Baseball’s Leading Men

By Eric Williams
Updated: May 22, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — No matter the sport, every winning franchise in professional sports has at least one ‘team leader’ that every almost other player on the team defers to each season.

Whether the ‘team leader’ gets it done verbally by putting teammates in their respective places or whether it’s getting teammates to follow the example with on-field production, every team worth its weight in paid ticket stubs, has a team leader that shows his respective teammates what is and what isn’t acceptable, both on and off the playing field.

With the 2008 MLB season starting to heat up in a big way after a rousing opening two months, here is a look at the best leaders in all of Major League Baseball.

Some are more vocal leaders while others on this list get the job done with on-field production. No matter which way you look at it though, these players are the unquestioned team leaders of their respective ballclubs.

10. Derek LeeChicago Cubs – First Base

Now in his 11th year, Derek Lee is batting .359 with seven home runs and 21 RBI in 103 at-bats. Forget about his production however, as Lee is the heart and soul of a ChicagoCub franchise that is looking to win its first World Series title in a century. Lee is a likable fellow every teammate enjoys playing with and as he goes, so goes the Cubs.

9. Pudge RodriguezDetroit Tigers – Catcher

Now in his 18th major league season, Rodriguez has never really been viewed as a team leader type of player because of his generally quiet demeanor, but Rodriguez, who is batting .258 with one home run and 12 RBI in 89 at-bats this season, is a player that every teammate will follow because of his all-out preparation and approach to the game. Rodriguez, a first-ballot Hall of Famer in-waiting, leads by example and hard work, nothing more.

8. David Ortiz – Boston Red Sox – DH

Now in his 11th year, David Ortiz is batting just .177 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 96 at-bats but those numbers matter not, especially at such an early date and with a player who can turn his entire season around with one mighty swing of the bat. Ortiz has become the heart and soul of the Red Sox lineup and most popular player because of his outgoing and jovial personality. Don’t make the mistake however of thinking ‘Big Papi’ is just some lovable quiet teddy bear. When he gets serious, all of the Red Sox follow suit – and then – opposing pitchers are in big trouble.

7. Vladimir Guerrero Los Angeles Angels – Right field

Now in his 12th year, Vladimir Guerrero is batting .289 with three home runs and 14 RBI in 97 at-bats. The 2005 AL MVP is certainly not the type of player to raise his voice while trying to get them to follow his lead on the field. All Guerrero does is show his teammates why he is their team leader day in and day out, playing hurt whenever the occasion calls for it – and lacing hits all over the park despite his lingering injuries. Guerrero’s stretch run of the 2004 season in which he hit .337 with 39 home runs and 126 RBI remains one of the greatest season finishes in recent memory.

6. Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals – First Base

Now in his seventh year, Albert Pujols is batting .376 with five home runs and 20 RBI in 85 at-bats this season. The Cardinals big first baseman also isn’t the very vocal type, all he does is lead the Cardinals year in and year out. Pujols, one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball, is also an out-going and generous player, but one who can lock in and get all of his teammates on the same page whenever the situation calls for it.

5. Carl CrawfordTampaBay Rays – Left Field

Surprised? Don’t be. Crawford is one of the very best team leaders in all of baseball despite playing for a young team that is still trying to find its way while residing in the same division as the Boston Re Sox and New York Yankees. Now in his sixth year, Crawford is batting .300 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 110 at-bats. Numbers however, don’t define Crawford as he takes absolutely no nonsense inside the young Rays’ locker room. Just ask Delmon Young, Carl Everett and all the other head case players he’s helped run out of Tampa. Crawford is a five-tool star but busts his rear end like a rookie trying to make a major league roster for the first time.

4. Chipper Jones Atlanta Braves – Third base

Now in his 14th year, Chipper Jones is batting a blistering .433 with seven home runs and 20 RBI in 90 at-bats and is still the best hitter in either league from both sides of the plate. Jones’ versatility isn’t what makes him a team leader however. It’s his ability to get the most out of, not only himself, but the rest of his Atlanta Braves’ teammates, knowing just what to say to each player and when to say it.

3. Nomar GarciaparraLos Angeles Dodgers – First base

Now in his 12th year, Nomar Garciaparra is batting .226 with one home run and five RBI in just 31 at-bats because of injuries. Now in his third season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Garciaparra has always been one of the best leaders in baseball, playing hurt more often than not but still managing to get the job done while inspiring his teammates in a big way.

2. Jimmy RollinsPhiladelphia Phillies – Shortstop

Now in his eighth year, reigning National League MVP Jimmy Rollins is batting .308 with two home runs and six RBI in 39 at-bats but has been out for nearly two weeks with a sprained ankle. Still, Rollins has become the heart and soul of the Philadelphia Phillies and turned in one of the great season in recent memory in 2007 all after pulling a ‘Muhammad Ali’ and announcing to the world that the Phillies were going to win the NL East last season, which they promptly did with one of the greatest finishing stretches in NL history. Maybe it’s me, but any player who can go out and back up his bold, bold words in dramatic fashion is a team leader in every sense of the word. Give Rollins enough time and he could get a bunch of little leaguers to believe they could win the World Series.

1. Derek JeterNew York Yankees – Shortstop

Now in his 13th year, Derek Jeter is batting .280 with zero home runs and 13 RBI in 82 at-bats. Jeter is the quintessential team leader in any sport not just Major League Baseball. Simply put, Jeter has set the standard for what will be accepted and what won’t when a player joins the New York Yankees. Even superstar Alex Rodriguez knew there would be absolutely no time for playing around with ‘the Captain’ setting the examples both on the field and in the clubhouse in New York.