Over the last few weeks Herts fans as well as those from the wider baseball community have been casting their votes to determine the all time greatest Herts starting lineup from players that have worn the Herts jersey since the club was founded 24 years ago.
When the club invited fans to nominate players for the nine fielding positions plus designated hitter, the intention was to have four nominees for each position, however the panel of experts struggled to narrow the list down to four per position and, instead of removing players, ended up expanding the shortlist. This forced the club to change the format and added a playoff semi-final round.
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There were some titanic clashes and some big names were eliminated including Darrin Ward, Mike Osborn and Jim Denison, among others. Round after round, fans were given a taste of just how difficult it is to be in the managerial hot seat and make these decisions.
Unlike the semi-final, each position was voted one after the other in the finals. Some players made it to the final of more than one position and, if they accumulated the most votes for one position, they were removed from the final of any other positions. This meant that some big names that just missed out on the final re-entered the race, including Geoff Hare which set up a father-versus-son clash in the shortstop final. It also meant that we were not able to see the outcome of a head-to-head between Xavi Gonzalez and Robbie Unsell at shortstop.
Everyone who cast their vote applied their own criteria about who should be selected. Some may have put more weight on a player’s length of service and contribution to the club. Others simply went for what they thought would be the strongest team that could be fielded in a game 7 of a championship series.
When all the polls closed, the end result was a formidable starting lineup featuring national team players, and players decorated with multiple National Baseball League Most Valuable Player and Gold Glove Awards over the years.
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So, did the fans select ‘The Greatest” lineup from the hundreds of players they could cherry-pick and, if they did, does this mean that in the future we may as well dispense with team managers and simply run a poll to make managerial decisions?
We didn’t want to put current and former Herts managers on the spot but we are sure that they may disagree with some of the choices made by the fans and the batting order which was formulated without applying any scientific methodology.
There were some notable players such as Abelardo Salas, Dan Kerry, Darrin Ward, Gary Davison, Edwin Alcantara, Luis Goncalves, Matt Gilbert, Nic Goetz, Phil Clark, Roberto Almanzar and Ryan Hackel all of whom have received NBL awards over the years but who didn’t make the starting lineup and, surely, there must be a place in the batting lineup for Ryan Bird who leads the NBL in career batting (.508), on-base (.578) and slugging (.822) average in the British baseball modern era. Thankfully, in real life the team roster can include a lot more than the nine starting players.
Herts Baseball Club was founded in 1996 and is still in search of its first NBL championship title, but this lineup would certainly fancy its chances against any NBL champions over the previous 129 years of top-tier baseball in this country.