Who was the best player in Major League Baseball history?
After that question, I am sure that you want to skip the rest of my article and go right to the comments section to defend Babe Ruth, Willie Mays or whoever else you might think was the best ever.
However, hear me out right now.
The two men I have already mentioned are probably on the top of almost everyone’s list, but the list is not just made up of two players. There are several other men who deserve to be in the conversation. Maybe your opinion will still be the same, but at least we will have a bigger list to argue over.
These 10 players are not in any type of particular order,
Over a career that spanned 23 seasons, Rogers Hornsby became one of the most terrifying hitters in Major League Baseball. As a contemporary of Babe Ruth, his power is sometimes lost in the shadows, but he did win a pair of National League Triple Crowns.
In 1922, he hit .401 with 42 home runs, 152 RBI, 250 hits, 46 doubles and 141 runs scored. He led the National League, and I would count it among one of the best individual season performances in baseball history.
It is also worth pointing out that he played second base and was probably the best second baseman of all time.
Winning four consecutive Cy Young Awards is an amazing feat. Greg Maddux was an artist on the mound. He never overpowered anyone, and he never led the league in strikeouts. However, he accumulated 355 career wins in an era that was dominated by power hitters by simply forcing the hitters to make bad contact.
The gem of his career came in 1995. He went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. Beyond that, he threw 10 complete games on his way to 209.2 innings pitched. With a microscopic WHIP of 0.811, they unanimously swept all of the first-place votes for Cy Young that year.
With over 120 Wins Above Replacement, he was obviously the best pitcher in an era dominated by hitting.
I'll admit that I did not know a lot about Eddie Collins besides the fact that he was in the Hall of Fame and the movie Eight Men Out.
However, as I was doing research, he kept popping up all over the statistical leaderboards.
Over a 25-year career, he averaged .333, had an on-base percentage of .424 and 42 stolen bases per 162 games played. Essentially, that makes him a run-generating machine, and he ended up with 1,821 for his career. He got on base, was able to steal second and was in a strong position to help his team.
He had no power, but he seems to have done everything necessary to help his team win baseball games, and that is ultimately what matters.
Because he played in the Dead Ball Era, Tris Speaker does not have great home-run numbers.
However, he is the all-time major league leader with 792 doubles. On top of that, there were four seasons in his career when his on-base percentage was above .470. During those seasons, he got on base almost half of the time. That is remarkable.
Although it is a little bit harder to quantify, his defense was legendary, and if he would have played a little bit later, I think a good portion of those doubles might have extended into home runs. He was one of the best all-around players in history.
Grover Cleveland Alexander is a relic of another era, so it is certainly a challenge to compare him to the pitchers of today.
Nevertheless, his numbers are flat-out ridiculous. He started 600 games in his career, and he ended up with 437 complete games. For the first 10 years of his career, his ERA never climbed above 2.81, and his career number ended up being 2.56 after 20 years on the mound.
I know that this era favored the pitchers, but I think that we can forget the past far too easily, and men like Alexander don’t always get all the credit they deserve.
Bert Blyleven represented a transition. He was one of the last pitchers to go nine innings every time it was his turn in the rotation.
His career record was not overly impressive at 287-250, and he just recently received the call for the Hall of Fame. However, the reason I included him on this list is for all of you sabermetricians out there. His 110 Wins above Replacement rate him seventh among all pitchers of all time. If that isn't good enough to get you in these types of discussions, I am not sure what is.
I have a feeling that this slide will take a lot of grief, but during his era, he was clearly one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he never receives very much credit.
Again, I think that this will be a controversial inclusion, but Cal Ripken was the most durable player that ever played the game. How many times have great players been ruined by injuries? Think about what Mickey Mantle or Ken Griffey Jr. could have become if they had this type of durability.
On top of the durability, Ripken helped change the definition of a shortstop. He was not fast, but he could field his position. He did not hit for a very high average, but he proved that shortstops could be power hitters.
He eventually did transition to third base, but he ended up with a pretty impressive career average of .276 with 431 home runs and 1695 RBI.
Being in the game all the time matters, and that is why I put him on this list.
When baseball needed a power hitter to follow the movement started by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott was there to continue this development. Over his career, he hit 511 home runs while posting a .304 batting average and driving in 1,860 runs.
One thing that particularly stood out to me was the fact that he was incredibly disciplined. Over his career, he drew 1,708 walks and only struck out 896 times. Compared to the power hitters of today, that is a remarkable achievement.
Ott was an outstanding hitter who is sometimes forgotten between Babe Ruth and the trio of fantastic center fielders who would be coming down the line. I thought we should give him a little more attention.
Alex Rodriguez is obviously not done playing the game yet, but he is clearly one of the most talented players in recent memory.
Currently, at 37 years old, he has hit 647 home runs. The past few seasons have been a bit frustrating, and I think that many people have probably written him off as the rising star that he once was.
However, after he returns from injury at some point this season, he will continue his chase of the title Home Run King.
He has been a Gold Glove shortstop and third baseman along with his offensive achievements. Assuming that is able to finish his career on a strong note and lay claim to that title, when we have this discussion in the future, he won’t be on a “rarely mentioned” type of list.
In my opinion, Jimmie Foxx is one of most under-appreciated hitters in history. Like I said about Mel Ott earlier, this era of baseball history is almost always forgotten.
Nevertheless, he put together one of the best offensive seasons in baseball history as a 24-year-old in 1,932. He hit .364 with 58 home runs, 169 RBI and still walked more than he struck out. That type of production is so rare that if it had not been for the recent domination of Babe Ruth, we would not forget about Foxx so easily.
Just like the rest of the men on this list, he is not Babe Ruth, and he is not Willie Mays. However, when we have these types of discussions about the best players ever, at least give a thought to these guys more often then you probably do right now.
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