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  • Better Than the Babe

    Hey, so I got a cool idea for a thread, and hopefully can get a lot of people to participate. This is as much a persuasive writing exercise as it is baseball.

    The assignment is to choose a position player, and make an argument for him being better than Babe Ruth. 99% of posters here consider Ruth the greatest ever, including myself. But I can see an argument potentially being made for Mays, Cobb, Wagner, Williams, or Bonds.

    So pick a guy and go for it. You don't necessarily have to believe what you're saying; just make it as persuasive as you can. You don't have to pick one of the guys I listed above, either. I'd love to see an argument for a more off-the-wall pick. (Mantle? Hornsby? Bob Caruthers?)

  • #2
    Originally posted by abacab
    I'd love to see an argument for a more off-the-wall pick. (Mantle? Hornsby? Bob Caruthers?)
    Sammy Byrd, Hub Pruett
    Mythical SF Chronicle scouting report: "That Jeff runs like a deer. Unfortunately, he also hits AND throws like one." I am Venus DeMilo - NO ARM! I can play like a big leaguer, I can field like Luzinski, run like Lombardi. The secret to managing is keeping the ones who hate you away from the undecided ones. I am a triumph of quantity over quality. I'm almost useful, every village needs an idiot.
    Good traders: MadHatter(2), BoofBonser26, StormSurge

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    • #3
      --Abacab, be prepared for a deluge of Cobb arguements. Ty has plenty of supporters so I'll leave that one alone. I think a reasonable arguement can be made for Cobb, Mays or Wagner and maybe Williams. I would have included Bonds until recently. Need some time to get a new perspective on him now.
      --I doubt I can convince even myself, but I'll try to find time to argue for at least one of these guys. Perhaps Mantle if somebody beats me with a good arguement on the other guys. If I really feel like taking a beating I might even post a Schmidt argument.

      Comment


      • #4
        Why Willie is better than the Babe

        --Just a quick one to get the discussion started before it turns into another Ruth-Cobb thread.
        --I'll concede from the outset that Babe Ruth was a better hitter than Willie Mays. The only guy you could make a hitters arguement for against the Babe would be Ted Williams. The gap between them isn't as wide as it may appear at first glance though. Everyone knows that Babe Ruth once hit more HR than any other team in baseball. That is true and impressive. It is also true that Ruth did so in the only narrow window in time when such a thing was possible.
        --In the first years of the live ball Ruth was the only front line star who was swinging for the fences. He didn't need to adjust to the new conditons because he was already a big swinger even in the deadball era. Within a few years several other players were posting HR totals which, while short of Ruth's mark, would have beaten whole teams just a few years before.
        --Of course, Ruth posted some relative numbers AFTER the other players had made adjustments which also are better than Mays best. However, we need to remember that it was much more difficult to separate from the pack when Mays was playing. The NL of the 50s and 60s was quite possibly the highest level of competiton ever achieved in MLB. It was clearly better than the AL of the 20s and 30s. Ruth was a better hitter, but the gap is not so immense that it can't be made up elsewhere.
        --Willie Mays was arguably the best defensive CF of all time. He was fat the very least amoung the all time elite. Babe Ruth was a best a fairly good corner OFer. He appears to have been above average in his younger days, but even then was switched back and forth between LF and RF to keep in in whichever field had less ground to cover. Later as his weight balloned he became a liability in the field. His last few years he was most likely the worst defensive player in the league. He was frequently taken out for defensive replacements. I'm not sure how much of the offense gap between Ruth this narrows, but it is a significant advantage for Mays.
        --Mays was also the best baserunner of his time. Basestealing was not a big part of the game in his younger days so it is difficult to rank him amoung the best all time, but he was exceptional. Ruth had decent speed as a young player. He was, however, very reckless and was probably a liability on the basepaths even then. Again as he weight increased he became a severe liability on the bases. Later in his career, backup OFer Sammy Byrd pinch ran for Ruth so often he got the nickname "Babe Ruth's legs". Another huge advantage for Mays.
        --Mays was also regarded as an exceptionally smart player and a team leader. Ruth was not noted for his intellect or his dedication to the team. He was frequently suspended for failure to follow team rules. He was also famous for his inability to remember even the names of many of his teammates.
        --Babe Ruth was the greatest hitter of all time. He put more runs on the scoreboard than anybody else and I've always ranked him number one for that. However, If you look at the total package and put it in context there is a very good argument that Mays was more valuable to his teams.

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        • #5
          oh my

          well that was quick
          Deepest regrets, I forgot to voice my opinon, and that is: I WHOLLY AGREE WITH LEECE (as usual).
          Last edited by charlesTG126; 12-14-2004, 12:28 PM.
          Back like I never left

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          • #6
            Yankee Stadium was nicknamed the "House that Ruth built" for a reason.

            Babe Ruth alone was the single largest draw in sports during his career.

            Babe Ruth is the single most merchandised athlete ever with over 3000 items.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by julusnc
              Yankee Stadium was nicknamed the "House that Ruth built" for a reason.

