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redsmetz
05-19-2006, 09:44 PM
The subject title is the headline used for Bill Peterson's column in this week's City Beat magazine:


Bonds Vs. Ruth? We'll Take Henry Aaron

By Bill Peterson

Sometime this week or next, Barry Bonds is likely to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, which means absolutely nothing except that it's brought the discussion back around to Ruth.

Baseball always comes back around to Ruth, the Bambino who built the Yankees, who restored the game's credibility through his incredible exploits on the field and whose incredible exploits off the field branded an eternal mythology.

Ruth is no god, but he's Moses or Noah, without whom the rest of the story could not have been told. Baseball's first compensatory hero at the dawn of mass culture in the 1920s, he is, was and always will be the standard, regardless of how time weathers his records.

Many who love baseball wonder how the game would have survived without Ruth because his power hitting made the game matter when it might have died from the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Baseball lives because of Babe Ruth, so Babe Ruth lives for as long as the game.

Ruth is part man, part myth, part magic and a lot of institutional memory. No one ever wants to lose him, not even when it's really time for him to go, like right now, as Bonds is about to match and exceed 714 career homers. That number, 714, is not the record for career home runs -- but it's the number Ruth hit, which alone makes it historic if not sacred.

When Roger Maris broke Ruth's single-season home run record in 1961, not even the commissioner's office wanted to recognize the new standard. Fans were indignant. The tension made Maris' hair fall out.

When Henry Aaron approached Ruth's career home run record in the early 1970s, hundreds of death threats and racist hate letters every day were his reward.

Dissolute and debauched though he was, the public loved and still loves Ruth for the good will and pure, dumb fun he attached to stardom. Back before America went completely perverse and tricked itself into thinking that men playing boys' games are supposed to be moral exemplars, Ruth tickled hearts as America's Biggest Boy.

The country was rapidly urbanizing in the 1920s, by the end of which half the population lived in cities. A city boy through and through, Ruth emblemized urban life all the way from the penthouse to the gutter and back. If his carousing rankled the farm folk, it's not like they expected more from a ball player.

For all his determination, the public mostly disinherited Bonds before the steroid allegations because he made stardom too unpleasant even as he bloated himself in interviews, performances and training sessions. Strong allegations of steroid use have intensified the friction between baseball's best player and its fans, especially now that Ruth is in sight.

From among the dissenters as Bonds approaches 714, there is to be heard a convincing argument as to why the contemporary slugger is no match for the ancient. To wit, Bonds isn't really a human performance example or a natural athlete. He hatched himself in a laboratory, and we laugh at him the way we chuckled at the Soviet bloc Olympians 30 years ago.

Barry Bonds is a monster, no more man than man-made, a Frankenstein with eyes fixed on Babe Ruth. Ruth worked out a bit, but he also trained on prohibition liquor, cigars, hot dogs and women and probably placed a wager here and there.

If John Daly were a great golf pro, he might be Ruth. If Albert Pujols were also a free-wheeling street runner, he might be Ruth. And if Bonds were a gregarious lover of his gifts and the people who love them, he might be Ruth. But he isn't.

The man who's forgotten in all this is the true Home Run Champion, Henry Aaron, who bashed 755. Bonds and Ruth have one element in common that Aaron doesn't share. Aaron's home run feats are more legitimate by far, while both Bonds' and Ruth's are tainted. If Aaron needed more at-bats than Bonds or Ruth, he also worked under the least favorable conditions for one hitter to dominate.

The prevalence of steroid use in recent years created a sub-class of players who didn't use them. We'll spend the next several years trying to piece together how steroids influenced baseball records, and almost everyone who played the meat of his career in the past 10 years will be under question as he comes up for the Hall of Fame. Even if Bonds was a Hall of Famer before 2000, it won't spare him the inquisitor.

Ruth has never endured that kind of scrutiny. When statisticians analyze his career, they end up finding that he might have hit an extra 400 home runs if he played today because the parks are smaller, the outfield fences are lower, he would have faced more raggedy pitchers and those balls that used to be called foul because they landed foul in the seats now would be home runs if they left the park fair.

But if we're going to say that Ruth is out 400 homers through no fault of his own, we also have to say, through no fault of his own, that he didn't compete against championship talent from the African-American population. A good number of historians believe Negro Leaguer Josh Gibson would have hit more homers than Ruth. We'll never know.

As we try to place the past 10 years in historic context because of steroids, we should remember that the career and single-season records are equally suspect before about 1950, when African-Americans began competing in numbers three years after Jackie Robinson's debut. If we're going to be purists about records, we might decide that the only records to really count were established by fellows playing between about 1950 to about 1990, after African Americans began playing and before steroids took hold.

Aaron played in the major leagues from 1954 through 1976. Before he retired, he was the last Negro League player still going in the big leagues.

Because he played when all races were allowed, only Aaron's home run mark is fully human. Because he played before steroids, only his home run mark is truly human.

Red in Chicago
05-19-2006, 10:12 PM
ruth tainted? i really don't buy that...also, did they forget that ruth was a pitcher his first handful of years? certainly, his total would have been slightly higher, had he been a regular position player at the time...

Casey_21
05-19-2006, 10:35 PM
It also would have been higher if he had as many AB's as Hank did. Not putting Aaron down, he is a baseball legend, but I think we know who would be at the top of the list, had been the same amount of AB's.

JEA
05-19-2006, 10:49 PM
It amazes me how even baseball writers seem to miss just how remarkable of a player Ruth was. No one will ever mean as much to the game as that guy did. That's no knock to any past or present player. But to compare Ruth's legacy to any other player's is just crazy. And it goes way beyond the stastics.

And whenever a comparison is attempted, it's usually ignored just how much better Ruth was than any of his peers. He was - and still is - in a class all his own.

(And I wouldn't even really call myself a Babe fan.)

tsj017
05-19-2006, 11:02 PM
Sure, you can compare Aaron's or Bonds' stats to Ruth's.

And then you have to consider that the Babe was also a pretty successful pitcher.

Case closed.

dougdirt
05-19-2006, 11:25 PM
You can compare their numbers, but its an unfair comparison.

Ruth played against Whites only. He didnt have to face a Doc Gooden, Pedro and Nomo in his prime. How often do you think they brought in an Eckersley type to face Ruth? Heck, he didnt even have to hit it 300 feet down the line in Yankee stadium to hit a home run. The game was completely different when Ruth played....and that wasnt his fault.

Bonds on the otherhand used steroids, so he doesnt have any home runs in my mind.

Astrobuddy
05-20-2006, 01:49 AM
I would imagine that the baseball in the 1920's was a tad different than it was when Hank played and it damn sure is different now.

Babe Ruth is the greatest player ever to play the game.


Didnt play against black players? Thats a BS argument. You cant dismiss his stats because a black player MIGHT have hit more. He didnt. How many of the great White Pitchers did the Black players in the Negro Leagues play against? Maybe thats why Josh Gibson hit so many.

Redsfaithful
05-20-2006, 02:45 AM
I would imagine that the baseball in the 1920's was a tad different than it was when Hank played and it damn sure is different now.

Babe Ruth is the greatest player ever to play the game.


Didnt play against black players? Thats a BS argument. You cant dismiss his stats because a black player MIGHT have hit more. He didnt. How many of the great White Pitchers did the Black players in the Negro Leagues play against? Maybe thats why Josh Gibson hit so many.

It has nothing to do with the fact that black players might have hit more. It has everything to do with the fact that Ruth didn't face multi racial pitching or multi racial fielders.

Babe Ruth would suck if he played today. He'd be a bench warmer at best. And Barry Bonds (had he been allowed to play) would have hit 1,000+ home runs back in Ruth's day.

How hard do you think an average pitcher threw back then? 80? 85? How much has pitching changed? How many new pitches have been invented? How much better are off speed pitches?

Heck, forgetting all that, how much bigger is the average pitcher now? Think about it, if you're not a minimum of six feet tall as a righthander then you usually won't have a shot at making it at the big league level.

This is why it's silly to compare across eras. I've said this before (and got a rather "RedsZone famous" response once) we're watching the best players to ever play the game right now. They're bigger, stronger, faster, and just plain better.

I'm not saying baseball is better for it, and I'm not saying that baseball is more fun to watch now. I have no idea, although I really love baseball the way it is. I'm just saying that it's stupid to pretend that Babe Ruth is the best that ever lived. He's not even close.

redsmetz
05-20-2006, 06:23 AM
Here's several factors that I don't think are regularly considered about the differences in eras.

Full competition - neither black or white players all played against the best - how much of a factor that would have been, I can't say, but those that didn't have to face a Satchel Paige or throwing against a Josh Gibson, weren't playing against the best. We can't undo history, so we'll never know.

Relief Specialist In the day, relievers were generally guys in the last throes of their careers or starters filling in elsewhere. Now you get late in the games and you're facing a 90 MPH fastballer in the 8th or 9th inning, only pitching an inning or two.

