So the way I tried to think of it was this: Imagine the season was starting again tomorrow and every player was thrown into an expansion draft. You are a general manager. Your owner asks you to give him your dream list, the 100 best players in the game, but the key is you have to win THIS YEAR or you will be fired, and then you will be tarred and feathered, and then you will be forced to spend 10 hours a day for two solid months listening to Steve Phillips tell you how to run a baseball team.
Point is, you better be right.
The list -- since almost everyone loves a good list -- is intriguing. Posnanski's top 10 is as follows: Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, Zack Greinke, Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, Johan Santana, and Roy Halladay. A few players there could be rearranged, but such a task is rather subjective -- no two people would put the exact same list together.
To my surprise, though, neither Adam Jones nor Nick Markakis appeared on the list; in fact, there wasn't a single Oriole. Here's some of the guys who made it in over those two: Adam Dunn, Ryan Franklin, Heath Bell, Brandon Inge, Kevin Millwood, Aramis Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Johnny Damon, and Jorge Posada. Would you put Jones or Markakis in over any of those guys? It's worth considering, at least.
Again, going back to Posnanski's criteria, the list is based on winning right now. It's not about what a player could become in the near future. So, even though I'd like to break down many of these players, we'll just look at one case: Jones vs. Damon.
First of all, both players are relatively healthy at the moment -- both have played in 86 games -- so durability isn't much of an issue. Next, Jones plays the tougher defensive position -- center field vs. left field -- so he gets the nod there. Also, Jones can actually throw the ball with some force behind it, so that's another point in his favor. Now, here's the breakdown:
Offense: .307/.361/.493, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 0.33 BB/K
Defense: -7.2 UZR, -11.3 UZR/150, 5.0 Arm
Value: $8.8 million, 2.0 WAR (wins above replacement)
Offense: .278/.363/.505, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 0.68 BB/K
Defense: -9.6 UZR, -15.6 UZR/150, -1.6 Arm
Value: $7.0 million, 1.6 WAR
Jones's and Damon's offensive numbers are comparable; Damon's slugging percentage is aided by two more home runs right now. Since Damon plays in the new Yankee stadium with an even shorter porch than the old stadium, those numbers certainly seem inflated a bit. Damon walks more and strikes out less than Jones, but Jones, even if he's been a little lucky with balls in play this season (.355 BABIP), has cut down his strikeouts a bit and is walking more.
In terms of defense, neither has been very good. Jones has a great arm, but it hasn't helped his overall defense in center field. But, as stated before, he does play the tougher position; Damon's awful defensive numbers come in left field, which is much worse and certainly is hurting his 2009 value. And, according to FanGraphs (as all the stats are), Jones, so far, has more value this season than Damon.
Anyway, I'm really just nitpicking here -- the list is pretty good. But there should be at least one Oriole on the list, and that player should probably be Adam Jones.