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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Friday, September 24, 2004
 
Number 139: Jesse Burkett.

Nicknamed "The Crab" and near and dear to my heart as a native West Virginian, Burkett was a little guy at 5'8" and an accomplished leadoff man. Burkett pitched a good bit in 1890 for New York, but was very ineffective. He was much better at the plate, batting .309 with a 140 OPS+. However, he got lost in the shuffle of the league contraction following the collapse of the Players' League, and finally landed in Cleveland for 40 games in 1891. He remained in Cleveland through 1898, batting over .400 twice (1895 and 1896) and playing a competent LF.

Burkett was sent to St. Louis in the great baseball syndication scandal, where the Cleveland team ended up 20-134 in 1899 after being stripped of its best players. Burkett continued to hit in St. Louis, and jumped to the American League in 1902, also with St. Louis. 1901 had been his last great year, though, the final of his three batting titles and also the last time he led the league in runs and hits. He did lead the AL in times on base in 1902. He finished his career in the AL in 1905 with Boston, at age 36.

Burkett may be most similar to his contemporary Willie Keeler, but was a bit larger and had more power than Keeler. They had similar slash-and-run styles, batted leadoff and played corner outfield positions. Burkett was still an above-average hitter when he left the majors, and if he played in today's game would certainly have remained for the season or two required to reach 3000 hits.

Burkett earned 155.21 ratings points.

Burkett's stats: .338 batting average, 2850 hits, 720 runs, 182 triples.


Tuesday, September 21, 2004
 
Number 138: Jim Thome.

A big ol' country boy slugger in the mold of Jimmie Foxx, but left-handed. Thome strikes the image of an easy-going feller. He was a 13th round pick in 1989 by the Cleveland Indians. A third baseman coming up, Thome started edging his way into the Indians lineup slowly, starting in 1991. It wasn't until 1995, at age 24, that he became an everyday player. He switched to 1B for the 1997 season, as the Indians dropped Julio Franco and picked up Matt Williams for the hot corner. Thome was not a bad third baseman, but his range was starting to diminish and would have been a problem down the road.

A move to 1B also allowed Thome to concentrate on slugging. He has driven in 100 runs nine times, and hit 40 or more homers in six seasons. There are also 100 walks per year, and he has scored 100 runs in eight seasons. Thome became a free agent after 2002 and signed with Philadelphia, where he has continued slugging. After an injury-filled 2005, he has moved on to the Chicago White Sox, briefly to Los Angeles, and now Minnesota.

Thome has 155.38 ratings points through 2010.

Thome's stats (through 2010): .277 average, 591 HR, 1631 RBI, .558 slugging.