A couple years ago, I put together an All-Time College World Series Alumni team for that season’s participants. Basically, I took the players with the best major league careers from each school and made a team. It was fun and mildly interesting, so I decided to bring it back this year.
Two rules at play here: one, all eight teams have to be represented, and two, I wanted it to have some semblance of reality. I’ll also say up front that I’m incredibly disappointed that Kevin Romine, Marty Barrett, Dustin Pedroia, Jody Reed, and Jeff Conine all had to be cut, and if I could combine Khalil Greene and Jason Bartlett into one person, I totally would.
1 – Jackie Robinson, UCLA, second base (1947-56)
137 HR, 734 RBI, 197 SB, .311 BA, 132 OPS+, 1947 ML ROY, 1949 NL MVP, All-Star (1949-54), Baseball Hall of Fame (1962), broke Major League Baseball color line in 1947
The splits for the latter half of Robinson’s career are available at Baseball-Reference.com, and they show that he was primarily used in the third and fourth spots in the Dodgers lineup from 1951-56. His career .409 on-base percentage, 197 stolen bases, and ability to distract opposing pitchers with his aggressive play, however, make him an ideal candidate to lead off a lineup such as this, where anyone in the two through seven slots can immediately turn a mistake into multiple runs.
2 – Rick Monday, Arizona State, centerfield (1966-84)
241 HR, 775 RBI, 125 OPS+, All-Star (1968, 1978)
While Monday was a pretty good ballplayer who spent nineteen seasons with the A’s, Cubs, and Dodgers, I can only admit to knowing two specific things about him prior to today: in 1965, the A’s made him the first draft pick in major league history, and in 1976, he stopped two men from burning an American flag on the field at Dodger Stadium. He also led Arizona State to the 1965 College World Series championship, the program’s first.
3 – Barry Bonds, Arizona State, leftfield (1986-2007)
762 HR, 2935 H, 2227 R, 1996 RBI, 514 SB, 2558 BB, 181 OPS+, All-Star (1990, 1992-98, 2000-04, 2007), 7-time NL MVP (1990, 1992-93, 2001-04), 8-time NL Gold Glove winner (OF – 1990-94, 1996-98), Silver Slugger (1990-94, 1996-97, 2000-04), owns single-season (73) and career (762) homerun records
Lists like this are nice because I don’t really have to take personality into account. Bonds, you may be shocked to learn, was kind of a jerk. I know, I know, it surprised me too. And there’s something like a 103% chance that he used some sort of performance enhancing drug (either that or he was hit by a gamma bomb sometime in the winter of 1998-99). But here, on paper (shut up, you know what I mean), the man is one of the best hitters in baseball history, an immortal who owns two of the most important records in the game. Paper Barry Bonds can hit third for my team any day.
4 – Reggie Jackson, Arizona State, rightfield (1967-87)
563 HR, 1702 RBI, 139 OPS+, 2597 SO, tied record with three homeruns in Game 6 of 1976 World Series, All-Star (1969, 1971-75, 1977-84), 1973 AL MVP, 1973 World Series MVP, 1977 World Series MVP, Silver Slugger (1980, 1982), Baseball Hall of Fame (1993)
Lists like this are nice because I don’t really have to take personality into acc- oh, wait, sorry. Used that one already. Jackson was one of my father’s least favorite players in the 1970s, presumably because he was outspoken, self-promoting, and played for the Yankees. He was pretty awesome in a lot of ways, though – just say “Mr. October” or “the straw that stirs the drink” to a baseball fan and they should know who you’re talking about. He also won a College World Series championship as Rick Monday’s teammate at Arizona State.
5 – Bob Horner, Arizona State, third base (1978-86, 1988)
218 HR, 685 RBI, 127 OPS+, 1978 NL ROY, All-Star (1982), Bizarro Hall of Fame (1994), tied record with four homeruns in one game (7/6/86), MVP of 1977 College World Series, won 1978 Golden Spikes Award
Yes, the two through five hitters in this lineup are all Sun Devils. They’ve had themselves a good run through the years. Horner is actually a fascinating story – he was the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series when the Sun Devils won in 1977 and followed up by winning the Golden Spikes Award the following season. That spring, the Braves made him the first overall pick. He skipped the minors altogether, homered in his third major league at-bat, and won the National League Rookie of the Year award. Later, he hit four homeruns in a game and played in Japan for a year. Somebody should write a book about his guy.
