Picking Each MLB Team's Mount Rushmore
There can only be four.
Them's the rules when it comes to faces of United States presidents carved into Mount Rushmore. Likewise, it was our rule for choosing the four faces that would best represent each of Major League Baseball's 30 franchises.
An undertaking as large as this required some ground rules:
- Players Only: With respect to the dozens upon dozens of influential owners, executives, scouts and broadcasters who have left their mark, there are no baseball legends quite like baseball players.
- Franchise, Not City: A player need not have played in an organization's current home in order to be counted among said organization's all-time greats.
- Statistics Matter: This should probably go without saying, but the more a player produced for a given team, the better.
- So Does Legacy: We also considered players' championships, accolades and other achievements. Good guys were also welcome, though not at the expense of important historical significance.
- And Era: Special commendations for post-integration (1947) for post-expansion (starting in 1961) players, and virtually no commendations to the stars of the 1800s.
- One Player, One Team: A single player can't be on more than one team's Mount Rushmore.
That about does it, so let's get to work carving 120 different faces into 30 different mountains.
Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez, Paul Goldschmidt
The 2001 season has a singular place in the 21-year history of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and that's mostly thanks to sirs Johnson, Schilling and Gonzalez.
Johnson and Schilling celebrated October 2001 by going off for a 1.31 ERA over 89.2 combined innings. They were ultimately named co-MVPs for the 2001 World Series, though it was Gonzalez who finished off the New York Yankees with his series-winning RBI single off future unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera.
Gonzalez, of course, was no one-hit wonder in eight seasons with Arizona. He was a five-time All-Star whose 224 total homers as a D-back mark just one of many club records that he still holds.
For his part, all Johnson did as a D-back was win four straight NL Cy Young Awards between 1999 and 2002. Schilling was the runner-up in 2001 and 2002, as well as the only pitcher who was even close to Johnson in wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.
These accomplishments almost make Goldschmidt's look petty by comparison. "America's First Baseman" did, however, make six All-Star teams in eight seasons in the desert. Along the way, he became the team's all-time leader in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS+ and WAR.
Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones, Warren Spahn, Greg Maddux
Anyone who demands justification for the first name here should be destroyed forthwith needs a brief history lesson.
Aaron spent 21 of his 23 major league seasons with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, for whom he hit 733 of his 755 total home runs. "Hammerin' Hank" also collected an NL MVP and a World Series ring in 1957, and he netted 24 of his 25 All-Star nods as a Brave.
Eddie Mathews was a heck of a slugger in his own right in the 1950s and 1960s, but we've (perhaps foolishly) bypassed him in favor of Jones. He hit at a level comparable to Mathews between 1993 and 2012, during which he claimed the 1999 NL MVP and generally served as the rock of a longstanding Braves dynasty.
In a perfect world, the Braves would get a completely separate Mount Rushmore for the great pitchers that have come through the organization. We settled on Spahn and Maddux, however, because they're among the greatest left-handers and right-handers baseball has ever known.
Despite losing three seasons to military service, Spahn was an All-Star 17 times in 20 seasons with the Braves. Maddux pitched "only" 11 seasons in Atlanta, but he collected three NL Cy Young Awards in that span, not to mention more WAR than any other National League pitcher.
Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr.
When Frank Robinson died on February 7, Palmer honored him by telling Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com: "He changed baseball in Baltimore. There's no doubt about it."
There really isn't. The Orioles had played in (and lost) one World Series between 1901 and 1965. Then came Robinson in 1966, and he ended up being the MVP of both the regular season and the Orioles' first ever World Series victory. He won another World Series with Baltimore in 1970. Many years later, OPS+ still rates him as the best hitter the Orioles have ever had.
Palmer and Brooks Robinson played alongside him and are certainly legends in their own right.
Brooks Robinson's case as arguably the best defensive third baseman ever is supported by 16 Gold Gloves and highlights galore. Palmer won three Cy Young Awards from atop some legendary starting rotations in the 1970s, and his name still dominates Baltimore's list of pitching record holders.
By the time the Orioles won the 1983 World Series, Ripken was rising as Baltimore's next big thing. He won the first of two MVPs that year, and his future feats included breaking Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played. Altogether, Ripken ranks second to Honus Wagner among shortstops in career WAR.
Boston Red Sox
Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz
Though they were a star-laden powerhouse in the early 1900s, the history of the Boston Red Sox might as well begin with Williams.
