Top 100 MLB Players of All Time: 90-81

90. Mark McGwire

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I know what you’re thinking. “How can Mark McGwire be ranked higher than Tony Gwynn or Rod Carew?” I know it seems ridiculous. I mean, the guy was an admitted steroid user. It’s not like he was prolific at anything other than hitting homeruns. But that’s just it. He was the most prolific homerun hitter ever. Sure, there were guys who hit more homeruns throughout their career, but nobody did it at the rate McGwire did.

McGwire hit a homerun every 10.6 at-bats throughout his career. Babe Ruth is next on the list with a homerun every 11.76 at-bats. That’s a full at-bat more for each homerun. To put this into perspective each player averaged roughly 540 at-bats per 162 games, therefore McGwire would have finished an average 162 game season with 51 homeruns, whereas Ruth would have finished with 46 homeruns.

The discrepancy becomes even greater when you extrapolate the numbers out over a larger period of time. For example, if Mcgwire would have had the same number of career at-bats as Babe Ruth (8,399) he would have finished his career with 792 homeruns, which would obliterate not only Ruth’s career homerun total, but Aaron’s and Bonds’ as well.

This isn’t to say that McGwire would have been this productive had he never taken steroids. Again, my rankings are based solely on performance. McGwire’s performance tells us that he is the most prolific homerun hitter ever, even more so than the biggest superstar in the history of the game.

There are so many other remarkable stats surrounding McGwire and his ability to absolutely demolish that little white ball and send it over the fences every two and a half games.

  • Holds the record for most homeruns as a rookie with 49
  • Holds the record for highest slugging percentage for an American League rookie with .618
  • First rookie ever to hit 30 homeruns before the All-Star break
  • First rookie to hit 5 homeruns in two-consecutive games
  • Broke Oakland Athletics homerun and RBI record with 49 homeruns and 118 RBIs in 1987
  • First player in history to hit 30+ homeruns in each of his first four seasons
  • In 1995 became only the second player in history to record more RBI than hits
  • In 1996 he set the Athletics record for most homeruns in a season with 52, slugging percentage with .730, and On Base percentage with .467
  • Hit a homerun once every 8.13 at-bats in 1996, still the Major League record
  • Only player in history to hit 50 homeruns in fewer than 140 games in 1996
  • Only player to hit 20 or more homeruns for two teams in one season in 1997
  • Holds record for longest homerun in history at 545 feet
  • Led MLB with 70 homeruns in 1998
  • Fastest player to reach 500 homeruns with 5,486 at-bats
  • Holds record for longest homerun in seven different ballparks
  • Only player in history to hit 50 or more homeruns in 4 consecutive seasons

While Gwynn and Carew were revolutionary hitters, they weren’t historical on the level that McGwire was. Sure, McGwire isn’t the perfect example of a great baseball player, but what he did well he did better than anyone else in the history of the game.

89. Eddie Mathews


(Image of Eddie Mathews on cover of First Issue of Sports Illustrated)

There is a prototype for every position. A first baseman is expected to be a towering, brutish, mammoth of a man who mashes the ball from one foul pole to the other, and everywhere in between. His fielding ability isn’t as important as his ability to smash the ball with the power of an ox.

A center fielder is expected to be the best athlete on the team. Possessing the speed and grace of a gazelle, with an arm as accurate and ranging as a sniper rifle, and the ability to hit to all fields with power. He should be able to range from left to right and track down every ball hit in play.

But before Eddie Mathews third base didn’t have an identity. Third base was where teams hid their punch and judy hitters. Sure, some of them could field the ball with swift and artful skill, but for the most part third baseman were the ninth best player on the field. That is, until Eddie Mathews burst onto the scene.

And burst he did. Eddie’s career began in 1952 with the Boston Braves. He hit 25 homeruns during his rookie season, which broke the rookie record at the time. Following his rookie season Mathew’s went on to hit 30 homeruns in nine straight seasons from 1953 to 1961, winning the National League homerun title in 1953 and 1959. His 47 homeruns in 1953 set a single-season record for third baseman that lasted 27 years.

