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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / 1970s MLB All Decade team

1970s MLB All Decade team

Publish Date: 01/23/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

1970s

Catcher

Johnny Bench

The 1970s had more talented catchers than most decades have had. Thurman Muson and Ted Simmons were among the many notable players of that decade. Carlton Fisk was a crucial player in the decade. Bench hit 290 home runs over the course of the decade; no other catcher topped 175. The gap between Bench and second-place Gene Tenace was nearly as wide as between Tenace and 17th-place Bob Boone. Bench was not only the best power-hitting catcher of the decade, he was also the top defensive catcher of the decade. Bench did more than stop base-stealer attempts and won the Gold Glove as catcher each year between 1970 and 1977. Bench was the greatest catcher of all time!

Video: Johnny Bench Highlights

Johnny Bench Highlights

First Base

Rod Carew

Rod Carew was a great hitter. He hit.350 or better five times in the decade. He was in the top 3 in triples six times and led the decade with 80 triples. Rod Carew: triples machine. Who knew?

Carew probably had less home run power than any other first baseman since Frank Chance. Carew’s home run power is relative. However, Carew was out-homered by Dave Duncan and Jason Thompson (who?). The biggest challenge to Carew for me was Tony Perez, Perez was the heart of the Big Red Machine and the team slowly died starting with the Perez trade to Montreal in 1977.

Video: A look back at Rod Carew's incredible summer of 1977

A look back at Rod Carew’s incredible summer of 1977

Second Base

Joe Morgan

It’s another member of the Big Red Machine. Morgan would surely be included in this list regardless of where he played. Morgan was the greatest overall player of the decade due to his strengths in every area of the game. Morgan’s best skill was getting on base. Morgan’s OBP was second to Carew’s over the decade, and that was while Morgan hit.282 against Carew’s.343 during the decade. Morgan had the most walks in the decade, which is not surprising. Morgan walked nearly 1,100 miles, while the average person only took 900.

Morgan was much more than a player who could walk. Morgan arrived in Cincinnati before the 1972 season (part of a terrible Houston trade that saw the decade’s top player and four others traded to Houston for three players who had barely played). Morgan quickly enjoyed a five-year run as one of the NL’s best players. He won the MVP award back to back in 1975-76, and started a streak of five consecutive Gold Glove awards.

Video: 1975 WS Gm7: Morgan's single gives Reds 4-3 lead

1975 WS Gm7: Morgan’s single gives Reds 4-3 lead

Third Base 

Mike Schmidt

This position came down to two players, Schmidt and Craig Nettles. Talking about peaks, Nettles was no slouch. He twice topped 7.5 WAR in one season and averaged almost 6.5 WAR every year during his three-year peak (1976-78). Schmidt, on the other hand, had five seasons with 7.5 WAR or more, and his three-peak (1974-1976) saw him average 8.4 WAR. Schmidt is the proud owner of three of the top five third base seasons and five of its best 10. Schmidt to me was the greatest third baseman who ever lived.

Video: Mike Schmidt's HR decides Wrigley slugfest

Mike Schmidt’s HR decides Wrigley slugfest

Shortstop

Bert Campaneris

Campaneris had some good years during the decade, including being among Oakland’s best players when they won three consecutive World Series. However, it also saw much of his decline phase. Other prominent shortstops in the decade also have their issues. Mark Belanger was brilliant defensively, which is why Campaneris didn’t win a Gold Glove. However, he hit.200 in the final three years of the decade. The closest challenger here was Dave Concepcion, but I lean towards Camp on this one. Shortstop was the weakest position of the 1970s.

Video: Bert Campaneris Baseball Career Hightlights

Bert Campaneris Baseball Career Hightlights

Left field

Pete Rose

Rose led the league in hits, runs, and doubles four times. 1973 was his best season when he was awarded the league MVP award and the batting title. He played left field until mid 1975.

Left is where he fills in for the all-’70s team. He ranks above Carl Yastrzemski and Roy White.

Video: Pete Rose barrels over Ray Fosse

Pete Rose barrels over Ray Fosse

Center Field

Cesar Cedeno

Cedeno should have been a hall of fame, but something happened along the way.

