Ranking All 218 Major League Baseball Hall of Famers: Where Do Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez Rate?

by Rocco Constantino | Posted on Monday, July 31st, 2017
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This past weekend, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines gained baseball immortality as they were inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  They have now joined an elite group of the (arguably) 218 best players to ever play the game.  Rodriguez was a first-ballot selection while Raines was elected in his final time on the ballot.  Either way, they both landed in the same spot, and rightfully so.  Major League Baseball has been electing members to the Hall of Fame for the past 80 years and the Hall represents one of the great debating points among fans.  There are lists of players who are on the outside looking in who have passionate fans campaigning for their inclusion, many contending that they stack up well against players already enshrined.

Some contend that the Hall of Fame has become watered down.  Players like Joe DiMaggio, Cy Young, Yogi Berra and Jimmie Foxx weren’t even first-ballot Hall of Famers when their turn came up.  With a flood of dead ball era players entering the Hall starting in 1971, the number of players enshrined increased dramatically.  One phrase that has become more prevalent with this expanded Hall of Fame is “inner-circle” Hall of Famers.  Guys like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Walter Johnson populate this group as the no-doubt, slam-dunk legends who shaped the game.  The Class of 2017 may not have any transcendent, inner-circle Hall of Famers, but all three of them rate pretty well among their Hall of Fame colleagues.  This list breaks down and ranks all 218 Hall of Famers elected by the baseball writers or Veterans Committee over the past 80 years.  The list includes only players who made their impact in Major League Baseball and doesn’t include umpires, managers, executives or those who played in the Negro Leagues.

Chick Hafey (left) with fellow Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranvlle.

218. Chick Hafey

217. Ross Youngs

216. Jesse Haines

215. Freddie Lindstrom

214. Dave Bancroft

213. Rick Ferrell

212. Red Faber

211. George Davis

210. Tommy McCarthy

209. Herb Pennock

208. Bid McPhee

The much-maligned Veterans Committee is responsible for many of the enshrinement of players ranked 222-211, specifically the class of 1971.  Hafey and Bancroft were members of the HOF class of 1971, which saw seven mostly borderline inductees by the Veterans Committee.  Meanwhile, players like Yogi Berra, Ralph Kiner and Duke Snider were passed over for election.  Hafey’s 30.1 career WAR ranks in the same range as modern day players like Von Hayes and Brandon Phillips.  Ross Youngs’ doesn’t rank much higher.  Many of the players in this group are dead ball era players with short careers who didn’t lead the league in any offensive category many times in their careers, if at all.  Pennock won 241 games in his career, but pitched to a 3.60 ERA, one of the worst of any Hall of Famer.  Haines pitched to a WHIP of 1.35 and his 32.6 career WAR is significantly lower than the average Hall of Fame pitcher WAR of 73.9.

 

207. Rube Marquard

206. Hughie Jennings

205. Earl Averill

204. Rabbit Maranville

203. Waite Hoyt

202. Bill Mazeroski

201. Burleigh Grimes

200. Jim Bottomley

199. High Pockets Kelly

198. Travis Jackson

Another group consisting largely of dead ball era players elected decades after their careers ended by the veterans committee.  Mazeroski is the lowest ranking living Hall of Famer on the list, his controversial selection came in 2001, 30 years after his playing career ended.  At the conclusion of his career, Mazeroski had very little support as a possible Hall of Famer, garnering just 6.1% of the vote, a total lower than 12 players listed on the ballot who never reached the Hall of Fame.  Averill is another curious case.  He received just one vote in his initial year of eligibility and never topped 5.3%.  Under modern voting rules, he would have been off the ballot after just one year.  He only played nine full seasons and none of them particularly stand out.  Jennings played over 140 games just twice in his career and in 16 of his 22 seasons, he played less than 90 games.  Grimes, a spitballer whose career bridged the dead and live ball eras did manage to win 270 games in his career, but pitched to a 3.53 ERA and 1.365 WHIP.

