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If You Were There: Al Kaline vs. Roberto Clemente

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  • If You Were There: Al Kaline vs. Roberto Clemente

    If you saw them play, who did you think was better? It's a limited question, since many didn't have the luxury of seeing many of these players' games. The idea is that if you followed baseball when they played, who did you think was better back then? Don't vote on who you think was better now, but who you thought was better back then.

    This is the beginning of a series of polls on the subject. I am doing it this way because I want it in head-to-head matchups. There are no winners or losers, so the polls should stay open. I'll spread the threads out so the History Forum doesn't get clogged with them. And please, only those who followed baseball when they played should vote. I am ineligible for this poll, and I hope everyone else who isn't either will follow the honor system and not vote. I encourage anyone to participate in the discussion though.
    23
    Roberto Clemente
    56.52%
    13
    Al Kaline
    43.48%
    10
    Last edited by AstrosFan; 03-03-2012, 08:43 AM.
    "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

    - Alvin Dark

  • #2
    --I started following baseball in the late 60s and pretty much everybody thought Clemente was better. I was a Tiger fan growing up in Michigan and even there Clemente was generally regarded as the bigger star. Of course people whose fandom started earlier probably had a higher opinion of Kaline since he was a terrific player immediately, while Clemente was a slow starter. By my time Clemente had run off a string of great seasons while Kaline had been slowed by injury.

    Comment


    • #3
      I followed/listened to/saw Clemente through the entirety of his career, except for 1969-70. Almost the same for Kaline, except that I didn't see much of him because he was in the AL and I was near a NL city.

      Their careers are almost flipflops of each other. Kaline was a star almost immediately, and won a BA title at the age of 20 or 21. Through the early 1960s he was regarded by many as the second best player in the AL behind Mantle. Then, injuries and age deteriorated his game a bit, though he remained a very good player. Clemente, on the other hand, was not a particularly good player through much of the first 4 or 5 years of his career. His great potential was obvious, but he was extremely erratic. But, by 1960 his game was really maturing and he became one of a handful of the biggest stars in the NL for the next decade. Even though he missed quite a few games, Clemente's play in the last dozen years of his career was at a very high level- sort of Kaline in reverse, though maybe that's unfair to Kaline.

      All that said, there were differences in their games. Kaline was a more patient hitter, and displayed more extra base power. Clemente was a slashing line drive hitter who drew relatively few walks. Both ran well, but Clemente was faster. They were both excellent defenders- Kaline was a real picture book outfielder, always seeming to be in the right place, and always seeming to make the right play. Clemente was a helter-skelter guy sometimes, but his great range enabled him to track many difficult drives down. Clemente's arm is legendary, and deservedly, but he was not perfect defensively. He occasionally missed/ignored the cutoff man, and he also muffed an occasional fly.

      I've gone back and forth many times on who I thought was better. In reality, it may be too closer to call. I saw Clemente more so I have stronger opinions about him, both positive and negative. However, I did follow Kaline as closely as I could in those days.

      I've usually ranked Kaline just ahead of Clemente on career, because I tend to go more for power guys, and Kaline had a bit of edge there. Right now, I'm not sure. I really think there should be a third option on this poll, and that's "Too Close to Call".

      Comment


      • #4
        I have always been a Cardinal fan.It always seemed like Clemente was always getting 4 hits a game against us!I remember that he threw out Brock and Flood at home in the same game!Seemed like he never made an out in Wrigley Field against the Cubs on the Game of The Week(ha,ha).The only time that I have ever seen a home run coming(as the pitch was on the way to the plate) was in the 1971 WS.Mike Cuellar had earlier thrown an off-speed pitch to Clemente that Roberto got out in front of and rapped the ball to SS.During Clemente`s next at bat,Cuellar threw the same pitch.For a fraction of a split second I could tell Roberto was waiting for it-(no lunging this time around)Bam!Homer!The camera angle was from center field to home plate just like the first at bat.I think I muttered "goodbye" while the pitch was on it`s way to the plate.Back then,I thought Clemente was the greatest,most gifted talent I ever saw(not sure I`ve changed my mind-at least by what I have seen with my own eyes)!
        Last edited by Nimrod; 03-03-2012, 10:34 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Clemente played in the stronger more competitive more integrated league

          Kaline played in a friendly home run park in Detroit
          Clemente played in the much more spacious Forbes Field

