Best Baseball Players of the 1990’s
I love baseball. I love the Red Sox, even after the tragic, disappointing, embarrassing, and whatever other adjectives you can come up with to describe the ending to the 2011 season. This next top 10 list, however is not just the best MLB players of the 90’s, or my favorite Red Sox players. This next list is on my 10 favorite baseball players of the 90’s. There is a little bit of bias, I guess, with four of the players spending their prime years with the Sox. But, even though I now hate the Yankees with a passion, there are actually two members who spent a good chunk of their career with the Evil Empire. Overall, here are some statistics on the list:
World Series Championships Combined: 12 (avg. 1.2 per player)
All-Star Appearances: 59 (avg. 5.9 per player)
MVP Awards: 1 (avg. 0.1 per player)
CY Young Awards: 7 (avg. 3.5 per player, only two pitchers on list)
Gold Glove Awards: 40 (avg. 4 per player)
10. John Olerud (playing career = 1989 – 2005)
Teams = Blue Jays, Mets, Mariners, Yankees, Red Sox
Notes: .295 career batting average, 2 World Series Championships, 2 time All-Star, 3 time Gold Glove award winner, 1 batting title, wore helmet while playing first base
Olerud spent his prime years with the Blue Jays, Mets, and Mariners. This is where he garnered most of his accolades. I liked watching him play the game because he seemed like a “good guy”, and I, along with many, was curious as to why a player on defense would be wearing a batting helmet. He wore it as a precaution since he suffered a brain aneurysm while playing in college.
9. Greg Maddux (1986 – 2008)
Teams = Cubs, Braves, Dodgers, Padres
Notes: 355 wins, 3.16 career ERA, 3,371 strikeouts, 1 World Series Championship, 4 CY Young Awards, 8 time All-Star, 18 Gold Gloves (record)
Probably the best control pitcher I and many have ever seen. Greg had a great, seven-year career with the Cubs. His 11 year tenure with the Braves was even better. Maddux was unique in that he was not a flashy, strikeout pitcher who threw in the mid-90’s. But he used everything he had, and consistently performed as one of the best pitchers in baseball. I liked Maddux because he was different, and he was a modest guy.
8. Pedro Martinez (1992 – 2009)
Teams = Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets, Phillies
Notes: 219-100 career record, 2.93 ERA, 3,154 strikeouts, 1 World Series Championship, 3 CY Young Awards, 8 time All-Star
Pedro threw tons of strikes, like Maddux, but other than that, the only other similarity between the two is that they are both going to be first ballot hall of famers. Pedro was a very good pitcher early in his career with the Dodgers and Expos. His dominance was at its highest in Boston, though. On the field, he was one of, if not the most dominant pitcher in baseball, and also found time to hurl a senior citizen to the Fenway grass. Off the field, he was always one of the most entertaining interviews, even if we couldn’t understand what he was saying.
7. John Valentin (1992 – 2002)
Teams = Red Sox, Mets
Notes: 1 Silver Slugger Award, Turned an unassisted triple play in 1994, Hit for the cycle in 1996
Man do I miss the days of Valentin and the number 1 player on this list manning the left side of the Sox infield. John was a great guy, and always put forth a great effort. Those are the kind of players I love to watch play the best sport in the world. While never an outstanding player, Valentin put up some solid seasons in Boston.
6. Tony Gwynn (1982 – 2001)
Team = Padres
Notes: .338 career batting average, 3,141 career hits, 15 time All-Star, 5 Gold Glove Awards, 8 batting titles, 7 Silver Slugger Awards
Gwynn had a very similar career to Cal Ripken Jr. No, he did not play five million consecutive games in a row, but he did had a hall of fame career, over 3000 hits, and maybe most impressively, spent his entire career with one organization. In this day and age, it seems like players are traded or signed to another team daily. Gwynn was a team player, only making it the World Series once (and losing), but was loyal to the city of San Diego. Gwynn always had a smile on his face and was one of the great hitters of his generation.
5. Ken Griffey Jr. (1989 – 2010)
Teams = Mariners, Reds, White Sox
Notes: 1997 American League Most Valuable Player, 13 time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, 630 home runs (5th all-time)
“The Kid” was the best clean hitter with the most pure power during the 90s. McGwire, Sosa, Canseco, Palmiero, and the rest of the juice heads had nothing on junior. The other reason why they’ll never match up to Griffey’s standards is because of their various attitude or off the field issues. Griffey had minimal issues, and was a pleasure to watch.
4. Tino Martinez (1990 – 2005)
Teams = Mariners, Yankees, Cardinals, Devil Rays
Notes: 4 World Series Championships, 2 time All-Star, 1 Silver Slugger Award, 339 career home runs
Yes, I know… how could I put a Yankee on a list of my favorite players?!?! But Tino and also the number two player in this group are special exceptions. I lived in New York until I was three, and my dad still lives there. He was the one who introduced me to baseball. The first stadium I ever went to was the old Yankee Stadium, and the first team I watched on TV was the Yankees. Even though I hate the team now, the first taste of baseball I had was in the Bronx, and there was no sweeter sound than Bob Sheppard’s classic voice introducing a player like Constantino “Tino” Martinez. It also doesn’t hurt that Tino’s walk-up music was one of my favorite songs ever, “Baba O’Riley” by the Who.
3. Troy O’Leary (1993 – 2003)
Teams = Brewers, Red Sox, Expos, Cubs
Notes: 127 career home runs, .309 average in 1997, had 28 HR and 103 RBI in 1999, hit the first grand slam in Red Sox postseason history
Similar to Valentin, O’Leary was never a great major leaguer, but had some nice seasons for Boston. Also, Troy was a very clutch hitter, and that was put on the national stage in game 5 of the 1999 ALDS. Pedro’s stellar relief was the main story in that game, but O’Leary hit two home runs (including a grand slam) and drove in seven runs to lead the team to the next round.
2. Bernie Williams (1991 – 2006)
Team = Yankees
Notes: 4 World Series Championships, 5 time All-Star, 4 Gold Gloves, .297 career average, 287 home runs, Puerto Rican musician
Bernie was the ultimate class act. He spent his entire career with the Yankees, and was a huge part to their four world series championships. He has numerous postseason records, and wasn’t half bad in the regular season either. I loved every time at the stadium when Bernie would get a big home run, they would play “Disco Inferno” by the Bee Gees. “Bern baby bern, disco inferno”. Lastly, during one of the last years of his career, Bernie was spending the all-star break at a minor league game of the Yankees. I was at that game. After the game, as he and his family was driving away in their car, all the fans were crowding around and he signed some autographs, and I shook his hand. It was pretty sick.
1. Nomar Garciaparra (1996 – 2009)
Teams = Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Athletics
Notes: 6 time All-Star, .313 career average, hit .372 in 2000
I will always remember the day that Nomar got traded away from the Red Sox. I was playing in one of my summer league baseball games, and during the middle innings, one of our assistant coaches told the team. Even though the move certainly worked out in the end for Boston, it was still devastating to see my favorite player leave. My family and I loved Nomar so much that we named the family dog, Nomar.
It’s past midnight, and I was going to do some more on this post, but I’m crazy tired, so here is a poll!