Top 10 Best Arizona Diamondbacks players of all time
The Big Unit and Curt Schilling won the World Series in Arizona. Who else has been great? Ranking the 10 greatest players in Arizona Diamondbacks history.
When you look at what has transpired over the past 25 years in Phoenix and you try to include the word “championship,” you get stopped quite quickly. The Arizona Cardinals have none, the Arizona Coyotes have none, and the Phoenix Suns have none – something new owner Matt Ishbia is trying to change by bringing in Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal, among others.
That drought has only one interruption, the 2001 World Series title by the Diamondbacks, who overcame a 3-2 deficit against the three-time defending champion New York Yankees and won the title in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7.
As far as treasured sports memories go, that’s all you have when it comes reaching the pinnacle among men’s teams, but it should not go unmentioned that the Phoenix Mercury won WNBA titles in 2007, 2009, and 2014, although the return of Brittney Griner from a Russian prison has not given the Mercury a boost in the current season.
It remains to be seen whether the Diamondbacks will emerge from the pack in an NL West race in which they are battling the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, and October remains a long ways away. So in the meantime, let’s reminisce about the best players who ever wore an “A” on their baseball cap.
Arizona Diamondbacks Roster History
When Jerry Colangelo was awarded an expansion franchise for Phoenix, he took the bold step of hiring Buck Showalter two years ahead of the team’s debut game to concentrate on how to best build from the ground up. Patience for two years would remove the need for impatience once the team started playing, the thinking went, and it worked. The Diamondbacks made the playoffs in just their second year of existence with a lineup that included Jay Bell, Matt Williams, and Luis Gonzalez hitting more than 30 home runs apiece, and Randy Johnson striking out 364 hitters as the team went 100-62.
Arizona Diamondbacks Hall of Fame Players
Roberto Alomar (2011) and Randy Johnson (2015) are the only players who wore a Diamondbacks uniform to be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y. Former manager Alan Trammell went in wearing a Detroit Tigers cap.
Famous Arizona Diamondbacks Players
The word “famous” is subjective, and it depends on how avid of a fan you are. Folks who love baseball will tell you that Luis Gonzalez is famous, and folks who have only a passing interest in the game will draw a blank when that name is mentioned. But just about everyone knows who Randy Johnson is, because the 6-foot-10 left-hander was one of the greatest power pitchers in Major League Baseball history. This makes him easily the most famous member of the Arizona Diamondbacks roster.
Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Arizona Diamondbacks Players of all time
- Craig Counsell
Positions: Second base, Shortstop, Third base
Years with D-backs: 2000 to 2003, 2005 to 2006
Career Stats with D-backs: .266 batting average, 24 HRs, 193 RBIs
Honors and Awards: NLCS MVP (2001)
The current manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Craig Counsell, a native of South Bend, Ind., was at his best for the Diamondbacks during the team’s run to the championship in 2001. He went 8-for-21 in the National League Championship Series as its MVP. His most important at-bat came in the ninth inning of the World Series, when he was hit by a pitch from Mariano Rivera to load the bases prior to Luis Gonzalez driving in the winning run with a bloop single.
- Jay Bell
Positions: Shortstop, Second base
Years with D-backs: 1998 to 2002
Career Stats with D-backs: .263 batting average, 91 HRs, 304 RBIs
Honors and Awards: National League All-Star (1999)
Jay Bell, an 18-year veteran from Pensacola, Fla., is most fondly remembered in Arizona for scoring the game-winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees on Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single. He had reached base on a bunt single against Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame closer.
- Matt Williams
Position: Third base
Years with D-backs: 1998 to 2003
Career Stats with D-backs: .278 batting average, 99 HRs, 381 RBIs
Honors and Awards: National League All-Star (1999)
The native of Bishop, Calif., now coaching third base for the San Diego Padres was the second ever All-Star representative for Arizona, making baseball’s showcase event in the franchise’s second season. Matt Williams shares the Diamondbacks record for the most RBIs in one season with a total of 142, and he was a part-owner of the franchise and broadcaster for the team after his 17-year playing career ended.
- Zack Greinke
Years with D-backs: 2016 to 2019
Career Stats with D-backs: 55-29 record, 3.40 ERA, 683 Strikeouts
Honors and Awards: National League All-Star (2017, 2018, 2019)
Zack Greinke, a 39-year-old native of Orlando, Fla., is still pitching in the majors. He is now in his 20th MLB season after representing the D-backs at baseball’s All-Star Game in three of his four seasons with Arizona, the team that gave him a six-year, $206.5 million contract in 2016. As a hitter, on April 2, 2019, Greinke slugged two home runs and struck out 10 in the Diamondbacks’ 8-5 win over the Padres. He was shipped to the Houston Astros for prospects in a trade-deadline deal.
- Justin Upton
Years with D-backs: 2007 to 2012
Career Stats with D-backs: .278 batting average, 108 home runs, 363 RBIs
Honors and Awards: National League All-Star (2009, 2011)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 Major League Baseball draft, Justin Upton, a native of Norfolk, Va., broke out in the 2007 postseason, leading the Diamondbacks to a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card round. He finished the 2007 postseason with an impressive .357 batting average, a double, a triple, a stolen base, and an RBI to go along with an impressive .571 slugging percentage. He was a model of consistency at the plate for the Diamondbacks throughout his tenure in Arizona, showing a special affinity for producing triples, before his D-backs career ended as part of a rebuilding when he was dealt to the Atlanta Braves for prospects.