          Kaline was an excellent defenderand had 10 gold gloves
          Clemente was superior to that and had 12 gold gloves

          Kaline slugged .458 and hit 173 HR in 1413 road games
          Clemente slugged .463 and 138 HR in 1149 road games

          Clemente was a great post season player

          Kaline had 8 top nine MVP vote seasons and 4 top 5 finishing as high as #2
          Clemente had 8 top nine MVP vote seasons (in a stronger league) and 4 top 5 finishes and finished as high as #1

          Kaline led the league in BA once
          Clemente led the league in BA 4 times
          a few assorted other black dots for both

          Clemente had 266 career assists Kaline 170

          intangibles: CLemente was the more well known more glamourized player

          I have to give the nod by a fair margin to Clemente
          Last edited by 9RoyHobbsRF; 03-03-2012, 02:20 PM.
          1. The more I learn, the more convinced I am that many players are over-rated due to inflated stats from offensive home parks (and eras)
          2. Strat-O-Matic Baseball Player, Collector and Hobbyist since 1969, visit my strat site: http://forums.delphiforums.com/GamersParadise
          3. My table top gaming blog: http://cary333.blogspot.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            --I would dispute many of Mr Hobbs points. Clemente was the flashier player and did a couple things really well - hit for average and throw. Kaline was very good at both of those things and better at everything else. Forbes was actually a terrific park for Clemente - probably better tailored for him than Tiger Stadium for Kaline. It did cut down HR, but those huge alleys increased singles, doubles and triples. Clemente wasn't going to be a great HR hitter anywhere so Forbes really played to his strengths. So while I agree he was perceived as the greater player, I think it is much more questionable whether he really was.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by leecemark View Post
              --I would dispute many of Mr Hobbs points. Clemente was the flashier player and did a couple things really well - hit for average and throw. Kaline was very good at both of those things and better at everything else. Forbes was actually a terrific park for Clemente - probably better tailored for him than Tiger Stadium for Kaline. It did cut down HR, but those huge alleys increased singles, doubles and triples. Clemente wasn't going to be a great HR hitter anywhere so Forbes really played to his strengths. So while I agree he was perceived as the greater player, I think it is much more questionable whether he really was.
              You beat me to it on Forbes Field, leece- Forbes Field was a very good hitting park for Clemente. He was a line drive hitter with gap power. FF had probably the biggest gaps in baseball. Also, because the outfield was so big, fielders often played an extra step or 2 away from the foul lines to try to cheat the gaps a little. This made it even better for liners down the line. Paul waner perfected it, and Clemente followed suit 30 years later. Clemente DID lose some homers to FF- all righthanders did- but he never was going to be a real big homer guy- so the tradeoff was very fair for him.

              I maintain, as I stated in my earlier post, that it is very difficult to make a call between these two guys. I do think that when Clemente had everything going, in the mid-60s, he was a little better as a peak player than Kaline- but only a little.

              Comment


              • #8
                Also,Forbes`infield was like concrete.One hop shots would fly out of it like angry hornets!Admittedly,Roberto`s strikeout to walks ratio was close to miserable for a great hitter.Historically,with a few exceptions(Edgar Martinez,Minnie Minosa),Latin players like to take their cuts,they don`t draw many walks.Someone told me that there is a saying that "you don`t get off the island with the bat on your shoulder".It might make for a good trivia question:"Who Are the Only Latin American Players To Get Over A 1,000 Career Bases On Balls"?Manny Ramirez,Martinez,Carew(and he only averaged 67 per season).Pujols will join them next season.Otherwise,can`t think of nary a one!
                Last edited by Nimrod; 03-03-2012, 04:34 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Leecemark and Big Ron said pretty much everything that I would have said. I am the one vote thus for for Kaline but it's extremely close.

                  Roberto's 2 main strengths were his BA and his throwing arm. Kaline was good there but not as good as Roberto. But, Kaline had a strong accurate arm while Roberto could on occasion be a wild cannon.

                  Clemente's BA was outstanding, Forbes Field helped him quite a bit with the spacious OF particularly in the gaps. But his BA was a huge portion of his OBP. Roberto made a ton of outs with his style of hitting. Kaline was the more patient hitter and had a bit more power, mostly thanks to Tiger Stadium being much more friendly to homers than Forbes.

