Carey: Ranking the top 250 players of all-time

From SABR member Ross Carey at Replacement Level Podcast on November 10, 2014:

For as long as I can remember I’ve been making baseball lists. The all 80s team, the all switch-hitter team, the best first basemen, etc. What I’ve never done is make a top 100 list. A list ranking the top 100 baseball players ever to play. That’s what I set out to do at the beginning of the season. That list quickly grew into the top 200, which eventually swelled and became the top 250. I stopped at 250 for a couple of reasons, one was to preserve sanity, the other is that 250 is roughly the amount of players in the Hall of Fame. The Hall has 240 (211 MLB/29 NLB) and is certain to add at least two more in January. Since no one makes a top 242 list, the top 250 seemed like a good marker.

A few quick notes about the list before I get into it:

– The list includes players from the Negro Leagues and Japan. Many of those players never played a game in Major League Baseball.

– This list is not a judgment of character on or off the field. There are terrible people on this list and others who have a direct link to cheating in one way or another. Some people on this list have committed violent crimes, others are racists, gamblers, steroid & amphetamine abusers, spitball throwers, and bat corkers.  I have attempted to put their accomplishments into context, however I have no interest in pretending their playing careers never happened by excluding them altogether.

– Peak vs. Longevity. This list is full of players on each side of that spectrum but in general I favor the peak performer

– The dead-ball/segregation era dilemmas. The consensus all-time starting nine still has five players who started their career before 1924. Four before 1916. This doesn’t make any sense to me. Baseball has spent much of its existence in a racist, segregated stranglehold. Despite all the outrage over recent steroid guys tainting the record book, nothing compromised the authenticity of numbers more than segregation. Yet, many of baseball’s biggest stars and best players played in a fully segregated league. What to do? I don’t think ignoring them or pretending their accomplishments never happened makes any sense. A list without Honus Wagner or Cy Young would obviously be a farce.  What I did do is consider the era they played in, the quality of competition they faced and adjusted their rankings accordingly.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: November 21, 2014. Last Updated: November 21, 2014.