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, May 29, 2004
 
Number 113: Sherry Magee.

Now, here's an interesting choice. Unless you study a lot of baseball history, chances are you've never heard of Sherwood Magee. He started playing for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1904 at age 19, and quickly established himself as one of the top hitters in the National League. He led the league in RBI in 1907, though no one was actually counting them then. In 1910, he was the best hitter in the league, leading it in batting average, on-base, slugging, total bases, runs, and RBI.

In 1914 he had put up another stellar season, leading the NL in hits, doubles, total bases, slugging, and RBI. Phillies manager Red Dooin was let go after that season, and Magee thought he was in line for the job. Instead, the Phillies hired Pat Moran. Magee demanded, and got, a trade, and went to the defending World Champion Boston Braves for OF Possum Whitted. It was bad timing for Magee, as the Phillies would win the 1915 pennant. Magee was thus a year too early to leave the Phillies, and a year too late arriving to the Braves.

Magee was now past 30 and starting to fade, though he was still an above-average hitter. Again, his timing was bad: he went to Cincinnati, but had his worst year in 1919 as the Reds won the pennant. He had lost his job by the World Series, but did bat twice as a pinch-hitter, so he finally made the postseason, then left the majors for good.

Magee's stats were held down by the Dead-Ball Era, but his 136 career OPS+ attests to the quality of his bat.

Magee earned 162.75 ratings points.

Magee's stats: .291 average, 425 doubles, 166 triples, 2169 hits.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004
 
Number 112: Mark McGwire

He was a college third baseman and member of the 1984 Olympic team. A strapping young lad of 6'5", he just looked like a power hitter standing at the plate. Oakland made him the 10th overall pick in the 1984 draft, and he was in the majors at the end of 1986, hitting 3 homers in 53 AB. In 1987 he set a record for homers as a rookie, belting 49 and driving in 118 runs. That got him the Rookie of the Year award, as a first baseman. His .289 average was the highest he had for some years, but the A's started winning the division the next year.

McGwire didn't maintain the level of his rookie year, but he continued to be one of the most feared sluggers in the AL. His average sunk to the .230s, then in 1991 he hit just .201. His OPS was still at the league average, with his power and tons of walks. He rebounded to .268 in 1992, then missed most of 1993 with injury, and also much of 1994. In 1995 he did well in 104 games, then put together his best season to date in 1996, batting .312 with 52 homers.

His team had sunk in the standings, and in mid-season 1997 he was traded to St. Louis for three pitchers, and continued belting homers. In 1998 the race was on. McGwire swatted homers at an astonishing pace, and smashed the single-season record with 70 home runs. To prove it wasn't a fluke, he hit 65 the next year. He missed about half the season in 2000, however and the same in 2001 but hit only .187. At that point, he retired, his knees too painful to continue. Nobody hit them farther or more frequently than Big Mac.

McGwire earned 163.5 ratings points.

McGwire's stats: .263 average, 583 homers, 1414 RBI, 163 OPS+, .588 slugging.


 
Number 111: Dick Allen.

Allen may be the most controversial player of all time. He broke in with Philadelphia in 1964, and the Phillies set out on an improbable pennant chase, one of the most unlikely contenders of all time. The Phils had been losers for several years, but collected some good ballplayers including Johnny Callison, and with Gene Mauch micromanaging every step of the way, they came down the stretch with a ten-game lead....and blew it. Allen, 7-for-24 in a "cup of coffee" in 1963, batted .318 with 29 HR and 91 RBI plus 125 runs scored. A blowup with veteran reserve Frank Thomas provided a flash point for the team.

The Phils receded after that, although Allen continue to hit. In 1966 he hit 40 HR and drove in 110, and hit .300 each year until 1968, "The Year of the Pitcher." In late 1966 he moved to LF, then in 1968 to 1B. After the 1969 season, the Phillies traded Allen to St. Louis in a big trade that involved Tim McCarver and Curt Flood going to Philly. Flood refused to report, setting off his big antitrust court case against baseball. Other players were substituted, and Allen hit 34 HR for the Cardinals in 1970, then was traded to Los Angeles for Ted Sizemore and Bob Stinson. He hit .295 in LA, then was traded to the White Sox for Tommy John.

He won the 1972 AL MVP, batting .308 with 37 homers on the South Side. In 1973 he played only 72 games due to injuries. In 1974 he led the AL in homers despite leaving the team and missing most of the last month. That wore out his welcome in Chicago, and Allen was traded first to the Braves, and then to the Phillies as he returned to his home state. Stationed at 1B for Philadelphia, he could only manage a .233 average in 1975, then batted .268 in part-time play in 1976 as the Phils won the division, his only postseason action. He went 2-for-9 in the NLCS. After the season he became a free agent and signed with the depleted Oakland team, batting .240 in 54 games, then left the pro ranks.

Allen was one of the great hitters of his day, leading his league in OPS four times, homers twice. But his rep as a team divider and hard person to get along with colors perceptions of him. That many teams went out to get him speaks well of his ability, but that so many wanted to get rid of him for what looks like pennies on the dollar does not help his reputation or Hall of Fame chances. Only one post-season appearance, when many teams picked him up to get them into the World Series, also holds him back.

The man could hit, but I don't know if I would have wanted him on my team. It's hard to support his election for the Hall of Fame, even though he is qualified by ranking this high.

Allen earned 163.69 ratings points.

Allen's stats: .292 average, 351 HR, 1119 RBI, 133 SB, .534 slugging.