After the previous nine articles breaking down the greatest at all the other positions; 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 started at number 74 and are working our way up to number 1. We looked at numbers 74-51 last week, 50-26 this week and will 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.
So, without further adieu, here’s numbers 50 – 26:
- Duke Snider (CF #6): HOF, 3 top-5 MVP finishes, 8 time All-Star, 2143 Games, .295 batting average, .380 OBP, .540 Slugging %, 407 HRs, 1333 RBIs, 2116 Hits, 971 BBs and 1237 Ks.
– Snider had the bad luck of being a center fielder in New York at the same time as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. However, Dodger fans will always think that Snider was better than both of them. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles , Snider’s offense took a hit due to the cavernous LA Coliseum coupled with a bad knee.
- Harmon Killebrew (1B #4): HOF, 1 MVP (and 5 other top-5 finishes), 11 time All-Star, 2435 games, .256 batting average, .376 OBP, .509 Slugging %, 573 HRs, 1584 RBIs, 2086 Hits, 1559 BBs and 1699 Ks.
– “Hammerin Harmon” was a true power hitter. He hit the most HRs in the 1960s and most of them were “tape measure” shots. He is one of the best players in Twins history.
- Warren Spahn (SP #11): HOF, 1 Cy Young (and 4 other top-5 finishes), 4 top-5 MVP finishes, 363 Wins, .597 Win %, 665 Games Started, 382 Complete Games, 63 Shutouts, 5243.2 Innings Pitched, 3.09 ERA, 118 ERA+, 1.195 WHIP, 2583 Ks, 1434 BBs, 1.80 K/BB Ratio, 4.4 K/9 and 14 time All-Star.
– Considered among many to be the greatest left-handed pitcher of all-time (though he is behind Lefty Grove in my rankings) and has the most wins of any pitcher of the “live ball” era (post 1920). Warren was a thinking man’s pitcher. He wasn’t going to overpower you and this famous quote from him says it all; “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” Each year, the best left-handed pitcher wins the Warren Spahn Award.
- Barry Larkin (SS #5): 1 MVP, 12 time All-Star, 3 Gold Gloves, 9 Silver Sluggers, 2180 games, .295 batting average, .371 OBP, .444 Slugging %, 198 HRs, 960 RBIs, 2340 Hits, 939 BBs and 817 Ks.
– Barry was overshadowed for most of his career by either Ozzie Smith or Cal Ripken Jr. However, compared to those players, he was the more complete shortstop. His defense was almost as good as Ozzie’s and offensively he was better overall than Ripken.
- Eddie Mathews (3B #4): HOF, 2 top-5 MVP finishes, 9 time All-Star, 2391 games, .271 batting average, .376 OBP, .509 Slugging %, 512 HRs, 1453 RBIs, 2315 Hits, 1444 BBs and 1487 Ks.
– Mathews and Hank Aaron made up one of the best one-two punches in baseball history (along with Ruth/Gehrig and Mays/McCovey). When Ty Cobb says the following about Eddie’s swing it shows you just how great Mathews was; “I’ve only known three or four perfect swings in my time. This lad has one of them.” Mathews graced the cover of the first ever Sports Illustrated in August 1954. Mathews is also in the discussion of greatest Braves player ever (along with Aaron, Maddux and Chipper Jones).
- Lou Brock (LF #8): HOF, 1 top-5 MVP finish, 2616 games, .293 batting average, .343 OBP, .410 Slugging %, 149 HRs, 900 RBIs, 3023 Hits, 761 BBs and 1730 Ks.
– Lou was best known as a great base stealer. He held the major records for stolen bases until Rickey Henderson came along. The last thing a pitcher wanted to see was Lou standing on first with second base open and it is that fact which earns Lou a better ranking. Lou Brock is always in the discussion of “most overrated HOFer” by the “experts” but I don’t think you can call someone with 3000+ Hits and almost 1000 stolen bases overrated.
