According to today’s Sporting News Today, no player was voted into the Baseball HOF their first time on the ballot until 1962…that year Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson were elected their first time on the ballot.

(I guess this isn’t technically true, since the first year of voting, Cobb, Ruth, Wagner, Mathewson, and Walter Johnson were elected on the initial ballot.)

I just found this interesting and surprising.

87 Responses

  1. RiverCity Redleg

    The antiquated belef that there is a difference between 1st time HoFers and other HoFers is not real surprising. Just ask half the fossils that still vote for the Hall.

  2. per14

    And I’d say that goes back to that very first election. Obviously they had to vote someone in, so they chose the (roughly) five greatest players of all time. In the following years, voters compared first time eligibles to those five and most are going to come short. And that mindset has lived on.

  3. JasonL

    So here’s a thought…

    Those five were elected to the hall basically 50 years after baseball got going. Since then, we’ve had 73 years and have been drawing from a much larger pool to find players. Realistically, there’s no way we haven’t seen 10 players that are just as good as those five, right? Maybe even more than that. It shows how shrinking standard deviation has affected perception.

    But just for fun, who would those ten be? Williams and Mays definitely. Bonds depending on how you feel about all that. Aaron. Who else?

    What about pitchers?

    It’s interesting to think about.

    • pinson343

      Someone who could get lost in the discussion is Rogers Hornsby, who was not eligible for the Hall until the early 40’s but wouldn’t be thought of among the post 1930 greats. His not being elected his first year of eligibility was ludicrous.

      He was arguably the greatest RH hitter in history. Over a 5 year stretch, he batted .402. And for his day, he was a power hitter – he hit 301 HRs, and held the NL career record for HRs at one point.

    • pinson343

      JasonL: So here’s a thought…Those five were elected to the hall basically 50 years after baseball got going. Realistically, there’s no way we haven’t seen 10 players that are just as good as those five, right? But just for fun, who would those ten be? Williams and Mays definitely. Bonds depending on how you feel about all that. Aaron. Who else?What about pitchers?
      It’s interesting to think about.

      “Interesting” is an understatement. I hope this doesn’t catch fire, or I’ll spend the next 2 days debating on this post rather than the many things I’m supposed to be doing.

      I’ll mainly stick to a short list of definites.

      I’ve already mentioned Rogers Hornsby, I won’t count him among the 10 though because we’re talking about post-1936. In terms of performance, Bonds and ARod and probably Clemens belong, but I’ll leave them out anyway.

      I agree with Aaron, Williams, and Mays.
      I would add to the “definites:” Stan Musial, who is way underrated nowadays. Sandy Koufax, greatest pitcher since I started following in the 50’s. I’ll add Johnny Bench, the greatest catcher. That’s 6 definites, so I’ll leave my “definites” at that.

      How about the other 4 spots ?
      DiMaggio, Griffey, Clemente, Mantle, Rose, Gwynn deserve consideration, but we can’t have all OFers.

      Among IFers, there’s Brett, Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan. Don’t believe there’s been a great great SS (except ARod, already excluded). Jeter might get there. First base ? Not sure. Would pick Carew over McCovey.

      For pitchers, after Koufax I like Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver. Maddux was great but not as dominant as those two. Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer ever, but should a closer be in the top 10 ?

  4. hoosierdad

    The Babe was THE best of all time. Nobody else even comes close. He could have made the HOF as either a pitcher or a hitter. His career era was 2.28. In basically 4.5 years of pitching, he had 117 complete games and 17 shutouts. To say anybody has come even close to the complete player the Babe was has to go against all the baseball gods.

    Having said that (gee I feel better) I love your idea of the 10 best players since that initial HOF class. How about making it the 11 best, which would be 1 for each position + LH starting pitcher + RH starting pitcher + relief pitcher. I’ll start working on my list!

    Love this site!:D

    • pinson343

      hoosierdad: The Babe was THE best of all time.Nobody else even comes close.He could have made the HOF as either a pitcher or a hitter.

      You can’t really (menaingfully) compare players across generations, but I agree with this anyway. You have to give some consideration to how the player compared to the other players of his time, because that’s the only hard information you have.

      You’ve already mentioned Babe’s pitching – he held the record for most consecutive scoreless WS innings pitched (27) until Whitey Ford broke it.

      It’s hard to even fathom how much he dominated his time as a hitter. When he hit 60 HRs in 1927, he broke his own record of 59 (1921). His 59 broke his own record of 54 (1920). His 54 broke his own record of 29 !

      He became the all time career HR leader when he hit HR number one hundred something (130 something ?).

      In 1927, when he hit 60, Lou Gehrig was 2nd in the MLs with 47. Tony Lazzeri was 3rd with 18 ! He hit more HRs than most teams that year (and many years).

      He single-handedly changed the game, ending the Dead Ball era. And he started doing this as a Red Sox pitcher, hitting the dead ball for HRs at an unheard of rate.

    • pinson343

      hoosierdad: How about making it the 11 best, which would be 1 for each position + LH starting pitcher + RH starting pitcher + relief pitcher. I’ll start working on my list!

      Position by position wouldn’t give you the 11 best, but I’ll take my shot.

