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  • Joe Posnanski's "Baseball 100"

    This is Joe's third stab at compiling a list of the 100 greatest players in baseball history. He has been publishing the list at The Athletic (subscription required), releasing one per day in a countdown to Opening Day. I'll let Poz explain what he's doing.

    The first attempt crashed around No. 30.

    I began the series again last year because I got very excited about this new ranking formula that that estimable Tom Tango helped me come up with. That series flamed out more quickly.

    This time, the third time, is the charm. Beginning Wednesday, Dec. 18, and ending on Opening Day, we at The Athletic will count down the 100 greatest baseball players with long essays telling many stories. And I should say that this list will include several all-time greats who never played Major League Baseball. Well, you will see.

    Let me say something right at the top about the rankings themselves: You may care a lot about those. You will probably get mad when you see which players I have left out, which players I have ranked way too low or way too high. You might want me to know just how dumb I am, just how little I know about baseball, just how insulting the ranking was. I totally get it. And I totally deserve whatever you are going to say because it takes some serious gall to believe that you can really rank the 100 greatest baseball players ever.

    I will add this because I think it’s important to say: I don’t care much about the rankings. Yes, I spent many, many, many hours on them. I used the Tom Tango-inspired formula, added a bunch of wrinkles, did a bunch of research and made some hard judgments that I believe in.

    But the point of this for me is not the ranking but the stories. Every one of these players has a fascinating story — about persistence, about confidence, about pure talent, about amazing moments, about the lengths people will go to become quote-unquote “great.” The stories are what inspired me to do this bonkers thing.
    I would love to share many of the wonderful stories that Joe has written, but since this is a subscription site, I won't do that. I do think sharing his list, however, is fair game. Perhaps it will spur some discussion on some of the players and/or inspire others to do their own.

    1. Willie Mays
    2. Babe Ruth
    3. Barry Bonds
    4. Hank Aaron
    5. Oscar Charleston
    6. Ted Williams
    7. Walter Johnson
    8. Ty Cobb
    9. Stan Musial
    10. Satchel Paige
    11. Mickey Mantle
    12. Honus Wagner
    13. Roger Clemens
    14. Lou Gehrig
    15. Josh Gibson
    16. Alex Rodriguez
    17. Rogers Hornsby
    18. Tris Speaker
    20. Mike Schmidt
    20. Frank Robinson
    21. Joe Morgan
    22. Lefty Grove
    23. Albert Pujols
    24. Rickey Henderson
    25. Pop Lloyd
    26. Pete Alexander
    27. Mike Trout
    28. Randy Johnson
    29. Eddie Collins
    30. Johnny Bench
    31. Greg Maddux
    32. Mel Ott
    33. Jimmie Foxx
    34. Cy Young
    35. George Brett
    36. Christy Mathewson
    37. Pedro Martinez
    38. Carl Yastrzemski
    39. Nap Lajoie
    40. Roberto Clemente
    41. Tom Seaver
    42. Jackie Robinson
    43. Yogi Berra
    44. Cal Ripken
    45. Bob Gibson
    46. Eddie Mathews
    47. Wade Boggs
    48. Ken Griffey Jr.
    49. Warren Spahn
    50. Nolan Ryan
    51. Al Kaline
    52. Adrian Beltre
    53. Buck Leonard
    54. Chipper Jones
    55. Bob Feller
    56. Joe DiMaggio
    57. Rod Carew
    58. Jeff Bagwell
    59. Reggie Jackson
    60. Pete Rose
    61. Arky Vaughan
    62. Smoky Joe Williams
    63. Steve Carlton
    64. Johnny Mize
    65. Ernie Banks
    66. Robin Yount
    67. Hank Greenberg
    68. Gaylord Perry
    69. Monte Irvin
    70. Sandy Koufax
    71. Bert Blyleven
    72. Robin Roberts
    73. Brooks Robinson
    74. Frank Thomas
    75. Justin Verlander
    76. Willie McCovey
    77. Miguel Cabrera
    78. Clayton Kershaw
    79. Derek Jeter
    80. Carlton Fisk
    81. Fergie Jenkins
    82. Kid Nichols
    83. Phil Niekro
    84. Cool Papa Bell
    85. Sadaharu Oh
    86. Gary Carter
    87. Charlie Gehringer
    88. Curt Schilling
    89. Mike Piazza
    90. Max Scherzer
    91. Mariano Rivera
    92. Bullet Rogan
    93. Ozzie Smith
    94. Roy Campanella
    95. Tony Gwynn
    96. Larry Walker
    97. Roberto Alomar
    98. Carlos Beltran
    99. Mike Mussina
    100. Ichiro Suzuki

