Fans invited to vote on top four players in history for all 30 clubs
By Mark Newman
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were carved from granite in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. The work took place over the course of 14 years by 400 men, with about 90 percent of the carving by dynamite. Creating a "Mount Rushmore" for every active Major League Baseball club is only going to take about a month thanks to technology, so let's get started.
MLB announced Tuesday that voting is underway through May 8 in the Franchise Four campaign, giving you a chance to decide the top four players in the history of all 30 clubs, as well as three other significant categories: the greatest living players, the greatest Negro Leaguers and the sport's greatest pioneers.
The winners of the month-long period of fan voting on MLB.com/FranchiseFour will be announced during pregame ceremonies before the 86th All-Star Game on July 14 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on FOX.
A ballot comprised of eight players from the lineage of each franchise, along with an additional write-in option, will be available to you on MLB.com/FranchiseFour and via your mobile devices. The eight players were selected based on the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel, in consultation with the 30 clubs. The panel was asked to identify "the most impactful players who best represent the history of each franchise (or special category)."
The panelists were MLB Official Historian John Thorn and representatives from MLB's official statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau; MLB.com; MLB Network; and the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
"The All-Star Game is a celebration of the national pastime, and Cincinnati's rich baseball heritage makes it a perfect venue to highlight the great players who are synonymous with our clubs and those who played pivotal roles in the game's history," said Tony Petitti, MLB's chief operating officer. "We believe that the Franchise Four campaign will engage fans in a fun and meaningful way and will link the past and the present in the manner that Baseball does so uniquely."
Here are just five things to ponder as you consider this important task:
1. Can Mike Trout of the Angels make the list with three supersonic full seasons? And for that matter, how will active stars like Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, Buster Posey of the Giants, Alex Gordon of the Royals or Paul Goldschmidt of the D-backs fare in the balloting when presented alongside Hall of Famers and beloved legends? Now's the time to research the old-school guys, so we'll assume you know that Cy Young earned 192 of his record 511 wins as a Red Sox pitcher (he's on their ballot).
2. Carving began on Mount Rushmore on Oct. 4, 1927 -- the day before the greatest team in history started carving up the Pirates in the World Series. We should remind you that Babe Ruth (generally considered the best player ever) and Lou Gehrig were on that team, so theoretically you're already down to two choices as a Yankees fan. Can you imagine an online vote like this without Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera on top? No? Well, throw in Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra or Whitey Ford as further choices.
3. Can Nolan Ryan win the Triple Crown of Franchise Four voting? Maybe you include him along with the Killer Bees (Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman) in Houston. Maybe you include him among the Angels. And maybe you include him among the Rangers. We could also see Vladimir Guerrero on two Franchise Fours (Expos/Nationals and Angels).
4. Will Frank Robinson survive his own big trade? The only player named Most Valuable Player in both leagues is a candidate for the Orioles and Reds, but we'll see whether he wins a place in either Franchise Four. His best chance is probably with Baltimore, because Cincinnati's ballot hits you in the face with a Big Red Machine.
5. If you're a Twins fan, you might be perfectly content with a foursome like Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven and the late Kirby Puckett. But guess what, you have to factor in arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time: Walter Johnson, a Washington Senator before the franchise moved to the Upper Midwest.
It's not going to be easy. But then again, there is no dynamite involved here, and after just one month, the people will have spoken. Let the digital blast begin.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.