      1B – Stan Musial (1,000 + games there qualifies him)
      2B – Joe Morgan
      SS – ARod (don’t like him but who else is close)
      3B – George Brett
      LF – Ted Williams
      CF – Willie Mays
      RF – Hank Aaron
      C – Johnny Bench
      RH SP – Tom Seaver
      LH SP – Sandy Koufax
      RP – Mariano Rivera

      • RiverCity Redleg

        pinson343: Position by position wouldn’t give you the 11 best, but I’ll take my shot.
        1B – Stan Musial (1,000 + games there qualifies him)
        2B – Joe Morgan
        SS – ARod (don’t like him but who else is close)
        3B – George Brett
        LF – Ted Williams
        CF – Willie Mays
        RF – Hank Aaron
        C – Johnny Bench
        RH SP – Tom Seaver
        LH SP – Sandy Koufax
        RP – Mariano Rivera
        Reply

        Pretty good list, but i would make a couple of minor adjustments:
        1b – Musial
        2b – Morgan
        ss – ARod (I agree, but if you exclude him Ernie Banks is next best)
        3b – Peter Edward Rose
        of – Williams, Mays, & Aaron
        c- Bench
        RSP – Roger Clemons (Bob Gibson if you are excluding him)
        LSP – Warren Spahn or Steve Carlton
        RP – Rivera

  5. preach

    Will Junior be a first ballot HOF’er? How can he not be, and it’s not all about his numbers. It’s about the era he played in and in part the perception of him being ‘clean’ when so many other power guys were not.

    Same type of logic for Jackie Robinson. Changed the era for things off the field as much as for things on it. Face it, Morgan has better numbers down the list, but if not for Robinson, would Morgan’s numbers exist? Or, if the barrier wasn’t broken until later, would the pressure have been more intense and his play had suffered?

    As unfortunate as it is, the social climate of the era must be looked at as a factor to determine not eligibility, but order of entrance into the Hall. Ty Cobb would not be elected today, or if he would be his entrance would be very, very delayed, because of the social climate of the nation. And IMO, rightfully so. In a past era Rose’s transgressions may have been overlooked and he would have been greeted with open arms. Or maybe he still would be on the outside looking in, who knows?

    Hall entrance is not all about numbers. It’s about the ‘mystique’, right or wrong. And if my hypothesis is correct, Junior will be a walk in first ballot guy.

    • pinson343

      preach: Will Junior be a first ballot HOF’er?

      Easily. And he doesn’t even need the mystique, being the clean guy in the steroid era, etc.
      630 HRs and 10 GGs in CF, end of discussion.
      Only Willy Mays has topped that.

  6. JasonL

    @preach: Sure, the Babe was probably the best, but development has changed. Rarely today does someone switch back and forth like he did. But I’ll concede that point. Otherwise… I think I’d rather have Mays than Cobb, for example. And I might even take someone like Maddux over the pitchers.

  7. hoosierdad

    @pinson343: Regarding the post 1936 players, so many of them had their careers either cut short or interrupted due to servcie during WWII. No telling how eye-popping some of their numbers could have been had they not had to suspend their careers during some of their most productive years.

    • pinson343

      hoosierdad: @pinson343: Regarding the post 1936 players, so many of them had their careers either cut short or interrupted due to servcie during WWII.No telling how eye-popping some of their numbers could have been had they not had to suspend their careers during some of their most productive years.

      Definitely. Williams lost 5 years of his prime to WWII and the Korean War. DiMaggio, etc.

  8. pinson343

    A problem with Rose at 3rd base was that he was a poor defensive 3rd baseman. I was trying to work out something with him in the OF.

    I like Mike Schmidt for 3rd base, if not Brett.

    I agree that Banks is the SS, if you ignore ARod.

    I like Bob Gibson as the RHP, for me it’s a tossup between him and Seaver.

    Spahn and Carlton were great of course. But here you get into longevity vs. peak dominance. For his 6 year period, Koufax dominated like no pitcher has since probably Walter Johnson.

  9. pinson343

    @BJ Ruble: Thanks for the link. A concise and strong statement about our top 10. He likes Francisco more than most analysts do.

  10. preach

    I’m going with players I’ve seen play the game. I understand it’s not the best list, but it’s the best I know by my own sight. I’m also looking at a complete team, not just the best at position.

    1b: Carew
    2b: Morgan
    ss: ARod (yeah, don’t like him either…)
    3b: Schmidt
    Of: Aaron, Griffey Jr., Jackson
    C: Bench

    I’ll take Carlton and Seaver, and Fingers for my closer. Wow, that lineup might have ARod batting 8th.

  11. Travis G.

    Schmidt is the best 3B of all time. Period.

    Here’s my list, and I’ve also listed parenthetical players who certainly aren’t the best at their respective positions, but deserve to mentioned in the conversation, although they rarely are:

    C: Johnny Bench (Darrell Porter)
    1B: Jimmie Foxx (Dick Allen)
    2B: Joe Morgan (Bobby Grich)
    SS: Ernie Banks (Barry Larkin)
    3B: Mike Schmidt (Darrell Evans)
    LF: Barry Bonds (Tim Raines)
    CF: Willie Mays (Richie Ashburn)
    RF: Hank Aaron (Mel Ott)

    Hardest cuts: Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mel Ott, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell, Joe Dimaggio, Yogi Berra

    Pitchers: Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Mariano Rivera (Carl Hubbell, Hoyt Wilhelm)

    Hardest cuts: Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson, Dennis Eckersley