- Ketel Marte
Years with D-Backs: 2017 to present
Career Stats with D-backs (through 7/30): .285 batting average 96 HRs, 343 RBIs
Honors and Awards: National League All-Star (2019)
The native of Nizao, Dominican Republic, joined the Diamondbacks in 2017 following two seasons with the Seattle Mariners, and dealing for Ketel Marte was one of the best trade acquisitions in team history. In his first playoff game in Oct. 4, 2017, Marte hit two triples in an 11-8 wild-card game win over the Colorado Rockies, becoming only the eighth player to record two triples in the same playoff game and the first to do so in an ambidextrous manner. Marte was moved from shortstop to second base by the Diamondbacks at the beginning of the 2018 season to make room for shortstop Nick Ahmed in the Arizona starting infield. In 2018, Marte led all of MLB in triples with 12, and he was an All-Star starter at second base in 2019. He is now one of the longest-tenured members of the team.
- Curt Schilling
Years with D-backs: 2000 to 2003
Career Stats with D-backs: 58-28 record, 3.14 ERA, 875 strikeouts
Honors and Awards: National League All-Star (2001, 2002), World Series Co-MVP (2001)
The burly right-hander out of Anchorage, Alaska, shared the 2001 World Series MVP award with Randy Johnson, one season after being acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies. Curt Schilling was 1-0 in that World Series with a 1.69 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 21 innings, though he also allowed a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of Game 7. In 2002, he went 23-7 with a 3.23 ERA. He struck out 316 batters while walking 33 in 259⅓ innings. He was dealt to the Boston Red Sox in 2003.
- Luis Gonzalez
Position: Left Field
Years with D-backs: 1999 to 2006
Career Stats with D-backs: .298 batting average, 224 HRs, 774 RBIs
Honors and Awards: National League All-Star (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005)
Luis Gonzalez, a native of Tampa, Fla., had his uniform No. 20 retired by the Diamondbacks. Acquired in a trade from Detroit, Gonzalez had a strong debut season for Arizona on his way to becoming a star during his tenure with the team -- leading the NL in hits with 206 and posting a .336 batting average to help Arizona win the NL West. In 2001, Gonzalez astonished many when he hit 57 home runs, his personal best for one season and almost twice as many as he hit in any other season. This included a record nine home runs in his first 10 games. As referenced above, his bloop single off Mariano Rivera won the 2001 World Series.
- Paul Goldschmidt
Position: First base
Years with D-backs: 2011 to 2018
Career Stats with D-backs: .295 batting average, 333 HRs, 1,097 RBIs
Honors and Awards: National League All-Star (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Representing the National League in the All-Star game six consecutive times gets Paul Goldschmidt the nod at No. 2 ahead of Luis Gonzalez, but just by a hair. Against the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 NLDS, Goldschmidt hit the third grand slam by a rookie in MLB postseason history. In 2013 he played in 160 of 162 games and attained a .302 batting average, 36 home runs, and 125 RBIs. Goldschmidt finished second in voting for that season’s National League's MVP award. In 2014, Goldschmidt batted .300 with 19 home runs, 75 runs, and 69 RBIs. In 2015, he was again runner-up for the National League Most Valuable Player Award, and in 2017 he finished third in the voting. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on Dec. 5, 2018, for three prospects and a draft pick.
- Randy Johnson
Years with D-backs: 1999 to 2004
Career Stats with D-backs: 118-62 record, 2.83 ERA, 2,077 strikeouts
Honors and Awards: National League All-Star (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002), World Series Co-MVP (2001), Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (2015)
Randy Johnson is the greatest Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher of all time and the best D-Backs player in history. At 6-foot-10, Randy Johnson was the tallest player in MLB history when he entered the league, contributing to his extremely intimidating persona and pitching style. Johnson enjoyed a career longevity uncommon to pitchers, with his signature fastball-slider combination remaining effective well into his 40s.
Four of his six 300-strikeout seasons occurred after his 35th birthday. On May 18, 2004, at 40 years old, he threw Major League Baseball's 17th perfect game with 13 strikeouts against the Atlanta Braves, and he remains the oldest pitcher to accomplish this feat. He was the fifth pitcher to have a no-hitter in both the American and National Leagues. He was dealt to the Yankees in 2005 after the Diamondbacks had won only 51 games the previous season, 13 of them with Johnson pitching.
Parameters of Ranking
As always, when putting together these rankings, we went with postseason accomplishments above all else in almost every case, as noted in the No. 2-No. 3 ranking explanation for Luis Gonzalez and Paul Goldschmidt. For such a young franchise in historical terms, the Diamondbacks have had more than their fair share of outstanding players, many of whom moved on to other teams after the inevitable rebuilding need kicked in. All in all, the Diamondbacks have been a lot more blessed than many other Major League Baseball teams. As anyone in Seattle could tell you, a World Series championship can be very elusive.
- Top 10 rookie seasons in Arizona Diamondbacks history
- Top 10 Arizona Diamondbacks managers of all time
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