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Desmond's project will get us all talking about baseball again

Not to be pretentious or anything, but there are problems remaining in the world because social distancing precludes us from solving them at the moment.

By "us," I refer to the gang at Muddy Waters, the nerve center of New London, where all us blowhards, gasbags and blatherers meet daily to help politicians, attorneys, journalists, sports figures, police officers, firefighters, plumbers, EB folks, morticians, carpet cleaners, teachers, school administrators, social workers, restaurateurs and others do their jobs better. Our advice is never solicited but always free.

Happily, one of the gang e-mailed the other day. Fran DePeter, retired teacher and wrestling coach at New London High — also a passionate Yankees/Giants guy — reports that his 12-year-old grandson, Desmond, has a project for us.

"I am working on my young authors' book project for my school," Desmond wrote. "My book is about the best baseball team of all time. Tell me who you think the best player from every position is, including starting pitcher and best reliever. I am also looking for the best manager. I look forward to hearing back from you and thank you for your time."

Anything to help, Desmond.

So I'll start. Here is my all-time baseball team. Please feel free to e-mail me your thoughts (I'll send them to Desmond) or leave them in the comments section. Be nice. There is no right or wrong answer here.

I have rules for my team. I'm not taking anybody who is older than a Tyrannosaurus Rex (aside from the Babe). Rogers Hornsby and Walter Johnson might have been swell players. But I have no idea the context. Also, none of this will be based on anything hinting at analytics. As Edwin Starr sang in 1970, "WAR, what it is good for? Absolutely nothing."

So there.

Catcher: Johnny Bench. He received MVP votes in 10 of the 13 straight years he was an all-star. He went 45-148 and 40-125 in 1970 and 1972 (huge for a catcher, given the physical grind) and threw out 43 percent of the runners who tried to steal against him in his career. I hope Yogi forgives me.

First base: Lou Gehrig. A .340 lifetime hitter. Think about that. During his streak of more than 2,100 straight games played, he never hit below .295. (I note that Cal Ripken's average dipped as low as .250 in 1990). Also, let's remember that Curt Schilling named one of his sons "Gehrig" and not "Musial."

Second base: Joe Morgan. I found this the most difficult position. No real obvious answer here. Sandberg, Carew, Gehringer, Alomar ... But Morgan was a back-to-back MVP, had 2,517 hits and led the league in on base percentage four times. In his career he had one season — one — during which he struck out more than he walked. And somewhere, Giancarlo Stanton winces.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter. Stop with the Ripken stuff before you start. It's not close. Jeter had more hits (in one less season), hit 44 points higher (.310-.276), had more hits, runs scored, championships, a better on base percentage and more gold gloves (5-2). If you can't acknowledge Jeter's greatness, you don't like baseball, hot dogs, apple pie or Chevrolet either.

Third base: George Brett. OK. I am 51 years old. Brett is the greatest all-around hitter of my lifetime. He combined power and average better than Boggs, Carew and Gwynn. I dismiss Bonds because of four words: "cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater." Mike Schmidt is a close second because he won Gold Gloves left and right. But Brett is one of only four players ever to have 3,000 hits, 300 homers and a career .300 average, joining Musial, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Brett had more hits and RBI than Schmidt, too. He also nearly ruined my childhood when he homered off Grant Jackson in Game 5 of 1976 ALCS. But all is forgiven because the Yankees won.

Outfielders (3): Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays. I dare you to argue with that. C'mon. The Babe speaks for himself. Williams is the greatest hitter in the history of the game. And honestly, Mays may be baseball's best all-around player. It pains me to leave Joe D and the Mick off the list. But we want Desmond to get an 'A' on this.

Starting pitcher: Bob Gibson. I know the pseudo-intellectual number crunchers who dream of being in math class swear there's no "clutch" stat. Au contraire. I know many other pitchers won more games than Gibson (who won 251). But nobody has ever been more clutch. Timely, if you like that word better. Gibson pitched in three World Series (1964, 67, 68).

He made a total of nine starts in those three series, pitching a complete game in eight of the nine games. Think about that. Eight complete games in nine tries. In the World Series. It's unfathomable now. He went 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA. Anyone who did that nowadays would have a federal building named after him.

Relief pitcher: Mariano Rivera. More people have walked on the moon (12) than scored against Rivera in the postseason (11). The defense rests, your honor.

Manager: Casey Stengel. He won the World Series seven times. He also managed the '62 Mets. Thus proving you can't win without good players, but you can sure screw them up. Stengel never did. Plus, he said this: "The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate you away from those who are still undecided." Sage words for leaders everywhere.

Hope this helps, Desmond.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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