We've reached the pinnacle of our four-day unveiling of the top 100 players in MLB history.
This is No. 25 to No. 1, and there shouldn't be too many arguments. There actually is a pretty good consensus from other lists of top 10 players in baseball history, such as those compiled by ESPN, Society For Baseball Research, The Sporting News and Baseball-Reference.com's EloRater, among others. Even the sabermetrics agree that Babe Ruth is still the No. 1 player in baseball history, and it probably isn't even close.
Some other notes from the top 25:
- No. 23 Mel Ott is rarely thought of as a player on the short list of the best ever, but he hit 511 home runs and led the Giants in homers for an incredible 18 consecutive seasons (1928-45).
- The only two players in the top 25 not in the Hall of Fame are pitchers: No. 21 Randy Johnson and No. 13 Greg Maddux. They're both no-doubt Hall of Famers in due time, which comes this summer for Maddux. Among left-handers, only Lefty Grove ranks higher than the "Big Unit," and that's a tough call.
- Six of the top seven players on the list are outfielders, broken up by the No. 1 pitcher, Walter Johnson. Of course, Ruth was a pretty good pitcher as well -- and that's one reason he's such a resounding No. 1.
- Every one of the top 25 players played in the majors for 16 years or longer.
To the list:
|25. Warren Spahn||LHP||1942-65|
|24. Eddie Collins||2B||1906-30|
|23. Mel Ott||RF||1926-47|
|22. Tris Speaker||CF||1907-28|
|21. Randy Johnson||LHP||1988-2009|
|20. Tom Seaver||RHP||1967-86|
|19. Lefty Grove||LHP||1925-41|
|18. Jimmie Foxx||1B||1925-45|
|17. Cy Young||RHP||1890-1911|
|16. Mike Schmidt||3B||1972-89|
|15. Grover Cleveland Alexander||RHP||1911-30|
|14. Frank Robinson||RF||1956-76|
|13. Greg Maddux||RHP||1986-2008|
|12. Christy Mathewson||RHP||1900-16|
|11. Mickey Mantle||CF||1951-68|
|10. Rogers Hornsby||2B||1915-37|
|9. Honus Wagner||SS||1897-1917|
|8. Lou Gehrig||1B||1923-39|
|7. Stan Musial||LF||1941-63|
|6. Ted Williams||LF||1939-60|
|5. Walter Johnson||RHP||1907-27|
|4. Hank Aaron||RF||1954-76|
|3. Ty Cobb||CF||1905-28|
|2. Willie Mays||CF||1951-73|
|1. Babe Ruth||RF||1914-35|
It was expected that Masahiro Tanaka would find his way to the major leagues at some point this offseason, where teams are anxiously hoping to make a bid for a 25-year-old pitcher who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan this past season.
But there's a problem. Major League Baseball and Japanese officials have not made an agreement on extending the bidding system that allowed stars such as Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka to make the trip to the majors.
Under the old "posting" system, players could move to the majors before the required nine seasons of service time needed to become a free agent in Japan, but only if MLB teams paid off their existing teams for the rights to negotiate with the player. And those fees typically are astronomical. The Boston Red Sox paid $51.1 million to the Seibu Lions for the rights to make a deal with Matsuzaka in the 2006-07 offseason, and the Texas Rangers went even higher -- $51.7 million -- for Darvish two years ago.
The hang-ups are on the MLB side.
"I think the concerns with the system was it was a blind bidding process that led to inflated numbers," said MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred to the Associated Press, "and that those inflated numbers make that market unavailable to a broad cross-section of our teams."
Some teams also would like the posting fees to be counted in luxury tax numbers, and that would be a major hang-up for the players' union, who could certainly argue that a team would be more frugal in its dealings with current union members if the posting fee was subject to an additional tax.
Tanaka, 25, already has seven years of experience in Japan, having broken in as an 18-year-old for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2007. He might have to pitch for two more years in Japan if an agreement can't be made.
Related: Top 25 free agents
The fact that Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen won MVP honors on Thursday wasn't much of a surprise. But perhaps the landslide nature of the vote was.
Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers third baseman, became the first player to repeat as American League Most Valuable Player in 19 years and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen became the first MVP from his team in 21 years as the winners were announced by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Cabrera couldn't duplicate his Triple Crown season from 2012, but he actually had one more first-place vote than the previous season over Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who finished as the runner-up in the AL for the second consecutive season. Cabrera led the majors with a .348 batting average in 2013 -- it was his third consecutive AL batting title -- and had 43 home runs and 137 RBI.
