For the baseball fan who loves a good debate — and what baseball fan doesn’t? — author Tom Stone offers more than 600 pages of bliss in his book “Now Taking the Field: Baseball’s All-Time Dream Teams for All 30 Franchises.”
Stone used exhaustive research, combined several traditional and advanced metrics to compile his best all-time rosters for every Major League Baseball team.
For each franchise, Stone puts together a 30-man roster — a starting lineup, a depth chart and optimal batting orders for facing either left-handed or right-handed pitchers.
Baseball is a game of stats, and with more than 100 years of history to sort through, Stone had plenty of numbers at his disposal.
He used traditional stats such as home runs, stolen bases, batting average and earned run average, but he starts with WAR, also known as wins above replacement.
WAR measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by figuring out how many more wins he is worth than a replacement-level player at his same position.
“WAR is very helpful for comparing players from different generations,” said Stone.
“It takes in to account so many things, including ballpark effect. I used WAR as a baseline, and in addition to more traditional stats, I looked into honors such as MVP, Gold Gloves and All-Star Games. I also considered postseason performance, because some players are great in the playoffs and World Series, and others not so much.”
If that sounds like a lot of work, it was. Stone started to write “Now Taking the Field” in 1999, and it was published last year.
That’s 20 years, but Stone started keeping track of a lot of these numbers 36 years ago when he was 10 years old.
Stone played baseball in the summer, but growing up in Rochester, New York, gave him a lot of snowy and rainy days to pore over numbers.
A 30-man roster for each of 30 teams means 900 players — although several players appear on dream teams for multiple teams:
Frank Robinson is among the best for the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds, while Nolan Ryan made the cut with the Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers.
Each of the 30 teams gets a chapter, starting with the original 16 teams that made up the American and National Leagues.
The chapters are in order of winning percentage by the teams. The Washington Nationals are one of the final 14 chapters because they began in 1968 as the Montreal Expos as part of MLB’s expansion era.
The Nationals appear in Chapter 20. They have the fourth-best winning percentage among teams that started after 1961.
Stone’s dream team for the Nationals has a D.C. presence in the infield, with Ryan Zimmerman at first, Anthony Rendon at second, and Ian Desmond at shortstop.
The rest of the starting lineup derived from the Expos, with Tim Wallach at third and Gary Carter at catcher; in the outfield, Tim Raines in left, Andre Dawson in the center, and in right field was Vladimir Guerrero. Felipe Alou made it as the franchise’s best all-time manager.
Bryce Harper made the Nationals’ franchise cut at designated hitter. Even though the National League does not use the DH, Stone included it to reflect some of the game’s great hitters.
The Nationals did shine on the mound, with starting pitchers Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez all making the all-time 30-man roster.
“In addition, one thing I noticed in researching the Nationals franchise was their bullpen,” said Stone.
“They’ve had a lot of great relief pitchers. They don’t often stay there very long, whether it’s the Expos or the Nationals, but they’ve had a lot of guys that had two or three really good seasons as a closer going all the way back to John Wetteland with the Expos.”
“Now Taking the Field” has already started a conversation among baseball fans. The Yankees are number one overall when it comes to victories among the original 16 teams, but the real debate begins when discussing who the best player at each position is.
“Some teams are so loaded in certain positions you end up having to leave players off,” said Stone.
“Some Red Sox fans were livid because in left field you’ve got Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice. And that’s not even thinking about Manny Ramirez. So, how do you leave off either Rice or Ramirez from that roster? That’s a tough one.”