyes, Matt Holliday

8. Cal Ripken, Jr.

8 of 60

    The old lore says "Never say never." But it's probably fairly safe to say that Cal Ripken, Jr.'s record of 2,632 consecutive games played will never be surpassed. It was a memorable day on Sept. 6, 1995, when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's mark of 2,130 straight games played.

    During a time when the sport itself was struggling (there was a labor strike the season prior), Ripken's streak gave fans old and new something to follow and cheer for.

    Of course, the Iron Man was known for more than just his durability. While he was putting together the impressive streak, Ripken was putting together a Hall-of-Fame career. The lifelong Oriole finished his legendary 21-year career with 431 home runs and was a two-time MVP.

    His final season was a magical one in 2001. He was elected to start the All-Star game that year, a game in which Alex Rodriguez persuaded him to slide over to his natural shortstop position. He hit a home run in the third inning and was eventually named MVP of the game. Then, the Orioles retired his jersey number in September. Ripken was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 2007. 

    Close Calls: Carl Yastrzemski, Joe Morgan, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Willie Stargell

    Honorable Mentions: Javy Lopez

    The Younger Crowd: Ryan Braun, Shane Victorino

9. Ted Williams

9 of 60

    Was there a better hitter in the game than Ted Williams? It's debatable, but I argue no. He's a former Triple Crown winner, a two-time MVP and 17-time All-Star. His incredible .406 batting average in 1941 still stands as a single-season record.

    The lifelong Red Sox outfielder played in 19 seasons. But he missed three more seasons while serving in the Armed Forces during World War II. He ranks eighth all-time with a .344 lifetime batting average.   

    Close Calls: Reggie Jackson, Roger Maris, Bill Mazeroski, Enos Slaughter

    Honorable Mentions: Graig Nettles

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

10. Chipper Jones

10 of 60

    There have been a lot of flashy names in the history of the Braves—Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Dale Murphy. That trend continues with Chipper Jones. The Braves All-Star third baseman has been a cornerstone of the franchise over the last 15 or so seasons. 

    Since his first full major league season in 1995, Chipper has collected over 450 home runs and more than 1,500 RBI. He was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1999, when he smacked 45 long balls and had a .319 batting average.

    He ranks among the top five in several offensive categories in Braves franchise history. And though his production has been steadily declining over the past three seasons, he's still going strong and very well could become a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    Close Calls: Lefty Grove, Andre Dawson

    Honorable Mentions: Phil Rizzuto, Miguel Tejada, Ron Santo, Rusty Staub, Michael Young

    The Younger Crowd: Adam Jones, Justin Upton

11. Barry Larkin

11 of 60

    The soon-to-be newest member of the Hall of Fame tops our list of No. 11. Barry Larkin was voted into Cooperstown last month, the only player on the ballot to receive the necessary 75 percent.

    Larkin, a lifetime Cincinnati Red, had quite a resume over his 19 seasons in the big leagues. He was a 12-time All-Star, won nine Silver Slugger awards and was the NL MVP in 1995—all as a shortstop. He finished with a .295 lifetime batting average and 379 stolen bases. What's even more astounding, he went almost 10 at-bats per strikeout over his career, never striking out more than 70 times in a single season.

    Close Calls: Luis Aparicio, Paul Waner, Edgar Martinez, Carl Hubbell

    Honorable Mentions: Ken Caminiti, Jimmy Rollins

    The Younger Crowd: Ryan Zimmerman

12. Roberto Alomar

12 of 60

    One of the best, if not the best second baseman of the 90's, Roberto Alomar was indeed a special player. Alomar, brother of Sandy, Jr., came up with the Padres in 1988. After three fine seasons in San Diego, the Pads dealt him in a controversial move to the Toronto Blue Jays, along with Joe Carter, for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff.

    Once Alomar landed in Toronto, his career took off. He instantly became one of the game's best offensive and defensive second basemen.

    In 1992, he hit what is considered the second-most important home run in franchise history. With his club trailing by two in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS, Alomar slammed a two-run home run off A's closer Dennis Eckersley. Alomar lifted his arms in triumph as the Jays wound up winning that game, giving them a 3-1 lead in the series.

    After a couple more seasons in Toronto, Alomar took his talents to other teams (Orioles, Indians, Mets and brief stints with the White Sox and Diamondbacks). The 10-time Gold Glove winner was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2011, the same year his No. 12 was retired by the Blue Jays. He finished his 17-year career with a .300 batting average and 474 stolen bases.

    Close Calls: Wade Boggs, Jeff Kent

    Honorable Mentions: Ron Darling, Steve Finley

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

13. Alex Rodriguez

13 of 60

    It seems like only yesterday Alex Rodriguez was debuting with the Seattle Mariners as a young 18-year-old shortstop in 1994. Some 18 seasons later, A-Rod is still going strong, leading all active players with 629 career home runs. Of course, he's also known for having the largest contract in the history of the game, prior to this offseason. 

    Now manning third base for the Yankees, A-Rod also leads all active players in RBI, total bases, extra base hits and WAR (wins above replacement). Rodriguez is now 36 years old, and while there's no question he'll be entering Cooperstown before all is said and done, what remains to be seen is if he will become the next member of the 700-home run club. 

    Close Calls: Dave Concepción

    Honorable Mentions: Billy Wagner, Omar Vizquel, Carl Crawford

    The Younger Crowd: Starlin Castro, Brett Lawrie, Dustin Ackley

14. Pete Rose

14 of 60

    The debate surrounding Pete Rose's Hall-of-Fame eligibility may live for a very long time. But there is no denying the accolades and awards he accumulated over his 24-season playing career. Rose is still the all-time hits leader, with 4,256. The man also never missed a game—his 3,562 games played are good for most all time.

