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Putting Together A Lineup Of The Greatest Last Seasons In MLB History

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Could you put a competitive lineup together of players but only using them in their final year? In a group of mostly greater old players, could some average players who retired early crack the team? I am not going to count any player who had a great last season because they died while still active in the big leagues. Maybe it's because of age, lack interest from other teams or they just decided to do something else but here is the all-time team of players in their last season:

Starting Catcher: Buster Posey (2021 San Francisco Giants - Age 34)

113 G, 454 PA, 18 HR, 56 RBI, .304/.390/.499, 3.4 WAR

Back Up Catcher: Dave Nilsson (1999 Milwaukee Brewers - Age 29)

115 G, 404 PA, 21 HR, 62 RBI, .309/.400/.554, 2.6 WAR

This is a tough call between Nilsson and Buster Posey. Both are strong options. Nilsson was from Australia and retired after the 1999 season when he bought the Australian Baseball League and moved back home. Posey just retired of course and seemed to just want to spend more time with family after winning three titles.

These guys both had really strong seasons before calling it quite. Posey was always a better defensive catcher than Nilsson. Also why it may seem like Nilsson had a better offensive year because of the higher slash numbers, it's not really accurate. Posey didn't have the same benefit of playing in such a hitter's era and they had almost the same OPS+. While both were All-Stars, Posey even won a Silver Slugger.

John Bazemore. Shutterstock Images.

First Baseman: Will Clark (2000 Baltimore Orioles/St. Louis Cardinals - Age 36)

130 G, 507 PA, 21 HR, 70 RBI, .319/.418/.546, 3.9 WAR

I'm not sure anyone who wasn't around in the late 80's would understand what a big deal Will Clark was. He was top 5 in the NL MVP voting four different times from 1987-91 and was a big reason the Giants went the World Series in 1989. His great contact ability never really went away but his power did. Oddly, he hit less home runs around the same time everyone else did. The easiest explanation is that he wasn't using PED's but that doesn't explain why he hit less homers than before.

In his final season, he started the season with Baltimore and was having his usual good season but when he got traded to the Cardinals, he had one of the best stretches of his entire career. With St. Louis, he hit .345/.426/.655 in 51 games. The Cardinals needed a first baseman after Mark McGwire got hurt. Clark played so well (and McGwire wasn't back to 100%) that he started at first base in the NLDS and NLCS. After they were eliminated, Clark retired saying he wanted to spend more time with his family including his son who recently diagnosed with autism.

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Second Baseman: Jackie Robinson (1956 Brooklyn Dodgers - Age 37)

117 G, 431 PA, 10 HR, 43 RBI, .275/.382/.412, 4.5 WAR

It's hard to believe that the Dodgers actually traded Jackie Robinson. They even had the balls to trade him to their biggest rivals, the New York Giants. Jackie had an ace up his sleeve though as he already signed with the coffee company Chock Full O' Nuts to be an executive. Since he retired, the trade was off. In that last season, he played quite a bit of third base as well as second and seemed to be really good defensively based on metrics. The 1956 Dodgers went 93-51 and made it to the seventh game of the World Series. Jackie had a great last year but his last at bat was striking out to end the season.

Orion. Shutterstock Images.

Shortstop: Buck Weaver (1920 Chicago White Sox - Age 29)

151 G, 692 PA, 2 HR, 74 RBI, .331/.365/.420, 3.5 WAR

John Cusack played Weaver in the movie Eight Men Out. This is back when Cusack was a really good actor and long before he got into an argument with White Sox Dave. Weaver was one of the players suspended for life for throwing the 1919 World Series. He insisted for the rest of his life that he knew of the fix but never took money for it and didn't take part in it.

For this exercise, that's neither here nor there. The interesting thing is it took awhile for the scandal to become public and eventually be tried by a grand jury. The eight players weren't suspended until three games were left in the 1920 season. Despite the cloud of the scandal hanging over him for much of the season, he had a brilliant season.

Giphy Images.

