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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Thursday, October 02, 2003
 
Number 70: Ferguson Jenkins

Jenkins actually debuted for the Phillies in 1965, but was dealt to the Cubs for two veteran pitchers early in 1966. He had a great year out of the bullpen and was given a starting shot late in the season, then started running off his series of 20-win seasons. Jenkins threw hard and with excellent control, and was prone to the long ball especially in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. For those good but not great Cubs teams, he was throwing about 300 innings a year of top-shelf work. Those Cubs staffs of 1968-70 were very strong, with Ken Holtzman, Bill Hands and Milt Pappas in the supporting cast, but they couldn't get a CF or quite enough depth to win.

With the Cubs sinking in the mid 1970s again, Jenkins went to a building Rangers team, but was traded to the Red Sox before the 1976 season, unfortunately missing the magic that was 1975 in Boston. Jenkins never would get to the postseason, going back to Texas and then again to the Cubs, retiring after 1983 just a year too early for the 1984 division win.

Jenkins won the NL Cy Young in 1971 with a 24-13 record, and finished in the top ten of voting six times. He had similarities to the more recent Dave Stewart, but was even better and lasted longer.

Jenkins earned 181.39 ratings points.

Jenkins' stats: 284-226, 3.34 ERA, 267 CG, 3192 K.


Wednesday, October 01, 2003
 
Number 69: Reggie Jackson

He became "Mr. October," especially after hitting 5 home runs in the 1977 World Series, a new record. Jackson came up to the majors with Oakland in 1967, and had the best year of his career in 1969 with 47 homers and 118 RBI. He was a pretty good defender in those days too, with great speed and a powerful arm. Reggie was part of the A's three straight World Series wins 1972-74, as the cleanup hitter. He was also part of the mass exodus from the team, and was one of the first to go when traded to Baltimore just before the 1976 season. He became a free agent after that year and signed with the Yankees, in time to be the cleanup hitter for the 1977 and 78 World champs.

After 1981 a veteran Reggie signed with California to be the Angels' DH. He had one good season and then several where he struggled before finishing up back in Oakland in 1987. He won the 1973 MVP and was a top-ten finisher 8 times. He led the league in homers four times and adjusted OPS+ four times. Pitchers said you could pitch to him, and he could only tee off on a mistake, but any pitcher can make a mistake. Reggie could hit a mistake a long way.

Jackson earned 181.58 ratings points.

Jackson's stats: .262 average, 563 homers, 1702 RBI, 228 SB, 2584 hits.


Monday, September 29, 2003
 
Number 68: Duke Snider

For years in New York, it was "Willie, Mickey, and the Duke." Duke Snider was actually the least of these three, but that's still good enough to be a Hall of Famer. Neither as fast nor as powerful as Mays or Mantle, Snider was still quite fast and hit the long ball with a helpful frequency. Snider was a lefty hitter but righty thrower, and provided the Brooklyn Dodgers with their left-handed power, usually from the #3 spot in the order. He appeared briefly in 1947, playing in 40 games while batting 83 times and hitting .241. In 1948 he got 160 ABs and hit .244. In 1949 he attained regular status, batting .292 with 23 home runs. In 1950 he established himself as a star, batting .321 with 31 HR and 107 RBI.

Snider was one of the top players of the 1950s, hitting 40 homers five years in a row, 1952-56, while Brooklyn made a habit of winning the NL pennant. He led the league in runs 1953-55. He was an all-star seven consecutive years, 1950-56, even in the same league as Mays and Richie Ashburn. Snider was a regular in the MVP voting although he never won, getting as high as 2nd in 1955, losing to teammate Roy Campanella by five points. Snider hit 4 home runs in the 1952 and 1955 World Series.

After the 1957 season, with attendance at Ebbets Field sagging, the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and began to play there in the Coliseum. The field, built for football, had a short left field but was deep to right, a big change from cozy Ebbets for the lefty power hitter. Snider's power numbers sagged, and his defense waned now that he was in his 30s. He remained productive, batting .312 with 15 homers in 1958, and .308 with 23 homers in the surprise pennant year of 1959, his last World Series. Snider batted .286 in his six WS appearences, with 11 home runs in 36 games. He faded faster after 1959, and became a part-timer. In 1963 he went to the still-new Mets, then spent 1964 as a pinch-hitter for the Giants. He was released after the season and retired.

Snider earned 181.62 ratings points.

Snider's stats: .295 batting average, 407 HR, 1333 RBI, 1259 runs, 2116 hits, .540 slugging.


Sunday, September 28, 2003
 
Number 66: Arky Vaughan and Number 67: Jeff Bagwell

Joseph Floyd Vaughan broke into the majors with Pittsburgh in 1932 at the age of 20. He was an immediate success, batting .318 and playing solid defense. He had unfortunately missed the Pirates' early golden age, but quickly set about playing like he was trying to bring it back. In 1935 Vaughan batted .385 with 63 extra-base hits including 19 homers, 99 RBI and 108 runs scored. He finished 3rd in the MVP voting that year, behind Gabby Hartnett and Dizzy Dean, who both played with better clubs. He was 3rd again in 1938, with lesser stats but a stronger team. He was still the team's best player at age 26, despite the presence of Paul and Lloyd Waner, but there was a pattern of also-ran finishes. 2nd, 3rd, 4th place.

After 1941 Vaughan went to Brooklyn, then left the game after 1943. He returned in 1947 as a part-timer, and a pinch-hitter in 1948 and a teammate of Jackie Robinson. 1947 gave him his only World Series exposure, as a pinch-hitter. He retired after 1948, the best all-around shortstop since Wagner, his predecessor in Pittsburgh.

Vaughan earned 182.92 ratings points.

Vaughan's stats: .318 average, 2103 hits, 937 walks, 1173 runs, 9-time all-star.

Jeff Bagwell

This is the guy once traded for middle reliever Larry Andersen. He came a long way from there. Bagwell hit for average, power, draws walks, and played solid defense at first base. His huge year was 1994, with an end wiped out in a strike just after Bagwell was hurt and knocked from the season. He posted excellent numbers every single year, piling strong season after strong season onto his resume. His only black mark is a poor postseason record, with a .174 average in 14 games. He was the best hitter in the league only in 1994, but was in the top ten from 1993-2000. Bagwell hasn’t always gotten a lot of attention from that, as he is a relatively quiet sort, and the success of his team has been limited. Bagwell never played in a World Series, but he was an excellent player all along, with numbers held down at the beginning of his career by playing in the Astrodome. He led the league in times on base and runs scored three times.

Bagwell earned 182.62 ratings points.

Bagwell's stats: .297 average, 449 homers, 1529 RBI, 1517 runs, .408 OBA, .540 SLG.