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The All-Time MLB Team, center field: nominees and ballot

A lot of baseball history to consider here!

Oscar Charleston Cigarette Card Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Oscar Charleston

Difficult choice between Charleston and Turkey Stearnes: Oscar’s peak (four seasons with an OPS+ above 200) just edged it for me. But to quote Jack, “These are the two best centerfielders in Negro League History... [and would have] dominated in the 1920’s & 30’s had they been allowed to play in MLB. They both have the statistical resumes (on a rate basis) to go toe to toe with anyone on these lists... Charleston and Stearns are RIGHT THERE with them, They really were just as great.” In Charleston’s case, that’s a seven-year period (1921-27), during which he posted a line of .389/.475/.687 for an OPS of 1.163 (an OPS+ of 210). In three of those seasons he hit better than .400.

Ty Cobb

Cobb was the Barry Bonds of his day: undeniably talented, but with a dreadful reputation. While some of that has been discredited as fictional... I’ll just leave this here. However, over eight years from 1910-17, he averaged nine bWAR per year, peaking at 11.3 in his 1917 campaign, where he batted .383/.444/.570. His HR tally, of 117 over 24 seasons, seems paltry by later standards. But he played much of the time in the appropriately-named deadball era: his nine HR were enough to lead the league in 1909. As Chuck said, “Every once in awhile you’ll see a question on social media like, If you could see one player from history play one game who would it be? For me that answer has always been Ty Cobb.”

Mickie Mantle

From Michael: “Over 100 career bWAR (79 WAA), would have had a greater career if not for a freak injury at 20. Mays was exclusively a RHH, but Mantle hit from both sides and was the first dominant switch hitter that I can recall in MLB history.” He won three MVP awards, and came in runner-up three more times - with a good case for arguing he was better than winner and teammate Roger Maris in both 1960 and 1961. But no doubt his peak years were certainly MVP worthy, posting back-to-back seasons of over 11 bWAR in 1956 and 1957. Walked more than he struck out, even in the two years where he hit over fifty homers, and his career was cut short, ending when he was only 36.

Willie Mays

MrRBI17: “Willie Mays was simply the best position player ever. His numbers speak for themselves. He was and is a fine gentleman on and off the field. I got to see Willie play spring games on 2 or 3 occasions, with my dad. While he didn’t do anything sensational in those games, just his mere presence and gravitas on the diamond commanded my attention, including on defense. When he was in the batter’s box, the physical strength and potential was electric. There was always the possibility the next pitch might go 450 feet. Say Hey!” A pair of MVP awards, six seasons of 10+ bWAR, and career numbers that’d have been even more stellar, save for the best part of two years spent in the military.

Tris Speaker

Fifth all-time on the hits list, he’s the career leader in doubles and his batting average of .345 is sixth best ever. But he was perhaps even better on defense, where he holds the MLB marks for both assists and double plays, helped by a fondness for playing a shallow center field. Wikipedia tells me that his fielding glove was known as the place “where triples go to die.” He was voted MVP in 1912 at the age of 24, with an on-base percentage of .464 that year. He also led the league in home-runs (10), and at one point hit in 50 of 51 consecutive games. Traded from Boston to Cleveland, he dethroned Cobb as the AL batting title, and won a World Series there in 1920, his first season as player-manager.

Poll

Who was the greatest center-fielder ever?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Oscar Charleston
    (3 votes)
  • 20%
    Ty Cobb
    (16 votes)
  • 20%
    Mickie Mantle
    (16 votes)
  • 52%
    Willie Mays
    (41 votes)
  • 2%
    Tris Speaker
    (2 votes)
78 votes total Vote Now