Franchise Four: NL Central

We move over to the NL Central in our Franchise Four project. Go over to MLB.com to vote for your own selection. Remember, MLB.com says to vote for the four "most impactful players who best represent the history of each franchise." Interpret that as you wish!

Chicago Cubs

Career leaders in WAR:

1. Cap Anson, 84.4

2. Ron Santo, 72.0

3. Ryne Sandberg, 67.7

4. Ernie Banks, 67.5

5. Billy Williams, 61.6

6. Sammy Sosa, 58.5

7. Fergie Jenkins, 53.2

8. Stan Hack, 52.5

9. Gabby Hartnett, 52.3

10. Rick Reuschel, 48.3

11. Frank Chance, 45.5

12. Joe Tinker, 45.3

13. Three Finger Brown, 45.3

The Cubs have been playing in the National League since 1876 -- although their earlier nicknames included White Stockings, Colts and Orphans, with the Cubs moniker sticking about 1903. They weren't always mired in mediocrity. From 1906 to 1910 they won four NL pennants in five years, averaging 106 wins per season (in a 154-game schedule). Maybe those Tinker, Evers and Chance guys were pretty good. From 1929 to 1938, they appeared in four World Series, but lost them all. They made it back in 1945 -- but not since -- and finished over .500 in 1946, but then had one winning season in the next 20 years.

Anyway, that gets us to the Banks-Santo-Williams-Jenkins era, four Hall of Famers. They had some good teams with that group, although they topped out at 92 wins in 1969. Truth is, Banks was past his prime by the mid-'60s and not contributing all that much. If the late '50s Banks had teamed with Santo, Jenkins and Williams, maybe those Cubs make the playoffs; they never did, not until the Sandberg-led team surprised in 1984.

So who do you go with? Obviously, Banks is a lock. But do you pick all four of those guys? Nostalgia says you take Banks, Santo and Williams, and with Sosa currently persona non grata in Chicago, it's Sandberg versus Jenkins for the fourth spot. I think you go with Sandberg.

(As for Anson, we're talking a 19th century guy and his racial attitudes, while reflective of the time, are hardly worthy of someone who "best represents" the franchise.)

My picks: Banks, Sandberg, Santo, Williams.

Cincinnati Reds

Career leaders in WAR:

1. Pete Rose, 77.7

2. Johnny Bench, 75.0

3. Barry Larkin, 70.2

4. Frank Robinson, 63.8

5. Joe Morgan, 57.8

6. Bid McPhee, 52.4

7. Vada Pinson, 47.7

8. Noodles Hahn 45.9

9. Tony Perez, 45.6

You could just go with the four guys from the Big Red Machine and call it a day, but that ignores Larkin and Robinson. It's easy to drop Perez, and though the Big Dog is a Hall of Famer and beloved in Cincinnati, he wasn't quite the player the others were. Morgan is behind Larkin and Robinson in career WAR with the club, but based on single-season WAR, he had the four best seasons in Reds history. Joe Morgan in the mid-'70s was about as perfect a ballplayer as you will ever find and he was the back-to-back MVP when the Reds won World Series in 1975 and 1976. I can't leave him off the list. Sorry, Frank. The Reds never should have traded you.

My picks: Bench, Rose, Larkin, Morgan.

Milwaukee Brewers

Career leaders in WAR:

1. Robin Yount, 77.0

2. Paul Molitor, 59.6

3. Ryan Braun, 36.0

4. Teddy Higuera, 30.6

5. Cecil Cooper, 30.5

6. Don Money, 28.2

7. Jeff Cirillo, 26.2

8. Ben Sheets, 25.6

Even for a new franchise (they were born in 1969 as the Seattle Pilots), the Brewers' career leaderboard isn't too impressive. Three of their top five pitchers in career WAR are Chris Bosio, Bill Wegman and Mike Caldwell. Somehow, MLB.com left Teddy Higuera off its ballot. They did include Gorman Thomas (18.5 WAR), who twice led the American League in home runs with the Brewers, and who can forget that shaggy mane and mustache? He's a fan favorite in Milwaukee. Do you go him over Higuera or sweet-swinging Cecil Cooper? Or maybe Prince Fielder (16.8 WAR)? I can buy Stormin' Gorman.

My picks: Yount, Molitor, Braun, Thomas.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Career leaders in WAR:

1. Honus Wagner, 120.3

2. Roberto Clemente, 94.4

3. Paul Waner, 68.2

4. Arky Vaughan, 64.0

5. Willie Stargell, 57.5

6. Max Carey, 52.4

7. Barry Bonds, 50.1

8. Babe Adams, 49.9

9. Wilbur Cooper, 47.9

9. Bob Friend, 47.9

I'm a little surprised MLB.com didn't include Andrew McCutchen on its ballot, considering you usually want these things to skew towards more recent players. I mean, no offense to Pie Traynor, who is included while the always underrated Arky Vaughan was not. Shame on you, MLB.com!

Anyway, Wagner, Clemente and Stargell are easy choices. Bonds? See you in San Francisco. My fourth choice isn't listed above, but he is a Hall of Famer and author of the most iconic moments in baseball history: Bill Mazeroski. McCutchen? Check back in a couple years.

My picks: Wagner, Clemente, Stargell, Mazeroski.

St. Louis Cardinals

Career leaders in WAR:

1. Stan Musial, 128.1

2. Rogers Hornsby, 91.4

3. Albert Pujols, 86.4

4. Bob Gibson, 81.9

5. Ozzie Smith, 65.6

6. Ken Boyer, 58.0

7. Enos Slaughter, 50.2

8. Ted Simmons, 44.8

9. Curt Flood, 42.2

10. Lou Brock, 41.6

Not listed but included on the MLB ballot: Dizzy Dean (38.5 WAR with the Cardinals) and longtime player/manage/icon Red Schoendienst (33.0 WAR).

It's tempting to go with Dean, one of the biggest names in the sport in the 1930s and then a longtime broadcaster. He's largely forgotten now, but he was the symbol of the great Cardinals' teams of the 1930s. He won 30 games and the MVP Award in 1934, 28 games in 1935 and 24 in 1936, before injuries shortened his career. His peak of excellence was so impressive he made the Hall of Fame with just 150 wins. Hornsby was one of the greatest batters of all time, and he won six consecutive batting titles with St. Louis from 1920 to 1925, three times hitting .400. He was also basically a horse's you know what. Pass.

My picks: Musial, Gibson, Pujols, Ozzie.