Mathews played 15 years for the Braves organization before being traded to Houston. He was the only player to have player for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. He was elected to 9 All-Star teams during his tenure with the Braves organization. He led the league in walks four times, and was a member of two world championship teams.

Thanks to Eddie Mathews third base is no longer where the weakest position players go to hide. Third base is now a prime position where smooth fielders are also great hitters. Eddie Mathews broke the mold and paved the way for Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Adrian Beltre, and David Wright to prove that third base is a power position not only in the field, but also in the lineup.

88. Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts was a relentless power pitcher for 14 years with the Philadelphia Phillies until overuse and injuries took their toll. He then reinvented himself for the final five years of his 19 year career into a finesse pitcher with pinpoint accuracy.

Roberts was not only relentless, but he was a true workhorse. He pitched over 300 innings in six straight seasons. He never gave up more than 77 walks in those six seasons.

From 1950 to 1955, a stretch of six consecutive seasons, Roberts won at least 20 games, with league highs in wins for four straight seasons, beginning in 1952 when he went 28-7.

Roberts pitched an era when relief pitchers were regularly employed, yet he led the NL in games started six times, and five times in complete games and innings pitched. He even pitched 28 straight complete games.

87. Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench (Tie)

Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench are arguably the two greatest catchers in the history of the sport. Bench caught for arguably the greatest team ever assembled in the “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds teams from 1970 to 1976. Berra appeared in 21 World Series as a player, coach, or manager during his illustrious career, which is a truly remarkable feat.

Their career batting lines are eerily similar:

Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG SB CS OPS+
Bench 2158 7658 1091 2048 381 24 389 1376 891 1278 0.267 0.342 0.476 68 43 126
Berra 2120 7555 1175 2150 321 49 358 1430 704 414 0.285 0.348 0.482 30 26 125

Naturally their 162-game average is eerily similar as well:

Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG SB CS OPS+
Bench 162 575 82 154 29 2 29 103 67 96 0.267 0.342 0.476 5 3 126
Berra 162 577 90 164 25 4 27 109 54 32 0.285 0.348 0.476 2 2 125

They were both extraordinary with the glove also. In 1958 Yogi caught the entire season without committing an error. Bench was Rookie of the Year in 1968, and during that same season he won his first of 10 consecutive Gold Gloves and was elected to the first of 14 consecutive All-Star games.

Berra hit 20-plus homeruns in a season an astonishing eleven times, and won three MVP Awards. Bench hit 40 homers in a season twice, which is very rare for a catcher in any era. Bench also led the league in RBI’s three times, and won the MVP twice.

The one amazing thing about Yogi Berra that I don’t think many people recognize is how many iconic highlights he was a part of. When Jackie Robinson stole home in the 1955 World Series, Yogi Berra was there. When Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series Yogi Berra is the excitable man who jumps into his arms after the final out is recorded. When Bill Mazeroski hit the World Series winning homerun in the 1960 World Series, Yogi Berra was there too.

The two men whom most consider to the be best to ever to play their position had remarkably similar careers. So similar, in fact, that I couldn’t choose one over the other. Therefore we have a tie at number 87.

86. John Smoltz

A 3.33 career ERA, 213 wins, and 3,084 strikeouts certainly are Hall of Fame-caliber numbers for a starting pitcher, but they don’t jump out at you as dominant numbers. John Smoltz did suffer from a significant injury in the middle of his career causing him to lose the entire 2000 season and subsequently shift to the bullpen, where he maintained his dominance but possibly lost 50 wins from his career win total.

In the three and half years Smoltz served as the closer for the Atlanta Braves he saved 154 games. Then, when his injuries healed and he was ready to rejoin the rotation in 2005 he went 14-7, 16-9 (leading the Majors in wins), and 14-8 over the next three seasons respectively.

