Joe Posnanski's top 100 Baseball Players of All Time

67YAZ

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I was initially skeptical about today’s Favorite Player, but ended up really enjoying it.
 

Max Power

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So the top 9 players are, in some order, Musial, Cobb, Aaron, Mays, Ruth, Bonds, Williams, Charleston, and Johnson. That's 8 outfielders and a pitcher. I guess that's just a function of being able to avoid injuries you'd usually get in the infield.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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So the top 9 players are, in some order, Musial, Cobb, Aaron, Mays, Ruth, Bonds, Williams, Charleston, and Johnson. That's 8 outfielders and a pitcher. I guess that's just a function of being able to avoid injuries you'd usually get in the infield.
I think it's a combination of durability and the fact that the best hitters tend to end up either in the outfield or at first base, and outfielders (rightly, for the most part) tend to get more credit for being valuable as all-around contributors than first basemen. Really elite hitters at infield positions other than 1B are rare; among players with at least 5000 PA, the top 25 in career wRC+ includes only only player (Hornsby) who didn't get the majority of his career starts at either OF or 1B.
 

CarolinaBeerGuy

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I think it's a combination of durability and the fact that the best hitters tend to end up either in the outfield or at first base, and outfielders (rightly, for the most part) tend to get more credit for being valuable as all-around contributors than first basemen. Really elite hitters at infield positions other than 1B are rare; among players with at least 5000 PA, the top 25 in career wRC+ includes only only player (Hornsby) who didn't get the majority of his career starts at either OF or 1B.
Where is ARod on that list?
 

67YAZ

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One thing I appreciate about Pos’ series is how he highlights the range of character types that make up these all time great athletes - the rage monsters (Clemens & Cobb) and the fundamentally decent (Musial), men of deep integrity (Robinson) and men of pure V̶i̶l̶l̶a̶i̶n̶y̶ dickheadhood (Lajoie), complex personalities (Teddy Ballgame) and happy extroverts (Buck O’Neil), showmen (Satchel Paige) and quiet superstars (Mike Trout). There is no one way of mom approaching the world that can get you to greatness. Pos’ list is a showcase for the full spectrum of personalities.
 
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LogansDad

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One thing I appreciate about Pos’ series is how he highlights the range of character types that make up these all time great athletes - the rage monsters (Clemens & Cobb) and the fundamentally decent (Musial), men of deep integrity (Robinson) and men of pure villainy (Lajoie), complex personalities (Teddy Ballgame) and happy extroverts (Buck O’Neil), showmen (Satchel Paige) and quiet superstars (Mike Trout). There is no one way of approaching the world that can get you to greatness. Pos’ list is a showcase for the full spectrum of personalities.
This is a great post, and hits exactly why I am enjoying these so much. I have been waiting on the Cobb piece the entire time I've been reading, and it did not disappoint.... gave me chills, in fact.
 

Marciano490

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One thing I appreciate about Pos’ series is how he highlights the range of character types that make up these all time great athletes - the rage monsters (Clemens & Cobb) and the fundamentally decent (Musial), men of deep integrity (Robinson) and men of pure villainy (Lajoie), complex personalities (Teddy Ballgame) and happy extroverts (Buck O’Neil), showmen (Satchel Paige) and quiet superstars (Mike Trout). There is no one way of approaching the world that can get you to greatness. Pos’ list is a showcase for the full spectrum of personalities.
What made Lajoie a villain? I didn’t see anything too awful on his Wikipedia.
 

67YAZ

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What made Lajoie a villain? I didn’t see anything too awful on his Wikipedia.
I may have overstated it. Cap Anson was a villain. Lajoie was a scoundrel. As Pos notes:

As a rookie with Philadelphia, Lajoie would repeatedly come to the ballpark inebriated. Once, after a particularly rowdy night, he got into a fight with a heckler on the way to the park and was arrested. Another time, he showed up so drunk that his manager, George Stallings, put him in the game just to humiliate him. Lajoie promptly made a two-run error, screamed at fans, got pulled from the game and was suspended for four days.

Lajoie was suspended a lot, actually. He got suspended for throwing a wad of chewing tobacco into the face of an umpire (and then chasing down the umpire after the game, threatening him all the way). He was suspended another time for viciously arguing balls and strikes and calling the umpire “crooked” (but this time, at least, sans tobacco). He once grew so mad that an umpire would not replace a baseball that had gone black from dirt and spit and grime, he simply picked up the ball and threw it over the grandstand the way a petulant child might. The game was ruled a forfeit.

Lajoie broke his thumb while battering a future Hall of Fame teammate, Elmer Flick, who said Lajoie had been bullying him for more than a year. Lajoie got into a lot of fights.
[/ QUOTE]
 

Marciano490

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This was my favorite Lajoie anecdote from his wiki involving a couple other hall of famers, including one with an unfortunate nickname.