McCutchen was the favorite for the National League MVP award, but his vote total was a surprising landslide, as he was just two votes short of being a unianimous selection. McCutchen didn't lead the NL in any major statistical category, yet received 28 of a possible 30 first-place votes. He hit .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBI, 97 runs and 27 stolen bases.
The numbers get smaller and the players get better. It's the third day of our countdown of the top 100 players of all-time, and we're down to No. 50 through No. 26.
Nos. 100-76 were unveiled Tuesday and Nos. 75-51 on Wednesday.
Notes from this group of baseball legends:
Out of the 25 on this list, you'd think that they'd all be in Cooperstown, or at least headed there. But four of them probably won't: No. 48 Pete Rose, No. 42 Shoeless Joe Jackson, No. 37 Barry Bonds and No. 36 Roger Clemens. Rose and Jackson are not eligible because of gambling; Bonds and Clemens haven't been voted into the Hall because of evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) of performance-enhancing drugs.
No. 49 Bob Feller was one of the greatest pitchers ever, but he lost four years in his prime to World War II. Otherwise, he would have been an even bigger legend.
Feller probably wouldn't like being on this list next to No. 48 Rose. Too low for the all-time hits leader?
Two Dodgers legends might be considered too low on this list, but No. 47 Jackie Robinson and No. 38 Sandy Koufax -- teammates for three years in Brooklyn -- didn't have quite enough staying power to climb this list.
One more player not in the Hall already is No. 31 Pedro Martinez, who only has 219 career wins, but is widely considered one of the most dominant pitchers ever, and he did it during an era when offense was bloated.
And, of course, there's the problematic cases of Bonds and Clemens, whose career stats would put them in the top 10 for sure. Bonds is the all-time leader in home runs and Clemens won more Cy Young Awards than anybody in history (seven).
|50. Hank Greenberg||1B||1930-47|
|49. Bob Feller||RHP||1936-56|
|48. Pete Rose||1B-OF||1963-86|
|47. Jackie Robinson||2B||1947-56|
|46. Ernie Banks||1B-SS||1953-71|
|45. Charlie Gehringer||2B||1924-42|
|44. Al Kaline||RF||1953-74|
|43. Carl Yastrzemski||LF||1961-83|
|42. Shoeless Joe Jackson||LF||1908-20|
|41. Steve Carlton||LHP||1965-88|
|40. Johnny Bench||C||1967-83|
|39. Yogi Berra||C||1946-65|
|38. Sandy Koufax||LHP||1955-66|
|37. Barry Bonds||LF||1986-2007|
|36. Roger Clemens||RHP||1984-2007|
|35. Nolan Ryan||RHP||1966-93|
|34. Cal Ripken||SS||1981-2001|
|33. Bob Gibson||RHP||1959-75|
|32. Eddie Mathews||3B||1952-68|
|31. Pedro Martinez||RHP||1992-2009|
|30. George Brett||3B||1973-93|
|29. Rickey Henderson||LF||1979-2003|
|28. Napoleon Lajoie||2B||1896-1916|
|27. Joe DiMaggio||CF||1936-51|
|26. Roberto Clemente||RF||1955-72|
Two leagues, two landslides.
There was no doubt who the top pitchers in each league were in 2013, according to baseball writers voting for the Cy Young Award. Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers, the only 20-game winner in Major League Baseball in 2013, received 28 of a possible 30 first-place votes and won in the American League. Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who led the majors in ERA and led the National League in strikeouts, was the overwhelming choice in the NL, getting 29 out of 30 votes.
Only one vote kept Kershaw from being the 11th unanimous winner, and the first since Roy Halladay in 2010. That vote went to Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished second. That vote was by Mark Schmetzer of Reds Report and the Associated Press, who voted Kershaw second.
It's Day 2 in our four-day countdown of the Top 100 players in Major League Baseball history.
After Nos. 100-76 were unveiled Tuesday, we're gonna get halfway through the list with Nos. 75-51 today.
Notes from this group of baseball legends:
- No. 73 Mariano Rivera is tough to rank because closers typically don't appear on Top 100 lists. But the best closer ever, with a record 652 saves, certainly deserves to be on here.