    His on-field success carried over into the manager's office. In 1984, he became a player/manager of the Reds and went on to win over 400 games as the Reds skipper from '84-'89. 

    As a result of the current ban on Rose in place, the Reds have not officially retired his No. 14. However, the only other person to wear the number since he left the game was his son, Pete Rose, Jr.

    Close Calls: Jim Rice, Gil Hodges, Ernie Banks, Jim Bunning

    Honorable Mentions: Paul Konerko, Larry Doby, Andres Galarraga, Kent Hrbek

    The Younger Crowd: David Price

15. Jim Edmonds

15 of 60

    For 17 seasons, Jim Edmonds thrilled fellow players and spectators all over the country with his jaw-dropping catches in centerfield. His eight Gold Gloves are a testament to just how skilled of a defender Edmonds was.

    Of course, Edmonds was pretty skilled with that bat as well, evidenced by his 393 career home runs.

    He debuted with the Angels with a cup of coffee in 1993. By 1995, he had already collected his first 30-home run campaign (33 that season). After seven seasons in Anaheim, Edmonds took his talents to St. Louis. He was a key member of the Cardinals' 2006 World Series championship.

    Though Edmonds became somewhat of a journeyman in his final years—he played for four teams during his final two seasons—his talents always followed to him to whatever city he was playing in. 

    Close Calls: Carlos Beltran, Thurman Munson, George Foster

    Honorable Mentions: Tim Hudson, Shawn Green

    The Younger Crowd: Dan Haren, Dustin Pedroia

16. Whitey Ford

16 of 60

    Pitching for the New York Yankees certainly has its perks. Those perks were ever so evident in the 1950's, which was the highlight of Whitey Ford's Hall-of-Fame career.

    Ford won 236 games during his 16-year career, all with the Bombers. That mark is still good for the most in Yankees franchise history. During those years, the Yankees made the playoffs virtually every season. And Ford was certainly a major reason why, as evidenced by his 2.75 lifetime ERA.

    Ford was the league's Cy Young Award winner in 1961, when he won a league-best 25 games. He was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1974, the same year his No. 16 was retired by the Yankees. 

    Close Calls: Dwight Gooden, Ted Lyons, Jason Giambi, Aramis Ramirez

    Honorable Mentions: Hideo Nomo, Hal Newhouser, Edgar Renteria, Garret Anderson

    The Younger Crowd: Brian McCann, Andre Ethier, Billy Butler

17. Todd Helton

17 of 60

    Though his offensive production has been in a bit of a decline over the last few seasons, it is hard to argue Todd Helton's overall numbers.

    Granted, he's spent his entire career in the thin air of Coors' Field. But his lifetime .323 batting average is good for fourth among active players. He's also the Rockies' all-time leader in home runs, hits, runs scored, RBI and several other categories. Helton is a fan favorite in Colorado and should remain one of the best first basemen to have ever played the game.

    Helton's current contract expires after the 2013 season, during which he will turn 40 years old. His playing days are likely numbered. That only means the Cooperstown debate will begin—will Helton be the first Colorado Rockie inducted into the Hall of Fame?

    Close Calls: Keith Hernandez, Dizzy Dean

    Honorable Mentions: Mark Grace, Bret Saberhagen, Denny McLain, Lance Berkman

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

18. Johnny Damon

18 of 60

    Johnny Damon's status for the 2012 season still remains unclear. He is currently a free agent, and the supply of designated hitters is much higher than the demand right now. But that doesn't take away from the excellent career the 38-year-old has had.

    Thus far, in his 17-year career, Damon has amassed over 400 stolen bases and a lifetime .286 batting average. His 2,723 hits rank fifth among active players. He also played a key role in bringing Boston its first World Series in 86 years in 2004. 

    Close Calls: Jason Kendall, Darryl Strawberry

    Honorable Mentions: Mel Harder, Bill Russell, Moises Alou

    The Younger Crowd: Matt Cain, Ben Zobrist

19. Tony Gwynn

19 of 60

    You could toss a coin with Tony Gwynn's face on one side and Robin Yount's on the other and still not be able to decide which of the two had a better career. So perhaps it's a generational thing, but I have selected Gwynn to be my man at No. 19.

    "Mr. Padre" spent his entire 20-year career playing for the San Diego Padres. Aside from his debut season in 1982, Gwynn never finished a season with a batting average under .300. He was a 15-time All-Star, and his .393 batting average in 1994 still stands as the highest single-season mark since 1950.

    The only thing missing from the illustrious resume of Tony Gwynn is a World Series ring. But that didn't prevent him from having his plaque hung in Cooperstown.

    Just a year after retiring in 2001, the Padres rightfully retired his No. 19 in August of 2002.

    Close Calls: Robin Yount, Bob Feller

    Honorable Mentions: Fred Lynn, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Juan Gonzalez

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

20: Frank Robinson

20 of 60

    At first glance, one might be surprised to learn that there has only been one player in the history of the game to win an MVP award in both leagues. But then, when that player is Frank Robinson, there should be little shock involved.

    Though he missed the 3,000-hit mark by just a small amount, his 586 career home runs still rank ninth all-time. "The Judge" made an immediate impact with a 38-home run debut season in 1956, when he won the NL Rookie of the Year award with the Reds. Five years later, he was crowned league MVP.

    After the '65 season, Robinson was traded to Baltimore and instantly had his best season of his career in 1966. His 49 home runs lead the league, and he was named the AL MVP, becoming the first (and still only) player ever to win the award in both leagues. 

    Robinson had his jersey No. 20 retired by both the Orioles in 1972 and the Reds in 1998. 

