Everyone has an opinion, and here is ours when it comes to listing the all-time Top 25 players of Major League Baseball:
25 – Mel Ott
Ott was a prodigy of the game, and he was a big leaguer before he had even celebrated his 18th birthday. In 1926, as a 17-year-old, Ott hit .383 over the course of just 60 at-bats in 1926. This was a precursor of what was to come as Ott became a dual-threat hitter capable of hitting for contact or power. At the end of his 22-year career, Ott had a 304/.414./.533 line and had crushed 511 home runs and tallied 1,860 RBI.
24 – Alex Rodriguez
One of the biggest questions in modern baseball history is if Rodriguez could have gone down as the best shortstop in the history of the game had he not unselfishly shifted to third-base after joining the Yankees in 2004.
The PED drama was there, sure, but A-Rod was a 14-time all-star, a three-time AL MVP, and he is the only player in MLB history to hit for .295, over 600 home runs, over 2,000 RBIs, score over 2,000 runs, record over 3,000 hits, and steal more than 300 bases. He could do it all.
23 – Rickey Henderson
The best leadoff hitter in the history of the game, Henderson is also one of the premier players in baseball history at any spot in the order. He is the all-time stolen base king with 1,406 steals, something he would never be afraid to let people know, using his unreal speed to advance around the bases with ease. He is also the all-time leader in runs scored with 2,295, and he could hit for power as shown by his 297 home runs and 1,115 RBI.
22 – Christy Mathewson
Mathewson was nicknamed, among other things, “The Gentleman’s Hurler,” which might be the best nickname ever given. The right-hander played for 17 seasons in MLB with the New York Giants from 1900 to 1916. Playing in an era when hits were frequent, Mathewson was one of the dominant pitchers of his time and one of the most dominant ever. He won 373 games with a 2.13 career ERA and struck out of 2,500 batters as he used his 6-foot-1 frame to overpower the smaller hitters of his era.
21 – Randy Johnson
The Big Unit was a terrifying presence on the mound when he was at the peak of his powers. Johnson had almost a literal cannon for a left arm, and the 22-year starting pitcher dominated games when he was focused and in control of his fastball. His 303 career victories are the fifth-most by a lefty, and his 4,875 strikeouts are the second most all time. The five-time Cy Young winner was one of the tallest MLB players ever at 6-foot-10, and his pitching angle and velocity made him almost impossible to hit.
20 – Jimmie Foxx
“The Beast” played for 20 seasons in MLB with a variety of clubs from 1925 to 1945. He was the second player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs after Babe Ruth, a feat almost as impressive as Ruth’s because some thought that the Babe was the only player capable of ever getting to that mark. Foxx picked up three MVP awards (1932, 1933, 1938) tied for second place all-time in that award category. A Triple Crown, and the fact that he mainly played just 14 full seasons worth of games, showcase Foxx as one of the best power hitters ever to play the game.
19 – Albert Pujols
The only active player on this list, Pujols continues to add value to his claim as one of the best to ever play the game by the season. The 39-year-old Dominican Republic star may have slowed down, but the 10-time all-star has had an impressive run since debuting in 2001. Pujols is a three-time NL MVP, and at his pomp, he was considered one of the best hitters to play the game in the last 50 years due to his combination of power, contact hitting ability, and patience to find a pitch to hit. As of writing, he has 644 home runs and over 3,100 hits.
18 – Ken Griffey Jr.
A 22-year player in the bigs, Griffey Jr. was one of the premier players of the 1990s when he excelled with the Seattle Mariners. Amazingly, the Mariners never won a World Series title with three of the top 25 players of all time on the club together. One of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history, Griffey finished his career with 630 dingers, the seventh-most ever. He was known for the sweetness of his swing, and the 13-time all-star was also an exception defender where he used his athletic ability to win 10 Gold Gloves as the best center fielder in the game.
17 – Grover Cleveland Alexander
A 19-year player who started with the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Alexander was born in Nebraska during the first term of his namesake’s Presidency. “Old Pete” was a player who played in an era where pitch counts weren’t a thing, and as a result, he rolled to complete games in 436 of his 600 starts. He missed the entire 1918 season serving in the military but came back to continue a stretch from 1915 to 1920 where he pitched under 2.00 for his ERA each season.
16 – Mickey Mantle
Mantle was the premier player of MLB during the 1950s as a modern, five-tool player who did everything required from a baseball player at an exceptional level. His .298/.421/.557 line with 536 home runs and 1,509 RBI is impressive, but Mantle could easily have added to this numbers had he not been blighted by injuries that rendered him done as a superstar of the game by the age of 32.
15 – Joe DiMaggio
All you need to know about DiMaggio is 56. For 56 straight games, DiMaggio collected a hit on the scorecard, a number that has rarely been approached since he set the staggering target. As good as DiMaggio’s numbers are, and they are great as he had 2,214 hits, 361 homers, and 1,537 RBI, it has to be noted that he could easily be ranked in the Top 5 on this list had he not lost his prime years from age 28-30 while serving in WWII. The three-time MVP was an all-star every season he played, racking up those numbers in just 13 MLB seasons.
14 – Rogers Hornsby
A player with an ‘S’ at the end of his first name for no obvious reason, Hornsby was one of the premier players of his era. Hornsby played for 22-years in the bigs after making his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1915, picking up a pair of NL MVP awards in 1925 and 1929. Hornsby was a World Series winner in 1926, and he finished just 70 hits shy of 3,000 while hitting 301 home runs with a batting average of .358. That batting average is the second best in the history of the game (Ty Cobb), and his .424 average in 1924 hasn’t been bettered since.