 

197. Phil Rizzuto

196. Joe Kelley

195. Harry Hooper

194. Catfish Hunter

193. Bruce Sutter

192. Elmer Flick

191. Johnny Evers

190. Hugh Duffy

189. George Kell

188. Ray Schalk

The headliner of this group is the beloved Rizzuto, who was elected in 1994 after a large public campaign.  Beloved as a broadcaster for the New York Yankee,  Rizzuto had scores of fans and former players supporting his candidacy despite the fact that he batted just .273 in his 13-year career.  Rizzuto missed three prime years due to military service, yet was a very respected leader on some great teams and won the 1950 American League MVP.  It’s hard to argue against his value as the starting shortstop on seven World Series teams, but his offensive numbers largely don’t approach the inner-circle Hall of Famers.  Sutter is one of the more controversial recent selections.  He only played 12 seasons and in three of those had an ERA over 4.00.  He was at least on par with contemporaries like Lee Smith, John Franco and Dan Quisenberry, all of who received tepid Hall of Fame interest at best.  Hooper’s 62.3 WAR stands up well against fellow dead ball era players, but he never really stood out in any one season.  Evers is one of the famed trio of Chicago Cubs infielders who many believe only gained entrance thanks to the famous poem “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”  The MVP of the National League in 1914, Evers returned at the ages of 40 and 47 after his retirement, appearing in one game each in 1922 and 1929.

 

New inductees, Carlton Fisk, Tony Perez and Sparky Anderson, 2000

187. Hack Wilson

186. Luke Appling

185. Stan Coveleski

184. Joe Gordon

183. Bob Lemon

182. Billy Herman

181. Tony Perez

180. Red Schoendienst

179. Kiki Cuyler

178. Pee Wee Reese

Perez and Reese were essential parts on some of the legendary teams in baseball history, and their importance on those clubs outweighs their lack of overall numbers.  Perez played 23 years and never led the league in any offensive category.  He failed to make the all-Star team in any of his last ten seasons in the majors and is largely seen as a very good compiler.  Reese made ten straight All-Star Games, only a three-year interruption due to military service kept that number lower.  He was highly respected among his peers, but his .269 batting average with no power to speak of pushes him lower on this list.  Wilson was enshrined largely on the back of his historic 1930 season when he hit 56 home runs and drove in a major league record 191 runs.  He received just one vote in his initial year of eligibility and was finally enshrined 45 years after he played his final game.  Schoendienst, one of the oldest living Hall of Famers, made eight straight All-Star Games and ten overall.  He was a key member of World Series champions in 1946 and 1957.

 

177. Tony Lazzeri

176. Bert Blyleven

175. Roger Connor

174. John Clarkson

173. Hal Newhouser

172. Jake Beckley

171. Joe Tinker

170. Ron Santo

169. Deacon White

168. Phil Niekro

167. Craig Biggio

Although he wasn’t enshrined until after his death, Santo’s career rates better than many Hall of Famers.  It was a shame the beloved Santo wasn’t alive to enjoy his induction and the Chicago Cubs World Series title in 2016.  He especially stacks up well historically against third basemen not named Schmidt, Brett or Brooks.   Lazzeri was a mainstay for the Yankees for a decade, understandably overshadowed by teammtes Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  He never dominated though and wasn’t elected until over 50 years after he played his last game.  Biggio is a sticking point among Hall of Fame fans.  His 3,000 hits gained him an automatic ticket to Cooperstown, but he got 421 of those hits in his ages 39-41 seasons when he batted just .254.  Had he fallen short of 3,000, he likely would be on the outside looking in.  Niekro was also a compiler, sticking around until he was 48.  While he does carry the stigma of a compiler, Niekro did have some great seasons in his prime.  He finished in the top six for Cy Young voting five times and received MVP consideration three times.  He was also a Gold Glove fielder.  Blyleven also falls into that group.  He’s lucky he was elected before wins were devalued, as he went 33-24 over his age 38-41 seasons to push his career wins total to 287.  His strikeout totals, among the best in baseball history, and his legendary curve ball also put him over the top.

