Who is the greatest living balllplayer?

Lose Remerswaal

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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!
Except the question said Retired, as I didn't want to consider works in progress like Shohei and his former teammate, Trout
 

snowmanny

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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.
That’s an OPS of 1045. Just for shits and giggles Williams was at 1096 his last season (age 41) and Ortiz was at 1021 his last season (age 40). But no designated hitter for Teddy Ballgame and no designated runner for Big Papi.
 

ThePrideofShiner

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I'm fascinated with all the love for Ohtani in this thread. Guy is obviously a unicorn and on his way to greatness, but he hasn't been doing it long enough to be in this conversation.

For me the conversation starts and stops with Bonds.
 

joe dokes

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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.
And, for a few years during the 70s, *Bobby* Bonds was a 5-tool guy who was frequently seen as being on that track. (Bonds and Cesar Cedeno)
 

Yelling At Clouds

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I'm fascinated with all the love for Ohtani in this thread. Guy is obviously a unicorn and on his way to greatness, but he hasn't been doing it long enough to be in this conversation.
This is kind of what I meant by separating the different definitions of greatness - if you're talking best career, then you're right. But if the question is "who is the best at playing baseball," that's a different - and IMO more interesting - discussion.
 

SirPsychoSquints

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Spewing some more numbers below - JAWS numbers for some candidates - I pulled at least the top guy from each position.


Trout 75.6

Griffey 68.9

Bench 61.2

Pujols 81.6

Carew 65.5

Schmidt 82.8

ARod 90.9

Ripken 76.1

Bonds 117.8

Rickey 84.3

Mookie 61.9

Clemens 102.6

Maddux 81.4

Randy 81.3

Eck 49.9

Mariano 42.5

edit: so it’s Bonds, Clemens, ARod, Rickey, Schmidt, Pujols.
 
Last edited:

Eric1984

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I’d vote Griffey (implicitly discounting Bonds’s numbers). If we include pitchers, the Pedro and/or Koufax.

We had this debate in our group text yesterday and the others that came closest were A-Rod (but we had to discount his numbers), Rickey, Pujols and Maddux. People also brought up Schmidt and Randy Johnson. Some discussion of Bench, but like Schmidt we kind of relegated him to greatest at his position (though Pudge Rodriguez is in the conversation).
 

shepard50

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I think, like many others, that it is Bonds. And the steroids thing is real ,and it's a shame, because he was insanely great and more of an all around player before the juice.
 

Deweys New Stance

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Erik Loomis at the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog weighs in with a post on Who is the Greatest Living Ballplayer?
His takeaway is that multiple lists have Bonds/Clemens/ARod at the top, and that it's a travesty that (as he puts it) self-righteous journalists and veterans will keep them all out of the HoF. Just pointing it out, he doesn't really make any arguments that most SoSH regulars haven't heard before.

And on the Mays vs Mantle debate, Bill James in his 1988 Historical Abstract argued that Mantle was the clear cut winner for peak value, but that Mays clearly had the higher career value. In his revised edition of the Historical Abstract he still argued for Mantle on peak value, but this time he was better able to factor in defense, and the results were closer. This SABR article from last year details James' analysis and also performs an new independent analysis that concludes that Mantle had a very small (0.1 wins above average) advantage in peak value:

https://sabr.org/journal/article/mantle-vs-mays/

It's a really good read and part of an excellent collection of essays on Willie Mays titled Willie Mays, Five Tools
 

snowmanny

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In the greatest living HOFer category I don’t think Schmidt is a wrong choice but I currently would go Rickey.

The thing with Bonds to me isn’t only what would he have been like without steroids, it is what would Rickey and Griffey have been like with them? Would Bonds still have blown them away?
 

ThePrideofShiner

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In the greatest living HOFer category I don’t think Schmidt is a wrong choice but I currently would go Rickey.

The thing with Bonds to me isn’t only what would he have been like without steroids, it is what would Rickey and Griffey have been like with them? Would Bonds still have blown them away?
I'm curious why you think chronically injured Ken Griffey Jr. didn't use steroids?
 

CaptainLaddie

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I'm fascinated with all the love for Ohtani in this thread. Guy is obviously a unicorn and on his way to greatness, but he hasn't been doing it long enough to be in this conversation.

