Mike Trout is a perfect example of why one superstar, alone, can't always bring overall team success.
He's almost indisputably the best player in baseball and has been ever since he made his debut back in 2011. He has a Rookie of the Year award and three MVP awards, and he's come in second in MVP voting a whopping four times. He's an amazing contact hitter, a power hitter, a baserunner, a fielder, a leader, a no-doubt future Hall of Famer... he's everything you could ever ask for in a player.
The Angels have not won a single playoff game since Mike Trout joined the team.
That's why the presence of a formidable teammate, of a dynamic duo in a lineup is so, so important in baseball. Perhaps with Anthony Rendon at his side and with a shortened season ahead of them, Trout's Angels are due to finally break out of their drought.
Every team, at some point in its history, has boasted a duo of superstars that have helped propel the club to otherwise unattained success. But some teams have been able to reap the benefits of a duo for a longer time, or to a larger extent, than others.
So, I went ahead and power ranked every Major League Baseball team's best duo of position player teammates in history. I based it on a few things: overall statistical production, team success, legacy and camaraderie, the time spent together as teammates, and some other factors. Total WAR was the basis for statistical production, to account not only for offense but for their overall team impact, but I tried not to choose a pair of teammates whose total WAR accumulation was 90% due to one player. Mike Trout would be the perfect example of that... I could have gone with him and, say, Albert Pujols in Los Angeles, but, quite frankly, Pujols hasn't been all that great in his time as an Angel. 86% of his career WAR comes with the Cardinals.
Obviously, there's a degree of subjectivity here. Some people will be mad that a certain duo of sluggers didn't make the cut on the West Coast, while some will be angry that I left off one of the game's unanimously renowned greats in favor of a more modern duo. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm not. Let me know on Twitter (@jordancohn2) if you feel I chose the wrong duo of teammates or if you disagree with the order of the list!
Without further ado, read on to find out where your team ranks on this nostalgia-filled list.
Nos. 30 to 26
30. Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich
Combined WAR: 41.0 (2013-2017)
Best combined season: 2017 (11.7 WAR)
If only these two guys could play together now and at full health... what a show that would be. But Christian Yelich hadn't developed into his MVP-self until he became a Milwaukee Brewer in 2018 and his performance was forgettable in the shadow of Stanton's jaw-dropping 59 home-run MVP season in their last year as teammates.
29. Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford
Combined WAR: 34.5 (2008-2010)
Best combined season: 2010 (15.2 WAR)
Longoria, Crawford and Carlos Pena were the central components of the 2008 World Series offense, but seeing as Pena's best season was in 2007 and that he was almost useless after the 2009 season, the nod goes to the leadoff man and the three-hole slugger. Still, it's not a very strong showing, as the two only played together for a few years before Crawford went up to Boston. Still, Crawford and Longoria drove the offense to a World Series appearance in their first year together, followed by two consecutive winning campaigns and a disappointing LDS exit in 2010 following a 96-66 regular season.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley
Combined WAR: 44.4 (1999-2004)
Best combined season: 1999 (11.3 WAR)
Had Steve Finley not randomly lost his power in the 2001 regular season -- note that he exploded in the postseason, helping Arizona to their first and only World Series title -- that would be the best combined season between these two players. Gonzalez erupted for 57 home runs and 142 RBI in 2001 (which was laughably only good enough to warrant third-place in the NL MVP vote). Though their best statistical year together was their first year together, in which Gonzalez smacked 206 hits and Finley broke the 100-RBI barrier, 2001 was the most memorable run these two ever made.
27. San Diego Padres: Tony Gwynn and Benito Santiago
Combined WAR: 48.6 (1986-1992)
Best combined season: 1987 (12.0 WAR)
Tony Gwynn really didn't have that many great and memorable teammates, be it in quality or quantity of their partnership, throughout his entire tenure in San Diego. Sure, there was Ken Caminiti and his 1995 MVP season, but Gwynn wrote in an ESPN feature that he was disappointed in his teammate for using steroids to help boost his performance, and they were only together for four years, anyway. There was Garry Templeton, but he never had any exceptional years in San Diego, though his and Gwynn's partnership may have been the longest of any teammates. However, Santiago was elected -- rightfully or undeservedly, there are arguments for each side -- to four straight All-Star teams from 1989-1992 and provided the Padres with another exciting young presence.
