Legends in MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty have been around since 2015 and while the introduction of throwback players has added a nice flair to the game the cast of characters are a bit stale in my opinion. Seeing Phil Niekro, Rollie Fingers and George Brett year in and year out has lost its appeal. I want a fresh infusion of new Legends and while I do understand there is a logistical and monetary hurdle to adding players into the game I’m going to ignore that for the time being.
A few years ago I wrote about who the real legend was for each franchise versus who The Show picked. After going back and reading that post nothing really changes my mind in my selections. So I’m not going to re-write that post. Instead I’m going to focus on who should be added to the game to bring a new sense of excitement and energy to Diamond Dynasty. Nothing against Harold Reynolds or Buddy Bell but those cards just aren’t doing it for me. I’ve brought in some extra arsenal for this post, adding MLB The Show expert and host of Bullpen Banter T.J. Lauerman aka That Sports Gamer (@ThatSportsGamer).
Now we’re not going to be naive and just pick players that we know have zero chance of showing up in the game. Sorry but Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire (maybe McGwire), Jose Canseco just aren’t going to be in the game. There is too much controversy attached to their names and I don’t think MLB or the MLBPA will ever allow it. So let’s just cross off those names and kick around some real options The Show could use.
“Just tip my cap and call the Yankees my daddy”. One of the best quotes I can remember and one that echoed around Yankee stadium in the years following Pedro’s memorable press conference that followed Aaron Boone’s historic 2003 ALCS walk-off HR off Tim Wakefield. Pedro of course was the victim of Grady Little’s decision to leave him during the infamous 8th inning of Game 7. But I digress, I’m not exactly making the case for Pedro am I? It’s hard as a Yankee fan to talk about Pedro in a positive light, look what he did to poor Don Zimmer! But as a baseball fan only an idiot would deny Pedro’s brilliance on the mound.
Rookie (1993 – SP, Dodgers) 10-5, 2.61 ERA, 119 K in 107 IP, Only 5 HR Allowed
Many might know this but I’m bi-coastal, I was born and raised in Southern California (23 years) and the rest of my life thus far as been in the NYC metro area. My dad was raised a Yankee fan, my mom a Dodger fan so I have baseball roots on both coasts. Why do I say this? Because I remember going to a few games where Pedro Martinez pitched for the Dodgers. At that time he was Ramon Martinez brother (also a Dodger star pitcher), the brothers with the blue gloves. But in his rookie year he showed us that he was a star in the making, later on he would make Ramon’s 1990 season (20-6, 2.92 ERA) look like child’s play.
Hardware/All Star (1999 – SP, Red Sox) 23-4, 2.07 ERA, 5 CG, 1 SHO, 0.92 WHIP, 313 K
You could pick any of Pedro’s three Cy Young seasons and it would be an incredible card, there is no wrong answer here. In ’97 he posted a 1.90 ERA with an unheard-of 13 complete games. In 2000 just a ho-hum 1.74 ERA the lowest in his career. But his 1999 season was truly special not only because of his win-loss record but his strikeouts. Pedro recorded 100 more K’s than innings pitched, as a starter that’s unspeakable. Randy Johson never accomplished that. A whopping 13.2 K per 9 which is Big Unit territory. He was so dominant that year he finished second in the AL MVP voting behind Ivan Rodriguez.
Impact Veteran (2005 – SP, Mets) 15-8, 2.82 ERA, 0.949 WHIP, 4 CG, 208 K in 217 IP
Pedro’s last great season was 2005, his first as a member of the New York Mets. After the Red Sox historic 2004 World Series, Pedro left in free agency for a 4 year, $53M contract which in today’s market would be a felony. Martinez posted an NL leading 0.95 WHIP while tossing 200+ innings and recording 4 complete games. Opponents only hit .204 against him in and he was named to the All-Star team for the final time.
