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Baseball: Roberto Clemente

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posted on Oct, 3 2005 @ 06:57 PM
Taking on an icon is always dangerous, and I apologize up front for any feelings I offend. Also, let me acknowledge the obvious--i.e., that Roberto Clemente was a tremendous humanitarian who died by far the most heroic death of anyone in the MLB Hall of Fame, and probably of anyone in the history of baseball.

But is he an "overrated PLAYER"? Absolutely. In fact, I think that by current standards, he's the most overrated player of all time. And I am more than ready to make my case.

As Bill James says in his recent magnum opus--which rates the Top 100 of all time at each position, and the Top 100 of all time total, including Negro Leaugers (see Oscar Charleston)--Clemente never hit 30 HR's in a season, made a ton of throwing errors and had horrible strikeout-to-walk ratios. Yes, his batting average was often very high, but he would not take a walk, so his lifetime on-base-percentage was a mediocre .359.

Do you have any idea how many players, including nobodies like Gene Tenace and Mickey Tettleton, had better lifetime on-base percentages than .359? If you made a list of everyone, it would be enormous... probably over 500. And since Clemente averaged fewer than 14 HR's per season in his 18-year career--he played over 100 games in every season, too--he didn't make up for his mediocre on-base percentage with great power stats. Indeed, although he had the second-highest career triples total since WWII (behind Musial), his career slugging percentage was .475, miles behind Mays, Mantle and Aaron, which makes those oft-heard comparisons frankly a little difficult to swallow for those of us who saw and remember Mays, Mantle and Aaron.

And it doesn't end there.

Most experts consider either runs scored and RBI's, or slugging percentage and on-base percentage, the two most important stats in baseball. If you add up the number of times Clemente led the National League in any of those four stats, do you know what number you get? Try zero. That's right: Clemente never led the NL in ANY of those categories. Not once.

Now, for those of you not old enough to remember Forbes Field, let me acknowledge it gave Clemente a lot of his triples and cost him a lot of HR's. It was second only to Griffith Stadium (Washington's home park) as a bad park for hitters. But if you compensate for that, Clemente gets what, maybe 60-80 more HR's, for a career total of 300-320, and loses a bunch of those triples. It will not significantly alter his career numbers, except to perhaps give him a slugging title--whereas it would have hugely altered the numbers of the more powerful Willie Stargell, probably giving him 600 HR's.

So I think I've pretty well established that "Clemente the fearsome slugger" is hugely overrated, as are his batting titles. Don't you agree, in light of everything I've shown? I mean, assume that all the facts I've set forth above are accurate--which they are--and how do you deny that Clemente was not that great offensively?

As for baserunning, yeah, Clemente got his 166 triples, but he got only 440 doubles, and his career ratio of stolen bases to caught stealings was 83-46, which is less than 2-1 and not worth the effort--a fact not understood then, but well understood now.

That leaves Clemente the right fielder. First off, NO right fielder can be worth as much to a team as people make Clemente out to have been. Bill James and others have conclusively shown that hitting is more important than fielding, even for middle infielders. Read them. I didn't believe it at first, either, but it's inarguably true. Second, at left field, right field or first base, it isn't even close. Take the hitter over the fielder every time.

And Clemente wasn't as phenomenal and flawless a fielder as people make him out to have been. In fact, he may only have been the third best defensive right fielder born in the year 1934. His career fielding percentage, .973, was 12.5% WORSE than the league average. Hank Aaron's was 16.7% higher than the same league's average. Al Kaline's was 30% higher than the AL's average.

Now, I was around and a rabid fan back then, and I can assure you that yes, a lot of people really did stop at second or stop at third because of Clemente's arm. It was well worth the extra 12.5% of errors he made, and then some. There is a good case to be made--and James accepts the case--that Clemente was a better fielder than Kaline or Aaron. But certainly not by much. And James himself explains, at length, how limited the value of a right fielder's arm is, in the context of runs prevented per year. Take that number, subtract the number of runs allowed by the excess throwing errors, and we're not talking about that big a deal.

Meanwhile, in the case of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Mel Ott, we're talking about guys who created 5 to 10 times the number of extra runs on offense that Clemente saved in the field. It is my opinion that Tony Gwynn, Pete Rose (who played more games in RF than anywhere else), Reggie Jackson and Paul Waner were also clearly superior to Clemente as players, and that Dave Winfield and a couple of others probably were as well.

I will grant that Jackson, Waner and Winfield are matters about which reasonable baseball fans could disagree. I don't think Gwynn and Rose are, and I'm certain the first four aren't, and that's just in right field. In center field, not even counting some extremely talented current players, you have guys like Cobb, Speaker, Dimaggio, Mays and Mantle (chronologically arranged), none of whom Clemente was within 10 miles of as a player.

I hope someday I am as great a human being as Clemente was. I'm sure most people who read these things feel the same way about themselves. But the idea Clemente was one of the 10, 20 or 30 greatest players of all time is just silly, and a review of all relevant stats leaves no room for rational debate on the subject.

Was he a very good player? Yes. Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Yes, but he's probably a below-average Hall of Famer, albeit nowhere NEAR as bad as Frankie Frisch's many pals, Lloyd Waner, Phil Rizzuto, etc., etc.

MLB has it right. They give an annual Roberto Clemente Humanitarian Award. That is as it should be. But if they are going to give awards for great right fielders, they must start with Ruth, Aaron, the greatly underrated Frank Robinson, Ott, at least a few others, and only then get to Clemente.

Sorry, but it's an inescapable fact.

Baseball History Nut

posted on Oct, 3 2005 @ 08:42 PM
great reply to an other wise wasted thread, welcome to the site baseballhistorynut, hope to see many additional posts such as this one, how do you think that Ichiro stacks up on the all time right fielder list?

[Edited on 10/3/2005 by toejam]

posted on Oct, 4 2005 @ 12:34 AM
Thanks for the show of respect to me, a rookie on this site.