His career Wins Above Average of 38 is barely one win shy of teammate and 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Glavine’s 39.1 WAA. Smoltz was certainly one of the most dominant pitchers of his era.

85. Harry Heilmann

Ty Cobb wasn’t known for having friends, but for reasons unknown to many, Cobb befriended Harry Heilmann in 1921 when Cobb took over as manager of the Tigers, and began to mentor the hitter until Heilmann became a true Cobb disciple.

That season, 1921, Heilmann won the first of his four batting titles with a batting average of .394. He would alternate winning titles every other year winning in 1923 with a .403 average*; 1925 with a .393 average; and 1927 with a .398 average. He also had over 200 hits in each the four years he won the batting title.

*Harry Heilmann was the last right-handed batter to hit over .400, and one of the last two American League players to hit over .400 (Ted Williams, .406).

Heilmann’s On Base Plus Slugging Percentage of .930 ranks ahead of Hank Aaron, Tris Speaker, and Frank Robinson, among others. Heilmann was also the first player to hit at least one homerun in every Major League park in use during his career.

84. Tim Raines

Tim Raines has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for seven years now. The highest percentage of votes that he has acquired is 52.2% in 2013. This is still almost 25% short of the votes needed to be elected into the Hall of Fame. The only reason that I can figure for Raines’ exclusion from the Hall of Fame is Rickey Henderson. Rickey was so much better than everyone else in the history of the game at what he did that even the second and third best look like they are just ok.

If it wasn’t for Rickey Henderson Tim Raines would be in the Hall of Fame already. Lou Brock is in the Hall of Fame. He was elected on his first attempt.

Brock and Raines were similar in many ways. Brock’s career batting average was .293 while Raines’ was .294. Brock did accumulate more hits in his career, but he also had nearly 1,000 more plate appearances than Raines.

But Raines was efficient. He totaled 1,330 base on balls with a .385 On Base Percentage versus Brock’s 761 walks and .345 On Base Percentage. While Brock was able to swipe 938 bases in his career, good for second most behind Rickey Henderson, Raines swiped 808, good for fifth all time. However, Raines was far more efficient on the base paths. His 84.7% Stolen Base percentage far outshines Brock’s 75.34%.

Even though Brock had more career hits than Raines, he reached base fewer times (3,833) than Raines (3,977). Raines also had more homeruns (170) than Brock (149), and more RBIs (980 vs. 900).

Tim Raines wasn’t as good as Rickey Henderson, and it was unfortunate for Raines that their careers overlapped. But, Raines was more efficient than Hall of Famer Lou Brock. His career WAR of 69.1 suggests that Tim Raines was a better player than Lou Brock and his 45.2 WAR.

I believe that Tim Raines deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and he deserves to be ranked at number 84 on my list of top 100 greatest MLB players of all time.

83. Craig Biggio

Craig Biggio was a spectacular second baseman for the Houston Astros. Biggio holds the Astros franchise record for:

Most Career Games Played: 2,850
Consecutive Games: 1,800
At-Bats: 10,876
Hits: 3,060
Runs Scored: 1,844
Doubles: 668
Hit By Pitch: 285

Craig Biggio was the 27th member of the 3,000 hit club, but only the ninth (at the time of his 3,000th hit) to get all 3,000 hits with only one team. Biggio stroked his 3,000th hit on June 28, 2007 and became the first player in history to collect five hits in the same game in which he collected his 3,000th hit.

One Biggio stat that I always found remarkable was that he never grounded into a double play during the 1997 season. Not once. I mean, that is almost unfathomable. Either he came to bat with nobody on first base at an incredibly rare rate, or his combination of hitting ability and speed allowed him to avoid grounding into a double play at any time during that season. Sure, luck may have played some part in it, but I believe his skill trumped his luck.

The following season, 1998, Biggio joined Hall of Famer Tris Speaker as the second player in Major League history to collect 50 doubles and 50 stolen bases in the same season. Biggio was in scoring position in the 1998 season at least 100 times. Surprisingly enough, he only score 123 runs during the 1998 season, 23 fewer than he did in his league-leading 1997 season. Even more shocking is that he was tied for sixth in the Major’s in runs scored, and finished one behind teammate and fellow “Killer B” Jeff Bagwell in that department.

