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Who is the Greatest Living Baseball Player?

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With Willie Mays now passed, who is the greatest living baseball player? I will provide two lists to help us here. The first is from Joe Posnanski’s The Baseball 100, which had Mays as the greatest player of all time. From his list, these are the top 10 living players:

  1. Barry Bonds (#3 overall)
  2. Roger Clemens (#13)
  3. Alex Rodriguez (#16)
  4. Mike Schmidt (#20)
  5. Albert Pujols (#23)
  6. Rickey Henderson (#24)
  7. Mike Trout (#27)
  8. Randy Johnson (#28)
  9. Johnny Bench (#30)
  10. Greg Maddux (#31)

The Baseball 100 was published in 2021, so the only thing that could change anything here is the rise of Shohei Ohtani, but while Ohtani is amazing and unique, his career in the US simply isn’t long enough to reach this high, I’d think. Others may differ. It’s also possible that Mookie Betts ends his career this high too.

The other metric we will use is Baseball Reference’s JAWS stat, which combines the overall career with a player’s best 7 years, somewhat pushing back against those who compiled tons of stats because they played 25 years, 7 of which they weren’t actually very good anymore (Pete Rose, for instance):

  1. Barry Bonds (117.8)
  2. Roger Clemens (102.6)
  3. Alex Rodriguez (90.9)
  4. Rickey Henderson (84.3)
  5. Mike Schmidt (82.8)
  6. Albert Pujols (81.6)
  7. Greg Maddux (81.4)
  8. Randy Johnson (81.3)
  9. Cal Ripken (76.1)
  10. Carl Yastrzemski (76.1)

Well, that’s a pretty consistent listing. FYI: Ohtani has 23.4 batting and doesn’t yet qualify in pitching because he’s been hurt too much to have 7 years of pitching, but he more or less has about 14 or so. So he’s many years of quality anyway from really being considered among the game’s true all-time greats based on performance, as opposed to legend. Trout, incidentally, is 11th on the JAWS list.

The broader point is this. The top 3 living players in baseball are never going to make the Hall of Fame because the game’s gatekeepers decided they cheated. Never mind that perhaps close to a majority of players were using performance enhancing substances in these years. Never mind that they all had astounding HOF worthy careers before anyone ever brought up any of this. Never mind that for the first two, there were no rules against what they were doing in the years when they were doing it! Those rules came later and, yes, A-Rod did violate those rules.

But it is a very bad thing for the game when the top 3 living players are all never going to make the Hall because first the self-righteous journalists and now the even more self-righteous Veterans Committee are blackballing them. So instead, we have Harold Baines and Jack Morris. I recognize that part of the issue is that Bonds, Clemens, and to a lesser extent A-Rod are all horrible people that everyone hated at the time, very much including their teammates. That shouldn’t matter to this extent.

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