Confession: Sometimes I feel like I need a reason to justify these random goofy columns/listicles that pop up here from time to time.
I mean, generally in this space I try to write with good humor and originality, with the occasionally realized hope of stumbling into some insight along the way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but the batting average is high enough to keep me in the lineup. And substance is more attainable when the subject lends itself to deeper thought than, say, a post on the 17 best mustaches in Red Sox history.
(Note to self: Make preliminary explorations into the 17 best mustaches in Red Sox history. Start with Dick Drago '79, go from there.)
For once, I actually have a reason, or at least a sequence of events and coincidences that add up to a reason.
For starters: Behold, the worst throw in major league baseball history ...
Watching Ibanez essentially spike the baseball (maybe it was his not-so-subtle protest on the NFL's petty crackdown on end-zone celebrations) got me thinking about outfielders who, you know, actually mastered the art of throwing.
It's a topic that had already been rattling around in my mind a bit, what with the great Pirates right fielder Dave Parker revealing in recent days that he's suffering from Parkinson's disease, and the easy comparisons between Xander Bogaerts's minor-league feats at 20 and licensed cannon-owner Dwight Evans's at the same age in 1972, and even the 76 Red Sox base-runners, give or take a few Daniel Nava stumbles, that have been thrown out at home plate this season.
So there -- goofy post justified! Without further ado ....
The best outfield arms I've seen ...
in no particular order, with accompanying video of various quality. Hit me with yours in the comments.
1. Dave Parker
Defensive peak: Pirates, 1975-79
Defensive peak: Expos, Mets, Angels, 1976-83
Notice that it's Gary Carter on receiving end of Valentine's throw here, just as he was for Parker's All-Star Game laser. Wish we could ask him who he thought had the better arm. (Aside: Jeff Pearlman had a terrific interview with Valentine, a bit of a what-if case as a player, recently. You can find it here.
Defensive peak: Blue Jays, Yankees 1981-92
Tough for a Red Sox fan to admit, but his arm might have had just a little more ammunition than Evans's in the mid-'80s. He wasn't a bad hitter -- he led the AL in homers with 40 in 1986 -- but it's a wonder the Blue Jays didn't also use him as a closer. Seriously. He must have thrown in the mid-to-upper 90s with exceptional accuracy.
4. Rick Ankiel
Defensive peak: This throw, this one right here, the single most impressive firing of a baseball I've ever seen
Go ahead. Suggest the Red Sox should move Daniel Bard to the outfield. I'll wait.
5. Bo Jackson
Defensive peak: Everything before he busted his hip.
This play -- his legendary throw to nail Seattle's Harold Reynolds at the plate -- demands a better highlight clip. This is Bo, dammit.
6. Dwight Evans
Defensive peak: Red Sox, 1972-86
Funny, this clip includes probably the worst throw of his career, albeit after one of the greatest catches we'll ever see. He is still and always the gold(-glove) standard for how a right fielder should patrol the tricky territory in Fenway, no matter what Rob Neyer once wrote about Trot Nixon's superiority.
By the way, the MLB Network's Matt Yallof recently rattled off what seemed like an impromptu list of the best outfield arms in relatively recent baseball history. Notice a name missing?
Best OF arms in last 40 yrs Valentine, Parker, Walker, Guillen, Ankiel, Whiten, R. Smith, Dawson, Winfield, Bo, Vlad, Barfield and Puig...? Matt Yallof (@MattYallofMLB) July 20, 2013
I imagine he got very tired very quickly of reading the word "Dewey" in his Twitter feed.
... and the best I wish I'd seen
Defensive peak: Pirates, 1955-72
Clemente. Who else? He's near the top of the short list of players I wish I could see or see again, right there with Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams, and Lyman Bostock. This clip is all of 45 second long -- he unleashes a throw right around the 20-second mark -- and yet it's all that's needed to capture his charisma and leave you wanting more. Just imagine if he'd played in the same outfield as Parker, who debuted a season after his death ...
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.