Travel Schedules Prior to the moves of the 1950's, the furthest a team had to travel was Boston to St. Louis; Washington to Chicago. Evening the A's moving to KC only added another 200 miles to that equation. With the move to the West Coast, you changed that formula significantly. Now you have literally all 4 corners of the country (give or take a couple of hundred miles) - Boston, Miami, San Diego, Seattle and everything in between. Granted, air travel has lessened that, but still think of how raggedy the Reds have been on some West Coast trips in years past.

Expansion A nod to the old days - the most recent expansions in the latter part of the 20th century has diluted pitching. I'll argue that the first rounds of expansion in the early and late 60's was necessary to make room for the influx of players from the old Negro Leagues, but pitching has been thinner over the last 15 years or so.

One can never say for certain which player was better and which era was better and there are too many holes in the equations to answer definitively. I think the original column was meant as a tribute to Hank Aaron, a less flawed player than either Bonds or Ruth - and unquestionably the Home Run champion.

redsmetz
05-20-2006, 06:37 AM
I would imagine that the baseball in the 1920's was a tad different than it was when Hank played and it damn sure is different now.

Babe Ruth is the greatest player ever to play the game.


Didnt play against black players? Thats a BS argument. You cant dismiss his stats because a black player MIGHT have hit more. He didnt. How many of the great White Pitchers did the Black players in the Negro Leagues play against? Maybe thats why Josh Gibson hit so many.

There was considerably intermingling in post-season barnstorming. Here's an excerpt from an article from American History Magazine. Sadly, the segregation of professional baseball is a tragedy which can never be undone and we'll never know the answer to just how good everyone was. I don't think it's any accident that for nearly 15 years after breaking the color line in 1947 a signifcant number of the Rookie of Year awards went to black or Latin players who had been kept out of MLB, six of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

URL="http://www.historynet.com/ah/blbnegroleague/"]http://www.historynet.com/ah/blbnegroleague/[/URL]


In an age of unlettered, rough-neck ballplayers, a gangling shortstop from Florida named John Henry Lloyd, whose foulest oath was "Gosh bob it!", was the gentleman of black baseball, much as Christy Mathewson was the model gentleman of white baseball at that time. Lloyd scooped up ground balls, dirt and all. He cradled his bat in the crook of his elbow and hit stinging line drives to all fields. His lifetime average of .350 was the third highest in the history of the Negro Leagues, and during games against white big-leaguers he batted .306. Inevitably, Lloyd was dubbed the "black Wagner," leading Honus to reply softly that he was proud to be compared with such a great player.

Another of the early black stars was Joe Williams. In 1917, he bested Walter Johnson, the greatest pitcher in white baseball, by a score of 1-0. During his career, he also beat Grover Cleveland Alexander and five other Hall of Famers. In the fall of 1917, Williams struck out twenty of John McGraw's New York Giants in ten innings, while giving them only one hit. A Giant player approached Williams after the game and told him, "That was a hell of a game, Smoky"; from then on, the pitcher was known as "Smoky Joe."

Oscar Charleston, another renowned black player, was a tough ex-soldier who hit with Babe Ruth's power, ran with Ty Cobb's slashing speed, and played a tremendous center field. Twice he led the Negro National League in both home runs and stolen bases. Reportedly strong enough to loosen a baseball's cover with one hand, and fearless enough to snatch the hood from the head of a Ku Klux Klansman, Charleston was sometimes called "the black Cobb." But those who saw both men disagreed. Cobb, they said, was "the white Charleston."

Because accurate statistics are often lacking, it is difficult to say how good many of these black players were, but based on their exhibition play against their professional white counterparts during the pre-Robinson years, it is clear that they were exceptional. Black teams opposed white professional teams in more than four hundred barnstorming games between the 1890s and 1947, and came away winners sixty percent of the time. White stars like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Bob Feller, Honus Wagner, Jimmie Foxx, and Christy Mathewson were glad to make extra money in games against blacks, and their testimony attests to the considerable skills of their opponents

RedsBaron
05-20-2006, 06:58 AM
Heck, he didnt even have to hit it 300 feet down the line in Yankee stadium to hit a home run.
Ruth hit 347 HRs in his career at home, including all those games in Yankee Stadium. He hit 367 HRs on the road.
In Ruth's 60 HR season in 1927, he hit 28 HRs at home, 32 on the road.

steig
05-20-2006, 08:07 AM
ESPN talked about an interesting fact with Ruth the other day. In the early 20's a foul ball was determined by where the ball landed not where it passed the foul line/pole. Teammates of Ruth have estimated that he lost anywhere from 60 -90 home runs on balls that passed the fence fair but curved and landed foul in the stands. you can't go back and give him extra home runs, that was the rule at the time but I thought it was interesting.

As for Ruth, Bonds, or Aaron -- They were all great players and we shouldn't forget that for any of them. Ruth would be a good player today and we don't know what type of adjustments he could make, just as Aaron would be a good player today also. For me, I would want Bonds for my team over both of them. In his prime he was a better defender than each and a better base runner (and Aaron was good on the bases also, but not as good). Bonds could hit for average, power, and drive in runs. The only knocks on him are his major attitude and that he failed in the playoffs. I feel that he proved he could play under pressure in his only world series b/c he carried the giants most of the way and I believe Baker mismanaged game 6 causing them to loose the series.

I may want Bonds on my team but for a night out on the town I'll go with Ruth.

RANDY IN INDY
05-20-2006, 08:22 AM
It has nothing to do with the fact that black players might have hit more. It has everything to do with the fact that Ruth didn't face multi racial pitching or multi racial fielders.

Babe Ruth would suck if he played today. He'd be a bench warmer at best. And Barry Bonds (had he been allowed to play) would have hit 1,000+ home runs back in Ruth's day.

How hard do you think an average pitcher threw back then? 80? 85? How much has pitching changed? How many new pitches have been invented? How much better are off speed pitches?

Heck, forgetting all that, how much bigger is the average pitcher now? Think about it, if you're not a minimum of six feet tall as a righthander then you usually won't have a shot at making it at the big league level.

This is why it's silly to compare across eras. I've said this before (and got a rather "RedsZone famous" response once) we're watching the best players to ever play the game right now. They're bigger, stronger, faster, and just plain better.

I'm not saying baseball is better for it, and I'm not saying that baseball is more fun to watch now. I have no idea, although I really love baseball the way it is. I'm just saying that it's stupid to pretend that Babe Ruth is the best that ever lived. He's not even close.

:laugh:

RedFanAlways1966
05-20-2006, 08:40 AM
Babe Ruth would suck if he played today. He'd be a bench warmer at best. And Barry Bonds (had he been allowed to play) would have hit 1,000+ home runs back in Ruth's day.

No one will ever know. But I cannot disagree with you more.

Trains instead of planes. Better bats and equipment. Harder baseballs and using brand new balls at all times. Etc, etc, etc. Just as you can say this, that or the other... I can counterpoint with this, that and the other.

I too do not like to compare different eras. Therefore, I never go there and say this person would do this or that in that different era. No way anything can be proved. Babe Ruth was great. Henry Aaron was great. Barry Bonds was (not "is") great. Simple as that.

redsmetz
05-20-2006, 08:42 AM
ESPN talked about an interesting fact with Ruth the other day. In the early 20's a foul ball was determined by where the ball landed not where it passed the foul line/pole. Teammates of Ruth have estimated that he lost anywhere from 60 -90 home runs on balls that passed the fence fair but curved and landed foul in the stands. you can't go back and give him extra home runs, that was the rule at the time but I thought it was interesting.

When the Nats were in town, Frank Robinson mentioned that there was a change in the home run line on the outfield wall at Crosley, lowering it from its previous mark. He said he hit 6-8 balls there a year that had all been doubles then which would have been homers later.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 09:56 AM
Babe Ruth would suck if he played today. He'd be a bench warmer at best.Hyperbole at best. Compared to many of the players then Ruth was a monster of a man, Cobb too.

As Bill James said take any player from today and put them in in the enviroment of the past and they would adapt to that enviroment and play that way regardless of the era they came from. That can be reversed as well.

Saying Ruth would be a bench warmer does a great disservice to the past as well as downgrades ALL the performances from the past. You don't know what would happen andthe assumption is that just because we are alive at this moment that NOTHING has ever been better is nothing more than an assumption.

RANDY IN INDY
05-20-2006, 10:06 AM
:beerme:
Hyperbole at best. Compared to many of the players then Ruth was a monster of a man, Cobb too.

As Bill James said take any player from today and put them in in the enviroment of the past and they would adapt to that enviroment and play that way regardless of the era they came from. That can be reversed as well.

Saying Ruth would be a bench warmer does a great disservice to the past as well as downgrades ALL the performances from the past. You don't know what would happen andthe assumption is that just because we are alive at this moment that NOTHING has ever been better is nothing more than an assumption.

