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, March 20, 2004
 
Number 95: John Smoltz.

He was a 22nd round draft pick of the Tigers in 1985, traded to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander in 1987. Alexander helped the Tigers win the AL East that year, and Smoltz would help the Braves with their division many, many times.

Smoltz debuted with the Braves in 1988, going 2-7 with a 5.48 ERA in 12 starts, but his ERA was lower than league average every season until his final season. He won the Cy Young Award in 1996, the only year he led the league in wins (24). He led in strikeouts twice. He has also led the league in saves once, as after missing the 2000 season it was decided to move him to the bullpen. He was at least as successful as a reliever as he had been starting. In 2005 he returned to starting, successfully. Just like always.

Smoltz is one of the great playoff pitchers of all time, with a 15-4 record and 2.67 ERA.

Smoltz earned 169.78 ratings points.

Smoltz' stats: 213-155 record, 154 saves, 3.33 ERA, 3084 strikeouts.


 
Number 94: Mike Mussina

The Orioles #1 pick in the 1990 draft was in the big leagues the next year, making 12 starts down the stretch for a mediocre team and going 4-5. Mussina was almost immediately the Orioles' ace, and went 18-5 in 1992 as the Orioles surged to 3rd. He struggled the next year, but recovered, and the Orioles were contenders during his tenure in Baltimore. In 1997 they broke a string of 2nd and 3rd place finishes to win the division, and reach the ALCS. But they fell off again, and after 2000 Mussina became a free agent. Moose had seen the dominance of the Yankees close up, joined the powerhouse team for the 2001 season, and remained a pitching mainstay there. This meant more postseason appearances, but no World Series ring.

He had a career ERA+ of 123, and six Gold Gloves, but no Cy Young Awards, although he finished 2nd in the voting in 1999. He does have 8 top-six finishes in the voting.

He doesn't really look dominating on the mound, or intimidating, but he is businesslike and efficient. He has been sort of the Greg Maddux of the AL, with a good though not great fastball, great movement on his pitches, and excellent control. Mussina has been a great asset to his teams.

Mussina earned 169.78 ratings points.

Mussina's stats: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 2813 K, 785 BB in 3563 innings.


Thursday, March 18, 2004
 
Number 93: Lou Boudreau.

In 1948, he had as good a season as anyone ever had, to push the Indians to the pennant. His .355 average and 18 home runs was one of the great jobs of managing ever. Boudreau was a guy with very bad ankles, which kept him out of World War II and ended his career prematurely. In spite of that, he was a spectacular defensive shortstop, and also a strong hitter. He regularly hit .290 with lots of doubles, functioning very well in the middle of the order. He was known as "The Boy Manager," being appointed at age 24 in WW II to skipper the Indians. That was largely unsuccessful, until his spectacular 1948 season when owner Bill Veeck had provided him with one of the highest-paid coaching staffs in baseball to that time, or for some time afterward.

After 1950, the Indians released him, and the Red Sox picked him up but he was only good for part-time work anymore. Boudreau had to bow out of the game at age 34, although he did continue to manage. He had one World Series win, an MVP, a batting crown (1944), 8 top-ten MVP finishes, and 8 All-Star games to his credit.

Boudreau earned 170.17 ratings points.

Boudreau's stats: .295 average, 796 walks, 395 doubles, 861 runs.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004
 
Number 92: Joe Cronin

Joe Cronin first played major league ball in 1926 at age 19, with Pittsburgh. The Pirates were past the Honus Wagner era, but had a pretty good shortstop in Glenn Wright at the time, and passed on Cronin after two years of some part-time work. He started in with the Washington Senators in 1928, and soon was a regular there. Bobby Reaves was doing a pretty good job at SS, but Cronin looked better. The Senators were just coming down from a successful period and rebuilding for another, and Cronin was an important player. He became a fixture, and a run-producing middle infielder is a valuable commodity, then and now. Cronin played through a hitter's era in the 1930s, but was still one of the best for a number of years, and a perennial all-star, named to the team seven times.

After the Senators lost the 1933 World Series, and with the economy in a tailspin during the Depression, Cronin went to Boston after the 1934 season for Lyn Lary and $225,000. No more pennants, as Cronin played through the war but retired after 1945, though he continued as a productive player. Cronin finished in the top ten of MVP voting five times, including placing second in 1933 behind Triple Crown winner Jimmie Foxx. He was a good but unspectacular fielder, and a top-rank hitter.