What happened? There are many theories. One popular theory is that Cedeno didn’t recover from the shooting and killing of his mistress in Dominican Republic during the off-season. Cedeno was ultimately found guilty of involuntary murder and was fined $100. According to a recent article, he “immediately paid” the fine.

Others believe Cedeno changed his swing after the Astros moved the Astrodome fences. Or that injuries cost him his place in the Hall. Although there is some truth to this last theory (Cedeno played fewer than 100 games in the last nine seasons of his career), the real reason Cedeno didn’t reach such highs again is unknown and likely unknowable.

Video: HOU@CHC: Cesar Cedeno steals home in the 8th

[email protected]: Cesar Cedeno steals home in the 8th

Right Field

Reggie Jackson

I was thinking about this: Is any player less accurately rated than Reggie Jackson by the common consensus? One group sees him as Mr October, the clutch hero. This includes most Yankee fans. On the other hand, a group sees him as something of a proto-Adam Dunn, with all strikeouts, home runs, and cover-your-eyes-they-hit-his-way defense.

The first group forgets Jackson’s .227 batting average in 45 career LCS games, including a particularly brutal 2-for-16 streak in the 1977 ALCS just before his heroics in the World Series. The second group overlooks that Reggie was a great defensive player with enough speed to steal 109 bases in 140 attempts over five years.

Jackson’s true quality lies somewhere between these two perspectives. Jackson is the best player of this decade at right field.

Video: 1971 MLB Allstar Game @ Detroit, Reggie Jackson Home Run off Dock Ellis

1971 MLB Allstar Game @ Detroit, Reggie Jackson Home Run off Dock Ellis

Starting Pitchers: Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven, Jim Palmer

Seaver is rarely mentioned in discussions of the greatest pitchers. This is a result of Seaver’s work in this decade when he won 178 games, which is nearly 18 per annum, and had a 2.61 ERA.

It is perhaps appropriate that two pitchers known for their “gimmick” would be rotation-mates on an all-’70s team. Niekro was a fan of the knuckleball pitch. Niekro was able throw big innings without his arm being injured by the pitch. He threw over 300 innings four times during the decade. Niekro was much more than an inning-eater, as he was ranked in the top 10 for ERA+ four times.

Perry’s pitch was, however, the spitball (or “hard slider”, depending on who you ask) which he used to throw five seasons of 300 innings. It is unclear how many times Perry threw the “wet one”, but it was enough to lead the NL’s wins in both 1978 and 1970.

I won’t go into detail about Blyleven. His Hall of Fame merits and worthiness has been extensively discussed. However, he deserves credit for making it to the all-decade team despite his debut at age 19 in 1970. He didn’t let the growing pains stop him from winning almost 150 games and putting up a 2.88 ERA. Palmer was a veteran by 1970 and continued to win 20-plus games a fantastic eight times through the decade. Palmer won the most games in the decade, even though he was the fifth pitcher on the roster.

Video: Tom Seaver Returns to New York - August 21, 1977

Tom Seaver Returns to New York – August 21, 1977

Relief Pitcher

Rollie Fingers

Fingers were the save leader for the decade and helped Oakland win three straight World Series.

Fingers main competition here was John Hiller, who most have never heard of but he was an excellent relief pitcher during the 70s.

Video: 1974 WS Gm1: Rollie Fingers gets win in relief

1974 WS Gm1: Rollie Fingers gets win in relief

Manager

Sparky Anderson

Sparky Anderson assumed control of the Reds in 1970. They reached the World Series that year, going 102-60. They finished fifth the following year with a record of 79-83. Sparky didn’t like this,and made the trades for Foster, Morgan, etc. The Reds continued to be an excellent team for the next ten years. They won no less than 88 games and won four division titles. Anderson’s teams won 919 games overall, including the first year of his career as Tigers’ manager, in 1979. That’s an average of almost 96-66.

Video: Cincinnati Red's Manager Sparky Anderson Screaming As Johnny Bench Homers!

Cincinnati Red’s Manager Sparky Anderson Screaming As Johnny Bench Homers!

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