Rating the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time

My rankings of the greatest baseball players ever, starting with number 1, in order.

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Saturday, January 04, 2003
 
Number 25: Grover Cleveland (Pete) Alexander

Alexander first appeared in the major leagues in 1911, at age 24. He immediately won 28 games for the Phillies. Philadelphia was building its first good team, leading up to the 1915 pennant. Alexander was the ace from the time he joined the team, and won 31 games in that 1915 season. He also won 30 the next two years.

After the 1917 season he was sent to the Cubs, an excellent team at the time. He made only three starts in 1918, although the Cubs won the pennant anyway. But in 1919 he was back, and in 1920 he had another big season. After that, he never was quite as dominating, perhaps from years of overuse, or perhaps because of the new "lively ball" style of play. He was still an above average pitcher, and continued with the Cubs through 1926, at age 39. During the 1926 season, Pete was picked up by the Cardinals as they made a run at the NL pennant, and filled the veteran role on the staff with a 9-7 record. Alexander was then a figure in one of the most dramatic World Series moments ever.

Alexander started and won Games 2 and 6 against the Yankees, and Game 7 would decide it all. Some legends have it that Alex, after starting Game 6, figured he wouldn't be needed the next day and spent the night drinking. He had quite a reputation as a drinking man. So when, with the score 3-2 in the 7th, Alex was called out of the bullpen, and then seemed to stumble on the way to the mound, the crowd took a breath. Alexander proceeded to strike out Yankee Tony Lazzeri, then retire the opponents in the last two innings and seal the Cardinals' victory. He was a World Series hero!

Alexander pitched for the Cardinals through 1929, including the 1928 Series, then went back to the Phillies for a few games in 1930, but his career was over by then. He was one of the greatest control artists of all time.

Alexander earned 226.6 ratings points.

Alexander's stats: 373-208 record, 2.56 ERA, 2198 Ks, 437 CG, 90 shutouts.


Friday, January 03, 2003
 
Number 24: Carl Yastrzemski

He was really only a great player for three years, within the four year span of 1967-70. But oh, what a year that 1967 was: a Triple Crown, the Impossible Dream pennant, all the way to Game 7 of the World Series, and the Sox rode on the back of Yaz all year. He was almost as good in 1968, but scoring was so low it was hard to tell: he was magnificent again in 1970, with better numbers to show for it. Most of the rest of his career, he was an all-star, not really an MVP candidate. But it was 17 straight years of all-star performance, 1962-78, with no poor seasons. Strong defense (7 Gold Gloves), 3 batting titles, lots of walks too. Yaz had the thankless task of replacing Ted Williams in left field for the Red Sox, and he did a splendid job. Consistency was the strength of Yaz. He is much beloved in New England for his long service to the Olde Towne Team.

Yaz earned 227.02 rating points.

Yastrzemski's stats: .285 average, 452 home runs, 3419 hits, 1845 walks, 1844 RBI, 1816 runs, 488 Win Shares.


 
Number 23: Frank Robinson

Robinson came up to an also-ran Reds team in 1956, and slammed 38 home runs as the Reds finished in the top half of the league for the first time in years. It is still one of the all-time great rookie seasons. Robby bounced from left field to right field to first base the next few years, as the Reds tinkered with their lineup. By 1961, he was firmly established in RF and as the cleanup hitter, and the Reds had put together a team that won a surprise pennant, with Robinson as NL MVP. The next year, he was even better, but the team fell short. He was continually excellent, until after the 1965 season GM Bill DeWitt termed him "an old 30" and dealt him to Baltimore. That is a deal still rued in Cincy, as Robinson won the AL Triple Crown and MVP, and the Orioles won the 1966 World Series, and went on to build one of the great powerhouse teams, with Robinson as their leader. Toward the end of his career, Robinson went to Los Angeles, then the Angels, and finally the Indians, and in Cleveland became the first black man to serve as a major league manager.

Since, he has served as a manager, a GM, a team executive, and an official of the game. He has always represented himself and baseball with great ability and dignity.

Robinson earns 228.41 points in the rating system.

Robinson's statistics: .294 average, 586 homers, 2943 hits, 204 SBs, 1829 runs, 1812 RBI.