Cronin earned 170.65 ratings points.

Cronin's stats: .301, 170 HR, 1424 RBI, 2285 hits, 515 doubles.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004
 
Number 91: Rod Carew

Rod Carew came up a slender fellow, very fast, a second baseman not too quick on the double play pivot but with a quick bat. He was Rookie of the Year for Minnesota at age 21 in 1967, batting .292. 1968 was the year of the pitcher and Carew hit .273, then spent the next 15 years batting .300 or better, in a mostly poor hitting era. He never hit for a lot of power, but reached 14 homers in a season twice. He threatened the .400 mark in 1977, finishing at .388 with 100 RBI and winning the AL MVP. He won 7 batting titles, including four in a row 1972-75, and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting a total of 6 times.

He switched from the keystone to 1B for the 1976 season, then after 1978 left Minnesota as a free agent and signed with the Angels, where he finished his career in 1985. He made it to four postseasons, but never the World Series. He never played with a great team, although the 1969 Twins were pretty good. Mostly, he dropped a lot of bunt hits and hit lots of line-drive singles. He also drew a good number of walks, putting up some very impressive on-base numbers. He was never a great defender, but he was mobile and agile, quick on his feet. Carew is one of the great singles hitters of all time.

Carew earned 170.87 ratings points.

Carew's stats: .328 average, .393 on-base, 3053 hits, 353 SB, 445 doubles, 1424 runs.


 
Number 90: Kevin Brown

Brown seemed to have been hurt a lot, but he pitched over 3000 big league innings, and posted an ERA+ of 127. Brown won 20 in a season only once, but that is largely a product of this era. He was a "go-to" pitcher throughout the 90s.

Brown was a first round draft choice of the Rangers in 1986, the fourth pick overall. He made his major league debut that season, pitching five innings in his start and getting the win. He didn't return to Texas until 1988, going 1-1 in four starts, then became a rotation regular in 1989. He was an effective but not exceptional starter for the Rangers, posting a 21 win season in 1992 for a good-hitting team. Brown was just 7-9 with a league-average ERA in 1994, and became a free agent. He signed with Baltimore for just one year and went 10-9, then signed on with the Marlins as they built up for a run at the pennant.

Brown was 17-11 with a league-leading 1.89 ERA in 1996, then 16-8 in 1997 as the Marlins won the World Championship. Brown lost both his World Series starts but had started to build his rep as a big-game pitcher. The Marlins decided to tear apart that team, and traded Brown to the Padres for a young Derrek Lee after that season. Brown went 18-7 and led the Padres to the World Series, although they lost.

A free agent again, Brown signed with Los Angeles. He was successful there for a few years, but then injuries started to take their toll. He was swapped to the Yankees before 2004, and has continued to be very effective when able to pitch until 2005 when the wheels finally fell off. It was still a great career.

Brown earned 171.46 ratings points.

Brown's stats: 211-144 record, 3.28 ERA, 2397 K.


 
Number 89: Carlton Fisk

A Vermont native, Fisk was the first round pick of the Red Sox in the 1967 draft. He made a brief major league appearance in 1969, going 0 for 5, then came up for a "cup of coffee" in 1971, getting 48 ABs in 14 games. In 1972, at age 24, he established himself in the majors and won the Rookie of the Year award, batting .293 with 22 HR and 71 RBI, and showing good defense. His 1974 injury, knocking him out of the lineup after 52 games, seriously hurt the Red Sox' pennant chances. His half-season in 1975 helped propel the Sox to the 7th Game of the World Series, especially his dramatic 12th inning home run in Game 6.

Fisk continued as a seminal New England hero through the 1980 season, but after that year a falling out with management caused him to move on, signing on with the White Sox as a free agent. The second half of his career was spent in Chicago, and he began setting all kinds of records for "old" catchers, not retiring until the 1993 season when he was 45. He batted 53 times that year. His longevity is unusual, with 2226 games caught. Through his 24 seasons, he only managed two postseasons, in 1975 and 1983. He finished as high as 3rd in the MVP voting, that in 1983. His main value was in his consistency and his longevity.

Fisk earned 171.92 ratings points.

Fisk's stats: .269 average, 376 HR, 1330 RBI, 2356 hits, 11 All-Star Games.