Say-Hey Kid: Why Willie Mays Is The Greatest Baseball Player Who Ever Lived

Michael AkelsonCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2010

There are five tools to baseball:

Hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, arm strength, and fielding ability.

In the history of baseball there has only been one man to posses all five tools at an elite level.

His name was Willie Mays.

How many baseball players can you name with 12 gold gloves, 660 career home runs, a .303 career batting average, 338 steals, 3,283 career hits, and 24 All-Star selections?

If you can find me another man with accolades greater than that, I will sell you my soul.

Offensive numbers aside, Willie Mays might be the greatest defensive outfielder that ever lived. He made plays that would make Jim Edmonds look like a little-leaguer. His range was second to none. There was no such thing as a gap double when Willie Mays was out in center field, because he never met a ball he couldn't get to.

Willie Mays' power-speed combo is rivaled by nobody in baseball history. He had power like Albert Pujols to go with speed like Jose Reyes. His 660 career home runs rank him fourth on the all-time list (third not including steroid users), and he has six seasons of 20-plus steals and five 20-20 seasons.

One thing that Mays always had that most power-speed threats don't was the ability to hit for a good average.

Mays hit over .300 an impressive 10 times in his storied career, and had a .302 career average. He had 3,283 career hits, good for 11th on the all-time list and the second most by a member of the 500 home run club. Mays is one of only five players in MLB history with 500 HR and 3000 Hits.

If that isn't enough proof for you that "The Say-Hey kid" is the greatest baseball player that ever lived, take into consideration that Mays did this steroid-free, unlike other so-called greats like Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire.

Also consider the fact that Mays may very well be the greatest defensive player in baseball history, which in my opinion is what really separates him.

Even though he is one of the greatest power hitters of all time, he was even better with the leather, something Hank Aaron lacked.

He had lightning-fast speed, unlike Babe Ruth.

He never fell victim to injuries, unlike Ken Griffey, Jr.

He was better with the leather than Torii Hunter, a better hitter than Albert Pujols, and he was faster than Jose Reyes.

They say that nobody's perfect, but if that's true, then nobody has ever been closer than Willie Mays.