John Smoltz (TSG)
Two players in Major League Baseball history have 150+ Wins and 100+ Saves. They are Dennis Eckersley (already in the game) and John Smoltz. He was a Cy Young caliber starting pitcher, as shown by his 1996 award and almost did it again in 2002 (3rd place) as a closer. After that, he went back to being a starter and would have 3 more seasons of 200+ innings pitched.
Postseason (1992 – SP, Braves) 3-0, 2.67 ERA, 31 K in 33 IP, 1 HR Allowed, .220 Opp BA
I feel like we need more Postseason cards. I was initially going to give John Smoltz a 1989 Breakout card but decided to go with this instead. Smoltz was the NLCS MVP and went 3-0 with 31 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings in 5 starts during the 1992 playoffs.
Hardware (1996 – SP, Braves) 24-8, 2.94 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6 CG, 2 SHO, 276 K
Smoltz proved to be dominant again in 1996 after the Braves ’95 World Series run going 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA and leading the league with 276 Strikeouts and a 2.64 FIP. He held batters to just a .216 BA that season.
All-Star (2002 – CP, Braves) 3-2, 3.25 ERA, 55 Saves (4 BS, 93%), 85 K in 80 IP
After missing the entire 2000 season due to Tommy John surgery, Smoltz attempted to rejoin the rotation in ’01. However, with him proving to be ineffective in the rotation and with a void at closer, Smoltz was moved to the pen and into the closer role. In ’02, his first full season as closer, he set the NL record for saves in a season (55).
Impact Veteran (2005-07 – SP, Braves) Avg* 15-8, 3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 192 K in 222 IP
After a 3 1/2 year stint as Braves closer, in which he tallied 154 saves, Smoltz moved back to the rotation in ’05 at age 38. Over the next three seasons we would go 44-28 with a 3.22 ERA. This card could be for any of those three years.
Roy Halladay (J23)
The two time former Cy Young award (1 AL, 1 NL) winner tragically passed away recently in a plane crash and as I reminisce on his career I’m astounded just how great his numbers were and how it took him a few seasons to get to his peak. His two hardware seasons were just incredible and either of which would be perfect for a Flashback card. Doc would have five pitches (fastball, cutter, sinker, change-up, curveball) with filthy downward movement and upper echelon velocity.
Breakout (2002 – SP, Blue Jays) 34 GS, 19-7, 2.93 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 168 K in 239 IP
After a brutal year in 2000 (10.64 ERA in 10 starts) he was sent down to the minors to work on his delivery and regain the promise he had as the 17th overall pick in the 1995 draft. In 2002, he came back with a changed mindset becoming a pitcher and not just a thrower. He started 34 games posting a 19-7 record with a 2.93 ERA. He struck out 168 batters doubling his total from the year before. This season was the preamble to his 2003 AL Cy Young Award.
Postseason/Hardware (2010 – SP, Phillies) 21-10, 2.44 ERA, 9 CG, 4 SHO, 1.04 WHIP, 219 K in 250 IP
Following his trade in the winter of 2009 for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor, Doc followed up with the best season of his career. In the 2010 season he pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history against the Marlins in a 1-0 victory. He earned his second Cy Young award, becoming only the 5th pitcher to win the award in both leagues along with Randy Johnson, Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens. (Max Scherzer became the 6th).
Later that season in the NLDS Halladay threw a no hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, the second no hitter in MLB history behind Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series which would also qualify him for a Post Season card. He did struggle in the next series against the Cardinals but anyone who sits next to Don Larsen on a playoff list deserves a flashback.
Johan Santana (TSG)
Lao Tzu is quoted with saying that “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” This is the case for Johan Santana. Only five times in Santana’s career did he start more than 30 games, and in those years, he never finished lower than 5th in the Cy Young voting, including 2 wins, in 2004 and 2006.
Breakout (2003 – SP, Twins) 12-3, 3.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 169 K vs. 47 BB
Johan’s first big season with the Twins was 2003 when went 12-3 with a 3.07 ERA. That season he kept hitters to a .216 BA and specifically left-handed batters to a ridiculous .191 average.
