Ranking the Top 5 Arizona Diamondbacks Players of All Time
The Arizona Diamondbacks joined Major League Baseball as an expansion team in 1998. Despite its short history in the league, the franchise has boasted several Hall of Fame-caliber players—Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez among them.
Perhaps the most famous season came in 2001, resulting in a world championship. At the time, this was the first world championship for an Arizona professional sports team. Four of the five players on this list were members of that championship club.
Here are the criteria taken into consideration for selection:
- Career statistics with Arizona
- Seasons played with the franchise
- Overall impact on the team's success
- Must not be an active player
Though the franchise is still young, it will be difficult for current and future players to knock any of these five off the list anytime soon.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Williams, Miguel Batista, Craig Counsell
Considering the Diamondbacks franchise has existed for only 17 years, it is necessary to mention players who impacted the franchise early on.
Matt Williams tops the list of honorable mention candidates. Williams finished his 17-year career with Arizona, but he began his D-Backs career in the team's inaugural season (1998).
During his six seasons with Arizona, Williams hit .278 with 99 home runs and 381 RBI. His best season came in 1999, when he clubbed 35 home runs and finished with a career-high 142 RBI. He finished third in the National League MVP voting that season.
Williams' power bat helped the D-Backs to five winning seasons during his six years with the franchise.
Next on the list is Miguel Batista. Despite pitching only four seasons with the team, his contributions in 2001 will not be forgotten by fans.
Rounding off the honorable mention candidates is Craig Counsell. The utility infielder was always a tough out and proved to be a valuable asset for his team in six seasons.
From 2000-2002, Counsell hit .284 while playing outstanding defense at second, third and shortstop.
The most impressive part of Counsell's tenure with the D-Backs was his ability to put the ball in play. During the aforementioned three-year span, Counsell struck out only 146 times in 1,203 plate appearances.
His ability to get on base, especially early in his D-Backs career, helped set the table for the RBI producers.
5. Brandon Webb (2003-2009)
Serving as the team's primary ace for six years, Brandon Webb finished his career 87-62 with a 3.27 ERA. Webb won the National League Cy Young Award in 2006. He finished runner-up in his next two seasons.
Webb featured a power sinker that produced ground balls but was able to maintain a high strikeout rate throughout his career.
Webb was also extremely durable in his D-Backs career. Excluding the 2009 season, he never started fewer than 28 games in a season.
Unfortunately, Webb's right shoulder gave him trouble beginning in 2009, and he never fully recovered. Webb officially retired in 2013.
Despite Webb's gaudy numbers, the D-Backs only made the playoffs once in his career, placing him fifth on this list.
Webb finished second in franchise history in wins (87), strikeouts (1,065), starts (198) and shutouts (8).
4. Curt Schilling (2000-2003)
Schilling's place on this list largely hinges on his performance in the 2001 season and the World Series.
He was named co-MVP of the World Series after allowing only four earned runs in 21.1 innings with 26 strikeouts (1-0).
Schilling is a future Hall of Fame pitcher, though it is unlikely he will go in as a Diamondback, because of his short time in Arizona. For that reason, Schilling comes in at No. 4.
He is the franchise leader in WHIP (1.04) and win-loss percentage (.674).
3. Steve Finley (1999-2004)
One of Arizona's most complete players of all time, Steve Finley was another key component of the 2001 World Series team.
But first, here are some notable offensive statistics for Finley with franchise rankings, per Baseball Reference:
- Second all-time in home runs (153)
- Second all-time in RBI (479)
- Second all-time in hits (847)
- Second all-time in offensive WAR (18)
Finley also won back-to-back Gold Gloves in center field (1999, 2000).
Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego described Finley's fielding prowess: "Even in places where the ball carries well, such as Phoenix, Finley dared to play shallow; denying weak hitters bloop singles."
Playing shallow while using speed to track down the baseball saved countless runs throughout his career in the desert.
Perhaps Finley's most important contribution came in the 2001 playoffs.
Finley is not as big a name as Curt Schilling, but he is No. 3 on the list because of his combination of a good glove and a dangerous bat.
2. Luis Gonzalez (1999-2006)
Coming in at No. 2 is the franchise leader in nearly every offensive category: Luis Gonzalez.
In eight seasons, Gonzalez holds the franchise records for home runs (224), RBI (774) and hits (1,337), to name a few.
In his earlier seasons with Arizona (1999-2003), Gonzalez was a lock for double-digit home runs and 100-plus RBI.
Most notably, in 2001, Gonzalez hit a career-high 57 home runs and added 142 RBI.
The five-time All-Star retired in 2008 and currently works for Arizona's front office.
1. Randy Johnson (1999-2004, 2007, 2008)
Nicknamed Big Unit because of his towering 6'10" frame on the mound, Randy Johnson is arguably the best left-handed pitcher of all time. In fact, no other lefty in MLB history has more strikeouts (4,875).
With Arizona, the flamethrower won four consecutive National League Cy Young Awards and struck out 300-plus hitters from 1999-2002.
Johnson was named co-MVP of the 2001 World Series alongside teammate Curt Schilling. Facing the Yankees on the big stage, Johnson went 3-0, allowing only two earned runs in 17.1 innings with 19 strikeouts.
Perhaps the most clutch moment of Johnson's career came in Game 7 of the World Series.
After starter Curt Schilling was pulled in the eighth inning, trailing 2-1, Johnson relieved Schilling and retired all four Yankees he faced. This outing came after Johnson had thrown 104 pitches in a win the previous day.
Arizona scored two runs in the ninth inning, which gave Johnson his third win of the series.
The southpaw finished his career with the D-Backs 118-62 with a 2.83 ERA. He is the franchise leader in strikeouts (2,077), wins (118), ERA (2.83), complete games (38) and shutouts (14).
Simply, the best.