Starting in 1939 and ending in 1960, Williams crafted a reputation as the greatest hitter who ever lived by hitting .406 in 1941 and finishing his career with the best-ever OBP and second-best-ever OPS+. He also clubbed 521 home runs despite serving in both World War II and the Korean War.
Between 1961 and 1983, Yastrzemski took on the nigh-impossible task of filling Williams' shoes by making 18 All-Star teams, winning an MVP and the Triple Crown in 1967 and ultimately setting club records for games, hits, runs, total bases and RBI.
With respect to Roger Clemens' superb pitching in the post-Yaz years, it's telling that the Red Sox have retired Pedro Martinez's number and not Clemens'. Per his 190 ERA+, his 1998-2004 stretch with the Red Sox is the best run for any team by any starting pitcher ever. He also had a hand in snapping the "Curse of the Bambino" in 2004.
Yet no single person symbolizes the Red Sox's 21st century makeover like Ortiz. "Big Papi" clubbed 483 homers with the Red Sox between 2003 and 2016, and he aided championship runs in 2004, 2007 and 2013 with a seemingly make-believe .455/.576/.795 batting line in 14 World Series games.
Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Kris Bryant
When your nickname is literally "Mr. Cub," you get a spot on the Chicago Cubs' Mount Rushmore.
Beyond his nickname, Banks' creds include being an All-Star 14 times and an MVP twice in 19 seasons with the Cubs between 1953 and 1971. He's one of only two players to ever hit 500 home runs in a Cubs uniform, and he doesn't come with the stigma of the other one.
For his part, Santo was a nine-time All-Star with the Cubs between 1960 and 1973, as well as one of the NL's very best players at his peak. Starting in 1990, he later solidified his place among Cubs' fans hearts as a broadcaster. Sandberg ranks second to Santo in career Cubs WAR. Most of that was compiled amid 10 straight All-Star seasons between 1984 and 1993.
With respect to the eternally under-respected Billy Williams, somebody has to be the face of a 2016 Cubs team that laid a 108-year championship drought to rest. Bryant's as good a choice as anyone. He came up big in the final three games of the '16 World Series. Before that, he was the team's best player in the regular season en route to the NL MVP.
It also helps that Bryant has more WAR through his first four seasons than any other Cub in history.
Chicago White Sox
Luke Appling, Minnie Minoso, Frank Thomas, Mark Buehrle
Shoeless Joe Jackson might be the most famous player from the earliest iterations of the Chicago White Sox, but...well, that's a can of worms that shouldn't be touched even with a 10-foot pole.
As an alternative to Shoeless Joe, please consider Appling. He hit .310 in 20 seasons (peaking at .388 in 1936) with Chicago between 1930 and 1950, and his name is still plastered across the team's record books.
Though it's harder to find Minoso in those books, he's certainly the most consequential star the White Sox have ever had. The Cuba native's rise as a frequent All-Star (and truly elite talent) in the 1950s helped pave the way for future stars to come out of Latin America.
“Minnie Minoso is to Latin ballplayers what Jackie Robinson is to black ballplayers,” wrote Orlando Cepeda in his biography, according to BaseballHall.org.
Thomas arrived in Chicago in 1990 and went on to set franchise records with a 161 OPS+ and 448 home runs. Though Paul Konerko had replaced him as the White Sox's top slugger by the time they won the 2005 World Series, Buehrle is a better fit for the face of the White Sox of the 21st century.
The crafty lefty pitched a no-hitter in 2007 and a perfect game in 2009. Albeit with modest attention along the way, he also accumulated more WAR than any other American League hurler between 2001 and 2011.
Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Joey Votto
No honest representation of the Cincinnati Reds is complete without Rose.
Though Rose is stuck in a lifetime ban from baseball, good luck banning his name from Cincinnati's record books. Major League Baseball's all-time hit king is also the Reds' hit king, not to mention their franchise leader in games, runs, total bases and WAR.
Rose was also an integral part of the "Big Red Machine" clubs that won three World Series between 1970 and 1976. The most integral part, however, was certainly Bench. The OG "Pudge" won MVPs in '70 and '72 en route to becoming the Reds' all-time home run leader and arguably the best catcher in baseball history.