Hardware (2006 – SP, Twins) 19-6, 2.77 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 245 K vs. 47 BB, 233 IP
I didn’t want to give Santana two HW cards, so I went with his 2006 Cy Young season. This season Santana won the Pitching Triple Crown by leading MLB in K’s (245), ERA (2.77) and Wins (19, tied w/ Chien-Ming Wang).
All-Star (2008 – SP, Mets) 16-7, 2.53 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 206 K in 234 IP
Santana’s first season with the Mets was also his last “super” season. He finished with a 16-7 record and a 2.53 ERA, after leading the league in starts (34) and innings pitched (234). Johan finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting. Albeit not in 2008 but he’s also the only Met pitcher in their history to throw a no hitter. Santana threw 134 pitches in that game and was never the same, the price to pay for immortality.
Gary Sheffield (J23)
Over Gary Sheffield’s 22 year career (spanning both leagues and 8 teams) we could easily pick out 10 different Diamond Dynasty cards. A breakout card, a postseason card, multiple All-Star cards, multiple hardware cards, and an Impact veteran card. Sheff definitely made his rounds across the majors and while he got a bad wrap for his attitude he never stopped hitting despite burning bridges almost everywhere he went. I’ve never seen a quicker bat in all my life especially for someone with such tremendous bat movement prior to the pitch. Easily my favorite batting stance of all time and just to get that back in The Show would be amazing.
Breakout (1992 – 3B, Padres) .330, 33 HR, 100 RBI
Sheffield’s career took off the minute the Brewers traded him to the San Diego Padres. In his first season in San Diego he hit a career high .330 while belting 33 HR and 100 RBI. This was a quantum leap forward from his 1990 season in Milwaukee (.294, 10 HR, 67 RBI). What makes this card great is his third base eligibility. He did make 16 errors so he’s no Brooks Robinson but his bat makes up for any defensive flaws. His contact against lefties would be a 99 (.365 BA) and he’d have the Jake Lamb glitch of 99 power against the first pitch (.387 BA)
All-Star (1996 – RF, Marlins) .314, 42 HR, 120 RBI, .465 OBP, 1.090 OPS
All-Star (2003 – RF, Yankees) .290, 39 HR, 132 RBI, 190 hits, 126 runs
The next stop on the Gary Sheffield tour brings us to South Beach where he had the most productive season in his career for the Florida Marlins. Somehow he only finished 6th in the NL MVP Voting with a .314/42/120 slash line. He had a league leading .465 on-base thanks to a Bonds like 142 walks and 1.090 OPS. For the All-Star version we could’ve selected other Marlins years or even the 2009 Dodgers campaign but this was the most statistically impressive. I’m throwing in his AL MVP runner-up campaign as an honorable mention because that was a special year but unlucky for Sheffield, Vlad Guerrero had an all-time year in 2003.
Impact Veteran (2007 – RF/DH, Tigers) .265, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 131 hits, 107 runs, 22 SB
We could’ve used Sheffield’s Yankees tenure as an Impact Veteran as well but being this season came at age 38 it qualifies for an Impact Veteran in my book. Who knew the fountain of youth was in Detroit, Michigan all this time? Boy was Ponce De Leon way off course. Average, power, speed, he was still doing it all for the Tigers. It was his first 20 stolen base campaign since 1990 with the Brewers.
Andruw Jones is one of the greatest defensive center fielders of all-time, having a decade’s long lock on the NL Gold Glove from 1998 to 2007. During his time with the Braves, Yankees and a few other teams he was able to accumulate over 430 home runs, including an MLB leading 51 in 2005. Bonus points, after leaving the Yankees following the 2012 season, he took a trip across the Pacific Ocean and hit 50 home runs over the next two years for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Pacific League.
Postseason (1996 – CF, Braves) .400, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 Runs, 3 BB, 1 SB
While barely playing in the NLDS and NLCS, Jones made his mark on baseball history going 8-for-20 and kicking off the World Series with home runs in his first two ABs, making him the youngest player to hit 2 home runs in a World Series game.