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 10:26 AM
For the most part I agree with Redsfaithful.

I really think people love to preserve mythological narratives. It's not anyone's fault; otherwise, all that rich history becomes mildly meaningless.

As to the part about assumptions--well that goes both ways. To say that Ruth would have been great had he played today is an assumption based on far shakier premises than the reverse.

And Bill James' theory? Codswallop. How would a black man adjust to playing in all white league via the time machine? He wouldn't; he'd be kicked off the ballfield. That's the point. Pre-integration baseball is meaningless to me. That's not a popular opinion I know, but it's based on the sound premise that you weren't witnessing enough of the finest players on earth to make any kind of judgment about greatness.

Ruth was an excellent player compared to his peers. That's really all you can say about it. He's a historical, mythological figure that transcends the rational arguments you can bring to bear on comparing people of different eras. Humans need a mythos. It's that simple.

To the best of my reckoning, Aaron is the greatest player to play the game. It's not all that close, IMO.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 10:33 AM
And Bill James' theory? Codswallop. How would a black man adjust to playing in all white league via the time machine? He wouldn't; he'd be kicked off the ballfield

The theory is about the field of play not the social times.

Also, if Ruth gets the schmack for having played in a all white era then lets' drag to the bench, Cobb, Speaker, Foxx, Greenberg, DiMaggio and most Ted Williams career.

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 10:34 AM
Also, if Ruth gets the schmack for having played in a all white era then lets' drag to the bench, Cobb, Speaker, Foxx, Greenberg, DiMaggio and most Ted Williams career.

Let's. I agree. Again, I know it's unpopular. But I pretty much compartmentalize eras in baseball when I judge players.

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 10:35 AM
The theory is about the field of play not the social times.

.

Unfortunately, there's just no separating the two.

dougdirt
05-20-2006, 10:36 AM
Ruth hit 347 HRs in his career at home, including all those games in Yankee Stadium. He hit 367 HRs on the road.
In Ruth's 60 HR season in 1927, he hit 28 HRs at home, 32 on the road.

Which is fine, but how many of those pull shots at home would have stayed in the park had the fence been 40 feet further back like it is today? He might have only hit 20 at home. 52 is nothing to laugh at for sure, but do that for every year he played in Yankee stadium and the overall numbers drop off considerably. Of course, Im just throwing numbers around now, but I think I covered how I feel about it all in my frist post.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 10:57 AM
Which is fine, but how many of those pull shots at home would have stayed in the park had the fence been 40 feet further back like it is today? He might have only hit 20 at home. 52 is nothing to laugh at for sure, but do that for every year he played in Yankee stadium and the overall numbers drop off considerably. Of course, Im just throwing numbers around now, but I think I covered how I feel about it all in my frist post.
The fence was 280... down the line

Here's the image

http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/Diag/YankeeStadium1923.gif

It changed in 1928.

http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/Diag/YankeeStadium1928.gif

What we're failing to note is that aside from Yankee Stadium the rest of the parks in the AL were not all short RF fence parks.

FWIW here are the Park Effects in the AL from 1920-1927, when Ruth had the short porch in the Polo Grounds as well as the House that Ruth Built.


Fenway 98

Comiskey 94

Detroit 100

St. Louis 114

Cleveland 100

Washington 91

Philadelphia 106

Yankees 97

HR by team from 1920-1927


AMERICAN LEAGUE
CAREER
1920-1927

HOMERUNS HR
1 Yankees 936
2 Browns 601
3 A's 546
Babe 367
4 Tigers 355
5 Indians 314
6 White Sox 306
7 Senators 299
8 Red Sox 249

dougdirt
05-20-2006, 11:03 AM
Yeah WOY, I knew it was 280. Its at least 320 in almost every park now, which is why I went with 40 feet for the pull shots down the line.

Cyclone792
05-20-2006, 01:40 PM
Yeah WOY, I knew it was 280. Its at least 320 in almost every park now, which is why I went with 40 feet for the pull shots down the line.

Actually, all the research I've seen suggests that Ruth really wasn't a dead pull-hitter, at least not to the extent that he'd be able to take advantage of the short right field porch enough to offset the dimensions of Yankee Stadium in right center or center field.

I remember reading some research a while back on Ruth's 1927 season, and reading that maybe only a dozen of his 60 home runs were actually pulled into the right field bleachers in Yankee Stadium, with most of those shots being described in The New York Times as "deep" into the right field bleachers, shots that probably would have been home runs in just about any stadium in the American League. I've seen other research stating that Ruth averaged only about three "cheap" home runs per season into that short porch, which would support the claim that most of his shots into right field were deep into right field. That same earlier research also stated that at least 20 or so of his 60 home runs were hit to dead center field that season, with several parks in the American League having fences 450+ feet in dead center field.

When Ruth played in the Polo Grounds from 1920-1922, he hit 75 home runs at home and 73 home runs away, and the Polo Grounds was a very friendly home run park down the lines, but very pitcher friendly in the gaps and center field. Someone researched Ruth's 1921 season in which he hit 59 home runs (32 at home, 27 on the road), and found that Ruth only hit six home runs into the lower right field stands with all other 26 home runs being shots that would have gotten out of almost any park. His splits suggest that's probably accurate since he also hit 27 home runs on the road.

Now Mel Ott, on the other hand, was a very well-known dead pull-hitter, and hit 323 home runs at home while only 188 on the road with his home park being the Polo Grounds. Of course, not to take anything away from Ott, but the Polo Grounds was actually a neutral run scoring park. The overall park factor for Ott's career was 99, and during most of his peak seasons it was in the 96-98 range. While the park greatly favored hitters down the lines, right center all the way around to left center was treacherous for hitters.

http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/Diag/PoloGrounds.gif

Not surprisingly, while Ott hit a large percentage of his home runs at home, he did some other things better on the road, such as a higher batting average, more doubles and more triples.


Ott BA OBP SLG HR 2B 3B

Home .297 .421 .558 323 182 21
Road .311 .407 .510 188 306 51

When I look at Ott, I see a hitter who developed his hitting style to take advantage of the single favorable aspect of his home park, and that was to pull the ball down the lines. The park overall was neutral on run scoring, and IMO, if you can adapt your hitting style to take advantage of the hitter friendly aspects like Ott did, you shouldn't be penalized.

RedsBaron
05-20-2006, 02:08 PM
To the best of my reckoning, Aaron is the greatest player to play the game. It's not all that close, IMO.
Aaron possibly was not even the greatest player of his era, let alone the greatest to ever play the game. Both Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were greater players in their peak seasons than Aaron was in his. Aaron did have a more productive career than Mantle, but the choice between Mays and Aaron in career value is a toss-up. Win Shares has Aaron with a 643-642 lead, which is a dead heat, especially when one considers that Mays lost nearly two seasons early in his major league career to military service, while Aaron suffered no such career interruption.

Cyclone792
05-20-2006, 02:17 PM
Aaron possibly was not even the greatest player of his era, let alone the greatest to ever play the game. Both Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were greater players in their peak seasons than Aaron was in his. Aaron did have a more productive career than Mantle, but the choice between Mays and Aaron in career value is a toss-up. Win Shares has Aaron with a 643-642 lead, which is a dead heat, especially when one considers that Mays lost nearly two seasons early in his major league career to military service, while Aaron suffered no such career interruption.

Yep, Mantle blows Aaron away in peak value, and Mays has a pretty solid edge as well. When Hank came up in the 1950s, both Ted Williams and Stan Musial were still playing as contemporaries, and I'd also take both Williams and Musial over Aaron. Aaron is a true legend, but not even the 755 number puts him ahead of Williams, Mays, Mantle or Musial for me. They were just simply more productive players, IMO.


Win Shares Top 5 Season Peaks

Mickey Mantle: 228 (51, 49, 48, 41, 39)
Ted Williams: 223 (49, 46, 44, 42, 42)
Stan Musial: 208 (46, 44, 40, 39, 39)
Willie Mays: 204 (43, 41, 40, 40, 40)
Hank Aaron: 187 (41, 38, 38, 35, 35)

FWIW, all things considered for position players ... I have Williams ranked 4th all-time, Mays 6th, Mantle 7th, Musial 9th and Aaron 10th.