The obvious criticism of Suzuki is the same as my initial one of Clemente as a hitter: He doesn't walk, averaging 726 plate appearances and only 46 walks per season, coming into this last year. But first of all, that's an easier sin to forgive in a .332 hitter than it is in a .317 hitter, and indeed for that very reason, Suzuki has a .378 on-base percentage compared to Clemente's .359, a significant difference.

There are other, more significant differences. Whereas Clemente's base-stealing abilities were poor (83 steals, 46 caught stealings; 64.35% success rate), Suzuki's are outstanding (190 steals, 56 caught stealings; a whopping 77.2% success rate). And Suzuki's fielding percentage is phenomenal, with only ONE-THIRD the number of errors the average A.L. right fielder would have posted in the same number of game's during Ichiro's seasons. His range figures are also excellent for a right fielder, as anyone familiar with his baserunning stats might expect, and thus his string of consecutive Gold Gloves is no surprise.

Can Suzuki ever rate among the very greatest right fielders (Ruth, Aaron, Robinson and Ott)?

I don't think so, unless he: (1) starts drawing walks and greatly increases his on-base percentage; or (2) somehow (legally) develops far greater home run power. His on-base percentage presently is slightly higher than Aaron's, slightly lower than Robinson's, many points lower than Ott's and almost 100 points lower than Ruth's (!). When you compare his power stats to those of the Big Four, I think it's evident he's not in their league.

But when all is said and done, I COULD see his being in the same league as Gwynn and Rose. He's a much better fielder than either of them ever was. Indeed, he may be the Richie Ashburn of right fielders--i.e., the guy who, regardless of whether he was actually the best defensive player ever at that position, had the best defensive stats there. His 5-year batting, OBP and slugging stats are slightly behind Gwynn's and well ahead of Rose's.

If he can play at the same level for another six to eight years, and it can be shown that he played with comparable skill before coming to the U.S., I would have no problem with his being rated in the same breath with those guys. His totals won't be anything like Rose's (because he won't play until he is 142, like Rose did), and he probably won't match Gwynn's averages, but his huge edges in the field and on the bases have to count for a lot.

A lot of people, of course, won't give him credit for anything he did in Japan. I admit I don't know enough about the quality of play in his league to know how much weight it deserves. Obviously the "Negro Leagues" deserved a lot of weight in their final years, since they produced Mays, Aaron, Banks and Campanella in their last few seasons. I rate Mays #1 at his position (over Cobb, Dimaggio and Mantle), Aaron #2 (behind the big guy), Banks around #5 or #6, and Campanella #1 or #2 (depending on whether you include Josh Gibson).

That Suzuki has nowhere near those guys' power is obvious. But should that mean he's disqualified? I mean, cogent cases can still be made for Ty Cobb as the greatest player at ANY position, or for Tris Speaker as the greatest overall centerfielder ever, and they didn't hit for much power even after the live ball came in. James rates Cobb #5 (#4 for MLB) and Speaker #11 (#9 in MLB), and I pretty much agree with him, except I think he overrated Walter Johnson by a lot.

BOTTOM LINE: It's too earlier to feel comfortable rating Suzuki among the all-time greats. It's like Pedro: If he has another 6 to 8 very-good-to-great seasons, he probably will be the greatest pitcher ever (due apologies to Lefty Grove and The Rocket), but who knows what will happen to Pedro's arm? Suzuki is not young, and I've no idea how he will perform in the next 6 to 8 years. But as I've said, if he sustains the offensive and defensive pace of his first five years, I think he'll rate with Gwynn and Rose in the second tier of the greatest right fielders ever. You might persuade me that Ott--who was preposterously well-assisted by the Polo Grounds, and whose defensive skills were largely predicated on his ability to play the crazy angles of that wall--should be dropped into Tier Two with Ichiro.

Baseball History Nut

posted on Oct, 4 2005 @ 03:43 PM
Let me make a brief (I promise
) addendum to what I said about Ichiro. It's too brief for ME to rank Ichiro reliably. If someone has studied Japanese professional baseball thoroughly, and feels knowledgeable enough to compare what Ichiro's done there with what he's done here, then he's already played long enough to be ranked. But I frankly don't know nearly enough about Japanese pro baseball to do that.

I think I DO know enough about the Negro Leagues to give reasonably good rankings to Josh Gibson (catcher) and Oscar Charleston (CF), but not to Ichiro. I hope he plays long enough in MLB that this changes.

posted on Oct, 5 2005 @ 06:41 PM
hopefully Ichiro will be able to prove himself over the long run, living up here in Mariner country i get the chance to see him over the course of the season, his defense is second to none, and he has a cannon for an arm. this season was an off year for him in large part i believe due to the woeful team around him, he got away from his "hit em where they aint" batting style and looked to be trying to pull the ball more, at times he appeared to lose interest all together, although i don't have the stats to back it up it appeared to me that the number of infield hits he had this year were way down from past seasons, whether this is due to pitching, defense, or him losing a step i can't tell.

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 01:47 AM
Here's another current player to ponder for the all-time RF list: Gary Sheffield.

Sheffield has played far more games at RF than anywhere else. His career fielding percentage is 20% better than contemporary RF's, and his range is about 6% better. We've all seen his arm.

Meanwhile, his hitting is terrific. His career on-base percentage is 40 points higher than Clemente's; his slugging percentage is over 50 points higher. He has over 1400 RBI's, over 1400 runs and almost 900 extra base hits. His stolen base percentage is 69.35%, which is better than Clemente's, but it's under 70% and therefore not worth the effort, in my book.

So, on paper, you've got a guy who is far superior to Clemente, and who, although he doesn't belong in the rarefied air of the Ruth/Aaron/Robinson/and-maybe-Ott group, is at least good enough for the Gwynn/Rose group.

B U T . . . . There is a cloud the size of Romania hanging over Sheffield, isn't there?

