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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Monday, January 06, 2003
 
Number 27: Greg Maddux

He didn't impress with the speed of his fastball, or the big break on his curve. He did his work like a surgeon, with an assortment of pitches, late movement within the zone, and the best control of the generation. He took some time to get to know the competition, and thus struggled in All-Star games and went 2-3 in World Series play, though with a 2.09 ERA. Yet, he is the NL's finest pitcher over the last 15 years, and is the Christy Mathewson of our time.

Maddux came up with the Cubs, and struggled in his rookie year, 1987, posting a 5.61 ERA. But the next year he went 18-8 with a 3.18 ERA, and then ran off a string of success in Wrigley Field for a Cub team he helped push to the playoffs in 1989. In 1992 he won 20 with a 2.18 ERA and captured the Cy Young Award, then took his talents to the open market as a free agent and signed with a surging Atlanta team. He thus joined the NL's team of the 1990s, and made the postseason in every season through 2003 that had one. He made it four Cys in a row, 92-95, and dominated the league like few pitchers ever have. In the middle of a hitter's era, he posted a 1.56 ERA in 1994 and a 1.63 in 1995. The Braves won the Series in 1995, then Maddux came down from that pedestal a bit, but has remained effective. He won 15 or more every season 1988-2004, 17 years in a row, then again in 2006 at age 40. That is a remarkable record of quality and consistency rarely reached among pitchers.

His postseason pitching record was only 11-14, but he posted a 3.34 ERA against the tough competition. In addition to his 4 Cy Youngs, he has been in the top five of the voting five other times. He also has two top-five MVP finishes. His career ERA+ is 132, or 32% better than the league average.

Maddux earned 225.27 ratings points.

Maddux's stats: 355-227 record, 3.16 ERA, 3371 K, 28th in career ERA+.


 
Number 26: Rickey Henderson

He first appeared on the scene in 1979, with a horrible Oakland team that lost 108 games. He played left field, batted .274 and stole 33 bases in 89 games. The next year, Oakland had one of the great all-time turnarounds, and Henderson stole 100 bases, giving notice of a run at a record. In 1982, Henderson would set the single season record for steals, with 130. He is also the only player to steal 100 in a season three times.

Henderson also showed a penchant for walking about 100 times a season, useful for a leadoff man, and along the way developed some power, hitting 28 homers in a season twice. He went to the Yankees, then back to the A's, then became a baseball vagabond, a player-for-hire for a season or two. He provided excellent defense in left field, and a good glove in center in his prime. He won a Gold Glove in 1981, and an MVP in 1990, and probably deserved that award for 1981 and 1985 as well. A leadoff hitter who could fly, and hit a home run once a week, Henderson is the greatest leadoff man ever. In another era, he might have been a #3 hitter, but he stayed at the leadoff spot and flourished. We may never see one like him again, and his career stolen-base record is safe for many years.

Henderson has 225.3 rating points.

Henderson's statistics: .279 average, 2190 walks (record), 297 homers, 1406 steals (record), 2295 runs (record), 536 Win Shares.