Geez, you can make quite a team from guys with initials RC: Carew, Clemente, Campanella,Clemens, Cano, Carty, Cey, and others
— High Heat Stats (@HighHeatStats) March 6, 2013
So I've decided to put together a team of players that share my initials, JS. This squad wouldn't have quite as much star power as Team RC, but it's still solid nevertheless with an excellent pitching staff.
All-Time J.S. Team Part One
All-Time J.S. Team Part Two
Apologies to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jim Spencer, Justin Smoak, Joe Saunders, Jim Slaton, Jeff Samardzija, Jack Sanford, John Stuper, Jeff Suppan, John Smiley and all of the other JS's that did not make the cut.
Let's take a closer look at the All-Time JS position players. I'll get to the pitching staff next week.
Jim Sundberg caught more games than all but seven players in MLB history. He won six straight Gold Gloves from 1976-81 and threw out 41 percent of base stealers in his 16-year career. Despite a .248/.327/.348 line, Sundberg should be a mainstay at the bottom of the lineup thanks to his defensive prowess.
When Sundberg needs a breather, John Stearns should fill in ably. A four-time All-Star, Stearns stole 25 bases for the Mets in 1978, tying Roger Bresnahan's 20th Century NL record for catchers. Jason Kendall set a new mark with 26 in 1998. After his playing days, Stearns managed the Princeton Reds to the 1994 Appalachian League title.
I'll go with a left/right platoon at first with J.T. Snow and Jake Stahl.
Stahl came up as a catcher with the Boston Americans (Red Sox) in 1903. They won the first World Series that year, but he wasn't on the postseason roster. He moved to the Senators in 1904 was converted to a first baseman before becoming player-manager just one day after his 26th birthday. After two seventh-place finishes, he was let go as skipper and he left to coach the Indiana Hoosiers college team for the 1907 season.
He returned to the majors in 1908, this time with the New York Highlanders (Yankees) before being dealt back to Boston that July. In his first full season with the Sox in 1909, he reached career highs in all three slash categories (.294/.377/.434), good numbers for the dead-ball era that gave him a superb 153 OPS+.
1910 was a big season for him, as he led the A.L. in homers by edging Ty Cobb 10-8. He also struck out 129 times, which set a major league record that would stand until Vince DiMaggio whiffed 134 times in 1938*.
* When I think of Vince DiMaggio, I think of Casey Stengel's famous quip about the three ball-playing brothers, "Joe is the best hitter, Dom is the best fielder and Vince is the best singer."
Stahl retired in 1911, only to come back to the Red Sox as player-manager in 1912. He managed the home team for their inaugural season at Fenway Park and guided the team to a 105-47 record and the A.L. pennant. In one of the greatest Fall Classics of all time, the Red Sox pulled out the title in walk-off fashion after Fred Snodgrass' dropped fly ball set up the winning rally.
Stahl's time with the Sox ended badly in 1913 as a broken foot and a rift with the club president brought his playing and managerial careers to a bitter end.
The Baseball-Reference Bullpen has a good bio of Stahl, which details his post-MLB life. He went into banking before serving in World War I. Sadly, he "suffered a nervous breakdown in 1920. He then contracted tuberculosis, and died in a sanatorium in Monrovia, California in 1922 at the age of 43."
J.T. Snow, whose father Jack played wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams, was a Yankees farmhand. He won International League MVP in 1992 after hitting .313/.395/.474 with 15 homers. Snow was traded to the Angels for Jim Abbott that winter and starting in 1995, he ran up a string of six straight Gold Glove seasons in which he averaged 21 dingers.
Snow spent most of his career with the San Francisco Giants (1997-2005, 2008) and his time there was marked by three memorable postseason moments.
His game-tying pinch-hit three-run home run off of Armando Benitez extended Game Two of the 2000 NLDS.
In Game Five of the 2002 World Series, Snow scored on Kenny Lofton's triple and grabbed manager Dusty Baker's three-year-old son/bat boy Darren before he could get trampled.
The following October, Snow tried to score the tying run in the ninth inning of Game Four of the NLDS. Ivan Rodriguez withstood the collision and tagged him out, ending the series on a play at the plate.
J.T. moved on to the Red Sox in 2006 and after his father passed away, he changed his uniform number to 84. He's the only major leaguer to wear 84.