Has this website ever had a protracted discussion about what should be done to steroid users in making all-time rankings, and about what the burden of proof should be when it comes to their alleged guilt? Sheffield has admitted using illicit substances, but has claimed, as far as I know, that he didn't realize the substances were in fact illicit.

I am a criminal defense attorney by trade. In a criminal trial, a defendant cannot be convicted unless his/her guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That burden of proof, however, does not apply in other cases. The normal burden of proof, such as in most civil cases, is "by a preponderance of the evidence"--i.e., by more than 50.00%. Another burden used in certain cases is "by clear and convincing evidence," which is something like 70 or 75%.

I am absolutely convinced a whole lot of MLB players accomplished their marvelous feats with banned substances--including McGwire, Sosa and Mr. Second Coming of Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds. I mean, you just don't get magically 3 times better than you were before, and 3 times stronger, after your 35th birthday. That's a fact. But is it evidence? Not really, or at best, only marginally.

Sheffield, on the other hand, has admitted using illicit substances but has claimed ignorance. That puts him in a whole different situation from someone whose alleged guilt is unsupported by evidence. In McGwire's case, we have Canseco's word that he intravenously used steroids. In Bonds' case, we have Sheffield's word, but only as to certain things.

The Hall of Fame admitted Gaylord Perry--which in my opinion was worse than admitting laughably underqualified players like Bottomley, Travis Jackson, Lindstrom, Rick Ferrell, George Kelly and all the others whose stats are jokes. I mean, since when does a guy who always admitted cheating, and whose agent solicited an advertising contract for him with Vaseline (who turned him down), get into the Hall?

I am sure the Hall will admit most of these steroid users, too. And in Bonds' case, as much as I personally hate the guy, even if it is proven he began using every known steroid in the year 2000, I think he should be elected. As Bill James said in his huge book that was fortuitously written in 1999-2000, if Bonds' career had ended with the 1999 season, he would already have been the 16th greatest player of all time, and the 14th greatest player in MLB history. That being so, even if you ignore everything he's done since (as well you might), you've still got a first-year Hall of Famer.

But to how many others does that apply? Not very damn many.

In Sheffield's case, he was a rookie at age 19, had 100 RBI's only twice in his 20's, but has done so 6 years out of 7 in his 30's. He scored 100 runs once before hitting 30, and has done so 5 times since then. If you study the year-by-year career records of dozens of great hitters, you will find this is very atypical. It's not freakish, preposterous and unbelievable on its face, like Bonds' outrageous transition, but it IS mighty damn suspicious.

I'm not making this post because I have bottom-line opinions about Sheffield, or even about what should be done with Bonds, given the current state of the evidence. I'm making this post to solicit your opinion on these subjects, and hopefully the opinions of others. As much as I ponder these things, there are a lot of these matters about which I do not yet have firm opinions.

But I will tell you what I do believe:

MLB is going to put these guys in the Hall of Fame, except perhaps egregious cases like Canseco and Palmeiro. And they are going to honor "records" set during this, The Steroid Era, without an extensive investigation into the various "record" holders. And I hate that fact.

But when we start talking about where players should rate on all time lists.... Guess what? WE are in control, and I do not think someone whose career feats are substantially tainted by probable steroid use should be eligible for our lists. So even though I would otherwise rate McGwire at least #3 at first base, and probably #2 (yes, I'd probably put him ahead of Foxx), I'm not putting him on my list at all. Ditto Sosa, whose career took off miraculously after 8 or 9 mediocre years. And ditto a lot of others.

What do you think, my correspondent friend? Should we not leave these guys off our all-time greats lists--whether ranked by position, or on the master list of the very greatest of all time--unless they are like Bonds and earned their way there before any suspicious behavior occurred? Or should we go farther and, as Frank Robinson suggests, simply erase the stats of guys like Palmeiro? (THAT I have an opinion on: No.)

Baseball History Nut

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 08:23 AM
if you do a search for "steroids" on the main page you will see that there are quite a few threads on the subject, my opinion in a nutshell is that any steroid or HGH user should be banned and his stats erased, i don't buy the "not knowingly" argument at all, they are either very stupid or it's a "don't ask" situation, of the two i would suspect the latter but i think that they well know what they are doing when they do it, as i said in one of the other threads i think it is very sad to think that Jose Canseco was the only honest man in that hearing room.

as a defense attorney what do you think of the plea bargain arrangment with BALCO? i feel that they got off way too light and a wealth of information was lost when they let them off the hook, we could have had names, dates, and maybe even enough info that a test for HGH and whatever else is out there could be developed.

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 02:02 PM
I played poker for a living while I was in college (1,000 years ago), and I play small-stakes poker for fun every now and then late at night on the Net. There is an ex-MLB pitcher, whom I'll not name, who now pitches in Japan, plays poker on the Net and says you wouldn't believe the extent of steroid and HGH use in MLB. He also says it's gone on a lot longer than just this century. I believe him.

I despise the fact MLB has done nothing about HGH. I was a History major who, paradoxically, scored 800 on my Math SAT but--trust me--would have scored 200 on a Chemistry or Physics SAT, had there been such a thing.
So I've no clue about whether, or how, one could test for HGH. But I DO believe, as you appear to, that a test could be devised, especially with BALCO's help. And I certainly believe it should have been banned by MLB all along.

The problem, of course, is that Selig et al. loved the huge spike in attendance which all the HR's, and especially the Ruthian HR's of Bonds and McGwire, brought them. So they did nothing and pulled that pitiful see-no-evil, etc., routine before Congress... until they got creamed for it. They and the players' union have destroyed the integrity of one generation of the game, and in so doing, have destroyed the integrity of a bunch of hallowed records.

I take it you agree McGwire, Sosa, Canseco, Palmeiro, etc., should not see the Hall of Fame or have any of their records stand. And apparently you feel that should apply to Sheffield, also. I think I agree with you, which is why I did not include him on my list of greatest right fielders; otherwise, he clearly belongs on that list. But as much as I detest Bonds--and I don't think any member of this forum detests him more than I do--I believe he should get in the Hall of Fame on the basis of his pre-2000 career feats. Like Bill James said, he was already one of the 14 greatest MLB players, and one of the 16 greatest total baseball players, before 2000.

