Brotha on Baseball Jamal's Blog

Dominic Toretto and Mike Trout? What Is Going On?

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a big soft spot for the Fast and Furious movie franchise. I know the movies are silly and are basically a video game with humans, but I have had an affinity for them since I saw the first one in the theater all those years ago. In honor of the ninth installment of the franchise, and since All-Star voting has commenced in Major League Baseball, I decided to think of my favorite nine all-star seasons over the last 40 years; one for each position. I capped it at 40 in order to keep the players relatively current. Yes, I can say the 1922 season for Rogers Hornsby (look it up) might be better than any player in the last 40 years, but who among us can say they watched him play? So let’s enjoy a Corona for Dom, Brian, and the team, although I don’t think they would make this squad.

Pitcher: 1985 Dwight Gooden. I will admit this is my one homer pick, but the numbers from the season warrant his inclusion. He went 24-4, with an ERA of 1.53, and a league-leading 268 strikeouts. His 276 innings also paced the National League that year. This added up to a 229 ERA+ (100 is league average). To top it off, he did all of this at 20 years old!

Catcher: 1997 Mike Piazza gets the spot here. A catcher who hits .362/.431/.638 (1.069 OPS) with 40 bombs and 124 RBI is on another level. A 183 WRC+ (100 is average) means the defense can be overlooked. Drive in more than you let in is something that fits when looking at his inclusion into my crew. The fact he ended up second in the MVP voting is a bit of an injustice in my opinion.

First base: 1998 Mark McGwire is my choice. .299/.470/.752 (1.222 OPS) couples with the then-record 70 homers, and 147 RBI. This includes a 205 WRC+. This season is hard to replicate on PlayStation. His being on the team also acknowledges his significance to baseball being the zeitgeist of the sports world that summer as all we wanted to know is if he or Sammy Sosa homered that day gives him a firm foothold on the squad.

Second base: 1999 Roberto Alomar is my guy. .323/.422/.533 (.955 OPS) with 24 homers and 124 RBI. He also stole 37 bases, while playing Gold Glove defense along the way. He led the league in runs with 138, which makes the RBI total more impressive. A switch hitter with power from both sides just makes him more impressive. Jeff Kent was considered, but Alomar gets the nod for his all-around game.

Third base: 2004 Adrian Beltre was a guy for the Dodgers. .334/.388/.629 (1.017 OPS). He hit 48 homers and drove in 121. This was also the season his defense became crazy good, even if the Gold Gloves didn’t come until later. I am not sure the Dodgers knew what they had when they let him get away to Seattle after the season. This Dodger MVP snub made more sense though.

Shortstop: 2002 Alex Rodriguez. His being on the team was an easy choice, but the trick was picking a season. A shortstop coming through with a .300/.392/.623 (1.015 OPS). Couple that with 57 long balls and 142 driven in and it makes you wonder what could have been if the Texas Rangers didn’t suck so much he had to become a New York Yankees third baseman.

Leftfield: 2001 Barry Bonds. A record 73 homers should be enough, but there’s more. He hit .328/.515/.863 (1.378 OPS). He walked 177 times. C’mon man! He reached base more than half the time! His WAR for the season was 12.5. One can make a very convincing argument that his 2004 was even better (.362/.609/.812/1.421). Hence, Beltre coming second in the MVP race was far from a travesty. Thinking back on prime Barry Bonds was like nothing we’ve seen since.

Centerfield: 2019 Mike Trout is the narrow winner over Ken Griffey Jr. Trout is another guy with multiple seasons to choose from. I went with 2019, since this is likely the peak of his powers. He slashed .291/.438/.645 (1.083 OPS). He had 45 homers and 104 RBI. It is his metronomic consistency which is the thing. His 2012 was another strong choice for me, when he finished with a .326/.399/.564 slash line, combined with 30 homers, 83 RBI, and 45 steals.

Rightfield: 2001 Sammy Sosa in right. His home run race with McGwire got more publicity, but Sammy was still doing damage while he was chasing Barry Bonds. He slashed .328/.437/.737 with 64 homers and 146 RBI. I thought about 2019 Ronald Acuna in this spot (.280/.365/.518, 41 HR, 37 steals, 101 RBI, and 127 runs), but Sammy finished with a 9.9 WAR compared to 5.6 for Acuna.

All and all it was a fun trip down memory lane for me. I laughed out loud when looking at the ridiculous stats of the era, plus looking at the wild variance in video quality over the years. I have to stay illicit drugs and steroids are one hell of a thing, as I know some widely suspected guys made my team, plus one guy suspended for them. The steroids police came up just about as empty chasing this team as Hobbs after the bank chase in Brazil at the end of Fast Five. Han dies in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, only to return; conversely Alex Rodriguez’s career appeared dead only to have him come back in a new iteration. We have some parallels here!

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