Third Baseman: Chipper Jones (2012 Atlanta Braves - Age 40)

112 G, 448 PA, 14 HR, 62 RBI, .287/.377/.455, 2.8 WAR

The crazy thing about Chipper is that he was still a pretty good defensive third baseman even at 40. He has some trouble staying on the field his last three seasons. He missed an average of 51 games a year from 2010-12. You can understand why he walked away. This is kind of what happened with Tony Gwynn. He could always hit. His last two seasons he hit .323 and .324 but played a grand total of 107 games and even that was used as pinch hitter primarily. Some guys never lose the skill but instead they lose their durability.

Bettmann. Getty Images.

Left Field: Ted Williams (1960 Boston Red Sox - Age 41)

113 G, 390 PA, 29 HR, 72 RBI, .316/.451/.645, 3.0 WAR

Those are just insane numbers. If the DH had existed in 1960, how long would Ted Williams have played for? I bet he could have still been a decent hitter even at 50. Julio Franco was still a productive hitter when he was 46. By the end, Williams was a pretty awful left fielder. It was similar to Barry Bonds in his last season. An absolute force swinging a bat but a total clown show in left field. I obviously chose Teddy Ballgame but Bonds would be on the bench with Nilsson for sure. Of course, PED's played a major role but that last season by Bonds was insane.

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Center Field: B.J. Upton (2016 San Diego Padres/Toronto Blue Jays - Age 31)

149 G, 539 PA, 20 HR, 61 RBI, .238/.291/.402, 1.4 WAR

Upton is the only player to go 20/20 in his last season. The Giants did have him start the 2017 in the minor leagues for them but wound up releasing him before the season was over. Both Upton brothers had very good careers that still feel underwhelming. They were both so talented that falling short of the Hall of Fame seems like a disappointment.

Upton was the 2nd overall pick in the 2002 draft that was stacked with talent. Just the first round of that draft produced Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Nick Swisher, Denard Span and Scott Kazmir to go along with Upton. At the age of 23, Upton was already the starting center fielder and led the Rays to the World Series hitting 7 home runs in the post-season. He just never got any better than that. His brother had a similar career path where Justin was very good so young but never could turn that corner to greatness.

Maybe the better option for this team would be Happy Felsch who was another member of the 1919 Black Sox team. But between taking Buck Weaver earlier and my next selection, I didn't want all 1920 White Sox guys in the lineup. Plus, unlike Weaver or my next pick, Felsch did actively help to throw the Series.

Right Field: Shoeless Joe Jackson (1920 Chicago White Sox - Age 32)

146 G, 649 PA, 12 HR, 121 RBI, .382/.444/.589, 7.5 WAR

It's between either Sandy Koufax or Shoeless Joe for who had the best last season in baseball history. I don't have a huge issue with  him being out of the Hall of Fame. He did play a great World Series in 1919 but he also took money and agreed to cheat. There's not really any coming back from that. From just a talent perspective, he was a great hitter and might have gotten to 3000 hits if he was able to be allowed to finish his career but I'm not going to spend too much time feeling bad for him.

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DH: David Ortiz (2016 Boston Red Sox - Age 40)

151 G, 626 PA, 38 HR, 127 RBI, .315/.401/.620, 5.2 WAR

In his final season, Ortiz led the league in doubles (48), RBI's (127) and Slugging Percentage (.620). He was an All-Star, won the Silver Slugger and even finished 6th in the AL MVP voting. I think I'm going to have him bat cleanup on this team. It's a final season that is so good, it's almost impossible to believe (wink, wink).

Here's the lineup:

1. Jackie Robinson - 2B

2. Shoeless Joe Jackson - RF

3. Ted Williams - LF

4. David Ortiz - DH

5. Will Clark - 1B

6. Chipper Jones - 3B

7. Buster Posey - C

8. B.J. Upton - CF

9. Buck Weaver - SS

This team would be able to mash with anyone. Defense would be an issue especially on the left side of the field. We might need to add a bench piece like Alex Gordon (who won a Gold Glove in his last season) to fill in for Williams late in games.

Even without using dead players and trying to stay away from guys who had their careers end because of injury or illness (like Kirby Puckett), you could absolutely put together a competitive lineup.