Author Fred McMane described an instance during the season between Naps catcher Nig Clarke and Lajoie.
Clarke ... was newly married and asked Lajoie for a day off so that he could go home. Lajoie refused. Clarke sulked and walked over to warm up pitcher Addie Joss. On the first pitch, he stuck out a finger and the ball broke it cleanly. With blood streaming from his hand, Clarke waved it defiantly in front of Lajoie. "Now can I go home?" asked Clarke. He was out five weeks, and Cleveland lost the pennant to Detroit by half a game.
 

67YAZ

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This was my favorite Lajoie anecdote from his wiki involving a couple other hall of famers, including one with an unfortunate nickname.


Author Fred McMane described an instance during the season between Naps catcher Nig Clarke and Lajoie.
Yow! Lajoie wasn’t a very good manager. From his SABR profile:

As manager, Lajoie was criticized for his rudimentary method of relaying signals to the outfielders. He had a way of wiggling his finger behind his back as notice to his outfield when his pitcher was going to throw a fastball, and wiggling two fingers for a curve. Enemy pitchers in the bullpen often could read Nap's signals, and they were never a mystery to Connie Mack. One contemporary observed of Lajoie, "The great player--artist rather disdained the subtleties of the game and responsibility sat heavily upon him. He failed to lift up lesser players to the batting and fielding heights that he had attained so easily. He knew how to do a thing, but to impart to another how it should be done eluded him."
You don’t have to be Alex Cora to steal those signs.
 

FormerLurker

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Interesting - the standard account of the 1910 batting title controversy is that the Browns tried to rig things for Lajoie because he, unlike Cobb, was well-liked and popular. I wonder now if this is another story that has been repeated over and over without ever really being truly investigated for accuracy.
 

HowBoutDemSox

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Interesting - the standard account of the 1910 batting title controversy is that the Browns tried to rig things for Lajoie because he, unlike Cobb, was well-liked and popular. I wonder now if this is another story that has been repeated over and over without ever really being truly investigated for accuracy.
Joe has an extended write-up about the incident in his article on Lajoie. Here’s his guess about the Brown’s manager’s motivation:
Nobody knows for sure what motivated O’Connor to do what he did on that day, Oct. 9, 1910. Many assumed he did it because he loathed Cobb, which is never a bad guess. Others thought he did it out of admiration for Lajoie, which is also not a bad guess.

Others suggested O’Connor did it because, like so many others, he had big money on the batting race, which is probably the best guess of all.
 

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7 left:

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

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Re Lajoie:

Ah yes, easy to forget how pervasive money and gambling were in baseball at that time.
Bill James' article on Hal Chase (but really about the whole era and its corruption) in one of the Historical Abstracts is one of the most fascinating (and sad) reads about off-the-field baseball topics I've ever encountered. "There is an evil, a smallness, lust, and greed that lives inside of each of us..."
 

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Whenever I read the latest piece, I think it is the best one written, until the next one come out. He is dialed in and hitting them out of the park. I really loved this little bit of writing because it is so poetic..

At the heart of this American game, beneath the strategies, the analytics, the statistics, the sacrifices, the shifts, the legends, the movements, the infield fly rule, there’s a player with a ball and there’s a player with a bat, and they stand 60 feet, 6 inches away from each other.
The player with the ball throws it as hard as he can.
The player with the bat tries to hit it.
That is the spark of baseball, that little piece of magic that rises above and grabs the heart and gives this game something that resembles timelessness. You don’t have to understand anything about stealing signs or linear weights or launch angles or tunneling or working the count to grasp and feel awed by what my friend Jon Hock — who I worked with on the documentary “Fastball” — calls “a primal battle between a man with a stick and a man with a rock.”
 

LogansDad

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Whenever I read the latest piece, I think it is the best one written, until the next one come out. He is dialed in and hitting them out of the park. I really loved this little bit of writing because it is so poetic..
They just keep getting better. Today's was outstanding from start to finish.
 

Bergs

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I cannot wait for his Bonds piece. Cannot wait.
 

67YAZ

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It’s funny, people talked about his incredible eyesight — measured at 20-15 when he was in the service — but it was actually his hearing that was supernatural.

Ted Williams could hear a single boo in a Fenway Park filled with cheers.
 

HowBoutDemSox

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Every time I read about Ted Williams getting screwed out of three MVPs (1941, 1942, 1947), my blood boils.
 

coremiller

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I'll give in on the 1941 MVP because of the 56 game hit streak. While still not defensible at least there's some underlying idea of why it may happen. But the other two?


1942
View attachment 29491

1947

View attachment 29492
Even apart from the hitting streak, DiMaggio in 41 had a tremendous season in his own right, hitting .357/.440/.643 in a terrible park for RHH and playing good defense at a more valuable position.

One of the fun pieces of trivia about Ted's career is that he won the Triple Crown in both 42 and 47 and didn't win the MVP either time.
 

Ale Xander

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I have no idea who Joe Gordon is but I hate him regardless
Yankees suck

And f the Nazis
 
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67YAZ

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I, for one, am happy people stepped up to kill Nazis.