26. Los Angeles Angels: Tim Salmon and Darin Erstad
Combined WAR: 58.9 (1996-2006)
Best combined season: 2000 (12.7)
Tim Salmon and Troy Glaus were the better pure offensive duo, but they played together from 1998-2004, a significantly shorter period that Salmon and Erstad. Garrett Anderson was also a long-time Angel with some great seasons, but he also had some unexciting years thrown in there. And besides, Erstad's ridiculous outlier season in 2000 (240 hits, 100 RBI, .355/.409/.541) wasn't the only reason as to why his WAR was the highest of any Angel in this span. Though Salmon's best year came in 1995, he still had several strong seasons while he was Erstad's teammate, and they helped drive the team to their 2002 World Series victory.
Nos. 25 to 21
25. Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion
Combined WAR: 64.0 (2009-2016)
Best combined season: 2014 (10.7 WAR)
Though Joey Bats and Encarnacion couldn't quite sync up in their best respective seasons, the power surge that occurred in Toronto in the early 2010s was like nothing the Rogers Centre had ever seen. They combined for 60 or more home runs in every season from 2010 to 2016 and provided the Blue Jays with enough offensive firepower to reach the postseason for the first time since their 1993 World Series victory.
24. New York Mets: Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez
Combined WAR: 56.9 (1983-1989)
Best combined season: 1985 (9.9 WAR)
David Wright and Jose Reyes make a compelling argument, but it's hard to deny the success that Strawberry and Hernandez brought the Mets in the mid-90s, including a 1986 World Series ring and a close call in 1988, along with what would likely have been many more had the current playoff structure been in play. They achieved a WAR similar to Reyes and Wright (60.6) but in a shorter time span, and their partnership led to more winning results.
23. Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau
Combined WAR: 67.9 (2004-2013)
Best combined season: 2009 (11.3 WAR)
There are several options here. Perhaps I should have gone with Rod Carew and Tony Oliva, whose collective WAR in their time together was higher than Mauer and Morneau. The same goes for Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek, who won two World Series rings together (though one was clearly the star). There's the throwback option of Goose Goslin and Sam Rice, both Hall of Famers. Instead, I went with two guys from my era. Objectively, it may not be the strongest possible duo of teammates. But subjectively, it just feels right for the M&M Boys (Twin Cities edition) to get the spot here. With a combined 10 All-Star appearances in this span (six from Mauer, four from Morneau) and an MVP award for each, these two were largely responsible for a wave of regular season success that resulted in postseason berths in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010, all of which were first-place finishes in the AL Central.
22. Texas Rangers: Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez
Combined WAR: 70.6 (1991-1999, 2002)
Best combined season: 1998 (11.3 WAR)
Juan-Gon won the AL MVP award in both 1996 and 1998, but Pudge had a higher WAR in both seasons. However, the overwhelming power numbers of Gonzalez (45 HR, 50 2B, 157 RBI in 1998) were enough to garner more votes than his teammate. Rodriguez wasn't completely left in the dust, though: he brought home an MVP award of his own the very next season. Regardless of who brought home the hardware, the fact that they were both viable contenders year in and year out shows just how dangerous a duo they were. However, they were only ever good enough to win one playoff game together as a duo, despite three first-place finishes, all of which occurred not-so-coincidentally in the three years where one of the two sluggers brought home the MVP.
21. Chicago White Sox: Minnie Minoso and Nellie Fox
Combined WAR: 77.1 (1951-1957, 1960-1961)
Best combined season: 1957 (13.4 WAR)
They're not the flashiest duo of teammates in MLB history, nor are they the most memorable or recognizable Hall of Famers. But Minoso, one of the game's most important trail blazers who became the first black member of the Chicago White Sox and the first Black Cuban in MLB history, and Fox, a rock-solid, consistent 15-time All-Star in the middle infield, formed a really tough 1-2 punch near the top of the lineup that set the offense in motion. Fox brought home the MVP award in 1959, while Minoso appeared in the top-five in voting four times while the two were teammates, though the pair never found any postseason glory.
Nos. 20 to 16
20. Colorado Rockies: Todd Helton and Larry Walker
Combined WAR: 86.0 (1997-2004)
Best combined season: 2001 (15.6 WAR)
The Coors Field effect obviously helps their case, but the two most recognizable Rockies of all time are also the only two who seemed destined for Cooperstown after retiring. That turned into reality for Walker, and though Helton has a tough climb ahead of him -- he received a 29.2% vote in 2020 -- he could foreseeably join Walker before too long. From 1997 to 2001, their first five years as teammates, they each averaged over 30 home runs per season and turned in an OPS greater than 1.000. The duo never had postseason success, however, as Colorado made their first World Series after Walker had hung 'em up.
