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posted on May, 6 2006 @ 01:04 AM
Picking up on a previous pair of posts:

"The Top 20 MLB Players of All Time," from Bill James' 2001 book:

20. Cy Young (1867-1955)
19. Rogers Hornsby (1896-1963)
18. Mike Schmidt (1949-)
17. Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887-1950)
16. Lefty Grove (1900-1975)
15. Eddie Collins (1887-1951)
14. Barry Bonds (1964-)
13. Joe Morgan (1943-)
12. Lou Gehrig (1903-1941)
11. Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999)
10. Hank Aaron (1934-)
9. Tris Speaker (1888-1958)
8. Stan Musial (1920-)
7. Walter Johnson (1887-1946)
6. Ted Williams (1918-2002)
5. Mickey Mantle (1931-1995)
4. Ty Cobb (1886-1961)
3. Willie Mays (1931-)
2. Honus Wagner (1874-1955)
1. Babe Ruth (1895-1948)

When I posted this previously, on April 12th in a thread titled "Is Winning Overrated?", BirdstheBest asked me about the fact there were "only five players (I think) who played their entire careers after 1950 (Schmidt, Bonds, Aaron, Morgan, and Mantle). And only two of those (Schmidt and Bonds) played their entire careers after 1970."

BtB was off by one year, since Willie Mays was a rookie in 1951--meaning there are all of SIX players on James' list who played their entire careers after 1950--but that is a trivial matter. One would hope there would be, at MOST, six players on the list who played their entire careers BEFORE 1951, with the remainder having straddled the year 1950 in their careers.

That is hardly the case.

Of the players on James' top 20, #'s 20, 19, 17, 16, 15, 12, 9, 7, 4, 2 and 1 were all retired before 1951. And player #11, Joe DiMaggio, retired after the 1951 season. So ELEVEN of James' greatest 20 were done before the second half of the century--with a 12th soon to follow--and, in fact, TEN of the 11 (all but Grove) were retired before 1940!!

Damn straight that troubles me, not least of all because James' views are pretty much typical and you can find MANY historians who give MORE credit to players from 1880-1940 than James does. Seriously.

In fairness, I would point out that players who started in 1990 or 1995--e.g., Pedro Martinez, if he finishes out anywhere near as well as he's done so far--can't make the list YET, but MAY do so eventually. Others in this group include Manny Ramirez, A-Rod and, of course, Clemens or Maddux. But James has gotten VERY hard on pitchers in the last 15 years or so. He once rated Grove as the #3 total PLAYER of all time. Now he's #16 in MLB history, #19 if you include Negro Leaguers. So don't hold your breath for the great modern pitchers to crowd their ways into this list.

Who else, besides Ramirez and A-Rod? Well, Pujols, of course.

But the clear thrust of this list is that players were better in the first 40% of the century--even though they lost three years to WW II. And I find that notion ridiculous and insulting to our collective intelligence.

Yeah, I absolutely believe the greatest player of all time was Babe Ruth, who played from late 1914 to early 1935. But I also believe Ruth towers above his contemporaries, including Gehrig--even though Gehrig is the #1 first baseman (until Pujols plays another 10 years, lol).

Here is what I would immediately do to James' list:

(A) Remove Cy Young (Dead Ball Era pitcher)
(B) Remove Grover Cleveland Alexander (ditto)
(C) Remove Walter Johnson (ditto, though he'd probably make my top 40)
(D) Quite possibly remove Hornsby, who, though a spectacular hitter, was a lousy fielder and a clubhouse cancer who was traded repeatedly and whose teams kept improving after he was traded--making it CLEAR what kind of effect his a.h. personality had on those teams. And:
(E) Although ALL experts rate Honus Wagner #1 at shortstop and say he is further ahead at that position than anybody else is at any other position, including Ruth in RF, I'm not sure I want him in my Top 20. To me, Cobb and Speaker are the Top 2 Dead Ball players, not Cobb and Wagner, and while unmistakable greatness is written all over the career numbers of Cobb and Speaker, I don't see it so clearly with Wagner.

So, BtB, to very belatedly answer your question...

YEAH, I am really troubled by the dominance of players from 1900-1950 (really, 1950), as opposed to 1951-2000, on James' list. And I'm even more troubled by the fact most experts have a GREATER tendency to go with those players than James does. Give James credit, at least, for excoriating the Hall for having inducted so many laughably unqualified players from the 20's and 30's. A lot of the other experts helped get those guys enshrined.

Perhaps I should put my money where my mouth is one of these days, and make my own Top 20 list--or, better yet, with my lists of my Top 5 Players of All-Time, in order, at each position. I will not attempt to incorporate Negro Leaguers in my ranking, although I will say it's clear to me that Josh Gibson is the #1 catcher of all time, and by a huge margin.

But I can guarantee you--and that's second-person plural--my lists won't be anywhere NEAR so loaded with players from 1900-1940. I'll have 3 out of 5 from that time period at 2B, but I think that's the only position where that will occur, and at some positions, it will be 1, if not zero.

