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What is the greatest collection of talent ever on one roster?

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This article is about a team record that was set by a team long after it had ceased to be a team. It might well never be broken. Or it might be under attack right now, by a Yankees team that’s 95% retired, or by one that’s 75% retired, or by one that’s 40% retired, or by one that’s — somewhat shockingly — not a Yankees team at all.

This record began to come together after the 1926 season, with some minor accusations of game-fixing against Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. The fallout was that both players, aging greats who’d been with their respective teams for more than a decade, retired. Then, having not been found guilty, they were reinstated as free agents. Cobb signed with the Philadelphia A’s. Speaker signed with Washington, but he was released after one season and then he signed with the A’s, too. Around the same time, the great second baseman Eddie Collins was released by the White Sox, and for his waning days he returned to play and coach for the team with which he began his career: The A’s. If we’d had WAR at the time, Cobb, Speaker and Collins would have ranked first, second and fourth in major league history to that point.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

So it was that a Philadelphia A’s fan who bought a ticket to a July 4, 1928, doubleheader would have seen Cobb and Speaker, who still rank as two of the six greatest position players in history, by WAR. The ticket-buyer would have also seen the 20-year-old sensation Jimmie Foxx, who would go on to produce the 25th-highest WAR among hitters. Al Simmons, 77th in history, batted cleanup in both games, and Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane (205th) caught both. One of the pitchers he caught was Lefty Grove, sixth all time in WAR among pitchers. Another was Jack Quinn, 66th. Our fan would have had to be satisfied with seeing Collins coaching third base, since Collins didn’t get into either game that day. On top of all this, the manager was Connie Mack, the winningest manager in history.3

If you wanted to see the greatest collection of baseball history on one team, you’d go watch those 1928 A’s. It wasn’t the best team — though the 1929-1931 A’s are in that conversation — but it was the greatest collection of greatness, as measured by total career WAR on one roster. Collectively, the 1928 A’s produced 1,138 WAR in their careers — the years they’d already played and the years they would go on to play. Roughly speaking, it was as if a rookie Mike Trout was on a team with late-career Barry Bonds, late-career Alex Rodriguez, late-career Albert Pujols, mid-career Greg Maddux, mid-career Edgar Martinez, early-career Joe Mauer — plus seven other players who played at least 15 years in the majors, and a few besides them who were named All-Stars or earned MVP votes in their careers.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

For the rest of the 20th century, no team could come close, according to Dan Hirsch at Baseball-Reference, who provided the querying for this article. The 1927 A’s, the year before Speaker joined, were the only other team that cleared 1,000 WAR, at 1,000.3. The 1933 Yankees (944 career WAR) were the closest distinct competitor, with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and seven other lower-tier Hall of Famers. Those Yankees were finally surpassed by the 1979 Yankees (985), with Reggie Jackson leading 10 players who had 40-WAR careers. And those Yankees were displaced in the No. 2 spot by the 1996 Yankees, led by Wade Boggs, Derek Jeter and Tim Raines. And then the 2000 Yankees, with Roger Clemens, became the first non-A’s team to pass 1,000 WAR, before Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter retired and closed the books on that historic club.

That’s a lot of Yankees. But the greatest Yankees teams were arguably still to come; in fact, might still be to come.

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