    • pinson343

      Travis G.: Schmidt is the best 3B of all time. Period.Here’s my list, and I’ve also listed parenthetical players who certainly aren’t the best at their respective positions, but deserve to mentioned in the conversation, although they rarely are:C:Johnny Bench (Darrell Porter)
      1B: Jimmie Foxx (Dick Allen)
      2B: Joe Morgan (Bobby Grich)
      SS: Ernie Banks (Barry Larkin)
      3B: Mike Schmidt (Darrell Evans)
      LF: Barry Bonds (Tim Raines)
      CF: Willie Mays (Richie Ashburn)
      RF: Hank Aaron (Mel Ott)
      Hardest cuts: Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mel Ott, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell, Joe Dimaggio, Yogi BerraPitchers: Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Mariano Rivera (Carl Hubbell, Hoyt Wilhelm)Hardest cuts: Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson, Dennis Eckersley

      Really interesting choices. I especially like including Jimmie Foxx. I wasn’t thinking of him because of the post 1936 rule, but he hit 50 HRs and drove in 175 runs in 1938. I also like Mel Ott and Yogi Berra, who was a great defensive catcher and arguably a better hitter than Bench. (Comparing their offensive stats surprised me.)
      Dick Allen was a great talent, a colorful prima donna. Richie Ashburn – career .396 OBP !

  12. Travis G.

    On second thought, ARod deserves the nod at SS because I penalized him for playing half his career at 3B. However, he actually played about a half season more as a full-time SS than Banks, while also being the clearly superior hitter.

  13. preach

    Ah, a Bobby Grich reference. He was a fantastic player. He and Belanger were one of the best DP duos in an era of great ones. I also have always liked Porter, Evans, and Raines as well. You hit some of my favorites growing up.

    I forgot about Henderson when I made my list. Rickey gets no respect. Rickey should do something about it. Rickey is going to bump Reggie. That’s what Rickey’s going to do.

  14. pinson343

    PS Love the Carl Hubbell mention.

  15. RiverCity Redleg

    Travis, I have no problem conceding Mike Schmidt over Rose and definitely over Brett, but I have no idea how you could possibly list Rock Raines over Ted Williams, that’s insane. I will also argue that Roger Clemens was more dominant than Pedro. And Preach, I’m also a Rod Carew fan, nice inclusion.

    • Travis G.

      RiverCity Redleg: I have no idea how you could possibly list Rock Raines over Ted Williams, that’s insane. I will also argue that Roger Clemens was more dominant than Pedro.

      I wasn’t listing Raines over Williams; the players listed in parentheses are overlooked (i.e., underrated) players who deserve mention in the discussion. Williams was my toughest cut, but I’m overlooking personal character to rank Bonds over him. Barry was simply the better all-around player, and his steroids-enhanced numbers are quite simply insane. I can’t ignore those, even if I don’t like them.

      Clemens makes a strong case over Pedro, having been almost as good over nearly twice as many innings, but I’d take Pedro in his prime over Clemens in his. Personality could be clouding my subjectivity, since I the Sox were my AL alternate team back in the ’80s, and I just don’t like Roger. (My little brother really got his goat once at a restaurant, which is a story for another time.)

      • RiverCity Redleg

        Travis G.: I wasn’t listing Raines over Williams; the players listed in parentheses are overlooked (i.e., underrated)

        Gotcha! My bad.

        Pinson, I too wanted to include Frank Robinson, left field is just too crowded. Also, you’ve got a point with Pujols. He very well may be the best 1B of all time before it’s all said and done.

  16. pinson343

    Some of the best players not yet mentioned: Al Kaline – close to Clemente, just as great an arm. Frank Robinson. Brooks Robinson. Bob Feller was mentioned by Bill, but not by us. Satchell Paige. I mentioned Tony Gwynn for honorable mention, but I’ll mention him again. Billy Williams. Jim Palmer. Paul Molitor.

    And how about Albert Pujols ?

  17. pinson343

    I have no problem conceding Mike Schmidt either, I just liked Brett more, what a hitter and he beat up on the Yankees. I like them all more than Wade Boggs. I’d mentioned Carew – his bat was a “magic wand.”

    Meant to include Lou Brock on my list of best players not mentioned.

  18. pinson343

    Almost missed Travis’ mention of Lefty Grove, one of the greatest LH pitchers ever. As with Jimmie Foxx, didn’t realize he had a few good years after 1936.

    But if you’re counting players with a few good years after 1936, there’s Bill Dickey too. And that Lou Gehrig guy.

  19. per14

    C- Bench, by a hair over Berra
    1B – Musial
    2B – Morgan easily
    SS – A-Rod
    3B – Schmidt easily (he’s quite a bit better than Brett)
    OF – Williams, Mays, and Aaron.

    The hardest cut is Mantle, who was better than DiMaggio, I think. Not a lot better, but noticeably better.

  20. per14

    Yeah, Gehrig would be the 1B. Oops. I guess, I was thinking of players that were after the 1930s, but Gehrig obviously played after 1936.

  21. preach

    While it’s a relatively new specialty, who would be your premier set-up man for closer? Not another closer, mind you, but a guy who is known for his work in the 7th and 8th innings. Might as well just round this team out. What about one guy who will ride the bench, Mr. super utility?

    Shields for the first, and Figgins for the latter for current players, perhaps?
    Will have to think about this for an all time squad.

  22. JasonL

    I’m going to throw out a suggestion…

    1B – Pujols

    He might not have the career numbers yet, but, if he puts up just a few more good years, it’s going to be hard to not consider him the best 1B ever.

  23. pinson343

    I too would take Pedro in his prime over Clemens. But I used my own personal AHole plus steroids criteria, not performance, to exclude Clemens and Bonds.