RedsBaron
05-20-2006, 02:31 PM
Babe Ruth would suck if he played today. He'd be a bench warmer at best. I'm just saying that it's stupid to pretend that Babe Ruth is the best that ever lived. He's not even close.
Saying that Ruth would "suck" and would be a "bench warmer" at best if he played today is, well......oh, I'll be kind....is an assertion for which I would like to see some evidence.
I do believe that the quality of play has improved over the decades, and I certainly can accept the idea that perhaps the "numbers" compiled 80 years ago need not be taken at absolute face value. However, if the increase in the quality of play has been so steep and rapid so as to cause Ruth to go from being a player who utterly dominated the game, hitting more home runs a season than most teams, to a guy who "sucked" and couldn't even start, then we should should see evidence of that in the statistics. I would expect to see one generation of baseball players be totally outclassed by the next generation. Instead, if you look at the stats, we see players, from Ruth's day to Pujols's day, generally follow the same career path. Until the decline of age hits them, guys who could hit major league pitching in 1947 can still do so in 1958, and guys who could hit in 1965 are still doing so in 1979.
For example, between 1918 and 1931, Ruth lead the AL in HRs 12 times. He peaked in his early to mid 20s, as we would expect him to, as between ages 24 and 29 he racked up Win Share totals of 43, 51, 53, 29, 55 and 45. However, the next generation of pitchers really fared little better against Ruth, until he finally did truly decline at age 39; from age 31 through age 38 Ruth's Win Share totals were 45, 45, 45, 32, 38, 38, 36 and 29. Age, not a generation of greater athletes who outclassed him, caught Ruth.
Ted Williams played from 1939 through 1960. He pretty much hit the pitchers of one generation just the same as he did of the next generation (indeed, he homered off of a father and son during his major league career). Ted was great as a 22 year old in 1941, with 42 Win Shares (he hit .406), but he was also great as a 38 year old in 1957, hitting .388 with 38 Win Shares.
Hank Aaron was able to figure out the generation of pitchers in the late 1960s pretty much as he did those of the mid-1950s. From 1956 through 1969 his Win Share totals are remarkably consistent: 30, 35, 32, 38, 35, 35, 34, 41, 33, 31, 27, 34, 32, 38.
In his "The Politics of Glory," at page 242, Bill James discussed an article written in 1992 wherein someone had argued that the 1991 Indians were superior to the 1954 Indians, by saying:
"That's nonsense; that's the ramblings of a young man intoxicated by new-found voice, and essentially ignorant of history. One can demonstrate that it is nonsense, because if history's incline was that steep, then the best players in the game in 1954 would have been pushed to near mediocrity by the mid-sixties. This did not happen."

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 03:03 PM
Aaron possibly was not even the greatest player of his era, let alone the greatest to ever play the game. Both Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were greater players in their peak seasons than Aaron was in his. Aaron did have a more productive career than Mantle, but the choice between Mays and Aaron in career value is a toss-up. Win Shares has Aaron with a 643-642 lead, which is a dead heat, especially when one considers that Mays lost nearly two seasons early in his major league career to military service, while Aaron suffered no such career interruption.


Yeah, peak seasons is a fun little argument, but so what? Endure. Persist. Don't drink yourself into impotency. Mantle schmantle. Mays is close--very close, so I amend what I said earlier-- but comes up a tad short--you're right; had Mays not lost those two years, I'm sure he would have surpassed Aaron in enough metrics to put him in the lead. It's a shame that happened to Mays, but it did.

Williams and Musial played huge portions of their careers in segregated ball.

Admittedly, when it comes to reckoning entire careers, I value count stats considerably more than rate stats.

Cyclone792
05-20-2006, 03:17 PM
Yeah, peak seasons is a fun little argument, but so what? Endure. Persist. Don't drink yourself into impotency. Mantle schmantle. Mays is close--very close, so I amend what I said earlier-- but comes up a tad short--you're right; had Mays not lost those two years, I'm sure he would have surpassed Aaron in enough metrics to put him in the lead. It's a shame that happened to Mays, but it did.

Williams and Musial played huge portions of their careers in segregated ball.

Admittedly, when it comes to reckoning entire careers, I value count stats considerably more than rate stats.

While I weigh career value more than peak value (probably a 60/40 split in favor of career), it's a must to place a value on a player's peak. Analyzing peak seasons is vital, because peak seasons signify how great a player was when he was at this best. Failing to account for peak seasons leaves a gaping hole in the study of a player. Peak seasons are why guys such as Sandy Koufax belong in the Hall of Fame.

Hank Aaron was a phenomenal player, and had an extraordinary career that lasted over 20 years. But as great as Hank Aaron was, he was never as great as Mickey Mantle was in 1956, 1957 and 1961. Not even remotely close. Each of those three Mantle seasons are probably among the greatest 15 single seasons by a position player in the history of the game.

Hank was a legend, but Mantle was in another league during those three seasons.

FWIW, if you value counting stats more than rate stats, then consider that Mickey Mantle has 1,009 lifetime runs created above position compared to Hank's total of 822 lifetime runs created above position.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 03:22 PM
Mantle schmantle. Nice retort.

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 03:25 PM
While I weigh career value more than peak value (probably a 60/40 split in favor of career), it's a must to place a value on a player's peak. Analyzing peak seasons is vital, because peak seasons signify how great a player was when he was at this best. Failing to account for peak seasons leaves a gaping hole in the study of a player. Peak seasons are why guys such as Sandy Koufax belong in the Hall of Fame.

Hank Aaron was a phenomenal player, and had an extraordinary career that lasted over 20 years. But as great as Hank Aaron was, he was never as great as Mickey Mantle was in 1956, 1957 and 1961. Not even remotely close. Each of those three Mantle seasons are probably among the greatest 15 single seasons by a position player in the history of the game.

Hank was a legend, but Mantle was in another league during those three seasons.

FWIW, if you value counting stats more than rate stats, then consider that Mickey Mantle has 1,009 lifetime runs created above position compared to Hank's total of 822 lifetime runs created above position.


I agree that peak season arguments are excellent for determining things like "Fame" as in "Hall of Fame." Burning brightly and briefly should count for something. But Aaron's inhuman accretion of stats, endurance, vitality, and well-roundedness of skill set cast a shadow that will unlikely be eclipsed for a long, long time.

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 03:29 PM
Nice retort.

It's not like I'm attacking the individual making the argument. What's the big deal?

I just get tired of guys like Mantle being mentioned along side Mays, Aaron, or even for that matter, Ruth.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 03:32 PM
I just get tired of guys like Mantle being mentioned along side Mays, Aaron, or even for that matter, Ruth.Why?

Do you ever look at the mans career?

He was a monster... I get tired of of the cuff statements without any facts.


CAREER
1951-1975
AT BATS displayed only--not a sorting criteria

EXTRA BASE HITS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE AB
1 Hank Aaron 605 1459 854 12093
2 Willie Mays 541 1323 782 10881
3 Frank Robinson 481 1183 702 9939
4 Mickey Mantle 398 952 554 8102
5 Willie Stargell 338 753 415 6164
6 Willie McCovey 325 789 464 6676
7 Dick Allen 319 709 390 5863
8 Billy Williams 315 925 610 8999
9 Ernie Banks 302 1009 707 9421
10 Harmon Killebrew 300 887 587 8147

HOMERUNS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE AB
1 Hank Aaron 452 745 293 12093
2 Willie Mays 390 660 270 10881
3 Harmon Killebrew 362 573 211 8147
4 Mickey Mantle 346 536 190 8102
5 Frank Robinson 335 583 248 9939
6 Willie McCovey 305 458 153 6676
7 Eddie Mathews 285 512 227 8537
8 Ernie Banks 266 512 246 9421
9 Willie Stargell 234 368 134 6164
10 Frank Howard 223 382 159 6488

HR/100 PA DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE AB
1 Willie McCovey 3.61 5.74 2.13 6676
2 Harmon Killebrew 3.51 5.83 2.32 8147
3 Willie Stargell 3.20 5.25 2.06 6164
4 Mickey Mantle 3.16 5.41 2.24 8102
5 Hank Aaron 3.16 5.47 2.31 12093
6 Frank Howard 2.95 5.20 2.25 6488
7 Reggie Jackson 2.94 5.02 2.08 4350
8 Willie Mays 2.93 5.28 2.35 10881
9 Dick Allen 2.87 4.89 2.02 5863
10 Duke Snider 2.72 5.21 2.50 5746

OBA DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE AB
1 Mickey Mantle .087 .421 .333 8102
2 Stan Musial .072 .408 .336 6284
3 Joe Morgan .068 .396 .329 5406
4 Richie Ashburn .066 .403 .337 6646
5 Carl Yastrzemski .065 .389 .324 8302
6 Frank Robinson .063 .389 .327 9939
7 Eddie Yost .060 .401 .341 5316
8 Willie McCovey .059 .386 .327 6676
9 Dick Allen .057 .381 .324 5863
10 Willie Mays .054 .384 .330 10881

OPS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE AB
1 Mickey Mantle .252 .977 .725 8102
2 Dick Allen .217 .923 .706 5863
3 Willie Mays .210 .941 .731 10881
4 Willie McCovey .208 .923 .716 6676
5 Frank Robinson .207 .928 .720 9939
6 Hank Aaron .206 .934 .728 12093
7 Stan Musial .202 .951 .749 6284
8 Duke Snider .186 .934 .747 5746
9 Willie Stargell .183 .894 .711 6164
10 Harmon Killebrew .171 .884 .713 8147

RUNS CREATED/GAME DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE AB
1 Mickey Mantle 4.78 9.35 4.57 8102
2 Stan Musial 3.60 8.48 4.88 6284
3 Willie Mays 3.29 7.89 4.60 10881
4 Willie McCovey 3.16 7.56 4.40 6676
5 Dick Allen 3.15 7.41 4.26 5863
6 Frank Robinson 3.15 7.59 4.44 9939
7 Hank Aaron 3.04 7.58 4.54 12093
8 Duke Snider 2.73 7.59 4.86 5746
9 Willie Stargell 2.59 6.94 4.35 6164
10 Joe Morgan 2.53 6.94 4.41 5406

SLG DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE AB
1 Mickey Mantle .165 .557 .392 8102
2 Hank Aaron .160 .559 .398 12093
3 Dick Allen .160 .542 .382 5863
4 Willie Mays .156 .557 .401 10881
5 Willie McCovey .148 .538 .389 6676
6 Willie Stargell .148 .533 .385 6164
7 Frank Robinson .144 .538 .394 9939
8 Duke Snider .137 .549 .412 5746
9 Stan Musial .131 .543 .413 6284
10 Reggie Jackson .129 .503 .374 4350

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 03:35 PM
Mantle's elite career lasted 13 seasons. Excellent years many of them.