19. Cleveland Baseball Club: Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome
Combined WAR: 82.5 (1992-1996, 1998-2001)
Best combined season: 1996 (13.0 WAR)
The early superstars of Cleveland baseball -- Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Earl Averill, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, etc. -- never quite lined up with each other at the same time. Thus, Lofton and Thome represent the best set of teammates with an extensive stretch run together, though other superstars (Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga) were also prominent parts of the winning equation. Though Lofton only received a 3.2% share of the vote in his only year on the Hall of Fame ballot, he was the better player of the duo in the 1990s, at least according to WAR. Honestly, it's quite surprising that Lofton didn't get more love from Cooperstown, and we'll see if a Veterans Committee vote down the road has anything to say about that. Whatever the case, it's hard to deny just how much success Lofton and Thome brought Cleveland, with five postseason berths in their nine seasons together.
18. Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos: Gary Carter and Andre Dawson
Combined WAR: 95.7 (1976-1984)
Best combined season: 1982 (16.5 WAR)
I tried subbing in Tim Raines for both Carter and Dawson, and I desperately tried to find any teammate of Vladmir Guerrero that could give him as much support as he'd have needed, but Carter and Dawson is truly the best combo the Expos/Nationals have ever seen, even with Dawson's somewhat anomalous 1985 MVP season occurring in Chicago. The only time the Expos ever made the playoffs was in the shortened 1981 season, thanks to these two Hall of Famers, though they couldn't quite get to the Autumn Classic.
17. Baltimore Orioles: Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray
Combined WAR: 87.1 (1981-1988, 1996)
Best combined season: 1984 (17.1 WAR)
Unfortunately, Murray was playing for the Dodgers in 1991 when Ripken turned in his best season (11.5 WAR), the second of his two MVP campaigns. Still, the duo was together for the majority of their best years, though it only resulted in team success at the beginning. After the team's World Series victory in 1983, for which these two Hall of Famers were largely responsible, the Orioles were never more than a mediocre ball club throughout the remainder of the 80s (with the exception of 1989, though Murray was gone by then). The two reunited in 1996, helping to "heal wounds" in Murray's relationship with Baltimore and bringing the friends back together for another successful year.
16. Oakland Athletics: Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando
Combined WAR: 94.4 (1967-1975)
Best combined season: 1969 (17.5 WAR)
Though their statistics may not be as impressive as some of the other possible pairs, it's the legacy of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco as the Bash Bros that gives them such a strong case for this spot. The baseball cards featuring the two of them, the marketing campaigns ("Let's Bash" and "Monster Bash"), the constant displays of awe-inspiring power at the Coliseum... everything that went into this partnership made for the most unforgettable period of Oakland A's history. However, in hindsight, the use of steroids puts a severe damper on this duo's achievements, including bringing home the 1989 World Series trophy. But how about Mr. October and his right-hand man, Sal Bando, who led the A's to five straight first-place finishes from 1971-1975 and brought home three consecutive World Series rings? That's hard to beat.
Nos. 15 to 11
15. Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins
Combined WAR: 105.2 (2003-2014)
Best combined season: 2007 (13.9 WAR)
These two middle infielders could both end up in Cooperstown. They could also both fall off the ballot after a few years. It's really hard to predict how it'll go down. But what is easy to see it that they brought Philadelphia the most exciting era of baseball it's ever had, with Ryan Howard and a great pitching staff alongside them. It's hard to find a better double-play duo of post-2000 baseball than these two, and when you bring their bats into the equation -- like in 2007, when Rollins took home the MVP award and Utley recorded a career-high .976 OPS -- they make for an easy selection as the Phils' most dynamic duo. From 2007-2011, Rollins and Utley fueled a stretch of five first-place seasons in a row, including a World Series ring in 2008 and a franchise-best 102 wins in 2011.
14. Chicago Cubs: Ron Santo and Billy Williams
Combined WAR: 132.1 (1960-1973)
Best combined season: 1965 (14.8 WAR)
Though the Cubs of the 1930s featured stars like Gabby Hartnett, Hack Wilson, Kiki Cuyler and more, I opted to go later in the franchise's long history. And though Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo could make up the most memorable nucleus of a Cubs team with another decade of strong performances, I decided to go earlier than that. Unfortunately for Ernie Banks, he had a weak supporting cast during his best days. So instead, we went with Santo and Williams, both of whom are Hall of Famers and provided years of stability and leadership for fans to enjoy at Wrigley.