It's not like he threw baseball games, which obviously should bring a permanent ban from the Hall. As long as Perry is in the Hall, it's hard for me to see why Bonds shouldn't be. In fact, Bonds got there legitimately and THEN apparently cheated. Perry cheated throughout his career. He is the more likeable of the two, but how relevant should that be? There are a lot of people in the Hall who are/were more detestible than Bonds, not just Cobb and Hornsby.

As for Bonds' marvelous "records" in HR's, slugging, on-base, etc., however, I would toss those out as soon as the available body of evidence made me comfortable in doing so, which is probably right now. Ditto the feats of McGwire and Sosa, who would become the HR kings if Bonds' 2001 season were tossed. The difference is, if you throw out their tainted feats, there ain't a whole lot left.

As for the plea arrangement with BALCO, it's a rare day when the government makes plea bargains with dealers in order to nail users. With that said, I am in the once-in-a-lifetime position of agreeing with Dubya. I'm more concerned with preserving the integrity of the game than I am with punishing BALCO, so I want to know as much as possible about who got these substances. I also want guys who lied under oath to be imprisoned for perjury.

Last, I agree that in order for BALCO to get the gift deal they got, they should have been made to provide every last bit of possible information, which sure as hell doesn't appear to have happened. My opinion as to why they got off so leniently is a political one, reflecting on the integrity and plutocracy of the current regime, and it's probably best that nobody, let alone a newcomer, start a heated political exchange on this sports website, so I'll leave it at that.


posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 06:27 PM
since we don't know when Barry started using, we have no way of telling how many of his stats are skewed or to what extent, although the numbers indicate otherwise he could well have been dirty his entire career, there is no way to delete the affected hits, homers, etc. from the good ones so i say throw them all out, this goes for Sheffield, Giambi, and anyone else who tests postive. While HGH wasn't specificaly banned by baseball at the time no one knew it existed, it is possible that we still would not know of it's existance if it wasn't for the track coach who turned some of it in.

I agree that baseball turned a blind eye towards the problem until it was backed into a corner, the strike did a tremendous amount of damage and it needed something to get it back in the spotlight and fannies back into the seats. monstrous home runs served it's purpose very well.

Playing pro baseball or any pro sport is a dream very few of us will ever know, it is a privilege not a right, for the athletes to put themselves above the game and the fans is to me the worst of abuses, pro sports need to take some drastic steps to restore their integrity and the players and their unions should recognize this and realize that it is in everyones best interest to clean up the mess.

posted on Oct, 19 2005 @ 06:04 PM

Originally posted by toejam
hopefully Ichiro will be able to prove himself over the long run, living up here in Mariner country i get the chance to see him over the course of the season, his defense is second to none, and he has a cannon for an arm. this season was an off year for him in large part i believe due to the woeful team around him, he got away from his "hit em where they aint" batting style and looked to be trying to pull the ball more, at times he appeared to lose interest all together, although i don't have the stats to back it up it appeared to me that the number of infield hits he had this year were way down from past seasons, whether this is due to pitching, defense, or him losing a step i can't tell.

Dear ToeJam,

I have a question about Ichiro, of whom you're obviously a big fan:

Why in the world does he not play CF?

He seems to have tremendous foot speed, is arguably faster from home to first than Mickey Mantle was (the ultimate litmus test), and, from what I can see, just about flies around the outfield. The AL's bigger center fields are tailor-made for his howitzer arm.

Bill James says that if you have a guy with speed but no arm, he's a left fielder; if you have a guy with an arm but no speed, he's a right fielder; and if you have a guy with both, he's a center fielder. That's an obvious oversimplification, but Ichiro has both in spades.

Is he unable to get a decent break on the ball? That was why Dwayne Murphy played CF and won Gold Gloves for the A's in the early 80's, while Rickey Henderson played LF. That's the only explanation I can think of here, too. Otherwise, why is Ichiro not in center field?

The guy who starts there for Seattle is not nearly as far ahead of the league average fielding percentage for CF's as Suzuki is ahead of the league average for RF's. In fact, although 2005 was an alleged "off year" for Suzuki, the average AL RF erred on 1.8% of his plays; Suzuki erred on 0.6% of his, i.e., ONE-THIRD the league average. And he is still awesome on the bases, with 33 steals to 8 caught stealings, and with 12 triples--the SECOND-HIGHEST total in the AL.

Why in the world is he not in CF, where he'll get so many more plays? CF's arms are worth a great deal, too, you know. In fact, do you know who holds the record for most career assists by an outfielder? Tris Speaker, the man who was the unquestioned greatest defensive CF of the first half of the 20th Century, and who many old men told me, when I was a young boy in the Bay Area in the early 60's, was a better defensive CF than Mays.

It's hard for me to believe that last statement, but then again, I'm hopelessly biased in Mays' favor and I obviously never saw Speaker. What I DO know is that, in addition to having the most doubles of anyone ever, and in addition to having the second-highest career batting average of any post-1900 player who played a full career (Hornsby basically quit at age 34), Speaker was undoubtedly a sensational CF and threw a hell of a lot of baserunners out... more than anyone else in MLB history.


I understand why Clemente didn't play CF. He wasn't fast enough. No way, and especially not in cavernous Forbes Field, where it was 457 feet to deepest CF. But Ichiro looks fast as greased lightning. Why the hell is he being largely wasted in RF, my friend? I have looked at his RF totals and seen what a huge number of putouts he gets there. I can only imagine what he would get in CF.

