Franchise Four: NL East

Our second division today in our "Franchise Four" selections is the NL East. You can vote at MLB.com here. Commence the debates!

Atlanta Braves

Career leaders in WAR:

1. Hank Aaron, 142.1

2. Kid Nichols, 108.1

3. Eddie Mathews, 94.3

4. Warren Spahn 92.0

5. Phil Niekro, 90.0

6. Chipper Jones, 85.0

7. John Smoltz, 67.0

8. Greg Maddux, 66.0

9. Andruw Jones, 61.0

10. Tom Glavine, 58.7

11. Dale Murphy, 46.9

This is a complicated one. You not only have a three-city franchise (Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta) with many great players, you also have two extended runs of great teams: The Milwaukee Braves clubs of the late '50s and the Atlanta Braves clubs of the '90s and early '00s. Let's start by going with Aaron and Spahn as automatics, one of the top five players of all time and the winningest left-hander in MLB history.

Interesting that MLB.com left Niekro off its eight-person ballot, even though he won more games for the Braves (268) than Glavine (244), Smoltz (210) or Maddux (194). I wrote a post a few weeks ago commenting that Niekro is one of the more underrated pitchers of all time and I guess this further confirms that. Hall of Famer Kid Nichols was also left off, but I don't think a player from the 1890s is going to generate any support. Niekro and Murphy were the two great Braves players in the lean years of the '70s and '80s and as beloved as the two-time MVP Murphy was, he draws the short straw.

I have a hard time separating Niekro and Glavine -- in a sense, both were "compilers" more than dominant starters, so I'm going to skip over both of them. I'm making Chipper Jones my third guy. Hard to debate that one. A future Hall of Famer who played his entire career for Atlanta, when you think "Atlanta Braves" of the past 25 years, I think he's the first guy you associate with the Braves. So it comes down to Mathews, Maddux or Smoltz. Mathews is historically an underappreciated player and I'm going to underappreciate him here as well. Sorry, Eddie. Maddux or Smoltz? I'm going with Maddux's regular-season dominance over Smoltz's postseason dominance. When I think of those great Braves pitching staff, Maddux is the guy that pops into my heads, with those three Cy Young Awards and back-to-back sub-2.00 ERAs.

My picks: Aaron, Spahn, Jones, Maddux.

Miami Marlins

Career leaders in WAR:

Hanley Ramirez, 26.8

Josh Johnson, 25.4

Luis Castillo, 22.3

Giancarlo Stanton, 21.2

Miguel Cabrera, 18.2

Dontrelle Willis, 17.1

Cliff Floyd, 16.8

Dan Uggla, 15.2

Kevin Brown, 15.0

Ugh. Can we skip this one? Of course, they won World Series titles in 1997 and 2003 with two completely different teams. They've also never won a division title. Oddly, MLB.com didn't include Ramirez OR Johnson, the franchise's all-time leaders in WAR. Their candidates included Josh Beckett, Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Jeff Conine, Livan Hernandez and Mike Lowell, plus Stanton and Castillo. I can see Beckett for his World Series-clinching shutout in 2003 and Hernandez for his 1997 playoff performance.

My picks: Ramirez, Stanton, Beckett, Hernandez.

New York Mets

Career leaders in WAR:

1. Tom Seaver, 76.1

2. David Wright, 49.7

3. Dwight Gooden, 41.6

4. Jerry Koosman, 39.5

5. Darryl Strawberry, 36.5

6. Carlos Beltran, 31.3

The Mets have a surprisingly unimpressive career leaders list for a franchise that is more than 50 years old. Seaver remains the only Mets Hall of Famer who earned the majority of his value with the Mets. Behind that list you have a bunch of players bench in the 25 to 29 range: Edgardo Alfonzo, Al Leiter, Sid Fernandez Keith Hernandez and Jon Matlack, plus Mike Piazza at 24.5.

Who to go with? Seaver and Wright are easy and I'm going with Gooden. Heck, even if 1984 to 1986 were his only three seasons with the club, you may have to include him. John Franco is another possibility and Koosman was a solid lefty, but I don't think relievers are big difference-makers and Koosman's legacy has kind of drifted away. So I have Piazza. It's back to the gut feeling: I think of the Mets, he's the guy I picture. After sinking in the '90s, they became winners again when they acquired him.

My picks: Seaver, Wright, Gooden, Piazza.

Philadelphia Phillies

Career leaders in WAR:

1. Mike Schmidt, 106.5

2. Robin Roberts, 69.7

3. Steve Carlton, 64.4

4. Chase Utley, 61.5

5. Ed Delahanty, 60.9

6. Pete Alexander, 60.3

7. Richie Ashburn, 57.2

A historic franchise that spent much of the first half of the 20th century in last place, won its first World Series title in 1980 and then another in 2008. There's fairly big gap in WAR between that group above and the next that includes guys like Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu and Cole Hamels.

Schmidt, Roberts and Carlton seems pretty easy choices. I think the final choice comes down to Ashburn, a Hall of Famer center fielder who then spent more than 30 years broadcasting for the team, making him a Philly icon above the others here. But I don't think we should consider his broadcasting merits. And I feel like the 2007-11 dynasty needs to be represented. Rollins and Ryan Howard won MVP Awards and Hamels was the World Series MVP, but Utley was the best player on those teams. So I give him the nod.

My picks: Schmidt, Carlton, Roberts, Utley.

Washington Nationals

Career leaders in WAR:

1. Gary Carter, 55.6

2. Tim Raines, 48.9

3. Andre Dawson, 48.1

4. Steve Rogers, 45.3

5. Tim Wallach, 36.8

6. Vladimir Guerrero, 34.6

7. Ryan Zimmerman, 34.3

Well, this is awkward. Zimmerman is the only guy on the list who played with the Nationals. He's the only National on MLB.com's eight-person ballot (Rusty Staub joins those seven). Maybe Zimmerman gets there some day. Maybe Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg. For now, it's an Expos sweep.

My picks: Carter, Raines, Dawson, Guerrero.