Wednesday, June 29, 2011
10 Greatest living baseball players
It’s no doubt a difficult task putting together a list such as this, with over 60 living Hall of Famers and a handful of recently retired players yet to be inducted along former baseball legends in Cooperstown. However, we have decided to celebrate a few of the games most honored players that we are fortunate to still have living among us.
While postseason performances, pennants and the sparkling rings of championships could all be a factor in making our list, why penalize some of the game's best individuals who toiled on teams not good enough for October?
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Of course, you have the sainted likes of Musial, Mays and Aaron, the longevity of Ryan and Ripken Jr. and the brief brilliant bursts of excellence from Koufax. But what about the tarnished excellence of Rose, Bonds and McGuire? Should a lifetime ban for gambling and steroids discolor their careers or diminish their greatness?
Considering all of the above, we have decided to compile our list from the game's retired players and select baseball's 10 greatest living players:
10. Henry Aaron -Braves, Brewers (1954-1976)- The 77-year old Aaron was one of baseball’s true sluggers, and although he never hit 50 homers in a single season, he remains the only player to hit 30 or more homers in at least 15 seasons. He also bested Babe Ruth’s 714 career home runs with 755 while becoming the first player with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. His 6,856 total bases are 722 more than any other player, and his 2,297 RBIs remain a record nearly four decades later, despite his home run record being smashed 30 years later. Aaron still stands as one of the game's most productive hitters, and for this was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1982 and is number 10 on our list.
9. Yogi Berra -Yankees, Mets (1946-1965) – Widely-known as one of the most quoted personalities of our time, by presidents and coaches. Berra's fame will always be as a dugout philosopher with his utterances that created the phrase--"Yogi-isms". But Berra’s numbers precede him as one of the most popular catchers in the game nobody knows. Perhaps, one of the hardest working players the Yankees have ever had, Berra helped build the Bronx Dynasty, winning 10 World Series and 14 American League pennants from 1947 to '63. He was also an 18-time All-Star, three-time MVP, and for seven consecutive seasons finished in the top five in MVP voting. For that, the now 86-year old will remain one of baseball's endearing characters, and sits at number nine on our list.
8. Barry Bonds -Pirates, Giants (1986-2007)-Although Bonds reputation has been irreversibly damaged by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use and a related criminal investigation. His dominance in the 2000s is hard to dismiss. Bonds' seven MVPs are more than twice as many as any other player, his 73 homers in 2001 is the single-season record, and his 762 career homers surpassed Aaron. The now 46-year old All Star reached base an unbelievable 61 percent of his at-bats in 2004 and from 2001- to 2004 he turned in an uncanny .809 slugging average and posted a monster single-season OPS of 1.422, setting a new major league record. Steroids have stained his career while possibly costing his place in Cooperstown, but he still makes it in at number eight.
7. Ricky Henderson -Athletics, Yankees, Blue Jays, Padres, Angels, Mets, Mariners, Red Sox, Dodgers (1979-2003)- Ala Willie Mays Hayes, the now 52-year old Henderson was beyond a doubt, the game’s best leadoff hitter and base-stealer, setting the single-season record with 130 steals, but kept running after 939 all the way to 1,406. The 1990 MVP also drew more unintentional walks (2,129) than any other player, and scored more runs than anyone, breaking the oldest offensive record by surpassing Ty Cobb's 2,246 and raising the bar to 2,295. No player in baseball got on base as often, got around the bases faster, and got home as often as the 2009 Hall of Famer, earning him number seven on our list of baseball’s 10 greatest living players.
6. Sandy Koufax-Dodgers (1955-1966) - The youngest player ever elected to the Hall of Fame, Koufax had the best year of his career and then abruptly retired at the age of 30. With an overall record of 165–87, a 2.76 ERA, 2,396 strikeouts, 137 complete games, and 40 shutouts, he led the NL in ERA in his final five seasons--three times at 1.88 or less. He was the first pitcher to average fewer than seven hits allowed per nine innings pitched and to strike out more than nine batters (9.28) per nine innings pitched in his career. The "Left Hand of God, also became the second pitcher in baseball history to have two games with 18 or more strikeouts, and threw no-hitters in four successive seasons, including a perfect game in 1965. While other legendary hurlers may have won more or pitched longer, the now 75-year old 1972 Hall of Famer makes it in at number six on our list for simply doing it better.
5. Willie Mays -Giants, Mets (1951-1973)-No one played with more fervor for the game than 1979 Hall of Famer Mays. The now 80-year old 24 time All-Star center fielder totaled 3,283 hits, 660 home runs and 338 stolen bases, and he is one of only three right-handed hitters with more than 2,000 runs. Mays is one of five NL players to have eight consecutive 100-RBI seasons, while also winning a record-tying 12 Gold Gloves highlighted by the most famous catch in World Series history, in Game 1 of the 1954 championship. The charismatic Mays, is the greatest all-around player of all time, and that is what the “The Say Hey Kid,” comes in at number five on our list of baseball’s 10 greatest living players
4. Stan Musial-Cardinals (1941-1963)-The oldest living player on our list at 90 years of age, "Stan the Man" retired from baseball having set 29 National League records, 17 major-league records and nine All-Star Game records. While many have been surpassed, Musial was voted a record 24-time All-Star (tied with Mays), and is widely considered to be one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. The three time MVP compiled 3,630 hits (ranking fourth all-time), while racking up 475 home runs during his career, en route to winning three World Series championship titles. For that, Musial was a first-ballot inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 and is currently the longest tenured living Hall of Famer and number four on our list.
3. Frank Robinson-Reds, Orioles, Angels, Indians (1956-1976)- The only player to win league MVP honors in both the National and American Leagues, perhaps Robinson’s days in the dugout as baseball’s first black manager overshadow what the 1982 Hall of Famer did on the diamond. The now 75-year old tallied 586 home runs--fourth-most when he retired –while ranking in the top 10 in runs scored and was a winner of the ALs triple crown with a .316 average, 49 homers and 122 RBIs in 1966. Robinson also was a member of two teams that won the World Series (the 1966 and 1970 Baltimore Orioles), and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, by 43rd President George W. Bush. It’s no question why Robinson lands at number three on our list.
2. Tom Seaver -Mets, Reds, White Sox, Red Sox (1967-1986)-The “Franchise” as he was known, compiled 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, 61 shutouts and a 2.86 earned run average during his 20-year career, and was inducted into Cooperstown in 1992 with the highest percentage ever recorded --98.8 percent. Truly, a testament to a pitching great that emerged as hitters took over the game. The now 66-year old right-hander won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1967 and three NL CY Young Awards as the league's best pitcher in 1963, ’73, and ’75. Seaver is the Mets' all-time leader in wins, and inspired a current generation of pitchers with his drop and drive delivery. He is considered by many baseball experts to be one of the best starting pitchers of all time and that’s why he appears second on our list.
Now the Number 1 Pick from Coopers Pick the leading Sports Handicapping Service in the Nation chooses:
1. Mike Schmidt-Phillies (1972-1989)- Voted National League MVP three times, and an All-Star 12 times, the 1995 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee hit more home runs than any player in the 1980s, including four in one game on April 17, 1976--a feat accomplished only 15 times in the history of baseball. Schmidt retired having collected 548 homers while driving in 1,595 runs-- two of the many Phillies career records he holds-- en route to three MVPs and a Word Series title in 1980. He is clearly the best at his position, winning 10 Gold Gloves, including nine consecutive during his 17-year stint at third base with Philadelphia. With an unprecedented combination of power at the plate and consistent defense, The Sporting News named Schmidt Player of the Decade for the 1980s, and now he reappears as number one on our list in 2011.