Biggio finished his career after the 2007 season with a .281 career batting average, 1,844 runs scored, 668 doubles, 1,160 walks, seven trips to the All-Star game, and three Gold Gloves.

82. Dave Winfield

When people start listing the greatest athletes of all-time they invariably name the same people:

  • Jim Thorpe
  • Jim Brown
  • Bo Jackson
  • Deion Sanders
  • Michael Jordan

All of these people are very deserving of the “G.O.A.T.” distinction, but there is one person that deserves to be included in the group:

  • Dave Winfield

Dave Winfield was the prototypical five-tool player. His massive 6-foot-6 frame was built into the perfect blend of durability, strength, raw power, and consistency. Possessing that kind of natural talent was the reason why Dave Winfield was, and still is, the only person in history to be drafted by four teams in three professional sports out of college: the San Diego Padres (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Utah Stars (ABA), and Minnesota Vikings (NFL).

Ultimately, Winfield chose baseball. He is one of the very few players since the Minor Leagues were established that can say that he never spent one single day in the Minor Leagues. Dave Winfield played 22 seasons in the Major Leagues, earning 12 All-Star game selections. He played for six teams amassing 465 homeruns, 3,110 hits, with a .283 career batting average. He was a seven-time Gold Glove winner and World Champion with the Toronto Blue Jays.

81. Derek Jeter

They call him “Captain Clutch” for his ability to consistently come up with the big hit in the most pressure packed situation. They call him “Mr. November” for coming up with those clutch hits late in the World Series to help the Yankees win five titles during his tenure as the Yankees shortstop.

Derek Jeter is one of the most loved and respected players of his generation, and rightfully so. He has always played the game the way it was meant to be played. He runs out every ground ball, occasionally forcing an error on the defense due to his hustle. Perhaps his most memorable play was when he went face first into the stands during a playoff game to come up with nothing but the ball in his glove and a bloody nose to prove that he was willing to go all out to help the team win.

Jeter’s list of accomplishments is impressive. There are so many Yankee greats, but only one that reached 3,000 hits playing for the Yankees. No, not Lou Gehrig. Not Mickey Mantle either. Nope, Joe DiMaggio didn’t get to 3,000. Derek Sanderson Jeter is the only Yankee player to reach 3,000 hits. And in true Derek Jeter fashion his 3,000th hit was a homerun. Jeter is the only player in Major League history to go 5-for-5 on the day he hit his 3,000th hit. Craig Biggio went 5-for-6 on his big day.

Jeter passed Rickey Henderson as the all-time Yankees stolen base leader when he swiped his 327th base in 2011.

Jeter is one of only three players with more than 3,000 hits, 1,700 runs scored, 1,100 RBI, 300 stolen bases, and a .300 or better career batting average. The other two? Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Paul Molitor.

Top 100 MLB Players of All Time: 100-91

100.  Edgar Martinez

Should Edgar Martinez be in the Hall of Fame? For that matter, should a Designated Hitter be in the Hall of Fame? The first question is harder to answer than the second, so we will answer the second question first.

Yes, a Designated Hitter should be in the Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, there already are Designated Hitters in the Hall of Fame. Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor had more career at-bats at DH than they did playing a position in the field, but *Spoiler Alert* we will get to them a little later in the list.

As far as Edgar Martinez is concerned, he has a good case. Martinez, or “Gar” as some called him, was a line drive machine. He wasn’t a large man. He was surprisingly normal in stature, but when Gar hit one of those famous line drives to the gap the ball would scream. He led the league in doubles twice and won two batting titles, hitting .343 in 1992 and .356 in 1995. He drove in 145 runs in 2000, the same season he hit a career high 37 homeruns. Martinez also led the American League in OBP three times thanks to his super human batting eye. He had more career walks (1,283) than strikeouts (1,202), which was almost unheard of in the era of small ballparks, juiced balls, and juiced players.