Right around the time Rose and Bench were fading out, Larkin was just getting started. He broke in with the Reds in 1986 and stayed with the team through 2004. He and the Reds won the 1990 World Series, and Larkin himself ultimately collected an MVP in 1995 and 12 All-Star honors.
Lastly, Votto is in a spot that should arguably belong to Joe Morgan or Tony Perez. But it just wouldn't be right to deny the best pure hitter the Reds have ever had. Anyone who has a problem with that can take it up with Votto's club records for OBP and OPS+.
Nap Lajoie, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Jim Thome
Long before they were the Cleveland Indians, they were the Blues in 1901, the Broncos in 1902 and then, between 1903 and 1914, the Naps in honor of their mesmerizing star infielder.
"Every move was a picture of effortless rhythm," wrote Harry Grayson of Lajoie in The Tribune in 1943.
From 1902 through 1914, Lajoie hit over .300 in all but one season on his way to club records in hits and WAR. A tough act to follow, to be sure, but Tris Speaker nonetheless did so between 1916 and 1926.
Yet it's Feller whose face belongs next to Lajoie's. Even despite missing 1942-1944 for World War II, he used his legendary heater to lead MLB in strikeouts seven times between 1938 and 1948. Naturally, he's Cleveland's all-time strikeout leader.
After Jackie Robinson did so in the National League, Doby become the first African-American player to break the color barrier in the American League in 1947. He helped the Indians win the 1948 World Series—still the franchise's most recent title—and made seven straight All-Star teams between 1949 and 1955.
Many years later, Thome was a steady rock in Cleveland's unrelenting offenses of the 1990s and early 2000s. He averaged 40 homers per year between 1996 and 2002 and ultimately clubbed a team-record 337 as an Indian.
Larry Walker, Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado
The Colorado Rockies have scored a National League-high 20,961 runs since their inaugural season in 1993. Coors Field disclaimers aside, there are some great hitters who deserve credit for that.
Starting with Walker, who signed with the Rockies in 1995 and went on to post a 1.044 OPS and crush 258 homers in 10 seasons with Colorado. The MVP he won in 1997 is still the only MVP in Rockies history, and he looms as the team's all-time leader in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Then it was Helton's turn. He peaked as an annual All-Star and the keeper of an otherworldly .349/.450/.643 batting line and 186 homers between 2000 and 2004. Across 17 total seasons, he set club records for hits, homers, extra-base hits, total bases and WAR.
But if Walker and Helton are the two best hitters, Tulowitzki and Arenado might be the best overall players the Rockies have ever had.
Trouble with the injury bug didn't stop Tulo from hitting and fielding his way to 38.2 WAR between 2007 and 2014, cementing him as baseball's best shortstop. Likewise, Arenado's own thunderous offense and slick third base defense have led to more WAR since 2013 than all but one National League hitter.
Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, Hank Greenberg, Miguel Cabrera
Any discussion about Detroit Tigers history begins with Cobb, and any discussion about Cobb begins with what a rotten human being he supposedly was.
In truth, his boogeyman reputation isn't all it's cracked up to be. What's certainly beyond reproach is what the Georgia Peach—who played in Detroit between 1905 and 1926—did on the field. He accumulated an MLB-record .366 batting average, stole 897 bases and set numerous Tigers hitting records.
Kaline is the only Tiger to come even remotely close to Cobb's greatness. He was an 18-time All-Star with Detroit between 1953 and 1974. In 1968, he also did something that even Cobb never did: lead the Tigers to a World Series championship.
Though Kaline's 399 homers are a Tigers record, there would be a different name atop the list if World War II hadn't interrupted Greenberg's career. He hit 331 homers in 12 seasons with Detroit, winning two World Series in the process. He still holds the Tigers franchise record for slugging percentage.
It's hard to deny Justin Verlander as the greatest Tiger of the 21st century, yet Cabrera is worth it. Miggy won back-to-back MVPs in 2012 and 2013, the latter of which capped a four-year reign as the best hitter in baseball. Further, his 155 OPS+ as a Tiger ranks behind only Cobb and Greenberg.
Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Roy Oswalt, Jose Altuve
Though they had their moments in the 1980s, the Houston Astros didn't really build a National League powerhouse until Bagwell and Biggio rose to stardom in the 1990s.
Biggio set 'em up by collecting a team-record 3,060 hits over 20 seasons with Houston. Bagwell knocked 'em down with 449 homers (also an Astros record) between 1991 and 2005. The two will likely rank first and second on Houston's WAR leaderboard for many years to come.