    I too had asked about Pujols. He’s on pace to become the greatest first baseman of all. Of course, Lou Gehrig will always be in that argument.

  24. preach

    “But I used my own personal AHole plus steroids criteria, not performance, to exclude Clemens and Bonds.”

    So will the HOF writers, I believe. For a loooong time.

    • Travis G.

      preach: “But I used my own personal AHole plus steroids criteria, not performance, to exclude Clemens and Bonds.”So will the HOF writers, I believe. For a loooong time.

      And it’s bull, too, until they start demanding Bud Selig’s resignation for presiding over that era. Ultimately, that stuff falls at his feet.

      • Bill Lack

        Travis G.:
        And it’s bull, too, until they start demanding Bud Selig’s resignation for presiding over that era. Ultimately, that stuff falls at his feet.

        Boy, do I disagree with that statement. I’m not saying he’s blameless, but what about self accountability. Every one of those guys knew they were cheating..and did it anyway. I would never vote for any of the cheaters to the HOF or to any “Best of” teams.

  25. JasonL

    @Bill Lack: What about amphetamines, though? They were really common for a long time and were absolutely taken to enhance performance and totally illegal. There are, I am sure, lots of amphetamine users in the hall. I don’t know why so many people fail to address that issue. It seems intellectually dishonest to me.

    • Bill Lack

      JasonL: @Bill Lack: What about amphetamines, though? They were really common for a long time and were absolutely taken to enhance performance and totally illegal. There are, I am sure, lots of amphetamine users in the hall. I don’t know why so many people fail to address that issue. It seems intellectually dishonest to me.

      I don’t see it as the same thing…they give you energy, but don’t increase your strength/power.

      • Matt WI

        Bill Lack: I don’t see it as the same thing…they give you energy, but don’t increase your strength/power.

        To play devil’s advocate: Isn’t is reasonable to assume that having more energey over a 162 game season allowed players to reach a ball on defense, maybe bring runs with a fraction of a second faster swing, and all around improve statistics that tired, worn out player would have missed.

        Of course you can’t quantify that… which is all to say, just because they didn’t break important records on amphetimines, it probably did in fact enhance performance.

      • Travis G.

        Matt WI: just because they didn’t break important records on amphetimines, it probably did in fact enhance performance.

        4192?

  26. Travis G.

    Of course the players are accountable for their own actions, but Selig sat idly by while the cheaters destroyed the sanctity of the game we all love. He could have stepped forward to stop it, but he didn’t because everyone was making money and everyone agreed to look the other way. And the writers were entirely complicit in this. Some of those same writers who are now keepers of the light wrote paeans to these cheaters and abandoned their role as watchdogs, even when it was glaringly obvious what was going on.

    I hate what steroids did to the statistics and the records, and it’ll be a bummer when Griffey and Maddux are the only stiff-legged old-timers at the 2050 Hall of Fame induction ceremony. But it’s hard to know how steroids effected the game and who they effected, because we’ll never know for certain who cheated and who didn’t. If that’s the case, how do you penalize the players who get caught or, somewhat more honorably, admit their wrongdoing?

    If I had a vote, I would willingly vote in any player from the steroid era, but they’d be graded on a much tougher curve than their predecessors. That’s why Bonds would get my vote and McGwire wouldn’t.

  27. JasonL

    @Bill Lack: Okay, but that’s not what you said. What you said was “I would never vote any of the cheaters into the hall of fame.” Amphetamine users were cheaters. On an ethical level, what’s the difference? Do you really think most of those guys wouldn’t have also used steroids if steroids weren’t available?

    Also, energy, I have to believe, is pretty valuable in helping someone play through injury in the middle of August.

    • Bill Lack

      JasonL: @Bill Lack: Okay, but that’s not what you said. What you said was “I would never vote any of the cheaters into the hall of fame.” Amphetamine users were cheaters. On an ethical level, what’s the difference? Do you really think most of those guys wouldn’t have also used steroids if steroids weren’t available?
      Also, energy, I have to believe, is pretty valuable in helping someone play through injury in the middle of August.

      You’re right, that is what I said. I don’t view it as the same, but I should have said “I wouldn’t vote for any of the steroid users”.

      I have no idea if they would have, no one does but I don’t think so…JMO.

  28. Bill Lack

    I can’t lay all the blame on Selig b/c he’s at the mercy of the Players Union, let’s also lay some of the blame on them also…though I’m not saying he’s blameless.

    I’m perfectly happy “judging”….Guilty: Bonds, Clemons, McGwire, Sosa, ARod, etc….thus, IMO, no votes for HOF. I have no problem with it. Are there still some that got away with it? I’m sure there are…but that doesn’t bother me. If you get the big fish…and some little ones escape the net, I can live with that.

  29. Matt WI

    @JasonL: Sorry Jason L, I missed that you made a similar argument about the benefit of increased energy.

  30. JasonL

    @Bill Lack: Okay, but why don’t you think so? I mean, has there been some giant, society wide moral degradation or something? Personally, I think baseball players want to be good at baseball and many of them will take whatever is available if they think it will make them better. I think that was just as true in 1900 as in 2000. I think the only difference is one of opportunity, not morals or standards on the part of the players.

    Also, as an aside, one of the reasons I love this site is that we can have reasonable debates like this and even get worked up without anyone flinging insults or anything. Civility is underrated.