Of course, Edgar Martinez was a Hall of Fame hitter, but the question is “was he a Hall of Fame player?”

Martinez’s career began at third base before he became a full time DH due to an overwhelming lack of defensive ability and a hamstring injury in 1993. He committed 78 errors in 564 games (.946 fielding percentage) and posted a -9.7 dWAR according to baseball-reference.com.

But even with his obvious defensive shortcomings, Martinez earned a 68.3 WAR which is good for 75th all-time among position players. Let’s not forget that WAR carries a defensive component with it. So, that means that Edgar Martinez, who was atrocious in the field and played the majority of his games as a Designated Hitter, is still the 75th best position player all-time according to WAR. That just speaks volumes to the value his bat added to the Mariners offense.

Should Edgar Martinez be in the Hall of Fame?

His statistics say yes.

99.  Robin Yount

Some players are born with the talent to hit a little white ball travelling at high rates of speed with a wooden stick, and some players have to work for that ability. It’s amazing that something so difficult can be made to look so easy by some. Robin Yount is one of those people with natural ability.

Robin Yount was born to be a baseball player.

He had all of the tools necessary to be great:

Superb hand eye coordination? Check

Foot Speed? Check

Arm Strength? Check

Yount was called up to the big leagues as an 18-year-old shortstop with the Milwaukee Brewers. He still remains the last 18-year-old to hit a homerun in the majors, and he broke Mel Ott’s 47-year-old record for most games played in the major leagues before turning 20.

He was a natural.

Yount spent 20 years in Milwaukee, but his 1982 season was one of those legendary seasons that seem more like fiction than fact. He batted .331 with 29 homers, 129 runs scored, and drove in 114 runs. All career highs. He led the league in hits (210), doubles (46), total bases (367), and slugging percentage (.578). Defensively he led all American League shortstops with 489 assists, and along with second baseman Jim Gantner he led the majors in double plays.

1982 saw Yount win his first of two MVP awards*, and his only Gold Glove. Had he had knocked a base hit in his final at-bat of the season instead of being plunked by Orioles reliever Dennis Martinez he would have also won the batting title that year as well.

*Yount won his second MVP in 1989 as a full-time outfielder, making him only the third player to win MVPs at two positions, joining Hank Greenberg and Stan Musial. Alex Rodriguez would be the fourth player to join this group in 2005.

Yount finished his career with 3,142 hits, 251 homeruns, 271 stolen bases, 583 doubles, a .285 batting average, and a .430 On Base Percentage. He was a 3-time All Star, and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1999 receiving 77.5% of the vote.

98.  Willie McCovey

For people my age our cognitive baseball memory extends only to the early 1990’s. Maybe the late 80’s at most. So, when it comes to players whose careers were before our lifetime our only inputs into those players’ abilities are stories from others.

When I got to Willie McCovey I realized that I really didn’t know much about the man. I know that there is a cove named after him that mammoth homeruns get dunked into at AT&T Park in San Francisco. I know that he is a member of the 500 homerun club, and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. That’s it.

Since the extent of my Willie McCovey knowledge is narrow I decided to turn to google to find out more about who he was and what made him so special. After hours of searching and reading I could only find one word that could appropriately describe Willie McCovey.

Fear.

Willie McCovey was the most feared hitter of his generation. Pitchers and managers were afraid to pitch to him because if they did he would “ruin the baseball,” according to Reds manager Sparky Anderson.

Infielders always took a step back when McCovey stepped into the batter’s box. Edgar Martinez may have made a career hitting screaming line drives, but Willie McCovey invented them. He hit the ball so hard that even fans were in danger of a McCovey foul ball impaling them.

In 1959, appearing in just 52 games, McCovey hit .354 with 13 homeruns, 38 RBI, and a 1.085 OPS on his way to winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

The three seasons from 1968 to 1970 were arguably his best. Over those three years McCovey averaged 40 homeruns per season, 119 RBI, a .300 batting average, and a 1.028 OPS, while bringing home the National League MVP Award in 1969.

