King of Baseball (cont.)
No one would argue with "Stan The Man" as King -- he was as popular as he was productive -- but it did take a couple blocks of Ted Williams' absence to get Musial his time with the crown. Musial's first reign (spoiler alert!) came due to his play during the war years. That's no knock on him, as he proved that he was among the game's elite even after players returned.
Total WAR: 49.9
Trivia: Musial may not have missed the same amount of time as Williams, but he did take the crown despite sitting out all of 1945 while with the Navy.
With the war absences now gone from the blocks, Williams took his crown back with some vintage Williams seasons. It would take another absence due to another war to get the title away from him. It's fascinating to think what his numbers would look like without those lost seasons.
Total WAR: 44.6
Trivia: From 1945 to 1950, Williams had more than three times as many walks (688) as strikeouts (201).
Musial took the crown back from Williams, ending their back and forth of the title. Today, many would be surprised that Musial would take any block over Williams and Joe DiMaggio. Musial might be the first victim of East Coast Bias, but that hardly tarnishes his crown.
Total WAR: 47.7
Trivia: From 1947-1952, only three players averaged an OPS over 1.000: Musial, Williams and Ralph Kiner.
Yes, to be the man you have to beat the man, and over one five-year block, Robinson did so. It's hard to overstate the importance of Robinson socially, but it's often forgotten just how good he was on the field. He led his Dodgers to three pennants, won the NL MVP in 1949 and treated himself to the crown over one five-year period.
Total WAR: 43.6
Trivia: Only two players stole more than 100 bases in this block: Robinson and his Brooklyn teammate Pee Wee Reese. Robinson was slightly more efficient, getting caught just 19 times to Reese's 25.
Just like any good boxing rivalry, Musial came back, just edging a fading Robinson as well as the likes of Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella, both of whom were in the prime of their careers. Musial did it without a big defensive boost to his adjusted numbers as well.
Total WAR: 44.0
Trivia: From the beginning of Williams' first block in 1939 to the end of Musial's last in 1955, these all-time greats both amassed over 100 WAR. The next player on the list is DiMaggio at 64 WAR.
It's actually a bit more surprising to many that Mantle didn't reign longer as King. He was certainly great, but repeated injuries eventually sapped his effectiveness. His reign wasn't predicated on mythical home run distances, but consistent production as a young player on the biggest stage.
Total WAR: 89.1
Trivia: Mantle lead the majors in strikeouts from 1952-1961 with 1062 and was second in walks with 1086.
Mays not only took the crown from his onetime fellow New York centerfielder Mantle, he never looked back. The career arcs are quite different for Mays and Mantle, with Mays trending upwards and then sustaining a peak level through the later years of his career. Mantle was the opposite, peaking early and then fading slightly through a combination of bad knees and late nights. Mays' defensive prowess kept the crown on his head until his offensive numbers completely collapsed.
Total WAR: 98.6
Trivia: From 1954, when he returned from the Army, to 1965, Mays lead the NL in WAR every year but two.
Perhaps Santo, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this July just over a year after his death, would have been in the Hall of Fame while he was living if we'd calculated the King of Baseball a few years ago. As Mays faded, Santo came into his own, leading a Cubs team that never quite got over the hump and into the postseason, but it was never Santo's fault for that.
Total WAR: 37.8
Trivia: The only player to play in more games during this block than Santo was his teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Billy Williams. They were the only players to break 800 games over the five seasons.
It's no surprise that "Yaz" held the crown, even for just a short time, given his tremendous all-around production, especially in his Triple Crown- and MVP-winning season of 1967, when he hit .326 with 44 home runs and 121 RBIs.
Total WAR: 44.7
Trivia: From 1965 to 1970, Yaz lead the AL in on-base percentage four times and slugging percentage three times.
Clemente's legend can hardly be raised any higher, but being the first Latin King of Baseball is another feather in an inner circle career. Clemente's untimely death after the 1972 season probably didn't keep him from holding this title much longer since he was past his peak, though one or two more blocks is likely.
Total WAR: 31.2
Trivia: While few would dispute that Clemente deserves a spot on this list, this block actually excludes his best season by WAR, which was 8.2 wins in 1967. His is a crown of assiduousness more than abnormally outstanding play.
There's always one name on any list that functions as the headscratcher. While every other King could be argued, they're all clear baseball royalty. Bando, on the other hand, seems a pretender. Is this our Richard III in spikes? No, it seems he's more Phillip II, the forgotten king. Bando was a very solid player, finishing in the top five of MVP voting two times during this block (and another one year later.)
Total WAR: 33.6
Trivia: With Santo's admission into the Hall of Fame later this year, Bando is left as the only eligible player on this list since 1945 to not be in Cooperstown.
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