For me the conversation starts and stops with Bonds.
To me, it's just about pure talent. He's doing things Babe Ruth did, except better. Now, we have no idea how long he will play, of course. But he's an un-fucking-believable talent.
 

ThePrideofShiner

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To me, it's just about pure talent. He's doing things Babe Ruth did, except better. Now, we have no idea how long he will play, of course. But he's an un-fucking-believable talent.
I guess, but he's also just a DH now. And not as good of a DH as Bonds was.

I think it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking Ohtani's uniqueness makes him the best player. He's incredible, obviously, but he's not the best hitter or pitcher right now.

I don't know, he's hard to quantify.
 

CaptainLaddie

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I guess, but he's also just a DH now. And not as good of a DH as Bonds was.

I think it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking Ohtani's uniqueness makes him the best player. He's incredible, obviously, but he's not the best hitter or pitcher right now.

I don't know, he's hard to quantify.
To me, it's really this: he's doing something no one has ever done. Ever. Even Ruth never was a top 10 hitter and top 10 pitcher at the same time, for multiple seasons. It would be one thing if he were a .250/.330/.400 outfielder who was a 5th starter type -- even that would be impressive, though. Instead, let's put it this way, over the last three+ seasons (since 2021):

As a hitter: 161 OPS+ and a WAR of 18.2, which if we're being kind and say 150+ OPS+ and WAR of 15+, the only others who've done that are Judge, Alvarez, Soto, and Freeman. He's behind only Judge in OPS+ and behind all but Alvarez in WAR.

As a pitcher: 152 ERA+ and a WAR of 14.2 (keeping mind he hasn't even pitched since partway through last season) and if we're being kind and say 140+ ERA+ and 12+ WAR, the only others who've done that are Burnes, Scherzer, Fried, and Suarez. He's tied for ERA+ and behind all but Suarez in WAR (again, keeping in mind he hasn't pitched since late August of last year, and he's still 4th in WAR since the start of the 2021 season)

I know ERA+ and WAR aren't perfect, but... he's a top 5 hitter and top 5 pitcher at the same goddamn time. That's kind of... insane? Like legitimately insane? A video game wouldn't let you create a player like that, it would be cheating.

No one has ever done this before. In the entire history of the sport. Ever. He's doing something that for 150~ years of baseball people thought was impossible.
 

Max Power

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To me, it's really this: he's doing something no one has ever done. Ever. Even Ruth never was a top 10 hitter and top 10 pitcher at the same time, for multiple seasons. It would be one thing if he were a .250/.330/.400 outfielder who was a 5th starter type -- even that would be impressive, though. Instead, let's put it this way, over the last three+ seasons (since 2021):

As a hitter: 161 OPS+ and a WAR of 18.2, which if we're being kind and say 150+ OPS+ and WAR of 15+, the only others who've done that are Judge, Alvarez, Soto, and Freeman. He's behind only Judge in OPS+ and behind all but Alvarez in WAR.

As a pitcher: 152 ERA+ and a WAR of 14.2 (keeping mind he hasn't even pitched since partway through last season) and if we're being kind and say 140+ ERA+ and 12+ WAR, the only others who've done that are Burnes, Scherzer, Fried, and Suarez. He's tied for ERA+ and behind all but Suarez in WAR (again, keeping in mind he hasn't pitched since late August of last year, and he's still 4th in WAR since the start of the 2021 season)

I know ERA+ and WAR aren't perfect, but... he's a top 5 hitter and top 5 pitcher at the same goddamn time. That's kind of... insane? Like legitimately insane? A video game wouldn't let you create a player like that, it would be cheating.

No one has ever done this before. In the entire history of the sport. Ever. He's doing something that for 150~ years of baseball people thought was impossible.
Nobody beside Bullet Rogan, Martin Dihigo, and Leon Day, anyway. Ohtani has only been able to be a top-10 hitter and top-10 pitcher in 3 seasons so far. Maybe it's just not possible to stay healthy trying to do both.
 

simplicio

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Another funny thing about Shohei: despite a sprint speed about 2 ft/sec slower than the fastest guys, he's also got the 4th fastest average home to first time of everyone, 2018-present.
 

