MUSINGS FROM THE BUNKER & BEYOND

BASEBALL

Categories:

  1. Baseball greats

  2. Remembering players

  3. Baseball videos and clips

  4. Bad trades

  5. Baseball analysts and general commentary 

  6. Greatest home runs

BASEBALL GREATS
 

Top five pitchers and top ten position players since 1960 (collaborative list):

 

Position players

Willie Mays

Henry Aaron

Pete Rose

Cal Ripken, Jr.

Roberto Clemente

Mickey Mantle

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Derek Jeter

Johnny Bench

Miguel Cabrera

Frank Robinson

Mike Schmidt

Yogi Berra

Ichiro Suzuki

Ernie Banks

Joe Morgan

Rickey Henderson

 

Pitchers

Sandy Koufax

Nolan Ryan

Roger Clemens

Mariano Rivera

Bob Gibson

Greg Maddux

Pedro Martinez

Tom Seaver

Randy Johnson

Still playing, but you decide whether to include

Bryce Harper

Mookie Betts

Mike Trout

Albert Pujols

Justin Verlander

Clayton Kershaw

Steroids boys—What do you think?

Alex Rodriguez

Barry Bonds

Sammy Sosa

Jose Canseco

REMEMBERING PLAYERS


Willie Mays

Probably the greatest player of his generation. Many argue that he is the greatest all-around player in the history of baseball.

Who can’t forget the films of his amazing fielding and his exploits at the plate. Some say he played a year too long, having descended from his prime—and that no doubt was true. But his last year wasn’t as bad as people remember, yet he sensed he was at the end and retired anyway, knowing his best baseball days were behind him. How good was he? Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron both felt he was the greatest ever. But it was not merely his statistics that made him who he was. In the words of his former manager, Leo Durocher, “If somebody came up and hit .450, stole 100 bases and performed a miracle in the field every day, I’d still look you right in the eye and tell you that Willie was better…he had the magic ingredient that turns a superstar into a super Superstar. Charisma. He lit up a room when he came in. He was a joy to be around.”

Albert Pujols

Albert has had quite a run in a long career. “The Machine” (as he was nicknamed during his remarkable run while a St. Louis Cardinal prior to joining the Angels) was in the final year of one of the most expensive contracts in major league history. His remarkable skills are gone. Sure, he’s passable these days, sometimes even showing signs of his former self. But his time has come. He wants to come back with another team, but I think that would be a mistake. Better to remember him as the player, leader, and humanitarian that he has been.

Mike Trout

The current undisputed king of baseball, until his skills begin their decline in his mid-30s… David Lash has this to say about Mike Trout, generally acknowledged to be the greatest ballplayer of this era:

“I can’t help but weep a bit for Mike Trout.  The best baseball player on the planet and very unlikely to get to the post-season once again.  He is such a good guy that he likely will never leave no matter how much higher he could build his legacy somewhere else.  Good for us, not so much for him.”

Trout has attached himself to the Angels for the balance of his career. It’s difficult to see how that works out well. Until Arte Moreno, the owner of the team, accepts the ageless baseball adage that good pitching will beat good hitting every time, the Angels are destined for mediocrity. With four of the most potent bats in the major leagues (well, when Trout is healthy) the Angels still can’t win games with pitchers prone to giving up homers.

And to add insult to injury, arguably the second most accomplished player in the major leagues today plays on the same team…Shohei Otani, who both pitches and hits (for average and power). Not since Babe Ruth in the early 1920s has baseball seen a talent versatile as his.

BASEBALL VIDEOS AND CLIPS

BAD TRADES

  • From Ken Millman, “Not to be outdone by the Angels, the Dodgers trading Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields has to rank up there as one of the worst trades ever.” Paul Kanin also recalled that trade, commenting “Fred Claire’s justification was shortstops play every day, while pitchers play only once every five days. We all know how that turned out…”'
     

  • Russ Chittenden notes, “As an Astros fan I must enter the scrum on bad trades. How about this:

    • On January 22, 1969, the Expos traded Donn Clendenon to the Astros for Rusty Staub; however, Clendenon refused to report to the Astros. He threatened to retire rather than play for the Astros.