I welcome input as to why all of these guys--including James, who made a huge, self-aggrandizing point of how he was the first to include and rank a significant number of Negro Leaguers--seem to think the 40 years from 1900 to 1940 outshine the 60 years from 1941 to 2000. Yeah, I agree with the unavoidable conclusions about Ruth and Grove. But I DON'T agree about all these "great" players and pitchers of the Dead Ball Era--whom, incidentally, James has ranked as the #'s 1 (Walter Johnson), 3 (Alexander), 4 (Cy Young), 7 (Mathewson), and 9 (Kid Nichols) pitchers of all time.

What a crock.

Anyway, BtB, there's the info both to fill out your question and respond to it, along with my opinions on what I consider a disturbing subject. I do realize that as football and basketball got more popular in the late 50's and early 60's, and as baseball began to cannibalize itself after the Flood case, the percentage of top athletes gravitating toward baseball plummeted. But:

(1) That does not explain the period from 1940-1965, when the quality of players was allegedly declining, if these rankings are to be believed; and

(2) In any event, I just don't believe, despite expansion galore, and despite top athletes' having more choices in good-paying sports, that the players of 1900-1940 were not only better, but THAT much better. Baloney!


posted on May, 6 2006 @ 11:21 PM
Thank you for that information. I always thought that baseball perhaps held its history a bit too dear. But that's what baseball markets. At times it is almost looked at as blasphemy if one tries to compare a recent player to a so-called legend of the first half of the century. Now Babe Ruth is definitely a true legend, to be sure, but I don't really think baseball (i.e. Bud Selig) would be acting this way regarding Barry Bonds's HR numbers if that #2 spot of 714 HR was held by someone else. Sure, there is strong evidence that Bonds took steroids at one time or another and that his numbers may be suspect, but if that 714 belonged to anyone else, there wouldn't be this reaction. Ruth is probably the most legendary figure in sports. I remember when Walter Payton passed Jim Brown in career rushing yards, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar passed Wilt Chamberlain in total points, and when Wayne Gretzky passed Gordie Howe total goals. Although Brown, Chamberlain, and Howe are all revered as legends in their particular sports, there really wasn't much of a ruckus over the records falling. In fact, the record-breaking was celebrated in all instances. Not so with Ruth. In 1961 the commisioner tagged Roger Maris's new HR record with an asterisk. Hank Aaron's breaking of Ruth's career record was not greated with enthusiasm. Now Bonds is about to supplant Ruth at #2, and baseball is reacting again.

posted on May, 15 2006 @ 07:58 PM
Babe Ruth is a lot more than just the most "legendary" figure in all of sports. He is LEGITIMATELY, and by a HUGE margin, the greatest player in baseball history. The only people who say otherwise are:

(1) People who know nothing about the subject;


(2) People who refuse to accept the utterly obvious about Bonds' feats since the start of the 2000 season--and I'm able to use that date because I live in Northern California and saw all of his games on TV until the end of 2004 (when I could no longer stand to watch him). No rational person could have seen the sea change in him in 2000--even if he/she wasn't aware of the long-distance HR data and how absurdly it changed that year--and not realized Bonds was phony, like SO many others in the years right before he sold himself out. Some say that because baseball turned a blind eye, we're supposed to accept as legit what Bonds did. Yeah, when pigs fly. There IS a better argument to be made for Bonds--one I just recently read--and I'll make it some other time, because I think it's legit.

It would have him at about 625 HR's right now WITHOUT any cheating at all, but he'd still be nothing like Ruth. He might, however, be the #2 total player all time. In my book, his cheating deprived him of that chance and froze his stats forever at the end of the 1999 season. And contrary to a certain person's ceaseless snivelings, the people at the new, ultra-savvy baseball site I'm at are in total agreement with me on this. And these dudes REALLY know their baseball history. Some of them clearly more so than me (!);


(3) The most irritating group of all: The politically correct crowd who insist that nothing accomplished before 1947--except what was accomplished by African-American players (??)--is legit. The more you tell them about the monumental, mind-boggling degree of Ruth's dominance, and the fact he had 3 seasons over a NINE-year span where he out-homered every TEAM in the A.L., the more they'll say that just proves the league was terrible without blacks, and thus that Ruth's stats mean nothing. They are--like rabid Islamic fundamentalists, rabid Christian fundamentalists, ALL Marxist-Leninists I've met or any other relentlessly driven political agendists--people who will always stick by their pre-conceived bottom-line result, no matter how great the body of evidence and logic which dictates a contrary result.

Bill James put it perfectly 21 years ago, and what he said remains just as true today:

"Not everyone who has pondered or studied the issue has drawn the conclusion that the greatest player who ever lived was Babe Ruth. Not everyone, but certainly most....

"The problem is that if one does not wish to assert some particular point, but one wishes only to identify the greatest player who ever lived, one is drawn almost unavoidably to the conclusion that it was George Ruth."



[Edited on 5/15/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]


posted on May, 18 2006 @ 12:58 AM
do you like any other sport other than baseball
cos i dont know much about it

posted on May, 18 2006 @ 11:10 AM
Well, you'll be skipping most of my threads then, but you can be cautioned in advance that a thread is about "baseball," you know. And if you dislike baseball, as I do certain sports, then you can skip it. I can't recall the last boxing or soccer thread I read.

However, I'm real excited about the current NBA playoffs, and I made a post under that thread, sharing my enthusiasm, only to have someone try and pee on my parade. I peed back.


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