This is the eleventh in a series of articles where I break down the greatest players baseball has ever seen. The first nine looked at each position individually and the tenth looked at the players I ranked 50th through 26th overall. This week, we will be looking at the players I ranked 25th through 11th.
Hopefully by now, you know the “rules” I followed in determining the rankings – no active players, no confirmed/highly suspected PED use and in the case of the overall rankings, only position players would be ranked (trying to determine where to place a player that played every three to five days in comparison to one who played every day is a discussion for another time).
Out of the 63 position players that were ranked, determining who made the Top 25 was very easy; their names jump out at you immediately when you think about them. However, determining who made the Top 10 and who is 11th through 25th wasn’t very easy. Several players have very strong cases to be included in the Top 10. My goal for the Top 11-25 is to have the players within two spots of where most people would rank them; hopefully this is the case. So, with 25 players remaining out of the original 63, let’s see where they fall in the Top 25:
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.
#24 – Roberto Clemente (RF #4): 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 %, .834 OPS, 130 OPS+, 240 HRs, 1305 RBIs, 3000 Hits, 621 BBs and 1230 Ks.
#23 – Frank Robinson (RF #3): 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 %, .926 OPS, 154 OPS+, 586 HRs, 1812 RBIs, 2943 Hits, 1420 BBs and 1532 Ks.
Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente are two of the best right fielders to play in the 1960s/70s (along with Aaron). They both 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 – homeruns or a guy who could throw a player at home trying to score on a sacrifice fly to deep right field?
#22 – 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 %, .819 OPS, 132 OPS+, 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.
#21- 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 %, .817 OPS, 126 OPS+, 389 HRs, 1376 RBIs, 2048 Hits, 891 BB and 1278 Ks.
#20 – 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 %, .830 OPS, 125 OPS+, 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 finished higher in MVP voting overall for his career (even though we all know MVP voting is not good, it can be telling for how good a player was). These two are the gold standard for catchers and the ones all future catchers will be measured against.
#19 – 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 %, .857 OPS, 135 OPS+, 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). He was one of the best pure hitters in baseball history.
#18 – 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 %, .841 OPS, 129 OPS+, 452 HRs, 1844 RBIs, 3419 Hits, 1845 BBs and 1393 Ks.
Yaz was the last player to win a Batting Triple Crown (1967). He was also one of the finest defensive left fielders in history. Yaz was the 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).
#17 – Ken Griffey Jr (CF #6): 1 MVP (and 4 other top-5 finishes), 13 time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, 2671 Games, .284 batting average, .370 OBP, .538 Slugging %, .907 OPS, 135 OPS+, 630 HRs, 1836 RBIs, 2781 Hits, 1312 BBs and 1779 Ks.
When Junior broke onto the baseball scene, it was thought his career would finish with him being considered the best overall player ever. He had it all – power, speed and defense; but injuries derailed that talk. Griffey had the sweetest swing I’ve seen in baseball and watching him chase down a ball hit to deep left-center in Yankee Stadium to rob a homerun from Jesse Barfield (see the picture to the left) is a memory that sticks with me to this day. Griffey was my generation’s Willie Mays and to see his career basically end years ago (even though he just retired this year) was a sad thing to watch.
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.
#15 – 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 %, .784 OPS, 118 OPS+, 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. In my opinion, Rose was an average hitter. Where Rose set himself apart from other players in baseball history and what justifies his placement of 15th All-Time in this list 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.
#14 – 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 %, .908 OPS, 147 OPS+, 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. He is considered the best overall third baseman in history and is the 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); you had to actually see him play defense on the turf in Veteran’s Stadium to understand.
#13 – 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 %, 1.038 OPS, 163 OPS+, 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.
#12- 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 %, .820 OPS, 127 OPS+, 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 base paths. 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, and 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.
#11 – 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 %, .977 OPS, 172 OPS+, 536 HRs, 1509 RBIs, 2415 Hits, 1733 BBs and 1710 Ks.
Mickey just missed being ranked 10th. Mickey is arguably the greatest switch-hitter in MLB history. He could hit for power and average from both sides of the plate. 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?
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. Come back next week and find out which players made the Top 10 All-Time.