Baseball’s Greatest Volume X: Overall Rankings – Part 1

After the previous nine articles breaking down; we can now move on to ranking those players for where they should be overall in the history of the great game we call baseball.  In order to be on the overall list, a player had to be ranked at a position, so that means the players who were honorable mentions or will/may be didn’t make the cut.  Keep in mind; active players (or players not officially retired like Bonds, Clemens or Pedro) were not eligible to be ranked at their respective positions, so they will not appear on this list.

There ended up being 74 ranked players, so we’ll start at number 74 and work our way up to number 1.  We will look at numbers 74-51 this week, 50-26 next week and end with the top 25.  I will list the players overall rank, their name, their position used for the position rankings, their ranking at that position and the stats used to compare them to others.  I will also give a brief explanation of my feelings regarding each player and their place in history.

For these rankings, stats play a part in determining where a player was ranked.  However, these rankings are for overall greatest baseball player, so other factors also came into play such as but not limited to; did the player play multiple positions well, was their talent balanced between offense and defense and/or what was their overall importance to the game.

Determining exactly where all 74 players fit wasn’t easy.  Basically, I decided to come up with a “draft board” of where I would be willing to take each player if I was drafting a new team.  I’m hoping I was able to get each player within three spots of where most people would rank them for numbers 74 – 51, within two spots for numbers 50 – 26 and within one spot for the Top 25.

74.  Bert Blyleven (SP #15):  3 top-5 Cy Young finishes, 287 Wins, .534 Win %, 685 Games Started, 242 Complete Games, 60 Shutouts, 4970.0 Innings Pitched, 3.31 ERA, 118 ERA+, 1.198 WHIP, 3701 Ks, 1322 BBs, 2.80 K/BB Ratio, 6.7 K/9 and 2 time All-Star

–  I was surprised that Blyleven made this list, but when you look at his stats he earned it.  Yes, he didn’t win the awards that a pitcher like Carlton did and some people call him a “compiler”.  However, he pitched roughly less than 300 innings than Carlton, so how can he be a compiler if Carlton isn’t.  I think people equate consistency with compiling.  Bert was consistently good to great for his entire career and was just missing those dominant seasons that Carlton had to separate himself from other pitchers.

73. Wade Boggs Wade Boggs (3B #5): HOF, 1 top-5 MVP finish, 12 time All-Star, 2 Gold Gloves, 8 Silver Sluggers, 2439 games, .328 batting average, .415 OBP, .443 Slugging %, 118 HRs, 1014 RBIs, 3010 Hits, 1412 BBs and 745 Ks.

– Boggs wasn’t a flashy player.  He didn’t hit for power (although he’s the only member of the 3000 hit club whose 3000th hit was a HR) and he was never known for his glove.  He was more known for his habit of eating fried chicken before every game and “just” getting 200+ hits a year, every year in the 1980s.

72.  Dale Murphy (CF #8): 2 MVPs, 7 time All-Star, 5 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, 2180 Games, .265 batting average, .346 OBP, .469 Slugging %, 398 HRs, 1266 RBIs, 2111 Hits, 986 BBs and 1748 Ks.

71.  Andre Dawson (CF #7): 1 MVP (and 1 other top-5 finish), 1 ROY, 8 time All-Star, 8 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, 2627 Games, .279 batting average, .323 OBP, .482 Slugging %, 438 HRs, 1591 RBIs, 2774 Hits, 589 BBs and 1509 Ks.

– In my opinion, when discussing Murphy’s and Dawson’s places all-time, they’re in a tough position.  They played a position (center field), that some of the greatest to ever play the game played (Mays, Cobb, Dimaggio etc) so their numbers in comparison to them don’t come close.  However, Murphy’s multiple MVP awards show that he had flashes of dominance (most people on this list don’t have multiple MVP awards) and Dawson’s five-tool ability are overlooked by their “flaws”; mainly “bad” batting average, low OBP and high strikeout numbers.  As a manager of a team, if you had either one of these guys roaming center field for you, you’d be perfectly happy with that fact.

70.  Carlton Fisk (C #7): HOF, 2 top-5 MVP finishes, 1 ROY, 11 time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers, 2499 games, .269 batting average, .341 OBP, .456 Slugging %, 376 HRs, 1330 RBIs, 2356 Hits, 849 BBs and 1386 Ks.