6 – Troy Glaus, UCLA, designated hitter (1998-2010)
318 HR, 934 RBI, 121 OPS+, All-Star (2000-01, 2003, 2006), Silver Slugger (2000-01), 2002 World Series MVP
Glaus played in the 1997 College World Series before embarking on a successful major league career, but I’ll always remember him for missing most of the 2009 season with a shoulder injury. I traded for him in my fantasy baseball keeper league in May and watched as his rehab kept getting pushed back…and pushed back…and pushed back. He finally reached the majors in early September and finished the year with no homeruns. I dropped him, only to watch him experience some sort of insane rejuvenation this season with the Braves. The lesson, kids? No one cares about your fantasy baseball team.
7 – Chris Chambliss, UCLA, first base (1971-86, 1988)
185 HR, 972 RBI, 109 OPS+, 1971 AL ROY, 1978 AL Gold Glove (1B), All-Star (1976), Bizarro Hall of Fame (1994)
UCLA’s College World Series berth in 1997 ended a 28-year Omaha drought for the Bruins. The key player on that 1969 squad was Carroll Christopher Chambliss. Like Glaus, Chambliss missed out on a CWS victory before going on to win a World Series in the majors. In 1976, he helped the Yankees reach the first of three consecutive Fall Classics with a walkoff homerun in the fifth and deciding game of the American League Championship Series. The aftermath of that hit was straight out of the “That Wouldn’t Happen Today” file – there were so many fans on the field that Chambliss couldn’t make it all the way to home plate before leaving the field for the safety of the clubhouse.
8 – Mike Stanley, Florida, catcher (1986-2000)
187 HR, 702 RBI, 117 OPS+, All-Star (1995), Silver Slugger (1993)
Not a lot of catchers from these schools, to be honest with you, but Stanley earned himself a spot with a couple of exceptional seasons with the Yankees in the mid-1990s. Actually, I found his progression in the 1990s amusing: signed with the Yankees in 1992, signed with the Red Sox in 1995, traded by the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1997, signed with the Blue Jays in 1997, and traded to the Red Sox in 1998.
9 – Khalil Greene, Clemson, shortstop (2003-09)
90 HR, 94 OPS+, won 2002 Golden Spikes Award
Honestly, I could have done something funky with the shortstop position, like keeping Dustin Pedroia or Ian Kinsler and pretending that all middle infielders are the same. Two things, though: one, that’s not how I roll, and two, I respect what Greene has been going through with social anxiety disorder. I know from personal experience that it’s a tough road, made all the tougher by the harsh spotlight that engulfs professional athletes, and I hope he is able to fight through it.
C – Terry Kennedy, Florida State (1978-91)
113 HR, 628 RBI, 96 OPS+, All-Star (1981, 1983, 1985, 1987), Silver Slugger (1983)
Told you we were light at catcher. Kennedy beat out Paul Lo Duca for the backup spot.
1B – Eric Karros, UCLA (1991-2004)
284 HR, 1027 RBI, 107 OPS+, 1992 NL ROY, Silver Slugger (1993)
It really intrigues me that Karros never appeared in an All-Star game. Finished fifth in the MVP voting in 1995, but never an All-Star. Go figure.
2B – Chase Utley, UCLA (2003-present)
172 HR, 618 RBI, .294 BA, 129 OPS+, All-Star (2006-09), Silver Slugger (2006-09)
I always forget how old Utley is – he’s one of those guys that didn’t really get a chance until he was 25 or 26.
SS – Jason Bartlett, Oklahoma (2004-present)
92 SB, 95 OPS+, All-Star (2009)
When you combine Bartlett and Green, you get a slick-fielding shortstop with proven 20-20 potential. Also, Bartlett and I were born on the exact same day. If I can’t squeeze Kevin Romine in here, he’s the next best thing.
RF – J.D. Drew, Florida State (1998-2010)
224 HR, 742 RBI, 129 OPS+, All-Star (2008), won 1997 Golden Spikes Award
I put him here instead of Jeff Conine and Andre Ethier. That should change in a couple years if Ethier continues on his current path.
#1 – Jimmy Key, Clemson (1984-98)
186-117 W-L, 3.51 ERA, 470 G, 389 GS, 122 ERA+, All-Star (1985, 1991, 1993-94)
Nobody ever mentions Jimmy Key as one of the players harmed by the 1994 strike, but he was having a very good year when the players walked: 17-4 with a 3.27 ERA for an up-and-coming Yankees team. There were 59 games left in the season, so he should’ve had about ten or eleven more starts. You have to figure that he at least had a chance at 25 or so wins. Even if you acknowledge that wins aren’t that impressive as a baseball stat, you’re still allowed to be impressed by that.