 

166. Ernie Lombardi

165. John Ward

164. Don Sutton

163. Heinie Manush

162. Tim Raines

161. Edd Roush

160. Eppa Rixey

159. Barry Larkin

158. Bobby Doerr

157. Richie Ashburn

We have our first new member in this grouping in Raines.  Although he had to wait until his final year on the ballot, Raines belongs as the top leadoff hitter in the National League throughout the 1980s.  He’s not a slam dunk Hall of Famer, but his walk totals and on base percentage gained value over the years and helped him with a new era of voters.  Sutton is similar to Niekro and Blyleven, but rates slightly higher thanks to 324 wins, a 3.24 ERA and five straight top five Cy Young Award finishes at his peak.  Larkin’s career is victimized as he started just before the outbreak of the offensive-minded shortstop.  When he started in 1986, it was a time when shortstops not named Cal Ripken were fine batting in the low .200s if they played good defense.  Larkin batted .295 for his career and being a 12-time All-Star reflect his dominance at the position during his playing days.  Doerr is the oldest living Hall of Famer and former teammate of Ted Williams.  His career was cut short at the age of 33, but he was an All-Star in nine of the last ten seasons he played.  He is the last living player who played during the 1930s, Hall of Famer or not.

 

156. Nellie Fox

155. Larry Doby

154. Jim Rice

153. Andre Dawson

152. Red Ruffing

151. Lou Boudreau

150. Jim Bunning

149. Joe Sewell

148. Joe Cronin

Doby was the first black player in the American League, but was five years younger than Jackie Robinson when he integrated the AL.  He was an All Star for seven straight seasons, but his career fell off sharply at the age of 34.  Sewell holds the distinction of being perhaps the hardest person to strike out in Major League history.  In 1925, he struck out just four times in 699 plate appearances.  He may not have shown home run power, but he was a great doubles hitter, averaging 41 doubles over a seven year stretch in his prime.  Dawson and Rice’s careers nearly mirrored each other, each player a feared slugger throughout the 1980s, but Dawson has Rice beat in career WAR 64.5-47.4.  Rice finished in the top 10 of MVP voting six times while Dawson did so four times.  Ruffing was the ace of the Ruth-era Yankees, winning 273 games despite having a 3.80 ERA, thanks largely to pitching to a 4.54 ERA over his first seven seasons.

147. Addie Joss

146. Rollie Fingers

145. Jack Chesbro

144. Kirby Puckett

143. Ted Lyons

142. Goose Gossage

141. Mickey Welch

140. John Smoltz

139. Joe McGinnity

138. Sam Thompson

137. Dennis Eckersley

Eckersley, Gossage, Fingers and, to an extent, Smoltz were all dominant relievers and represent a large portion of the relief pitchers that are enshrined.  Eckersley tends to be overrated at times, as he only led the league in saves twice and only really put together five Hall of Fame level seasons.  Puckett is another sometimes controversial selection, but his stats do measure up.  He was an All-Star the final ten years of his career, had seven top ten MVP finishes and a fantastic postseason resume.  Thompson is an underrated star of the dead ball era.  His 20 home runs in 1889 were unheard of, as only six other players even reached double figures that year.  His 166 RBIs in 1887 were 62 more than the next closest player.  Joss is a dead ball era pitcher who’s career only lasted nine years, but he is the all-time leader in WHIP at 0.968 among qualifying pitchers.

