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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Monday, April 18, 2005
 
Number 165: Enos Slaughter

"Country" was an old-fashioned ballplayer, a guy who worked his way through the enormous Cardinals farm system to the majors in 1938. He had decent speed and a good arm, and ended up in right field. He had some power though not a lot but was a very consistent hitter good at making solid contact with the ball. He batted .276 in that rookie season, then .300 or better the next four years in a row. Then World War II came, and Slaughter went into the military after the 1942 season. When he came back in 1946 he batted over .300 again and was a key figure in the World Series win, scoring from first on a double to the outfield in Game 7. He stayed with the Cardinals through 1953, finishing in the top ten of the MVP voting five times, with a high of second in 1942.

In 1954, at age 38, he played for the Yankees after being acquired in a trade for Bill Virdon. He went to Kansas City during 1955, but came back to New York in 1956 for the stretch drive at age 40. Slaughter stayed in the majors until the end of the 1959 season at age 43, still showing his skills. He played in five World Series and batted .291 in them. He was the type of guy who came to play every day, even into his forties.

Slaughter earned 148.52 ratings points.

Slaughter's stats: .300 average, 169 homers, 2383 hits, 1018 walks, 1247 runs, 1304 RBI.


 
Number 164: Silver King.

Charles Frederick Koenig was born in St. Louis and became a star for his hometown team with three spectacular seasons in the late 1880s. The nickname "Silver" was much like the moniker "Whitey" in the 1950s, for players with white-blond hair. He won 32 games in 1887, 45 in an incredible 1888, and 35 in 1889. He won another 30 in 1890 for Chicago in the Players' League, and then the effects of pitching so many innings at a young age began to catch up with him.

He only pitched in ten seasons but put up some excellent numbers in that time. He was done before age 30, not unusual for the time.

King earned 148.8 ratings points.

King's stats: 203-152 record, 3.18 ERA, 123 ERA+.


Sunday, April 17, 2005
 
Number 163: Ryne Sandberg

You may be thinking this is an odd pick. A guy who played in a hitter's park, never won a World Series, and had a relatively short career. His stat line doesn't look truly exceptional. But, here he is, and there must be a reason.

One reason is, Sandberg has several of the qualities that cause players to be underrated. For instance, while he did not excel at any one phase of the game, he was above average in all of them. He could hit, hit for power, run, play defense. He was not the best at any one of these things, but he was an across-the-board talent. For another, he played with some lousy teammates, which held some of his stats down. You must have runners on in front of you to record high RBI totals, and good hitters behind you to score a lot of runs. Sandberg rarely had a great deal of quality surrounding him. Plus, he played just before the era of offensive explosion, making his totals look smaller by comparison to those who came along just after him. Sandberg made a career of being underrated, starting with being included as a throw-in in a shortstops trade of Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus. He batted six times for the Phillies in 1981 before they traded him to the Cubs, then spent one season at third base before settling in at second base for a long and steady career.

It seems odd to call Sandberg underrated since he won the 1984 NL MVP, and nine straight Gold Gloves. But on his first and second tries on the Hall of Fame ballot, he failed to gain the necessary votes for election. Perhaps it is that lack of gaudy numbers, or his one-season "retirement" before returning for two middling seasons. At any rate, Sandberg was a terrific player, good enough to earn that MVP, and also be a top vote-getter in 1989 and 1990, and perhaps deserve the award in 1991. His family problems causing him to leave the game for a year and a half in 1994-95 no doubt cost him some stats, but he was one of the greatest anyway.

Sandberg earned 149.08 rating points.

Sandberg's stats: .285 average, 282 HR, 1061 RBI, 1318 runs, 344 SB, .385 postseason average.