Over 22 seasons McCovey recorded 521 homeruns and 1,555 RBI. He was the greatest slugger of his era and one of the most feared hitters of all time.

97.  Ozzie Smith

Ozzie Smith’s career batting average was only .262. He only batted .300 one time in his 19 year career. He accumulated 2,460 hits, but only averaged 129 hits per season. He bashed a whopping 28 homeruns and 793 RBI with a dreadful .337 On Base Percentage and even worse .328 Slugging Percentage.

Yes, his offensive numbers were atrocious, but he did accumulate 580 stolen bases, recording 57 in a season twice, and over 40 three other times.

But offense isn’t why The Wizard of Oz is on this list. He is on this list for his slick fielding ability. He won the Gold Glove 13 consecutive years from 1980 to 1992. His career defensive WAR is 43.4, good enough for first all-time.

Ozzie Smith may have been below average offensively, but what he brought defensively is something that has never been seen before or since.

96.  Rod Carew

Rod Carew was a magician. He had an uncanny ability to place the ball anywhere on the field. If there was a spot where the defenders weren’t Carew would find it.

Employing what seemed like some to be thousands of batting stances Carew managed 3,053 career hits. His seven batting titles are surpassed by only Ty Cobb, Tony Gwynn, and Honus Wagner, and equaled only by Rogers Hornsby and Stan Musial. He hit over .300 in 15 consecutive seasons, achieving a .328 lifetime average.

He was the 1967 AL Rookie of the Year, and 1977 AL MVP.

Before Carew there were great hitters. Rod Carew turned great hitting into an art form.

95.  Harmon Killebrew

Harmon Killebrew may have been a quiet and soft-spoken man, but he was the epitome of raw power. He hit 40 or more homeruns eight times in his career, and retired with 573 homeruns ranking 11th all time. He developed this raw power by growing up on a farm in Idaho lifting ten-gallon milk jugs.

Killebrew led the AL in homeruns six times and RBI three times.

94.  Wade Boggs

There are many legendary stories surrounding Wade Boggs. There is the urban legend claiming that he drank 64 beers on a road trip. There are the stories of his fried chicken habit. Wade wouldn’t take batting practice until 5:17, and he would run sprints at 7:17. He would draw the Hebrew word “Chai” in the batter’s box before each at bat.

Perhaps those superstitions are what made him great.

Boggs batted over .300 ten consecutive seasons to start his career, and over .325 in nine of those ten years. He finished with a career batting average of .328 and accumulated 3,010 hits over his 18 year career.

93.  Reggie Jackson

They called him “Mr. October” because of his ability to hit in high pressure situations in the playoffs. In the 1977 World Series, while playing for the Yankees, Reggie hit five homeruns. He waited until game 4 against the Dodgers before he hit his first homerun. In game 5 he hit another. In the final game of the Series, game 6, he hit three homeruns. The Yankees won the Series four games to two.

Reggie Jackson ended his 21 year career with 563 homeruns, which was good for sixth all-time at the time of his retirement. But he was an all-or-nothing type of player. Reggie also struck out 2,597 times in his career, which was over 600 more than the player with the second most strikeouts at the time, Willie Stargell.

Jackson was a 14-time All-Star, 2-time World Series MVP, one-time league MVP, and one-time All-Star game MVP.

92.  Ralph Kiner

From 2001 to 2003 the Texas Rangers played to a combined record of 216-270, that’s a .444 winning percentage. The Rangers were a last place team during this three year span. This was a last place team with a roster that included Ivan Rodriguez, Michael Young, and Rafael Palmeiro. This was a Rangers team that had past, present, and future All-Stars all over the roster. Nobody could figure out who to blame. They fired their manager Johnny Oates a quarter of the way into the 2001 season, but that didn’t change their fortunes. There was only one scapegoat left; Alex Rodriguez and his 22 million dollar per year contract.

