Who is the greatest living balllplayer?

mauf

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Jason Gay with a nice tribute.

https://www.wsj.com/sports/baseball/willie-mays-will-be-forever-a8853906?st=hhb3au4o20jaxcs&reflink=article_copyURL_share

Who is the greatest living retired player now? Is Yaz in the discussion? Junior Griffey?
Using WAR (to start the discussion, not end it), the list goes Bonds, A-Rod, Henderson, Schmidt, Pujols, with not much difference among the last three. Yaz and Ripken next after those guys. If Mike Trout can string together a few more healthy seasons he’ll be the consensus right answer a decade from now.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Jason Gay with a nice tribute.

https://www.wsj.com/sports/baseball/willie-mays-will-be-forever-a8853906?st=hhb3au4o20jaxcs&reflink=article_copyURL_share



Using WAR (to start the discussion, not end it), the list goes Bonds, A-Rod, Henderson, Schmidt, Pujols, with not much difference among the last three. Yaz and Ripken next after those guys. If Mike Trout can string together a few more healthy seasons he’ll be the consensus right answer a decade from now.
I intentionally didn’t include Bonds, but should have said so and why, but yes, he would be the answer.
 

mauf

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Broken out of the Willie Mays tribute thread.

But really, this thread will end up being a tribute too — because unless you don’t discount Bonds’s numbers at all, no one alive is in the same zip code as Willie.
 

trekfan55

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Jason Gay with a nice tribute.

https://www.wsj.com/sports/baseball/willie-mays-will-be-forever-a8853906?st=hhb3au4o20jaxcs&reflink=article_copyURL_share



Using WAR (to start the discussion, not end it), the list goes Bonds, A-Rod, Henderson, Schmidt, Pujols, with not much difference among the last three. Yaz and Ripken next after those guys. If Mike Trout can string together a few more healthy seasons he’ll be the consensus right answer a decade from now.
Wait, is Griffey not in this conversation? Is it because of his injuries?
 

Murderer's Crow

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Had this conversation last night. Ignoring steroids for my own purposes because then there's only 1 answer.

Mariano Rivera
Ohtani
Griffey

All 3 of these players transcend the sport. Greatest living player doesn't necessarily mean holds a record of any kind to me.
 

Remagellan

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Had this conversation last night. Ignoring steroids for my own purposes because then there's only 1 answer.

Mariano Rivera
Ohtani
Griffey

All 3 of these players transcend the sport. Greatest living player doesn't necessarily mean holds a record of any kind to me.
I have tremendous respect for him, and once argued on this board that he was the single person most responsible for the MFYs run in the late 90s/early 00s, but anointing him the Greatest Living Baseball Player would be like someone tabbing Justin Tucker the Greatest Living Football Player 30 or 40 years from now.

In all honesty, whether or not he acted with such, it's Willie's godson. (See above)
 

Murderer's Crow

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I have tremendous respect for him, and once argued on this board that he was the single person most responsible for the MFYs run in the late 90s/early 00s, but anointing him the Greatest Living Baseball Player would be like someone tabbing Justin Tucker the Greatest Living Football Player 30 or 40 years from now.

In all honesty, whether or not he acted with such, it's Willie's godson. (See above)
He did something better than anyone else has ever done at his position, he changed the way every game was managed for both teams, he did it with one pitch, he did it during the steroid era, he has 5 championships, he was consistent throughout his career, the numbers are there...Unless you're saying closers are disqualified then I don't know why he isn't.
 

simplicio

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Mariano is unquestionably the greatest at his job. His job is just less important than other baseball jobs.
 

Remagellan

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He did something better than anyone else has ever done at his position, he changed the way every game was managed for both teams, he did it with one pitch, he did it during the steroid era, he has 5 championships, he was consistent throughout his career, the numbers are there...Unless you're saying closers are disqualified then I don't know why he isn't.
Eckersley has a better claim (and really LaRussa has a better claim) to the "changed the way every game was managed for both teams", but yes, I am suggesting that closers, or any player who is required to be great for only one or two innings a game, are excluded from the conversation.