- No. 69 Frank Thomas will be eligible for the Hall of Fame next year, and with a .301 career average and 521 home runs, he should make it to Cooperstown with ease in the next year or two. But 69th might seem high to some because he played in an era when big offense was the norm.
- No. 63 Robin Roberts is one of the most underrated pitchers ever -- few talk about him these days, but how many players win 20 games for six consecutive years (and won 19 in that seventh year). And when Roberts was in his prime, the Phillies weren't great, either.
- No. 56 Alex Rodriguez is tricky because his stats say he should be top 20 all-time, but his numbers are now almost all clouded by PED accusations (and an almost certain suspension).
- And on No. 53 Derek Jeter, he's already 10th on the hits list (3,316) and was an integral part of five World Series winners. Some will say too high, some too low. I'll say No. 53.
|75. Juan Marichal||RHP||1960-75|
|74. Kid Nichols||RHP||1890-1906|
|73. Mariano Rivera||
|72. Paul Waner||RF||1926-45|
|71. Whitey Ford||LHP||1950-67|
|70. Tony Gwynn||RF||1982-2001|
|69. Frank Thomas||DH-1B||1990-2008|
|68. Eddie Murray||1B||1977-97|
|67. Reggie Jackson||RF||1967-87|
|66. Jim Palmer||RHP||1965-84|
|65. Willie McCovey||1B||1959-80|
|64. George Sisler||1B||1915-30|
|63. Robin Roberts||RHP||1948-66|
|62. Robin Yount||SS||1974-93|
|61. Wade Boggs||3B||1982-99|
|60. Al Simmons||LF||1924-44|
|59. Harmon Killebrew||1B||1954-75|
|58. Carl Hubbell||LHP||1928-43|
|57. Brooks Robinson||3B||1955-77|
|56. Alex Rodriguez||SS||1994-|
|55. Rod Carew||1B||1967-85|
|54. Chipper Jones||3B||1993-2012|
|53. Derek Jeter||SS||1995-|
|52. Ken Griffey Jr.||CF||1989-2010|
|51. Joe Morgan||2B||1963-84|
Cleveland and Pittsburgh don't get along too well in the fall. Browns and Steelers fans don't often play well together.
But they can bond over their summertime successes this season. After the Indians and Pirates had memorable runs to the playoffs, bouncing back after years of losing, their managers were honored by the baseball writers on Tuesday with Manager of the Year honors.
In what might be considered a mild upset in the American League, the Indians' Terry Francona won the award in a tight vote over the Boston Red Sox's John Farrell, who engineered his own big turnaround all the way to the World Series. It was the first time Francona has won the award. The Indians had a 24-game improvement and won an AL wild-card berth.
Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle, who led the Pirates to their first winning season since 1992 and their first playoff berth since that season, was the runaway winner in the NL over the Los Angeles Dodgers' Don Mattingly.
Something special this week as MLB hands out honors for the best players in 2013.
We're counting down our own rankings for the Top 100 players in Major League Baseball history. This has been done in other places, of course -- there was the All-Century Team that was complied a little over a decade ago, and several other reputable sources have come up with their own rankings, such as ESPN, Society For Baseball Research and The Sporting News. Baseball-Reference.com's EloRater was also factored in.
And then there's sabermetrics, where the Bill James-created Win Shares give a statistical measure of players' contributions. All of these rankings and stats were factored in and studied, as well as our own rankings of players by position in the past. And then there's the whole performance-enhancing drugs issue -- and those players who have been suspended or otherwise named as PED users have been moved down to a point where they might have fit on this list had they not had their stats and career length augmented.
Also keep in mind that these are Major League Baseball rankings only -- we're not factoring in the Negro Leagues or any other baseball league. We'll unveil 25 players per day for the rest of the week, with the full top 100 coming out on Friday.
Some notes from the first 25:
Surprise players? No. 99 Jeff Bagwell and No. 94 Mike Piazza. Neither are in the Hall of Fame, and plenty of Hall of Famers aren't making this list. Both players each had irresponsible whispers of PED use, none of which has been proven. But both should make it someday, and both have the stats to show it. Is No. 85 Albert Pujols ranked too high? Perhaps, considering his production the last two seasons. But his first decade in St. Louis was still stellar by any measure, and he's a .321 career hitter who will likely hit his 500th home run next season.
