Great players do not always mean a winning team. The 1962 New York Mets and the 1928 Philadelphia Athletics are prime examples.
The 1962 Mets, one of sports’ most beloved teams, lost a record 120 games. Mets’ management decided to select mostly “name” players in the expansion draft, which resulted in the team obtaining many great players whose skills had eroded.
Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, Gil Hodges, Gus Bell, Frank Thomas, Gene Woodling, and right-handed pitcher Roger Craig had fine careers, but the problem was that all but Ashburn and Thomas had seen better days,
Ashburn batted .306 with a fine .424 on base average at the age of 35, while Thomas hit 34 home runs.
Hodges, who seven years later would manage the Mets to an amazing season, hit .252 with only nine home runs. The great Brooklyn Dodgers’ first baseman and Mets’ manager deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but he will never get in.
Gus Bell, who was an excellent player with the Cincinnati Reds, hit .149. Woodling appeared in only 81 games, but he could always hit and batted .274, with a mere five home runs. Despite his ability, Craig managed to lose 24 games.
The 1928 Philadelphia Athletics stand in stark contrast to the 1962 Mets. They won 98 games playing a 154 schedule and finished second, only two and one-half games behind the New York Yankees. A strong case could be made that Athletic team had the greatest players to ever play on one team.
Philadelphia’s roster included Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, and Lefty Grove, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame, which is truly amazing. The problem was that Cobb and Collins were 41 years old, Speaker was 40 and Foxx was only 20.
Cobb batted .323 but appeared in only 95 games, Collins batted only 33 times, and Speaker appeared in 64 games, batting .267. Simmons had his usual outstanding season, batting .351, while Foxx, in his first full season, hit .328, Grove, possibly the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, won 24 games.
Having players who had great careers may help at the gate ,which is fine, but timing is everything. The 1928 Athletics and the 1962 Mets had a some great players who were past their prime, a situation that might good at the box office but one that hurts on the field.
There were no playoffs in 1953. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees made it to World Series by having their league’s best record, but the World Series is a best of seven of series, and the better team does not always win.
Some consider the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers the best team ever to lose the World Series.
Gil Hodges was at first, Rookie of the Year Jim “Junior” Gilliam took over for Jackie Robinson at second, Pee Wee Reese was at shortstop, Billy Cox was the third baseman, Roy Campanella caught, and the outfield had Robinson in left, Duke Snider in center, and Carl Furillo in right.
Robinson, Reese Campanella, and Snider are Hall of Famers.
All had fine 1953 seasons as Brooklyn finished 13 games ahead of the Milwaukee Braves.
Brooklyn’s problem was a lack of pitching. The team had a 4.10 ERA, which modern fans might consider decent, but in 1953, that was not very good.
Carl Erskine was the only starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.00, as he won 20, lost 6, and pitched to a 3.54 ERA.
In the World Series against the Yankees, Billy Martin punished Brooklyn pitching for 12 hits in 24 at bats as the Yankees took the Series in six games.
A team composed of very good, but not great players was the 1998 Yankees, who won 114 regular season games and another 11 in October. Among the regulars, the only Hall of Famer will be shortstop Derek Jeter.
Center fielder Bernie Williams, right fielder Paul O’Neill, first baseman Tino Martinez, and catcher Jorge Posada and part-time outfielder Tim Raines fall just short of Hall of Fame caliber.
Closer Mariano Rivera will be a Hall of Famer, but no other pitcher on that staff will make it. Remarkably, both David Wells (1998) and David Cone (1999) pitched perfect games in their careers, and both were fine pitchers, but neither is a Hall of Famer and that is just the point.
In 1998, the Yankees had the right mixture of players, most of whom had an excellent season.
Finally, the 1981 Los Angels Dodgers were World Champions. Currently, no player on that roster is in the Hall of Fame, and none figures to make it. Only Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, Dave Stewart, and Steve Garvey have a slim to none chance.
Championship teams don’t always have the game’s greatest players.