    Poz said the following about how his list was compiled:
    Because of this, I will not go into great detail about my ranking. Some of it is science, but admittedly some of it also art. I will give you a handful of guiding principles:

    1. I think today’s players tend to be underrated compared to those who came before them.

    2. I lean toward players who were great at their peak, even if that peak only lasted a short time, and lean away from those who were consistently but not toweringly good for a long time.

    3. I lean toward players who did multiple things well over specialists (no matter how great) who basically did just one thing well.

    4. I take a lot of care to make educated guesses about players whose careers were shortened by things beyond their control — World War II, for example, or baseball’s tragic and infuriating color line. I don’t make the same adjustment for injuries. As Bill James has written, there’s a big difference. The years when Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams or Bob Feller were at war, the years when Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston played in the Negro Leagues, they were still the best players on earth. They just couldn’t play in the big leagues because of larger issues. When players get hurt — take Don Mattingly, for example, and his back problems — they stop being the best players in the world. I wish Donnie Baseball didn’t get hurt, we all do, but he did, and he was never quite the same player after that. That’s not the same as saying that Bob Feller lost four years when he was still the best pitcher on earth.

    5. I have done a lot of research about the Negro Leagues to estimate the greatness of the players there. I try to be as unsentimental about this as I possibly can. I do not rank Satchel Paige based on dreamy views. He is exactly where I think he belongs on the list.

    As for the rest: This list is a moving target. I have done it three times using different methods and the rankings are quite different. This is because there’s no significant difference between a player ranked 72 and 48 and 31. I could swap them, for the most part, without it changing much of anything. So if you believe a player ranked 97th should actually be 53rd, well, it might be that way the next time.

    And finally: The toughest part of doing this list was cutting it off at 100. There are 25 or so players who I think are just as deserving to be on this list as anyone in the bottom 50. It was brutal narrowing things down, but that’s how such lists go. I want to write about the 25 players who just missed, but I can’t do that now because it would ruin some of the suspense. So maybe we’ll do that at the end.
    I will not be posting the individual player write-ups, which are honestly the meat of the series and worth the price of a subscription, but fear not - rumor is that Joe will be publishing this list in book form sometime in the future!

    Just another historical list for us to quibble over. Have fun!
    Last edited by Chadwick; 04-10-2020, 06:47 AM.
    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

  • #2
    Poznanski's Rankings By Position


    Pitchers
    1. Walter Johnson (7)
    2. Satchel Paige (10)
    3. Roger Clemens (13)
    4. Lefty Grove (22)
    5. Pete Alexander (26)
    6. Randy Johnson (28)
    7. Greg Maddux (31)
    8. Cy Young (34)
    9. Christy Mathewson (36)
    10. Pedro Martinez (37)
    11. Tom Seaver (41)
    12. Bob Gibson (45)
    13. Warren Spahn (49)
    14. Nolan Ryan (50)
    15. Bob Feller (55)
    16. Smoky Joe Williams (62)
    17. Steve Carlton (63)
    18. Gaylord Perry (68)
    19. Sandy Koufax (70)
    20. Bert Blyleven (71)
    21. Robin Roberts (72)
    22. Justin Verlander (75)
    23. Clayton Kershaw (78)
    24. Fergie Jenkins (81)
    25. Kid Nichols (82)
    26. Phil Niekro (83)
    27. Curt Schilling (88)
    28. Max Scherzer (90)
    29. Mariano Rivera (91)
    30. Bullet Rogan (92)
    31. Mike Mussina (99)


    Catchers
    1. Josh Gibson (15)
    2. Johnny Bench (30)
    3. Yogi Berra (43)
    4. Carlton Fisk (80)
    5. Gary Carter (86)
    6. Mike Piazza (89)
    7. Roy Campanella (94)


