Every MLB franchise has its icons. But these players are the icons of the icons.
Here’s the greatest player in franchise history for all 30 MLB teams, as assembled by the MLB.com staff.
BLUE JAYS: Roy Halladay
Upon becoming a full-time starter in 2002, through his 2011 campaign with the Phillies, Halladay was one of the game’s elite starting pitchers — he posted a 2.97 ERA (148 ERA+) over 2,194 2/3 innings during that span, twirling a pair of no-hitters in 2010 with Philadelphia. The second of those no-hitters came in the right-hander’s first career postseason start and was the second in postseason history, coming in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Reds. Halladay’s rise to stardom, however, was during his 12 seasons with Toronto, for whom he pitched to a 3.43 ERA and 1.20 WHIP from 1998-2009. It was with the Blue Jays in 2003 that he won the first of two Cy Young Awards — the other came in 2010 with Philadelphia. He tragically passed away in a 2017 plane accident, and he was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in ’19.
ORIOLES: Cal Ripken Jr.
This might be the toughest decision for any franchise. Cal Ripken Jr., one of the greatest shortstops to ever live? Or his idol, Brooks Robinson, another lifelong Oriole and one of the greatest third basemen to ever live? Ripken gets the slight nod because he amassed nearly 20 more Wins Above Replacement and put together one of the most famous streaks in sports history. He was the Baltimore-area kid who starred for his hometown team, redefined his position and remains one of the most iconic, beloved, durable and productive players in MLB history.
RAYS: Evan Longoria
Longoria is the best player in Rays franchise history, and it’s not particularly close. The three-time All-Star leads the organization in at-bats (5,450), home runs (261), runs scored (780), RBIs (892), games played (1,435), doubles (339), walks (569), sacrifice flies (76), extra-base hits (618) and total bases (2,630). If that’s not enough, Longoria also ranks second in slugging percentage (.483) and hits (1,471). The moment Longoria announces his retirement, his No. 3 jersey will be hanging from the rafters at Tropicana Field.
RED SOX: Ted Williams
The Splendid Splinter was an iconic hitting machine who played his entire career for the Red Sox and put up spectacular numbers (.344/.482/.634, 521 homers, 1,839 RBIs) that would have been even better had he not missed three full seasons and large chunks of two others serving his country as a fighter pilot. Williams is still the last player to hit .400 in a season, going 6-for-8 in the final two games to reach .406 in 1941. The final at-bat Williams ever had was also the stuff of legend, as he clocked a home run at Fenway Park. No. 9 had a career WAR of 122.1, the 11th best in history for a position player.
YANKEES: Babe Ruth
The most celebrated character of his time, Ruth is described on his Hall of Fame plaque as the “greatest drawing card in the history of baseball.” Fans flocked for glimpses of the Great Bambino, the game’s first great slugger, who remains the benchmark by which all other superstars are judged. Ruth changed the game following his acquisition by the Yankees prior to the 1920 season. Converted to a full-time outfielder, Ruth hit 54 homers that season, more than any other AL team. He won 12 home run titles, smacking 60 in 1927, and he walloped 714 career homers — a record that stood until 1974.
GUARDIANS: Bob Feller
Though Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie or Lou Boudreau would all have acceptable arguments to get this title, Feller has quite the convincing case himself. Feller is the franchise’s all-time leader in wins (266), strikeouts (2,581), starts (484), complete games (279) and innings pitched (3,827). He led the AL in wins six times and strikeouts seven times. The righty set club single-season records for strikeouts (348), innings (371 1/3), shutouts (10) and complete games (36) in 1946. Feller pitched a franchise-record three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer by an overwhelming margin in 1962.
ROYALS: George Brett
The franchise’s only Hall of Famer, Brett has the Royals’ club career mark in virtually every offensive category — from hits (3,154) to doubles (665) to triples (137) to home runs (317). Brett played his entire 21-year career with Kansas City, winning one Most Valuable Player Award and one Gold Glove Award while appearing in 13 All-Star Games.
TIGERS: Ty Cobb
The plaque positioned outside the administrative entrance at Comerica Park calls Cobb the “Greatest Tiger of All / A Genius in Spikes.” Nearly a century after Cobb’s playing days, and 57 years after the plaque debuted at Tiger Stadium, the case still holds. Though Cobb played most of his career in a far different game during the Deadball Era, his numbers have stood the test of time, from a .366 batting average to 4,189 career hits. Cobb’s 149.3 fWAR ranks fourth all time behind Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays.
