Friday Fire: The legacy of Barry Bonds. Best of all time?

As Barry continues to power past the thirty-three year old mark previously held by Hank Aaron, it’s time to reflect on just where he sits in baseball’s all-time pantheon.

Rankings of the top five are encouraged.

Here’s my list:

#1 Barry Bonds

#2 Willie Mays

#3 Hank Aaron

#4 Babe Ruth

#5 Rickey Henderson

The first four are self explanatory. I rank Rickey over the likes of Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Josh Gibson because Henderson’s combination of above average defensive ability, speed, power and the rare nuance of changing a game from the on deck circle are incomparable. Check the versatility of his stats.

Discuss.

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72 Responses to “Friday Fire: The legacy of Barry Bonds. Best of all time?”

  1. Hmmm…..while I do understand all the arguments that this will present about the race issues and such involved in the league pre-Robinson, just by the numbers (since i couldn’t see him play) I’d have to say:
    1. Ruth
    2. Mays
    3. Bonds
    4. Aaron
    5. Gehrig/Williams

    We also have to consider Ruth’s pitching ability in the mix. And I do know he was playing against cream puffs, and I do know if he played today he’d be lunch meat….but I can only compare players by era, and Ruth was too far ahead of ALL of his peers not to think he was a pretty phenomenal athlete. Mays was an infinitely better defender than Bonds, had 338 steals (though Bonds has FAR more, and this makes it close), and also lost two years of his career early (which would put his HR total somewhere around 710-720).

  2. 1. Bonds
    2. Mays
    3. Aaron
    4. Junior Griffey (before the injury)
    5. open

    Can’t put Ruth there because he didn’t play against the best competition. If Reggie Miller played against the CBA’s comp, he would be considered as a GOAT instead of being a very good, clutch sometimes great but not transcendent player. Jr could do it all and was on his way to number one before his body turned on him. Gotta put him there off principle

    The Incapacitated One, Mizzo

  3. Bonds is the best jucier of all time, sure. Right ahead of Sosa, McGwire and Palmeiro.

    But clean players?

    1) Babe
    2) T. Williams
    3) Mays
    4) Ty Cobb
    5) Stan Musial

    You do guys realize cheated, right?

  4. Bonds cheated*

  5. 1. Bonds
    2. Ruth
    3. Josh Gibson (could also be #1)

    IMO, these are the only three that should be in the discussion for GOAT. Ted Williams doesn’t make the cut because he didn’t do anything besides hit. Ruth pitched, Bonds has 8 gold floves and stole 500 bases and Josh Gibson was a catcher.

    Amongst others, I find Mays to be overrated despite his all around skills because he has a pretty low .384 lifetime OBP. Like the Moneyball GM’s i put a lot of weight in OBP. In other words, if it ain’t even .400, you are not in the GOAT discussion. That means Aaron too. I also think that Mays and Mantle were a bit better than Aaron in their generation but those two fizzled out at younger ages.

    One of the most underrated ballplayers IMO is Stan Musial. His all-around numbers are just sick, but he rarely gets any “greatest living player” mention which seems to have been recently anointed to Mays, and Ted Williams, and DiMagio before him.

  6. Ap you certainly are entitled to your opinion but it’s very difficult to put Ruth number one while Gibson and his ilk were peeking through the knothole.

    Anyone hitting a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium should have been playing in MLB. The Negro league’s affect on baseball futuristic cannot be diminished. Barnstorming had it’s purpose, but I wish (I know, I know) Rube and the fellas somehow were able to merge with the league. Buck O’Neil said Josh was the best pure hitter ever. One that struck out half the time Babe did.

    If there wasn’t a dichotomy imagine what the total numbers would look like. Paige might have been considered the best pitcher (player?) of all time. When he became the first Black pitcher, the American League president outlawed his famous hesitation pitch mainly because it made a fool of anyone and everyone. Dude was the truth even though his wife–trying to get him to sign divorce papers–chased him all over North America. Janet hit the brotha hard in his pocket too. I guess that’s what he got for trickin unfortunately.

    People forget that Satch was the highest paid player during WW2, threw over ten different pitches and won games at age 59.

    Babe was a nice pitcher, but anything pre 1947 deserves a GIANT (pun intended) asterisk. This cannot be overstated and should be given much more reverence by the MSM.

    Especially in these Bob Costas like simple minded times.

  7. Young Vito, voice of the young people…

    She better be hot! ;)

    Crazy, I had this delayed laugh because I just remembered my voice mail.

  8. Modi, Stan the man was definitely one of the best. He’s actually one of my favorite players. His slugging percentage a couple of years was just ridiculous. Had exactly the same amount of hits at home and on the road. (1815)

    Side note, but Musial was born on the same day–obviously earlier–in the same town as Griffey Jr.(November 21st, Donora, PA)

  9. Friedman, it’s funny when you all of the sudden pop up..you TSF stalker you.

    How in the hell can you not have Aaron in the top five?

    Seriously.

  10. Friedman’s just keepin’ it real……real stupid. Watch the idiot hang himself with his won words on this.

    Friedman you ass, you say Bonds cheated, I dispute this and DARE you to prove it.

  11. My Top 5:

    1. Bonds
    2. F.Robinson (Could do it all)
    3. Aaron
    4. Griffey
    5. Gwynn

    Frank gets more and more underrated as the years go by. Reggie
    was the best in the clutch but nowhere near as good as Griff
    or Gwynn overall.

