The all first baseman team

In the Musial-Mays thread several posters insisted that Willie Mays’ defensive skills in centerfield were far more important than Stan Musial’s ability to play multiple positions. I won’t revisit that, but it got me to wondering, just how good would a team of versatille (multi-position) players be? I decided to look at first base, because Musial played first.

The rules are simple. A player had to play at least 600 games at first and at least 600 games in another position. Why 600? Because it’s the equivalent of about four seasons, which is pretty close to the average major league career. I counted outfield as a single position because the stats don’t break out different OF positions as well as they do infielders.

So, defense lovers, what do you think of this team?

2B - Rod Carew
SS - Ernie Banks
3B - take your pick of Harmon Killebrew, Tony Perez or Dick Allen
C - Joe Torrre

Leaving Musial and Carl Yastrzemski in the outfield. Technically you could argue the team needs another outfielder who played at least 600 games, so I’ll add Pete Rose to the roster.

Thoughts? Substitutions? Could a roster comprised entirely of players who all played any other position compete?

I expect the problem with trying it with any other position would be that there’s very little overlap anywhere else with catchers.

Though you don’t say who you’re picking to pitch, either. :smiley:

3rd base and you ignore Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt and Clete Boyer?

Robinson and Boyer never played first.

I think you misunderstand, gonzo. He’s looking for players that played 600 games at 1B as well as 600 games at the stated position.

My first thought was Pujols, but he only played 300 games in the OF (and another 100 at 3B) before moving to first.

You could perhaps do one for 2B, with Biggio being your Catcher. You’d need to lower the threshold though, since 600 games is a whole lot for a Catcher. BJ Sufhoff caught 700 games or so before moving to the OF, so he could be a candidate for an “All-OF” team.

I’m more interested in a guy like Robin Yount, who played more than 1,000 games at shortstop and in center field (two very demanding positions) than in guys who moved to the undemanding psition of 1st base after they were too old to play their former positions well.

For that matter, A-Rod now has over 1,000 games at both shortstop and 3rd base.

I presume that this is historical, not restricted to current players? Because Babe Ruth is said to have been an excellent pitcher (and, of course, an even better offensive player).

I’m thinking you’re right in that you can find more good players who spent substantial time at first and other positions than you can at any other station on the field. I’m not sure this indicates versatility, however.

First base is where good-to-average fielders finish out their careers when they lose a step or two on defense but can still hit. From your team above:

Ernie Banks came up as a shortstop, and even won a gold glove in 1960. He switched to 1B the next year and never looked back.

Rod Carew started as a decent second baseman in 1967, but moved to first base in 1975 and stayed there.

Harmon Killebrew did swing back and forth between first and third, even into his later career. This was mostly because he was a less-than-impressive fielder who needed to play SOMEWHERE because of his bat. After the DH rule came in, he never played third again.

Perez moved to first when he turned 30 and never went back with any frequency.

I’m not going to talk about Dick Allen’s defense.

Torre was an above-average catcher who moved to corner infield when he turned 30, never catching again. He alternated between first and third to the end of his career.

Yaz moved to first to make room for Jim Rice.

Pete Rose came up as a second baseman, moved to the outfield and picked up a couple of gold gloves, then moved to third base. He had played exactly three games at first base before leaving Cincinnati at age 38.

Pujols is an excellent first baseman, but only moved there when shoulder injuries limited his ability to play 3B or OF.

Playing a lot of games at first may demonstrate longevity, but it doesn’t really indicate versatility.

“Is said to have been” ?!? Dude only pitched regularly in five seasons and won 94 games overall, including back-to-back 20 win seasons and what was, at the time, the longest scoreless streak (29.2 innings) by a left-handed pitcher in World Series history. Led the league in ERA in 1921 and set a record for shutouts by a lefty (9) that has never been beaten. Babe was a cinch for the Hall of Fame as a pitcher, had he never been moved to a fielding role.

As to the OP, the names that popped into my head were Jackie Robinson, who broke into the Majors as a first baseman (but only really played the one year there) and George Brett, who didn’t quite play 500 games at first late in his career.

I do agree, though, that prior to the DH, first base was typically where players went to serve out the remainder of their careers if they could still hit but couldn’t field their natural position the way they used to.

Which is why I picked first basemen for this experiment.

Catcher is a tough match with any other position. Even when Stengel was shuttling Yogi Berra and Elston Howard back and forth, both of them ened up playing far more games at catcher.

But even in your own critique you acknowledged that several of my picks were top-level. Banks won a Gold Glove and was moved to 1B the very next season. Torre was moved at age 30, not at the end of his career. Those guys may even deserve bonus points for being right-handed and still being good at first. Rice was better defensively than Yaz, but Yaz, like Musial, wasn’t a libility by any means.

All good points. I look forward to someone putting together an all middle-infield team.

Well, they’d have to be top-level for this type of move to be feasible. If a mediocre hitter playing shortstop loses a step, he doesn’t move to first base–he moves on to another career.

Banks is kind of a special case–there were only three or four regular shortstops in the league in pre-expansion 1960. His play dropped off dramatically after the move to first.

As for Torre, 30 is getting old for a catcher, and his primary position after moving from behind the plate was the more challenging third base, not first.

Look at it another way: a good left-side infielder can be called on to play any position on the field except for pitcher and catcher. Shortstops take outfield innings all the time, and playing first base is practically a vacation for a good third baseman. When was the last time you saw a first baseman fill in at shortstop or center field?

Banks moved over because his knees were shot and he could no longer play shortstop. Torre switched because he was traded to the Cardinals and Tim McCarver was established as their catcher. Yaz was one of the all-time greats defensively, and Rice was not, but Yaz started playing first well before Rice arrived so it wasn’t because of him; it was because of the Conigliaro brothers. It was probably a dumb move.

It’s not a knock on any of those guys to point out that first base is the place where you can stick almost anybody, especially veterans who have slowed down but can still hit; that’s just how it is. And that’s why there won’t be any other position combination that compares, except for DH, which is the new first base.

I only phrased it that way because I don’t know the details myself, so I can’t form my own opinion of his abilities. But you’ve now provided those details, for which I thank you.

Although, it’s difficult to compare pitchers across eras, since batters have gotten better, and I think the hardware of the game has changed significantly, too. Babe may have stood out among his contemporary pitchers, but I don’t know if he’d stand out among modern ones if magically transported to the present day.

Victor Martinez has played 152 games at first base, and will likely continue to play more and more then unless he becomes a DH so he might make it.

I am offended by your third base picks. The selection of Killebrew, etc was poor.

So, Gonzo, who ARE the best players with 600 games at third and 600 games at first?

gonzo, did you read the OP at all?

The OP CLEARLY asks for players who played at least 600 games at first base. None of the players you named played 600 games at first base. So they’re not eligible. If you’re not going to read the OP, why comment?

My squad would be:

C - Torre
1B: Well, I guess I can pick anyone who played 1200 games here, so Lou Gehrig
2B: Rod Carew, clearly
3B: Killer
SS: Ernie Banks
OF: Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, and Pete Rose
DH: Dick Allen
Utility: Julio Franco. Julio only played 508 games at first but 16 of them were when he was 48 years old (!!!) so those should count for extra.
Pinch Hitter: Darrell Evans

I could have sworn George Brett played that many games at 1B.

That’s okay. Feel free to suggest any other third baseman that meets the rules.

Never played first, played 157 games at first, never played first.

461 games at first.