Pitching-wise, the Astros have notably employed both Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan, who are arguably the two most dominant right-handers in baseball history. But whatever you do, don't underestimate Oswalt's career.
Oswalt had a better nine-year run with Houston between 2001 and 2009 than even Ryan did between 1980 and 1988. For that matter, he accrued more WAR during that stretch than any other National League pitcher. Certainly, he deserved a lot more attention than what he got.
Despite the efforts of past greats, it wasn't until 2017 that the Astros finally won a World Series championship. There's no better face for that club than Altuve, who was the MVP of the AL that year. His status as one of the best players in the American League, period, is ongoing.
Kansas City Royals
George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Appier, Alex Gordon
Officially, the Kansas City Royals were born in 1969. Unofficially, they came to life when Brett debuted in 1973.
Brett stayed in Kansas City all the way through 1993. He played in seven postseasons, including with a World Series champion in 1985. Among his personal accomplishments are a .390 batting average and AL MVP in 1980, plus 13 All-Star selections and near-total ownership of the Royals' offensive records.
As aces go, Saberhagen and Appier ensured that there was at least one in Kansas City's rotation every year from 1985 through 1997.
Saberhagen won the AL Cy Young Award in '85 and '89, and ultimately compiled more WAR between '85 and '91 than every AL pitcher except for Clemens. Albeit to less fanfare, Appier pulled off the same feat between '90 and '97.
Of course, the 1990s and 2000s were dark times for the Royals. But their reanimation in the 2010s coincided with Gordon's rise as a top-five WAR producer in the AL between 2011 and 2014. After coming 90 feet away from a crucial run in the 2014 World Series, he more than made up for it with a home run that plotted a course to victory for the Royals in the 2015 World Series.
Los Angeles Angels
Jim Fregosi, Nolan Ryan, Tim Salmon, Mike Trout
Not long after the Los Angeles Angels came into being in 1961, Fregosi became their first big star.
As a shortstop who could hit, run and field his position, Fregosi accumulated more WAR between 1963 and 1970 than every AL player save for Yastrzemski. He later managed the Angels to the American League Championship Series in 1979.
Perhaps the best thing Fregosi ever did for the Angels, however, was serve as the centerpiece for a 1971 trade that brought back a young righty named Nolan Ryan. He racked up 2,416 of his record 5,714 strikeouts as an Angel, as well as four of his seven no-hitters.
Despite somehow never earning a single All-Star nod, Salmon racked up a club-record 299 homers in 14 seasons with the Angels between 1992 and 2006. Along with Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus, he was also a cornerstone piece for the 2002 club that claimed the franchise's first World Series title.
Yet the best player in Angels history is on the team right now. Since 2012, Trout has won two AL MVPs and made seven All-Star teams. He also boasts more career WAR than any other Angel, not to mention any player in history through the age of 26.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Clayton Kershaw
A proper Mt. Rushmore for the Los Angeles Dodgers would include the most consequential executive (Branch Rickey) and the most beloved broadcaster (Vin Scully) in baseball history.
As players go, Robinson naturally comes first. Beyond being the first African American player to cross the color barrier in 1947, he was also a whirlwind of athleticism and sheer resolve who racked up 61.4 WAR in only 10 seasons.
"He bore the burden of a pioneer and the weight made him more strong," Roger Kahn of Jackie Robinson in The Boys of Summer. "If one can be certain of anything in baseball, it is that we shall not look upon his like again."
Robinson also played a part in delivering the 1955 World Series title that finally freed the Brooklyn Dodgers from their "Dem Bums" label. Yet Snider's four homers certainly had a bigger impact in taking down the Yankees. His other credits include eight All-Star selections and a club-record 389 homers.
Though Koufax's stardom was relatively short-lived, his six-year run (which netted three NL Cy Young Awards) between 1961 and 1966 puts even Kershaw's best six-year stretch to shame. That's not counting the three rings won by Koufax in 1959, 1963 and 1965.
Gary Sheffield, Josh Beckett, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez
The Miami Marlins' World Series-winning teams of 1997 and 2003 were so eclectic that it's hard to pinpoint a single face for either of them.
Sheffield will do for the '97 Marlins. In six seasons, he gifted the Marlins with a club-record 156 OPS+, 122 home runs and a huge performance (five RBI and a clutch catch) in Game 3 of the '97 World Series.
