posted on Apr, 12 2006 @ 11:49 PM
I cannot imagine any knowledgeable person's naming Williams as THE #1 greatest baseball player of all time (as opposed the #1 LF), and I don't buy the
idea he was the greatest hitter, either. The notion Ruth should get demerits because of segregation applies to Williams, too, because almost ALL of
the great black players in the 1940's and 1950's were in the NL. Elston Howard did not become the Yankees' regular catcher until 1961, the year after
Stengel was fired (and Williams retired).
Ty Cobb? Yes, I can still imagine an argument for him and I in fact know old people who have been lifelong baseball nuts and who still think he's #1.
But with Williams, you run right up against Babe Ruth, who was a similar and clearly superior player. Moreover, Williams had an atrocious
attitude. He was insouciant about both fielding and baserunning, even though he was dismal in both departments, and he was terrible with fans. Ruth,
until he neared the end and became very fat, was a terrific athlete and, by the clear majority of his contemporaries' opinions, a much better RF than
Cobb was a CF (not a big statement per se, since Cobb was an erratic CF, but an offensive run machine).
Williams was clearly one of the Top 10 of all time, as was Cobb. But it's easy to argue Cobb as the greatest of the Dead Ball players, whereas with
Williams, the people he goes up against not only include Foxx and Gehrig, but Mantle and Ruth. I think he wins the first two comparisons, but not the
last two, though with Mantle it's at least debatable. With Ruth, I emphatically believe it's not.
Bill James, if you're interested, has his latest Top 100 players of all time made up--including Negro League players, with Josh Gibson at #9 and the
incredible Oscar Charleston at #4, which, if anything, is probably too low.
But I can give you his Top 20 MLB players of all time--and the beauty of this is that he made this list as of the end of the 1999 season, which, in my
opinion, is the point through which we can safely say Bonds' stats were legit. In fact, James providentially made THIS statement prior to picking
Bonds' place among the top 20 MLB players of all time: "This rating is based on the assumption that his career ends with the 1999 season."
As far as I'm concerned, it did. What James has to say on that subject today, I don't know, but he obviously could not have foreseen the, ahem,
enormous change that was about to occur. Had he foreseen it all, I would like to believe he would not have rated Mark McGwire as the third greatest
first baseman of all time. I guarantee you I wouldn't and won't.
I know this new book says Bonds started using after 1998, but I watch their games regularly and did not notice ANYthing clearly different about his
size or strength in 1999. In 2000, it was very obvious, and by no means only on that home run off of Seth Etherton. And it became increasingly
flagrant as the season wore on.
Note there are NO catchers on this list. Note further that, though many experts agree with James, I disagree vehemently with his #2 choice. I do
agree with his top choice at 2B. I will put an (O) by those I think he overrates (ancients, all), an "O!" by those I think he vastly overrates, and a
"U" by those I think he underrates:
20. Cy Young (O)
19. Rogers Hornsby
18. Mike Schmidt
17. Grover Cleveland Alexander (O)
16. Lefty Grove (U)
15. Eddie Collins
14. Barry Bonds
13. Joe Morgan
12. Lou Gehrig
11. Joe DiMaggio
10. Hank Aaron (U)
9. Tris Speaker
8. Stan Musial
7. Walter Johnson (O!)
6. Ted Williams
5. Mickey Mantle
4. Ty Cobb
3. Willie Mays
2. Honus Wagner (O!)
1. Babe Ruth
Although I have been persuaded to agree with the ancient (1874-1955) Wagner as the #1 SS, I think putting him at #2 is silly. I also think Walter
Johnson is closer to the #7 pitcher than the #7 total player, and I think his stats for his 8 final seasons, starting at age 32 in 1920, when the live
ball came in, prove my point. The guy flourished in enormous Griffith Stadium, with excellent fielders, but the live ball changed him a lot.
But for the most part, I agree with this list. And as I've said elsewhere, as much as I detest Bonds (and, of course, Cobb and Hornsby), I think
Bonds' rating is appropriate--without regard to what's happened since the 1999 season ended.
When you look at the names Bonds is surrounded by there, you get a pretty good idea why I feel he should be treated differently from the myriad other
cheats. On his legitimate merits, he rates among the greatest players of all time--and if rating AHEAD of Schmidt, Collins, Grove and Hornsby, and
immediately behind Morgan, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Aaron, isn't good for a first-year Hall pass, I can't imagine what is.
[Edited on 4/13/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]