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The Greatest Infield of All-Time?


KAZ97

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I loved my 1997 birds. I had just moved downtown, was having alot of fun at night, went to over 60 games at the Yard and the team went Wire to Wire. In short, one of the greatest summers of my life.

So with that, I suspect I might be alittle biased in my opinion that the 1997 Orioles infield was the greatest of all time. The recent Robbie Alomar Hall of Fame press got me thinking ....

Cal is in, Robbie will be in next year and Raffy certainly put up HOF numbers but it is still unclear how the voters will settle on the steroid issue.

It is possible that the '97 infield had 3 Hall of Famers playing everyday.

I wondered if any other team in modern history was able to say that. The answer is NO.*

The last, and only team, to have three infielders voted into the Hall by the BBWAA is the turn of the century cubs with Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, and Joe Tinker.

I feel privileged to witness that team, and even more so to have some understanding of their historical greatness at the time.

* There are two caveats:

(1) Pete Rose. Clearly a HOF talent, so the Big Red Machine infield of Rose, Morgan and Perez are kept out only on a technicality. If you let that group in, its a short slide to also letting in the 83 Phils when Rose and Morgan teamed up with Mike Schmidt.

(2) You gotta think the current Yankees infield of Jeter, Rodriguez and Teixeira might have a shot of getting 3 HOFs. If the steroids are not an issue for Palermo, you'd think Rodriguez would also get in. I would think Teixeira might have a good shot, particulalry now that he is playing on good teams in the media capital of NY.

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What do you define as modern? I tend to think of it as post-1900, but it's been increasingly common to define post-WWII or "the retrosheet era" (basically 1954-today) as modern.

Tinker, Evers, and Chance tend to get dismissed today as light hitters who got in on the basis of that poem. But they had to be pretty good, because they were the core of a team that still holds the 3-year, 5-year and pretty much whatever # of year records you want for wins.

When you talk about greatest infield (or outfield) ever you also have to think about how you're defining that. It's probably the case that many infields with one or two HOFers were more productive than ones with three.

Oh, and the O's have had another three HOFer infield: McGraw, Jennings, and Brouthers.

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Baltimore Orioles AB R H RBI BB SO BA OPS Pit Str PO A Details

C Goodwin CF 4 0 0 0 0 4 .353 .706 22 16 3 0

K Bass LF 4 0 0 0 0 1 .264 .679 19 13 1 0

C Ripken SS 4 0 1 0 0 1 .294 .783 17 12 0 5

C Hoiles C 3 0 1 0 0 1 .213 .748 10 7 5 1

J Hammonds RF 3 0 0 0 0 2 .273 .771 18 12 0 0

J Manto 1B 3 0 0 0 0 0 .280 .792 15 7 16 0 GDP

L Gomez 3B 2 0 0 0 1 1 .210 .496 14 7 0 1

B Barberie DH 3 0 0 0 0 1 .258 .684 13 9 0 0

M Alexander 2B 3 0 1 0 0 1 .189 .400 13 9 2 6

And Barberie as DH?

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What do you define as modern? I tend to think of it as post-1900, but it's been increasingly common to define post-WWII or "the retrosheet era" (basically 1954-today) as modern.

Tinker, Evers, and Chance tend to get dismissed today as light hitters who got in on the basis of that poem. But they had to be pretty good, because they were the core of a team that still holds the 3-year, 5-year and pretty much whatever # of year records you want for wins.

When you talk about greatest infield (or outfield) ever you also have to think about how you're defining that. It's probably the case that many infields with one or two HOFers were more productive than ones with three.

Oh, and the O's have had another three HOFer infield: McGraw, Jennings, and Brouthers.

Agreed on all points. My definition of modern changes with the wind, but I like the 1954 cutoff because it also coincides nicely with the current O's coming to Baltimore.

You might be able to find more productive infields, I meant "greatest" in the sense that I was having a friendly argument with OldFan at a bar. Most number of HOF players wins.

