The by-now-familiar boilerplate: the inspiration here is Bill James' The Bill James Guide to Managers, which contains several of these "teams" for various historical managers. The idea is to find the peak player at each position and put together a “best-of” team. Previously I’ve compiled teams for Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa.
This was the most surprising of the three managerial all-star teams we’ve done so far, because there wasn’t the same range of great players and seasons to choose from as there was for Cox and LaRussa; I’m pretty sure either of their teams would lick Piniella’s in any seven-game series. There is a reason that both of those managers are going to go to the Hall of Fame and Piniella might not; they’ve had the horses, or created them (if you chose to give them that much credit) while Piniella worked with some lesser rosters. Here is Sweet Lou’s team, featuring fewer Yankees than I expected:
|CF||Ken Griffey, Jr.||1997||608||125||185||34||3||56||147||76||121||15||.304||.382||.646||.325|
Notes, you gotta have notes:
- It’s nice to see some pre-strike seasons make one of these lists.
- I admit I had forgotten that Chris Sabo had had three five-win seasons or had ever had a TAv as high as .308.
- It seems wrong that A-Rod pushes Barry Larkin off of Piniella’s list, but Rodriguez was just a whole other level of hitter. It’s possible I should have picked Rodriguez’s 2000 over his 1996, but as far as offense goes it seems like splitting hairs. VORP says he was the better hitter in 1996, and that was my measure of choice for this particular exercise.
- With a good second half, Geovany Soto will replace himself on this list. Lou is helping him by batting him seventh and eighth, a position which seems to be netting him some extra walks. Piniella’s best catcher not named Soto is… no one. Dan Wilson 1996 (.285/.330/.444, .254 TAv) or 1986 platoon catcher Ron Hassey would have to make the list.
- Yes, really, Bip Roberts. But for Junior Griffey, Sweet Lou’s outfielders have been an uninspiring lot. Because I chose not to let the players on teams with more than one manager “belong” to anyone, Piniella doesn’t get to claim Rickey Henderson’s or Dave Winfield’s 1988, both of which would otherwise be on this list (displacing Bip and Ichiro). Dan Pasqua '86 was a slightly better hitter than Bip, but he was a defensively challenged platoon player. Bip was an everyday sub in 1992, playing several positions, but spent most of his time (69 games) in left. If we chose to bump (bip?) him for a pure outfielder and kept away from the aforementioned Yankees he shared with Billy Martin due to George Steinbrenner’s whim, Carl Crawford ’05 would claim the position.
- Going strictly by offense, the right fielder should really be Aubrey Huff 2003. Huff played 102 games in right that year and spent the other third of the season at DH and first base. His TAv was .301. I chose to heed WARP this time and go for the full-service outfielder who is a better player overall in most years.
- I thought Dave Righetti’s then-record 46 saves and 106.2 innings of 1986 would earn him a place on this list, but his 4.5 WXRL falls short of Myers’ 1990.
The Chat Note
I've been forced to reschedule tomorrow's (Tuesday's) chat due to an accident in which I fell and slammed my back and ankle in a way that makes simple things like breathing, walking, turning over in bed, and passing the mustard across the table seem much like being racked. The only time the local orthopedist could fit me in fell right in the middle of the chatting hour. The good news is that unless said doctor orders me to have my spine surgically replaced with a curtain rod, I'll be here to take your questions on Friday instead. I appreciate your patience with your dead-eyed, de-thyroided, and now lame correspondent.