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 25, 2003
 
Number 29: Napoleon Lajoie

His arguably greatest year, 1901, came in a young American League that was perhaps not a true major league. Injuries often limited him, as he played 140 games only in five seasons. His defensive statistics are likely overblown by a tendency to play close to the second base bag, resulting in extra putouts. He played a couple of years too long, when Connie Mack asked him to return to Philadelphia to play for his stripped team and combat the Federal League usurpers. And yet, his hitting prowess was so great, and his reputation so lofty, that he deservedly continues to be regarded as one of the all-time greats.

Lajoie played in a low home run era, but showed tremendous power with lofty doubles totals. He executed the bunt, ran the bases, and was so well-loved in Cleveland that they called the team the Naps after him. He was never able to lift his team to the World Series, but he was always a highly respected player and feared hitter.

Lajoie earns 219.27 points in the ratings system.

Lajoie's stats: .338 average, 3242 hits, 657 doubles, 163 triples, 1599 RBI, 1504 runs, 380 SB, 496 Win Shares.


Friday, January 24, 2003
 
Number 28: Mel Ott

He has the shortest name for any Hall of Famer. Ott came to New York as a young player, one of the kids John McGraw would pick up and keep on the bench beside him for a year or two, teaching him to play the game and playing him occasionally, rather than letting some minor league manager (back in the days before farm systems) get hold of him. Ott wasn't a very big guy even for the time at 5'9", but he developed a leg kick to help generate power, and took aim at the short porch in right field at the Giants' home park, the Polo Grounds. He was rarely spectacular, but was steadily consistent, batting .300 with 100 walks and 30 homers year after year.

Ott never won an MVP, nor seriously threatened to do so, with his best finish at 3rd on the ballots. This is spite of leading the NL in OPS+, on-base-plus-slugging adjusted for park effects, six times, meaning he was essentially the best offensively player in the league six times. He was also a good defensive right fielder, and held his own at third base when sent there for a time. According to the Win Shares method, Ott was the best player in the league three times, in 1932, 1934, and 1938. He really deserved the award in 1938, for sure. His award performance was no doubt hampered by the lack of Giants' pennants during his career, as he played in just 3 World Series. Ott was helped both by his park, and by his era, as well as getting to play during World War II in his late 30s when younger players went to war. But his performance was both great and consistent, and he was also one of the game's great gentlemen.

Ott earned 222.19 points in the rating system.

Ott's statistics: .304 average, 511 homers, 1708 walks, 1860 RBI, 1859 runs, 528 Win Shares.