 

136. Luis Aparicio

135. Jesse Burkett

134. Frank Chance

133. Orlando Cepeda

132. Roberto Alomar

131. Jeff Bagwell

130. Jim O’Rourke

129. Jimmy Collins

128. Billy Williams

127. Ryne Sandberg

Class of 2017 Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell had six straight seasons of 100 runs and RBIs with at least 30 home runs in each season.  Not included in that stretch was his 1994 MVP season.  He didn’t reach the counting stats that gave him an automatic ticket, but he was among the most feared hitters of his era.  Sandberg won ten Gold Gloves and hit for great power, which was rare among second basemen to that point in time.  Even if his counting stats leave something to be desired, he was an All-Star for ten straight seasons and clearly the elite player at second base for a solid decade.  Burkett batted over .400 in two consecutive seasons, 1895 and 1896 and fell just 150 hits short of 3,000.  He retired at the age of 36 after recording 147 hits in 1905.  The classy Williams ended his career with 426 home runs, a total that placed him in the top 20 at the time.

126. Earle Combs

125. Vic Willis

124. Enos Slaughter

123. Max Carey

122. Ferguson Jenkins

121. Amos Rusie

120. Gary Carter

119. Gaylord Perry

118. Dazzy Vance

117. Hoyt Wilhelm

Carter took the torch from Johnny Bench as the elite catcher of the National League and was an All Star for ten straight seasons.  In fact, according to Baseball Reference, the player who’s career was most similar to Carter’s was Bench.  His 25.5 defensive WAR is 15th all-time, regardless of position.  Jenkins is somewhat overlooked, as he fell 17 wins shy of 300.  He was an absolute workhorse in his prime, logging seven seasons of at least 38 starts and five seasons of over 300 innings.  He was an All Star only three times.  Perry’s career was very similar to Jenkins, and at one time he was the Major League career leader in strikeouts.  Wilhelm’s career was truly remarkable in the fact that he didn’t reach the majors until he was 29, yet still pitched for 21 years.  He was an All Star at the age of 47 and in the only season in which he was primarily a starter, he led the American League in ERA at 2.19.  Carey led the National League in stolen bases ten times and is on the short list of the greatest baserunners of all time and was the National League career stolen base leader for decades until being surpassed by Lou Brock.

116. Ozzie Smith

115. Chief Bender

114. Frank Thomas

113. Rube Waddell

112. Ivan Rodriguez

111. Don Drysdale

110. Billy Hamilton

109. Fred Clarke

108. Three Finger Brown

107. Johnny Mize

Rodriguez is the highest ranking member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2017.  The greatest defensive catcher in the game’s history, with a defensive WAR of 28.7, good for ninth place all-time.  His 2,427 games at catcher are the most all-time and he had the highest percentage of throwing out potential base stealers nine times.  He ended his career just shy of 3,000 hits and 1,500 RBIs as well.  Hamilton was one of the great baserunners of the dead ball era, right on par with Ty Cobb.  He topped 100 stolen bases four times.  The fact that Ozzie Smith  has the highest defensive WAR of any player in the game’s history should not surprise anyone.  He has 13 Gold Gloves and 15 All Star Game appearances.  While he wasn’t known for his offense, he was among the toughest in the game to strike out, finishing as one of the five toughest batters to strike out in the National League in 14 seasons.  He is second to Rabbit Maranville for career assists.  Mize is one of the great underrated players of the World War II era.  He lost three prime years to the war and was an All Star the four years before and after the war.  He was one of the few players to top 50 home runs prior to 1950.

106. Dan Brouthers

105. Ed Delahanty

104. Early Wynn

103. Sam Rice

102. Roger Bresnahan

101. Arky Vaughan

100. Gabby Hartnett

99. Bill Terry

98. Tom Glavine

97. Old Hoss Radborun

Terry’s .341 career batting average ranks 15th all time and he is the last National Leaguer to bat over .400, having done so in 1930.  He only played ten full seasons in the majors. Hartnett was a tough backstop for the Cubs and was behind the plate for Babe Ruth’s alleged called shot.  His  56% success rate at throwing out base stealers is second only to Roy Campanella.  Radbourn is a folk hero and the author of the famous and controversial 59-win season of 1884.  Incredibly, Radbourn won 309 games in just 11 seasons.  Glavine won 20 games five times, each time leading the National League in wins.  He is likely one of the final members of the 300-win club and has six top three Cy Young Award finishes, winning the hardware twice.