RS2004foreever

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Erik Loomis at the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog weighs in with a post on Who is the Greatest Living Ballplayer?
His takeaway is that multiple lists have Bonds/Clemens/ARod at the top, and that it's a travesty that (as he puts it) self-righteous journalists and veterans will keep them all out of the HoF. Just pointing it out, he doesn't really make any arguments that most SoSH regulars haven't heard before.

And on the Mays vs Mantle debate, Bill James in his 1988 Historical Abstract argued that Mantle was the clear cut winner for peak value, but that Mays clearly had the higher career value. In his revised edition of the Historical Abstract he still argued for Mantle on peak value, but this time he was better able to factor in defense, and the results were closer. This SABR article from last year details James' analysis and also performs an new independent analysis that concludes that Mantle had a very small (0.1 wins above average) advantage in peak value:

https://sabr.org/journal/article/mantle-vs-mays/

It's a really good read and part of an excellent collection of essays on Willie Mays titled Willie Mays, Five Tools
I always found the discussion about peak versus career really interesting. It's a good topic one discussing quarterbacks too.
 

CaptainLaddie

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Nobody beside Bullet Rogan, Martin Dihigo, and Leon Day, anyway. Ohtani has only been able to be a top-10 hitter and top-10 pitcher in 3 seasons so far. Maybe it's just not possible to stay healthy trying to do both.
Fair, but I wasn't thinking about the Negro Leagues. Mistake by me.

Significantly shorter seasons certainly helped them and maybe it really isn't possible for Ohtani to keep trying to play both ways, but we know he's going to try.
 

RS2004foreever

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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.
Williams was better than DiMaggio.
I will die on this hill.
 

Marciano490

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To me, it's just about pure talent. He's doing things Babe Ruth did, except better. Now, we have no idea how long he will play, of course. But he's an un-fucking-believable talent.
I’m with you. Give me the guy who burns brighter than anyone for 2/3 years over someone just a bit less who does it a lot longer. Ohtani could die tomorrow and he’d still be the best player ever for me. Best being the purest talent sustained for a credible period of time.
 

Tokyo Sox

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he's a top 5 hitter and top 5 pitcher at the same goddamn time. That's kind of... insane? Like legitimately insane? A video game wouldn't let you create a player like that, it would be cheating.

No one has ever done this before. In the entire history of the sport. Ever. He's doing something that for 150~ years of baseball people thought was impossible.
Right, if you made a team of 26 healthy Shoheis vs 26 of any other player in history, Team Ohtani is winning basically every game.

It helps to be a pull-hitting lefty.
https://www.fangraphs.com/players/shohei-ohtani/19755/spray-charts?position=PB&type=battedball

He's not really a pull hitter. It does of course help to be lefty, but it's not like he's the only one. He's stealing more this year so maybe his speed isn't as underrated as it once was but it's always been a quietly great part of his game.
 

shaggydog2000

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I'm curious why you think chronically injured Ken Griffey Jr. didn't use steroids?
Or Rickey. That guy shared a locker room with ground zero of steroid abuse in the MLB, and you think he never gave it a shot? Sprinters take roids too. Also, he had 28 HRs and a .252 ISO his first full year in Oakland.
 

Bergs

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Or Rickey. That guy shared a locker room with ground zero of steroid abuse in the MLB, and you think he never gave it a shot? Sprinters take roids too. Also, he had 28 HRs and a .252 ISO his first full year in Oakland.
Canseco made hints about HOF'er(s) he 100% knew were users. I always assumed he meant Rickey (and I love me some Rickey Henderson). I am skeptical about Junior using (not that I'm adamant he didn't). As I recall, he was pretty open about how lazy about his conditioning. Natural talent is great, but if you don't put in the work, stuff will break down.
 

shaggydog2000

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Canseco made hints about HOF'er(s) he 100% knew were users. I always assumed he meant Rickey (and I love me some Rickey Henderson). I am skeptical about Junior using (not that I'm adamant he didn't). As I recall, he was pretty open about how lazy about his conditioning. Natural talent is great, but if you don't put in the work, stuff will break down.
There isn't a single player who played from the late 80s to the 2000s that I exempt from steroid suspicions. Pitchers, power hitters, fast guys, no talent utility players barely hanging onto a roster spot, they all had incentive and availability.