  12. You can’t hold anything regarding race against Ruth when making a list like this, it’s not his fault he played in a league that didn’t allow black ballplayers.

    That being said:

    1. Willie Mays
    2. Babe Ruth
    3. Frank Robinson
    4. Any of the Bonds/Griffey Jr./Arod trio
    5. Roberto Clemente… he didn’t put up the big homerun numbers but he was an awesome right fielder.

    My argument for Bonds to not be a lock in the top 5 is simply that yeah, he was a great outfielder in PITT and the opening years in SF and he did steal a lot of bases… as he got older though, he became known for his power and the gold gloves stopped along with a lot of the stolen bases. Bonds could easily be put among any of those top 5, it’s just hard to say “well, he was once the greatest all around player… now he’s just the most prolific home run hitter” which label do you put on him?

    Had Griffey Jr. not been sidelined with nagging injuries he definitely would be higher than I put him here. He was a great centerfielder and a great hitter…

    ARod, well, we all know ARod is going to eventually break Bonds’ homerun record. He’s a good infielder, he runs the bases well.. he’s the best all around player right now in baseball. He works hard at what he does and he keeps himself in peak physical condition.

  13. I didn’t make my list holding the racie issues against Babe Ruth, nor did I hold the steroids issue against Bonds (i know its unprovable but still), nor did I hold the fact that Latin and Asian players weren’t in the game in full flux during Mays and Aaron’s time, nor did I hold lower mounds, tighter balls, and park effects against ANYONE. If you inject those issues, the list becomes completely mangled because NO ONE had a completely level playing field to anyone else. Was the racial barrier during Ruth’s career the most egregious? Sure…but if I start considering that then I have to consider everything else.

    And Friedman, you do realize Mays cheated right? And as did Ruth and Cobb, by restricting their competition? You can’t nix Bonds from that because there is NO PLAYER that is clean in the history of baseball.

    All that being said, I think when his career’s over, ARod will probably be in the 4/5 range. Because of Bond’s defensive superiority and running ability, he’s still ahead of him. Same for Ruth/Mays. I do think he will be the best hitter of all time when he retires though….but his all-around game was lacking. Perhaps had he been the SS (his defense is VASTLY superior to that chump Jeter), for these last few years he could be in consideration.

  14. I know Friedman will run out the same tired and disproved arguments on Bonds. But I would love to see him prove to us that Sosa juiced.

    Any thoughts?

  15. Interesting lists. I haven’t really given it too much thought, because comparing players from different eras is impossible. Babe Ruth from the 20’s wouldn’t be a player in today’s league, but that isn’t his fault. The only thing you can do is compare how players dominated compared to their contemporaries… with that in mind:

    1. Babe Ruth – absolutely dominated his era, though he benefitted greatly from playing in a segregated league, and from being a healthy size in a time when most players were skinny and weak. Never the less, his numbers compared to everyone else in his era… just amazing.
    1A. Josh Gibson – the Negro leagues, in terms of skills, were probably equal to MLB at the time. Gibson was the Ruth of his leagues, in his era. The only reason I can’t put Gibson #1 with absolute certainty is because a lot of the records and stats from the Negro Leagues are hard to confirm.

    3. Barry Bonds – absolutely the best player over the past 20 years; his MVPs, including the one he should have had that Terry Pendleton won, illustrate how far above the rest of his competition he is.

    4. Roger Clemens – pretty much the same as Bonds (his Cy Youngs prove how much he dominated, and how long a period, too). I’ll add that I think his 350+ wins is the most impressive stat of all, especially considering how many years he’s underachieved in the wins category (like the past three years in Houston, where he didn’t get enough run support) relative to his ERA/WHIP, etc. Truth be told, with a little better luck he might have been approaching 400 wins right now. Considering we may not see another 300 winner for a long time, 350+ in this era is truly astonishing.

    5. Willie Mays. Just an amazing player to watch. Excelled at both defense and offense.

  16. Fine, Bonds didn’t cheat. Okay. Ap, not gonna get into this one, even though it’s your favorite topic.

    1. Ruth
    2. Bonds
    3. T. Williams
    4. Mays
    5. Cobb

    Aaron doesn’t make the cut because his OBP was not great, and neither was Mays, but Mays played an amazing outfield. By comparison, Ted Williams’ career OBP is .482. Wow.

    Griffey belongs nowhere on this list, and to include Tony Gwynn is laughable.

  17. With regard to the cheating issue, does anyone here think that if Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth were on roids that they would have not hit more home runs? I guess a question that you must ask yourself — and there is no doubt that Bonds is a natural home run hitter — how much does steroids play into hitting home runs? How much does additional strength as compared to pure technique benefit a player when hitting a home run?

    One more thing — and I’m admittedly not a big baseball fan to begin with — I would imagine with all of the $$$$ in the league, today, that the pitchers of this era are simply better then the pitchers of Hank Aaron’s and Babe Ruth’s respective eras. Does anyone know what the speed of the average fastball in Babe Ruth’s era as compared to the average fastball in Barry Bonds’ era?

  18. Indy Fan,
    fastball velocity doesn’t really play into it if you’ve played baseball before.. it’s easier to hit a pitch that’s coming straight at you than it is to hit a curveball. Sure, the pitching may be a little better now than it was then but the game has evolved…

    Just like the NFL has changed from a game that was brutally physical to a game that is now built around speed and deception.