#2 – Danny Jackson, Oklahoma (1983-97)
112-131 W-L, 4.01 ERA, 353 G, 324 GS, 100 ERA+, Bizarro Hall of Fame (2003), All-Star (1988, 1994), Bizarro Hall of Fame (2003)
If not for Orel Hershiser and his silly little scoreless innings streak, Jackson and his 23-8 record probably would have won the Cy Young award. As it happened, he won 21 games combined over the next four years with an average ERA+ of about 83.
#3 – Carl Morton, Oklahoma (1969-76)
87-92 W-L, 3.73 ERA, 255 G, 242 GS, 102 ERA+, 1970 NL ROY
Morton played for the Original Expos in 1969 and won the Rookie of the Year award the next year with an 18-11 record. He slumped in 1971-72 (17-31) before rebounding to win 48 games over the next three seasons.
#4 – Pete Donohue, TCU (1921-32)
134-118 W-L, 3.87 ERA, 344 G, 267 GS, 103 ERA+
Donohue enjoyed a nice stretch from 1922-26, winning 96 games, including 20 or more three times. I know it was a different time and all, but it still seems notable that he allowed just three homeruns in 301 innings in 1925, a league 0.1 per nine innings.
# 5 – Larry Gura, Arizona State (1970-85)
126-97 W-L, 3.76 ERA, 403 G, 261 GS, 106 ERA+, Bizarro Hall of Fame (1991), All-Star (1980)
I bet Eric remembers Larry Gura and his three top-ten Cy Young finishes with the Royals in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Gura played at Arizona State right after Rick Monday and Reggie Jackson, appearing in two College World Series with the Sun Devils, but didn’t really come into his own until the mid-1970s. One old story noted that he was 19-1 in college.
Long Relief/Spot Start – Billy O’Dell, Clemson (1954, 1956-67)
105-100 W-L, 3.29 ERA, 479 G, 199 GS, 109 ERA+, All-Star (1958-59)
O’Dell earned the save in the 1958 All-Star Game, pitching the final three innings in a 4-3 American League win. The eighth inning in particular was no picnic – unless facing Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, and Ernie Banks while holding onto a one-run lead sounds like a good time. In all, five of the nine batters he faced are in the Hall of Fame (Willie Mays, Musial, and Aaron all grounded out; O’Dell struck out Banks and Bill Mazeroski).
Middle Relief – Bill Landrum, South Carolina (1986-93)
268 G, 58 SV, 3.39 ERA, 110 ERA+
I’m gonna be honest. Landrum was a solid reliever, but he’s only on this team because I have an “every team must be represented” rule and South Carolina was severely lacking. In fairness, he was excellent in 1989-90, appearing in 110 games and saving 39 for the Pirates.
LOOGY – Rob Murphy, Florida (1985-95)
597 G, 30 SV, 3.64 ERA, 110 ERA+ (LOOGY)
Murphy is really a borderline LOOGY – he generally had fewer innings pitched than appearances over the second half of his career, but not so many that it was a huge difference – and never filled that role for Boston, which is weird because I remember him filling that role for Boston. In reality, he was no Tony Fossas.
Set-Up – Jeff Zimmerman, TCU (1999-2001)
196 G, 32 SV, 3.27 ERA, 152 ERA+
For two out of his three major league seasons, Zimmerman was one of the best setup men/closers in the majors, winning nine games in 1999 and saving 28 in 2001. Injuries derailed him shortly thereafter – three elbow surgeries, including Tommy John twice, will send the brightest of careers off-track.
Set-Up – Lindy McDaniel, Oklahoma (1955-75)
141-119 W-L, 3.45 ERA, 987 G, 74 GS, 172 SV, 110 ERA+, All-Star (1960)
In 1960, his second full season out of the bullpen, McDaniel was 12-4 with a 2.09 ERA and 26 saves in 65 appearances. He finished third in the Cy Young voting behind Vern Law and Warren Spahn, and fifth in the MVP race behind Dick Groat, Don Hoak, Willie Mays, and Ernie Banks. Not bad for a relief pitcher on a third place team.
Closer – Billy Koch, Clemson (1999-2004)
379 G, 163 SV, 3.89 ERA, 121 ERA+
One of the best closers in baseball, with 144 saves in his first four seasons, Koch was out of the game by 2004, afflicted by a nasty illness called Morgellons Disease, a very confusing and mysterious disorder.