In the three years Rodriguez was in Texas his average season was 190 hits, 52 homeruns, 132 RBI, 127 runs scored, and he slashed .305/.395/.615. He won two Gold Glove’s, three Silver Slugger’s, and an MVP. He also earned 66 million dollars in those three years, which is why he is the person most blamed for the failures of those Rangers teams. With a salary like that it is easy to be the villain, but with those statistics is easy to argue that Alex Rodriguez was the best player in baseball over those three seasons.

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Ralph Kiner came into the league at 23 years old. He was already a legend. Scouts and writers would praise everything about his game. He was fast, he was strong, and his arm was better than everyone but DiMaggio’s. When he got to the majors the Pirates quickly found out that the only part of those claims that was true was the part about his bat.

Kiner batted only .247 in his rookie year, but he led the National League with 23 homers. He led the league in homeruns in each of his first seven seasons, the only player in Major League history to lead the league in homers seven consecutive times. Kiner also was the only player in the National League to hit 50 homeruns in two separate seasons until the season was extended to 162 games.

Ralph Kiner’s 14.11 at-bats per homerun ranks fifth all-time behind only McGwire, Ruth, Bonds, and Thome. His mammoth homeruns were the greatest attraction in baseball in the early 1950’s. Attendance in Pittsburgh and around the league began to rise to levels never before seen by Major League Baseball. As a result Kiner’s salary was increased from $5,000 per season to $90,000 per season in just a five season span. He was the highest paid player in the National League.

When Branch Rickey, the legendary general manager responsible for bringing Jackie Robinson to the Majors and building dynasties in St. Louis and Brooklyn, became the Pirates general manager the team fell to last place.

In 1952 the Pirates lost 112 games and Kiner’s batting average dropped dramatically despite still leading the league in homeruns. Branch Rickey immediately blamed Kiner’s large salary for the teams losing record. He dropped Kiner’s salary to $65,000 and traded Kiner to the Chicago Cubs.

Once Kiner turned 30 his body betrayed him. He suffered from back problems and was no longer able to hit mammoth homeruns. He retired at age 32, but his ten years were among the best ten years in the history of the game. Not only did he hit 369 homeruns in just ten seasons, but he also average over 100 RBI’s per season, and he walked over 250 more times than he struck out. Today’s sluggers could never possess that type of batting eye and plate discipline.

Though his career was short, Ralph Kiner’s impact on the game was legendary.

91.  Tony Gwynn

How great was Tony Gwynn with the bat? Besides his .338 career batting average, which is the highest of any player whose career began after 1930, Gwynn had some amazing feats throughout his career.

Not only did Tony Gwynn win eight batting titles in his career, but he dominated the competition. He won batting titles by 32 points (1987), 30 points (1984), 28 points (1995), and 17 points (1996).

From July of 1991 to April of 1996, a five-year span, Gwynn never had an 0-for-12 at any time.

In 20 seasons he struck out a total of 434 times, which is an average of just 29 strikeouts per season. Read that sentence one more time. To put that in perspective, last season Chris Davis hit 53 homeruns with a .286 batting average. Davis struck out 199 times during his breakout year, the most strikeouts in a season in which the player hit 50+ homeruns in baseball history. It would have taken Tony Gwynn almost 7 seasons to accumulate that many strikeouts. Gwynn struck out twice in a game only 34 times, but he had 45 games with four or more hits. This means that it was more likely to see him get four hits than it was to see him strikeout more than once.

Look at Gwynn’s accomplishments against some of the greatest pitchers of his era. He batted .429 against Greg Maddux, and an amazing .444 against John Smoltz. Greg Maddux never struck Gwynn out. Not ever. Not even one time. Neither did Pedro Martinez. Nolan Ryan struck Gwynn out nine times, but Gwynn still managed to hit over .300 against him. In 287 plate appearances against the great Atlanta three of Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz, Gwynn only struck out three times while batting an incredible .381.