13. Kansas City Royals: George Brett and Willie Wilson
Combined WAR: 123.3 (1976-1990)
Best combined season: 1980 (17.9 WAR)
My oh my, did everything come together for this duo in 1980 or what? George Brett hit your usual .390 with a ridiculous 1.118 OPS in a somewhat injury-shortened season (only 117 games) and brought home MVP honors, while Wilson led the league in hits (230), runs scored (133) and triples (15) while stealing 79 bases. The result? A World Series appearance, the first in the franchise's history, though it resulted in a loss to the Phillies. But Brett and Wilson propelled the Royals offense to ALCS appearances in each year from 1976-1978 and ultimately won their ring in the 1985 seven-game Series.
12. Milwaukee Brewers: Paul Molitor and Robin Yount
Combined WAR: 128.5 (1978-1992)
Best combined season: 1982 (16.7 WAR)
Yount had already been in the Majors for four seasons when Molitor debuted in 1978, but he was only one year older than his new infield counterpart. The two immediately assumed the roles of the heart and soul of the Milwaukee offense, smacking hits all over the field and bringing the Brew Crew to their first ever playoff appearance early into their run as teammates (1981) before getting a shot in the World Series the following season, though they ended up losing in a seven-game thriller. However, the two future Hall of Famers just didn't have the talent around them to build a successful dynasty year after year, and went without any postseason appearances for the remainder of their time as teammates.
11. St. Louis Cardinals: Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter
Combined WAR: 113.4 (1941-1942, 1946-1953)
Best combined season: 1948 (16.6 WAR)
Though a large chunk of WAR is missing due to Slaughter's service time in 1943-1944 -- Musial recorded two stellar seasons of 9.5 and 8.9 WAR, respectively -- this duo still found amazing success together and kindled a passionate friendship. The two Hall of Famers brought St. Louis a World Series ring in 1942 and another win in 1946, as soon as the two veterans returned from military service. Musial brought in another ring while Slaughter was overseas in 1944. In Musial's autobiography, he tells of how Slaughter's eventual trade out of St. Louis brought the two of them to "burst into tears," showing just how deep their relationship went (h/t Retro Simba). Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina's partnership also warranted consideration, though Yadi's WAR during their time as teammates was not nearly high enough to match with Musial and Slaughter.
Nos. 10 to 6
10. Boston Red Sox: Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz
Combined WAR: 52.1 (2003-2008)
Best combined season: 2006 (10.3 WAR)
Statistically, Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr deserve this honor, hands down. Their combined WAR was 121.3 in ten years of time together. They recognized each other as great leaders and captains. But Williams' WAR makes up the vast majority of that 121.3 figure, and the main thing that's missing is the all-elusive World Series ring. That's not the case for Manny and Big Papi. They broke the curse. They won two rings in their six years as teammates. They brought possibly the most star-studded duo to Boston baseball that Fenway had ever witnessed and just have more of a legacy as a cohesive unit than guys like Williams and Doerr do. And for those reasons, though the statistics don't exactly back them up, I find them deserving of a spot in the top 10.
9. Detroit Tigers: Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker
Combined WAR: 146.9 (1977-1995)
Best combined season: 1983 (12.0 WAR)
You won't find a more consistent, synchronized and beloved duo on the baseball diamond than Trammell and Whitaker for the 1980s Tigers. Neither of them were the greatest at their positions, or the strongest pure hitters in the game, or perennial locks for the All-Star game. But they just fit so well, and had such a highly publicized friendship, and meant so darn much to the city of Detroit that it's hard to go with anyone else. The 1984 World Series season serves as a reminder of a team that was just brimming with chemistry, talent and everything else you need to go out and win a whopping 104 games.
8. Seattle Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez
Combined WAR: 122.9 (1989-1999)
Best combined season: 1996 (16.3 WAR)
Two of the more recent inductees into Cooperstown, Griffey and Martinez played together for over a decade and brought over a decade of extremely fun and memorable baseball to Seattle. It's weird to think that Griffey provided so much talent to the Mariners organization for so long but wasn't a part of that 2001 record-breaking team, but the late 1990s Mariners were nothing to shrug off. This heart-of-the-order duo brought Seattle to its first postseason appearance ever in 1995, and again in 1997, with fluctuating years of up-and-down success in throughout the span.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates: Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell
Combined WAR: 106.7 (1962-1972)
Best combined season: 1971 (15.2 WAR)
Though the most tightly bonded Pirates group was immortalized by Sister Sledge's 1979 hit, "We Are Family," I feel I'd be wrong in choosing any other teammate duo in Pittsburgh. Though Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke were strong contenders, as were Paul and Lloyd Waner, I went with two of the brightest stars the Pirates have ever had the pleasure of rostering. The 1971 World Series also came during the two teammates' best combined regular season performance, making for a great encapsulating season of this duo's role in Pittsburgh baseball.
6. Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Bench and Pete Rose
Combined WAR: 128.4 (1967-1978)
Best combined season: 1972 (14.7 WAR)
Though these two members of the Big Red Machine may not have the best post-playing relationship -- Bench says that Rose shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball, while Rose says that Bench is only in Cooperstown because of him and says "Johnny Bench is one guy who should thank God I was born," -- but a pair of World Series rings in back-to-back seasons and a number of successful seasons make it hard to go with any other duo. Joe Morgan was a great member of the Big Red Machine as well, but he didn't come to town until 1972, meaning he couldn't play alongside Bench and Rose for as long a time, and Dave Concepcion, George Foster, and even Hall of Famer Tony Perez just weren't as good as either of the two all-time greats we went with for this list.
Nos. 5 to 1
5. Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio
Combined WAR: 141.2 (1991-2005)
Best combined season: 1997 (17.1 WAR)
The Killer B's are baseball's best teammates in the past 50 years, and I don't think you'll find much argument among baseball fans that this is the case. Both enshrined in Cooperstown, they both pushed through baseball's steroid era without ever using performance enhancing drugs -- knowingly, at least -- to become consistently dangerous offensive weapons. The one thing this partnership didn't translate to was much postseason success. Though they made the playoffs six times together as teammates, they failed to make it out of of the NLDS in the first four years of playoff action, but eventually had an NLCS appearance in 2004 and a World Series appearance in 2005, both of which they lost.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider
Combined WAR: 114.3 (1947-1956)
Best combined season: 1953 (16.1 WAR)
Should Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts enjoy a long, uninterrupted run in LA, this spot is available for the taking. But for now, it undoubtedly had to go to Jackie and Duke, who broke into the Major Leagues together in 1947, albeit under very, very different circumstances. They were more than just teammates, though, as Duke was an admirer of Jackie's courage an athleticism and would attempt to "ease the burden" on Robinson in the tumultuous process of breaking the color barrier and dealing with the unfair consequences. The duo played in five World Series together, all against the Yankees and all losses, until 1955 came around. That year, in seven games, they helped the Dodgers to finally become baseball's predominant borough in New York.
3. San Francisco Giants: Willie Mays and Willie McCovey
Combined WAR: 160.1 (1959-1972)
Best combined season: 1963 (17.1 WAR)
Though their peaks didn't exactly align -- Mays was consistently dominant, but had his best stretch of years from 1962-1965, while McCovey surged from 1968-1970 -- this duo formed the heart of the order for the Giants for more than a decade. Over the span of 13 seasons (not counting the partial 1972 season in which they played together), the two combined for exactly 800 home runs, with Mays (430) getting a slight edge over McCovey (370). Their power brought about results, too. Though they never won a World Series and didn't have all too many postseason appearances, the Giants' worst season between 1959 and 1971 was the 79-75 1960 campaign. They never had a losing record together -- that is impressive.
2. Atlanta Braves: Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews
Combined WAR: 180.1 (1954-1966)
Best combined season: 1963 (17.1 WAR)
You thought Mays and McCovey's home run total was impressive? In the same amount of seasons, Aaron (442) and Mathews (421) combined for 863 bombs and put baseball on the map, first in Milwaukee, and then in Atlanta for one season in 1966 before Mathews became a Houston Astro the following year. They powered the team to a World Series victory in 1957 and went back the very next year, though this time they fell to the Yankees. Aaron's career was far from over after their partnership on the Braves ended, but the timing lined up perfectly for both of them to be playing at their highest level at the same time.
1. New York Yankees: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
Combined WAR: 194.8 (1923-1934)
Best combined season: 1927 (24.3 WAR)
It couldn't be anyone else. But the crazy thing about the Yankees is that they probably have several superstar duos that would rank higher than many teams' pairs on this list. DiMaggio and Berra? DiMaggio and Dickey? Mantle and Maris? Mantle and Berra? Jeter and Bernie? Jeter and A-Rod?
But, I digress. The point is, to be the representative duo of the Yankees is a feat in itself. But no two teammates in baseball history even come close to touching the production of Ruth and Gehrig in the 1920s and early 1930s. If Hall of Fame honors, tons of records, and four World Series rings (and a loss) aren't a testament to that, I don't know what is.