Note: There are actually quite a few old-time infields with three guys in the Hall, but most of those guys were elected by some other method besides the BBWAA as players, so I conveniently ignored them.

I wonder if any everyday outfield ever consisted of 3 HOFs?

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I wonder if any everyday outfield ever consisted of 3 HOFs?

The Philadelphia A's had Al Simmons, Ty Cobb, and Zach Wheat at the same time. And the next year they had Cobb, Simmons, and Tris Speaker. Of course Cobb and Speaker were in their 40s, and Wheat was 39. And some of them weren't regulars, they had a couple other outfielders like Bing Miller, too. One day somebody needs to write a great book or make a movie about the '27-'28 A's. In addition to those outfielders they had HOFers Mickey Cochrane, 40-year-old Eddie Collins, 19-year-old Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, plus Jack Quinn who pitched in the majors until he was 49.

In the 1890s the A's had an outfield of Big Sam Thompson, Billy Hamilton, and Ed Delehanty. In modern terms that would be something like Manny Ramirez, Tim Raines, and Vlad. They're all in the Hall, and their 4th outfielder was a guy named Tuck Turner who had a two year period in '94-'95 where he hit .404 as a part-timer.

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The Philadelphia A's had Al Simmons, Ty Cobb, and Zach Wheat at the same time. And the next year they had Cobb, Simmons, and Tris Speaker. Of course Cobb and Speaker were in their 40s, and Wheat was 39. And some of them weren't regulars, they had a couple other outfielders like Bing Miller, too. One day somebody needs to write a great book or make a movie about the '27-'28 A's. In addition to those outfielders they had HOFers Mickey Cochrane, 40-year-old Eddie Collins, 19-year-old Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, plus Jack Quinn who pitched in the majors until he was 49.

In the 1890s the A's had an outfield of Big Sam Thompson, Billy Hamilton, and Ed Delehanty. In modern terms that would be something like Manny Ramirez, Tim Raines, and Vlad. They're all in the Hall, and their 4th outfielder was a guy named Tuck Turner who had a two year period in '94-'95 where he hit .404 as a part-timer.

Dang, nice work.

By my narrow definitions of HOF and modern, I came to the conclusion that no modern outfield has ever had 3 HOFs as regulars. In fact, having 2 is pretty rare post-1954. That list is:

1961 Yankees: Berra and Mantle. (Yogi swithced the the OF late in his career and played 15 games in center in '61 (?). Oh, and the other guy was Roger Maris)

1962-3 Cubs: Billy Williams and Lou Brock

1963-4 Giants: Mays and McCovey before he moved to 1B full time

1985-8 Yankees: Rickey and Dave Winfield

1996 Padres: Rickey and Tony Gywnn

Again, depending on how the steroids thing plays out you gotta figure the Indians of Manny and Albert Belle will join that list. Kenny Lofton's chances of HOF?

I sincerely hope that OldFan lives long enough to see Jones, Markakis and Reimold inducted into the Hall of Fame so he can say he witnessed the greatest OF of all time.

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And Barberie as DH?

Was that from '95? That's pretty bad, but if you are just looking at one game, you can probably find a worse one with Cal. Maybe search for "September" and "PJ Forbes"?

That '95 team had both Cal and Raffy on it, so by my standards, it was one of the all time greats!

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Was that from '95? That's pretty bad, but if you are just looking at one game, you can probably find a worse one with Cal. Maybe search for "September" and "PJ Forbes"?

That '95 team had both Cal and Raffy on it, so by my standards, it was one of the all time greats!

PJ Forbes was 1998. I can usually remember just about everyone that played for the Orioles, at least post-1992, but I've never heard of that guy. Probably due to the one hit in ten PAs :P

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I think the 1996 Orioles may have had a better infield. It still had Ripken, Palmeiro & Alomar, but you swap out Mike Bordick for BJ Surhoff. It's definitely MUCH better offensively. Bordick was horrible at the plate in 1997, so swapping him out for a very solid Surhoff is a big upgrade. And all 3 of the other guys had better years in 1996, too.

