The other day I called Hideki Matsui a great ballplayer, but not a great Durham Bull. That set me to wondering, who are the greatest Durham Bulls? How would I go about finding out?
Regular readers know that I consider myself exclusively a Durham Bulls fan, so to my way of thinking a great Durham Bull is not necessarily a player who achieves stardom at another place and time. My interest is in what the player did as a Durham Bull. Thus, for example, Carl Crawford, who only played 85 games for the Bulls back in 2002, or Evan Longoria, who played all of 31 games back in 2007, simply didn’t have much impact as Bulls.
Another consideration is, which Durham Bulls team? I’m lazy. I just don’t feel like trolling through the records for the last 100 years. So, I limited myself to just the AAA Durham Bulls, a franchise to the the Tampa Bay Rays (née Devil Rays), who started playing baseball in 1998.
How do you measure greatness? Especially at the AAA level? Well, one way is to simply take a look at how often a player showed up for work. That is, how many games he played. That may seem to be an odd measure, but think about it. In minor league ball if a player isn’t producing there really aren’t any serious financial penalties for sending him back down to AA or releasing him. So sheer numbers of games played tells you that the manager and the system thinks this guy should be on the field, a lot.
|The Greatest Durham Bulls|
You know, looking at this table, I’m pretty comfortable with asserting that these are the “great” Durham Bulls. I never saw Steve Cox, Paul Hoover, or Scott McClain play, but I did see all the rest: Justin Ruggiano, Chris Richard, Brooks Badeaux (he was playing for Ottawa when I saw him), B.J. Upton, Dan Johnson, Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson, Leslie Anderson, and Jon Weber. Sad to say, there’s a good chance that not one of these guys will be back with the Bulls next year and we’ll start having to look for some new “greats”. Candidates?
Finally, I am entirely comfortable with the idea that Justin Ruggiano and Chris Richard should share the honor of being named the “greatest” Durham Bull. Do you think we should start harassing the front office to do something about it?
The "Greatest" Durham Bulls?
What about the pitchers? I’m working on ‘em.
Update: There are a couple of errors in the table, the most egregious being Elliot Johnson's. He played in 410 games, not 281. That puts him up there with Chris Richard. Sorry. I'll put in an update as soon as I get time to get all the rest of the data.
Update 2: See new table and new thoughts posted 15 January.