Congratulations to the MLB.com marketing team, who have come up with yet another marketing scheme that makes baseball fans argue with each other. That's not sarcasm; it's really impressive. Their latest push has to do with what they're calling the "Franchise Four," which asks fans to vote for the four greatest players in a franchise's history out of eight choices. I'm especially proud of them because the words "Mt. Rushmore" appear nowhere in the contest.
Some of the choices are hard, and some of them are exceptionally hard. You can make an argument that Lou Brock should come in eighth place for the Cardinals, for example. But the most controversial opinion just might be that Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens don't exist.
What Cy Youngs? What MVPs? What records and milestones? Never heard of 'em. Nothing to see here, citizen. Those names don't show up on our registry. It's not a matter of a total steroids whitewash, though. Ryan Braun is on the Brewers' list, and Barry Bonds is on the list for both the Giants and Pirates.
He's just chilling on both lists, without a care in the world. But Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens, two of baseball's greatest players (statistically, at least) don't exist. They belong to no team. They roam the halls of baseball purgatory, looking for pity they will not find.
Which means it's our job to see just how absurd this is. On a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 being the most ridiculous, how ridiculous is it for Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens not to be listed on the Franchise Four for each of the teams they played for? We'll start with Rodriguez.
Team #1: Seattle Mariners
Here's someone on the Franchise Four vote for the Mariners:
Hi, Alvin! I know what it's like to follow a miserable franchise, but have that one guy who's a legitimate All-Star. You get attached to that player. He's yours. And Davis came up in 1984 like a cannonball, laying waste to everything in his path. He won the Rookie of the Year and garnered an All-Star appearance. Davis played eight seasons with the Mariners, and seven of them were pretty good.
Alex Rodriguez was Mike Trout, except he played shortstop. So exciting. So amazing. So great. So young. If WAR is your thing, A-Rod was worth as much in 1996 and 2000 as Davis was for his whole career. If you don't give a rip about statistics, try to put yourself in the place of a Mariners fan in the Alex Rodriguez years, the pure, unfiltered hope he gave those fans for five-plus years that he was the chosen one.
However, while they were five of the best years a shortstop has ever had, they were still just five years. There's a longevity problem with Rodriguez. Plus, when Davis was around, he was the obvious star. When Rodriguez was around, there was Griffey and Edgar and Jay and Randy. That hurts a little, too.
Also, everyone likes Alvin Davis and Jamie Moyer. Every single person in Seattle hates Rodriguez. That's not hyperbole. They've done polls. Hundred percent, with a margin of error of "Screw you, A-Rod." Look it up. So you can kind of understand this one. Rodriguez's snub gets a 7 on the 1-to-10 scale. He should be there, but you can almost see the logic.
Team #2: Texas Rangers
He was so good for the Rangers, so very good. Have you ever thought about that contract he originally signed with them, how it would have played out if he stayed with the Rangers all 10 years? He put up Hall of Fame numbers just in those 10 years, hitting 424 homers and stealing 168 bases with a .299/.394/.577 line. It would have been one of the best deals in free agency's history, had the Rangers stuck to it. At least on paper. They still would have had to look at A-Rod.
He didn't make the Franchise Four, though, because he played only three seasons for the Rangers. Rodriguez wasn't much of a pitcher -- probably something Scott Boras willfully misled the Rangers on -- so everyone was disappointed with him when the Rangers couldn't win. This snub gets a 2 because even though Rodriguez was awesome for the Rangers, he was still there just three years.
On the other hand:
Career WAR for the Texas Rangers
Alex Rodriguez, 2001-2003: 25.5
Michael Young, 2000-2012: 25.5
That is ... kind of amazing. If you write those numbers on a rune stone and soak them in goat's blood by the light of a full moon, Game 6 of the 2011 World Series shows up on it as clear as if it were on your iPad, I'm sure of it. Tell me those numbers don't mean something. Stare at them and ponder the meaning of baseball.