    • Commissioner Bowie Kuhn nonetheless enforced the trade.

    • In other words, the Astros traded Rusty Staub to Montreal, the Astros didn’t get the player they traded Staub for, and Montreal got to keep both Staub and that player.  I don’t think you’ll find another instance of that.

    • Of course Clendenon somehow ended up on the Mets later that season.'
       

  • Perhaps the worst remains the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees. That guy ended up doing pretty well
     

  • It turns out that baseball fans remember the bad trades more than the good ones—and they scar them for life! Ken Millman puts in the Pedro Martinez trade for Delino Deshields as among the worst in major league history. 
     

  • In 1969, the Montreal Expos traded Donn Clendenon to the Houston Astros, receiving Rusty Staub in return. Clendenon threatened to quit baseball, rather than play in Houston for a manager he considered a racist. Staub moved to the Expos. The Commissioner’s office held up the trade, so he stayed with Montreal and Houston had to settle for less desirable players. So Montreal ended up with both marquee players. Later that year, Clendenon was traded to the Mets, becoming the World Series MVP for the 1969 Miracle Mets. Russ Chittenden, life-long Houston fan, remembers this ill-fated trade like it was yesterday. He still hasn’t gotten over it.
     

  • From Peter Bain: The Astros seem to play a recurring role in these, and not in a good way. As a loyal Big Red Machine fan, let me point out a key trade that went a long way in solidifying what became that Machine
     

  • The Reds acquired Joe Morgan, Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, César Gerónimo and Denis Menke from the Astros for Lee May, Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart. 

  • Helms and May were good players, but past their prime, and Stewart was an afterthought. 
    Billingham became an anchor starter in the rotation; Geronimo averaged over .300 batting and won multiple Gold Gloves in centerfield; and as everyone knows, Morgan won back-to-back MVP’s. Cincinnati thanks you, Houston.

 

 

BASEBALL AND HISTORY

 

Shedding light on an unpretty part of baseball is A Well Paid Slave; Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports, by Brad Snider. Flood went all the way to the Supreme Court—and lost—but changed baseball forever.

BASEBALL ANALYSTS AND COMMENTARY 



JESSE SHARF—THIS IS EASIER THAN DRAFTING A GROUND LEASE

Jesse’s response begins with “Here, it’s easy” and then he lays it out:

“Greatest hitters:  Ruth, Williams, Bonds.  Oh, sure there are the Ty Cobbs of the world, but these guys hit just as well and had power.  Similarly, Rose is way overrated—great contact hitter, sure, but Carew was better, and Brett could do what both of them did, with power (so could Mattingly for a couple of seasons). Brett is really one of the underrated greats.”

PAUL KANIN—I’LL MAKE UP MY OWN RULES, THANK YOU

First, let’s give Paul a hand for not picking a lineup comprised only of Dodgers (would have expected from this major partisan)… He, more than any other respondent, completely ignored the suggestion of highlighting players from 1960 and later (and he ranks them in order—note that he includes only one pitcher):

Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, Pete Rose, Henry Aaron, Mike Trout, Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial

DAVID LASH—RIVALING MICHAEL LEWIS FOR DETAIL 

Giving this a lot of thought, conferring with my buddy with whom I argue over these things incessantly.  Here are some thoughts:

           *           Everyone on your list has HOF credentials, even those who might never make it (Rose).  I might take issue with Canseco, but he’s within shouting distance so I’ll let you have him for consideration.

           *           Shortstop is an interesting position.  Since you are lumping all position players into a single category, I am wondering if you feel you need to have a shortstop.  Ripken was an excellent player, a hall of famer for sure, but based mostly on his durability and longevity, both of which were remarkable.  Whether he is a “best” player, I’m not quite sure.  Jeter kind of falls into the same category, although he makes a better case for “best”.  But frankly I am not sure what separates Jeter from Barry Larkin, Robin Yount or Paul Molitor.  

           *           Frank Thomas and Wade Boggs, on pure talent and impact, probably are better choices than Jeter and Ripken.  

           *           Catcher is another interesting position.  Berra really was at his best in the 50s, so your 60s qualification may be his undoing.  Mike Piazza was the best hitting catcher I ever saw.  But his defense was middling and generally a catcher’s greatest value is defensive.  So maybe Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk are better overall choices.  Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez maybe, too.

