MLB Column: A look at the best batting order of all-time

Baseballs sit ready for use at Toronto Blue Jays baseball spring training in Dunedin, Fla., on Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Let me start off by mentioning there are so many legends that have played in the MLB, making it impossible to include all of them in just a nine-player list. This means some all-time greats like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio will – spoiler alert – not make the cut. This is also more than just a ranking of the best player ever at each position, but also includes consideration for which players would help to make the lineup the most well-rounded and complete.

I also stayed clean. No steroid accusations, which means no Bonds, McGwire or A-Rod. Furthermore, I used a designated hitter. Although I may dislike it with regards to actual play, it is simply more fun in fictional lineups. Finally, this is my opinion. Everyone will have their own opinion on who should comprise the best lineup of all time. By no means am I saying this is indisputable fact. Now, let’s get to it.

1. Rickey Henderson, Center Field

When one thinks of the best leadoff hitter of all time, only one name should come to mind: Rickey Henderson. The 1990 AL MVP is the all-time leader in both runs scored (2295) and stolen bases (1406). He also holds the single-season record for stolen bases (130) in the modern era. Henderson’s 297 home runs and 1115 RBI are also very impressive numbers for someone who hit leadoff in 2886 of the 3081 games he played. Therefore, when creating the best lineup of all time, it would be a crime to have someone other than Rickey Henderson bat leadoff.

2. Roger Hornsby, Second Base

Roger Hornsby had an incredible career that included two MVP awards and two Triple Crowns. He had a career slash line of .358/.434/.577, hit 301 home runs and 1584 RBI over his 23 years in the league. Hornsby is also one of only seven players who had a lifetime OPS over one, finishing at 1.010, which is the highest of any second baseman and well above the next best at the position. He fits really well in the second spot, as a hitter with a high average and on-base percentage, he can be counted on to get on base and set up the middle of the lineup.

3. Ted Williams, Left Field

One of the greatest hitters of all time, Ted Williams was a monster at the plate. Williams boasts an impressive resume with a .344 career batting average, 521 home runs and 1839 RBI, as well as a .484 on-base percentage which is the highest of all time. If not for three years of military service in the beginning of his career, his numbers would certainly be even better. Like Hornsby, Williams is a two-time MVP and two-time Triple Crown winner, so having the two of the best all-around hitters back-to-back in the order is deadly. The career Boston Red Sox left fielder is the perfect choice for the third spot in the order.

4. Babe Ruth, Designated Hitter

The Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the Caliph of Clout, the Babe, the greatest to ever play the sport, Babe Ruth. He is a no-brainer and should be in everyone’s all-time lineup. Ruth is the only person, in my opinion, better at the plate than Ted Williams, as he holds the highest career OPS of all time, sitting at 1.164. He achieved a .342 batting average, 714 home runs and 2214 RBI. And let’s not forget he pitched for a 94-46 record with a 2.28 ERA. Nothing else needs to be said, it’s Babe Ruth. We all know who he is, the best baseball player ever.

5. Lou Gehrig, First Base

The first base position might be the one with the most talent, with players such as Stan Musial, Albert Pujols and Jimmie Foxx all making their living there. However, no one was as good as the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig. Gehrig hit for a .340/.447/.632 slash line, smashed 493 home runs and knocked in 1995 RBI. He also won two MVP awards and earned the 1934 American League Triple Crown. Gehrig spent much of his career hitting right behind and protecting Babe Ruth, so it is only right for him to do so here as well.

6. Hank Aaron, Right Field

Hank Aaron was an unbelievable talent with a slash line of .305/.374/.555 over his storied 23-year career. However, we all know him for his home run total of 755 which was the most anyone had ever hit until 2007 when Barry Bonds hit his 756th. Even though his home run record no longer stands, he still holds multiple other records including RBI (2297) and total bases (6856). He was also selected to a record 21 straight All-Star Games, as he was and still is the ultimate model for consistency.

7. Mike Schmidt, Third Base

This was a tough one for me, as I had a hard time choosing between Schmidt and George Brett. Schmidt brings the power and Brett brings the average; it’s close, but I have to give it to Schmidt. He only hit .267, but had 548 home runs with 1595 RBIs. Despite his lower average, he still had an on-base percentage of .380 and had at least 100 walks in seven seasons. Schmidt won three MVP awards, six Silver Sluggers, ten Gold Gloves and was the 1980 World Series MVP. The lifelong Philadelphia Phillie will lock down the hot corner for this all-time lineup.

8. Mike Piazza, Catcher

What Mike Piazza may lack defensively behind the plate he makes up for at it, as he is indisputably the greatest hitting catcher of all time. All due respect to Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra, but if I have to pick one catcher to hit in my lineup, I choose Piazza ten times out of ten. An all-around hitter, he managed a .308 batting average, hit 427 home runs–the most of any catcher ever–and drove in 1335 RBI. He won the 1993 Rookie of the Year award and 10 straight Silver Sluggers from 1993 through 2002. You can try, but you are not going to be able to find better production from behind the dish than what Piazza put out.

9. Honus Wagner, Shortstop

No, not Jeter, not Ripken, but Honus Wagner. Wagner is the oldest player on this list and the only one to have played in the 1800s, even if it was just for three seasons. He never hit for power, accumulating only 101 home runs over his 21-year career. However, despite rarely hitting the long ball, he still had a total of 1732 RBI. Wagner had a .328/.391/.467 slash line and also swiped 723 bases and never had a year where he had less than 20 until his age 42 season. I like putting Wagner at the ninth spot in the order because he can almost act as another leadoff hitter and, like Henderson, set the table for the meat of the order.

There it is: the best possible lineup of all time, full of incredible talent from top-to-bottom. These nine players are the best that ever were and represent 179 years of baseball history. While other people may think differently and have different lineups, there is no denying that these nine are legends. To quote the best baseball movie ever, The Sandlot, “Heroes live forever, but legends never die.”


Jorge Eckardt is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jorge.eckardt@uconn.edu.