Edit--as more succinctly stated above.
 
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terrynever

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Michael Jack Schmidt, as Harry Kalas called him, was a terrific third baseman and hitter. Won 10 Gold Gloves, including 9 straight from 1976-84. 548 HRs. Not the greatest of the great ones but in the conversation.
 

RS2004foreever

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I am not sure if you can date when Bonds went on steroids - the guy in 2000 looked juiced.
But he won 3 MVP's in 4 years in the early 90's and was second in the other year - and I am not sure he was on the juice then.
He is the greatest player of all time IMHO. The pitching he faced was 10X what Ruth faced.
I hate using WAR for this btw.
 

luckiestman

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I am not sure if you can date when Bonds went on steroids - the guy in 2000 looked juiced.
But he won 3 MVP's in 4 years in the early 90's and was second in the other year - and I am not sure he was on the juice then.
He is the greatest player of all time IMHO. The pitching he faced was 10X what Ruth faced.
I hate using WAR for this btw.
So many athletes were and still are on PEDs. Never mind professional athletes, amateur athletes in hobbyist sports are on some level of gear. Bonds was juiced in a juiced league.
 

sezwho

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Had this conversation last night. Ignoring steroids for my own purposes because then there's only 1 answer.

Mariano Rivera
Ohtani
Griffey

All 3 of these players transcend the sport. Greatest living player doesn't necessarily mean holds a record of any kind to me.
Yes Bonds of course, but I am growing to your position.

Mariano may not necessarily be the right answer, but comparing him to Tucker isn’t fair imho. Tucker isn’t really even playing the same sport (still much respect for kickers, however poorly that may come across), whereas Rivera was not only competing like every other pitcher, but doing it at the most pressure packed moments under the brightest lights against the most elite competition. Lord that sounds like a eulogy, and I (sports) hate the Yankees.

Ricky also says Ricky should be on this list : )
 

loshjott

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This is an interesting debate because it hasn’t been needed legitimately for more than 50 years. Another interesting question is at what point in his career did Mays become the greatest living ballplayer? He had two full years in MLB before Aaron started so Aaron was likely never ahead of him.

Musial retired with a 128.5 WAR (bref) in 1963 and lived until 2013. Mays probably passed him as the subjective greatest living ballplayer sometime in the mid 60s.
 

mauf

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Wait, is Griffey not in this conversation? Is it because of his injuries?
Well, the conversation begins and ends with Bonds if you don’t account for PED use, but I think most of us are implicitly assuming that Bonds’s and A-Rod’s numbers need to be discounted, if not entirely ignored.

With that assumption, Griffey absolutely belongs in the discussion. Career WAR puts a premium on longevity, which obviously hurts Griffey. I’m too lazy to pull each player’s 10 best WAR seasons, but if that was the metric of choice Griffey would certainly be in the mix. I think he’d still come up short, because the importance of OBP wasn’t as well understood during Griffey’s peak years as it is now.

Schmidt is one of those guys who looks even better with advanced metrics — OBP and defense on top of the elite power numbers. As highly regarded as he was in his prime, he was underrated — he’s head and shoulders above contemporaries such as Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, and George Brett, who were also in the “best player in baseball” discussion circa 1980.
 

Max Power

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This is an interesting debate because it hasn’t been needed legitimately for more than 50 years. Another interesting question is at what point in his career did Mays become the greatest living ballplayer? He had two full years in MLB before Aaron started so Aaron was likely never ahead of him.

Musial retired with a 128.5 WAR (bref) in 1963 and lived until 2013. Mays probably passed him as the subjective greatest living ballplayer sometime in the mid 60s.
In the Mays thread I suggested 1965. He was 34 and just led the league in OBP and SLG again. He'd played long enough to be considered the greatest of all time and Ruth, Charleston, and Gibson were already gone.

For the current greatest, we're probably just looking at position players. If you include pitchers, Pedro, Maddux, and The Unit are in the conversation. It's just hard to compare their contributions to the guys on the other side of the ball.
 

