The Defensive Dream Team

In the spirit of this site, I now offer another “Best of” list, this time a lineup of players I would want, were I assembling a defensive dream team.  The number of Gold Gloves won by each player is listed next to their name in parentheses.

P- Greg Maddux (18) – Far and away the best defensive pitcher in the history of the game.  After Jim Kaat, who earned 16 Gold Gloves, the next best-pitcher has half as many Gold Gloves as Maddux.

C- Johnny Bench (10) – Ivan Rodriguez has more Gold Gloves, but Bench handled better pitching staffs.

1B- Keith Hernandez (11) – He has the most Gold Gloves of any first baseman and also had 2182 hits and a .296 lifetime batting average.  Hernandez never got more than about 11% of the vote for the Hall of Fame and dropped off the ballot after 2004, but could be a good candidate eventually for the Veterans Committee.

2B- Ryne Sandberg (9) – This was a toss up between Sandberg, Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Alomar.  I initially wanted to go with Mazeroski who was elected to the Hall of Fame a few years ago largely on the strength of his defense (that and hitting the winning home run in Game Seven of the 1960 World Series.)  I re-evaluated after seeing that Sandberg and Alomar had better, almost identical numbers.  I’m going with Sandberg, I guess, because I like him more than Alomar who seemed like something of a jerk.

SS- Ozzie Smith (13) – This, on the other hand, was no contest.  Smith did backflips along with all sorts of other acrobatics, has the most Gold Gloves of any shortstop and redefined the position.  He wasn’t called The Wizard for nothing.

3B- Brooks Robinson (16) – Another simple pick.  Who else was I going to choose, Mike Schmidt?  Highlight films were invented for guys like Robinson (and Smith.)

OF- Willie Mays (12), Roberto Clemente (12), Larry Walker (7) – Mays and Clemente were easy choices.  Mays probably has two or three of the all-time best catches in baseball history from his perch in center field, and Clemente won an equal number of Gold Gloves, with a cannon arm in right field.  I struggled to pick a leftfielder, though, and ultimately went with a second rightfielder, Walker.  My rationale?  I once saw Walker throw out a slow-footed Tim Wakefield at first from right.  In my opinion, right field is the toughest position in the outfield– anyone who plays there needs a great arm.  Any good rightfielder can do just fine in left, where defensive liabilities often wind up.  This was the case with Bonds late in his career, though as a young player, he was lights out in left.

Bench: Pre-steroids Bonds (8), Pre-injured Ken Griffey Jr. (10), Omar Vizquel (11), Rodriguez (13)

5 Replies to “The Defensive Dream Team”

  1. I had the pleasure of growing up watching and listening to many of the games Clete Boyer played in the early to mid sixties. What I can tell you is that there’s not this much distance between Clete and Brooks and I always marveled at Boyers catlike quickness, sure hands and strong arm, that threw out many a runner while on his knees.
    As great as Robinson was, he wasn’t any better than Boyer, and maybe just a touch behind him.

  2. Clete and his brother Ken were both fine ballplayers. I just looked at Baseball-Reference and saw they a brother Cloyd who played in the big leagues as well, spending five years as a pitcher.

  3. The Defensive Dream Team without the Most Strong and Accurate Throwing Arm of ALL Time Al Kaline??!!
    This under-appreciated all-time great was ranked with clemente by the players, his peers as the best ever in Rightfield.

  4. Hi Ron,

    Keep in mind this post was written almost a year ago. The site has grown by leaps and bounds since then, if you’ll pardon the expression.

    Since I wrote this list, I’ve heard it mentioned that Clemente’s defense was overrated, at least compared to some of the other right fielders of his era like Kaline and (I want to say, at least for his arm) Rocky Colavito.

    Anyhow, thanks for commenting, and I’ll talk to you later.

  5. Would love to compare the actual testimony from teammates and opposing players who believed Clemente to be have that accurate “Howitzer” but to have made some of the greatest plays ever seen, There were some contemporaries like Eddie Matthews who even felt that Clemente had the edge over Willie Mays as a fielder. Not to mention that Clemente has a number of records as a right fielder over and above these so-called “other right fielders of his era”. There were only two in my experience who could hold a candle to Roberto. One of course is Kaline who altho their styles were different was a match to Clemente in many ways. The other was Johnny Callison who’s career suffered from injury. The irony here too is that both Kaline and Clemente played most of their respective careers with injuries and but still produced at the highest level. If you compare their arms though it is Clemente who most often is given the edge over everyone. I could easily produce a number of quotes from those who’d know if ever required to. But that can be easily found at places like Clemente wikiquotes and at the Baseball Research website as well as many other sites, books and publications. I’d love to see the comparative information about the other so-called contemporaries who outshone the Great One in light of that information.
    They were up their together, but whoever thinks that they were better than Clemente ought to consult those who actually played with him and against him.
    And as far as throwing runners out at first or making the turn at first, the king was none other than Roberto Clemente.

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