Aaron's elite career lasted 17 seasons. Plus he has the counting stats to close the deal.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 03:36 PM
Mantle's elite career lasted 13 seasons. Excellent years many of them.

Aaron's elite career lasted 17 seasons. Plus he has the counting stats to close the deal.
Oh.. picking nits are we?

The AL was a better league in the 50's too.

The fact is you just said he wasn't in their league and tha's pure BS.

edabbs44
05-20-2006, 03:41 PM
Mantle and DiMaggio are two players whose legacies have gotten a nice push b/c of the NY factor. NY gives a lot of their players a nice bump in status.

Great players, but not as good as everyone makes them out to be.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 03:44 PM
Mantle and DiMaggio are two players whose legacies have gotten a nice push b/c of the NY factor. NY gives a lot of their players a nice bump in status.
True, but only 8 players with at least 8000 trips to the plate have had a RC/27 vs the league that topped 4 runs.

Mantle would have been a Star if he was an Indian.

CAREER
MODERN (1900-)
AT BATS >= 8000
RUNS CREATED/GAME >= 4 vs. the league average

RUNS CREATED/GAME DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE AB RC/G
1 Babe Ruth 7.86 13.14 5.28 8399 7.86
2 Barry Bonds 5.79 10.70 4.91 9140 5.79
3 Lou Gehrig 5.59 11.21 5.62 8001 5.59
4 Rogers Hornsby 5.05 9.92 4.87 8173 5.05
5 Mickey Mantle 4.78 9.35 4.57 8102 4.78
6 Jimmie Foxx 4.66 10.25 5.58 8134 4.66
7 Ty Cobb 4.65 9.25 4.60 11434 4.65
8 Stan Musial 4.37 9.23 4.86 10972 4.37

Cyclone792
05-20-2006, 03:46 PM
I agree that peak season arguments are excellent for determining things like "Fame" as in "Hall of Fame." Burning brightly and briefly should count for something. But Aaron's inhuman accretion of stats, endurance, vitality, and well-roundedness of skill set cast a shadow that will unlikely be eclipsed for a long, long time.

If that's the criteria you consider, then Aaron never even reached #1 on that list.

That player would be Ty Cobb.

Cobb played in 24 seasons compared to Aaron's 23. He was a better hitter, better basestealer, better offensive force, better defensive player and played a more important defensive position.

In Ty Cobb's career, he accumulated 722 win shares. Give him war credit for 1918-1919, and one can bump that total up to around 730 win shares. In his 12 best seasons, he accumulated 490 win shares. In his 13th to 23rd best seasons, he accumulated 236 win shares (Cobb played in 24 seasons, with his cup of coffee in 1905 being 41 games and 4 win shares).

Do the same for Hank Aaron. Hank accumulated 642 career win shares, 420 win shares in his 12 best seasons and 222 win shares in his 13th to 23rd best seasons.

Cobb's best half of his career was greater than Aaron's best half. Cobb's worst half of his career was greater than Aaron's worst half.

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 03:49 PM
Mantle and DiMaggio are two players whose legacies have gotten a nice push b/c of the NY factor. NY gives a lot of their players a nice bump in status.

Great players, but not as good as everyone makes them out to be.


You're absolutely right. Being white doesn't hurt either. Having an interesting and *tragic* life like Mantle hasn't hurt the burnish of his legend either.

If Mantle were an upstanding country boy who played his whole career for the Milwaukee Braves he'd still be in the Hall of Fame, but he'd be praised with reservations.

Redsfaithful
05-20-2006, 04:09 PM
Saying that Ruth would "suck" and would be a "bench warmer" at best if he played today is, well......oh, I'll be kind....is an assertion for which I would like to see some evidence.
I do believe that the quality of play has improved over the decades, and I certainly can accept the idea that perhaps the "numbers" compiled 80 years ago need not be taken at absolute face value. However, if the increase in the quality of play has been so steep and rapid so as to cause Ruth to go from being a player who utterly dominated the game, hitting more home runs a season than most teams, to a guy who "sucked" and couldn't even start, then we should should see evidence of that in the statistics. I would expect to see one generation of baseball players be totally outclassed by the next generation. Instead, if you look at the stats, we see players, from Ruth's day to Pujols's day, generally follow the same career path. Until the decline of age hits them, guys who could hit major league pitching in 1947 can still do so in 1958, and guys who could hit in 1965 are still doing so in 1979.
For example, between 1918 and 1931, Ruth lead the AL in HRs 12 times. He peaked in his early to mid 20s, as we would expect him to, as between ages 24 and 29 he racked up Win Share totals of 43, 51, 53, 29, 55 and 45. However, the next generation of pitchers really fared little better against Ruth, until he finally did truly decline at age 39; from age 31 through age 38 Ruth's Win Share totals were 45, 45, 45, 32, 38, 38, 36 and 29. Age, not a generation of greater athletes who outclassed him, caught Ruth.
Ted Williams played from 1939 through 1960. He pretty much hit the pitchers of one generation just the same as he did of the next generation (indeed, he homered off of a father and son during his major league career). Ted was great as a 22 year old in 1941, with 42 Win Shares (he hit .406), but he was also great as a 38 year old in 1957, hitting .388 with 38 Win Shares.
Hank Aaron was able to figure out the generation of pitchers in the late 1960s pretty much as he did those of the mid-1950s. From 1956 through 1969 his Win Share totals are remarkably consistent: 30, 35, 32, 38, 35, 35, 34, 41, 33, 31, 27, 34, 32, 38.
In his "The Politics of Glory," at page 242, Bill James discussed an article written in 1992 wherein someone had argued that the 1991 Indians were superior to the 1954 Indians, by saying:
"That's nonsense; that's the ramblings of a young man intoxicated by new-found voice, and essentially ignorant of history. One can demonstrate that it is nonsense, because if history's incline was that steep, then the best players in the game in 1954 would have been pushed to near mediocrity by the mid-sixties. This did not happen."

The difference in the game from the mid 50s to the mid 60s isn't quite the same as the difference between the mid 50's and the 90's-00's.

The 1991 Cleveland Indians would kill the 1954 Indians.

How would Jesse Owens do if he were pulled out of the 30s and plopped down on a track in the year 2006? Why do you guys assume baseball is so different?

Cyclone792
05-20-2006, 04:11 PM
The difference in the game from the mid 50s to the mid 60s isn't quite the same as the difference between the mid 50's and the 90's-00's.

The 1991 Cleveland Indians would kill the 1954 Indians.

How would Jesse Owens do if he were pulled out of the 30s and plopped down on a track in the year 2006? Why do you guys assume baseball is so different?

Just curious here since that's the stance you take ...

Who are your five greatest position players and five greatest pitchers of all-time?

westofyou
05-20-2006, 04:11 PM
Mantle's elite career lasted 13 seasons. Excellent years many of them.

Aaron's elite career lasted 17 seasons. Plus he has the counting stats to close the deal.
FWIW Mantle had over 8000 at bats.. only 106 players in Modern MLB history have had over 8000 at bats.

3222 players have had over 1000 at bats in MLB history, making the 8000 at bat club worth 0.32 percent of those players.

Making it to 8000 at bats in MLB history is something special, and certainly nothing someone should get penalized for because they didn't get an extra 4 thousand trips to the dish like Aaron.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 04:14 PM
How would Jesse Owens do if he were pulled out of the 30s and plopped down on a track in the year 2006? Why do you guys assume baseball is so different? What would Ben Johnson do if he had to face the diet and the trials that Owens had to?

Drop Owens down here now, train and feed him like today's players and then let's talk.