Ale Xander

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Schmidt is one of those guys who looks even better with advanced metrics — OBP and defense on top of the elite power numbers. As highly regarded as he was in his prime, he was underrated — he’s head and shoulders above contemporaries such as Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, and George Brett, who were also in the “best player in baseball” discussion circa 1980.
This would have been an incredible debate to witness in November 1980

(Not much debate defensively)
 

SemperFidelisSox

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Another interesting question is at what point in his career did Mays become the greatest living ballplayer? He had two full years in MLB before Aaron started so Aaron was likely never ahead of him.
DiMaggio’s insistence on always being introduced as the “Greatest Living Ballplayer” helped in making that label stick with him among a lot of the public until the day he died in ‘99. Ted was called the “Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived“ in a lot of the public appearances he made like the All Star game. Mays was probably always the title holder of Greatest Living since the 60’s, but I’m sure there are fans who would have argued Mantle for a long time.
 

Max Power

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I'd still call Ted Williams the greatest hitter who ever lived. Certainly among those who played after integration.

For the greatest living player, I'd be looking for someone who was great in all three slash categories as a hitter, had some speed, and could play great defense. Schmidt is lacking in batting average, Griffey in OBP, Rickey in SLG. Bonds is the only guy who was that total package, even before he felt like he had to keep up with the McGwires and started juicing. I guess you could make an argument for Pujols, but it's hard to forget his decade as a double play machine with the Angels.
 

Erik Hanson's Hook

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Bonds. My view is that the pitchers (on aggregate) were juicing too.

Sucks to have this topic dovetail with Radomski's Lounge, but perhaps it's unavoidable.
 

Koufax

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DiMaggio’s insistence on always being introduced as the “Greatest Living Ballplayer” helped in making that label stick with him among a lot of the public until the day he died in ‘99. Ted was called the “Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived“ in a lot of the public appearances he made like the All Star game. Mays was probably always the title holder of Greatest Living since the 60’s, but I’m sure there are fans who would have argued Mantle for a long time.
Peak Mantle was a rival of peak Mays, but his leg injuries reduced his baserunning and outfield play so much that he couldn't maintain that standard for very long.
 

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Peak Mantle was a rival of peak Mays, but his leg injuries reduced his baserunning and outfield play so much that he couldn't maintain that standard for very long.
In the 1950s, Mantle vs. Mays was a decent debate. But even Yankee fans like myself knew Willie’s all-around game and his exuberance, his open love of the game, ended the discussion by 1962 at the latest.
 

mwonow

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Ricky is a really interesting answer. Not necessarily the best (answer or living ballplayer), but interesting, and worthy of inclusion in the discussion.
 

azsoxpatsfan

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It’s without a doubt Bonds, but if we discount him I’d probably say Pujols? Almost a .300 career hitter with 704 homers. Trout should already be the answer, sadly I don’t think he’ll ever get there now
 

jon abbey

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Rickey gets my vote, greatest player of my (viewing) lifetime (since 1976) IMO.
 

azsoxpatsfan

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Rickey gets my vote, greatest player of my (viewing) lifetime (since 1976) IMO.
I could be off base here, but I’ve always thought Rickey actually gets hurt by being such a great base stealer. So many think of him as just the greatest base stealer of all time that it seems the rest of his game gets glossed over whenever people discuss him
 

jon abbey

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Seels

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can't agree with Bonds. Aside from the obvious, never won anything, never transcended the sport, not a hall of famer.

Gut instinct is Henderson, but see arguments for Maddux, Griffey, and Ohtani.
 

CarolinaBeerGuy

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If we're eliminating steroid guys, I think it has to be Rickey Henderson. There are arguments that can be made for several other guys: Pujols, Seaver, Maddux, Randy Johnson, Yaz, Trout, Griffey, Ripken and maybe a few more. If we're counting everyone, Bonds is the clear answer. ARod and Clemens are up there as well.

EDIT: I forgot Seaver was dead.
 
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Kliq

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Give Ted his five lost WAR years and he's probably close to Mays.
 