Baseball History Nut & Unregenerate Hippie Dude

posted on Oct, 19 2005 @ 09:00 PM
Clemente might be overrated, but i thik the reply on him was a bit misleading. His career oba of .359 isn't mediocre. The league avg during his 18 years was .327. Clemente played 14 of his 18 years facing pitchers on a high mound, in a terrible park , and in a poor scoring environement. True he didn't walk enough, and have Aaron power, but he still was great. From age 28 on, he never had a ops+ under 135. His early years (his 1st 5), hurt his overall numbers. Even James ranks Clemente as the 9th best RF ever. Clementes overall win shares, his peak years (3 and5), are very good ops+ wise and win share wise. And i have even heard some former pitchers say he was the best they faced (i don't agree there) Aaron/Mays. And for the record, runs and rbis are team dependent. Clemente in 67 did lead the NL in runs created.

posted on Oct, 20 2005 @ 05:51 AM

I agree with you about runs and RBI's, which is to say, I'm of the school of thought that slugging and OBP are the two biggest stats, because runs and RBI's depend heavily on your team.

EXHIBIT A: Look at the RBI stats, including RBI-per-AB, of Lou Gehrig. Now, Gehrig was a great hitter and is still my choice for the #1 all-time 1B (pending the ends of several careers, especially that of Albert Pujols, during this Periclean age of 1B-men we seem to be having). But Gehrig wasn't within a mile of Ruth's ability. Yet, if Gehrig hadn't gotten ALS at age 35, he would own the RBI record by plenty. Guess why? Babe Ruth, plus great leadoff men equal opportunities for a zillion RBI's. (Remember, Ruth's batting average was "only" .344, while his career OBP was .474, I think.

But it all comes out the same, anyway, and I think you're simply WRONG about Clemente's .359 career on-base percentage. The website I use shows 100 players with a career OBP of .3902 or higher, which means there are many hundreds more, like the two nobodies I named in my original post, between Clemente and .390.

He won all those batting titles, and yet his career OBP was 25 points lower than Mays' and a whopping 62 points lower than Mantle's. And trust me, I was an enormous Giants' fan back then (as a kid), and they didn't intentionally walk Mays to pitch to McCovey often. In fact, starting with McCovey's rookie year (1959), Mays got 62 intentional walks the rest of his career.

Once you realize my point was to say Clemente is wildly overrated by these guys with him on their Top 10 or Top 20 all-time players lists, your answer proves my point. In an effort to validate your position, you cite a leading authority (in my mind, THE leading authority) who says Clemente is only the 9th greatest ever in right field.

In the interest of honesty, let me update you on that one. James previously had Clemente at 9th, but in his huge update in the 2000-2001 book, he moved him up to 8th and dropped Waner to 9th, a decision which I think is clearly defensible, but wrong.

Anyway, I don't find fault with putting Clemente 8th, and you might even persuade me that he should supplant Reggie Ho ging in 7th, although I doubt it, because that probably just be my hatred of the Yankees acting up. I would put Kaline ahead of him (James previously did, but has now inexplicably dumped him to 11th).

Basically I can see arguable justification for rating Clemente as high as 7th in RF (I'd never put him ahead of Gwynn or Rose, let alone the Big Four). I would rate Clemente anywhere from maybe 9th (charitably) to maybe 12th or 13th (check out Dave Winfield, WSam Crawford, etc.)..

But please understand: My problem is not whether Clemente is the 8th greatest MLB RF of all time or the 14th. My problem is the enormous number of idiots running around comparing him to: (1) Mickey Mantle, who was the greatest young hitter since Jimmie Foxx; (2) Hank Aaron, who, please believe me, was a GREAT defensive RF, as well as the guy who owns a ton of important career power records; and (3) Willie Mays, who in my opinion was the greatest player since big #3 retired a couple of years too late (something Mays was destined to show us about, too).

And it's not just that Clemente doesn't belong in that list. He's not within a mile of it. Check out Kaline's career stats. 30% better than league average in errors, during his career. 159 more HR than Clemente, and while part of thas was "park effects," that sure as hell wasn't all of it, given Tiger Stadium's moster CF.

But I here these clowns on TV, who are not old enough to have seen Mays, Mantle, Aaron and Clemente, talk about Clemente and his empty batting average and his great arm and have the temerity to compare him to those other three. On the best day of his career, he wasn't in their league. Mantle's career on-base percentage was SIXTY-TWO points higher than Clemente's, and like Clemente, he played in a park which was cavernous everywhere except from straightaway right to the foul pole. And although many would disagree with me, I rate Mantle as the weakest of those other three (barely behind Aaron; well behind Mays).

There's no great shame in being the ninth greatest RF of all time. And if you reread what I wrote, you'll see I only listed 6 guys as being unquestionably better than him from that position: the big 4, plus Gwynn and Rose, and then I added a few others I believe were better. I note that you don't take issue with me on any of them. And I'm sorry, but a "great hitter" simply does not go his entire career without ever leading his league in runs OR runs batted in OR slugging OR on base.

I've already conceded the guy belongs in the Hall of Fame and was vastly better than many Hall members. I've already conceded Forbes Field hurt him, though not as much as Stargell and not as much as you appear to think. And I've conceded that despite his numerous throwing errors and lousy fielding percentage, his awesome arm really was as good as people say--a fact the young talking heads on ESPN have to take on faith.

My point is NOT that Clemente was mediocre. Again, I've conceded he belongs in the Hall, and I've NOT said he's not among the top 10 right fielders ever. I think it's real, real close between him and Waner as to who was better. But I see all these clowns who seem to think he's among the top 10 or 20 total players ever--and who seriously list him alongside the very greatest players ever.

I'm sorry, but THAT position is not merely indefensible. It is ignorant to the point of being a bad joke, and as James suggests, it is a "halo effect"--a matter of giving a great human being far too much baseball credit because of the great life he lived and the tragic, heroic death he died.

I still remember hearing the news of his death. I was 19. I wept. But I didn't all of a sudden decide the guy was a better player than Frank Robinson or Tris Speaker or Stan Musial or Hank Aaron or a whole bunch of other players he couldn't touch.

