Well, everybody seems to be using the election as an excuse to get people to vote on things … so I might as well do the same for something I've been thinking about. For a good while now, I've been wondering: Which team would be better, a team with the best right-handed hitters in baseball history or a team with the best left-handed hitters in baseball history?
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And, really, what better time to do an election between right and left than right now?
At first blush, it seemed obvious to me that the lefties would win easily. A team with the best left-handed hitters would have Ruth, Gehrig, Williams and Bonds -- that team does not seem beatable.
But then, if you look a little more closely, you see that a right-handed team would not only have Mays, Aaron and Rickey in the outfield (not bad) it would have a pretty sizable advantage at shortstop, where probably the four or five best in baseball history -- in no particular order -- Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken Jr., Ernie Banks, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter -- all batted right-handed, as did Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, Luke Appling, Pee Wee Reese and so on.
So, let's put the two teams together and see what we come up with. I should note that for this one I left out pitchers entirely. I originally had pitchers hitting, but it got away from the point a little bit. So we're only voting on the every-day players -- the assumption for this election is that the pitchers for each team are identical. If it helps, say that both teams are using the 2012 San Francisco Giants pitching staff, which has lefty-killers and righty-killers, left-handed starters and right-handed starters.
You can vote in the poll in the right-hand column (though, this is not some kind of Palm Beach trick to get you to vote righty):
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Here, I think, is the best right-handed lineup I could put together, taking into account defense, power, speed and so on:
1. Rickey Henderson, LF
2. Rogers Hornsby, 2B
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Willie Mays, CF
5. Hank Aaron, RF
6. Frank Robinson, DH
7. Honus Wagner, SS
8. Mike Schmidt, 3B
9. Johnny Bench, C
That's pretty strong across the board. You could replace Frank Robinson with Jimmie Foxx at DH, but I like Robinson there since he was a DH for my childhood Cleveland Indians. There's also a great right-handed hitter who shall remain nameless and is not on the team -- and don't think the lefties will miss that negative-ad opportunity.
What this team promises: A proven record of a strong defense. In today's scary world, we need a strong defense. … A better team up the middle with Bench, Wagner, Hornsby and Mays -- this is not an extreme team like the left, this is a team that speaks to the center of our nation … Great speed, which is so important in this time of constantly shifting technologies and fast-moving economies.
What hurts the team's platform: There isn't a weak link on this team, but as good as this lineup is, the lefties lineup crescendos significantly higher.
What the attack ad would say: The righties want you to believe that they are about beloved players like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. But is that true? What do the facts say? The facts say that Alex Rodriguez should be on this team. Why are the righties trying to hide him? Is it that they already have a team with an unlikable guy at second base in Rogers Hornsby? Is it because they know that nobody would vote for a team with A-Rod on it? What are the righties trying to pull? And are you willing to take that chance? (I'm Joe Girardi and I approved this message).
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Now, the left-handed hitting team, again with power, speed, defense and everything else taken into consideration:
1. Ty Cobb, CF
2. Lou Gehrig, 1B
3. Ted Williams, DH
4. Babe Ruth, RF
5. Barry Bonds, LF
6. George Brett, 3B
7. Arky Vaughan, SS
8. Yogi Berra, C
9. Joe Morgan, 2B
Whew. That's pretty good. The numbers I've run show that this team would score a half run more per game than the righty team. Third base was a particularly competitive position -- Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs and George Brett were all awesome. But there is that hole at shortstop … it's pretty slim pickings at short, to be honest. Vaughan was a great player, yes, but he wasn't really viewed that way in his own time. But where else can you go? The best shortstop options are Vaughan and Joe Sewell … after that it's relatively pedestrian.
What this team promises: Is there anyone more all-American than Babe Ruth? … A much more powerful middle of the lineup with Williams, Ruth, and Bonds -- those might be the three best hitters in baseball history, PERIOD. … Winners. You will note that there isn't a single Yankee on the righty team. Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter could have made the team, but they didn't. This team has Ruth, Gehrig and Berra.
What hurts the lefty team's platform: The shortstop gap is very wide. … The lefties can TALK about how they care about defense, but the record clearly shows that it wasn't their focus.
What the attack ad would say: It's 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But something is happening in the world. There's a ball being hit in the ballpark and someone has to catch it. Who will you rely on to catch that ball? Willie Mays or Ty Cobb? Honus Wagner or Arky Vaughan? The lefties want you to believe that the world is safe for slow moving offenses, but ask yourself this: Are you willing to take that chance?
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And finally, our third-party candidate, the switch-hitting team:
1. Pete Rose, LF
2. Lance Berkman, DH
3. Eddie Murray, 1B
4. Mickey Mantle, CF
5. Chipper Jones, 3B
6. Carlos Beltran, RF
7. Roberto Alomar, 2B
8. Ted Simmons, C
9. Ozzie Smith, SS
That's a very good team. The only really tough call was left field, where Pete Rose was probably the better player, but Tim Raines in his prime was awfully good.
What the team promises: A well-rounded team that speaks to the needs of all Americans … An adaptability that has never been more important … A Wizard, the Mick, Chipper, Charlie Hustle, this is easily the best nickname team.
What hurts the team's platform: It's not as good a team as either of the others, even with Mantle in the middle.
What the attack ad would say: Neither side would bother spending money on an attack ad against the switch-hitters.