If I were building a team today …

Originally Published: June 6, 2005
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
What's a "franchise player"? In my book, it's the one player who, at any given moment, you'd choose to build your franchise around. Now, this game can get a little tricky. Are we trying to win immediately? For the next three years? Or five years? Everyone will have their own definition. But the future is now, and I certainly wouldn't try to plan more than four or five years ahead.

With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to look back over the last century or so and try to figure out who, at the time they were mid-career, would have been considered franchise players. I tried to ignore everything we know now, but of course that's much easier said than done.

1903-1907: Honus Wagner
For the better part of a decade, Honus Wagner, rather than Ty Cobb, was the game's greatest player. Wagner was easier to get along with, he played a more valuable position (shortstop), and was very nearly Cobb's equal with the bat and on the bases. Wagner, in fact, was a fantastic player in 1912, when he was 38. But it's hard to consider a player in his mid-30s as a franchise player, which is why the cutoff comes well before Wagner's time as a great player ended.

Cobb
Cobb

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