    Hitting a home run is about getting the bat through the zone in a manner that allows for lift and back spin on the ball. Bonds’ swing stays through the zone longer than any other player I’ve seen hit… I’d go out on a limb and say about 85% of hitting is technique, 15% is about brute force. you have to have sound technique in order to even think about hitting a baseball, and then you refine your technique to get yourself into a situation where you’re getting lift on the ball without having to uppercut as much.. Sure, the big bulky guys hit bombs (Prince Fielder).. but you also see guys like JJ Hardy and young ARod get on a roll and bust out like 20-30 bombs like it’s nothing…

  19. Wow, I didnt know that stat about Ted Williams. I happen to include Aaron so high because he’s the career RBI leader, which I find a phenomenal accomplishment, and the sheer number of hits he received. The longevity plays a major role.

    But I think you’re right Friedman….had Williams not lost all those years to the war, he’d be #4 on the list. I think Mays defense and arm put him over Ted (unless Williams is a great defensive player and I also dont know that).

    And, btw, I’m fairly certain Bonds did cheat. But that in regards to his place in history? Irrelevant.

  20. Friedman,

    Last time I checked, it was MY Top Five, which
    consited of the top five players I watched play in my lifetime.
    That’s why Ruth, Cobb, and T. Williams didn’t make the cut
    because my ass ain’t that old.

  21. I’m going the Top Five I’ve seen route:

    1.) Bonds. Drug accusations and personal attacks are irrelevant here. No hitter I’ve ver seen has ever commanded the strike zone like Barry. I grew up a Cub fan. I’ve seen Barry play since he came in the league. There was nothing he could not do on a baseball field. Speed, power, defense, rocket arm, and a thorough knowledge of the game, both historical knowledge and technical knowledge.

    2.) Griffy, Jr. Bonds-lite until injuries robbed him of his legs.

    3.) Ryne Sandberg. Came into the league as a Phillies 2B who was a slap hitter and a slick fielder. The Cubs stole him and Jim Frey taught him how to turn on an inside pitch and he became a feared hitter and a nearly flawless defensive 2B.

    4.) Vlad Guerrero. Impossible to pitch to, the guy’s strike zone are the lines on the battters box. Not the smoothest fielder, but gets to the ball and has a fearsome arm.

    5.) Alex Rodriguez. As an all around player, he’s close to Bonds/Griffey territory, but a tendency to lose focus on defense takes him down to 5. As far as speed and power, though he’s got it.

    Again, this is just a list of guys I saw play. there are so many variables to an all-time list, I can’t even begin to think how to form one. However, I was encouraged to see some names that should, but don’t, pop up on all time list, i.e. Frank Robinson, Aaron, and Musial. I’d add one more name to the list of overlooked, but great players: Eddie Murray.

  22. PM, now I just KNOW that you snuck in Sandberg to stir up controversy. Okay, I’ll take the bait: have you ever seen Albert Pujols? Rickey Henderson? Manny Ramirez? Sammy Sosa? Tony Gwynn?

  23. Tim Raines? Andre Dawson? Dave Winfield? Kirby Puckett?

  24. I know the Sandberg pick is controversial, but he’s that good.

    But I’ll touch on the guys you mentioned:
    –Pujols: Toughest guy to leave off the list. He’s a better defensive 1B than he gets credit for and he’s probably the A-Rod’s equal at the plate. I just don’t see him as being that guy who puts a team on his shoulders the way the guys on my list could. Not a leader, but he’s a great , great player and 6 on my list of 10.

    –Rickey Henderson: Wow. Glaring omission on my part. Mea Culpa. Probably stuck around too long, but I blew that one. Probably should’ve left Vlad off and put him on. For this foolishness, I offer no excuse.

    –Manny Ramirez: Amazing hitter. Clutch, clutch, clutch. Total turd on defense. Doesn’t want to play defense, dosen’t try to play defense, doesn’t belong on my list.

    –Sammy Sosa: One, not good enough for long enough. Two, as he became a better hitter, he also became a defensive liability, as he lost range and his arm, while strong was wildly inaccurate. Never a smart player and not much of a hitter when it counted.

    –Tony Gywnn: On the Ted Williams plane as a hitter. Not the defensive player he could’ve been if his conditioning would’ve been better. He’s in the top ten, though, for sure.

  25. JB–

    Raines: Solid all around, but not in the same echelon as the truly great.

    Dawson: the Montreal AstroTurf robbed him of the longevity he needed to become a great player, but he’s still my favorite Cub player ever. The Hawk was a just amazing…just don’t ask Eric Show.

    Dave Winfield: To be honest, I didn’t see much of Winfield, so I’d be wrong to really say much.

    Kirby Puckett: A better hitter than Sandberg, but no where near his elague defensively. I was looking at all-around type guys. Again, though he’d defnitely be in my top ten.

  26. Bonds
    Ruth
    Frank Robinson
    Willie Mays
    Ted Williams

    Next:
    Pujols
    Ichiro
    Roberto Clemente
    Rickey Henderson
    Ken Griffey

  27. DWil–

    Ichiro above Clemente and Henderson? I dunno…..

  28. Pm-
    Sorry… the order for “Next”:
    Clemente
    Griffey
    Rickey
    Ichiro
    Pujols

  29. Ah. That makes perfect sense.

  30. GrandNubian Says:

    1. Bonds – Best….player…ever (In my Comicbook Guy voice)
    2. Mays
    3. Aaron
    4. Robinson
    5. Ruth & Henderson

    I have to put an asterisk next to every player that played during the segregation era. Yes, Ruth was perhaps the best of his era (Segregation Era), but there’s no way in hell he would’ve put up those numbers in an intergrated league.