    Close Calls: Mike Schmidt, Don Sutton, Lou Brock

    Honorable Mentions: Luis Gonzalez, Jorge Posada, Kevin Youkilis

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

21. Roberto Clemente

21 of 60

    Roberto Clemente is an icon and a legend, and not just in baseball. Sure, the Puerto Rican-born outfielder collected exactly 3,000 hits in his 18-year career (all with the Pittsburgh Pirates). He was the National League MVP in 1966. He was a 12-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner.

    But it was Clemente's heroic (and subsequently tragic) act in 1972 that puts him on this list. In an effort to deliver supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua, the plane that was carrying Clemente crashed, and the superstar was killed in the crash.

    Clemente was inducted into the Hall of Fame the next year, becoming the only player to be inducted without having to wait the standard five years once a playing career has ended. He was also the first Latin-born player enshrined in Cooperstown. That same year, the Pirates retired his legendary No. 21.

    Warren Spahn was a legitimate contender to top No. 21. However, the head-to-head stats favor the outfielder. In 143 at-bats, Clemente owned a .427 batting average against the left-handed Hall of Famer. 

    Close Calls: Warren Spahn, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa

    Honorable Mentions: Bob Lemon, Paul O'Neil

    The Younger Crowd: Nick Markakis, Heath Bell

22. Jim Palmer

22 of 60

    In 1971, the Baltimore Orioles did something no team had ever done, nor has done since. Their entire rotation (then consisting of four pitchers) finished the season with at least 20 wins each. And while some may view wins as an overrated stat, the highest ERA for any of those pitchers that year was 3.08. It was an extraordinary and dominant staff.

    Only one member of that memorable rotation made into the Hall of Fame. That would be right-hander Jim Palmer. Palmer was a life-long Oriole, as he spent his entire 19-year career in Baltimore. He was the league's Cy Young Award winner three times and won 20 or more games eight times in his career.  

    In 1985, the Hall-of-Famer's No. 22 was forever retired in Baltimore.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: Andrew McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw, Drew Storen

23. Ryne Sandberg

23 of 60

    There may not have been a better hitting second baseman than Ryne Sandberg. The long-time Cub smacked 282 home runs over his 18-year career. He was a 10-time All-Star and an eight-time Gold Glove winner. In 1984, he was named the league's MVP when he hit 19 home runs and 19 triples. He also stole nearly 350 bases during his Hall-of-Fame career.

    This type of offensive production coming from primarily a second baseman has become a little more common in recent years. But Sandberg played in the 80's and 90's, when the game's power hitters generally came from first base, right field and left field. He was truly an incredible all-around ballplayer.

    Sandberg's No. 23 was retired in August 2005 by the Cubs.

    Close Calls: Don Mattingly

    Honorable Mentions: Robin Ventura, David Justice, Eric Karros, Javier Vazquez

    The Younger Crowd: Adrian Gonzalez, Zack Greinke, Rickie Weeks, David Freese

24. Willie Mays

24 of 60

    In the opinion of this writer, Willie Mays was the greatest player in the history of the game. There was nothing the Say Hey Kid couldn't do. He could hit for power (660 career home runs), he could run (led the league in steals four consecutive seasons) and he could field (12 consecutive Gold Gloves). 

    Mays was the prototypical five-tool player, and he did with class and style. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1951, was a two-time MVP and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1979.

    In 1972, Mays was dealt to the New York Mets to finish out his career. That same season, the Giants determined no one would ever wear No. 24 again, as they retired Mays' jersey.

    Close Calls: Ken Griffey, Jr., Rickey Henderson, Manny Ramirez

    Honorable Mentions: Whitey Herzog, Dwight Evans

    The Younger Crowd: Grady Sizemore, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Ricky Romero

25. Barry Bonds

25 of 60

    On Aug. 7, 2007, Barry Lamar Bonds slugged his way past Hank Aaron as the game's all-time home run leader. He slammed his 756th career bomb against Mike Bacsik, then of the Washington Nationals. Six more home runs, and Bonds called it a career after playing for 22 seasons.

    Amidst trials and probation sentences stemming from reported PED usage, Bonds still stands as one of the game's all-time great hitters. His place in Cooperstown will be much debated for years to come, but there's no question that he will live on as one of the most controversial and feared hitters the game has seen.

    Close Calls: Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Thome

    Honorable Mentions: Tommy John, Carlos Delgado, Frank Howard, Andruw Jones, Don Baylor, Norm Cash

    The Younger Crowd: Mark Teixeira

26. Billy Williams

26 of 60

    If Ernie Banks was Mr. Cub, then Billy Williams must have been his sidekick. And though Williams didn't spend his entire career with the Cubs like Banks did, his tenure with the North Siders certainly helped etch his name in Cooperstown.

    Williams was the league's Rookie of the Year in 1961 and was a six-time All-Star over 18 playing seasons. And in 1987, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame—and yes, as a Cub. That same season, the Cubbies retired his uniform No. 26.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: Dave Kingman

    The Younger Crowd: Chase Utley, Miguel Montero

27: Juan Marichal

27 of 60

    The Dominican Dandy Juan Marichal was among the elite pitchers for his entire 16-year career. Primarily pitching for the San Francisco Giants, the hard-throwing right-hander amassed 243 wins while only losing 142 games—good for a .631 lifetime winning percentage.

    He was elected to nine All-Star Games, including eight consecutive from 1962-1969. He used a high leg kick and multiple arm angles to confuse hitters, helping to his 2,303 career strikeouts. Marichal had only two seasons in which his ERA was higher than 4.12, and those were his final two seasons in which he made a combined 11 appearances. His lifetime ERA was a nifty 2.89.

    Marichal reached the Hall of Fame in 1983. The Giants retired his No. 27 in 1975, the year he retired from baseball.