Beckett was frequently injured between 2001 and 2005, but he was certainly healthy when the Marlins needed him in October 2003. He mustered a 2.11 ERA in six appearances, culminating in a shutout in Game 6 of the World Series that clinched Miami's second title in seven seasons.
Seven years later in 2010, Stanton arrived and got to work slamming a team-record 267 homers in eight seasons. He also became the team's first-ever MVP on his way out the door in 2017.
Which brings us, at last, to the late, great Fernandez.
The young fireballer only made 76 starts for the Marlins before tragically dying in a boating accident in September 2016. His pitching nonetheless had him on a path to all-time greatness, and his insistence on having fun at everything he did made it impossible not to have fun watching him.
Indeed, there is no more perfect candidate for the first retired number in Marlins history.
Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper, Ryan Braun
The No. 3 pick in the MLB draft has been a fortuitous one for the Milwaukee Brewers. It landed them Yount in 1973 and Molitor in 1977.
Yount went on to become one of the best players of the 1980s, accumulating 55.3 total WAR and winning AL MVP awards in '82 and '89. Across 20 total seasons with Milwaukee, he set club records in too many offensive categories to count.
Molitor debuted in 1978 and stayed in Milwaukee through 1992. He made five All-Star teams in that span and mixed 160 home runs with a .303 batting average and team-record 412 stolen bases.
Cooper's Brewers stardom was relatively short-lived, but he peaked with four All-Star nods in five seasons between 1979 and 1983. The 143 OPS+ he tallied in that stretch isn't the only lasting testament to his hitting prowess.
"He is one of the two or three best [hitters] I've ever seen," Hall of Famer Don Sutton said of Cooper in 1983.
Despite his performance-enhancing drug scandals, Braun is nonetheless one of the most significant players to ever play in Milwaukee. He's hit a team-record 322 home runs (and counting), and he's starred on three of only five teams the Brewers have ever sent to the postseason.
Walter Johnson, Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett
Long before they were the Minnesota Twins, they were the Washington Senators. And Johnson was their ace.
Oh, was he an ace. Between 1907 and 1927, Johnson won MVPs in '13 and '24 and accumulated more WAR than any pitcher in history. His chief weapon was a fastball that put even the best pure hitter of the era at a loss for words.
"Just speed, raw speed, blinding speed, too much speed," Ty Cobb said of Johnson's heater, per BaseballHall.org.
Killebrew was just coming into his stardom when the Senators moved to Minneapolis in 1961. He played all but one of his 22 seasons with the franchise and set club records with 559 home runs. He was also a 13-time All-Star and the AL MVP in 1969.
Carew's Twins career lasted from 1967 through 1978, a span in which he collected all seven of his batting titles, 12 All-Star nods and the '77 AL MVP.
The total collapse of Puckett's beloved public persona in the early 2000s can't be ignored. But neither can his place in Twins history. He was one of the AL's great stars for a decade between 1986 and 1995, as well as a fundamental part of World Series winners in 1987 and 1991.
New York Mets
Tom Seaver, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, David Wright
Seaver was originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1965, and then by the Braves in 1966. But by way of buffoonish tomfoolery on the part of commissioner William Eckert, the New York Mets were able to scoop him up later in '66.
Between 1967 and 1977, Seaver collected 10 All-Star nods, three NL Cy Young Awards and a World Series ring in '69. Decades later, he remains the Mets' all-time leader in WAR and numerous pitching categories.
The next great Mets era happened in the 1980s. Though Dwight Gooden and Keith Hernandez are strong candidates in their own right, Strawberry is the right face for those teams. He clubbed a team-record 252 homers between 1983 and 1990. His one and only long ball in the 1986 World Series was a big one in Game 7.
From 1998 through 2005, Piazza hit the bulk (220, to be exact) of his catcher-record 427 homers as a Met, and he did his damndest to win them a World Series in 2000. To boot, his post-9/11 homer is probably the most famous hit in Mets history.
It's Wright, however, who owns the most WAR of any hitter in Mets history. That mostly traces back to his 2005-2013 peak, when he made seven All-Star teams and kept a place among the National League's elite superstars.
New York Yankees
Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter
OK, look. Boiling down the entire history of the New York Yankees to four faces is impossible. The only way to really do this fairly is to pick one representative from their most dominant eras.
