June 25, 2012

HOVG Heroes: Matt Williams


FOR BASEBALL JUNKIES on MATT WILLIAMS

If you looked up "very good" in the dictionary (do they still have those?), you'd probably see a picture of Matt Williams.

The 17-year veteran compiled 1,878 hits and 378 home runs (respectable numbers, indeed) over the course of his career.  He rarely led the league in offensive categories but always seemed to find a way to earn an award for his all around play on the field.

All told, Williams was a five-time All Star, four-time Gold Glove winner at third base and a four-time Silver Slugger.  He was a tremendous fielder and a solid offensive player who was overshadowed by the big names of his era. 

Even though Williams deserves a lot of praise, he still falls short of Cooperstown enshrinement by most standards (he doesn't have 3,000 hits, 500 home runs or a career .300 batting average), but what's interesting and unique about Williams is that, by For Baseball Junkies (FBJ) standards, he's the only player to make two all-franchise teams and an all-decade team without being Hall of Fame worthy.

How do you pick an All-Time Team? 

The key to this whole thing is understanding how we pick and recognizing that numbers alone aren't everything.  We look for guys that best represent a franchise or decade.  When picking an all-time team, tenure probably holds more weight than prime length of time spent with that team is important.

All-Decade Teams are tough because you'll see more guys that broke onto the scene midway through a decade.  A player only makes more than one All-Decade team if he was among the elite all-time greats…guys like Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.

We did our best to pick the best decade and the best player in each situation with a focus on limiting repeats. 

Behind the scenes, our process starts with each contributor selecting his team.  Personally, I start by narrowing down the field to worthy candidates, focusing on things like All-Star appearances, major awards and the "eye" test.  From our three lists, we can start to see which positions need attention.  We typically have a back and forth discussion to iron out the wrinkles and sometimes, if the choice is really tough, it comes down to an internal vote. 

Given the diversity of the three contributors (ages ranging from 30 to 53), we often have very different opinions on key matters and agreements can get heated at times but we know that our style is unique because of our diversity.

What about Matt Williams...which teams did he make?

Williams was the choice at third base for our All-Time Giants, All-Time Diamondbacks and NL 1990's All-Decade Teams. 

The Giants nomination came down to two names with Matt Williams winning out.  Williams earned all of his personal awards with the Giants and was a great player, as mentioned.  He's fifth in Giants franchise history in home runs and was a great fielder. 

The other name that we considered was Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom.  Lindstrom of the New York Giants, by comparison has more hits (a couple of 200 hit seasons certainly aids his case) and a plaque in Cooperstown where he is generally regarded as one of the weakest Hall of Fame selections ever made by the Veterans Committee.  Lindstrom wasn't as good defensively as Williams - a switch to the outfield midway through Freddie's career validates that (along with historical accounts saying as much). 

Lindstrom was also the "goat" of the 1924 World Series, committing two errors in the deciding Game Seven that lead to the game tying and game winning runs (not a great way to be remembered). 

Williams also had more pop... he was the right choice.

The Diamondbacks team, in general, gave us fits because of the lack of history.  There were guys on that All-Time team that probably wouldn't make the cut on their All-Time High School rosters but you've gotta play the hand that you're dealt.  Williams was up against Mark Reynolds with the Diamondbacks and Williams won out because he made an all-star team, he was part of a World Series winning team and because he was a better all-around player.

The 1990 NL third base nomination hinged Chipper Jones being the right guy for the 2000 NL squad (which he was).  Once we got that out of the way, it came down the Matt Williams or Vinny Castilla.  The Coors factor weighed heavily on our decision and it became clear that Williams was the better pick.

So there you have it.  Matt Williams - good enough to make three FBJ All-Time Teams but not good enough for Cooperstown.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

For Baseball Junkies (FBJ) is a general baseball blog that focuses on the history of America's pastime.  The site is maintained by three contributors- The OCP, Mc and Hersh.  FBJ has a comprehensive All-Time Teams database which highlights the All-Time teams of all 32 current Major League franchises and every decade (both leagues) going back to 1920.  Periodically, we also run "Other" All-Time teams and lists (like best baseball movies, best nicknames and best baseball video games) and trivia. 

It's truly a great site for a baseball junkie to get his/her fix.


1 comment:

The OCP said...

Williams just missed the cut on our All-Time nicknames team, as well... the Carson Crusher was bested by the Say Hey Kid, Stretch and Will the Thrill.

Thanks for running this piece!