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 two weeks ago, numbers 50-26 last week and now on to the best of the best, 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.
Deciding who made the Top 25 was easy; placing them in order wasn’t. These are the best of the best in history and each have their arguments for being placed higher; and sometimes the difference of being placed three spots higher or lower was very slim. I firmly believe you could get ten different people to rank these twenty five players and you wouldn’t get two identical rankings. So, keeping that in mind, here’s who I believe the Top 25 players in baseball history are.
25. Joe Morgan (2B #2): HOF, 2 MVPs (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 10 time all-star, 5 Gold Gloves, 1 Silver Slugger, 2649 games, .271 batting average, .392 OBP, .427 Slugging %, 268 HRs, 1133 RBIs, 2517 Hits, 1865 BBs and 1015Ks.
Morgan was the first true power hitting second basemen (for the time); he hit over 250 HRs, almost 450 doubles and almost 100 triples. He was one of the best players at stealing bases (success rate was greater than 80%) and was a fantastic fielder . Also, he was the first second baseman in National League history to win the MVP in back-to-back seasons.
24. George Brett (3B #2): HOF, 1 MVP (and 3 other top-5 finishes), 13 time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers, 2707 games, .305 batting average, .369 OBP, .487 Slugging %, 317 HRs, 1595 RBIs, 3154 Hits, 1096 BBs and 908Ks.
– One of four players in MLB history with over 3000 hits, 300 HRs and a career .300 batting average (the others being Aaron, Mays and Musial). Brett won a batting title in three different decades (only player to ever accomplish this). One of the best pure hitters in baseball history.
23. Carl Yastrzemski (LF #4): HOF, 1 MVP (and 1 other top-5 finish), 1 AL Batting Triple Crown, 18 time All-Star, 7 Gold Gloves, 3308 games, .285 batting average, .379 OBP, .462 Slugging %, 452 HRs, 1844 RBIs, 3419 Hits, 1845 BBs and 1393 Ks.
– The last player to win a Batting Triple Crown (1967). One of the finest defensive left fielders in history. First player in American League history to amass 3000 hits and 400 HRs solely in the American League (since matched by Cal Ripken Jr). Yaz is the Red Sox franchise leader in almost all batting categories (trailing Ted Williams in HRs).
22. Greg Maddux (SP #5): 4 Cy Youngs (and 5 other top-5 finishes), 2 top-5 MVP finishes, 355 wins, .610 Win %, 740 Games Started, 109 Complete Games, 35 Shutouts, 5008.1 Innings Pitched, 3.16 ERA, 132 ERA+, 1.143 WHIP, 3371 Ks, 999 BBs, 3.37 K/BB Ratio, 6.1 K/9 Ratio, 8 time All-Star and 18 Gold Gloves.
– Maddux is arguably the greatest pitcher of our generation. Not known for being a power pitcher, Maddux still managed to strikeout over 3000 batters solely on control and intelligence. Won four consecutive Cy Young awards (first pitcher in history to so, since matched by Randy Johnson) and won at least 15 games in 17 straight seasons. Maddux was also one of the best defensive pitchers in history.
21. Ernie Banks (SS #2): HOF, 2 MVPs (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 11 time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 2528 games, .274 batting average, .330 OBP, .500 Slugging %, 512 HRs, 1636 RBIs, 2583 Hits, 1305 Runs, 763 BBs, and 1236 Ks.
– “Mr. Cub” was the first African-American player for the Cubs. Ernie was always wanting to “play two”. His love and desire to play the game of baseball is legendary. First shortstop in National League history to win the MVP in back-to-back seasons. Held the record for most HRs by a shortstop (277, later broken by Cal Ripken Jr.) when he retired. Played more games at first base, but will always be known as a shortstop.
20. Tris Speaker (CF #5): HOF, 1 MVP (and 1 other top-5 finish), 2789 Games, .345 batting average, .428 OBP, .500 Slugging %, 117 HRs, 1529 RBIs, 3514 Hits, 1381 BBs and 220 Ks.
– Speaker is one of the best overall hitters in the game. While he didn’t put up the HR totals that other outfielders have; he rarely struck out, had a high batting average, a high OBP and a high Slugging %. He was also a fantastic defensive player; playing shallow in center allowing him to get unassisted double plays at second on line drives/shallow pop ups and would also take part in routine double plays by the infield.
19. Mike Schmidt (3B #1): HOF, 3 MVPs (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 12 time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, 6 Silver Sluggers, 2404 games, .267 batting average, .380 OBP, .527 Slugging %, 548 HRs, 1595 RBIs, 2234 Hits, 1507 BBs and 1883 Ks.
– Michael Jack Schmidt was another one of the “big hit, big miss” power hitters in this list. Considered the best overall third baseman in history. Phillies’ all-time franchise leader in most hitting categories. Mike was also one of the best fielding third basemen in the game (behind only Brooks Robinson in my opinion).
18. Sandy Koufax (SP #4): HOF, 3 Cy Youngs (and 1 other top-5 finish), 1 MVP (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 3 MLB Pitching Triple Crowns, 165 Wins, .655 Win %, 314 Games Started, 137 Complete Games, 40 Shutouts, 2324.1 Innings Pitched, 2.76 ERA, 131 ERA+, 1.106 WHIP, 2396 Ks, 817 BBs, 2.93 K/BB Ratio, 9.3 K/9 Ratio and 6 time All-Star
– What would Sandy’s final career numbers have been if he didn’t retire at the age of 30 due to arthritis? His final five years in MLB were some of the most dominant seasons by a pitcher in history – 3 Cy Youngs, 1 MVP, 3 MLB Pitching Triple Crowns (MLB pitching Triple Crowns, not just NL Pitching Triple Crowns), an ERA+ above 159 for each of those final years and a WHIP below .093 for the final four seasons.
