Big Numbers? All-Most!

Wednesday, November 22 2006 @ 12:57 AM EST

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Not sure what got me thinking about this, but a lot of great players have fallen juuust short of what our own Magpie has termed The Big Number in some category or another.

The truth is, we can build one of the greatest Hall of Names teams ever assembled with the guys who retired with 493 this or 2992 that ... in fact, let's do just that. And we'll start with just a few basic rules ...

All that said, let's take time to meet ...

The All-Most But Not Quite There Team

** indicates Hall of Fame
* indicates All-Star
(Big Number Milestone shown parenthetically)

MGR Bil Virdon (995 wins)
Coach Alvin Dark (994 wins)

C Jimmie Foxx** (4956 TB)
1B Lou Gehrig** (493 Homers, 1995 RBI)
2B Eddie Collins** (9949 AB)
SS Honus Wagner ** (993 XBH)
3B Harmon Killebrew** (1699 K)
LF Sam Rice** (2987 Hits)
CF Willie Mays** (2992 Games)
RF Ty Cobb** (295 3B)
DH Stan Musial** (1599 BB)

C Lance Parrish* (197 GIDP)
IF Eddie Yost* (99 HBP)
IF Bucky Harris (99 HBP)
OF Rusty Staub* (499 2B)
1B/OF Bill Buckner* (1994 1B)
1B/DH Cap Anson** (1996 Runs)

RHSP Pete Alexander** (599 starts)
LHSP Lefty Grove** (298 CG)
RHSP Nolan Ryan** (292 Losses)
RHSP Fergie Jenkins** (49 ShO)
LHSP Billy Pierce* (1999 K)

CL-RH Dennis Eckersley** (390 Saves)
LH Sparky Lyle* (899 Games)
LH Gary Lavelle* (399 GF)
RH Bobby Mathews (297 Wins)
RH Bert Blyleven* (4970 IP)

Notes ... Of course, not all of the "milestones" are of the type that a player necessarily wants to remember, but we needed a backup catcher, for instance, and thus were drawn to Lance Parrish's career 197 grounded-into-double-plays mark (he's actually tied there with three others, including another catcher in Brian Downing, but we'll go with Parrish) ... There is one instance where a player on this roster is not actually the closest, historically, to the milestone listed, but how can you resist having Honus Wagner at shorstop, even if Al Simmons had two more extra-base hits, for a career mark of 995? ...

As noted, Gehrig's 493 homers is actually tied as "closest to 500" with a more recent 1B, McGriff -- and as much as we love the Crime Dog here at Batter's Box, we'll take The Iron Horse to play 1B ... Harmon Killebrew was more of a 1B, too, but played enough at the hot corner (791 career games) to earn the starting spot there; similarly, Jimmie Foxx was primarily a 1B, but started out as a backstop and caught 108 big league games, so let's make him don the tools of ignorance ... On days that Cap Anson is the DH (actually, this is also true of Musial to an extent), there will be no less than four men who were primarily 1B in the starting lineup, in Gehrig, Killer, Double-X and Anson/Musial ... Slot Musial in LF for Rice (not a bad idea) and the number jumps to a lineup quorum of five! ...

Gehrig is the only one on the team who was closest, but short of, two big numbers, and they're the two big sexy power numbers, HR and RBI, to boot ... The last man cut from the squad is Wee Willie Keeler, because his 495 steals isn't really all that close to a "big number" -- though 500 SB is nice, again speaking historically, the closest that category has to someone falling just short of a big number is Ty Cobb's 892 swipes, and that was the all-time record for about 50 years, so really qualifies as a "big number" all on its own (just ask Lou Brock) ...

On the mound, it's hard to identify relievers because there just aren't all that many categories -- Dennis Eckersley's 390 saves is a solid six weeks of work off of the next century mark at 400, but with a couple of All-Star lefties in Sparky Lyle and Gary Lavelle setting Eck up, the back of the 'pen seems solid ... Lavelle's number of games finished barely stays ahead of Eck's number of saves, so it's not hard to understand why one is in the Hall of Fame and one was "just" an All-Star ... That's four Hall of Famers in the rotation, though we can only assume that Nolan Ryan would rather not have made the team based on his almost-300 losses ... Lefty Grove is actually tied with 19th century hurler Parisian Bob Caruthers at 298 complete games, while Fergie Jenkins' 49 shutouts places him in a four-way tie with Early Wynn, Luis Tiant and Don Drysdale ...

Our two backup infielders, Bucky Harris and Eddie Yost, are tied with 99 career times hit-by-pitch ... We'll hope Hans Wagner stays healthy at short, as Harris, primarily a 2B, and Yost, primarily a 3B, have another number in common -- they each appeared at shortstop in the big leagues exactly twice ... Harris and Bobby Mathews both played at an All-Star level, but before there was an All-Star Game, so don't get the * next to their names ... Harris is in the Hall of Fame, but for his work as a manager, not as a player ... Speaking of managers, Virdon and Dark were both All-Star infielders, but their "near miss numbers" are managerial wins, so they man the bench from the skipper's position, with Virdon and his one extra win taking the lead role ...

So Bauxites, any nominations for this team? Or is it almost perfect?