Redsfaithful
05-20-2006, 04:15 PM
Just curious here since that's the stance you take ...

Who are your five greatest position players and five greatest pitchers of all-time?

I think this goes to the heart of the matter. If you ask me to name the five greatest position players based on accomplishments then I'll say guys like Ruth, Mays, Aaron, etc. just like anyone else. But if we're talking pure talent then it's going to be an entirely different and more modern answer.

Cyclone792
05-20-2006, 04:21 PM
I think this goes to the heart of the matter. If you ask me to name the five greatest position players based on accomplishments then I'll say guys like Ruth, Mays, Aaron, etc. just like anyone else. But if we're talking pure talent then it's going to be an entirely different and more modern answer.

I'm talking who you fundamentally believe to be the five greatest position players and five greatest pitchers of all-time based on whatever your beliefs are as far as strength of era, etc.

Redsfaithful
05-20-2006, 04:21 PM
What would Ben Johnson do if he had to face the diet and the trials that Owens had to?

Drop Owens down here now, train and feed him like today's players and then let's talk.

We're really debating innate talent, and that's a debate that nobody's going to be able to win, because nobody really knows. You have your opinion, I have mine, and never the twain shall meet I imagine.

I do find it kind of hilarious how seriously people take it if you disparage Babe Ruth in a discussion about Barry Bonds. Blasphemy!

Redsfaithful
05-20-2006, 04:27 PM
I'm talking who you fundamentally believe to be the five greatest position players and five greatest pitchers of all-time based on whatever your beliefs are as far as strength of era, etc.

I'll just go on pure talent then, since that seems to be what you want. I fully expect this to get ripped to shreds, but what the heck.

Position players:

Barry Bonds
Alex Rodriguez
Albert Pujols
Vlad Guerrero
Ken Griffey Jr.

Pitchers:

Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Pedro Martinez
Roger Clemens
Mariano Rivera

westofyou
05-20-2006, 04:29 PM
I do find it kind of hilarious how seriously people take it if you disparage Babe Ruth in a discussion about Barry Bonds. Blasphemy!Yeah, it's a Santa Claus moment.. but the fact is baseball is alot like then, and the other sports are far more advanced than their ancestors.

Sure technology and relief pitchers and travel have changed, but the man is still 60 feet away from the pitcher and in some cases the same parks are all still being played in.

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 04:31 PM
FWIW Mantle had over 8000 at bats.. only 106 players in Modern MLB history have had over 8000 at bats.

3222 players have had over 1000 at bats in MLB history, making the 8000 at bat club worth 0.32 percent of those players.

Making it to 8000 at bats in MLB history is something special, and certainly nothing someone should get penalized for because they didn't get an extra 4 thousand trips to the dish like Aaron.

Did I not say that Mantle should be in the HOF? Who's talking "penalizing?"

But a disinterested peak at their cumulative stats says Aaron was definitely the better player. That's all I'm saying.

Perhaps I value longevity more than others. I suppose if you must label my bias, that would be it. But I'd hardly call longevity a shortcoming or a distortion of the "degree" of Aaron's greatness.

RANDY IN INDY
05-20-2006, 04:32 PM
We're really debating innate talent, and that's a debate that nobody's going to be able to win, because nobody really knows. You have your opinion, I have mine, and never the twain shall meet I imagine.

I do find it kind of hilarious how seriously people take it if you disparage Babe Ruth in a discussion about Barry Bonds. Blasphemy!

Hilarious opinions get those kind of reactions.

pedro
05-20-2006, 04:33 PM
Bonds just tied Ruth

Redsfaithful
05-20-2006, 04:33 PM
Yeah, it's a Santa Claus moment.. but the fact is baseball is alot like then, and the other sports are far more advanced than their ancestors.

True, baseball is in my opinion, the only sport where you can even have this kind of debate. Basketball and football have changed an incredible amount over the years. I have no idea about hockey though.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 04:36 PM
Perhaps I value longevity more than others. That's the wagon Pete rode to history. It's a valid tool in evaluating a career, but at a certain point freaks like Anson, Aaron, Kaline, Cobb and Rose are just that.. freaks who got in the game early and/or stayed too long.

Considering the average position player can expect to play just five years and over one in four position players will have only a single-year career, and at every point of a player’s career, the chance of exiting is at least 11% of occuring then I have to give credance to anyone in the league over 12 years.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 04:38 PM
True, baseball is in my opinion, the only sport where you can even have this kind of debate. Basketball and football have changed an incredible amount over the years. I have no idea about hockey though.
Hockey has been affected tremendously by size and technology, meanwhile the rink has stayed the same... the pace and the scoring is affected by the change of rules.. which is a common thing. The introduction of head and face equipment did more to speed up the game then anything not named Bobby Orr.

edabbs44
05-20-2006, 04:39 PM
Bonds just tied Ruth
http://www.birdsasart.com/Hippo-Yawn.jpg

KronoRed
05-20-2006, 04:40 PM
Bonds just tied Ruth
*

Falls City Beer
05-20-2006, 04:43 PM
That's the wagon Pete rode to history. It's a valid tool in evaluating a career, but at a certain point freaks like Anson, Aaron, Kaline, Cobb and Rose are just that.. freaks who got in the game early and/or stayed too long.

Considering the average position player can expect to play just five years and over one in four position players will have only a single-year career, and at every point of a player’s career, the chance of exiting is at least 11% of occuring then I have to give credance to anyone in the league over 12 years.

To that end, why punish guys for sticking around? If they weren't producing or merely hanging around cashing a check, I might agree with you, but that wasn't at all the case with Aaron. He happened to burn very brightly for a very long time. If that's freakishness, give me freakishness.

Cyclone792
05-20-2006, 04:44 PM
I'll just go on pure talent then, since that seems to be what you want. I fully expect this to get ripped to shreds, but what the heck.

Position players:

Barry Bonds
Alex Rodriguez
Albert Pujols
Vlad Guerrero
Ken Griffey Jr.

Pitchers:

Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Pedro Martinez
Roger Clemens
Mariano Rivera

Nah, I'm not going to rip it to shreds ;) Now if the big, bad steroids crowd freaks out, well then I can't help that. I was just curious if you were going to list all active players, which they all are as of last season (and maybe again this season if Clemens returns).

FWIW, I've been in the whole talent debate in eras more times than I wish to count, and you're right that it's a matter of opinion that cannot be proven either way. I happen to agree fully with woy, but my reasoning is sometimes misunderstood by a lot of folks.

When a lot of people say that today's talent is greater than yesterday's, they want to use what's called the time machine method. They want to take a modern day version of Alex Rodriguez with all of today's benefits, stick him in a time machine and walk him straight to the nearest ballpark. Of course the modern day version of Alex Rodriguez with all of today's benefits will dominate a group of guys 80 years ago. But the folks who disagree don't even look at the debate in that method, and prefer the "birthing" method of taking a player born in one generation and birthing him in another generation.

Put it this way, take a human being born in 1975 and give them the natural baseball talent ability of Honus Wagner. Then allow that person to enjoy all the advancements in medical technology, education, strength conditioning, dietary advancements, etc. and that person will likely dominate baseball at a very high level in today's game not so much different than the level that Honus Wagner dominated during his time.

Likewise, take a human being born in 1880 and give them the natural baseball talent ability of Alex Rodriguez. That person has to grow up in that time period and deal with whatever technology, education, strength conditioning, dietary knowledge, etc. of that time. That person will play baseball and dominate his time period back then not so much different than the level that Alex Rodriguez dominates today.

That's how I prefer to look at the talent debate for each era. Based off woy's post, I'm guessing that's probably the angle he looks at as well.

westofyou
05-20-2006, 05:01 PM
BTW I think this guy is one of the 5 best players of all time and could play anywhere at anytime. Look at the size of that guys hands.

http://www.deadballart.com/redszone/hans.jpg

tsj017
05-20-2006, 06:27 PM
A few years back, Tracy Jones liked to argue that Frank Thomas was a much better hitter than Lou Gehrig. "Today's players are far superior to those old-time guys."

Phooey. My belief is that if you could pluck (for instance) Lou Gehrig out of the 20s or 30s and drop him in today's game--and possibly give him a season to adjust to things like relief specialists, night games, jet travel, modern training methods, and so on--he'd be just as good now as he was then.

How much more comfortable and cushy are even today's visitor's clubhouses than the nicest clubhouses of the 30s or 40s? How would today's players react to, say, road trips by train?

If Babe Ruth had played in, say, Fenway or Wrigley in the late 90s, how many home runs would he have hit in a season?

Talent is talent. Hitting is hitting.

RedsBaron
05-20-2006, 08:23 PM
The difference in the game from the mid 50s to the mid 60s isn't quite the same as the difference between the mid 50's and the 90's-00's.

The 1991 Cleveland Indians would kill the 1954 Indians.