 

96. Robin Yount

95. Goose Goslin

94. Ed Walsh

93. Frankie Frisch

92. Duke Snider

91. Joe Medwick

90. Eddie Murray

89. Willie Stargell

88. Bobby Wallace

87. Carlton Fisk

Stars of the 1970s and 1980s Yount, Fisk, Murray and Stargell sneak into the top 100 Hall of Famers, and deservedly so.  Yount and Murray each topped 3,000 hits and Murray added 504 home runs to reach a second magic number.  Murray is on the short list of the greatest switch hitters to ever play the game.  Snider, one of the legendary trio of Hall of Fame centerfielders from New York’s Golden Age of baseball, surprisingly had to wait 11 years before being elected.  He had just 17% support his first year despite six top 10 MVP finishes, 407 home runs and his legendary place in the game.  Walsh, a dead ball era pitcher, has the lowest career ERA of any qualifying starting pitcher in the game’s history at 1.82.  He pitched just seven full seasons and went an incredible 40-15 and led the American League with six saves, 42 complete games and 11 shutouts in 1908.  That year, he started 49 games and appeared as a reliever in 17 others.

Branch Rickey with Jackie and Rachel Robinson as Jackie holds his HOF Plaque.  

86. Buck Ewing

85. Mike Piazza

84. Lou Brock

83. Willie Keeler

82. Jim Palmer

81. Jackie Robinson

80. Willie McCovey

79. Dave Winfield

78. Chuck Klein

Robinson broke the color barrier at the age of 28 and played just ten years in the majors, but his impact is obvious.  He only topped 140 games six times, but received MVP consideration each of those years, winning the award in 1949 when he led the National League with a .342 batting average.  Paige, another Nergo League star who was excluded from the majors until the age of 41 is a Hall member thanks to his Negro League exploits.  He won 12 games and saved another ten working mostly as a reliever at the age of 45 in 1952.  Klein is one of the underrated stars of the 1930s.  He led the National League in home runs in four of his first five full seasons and won the 1932 MVP.  He played less than 100 games in eight of his 17 seasons, knocking down his counting stats considerably.  Piazza’s place as the top offensive catcher of all-time gets him into the top 100, despite his defensive shortcomings and whispers of steroids.  He had 12 All-Star Game appearances and ten Silver Slugger Awards.

In this Aug. 14, 1982 file photo, Willie Mays tries to get Ralph Kinerís hat as the two Hall of Famers pose for pictures before the start of Old Timers Day game at Shea Stadium in New York. The baseball Hall of Fame says slugger Ralph Kiner has died. He was 91. The Hall says Kiner died Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. (AP Photo/Harry Harris, File)

77. Kid Nichols

76. Lefty Gomez

75. Dizzy Dean

74. Cal Ripken, Jr.

73. Nolan Ryan

72. Home Run Baker

71. Ralph Kiner

70. Harry Heilmann

69. Robin Roberts

68. Juan Marichal

Kiner benefited from the short porch at Forbes Field and led the league in home runs in each of his first seven years.  For decades, he was one of the few players to have topped 50 home runs in multiple seasons.  Injuries limited his career and he retired at the age of 32.  Ryan is a divisive figure in Hall circles, as his career was truly remarkable due to longevity and his insane strikeout totals.  However, he lost nearly 300 games in his career, didn’t receive Cy Young attention in 19 of his 27 seasons.  His 83.9 career WAR for pitchers is lower than controversial Hall of Fame selections Bert Blyleven, Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry.  Ripken is another fan favorite who might seemingly be ranked lower than expected.  His games played streak is clearly one of the defining records in baseball history, but despite playing all of those games, he never led the American League in any offensive category after the age of 22.  His .778 OPS is ranked lower than players like Dexter FowlerJay Bruce and Seth Smith among many other nondescript players.  “Home Run” Baker led the American League in home runs four times, but in none of those dead ball era years did he top 12 home runs.

