Who should have made the top eight?
Posted: Monday July 12, 1999 09:24 PM
CNN/SI asked users to tell us who we left off the Top Eight list for the Century's Best baseball players.
With such a long and storied history, some great players were left off of our list of eight and you certainly let us know who you thought belonged. Hank Aaron topped your list of suggestions, while Ken Griffey, Jr., Nolan Ryan, Cy Young and Pete Rose were also widely mentioned numerous times.
A sampling of some of the most interesting responses follows:
Hank Aaron is the greatest major league baseball player of all time. Assume he had never hit a single home run; he still would have had 3016 base hits (3771 career hits, 755 home runs). 3000 or more base hits is a sure ticket to Cooperstown; even if he had never hit a single home run he still would have made the Hall of Fame. On top of a Hall of Fame career, he also hit more home runs than anyone in major league history. If that doesn't make him the greatest, I don't know what does.
With all respect to the top eight "picked" players on your roster, I believe you left out Nolan Ryan. Nolan, is the absolute master when it comes to pitching. The no-hitters will never be matched, the strikeouts are simply amazing, and when it came to intimidation... Nolan Ryan basically placed the fear in many hitters. He paved the way for stars such as Randy Johnson (for example: fixing a flaw in Johnson's delivery to improve his overall technique). Nolan Ryan was a true player... one of the best there ever was.
How can you leave Pete Rose off the list as one of the top eight all-time players? You have Ty Cobb on the list -- another player who was banned for life at one time for gambling -- and Rose smashed his record for career hits. In addition, Rose showed to people everywhere that you did not have to have the most talent to be the best player. Skill is one thing, but to be a student of the game and to play your butt off every second of every inning meant more than skill.
Johnny Bench, the most important wheel of the Big Red Machine, deserves to have made your list. Arguably the best offensive and defensive catcher of all time, he was an all around great player. This list is made up of old timers who all were retired before the end of Vietnam. Granted your list has eight of the ten greatest, but Mr. Bench deserves to be there.
While you have some great players on your list, none of them are current players. I find it hard to believe that there isn't someone who has played in the last twenty years that isn't as good as any of those people. There are many players in today's game that could take Walter Johnson deep or strike out the almighty Babe. Too many players have become much better in our eyes since they have long passed. I have seen 20 catches by Ken Griffey Jr., that would put Mays's famous catch to shame. Also, where is Hank Aaron? Has he not been retired long enough for us to respect his greatness?
What happened to Jackie Robinson? He was just as good as Tom Verducci's picks but he also had to play for a lot more than his team. He was playing for his race. That extra pressure is something that most people can't take but that is the reason why Jackie Robinson is the best baseball player to have ever lived.
Ken Griffey, Jr. I don't understand the baseball writers' tendencies to shy away from any player who entered the bigs after the 60's. And there are many players who are deserving, but Ken Griffey Jr. can hit for average, run the bases, field like Willie Mays, and is half-way to Hank Aaron's record in only ten years. Just as we knew that Jordan was the king, during his career. We all know that Griffey is the best baseball player of our time. Why not acknowledge it while he's still in his prime?
There was once this guy named Cy Young who won a lot of baseball games. I think he has some records and I think some award is named after him. I'm pretty sure that he is good.
Sandy Koufax is clearly the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, and if his career would not have been cut short due to injury, he might have been the best baseball player of all time, period. Koufax was feared by the greatest of hitters, and he helped the Dodgers establish themselves as a top contender year in and year out in the National League. Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Bob Gibson and many others on the mound were great, but no one was quite like Koufax. He was in a league of his own.
Clearly the list lacked a current sports legend. Greg Maddux is an obvious choice for the list. Never has there been a hurler with so much talent, someone so feared by his peers, and held in awe by his fans, be so humble as to dismiss his absolute perfection in pitching as a fluke. A true genius of the game.
I think it's a common and false assumption that today's all-stars could never compete with yesterday's heroes. Baseball is more competitive today than the "classic" era, primarily due to the integration of African-American and foreign-born players. To predicate a list on the assumption that everything older is better lacks integrity and denies what integration did for the game.
Furthermore, it's tougher to hit nowadays. The second half of the century has seen the advent of countless trick pitches and arm angles, not to mention scouting and the use of video. Some recent pitchers based entire careers on pitches that didn't exist when Gehrig, Ruth and Johnson were around (e.g. Jack Morris and the splitter). Pitchers also used to hurl every day, or every other day, with no closers to bail them out. I wonder how many of Ruth's 714 came off of tired, battered pitchers aching for relief.
The game has changed for the better. Young dynamic talents like Griffey Jr. and recent legends like Roger Clemens ought to be recognized for their greatness.
Pete Rose should have been selected in the top eight simply because he is one of the all time best. Leader in hits all time by far (nobody is going to get there). Also has the second best record in consecutive games hitting hits. Several times guided his team to be World Champs (twice with the reds and once with the Phillies). I think more than that cannot be said about Charlie Hustle.
There is an old baseball adage that 'Great pitching always beats great hitting', and yet, in your 8 greatest choices, you only included one pitcher. Admittedly, you did choose the best (at least you got THAT right), but what about Pete Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Dazzy Vance, or Sandy Koufax. Do I detect a bias towards those 'sexy homerun hitters' that we keep seeing ads about?
How could you leave Mark McGwire of your list? Not only did he break arguably the most revered record in baseball he crushed it. 70 home runs earns him a spot.
Ken Griffey, Jr. is the best all-around baseball player to ever have played. You must have counted him out because he has not yet played his entire career. His combination of power, base-running, defense, arm strength, and the ability to make plays that no other player can make should have put him on your list.
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