    • Matt WI

      JasonL: @Bill Lack: Also, as an aside, one of the reasons I love this site is that we can have reasonable debates like this and even get worked up without anyone flinging insults or anything. Civility is underrated.

      Well said.

    • Bill Lack

      JasonL: @Bill Lack: Okay, but why don’t you think so? I mean, has there been some giant, society wide moral degradation or something? Personally, I think baseball players want to be good at baseball and many of them will take whatever is available if they think it will make them better. I think that was just as true in 1900 as in 2000. I think the only difference is one of opportunity, not morals or standards on the part of the players.

      I think greenies were considered harmless…just something to get you through the season, I would guess that the player never thought of using them as cheating. I also don’t think they were considered personally harmful…neither can be said for steroids.

      • Travis G.

        Some over-the-counter nutritional supplements and legitimately prescribed substances are banned under baseball’s drug policy, so I’m not sure harm or intent are the best standard. To wit:

        “(Manny) Ramirez blamed the test result on medication prescribed to him by a doctor for a ‘personal health issue.’ He did not disclose the medication, doctor or health issue.

        “‘He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me,’ Ramirez said in the statement. ‘Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy, that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now.’

        “The medication in question was human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, according to a source familiar with the situation not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.

        “A high-ranking sports doping authority said HCG could legitimately be prescribed for a man who does not naturally produce enough testosterone, but BALCO founder and convicted steroid dealer Victor Conte said it is often used to replenish testosterone levels at the end of a cycle of steroid treatments.

        “HCG is one of dozens of substances prohibited under baseball’s policy. Players can call a hotline to check the legality of any substance and can get a therapeutic-use exemption for any legitimate medical use of a banned substance.”

        I’m not going to get into judging whether Manny’s statement is accurate or true, because your guess is as good as mine. But this substance is considered harmless enough that MLB offers a therapeutic-use exemption for it (which Manny didn’t get) and doctors do prescribe its use, so it’s plausible that a player might believe he was permitted to take it. Irresponsible and dumb, sure, but it’s possible that Manny did not intend to cheat. I’m sure there are other players who may have gained an advantage under similar circumstances, so I don’t think the issue can be viewed as a matter of risk.

  31. Matt WI

    @Travis G.: I’ll buy that. I couldn’t think of one to illustrate the point before. Thanks. Then I guess the question becomes: Why are homeruns more morally offensive than singles?

  32. JustTheFacts

    If greenies have been known for some time (at least from the 80s), why did they wait until 2005 to add the banned substance list? Hmmmm.

    On steriods: they’ve been illegal since I’ve heard of them in the 70s, but they also were not added to the banned substance list until about 10 years ago. So, if players took steriods before they were added to the banned substance list, thus not breaking baseball rules, can it technically be call cheating? I give that an enthusiastic, “HELL YES!!!”

    Cheating is in the heart and they all knew they were doing wrong. Baseball deserves blame too for cheating. By looking the other way, they cheated while trying to compete with football and NASCAR. IMO, Bud Selig allowed it to happen, and I think it has forever ruined the HOF. Really, who cares about record holders and the HOF anymore. Steriods, mound height, different sized ballyards… truth in stats is gone. They only tell part of a story. We wil NEVER know who from the steriod era would have been great or not because on the other side of the corn, the stats of the hitter and pitcher who didn’t take them suffered at the expense of those who did. You think the hitter jacked up on steriods didn’t harm honest pitchers’ stats? Look at the damage steriod users did to the honest players.

    (Hmmm a stick, and there’s a bee hive)… The Babe is the best baseball player of all times? REALLY??? IMO, you can take him at his best, combine him with the added potential he would have from modern training techniques, medicine, and diet and I still don’t ever see him stepping on to a ML field today. If he does, he would be an average player. Reverse it, take Bruce, Votto, Stubbs, heck almost any Reds starter and put them in at era, we’d still be singing songs about them. 😉 (dropping stick, running for the lake)

  33. pinson343

    As has often been said, cheating has always been part of baseball. If you scuff or grease a baseball and that helps you be a great pitcher for 20 years, you’re a HOFer (Gaylord Perry). But somewhere a line is drawn. Once the cork was exposed in Sosa’s bat, people never thought of him the same way, with or without steroids. The problem with steroids is they were – for some players – along with a rigorous workout regimen, natural ability, etc. – so effective they resulted in off the charts numbers. If they just helped a player get back into the lineup sooner, no one cares who uses them.

    And the numbers are taken so seriously in baseball, they’re cherished, they connect the generations of players, etc. and allow we fans to debate who’s the best ever, even if it’s an illusion, given the differences in playing conditions and the level of competition from generation to generation (as Jason L. has pointed out). The users have distorted the numbers, and some of us hate them (and those who looked aside) for it.

    And then HS kids started using them, quietly encouraged by HS football coaches. Now we’re talking about more than baseball records.

    • Travis G.

      pinson343: The users have distorted the numbers, and some of us hate them (and those who looked aside) for it.

      Salary numbers also became distorted around the same time. There’s a relationship between those distorted numbers and the distorted statistics. Ask A-Rod.

  34. pinson343

    @JustTheFacts: “The Babe is the best baseball player of all times? REALLY??? IMO, you can take him at his best, combine him with the added potential he would have from modern training techniques, medicine, and diet and I still don’t ever see him stepping on to a ML field today. If he does, he would be an average player. Reverse it, take Bruce, Votto, Stubbs, heck almost any Reds starter and put them in at era, we’d still be singing songs about them.”