 

67. Pie Traynor

66. Wade Boggs

65. Eddie Plank

64. Paul Molitor

63. Paul Waner

62. Tim Keefe

61. King Kelly

60.  Bill Dickey

59. Mickey Cochrane

58. Charlie Gehringer

Waner, Molitor and Boggs are members of the 3,000 hit club.  Molitor and Boggs surprisingly only had four top 10 MVP finishes each, but they are among the best pure hitters of the modern era.    Dickey was the top catcher in the American League for a solid decade, earning an All-Star nod 11 times.  His teams won eight World Series leading up to World War II, where he missed three years towards the end of his career.  Kelly was perhaps the game’s first superstar during the dead ball era.  His career began in 1878 and he was also a crossover Vaudeville star.

57. Al Kaline

56. Zack Wheat

55. Brooks Robinson

54. Pedro Martinez

53. Sam Crawford

52. Whitey Ford

51. Harmon Killebrew

50. Carl Yastrzemski

Robinson was an All-Star for 18 straight seasons and was in the top ten for MVP voting seven times.  He won 16 Gold Gloves and is the career leader in assists, putouts and double plays turned as a third basemen.  Yastrzemski had similar longevity and production, with more power.  He also made 18 All-Star Games, won seven Gold Gloves and three batting titles, including the 1967 Triple Crown.  Most impressive though was that he allowed the Red Sox to seamlessly transition from Ted Williams after he retired.  Up until 2000, Killebrew still ranked in fifth place on the career home run list, behind just Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson.  Kaline was the model of consistency for the Detroit Tigers for 22 years.  He fell just one home run shy of 400, .003 points of a .300 career average and just topped 3,000 hits, finishing with 3,007.  He was also an 18-time All-Star and won ten Gold Gloves.  Crawford is one of the game’s early underrated stars.  He ended his 19-year career with 2,961 hits and a .309 batting average.  He is also the career leader with 309 triples and is the only player in Major League history to top 300 career triples.  Martinez had six years of sub-2.50 ERAs in the heart of the steroid era.  His peak rivals just about anyone in the game’s history.  He won three Cy Youngs and finished runner-up two other times.  In six of his 18 years he failed to make 20 starts and finished with a career record of 219-100.  Ford was the ace of the great Yankee teams of the 1950s and 60s, leading the team to six World Series titles.  He missed two prime seasons due to military service and only topped 30 starts nine times, yet still finished with a career record of 236-106.

 

49. Roy Campanella 

48. Pud Galvin

47. Eddie Mathews

46. Joe Morgan

45. Rod Carew

44. Cap Anson

43. Reggie Jackson

42. Ernie Banks

41. Hank Greenberg

Morgan, Carew and Jackson were three of the biggest stars of the 1970’s whose careers also extended into the late 1980s.  Many consider Morgan the second best player on the Big Red Machine after Johnny Bench.  Carew’s bat control rivals just about anyone in the sports history.  He won seven batting titles and made the All-Star Game 18 times, only missing out the final season of his 19-year career.  Jackson’s “Mr. October” nickname is well-earned.  He won four World Series titles and was the MVP in two of them.  Anson is a divisive figure and played a big role in the segregation of the game.  However, he was one of the game’s first superstars.  His career started when pitchers weren’t even allowed to throw overhand yet and racked up 3,435 hits.  Campanella didn’t enter the majors until he was 26, but won three MVP Awards during his ten-year career.  His 57.4 career caught stealing percentage is the best in baseball history.  Greenberg only played more than 125 games in seven seasons thanks to injuries and military service.  He led the American League in home runs and RBIs four times each including 58 home runs in 1938 and 184 RBIs in 1937.  If Banks stayed at shortstop his entire career, he’d be on a short list of the best shortstops of all time.  He topped 40 home runs five times and topped 100 RBIs eight times.