    Close calls: Carlton Fisk, Catfish Hunter

    Honorable Mentions: Scott Rolen

    The Younger Crowd: Mike Stanton, Mike Trout

28. Bert Blyleven

28 of 60

    It took a while, but Bert Blyleven finally got his call to Cooperstown in 2011. He was a year removed from being removed off the ballot. But the Dutch right-hander garnered nearly 80 percent of the vote in '11 and is now enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

    Blyleven was a critical member of the Minnesota Twins when they won the World Series in 1987. In that Fall Classic, Blyleven made two starts and had a 12:2 K/BB ratio. He led his league in shutouts three times during his 22-year career, and his 60 shutouts are good for ninth all-time. 

    All told, Blyleven finished his career with 287 victories, 3,701 strikeouts and nearly 5,000 innings pitched.

    Shortly prior to being enshrined in Cooperstown, Blyleven had his jersey number retired by the Twins on July 16, 2011.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: Cesar Cedeno

    The Younger Crowd: Prince Fielder, Jayson Werth

29. John Smoltz

29 of 60

    We've already met two-thirds of one of the most formidable pitching staffs in the history of the game. That third member of the trio was right-hander John Smoltz.

    Smoltz was a part of one of the most memorable and lopsided trades of all-time. In 1987, two years after being drafted, the Detroit Tigers sent 20-year-old Smoltz to the Atlanta Braves for an aging 36-year-old Doyle Alexander. Alexander would go on to pitch two more seasons (and the worst seasons of his career), while Smoltz became one of the most dominant starters and closers of his generation.

    Smoltz won the National League Cy Young Award in 1996, when he won 24 games and struck out a league-best 276 batters. However, after undergoing Tommy John Surgery before the 2000 season, Smoltz became the team's closer in 2001. By '02, he was as dominant a closer as there was in the game. He saved 144 games from 2002-2004.

    Finally, Smoltz returned to the rotation for the Braves in 2005 and showed no rust. In 2006, he won 16 games and struck out more than 200 hitters. Smoltz retired in 2009, and his 21-season resume has certainly earned him a trip to Cooperstown—something the great Doyle Alexander can not say. 

    Close Calls: Rod Carew

    Honorable Mentions: Fred McGriff, Joe Carter, Chris Carpenter

    The Younger Crowd: Ike Davis

30. Nolan Ryan

30 of 60

    So just how do you get an appearance on this list? Well, being the all-time leader in strikeouts and no-hitters is a pretty good start. Nolan Ryan fits both of those requisites. 

    The Ryan Express left the station in 1966, and 27 incredible seasons (four decades) later, Ryan had collected 5,714 strikeouts and twirled seven no-hitters. Amazingly, Ryan never won a Cy Young Award. But that didn't stop him from being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999 as one of the greatest pitchers to have ever played the game.

    Though his better playing days came while wearing No. 34—which has been retired by both the Astros and the Rangers—he is by far the greatest player ever to wear the No. 30. That number was retired by the Angels on June 16, 1992, one year before he himself retired.

    Close Calls: Tim Raines

    Honorable Mentions: Orlando Cepeda, Maury Wills, Magglio Ordonez

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

31. Greg Maddux/Dave Winfield

31 of 60

    This may seem like a cheap way out, but how can you nail down who earns the top spot at No. 31 between Greg Maddux and Dave Winfield? No pitcher wanted to face Winfield, and no hitter wanted to go up against The Professor. 

    When it comes to pitching, Maddux was in a class all of his own. He finished his 23-year career in 2008 and amassed over 3,300 strikeouts and walked only 999. As part of the big three-headed pitching monster that was Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz, he collected four Cy Young Awards and won a World Series ring with the Braves in '95. His 355 wins rank eighth all-time.

    In May 2009, Maddux had his jersey number retired by both the Braves and the Chicago Cubs, who also retired Ferguson Jenkins' No. 31 on the same day as Maddux.

    Winfied's number was retired by the San Diego Padres in 2001. But that was by no means his largest accomplishment. That same year, Winfield was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A 22-year veteran, Winfield slammed 465 career home runs and finished a a member of the 3,000-hit club. He was an All-Star 12 seasons in a row and was a member of the Blue Jays' 1992 World Series championship squad.  

    Close Calls: Ferguson Jenkins, Mike Piazza

    Honorable Mentions: John Franco

    The Younger Crowd: Jon Lester, Ian Kennedy

32. Steve Carlton

32 of 60

    For No. 32, you could make arguments for Sandy Koufax and Roy Halladay. But for this list, I am choosing Lefty himself, Steve Carlton. The left-hander pitched for an astounding 24 seasons and piled up a number of records and accolades.

    He won the National League Cy Young award four times ('72. '77, '80 and '82), all the with the Philadelphia Phillies. 

    His 4,136 strikeouts are good for fourth all-time and second best for a left-hander. He ranks sixth all-time in games started and ninth in innings pitched. He was a member of two World Series champions, and his 329 career wins helped him enter Cooperstown in 1994.

    In 1989, the iconic left-hander had his jersey retired by the Phillies.

    Close Calls: Sandy Koufax, Roy Halladay

    Honorable Mentions: Dennis Martinez, Derek Lowe

    The Younger Crowd: Josh Hamilton, Jay Bruce

33. Eddie Murray

33 of 60

    Hitting from one side of the plate is difficult enough to master. But when you can hit from both sides and do it as prolific as Eddie Murray did, you're just about guaranteed a place in Cooperstown.

    And that's exactly what happened to "Steady Eddie."

    Murray began his career as the American League Rookie of the Year in 1977. Twenty-one seasons later, he amassed 504 home runs and more than 3,200 hits. He collected a World Series ring with the 1983 Orioles and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2003.

    Most of Murray's power numbers came from the left side (362 home runs vs. 142 from the right side), but not matter which way he was batting, Steady Eddie was as fierce a hitter as there was in his era.