    I wouldn’t go quite that far, in that the Babe was unique, modern analysts are amazed by his swing. But in every other sport it’s recognized that the players have gotten bigger, stronger, and better, why not baseball too ? I’ve seen some clips of oldtime baseball, the defense was ragged. Relief pitcher in the old days was a euphemism for broken down alcoholic.

    But greatness is about timing too – Ruth had a greater impact on the game than anyone else, and he was so far above his peers – that ought to count for something. In the end, as I said above, the stats give us an illusion that we can compare Ruth with Aaron. But that’s an illusion we love. Comparing Ruth with Bonds, not so much fun.

  35. JustTheFacts

    @pinson343: It was said tongue in cheak really. I felt like poking the bear. But seriously, how can a guy who from the neck down looks like Dick Pole be considered as the best player in the history of baseball? Nostalgia aside, can you be honest with yourself and think that. No disrespect to those old pitchers. Some could hurl it 90+ and had some filthy stuff. But I still don’t think there would be many at their best who could make a modern day rotation.

    You just can’t judge how they compared to other players of their era, because IMO by modern day standard most of the good players from then would not be good enough today to get a minor league contract. Even so, most of your best talent from the 1920s was stuck playing ball in Latin America or the Negro Leagues.

    Anyhooo, it’s great to take a break from the offseason and debate nonsense.

  36. pinson343

    @JustTheFacts: Right. Actually, my very first comment on this thread was: “You can’t really (menaingfully) compare players across generations, but I agree with this anyway.”
    By “this” I meant Ruth’s greatness.

    BTW in his youth Ruth was thin, by his prime a paunch started to develop but he was still fast – with thin legs – until the late 1920’s. He was powerful and highly athletic, a great all around OFer as well as a HOF pitcher. I agree with your basic point but Ruth is a bad example to give of someone not athletic enough to succeed today. We don’t really know what he would do, just as we don’t know what Josh Gibson would do.

  37. JasonL

    A couple of things: I think Ruth would be great today, but I don’t know if he would be, well, Babe Ruth.

    I guess my real point on steroids is that I can’t believe that it was only the recent generation of players who lacked the moral turpitude to say no to steroids. That just doesn’t seem reasonable. MLB has never been a bastion of self-control. There really is no doubt in my mind that, given the opportunity, an equal percentage of players from any era would take steroids and that among those players would be some that we think of as great.

    Bill, I understand your point on greenies. I don’t agree with it, but I get where you’re coming from and I can see the argument.

  38. pinson343

    @JasonL: “A couple of things: I think Ruth would be great today, but I don’t know if he would be, well, Babe Ruth.”
    Exactly, an actual man can’t be Babe Ruth, because Ruth has acquired mythical status. (Think The Natural.)

    I mentioned above how Roger Hornsby batted .402 over a 5 year stretch. No one’s going to do that in today’s game, no matter how good they are. But instead of asking what Hornsby could do today, most of we baseball fans view it as: He did it, the numbers don’t lie. They don’t lie, but the illusion that the numbers mean the same thing today gives what he did a mythical status.

    Babe Ruth’s athleticism, strength, etc. was ahead of his time. That can’t be denied. The delusion that the “same guy” would still tower over everyone gives us a mythical Babe Ruth.

    When asked if he could hit 80 HRs in a season, Sammy Sosa said: “Who do you think I am, Babe Ruth ?”

    So if you ask me again, who’s the greatest player ever, my answer remains: Babe Ruth.

  39. JustTheFacts

    @pinson343: As always, well stated. I always enjoy reading your posts because they are so well written. And if you ask me who’s the greatest legend in baseball, my answer would be Babe Ruth. But if you ask me who’s the greatest player ever, my answer would be Albert Pujols.

    • pinson343

      JustTheFacts: @pinson343: As always, well stated.I always enjoy reading your posts because they are so well written.And if you ask me who’s the greatest legend in baseball, my answer would be Babe Ruth.But if you ask me who’s the greatest player ever, my answer would be Albert Pujols.

      Thanks JTF. And that’s a good answer to both questions.

  40. per14

    Another thing about Ruth is that, in his prime, he was regarded as having the greatest OF arm in baseball, with the possible exception of his teammate Bob Meusel. Ruth having a great OF arm should be an obvious fact to all of us yet it’s often not thought about. Remember some of those eye-popping throws Rick Ankiel has made? Well, Ruth was a pitcher as well early in his career, and a much better one than Ankiel.

    • pinson343

      per14: Another thing about Ruth is that, in his prime, he was regarded as having the greatest OF arm in baseball, with the possible exception of his teammate Bob Meusel. Ruth having a great OF arm should be an obvious fact to all of us yet it’s often not thought about.

      Yes. People also don’t know that he was fast. Ruth was a great OFer, and that’s no myth.

  41. JustTheFacts

    I enjoyed reading the beginning of this post, but remained silent because I haven’t been the obsessed fan of baseball I am now but for a few years. I was the obsessed NASCAR fan before that (specifically Bill Elliott). So I don’t feel I have the historical context that is necessary to engage in such folly. I do, as you’ve discovered, have a strong opinion about Babe Ruth. He was a complete A-hole, so I’m just no a fan of him or impressed with his stats. IMO, if he had not played in New York, he’d be just another footnote in baseball history. (Why are so many of the greatest players in history either a Yankee or Brooklyn Dodger??? hmmmmm.)