  31. BNubian-
    The ONLY reason I have Ruth there is because he was SO much better then everyone else he played against I feel he would have more than held his own against anyone. It’s like the DII point guard that averages a trip-doub that reads: 27.5 ppg, 13.3 apg, 11.7 rpg, plus gets 6 steals and 4 blocks a game…. that was Ruth in his day. So, if he drops to 22, 10, and 9.4, he’s still all-world.

  32. GrandNubian Says:

    Dwil,

    I agree with your logic and that’s why I have Ruth on my list at number 5 (tied with Rickey Henderson). I’m sure he would’ve held his own if the league had been integrated. But with all due respect, I just can’t put him above Mays, Aaron & Frank Robinson.

  33. BNubian-
    It’s cool. Th only person on any list I have a prob with is PM’s choice of ——- Ryne Sandberg?!… I mean, damn, at least Roberto Alomar.

    R-Y-N-…. damn.

  34. DWil–

    Look at the numbers, man.
    AVG: .285

    H: 2386

    R: 1318

    2B: 403

    3B: 76

    HR: 282

    RBI: 1061

  35. aggh. posted too soon.

    SB: 344

    and his career fielding percentage of .989 is the ML record for 2B. Again, that was my list of the best I’ve seen. Alomar’s numbers are close to, and in some cases better than (HR, AVG, SB), Sandberg’s, so it’ll be interesting to see how the HOF voting goes.

  36. “Fine, Bonds didn’t cheat.”

    Ca-bitch-ulation in summertime! Ahh, even the birds are singing.

  37. 1. Jackie Robinson/Larry Doby
    2. Josh Gibson
    3. Oscar Charleston
    4. Barry Bonds
    5. Willie Mays

    Couple of thoughts: Ty Cobb has been the leader in career batting average since 1911. There’s something wrong with that record. Tony Gwynn has the highest post-segregation era career batting average of any player. That simple juxtaposition makes me take Ted Williams off the list. That may sound crazy, but it’s a question of timing and of all-around play. I wanted to select five tool players because I’ve always believed they brought the most to the game. Ted was never a five tool player.

    A similar thought process informed my decision on Ruth, Gehrig, etc. Given that old Negro League players routinely won or split double headers (and those W’s led Landis to ban barnstorming), I could not in good conscience vote for any MLB player who played in that era. So, even Ruth doesn’t make my list.

    Two historically underrated players have been Aaron and Musial. I have a thought as to why – both were before my time. Musial’s career high in homers is 39. Right now, he’s ranked about 20th or so in slugging. He played in an era with some big boppers. With Aaron, he only held the career home run record for five years before retiring. During his playing career the all-time leader was Ruth, but the ACTIVE leader was Willie Mays. Aaron did not surpass Mays until after Willie’s career had been cemented in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. Aaron only won the MVP award one time. Moreover, since Aaron never hit 50, much of his success was attributed to longevity rather than the brilliance which was attributed to Mays (winner of the NL MVP in 1954 and 1965…to quote Chris Berman, “Some spread!”)

    The top of my list is what it is because they redefined the game and paved the way for the true artistry of the game to be revealed. All the brilliance and subtlety that came to define National League baseball began as that critical mass of American Africans and Caribbean Africans reshaped the game. Mays, Banks, F. Robinson, Cepeda, Clemente, Versailles, Oliva, Jackson, Blue, Grant, Gibson, and so many others owe to those two ballers who kept it together during trying times.

    The mental toughness to play during that era cannot be compared to the challenges of playing in another era or with the dynamics of ballparks, expansion, tightly wound balls or much of anything else. Playing with terrorists could not have been much fun – but somehow, these two men made it happen.

  38. PM –

    “–Tony Gywnn: On the Ted Williams plane as a hitter. Not the defensive player he could’ve been if his conditioning would’ve been better. He’s in the top ten, though, for sure.”

    How many Gold Gloves does a guy have to win (playing Right Field in the National League) to get a little love around here?

  39. T3–

    Come on, I know you know your baseball better than that. All too often the Gold Glove goes to best offensive player at a position that doesn’t totally embarass himself with his glove. Gwynn was a good fielder, don’t get me wrong, but his conditioning, especially at the end of his career, really hurt that aspect of his game. Do you really think he was the best RF in the NL during his career? I don’t, but he was definitely the best hitter in the NL, and that helped his chances.

  40. Just for a bit of perspective on what the implications might be for segregation on baseball:

    Only one “white” player (free and clear of steroid or any other “cheating” allegations)has hit more than 550 home runs…Just 1 since 1935. Just one – just one – just one.

    Yeah, just one. Only 2 have more than 500 (less than 550). In all seriousness, it’s time to do some WORK on what all these records are alleged to mean to all these different people. Questions about performance and numbers and equity are central to baseball. It’s time to explode the myths.

  41. PM –

    He won the Gold Gloves early in his career when he was slim. Gwynn is the same guy that was drafted to play NBA ball and stole 319 bases.