17. Jimmie Foxx (1B #2): HOF – 3 MVPs (and 1 other top-5 finish), 9 time All-Star, 1 American League Batting Triple Crown, 2317 games, .325 batting average, .428 OBP, .609 Slugging %, 534 HRs, 1922 RBIs, 2646 Hits, 1452 BBs and 1311 Ks.
– Foxx was the second player in history to hit 500 HRs and held the record for HRs hit by a right-handed batter until Willie Mays. Foxx was one of the most feared hitters during his time. He also hit 30+ HRs in 12 consecutive seasons (a record until broken by Barry Bonds). If not for Lou Gehrig, Foxx would be the best first basemen in history.
16. Cy Young (SP #3): HOF, 1 AL Pitching Triple Crown, 511 Wins, .618 Win %, 815 Games Started, 749 Complete Games, 76 Shutouts, 7354.2 Innings Pitched, 2.63 ERA, 138 ERA+, 1.130 WHIP, 2803 Ks, 1217 BBs, 2.30 K/BB Ratio and 3.4 K/9
– Cy is an interesting case. He has MLB’s yearly pitching award named after him, has some of the most “untouchable” pitching records in the game (511 wins for example) but he played half his career in what many historians consider the pre-Modern Era (pre-1900) and the other half in the “dead ball era” (pre-1920). Cy was the best pitcher in the game for his time though and that fact has to be taken into consideration, pre-modern or dead-ball eras aside. Cy started 815 games, pitched a complete game in 749 of those and won 511 of them; era or not, those numbers are unreal. Other pitchers in history have better “key” pitching stats (ERA, ERA+ and WHIP for example) and that affects where Cy ranks amongst pitchers, but his contributions to the game cannot be measured.
15. Rickey Henderson (LF #3): HOF, 1 MVP (and 2 other top-5 finishes), 10 time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers, 3081 games, .279 batting average, .401 OBP, .419 Slugging %, 297 HRs, 1115 RBIs, 3055 Hits, 2190 BBs and 1694 Ks.
– Rickey was arguably the greatest leadoff hitter in the game and hands-down the biggest threat ever on the basepaths. The difference in stolen bases between himself and Lou Brock (#2 on the list); 468 steals, would be good enough for Rickey to be 42nd on the All-Time Stolen Base list. Rickey owns the records for most leadoff HRs, most stolen bases, most runs scored, most stolen bases in a season plus over 3000 hits and almost 300 HRs. Rickey may have been a cocky player (his “I’m the greatest” comment after setting the stolen base record for example) but the way he played the game backed it up.
14. Mickey Mantle (CF #4): HOF, 3 MVPs (and 5 other top-5 finishes), 1 MLB Batting Triple Crown, 16 time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 2401 Games, .298 batting average, .421 OBP, .557 Slugging %, 536 HRs, 1509 RBIs, 2415 Hits, 1733 BBs and 1710 Ks.
– Mickey is arguably the greatest switch-hitter in MLB history. He could hit for power and average from both sides of the plate. Mickey is the lowest ranked of four center fielders in the Top 15 of these rankings. Mickey was affected by injuries throughout his entire career, only playing over 145 games six times in his 18 seasons. The injuries Mickey had have always made historians ask “What If?” What if Mickey was healthier? Just what would his final numbers have been? Would he be considered the greatest CF in the game?
13. Honus Wagner (SS #1): HOF, 2 top-5 MVP finishes, 2792 games, .327 batting average, .391 OBP, .466 Slugging %, 101 HRs, 1732 RBIs, 3415 Hits, 963 BBs and 327 Ks.
– Honus is generally considered the greatest shortstop the game’s ever seen and generally considered one of its best hitters. Wagner was the original five-tool player (hit for power, hit for average, great defender, great speed and a great arm).
12. Pete Rose (LF #5): 1 MVP (and 4 other top-5 finishes), 1 ROY, 17 Time All-Star, 2 Gold Gloves, 1 Silver Slugger, 3562 Games, .303 batting average, .375 OBP, .409 Slugging %, 160 HRs, 1314 RBIs, 4256 Hits, 1566 BBs and 1143 Ks.
– Many people consider Rose a great hitter because he has the record for most hits in a career; however, his batting average, OBP and Slugging % don’t justify that. What justifies Rose’s placement of 12th All-Time by me is his ability to play multiple positions at a high level (all OF spots, 3B and 1B for example) and his desire. Pete wanted to win games at all costs. If it meant bowling over a catcher, he’d do it. If it meant trying to stretch a double into a triple and diving head first into third, he would. “Charlie Hustle” left everything on the field and held nothing back. If not for breaking the Golden Rule of baseball (betting on baseball), how people remember Pete would be drastically different.
11. Christy Mathewson (SP #2): HOF, 2 top-5 MVP finishes, 2 NL Pitching Triple Crowns, 373 Wins, .665 Win %, 551 Games Started, 434 Complete Games, 79 Shutouts, 4780.2 Innings Pitched, 2.13 ERA, 135 ERA+, 1.059 WHIP, 2502 Ks, 844 BBs, 2.96 K/BB Ratio and 4.7 K/9
– Considered to be the best pitcher in National League history, Christy is tied with Grover Alexander for most wins in the NL. His ERA, ERA+ and WHIP are amongst the best ever. Best known for throwing three shutouts in three games over six days in the 1905 World Series. A member of the first Hall of Fame class along with Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson; however, due to exposure to chemicals in World War I, he developed tuberculosis and was the only one of the original five not to live long enough to be at the induction.
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