The other day, a former ballplayer by the name of Ichiro stepped in the box against Marco Gonzalez during a sim game and was able to his bat on the ball a couple times. Very impressive for a 47 year old who hasn’t played a full season since 2017. I loved watching Ichiro as a kid but whenever I look back on his legendary career, I can’t help but feel sad as most of it was wasted in Seattle. I then started thinking about a bunch of other superstars that never got to hold up the World Series trophy and some definitely shocked me.
I have never heard a bad word about this guy. He was known throughout the league as being one of the most genuine, hard-working players to ever take the field. He made his professional debut in Japan in 1992 for the Orix Blue Wave at 18 years old. In his age 20 season, he hit .385 with a .994 OPS and his batting average would never dip below .340 during the rest of his tenure in Japan. Ichiro debuted in MLB with the Seattle Mariners in 2001 when he turned 27. In his rookie season, he played 157 games, had 242 hits (lead MLB), 56 stolen bases (lead MLB), and had a slash of .350 (lead the AL)/.381/.457. He made the All-Star team, received the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, became the Rookie of the Year, and won the AL MVP award that year. Ichiro would go on to ensure he wasn’t a fluke by making the All-Star team 10 times, winning 10 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, and 2 batting titles.
Sadly, Ichiro only went to the postseason twice in his 19 year MLB career. Once with Mariners in 2001 and once with the Yankees in 2012. In 2001, Ichiro went 12 for 20 tear in the ALDS against Cleveland but then slumped against the Yankees in the ALCS by going 4 for 18. The Mariners were knocked out by the Yankees and haven’t been to the playoffs since. In 2012, Ichiro was already 38 years old and was a bench player during the regular season. In the playoffs, however, Ichiro saw significant playing time. He went 5 for 23 in the ALDS against Baltimore but picked it up by going 6 for 17 against Detroit in the ALCS. The Yankees lost to Detroit and Ichiro would never return to the playoffs.
You know who this guy is. I don’t have to explain to you how lethal of hitter Bonds was and I don’t care about your opinion on steroids. The fact of the matter is that Barry Bonds was without a doubt one of, if not the most electrifying phenom to ever play the game of baseball. 7 MVPs, 8 Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Sluggers, 14 All-Star games, 762 career home runs, and 2 batting titles. Sheesh. Bonds debuted with Pittsburgh in 1986 at 21 years old. In 1993, Bonds became part of the San Francisco Giants where he would call home until he retired at 42 in 2007.
Bonds did have some good opportunities to earn a ring but it just didn’t happen. With Pittsburgh, he went to the playoffs 3 consecutive years, 1990-1992. All 3 years, Pittsburgh lost in the NLCS and Bonds was a non-factor. He had an OPS of .542, .392, and .868 respectively in that stretch. In 15 years with the Giants, he went to the playoffs only 4 times; 1997, 2000, 2002, and 2003. In 1997, the Giants lost to the Marlins in the NLDS and Bonds had a .647 OPS. In 2000, the Giants lost to the Mets in the NLDS and Bonds had a .653 OPS. This is where I think Bonds got pissed because in the 2002 playoffs, Bonds went on a rampage. In the 2002 NLDS, the Giants beat the Braves and Bonds had an 1.233 OPS and 3 homeruns. In the 2002 NLCS, the Giants beat the Cardinals and Bonds had a 1.318 OPS and 6 RBIs. In the 2002 World Series, the Giants somehow lost to the Angels with Bonds being on another planet with a 1.994 OPS, 4 home runs, and 6 RBIs. Bonds returned to postseason in 2003, however, the Giants lost to the Marlins and Bonds only had a .889 OPS and 0 home runs. This is mainly because the Marlins intentionally walked Bonds 6 times out of 18 plate appearances. Bonds will go down as just a regular season monster although he came really close to a ring.
Williams is a bonafide legend. Arguably the best hitter of his time, Williams spent all 19 years of his career with the Boston Red Sox. He has won the Triple Crown twice, he’s a 2-time MVP, and appeared in 19 All-Star games. He currently holds the career record for OBP, he put baseball on hold to serve in the military for 3 years, and led all of baseball in OPS 9 times. Unfortunately, he played for the Boston Red Sox who, at the time, were suffering from the curse of the Bambino.
