There is no game like baseball so in effect there is no list of athletes that can touch this one. I have decided to limit these rankings to retired players, figuring that those are the guys who have given their all to the sport and deserve to be placed above those still receiving an annual paycheck. As far as the steroid era goes, those players are certainly eligible, I don’t believe in keeping them out of the Hall of Fame or disregarding them from baseball’s pool of greats because they played in a gridlocked era where pitchers and hitters were both making themselves substantially stronger.
I am also far from a “sabermetrician.” I believe that the game of baseball is as simple as it was in its humble beginnings more than a century ago, and while we are offered statistical anomalies on a nightly basis there is nothing that can measure true success like on field victories and standard statistics. If you can find holes in my rankings with your math equations, more power to you, I will never be on your level.
It was hard to place pitchers amongst hitters on this list because the stats are not comparable, and the magnitude of the effects of each are certainly disputable. Modern day pitchers throw every five games, however a lot of guys on this list threw so much more; oh how the times have changed. Nonetheless, I fully understand the influence that a dynamic arm can have on a season and placed 14 pitchers on this list with that very understanding in mind. No relievers appeared on this list, because Mariano Rivera has yet to hang it up.
With all that being said, here are my Top 50 Baseball Players of All-Time; enjoy, and please, please, debate.
Stoop Sports will release five players a week during this off season. Here are players 35 through 31.
35. Joe Jackson
Shoeless Joe Jackson is a player that you may not think belongs on this list, let alone ahead of the 15 that have come before him. A lot of the case with Jackson stems from the words “what if.” In only 13 seasons he compiled 1772 hits with an incredible .356 batting average. While Jackson’s lack of longevity may taint his success, his .356 average is the third best in league history and over his career, short or long, he averaged 216 hits a season and hit doubles at an incredible rate. And that stuff about fixing the World Series, well, you don’t have to be good to be good.
34. Ernie Banks
Ernie Banks is a rare, true slugger who played shortstop for most of his career. As the only middle infielder in the 500 home run club (regarding Alex Rodriguez as a third basemen), Banks won back to back MVP awards in 1958 and 1959 and is widely known for his “let’s play two” mentality. Throughout his career Banks showed uncanny durability as the cornerstone of the Cubs franchise, and possessed the ability to hit for both power and average (.274 lifetime), a rare attribute of a shortstop.
33. Sandy Koufax
Like Jackson, Koufax only played 12 years but had one of the best “12-year” careers in the history of the game, and had he pitched a normal length career there is an argument that he could have been the greatest pitcher of all-time. The prime of his career was his last five seasons from 1962 to 1966, when he posted succeeding ERAs of 2.54, 1.88, 1.74, 2.04 and 1.73. In 1963 Koufax went 25-5 with 306 strikeouts and won both the NL MVP and Cy Young Award. In 1965 he went 26-8 with 382 strikeouts, and in 1966 he went 27-9 with 319 strikeouts. I have yet to bring up stats this much for any player, but Koufax’s are just too good.
32. Eddie Collins
This may seem high for Collins but I have a soft spot for situational-top of the order hitters because I know how valuable they are. Collins played 25 years from 1906 to 1930 and was a model of consistency throughout his career. In 12041 career plate appearances Collins had a .333 average with 3315 hits, and also stole 80 bases in 1910. Collins makes this list because of his inhumane longevity and ability to get on base at an incredible rate.
31. Ed Delahanty
Ed Delahanty played from 1888 to 1903 and there is an argument to be made that his statistics are almost completely tainted because of the time he played in. Delahanty’s career .346 average is the fifth best in league history and his .410 season average in 1899 is the best hitting year of all-time. He additionally hit over .400 two other times in back to back seasons in 1894 and 1895. Delahanty also never hit for more than 20 home runs in his career but had over 100 RBIs seven times, a testament to how well he hit with runners in scoring position. As a final component to his outlandish spreadsheet of numbers, he hit for over .300 in the last 12 years of his career.