One amazing thing about Ted is that he came back from 2 wars as good as when he left. Many other players came back significantly lesser, which is no surprise - take the player out of the game for several years of his athletic prime and that’ll happen. But Ted wasn’t a ceremonial figure in the service - he flew combat missions! And he was so good at it, they called him back for Korea. While it robbed him of key years in his career, it didn’t slow him down. Just an incomparable feat.
 

jon abbey

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What an awe-inspiring piece on Williams. Joe Pos is really the best
Really good, but a quibble: unless I missed it, I don't think he ever mentioned how Williams was defensively. It's easy to see the offensive stats for all of these legends, so it seems like defense should be a factor in how they're ranked at the very top, so I would have liked to see that mentioned here (and in all of these remaining ones).
 

Max Power

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Really good, but a quibble: unless I missed it, I don't think he ever mentioned how Williams was defensively. It's easy to see the offensive stats for all of these legends, so it seems like defense should be a factor in how they're ranked at the very top, so I would have liked to see that mentioned here (and in all of these remaining ones).
His career OPS+ is better than Willie Mays' best season. The best description of his defense is, "Who gives a shit?"
 

jon abbey

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5 left:

Babe Ruth
Willie Mays
Barry Bonds
Hank Aaron
Oscar Charleston

I have to admit, I don't know almost anything about Oscar Charleston, pretty incredible to see him in this exalted company. Really looking forward to reading that one...
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

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His career OPS+ is better than Willie Mays' best season. The best description of his defense is, "Who gives a shit?"
I think that was basically Ted's philosophy on defense as well.

No idea the value of the data from his era but he had a career dWAR of -13.3. Another hitting savant named Manny had a career dWAR of -21.7 as a comparison.
 

DJnVa

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The Quisenberry one today is my favorite of the whole series so far.
I loved Quisenberry. When I played ball growing up I played SS/P, but when I hit around 15 or so, my velocity stopped increasing and I didn't really throw hard anyway. So I adapted, and I threw like Quisenberry about 80% of the time (until the got comfortable, and I'd come straight over top at a scorching 70 mph). Every once in a while, one of my 60 mph pitches would just float up there on a platter and get crushed, but for the most part 15-17 year old kids had no idea what do to seeing something like this:

Dan Quisenberry Stock Pictures, Royalty-free Photos & Images ...
 

bankshot1

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We all understood TW's indifference to fielding, but In Ted's defense, so to speak, -6.2 of his -13.3 dWAR came in his last 3 years, and almost wiped out his OWar in those years.
 

snowmanny

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Really good, but a quibble: unless I missed it, I don't think he ever mentioned how Williams was defensively. It's easy to see the offensive stats for all of these legends, so it seems like defense should be a factor in how they're ranked at the very top, so I would have liked to see that mentioned here (and in all of these remaining ones).
It is odd he didn't mention it much, but I think it is implied that he is ONLY sixth because of his defense. Most obviously, it would be very very hard to rank Aaron>Williams without heavily factoring in defense.
 

Merkle's Boner

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It is odd he didn't mention it much, but I think it is implied that he is ONLY sixth because of his defense. Most obviously, it would be very very hard to rank Aaron>Williams without heavily factoring in defense.
Agreed. I was initially shocked TW was behind Aaron. Pos usually appreciates peak more than longevity, but I think the difference in defense (and to be fair I don't know the D numbers for Hank) pushed Ted behind Aaron and Charleston.

Still interested to see how he ranks what I assume the top 3 will be- Ruth, Mays, Bonds.
 

jungleboy

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Still interested to see how he ranks what I assume the top 3 will be- Ruth, Mays, Bonds.
I also think that'll be the top 3 (with Charleston at 5, Aaron at 4). I don't know why, but I think the top 3 order will be either:

3 - Bonds
2 - Mays
1 - Ruth

or

3 - Ruth
2 - Mays
1 - Bonds
 

bankshot1

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I haven't read Pos's write-up (I'll sign-up at some point) but I suspect its not primarily TW's D versus Aaron's (he had a -4-6 DWar) for the 6th best ranking, but rather the war years that probably took some 40-45 WAR points from his total, and would have ranked him as the baseballl's best offensive player based on WAR. (~165) but that ignores Ruth's pitching years. At that point Pos would have to make the argument that TW's offensive contribution less his defensive weaknesses was not was valuable as Aaron's (136.6 OWar). IMO that's a tough argument to make.
 

Kliq

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Hasn't he said a million times that this isn't in exact order, but rather a rough kind of system that occasionally pairs entries with a number significant to their career? Splitting hairs between Aaron and Williams is kind of pointless anyway, everyone agrees both guys ruled.

That being said, Aaron's peak coming in an era that was not particularly hitter friendly is something that is overlooked during his career. Hitting 40+ homers year after year from mid-60s to early-70s is akin to hitting 50+ homers every year during some of the big hitting eras.