    And, at the time Gwynn won those awards, NO ONE won awards for offense. The other winners were Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, Eric Davis, Barry Bonds, Willie McGee and Andy Van Slyke. In the years after Gwynn, Marquis Grissom won a Gold Glove. The American League may do that, but the NL outfield GG is one of the BEST indicators of prowess one can garner in this game.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/gold_glove_nl.shtml

    Take a look at that list and let me know if think the non-homer hitting guy with the highest batting average on any player since Williams was given a gift – 5 times. Double digit assists his first six full seasons in the league – career high 19 in 1986.

  42. T3–

    Take Willie McGee from that list and every one of those guys was a gifted offensive player as well. Dale Murphy? I think that proves my point. He had a cannon, but not even close to the range any of the other guys had, even Van Slyke; Grissom was a very nice offensive player earlier in his career as well. I’m not saying Tony was gifted the award; I’m just saying offensive numbers matter in Gold Glove voting, and not just homers. There were periods during some of those seasons where you could not get Tony Gwynn out. He seemed to always be on base. People notice that. Look at Jim Edmonds. Average arm, great range, doesn’t really get a good read off the bat, so he plays really shallow, waits back and goes flopping all over the field to make diving grabs and wins Gold Gloves, but he also used to go .290/25/90. That helped. Was he the best CF in the NL? Nope, note even top 3, maybe, but between the highlights and the offense, he pulled in a few GG’s. Again, I acknowledge Tony was great athlete and a good defensive OF, but Dawson was doubtlessly better and played in Montreal, not the Murph. Tony was great and ultimately a better all-around player than anyone on that list except Bonds.

  43. Another good example of this trend is Derrek Lee and Todd Helton. Is Todd Helton a better defensive 1B than Derrek Lee? Not even close. Lee is phenomenal around the bag; Helton just doesn’t screw up. However, until 2005, Helton put superior offensive numbers and has 3 GG’s to Lee’s 2.

  44. Helton was a fielding 1st baseman until the injuries began to take a toll on his body…

    Dwil, Pujols in the top 10? come on now

    How can Rickey Henderson even be in the conversation for top 5, let alone top 10? He was a poor outfielder at best…

    If we’re picking best all around players by who we’ve seen play:

    1. Barry Bonds (LF)
    2. Ken Griffey Jr. (CF)
    3. Roger Clemens (SP)
    4. Alex Rodriguez (SS/3B)
    5. Vladimir Guerrero/Ichiro Suzuki (RF)

    then

    6. Mariano Rivera (RP)
    7. John Smoltz (SP/RP)
    8. Greg Maddux (SP)
    9. Randy Johnson (SP)
    10. Derek Jeter (SS)

    all of those players possess power, speed, fielding ability, clutch pitching/hitting, they were at one time the best at their position…

  45. I hear you, but a couple of things:

    1) I believe the Gold Glove standard for infielders and outfielders are totally different. With that said, I don’t put much stock in them for infielders. Jeter has more Gold Gloves than A-Rod. Part of that is attributable to Omar Vizquel’s hammer lock on the award – but Jete’s ain’t the best SS in the AL. 3 in a row?

    2) In 1985, Gwynn had 14 outfield assists and didn’t get a GG for perhaps several reasons: new kid on the block, established winners, etc. In 1986, he had 19 assists. Now, as a right fielder, all you can do is throw out the guys who try to run on you. After awhile, they figure it out and stop running. Gwynn established himself as a right fielder with a better than average arm, accuracy and he had excellent wheels. He even had some hops. Remember we’re not talking about the chubby cat at the podium. We’re talking about a two-sport professional grade athlete – that’s elite company. I hear your concession re: his athletic ability, but there seems to be a bit of disbelief that the Chubbster could get it going like that.

    3) I would not contend that Andre Dawson was a lesser OF than Gwynn. For my money, Dawson was the best right fielder of that era (Dwight Evans was close. Winfield was right there.)

    4) I think we’ll have to disagree on Dale Murphy. I was much younger at the time, but my recollections were of him being an above average center fielder. Comparing Murphy to Andruw Jones won’t work. Galaxies apart. Still, Murphy was legit (as I recall it). Eric Davis is the only other pure center fielder on this list. His career extends beyond Murphy’s – and he was arguably the NL’s premier defensive CF until Andruw Jones established himself. Davis and O’Neill won a World Series with their gloves (and arms).

    5) Grissom won four GGs when there were several other players with far superior stats who did not win. Steve Finley won a GG with 10 homers. Willie McGee won once with 5 and once with 7 homers. Vladimir G never won a GG in the NL.

    If the point is that Gwynn didn’t deserve his, I’m willing to listen. Who should have won during those seasons? If the point is that offense drives the award, I’d have to disagree. Given that Finley, Darren Lewis, a light-hitting Grissom, Willie McGee, Mike Cameron, and Bobby Dernier have walked off with the hardware, I need more evidence. A confluence of defensive talent around offensive stars is not evidence that the award follows the bat.

    thanks for the edmonds piece…I couldn’t agree more.

  46. Boney:

    Luv those lists.

    When was Jeter the best at his position? Statistically, anyway. Tommy G got 3 hunnit and cain’t git no luv. Damn!! Tough room.

  47. Why they don’t let sports writers do anything other than write columns:

    http://blogs.chron.com/sportsjustice/archives/2005/08/steroids_bagwel.html

    The wheels of Justice are spinning. Bagwell and Biggio’s number suggest serious juicing. They’ll be up for the HOF soon. Image Management 101: Hard working, tough, gritty smart ball players who overcame a great deal of [fill in the blank] just to compete.

