Monday, March 3, 2008

Greatest Living Player

At some point DiMaggio's people started having him announced as the "Greatest Living Ballplayer" at his personal appearances. Setting aside for a moment that Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and a couple of others probably had a greater claim to that title at the time, no one really fought about it so, fine, everyone decided to let the Yankee Clipper have it.

So now that the originator of the title is gone, who is the Greatest Living Ballplayer? Most people with an opinion have said Willie Mays, and a few others have said Aaron. Steve Caimano at Dugout Central makes an argument for Musial:

Three different people could write arguments in favor of each of the candidates and they would all be right. What bothers me is that Musial is rarely mentioned in the discussion and that’s unfortunate. Stan Musial turned 87 years old last November and his time with us is growing short. Someday you’ll turn on SportsCenter, see the grainy black and white highlights, hear someone talk about the numbers above and say to yourself “Man, I never knew he was that good”. Do yourself a favor. Spend a little time with the Baseball Encyclopedia or read a little about the man who has been the face of the Cardinal franchise for 60 years. They didn’t call him “The Man” for nothing.
It's not a bad argument, but I'd still probably take Mays based on his defensive value and baserunning. Aaron vs. Musial is a closer call, but since Aaron played against better competition and spent his prime in a sharp pitchers' era, I'd probably go with The Hammer.

Here are a couple of fun names to throw into the mix: Barry Bonds (save your objections, we're all aware). How about some pitchers? I mean, sure, everyday players may contribute more from a statistical perspective, but the title "Greatest Living Ballplayer" obviously implies some subjectivity. Roger Clemens (again, I know)? Tom Seaver? Greg Maddux?

It's the kind of subject that, properly supplemented with time and alcohol, could help pass an entire day. I like those kinds of subjects.

(link via BTF)


Justin Zeth said...

For pitchers, it's Clemens, or if you want to DQ him, I think it's still Seaver over Maddux, with everybody else behind unless you lean heavily toward high peaks, in which case Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson are your men.

Robert Rittner said...

I always thought it was Mays, but I think Bonds is the clear winner of any such contest, and is in the discussion for the greatest ever.

Chris Odell said...

Without some reliable (or at least agreed upon) means of discounting Barry Bonds' staggering career achievements to account for his late-career shenanigans, it's hard to say definitively that he's the greatest living ballplayer. He's certainly in the discussion -- indeed, he's probably the right starting place for it.

Pete Ridges said...

Just to MLB's 1969 Centennial Celebration, baseball writers were asked to vote for "The Greatest Living Ballplayer", and they selected DiMaggio. Now, the writers' choice was highly questionable: even "Greatest Living former Yankee outfielder" would have been a step too far, and it reflects poorly on DiMaggio that he used to insist on the title.
Even so, credit where credit's due, and it's incorrect to imply that "DiMaggio's people" invented the title for him.