Baseball History Nut

posted on Oct, 20 2005 @ 03:17 PM
P.S. Please forgive the horrid spelling on the previous post. It was written while I was on sleep medication, at something like 2 or 3 a.m. I actually write for a living and hold a J.D., so I'm not nearly as illiterate as that post would make me appear. Reading it this afternoon (it's now 2:30 p.m., a much better time for writing.), I'm aghast at the spelling errors.

Baseball History Nut

posted on Oct, 20 2005 @ 03:47 PM
wasn't Clemente one of if not the first of the Carribean stars in baseball? this would also add to his popularity and charisma

bhn...i am not ignoring your question on Ichiro, the answer is i don't know, i have been talking to other guys who are fans and throwing around some theories on the subject, when i get time i will post my ideas on why he doesn't play center field

posted on Oct, 20 2005 @ 07:15 PM
Dear Toejam,

OK. I will await eagerly your thoughts on Ichiro's not being in CF.

Your suggestion about Clemente is interesting. I think it's not an overstatement to say Clemente was to the Caribbean what Oscar Charleston was to Cuba. Now, Clemente was not 1/5 the player Charleston was. MANY knowledgeable people regard Charleston as the greatest baseball player ever, and no less than John McGraw reportedly called him that. A major Negro League player said that although Willie Mays was the greatest Major Leaguer he'd ever seen, Charleston was the greatest baseball player he'd ever seen. And James says that, while it's impossible to rank Charleston reliably without head-to-head records, he may be #1. James has put him at #4, AHEAD OF TY COBB & MICKEY MANTLE.

But you're talking about being a beloved figure in a country or region, right? Any review of literature will show Charleston, who was born only one year after Babe Ruth, is still a widely revered figure in Cuba all these years later. And I, now at the age of 52, am confident Clemente will be a widely revered figure in the Caribbean decades (or even centuries) after I'm dead and buried.

I don't know enough about Charleston-the-Person to know if he deserved that kind of saintly adulation. Maybe it was mainly based on outraged wondering of how this man, only a year Ruth's junior and reputedly the equal of Speaker in CF and Cobb on the bases, would have fared against Ruth if given the chance. He was said to be a Ruthian slugger, and, like Ruth, was a natural left-handed hitter who hit for a great average with outrageous power. He, and not Josh Gibson, was the Negro Leagues' greatest position player. I, too, will always wonder how he and Ruth would have compared, had they been teammates in Yankee Stadium, or even just fellow members of the American League....

Anyway, I've read enough to know how greatly Charleston was revered in Cuba. I don't think it was just because he was perhaps the greatest baseball player ever, but it might be because he was the first Cuban player who could stand with ANY player in MLB.

Since I don't know of any Caribbean major leaguers prior to Clemente who were comparable to him in skill, just as I know of no Cubans (even today) remotely comparable to Charleston, I think you are on to something, Toejam. He had to be a source of real pride and inspiration, and I'm sure that added to the adulation.

But I think the big thing is his death. How many 38-year-old bigtime stars would have taken the risk he took? For that matter, how many were/are humanitarian enough even to care about such matters? To fly in a rickety old death trap of a plane, in a noble and selfless cause, and pay the ultimate price...?

My Top 5 players of all time, pending the retirements of a number of current players, are: Ruth, Mays, Aaron, Cobb and Mantle, in that order. (Sorry, but I don't buy Bonds' post-age-35 stats.) I know quite a bit about all five men, and a great deal about Ruth and Cobb. I can't see any of those five (except maybe, just maybe, Aaron) doing anything remotely like what Clemente did.

On the other hand, Toejam, he WAS an enormous national hero before he set foot on that g.d. plane. I don't think it's an overstatement to say that December 31, 1972 was, for people in the Caribbean, comparable to what December 8, 1980 (the date of John Lennon's assassination) was for American and European people of my generation. And as a lifelong Beatles maniac, believe me, I know how big a statement that is.

Baseball History Nut

posted on Oct, 20 2005 @ 09:34 PM

What do you think of the Oscar Charleston rating dilemma?

Myriad reliable sources who saw him compared him to Speaker as a CF. That's the gold standard for the first half of the century.

Myriad reliable sources compared him to Cobb as a baserunner, except that Charleston was a human being. That's the gold standard, too.

And yeah, hitting is a lot more important than fielding or baserunning. But more than a few contemporaries suggested Charleston was either Ruth's equal as a hitter or, at least, not all that far short of Ruth and the same TYPE of hitter: left-handed, got on base a lot, and had the kind of devastating power that destroyed a pitcher's morale when he really got hold of one.

As you doubtless know, James puts him 4th all time, behind The Big Guy, Wagner and Mays. I think James is right in rating Wagner #1 at SS. It took some doing to convince me Wagner should go ahead of Ozzie, but James persuaded me. But I think James has Wagner WAY too high on the overall list (#2, ahead of Mays!). So I can see putting Charleston at least as high as #3, if not #1 or #2.

What do you think, TOEJAM?


posted on Oct, 20 2005 @ 09:37 PM
P.S. Feel free to place the previous post in a new category titled "Oscar Charleston." If you do, I'll put in some of the enormously adulatory praises from major leaguers and Negro Leaguers which James quotes in his big book. They're really all quite overwhelming. And maybe this immortal, who is possibly the greatest player ever, can get the kind of discussion he deserves.

posted on Oct, 22 2005 @ 08:23 PM
BASEBALLHISTORYNUT, i agree Clemente isn't with Aaron, Mays, Mantle. Not sure where you hear this? But i disagree i was wrong on the .359 oba. Just because 100 guys are .390 or better, doesn't mean they were better hitters. You have to look at the context of a given stat. A .359 in Clementes era is worth about a .390 oba now. Clemente could have walked more true, but runs created is what matters. And he's about 2 runs over league average. Clemente/Kaline a push to me.

