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.