Team #3: New York Yankees
If A-Rod won a championship with the Rangers, he would be on their Franchise Four. Instead he gets the, "Uhhhhh, just one lousy championship?" treatment from the Yankees. And he deserves it. Which of these players are you kicking off for Alex Rodriguez?
- Yogi Berra
- Joe DiMaggio
- Whitey Ford
- Lou Gehrig
- Derek Jeter
- Mickey Mantle
- Mariano Rivera
- Babe Ruth
Lou Gehrig, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth. Pick four of those. Have fun, Yankees fans!
Rodriguez has been excellent with the Yankees -- .291/.386/.534 with 309 homers and 53 WAR is almost a Hall of Fame career on its own -- but all of those eight are superior statistically (by WAR, anyway) and they're vastly superior romantically. This snub gets a 1. Look at that list of Yankees legends.
Team #1: Boston Red Sox
Roger Clemens pitched 13 years with the Red Sox. He won three Cy Youngs with them, struck out 2,590 batters, and had a 3.06 ERA (144 ERA+) to go along with a .634 winning percentage. According to Baseball-Reference's WAR, just his time in Boston alone would have made him the 21st-most valuable pitcher in history, right between Bob Gibson and Curt Schilling.
Now, the Red Sox have a long, impressive history. They have one of the only pitchers in history who can compare with Clemens in Cy Young. They have perhaps the greatest hitter in the history of baseball in Ted Williams. They have inner circle Hall of Famers like Carl Yastrzemski and Pedro Martinez, and they have local icons like Carlton Fisk and David Ortiz.
Clemens was better than almost all of them. He was certainly better than Dwight Evans and Jim Rice with the Red Sox, no slight to those players intended. It's not just math that's telling us this. It's common sense. For seven seasons, Clemens was the best pitcher in baseball, and the Red Sox reaped the benefits of that. It's easy to forget just how long a seven-season period is. It's a lifetime when you're in the middle of it, and that whole time, Clemens was a pitching demigod.
This snub gets a fat 10, and even if you wanted to argue that steroid cheaters cheat-facing cheat with cheaty steroids, Clemens was probably legit when he was with the Red Sox, at least most of the time.
Team #2: Toronto Blue Jays
Clemens pitched only two years in Canada, and while he won the Cy Young in both of those seasons, it's hard for any player to be the face of a franchise after two seasons (especially when the team doesn't even make the postseason in those years). This snub gets a 1.
Fun fact, though:
Roger Clemens, WAR with Blue Jays (1997-1998): 20.1
Joe Carter, career WAR (1983-1998): 19.3
You give it to Carter because he had the greatest moment in franchise history, of course, but it's worth noting.
Team #3: New York Yankees
See the section up there with A-Rod. I can copy and paste it if you want, but the short version is that it's pretty pretty pretty pretty tough to crack a list of Yankees legends, and while Clemens did well with the Yankees and won two championships, he's not getting into that club. It's an easy 1 for the snub.
People used to be really excited about him there, though.
Team #4: Houston Astros
Three seasons. There was a Cy Young and a pennant mixed in, but still. Three seasons. Mike Scott is on the Astros list, and he was excellent for the Astros in only three or four seasons, but he was with the team for nine years. Not only does he get the peak bonus points, but he gets the longevity bonus points, too. Even though he's fighting against players who were never close to the Hall of Fame -- which is a joke, in some cases -- these players defined the Astros more, and for longer, than Clemens did. It's another easy 1.
So what did we learn? It's almost not ridiculous for Rodriguez and Clemens to be left out of this contest. The biggest issue with them is they played substantial amounts of time with the Yankees, which put them at a serious disadvantage. It's almost not ridiculous.
But not quite. Rodriguez should probably be on the Mariners' list, and Clemens should absolutely be on the list for the Red Sox. Here are two of the best players in baseball history. Yet no one will claim them. Hear their chains rattle in the night, echoing through the stadium as they moan and wail. You don't have to feel sorry for them. Just wonder how it ended up this way.
SB Nation presents: Roger Clemens and the best baseball jerks left out of Cooperstown