- Tom Seaver (SP #10): HOF, 3 Cy Youngs (and 5 other top-5 finishes), 1 top-5 MVP finish, 1 ROY, 311 Wins, .603 Win %, 647 Games Started, 231 Complete Games, 61 Shutouts, 4782.2 Innings Pitched, 2.86 ERA, 127 ERA+, 1.121 WHIP, 3640 Ks, 1390 BBs, 2.62 K/BB Ratio, 6.8 K/9 and 12 time All-Star
– Seaver is in the discussion of best pitcher in the 70s (along with Carlton and Palmer). Seaver was the rare power pitcher in that he had better than average control to go along with his power (low ERA, decent ERA+, low WHIP and great K/BB ratio – all areas where other power pitchers like Carlton, Feller and Ryan fall short). It’s this balance between power and control which makes me rank Seaver above the other pitchers of his era.
- Hank Greenberg (1B #3): HOF – 2 MVPs (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 4 time All-Star, 1394 games, .313 batting average, .412 OBP, .605 Slugging %, 331 HRs, 1276 RBIs, 1628 Hits, 852 BBs and 844 Ks.
– Hank is another of a long line of players that because of World War II, you have to ask “What If”? What would his stats be like if he didn’t miss prime years (he actually re-enlisted to join the Army Air Forces after the attack on Pearl Harbor ). Hank was a great power hitter (for the time) but also hit for average. Hank was also famous for taking Jewish holidays off, even in the middle of pennant races; he was respected and hated for this.
- Bill Dickey (C #3): HOF – 3 top-5 MVP finishes, 11 time All-Star, 1789 games, .313 batting average, .382 OBP, .486 Slugging %, 202 HRs, 1209 RBIs, 1969 Hits, 678 BBs and 289 Ks.
– Considered one of the best catchers in history along with Mickey Cochrane until Berra and Bench came along. He could hit for a high average (had records for average for catcher in a single season until Piazza) and had a great arm and ability to handle pitchers. Hit over 20 HRs and drove in over 100 RBIs in four consecutive seasons.
- Roberto Alomar (2B #5): 2 top-5 MVP finishes, 12 time all-star, 10 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, 2379 games, .300 batting average, .371 OBP, .443 Slugging %, 210 HRs, 1134 RBIs, 2724 Hits, 1032 BBs and 1140 Ks.
– Arguably the best second baseman of the 1990s. He hit for average, hit for power (for second basemen) and had a fantastic glove. He may not have the magic numbers that other second basemen during his time had (3000 hits or 300 HRs) but Alomar was the most complete second basemen of his era.
- Whitey Ford (SP #9): HOF, 1 Cy Young (and 1 other top-5 finish), 2 top-5 MVP finishes, 236 Wins, .690 Win %, 438 Games Started, 156 Complete Games, 45 Shutouts, 3170.1 Innings Pitched, 2.75 ERA, 133 ERA+, 1.215 WHIP, 1956 Ks, 1086 BBs, 1.80 K/BB Ratio, 5.6 K/9 Ratio and 8 time All-Star
– Whitey was the best pitcher on one of the best dynasties in history (the Yankees of the 50s), so some of his detractors hold that against him. However, Whitey also was a member of one of the first 5-man pitching rotations while most of the other teams were still using a 4-man rotation; which in turn hurt his stats in comparison because he didn’t get the same number of starts per season as the others did. Plain and simple, when Whitey pitched, the Yankees won. Was it because those Yankee teams were great or was it because Whitey was great as well? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
- Nap Lajoie (2B #3): HOF, 1 American League Batting Triple Crown, 2480 games, .338 batting average, .380 OBP, .467 Slugging %, 83 HRs, 1599 RBIs, 3242 Hits, 516 BBs and 85 Ks.
– Lajoie didn’t hit for power (though he did win the Triple Crown once), all he did was hit. He retired with the 2nd most hits ever (at the time behind only Honus Wagner) and had the AL Record for hits in a career until Ty Cobb passed it in 1918.
- Arky Vaughan (SS #4): HOF, 2 top-5 MVP finishes, 9 time All-Star, 1817 games, .318 batting average, .406 OBP, .453 Slugging %, 96 HRs, 926 RBIs, 2103 Hits, 937 BBs and 276 Ks.