Juan Samuel burst onto the scene with the Phillies in 1984. He stole 72 bases and led the National League with 19 triples as the All-Star finished second to Dwight Gooden in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. In 1987, he earned a second All-Star nod and a Silver Slugger. He reached career highs in homers (28), RBIs (100), doubles (37) while leading the Senior Circuit in triples again with 15. With 80 extra-base hits, Samuel joined Rogers Hornsby and Charlie Gehringer as the only second baseman with 80 XBH in a season (Jeff Kent, Alfonso Soriano, Dan Uggla and Robinson Cano have since joined the club).
Junior Spivey grabs a backup middle infield spot thanks to a strong 2002 season. He batted .301/.389/.476 and was selected to his only All-Star Game, the ill-fated tie in Milwaukee. Last month, David Schoenfield of ESPN.com chose an all-time one-hit wonder for each franchise and he picked Spivey to represent the Diamondbacks. It might have been just one big year, but how many major leaguers even get that? Besides, it's enough to get him on the JS roster.
The offense's only Hall of Famer, Joe Sewell was the toughest player to strike out in modern major league history. With only 114 whiffs in 8,333 plate appearances, his PA per K is over 73! Over his last nine seasons (1925-33) he averaged 615 PA and struck out only 48 times, which is about a month's worth for Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds.
He avoided striking out while posting a .312 career batting average, including a .353 mark in 1923. That season his OPS+ was an impressive 146, a number that Alan Trammell, Barry Larkin and Derek Jeter also only reached once.
1927 was an odd year for him. A season after stealing 17 bases, Sewell was a staggering 3-for-19 on steal attempts (15.8%). The Baseball-Reference SB% search only goes back to 1951, but since then, the worst percentage is Will Clark's 22.7 in 1987 (5-for-22).
However, the good far outweighed the bad during Sewell's career. He won two championships, one with the Tribe in 1920 and another in 1932 after moving on to the Yankees to finish his career. With 41.7 bWAR in a Cleveland uniform, he ranks seventh on the franchise list, right between Jim Thome and Larry Doby.
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Sewell was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1977, going in with Ernie Banks, manager Al Lopez, fellow VC choice Amos Rusie and Negro League legends Martin Dihigo and Pop Lloyd.
"Jersey Joe" Stripp broke in with the Reds in 1928 and cracked the NL's top ten in batting average by hitting .324 in 1931. Cincy dealt him to the Dodgers in 1932 in a six-player swap that brought future Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi to the Reds. Wikipedia says that Stripp was the last player to bat against a legally-thrown spitball, as he was the last batter Burleigh Grimes faced. Grimes was among those grandfathered in after the 1920 ban and he was the last man standing in 1934. The box score of his final game doesn't have play-by-play data, but judging by the number of plate appearances each Brooklyn player made, it appears that Stripp was indeed the last one. Although he was no Joe Sewell, Jersey Joe was tough to strike out, K'ing in less than five percent of his plate appearances. He could handle the glove as well, leading NL 3B in Range Factor for three straight years from 1931-33 and in fielding percentage in 1935, 1936 and 1938.
Samuel James Tilden "Jimmy" Sheckard (named for 1876 presidential hopeful Samuel Tilden?) was a turn-of-the-century standout for Brooklyn before moving to the Cubs for their dynasty years.
When he was only 20 years old, he led the National League with 77 stolen bases in 1899. Only Ty Cobb (53 in 1907) and Mike Trout (49 in 2012) led their league in steals at such a young age.
In 1903, he led the loop in homers (9) and steals (67). He's in an exclusive club as only Cobb (1907) and Chuck Klein (1932) have accomplished that unique double dip.
Sheckard was traded to the Cubs in 1906 and was a key piece on the Tinker-Evers-Chance Cubs teams that won the pennant in each of his first three seasons with the club. Chicago went 116-36 in that first season to set a record, but they were stunned in the World Series by the "Hitless Wonder" White Sox four games to two. Sheckard was one of the goats of the series, as the Cubs' two-hitter went 0-for-21. There have been five players that went 0-for-20 or worse in a single World Series:
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Sheckard recovered and contributed to the Cubbies' back-to-back championship teams of 1907 and 1908, quite famously the last the franchise has won. His tenth-inning walk-off single that won Game Four of the 1910 World Series was the first game-ending hit in Series history and it staved off an Athletics sweep (Philly clinched the next day).