              Babe Ruth alone was the single largest draw in sports during his career.

              Babe Ruth is the single most merchandised athlete ever with over 3000 items.
              Alfalfa: "Why, some people pay as much as ten cents to see Romeo and Juliet,"

              Joe: "That don't prove nothing."

              I'm not arguing against Ruth so much as arguing against this argument. None of these points is a testament to Ruth's greatness as a player in comparison to other players.

              Pat Boone is still in the top ten for records sold during the "rock era" and was hugely marketed and well known. No one in their right mind will say Boone was one of rock and roll's all time greats. Superficial evidence is not enough.
              Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
              Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
              Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
              Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
              Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

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              • #8
                Mays is a good choice, almost too easy, when considering other facets of the game besides hitting. Although I'm also having second thoughts about Bonds, with the last four years erased, his offense production challenges if not exceeds Mays, his base running was as aggressive and productive, and he has enough GGs to be credible as a fielder.

                But I think there is a fundamental flaw in the premise of the thread. Best position player of all time is like asking what's the best tool manufacturer of all time. Wrenches? Stationary equipment? Power drills? There are some aspects of baseball that a reasonable comparison cannot cross, anymore than you can compare the value of a delta table saw to a porter cable router, or a sears craftsmen socket wrench with a lifetime guarantee.

                How can a direct comparison be made between the value of a catcher or shortstop and an outfielder? How about breaking this thread up into a couple of subgroups first, and put the top candidates from each subgroup in a runoff. For example:
                Infielders / Defense / Offense / Intangibles
                Outfielders / Defense / Offense / Intangibles
                Catchers / Defense / Offense / Intangibles

                There would also be merit in looking at discreet periods based on the prevailing conditions to account for the differences in equipment and other factors like the deadball, the juiced ball (30's and present?), pre/post WWII, etc. The All Century Ballot was a good start, despite some of the strange choices for candidates by position. But for a quick peek, scan the charts for the six categories of the All Century Ballot.

                These categories should be weighted by by consensus before throwing the top candidates in each group into the runoff pool. How much value does a catcher deserve for exceptional defense, pickoffs, pitcher management, and leadership, as opposed to strictly looking at offense production? The pitcher and catcher handle the ball on every pitch. An outfielder gets a couple plays per game.

                Stirkeouts and walks account for around 20% of all plate appearances, a position player other than the catcher has about a one in seven chance of handling a hit ball, and assuming (WAG) somewhere between 3 and 4 pitches per plate appearance, my rough calculation would have a catcher handling the ball 35 times for each time another position player handles a ball. This applies to first basemen who generally handle most infield hits, and the other infielders who touch the ball on double plays.

                Taking offense, baserunning and the ability to catch a fly ball as the prime criteria neglects a huge part of the game (keeping batters off the bases, and making outs with infield plays once runners are on base).

                How about it? Give Bench a chance! Give Schmidt a chance! Jackie Robinson, Wagner, Hornsby! Hell, give Ozzie a chance! Can't we all just get along? End preferential treatment for Outfielders, people! Let's put an END to this Discrimination!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by leecemark
                  --Babe Ruth was the greatest hitter of all time. He put more runs on the scoreboard than anybody else and I've always ranked him number one for that. However, If you look at the total package and put it in context there is a very good argument that Mays was more valuable to his teams.
                  Mark-
                  My heart stopped....are you actually going to change your mind on something and move Ruth out of the alltime spot!?!? Santo Dios!!!
                  Last edited by csh19792001; 12-14-2004, 11:52 PM. Reason: adding a cute emoticon

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                  • #10
                    --Chris, I change my mind frequently. It is just usually in directions you don't approve of, such as moving Cobb down from 2 to 4. or adding Negro Leaguers to my rankings This particular thread, however, asked for people to make an argument against the Babe even if they didn't really believe it.
                    --When I made that post I was just trying to go along with abacab's idea as an intellectual challenge to see if I could craft a reasonable arguement for someone over the Babe. I succeeded beyond my own expectations as everything I said in favor of Mays over Ruth is almost indisputably true. Whether Mays huge edge in everything except hitting is truely enough to make him more valauble than Ruth is open to question.
                    --I convinced myself to consider the question, but haven't quite made the leap to move down the player I've ranked #1 since before I even really thought about ranking players. I'll have to think on it some more.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by leecemark
                      -- Whether Mays huge edge in everything except hitting is truely enough to make him more valauble than Ruth is open to question.
                      That is "the question." Although points can be made for Mays based on all around ability does it over come Ruth's hugh lead in the hitting department. One has to remember not only did Ruth hit 714 home runs but he is 5th in career batting average for all hitters who played most of their career post 1900. Thats saying something, a guy swinging from the heels and only 4 hitters in modern times had a higher career batting average. Plus lots of walks and he second to Ted Williams in OBA by only .008 points
                      Last edited by SHOELESSJOE3; 12-15-2004, 05:52 AM.