                  From strictly a fan's point of view, Clemente was exceitement personified, perhaps only Willie Mays was better at generating excitement and flair. Kaline, like Hank Aaron, was about as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow. Both Kaline and Aaron were fine players, Aaron the superior one, but compared to Clemente for excitement, were, well, boring.

                  I do give Roberto props for playing at a high level longer than Kaline who was best by injuries in the latter half of his career but at their peak, I have to go with Al.

                  Yankees Fan Since 1957

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by yanks0714 View Post
                    Leecemark and Big Ron said pretty much everything that I would have said. I am the one vote thus for for Kaline but it's extremely close.

                    Roberto's 2 main strengths were his BA and his throwing arm. Kaline was good there but not as good as Roberto. But, Kaline had a strong accurate arm while Roberto could on occasion be a wild cannon.

                    Clemente's BA was outstanding, Forbes Field helped him quite a bit with the spacious OF particularly in the gaps. But his BA was a huge portion of his OBP. Roberto made a ton of outs with his style of hitting. Kaline was the more patient hitter and had a bit more power, mostly thanks to Tiger Stadium being much more friendly to homers than Forbes.

                    From strictly a fan's point of view, Clemente was exceitement personified, perhaps only Willie Mays was better at generating excitement and flair. Kaline, like Hank Aaron, was about as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow. Both Kaline and Aaron were fine players, Aaron the superior one, but compared to Clemente for excitement, were, well, boring.

                    I do give Roberto props for playing at a high level longer than Kaline who was best by injuries in the latter half of his career but at their peak, I have to go with Al.
                    I was about to make the Mays/Aaron comparison, until I saw this post. I will just add that, if you were a young boy in the late 50's, and your team was the Milwaukee Braves, Hank Aaron was anything but boring.
                    They call me Mr. Baseball. Not because of my love for the game; because of all the stitches in my head.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Kaline benefitted from his home park

                      Clemente actually outslugged Kaline in road games, playing against stronger competition

                      we know CLemente was the better defender and the better baserunner and now he outslugs him in road games aginst better competition

                      Clemente had 5 seasons with a WAR higher than 7.0 Kaline had 3 and Clemente's were in a better integrated more competitive league

                      Kaline played in 150 or more games 3 times, Clemente did it 4 times

                      Kaline had 75 triples in his career, Clemente had 63 triples in ROAD games and 166 in his career

                      the choice is a no brainer as the voting reflects


                      Originally posted by leecemark View Post
                      --I would dispute many of Mr Hobbs points. Clemente was the flashier player and did a couple things really well - hit for average and throw. Kaline was very good at both of those things and better at everything else. Forbes was actually a terrific park for Clemente - probably better tailored for him than Tiger Stadium for Kaline. It did cut down HR, but those huge alleys increased singles, doubles and triples. Clemente wasn't going to be a great HR hitter anywhere so Forbes really played to his strengths. So while I agree he was perceived as the greater player, I think it is much more questionable whether he really was.
                      Last edited by 9RoyHobbsRF; 03-04-2012, 09:37 AM.
                      1. The more I learn, the more convinced I am that many players are over-rated due to inflated stats from offensive home parks (and eras)
                      2. Strat-O-Matic Baseball Player, Collector and Hobbyist since 1969, visit my strat site: http://forums.delphiforums.com/GamersParadise
                      3. My table top gaming blog: http://cary333.blogspot.com/

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 9RoyHobbsRF View Post
                        Kaline benefitted from his home park

                        Clemente actually outslugged Kaline in road games, playing against stronger competition

                        we know CLemente was the better defender and the better baserunner and now he outslugs him in road games aginst better competition

                        the choice is a no brainer as the voting reflects
                        you may be right in selecting Clemente, but the choice is anything BUT a no brainer. Though different styles of players, they are extremely close.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I've been following baseball since around 1960, and grew up near Detroit as a Tigers fan. And, after admitting my bias, I don't think that it's particularly close between Kaline and Clemente. Kaline was a better player.

                          First of all, most of the home-field home run advantage in Tiger Stadium came to left-handed hitters. Straightaway centerfield was 440 feet from home plate, and the leftfield power alley was a normal 365 feet. Giving Kaline credit for Tiger Stadium is almost as bad as giving Joe DiMaggio credit for playing in homer-friendly Yankee Stadium.

