All Stars Then and Now: 2007 and 1980 National League

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{mosimage}Time for a trip down memory lane that only
a baseball fan can appreciate. I stumbled across a great baseball
blog today called The Soul of Baseball written by Joe Posnanski,
Kansas City Star columnist and writer of a great book about Buck
O'Neil. Posnanski recently wrote a post comparing the All Stars of
his childhood with those recently named. Posnanski picked 1977 and while I remember
bitter tears about the Dodgers losing the Series that year, my
first year of real knowledge and awareness about baseball came in
1980, the year before the strike. Posnanski wrote about the
American League, but as everyone knows, the National League is the
only real baseball league.


The comparisons below the fold.


Catcher: Johnny Bench vs. Russell Martin

No contest here. I hate Johnny Bench. I hated his Krylon
commercials, hated the Big Red Machine, and hated the smug
assertion that he was the best catcher in the history of the game.
Carlton Fisk gets my vote. But between Johnny Bench and Russell
Martin? Hatred cannot overcome reason. In three years, people will
be asking themselves who that flash in the pan Dodger catcher who
made the All Star game was. Bench.

First Base: Steve Garvey vs. Prince Fielder

I worshiped Steve Garvey when I was a kid. I wore his number in
Little League, read books about him, followed his stats, and
followed him to the Padres when the Dodgers let him go as a free
agent to make room for Greg Brock. The other night during the
Padres-Dodgers game, Vin Scully identified Garvey's departure as
the moment when the LA-SD rivalry began. It certain;y began my
hatred of the Dodgers. So everything that happened after Garvey's
career? It can't overcome childhood hero worship or those clutch
homeruns. Prince Fielder seems like a decent kid and he is having a
great season, but he's only the second most interesting second
generation player on his team. Garvey.

P.S. Yankee fan wish Don Mattingly was a good as Garvey was.

Second Base: Davey Lopes vs. Chase Utley

Chase Utley is a really exceptional young talent, but did I ever
draft him in my Statis Pro Baseball League? Speed, grace, a little
pop–Lopes had it all. Lopes.

Third Base: Mike Schmidt vs. David Wright

548 to 81. Get back to me in 15 years, David. Seriously, Mike
Schmidt just killed the Dodgers every time I saw them play. It felt
like it was a guaranteed homerun every time he came to bat. Only in
retrospect can I admire his skill and power. I certainly didn't
then. Schmidt, by a mile.

Shortstop: Bill Russell vs. Jose Reyes

Russell was always an afterthought in the Dodgers amazing infield.
Garvey, Lopes, and Cey were simply better players. It was
interesting that Russell was the one left after the Dodgers
dismantled their team for the likes of Brock and Sax. Jose Reyes is
one of the most exciting talents in the National League today, and
if he can avoid injuries that have already plagued him, a superstar
for years to come. Reyes.

Leftfield: Dave Kingman vs. Barry Bonds

What a contest. Two players who never received the love they so
richly deserved. I'm going to give the nod to Kingman for three
reasons. How many homeruns would he have hit if he had taken a
steady diet of human growth hormone, horse urine and steroids?
Approximately 987. Secondly, Kingman once sent a dead rat to a
reporter he disliked, while Bonds is constantly searching the
locker room for someone who might rat to the Feds. Finally, Tommy
LaSorda's famous Kingman diatribe is one of the top ten manager
meltdowns in history; you have to admire someone who can generate
that kind of hatred. Kingman.

Center Field: Reggie Smith vs. Carlos Beltran

Smith was definitely the player on the Dodgers that I appreciated
least when I was a fan.He just never made much of an impression on
me. Carlos Beltran is one of those unusual players that has
dominant statistics, but rarely seems like the kind of player who
can change a game. Beltran.

Right Field: Dave Parker vs. Ken Griffey, Jr.

Since it's 1980, I get to compare the early Dave Parker to
Griffey. The early Parker was as much fun to watch to as the early
Griffey: skilled, fast, intense. As part of the '79 Pirates,
Parker was one of the great players in the league. Unfortunately,
drugs took their toll on Parker, like so many athletes in the
1980s. Given the ongoing scandal of the steroid years, it's
interesting to think about the impact of other illicit drugs in the
1980s. Players like Parker, Gooden and Strawberry all lost
potential Hall of Fame careers, and probably hurt the integrity of
the game just as much as steroids have. Ken Griffey Jr. is simply
the most talented all-around outfielder since Willy Mays. I wish
that he had kept playing with the same exuberance he showed early
in his career, avoided injuries, stayed in Seattle, but Griffey is
a unique talent whose might only be fully appreciated once he's
gone. Griffey.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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