Comments on Baseballâ€™s Best 1,000 (Part 3)
In mid-2008 IÂ picked up the 2008 edition of Derek Gentileâ€™s fun book Baseballâ€™s Best 1,000: Rankings of the Skills, the Achievements, and the Performance of the Greatest Players of All Time. At my personal blog I wrote a series of postings with commentary on Gentileâ€™s selections, and Iâ€™d like to share those with Seamheads readers as well. This is theÂ ultimate baseball debate question, so I encourage comments to these postings. This is Part 3 (of 3), where Iâ€™ll comment on some of his choices from players he ranks 301-1000. (see also Part 1Â and Part 2)
In the last post in this series I noted that Gentile consistently ranks good pitchers (boths starters and relievers) in the 101-300 range too low. This continued for the rest of the listing. The other consistent pattern I noted that I’d like to noteÂ is Gentile’s relatively high ranking of poor-hitting, longtime catchers. I won’t comment on these below, but there were a couple dozen catchers who are ranked higher than I would. It is one thing to rank Bob Boone 324th and Jim Sundberg 348th, as they won loads of Gold Glove awards. No, I am talking about players like Scioscia (410), Rick Dempsey (469), Jerry Grote (498), and many, many more who I think are ranked too high.
Now for my comments on players ranked 301-1000:
- 314. Rafael Palmeiro — His numbers (.288, 585 HR, 3020 hits, 1835 RBI), even discounted a bit relative to his era, I think justify a higher ranking. I guess if you discount them further because of the cloud of steroid use, then that would lower his spot in the list.
- 322. Chipper Jones — Even before his impressive 2008 season, I think Chipper should be rated higher than this! He’s an MVP, he was close to 400 HR at the time Gentile updated his book (now has over 400), and has a career average over .300.
- 323. Joe Carter — Too low. Gentile notes that he is one of only nine players to have had 100+ RBI in ten seasons. His 396 HR, 1445 RBI, and 231 SB I think justify ranking him closer to the likes of Rice, Murphy, and Dawson (in the 100-200 range) than down here below 300.
- 326. Jim Bottomley — One can certainly argue that he is not deserving of being in the HOF. His .310 average isnt’ that impressive compared with a .293 league average over his career. But I think this ranking is a bit low for someone who had 120+ RBI in five consecutive seasons and is clearly better than many listed ahead of him.
- 330. Bruce Sutter — Really? As I said earlier, Gentile seems to rate all of the dominant closers lower than I would.
- 332. Chuck Klein — See Jim Bottomley and magnify my comments. He won the MVP in 1932, was runner up the year before, and was runner-up in 1933, losing to Carl Hubbell even though he took home Triple Crown honors. A lifetime .320 hitter (though relative to league average of .293), he led the league in HR four out of five years from 1929-1933, missing only in 1930 when he came in second while hitting an amazing 59 doubles. True, his numbers need to be considered in light of his era, but even so… he shouldn’t be this low.
- 336. John Montgomery Ward — A pretty unique career, I think it warrants a higher ranking. A 19th century star, Ward started out as a pitcher going 164-102 from 1878-1884, including a 47-19 record in 1879. When not pitching he’d play other positions, most often the OF, as he could hit and run well. He continued until 1894 as a SS/2B, and stole 111 bases in 1887 and 88 in 1892.
- 349. Edgar Martinez — Granted, he mostly was a DH. Lifetime numbers of .312, 309 HR, 1261 RBI, 1219 Runs, 7 times an all-star and two batting titles… make me think he should be higher than this.
- 356. Harold Baines — Similar arguement to Martinez: granted a lot of time spent as a DH, but his .289, 384 HR, 1628 RBI, 2866 hits are hard to argue with.
- 357. Jose Canseco — Yet another hitter who spent a lot of time as a DH (though Jose played more games in the OF). Steroid use (and his attitude about it!) doesn’t earn him any popularity, but he did have 462 HR, 1407 RBI, 200 SB, and was the first ever 40/40 club member in his 1988 MVP season. Should he really be nearly 100 spots lower than Andre Thornton? Or 50 spots below Rick Monday? I don’t think so.
- 360. Don Baylor — Again, a DH. He had 338 HR, 1276 RBI, and even 285 SB (often forgotten). Should be higher than this.
- 386. Al Spalding — Hard to rank him, because he pitched in the 1870s and had a short career. But considering where Koufax and Dean are ranked, I think Spalding should be higher. Afterall, he had an incredible 253-65 record for a .796 winning percentage. And of course that is from just 6 full seasons in which he led the league in wins every year with totals of 19, 38, 41, 52, 55, and 47. He won the ERA title twice, and was second three times.