Eagle3

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Barry Bonds is the answer, and if you want to throw out the juicing he was probably as close to Mays as you could get in terms of an all around player before he bulked up. He had 5 seasons with 30+ homers and 30+ steals, including 33-52 in 1990 and 42-40 in 1996, not to mention 3 more near misses with 46-29 in 1993, 37-29 in 1994, and 37-28 in 1998. He's the only guy with 500 homers and 500 steals, and nobody else has 400 of both. He was also one of the best defensive outfielders in the game from 1986-1999. After he bulked up the power numbers went off the charts at the expense of his speed and defense.

I get why people want to exclude him though. It's a shame he did what he did, because he didn't need to.
 

Eagle3

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can't agree with Bonds. Aside from the obvious, never won anything, never transcended the sport, not a hall of famer.

Gut instinct is Henderson, but see arguments for Maddux, Griffey, and Ohtani.
I would be interested to know what "transcended the sport" means. I assume you are just excluding him because of the steroids, because Bonds did many, many things that were off the charts.
Also, it's a little odd to exclude Bonds because he never won anything and then include Griffey and Ohtani.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Bonds hit 276/480/565 in his final season, at the age of 42. Would have gotten to 800 homers and 3k hits had he not gotten blackballed once the league figured he had outlived his usefulness. Roids or not, that’s absurd. He's the only real answer here.
 

Bergs

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Bonds and I don’t really see what the debate is.
+ 1

As for "greatest remaining from the 60's" I think it's gotta be Yaz
"greatest remaining from the 70's" - Lots. Fisk, Reggie J, Yaz, Brett, Schmidt?
 

Bergs

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can't agree with Bonds. Aside from the obvious, never won anything, never transcended the sport, not a hall of famer.
What does this even mean? Dude was 100% a celebrity baseball player (albeit a hated one) and his MONSTER season was all anyone I knew talked about while it was happening. As for "not a Hall-of-Famer" - I mean, we all know why he isn't. What's that got to do with this discussion?

A fun video:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwMfT2cZGHg
 
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Deweys New Stance

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Greatness is a totally subjective word that means whatever you want it to mean so my answer is Bill Lee
I mean, if a guy who pitched a total of 1283 innings in his career can be mentioned in this thread, why not a guy who threw 1944 innings and pitched better after sprinkling marijuana on his morning pancakes than anyone else in baseball history?

Don't know how the answer can be anyone besides Bonds unless you're not willing to pick anyone associated with PEDs. Which, of course, then requires acknowledgment that amphetamines were commonplace in MLB clubhouses for decades before the steroids era. And the best living player who wore a Yankee uniform is either Rickey, Clemens or ARod.

Lastly, I'm very glad Michael Jack Schmidt (Harry Kalas Voice) got a shout out in this thread. Great, great ballplayer who seems somewhat forgotten over the past few decades.
 

Zedia

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If we're eliminating steroid guys, I think it has to be Rickey Henderson. There are arguments that can be made for several other guys: Pujols, Seaver, Maddux, Randy Johnson, Yaz, Trout, Griffey, Ripken and maybe a few more. If we're counting everyone, Bonds is the clear answer. ARod and Clemens are up there as well.
I‘m afraid I have some bad news…
 

Yelling At Clouds

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If you’re defining the question as “who put up the best numbers in their MLB career (and is alive),” then just find your metric of choice and sort best to worst. You have your answer!

If you want to define the question as “who was the best at playing baseball, like, in a vacuum without considerations like injuries and the era of the sport,” then that’s a different question (probably Shohei, right? Although maybe other players could’ve been two-way stars had they been given the chance?).

There’s also a different version of greatness that I’m thinking of that’s more like “who had the best career.” Randy Johnson is not only arguably the best LHSP of all time, he also had a legendary career - won multiple Cys, won a World Series, help revive a truly sad-sack franchise, threw a no-hitter, almost killed a guy in the All-Star Game, had a cool nickname, etc. He kind of did everything you can do as a pitcher. Rickey is another one like that. So that’s separate from someone who “just” had amazing numbers.
 
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Was (Not Wasdin)

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It's crazy to me that the guy who is arguably the greatest ballplayer of the last 75 years is godfather to the one guy who is his stiffest competition for that title.