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                      • #12
                        --Of course Ruth also played in the era where the league had BY FAR its highest BA in post 1900 history as well. The gap between Ruth and Mays BA relative to league is much less than their raw BA and that is what we should really be looking at.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by leecemark
                          --Of course Ruth also played in the era where the league had BY FAR its highest BA in post 1900 history as well. The gap between Ruth and Mays BA relative to league is much less than their raw BA and that is what we should really be looking at.
                          Thats a good point and I should have covered that in my pevious post because when ever Ruth's average is part of the issue the high league batting average at that time usually crops up, and it should.

                          What makes Ruth's .342 unique at that time is the fact that he was a long baller and most of baseball was playing contact ball. During the 1920's decade Ruth held a .355 average, 5th highest in that decade. Considering he was competing with a league, both leagues a game full of contact hitters that.355 in the twenties and .342 career look pretty good. During the 1920's strikeouts were looked down on, most hitters attached a shame to it, just meet the ball, thats what the majority were doing.

                          You can also compare Ruth and Mays and how high they hit over the league in the time they played. Looking at it that way eliminates any advantage or skewed numbers. No one has the edge when they are compared to the hitters who played in their time, same ball, same rules and same conditions.

                          Ruth in his time hit 62 points higher than the league.
                          Mays in his time hit 49 points higher than the league.

                          Not to beat this one to death (I hope not) but Ruth played almost all his career competing with contact hitters and as a slugger still hit way over the league..
                          Mays played in a time when most played the game the same way, a good number swinging away, the long ball was in, strikeouts were on the rise.

                          Actually, I was surprised that Willie hit that much higher (49 points) than the league. For sure, Willie, with everything else he did so well has to be in the mix if the issue is the top 5 or 10 players all time.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SHOELESSJOE3
                            Thats a good point and I should have covered that in my pevious post because when ever Ruth's average is part of the issue the high league batting average at that time usually crops up, and it should.

                            What makes Ruth's .342 unique at that time is the fact that he was a long baller and most of baseball was playing contact ball. During the 1920's decade Ruth held a .355 average, 5th highest in that decade. Considering he was competing with a league, both leagues a game full of contact hitters that.355 in the twenties and .342 career look pretty good. During the 1920's strikeouts were looked down on, most hitters attached a shame to it, just meet the ball, thats what the majority were doing.

                            You can also compare Ruth and Mays and how high they hit over the league in the time they played. Looking at it that way eliminates any advantage or skewed numbers. No one has the edge when they are compared to the hitters who played in their time, same ball, same rules and same conditions.

                            Ruth in his time hit 62 points higher than the league.
                            Mays in his time hit 49 points higher than the league.

                            Not to beat this one to death (I hope not) but Ruth played almost all his career competing with contact hitters and as a slugger still hit way over the league..
                            Mays played in a time when most played the game the same way, a good number swinging away, the long ball was in, strikeouts were on the rise.

                            Actually, I was surprised that Willie hit that much higher (49 points) than the league. For sure, Willie, with everything else he did so well has to be in the mix if the issue is the top 5 or 10 players all time.
                            These are all good points- got to give Ruth the props for his awesome average AND power. But BA is Willie weakest suit, you have to remember. His fielding was vastly better at a much more difficult and important position, his baserunning was several classes above Ruth, who was agressive but known to be reckless. And, of course, both played in low basestealing eras, but Mays was still outstanding, stealing 338 bases at a very good percentage rate. Ruth stole relatively few bases by comparison, and did so at a godawful rate- had they kept CS his first 6 years in the league, he might be under 50% for his career.

                            Mark was right on the money- does Babe's huge advantage at the plate make up for the rest?

                            Or, perhaps, even more to the point- if Babe Ruth played from 1951-73 instead of 1914-35, could he possibly have put up the numbers he did? (especially the relative numbers, which is what people look at the most these days). Could he possibly have slugged .690 and hit .342 with 714 home runs playing in more modern times?
                            Last edited by csh19792001; 12-15-2004, 06:32 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by SHOELESSJOE3
                              You can also compare Ruth and Mays and how high they hit over the league in the time they played. Looking at it that way eliminates any advantage or skewed numbers. No one has the edge when they are compared to the hitters who played in their time, same ball, same rules and same conditions.
                              Joe, as to the last sentence, the obvious Devil Advocacy is that yes, even adjusting stats, the person has the edge who played against the weaker overall league.

                              And looking at relative slugging doesn't tell us much, because as Mark correctly noted (Ill extrapolate here a bit), for over 10 years (~1918-28), the league HR/G was never higher than .43/Game. During the Babe's best years (20', 21' and 1923), the entire American League hit (369 (.30/g), 477 (.39/g), and 442 (.36) home runs).

                              During Willie's best years, (say, 54', 58', and 65'), the HR/G was .66/g, .85/g, and .85/g. So stats like relative slugging and OPS+ are skewed in favor of Ruth, who was playing his own game for a better part of 10 years. Of course, he continued to dominate even when the league became more slugging/HR oriented.
                              Last edited by csh19792001; 12-15-2004, 03:29 PM.

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