Between 1920 and 1934, Ruth effectively reinvented baseball and birthed the concept of the athlete as celebrity. The Babe hit 659 of his 714 total homers in pinstripes and led the Yankees to World Series victories in 1923, 1927, 1928 and 1932.
DiMaggio played 13 seasons in 16 years (World War II got in the way) with the Yankees between 1936 and 1951. He was an All-Star in each of them, plus a three-time AL MVP winner. He also played in 10 World Series and helped the Yankees win nine of them.
As soon as DiMaggio was gone, there was Mantle. He settled into superstardom in 1952 and collected 20 All-Star selections, three MVPs and seven World Series rings through 1968.
Alas, the Yankees won only two World Series between 1965 and 1994. But then came Jeter in 1995, and 1996 ended in one of the five World Series victories he enjoyed in a 20-year career.
That's four players and 25 World Series rings, not to mention 403.4 total WAR as Yankees. That's arguably more impressive than the actual Mt. Rushmore.
Jimmie Foxx, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley
The 118-year history of the Oakland Athletics includes two of the three winningest managers (Connie Mack and Tony La Russa) and arguably the second-most consequential executive (Billy Beane) of all time.
But as stars go, Foxx came first. He cranked out 299 homers between 1928 and 1935 while capturing a pair each of AL MVPs and World Series rings. He's still the A's all-time leader in OPS+.
As they went from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland, the A's didn't play in a single postseason between 1932 and 1970. The turning of the tide coincided with Jackson's rise to superstardom between 1969 and 1975. He racked up 224 homers over that span, and after missing the '72 World Series with a hamstring injury, he played starring roles in the '73 and '74 World Series.
Oakland was Henderson's main base of operations during a well-traveled 25-year career, and it was with the A's that he collected most of his record-setting 1,406 stolen bases and 2,295 runs scored. Henderson was also on the A's team that won the 1989 World Series.
So was Eckersley, who was blazing a trail for modern closers by dominating for an inning at a time. Between 1988 and 1992, he collected four All-Star nods, a Cy Young Award and an MVP while notching 220 saves.
Richie Ashburn, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Chase Utley
Take a look through the Philadelphia Phillies' all-time leaderboards, and you'll find Ashburn atop two categories: singles and times caught stealing.
Yet Ashburn's place in Phillies lore can't be sold short. As a player between 1948 and 1959, he hit over .300 eight times and made four All-Star teams. Following his retirement, he settled into a role as a beloved broadcaster that lasted for over three decades.
Among the Phillies teams Ashburn covered were the great clubs of the 1970s and 1980s, which Schmidt and Carlton primarily drove.
Schmidt spent 18 seasons with the Phillies, winning three NL MVPs and setting club records for home runs and pretty much anything else you can think of. Carlton was with the Phillies from 1972 through 1985, a span in which he won all four of his NL Cy Young Awards. In helping the Phillies win the 1980 World Series, Schmidt clubbed two homers and Carlton pitched in a pair of victories.
The Phillies wouldn't win another World Series until 2008, smack dab in the middle of their run as a National League powerhouse. Though he had lots of help, those were Utley's teams. He was an All-Star five times between 2004 and 2010, as well as the NL's second-best producer of WAR in those years.
Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell
When a young pitcher once asked John McGraw how to pitch to Wagner, the legendary manager replied: "Just pitch the ball and pray."
With the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1900 through 1917, Wagner led the National League in batting average eight times and swiped 639 bases. He was also a slick defender at multiple positions, so it's hard to look upon his club-record 120.2 WAR with any skepticism.
Clemente was at his best between 1960 and 1972, when he was an All-Star 15 times and a World Series champion in '60 and '71. And as great of a player he was, he was an equally great humanitarian whose influence still looms large almost 50 years after his tragic passing.
Compared to Wagner and Clemente, Mazeroski was a far lesser Pirates star. But if not for his defensive wizardry at second base—which earned him eight Gold Gloves in 17 seasons—he deserves his spot for his walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.
Pittsburgh's last World Series victory was all the way back in 1979, which was also the crown jewel of Stargell's 21-year career with the Pirates. "Pops" was the MVP of both the regular season and the World Series in '79, when he hit 32 of his team-record 475 home runs.
San Diego Padres
Dave Winfield, Randy Jones, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman
The San Diego Padres endured plenty of growing pains in their first decade of existence, but at least they had Winfield and Jones.