    At any rate, I saw Kenny’s name made the list somewhere along the line, but I didn’t see Prince Albert’s. Certainly he has to be worth a mention in there somewhere, and his career is only half over. I DO believe he is the greatest player of all times, though I hate that he plays for the Reds’ competition.

    • pinson343

      JustTheFacts: I saw Kenny’s name made the list somewhere along the line, but I didn’t see Prince Albert’s.Certainly he has to be worth a mention in there somewhere, and his career is only half over.

      Jason L. and I and at least one other blogger mentioned Albert as the future greatest first baseman ever.

    • JustTheFacts

      @per14: Never said joke, I said:

      He was a complete A-hole, so I’m just no a fan of him or impressed with his stats.

      I also said:

      You just can’t judge how they compared to other players of their era, because IMO by modern day standard most of the good players from then would not be good enough today to get a minor league contract.

      I knew I was stirring it up when I said I’m not a fan of Babe Ruth.

      Pinson, always great to discuss/debate stuff with you. I’m a big fan.

    • Travis G.

      JustTheFacts: I don’t feel I have the historical context that is necessary to engage in such folly. I do, as you’ve discovered, have a strong opinion about Babe Ruth. He was a complete A-hole, so I’m just no a fan of him or impressed with his stats. IMO, if he had not played in New York, he’d be just another footnote in baseball history.

      This is simply outrageous, JTF. I’m as cynical as anyone, but Babe Ruth lives up to the hype. He wasn’t just the best ballplayer of his time, or the time before him; he set the standard to which all ballplayers aspire and ever will aspire. Bonds has the best stats of all time, but Ruth was still better (and that has nothing to do with Bonds’s personality or drug use; Ruth was just so much better than his contemporaries, it’d be like someone coming along next season and hitting 200 HR, after being one of the best pitchers in the game for the past few seasons).

      His influence on his chosen field and popular culture is comparable only to Louis Armstrong, who was born right around the same time. Ruth may have been a larger-than-life character, but he wasn’t a total A-hole. If you’re not able to appreciate Ruth, his accomplishments and what he means, you’re truly missing out on something fun. Seriously.

      As for Pujols, I’ve got two words: Fred Lynn. A lot of things can happen to an incredible career.

  42. pinson343

    @JustTheFacts: You’re off base there. The Yankees were a lowly organization before they acquired Ruth. The Red Sox were the dominant team, with 5 world championships already, some of them largely thanks to Ruth’s pitching.

    But you’re right about NY players getting a lot of over-attention and undue recognition. Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese in the HOF is a joke.

  43. pinson343

    PS In above post, by “there” I meant: “IMO, if he had not played in New York, he’d be just another footnote in baseball history.”

  44. per14

    I don’t think Reese in the HOF is a joke. Rizzuto, yes. Reese was a better player than Rizzuto.

    JTF, I can’t see how you think Ruth’s stats are a joke. Unless you think any pre-WWII player’s stats are a joke. Ruth hit more home runs than entire teams. Heck, a few times he hit more home runs than the rest of the American League. 19 different times he led the league in a Triple Crown stat. Except for 1925 when he sick, he led the AL in OPS+ every year from 1918 (when he was still a pitcher) until 1931. What about his stats are a joke?

  45. pinson343

    @per14: I checked and you’re right about Reese, I was wrong. I knew he could play defense, I didn’t know he was so good at getting on base and had been an All Star so many times.

    A good example of NY hyper-media attention is Derek Jeter. I like him as a player, he’ll be a deserving HOFer, but the hype he gets is absurd. NY media have said he’ll be the first player to get 100% of the HOF vote in his first year. In other words, he’s the greatest player ever. Give me a break.

    If he played in Cincy, no one outside of Cincy – except real fans – would even know who he is.

    The attention he got this year for setting the record for hits in Yankee Stadium (1400+) and as a Yankee (2800+) was the typical BS. Since when is it a big deal about who’s had the most hits in a particular stadium. And 2800+ career hits is not a big deal, not nearly as big a deal has been made about players getting hit number 3,000.

    And the media already has him chasing Pete Rose’s all time hit record. I like Pete’s reply to that: “You tell Derek the first 3,000 are easy.”

  46. hoosierdad

    Just a few notes on the Babe and Pujols:

    1) Babe is #10 in career BA, Pujols #21
    2) Babe is #1 in career AB/RBI ratio, Pujols #11
    3) Babe is #2 in career OBP (to Ted Williams),
    Pujols #12
    4) Babe is #1 in career OBPS, Pujols #4
    5) Babe is #1 in career slugging avg, Pujols #4
    6) Babe is #1 in carrer Isolated Power, Pujols #4

    The amazing thing about these stats is Pujols is at the height of his career and will tail off as his career winds down, so his rankings will be lower that what they are now.

    All in all, Pujols is a great player, and should make the HOF after his career. But, he will never hold a world series pitching record (as does the Babe).

    Another good way to judge a player is what that player does compared to the players of his era. Babe outshines all his contemporaries for his entire career. Not sure where Pujols will figure against his contemporaries. I expect it will be rather favorable, but not heads and shoulders above everybody, as is the Babe.

  47. JustTheFacts

    😡 It’s weird that I’m saying this to both Travis G and Hoosierdad because your opinions often shape my own. But you can’t ignor 90% of what I wrote and pick on 10% to state your case.

