Franchise Top 10
Who’s the best Latino to ever don a Dodgers uniform? Many will quickly answer: Fernando Valenzuela, of course. Yet, is this what the statistics or advance analytics show? What about the greatest Latino to perform for the Giants? Was it Juan Marichal? Orlando Cepeda? The two Hall of Famers are readily identified among all-time Giants greats, but which one comes up on top of the Giants Top 10 Latinos in franchise history.
Latino players have made an impact on every organization, on the mound, in the field, and in the batter’s box. Luis Aparicio left an enduring legacy on the Chicago White Sox. The Hall of Famer was the living embodiment of the Go-Go Sox of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Venezuelan native leading the American League in stolen bases seven straight seasons and winning seven Gold Gloves with the Sox. Fellow Venezuelan “King” Félix Hernández has had a profound impact on the Seattle Mariners, winning 160 games, hurling a perfect game, and earning a Cy Young Award and making six All-Star teams. David “Big Papi” Ortíz became the heart and soul of the Red Sox in the 2000s and 2010s, blasting 483 home runs with 1530 RBI and .956 OPS.
Then there are Latino faces of specific franchises. It is difficult not to think of Roberto Clemente when one hears the name Pittsburgh Pirates. Cuban native Tony Oliva is forever a Minnesota Twin, the team he played all his 15 major league seasons while batting .304 and winning three AL batting titles. And, of more recent vintage, there is José Fernández, his name and story so intimately linked to the Miami Marlins.
This year La Vida Baseball is ranking the Top 10 Latinos in each major league organization. To make things simple, we’re using WAR (as calculated by Baseball-Reference.com) as our metric of choice. And while this is one measure of these players impact, you might have your own opinion as to who deserves to higher (or lower) on that team’s Top 10.
To kick things off, we’ll stay true to our mission. On the 21st of every month, La Vida Baseball celebrates the life and legacy of Roberto Clemente. And so on this 21st day of March – eight days before the start of the 2018 regular season – we’ll lead off our Top 10 rankings with the best Latino players in Pittsburgh Pirates history.
1. Roberto Clemente
94.5 WAR – 18 seasons with PIT, 3,000 hits, 240 HR, 1,305 RBI
Only two Latinos have a higher career WAR than Clemente – ARod and Albert Pujols (though Adrian Beltre may pass him in 2018). “Momen” is the godfather of Latino baseball, and his career with the Pirates stands up as the greatest in the modern history of the franchise; only Honus Wagner has a higher career WAR with Pittsburgh.
2. John Candelaria
32.1 WAR – 12 seasons with PIT, 124-87, 1,159 strikeouts, 1 All-Star Game
The Candy Man, a proud Nuyorican, had his best season in 1977, when he was named an All-Star and won 20 games with an NL-leading 2.34 ERA. He threw at least 200 innings four times for the Pirates and his 271 starts still ranks sixth in organization history.
3. Manny Sanguillén
26.8 WAR – 12 seasons with PIT, 3-time All-Star, .724 OPS
Sanguillén was the catcher for the great Pittsburgh teams of the ’70s, posting career highs in home runs (12) in 1973 and OPS (.842) in 1975. Only two players from Panama have appeared in more All-Star Games than Sanguillén – Rod Carew (18) and Mariano Rivera (13).
4. Starling Marte
23.2 WAR – 6 seasons with PIT*, 2 Gold Gloves, 1 All-Star game, 181 stolen bases
If Marte can post a 4.0 WAR in 2018, he would pass the likes of Jay Bell, Brian Giles and Sanguillen on the Pirates’ all-time list. The only player on this list who is still active – and with the Pirates – he is one of the better defensive outfielders in the National League.
5. Tony PeÑa
22.3 WAR – 7 seasons with PIT, 4 All-Star games, 3 Gold Gloves
Peña’s legendary style behind the plate made him a tremendously popular player, and he backed it up with excellent play. He ranks 10th in Pirates history with a 10.3 career Defensive WAR, but he could also hit; Peña had at least 25 doubles in all five full seasons he spent with the Pirates.
6. Bobby Bonilla
20.3 WAR – 6 seasons with PIT, 4 All-Star games, 3 Silver Sluggers
Bonilla, coupled with Barry Bonds in the Pirates outfield in the late ’80s, was a feared hitter who finished as runner-up for the 1990 National League MVP – to Bonds. He drove in 100 in three seasons while with the Pirates and led the NL with 44 doubles in 1991, his final season in Pittsburgh.
7. Matty Alou
16.7 WAR – 5 seasons with PIT, 2 All-Star games
Matty Alou was quietly an offensive star; he posted a 20.0 Offensive WAR for the Bucs while only hitting six home runs for the organization. In 1969 he led the league with 231 hits and 41 doubles. Alou posted a .327 batting average and .360 OBP in his time with the Pirates. Ironically, Alou was traded to the Pirates on Dec. 1, 1965 for Ozzie Virgil, the first Dominican to appear in a major league game.
8. Francisco Cordova
14.1 WAR – 5 seasons with PIT, 42-47, 3.96 ERA
Cordova spent his entire career with the Bucs and his 42 wins ranks 18th among all pitchers born in Mexico. His best season was in 1998, when he won 13 games and struck out 157 in 220.1 innings.
9. Omar Moreno
9.0 WAR – 8 seasons with PIT, 412 stolen bases
The second Panamanian on the list, Moreno could fly. He stole 71 bases in 1978 and backed that up with 77 swipes in 1979, leading the league both years. His 412 stolen bases still ranks third in Pittsburgh history.
10. Manny Mota
6.5 WAR – 6 seasons with PIT, .337 OBP
Mota is remembered more for the 13 seasons he spent with the Dodgers, but he established himself in the big leagues with the Pirates. Between 1963 and 1968, he appeared in 642 games for the Bucs.
Who did we miss? Who’s your favorite? Tell us in the comments!
Featured Image: Bettmann
Inset Image: George Gojkovich / Getty Images Sport