Winfield made his major league debut soon after the Padres selected him with the No. 4 pick in the 1973 draft. Comfort in the majors came just as quickly, as he spent the next eight years racking up 154 homers, 133 stolen bases and four All-Star selections.
Jones' peak stardom only lasted for two seasons in 1975 and 1976, but he was the NL Cy Young Award runner-up in the former and the winner in the latter. He was a huge fan favorite in those days, and San Diego hasn't forgotten him in the ensuing decades.
Speaking of huge fan favorites, Gwynn endeared himself to pretty much everyone while accumulating eight NL batting titles and a lifetime batting average of .338 between 1982 and 2001. "Mr. Padre" will forever be remembered as one of the best pure hitters and most pleasant people ever to play baseball.
Hoffman was a teammate of Gwynn's from 1993 through 2001, which was the beginning of his reign as a dominant closer. After 18 years, he retired with seven All-Star nods and 601 saves to his name.
San Francisco Giants
Christy Mathewson, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds
Whether in New York or San Francisco, the Giants have tended to revolve around singularly talented and popular superstars. Alas, there isn't enough room for all of them here.
We sided with Mathewson over Mel Ott to represent the New York-era Giants because he was the first superstar pitcher of the AL-NL era. Between 1901 and 1913, he won 337 games and was worth about 26 more WAR than the next-best pitcher.
Fast-forward to 1951, and there's Mays at the beginning of a historic 22-year career. His bat, legs and glove carried him to a 154.8 WAR with the Giants—the most ever for a player with a single team—and he nabbed 24 All-Star nods, two MVPs and a World Series ring in 1954.
As great as Mays was, McCovey was a slightly superior hitter during his 1959-1971 peak. "Stretch" died last October, but the Giants won't soon stop handing out the Willie Mac Award or even think about renaming "McCovey Cove" beyond right field at Oracle Park.
Though a PED cloud hangs over it all, Bonds was baseball perfection personified with the Giants between 1993 and 2007. He won five MVPs, including four straight in a 2001-2004 stretch in which he mustered a 256 OPS+ and 209 of his all-time record 762 home runs.
Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki, Felix Hernandez
As Griffey was rising with the Seattle Mariners in the 1990s, the great Claire Smith pondered his similarity to Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo.
"When you're that good, the brilliance must seem like child's play," she wrote in the New York Times in 1994.
Griffey was an All-Star and a Gold Glover each year between 1990 and 1999—during which time he averaged 38 homers and 6.8 WAR—as well as the AL MVP in 1997. "The Kid" was also cool in a way that no other baseball player has ever achieved.
Martinez, meanwhile, put up an astonishing .322/.430/.532 batting line during the 90s. Further, he owns the single biggest hit in the 42-year history of the Mariners.
From Japan in 2001 came Ichiro, who paced Seattle to a 116-win regular season by winning the AL Rookie of the Year and the MVP. From then through 2010, he was an annual All-Star and Gold Glover who amassed a .331 average and 2,244 of his 3,089 major league hits.
In more recent years, Mariners fans have had Hernandez to rally around. "King Felix" was an All-Star six times between 2009 and 2015, and the AL Cy Young Award winner in the one year (2010) that he wasn't. Traditionally, every start he makes at Safeco Field is a party.
St. Louis Cardinals
Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Albert Pujols
The history of the St. Louis Cardinals technically goes back to 1882, but it effectively begins with Hornsby.
He was the Cardinals' top WAR producer each year between 1916 and 1925. Though his stardom slipped in 1926, he did well enough in his second role as manager to guide the Cardinals to the first of their 11 World Series titles.
Come 1943, Musial earned the first of 24 All-Star nods and three NL MVPs in a career that lasted through 1963. "The Man" was by far the top WAR producer in baseball during his 1943-1958 peak. Likewise, his name is all over St. Louis' record books.
The Cardinals enjoyed another run of greatness in the 1960s, much of which flowed from Gibson. He was the MVP of both the '64 and '67 World Series, as well as the NL MVP and Cy Young Award winner in 1968. Altogether, he owns more than twice as much career WAR than any other Cardinals pitcher.
The inclusion of Pujols over Lou Brock or Ozzie Smith might elicit controversy, but it shouldn't. Pujols was far and away NL's best player between 2001 and 2011. He helped the Cardinals win the World Series in 2006 and 2011, and he would have won more than three MVPs had it not been for Bonds.