How would Jesse Owens do if he were pulled out of the 30s and plopped down on a track in the year 2006? Why do you guys assume baseball is so different?
Where is your evidence that track and field and baseball are the same?
Jesse Owens dominated the 1936 Olympics, but he didn't continue at the that level for the next decade and a half; Owens wasn't winning gold medals 12 years later in the 1948 Olympics or 16 years later in in the 1952 Olympics. It is relatively rare for track and field athletes to be gold medal caliber even in consecutive Olympics only 4 years apart, almost unheard of for them to still be dominant 12 and 16 years after their peak.
In baseball, however, as I previously posted, Babe Ruth was dominant in 1918-19, but he was still arguably the best player in the game 12 years later in 1930-31, winning HR titles all four of those seasons.
Ted Williams was baseball's "gold medalist" in 1941, hitting .406 with a .553 OBP and a .735 SPCT. 16 years later, he was still the best hitter in the world, hitting .388 with a .526 OBP and .731 SPCT.
Warren Spahn won 21 games with a 2.33 ERA in 1947. 16 years later, he won 23 games and had a 2.60 ERA.
Pete Rose hit .301 in 1967 with a .328 OBP and a .444 SPCT. 12 years later, Rose checked in with a .331 average and a .418 OBP and .430 SPCT.
George Brett was AL batting champ in 1976 with a .333 average along with a .377 OBP and .462 SPCT. 14 years later he was again AL batting champ, hitting .329 with a .387 OBP and .515 SPCT.
Eddie Murray hit .285 with a .356 OBP and a .480 SPCT; 12 years later a new improved generation of pitchers had no better luck with Murray, who posted a line of .330 .414 .520.
Baseball ain't track and field. If it was, Herb Washington might be in the Hall of Fame.

Redsfaithful
05-20-2006, 11:02 PM
I don't think the athletes playing the game have ever changed significantly in a 20 year span. But you up that to 40 or 60 or 80 years, and yeah I think the athletes are a little different.

And you totally missed my point on Owens. Where is your evidence that track and field and baseball aren't the same? There certainly have been athletes that stayed elite over long periods of time. You've heard of Carl Lewis I'm guessing?

Cedric
05-21-2006, 12:28 AM
For the most part I agree with Redsfaithful.

I really think people love to preserve mythological narratives. It's not anyone's fault; otherwise, all that rich history becomes mildly meaningless.

As to the part about assumptions--well that goes both ways. To say that Ruth would have been great had he played today is an assumption based on far shakier premises than the reverse.

And Bill James' theory? Codswallop. How would a black man adjust to playing in all white league via the time machine? He wouldn't; he'd be kicked off the ballfield. That's the point. Pre-integration baseball is meaningless to me. That's not a popular opinion I know, but it's based on the sound premise that you weren't witnessing enough of the finest players on earth to make any kind of judgment about greatness.

Ruth was an excellent player compared to his peers. That's really all you can say about it. He's a historical, mythological figure that transcends the rational arguments you can bring to bear on comparing people of different eras. Humans need a mythos. It's that simple.

To the best of my reckoning, Aaron is the greatest player to play the game. It's not all that close, IMO.

I'm late, but Aaron is the greatest player by a far stretch? Obviously this is just your opinion, but I'm just curious as to why you prefer longevity over short spurts of dominance?

Another question. If you had one player for one at bat in their prime, who would you take? Allowing that in this hypothetical the player pitching is opposite handed of your choice.

RANDY IN INDY
05-21-2006, 08:44 AM
BTW I think this guy is one of the 5 best players of all time and could play anywhere at anytime. Look at the size of that guys hands.

http://www.deadballart.com/redszone/hans.jpg

The "Dutchman" did have some hands. Wow! Thanks for that pic, westofyou.:beerme:

Cyclone792
05-21-2006, 08:38 PM
Another question. If you had one player for one at bat in their prime, who would you take? Allowing that in this hypothetical the player pitching is opposite handed of your choice.

An interesting question, for sure, and my choices would fluctuate a bit with different situations. But in a general way and not accounting for the exact situation, I would select Ted Williams.

BTW, woy, that's an outstanding picture of Wagner, and one I've never seen before. The picture quality is pretty amazing considering the time period too. Not only are his hands huge, but his forearms are enormous. I really wish they had video technology back then like they do now, because Honus was one of the most gifted and complete players the game has ever seen.

RedsBaron
05-22-2006, 07:38 AM
I don't think the athletes playing the game have ever changed significantly in a 20 year span. But you up that to 40 or 60 or 80 years, and yeah I think the athletes are a little different.

And you totally missed my point on Owens. Where is your evidence that track and field and baseball aren't the same? There certainly have been athletes that stayed elite over long periods of time. You've heard of Carl Lewis I'm guessing?
Yeah, I've heard of Carl Lewis. And Jerry Lewis. And John L. Lewis. And Joe Louis. And Henry Louis Gehrig. And Louis the XIV. And The Spirit of St. Louis.
You are the one who asserted that if he played today Babe Ruth would "suck" and would be a benchwarmer. Despite several requests, you have offered nothing to support those assertions.
I earlier noted that that were a few exceptions to what appeared to be the general trend for track & field athletes in one generation to be hopelessly outclassed by the next generation, with Lewis being one the exceptions I had in my mind. You have provided no similar evidence of ballplayers in one generation being outclassed by the next generation.
There was actually another track & field athlete I first thought of as an exception to the above "rule." In 1956, the Olympic gold medalist in the discus set a world record with a throw of 184 feet and change. In 1960, the gold medalist set a world record with a throw of 194 feet. In 1964 the gold medalist set a world record with a throw of 200 feet. In 1968 the gold medalist set a record with a throw of 212 feet. In 1980, in Olympic trials, an American threw the discus 227 feet, and unofficially later had a throw of 245 feet. It is rather obvious that the gold medalist in the discus in 1956 would have been outclassed badly by the mid-1960s and hopelessly outclassed by 1980........except it is the same guy! Al Oerter won the gold medal in four straight Olympics, and was throwing better than ever, in his forties, in trials for the 1980 Olympics, which America ultimately boycotted.
Anyway, there is no evidence of baseball having advanced in quality over the generations to such a degree that Babe Ruth, who absolutely dominated the game in his prime, would "suck" today. Until age finally did him in, an aging Ruth held his own with the next generation of sluggers, such as Jimmie Foxx, in hitting the next generation of pitchers; until age and booze did him in, Foxx held his own with DiMaggio and Ted Williams; Ted Williams in turn held his own with Mickey Mantle, and so on.
The game itself has changed in countless ways. The athletes themselves benefit from better nutrition, better equipment, better training, etc. But there is no evidence that someone such as Ruth or Honus Wagner wouldn't be a great player today.
Are players fast today? Yes, but is anyone any faster going to firstbase than Mantle, who reportedly did it in 3.1 seconds or so? Clemens, Johnson nad several others throw fast, but do they really throw any harder than Walter Johnson or Lefty Grove? Bob Feller is estimated to have consistently thrown in the 98-100 mph range in his prime. Sandy Koufax and Jim Maloney threw as hard as anybody today. A pitcher in a past generation, Nolan Ryan, was also considered to have a decent fastball.
Until the steroid era, even the size of baseball players was not all different over the decades. I think I read that the 1976 Reds outweighed the 1927 Yankees by an average of only 2-3 pounds.
Babe Ruth would "suck" and would be sitting on the bench if he played today? :rolleyes:

registerthis
05-22-2006, 09:37 AM
Babe Ruth would "suck" and would be sitting on the bench if he played today? :rolleyes:

I'm not certain he would be sitting on the bench, but I don't think there's much question that he wouldn't approach 714 homers today.

But the comparison is silly, IMO, because of the inherent bias in comparing two players from two vastly different eras. Taken exactly as they were 80 years ago, the vast majority of major league stars from that era wouldn't be nearly as successful today if they had to face today's better conditioned and trained athletes. Baseball players today have numerous advantages not afforded to players of the 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. including better training and more knowledgeable trainers, better equipment, dietary supplemants (cue steroid joke here) and, perhaps most importantly, a wealth of people in the game who can look back at 150 years of baseball history and dispense valuable knowledge and advice. More advanced scouting, computer technology, and previously unavailable in-depthstatistical analysis all provides a critical advantage to today's players not affordded to players many moons ago.

Now, a better question (and one which likely could not be answered) is, if given all of the advantages and benefits that modern era ballplayers enjoy, what stars from yesteryear would be stars in today's game? That would be a fair question...much more so than questions that necessitate the plucking of players out of one era and sticking them in another where they have little chance of being as competitive.

westofyou
05-22-2006, 09:46 AM
An interesting question, for sure, and my choices would fluctuate a bit with different situations. But in a general way and not accounting for the exact situation, I would select Ted Williams.

