Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Top 10: Building the Franchise

Last night, I'm sitting in bed watching TV when I flip to ESPN and see that the Red Sox-Indians game is in the bottom of the ninth and the score is 8-6, with the Sox at bat with a man on first and no outs. As some of you may have already seen, the next batter proceeds to get walked, and ESPN is already panning to David Ortiz, moving to the on-deck circle, as Mark Loretta comes to the plate.

Let me just start by saying that I really don't like the Red Sox. I was raised a Yankee fan and with that comes some standard requisites, one being a hatred for the Sox. But as I'm sitting in bed watching this game, I'm starting to get goosebumps, because I know what is about to happen. The Red Sox coach does not option to have Loretta sacrifice bunt, which would move the runners, but leave 1st base open for an intentional walk. Instead, he lets Loretta swing away, and to the Sox delight, he does not hit into a double play. He pops out in the infield and the runners are still at 1st and 2nd when Big Papi comes up against Fausto Carmona, the new Indians closer.

The rest is like a Michael Jordan highlight. Game on the line, the closing moments, this is when the real men dial it in. And Ortiz did it again. The first pitch in the strike zone, he nails it to center field and walks off with a 3-run, game winning homerun. Even I cheered, he's just simply amazing.

But moments like this got me to thinking, with a guy like David Ortiz, and the Nationals move to not trade Alfonso Soriano at the deadline yesterday, if you could build a baseball franchise today from scratch, who would you start with? I discussed this at work the other day, and here's my newest top 10 list:

Top 10 Players to Begin a MLB Franchise With
10. David Wright 3B NYM - Most people would probably say, "who?" and wonder how a guy like this even made it onto my list. The fact of the matter is, this guy is probably one of the best overall talents in baseball right now, and he's still very young. If you're looking to build, this is a good place to start.
9. Ryan Howard 1B PHI - Before the All-Star break, you would have probably said "who?" about this guy as well. After the Home Run Derby, however, you're probably now aware that he is a monster talent and a batter to be feared for years to come.
8. Andruw Jones CF ATL - Atlanta has been winning the NL East since I was still in high school and one very consistent piece of that squad is the best centerfielder in baseball right now. He brings power at the plate, as he displayed last year, and you can't overlook what having a great defender patrolling the outfield can do for a baseball franchise.
7. Johan Santana SP Minn - He's arguably the most dominant pitcher in baseball over the last several years and he's still got plenty of years left to build on his legacy. They say pitching wins championships, and although I don't think I'd begin a franchise with a pitcher, he'd definitely be the one I'd choose.
6. Alfonso Soriano 2B/OF Wash - Do I even need to say anything to support this call? He IS the Nationals franchise right now, and I hope that the lack of a trade is an indication that they are going to try and sign him long-term.
5. Ichiro Suzuki RF Sea - Aside from the fact that he is an INTERNATIONAL superstar, which brings a whole new fanbase to a franchise, he is arguably the best leadoff hitter in baseball, and that does a lot to change the complexion of a game when a pitcher has to think about a steal threat while he's trying to get through the heart of the lineup. Ichiro isn't too shabby in the field either.
4. David Ortiz DH BOS - This goes back to the story of last night...and the stories of the ALDS, that I won't bring up. Ortiz is the most clutch hitter in baseball, and I wouldn't want anyone else up to bat with the game on the line. That's obviously saying alot because to build a franchise around someone who only makes an appearance 3-6 times per game would usually not merit a #4 on a ranking sheet. Or an AL MVP???
3. Derek Jeter SS NYY - He's been through it in the past and has proven that he is a clutch batter, fielder and leader. He makes the whole team better by his presence and could arguably be my #1 selection.
2. Alex Rodriguez 3B NYY - Some of the other Yankee fans (and baseball fans, in general) can boo him and get on his case for having a bad spell right now, but the fact of the matter is, is that he is the best player in baseball over the last decade. Yeah, he strikes out when the game is on the line every now and then, but he also contributes to the fact that the game is never "on the line" for the next 3-5 games after that. Hate him all you want, the guy produces.
1. Albert Pujols 1B STL - Pujols is the second coming of A-Rod. And at only 26 years of age, he's already in his 6th year of putting up absolutely ridiculous power and average numbers. If anyone has a chance at the triple crown in the foreseeable future, it's this guy. And if you're talking about building a franchise, there's not even a debate in my mind that he's the guy I'd want.

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