    Murray had his No. 33 retired by the O's on June 7, 1998.

    Close Calls: Jose Canseco, Larry Walker

    Honorable Mentions: Mike Scott, David Wells, Jason Varitek, Cliff Lee

    The Younger Crowd: Justin Morneau, James Shields

34. Kirby Puckett

34 of 60

    Kirby Puckett was one of the most endeared players, home or away, to take the field. His work ethic and his passion for the game made him a real joy to watch. And though he only played for 12 seasons—his career was cut short due to a loss of vision in one eye—he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer and my choice for the best at No. 34.

    All 12 of Puckett's seasons were with the Minnesota Twins. Puckett was an All-Star in all but two of his playing years. And of course, he will forever be remembered for his postseason heroics with his 1991 World Series Game 6 walk-off blast, sending the Fall Classic to a Game 7 (a game and series the Twins would eventually win).

    On May 25, 1997, the Twins retired his jersey, No. 34.

    Close Calls: Rollie Fingers

    Honorable Mentions: Fernando Valenzuela, David Ortiz, Kerry Wood, Kevin Millwood

    The Younger Crowd: Felix Hernandez, Bryce Harper

35. Phil Niekro

35 of 60

    A word to the wise for any pitcher looking to elongate their careers: learn to throw a knuckleball. Just ask Phil Niekro.

    "Knucksie" pitched for 24 seasons (the majority of them with the Atlanta Braves) and was 48 years old when he retired in 1987. But he and his knuckleball were also effective, as he accumulated over 3,300 strikeouts in his Hall-of-Fame career. 

    He won at least 20 games in three different seasons and was a five-time All-Star. In 1973, Niekro hurled a no-hitter, just one shining moment in a career filled with highlights. In 1997, he reached the pinnacle, being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    The Braves retired his No. 35 in 1984.

    Close Calls: Frank Thomas

    Honorable Mentions: Mike Mussina, John Wetteland, Mike Cuellar

    The Younger Crowd: Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels, Eric Hosmer

36. Gaylord Perry

36 of 60

    Gaylord Perry was as steady as they come during his playing days. The right-hander averaged 32 starts per season over his 22-year career. In fact, he made at least 30 starts in all but five of those seasons.

    The two-time Cy Young Award winner won 314 games in his career and finished with a lifetime 3.11 ERA. His 3,534 strikeouts are good for eighth all-time. The one thing Perry failed to do in his illustrious career was win a World Series ring. But he rightfully has his plaque hanging in Cooperstown, and he's our No. 1 at No. 36.

    On Sept. 17, 1968, Perry tossed a no-hitter against Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals, polishing them off, 1-0. He also became the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues (1972 with Cleveland and 1978 with San Diego).

    The Giants retired his No. 36 on July 23, 2005.

    Close Calls: Robin Roberts

    Honorable Mentions: Jerry Koosman, Jim Kaat, Joe Nathan

    The Younger Crowd: Jered Weaver, Michael Pineda

37. Casey Stengel

37 of 60

    Casey Stengel represents the only member of this list who was inducted into Cooperstown as manager rather than a player. The Old Perfessor managed more than 3,700 games over 25 seasons and was the first skipper in New York Mets history. 

    He was fiery and full of memorable quotes. He led the Yankees to a total of 10 AL pennants and seven World Series Championships—which is tied for the most all-time—in the 50's, including five in a row from 1949-1953. His 1,905 career wins rank 11th all-time. 

    He was also the first manager for the new and disastrous New York Mets. The team was horrible under his tutelage, going a combined 175-404 in just under four seasons. They will forever hold the dubious distinction of going 40-120 in their first season in 1962.   

    The Mets retired Casey's No. 37 on Sept. 2, 1965, his final year of baseball. The Yankees then retired his number on Aug. 8, 1970.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: Kenny Rogers

    The Younger Crowd: Stephen Strasburg

38. Curt Schilling

38 of 60

    Curt Schilling pitched in the World Series for three different teams over his 20-year career. Originally brought up by the Orioles in 1988, Schilling was first seen tossing fastballs for the Phillies in their 1992 matchup with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    After a very impressive stint with the Phils, Schilling was dealt to Arizona, where he and fellow starter (and future Hall of Famer) Randy Johnson comprised one of the most dominant one-two punches the game has ever seen. Together, they helped the Diamondbacks defeat the Yankees in in the '01 Fall Classic, each earning co-MVP honors for the Series.

    Finally, when he was done etching his name into Arizona's history books, Schilling packed up and moved to Boston, where he took his postseason heroics to new levels (and made a new formidable one-two punch with Pedro Martinez).

    This time, it was in the ALCS that he became an icon. In Game 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees, Schilling took the mound despite pitching on an injured ankle. It was a gutsy performance that resulted in a win and a legendary bloody sock. The Red Sox went on to win their first World Series in 86 years, and that would not have happened without the Big Schill.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: Rick Aguilera, Eric Gagne

    The Younger Crowd: Ubaldo Jimenez, Brian Wilson

39. Roy Campanella

39 of 60

    Following in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson was a catcher by the name of Roy Campanella. At the age of 26, he came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. He won three MVP awards in '51, '53 and '55 and caught three no-hitters during his career.

    His career came to a tragic and premature end. Following the 1957 season, Campy was injured in a car accident and was subsequently paralyzed. He never played a game for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    But as for the Boys From Brooklyn, Campanella remains one of the most iconic figures in the game. 

    On June 4, 1972, the Dodgers retired the infamous jersey, No. 39.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: Dave Parker

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

40. Troy Percival

40 of 60

    With 316 saves, Troy Percival still ranks as the Angels' all-time leader in that category. The four-time All-Star played for 14 seasons, also pitching for the Tigers, Cardinals and Rays later on in his career (though injuries limited his appearances with those clubs). 