Why so low? No. 92 Ichiro Suzuki has more than 3,000 hits, but a lot came in Japan. No. 100 Dizzy Dean is one of the great pitchers in baseball history, but his career was cut a bit short to rank higher.
|100. Dizzy Dean||RHP||1930-47|
|99. Jeff Bagwell||1B||1991-2005|
|98. Roberto Alomar||2B||1988-2004|
|97. Ivan Rodriguez||C||1991-2011|
|96. Ryne Sandberg||2B||1981-97|
|95. Ferguson Jenkins||RHP||1965-83|
|94. Mike Piazza||C||1992-2007|
|93. Bert Blyleven||RHP||1970-92|
|92. Ichiro Suzuki||RF||2001-|
|91. Jim Thome||1B||1991-2012|
|90. Frankie Frisch||2B||1919-37|
|89. Gaylord Perry||RHP||1962-83|
|88. Willie Stargell||LF-1B||1962-82|
|87. Roy Campanella||C||1947-57|
|86. Ed Walsh||RHP||1904-17|
|85. Albert Pujols||1B||2001-|
|84. Duke Snider||CF||1947-64|
|83. John Smoltz||RHP||1988-2009|
|82. Eddie Plank||LHP||1901-17|
|81. Mickey Cochrane||C||1925-37|
|80. Harry Heilmann||RF||1914-32|
|79. Tom Glavine||LHP||1987-2008|
|78. Ozzie Smith||SS||1978-96|
|77. Paul Molitor||DH-IF||1978-98|
|76. Luke Appling||SS||1930-50|
The Florida franchises in Major League Baseball are not too healthy in a financial sense compared to other teams. But the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins know how to find talent.
Jose Fernandez, a Cuban-born pitcher who defected in 2008 and was a first-round draft pick in 2011, easily won National League Rookie of the Year honors Monday over fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fernandez had 26 first-place votes and Puig had the other four.
In the American League, Will Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays, a midseason call-up, was the easy winner with 23 of the 30 first-place votes. Myers was obtained from the Kansas City Royals in the offseason in a trade that sent pitcher James Shields to the Kansas City Royals.
Free agents aren't the only way to pick up players in the offseason, of course, and while teams are planning their strategy to perhaps go for a big name on the market, they're also talking with their fellow GMs about ways to improve via trades.
One of the teams likely fielding calls these days are the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have four capable starting outfielders and owe three of them a lot of money. And one of them is not Yasiel Puig, who will find out Monday if he is National League Rookie of the Year. (My guess, no.)
Regardless, Puig is relatively cheap ($3.71 million next season) and a building block for the franchise. It's no coincidence that the Dodgers became a first-place team after calling him up from the minors.
But the Dodgers will still listen, and if somebody blows them away, would they part with their Cuban phenom? He's probably the easiest to trade, because the Dodgers owe all of them a Brinks truck or two. Here are the candidates:
- Matt Kemp (.270, 6 HR, 33 RBI, .723 OPS in 2013, age 29, $21 million in 2014, signed through 2019)
- Andre Ethier (.272, 12 HR, 52 RBI, .783 OPS in 2013, age 31, $15.5 million in 2014, signed through 2018)
- Carl Crawford (.283, 6 HR, 31 RBI, .736 OPS in 2013, age 32, $20.25 million in 2014, signed through 2016)
- Yasiel Puig (.319, 19 HR, 42 RBI, .925 OPS in 2013, age 22, $3.71 million in 2014, signed through 2018)
It's very likely that at least one of them won't be in Dodger blue in spring training. And the Dodgers would probably have to heavily finance any potential deal, aside from Puig. And it seems they'd be crazy to trade Puig, but Mark Saxon of ESPNLA believes they should entertain offers, because Puig would command a fair return in value. The other three? They might be lucky to get anything of value -- or another team's problem -- as Kemp, Ethier and Crawford each have extended injury histories and contracts that will be very difficult to deal.
Aside from Puig, they might get the most for Kemp, who when healthy is one of the best players in the game. He was dependable from 2008-11, but now is coming off ankle surgery. He's also just 30 and will be a bounce-back candidate in 2014. But he's still owed $128 million. Meanwhile, it feels like both Ethier and Crawford have peaked. That's especially true for Crawford, who built his reputation on speed, and he's no longer that kind of player.