He led the N.L. in runs (121), OBP (.434) and walks (147) in 1911. The 147 free passes set a new major league record and although Babe Ruth surpassed it with 150 in 1920, Sheckard held the National League mark until Eddie Stanky drew 148 in 1945.
He was terrific in the field as well, leading the league in outfield assists three times. Sheckard ranks eighth on the all-time outfield assists leaderboard and sixth on the list of double plays by an outfielder.
His production waned quickly though, as his career was finished within two years. He retired with 2,084 hits and 465 stolen bases. His 46.7 bWAR ranks 26th among left fielders, between Hall of Famers Joe Kelley and Ralph Kiner. His JAWS score of 39.2 ranks 27th, between Hall of Famer Jim Rice and the historically underrated Roy White.
Long after his playing days, in 1947, Sheckard was killed when he was hit by car while walking to work. He was 68.
Standing at five-foot-six and nicknamed "Rabbit," Jimmy Slagle played next to Sheckard on the Cubs' pennant winners of the early 1900s, and he will on this team as well.
A vagabond early in his career, Slagle played for the original NL Washington Senators, the Phillies and the Boston Beaneaters before landing in Chicago in 1902.
He rarely dazzled with the bat, but he had a career year in his Windy City debut, finishing seventh in the NL in bWAR, batting average and OBP. His strong suit was defense, as he led the circuit in Range Factor twice and in outfield assists in two other seasons.
Slagle started on the 1907 title team, but after a down year in 1908, Solly Hofman replaced him in center field for the World Series and he retired after the Cubs victory.
There's a nice coda to Slagle's story. This 2007 New York Times story details the efforts of a man from Slagle's tiny hometown of Worthville, PA (population 85) to get a memorial built there.
When I compiled my All-Time Bluefield Team last spring, John Shelby made the squad as a speed-and-defense backup outfielder, and he makes this squad as well in a similar role. I wrote about him at length here. He won championships with the 1983 Orioles and 1988 Dodgers and currently serves on Ron Roenicke's coaching staff for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jake Stenzel took advantage of the 19th Century era with high offensive numbers (.338/.408/.479), but even when compared to his peers he posted a 134 OPS+ for bygone teams like the Chicago Colts and St. Louis Perfectos. He played mostly center field, but I'll slide him over to right for this exercise.
The Cincinnati native's SABR bio sums up Stenzels career thusly:
The 1897 season illustrates Stenzel's fate. As center fielder for the Temple Cup champion Baltimore Orioles, he hit a resounding .353 batting between future Hall of Famers Wee Willie Keeler and Joe Kelley. Yet his average was only the fifth best on the team.
Still, he finished in the top ten in most offensive categories in 1894 and 1895 and led the league in doubles in 1897. His cumulative 151 OPS+ for Pittsburgh from 1895 to 1897 ranks fifth, trailing only Ed Delahanty (HOF), Sam Thompson (HOF), Bill Joyce and Billy Hamilton (HOF).
Stenzel's career ended in 1899 after nine seasons of above-average OPS. Upon retirement, he opened a bar/restaurant across the street from the Reds' ballpark in Cincinnati. Like JS teammates Stahl and Sheckard, he met an untimely end, dying in 1919 of what was presumed to be influenza.
Like Stenzel, John Stone benefited from a hitting-dominant era, but Stone also compares well with his peers from the 1930s.
Stone hit .354 during a brief call-up to the Detroit Tigers in 1928 and became a regular corner outfielder in 1930. In 1931, he hit .327 and finished 16th in the first BBWAA American League MVP vote.
After the 1933 campaign, Detroit traded Stone to the Senators for future Hall of Famer Goose Goslin. Although the Tigers won the pennant the next two seasons with Goslin, Stone actually outhit him from 1934-37.
Stone's best season was 1936, when he finished tenth in the AL with 4.5 bWAR and batted .341/.421/.545 to rank in the top ten in all three categories.
After four strong seasons from ages 28-31, he hit .244 in 56 games the next season and his career was over. Stone's 100 triples were the fifth-most of the 1930s, behind a pair of Hall of Famers in Earl Averill and Paul Waner.
See you next week for the pitchers...