TWINS: Harmon Killebrew
Killebrew was one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history, smashing 573 home runs over a 22-year Major League career spent almost entirely with the Twins (who were the Washington Senators over Killebrew’s first seven seasons. He led the AL in home runs six times, and in four of those years, he led all of baseball. He finished among the top five in AL MVP Award voting six times, including in 1969, when he won the honor. Killebrew was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.
WHITE SOX: Frank Thomas
Thomas’ nickname, the Big Hurt, indicated what he consistently did to the baseball and opposing pitchers trying to retire him. The Hall of Famer and the team’s top pick in the 1989 Draft tops the White Sox with 448 home runs and 1,465 RBIs, not to mention his .995 career OPS and 1,327 runs scored. Over 16 seasons playing for the White Sox, Thomas emerged at No. 1 for the franchise in nine separate statistical categories and was top-five in 14. Thomas won two MVP Awards and four Silver Sluggers.
ANGELS: Mike Trout
Trout is already the club’s best player ever and its all-time leader in WAR by a sizable margin. The three-time AL MVP and eight-time All-Star has racked up 76.1 WAR, which is over 20 WAR more than the next-highest Angels position player or pitcher, according to Baseball Reference. Left-hander Chuck Finley is second with 51.8 WAR, while the second-highest position player is Jim Fregosi with 46 WAR. Trout could end up with more total WAR with the Angels than Fregosi and Finley combined.
ASTROS: Craig Biggio
The first player to wear an Astros cap on his plaque in the Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 2015, Biggio holds club records for games played (2,850), at-bats (10,876), runs (1,844), hits (3,060), extra-base hits (1,104) and doubles (668). He’s a seven-time All-Star, won five Silver Sluggers (at catcher and second base) and four Gold Gloves. He hit 291 home runs, stole 414 bases and posted a .281 average. On June 28, 2007, Biggio became the 27th player in Major League history to reach the 3,000-hit plateau.
ATHLETICS: Rickey Henderson
Perhaps the greatest leadoff hitter the game has ever seen, no athlete is more revered in Oakland than Rickey. A 10-time All-Star with the A’s, Henderson holds the franchise record for position player bWAR (72.7), runs (1,270), walks (1,227) and stolen bases (867). Known as the “Man of Steal,” Henderson led the AL in stolen bases 12 times. Nine of those seasons came playing for Oakland, including an astonishing 130 swiped bags in 1982, which remains the Major League single-season record. The Oakland native was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 and remains a mainstay in the A’s clubhouse, often suiting up in full uniform to take part in pregame drills with the team. The A’s honored their organization’s greatest player by naming the Oakland Coliseum playing surface Rickey Henderson Field in 2017.
MARINERS: Ken Griffey Jr.
It’s impossible to think of the Mariners’ history without having the image of Griffey and his backwards cap and ear-to-ear grin come to mind. “The Kid” broke in with the Mariners as a precocious 19-year-old in 1989 and went on to 10 consecutive AL All-Star selections and 10 straight Gold Glove Awards in center field as one of MLB’s greatest players of the ’90s. Griffey returned to Seattle to close out his career after nine seasons in Cincinnati and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016 as the first player to wear the Mariners cap on his plaque in Cooperstown.
RANGERS: Iván Rodríguez
Pudge made his Major League debut on June 20, 1991, at the age of 19. He played in 88 games that year, hit .264 and threw out 49% of attempted base-stealers. He spent the next 10 seasons as the best catcher in baseball. Rodríguez won 10 straight Gold Gloves, was named to 10 straight All-Star Games and was the 1999 AL MVP. He reached the big leagues on his defensive ability but ended up hitting .304/.341/.488 during his 13 years with the Rangers.
BRAVES: Hank Aaron
When Aaron ended his 23-year career in 1976, he owned more offensive records than any other player in Major League history. He still holds the records for most RBIs and extra-base hits. His home run mark was topped by Barry Bonds, but Aaron will always be remembered as the man who broke Babe Ruth’s “unbreakable” home run record. If you did not count any of Aaron’s 755 career homers, he would still have more than 3,000 hits. The iconic Hall of Famer debuted for the 1954 Milwaukee Braves, who won a World Series during his 1957 NL MVP season.