– How do you judge the original Pudge?  He never had a truly dominant season like other catchers in history and he only led the league in batting categories twice (once for triples and once for hit-by-pitch) and because of that he falls into the “compiler” category that Blyleven falls into.  However, just like Blyleven, he played at a consistent level for a long time.  Fisk was a leader, plain and simple.  You knew exactly what you were getting when he was behind the plate – a player that would give everything he had, all the time.

69.  Mark McGwire (1B #8): 3 top-5 MVP finishes, 1 ROY, 12 time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers, 1874 games, .263 batting average, .394 OBP, .588 Slugging %, 583 HRs, 1414 RBIs, 1626 Hits, 1317 BBs and 1596 Ks.

– Putting aside the “did he or didn’t he use PEDs” question, McGwire’s place in history is set.  He was one of the most prolific HR hitters per At Bat in history.  His durability, low batting average and lack of defense (compared to other first basemen) hurt him overall.  However, when McGwire was in the lineup (especially in the late 90s), he was one of the biggest threats at the plate the game’s ever seen.

68.  Willie Stargell (LF #7): HOF, 1 MVP (and 3 other top-5 finishes), 7 time All-Star, 2360 games, .282 batting average, .360 OBP, .529 Slugging %, 475 HRs, 1540 RBIs, 2232 Hits, 937 BBs and 1936 Ks.

– “Pops” is one of many power hitting players on this list that hit big and missed big.  He was known for hitting HRs out of stadiums completely or to parts of stadiums that had/haven’t since been reached.  How were his power numbers affected by playing in the spacious Forbes Field?  One can only imagine.

67.  Johnny Mize (1B #7): HOF – 4 top-5 MVP finishes, 10 time All-Star, 1884 games, .312 batting average, .397 OBP, .562 Slugging %, 359 HRs, 1337 RBIs, 2011 Hits, 856 BBs and 524 Ks.

– Mize was one of the rarest hitters of his time.  He hit for power and average and didn’t strike out a lot (the only man to hit 50 HRs and strike out less than 50 times in the same season, and he had several other seasons where had more HRs than Ks).  He was also excellent with the glove at first.

66.  Elston Howard (C #6): 1 MVP (1 other top-5 finish), 9 time All-Star, 2 Gold Gloves, 1605 games, .274 batting average, .322 OBP, .427 Slugging %, 167 HRs, 762 RBIs, 1471 Hits, 373 BBs and 786 Ks.

– To me, Elston’s career is underrated.  He lost playing time because he was behind Yogi Berra in the depth chart and when he did play, being right-handed in Yankee Stadium killed his stats (his power numbers were much better on the road than at home).

65.  Bob Feller (SP #14): HOF, 4 top-5 MVP finishes, 1 AL Pitching Triple Crown, 266 Wins, .621 Win %, 484 Games Started, 279 Complete Games, 44 Shutouts, 3827.0 Innings Pitched, 3.25 ERA, 122 ERA+, 1.316 WHIP, 2581 Ks, 1764 BBs, 1.46 K/BB Ratio, 6.1 K/9 and 8 time All-Star

– Feller is one of the guys that because of WWII lost a lot of time.  He lost almost four seasons, all in a row.  His first season back after not facing MLB talent for four years, he struck out 348 batters for the season.  Just recently, at the age of 90 years old, he pitched in the Hall of Fame game.  He, like other power pitchers, had control issues (hence the bad K/BB ratio and high WHIP).  I firmly believe he would have had 300+ Wins and over 4000 Ks if he didn’t miss those prime seasons.

Mike Piazza
Mike Piazza

64.  Mike Piazza (C #5): 3 top-5 MVP finishes, 1 ROY, 12 time All-Star, 10 Silver Sluggers, 1912 games, .308 batting average, .377 OBP, .545 Slugging %, 427 HRs, 1335 RBIs, 2127 Hits, 759 BBs and 1113 Ks.

– Piazza’s offense was unreal.  He was one of the best offensive catchers in the history of the game.  Problem is, being a catcher also involves being able to play defense and throw out runners.  None of which Piazza did well.  Even if Piazza’s defense was just “average” he would have been must higher overall and in the catcher’s rankings, but average would have been a drastic improvement from what it actually was.