Ted Williams and his Red Sox only went to the playoffs one time. Now that number might shock you as how could that possibly be? Well, Ted Williams played baseball from 1939-1960 and prior to 1969, there was only one round in the playoffs, the World Series. The best team from the AL played the best team in the NL, simple as that. In 1946, the Red Sox went to the World Series and played the St. Louis Cardinals. They lost, of course, and Ted Williams only sported a .533 OPS with no homeruns.
Fun Fact: Ted Williams died in 2002 but his body is currently being cryonically frozen in Scottsdale, Arizona with the goal of eventually being able to revive him using whatever technology the future may hold.
Ken Griffey Jr.
For me, the Kid is the one that sticks out the most as his popularity during his prime was on another planet. Griffey paved the way for younger generations to just be yourself as a player and to have fun with it. So much so that he’s still called upon to represent the “Let the Kids Play” campaign. He played 22 years in the bigs; 11 with Seattle, 8.5 with Cincinnati, half a season with the White Sox, then returned to Seattle for another 2. He won the AL MVP, 10 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, and appeared in 13 All-Star games.
Griffey only went to the playoffs 3 times in his career, 1995, 1997, and 2008. In the 1995 ALDS, Seattle beat the Yankees when Edgar Martinez slapped a ball down the left field line that scored Griffey for the walk-off win in Game 5. Griffey had an OPS of 1.488 in the series along with 5 bombs and 7 RBIs. In the 1995 ALCS, Seattle lost to Cleveland even though Griffey still produced with a 1.011 OPS. A couple years later, Seattle lost to Cleveland in the 1997 ALDS. The reigning AL MVP, Griffey, was no where to be found as he had .321 OPS in that series. Fast forward 11 years and the Chicago White Sox traded for now 38 year old Griffey in 2008. Unfortunately, the White Sox got swept by the Rays in the ALDS and Griffey only went 2 for 10. As mentioned above, Griffey returned to Seattle for the 2009 and 2010 seasons but would not return to playoffs. The sweetest swing in baseball never got a real shot at a ring.
Tony Gwynn is one of the best bat-to-ball hitters of all time. He spent is entire 20-year career with the San Diego Padres from 1982-2001, thus earning him the nickname “Mr. Padre”. During his tenure, he won the NL batting title 8 times and the MLB batting title 5 times. He was a 15-time All-Star, won 5 Gold Gloves, and 7 Silver Sluggers. He finished with a career slash of .338/.388/.459 that included 3141 hits, 319 stolen bases, and only 434 strikeouts. Let me put that last stat into perspective. Tony Gwynn had a total of 10,232 plate appearances which means he struck out only 4% of the time when he stepped into the box. That kind of stat is unheard of in today’s game and I don’t believe it will EVER be replicated.
Unfortunately, Tony Gwynn was usually not on a good team. Between 1982 and 2001, the Padres only won the division twice. This resulted in Gwynn only going to the playoffs 3 times in his career; 1984, 1996, and 1998. In the 1984 NLCS, the Padres beat the White Sox and Gwynn batted .368. However, in the 1984 World Series, the Padres lost to the Tigers and Gwynn only batted .263. 12 years later, Gwynn returned to the postseason and faced off against the Cardinals in the NLDS in 1996. The Padres got swept but Gwynn still hit .308. Gwynn got one more chance in 1998 when the Padres were able to make it to the World Series again. Gwynn didn’t perform very well in the NLDS and NLCS only hitting .200 and .231, respectively. In the World Series, he hit .500 with a homerun but it was not enough to beat the record-breaking Yankees. Gwynn retired a few years after that.
There are some honorable mentions!
- Don Mattingly (1982 – 1995)
- Rod Carew (1967 – 1985)
- Robin Yount (1974 -1993)
- Ernie Banks (1953 – 1971)
- Carl Yastrzemski (1961 – 1983)
- Mike Piazza (1992 – 2007)
- Andre Dawson (1976 – 1996)
- Edgar Martinez (1987 – 2004)