- 396. Catfish Hunter — A lifetime record of 224-166 and a 3.26 ERA, with five consecutive 20+ win seasons. One Cy Young Award and a 10-2 record in the postseason add to his resume, one that I think earns him a higher ranking than nearly 400th! I mean, is he really worse than Dave Cash (390) and only one better than Carney Lansford (397)?
- 402. Tom Glavine — I think Glavine should be even higher than Catfish, given his two Cy Young Awards and six-times appearing in the top 3 in the voting. He now is a 300 game winner and a 10-time all-star. How is he ranked this low, a mere three spots ahead of Don Buford? Gimme a break!
- 406. Andres Galarraga — Kinda similar to the DHs I mentioned earlier, The Big Cat struck out a lot but also hit .288 with 399 HR, 1425 RBI over his career, and led his league in BA once, HR once, RBI twice, and took home two Gold Gloves. He is really only two spots better than Toby Harrah, and six ahead of Doug DeCinces?
- 419. Curt Schilling — I’m not yet an advocate of him for the HOF, but I think this is a bit low.
- 458. Juan Gonzalez — How is a two-time MVP, who led his league in HR in two *other* seasons, ranked this low? Career numbers include .295, 434 HR, 1404 RBI. I have one question for Mr. Gentile: How can you rank Gonzalez this low, but Albert Belle all the way up at 148? Shouldn’t they be much closer to each other?
- 474. Bill Buckner — Compare him with Mark Grace. Why is Grace ranked at 212, and Buckner all the way down at 474?
- 480. Tommy John — I think 288 career wins deserves a higher spot than this.
- 486. Jim Kaat — Ditto, as Kaat won 283 games. I agree John and Kaat should be near each other in an all-time ranking like this, but they should both be higher. Kaat has the added distinction of winning an amazing 16 Gold Glove awards.
- 500. Lee Smith — I’m not sure where I’d rank Lee Smith, as I don’t consider him in the class of Gossage, Fingers, Sutter and a few others. And he is no longer the all-time saves leader. But again, Gentile ranks too many great closers too low, so I’d likely have him higher than this.
- 501. Mariano Rivera — And speaking of relievers, Mo must be higher than this! Mariano is arguably the greatest reliever of all time.
- 507. Larry Walker — A great hitter (.313, 383 HR, 1311 RBI, 230 SB) and a great fielder (7 Gold Gloves), Walker should be much higher than this. He won an MVP in 1997.
- 513. Rollie Fingers — I don’t get this at all. How is Fingers this low? And how is he this far below Gossage and Sutter, and then ranked below even Lee Smith? Look at his numbers relative to the 70s and early 80s!
- Roy Smalley (525), Rick Burleseon (530), Bill Doran (532) — There are lots of players I’ve been skipping over (most of all light-hitting catchers) that I could have commented on that I think are too high relative to others near them in the list. Here are three such middle-infielders — are these guys really this close to Walker and Fingers? Are they better than fellow middle-infielder Jeff Kent (534)? No way.
- 539. Dan Quisenberry — My favorite pitcher of all time should be higher than this, though I agree he should appear after the top guys (Gossage, Fingers, Rivera, and Sutter).
- 555. Frank McCormick — an MVP and nine-time All-Star should be higher than Robby Thompson (551), whose .257, 119 HR, 458 RBI, 1187 Hits are not very impressive.
- 557. Jake Beckley — He had 2,930 hits, batted .308, and stole 315 bases. Most of all, he had 234 triples (fourth all-time). He should be higher than this.
- 572. Tom Tresh — Yes, he won a Gold Glove and ROY. But would he be this high if he hadn’t been on the Yankees for most of his short career? I doubt it — this is too high for a career.245 hitter with only 153 HR and 530 RBI. I mean, is he really better than Bob Meusel (598), another Yankee, who hit .309 with 156 HR, 1067 RBI, and 142 SB? No.
- 608. Omar Vizquel — I’m not an advocate for Vizquel for the HOF. And I’m not sure where I’d put him in a top 1000 list like this. But wherever that is, he should be a good deal higher than Mark Belanger (600). Both are most known for being great defensive shortstops. But Omar has been an all-star 3 times and has 11 gold gloves, while Belanger was an all-star only once and won 8 gold gloves. Belanger had some speed, totaling 167 SB for his career, but that is far fewer than Vizquel’s 384. But most of all, Belanger had a pitiful .228 lifetime average (plus an even worse .183 in 10 postseason series), and only had three seasons batting over .250. Vizquel is no slugger, but at least he has batted .273 over his career, and managed to come in sixth in the 1999 race with a .333 mark. Surely Omar should be way ahead of Belanger on an all-time list.
