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, June 26, 2004
 
Number 123: Edgar Martinez

A DH, in a spot that should go to a Hall of Famer? Yes, and Martinez' excellent offense should earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Not playing defense is no different than playing it poorly. An argument could be made that being a DH has given Martinez an unfair advantage, since he was unable to stay healthy while playing in the field, mostly at 3B. However, I am ranking players on what they have done, not on what they may or may not have accomplished under different circumstances.

Martinez was a late starter, not appearing in the majors until 1987, at age 24. He did not become a regular until age 27. He was a .300 hitter as soon as he could get in the lineup, and won the batting title in 1992, his third year as the regular third baseman. He missed most of 1993, though, and with a similarly-interrupted 1994 he became a full-time DH in 1995, with few appearances in the field after. He also won a batting title in 1995, and showed more power. He led the league in OPS and finished 3rd in MVP balloting as the Mariners got to the playoffs. The Mariners returned to the postseason in 1997, 2000 and 2001 with Martinez at DH, but by 2002 at age 39 he was fading. His on-base average remained above .400, making him still valuable. He is one of those pure, professional hitters who could get out of bed in January and hit a line drive. Martinez will be the true test case for DHs and Hall of Fame voting.

Martinez earned 159.04 ratings points.

Martinez' stats: .312 average, 309 HR, 1261 RBI, 2247 hits.


Thursday, June 24, 2004
 
Number 122: Craig Biggio

Bill James had him overrated in the New Historical Baseball Abstract. Most everyone else has him underrated. Never winning a postseason series (until 2004) has something to do with that.

Biggio came up as a catcher, starting with 50 games in 1988, at age 22. He was the Astros' regular catcher for the next three seasons, but his small size (he is generously listed as 5'11', 185 lbs.) led to him being moved to second base. He adapted quickly to the move, his hitting improved, and Biggio became one of the best hitters in the league, although playing his home games in the Astrodome masked that somewhat. The closest he has ever come to a huge, MVP-type season was 1997, when he scored 146 runs, but mostly he has been a steady, consistent player for many years. His recent decline has been masked a bit by the Astros' move to an excellent hitting park, but Biggio also willingly moved to CF when Jeff Kent was signed to play 2B, and played well in the outfield. He moved to LF in 2004 with the coming of Carlos Beltran, and later went back to second base.

Biggio won four Gold Gloves for his work at second base, 1994-97, and led in doubles three times, runs twice. He's never been the best player in the league (that was Barry Bonds) but his consistent high level of play should get him in the Hall of Fame one day.

Biggio earned 159.18 ratings points.

Biggio's stats: .281 average, 291 HR, 668 doubles, 285 HBP, 3060 hits, 1844 runs.


Monday, June 21, 2004
 
Number 121: Albert Spalding.

Spalding was the dominant pitcher of the National Association, the first professional league of scope. The NA operated from 1871 to 1875, though it was a loose association of teams rather than a true league, a spot the National League would fill beginning in 1876.

Spalding had actually begun pitching professionally even before the NA began, at the age of about 17. There wasn't much admitted professionalism in those days, payments were kept hush-hush. But a kid as talented as Spalding got attention. When the NA did start Spalding was the pitcher (they only had one then) for Boston, and Boston was the team that won the pennants.

Spalding led his league, or association, or whatever, in wins each of his six full seasons of pitching. Part of that was pitching for good teams, and part of it was that he was good. Spalding was a superb pitcher in those days of all "submarine" pitching, and a fine hitter as well. He wasn't a guy who hit ninth: in 1874 he led the NA in plate appearances, so he was batting at the top of the lineup.

Spalding later became a club owner, then a sporting goods magnate. His lasting legacy is the sale of various pieces of equipment for those who partake in the sporting pasttimes.

Spalding earned 159.2 ratings points.

Spalding's stats: 252-65 record, 2.13 ERA, .313 batting average.