    First Basemen
    1. Lou Gehrig (14)
    2. Albert Pujols (23)
    3. Jimmie Foxx (33)
    4. Buck Leonard (53)
    5. Jeff Bagwell (58)
    6. Johnny Mize (64)
    7. Hank Greenberg (67)
    8. Frank Thomas (74)
    9. Willie McCovey (76)
    10. Miguel Cabrera (77)
    11. Sadaharu Oh (85)


    Second Basemen
    1. Rogers Hornsby (17)
    2. Joe Morgan (21)
    3. Eddie Collins (29)
    4. Nap Lajoie (39)
    5. Jackie Robinson (42)
    6. Rod Carew (57)
    7. Charlie Gehringer (87)
    8. Roberto Alomar (97)


    Third Basemen
    1. Mike Schmidt (20 tie)
    2. George Brett (35)
    3. Eddie Mathews (46)
    4. Wade Boggs (47)
    5. Adrian Beltre (52)
    6. Chipper Jones (54)
    7. Brooks Robinson (73)


    Shortstops
    1. Honus Wagner (12)
    2. Alex Rodriguez (16)
    3. Pop Lloyd (25)
    4. Cal Ripken (44)
    5. Arky Vaughan (61)
    6. Ernie Banks (65)
    7. Robin Yount (66)
    8. Derek Jeter (79)
    9. Ozzie Smith (93)


    Left Fielders
    1. Barry Bonds (3)
    2. Ted Williams (6)
    3. Stan Musial (9)
    4. Rickey Henderson (24)
    5. Carl Yastrzemski (38)
    6. Pete Rose (60)
    7. Monte Irvin (69)


    Center Fielders
    1. Willie Mays (1)
    2. Oscar Charleston (5)
    3. Ty Cobb (8)
    4. Mickey Mantle (11)
    5. Tris Speaker (18)
    6. Mike Trout (27)
    7. Ken Griffey Jr. (48)
    8. Joe DiMaggio (56)
    9. Cool Papa Bell (84)
    10. Carlos Beltran (98)


    Right Fielders
    1. Babe Ruth (2)
    2. Hank Aaron (4)
    3. Frank Robinson (20 tie)
    4. Mel Ott (32)
    5. Roberto Clemente (40)
    6. Al Kaline (51)
    7. Reggie Jackson (59)
    8. Tony Gwynn (95)
    9. Larry Walker (96)
    10. Ichiro Suzuki (100)
    Last edited by Chadwick; 04-10-2020, 06:48 AM.
    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

    Comment


    • #3
      Cool Papa Bell at 85!!!

      No one but me has voted for him in our other project. Come on people!!!
      This week's Giant

      #5 in games played as a Giant with 1721 , Bill Terry

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by JR Hart View Post
        Cool Papa Bell at 85!!!

        No one but me has voted for him in our other project. Come on people!!!
        Joe is a wonderful writer, particularly for a sports reporter, but Bell is one of those selections where I think Poz's sentimentality got the best of him. What researchers have been able to unearth in Negro League statistics over the decades does not tend to support the legends. Bell's greatest advocate in the 1970s, when these players were initially considered for Cooperstown, was Satchel Paige, his former roommate, who was still alive then.

        I'd rather have Richie Ashburn, for example, over Bell on my team. To me, Bell seems to have been Curt Flood with a longer career with Lou Brock's speed. That's a Hall of Famer if there had been such a Major Leaguer - Billy Hamilton, anyone? - but having played his entire career outside the Majors, that makes his projections less certain than actual MLB production. I go back-and-forth on Bell as a borderline Hall of Famer.

        I'm very comfortable keeping him out of my top 100 players list, however. I don't see that as particularly controversial. After all, if Bell is in there, shouldn't we expect Oscar Charleston, Turkey Stearnes and Cristobal Torriente, among other Negro League CFers, to be even higher? I'd bet good money that Poz only has Charleston from that list on his top 100. We'll see.

        Still, YMMV and this is Poz's list, not mine, not yours. JR, where do you rank Bell among CF, all-time? He's no better than the 4th-greatest Negro Leaguer for me and definitely outside my top 10.

