Building A Fantasy Baseball All-Star Team Of The 1990s
The suspension of all baseball everywhere this spring has many in our universe looking back wistfully at the past to connect in the present with the game we love.
In this post I continue my trip down memory lane in search for the best fantasy seasons of the past four decades. This task is inspired by the Project G.O.A.T. retro fantasy baseball challenge, which was developed by ESPN's Pierre Becquey.
On to the fantasy all-star team of the 1990s.
C Mike Piazza | Age 28 | 1997 Dodgers
556 AB | .362 AVG | 104 R | 40 HR | 124 RBI | 5 SB
Piazza hit more home runs than any catcher in history, twice reaching 40 in a season and hitting at least 35 four other times. He hit .300 in nine different seasons. His exploits at catchers seem almost impossible by the standards of today.
1B Mark McGwire | Age 34 | 1998 Cardinals
509 AB | .299 AVG | 130 R | 70 HR | 147 RBI | 1 SB
McGwire shattered Roger Maris’ 37-year-old single-season home run record by blasting 70 while also setting career highs with 130 runs and 147 RBIs.
2B Roberto Alomar | Age 31 | 1999 Indians
563 AB | .323 AVG | 138 R | 24 HR | 120 RBI | 37 SB
Alomar led the American League with 138 runs and finished third in MVP balloting in a five-category career year. The incredible 1999 Indians are the last team to score 1,000 runs, and the only team to do so in the expansion era.
3B Ken Caminiti | Age 33 | 1996 Padres
546 AB | .326 AVG | 109 R | 40 HR | 130 RBI | 11 SB
Caminiti never topped 30 homers, 100 runs or 100 RBIs in any other season, but for one glorious year he was National League MVP. Known as an intense competitor and giving person, Caminiti was the first player to come clean about steroid use in 2002, a year after he retired. He died two years later.
SS Alex Rodriguez | Age 20 | 1996 Mariners
601 AB | .358 AVG | 141 R | 36 HR | 123 RBI | 15 SB
Cal Ripken Jr. revolutionized the shortstop position for larger players. Rodriguez raised the bar. In 1996, his first full big league season, A-Rod led the American League in hitting, runs and doubles (54). The Rangers’ Juan Gonzalez won the MVP that year, but Rodriguez received only one fewer first-place vote.
OF Larry Walker | Age 30 | 1997 Rockies
568 AB | .366 AVG | 143 R | 49 HR | 130 RBI | 33 SB
Few players ever impacted all five fantasy categories like Walker did in his National League MVP season. But in a sign of how crazy the late 1990s were for offense, the only fantasy category that Walker led the league in was home runs.
OF Barry Bonds | Age 28 | 1993 Giants
539 AB | .336 AVG | 129 R | 46 HR | 123 RBI | 29 SB
Bonds’ first year in San Francisco was an all-timer that included a National League-leading 46 home runs and 123 RBIs—not to mention his third MVP trophy in four seasons. The Giants signed him for six years and $43.75 million and sure got their money's worth.
OF Manny Ramirez | Age 27 | 1999 Indians
522 AB | .333 AVG | 131 R | 44 HR | 165 RBI | 2 SB
Ramirez’s 165 RBIs in 1999 is the highest single-season total since the high-scoring 1930s. He had a lot of chances batting behind Kenny Lofton (.405 on-base percentage), Omar Vizquel (.397) and Roberto Alomar (.422) in baseball’s last 1,000-run offense.
For Modern Pitchers, 3,000 Is The New 300
As MLB teams trade quantity for quality in their rotations, the calculus for all-time starting pitcher greatness also changes.
SP Randy Johnson | Age 35 | 1999 D-backs
272 IP | 17 W | 0 SV | 364 SO | 2.48 ERA | 1.02 WHIP
After signing with Arizona for four years and $52.4 million, Johnson embarked on the first of four straight Cy Young Award seasons. At age 35 and in his first full season in the National League, he led the circuit in ERA, complete games (12), innings and strikeouts.
SP Pedro Martinez | Age 27 | 1999 Red Sox
213 IP | 23 W | 0 SV | 313 SO | 2.07 ERA | 0.92 WHIP
Martinez turned in one of the most celebrated pitching seasons of all time in 1999, when he won the American League Cy Young Award with a league-best 23 wins, 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts.
SP Pedro Martinez | Age 25 | 1997 Expos
241 IP | 17 W | 0 SV | 305 SO | 1.90 ERA | 0.93 WHIP
Martinez helped the Expos emerge as a superpower in 1994 before the strike wiped away their chance at history. He progressively improved in Montreal until reaching his peak in 1997, when he recorded a National League-leading 1.90 ERA and 0.93 WHIP.
SP Randy Johnson | Age 31 | 1995 Mariners
214 IP | 18 W | 0 SV | 294 SO | 2.48 ERA | 1.05 WHIP
Johnson won his first ERA title and Cy Young Award in 1995, but leading the American League in strikeouts was nothing new. He led the league the three previous seasons, too.
SP Roger Clemens | Age 34 | 1997 Blue Jays
264 IP | 21 W | 0 SV | 292 SO | 2.05 ERA | 1.03 WHIP
Clemens signed with Toronto for the 1997 season and spent two years there, winning the American League Cy Young Award and pitching triple crown both years. He recorded a career high 292 strikeouts in 1997.
Fantasy All-Star Team Of The 1990s
Below is an overall all-decade team, using the positions required in the official Project G.O.A.T. challenge. To increase variety, I chose to devote three of nine pitcher spots to relievers, while disallowing multiple seasons from the same player.
An asterisk (*) denotes an MVP or Cy Young Award season.
|UT||Ken Griffey Jr.*||SEA||1997||608||125||56||147||15||.304|