  48. T3–

    Whew, that’s a lot to digest. Thanks for pushing me on this. Heading out to dinner with the wife now, but I’ll be back.

  49. 1. Bonds-Clearly.
    Started as the best 5-tool player of his generation at a time when black athletes still gravitated to baseball. Won 3, should have been 4 MVP’s as that type of player. Then he completely transformed himself physically and completely transformed his swing to become the most feared hitter of all time. During his 4 MVP run his numbers were beyond staggering. Routinely, the difference between his OPS and Slg% and the second dude in the majors was about the same as number 2 and number 150-200. And this was in a fully-integrated league with competition from around the world. Won 8 GG’s and in a league where no one else has ever been a 400-400 guy, Bonds will end up as an 800-500 guy. Calling anyone else GOAT is simply foolish. Oh and at the age of 43, right now, today, take a look at who leads the majors in OPS by a large margin.

    2. Babe Ruth
    A giant of a man who completely dominated in his day. Was the standard for hitters for many decades. Dominated his competition in a way that even Bonds didn’t. Would have been a HOF’er if he had just stayed a pitcher, probably would have had 800 HRs if he hadn’t started as a pitcher. Achievements are considered lessened here becuse his competion was artifically limited, due to White American racism, to whites only, part-time insurance salesmen.

    2A. Josh Gibson
    Best player in the negro leagues, By report had Statistics that compared favorably to Babe Ruth and did so while playing by far the toughest position on the field. According to reports had 9 HR titles and 4 batting titles in negro leagues and in two seasons slugged greater than 1.000.

    4. WIllie Mays
    Perhaps the greatest 5 tool player in all of MLB history. The numbers speak for themselves. Lifetime .302 hitter, 660 HR’s, 1903 RBI’s, 338 SB’s 12, count em 12 GG’s in the day when there was SERIOUS competition for those thangs. Amazing arm, amazing range, this side of Barry Bonds, the most exciting player of all times.

    5. Ted Williams
    I know he’s not a 5 tool player, but as a hitter he was so much better than anyone else not named Bonds or Ruth that it’s not even funny. .344 career BA, 521 HR’s over 1800 RBI’s, second all time in career Slg5 and OPS. Career leader in OBP at a staggering .482. Probably would have had over 600 HR’s and 2000 RBI’s had he not served twice in the military. Two times won MVP’s and should have had two more given that he had two other seasons where he won the triple crown and yet DIDN’T win the MVP.

  50. clowntooth Says:

    Rickey Henderson? Laughable. For a guy who only hit .325 ONCE and never batted in 100 runs (I know, he’s lead-off guy), admittedly he was a great base-stealer, durable, a consistent run-scorer… But one of the best all-time? Next you’ll be saying Jose Reyes is number six! Or Johnny Damon for god’s sake!

    Not even close to Babe, Josh, Hank, Willie, Barry, Ted, Koufax, Satchel, A-Rod, Griffey, Clemente, Frank Robinson, Clemens, Bob Gibson, Ichiro, Walter Johnson, Tony Gwynn, Jimmie Foxx, Reggie, Nolan, hell, even Sosa and McGwire…

    Good s*%t starter, though.

  51. My assessment of convo so far….

    Wait, Teddy Ballgame wasn’t a 5-tool player? Did any of us see him play in his prime? I say this because Man-Ram is among the leaders in assists, but no one would mistake him for an excellent LF.

    Henderson was a very, very good fielding OF – he just had a weak arm…. and I don’t have him ranked above F. Robby or Mays (I forgot about Hank; damn, that was some subconscious bias shit on my part!)…

    Tony Gwynn can’t compare in the OF to Ichiro. Not even remotely close. I Suzuki is the best RF I have ever witnessed play the position.

    Edmonds is a very, very good OF – in the field and at the plate. BUT. There’s so much competition there, he’s like waaaaay low on any list of great players.

    Dale Murphy? He gets sympathy awards only. It’s not like he was akin to Gale Sayers in football because he didn’t make that type of impact on the game when he was healthy.

    I put Pujols in there because his bat is so outstanding and because he’s improved his fielding dramatically…..

    Play, not pitch….

  52. Temple3, I didn’t do it based on statistics alone… that last sentence described how I put it together. I put it together as best baseball players I’ve seen

  53. Temple3-

    “Only one “white” player (free and clear of steroid or any other “cheating” allegations)has hit more than 550 home runs…Just 1 since 1935. Just one – just one – just one.

    Yeah, just one. Only 2 have more than 500 (less than 550).”

    huh?
    Eddie Matthews
    Mel Ott
    Jimmie Foxx
    Mickey Mantle
    Mike Schmidt
    Ted Williams
    Harmon Killebrew
    Babe Ruth

  54. Boney Rickey is regarded as a Top 3 left fielder.

    Rickey won championships. That’s why he’s on the list. He set the table, got into a pitcher’s head slamming a first pitch homerun, and would mess around and steal every dame base. If it were a tenth base, he would have stole that too.

    Shh..I hear Rickey talking to himself…

    Anyway the blog panel was the ish. I’ll have something up today or tomorrow.

  55. JB-

    you know I respect y’all here – so you should know I’m not bugging on this – right.

