On Wednesday's Baseball Today podcast, Eric Karabell and Keith Law discussed an email from a reader who compared the rosters of the famous 1971 All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium versus the less famous 1998 contest at Coors Field.
Which year had the more star-studded group of stars? Let's compare. (This is what we do the day after the All-Star Game.)
NL Hall of Famers: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Johnny Bench (starters); Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, Lou Brock (reserves); Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Fergie Jenkins, Juan Marichal (pitchers).
AL Hall of Famers: Rod Carew, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparacio (starters); Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline (reserves); Jim Palmer (pitcher).
That's 21 Hall of Famers, plus near Hall of Famers in Joe Torre and Ron Santo and a host of very good players like Bobby Bonds, Bobby Murcer, Mickey Lolich, Norm Cash, Mike Cuellar, Vida Blue and others.
NL potential Hall of Famers: Tony Gwynn (in), Craig Biggio, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux (starters); Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, Trevor Hoffman.
AL potential Hall of Famers: Cal Ripken (in), Roberto Alomar (in), Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome (starters); Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Omar Vizquel, Rafael Palmeiro.
That's 24 potential Hall of Famers, including those with the steroid stain. The best of the very good includes Larry Walker, Kevin Brown, Bernie Williams, Kenny Lofton and Paul O'Neill.
So which year had the best rosters? If we add up the cumulative WAR (wins above replacement level) from Baseball-Reference.com we get this:
1971: 2,980.4 WAR (61 players) ... 48.9 average per player.
1998: 2,893.6 WAR (64 players) ... 45.2 average per player.
Pretty close. The 1998 averages are brought down a bit by a few extra pitchers, mostly relievers who don't accumulate the same career value as starters. Many of the best players from 1998 didn't even make the squad, including John Olerud (8.1 WAR), Albert Belle (7.4), Nomar Garciaparra (7.3), Andruw Jones (7.2), Vladimir Guerrero (7.1), Jeff Bagwell (6.7), Scott Rolen (6.6) and Edgar Martinez (5.0).
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.