Hunter world was my first world and the Cheese Grits were my first team. It's my favorite franchise, even though my only pennants and WS title reside in another world. In celebration of the 20th season of Hunter, I thought I would name my all time 20th anniversary Grits team. It would be cool if other original owners did the same.
I think if I do a 25th anniversary team, this answer will change to Rick Briggs, but it's Giles for now. Giles was my very first FA signing, and he did not disappoint, going .299/.363/.555 with 37 HR and 126 RBI and 110 runs scored. He was a terrific defensive C and game caller. For 5 seasons, he called the shots and carried a good to great stick. His PC ability kept him in the majors until his 40's.
Willie Reagan still holds some franchise records, but Aldridge was the superior player. In 6+ seasons in Atlanta, he led the franchise to their best seasons. He put up a .292/.399/.514 line with 196 HR and 632 RBI while playing in Atlanta. He grabbed 3 top 5 MVP finishes in his Atlanta years. His career .404 OBP and 410 career HR should merit some HOF consideration.
The ultimate no-brainer, Mendy Clemens is one of the few players to be enshrined in Hunter's Hall of Fame. He played the first 5+ seasons in Atlanta before being traded to New York for Gene Fitzgerald (not one of my better decisions). He was brought back as a LF for his last 3 seasons. In his years in Atlanta, he put up a .310/.392/.539 line with 200 HR, 850 RBI, 1044 runs, 196 SB and 1560 hits. He racked up 7 Silver Sluggers and 5 All Star Games in his entire career.
While Yoshii was capable, at best, at the plate, he was a wizard with the glove. Signed as an IFA out of Japan, Yoshii won 4 Gold Gloves and made 2 All Star teams in his 9 seasons in Atlanta. In his career, he has 147 + plays and only 5 minus plays. He'd have more + plays, but the mods didn't fix fielding stats until after he had played 3 seasons. His batting stats in Atlanta were a respectable .261/.321/.361. I'll take that all day long from a Gold Glove SS.
While the Clemens trade wasn't one of my best, I did manage to spin Fitzgerald after one lousy season into a number of good players in a trade with Colorado. I received George Baker, Al Canizaro, Jerome Moore and Hansen. These players helped build the foundation for my 2 100+ win seasons. Hansen was a good defensive 3b with speed and some power. In 9 seasons in Atlanta, he batted .284/.339/.481 with 187 HR, 332 2b, 848 runs, and 226 SB. He won 4 Silver Sluggers and made 3 All Star teams.
Left field has been a problem spot for Atlanta, which is odd, because it should be one of the easier positions to fill. This is very true in other worlds, but it has not been the case, for me, in Hunter. I've managed to find a lot of veteran stop gaps to give me nice seasons, but no good permanent solutions. Valdes was my first LF and my best. His first 2 seasons were monster seasons, and his glove work was always great. He won 3 Gold Gloves and made 2 All Star teams. In 5 seasons in Atlanta, he hit .295/.356/.459 with 88 HR, 185 2B, and 531 RBI. His skills faded fast as I had no idea what training was good for in those early days and he retired at a very young age after I let him walk.
You know what's freaking hard? Finding a CF who can play CF well and hit worth a damn. Not easy. My last 2 seasons, I've had J.R. Cox, who is Willie Mays with the glove, but not so much with the bat (You may run like Hayes, but you hit like sh*t.") Still, you could make a case for Cox, given the assorted junk I had in CF for my first "decade". However, I think Aspromonte has to get the nod here. Hub was a good defender in CF, with his 89 range and 81-83 level glove. He had some pop and was a switch hitter to boot. In 6+ seasons in Atlanta, he posted .252/.317/.435 with 120 HR and 463 RBI. His best season (S12), he put up a .286/.348/.497 line with 21 HR and 92 RBI. Not bad.
Here is another answer that will change with the 25th anniversary team. Joshua Mays will certainly take over this spot at some point, but for 2+ seasons, Hernandez was pure brilliance. He is my sole AL MVP award winner, and boy did he earn it. He hit .309/.386/.619 in S12 with 43 HR, 145 RBI, 121 runs, 26 2b, 11 3b and 30 SB. Oh yeah, he was an above average RF as well. I let him walk after S12 to LA, where his skills declined rapidly (hello training budget!) The compensatory 1st rounder I got turned into Silver Slugging Catcher Rick Briggs. The gift that kept on giving.
DH has been a bit of a revolving door. I've had a lot of players put up 2 good to great seasons in this spot. Aldridge spent some time here, as well. Marc Diaz, Dweezil Van Pelt, and Ralph Hunt were all good hitters. I chose Borchard as he had the best 2 season impact and played on my best teams. He hit .333/.399/.585 and .308/.382/.552 in his 2 full seasons in Atlanta. He hit 36 HR with 115 RBI in the first season and 35 Hr with 115 RBI in his second. That's consistency.
Right Handed Starting Pitcher:
This is a tougher call. Ignacio Cruz won one of my franchises 2 Cy Young awards, George Baker the other. Bob Creek has had 2 very good seasons, but that's not enough. I have to go with Burnett due to his talent and results. He's a short inning starter, which limits his value somewhat, but when he's on the mound, he's great. In 7 seasons in Atlanta, he's posted a 3.07 ERA in 1112 IP with a 1.13 WHIP. He's held opponents to a .279 OBP. He gets a lot of no decisions, but is still 81-45. Does Cruz' value and innings over 4 seasons best Burnett's superior pitching over 7 seasons? I don't think so, but I could be persuaded, I suppose.
Left handed Starting pitcher:
Wakeland is Mr. Cheese Grit. He was 17 years old in S1 when I started my team. He broke into the majors for good in s5 after a massive elbow injury delayed his arrival. He made an immediate impact, winning the Rookie of the Year award by posting a 15-1 season with a 2.90 ERA in 24 starts. There was a fair bit of mediocrity mixed in, as he was backed by some very bad defenses for a while. He turned it around in S10 as the Grits got good again. He peaked in S11, posting a 21-8 record with a 2.84 ERA in 225.1 innings. Another elbow injury in S13 ended his ability to be a good starter, and he's muddled through since. He is still active and pitching, even now, and won his first WS ring with Philly in S18. He pitched 15 seasons in Atlanta and posted a 148-119 record with a 4.26 ERA.
I drafted Canizaro in the 2nd (!) round in S3. I dealt him to Colorado for Carlos James, but then I reacquired him in the massive Fitzgerald deal mentioned above. During his 7 season tenure in Atlanta, he made 4 All Star Teams and won a Fireman of the Year award. He saved 208 of 231 chances in 351 games, posting a 3.18 ERA.
It's been a fun ride so far and I'm looking forward to writing another one for my 30th anniversary.