Joe Posnanski's top 100 Baseball Players of All Time

snowmanny

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Comparing strikeouts now to any time in history is crazy of course. MLB pitchers averaged a higher K/9 in 2019 than Roger Clemens did over his career.
 

jon abbey

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Joe Morgan at #21 today, so this is very likely your top 20, obviously not in order:

Babe Ruth
Willie Mays
Ty Cobb
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Hank Aaron
Walter Johnson
Ted Williams
Mickey Mantle
Stan Musial
Rogers Hornsby
Alex Rodriguez
Lou Gehrig
Honus Wagner
Satchel Paige
Oscar Charleston
Josh Gibson
Tris Speaker
Mike Schmidt
Frank Robinson
 

Joe Sixpack

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Grove led the AL in K/9 5 different times during his career. During his prime years, the league leader was usually around 6 K/9. Just for context.
 

jon abbey

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Tris Speaker at #18 today, I (unintentionally) nailed the bottom of that above list. 17 left:

Babe Ruth
Willie Mays
Ty Cobb
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Hank Aaron
Walter Johnson
Ted Williams
Mickey Mantle
Stan Musial
Rogers Hornsby
Alex Rodriguez
Lou Gehrig
Honus Wagner
Satchel Paige
Oscar Charleston
Josh Gibson
 

Kliq

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Tris Speaker is awesome; he is fifth all-time in career WAR for hitters, ninth overall. All-time great hitter, fielder and baserunner, probably would have hit for a lot more power if he was born in a different time.
 

Rough Carrigan

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Almost everyone pitching much, much deeper into games had to hurt rate states like K/9, I would think.
I think that the causality went in the other direction. They could pitch much deeper into games because there weren't a lot of strikeouts. Striking out was considered almost shameful from the inception of baseball to 1950. A lot of guys took 75% effort swings. That was part of it. The other part is that pitchers weren't trying to strike everyone out, which was perfectly rational when no one could hit an opposite field homer. When Christy Mathewson started out he threw as hard as he could every pitch one game and his teammates took him aside asking "What the hell are you doing?" No one did that.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Agree with Rough. Fewer K's (and walks) also meant 100 pitches could get you into the 7th or 8th and even 9th inning more often. How many 100 pitch, 5 inning "masterpieces" have we been treated to the past 10-15 years due to nibbling and fouling and trying for the 3 true outcomes?
 

67YAZ

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Josh Gibson at #15. I find the opening section to be compelling and illuminating. Great piece of writing.
 

Bergs

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That Gibson piece. Pos knows how to deliver a punchline, man. Great piece.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Joe has at least two extra weeks before Opening Day now. He can relax and take his time with this list now. :D
 

The Gray Eagle

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I consider this excellent news, because I only just finished #40 Roberto Clemente (which was great by the way) because I am taking my time reading these. So when I do catch up, now there will be even more bonus articles.

With sports basically canceled for weeks, it won't take me long to catch up, unfortunately.
 

67YAZ

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Lou Gehrig today, and it’s so so good. Pos is really writing on all cylinders down the home stretch.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Tris Speaker is awesome; he is fifth all-time in career WAR for hitters, ninth overall. All-time great hitter, fielder and baserunner, probably would have hit for a lot more power if he was born in a different time.
He also still holds the all-time career doubles record of 794, and remains the only player with five seasons of 50 or more doubles.

I think of him as a severely under-recognized player. He was Ty Cobb's contemporary and virtually his equal (brWAR per 600 PA: Cobb 6.9, Speaker 6.7). Yet even casual fans may know Cobb's name and can maybe even tell you a few things about him (not all of which are necessarily true). Spoke, not so much.