– Another player who lost time to military service. He was routinely at the top of the league for average, runs scored, RBIs and stolen bases. He has the 2nd highest average for a shortstop in the Hall of Fame behind only Honus Wagner.
- Grover Alexander (SP #8): HOF, 1 top-5 MVP finish, 2 NL Pitching Triple Crowns, 1 MLB Pitching Triple Crown, 373 Wins, .642 Win %, 599 Games Started, 437 Complete Games, 90 Shutouts, 5190.0 Innings Pitched, 2.56 ERA, 135 ERA+, 1.121 WHIP, 2198 Ks, 951 BBs, 2.31 K/BB Ratio and 3.8 K/9 Ratio
– What can be said about a pitcher, who won the Triple Crown 3 times, led the league in wins, Ks and ERA multiple occasions, served his country in World War I and then continued his playing career while suffering from “shell shock”? Not much other than, he was one of the greatest pitchers in history.
- Ozzie Smith (SS #3): HOF, 1 top-5 MVP finish, 15 time All-Star, 13 Gold Gloves, 1 Silver Slugger, 2573 games, .262 batting average, .337 OBP, .328 Slugging %, 28 HRs, 793 RBIs, 2460 Hits, 1072 BBs and 589 Ks.
– Ozzie is considered amongst the greatest fielders the game has ever seen and hands down the greatest defensive shortstop. Where most people have a problem with Ozzie is his offense or lack thereof and that can’t be argued. However, baseball isn’t just about offense there is such a thing as defense. I’m not sure how many runs his defense prevented compares with how many runs he failed to produce at the plate, having the “Wizard of Oz” roaming short is not a bad thing.
- Mel Ott (RF #5): HOF, 3 top-5 MVP finishes, 11 time All-Star, 2730 games, .304 batting average, .414 OBP, .533 Slugging %, 511 HRs, 1860 RBIs, 2876 Hits, 1708 BBs and 896 Ks.
– A power hitter that could hit for average and had a great OBP. The best National League right fielder until Aaron and Clemente came along.
- Lefty Grove (SP #7): HOF, 1 MVP (and 1 other top-5 finish), 2 MLB Pitching Triple Crowns, 300 Wins, .680 Win %, 457 Games Started, 298 Complete Games, 35 Shutouts, 3940.2 Innings Pitched, 3.06 ERA, 148 ERA+, 1.278 WHIP, 2266 Ks, 1187 BBs, 1.91 K/BB Ratio, 5.2 K/9 Ratio and 6 time All-Star.
– Lefty is among the greatest left-handed starting pitchers in history (along with Spahn). His career started slow, however he went on to lead the league in ERA eight times, and his ERA+ of 148 is second only to Pedro Martinez’ all-time. His winning % is eighth all-time, however, no one above him in that stat has more than 236 wins.
- Brooks Robinson (3B #3): HOF, 1 MVP (and 4 other top-5 finishes), 15 time All-Star, 16 Gold Gloves, 2896 games, .267 batting average, .322 OBP, .401 Slugging %, 268 HRs, 1357 RBIs, 2848 Hits, 860 BBs and 990 Ks.
– Similar to Ozzie Smith in that his defense is considered the best ever at his position and his “lack of offense” can easily be overlooked for this fact. However, he did beat out Mickey Mantle for MVP honors in 1964. Brooks defense in the post-season even caused the Reds’ Manager, Sparky Anderson, to say this: “I’m beginning to see Brooks in my sleep. If I dropped this paper plate, he’d pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first.” That statement alone, sums up many managers feelings about having Brooks as the opposing teams third baseman.
- Frank Robinson (RF #4): HOF, 2 MVPs (and 4 other top-5 finishes), 1 ROY, 1 AL Batting Triple Crown, 12 time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 2808 games, .294 batting average, .389 OBP, .537 Slugging %, 586 HRs, 1812 RBIs, 2943 Hits, 1420 BBs and 1532 Ks.