 

NEW YORK – SEPT 29 1936. Mel Ott, New York Giants Hall of Fame outfielder, practices his unusual swing in preparation for the upcoming World Series of 1936. This is the first image in a series of four. (Photo Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

40. Al Simmons

39. Mel Ott

38. Bob Gibson

38. George Brett

37. Tony Gwynn

36. Carl Hubbell

35. George Sisler

34. Yogi Berra

33. Steve Carlton

32. Bob Feller

31. Lefty Grove

The pitchers in this grouping would make a fearsome rotation.  Carlton won four Cy Young Awards and had three top five MVP finishes as well.  His 1972 season is one of the best in major league history.  That year he went 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA with a 0.993 WHIP.  He won 20 games six times.  Grove won exactly 300 games and led the American League in ERA nine times.  Feller missed three years of his prime and likely would have reached 300 wins if he hadn’t.  He won 266 games in his career and topped 200 strikeouts six times.  Gibson won less than 15 games in seven of his 17 seasons, but also authored one of the great pitching seasons of all-time in 1968.  That year, he went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA and 0.853 WHIP.  He was also a great fielder, nabbing nine Gold Gloves.  Brett and Gwynn are the iconic figures of their franchises and perhaps the two best pure hitters of the 1980s.  Brett’s performance in the clutch and the postseason is legendary, as is Gwynn’s bat control.  Gwynn won eight batting titles, including four straight starting with his age 34 season.  He batted .372 when he was 37 years old.  Brett won batting titles in three different decades.

Berra might be known for his famous quotes, but it shouldn’t overshadow the type of player he was.  He played in 14 World Series, winning ten of them.  He made the All-Star team in every one of the 15 full seasons he played yet never led the league in any offensive category.  Although Ott was just 5’9″, he was the first National League player to reach 500 home runs.  He was the NL leader in career home runs for decades.  Sisler batted over .400 twice and owns a .340 lifetime batting average.

 

30. Warren Spahn

29. Eddie Collins

28. Roberto Clemente

27. Frank Robinson

26. Randy Johnson

25. Sandy Koufax

24. Jimmie Foxx

23. Cy Young

22. Johnny Bench

21. Grover Cleveland Alexander

This group includes arguably the three best left handed pitchers of all-time in Spahn, Johnson and Koufax.  If Spahn didn’t miss three prime years to the war, he could have easily topped 400 wins.  He won 20 games in 13 of his 21 Major League seasons.  Koufax really only had five Hall of Fame level seasons, but his peak could be considered the best peak for any pitcher ever.  He pitched to a 1.86 ERA over the span of four seasons and 1,192 innings.  Young’s 511 wins couldn’t gain him enshrinement in the initial Hall of Fame class, but is one of the unapproachable records in the sport.  His 168.5 WAR is second only to Babe Ruth all-time.  He’s the all-time pitching leader in eight different categories.  Bench revolutionized the catcher position and is still the standard bearer for the position.  Robinson is an underrated legend, partly because he played in an era with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente and also played for multiple teams.  However, when he retired only Babe Ruth, Aaron and Mays had more homers than he did.