63.  Tony Gwynn (RF #8): HOF, 1 top-5 MVP finish, 15 time All-Star, 5 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, 2440 games, .338 batting average, .388 OBP, .459 Slugging %, 135 HRs, 1138 RBIs, 3141 Hits, 790 BBs and 434 Ks.

– Tony was one of the greatest pure hitters ever.  He wasn’t going to hit for power, however, he was going to put the ball where the fielders weren’t.  He didn’t walk a lot (thus the low OBP) but he also didn’t strikeout a lot; he made the defense have to make a play to stop him.  He was probably one of the most dangerous non-power hitters during his time.

62.  Eddie Murray (1B #6): HOF, 6 top-5 MVP finishes, 1 ROY, 8 time All-Star, 3 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, 3026 games, .287 batting average, .359 OBP, .476 Slugging %, 504 HRs, 1917 RBIs, 3255 Hits, 1333 BBs and 1516 Ks.

– Eddie Murray is another “compiler” in my opinion.  Yes, he’s one of three players in history with over 3000 hits and 500 HRs, however, compared to other first basemen, he played just under ¼ of his career as a DH, especially at the end of his career.  Murray could hit for average and power, and I believe, the fact that he played in over 3000 games is why he ended up with the 3000 hits and 500 HRs instead of other players that got to those milestones without the benefit of the DH.  There was a time when Murray was very feared as a hitter and you had to be concerned each time he stepped to the plate.

61.  Jim Palmer (SP #13): HOF, 3 Cy Youngs (and 5 other top-5 finishes), 1 top-5 MVP finish, 268 Wins, .638 Win %, 521 Games Started, 211 Complete Games, 53 Shutouts, 3948.0 Innings Pitched, 2.86 ERA, 126 ERA+, 1.180 WHIP, 2212 Ks, 1311 BBs, 1.69 K/BB Ratio, 5.0 K/9, 6 time All-Star and 4 Gold Gloves.

– Palmer was one of the best pitchers in the 1970s on one of the best pitching staffs (wins wise) ever assembled (one year, all four starters had over 20 wins which has been accomplished only one other time in history).  Palmer’s place in history would be even higher, except he pitched during a time when there were several other great pitchers (Calton, Seaver, Ryan etc), and in some stats he is better than those guys and worse in others.  Palmer was a complete pitcher.

60.  Willie McCovey (1B #5): HOF, 1 MVP (and 1 other top-5 finish), 1 ROY, 6 time All-Star, 2588 games, .270 batting average, .374 OBP, .515 Slugging %, 521 HRs, 1555 RBIs, 2211 Hits, 1345 BBs and 1550 Ks.

– McCovey, like many others on this list, was a power hitter who would miss big but hit big as well.  He formed a dynamic duo playing on the Giants teams with Willie Mays and produced one of the best one-two punches in baseball history.

59.  Robin Yount (SS #7): HOF, 2 MVPs, 3 time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers, 2856 games, .285 batting average, .342 OBP, .430 Slugging %, 251 HRs, 1406 RBIs, 3142 Hits, 966 BBs and 1350 Ks.

– Yount was one of the original power hitting shortstops, but due to an injury was moved to the outfield where he was an above average fielder.  Robin is one of a select group of players to win the MVP at multiple positions.  Who had the most hits in the 1980s? Boggs, Brett, Gwynn?  No.  The answer is Robin Yount.

58.  Al Kaline (RF #7): HOF, 3 top-5 MVP finishes, 15 time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, 2834 games, .297 batting average, .376 OBP, .480 Slugging %, 399 HRs, 1583 RBIs, 3007 Hits, 1277 BBs and 1020 Ks.

– Kaline hit for average,hit for power (at that time, 25 HRs a season was great) and he was probably one of the best defensive right fielders in history (it’s a toss up between him and Clemente).  Who’s number was the first retired by the Detroit Tigers?  If you say Ty Cobb, you’re wrong.  It was none other than Al Kaline.

57.  Cal Ripken Jr (SS #6).: HOF, 2 MVPs (and 1 other top-5 finish), 1 ROY, 19 time All-Star, 2 Gold Gloves, 8 Silver Sluggers, 3001 games, .276 batting average, .340 OBP, .447 Slugging %, 431 HRs, 1695 RBIs, 3184 Hits, 1129 BBs and 1305 Ks.