BTW, woy, that's an outstanding picture of Wagner, and one I've never seen before. The picture quality is pretty amazing considering the time period too. Not only are his hands huge, but his forearms are enormous. I really wish they had video technology back then like they do now, because Honus was one of the most gifted and complete players the game has ever seen.
Home of great deadball era shots.

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/ichihtml/cdnhome.html

Rippling arms.

http://memory.loc.gov/ndlpcoop/ichicdn/s0561/s056193.jpg

RANDY IN INDY
05-22-2006, 10:05 AM
:beerme:
Yeah, I've heard of Carl Lewis. And Jerry Lewis. And John L. Lewis. And Joe Louis. And Henry Louis Gehrig. And Louis the XIV. And The Spirit of St. Louis.
You are the one who asserted that if he played today Babe Ruth would "suck" and would be a benchwarmer. Despite several requests, you have offered nothing to support those assertions.
I earlier noted that that were a few exceptions to what appeared to be the general trend for track & field athletes in one generation to be hopelessly outclassed by the next generation, with Lewis being one the exceptions I had in my mind. You have provided no similar evidence of ballplayers in one generation being outclassed by the next generation.
There was actually another track & field athlete I first thought of as an exception to the above "rule." In 1956, the Olympic gold medalist in the discus set a world record with a throw of 184 feet and change. In 1960, the gold medalist set a world record with a throw of 194 feet. In 1964 the gold medalist set a world record with a throw of 200 feet. In 1968 the gold medalist set a record with a throw of 212 feet. In 1980, in Olympic trials, an American threw the discus 227 feet, and unofficially later had a throw of 245 feet. It is rather obvious that the gold medalist in the discus in 1956 would have been outclassed badly by the mid-1960s and hopelessly outclassed by 1980........except it is the same guy! Al Oerter won the gold medal in four straight Olympics, and was throwing better than ever, in his forties, in trials for the 1980 Olympics, which America ultimately boycotted.
Anyway, there is no evidence of baseball having advanced in quality over the generations to such a degree that Babe Ruth, who absolutely dominated the game in his prime, would "suck" today. Until age finally did him in, an aging Ruth held his own with the next generation of sluggers, such as Jimmie Foxx, in hitting the next generation of pitchers; until age and booze did him in, Foxx held his own with DiMaggio and Ted Williams; Ted Williams in turn held his own with Mickey Mantle, and so on.
The game itself has changed in countless ways. The athletes themselves benefit from better nutrition, better equipment, better training, etc. But there is no evidence that someone such as Ruth or Honus Wagner wouldn't be a great player today.
Are players fast today? Yes, but is anyone any faster going to firstbase than Mantle, who reportedly did it in 3.1 seconds or so? Clemens, Johnson nad several others throw fast, but do they really throw any harder than Walter Johnson or Lefty Grove? Bob Feller is estimated to have consistently thrown in the 98-100 mph range in his prime. Sandy Koufax and Jim Maloney threw as hard as anybody today. A pitcher in a past generation, Nolan Ryan, was also considered to have a decent fastball.
Until the steroid era, even the size of baseball players was not all different over the decades. I think I read that the 1976 Reds outweighed the 1927 Yankees by an average of only 2-3 pounds.
Babe Ruth would "suck" and would be sitting on the bench if he played today? :rolleyes:

RedsBaron
05-22-2006, 10:44 AM
Now, a better question (and one which likely could not be answered) is, if given all of the advantages and benefits that modern era ballplayers enjoy, what stars from yesteryear would be stars in today's game? That would be a fair question...much more so than questions that necessitate the plucking of players out of one era and sticking them in another where they have little chance of being as competitive.
I agree with that, and the flip side would be the question of how today's players would fare if we could travel via time machine back to the 1910s or 20s to play, while also taking away the advantages and benefits they enjoy.
My best guess is that the quality of play in the modern game is better than it was 75 years ago, but that Babe Ruth would hardly "suck" and be unable to even hold a starting job if we could transport him in his prime to today. I'd guess Satchel Paige could still be successful in today's game, too.

westofyou
05-22-2006, 10:49 AM
I agree with that, and the flip side would be the question of how today's players would fare if we could travel via time machine back to the 1910s or 20s to play, while also taking away the advantages and benefits they enjoy.
My best guess is that the quality of play in the modern game is better than it was 75 years ago, but that Babe Ruth would hardly "suck" and be unable to even hold a starting job if we could transport him in his prime to today. I'd guess Satchel Paige could still be successful in today's game, too.
Yep, I'd like to see what the era of train travel, poor diets and no AC in the hotel would do to a player today, not to mention wool uniforms, thick handled bats, poor lit night games, 13 double headers a year, etc.

Let's not forget about health, in the past players died of burst appendixes and fevers during the season, a wrenched knee then could be fixed now, the variables are many, and nothing points to it being easier going backwards.

Dan
05-22-2006, 11:23 AM
One fact to keep in mind when you consider Aaron's greatness as a hitter:

Aaron had 3016 hits BEFORE he hit his first home run.

To me, he's the Greatest Living Ballplayer and has been since he retired.

capndees
05-22-2006, 12:03 PM
Don't drink yourself into impotency. Mantle schmantle.

Mantle in his last year hit .237, in a league that hit .230. He was in the top 5 in OBP. The idea that he "drank himself into impotency" is ridiculous. He didn't have Aaron or Mays' longevity, but he played 18 years, and his peak seasons easily dwarf Aaron's.

BuckWoody
05-22-2006, 12:11 PM
One fact to keep in mind when you consider Aaron's greatness as a hitter:

Aaron had 3016 hits BEFORE he hit his first home run.

To me, he's the Greatest Living Ballplayer and has been since he retired.
What? 3016 hits before he hit his first home run... :confused:

RedFanAlways1966
05-22-2006, 12:11 PM
One fact to keep in mind when you consider Aaron's greatness as a hitter:

Aaron had 3016 hits BEFORE he hit his first home run.

To me, he's the Greatest Living Ballplayer and has been since he retired.

Dan... not sure what you mean. I have read this post 10X and still do not "get it". Obviously Hank did not have 3,016 hits before his 1st HR, so I am not sure what/who you mean. :)

capndees
05-22-2006, 12:19 PM
Dan... not sure what you mean. I have read this post 10X and still do not "get it". Obviously Hank did not have 3,016 hits before his 1st HR, so I am not sure what/who you mean. :)

I'm going to guess that Dan meant Hank Aaron had 3,016 hits that were not homeruns.

RedFanAlways1966
05-22-2006, 12:24 PM
I'm going to guess that Dan meant Hank Aaron had 3,016 hits that were not homeruns.

Ah... that makes sense! Thanks, capndees. :)

Falls City Beer
05-22-2006, 12:37 PM
Mantle in his last year hit .237, in a league that hit .230. He was in the top 5 in OBP. The idea that he "drank himself into impotency" is ridiculous. He didn't have Aaron or Mays' longevity, but he played 18 years, and his peak seasons easily dwarf Aaron's.

Mantle missed a ton of games between 62-66--whether it was the firewater is debatable. And let's face it, while Mantle's 67-68 seasons were very good, they were a sharp dropoff for him. His slugging in those seasons was pathetic. (I know, I know--pitcher's era), but still....

Just sit and stare at Aaron's numbers for a second; his consistency is simply dizzying.

RedsBaron
05-22-2006, 01:08 PM
Mantle missed a ton of games between 62-66--whether it was the firewater is debatable. And let's face it, while Mantle's 67-68 seasons were very good, they were a sharp dropoff for him. His slugging in those seasons was pathetic. (I know, I know--pitcher's era), but still....

Just sit and stare at Aaron's numbers for a second; his consistency is simply dizzying.
If I ever get around to posting my all "easy does it" all star team made up of guys who were easy to manage and remarkably durable and consistent, Aaron is the rightfielder. What the hey, I'll list that team now, made up of guys who even Bob Boone could probably win with:
C-Yogi Berra
1B-Lou Gehrig
2B-Eddie Collins
SS-Honus Wagner
3B-Mike Schmidt
LF-Stan Musial
CF-Willie Mays
RF-Hank Aaron
P-Walter Johnson
P-Christy Mathewson
P-Warren Spahn
P-Greg Maddux

capndees
05-22-2006, 01:35 PM
Just sit and stare at Aaron's numbers for a second; his consistency is simply dizzying.

Yes, it is.

Just as dazzling as Mantle's awesome peak seasons of '56, '57, and '61. And it's not like Mantle's other years were lackluster. He was, quite simply, the best player in the AL every year from 1954 to 1964 (except for 1963, when he was injured). True, he didn't have Mays to compete with, but I'd still call that a pretty awesome level of consistency. Aaron was one of the best players in his league for almost 20 years, but was rarely THE best player in his league.

Dan
05-22-2006, 03:16 PM
I'm going to guess that Dan meant Hank Aaron had 3,016 hits that were not homeruns.

Never let it be said that I do not say things in the most cryptic manner possible. :)