        I am happy to see a good number of Negro Leaguers (and an NPB legend) on this list. I just happen to think Poz got the "wrong" guy in Bell.
        "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
        "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
        "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
        "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
          To me, Bell seems to have been Curt Flood with a longer career with Lou Brock's speed. l.
          In fairness - a Curt Flood that doesn't get blackballed MAY have been a HOFer. Curt Flood with a longer career and Lou Brock speed is a definitely a HOFer.
          1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

          1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

          1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


          The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
          The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Bothrops Atrox View Post
            In fairness - a Curt Flood that doesn't get blackballed MAY have been a HOFer. Curt Flood with a longer career and Lou Brock speed is a definitely a HOFer.
            I believe I said as much in the sentence immediately following the one you quoted.
            "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
            "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
            "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
            "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
              I believe I said as much in the sentence immediately following the one you quoted.
              But why would you be questioning Curt Flood with a long career and Lou Brock speed at #85 all-time and waver back and forth about him being a borderline HOFer?
              I guess I couldn't really read where you stand.

              1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

              1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

              1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


              The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
              The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bothrops Atrox View Post
                But why would you be questioning Curt Flood with a long career and Lou Brock speed at #85 all-time and waver back and forth about him being a borderline HOFer?
                I guess I couldn't really read where you stand.
                Because that construct is my fancy. I don't know that Bell was Flood+Brock. Bell didn't play in the majors. While I'm not going to penalize a Negro Leaguer for that, it does make such judgments less certain. And there's a difference between talent and production. Bell may very well have had those skills - and I'm extremely sympathetic to that for players who "missed" MLB playing time - but it's not gospel.

                I'll say this: if Bell really was Flood+Brock for 20 years, then he's an easy HOF and probably does merit a top 10 appearance at CF (in the 6-10 range). To my understanding, the data we're missing most from his career are for his mid-to-late 20s, which could certainly vault him from a low comp of Brett Butler to an All-Time Great. At worst, Bell is likely a borderline HOFer.

                So yeah, perhaps I'm a little harder than most about Bell being in the top 100. It's not out of the realm of possibility. I'm just not as comfortable saying so as I would be, say, Carlos Beltran's ranking.
                "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
                  Because that construct is my fancy. I don't know that Bell was Flood+Brock. Bell didn't play in the majors. While I'm not going to penalize a Negro Leaguer for that, it does make such judgments less certain. And there's a difference between talent and production. Bell may very well have had those skills - and I'm extremely sympathetic to that for players who "missed" MLB playing time - but it's not gospel.

                  I'll say this: if Bell really was Flood+Brock for 20 years, then he's an easy HOF and probably does merit a top 10 appearance at CF (in the 6-10 range). To my understanding, the data we're missing most from his career are for his mid-to-late 20s, which could certainly vault him from a low comp of Brett Butler to an All-Time Great. At worst, Bell is likely a borderline HOFer.

                  So yeah, perhaps I'm a little harder than most about Bell being in the top 100. It's not out of the realm of possibility. I'm just not as comfortable saying so as I would be, say, Carlos Beltran's ranking.
                  Gotchya...
                  1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                  1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                  1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


                  The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
                  The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    And Joe DiMaggio clocks in at 56 on the list. Get it? 56? *eye roll*
                    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
                      And Joe DiMaggio clocks in at 56 on the list. Get it? 56? *eye roll*
                      Yup. I'm done now.
                      1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                      1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                      1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


                      The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
                      The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I have to wonder what the rationale is for putting Rose 60th. Should be higher, imho.
                        Put it in the books.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          DiMaggio at 56th, about forty spots too low. Bagwell at 58, about twenty places below where he should be. Johnny Mize at 64, even without war(military service) credit at least 15 places two low, with war credit Mize is in the top forty. Rivera at 91? Putting him at number fifty is low. Mike Piazza at 89, 49 may be a bit too low.. The vast majority of those listed are way underrated, only a handful, about eight or best are ran red anywhere near where they should be. Not a very impressive list
                          Last edited by NJRob65; 01-31-2020, 03:19 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
                            And Joe DiMaggio clocks in at 56 on the list. Get it? 56? *eye roll*
                            Makes me wonder if Ted Williams isn't already slotted in at '41.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by layson27 View Post

                              Makes me wonder if Ted Williams isn't already slotted in at '41.
                              I know that when he did this project before, he put Jackie Robinson at #42. He likes to be cute like that. But I don't really mind, as he said in the intro that this is more about the stories than a rigorous attempt at ranking players definitively.
                              Baseball Junk Drawer

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