    Overall, Percival saved 358 games. But clearly the biggest save of his career came in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, as the Angels defeated the Giants to win the Fall Classic.

    Close Calls: Bartolo Colon

    Honorable Mentions: Rick Sutcliffe

    The Younger Crowd: Madison Bumgarner

41. Tom Seaver

41 of 60

    Tom Seaver is the Mets' all-time leader in almost every pitching category, including strikeouts and ERA. He led the Mets to their first World Series Championship in 1969. He is arguably the most significant player to don the Mets uniform. Thus, his No. 41 is one of three to be retired (aside from the league-wide 42). 

    But his statistics and accolades reach farther than Flushing. Seaver ranks sixth all-time in strikeouts with 3,640 and was a three-time Cy Young Award winner. And, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, garnering nearly 100 percent of the votes.

    On June 24, 1988 the Mets retired Seaver's No. 41.

    Close Calls: Eddie Matthews

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: Daniel Hudson, Carlos Santana

42. Jackie Robinson

42 of 60

    Few have changed the face of the game quite like Jackie Robinson did. After all, if Robinson hadn't broken the color barrier in baseball, who knows if we would have seen the likes of Mays, Jackson, Robinson, Griffey or Bonds.

    Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and immediately made his impact felt, as he was named the league's Rookie of the Year. Two years later, he was named NL MVP. 

    And though his numbers aren't as flashy as some other Hall of Famers—Robinson retired after only 10 seasons due to diabetes complications—his legacy will forever be remembered by the game and those who play and cherish it.

    On June 4, 1972, the Dodgers retired Robinson's No. 42. And on April 15, 1997 (now known as Jackie Robinson Day), that same number was retired by all of baseball. It is the only number to be retired by all 30 major league teams. And it will never be worn again (once the Yankees' Mariano Rivera retires)...except on Jackie Robinson Day.

    Close Calls: Mariano Rivera, Bruce Sutter

    Honorable Mentions: Mo Vaughn

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

43. Dennis Eckersley

43 of 60

    Dennis Eckerlsey was one of the more feared and energetic pitchers of his generation. The hard-throwing right-hander made his living as a starter and a closer.

    For the first half of his Hall-of-Fame career, Eck was a piece of the rotation for the Boston Red Sox (after beginning his career in Cleveland). Overall, as a starter, Eckersley won 149 games and had an ERA of 3.71.

    In 1987, however, while pitching for the A's, Eckersley made the transition to the bullpen. A year later, he led the league in saves, with 45. In '92, he again led the league, this time with 51. He was so dominant that season, he was named the league's MVP and Cy Young Award winner. Only two other relievers in history—Rollie Fingers (1981) and Willie Hernandez (1984)—have accomplished that feat.

    He finished his illustrious 24-year career with 197 wins and 390 saves to go along with over 2,400 strikeouts. In 2004, Eckersley was enshrined into Cooperstown. And on Aug. 13, 2005, his No. 43 was retired by the Oakland A's.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: Jeff Nelson, Raul Mondesi

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

44. Hank Aaron

44 of 60

    Is there anyone more deserving of our top spot at No. 44 than Hammerin' Hank Aaron? He was an All-Star in every season he played except his first and final years. He was the National League's MVP in 1957. He has the most RBI (2,297) in the history of the game. Oh, and he was the all-time home run king for over 30 years.

    His No. 44 was retired by the Brewers on Oct. 3, 1976 (the final game of his career). The following year, his number was then retired by the Atlanta Braves.

    Close Calls: Reggie Jackson, Willie McCovey

    Honorable Mentions: Chili Davis, Roy Oswalt, Jason Isringhausen, Danny Darwin, Eric Davis, Jake Peavy

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

45. Bob Gibson

45 of 60

    With all due respect to future Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martinez—arguably the most dominant pitcher in Red Sox history—Bob Gibson is my choice for No. 45. The Hall of Famer played for 17 seasons and amassed over 3,100 strikeouts.

    The lifelong Cardinal was an eight-time All-Star and won the NL Cy Young Award twice (1968, 1970). He broke the record for most strikeouts in a World Series game (17 in Game 1 of the 1968 Series). He is arguably the most feared pitcher to every take the mound.

    His 1.12 ERA in 1968 remains the fourth lowest single-season ERA ever (and the lowest since 1914). He was one of the members selected for the All-Century team in 1999.   

    His No. 45 was retired by the Cardinals in 1981, the same year he was inducted into Cooperstown. 

    Close Calls: Pedro Martinez

    Honorable Mentions: Cecil Fielder

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

46. Andy Pettitte

46 of 60

    Ever since his debut with the Yankees in 1995, Andy Pettitte has been an absolute workhorse. In only three of his 16 big league seasons did the left-hander fail to make at least 30 starts, and that includes his final season in 2010.

    He finished his career with over 2,200 strikeouts and a sub-4.00 ERA. But his best value came when the calendar flipped to October. Pettitte made it to the playoffs in almost every season he played, including 2005 with the Houston Astros. All in all, Pettitte made 42 postseason starts, and his 19 wins are the most all-time.

    Despite his accolades, Pettitte was only named to three All-Star teams in his career. But that didn't stop him from being my No. 1 at No. 46.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: Craig Kimbrel

47. Tom Glavine

47 of 60

    There were not many pitchers more consistent in the 1990s than left-hander Tom Glavine. He won two Cy Young Awards in the decade and averaged 18 wins per season with the Atlanta Braves.

    And his success didn't stop when the calendar flipped to the 21st century. In 2007, he won his 300th game as a member of the New York Mets. And aside from his first and last Major League seasons, Glavine never had a BB/9 ratio greater than 4.0. 