- Roberto Clemente (RF #3): HOF, 1 MVP (and 3 other top-5 finishes), 12 time All-Star, 12 Gold Gloves, 2433 games, .317 batting average, .359 OBP, .475 Slugging %, 240 HRs, 1305 RBIs, 3000 Hits, 621 BBs and 1230 Ks.
– Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente are two of the best right fielders to play in the 1960s/70s (along with Aaron). They both could hit for average, Frank was the better power hitter while Roberto was the better defender. Frank is considered amongst the best power hitters ever, while Roberto one of the best defensive outfielders to ever play the game. To determine which should be higher in rankings really comes down to what do you prefer – home runs or a guy who could throw a player at home trying to score on a sacrifice fly to deep right field? Personally, I choose the defense and cannon for an arm.
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson (LF #6): 3 top-5 MVP finishes, 1332 games, .356 batting average, .423 OBP, .517 Slugging %, 54 HRs, 785 RBIs, 1772 Hits, 519 BBs and 158 Ks.
– Everyone knows Joe Jackson was part of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. His actual part in it is still debated today (he took the money but did he really throw the series, he had great games in the series but it was only when his team was already winning or too far behind etc). So, I’m not going to in-depth into that. I will talk about what Joe did on the field. All he did was be one of the best hitters in history. Yes, he didn’t hit for power (back then hardly anyone did) but all he did was hit. If he was able to play longer, I have no doubt Shoeless Joe would have been in the discussion for best player ever.
- Rod Carew (2B #4): HOF, 1 MVP (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 1 ROY, 18 time all-star, 2469 games, .328 batting average, .393 OBP, .429 Slugging %, 92 HRs, 1015 RBIs, 3053 Hits, 1018 BBs and 1028 Ks.
– Rod Carew finished higher in these rankings than his #4 positional ranking would lead you to believe because Rod played basically two positions for his career, first and second, and spent over 1100 games at each. At first, Carew was a fantastic fielder, with a fielding percentage of .991 and at second, he had a .973. He managed to bat almost .330 for his career with an OBP of almost .400 finished with over 3000 hits and over 1000 RBIs. To me, Carew was one of those players that quietly great players, that you don’t remember him being as good as he was until you look at the stats.
- Bob Gibson (SP #6): HOF, 2 Cy Youngs (and 1 other top-5 finish), 1 MVP (and 1 other top-5 finish), 251 Wins, .591 Win %, 482 Games Started, 255 Complete Games, 56 Shutouts, 3884.1 Innings Pitched, 2.91 ERA, 127 ERA+, 1.188 WHIP, 3117 Ks, 1336 BBs, 2.33 K/BB Ratio, 7.2 K/9 Ratio, 8 time All-Star and 9 Gold Gloves.
– Gibson was one of the most dominant pitchers in history, having one of the best seasons in history and actually ended up forcing Major League Baseball to lower the pitching mound to try to compensate for it. Gibson was also one of the most feared pitchers because he firmly believed the inside of the plate belonged to him.
- Johnny Bench (C #2): HOF – 2 MVPs (2 other top 5 finishes), 1 ROY, 14 time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, 2158 games, .267 batting average, .342 OBP, .476 Slugging %, 389 HRs, 1376 RBIs, 2048 Hits, 891 BB and 1278 Ks.
- Yogi Berra (C #1): HOF – 3 MVPs (and 4 other top 5 finishes), 15 time All-Star, 2120 games, .285 batting average, .348 OBP, .482 Slugging %, 358 HRs, 1430 RBIs, 2150 Hits, 704 BB and 414 Ks.
– Bench and Berra are 1a and 1b all-time for catchers. Their careers are almost identical – similar batting stats, similar defensive abilities (although Bench has the Gold Gloves, that award didn’t exist for the first half of Berra’s career and Berra’s defense has always been underrated). The key difference to me is Berra won MVPs competing against the likes of Mickey Mantle and Berra has a record 10 World Championship rings on his fingers. These two are the gold standard for catchers and the ones all future catchers will be measured against.
Next week, we’ll see who made the Top 25.
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.
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