MARLINS: Giancarlo Stanton
Stanton made his MLB debut at age 20 in 2010 and became the Marlins’ all-time leading slugger, pacing the franchise in home runs (267) and RBIs (672). Injuries hampered his Marlins tenure, but when he had his completely healthy season in 2017, he was a force. In 159 games, Stanton led the Majors in home runs with 59 and RBIs with 132, and he became the only player in franchise history to win the NL MVP Award. In 2014, Stanton’s 37 homers also topped the NL, and he was runner-up to Clayton Kershaw in the MVP voting. Stanton’s 34.6 FanGraphs WAR is the highest of any player in Marlins history.
METS: Tom Seaver
No one looms larger than Seaver, a near-unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer who remains the Mets’ all-time leader in ERA, wins, complete games, shutouts, innings, strikeouts, WAR and more. All of those records have stood for more than 40 years; some will never be broken. Until Mike Piazza entered the Hall of Fame in 2016, Seaver was the only player in Cooperstown with a Mets cap on his plaque. He is not just the greatest Met of all time, or one of the best pitchers the game has ever seen, but one of the greatest players in Major League history.
NATIONALS: Vladimir Guerrero
Looking at the franchise from its time in Montreal to Washington, the Hall of Famer Guerrero stands out. The outfielder played the first half of his star-studded career with the Expos, and his performances still are untouched today. Among all players in franchise history, Vlad has the best batting average (.323), slugging percentage (.588), OPS (.978) and at-bats per home run (16.1). Guerrero ranks second in home runs (234) and OPS+ (148), as well as third in triples (34). He was named to four consecutive All-Star teams and won Silver Slugger Awards in 1999, 2000 and ’02.
With that said, focusing only on Nationals history, Ryan Zimmerman would be the no-doubt pick, having played in 16 of the franchise’s 17 seasons since its move to D.C.
PHILLIES: Mike Schmidt
Schmidt not only is the greatest Phillies player in franchise history, he is arguably the greatest third baseman in baseball history. He ranks first among third basemen in home runs (548) and is tied for third in RBIs (1,595). Among third basemen with 7,500 or more plate appearances, Schmidt ranks second in slugging percentage (.527) and OPS (.908) and fifth in on-base percentage (.380). He won the NL MVP Award in 1980, ’81 and ’86. He made 12 NL All-Star teams. He won 10 Gold Gloves. He won six Silver Slugger Awards. He won World Series MVP honors in 1980, helping the Phillies win their first title in franchise history.
BREWERS: Robin Yount
Yount likes to say his career was all about longevity, but that understates the greatness of a player who broke into the big leagues at age 18 and played all 20 seasons in Milwaukee. He won the AL MVP Award at two different positions — shortstop in 1982 and center field in 1989 — and his 1,731 hits in the 1980s led all of baseball. In 1992, on the same day Brewers owner Bud Selig was named MLB Commissioner, Yount became the third-youngest player ever to reach 3,000 hits. “Extraordinary talent,” said fellow Hall of Famer Ted Simmons.
CARDINALS: Stan Musial
Musial is one of the game’s undisputed greats, and he played his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals. The outfielder and first baseman won three MVP Awards and finished second four other times. Musial won seven batting titles and led the league in runs five times, hits six times, doubles eight times, triples five times, RBIs twice, total bases six times and OPS seven times. He was a 24-time All-Star and a three-time World Series winner. He hit a career .331/.417/.559 and accumulated 128.3 WAR. Musial’s No. 6 was the first number the Cardinals retired, and he became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1969.
CUBS: Ernie Banks
There can only be one “Mr. Cub,” and that is a nickname Banks earned during his 19 Major League seasons, which were spent entirely with the North Siders. When Banks made his debut on Sept. 17, 1953, he became the first Black player in Cubs history. He went on to win back-to-back NL MVP Awards (1958-59) and made 14 All-Star teams. Banks owns the club records for games played, at-bats, total bases and extra-base hits, and he was the leader in home runs (512) until he was surpassed by Sammy Sosa. Banks was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1977 and his famous catchphrase, “Let’s play two,” is a fixture in the baseball lexicon.