– Cal’s an interesting case.  Yes, he had The Streak, but many people will question how long the streak should have continued when Cal wasn’t the same, at least offensively as he was when he was younger and how much of him continuing The Streak was actually hurting the team.  Cal had a couple great seasons, but most of his seasons were average; decent batting average, bad OBP etc.  However, Cal was the first of the “new breed” of power hitting shortstops with average to above average defense that we saw later in ARod, Tejada and Nomar.

56.  Nellie Fox (2B #7): HOF, 1 MVP (and 1 other top-5 finish), 12 time all-star, 3 Gold Gloves, 2367 games, .288 batting average, .348 OBP, .363 Slugging %, 35 HRs, 790 RBIs, 2663 Hits, 719 BBs and 216 Ks.

– A fantastic hitter and baserunner, Nellie was also great in the field.  One of the hardest guys to strike out in the history of the game, Nellie wouldn’t beat you with a HR, but he would make sure you had to play defense.

55.  Roy Campanella (C #8): HOF , 3 MVPs, 8 time All-Star, 1215 games, .276 batting average, .360 OBP, .500 Slugging %, 242 HRs, 856 RBIs, 1161 Hits, 533 BBs and 501 Ks.

– A car accident resulting in Roy being paralyzed ended his career and stopped him short of being in the discussion of best catcher ever.  How many more MVPs could he have won?  How close to 500 HRs would he have been?  He’s the player that has one of the biggest questions of “What If”?

54.  Ryne Sandberg (2B #6): HOF, 1 MVP (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 10 time all-star, 9 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, 2164 games, .285 batting average, .344 OBP, .452 Slugging %, 282 HRs, 1061 RBIs, 2386 Hits, 761 BBs and 1260 Ks.

– Sandberg was the beginning of a change at second base in the 1980s.  A “power” hitter who could hit for a decent average while still putting up Gold Glove caliber defense.  Among the second basement who played in the 1980s and 1990s, not many would be considered better than Sandberg.

53.  Steve Carlton (SP #12): HOF, 4 Cy Youngs (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 3 top-5 MVP finishes, 1 NL Pitching Triple Crown, 329 Wins, .574 Win %, 709 Games Started, 254 Complete Games, 55 Shutouts, 5217.1 Innings Pitched, 3.22 ERA, 115 ERA+, 1.247 WHIP, 4136 Ks, 1833 BBs, 2.26 K/BB Ratio, 7.1 K/9 Ratio, 10 time All-Star and 1 Gold Glove.

– Carlton could be very dominant (his season of 1972 when he won 46% of all the Phillies wins is a perfect example).  However, his ERA in most seasons was just above average for the league (hence his ERA+ of 115) and he allowed a lot of baserunners (the WHIP of 1.247).  His “peak” years were great, however, it was the “average” years, that brings his career numbers down and hurt his standing in the pitchers’ rankings and in the overall.

52. Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Reggie Jackson each hit home runs in the American League's 6-4 victory Reggie Jackson (RF #6): HOF, 1 MVP (and 4 other top-5 finishes), 14 time All-Star, 2 Silver Sluggers, 2820 games, .262 batting average, .356 OBP, .490 Slugging %, 563 HRs, 1702 RBIs, 2584 Hits, 1375 BBs and 2597 Ks.

– What can I say about “the straw that stirs the drink”?  Reggie either hit big or missed big.  He had a cannon for an arm but no accuracy.  However, when October rolled around and you needed the big hit, you wanted Reggie at the plate.

51.  Mickey Cochrane (C #4): HOF, 2 MVPs, 2 time All-Star, 1482 games, .320 batting average, .419 OBP, .478 Slugging %, 119 HRs, 832 RBIs, 1652 Hits, 857 BB and 217 Ks.

– Mickey’s the one catcher that is never seems to be remembered.  Until Berra and Bench, Mickey was in the discussion of best catcher ever.  He was a fantastic hitter and was considered excellent on defense.  If Mickey played in a different era, he would not be as “forgotten” as he is today.

Next week, we’ll see who made it from 50 through 26.

So, what do you think?  Do you have a problem with the order?  Let me know if you think someone is too low or too high and please give an explanation of why.

 

Submitted 7/20

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