Friday, December 22, 2006

All-Decades Team: The 1980's

Sorry for the delay -- holiday shopping and all -- but here's #2 in my series of All-Decades teams: the 1980's.

Catcher: This is a toughie. So many to choose from: Carlton Fisk, Lance Parrish, Gary Carter. But my choice might be a sort of dark horse: Bob Boone. Booney is my pick because of: a) his longevity; and b) his strong defensive skills. Sure, there were bigger bats behind the plate in the decade, but from handling pitchers to blocking wayward breaking balls in the dirt, few were as consistent and smooth as Boone.

First base: Eddie Murray. Few were as destructive in the clutch as the switch-hitting Murray. A Hall of Famer and perhaps misunderstood as a player at times. Absolute poison in the late innings to opposing pitchers.

Second base: Ryne Sandberg. Prototypical. Smooth as silk. Fluid swing. Some pop in his bat. The unquestioned leader of the Cubs' division-winning teams of '84 and '89. Bet the Phillies rue the day they traded him in 1980.

Third base: Graig Nettles. A tough call here, considering other players like Ron Cey, Doug DeCinces, and Bill Madlock. But Nettles' defense, I think, was superior, and he was a major contributor to the Yankees and Padres' pennant-winning teams in the decade.

Shortstop: Wow. Cal Ripken, Jr. or Ozzie Smith? Or Alan Trammell? I guess I'll give it to Ripken. That consecutive game/consecutive inning streak is hard to ignore. Smith was, indeed, the Wizard with the glove, but Ripken did so much more with the bat.

Outfield: (left/center/right). Rickey Henderson/Andy Van Slyke/Dale Murphy. Henderson? Best leadoff hitter ever. Career leader in steals. Van Slyke? Only one of the best gloves of his time, and a solid BA with some power. Murphy? Terribly underrated, but one of the best players of his time.

Starting pitchers: Jack Morris, Nolan Ryan (again), Fernando Valenzuela. Morris, winningest pitcher of the decade. Ryan, artisan of no-hitters and a freakish arm. Valenzuela, the best lefty of the decade.

Relief pitchers: Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith.

Pinch hitter: Jerry Hairston. Breaking up Milt Wilcox's perfect game in 1983 is only but one reason.

Manager: Dare I say Sparky Anderson again? Well, who else skippered the same team throughout the entire decade? And, another World Series win and two more divisional titles added to his resume. So Sparky it is.

Next week: the 1990's.


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