PIRATES: Honus Wagner
With all due respect to the iconic Roberto Clemente, Wagner is undoubtedly the best overall player in the 134-year history of Pittsburgh’s National League club and the greatest shortstop of all time, as it says on his Hall of Fame plaque. Wagner produced 120.1 bWAR with the Pirates, the most in franchise history, and he finished his career with 3,420 hits, 1,732 RBIs and 723 steals. In 1936, “The Flying Dutchman” was part of the Hall of Fame’s first class along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.
REDS: Pete Rose
A Cincinnati native who played 19 of his 24 seasons with his hometown team (over two stints), Rose is MLB’s all-time leader in hits (4,256) and games played (3,592). The 1963 NL Rookie of the Year was a main member of the Big Red Machine dynasty in the 1970s that culminated in back-to-back World Series titles in ’75 and ’76. A 13-time All-Star with Cincinnati, Rose is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, plate appearances, runs, hits, singles, doubles and walks. Rose won the 1973 NL MVP Award, the 1975 World Series MVP Award and three batting titles. He was named to the MLB’s All-Century team in 1999. Because of a lifetime ban in 1989 for violating league rules on gambling while managing the Reds, Rose is ineligible for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
D-BACKS: Randy Johnson
Johnson already had an impressive resume when he joined the D-backs in 1999, but there’s a reason he went into the Hall of Fame as a D-back — he took his career to a whole new level in Arizona. The Big Unit won four straight NL Cy Young Awards from 1999-2002, and along the way he picked up a co-MVP award in the 2001 World Series. In that series, Johnson won Games 2 and 6 as a starter and then came on in relief to earn the win in Game 7. He tossed a perfect game in 2004 against the Braves at age 40. Johnson finished his career with 303 wins, 118 of which came with the D-backs, and he stands second to Nolan Ryan on the all-time strikeout list with 4,875.
DODGERS: Sandy Koufax
Can you decide between Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax? The greatest of the greats extend their on-field dominance and define the legacy of their franchise. Both Robinson and Koufax did for the Dodgers. Both are revered for their impact on the sport, but Jackie was a social icon and Sandy was a model for his franchise’s pitching heritage. Robinson excelled despite the incomprehensible burden of breaking down racial barriers. Koufax compiled unapproachable statistics that obscured the toughness and unselfishness necessary to pitch in constant pain. In a photo finish, it’s Koufax.
GIANTS: Willie Mays
Widely regarded as the best all-around player in baseball history, Mays was a singular talent who spent 21 of his 22 Major League seasons with the Giants, serving as the most prominent bridge between the New York and San Francisco eras. The Say Hey Kid won two NL MVP Awards, appeared in 24 All-Star Games and captured 12 Gold Glove Awards while captivating generations of baseball fans during his Hall of Fame career. Mays remains the Giants’ franchise leader in games played (2,857), home runs (646), hits (3,187), at-bats (10,477) and total bases (5,907).
PADRES: Tony Gwynn
Gwynn’s .338 career batting average is the best since Ted Williams, and he’s the Padres franchise leader in almost every major offensive category — including WAR, batting average, runs, hits, RBIs and total bases. But Gwynn’s impact extended well beyond his numbers (though some of his numbers are patently absurd). He spent all 20 of his big league seasons as a Padre, after attending San Diego State. There aren’t many athletes as revered and beloved by their home city as “Mr. Padre.” A statue of Gwynn, mid-swing, looms large beyond the right-center-field fence at Petco Park.
ROCKIES: Todd Helton
In bad years, Helton was everything the Rockies wanted to be. In good ones, he was everything they were. A first-round Draft pick in 1995, Helton spent his entire Major League career with the Rockies, 1997-2013. If you’re counting, that’s 17 seasons — which happens to be the number he wore, and it happens to be the only retired number for a Rockies player. Helton’s career numbers are being debated for inclusion in the Hall of Fame, and those were ample — a club-record 61.8 bWAR that’s tops in team history, and club marks for games (2,247), hits (2,519), home runs (369) and RBIs (1,406), plus many other categories. It’s hard to imagine the final out of the 2007 National League Championship Series — with Helton’s arm raised above his head in celebration after catching the ball to clinch the trip to the World Series — not being immortalized in a statue someday.