13 – Roger Clemons
Clemons is one of those pitchers that you would strongly consider selecting if you were in a must-win situation. Pitching from 1984-2007, facing plenty of hitters that are seen as tainted by PEDs in hindsight, Clemons tossed 354 wins and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards. The “Rocket” tallied the third most strikeouts all-time with 4.672, he was a two-time World Series champion, and he made the all-star team on 11 occasions.
12 – Honus Wagner
The greatest shortstop to ever play the game, the Flying Dutchman played for 20 years between 1897 and 1917. A player so good he pushed the Pirates to World Series, Wagner won the batting title eight times and finished with a career hitting mark of .328. Wagner was also a machine as a fielder, using his speed and reflexes to lock down the shortstop position in a way that had never been seen at that point in the game’s history.
11 – Greg Maddux
The king of command was so good at placing the baseball in the mitt of his catcher that you would swear he walked over and put it exactly where he wanted. In his final 14 seasons in the league, Maddux walked fewer, or as many batters and games, he started eight times. He averaged 1.80 walks per nine innings for his career, a career in which he tosses over 5,000 innings. He retired with a career ERA of 3.16; a number inflated because he was hit hard during his final five years in the way that most precision tossers do when they lose a touch of velocity. Maddux completed 13 complete-game shutouts in under 100 pitches during his career.
10 – Stan Musial
The longtime Cardinal was one of the best offensive players ever to grace the diamond. This premier player was good at just about everything baseball-related, playing for 22 years and finishing with a .221/.417/.559 line to show his contact numbers. Musial also crushed 475 home runs and had a stunningly balanced number of RBIs (1,951) and runs scored (1,949). Perhaps Musial’s most notable achievement is that his 6,134 total bases are second on the all-time list behind only Hank Aaron.
9 – Cy Young
The all-time leader in wins is the second best pitcher on this list, and he is a man so revered for his skills that the premier pitching award in the game is named after him. Young amassed 511 wins during his career, and he is also the all-time leader in losses (316) and complete games (a ridiculous 749). He won more than 20 games during 15 different seasons and for someone with so many pitches thrown his 1,217 walks during his career might be Young’s most impressive stat.
8 – Walter Jonson
Johnson is one of the premier players in the history of baseball that few people ever talk about. Playing before the Cy Young award was even invented, Johnson pitched for a 1.65 ERA between 1907 and 1919, going on to play for a total of 20 seasons and winning 417 games. Johnson remains the career leader in shutouts with 110, the active leader is Clayton Kershaw with 15, and he ranks second in wins and fourth in complete games. The Washington Senator also struck out over 3,500 batters, with many being so scared of his dominant fastball that they backed up off of the plate when Johnson was on the mound.
7 – Ty Cobb
Cobb was not a player who easily made friends on the bases. That, though, shouldn’t overshadow just how dominant he was as the best hitter of the dead-ball era. Cobb finished his career with an astonishing 4,189 hits, batting for over .400 three times and compiling a .366 batting average when he retired. The 12-time batting champion also hit 724 doubles and stole 897 bases as he used his natural athleticism to carve out a niche as one of the best offensive players in the history of the game.
6 – Lou Gehrig
The Iron Horse was a dominant player throughout a career that was tragically cut short by the illness that now bears his name. Gehrig may be best known for his emotional retirement speech where he called himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” but his career was much more than that one moment. Gehrig rocked a .340 batting average for his career, even taking into about his disease hampered last season, and crushed 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs. He was a seven-time all-star and a six-time World Series Champion with the New York Yankees.
5 – Barry Bonds
If you remove a player like Bonds because of his PED scandal, then it feels like you would also have to remove any player from the segregation era because they had their form of political help. Bonds may have had some help getting to the point where he was an enormous slugger capable of crushing 73 home runs as he did in 2001, but he was an elite player even before putting on the bulk. He is the all-time home run leader, and he is the only player in history to have 500 home runs and 500 steals during his career.
4 – Hank Aaron
Aaron was a truly outstanding baseball player, but more than that he was a man who overcame hate mail and death threats to be crowned the home run king. The player with the most RBIs in history set a new home run mark of 755, passing Babe Ruth and shaking off the ghost of the great Yankee slugger in the process. Aaron is one of the premier players of any era, a player who should be praised for his consistency and longevity as he never actually surpassed 47 home runs in a single season as he chased down the Babe.
3 – Ted Williams
The greatest pure hitter that ever lived, Williams achieved his high school goal of being the very best ever at swinging a bat and putting the ball in play. Williams was an on-base machine, leading his league in OBP on 12 occasions along with having nine seasons where he was the top slugger. Winning six batting titles, Williams was a career .344 hitter who hit .316 as a 41-year-old when most players have already left the game. His career batting average is the highest of any player in the live-ball era, and he is the last player to have finished a season with a batting average of over .400.
2 – Willie Mays
Mays is a comfortable No. 2 on this list because he is simply the best all-around player the game has ever produced. A wizard with the bat and the glove, Mays was a five-tool player who would have been off of the charts in terms of today’s scouting metrics. He could hit for power, he ranks fifth all-time with 660 home runs, and for contact where he was a .302 career hitter. Mays was an elite player from 1954-1967, and he finished his career just eight games shy of 3,000 appearances.
1 – Babe Ruth
There is a reason why Ruth is an almost mythical figure in the annals of baseball. Ruth was simply the premier player ever to play the game because he was so dominant at his peak. Ruth hit 29 home runs in 1919 to set a new record for the most dingers in a season. The next year, he belted 54 in a year where no one else passed the mark of 20. In the time it took Ruth to hit 602 runs for his career, no other player crossed the 300 mark. His power numbers are mindblowing. It is the equivalent of one player hitting over 100 homers a season for 12 years in the current baseball world. Consider that and it is obvious why Ruth is ranked #1.
Article by Steve Wright