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 03, 2004
 
Number 81: Al Simmons

He was called "Bucketfoot Al" because of his unusual stride while hitting; he stepped "in the bucket" toward the corner of the batter's box away from the pitcher. It didn't hurt him any. He was a good defensive outfielder, good enough to play center field. He did that as a regular in six seasons, including his first four in 1924-27, then again 1935-36. He spent most of his time in left field, where he was an excellent defender. He was an even better hitter, winning two batting titles (1930-31) and one RBI title (1929) for the Philadelphia A's, during their three straight pennants. Simmons never won an MVP, although he was 2nd in the voting in 1925 when he batted .387. It was a high-offense era, but he hit for a very high average, drew a few walks, and hit for power. His RBI totals are gaudy, going as high as 165 in that powerful lineup. Simmons and Jimmie Foxx provided the power for those teams.

When Connie Mack broke up that team, Simmons went to the White Sox with the 1933 season, and was on the first three AL all-star teams as a member of the Sox. He also played for the Tigers, Senators, Braves, Reds, Red Sox, and A's again at the end. He hit well in the A's three World Series and has a .329 World Series average. Simmons was one of the finest players of the 1920s and 1930s.

Simmons earned 175.34 ratings points.

Simmons' stats: .334, 307 HR, 539 doubles, 1827 RBI, .535 slugging.


Wednesday, December 31, 2003
 
Number 80: Shoeless Joe Jackson.

"Say it ain't so, Joe!" is the plaintive cry that hangs over Joe Jackson's career. Jackson was a poor and illiterate man from South Carolina who came to be known as one of the finest hitters in the game of baseball. Jackson's talent was recognized when he was quite young, but Connie Mack could not quite find a lineup spot for him. Instead, he made him the player to be named in the deal where he acquired Bris Lord. Jackson went to Cleveland, and after another year of seasoning became the Indians' right fielder in 1911, and promptly batted .408. It would remain his career high average, but he hit .395 the next year and .356 for his career. He hit for power, too, which at the time meant doubles and triples, and stole some bases. He was a pretty good outfielder, too.

In August, 1916, Jackson was traded, or more accurately sold, to Chicago. One wonders how history might have been different if he hadn't been. Jackson was part of the White Sox 1917 World Champions, then on the 1919 pennant winners, which lost the Series despite being heavily favored. Suspicions ran heavy...then were confirmed when Jackson, among others, confessed. The confessions were later stolen from the clubhouse (some say by Al Capone's men) and the trial of the "Black Sox" ended with a "not guilty" verdict....but new Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis suspended all of them for life, including Jackson. Jackson may not have been in the conspiracy whole-heartedly, but he did accept money and he didn't hit in the clutch.

Had he not been forcibly retired from the game at age 30, Jackson may well have compiled credentials fitting a Hall of Famer. However, no one who conspires to throw a World Series should ever be a member of the Hall of Fame.

Jackson earned 175.95 ratings points.

Jackson's stats: .356 average, .423 on-base, .517 slugging.


Tuesday, December 30, 2003
 
Number 79: Ernie Banks

Banks' career divides neatly into two parts: 1953-61 as a shortstop, and one of the best players in the league; and 1962-69 (plus part-timing in 1970-71) as a middle-of-the-pack first baseman. Banks was a classic power hitter, with the range and arm to play short in his younger days, the prototype for Cal Ripken. He won two MVPs, back-to-back in 1958-59, plus a Gold Glove in 1960. Banks is also one of the greatest players never to reach the postseason. He played his whole career for the Cubs, on a team that could never get its act together, even when they had three terrific players in Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams. The closest they came was 1969, when Banks was in his last season as a regular at age 38, but manager Leo Durocher overplayed his hand and didn't provide his regulars with enough rest (even Banks played 155 games). The team faded in the stretch and yielded to the miracle Mets. And Banks was again denied.

Ernie Banks hit as many as 47 homers in a season, and was a consistent producer even in the low-offense 1960s. He was an upbeat, easy-going and outgoing individual, and is and was a great ambassador for baseball. Hey, Ernie, let's play two!

Banks earned 177.25 ratings points.

Banks' stats: .274 average, 512 home runs, 1636 RBI, 2583 hits, .500 slugging percentage.


Sunday, December 28, 2003
 
Number 78: Mike Piazza.

A fearless plate-blocker and the best-hitting catcher of all time. Piazza wasn't on anybody's prospect list, and was drafted by the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft mainly because his parents were friends of Tommy LaSorda. He hit his way through the minor leagues, then reached the majors in 1992 with a .232 average in 21 games. In 1993, at age 24, he became the team's everyday catcher, and hit .318 with 35 HR and 118 RBI. He never stopped hitting. His Rookie of the Year season started ten straight years on the All-Star team, and seven top ten finishes on the MVP ballot. He never won an MVP, but placed as high as second in 1996 and 1997.

He made it to just one World Series, in 2000 with the Mets, but has been regarded as one of the top players in the game. He peaked in 1997, batting .362 with 40 HR and 124 RBI, all career highs. He also draws walks and works well with the press.

Piazza has earned 177.78 ratings points.

Piazza's stats: .308 average, 427 HR, 1335 RBI, .545 slugging, 2127 hits.


 
Number 77: Ivan Rodriguez

By some measures, he is the best defensive catcher ever. His "loser" label evaporated in 2003 with the Marlins' World Series triumph. He went to Detroit to get the money he believed his due and that club’s performance peaked, then fell in 2005 when he was hurt. In 2006, they peaked again.

"Pudge" broke in with the Rangers in 1991, playing 88 games at age 19. His defense guaranteed him playing time, and by 1995 he was a .300 hitter, and developed power too. He also started stealing some bases, sometimes more than he allowed. In 1999 he won the AL MVP with a .332 average, 35 HR and 113 RBI. He may not have been the best in the league, as he draws few walks, but that was impressive. Back troubles have slowed him in recent years, and led the Rangers to let him go as a free agent. He couldn't get the contract he wanted, and signed for one year with Florida. It was a magical year, one that seals the deal on his Hall of Fame candidacy. It also gives him a place in baseball lore forever, especially with his MVP performance in the NLCS.

Rodriguez has earned 177.96 ratings points through 2010.

Rodriguez' stats (through 2010): .297 average, 310 HR, 1321 RBI, 567 doubles, 13 Gold Gloves.