    Glavine is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and a first-ballot nomination is by no means a stretch. The Braves retired his No. 47 on Aug. 6, 2010

    Close Calls: Jack Morris

    Honorable Mentions: Rod Beck, Lee Smith

    The Younger Crowd: Gio Gonzalez, Jose Valverde

48. Torii Hunter

48 of 60

    There haven't been many centerfielders quite like our No. 48. Torii Hunter originally came up with the Minnesota Twins in 1997. And since then, he's become an absolute dynamic player for both the Twins and, more recently, the Angels.

    Hunter has won nine Gold Gloves over his career to go along with 281 home runs—barring any unusual circumstances, Hunter should be eclipsing the 300-home run plateau in 2012. Mr. Consistency himself has hit at least 20 home runs each season since 2001 (aside from a down '05 season).

    But his true value comes with his glove and his arm. He's patrolling right field now for the Angels, where he recorded 15 assists in 2011.

    A tip to all hitters: Find another player to hit a ball to.

    Close Calls: Travis Hafner

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: Tommy Hanson, Joakim Soria, Pablo Sandoval

49: Ron Guidry

49 of 60

    It didn't take long for Ron Guidry to get acclimated in the American League. After making his debut in 1975 with the New York Yankees, Louisiana Lightning won the league's Cy Young Award in 1978, when he racked up 25 victories.

    In 14 seasons, Guidry was a four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner. The lifelong Yankee won two World Series with the Pinstripes. Guidry had his No. 49 retired by the Yankees on Aug. 23, 2003.

    Close Calls: Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough

    Honorable Mentions: Larry Dierker

    The Younger Crowd: Jair Jurrjens, Yovani Gallardo

50. Sid Fernandez

50 of 60

    Hawaiian-born right-hander Sid Fernandez wore No. 50 in honor of the 50th state of the Union. And it served him well.

    El Sid enjoyed a fairly successful 14-year career, which included a World Series victory in 1986 with the New York Mets. He finished his career with 114 wins vs. 96 losses, had a 3.36 ERA and was a two-time All-Star.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: Matt Lawton

    The Younger Crowd: Adam Wainwright, John Danks, Jacob Turner

51. Randy Johnson/Trevor Hoffman/Ichiro Suzuki

51 of 60

    The choices for number 51 are each far too significant to choose just one. After all, how do you decide between a five-time Cy Young Award winner, the man who holds the single-season hit record and one of the greatest closers of all time?

    For over two decades, Randy Johnson struck fear in the hearts of batters as he endlessly struck them out. Firing 95 mph fastballs, the 6'10" left-hander struck out an incredible 4,875 batters over his career and owns an all-time high 10.6 K/BB ratio. He was a five-time Cy Young Award winner, including four in a row from 1999-2002.

    He, along with Curt Schilling, was named co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, helping the Diamondbacks to their miracle victory. The Big Unit struck out 300-plus batters five times and finished within 10 of 300 two additional seasons. He is very likely to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    Up until the 2011 season, Trevor Hoffman had the most saves of all-time (601). But no matter how many more saves Mariano River racks up, Hoffman will always be the first man to ever reach 600 career saves. And, unlike the Big Unit, Hoffman got his men out using a tantalizing change-up, not an overpowering fastball.

    But similar to Johnson, he should be seeing his name in Cooperstown before long. He saved at least 40 games in nine of his 18 major league seasons. Hoffman's jersey was retired by the Padres in August of 2011.

    When Ichiro Suzuki came over from Japan prior to the 2001 season, even he might not have been prepared for the amount of success he has seen. But just in his "rookie" season, Ichiro made quite a statement around the major leagues. He won the MVP and the Rookie of the Year in '01 and led all of baseball with 242 hits.

    In 2004, he broke George Sisler's record of most hits in a single season, finishing with 262 that year. After being named an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner in each of his first 10 seasons in the big leagues, Ichiro had a down year in 2011, failing to finish with a batting average over .300 for the first time.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: Wandy Rodriguez

52. C.C. Sabathia

52 of 60

    After only 11 seasons, C.C. Sabathia has become one of the more successful pitchers of this generation. When it comes to active pitchers, he is among the top in several pitching categories, including wins, strikeouts and complete games. 

    His endurance is worth acknowledging as well. He has failed to start at least 30 games in a season just three times (he started 28 in one of those seasons). In 2007, Sabathia was the named the American League Cy Young Award winner, when he won 19 games for the Cleveland Indians.

    At still just 31 years of age, Sabathia has every chance to put himself in some very nice company if he can stay healthy and maintain the level of production he has had in his first decade as a major leaguer.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

53. Don Drysdale

53 of 60

    Don Drysdale's Hall-of-Fame career was relatively quick, but effective. He debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers as a 19-year-old in 1956. Along with Sandy Koufax, he gave the Dodgers rotation one of the greatest one-two combinations the game has ever seen.

    Other than his first and last seasons, Drysdale never won fewer than 12 games in a season. The right-hander was the NL Cy Young Award winner in 1962, when he went an astounding 25-9. He was a durable pitcher during his years as well, starting 40 or more games in four straight seasons.

    The eight-time All-Star was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. His No. 53 was retired by the Dodgers that same year.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mention: Bobby Abreu

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

54. Goose Gossage

54 of 60

    Goose Gossage wore a lot of uniforms during his 22-year career, playing for nine teams over that span. But one thing never changed—the number on the back of his jersey, No. 54.

    Gossage arguably paved the way for guys like Hoffman and Rivera to do what they do (did) best, as many believe he pioneered the closer's role. He recorded 310 saves of his own during his 22-year career, at a time when the save was a relatively unknown statistic. 