 
Number 22: Mike Schmidt

How can a player who hit over .300 only once, and that in a shortened season, be the 22nd greatest of all time? Well, there's power. And walks. And superb defense. And playing most of his career in a low-offense era, the 1970s. Schmidt won the MVP three times, and could have won several more: he was arguably the best player in the league in 1974, 1977, and 1979-1983. He won in 1986, when either he or Tim Raines was the best. Schmidt combined Gold Glove defense at third base (had he come after Cal Ripken, he might have stayed at shortstop, his original position) with league-leading home run power, and 100 walks a year. He also got a World Series ring, with a terrific performance to win the MVP for the 1980 Series. He showed good speed as well. Michael Jack Schmidt played hard every game, whether the Phillies were a good team or a bad team. And this wonderful career came after what was probably the worst rookie season ever for a Hall of Famer, 1973, where Schmidt hit just .196, although he did show that speed and power, and walks. Plus defense. Hitting for average was simply the only skill where he did not excel.

Schmidt earned 229.14 points in the rating system.

Schmidt's statistics: .267 average, 548 homers, 1595 RBI, 1506 runs, 1507 walks, 10 Gold Gloves, 467 Win Shares.


 
Number 21: Joe DiMaggio



Joltin' Joe, The Yankee Clipper, and believed by some to be the perfect ballplayer. He had speed and power and personified grace on the field. Those who watched him claimed he never made a mistake on a baseball field, never threw to the wrong base, never messed up on the basepaths. A player of great skill and instinct, he was a deadly hitter and a tremendous glove in center field with incredible range and arm.



He came to the Yankees in 1936, playing all three outfield positions, though mostly left. The next year, he took over center field. New York was looking for a new hero, with Babe Ruth gone and Lou Gehrig aging. The Yankees needed a new crux, and it quickly became DiMag. They won pennants his first four years, then slipped to third, 2 games out. DiMaggio strung together seven fantastic seasons. Then, he was called into World War II.



DiMaggio played six more seasons, but not at quite the same level. For one thing, he was older, and had lost some of the old spring. Injuries started to hit, and took their toll. In 1951, after hitting just .263 with 12 homers, DiMaggio decided to retire at age 36. He became the symbol of a generation, and there's no way of knowing what his statistics would have been had he not lost three full seasons to the war. Still, he played in 10 World Series, and his team won nine of them. For many years after he retired, he was introduced as he had been named in a 1969 poll, as "America's Greatest Living Ballplayer."



DiMaggio earned 235.49 rating points, including 20 for war service.



DiMaggio's statistics: .325 batting average, 361 homers, 1537 RBI, 3 MVPs, 387 Win Shares.




Wednesday, January 01, 2003
 
Some of you may have noticed the absence of Negro League players on this list. That is by design. Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell and their brethren are very likely deserving of this list. However, the statistical record is spotty, and I lack evidence to place them accurately. Rather than mistakenly put Charleston at #7 rather than #3, for example, I have decided to limit this list to MLB players. Otherwise, I have to worry not only about the Negro Leagues, but the free minors, Japanese players like Saduharu Oh, and more. For assessment of Negro League players, I refer you to Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract.


 
Number 20: Joe Morgan



He was Little Joe, a 5-foot-7 stick of dynamite in the lineup and in the field. He broke in to the Houston lineup in 1965, and began a long career with a decent average, good power, 100 or more walks, and deadly consistent defense. Houston didn't always know what it had, because the Astrodome held down offensive performance so much that Morgan's stats looked pedestrian, especially in the low-offense 1960s. After a 1971 where he batted .256, he was traded in an eight-player swap to the Cincinnati Reds, and became the linchpin of the great teams of the Big Red Machine, the NL MVP in 1975 and 1976 as his stats exploded. He won five consecutive Gold Gloves, 1972-77.



When the free agent era came into bloom, Morgan went back to Houston, then to San Francisco, Philly, and finally Oakland. Everywhere he was known for his professionalism, his work ethic, and his intelligence. Morgan was a leader in the true sense of the word, because he lived his life in an upright manner, and worked not only to better himself but also his teammates. After his career, he became a well-known TV commentator, and became perhaps more famous.



Morgan earned 236.82 rating points.



Morgan's stats: .271 average, 268 homers, 1865 walks, 689 steals, 1650 runs, 512 Win Shares.