When Hank Aaron passed there was the natural inclination to discuss where he ranks on the best of all-time list. I avoided starting discussions like that as well as getting into them as it’s just better to remember the player and the man upon his passing rather than getting into trivial and judgmental conversations.
But naturally as a fan, it did cross my mind – where does Hank rank on the best of all-time list, and if I had a best of all-time list what would it be?
So here’s my updated ranking of the best players of all-time, with two caveats. (Because what else are we going to talk about – Dustin Pedroia, Mickey Callaway, and MLB owners negotiation tactics? Hard pass…)
Caveat one: Keyword “updated”. This list is different than previous lists and different than future lists. Only idiots don’t change their mind as more information and context become available.
Caveat two: The more I learn about baseball the more I weigh the era in which one played when judging their careers. This goes for every era, but especially pre-integration. Not only were players in pre-1947 MLB playing against only other Caucasians, but most historians will tell you that many of the best Caucasians weren’t even playing (choosing to work in the “real world” instead as the salary differences aren’t what they are today). And although I think the Negro Leagues level of competition was probably a little better than MLB’s, I’m leaving Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston off this list for similar reasons.
Effective February, 2021 – here’s MBP’s best position players of all-time, ranked:
- Bonds. 411 HR, 445 SB (77% success rate), 3 MVPs (4 top 5 finishes), 8 Gold Gloves, 2nd best adjusted OPS in history (post integration), 7th all-time in career WAR (post integration), likely the best LF ever. That’s Bonds’ career if he retired in 1998, before ever taking a PED.
- Trout. Speaking of level of competition, If Trout walked on the field during a 1939 Browns vs. Senators game, everyone would’ve thought he was a secret government invention designed by covert German scientists. Fun fact: Griffey Jr.’s best single season adjusted OPS was 171 – Trout’s worst is 168.
- Mays. I’m fine if you want to put Willie higher, for me it’s just a level of competition issue having him behind the top two.
- Williams. People underestimate the gap offensively between Williams and everyone else pre-Bonds. He wasn’t the best hitter, he was the best by A MILE. Neil Walker’s adjusted OPS is closer to Hank Aaron’s, than Aaron’s is to Williams’. (I’ll pause while you re-read that.) And stop with the “but defense and base-running” – Williams was a plus base-runner and about average defensively (both according to Baseball-Reference).
- Mantle. 2nd best offensive player pre-Bonds and a deer in CF and on the bases. We talk way too much about how great he could have been, and not enough about how great he was.
- Aaron. Eerily close – almost identical – career OBP/SLG and OPS+ as Mays. In the box, they were the same player.
- ARod. The best shortstop of all time and among the best third baseman of all time as well.
- Musial. Similar to Aaron in the respect that whatever measurement you like to use – new school vs. old school, totals vs. averages, peak vs. career – Stan was one of the best.
- Schmidt. One of the best right handed hitters of all-time and one of the best defensive 3rd basemen of all-time.
- Frank Robinson. See my comment about Aaron – Robinson, Aaron and Mays were almost exactly the same player in the batter’s box.
- Morgan. Elite base-runner, plus defense at a prime position and a monster bat.
- Rickey. I wouldn’t have a problem if you put Rickey ahead of Robinson, I just leaned toward Robinson’s bat.
- Griffey. Career averages are hurt by…well, him being hurt basically the second half of his career, but his peak is a tick better than Robinson’s.
- Yaz. Not just a “compiler” – better peak WAR than Robinson and Griffey. Only leaned toward Jr. because of level of competition and leaned Robinson because of the offense.
I shouldn’t need to say this but I will, part 64: This is highly subjective and there are player’s not on this list who you can certainly justify being on here, and you can certainly re-order this list and it’ll still be a good one.
Did I miss something? Let me know.
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