The only argument is defense. Was the '97 team's infield defense good enough to make up the difference offensively? The biggest difference was Bordick. I don't think it's enough.

Looking back at the offensive lineup in '96-'97 seasons, it's amazing that '96 wasn't the better year. But then you look at the pitching :P The pitching was sooo much better in '97. It just goes to show what matters the most.

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PJ Forbes was 1998. I can usually remember just about everyone that played for the Orioles, at least post-1992, but I've never heard of that guy. Probably due to the one hit in ten PAs :P

I was at his debut in '98 and its as clear as yesterday in my mind's eye. As I remember it, he was a late inning replacement in a late season game that held no meaning. I can clearly see Cal jogging over to third base, conversing with the umpire or maybe the other team's third base coach and making some practice throws, just like he did in every inning of almost 2300+ games. It was the very definition of routine. Then out of the dugout explodes PJ Forbes like a little leaguer on the first day of the season. He's firing balls to first, he's manicuring the dirt, he's stretching his legs, anything to keep his mind off of the fact that HOLY SH*T I'M IN A MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL GAME.

As I recall the inning goes on un-eventfully, or maybe builds to a dramatic crescendo, but with two outs the batter hits a slow nubber to the right side. BAM. PJ Forbes runs full speed at the thing, in one motion, he picks up the ball, fires to first and continues to run full speed into the dugout, through the tunnel and probably didn't stop until he hit the commode. I don't even think the batter took two steps. The look on Cal's face was priceless as he slowly jogged to the dugout.

The internet being what it is, I'm sure someone will dig up a box score or a video and disprove my account, but I swear that's what happened.

I always thought that was the only game of his MLB career, but a quick check of b-r.com indicates he also made the big club in Philly a few years later and is now a manager in the minors. You could tell just from that half inning that he was manager material. The guy must have worked hard and made friends in the organization because it wasn't his natural ability that took him there.

Regardless PJ Forbes is a major league baseball player and now if he googles his name, a thread titled The Greatest Infield of All Time will be on the list.

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I sincerely hope that OldFan lives long enough to see Jones, Markakis and Reimold inducted into the Hall of Fame so he can say he witnessed the greatest OF of all time.

I'm pretty sure that if Markakis is elected to the Hall of Fame, OldFan will croak on the spot.

And by the way, if this happens, JTrea81 will still be arguing that the O's should have signed Matt Holliday.

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Looking back at the offensive lineup in '96-'97 seasons, it's amazing that '96 wasn't the better year. But then you look at the pitching :P The pitching was sooo much better in '97. It just goes to show what matters the most.

Using my little OTE+ metric, if you look at all the SP IP for the O's:

  • In '96, it was 58, which is like a #5 SP.
  • In '97, it was 73, which is like a #3 SP and was 3rd best in the league.

The '97 team scored 137 fewer runs (812 vs. 949), but the SP-alone more than made up for it by allowing 154 fewer runs (458 vs. 602).

The SP IP was about the same, but they gave up only 3 runs for every 4 they gave up the year before.

When the SP's reduce their ER to only 3/4 of what it had been, that helps a bunch.

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* There are two caveats:

(1) Pete Rose. Clearly a HOF talent, so the Big Red Machine infield of Rose, Morgan and Perez are kept out only on a technicality. If you let that group in, its a short slide to also letting in the 83 Phils when Rose and Morgan teamed up with Mike Schmidt.

You leave out the big red machine because of Pete Rose. Please note that Mark McGuire is not close to being elected. Why will the writers put Raffy in?

It will be many years before they let Raffy in.

Your argument is not valid because both Raffy and Rose may not make it any time soon.

In my opinion both Raffy and Rose are HOF talent players that will not get in because of technicalities. I feel that the Reds infield was a little deeper than the O's infield. He is not a HOF talent, but Concepcion was an outstanding SS. Bordick was a smart player, but was not as talented as Concepcion. Perez, Morgan, Concepcion, and Rose made the Reds great in all four infield positions.

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