I think that the causality went in the other direction. They could pitch much deeper into games because there weren't a lot of strikeouts. Striking out was considered almost shameful from the inception of baseball to 1950. A lot of guys took 75% effort swings. That was part of it. The other part is that pitchers weren't trying to strike everyone out, which was perfectly rational when no one could hit an opposite field homer. When Christy Mathewson started out he threw as hard as he could every pitch one game and his teammates took him aside asking "What the hell are you doing?" No one did that.
It's interesting to note that the plate appearance held up for epic deflation in "Casey at the Bat" is a classic three-true-outcomes effort: Casey shows what we would now call a laudably selective approach, waiting for a pitch he can drive rather than swinging at borderline strikes, but ends up striking out when he swings for the fences. When the poem was written I suspect this would have been regarded as a vainglorious, inefficient approach to hitting.
 

Rough Carrigan

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He also still holds the all-time career doubles record of 794, and remains the only player with five seasons of 50 or more doubles.

I think of him as a severely under-recognized player. He was Ty Cobb's contemporary and virtually his equal (brWAR per 600 PA: Cobb 6.9, Speaker 6.7). Yet even casual fans may know Cobb's name and can maybe even tell you a few things about him (not all of which are necessarily true). Spoke, not so much.



It's interesting to note that the plate appearance held up for epic deflation in "Casey at the Bat" is a classic three-true-outcomes effort: Casey shows what we would now call a laudably selective approach, waiting for a pitch he can drive rather than swinging at borderline strikes, but ends up striking out when he swings for the fences. When the poem was written I suspect this would have been regarded as a vainglorious, inefficient approach to hitting.
I never thought about it that way. That's a great point.

Anyway, they need to soften the ball a little bit so that it travels about 5-10% less distance on the same hit as the ball now. It will incentivize both hitters and pitchers away from the 3 true outcomes game. It doesn't require crazy rule changes. Just make home runs a bit harder.
 

Wallball Tingle

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It's interesting to note that the plate appearance held up for epic deflation in "Casey at the Bat" is a classic three-true-outcomes effort: Casey shows what we would now call a laudably selective approach, waiting for a pitch he can drive rather than swinging at borderline strikes, but ends up striking out when he swings for the fences. When the poem was written I suspect this would have been regarded as a vainglorious, inefficient approach to hitting.
Just wanted to say this is a nice, interesting observation. Can see Billy Beane trying to pick Casey up after Mudville lets him go in the offseason.
 

shaggydog2000

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I mean, I don't see how we can be nostalgic for the golden age of names when we root for an organization that employs Brainer Bonaci. (Not to mention Xander Bogaerts.)
Names are like ballplayers. We can and should honor the greats of the past, but every era has their stand outs. Whether it's a Mordecai Three Finger Brown, a Bake McBride, an Ugueth Urbina, or an Angel Bastardo, you should recognize and celebrate them all.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Names are like ballplayers. We can and should honor the greats of the past, but every era has their stand outs. Whether it's a Mordecai Three Finger Brown, a Bake McBride, an Ugueth Urbina, or an Angel Bastardo, you should recognize and celebrate them all.
If only we had some tool for measuring name value across different eras. Call it MAR (Moniker Above Replacement).
 

jon abbey

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13 left:

Babe Ruth
Willie Mays
Ty Cobb
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Hank Aaron
Walter Johnson
Ted Williams
Mickey Mantle
Stan Musial
Honus Wagner
Satchel Paige
Oscar Charleston
 

Marciano490

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13 left:

Babe Ruth
Willie Mays
Ty Cobb
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Hank Aaron
Walter Johnson
Ted Williams
Mickey Mantle
Stan Musial
Honus Wagner
Satchel Paige
Oscar Charleston
I know it’s not an actual ranking, but am I nuts thinking it’s weird seeing Clemens so high?
 

jon abbey

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I know it’s not an actual ranking, but am I nuts thinking it’s weird seeing Clemens so high?
Pretty sure he was the best pitcher of all time, he won 7 Cy Youngs, the first when he was 23 and the last when he was 41. Then he had a 1.87 ERA in 211 innings in his age 42 season, just ridiculous.

Walter Johnson and Satchel Paige are the only other two pitchers left and I would go Clemens over those two based on level of competition. Randy Johnson might get my vote as the guy I would most want on my team for his entire career, but Clemens has better numbers.
 