Breakout (1998 – CF, Braves) .271, 31 HR, 90 RBI, 27 SB, .515 Slg %, GG
Jones really broke out in 1998 by becoming the youngest player to have a season with more than 30 HRs, 30 doubles and 25 stolen bases. He also had a .995 fielding percentage and won his first of 10 straight Gold Gloves.
All-Star (2005 – CF, Braves) .263, 51 HR, 128 RBI, .575 Slg %, GG
Finishing 2nd in the NL MVP race to Albert Pujols, Jones put together his best season, hitting an MLB leading 51 HRs and an NL leading 128 RBIs, while only committing 2 errors, in route to a .995 FLD% and a Gold Glove.
Craig Biggio (J23)
He’s the perfect player for MLB The Show. He’s a a member of the 3,000 hit club, a recent Hall of Fame inductee and fits into all categories of Flashback cards. He’s a founding member of the Houston Astros Killer B’s and would fit perfectly along side current legend Jeff Bagwell. For a while I questioned if Biggio was HOF worthy but when you look at the numbers there’s no doubt in my mind the 7x All Star, 4x Gold Glove and 5x Silver Slugger belongs in Cooperstown. Hell anyone who has been beaned that many times (285) should get inducted just for the pain of being drilled that much.
Rookie (1989 – C, Astros) .257, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 21 SB, 21 2Bs
This Rookie Card won’t be the most amazing card in Diamond Dynasty but his position eligibility should make up for lack of total rating. Biggio came up through the ranks as a catcher where he showed great speed (21 steals) and a solid bat winning the Silver Slugger as a rookie. He would only spend three seasons behind the plate before the Astros realized they needed to extend the career of this special talent.
All-Star (1998 – 2B, Astros) .325, 20 HR, 88 RBI, 50 SB, 51 2Bs, 123 runs, 210 hits
The 1998 season was peak Killer B’s territory and Biggio joined the rare 50 doubles and 50 stolen bases club (only caught 8 times) while playing in 160 games. He totaled 210 hits en route to a .326 batting average with 88 RBI and a .503 slugging percentage, all career highs. Biggio finished 5th in the NL MVP voting and won his fifth and final Silver Slugger award.
Impact Veteran (2004 – 2B, Astros) .281, 24 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB, 47 2Bs, 100 runs
Even in the late stages of his career Biggio was still swinging the bat with precision. I’m not sure if it was the juiced ball era of the early 2000’s but his two career high seasons in home runs came at age 38 and 39. In the ’04 season (age 38) he recorded 700 plate appearances and hit a respectable .281 with 24 HR and 63 RBI. He also added 47 doubles and scored 100 runs.
Nomar Garciaparra (TSG)
The mid-to-late 90s were a renaissance for the shortstop position with the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Edgar Renteria and Nomar. His career was on a rocket to the moon until a 2001 wrist injury derailed him. While doing a statistical study comparing players to A-Rod, Scott Boras projected that by age 40, Nomar would have 513 HRs, 3,581 hits and a .336 BA, had a plethora of injuries not hampered his career.
Hardware/Rookie (1997 – SS, Red Sox) .306, 30 HR, 97 RBI, 22 SB, 209 hits
To say Nomar burst onto the scene would be an understatement. He ran away with the AL Rookie of the Year Award by hitting .306 with 30 HRs and driving in 97 RBI. He led the league in both hits and triples.
All-Star (2000 – SS, Red Sox) .372, 21 HR, 96 RBI, 51 2Bs, 1.033 OPS, 104 runs
In the first game of a July 20th double header with the Orioles, Nomar went 3-for-5 and pushed his average to .403 for the season. This would be the highest his average would go on the year, ending at .372, tied with Todd Helton (who deserves to be an MLB The Show Legend as well) for the Major League lead.
Impact Veteran (2006 – SS, Dodgers) .303, 20 HR, 93 RBI, 142 hits, 82 runs
Later in his career Garciaparra would find himself returning home to Southern California playing at Chavez Ravine with the LA Dodgers, where he would hit .303, with 20 HRs and 31 2Bs, and landing on the All-Star team for his 6th, and final, time.