                          Secondly, Kaline's home OPS is much better than Clemente's, but his road OPS is also better than Clemente's, which brings up the other major point. Kaline had more walks at home than he did on the road, but he had more walks in either place than Clemente did in his entire career. Kaline got on base more than Clemente, and OBP is the most important offensive stat.

                          The league imbalance? Well, you start applying it to Hornsby and Ott and Pujols, and I'll start applying it to Mantle, Berra and Kaline.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            there is no question the leagues during Kaline and Clementes time the national league was more integrated had more stars was more competitive and was the better league

                            that is not debatable

                            so Kaline's stats were put up in a friendlier home park against weaker competition

                            the so called walk thing was attributed to a league where ted williams mickey mantle and a host of other players had a ton more walks than their NL counterparts

                            is that due to their good batting eye or just a league where walks were more prevalent

                            I think you will find the latter

                            look at some of the years the al has 4400 walks vs the nl 3800 etc
                            almost a 16% difference
                            is that because al kaline was a better ob guy than clemente or just the league had pitchers who walked more

                            in 1961 the al (10 teams) had a whopping 5900 bases on balls
                            the nl (8 teams) had 3995 a 2000 BB difference

                            this is because al kaline had a better eye vs the free swinging roberto clemente?

                            and being on base is important only if it leads to scoring runs
                            Times scored 100 or more runs in a season: Clemente 3, Kaline 2
                            Times scoring 90 or more runs in a season Clemente 6 Kaline 4

                            MVP awards: Clemente 1 over Kaline 0
                            Gold Glove: Clemmente 12 over Kaline 10
                            First place finishes: Clemente 4, Kaline 2
                            Pennants: Clemente 2 Kaline 1
                            World Championships CLemente 2 Kaline 1
                            Batting championships Clemente 4 Kaline 1
                            200 hit seasons Clemente 4 Kaline 1
                            10 3B seasons Clemente 10 Kaline 1

                            and there is no debate that Clemente played in a more integrated more balanced more competitive league and in a tougher park


                            Originally posted by Gee Walker View Post
                            I've been following baseball since around 1960, and grew up near Detroit as a Tigers fan. And, after admitting my bias, I don't think that it's particularly close between Kaline and Clemente. Kaline was a better player.

                            First of all, most of the home-field home run advantage in Tiger Stadium came to left-handed hitters. Straightaway centerfield was 440 feet from home plate, and the leftfield power alley was a normal 365 feet. Giving Kaline credit for Tiger Stadium is almost as bad as giving Joe DiMaggio credit for playing in homer-friendly Yankee Stadium.

                            Secondly, Kaline's home OPS is much better than Clemente's, but his road OPS is also better than Clemente's, which brings up the other major point. Kaline had more walks at home than he did on the road, but he had more walks in either place than Clemente did in his entire career. Kaline got on base more than Clemente, and OBP is the most important offensive stat.

                            The league imbalance? Well, you start applying it to Hornsby and Ott and Pujols, and I'll start applying it to Mantle, Berra and Kaline.
                            Last edited by 9RoyHobbsRF; 03-04-2012, 10:11 AM.
                            1. The more I learn, the more convinced I am that many players are over-rated due to inflated stats from offensive home parks (and eras)
                            2. Strat-O-Matic Baseball Player, Collector and Hobbyist since 1969, visit my strat site: http://forums.delphiforums.com/GamersParadise
                            3. My table top gaming blog: http://cary333.blogspot.com/

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              lets look at 1967 when Kaline slugged 541 and clemente 557

                              kaline slugged 608 in home games and a pedestrian 484 in road games which clearly shows his home field illusion
                              clemente slugged 573 at home and 537 in road games (including the astrodome and dodgers stadium 2 of the worst offensive parks in history)

                              there is little doubt kalines numbers were inflated not only by a less integrated less competitive inferior league which had a prevalence to have many more bases on balls but that he had a home park illusion as well

                              kaline was more of a slugger than Clemente but remove the home parks and Clemente outslugs Kaline in road games both in typical years like 1967 but career wise as well

                              that speaks volumes
                              Last edited by 9RoyHobbsRF; 03-04-2012, 10:31 AM.
                              1. The more I learn, the more convinced I am that many players are over-rated due to inflated stats from offensive home parks (and eras)
                              2. Strat-O-Matic Baseball Player, Collector and Hobbyist since 1969, visit my strat site: http://forums.delphiforums.com/GamersParadise
                              3. My table top gaming blog: http://cary333.blogspot.com/

                              Comment

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