           *           All told, I think I would replace Ripken, Jeter, Berra and Banks (Ichiro, as great as he was, is kind of on my bubble).  George Brett would be on my list instead, for sure.  Rod Carew would get a serious look, as would Tony Gwynn.

           *           And Trout belongs on the list regardless, he is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player.  His combination of hitting and fielding is rivaled only by Willie Mays.

MARK DIMARIA—LET’S KEEP IT SIMPLE WITH ONLY ONE…

Like basketball, I am not great with multiples.  So I again will stick to a single player.  

The greatest all-around player of our lifetimes, and perhaps all time, was Willie Mays.  A true four-tool all-star, who at his peak was the top player in each of those categories  -- hitting for both average and for power, speed, and fielding.  No, he did not pitch, and unfortunately only was a Met for the last two years of his career, when he was in his forties and total decline.  His famous, full-speed, back-to-the-plate, catch of Vic Wertz's mammoth drive to center in the cavernous Polo Grounds in the 1954 World Series was the day before I was born.  (In family lore, it had always been on the day of my birth, but we figured out years later that this was in error, since in that primitive media era, the film had not been broadcast and seen by my Dad until the day after the catch, when I was born.)

PETER BAIN—JUST THE FACTS

“No steroid boys. Too bad, because we’ll never know if they might have made it in their own merits if they had played clean!”


1. Hank Aaron
2. Willie Mays
3. Pete Rose
4. Roberto Clemente
5. Frank Robinson
6. Johnny Bench (his mind blowing defensive skills are too often undervalued.)
7. Derek Jeter
8. Reggie Jackson (interesting omission from your list)
9. Cal Ripken, Jr.
10. The Mick

WAIT, WAIT, ONE MORE THING—LASH, REDUX…

Not satisfied with his original list, David Lash had to send another email with an addendum…

I think we have to add Reggie Jackson to the mix.  He rarely hit .300 but his OPS generally was sensational and his impact on the game was immense.  He sort of became a joke due to his over-sized personality, but he really was one of the greats.  

IMPACT

For me, impact on the game at the time is a huge factor. As important as leading key categories (both for all players and for position) and comparing favorably historically, players’ personalities, style, public persona, and perceived irreplaceability must play a factor. Without listing ALL players, these are “essential” players in the lore of baseball. Note that some of the iconic players are identifiable by last name or nickname only, which tells you something:

PRE-1960: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson

1960s: Koufax, Mantle, Mays, Roberto Clemente

1970s to 1990s: Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Henry Aaron, Willie Stargell (some would question this but most home runs hit in the 70s, .282 lifetime average, Pirates perennial post-season team), Cal Ripken, Jr., Derek Jeter

Modern Times: Albert Pujols (I mean the pre-Angels days!), Mike Trout
A number of others in mid-career and too early to judge…

DAVID LASH, REDUX, AGAIN…!

Then a week later, David Lash weighed in again (number three—I’m waiting for response number four any day now):

"PS: I need to add Mike Schmidt to the list, wow that man could hit and field"

GREATEST HOME RUNS

  • Kirk Gibson home run in the 1988 World Series
     

  • The home run (accompanied by the slowest trot ever) is a moment of pure joy, even if you’re not a baseball fan: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/5/7/2029366/-Today-Is-the-Fifth-Anniversary-of-the-Greatest-Thing-That-Has-Ever-Happened-Ever Thanks, Mark DiMaria.
     

  • Bartolo Colon’s home run
     

  • Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the 1960 world series was the greatest. Giants fans might say the 1951 “shot heard ‘round the world” that defeated the Dodgers in the playoff for the NL pennant.
     

  • The Carlton Fisk home run to win the sixth game of the 1975 World Series for the Red Sox. What people may forget is that if it weren’t for Bernie Carbo’s home run in regulation, the Fixk home run never would have happened. That said, the Red Sox lost the next game to the Big Red Machine.
     

  • For Angels fans, it is, of course, Scott Spezio’s eighth inning blast to tie game six and ensure a game seven, which the Angels won in the 2002 World Series, defeating the dreaded Giants and Bobby Bonds.