    Matthews – ok.
    Mel Ott – too early – wrong era.
    Same for Foxx.
    Mantle – ok. Same as Matthews.
    Schmidt admitted using amphetamines – and as much as I like him – Zing!!!
    Ted – Wrong era.
    Harmon – it’s all good here baby. He’s the 1 legit dude.
    Ruth – see Williams and Ott and Foxx.

  56. If we get really real about these years here, Harmon Killebrew has to look a whole lot different to a whole lot of people. No one, to my knowledge, has beef with Brew. He’s the guy. If Schmidt admits he hit the greeny bin Mantle and Mathews are barely inside the critical Negro Mass barrier, Killebrew’s the guy. If I wanted to be really, really legit and stringent, Jim Thome would be the guy…and that shit wouldn’t sit too well.

    The segregation issue is baseball is front and center on everything. It has to rise to the center of our attention moving forward. The implications for all records hang in the balance. It’s only fair.

  57. Baseball’s entire legacy is tarnished. Could you imagine being Buck Leonard or arguably the best pitcher of all time and couldn’t even play? Wow. I can’t put Ruth on that pedestal. The dynamic would have been totally different if blacks were playing with Ruth was swattin em.

    T3 something I wrote after Buck O’Neil died.

    Pop Pop died. America sighed

    The Negro League cried.

    Where have you gone Ole Man? Do come back and smile like only the little boy can. You were not a “boy” but a man. Over 36 players you MLB ushered in a seven year span.

    Jimmie Armsted, Oscar Charleston, Welday Walker, Jim Zapp to all of you Buck can highlight with a mere tip of his cap.

    Frank, Felipe and Dusty remember the pain It will keep you sane Until Buck gets voted into the Hall of Fame.

    Gone are coaches three. Part of baseball’s soul is sure to flee. For the love of God! America don’t you see! Baseball’s tarnished history we must continue to attack. Have your children proudly wear the Kansas City Monarch hat As America should reminisce of the timeless echo That resounds with the historic crack of Buck O’Neil’s bat…

    The rest of it is on my site, Michael Tillery.com

  58. Temple3-

    Oh, you were using that integration barrier as your cutoff, so do we have to cut out the black players who played before the league was fully integrated? Because if Eddie has to go, doesn’t Hank too? He faced the same pitchers. If Eddie Mathews ever hit a homer off of Don Newcombe, does that one count? When did you say the cutoff was, sometime in the 60’s?

    See, from the way you quantified it in #40, I didn’t get that, you said steroids, cheating allegations and 1935 and all those guys I listed played some seasons after 1935 or, in the case of Ruth, weren’t known to cheat or use steroids, so I was just curious…

    Look I know baseball, along w/ America, has a tarnished legacy as regards to race but I’m not ready to throw out every stat accumulated before 1965. You just have to know the context in which everything was achieved and weigh it accordingly.

  59. In #40, I made a specific reference to segregation.

    Let me try to say this another way. Please bear with me.

    The stated premise of MLB at that time was that the Negro Leagues (and all Black players) were inferior. By implication, there was no need to integrate the sport OR play against Black players/teams. White players and white teams admitted to MLB were the best teams in the world.

    Following the logic of that argument, there would be no need to reject the stats of the few Black players who joined MLB in the 40s and 50’s. They were, ostensibly, playing against the BEST players in the world. Further, MLB has never put an asterisk on any of the pre-1947 or pre-1960-ish records…Among other things, this is a tacit admission that that period is deemed legitimate. (This is why I made specific reference to the Freedom House poll – 2 votes for South Africa).

    From where I sit, segregation era records are illegitimate – they’re just as fraudulent as slave-owning Patrick Henry’s protestation, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” From where you sit, the records may be as legit as Henry or any of the other “tarnished legacy.” That’s a luxury for you – were I do the same thing, I’d need a shrink. For me, it would be an exercise in self-negation. I don’t believe it’s a healthy thing to do.

    Getting back…Killebrew is the ONLY guy with more than 550 who played in this “critical mass era” with more than 550 homers. He’s the only one with no known association to amphetamines (Schmidt), steroids (McGwire). Only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Matthews are close because their careers began in the 1950’s.

    So, the point is really simple. MLB asserted whites were better ball players and placed priority on a homerun record established in an all-white league in 1935. It is also worth wondering why it took MLB so long to integrate BLACK power hitters and pitchers into the game. The evolution of Willie Mays as a supreme power hitter must have shocked more than a few people. Hank Aaron began his career as a shortstop – same for Ernie Banks. The dearth of Negro League power hitters and pitchers on the integration path had the consequence of preserving the visible “white face” of the game. The idea of integrating baseball with middle infielders should be just a bit surprising – but I don’t know how far you want to look down the rabbit hole. Would Satchel Paige have displaced the famous white pitchers of his era if he didn’t have to wait so long for admission? Probably. And he was not the only Black pitcher with the capacity to play. Since 1935, one player who could have played in 1935 has hit more than 550 homers without cheating. If that’s immaterial to you, that’s fine – but we live in different worlds.

    That’s the only point. I’m not arguing those guys were not good ballplayers. I’m not arguing they could not compete against Black ballplayers or that striking out Jackie Robinson or homering off Newcombe didn’t matter. Hardly.

    I’m simply suggesting that for many, many people (MLB and the selected portions of the MSM) the REAL home run king will always be Babe Ruth. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t integrate the league in 1947 on the basis of “race” and STILL honor “whites-only” records – unless you have a psychopathic racial personality…

  60. In the beginning of my last post, I meant to add Satchel Paige after Buck Leonard.

  61. T3–

    That was some dinner…but I digress.

