Mount Rushmore: American League Central
Chicago White Sox
- Frank Thomas, 1B/DH, 1990-2005
- Nellie Fox, 2B, 1950-1963
- Minnie Miñoso, LF/3B, 1951-1957, 1960-1961, 1964, 1976, 1980
- Luke Appling, SS/3B 1930-1943, 1945-1950
An imposing figure at 6’5″, 240 pounds, Frank Thomas (a/k/a The Big Hurt) seemed to clobber the ball every time he connected on his 2,468 career hits, most of which came as a member of the White Sox. But he also had a keen eye, leading the league in walks and on-base percentage four times. The two-time MVP gained a World Series ring his last year with the club despite having only played in 34 games that season.
Fox, seven inches shorter and 80 pounds lighter than Thomas, went to the All-Star game 15 times during his 19-year career while winning the MVP in 1959 and earning three Gold Gloves between 1957 and 1960.
Minnie Miñoso won just as many Gold Gloves as Fox while heading to the All-Star Game nine times. The lifetime .298 hitter also appeared in several White Sox games at the age of 50–and then again at 54! He’d finish his career with 50.5 WAR and four Top 5 finishes for MVP.
Playing his entire 20-year career with the White Sox, Appling, a Hall of Famer, won two batting titles on his way to seven All-Star Games. For his career, he hit only 45 home runs, but his career WAR was 74.4. He finished with a career slash line of .310/.399/.398 for a .798 OPS. Not bad for a guy whose career high in home runs was eight.
- Larry Doby, CF, 1947-1955, 1958
- Jim Thome, 1B/DH/3B, 1991-2002, 2011
- Bob Feller, SP, 1936-1941, 1945-1956
- Tris Speaker, CF, 1916-1926
The American League’s first African-American ballplayer, Doby, in his first full season in the pros, helped the Indians win their most recent World Series–in 1948. He’d go on to play in seven All-Star Games while leading the league in nine different offensive categories over the years, including winning 2/3 of the Triple Crown in 1954.
Thome, a fellow Hall of Famer, hit 337 of his career 612 home runs as a member of the Indians. Overall, the hefty lefty earned a WAR of 48 while in Cleveland. The five-time All-Star would also go to two World Series with the Indians, both of which they lost.
Debuting at age 17, Feller went 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 62 frames in 1936. Overall, he finished with 266 career wins (all with Cleveland) while playing in eight All-Star Games. He won at least 20 games six different times in his career. In 1940, he won the “Pitcher’s Triple Crown,” leading the AL in wins (27), ERA (2.71), and strikeouts (261). Now consider this: he missed three seasons, when he was 23, 24, and 25, due to military service. What might he have accomplished with those three seasons? Regardless, Feller’s one of the best pitchers to have ever played the game.
Finally, Speaker is another exclusion to my rule of leaving out players from the Dead-ball Era. He was just too good. In 11 seasons with Cleveland, he had a .965 OPS despite averaging less than seven home runs per season. A member of Cleveland’s 1920 World Series championship team, he was a doubles-machine (no one’s hit more than his career 792) who hit over .380 three different times.
- Al Kaline, RF/1B, 1953-1974
- Justin Verlander, SP, 2005-2017
- Hal Newhouser, SP, 1939-1953
- Ty Cobb, CF, 1905-1926
Kaline finished with just over 3,000 hits, a .297 career batting average and a WAR of 92.8. Though he never won the MVP, he was part of the club that won the 1968 World Series. Plus, he won 10 Gold Gloves, appeared in 18 All-Star Games and won the 1955 batting title–when he was 20.
Still playing today for the Astros, Verlander helped rise the Tigers franchise from the dead. In his rookie season, he helped Detroit win the American League Pennant. His Tigers teams would make the playoffs five times. Overall, Verlander–who won the Rookie of the Year in 2006 and who captured both the Cy Young and MVP in 2011–won 183 games for Detroit. A durable starter, he’d also make six All-Star teams during his tenure.
Newhouser, however, was a southpaw, and he did win a World Series with Detroit–back in 1945. During the course of his career, Newhouser won 207 games with a 3.07 ERA, good enough for 63.3 WAR, 59.4 of which came with Detroit. He won back-to-back MVPs in 1944 and 1945.