Marciano490

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Pretty sure he was the best pitcher of all time, he won 7 Cy Youngs, the first when he was 23 and the last when he was 41. Then he had a 1.87 ERA in 211 innings in his age 42 season, just ridiculous.

Walter Johnson and Satchel Paige are the only other two pitchers left and I would go Clemens over those two based on level of competition. Randy Johnson might get my vote as the guy I would most want on my team for his entire career, but Clemens has better numbers.
Of course the pure numbers are staggering and he had some all-time seasons with the Sox, but he seems to very clearly be someone whose continued greatness owed to steroids. The 300 wins, the strikeouts, the things that put him in the inner circle.

He’s also someone whose legacy in the game is among the most besmirched, not only by the juicing, but the underage sex scandal and his general personality.

He’s still not in the HoF, and he’s not someone I associate with baseball legend and lore. And I never even hated him.
 

jon abbey

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Again, my guess is that the primary point of this entire exercise is to put Bonds first and Clemens second in an effort to get them voted in. We’ll see.
 

67YAZ

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Pos’ first “favorite player” essay is up and it’s about the inimitable Duane “Two Steps & a Dive” Kuiper.

not long now until the Quisenberry essay...
 
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HowBoutDemSox

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Again, my guess is that the primary point of this entire exercise is to put Bonds first and Clemens second in an effort to get them voted in. We’ll see.
It was a good theory, but Joe defies prediction. Clemens clocking in today at #13.

Love that he started the piece with the Piazza bat throw story.
 

67YAZ

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It was a good theory, but Joe defies prediction. Clemens clocking in today at #13.

Love that he started the piece with the Piazza bat throw story.
He doesn’t hold back when assessing the good and the bad of Rogah.

Is it that Roger Clemens might just be the greatest pitcher who ever lived?

Is it that Roger Clemens did not even deserve to be out there at all?

Or, somehow, are we left trying to make sense of both thoughts at the same time?
 

67YAZ

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Bo Jackson is today's favorite player. It's hard to say something new and different about the man, the myth, the legend that is Bo, but Joe does a nice job tapping into the awe and wonder Bo still inspires. I'd never before seen this quote from Bo:

“Baseball and football are very different games,” he once wrote. “In a way both of them are easy. Football is easy if you’re crazy. Baseball is easy if you’ve got patience.”

...

“They’d both be easier for me,” he went on, “if I were a little more crazy and a little more patient.”
 

santadevil

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I know that a lot of people here recommend a subscription to The Athletic

If anyone is looking for a discount code, Foolish Baseball does offer one. 7 days free and 40% off
 

jon abbey

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11 left:

Babe Ruth
Willie Mays
Ty Cobb
Barry Bonds
Hank Aaron
Walter Johnson
Ted Williams
Mickey Mantle
Stan Musial
Satchel Paige
Oscar Charleston
 

Dummy Hoy

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It just occurs to me that Paige is number one....he was truly one of a kind. Going to be interesting an enjoyable for sure.

100% I’m preordering the book.
 

ninjacornelius

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It just occurs to me that Paige is number one....he was truly one of a kind. Going to be interesting an enjoyable for sure.

100% I’m preordering the book.
From reading Pos' work over the years, I'm pretty sure he considers Mays to be the greatest player in baseball history. That won't mean that Paige won't be number one, since his rankings are admittedly arbitrary, but I've been expecting Mays to get the top spot since this project started.

And agreed 100% on the book, especially if we get all the favorite players pieces as well.
 

67YAZ

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Today’s favorite player is Eddie Murray. Joe unearths that Eddie played on the same high school team as Ozzie Smith!
 

snowmanny

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Yup.
And of course putting Musial ahead of Williams - even if the specific rankings weren’t the focus of the work - wouldn’t have made much sense. So I was dumb.
 

jon abbey

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8 left:

Babe Ruth
Willie Mays
Ty Cobb
Barry Bonds
Hank Aaron
Walter Johnson
Ted Williams
Oscar Charleston