    1.) I’m interested as to why you feel that way about infield GG’s; seems to me they get more chances and it should be easier to judge defense and not allow offense to skew the vote Vizquel’s a good example of that…or maybe that’s what you meant and I misread it a bit.

    2.)DWil stole my thunder a bit here, but assists isn’t the best way to adjudge OF fielding prowess. He’s pointed to Manny, who benfits from being able to play at softball depth in that ridiculous Fenway LF, but I’ve got an example here in Chicago: Fonzie Soriano. This kid had 22 assists last year; he’s got eleven this year. Don’t run on Fonzie. However, when there’s a flyball hit to left, I cringe and fugeddabowdit with hard groundballs into LF. That said, though, Tony was 100 times the defensive OF that either of those guys are in their wildest dreams, which is a large part of why he took home a few GG’s.

    3.) We’re in total agreement here.

    4.)Again, I’m going with DWil here. My recollections of Murphy are of an excellent offensive player and a slightly above average defensive player, who made up for a lack of range with a great arm. Wierdly enough, ATL’s got his near carbon copy in Francouer.

    5.) I’m going to concede most of the rest of your argument. Again, thanks for oushing me on this. You’ve defintely forced me to reconsider my evaluative standards on GG awards. Finley wasn’t a power hitter, but he hit .300 and stole bases, as well. Lotsa SC appearances..and Grissom, at least as I remember, was such a spectacular defensive player early in his career that to not give him the award would’ve been cause for public ridicule.

    6.) DWil, I’ll grant that Edmonds was a plus defensive player, but his theatrics were nauseatingly transparent and, as you’ve stated, he had competition that were far superior to him.

  62. Jimmy Paz Says:

    We started off debating the relative merits of Ruth, Mays, and company, and finished discussing Jim Edmonds and Marquis Grissom! What???? Temple3 makes many excellent points about the quality of all-white baseball. Ultimately, what gives pre-1947 baseball its status as “major league baseball” is simply that the mainstream media of the day treated it that way, and that records and statistics exist which document extensively what happened from 1870 to 1947. Many scholars have done yeoman-like work trying to reconstruct a similar “encyclopedia” for the Negro leagues, but far too much was probably lost to give us an equally good picture of black baseball. So we’re stuck with what we’ve got. Most of us have mental “asterisks” for periods of baseball history, but all we’re really doing is evaluating the records of previous eras as products of their times. Failure to understand the historical context in which performances were accomplished has certainly led to some misunderstandings: players like Earl Averill and Chick Hafey are in the HOF mainly because Hall voters in a later era were overly impressed with their Batting Averages, failing to understand that everyone had a high batting average in the 1930’s. They weren’t bad players, but they probably would not be HOFers if their numbers were understood in the context of their times. Which leads me to Babe Ruth. Even taking every “but” into account (“but he didn’t play against the best competition”; “but he didn’t play night games”; “but he played in a ballpark built to his specifications”; “but he didn’t face relief specialists”; “but he played in an era in which balls which bounced into the seats were homeruns”; etc. etc. etc.)–even taking all of this into account, the Babe’s numbers are still astonishing, and he would have to be rated among the five greatest players ever. The same has to be said for Ted Williams, especially considering the prime years he lost to military service (a “but” which favors Williams’ place in the pantheon). Willie Mays obviously belongs, even though several people have correctly noted his relatively low OBP. I have to put Barry Bonds on the list. His numbers, like Ruth’s, are truly astonishing, even if you add “but he was on steroids” (a qualification which I most certainly would NOT make). It seems to me that from here on, the argument gets murky. Every candidate for the fifth spot (not considering pitchers) has serious weaknesses. I’ve never understood why most people put Aaron here. He was a truly great player, but most of his records are the result of longevity (which for some reason is held AGAINST Bonds). I rate Musial and Frank Robinson over the Hammer. With a gun held against my temple, Alex Rodriguez is the player with whom I would round out my top five. One of the contexts in which a player has to be evaluated is the position he played, and A-Rod had probably six of the ten greatest seasons a shortstop has ever had. And a couple of big “buts” figure into evaluating him: Yankee Stadium is a very inhospitable yard for a right-handed power hitter; and Yankee management’s ridiculous decision to move A-Rod to third base in order to accomodate the hugely over-rated Derek Jeter not only cost A-Rod some of the kudos due to him, but probably cost the team a championship or two. So there it is: Bonds-Ruth-Williams-Mays-Rodriguez. Pitchers? Roger Clemens and Lefty Grove tower over all of the rest. Take your pick from a big group for the final three spots. As long as you don’t include the hugely-hugely-hugely-hugely over-rated Nolan Ryan from a list of the usual suspects, I’ll probably go along with you.

  63. Nice post Jimmy. Some gems in there.

    PM – that was some dinner.

  64. kulturejam Says:

    Jimmy Paz is my name. Kulturejam is the name of my blog. Just a note, since I have in other posts laid into Mitch Albom for plariarism. I wrote my first comment here before jweiler posted on August 8, even though this post is dated August 10. Many of the ideas I expressed are also contained in jweiler’s article. The similarities are, I hope, due to the fact that my opinions are pretty commonsensical, and it should be no surprise that they have occurred to others. I had not read the jweiler post when I wrote this. Despite the August 8 date, jweiler’s post didn’t appear on the website until several days afterwards, I think.

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