Tampa Bay Rays
Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, David Price, Ben Zobrist
In 1999, their second year of existence, the Tampa Bay Rays used the No. 1 pick on Josh Hamilton. Though he never became a star for them, their second pick did.
Starting in 2002, Crawford built his early stardom on blinding speed that produced American League stolen base titles in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. As his other skills evolved, he turned into a four-time All-Star and one of the AL's top five WAR producers between 2004 and 2010.
Come 2008, Longoria debuted and played a significant role in getting the Rays to their first World Series. He won the AL Rookie of the Year on the strength of his power and slick third base defense. Ultimately, he was one of the AL's best players for a decade.
Price's Rays stardom was relatively short-lived, but no less impressive. He was a four-time All-Star between 2010 and 2014, as well as the AL's Cy Young Award winner in 2012.
Zobrist, meanwhile, quietly accumulated more WAR than every AL hitter outside of Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera between 2009 and 2014. If he's going to have a lasting legacy in baseball, it will be as the platonic ideal of a versatile player.
Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre
The Texas Rangers are one of seemingly dozens of teams that were the Washington Senators once upon a time. But that's a window into a whole lot of nothing between 1961 and 1995.
The Rangers didn't go to their first postseason until 1996, and two more followed in 1998 and 1999. Those teams were built on Rodriguez. The power-hitting, laser-throwing catcher was an All-Star and Gold Glover each year between 1992 and 2001, as well as the AL MVP in '99.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, was the Rangers' best hitter. He captured AL MVPs in '96 and '98, mainly with power that produced a team-record 372 home runs over 13 seasons.
During a lean period in the 2000s, Young did his part to keep things interesting by averaging 202 hits per year between 2003 and 2009. He then set the table for the 2010 and 2011 clubs that went to the World Series. Today, his name is all over the Rangers' record books.
In 2011, Beltre arrived in Texas, where he stayed through the last of his 21 major league seasons in 2018. He mustered MVP-caliber production between 2011 and 2016, and he further endeared himself to Rangers fans with a certain joie de vivre that made him equal parts unpredictable and hilarious.
Toronto Blue Jays
Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay, Jose Bautista
It's impossible to consider the history of the Toronto Blue Jays without thinking of the phrase, "Touch 'em all, Joe! You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!"
That was Tom Cheek calling Carter's walk-off homer in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, which sealed Toronto's second straight championship. Though none were indeed bigger than that, Carter also clubbed 127 homers in four All-Star seasons between 1991 and 1994.
Delgado made his major league debut during that fateful 1993 season, but he earned his spot in Blue Jays lore between 1996 and 2004. He hit the bulk of his team-record 336 homers over that span.
Starting in 1998, the Doc was in for the Blue Jays. The late, great Halladay's best work on the mound came between 2002 and 2009, during which time he displayed a Madduxian feel for pitching while racking up the most WAR of any AL hurler.
Once Halladay left for Philadelphia in 2010, Bautista took center stage in Toronto. He came out of nowhere with a 54-homer season en route to 227 total homers (and annual All-Star nods) between then and 2015. In doing so, he helped to popularize a new form of slugging by trying to pull everything.
Gary Carter, Tim Raines, Vladimir Guerrero, Bryce Harper
Today, the Washington Nationals are a well-off franchise that can have all the stars it wants. But in their Montreal Expos days, they lacked the funds to keep their best players around for long.
Save for some exceptions, of course, starting with Carter and Raines.
At his peak between '77 and '84, Carter was a six-time All-Star who posted more WAR than every NL hitter outside of Schmidt. Raines was an annual All-Star in his own right between 1981 and 1987, a period in which he also trailed only Schmidt among NL hitters.
What Guerrero did between 1998 and 2003 rivals even Carter's and Raines' best work. He averaged 37 homers and 20 steals per season, and he left lasting impressions for his ability to hit any pitch and make any throw.
Which brings us to Harper and his arguably undeserved inclusion. Yet this is a guy who earned a Rookie of the Year, an MVP and six All-Star nods in seven seasons between 2012 and 2018. Following a slow start, he even became a dangerous postseason hitter.
In short, Harper became the franchise icon that the Nationals hoped he would be when they drafted him as a teenage phenom at No. 1 in 2010.