Career ops+
Kaline 135
Clemente 130

best 3 years (peak)
Clemente 170/168/158
Kaline 176/162/162

Kaline leads in career win shares (443-377), but he should, he had 401 more games.

best 3 years WS
Clemente 35/30/29
Kaline 31/31/30

best 5
Clemente 146
Kaline 130

their career rc/27 are about even
Kaline 6.53
Clemente 6.39

I like Clementes peak a hair more, but Kalines extra 400 games probably gives him career.

Leading in runs or rbis is trivial to me. Clemente finished 2nd in rbis twice, once losing title by 1 rbi. Clemente lead in something more important, runs created in 67. Finished 3rd once. Kaline never lead in runs created, but did finish 4th 4 times. In all fairness, Kaline didn't have Mays/Aaron to battle with. I clearly believe the NL wa the premier league in the 60's.

As far as your top 5, Bonds has to be the easy #2, not even a debate. Bonds is the only guy who's close to Ruth. I like Wagner in my top 5, with Aaron 9th. He was not top 5 imo.

posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 02:12 AM
Dear Hootie,

Once again, we're not all that far apart, except on one very big matter. (See below.)

But even if you convert Clemente's .359 all the way up to .390, as you very generously propose, he still has 100 guys ahead of him on the on-base-percentage list I saw. Now, because I'm hopelessly honest in these debates, let me point two things out:

(1) This list includes people who had as few as 1,500 at bats, I believe. I've always thought 10 seasons and 4,000 plate appearances should be a minimum, or at LEAST 3,000 PA; and

(2) The list includes active players, which is OK with me if they've had the three or four thousand PA's. Even then, though, it means they've not been through their "decline phase," as Bill James calls it. Then again, although this seems a vulgar reason to penalize Clemente's ranking, the fact is that HE never had his "decline phase," either, and so his career "average" stats (batting, slugging, on-base) must be discounted a bit, as must Gehrig's, because he had to retire immediately after his diagnosis.

In my original post, I only listed six RF's I thought were inarguably ahead of Clemente, then I listed a few others who in my opinion should rate ahead of him, putting him right around 10th, give or take a notch or two. I've always thought Ott is somewhat overrated, due to the preposterous disparity between his home and away HR stats (323-188, I believe, by far the most skewed of anyone in the 500 club, including even Banks), but he's still among the six who have to go ahead of Clemente.

I dislike Reggie Jackson so much it's hard for me to be fair in rating him, but HR's were so scarce at times in the 1970's, and he didn't hit many cheap Yankee Stadium bloopers, yet he retired in 6th place without the help of steroids. For all his obnoxiousness and zillions of strikeouts and, late in his career, Kingmanesque defense (who can forget that ball's hitting him in the chest in Game 4 of the 1981 Series?), those 563 HR's, 1702 RBI's and 5-to-2 BB edge on Clemente force me to put him ahead of Clemente, too.

The best cases I can make for Clemente over Waner are that Waner played in the 20's and 30's, while Clemente played his good years in the 60's, and that's not a good enough case, in my opinion, given all the statistical edges Waner has. (Basically, Clemente leads by .002 in slugging and by a lot in HR's; Waner leads in just about everything else.) Had Clemente played another 3 years, his "averages" deficits would have gotten a lot bigger. Waner's OF stats are measured alongside ALL OF's, so it's hard to compare the two defensively, but I would say two things: (1) As great an athlete and intense a player as Waner was, it's hard to believe he wasn't a very good outfielder; and (2) I've heard nothing to suggest Waner was to RF's what Speaker was to CF's, and you know I'd have heard about that if it were true, so obviously Clemente has a huge edge defensively.

I don't agree that leading in runs or rbi's is "trivial." You need to ponder Rickey Henderson's career a little before making such a strong and sweeping statement. But I've already said I agree with you that slugging and on-base are more important, and for the same reasons you appear to feel that way. In fact, I think they're quite a bit more important. And careful study will reveal many guys, like Gehrig, whose RBI stats are big-time inflated by other players on their team. (I pick Gehrig because he's the obvious example, but there are many others.)

I CERTAINLY agree the NL in Clemente's time was tougher than the AL on a player-by-player basis--and for the simple reason the AL was still basically a segregated league until the 1960's, and only integrated slowly then. The Bosox's first black player was the mediocre Pumpsie Green, in mid-1959, as their GM Pinkie Higgins had notoriously stated, prior to his death by drunk driving, "There'll be no n-----s on this team as long as I have anything to say about it." And Stengel, as much as I like him, never played Howard more than 67 games at catcher until Stengel's final year, 1960, when Howard was 31 (!) and Berra was 35. The year after Stengel's departure, Yogi played all of 15 games behind the plate.

Meanwhile, the NL had: Willie Mays, whom I rate as the #1 CF of all time (a hell of a distinction, when you look at the competition) and the #2 total player (see below); Aaron, whom I rate #2 in RF and #4 overall; Campanella, whom I rate #1 at catcher in MLB history and #2 if you include Josh Gibson; and Ernie Banks, whom I consider overrated, but still at least #7 at SS, and perhaps as high as #4.

The first person I recognize as African-American to be named Rookie of the Year in the AL was Tommie Agee in 1966. By that time, the NL had named: Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Willie Mays, Joe Black, Joe Gilliam, Frank Robinson, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams and the spectacular Dick Allen, who was, and still is, the best rookie I've ever seen.

Yeah, we safely can say the talent pool was deeper in the NL.

Finally, as for Bonds:

It is preposterous to say there's "not even a debate" as to whether he deserves to be #2. In my mind, there's a debate whether he deserves to be rated in the top 1,000, although you'll see that I think so.

As people who read my first few posts here know, I make my living as a criminal defense lawyer. I needn't be reminded of the "reasonable doubt" standard. But we're not in a courtroom now, much less a criminal courtroom, and Bonds' use of b.s. to make himself magically much bigger and stronger needn't be proven by mountains of evidence.