- 617. Ben Oglivie — I’m not going to argue he should be higher. I just wanted to again note the insanity of ranking Andre Thornton at 260. Was Thornton really that much better than Oglivie?
- 672. Addie Joss — Another dominating pitcher who had a short career (died of meningitis). He had a 1.89 ERA compared with a league ERA of 2.68, leading the league twice. He won 20+ games four times, and ended up with a 160-97 record which is a .623 winning percentage. And as Gentile notes, Joss completed an amazing 234 of his 260 starts. Its always hard to rank players whose careers were cut short, but I think Joss should be higer than this.
- 684. John Smoltz — Definitely too low. He won the Cy Young Award in 1996 when he went 24-8 with 276 strikeouts. He has been an all-star 8 times. But like Eckersley, Smoltz has managed to be successful at the highest level as both a starter and a reliever. From 2002-04 he had SV totals fo 55, 45, and 44. And in the second of those seasons he had an incredible 1.12 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. He should be far higher than this.
- 737. Pud Galvin — A Hall-of-Famer with a lifetime record of 364-310: not a great percentage (.540), but still, 364 wins is 364 wins. His ERA of 2.86 is also only a little better than the league average during his time period (3.07). Its not easy to rank someone who retired in 1892, but he completed a mind-boggling 646 of his 689 career starts — so I’d rank him higher than this.
- 779. Steve Finley — Gentile’s writeup on Finley is confusing, as he says that he has had over 24 HR in a season three times. Leaving aside the odd “over 24” standard, he has actually had six such seasons, including totals of 30, 34, 35, and 36. In his career Finley had 304 HR and 320 SB, quietly joining the rare 300/300 club. Although only an All-Star twice, he did grab five gold-gloves in the outfield, so I think he should be ranked a lot higher than this.
- 803. Chief Bender — A 212-127 record is a .625 win rate. Although a borderline HOFer, I think he clearly deserves to be ranked higher than this.
- 858. David Cone — The success of his first full season (1988), in which he went 20-3 with a 2.22 ERA, was never repeated. He won the Cy Young Award in the strike-shortened 1994 season, going 16-5 with a 2.94 ERA (a year when the League ERA was 5.00). His career record of 194-126 equates to a .606 winning percentage. I think this five-time all-star should be ranked higher than this, especialy when you consider Bret Saberhagen was ranked 654th and Orel Hershiser was ranked 613th.
- 864. Matt Williams — 378 HR, 1218 RBI, 5-time All-Star, and 4 Gold Gloves at 3B mean Williams should be a lot higher than this.
- 891. Jesse Tannehill — He had a career 197-116 record, which is a .629 winning percentage. He won 20+ games six times. Not a HOFer, but should be higher ranked than this I think.
- 905. Mike Mussina — Even through the 2006 season I’d argue Mussina should be higher than this. But given his strong 2008, he is building his HOF resume. He is 270-153 lifetime, which is a .638 winning percentage. He’d never won 20 games in a season… until 2008 at the age of 39 (granted, after Gentile updated his book).Â But he is a five-time all-star and has won six Gold Gloves too. He should be several hundred spots higher than this — I mean, Schilling is 419th, and I consider Mussina to be a better HOF candidate than Schilling.
- 934. David Kingman — Granted, he had a low .236 average and his massive swing led to many strikeouts. But 442 HR (twice led league, and four times runner-up) and 1210 RBI deserve a higher ranking than this.
- 947. Ichiro Suzuki — For some reason Gentile didn’t update this entry after the 2004 season, so presumably if he had Ichiro would be ranked higher. By now he has had 200+ hits in allÂ eight of his seasons. He has a .331 average and 316 SB. And in his firstÂ eight seasons in the majors he has been both an all-star and gold-glover. Even if he quit today, I would rank him in the top 500 at least.
- Jeff Reardon (964) and John Franco (973) are again instances of Gentile’s low ranking of good relievers. And he doesn’t include Trevor Hoffman in the top 1,000 at all, though presumably he would at this point since Hoffman is now the all-time saves leader.
- 1000. Rich Dauer — In case you were curious, this is who Gentile chose to round out his massive project. As a .257 hitter, with 43 HR, 372 RBI, 984 H, and only 6 SB, I would think there are more deserving players to make the list even in this last spot.
I have very much enjoyed reading and critiquing Gentile’s ranking. Even with all the criticisms I have made, I obviously respect the project he undertook and the amount of time he must have spent researching it. For baseball fans like myself, I recommend his book as a fun read… let the debates continue!