Ah, the most famous Tiger of them all–Ty Cobb. Not a very good person. Probably a horrible person, from all accounts. But an incredible ballplayer. He led the league in runs scored five times, hits seven times, doubles three times, triples four times, home runs once (with 9 in 1909, the year in which he won the Triple Crown), RBIs four times, stolen bases six times, on-base percentage seven times, slugging percentage eight times, OPS 10 times and total bases six times while winning 12 batting titles. Incredibly, he won the MVP only once, in 1911. In the most glaring lowlight of his on-field performance, his Tigers reached the World Series three times–and lost every time.
Kansas City Royals
- George Brett, 3B/1B, 1973-1983
- Bret Saberhagen, SP, 1984-1991
- Amos Otis, CF, 1970-1983
- Alex Gordon, 3B/LF, 2007-Present
Brett was by far the easiest choice here, as he’s the only player enshrined in Cooperstown as a Royal. Part of the Royals’ first World Series championship team in 1985, Brett collected more than 3,000 hits, including 317 home runs. The 13-time All-Star won the 1980 MVP, won one Gold Glove and collected three Silver Sluggers. For his career, he slashed .305/.369/.487.
In eight seasons with the Royals, Saberhagen won two Cy Young Awards, in 1985 and 1989. He was also named the 1985 World Series MVP after throwing two complete games (one a shutout) for a 2-0 record and a 0.50 ERA. His importance to the Royals goes beyond his career win-loss record. An important cog in some of the team’s first glories, Saberhagen pitched another eight seasons after leaving Kansas City, but never was the same type of pitcher.
The last two spots really came down to ten players. Among the notable misses: Kevin Appier, Dan Quisenberry, Frank White, Salvador Perez, Willie Wilson and Bo Jackson.
Otis is the only one of four players selected who wasn’t on either the 1985 or 2015 World Series championship teams. But he made five All-Star Games and won three Gold Gloves with the Royals. In his 14 seasons in Kansas City, he totaled 44.8 WAR. While he hit for power, his true value came on the basepaths and in the field.
Gordon is entering the last year of his contract with the Royals. He’s had a star-crossed career: drafted early, praised as a moribund franchise’s savior, then labeled a bust, he re-made himself as a Gold Glove outfielder with a rifle for an arm. His bat’s regressed after 2015, but played key roles in both 2014 (when the Royals lost the World Series) and 2015 (when they won it all). Perhaps more importantly, he stuck around, and will most likely finish his career having only played for the Royals–just like Bret.
Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins
- Harmon Killebrew, 1B/3B/LF, 1954-1974
- Rod Carew, 1B/2B, 1967-1978
- Kirby Puckett, CF, 1984-1995
- Walter Johnson, SP, 1907-1927
The Killer played for both the Washington Senators and then the Minnesota Twins, after the franchise re-located prior to the 1961 season. He hit all but 14 of his 573 career home runs as a member of the Senators/Twins en route to 13 All-Star Game appearances that included the 1969 MVP. He helped the Twins reach the 1965 World Series, which they lost in seven games. Overall, as a member of the Senators/Twins, he slashed .258/.378/.514 for an .892 OPS.
The first half of Carew’s career came in Minnesota, where he won the 1977 MVP while making 12 All-Star Games. He won Rookie of the Year in 1967 and went on to win seven batting titles, all while a member of the Twins. He collected over 3,000 hits in his career with over 2,000 of them coming as Twin. In his 12 seasons in Minnesota, he slashed .334/.393/.448.
Man, Puckett was great, and he could have been so much better had his career not tragically ended. But before that unfortunate ending, Puckett led the Twins to a World Series title in 1987. The Hall of Famer reached 10 All-Star Games, won six Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers. In 1991, he won the ALCS MVP. In 1989, he won a batting title.
Lastly, there’s Walter Johnson, who won 417 games with the Senators in his 21-year career, all with the Senators. He won two MVP awards in that time while winning 20 or more games 12 times and twice winning 30 or more games. Of the 666 career games he started, he completed 531 of them, including 110 shutouts. Overall, he had 3,509 career strikeouts with a 2.17 ERA and a 1.061 WHIP. His only World Series title came in 1924 when he won his second career MVP. He was 36.