I don't believe in The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy or baseball players who suddenly get twice as strong and twice as good as they've ever been after their 35th birthday. I didn't believe it even before BALCO and Bonds' trainer went down, nor did I believe in Sosa's magic transformation from a reasonably good player to a phenom, nor in McGwire's hitting baseballs like they were golf balls.

As you probably know, Bill James fortuitously wrote his giant magnum opus where he ranked position players from 1 to 100 after the 1999 season, which is the time through which I am comfortable giving Bonds the benefit of the doubt. He rated Bonds as the 16th greatest player of all time and the 14th greatest MLB player. He then added that his rating of Bonds was based on what Bonds had done through 1999, and on the assumption Bonds' career would end with the 1999 season. The rating puts Bonds directly below Joe Morgan, who is James' (and my) choice for #1 at second base.

I agree with that rating of Bonds through 1999, give or take a couple of notches. He'd won 3 MVP's, and in my judgment should have won 4 in a row . . . and WOULD have won 4 in a row, were not he such a $#*@ and were not Pendleton such a nice guy.

This is why I disagree with the multitudes who say Bonds should be banned from the Hall. True, I/they/you don't know exactly when he began using, but I'm comfortable saying he was clean for long enough that he put up Hall of Fame numbers on his god-given merits, before the b.s. started. If he did cheat before the end of 1999, it was no less serious a level of cheating than what Gaylord Perry did, and they put his sorry ass in the Hall on the basis of FAR less talent and accomplishment.

But how naive need one be to believe that after being a superior, and clearly more disciplined and dedicated, version of his father for 14 seasons, Bonds suddenly became the second coming of Babe Ruth at age 36? There is nothing even remotely resembling any historical precedent for that.

Do I believe a player can:

(A) Play 14 years, rack up Hall-of-Fame stats in those years as a good power hitter, great on-base man and great baserunner, and hit home runs in 6.6% of his at bats; then

(B) At age THIRTY-SIX, suddenly spend the next FIVE years hitting home runs in 12.7% of his at bats, and erase Ruth's seemingly untouchable .847 slugging record, and annihilate Ruth's on-base record, and so forth?!?! Yeah, when pigs fly! Never mind his trainer's legal woes. Never mind BALCO's legal woes. And never mind what Sheffield had to say. Those stats are preposterous on their face, as was Bonds' posting of 3 slugging percentages in 4 years which nobody in MLB history not named Ruth had done once.

I don't believe it's legit and I cannot imagine what it would take to make me believe it's legit. Unlike Gaylord Perry, Bonds is someone I think legitimately belongs in the Hall, but there is no way I would consider his last 5 years in calculating my all-time best LF's, any more than I would consider among my LF's one Joe Jackson, who found a truly novel way to avoid the decline phase of his career.

posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 02:44 AM

Let me follow up a little more.

I see you put Aaron in 9th place. It appears you are taking James' approach of putting huge emphasis on big seasons, albeit not quite as strongly as James does.

I don't know how old you are, and thus how much of Aaron's career you remember. I am 52 and remember almost all of it, because I started following baseball when I was 5 and the Giants played their first season in S.F., bringing with them the best player since Babe Ruth. Don't think I didn't know how lucky I was. I remember thinking, "This must be what it was like to be 6 in New York in the 1920's."

Mantle was well ahead of Mays in career HR's by the early 1960's, and the question was whether HE would break Ruth's records. Then injuries, osteomyelitis [sp.?] and ceaseless hedonism took their tolls, and the question became, "Will Mays break Ruth's record?" Mays hit 89 HR in 1965-1966, but tailed off badly after that, hitting "only" 118 more HR in his last 7 seasons.

And all of a sudden, from out of nowhere, everyone realized that steady Hank Aaron--who'd never hit over 47 HR in a season, and whose early stats got killed by the graveyard in Milwaukee, but whose later stats were eating up Atlanta's launching pad--might just do it. And, of course, he did.

But Aaron: (1) had an oustanding 76% SB percentage; (2) was (believe me) a GREAT right fielder, who arguably was better than Clemente defensively, and certainly was better on paper; and (3) hit for an excellent combination of power and average. He was lucky in that he never had a major injury, didn't play with a dead ball, didn't lose years to military service, or any of the other things that screwed up the other great hitters. And in the negative departments:

(1) He never drew 100 walks in a season, which someone with 2,590 career runs created surely should have done a few times;

(2) His career OBP was only .374 as a result, and you'd expect a lot better from someone with his BA, HR's and runs created; and

(3) Of course, he hit into a ton of double plays, only recently getting to thank Ripken for breaking his career record.

That exhausts my list of bad things.

Meanwhile, this is a man who scored the exact same number of runs that Ruth did, even though he played in cavernous County Stadium in the late 50's and early-to-mid 60's. This is the career RBI leader, and there is no way that is a meaningless stat. I've never seen a career "runs created" list, but I'd assume that either Aaron or Cobb is #1; you tell me, please, and better yet, please tell me where to find the list of career "runs created" leaders.

And, of course, he's the career HR leader. However many HR's he gained in the launching pad, he lost a lot of others in Milwaukee, where it was 362 to straightaway left and right, 392 (!!) to LCF and RCF, and 408, I believe, to CF. He and Mathews HAVE to have lost serious numbers of HR's there, although Aaron, unlike Mathews, was around long enough to get them back in Atlanta.

I guess I just don't buy the idea that huge seasons render huge careers irrelevant. Aaron is the career leader in so many categories, and leads by staggering totals in categories like total bases and extra base hits (by 100 over Musial, I think), and--unlike Pete Rose--he didn't play until he was 45 years old, totally washed up, devoid of any pop, and a bad first baseman embarrassing himself, his team and the game before he retired.

I'm sure you have Ruth and Mays ahead of Aaron, and it sounds like you have Bonds and Wagner there, too. If I had to take a stab at who the other 4 are, I'd guess Cobb, Mantle, Ted Williams and, depending on whether you're including Negro Leaguers, either Oscar Charleston or Lou Gehrig.

How close am I?


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