Statistically Larry Walker might be the greatest player that no one ever talks about. I’m sure there’s a group of baseball purists who chalk up most of his success to Coors Field and the thin air on Blake Street. These aren’t just slightly above average numbers, his numbers are unworldly. We are doing ourselves a disservice by not acknowledging how incredible Walker was from 1997 to 2002. In that six year period (775 games) chew on this: .353 BA, 182 HR, 590 RBI, 83 SB, .441 OBP, .648 Slugging, 1.089 OPS. It’s a crime he won’t get into the Hall (8th year on the ballot and hasn’t topped 25% yet).
Breakout (1992 – RF, Expos) .301, 23 HR, 93 RBI, 18 SB, 31 2B, 85 Runs
Even before he signed with the Rockies as a free agent, Larry Walker was among the nucleus of young talent in the late-great Montreal Expos system. In 1992 Walker emerged as the alpha-dog of the Expos pack (Delino DeShields, Marquis Grissom) finishing 5th in the NL MVP voting and earning a Gold Glove as well as a Silver Slugger in his first All-Star season. He had a great arm in right field recording 16 assists in 1992 from right field.
Hardware (1997 – RF, Rockies) .366, 49 HR, 130 RBI, 33 SB, .452 OBP, 1.172 OPS, 33 SB
Walker’s 1997 season is among one of the best ever and yet half the people who follow baseball never talk about how amazing this left handed hitter was. The numbers for this season speak for themselves, you can see that above, let me state more of his case why he should be in the Hall. For starters he’s not just a Coors Field hitter, his career road average was .278 which is higher than 33 other players already in Cooperstown. Walker is an insane .306 career hitter against left handed pitching (imagine that stat in The Show) only Gwynn and Carew have a better average in the Hall. If you take his career numbers for BA/OBP/SLG, 2B/HR/RBI he’s on a short list with Ruth, Musial, Foxx, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. The guy won 7 Gold Gloves and the 1997 MVP just to top it off.
Troy Glaus (TSG)
Troy Glaus and Scott Rolen (who should also be in the game) were were two of the great 3rd basemen of the 2000’s. They were even traded for each other, straight up, in 2008. Since I’m a Braves homer, I decided to make the argument for Glaus instead of Rolen but they should both be in the game.
All-Star (2000 – 3B, Angels) .284, 47 HR, 102 RBI, 112 BB, 1.008 OPS, 120 Runs
In his first of four All-Star seasons, Glaus hit an American League leading 47 HRs while batting .284 and winning the Silver Slugger. The big drawback here is that he committed, what would be a career high, 33 errors at 3B this season.
Postseason (2002 – 3B Angels) .344, 7 HR, 13 RBI, .770 Slg %, 1.191 OPS
In the 2002 playoffs vs. the San Francisco Giants, Glaus went 21-for-61 with 7 HRs, including 10-for-26 in the World Series with 3 HRs and 8 RBI, leading to him being named World Series MVP.
Impact Veteran (2010 – 1B, Braves) .240, 16 HR, 71 RBI, 52 Runs
Not every Legend card is going to be a Diamond, and that’s the case for Glaus’ Braves card. This card also moves Glaus over to first base for his final season, where he hit .240 with 16 HRs and was 3rd on the team with 71 RBI.
- Willie Mays
- Mickey Mantle
- Hank Aaron
- Bob Gibson
- Lou Gehrig
- Babe Ruth (Pitcher and Hitter)
- Roberto Clemente
- Rickey Henderson
- Tim Raines
- Doc Gooden
- Eric Davis
- Darryl Strawberry
- Fernando Valenzuela
- Greg Maddux
- Kirby Puckett
- Jim Thome
- Mike Piazza
- Hideo Nomo
- Frank Thomas
- Vlad Guerrero
- Mike Mussina
- Ivan Rodriguez
- Alfonso Soriano
- Troy Percival
- Brandon Webb