Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Greatest Players of our Era

Answer this question: Who is the best player in baseball history?

There is no right answer, because there are too many elements of baseball. Pitchers and position players can never be judged together because there are no measures to compare the two side by side. Similarly, it is too difficult to evaluate players from different eras, because numbers don't translate the same way. For example, Babe Ruth led the American League in homeruns in 1918 with just 11 bombs, even though he was a pitcher.

So the real question is: Who is the greatest player at each position during this era? In a time defined by steroid allegations, the Mitchell Report, and the Sosa/McGwire showdown, there are few players we can honestly call "clean", but to be fair, all players were included, even those with steroid connections. Our Era will consist of players that have retired in 2005 or later, or are still playing. 

C: Mike Piazza

There might be a little bias here considering he is my favorite baseball player, but the numbers don't lie. He's a career .308 hitter with 427 homeruns. In 1997, Piazza posted one of the best seasons of all-time for a catcher: .362/.431/.638 with 40 homeruns and 124 RBI.

Others considered: Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Joe Mauer

1B: Albert Pujols

This was a tough call, as 1B is one of the most offensive positions in baseball. So many of the greats played first base and posted ridiculous numbers. Pujols is still tearing up the league, but his career numbers are already impressive. .329/.422/.618 with 426 homeruns in just 10.5 seasons. That's insane! He's just 31 years old and has the ability to become one of the greatest of all-time.

Others considered: Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton, Carlos Delgado, Jim Thome

2B: Craig Biggio

This position is probably the most scarce in terms of Hall of Fame talent in our era, but we had the privilege of watching a few tremendous baseball players. Craig Biggio, a member of the 3000-hit club, hit .281 in his career and for a little guy, showed a lot of pop. Biggio hit 291 homeruns and also won four Gold Gloves at second base.

Others considered: Jeff Kent, Chase Utley

Note: Roberto Alomar would have been selected, but he retired in 2004.

3B: Chipper Jones

Larry Jones is a gamer. He goes out there every day despite having been hurt pretty much his entire career. In his career so far, he has a .304 average with 444 homeruns. In 2000 he hit 45 homeruns AND stole 25 bases, while winning the MVP honors. He's been the face of the Atlanta Braves for years and I just hope he can stay on the field until 500. 

Others considered: Scott Rolen, Alex Rodriguez

SS: Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod has put together some of the best statistical seasons in the history of baseball. In a position that is known for its defense, A-Rod combined those skills with his unmatched offensive skill set. Despite his move to 3B for the Yankees, he could just be the greatest SS of all time. Just purely on stats before becoming a Yankee, he hit 345 homeruns with a .307 average. He also won the Gold Glove twice as a shortstop, as well as three AL MVP awards. In his career, A-Rod has hit 626 homeruns and is poised to break Barry Bonds' all-time mark.

Others considered: Derek Jeter, Omar Vizquel

LF: Barry Bonds

Despite all of the steroid allegations, Barry Bonds has posted the greatest numbers of all-time. In his 22 year career, he had a .298 average, 762 home runs, 1996 RBI, 2227 runs scored, 2935 base hits, 601 doubles, 77 triples, 514 stolen bases and a .444 on base percentage. In 2001, Barry Bonds hit a record 73 homeruns. That year he started on a string of four consecutive MVP awards to put his total count at 7. He's posted an OBP as high as .609 when he was walked 232 times.

Others considered: Manny Ramirez

CF: Ken Griffey Jr.

In my mind, Ken Griffey Jr. is the most exciting baseball player of our era. He posted amazing numbers, but his love for the game is unmatched He is one of the best defensive players ever, even though many of his dives into the wall cost him hundreds of games. Griffey hit 630 homers and had a .284 career average. He would certainly be the Homerun King if it weren't for his injuries, since he missed over 700 games in his career due to injury. The owner of the prettiest swing in baseball is certainly the choice for the CF of our era.

Others considered: Jim Edmonds, Andruw Jones, Bernie Williams

RF: Ichiro Suzuki

This one was pretty close. It was hard not selecting Vladimir Gurrero, but Suzuki definitely deserves this title. He's a career .328 hitter and averages 226 hits per 162 games. Ichiro is a great defensive player, as he's won a Gold Glove in every season of his career. He is the owner of the single season hits record of 262 and has had over 200 hits every year.

Others considered: Vladimir Guerrero, Larry Walker


Roger Clemens
Pedro Martinez
Greg Maddux
Randy Johnson
Tom Glavine

There have been a ton of great pitchers in baseball for the past fifteen years, but nobody matches these five....yet. Roy Halladay definitely can be in this conversation, as well as, Johan Santana and John Smoltz. When its all said and done though, you couldn't go wrong with these five. Clemens, Martinez, and Johnson just had filthy stuff. They are some of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game. Glavine and Maddux had great stuff too, but what separated them was there durability and intelligence. Glavine would never let you get comfortable in an at-bat, while Maddux was always methodical and efficient. In fact Maddux once threw a complete game with 76 pitches. He even gave up 5 hits and 1 run, but threw just 13 balls in 9 innings.

Closer: Mariano Rivera

Not even a question. He's the best of all-time. His cutter is probably the best pitch in the MLB, as it even forces some switch hitters to bat righty against him. He has a career 2.22 ERA and has saved 581 games.

Others considered: Trevor Hoffman, John Smoltz, Billy Wagner

I'm sure I made someone angry about this. Let me know if you think I've made any mistakes!

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