    He was a nine-time All-Star and was inducted into Cooperstown in 2008 as a member of the Yankees. Gossage also pitched for the White Sox, A's, Rangers, Mariners, Padres, Cubs, Giants and Pirates during his career. He retired in 1994 as a 42-year-old.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: Jaime Garcia

55. Orel Hershiser

55 of 60

    Orel Hershiser may very well be one of the best, if not the best pitcher not in the Hall of Fame. He also arguably possesses the most underrated record that may never be broken—59 scoreless innings, achieved in 1988. 

    The Bulldog, as he was known, pitched for 18 seasons and was the National League Cy Young award winner, and World Series MVP in 1988. He struck out 5.8 batters per nine innings over his career. He is currently an analyst for ESPN.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: Tim Lincecum, Josh Johnson

56. Mark Buehrle

56 of 60

    One could make the case that Mark Buehrle is the most underrated active pitcher. But one can not argue the consistency he provided the White Sox for a dozen seasons. After debuting in 2000 with the South Siders, the left-hander won 16 games in '01, and that was just the beginning.

    Aside from his rookie campaign, Buehrle has recorded double-digit wins in every season he has played. Plus, he has never made fewer than 30 starts in any season. His overall stats are rather ordinary. But what he provided the White Sox could be valued more than strikeouts and ERA.

    In 2012, Buehrle will take his consistent pitching to Miami after inking a four-year, $56 million contract with the Miami Marlins. He will continue playing for Ozzie Guillen, which should make the transition to the National League (and the only other club he's ever played for) much easier for him and the team.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

57. Johan Santana

57 of 60

    It's been quite a turbulent career for Johan Santana. The left-hander will turn 33 in March and has been one of the most successful starters of his time. After debuting with the Twins in 2000, Santana won two Cy Young Awards (2004 and 2006) with the Twinkies. Twice, he led the American League in ERA and three times in strikeouts.

    In 2008, he inked a hefty six-year, $137.5 million contract with the New York Mets. That season, he led the National League with a 2.53 ERA and gave Mets fans hope, as they finally had the ace the team had been searching for since the days of Gooden and Darling.

    However, unfortunately for the Amazin's, Santana hasn't been all that amazing. The Mets haven't reached the playoffs since his trade to New York, and though his numbers have been primarily impressive, the team surrounding him just hasn't been good enough to make any difference.

    He missed the entire 2011 season recovering from shoulder surgery, but he is still third among active pitchers in ERA (3.10) and seventh in strikeouts (1,877). If Santana can return to form in 2012, it would certainly be a boost to an otherwise underwhelming Mets pitching staff.  

    Close calls: Francisco Rodriguez

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

72. Carlton Fisk

58 of 60

    Has there been a more memorable World Series home run than the one Carlton Fisk mystically waved fair in 1975? Perhaps...but not many. That home run forever etched Fisk's name in Boston Red Sox and baseball history.  

    But his numbers by themselves make him worthy of being the No. 1 at No. 72. During his 24 seasons, he wore Sox of two colors (Red from 1969-1980 and White from 1980-1993). Over that time, he collected over 2,300 hits to go along with 376 home runs. And while that memorable home run came while he was wearing No. 27, he actually played more years and had better numbers wearing No. 72.

    His career pinnacled when he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. Shortly thereafter, the Red Sox retired his No. 27. His No. 72 was retired by the White Sox in 1997.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: N/A

75. Barry Zito

59 of 60

    Barry Zito's career has really been a tale of two cities. And both cities happen to be by the Bay.

    The left-hander began his career as a member of "The Big Three" in Oakland, along with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Though he debuted in 2000, his first full season in the big leagues was in '01, when he won 17 games for the A's, striking out 205 batters along the way, as he baffled hitters with his 12-to-6 curveball.

    The quirky Zito continued his impressive career by winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2002, leading the league with 23 victories that year. After spending four more years in the Green and Gold, Zito bolted to the other side of the Bay, signing an incredible seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants prior to the 2007 season.

    His career in San Francisco has not exactly been as advertised. Since the '07 season, Zito has a 43-61 record, and a lofty 4.55 ERA. He made only nine starts in 2011, and at only 33 (he'll turn 34 in May), his career may be in a complete downward spiral.

    Close Calls: N/A

    Honorable Mentions: N/A

    The Younger Crowd: N/A


60 of 60

    In baseball, as the uniform numbers go up, the frequency goes down. This is especially true when you get into the 50-60 range and higher. And while you've seen the best at Nos. 1-57 (plus a couple of extras), there are a few other numbers that warrant mention:

    58. Jonathan Papelbon: Prior to signing a four-year contract with the Phillies this offseason, he was an All-Star closer with the Red Sox since 2006. In '07, he helped the Sox win their second World Series in three years and saved a total of 219 games for Boston.

    61. Livan Hernandez: He was the World Series MVP for the 1997 champion Florida Marlins in his rookie season. The 36-year-old's 474 starts are the most of any active pitcher. He signed a minor league contract with the Houston Astros this offseason in an attempt to pitch for his seventh Major League team.

    62. Joba Chamberlain: He was the Yankees' first-round selection in 2006, and since, has had a fairly good career. While bouncing around from the rotation to the bullpen, the right-hander has a lifetime 3.70 ERA. He underwent Tommy John surgery in June and is not expected back until close to the All-Star break.

    63. Kevin Gregg: The fiery right-hander has 144 saves over nine big league seasons. The majority of those have come since 2007, when he saved 32 games for the Florida Marlins. However, his effectiveness has not been very consistent, and he has never finished a season with and ERA under 3.00. 

    65. Phil Hughes: Like Chamberlain, Hughes was a first-round draft pick of the Yankees (2004). And also like Chamberlain, he has been bounced around from rotation to bullpen. He'll be battling for the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation for 2012, and he has the talent to be a very good fifth starter.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!