20. Mike Schmidt

19. Nap Lajoie

18. Ken Griffey, Jr.

17. Tris Speaker

16. Greg Maddux

15. Rickey Henderson

14. Tom Seaver

13. Mickey Mantle

12. Honus Wagner

11. Joe DiMaggio

The group of players rated 11-20 actually speaks more to the talent that is listed in the top group.  How are there ten players who have been better than DiMaggio, Mantle, Seaver or Wagner?  That’s what makes exercises like this fun.  You could probably make a case for most of this group to be in the top ten.  This group sees the first group players whose careers began after 1960.  It speaks to the incredible careers of Seaver, Henderson, Maddux, Griffey and Schmidt that they can easily rate above and with some of the game’s immortals.  Schmidt’s accomplishments have become more revered in this new age of baseball.  It was overlooked when he played, but he walked over 100 times seven times and led the National League in OPS+ six times.  His 106.5 WAR ranks 19th for all position players.  Schmidt and Henderson are the only players who primarily played during the 1980’s who rank in the top 20 for career WAR.  It’s not likely a player like Henderson will come along again anytime soon.  With the way the game has changed, nobody should approach Henderson’s stolen base exploits for decades.  He is second all-time with 2,190 walks, which is incredible because the last thing any pitcher wanted to do was walk him.

Mantle was the first prolific power hitting switch hitter in the game’s history, a list that still remains surprisingly short.  One always has to wonder what his numbers would look like had he played the game healthy and avoided drinking to excess.  Maddux’s 355 wins will likely not be approached for decades.  The fact that he put up a 3.16 career ERA while pitching through the steroid era is astounding.  Speaker and Lajoie were in the second ever Hall of Fame class after just missing out on being included in the inaugural class.  Lajoie played less than 100 games in seven of his 21 seasons, otherwise his 3,243 hits total would have been much higher.  DiMaggio was an All-Star every year of his 13-year career and missed three prime years to the war.  His Yankees won nine of the ten World Series in which he played.  Believe it or not, he didn’t get elected to the Hall until his third time on the ballot.

 

Back row (left to right): Honus Wagner, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, George Sisler, and Walter Johnson. Front row (l to r): Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, and Cy Young.

10. Stan Musial

9. Rogers Hornsby

8. Christy Mathewson

7. Walter Johnson

6. Lou Gehrig

5. Ty Cobb

4. Ted Williams

3. Hank Aaron

2. Willie Mays

1. Babe Ruth

The final group consists not only of the pantheon of Major League Baseball, but consists of some of the great sportsmen of all time.  Separating the top ten after Ruth is nearly impossible; you can’t go wrong with whichever way you choose to rank them.  It’s a shame rules existed when Ruth played that disqualified a player from winning multiple MVPs.  It would have been interesting to see how many he would have won.  Amazingly, Cobb received more votes than Ruth at the first Hall of Fame balloting.  His run producing numbers fly under the radar a bit.  He led the American League in RBIs four times and OPS 11 times.  It’s a great debate as to who the greatest living Hall of Famer currently is, and Aaron and Mays present the top choices.  One of the amazing stats about Aaron is that if you take away all of his home runs, he’d still have 3,000 hits.  He received MVP votes in 19 straight seasons and was an All-Star 21 straight years.  Mays gets the slight nod over Aaron when you consider his defense.  He also has Aaron beat 156.2 to 142.6.

One has to wonder what Williams’ final stats would look like had he not missed so much time to military service.  He easily could have topped Mays’ total of 660 home runs.  His .482 career on base percentage is the best all-time.  Johnson and Mathewson are two of the pioneers on the mound who thrived once pitching rules changed.  Their strikeout numbers give them the slight nod above Pete Alexander and Cy Young as the best pitchers of the early 20th century.  Musial is often criminally underrated.  His 128.1 WAR is seventh-best among Hall of Fame position players.  He had nine top-five MVP finishes, including three wins, and if he didn’t miss a year to the WAR, could have topped 500 home runs, 2,000 RBIs and 3,700 hits.

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Rocco Constantino
About the Author

Rocco is the author of 50 Moments That Defined Major League Baseball (Available on Amazon now!) and former Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He is also a die hard Mets fan going back to the awful early 80's and ready for the revival. D2 NCAA softball coach and athletics administrator. Follow Rocco on Twitter @mlb100years.







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