    I conceed he is a legend and by far the best player of his time. My argument was that he was not the greatest player of all time which is only my opinion (and an unpopular one at that). I’ve also made it quite clear that I’m not a Babe Ruth enthusiast, even going as far as saying I don’t like him mostly because of who he was off the field. That’s not going to change. That’s all I’ll say about it and for the sake of peace keep to myself.

  48. JustTheFacts

    @Travis G.: Okay, one last thing. It’s funny how one little word can change the entire meaning of what you mean. When I said I was not impressed with his stats, I should have said, I’m not impressed BY his stats. The best way to describe all I’m saying is IMO, if you take Micah Owings and put him on the Yankees during Babe Ruth’s era, people would be saying Micah Owings is the greatest player of all times for the same reasons.

    • Travis G.

      JustTheFacts: The best way to describe all I’m saying is IMO, if you take Micah Owings and put him on the Yankees during Babe Ruth’s era, people would be saying Micah Owings is the greatest player of all times for the same reasons,

      Then you’re even more wrong than I thought you were before! 😉

      To say that Micah Owings, a below-average pitcher and above-average hitter (in an unreliably small sample size), would dominate Ruth’s era is absurd. Would Owings perform better in 1925 than 2009 if he were transported back in time? Quite possibly, because there were more weak links on the field then than now, but it’s not like comparing the NFL in 1960 to 2010. Pitchers still threw 90-mph fastballs and breaking balls back then, and there were still hitters with quick wrists, great strength and sharp eyes.

      I don’t think Ruth would dominate today’s game the way he did his own era’s, but the circa-1920s version would still be a very, very good all-around player. I just don’t think the game today is so vastly different that a player as talented as Ruth couldn’t adjust to it and succeed.

  49. JustTheFacts

    Oh heck, one more thing to address the stats. Babe Ruth was a major leaguer for 21 1/2 years. In all those years how many times did he with the AL MVP award (Yes, they had that back then)? Only once. He was only in the top five in voting twice. But the reality of Babe Ruth doesn’t matter. He’s a legend.

  50. hoosierdad

    @JustTheFacts: Hey,no hard feelings. I think the best way to judge players is by comparing their stats to their contemporaries. You are so right about folks looking at stats only as a way to judge across decades of time. For example, in the 1920’s you had to travel by train for hours and hours to get from New York to Cincy. New York to St. Louis would probably be a 24 hour experience. Back then they had day games and alot of double headers. Today, we have much better training facilities and medicines. A career-ending injury back then, today means you don’t play for several weeks to a few months. Today you have relief specialists. You have situational pinch-hitting specialists. Ballpark dimensions are much more hitter friendly today. Just think about what effect Arizona and Colorado have on hitting stats!

    Somehow, I think the truly great players of any era would be truly great whenever they would have played.

  51. hoosierdad

    @JustTheFacts: BTW, the Babe was under the old “The League Award” for nearly all of his career. Under that, you could only win it once in your career. The MVP award which we now have was not instituted until 1931 when the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) took it on. Also, between 1915 and 1921 the award wasn’t given at all.

  52. per14

    I understand your point, that times change and that Ruth would not be the same player today that he was in the 1920s. But is that Ruth’s fault? No, it’s not. The only way to really judge a player is by comparing him to his contemporaries, and nobody comes close to Ruth in how he dominated his era.

  53. Shawn

    Extra on “MVP” during Ruth’s career: he won the precursor to today’s award (or “league award”) and then was not eligible, under the rules of the time. The Babe would have won several, if rules then were like the rules now.

    And, Bill, re: first ballot, the rules changed so much in the early days its hard to make any kind of judgment. In the first balloting, in 1936, rules were so loose even active players got votes (like Lou Gehrig, who got 51(!)). So, even in the special election for him after his diagnosis, that wasn’t actually a “first ballot” election.

  54. RiverCity Redleg

    Speaking of comparing players over different eras, Ty Cobb gave one of my favorite quotes when he was 70 something years old and a reporter asked him how he would fare against the pitchers “today”. Cobb responded, “I would hit about .290 or so”. The reporter, expecting more bravado from Cobb, said “.290! But you’re a career .330 hitter.” Cobb retorted, “Hell son, I’m 75 years old!”

    Of course I paraphrased that as I don’t remember the exact numbers (or age) he gave, but the gist of the quote is accurate.

    • pinson343

      RiverCity Redleg: Speaking of comparing players over different eras, Ty Cobb gave one of my favorite quotes when he was 70 something years old and a reporter asked him how he would fare against the pitchers “today”. Cobb responded, “I would hit about .290 or so”. The reporter, expecting more bravado from Cobb, said “.290! But you’re a career .330 hitter.” Cobb retorted, “Hell son, I’m 75 years old!”Of course I paraphrased that as I don’t remember the exact numbers (or age) he gave, but the gist of the quote is accurate.

      I’m familiar with that story and quote, it’s famous. Cobb was a career .367 hitter (the best ever). He answered that he’d hit .300. He said it when he was about 70 (some time around 1956).

  55. JustTheFacts

    I agree, the Micah Owings thing was rediculous. Anyway, fun debating the pros and cons of Babe Ruth, but I’ve taken a pounding long enough. On to other things.

  56. pinson343

    Not picking on you, JTF, and it is time to move on, but Ruth would have won many MVP awards. I won’t count the sure ones, but more than anyone else, more than Bonds.

  57. hoosierdad

    @pinson343: Had forgotten about the quote by Cobb. Thanks to RiverCity Redleg for bringing it back to remembrance.