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Rawlings Presents Big Stix: The Greatest Hitters in the History of the Major Leagues

1 rating: 1.0
A book by Rob Rains

The debate began to rage during the 2003 baseball season, as Barry Bonds began to creep closer to Hank Aaron's career home run leading total of 755 home runs -- is Bonds a better hitter than the legendary Babe Ruth? Of course they played in different … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Rob Rains
Publisher: Sports Publishing LLC
1 review about Rawlings Presents Big Stix: The Greatest...

The numbers can be misleading, but still make for a good argument anyway

  • Jan 26, 2009
Ranking of the top 25 hitters of all time ranks hitters strictly by the numbers, using a player's ranking in the home run, hits, RBI, doubles, triples, and total bases categories (as of the end of the 2003 season) to sort out the best. No adjustments are made for era, length of career, injuries, post-season success, defensive or baserunning prowess, or military service.

This strength is also a weakness, acknowledged in at least one case by special mention of Ted Williams, who finished only 24th on the list because of his three full seasons lost to military service. Using his career averages for the games he would have played in those years, Williams would have lept from 24th to first . . .

. . . Beating out Hank Aaron, the number one hitter here, and one no one can argue with. In this case, the numbers get it right. It is also hard to argue with Ty Cobb at number two, and Willie Mays at five, although it is a bit surprising, if not poetically interesting, to see Rose (Charlie Hustle) and Ruth (Mr. Homer) tied down at the eighth spot.

Which leads to the part it is not so hard to argue with. Rose is apologetically ranked, even as the write-up mentions his betting problem and current ban from Hall of Fame consideration. Why, then, is no mention made of the potential on-the-field impact of performance enhancers (by 2003 an open and obvious concern among baseball people and writers), which might have helped boost then-active players Barry Bonds (12th) and Rafael Palmeiro (21), both prominently linked to steroids allegations and lawsuits? For either of these steroid-boosted freaks to displace any honorable member of baseball's historic past--Jackie Robinson or Roberto Clemente, for example, neither of who made the list--is a disgrace and a mistake.

Similarly, while I understand the quantitative thinking which keeps the author (and book sponsor Rawlings) out of the morass of subjective rankings, it is hard to fathom not taking into consideration eras when the equipment (the dead ball era which preceded Ruth) or the rules (the taller mound/bigger strike zone of the 60s, or the deeper fences in 19th century ball parks) clearly depressed offensive numbers. Surely a Clemente or Stargell would have merited consideration for the list had they not played the majority of their careers during the pitcher-dominated decade of the 60s.

Another small nit to pick is a top-five World Series hitters' ranking, which is exclusively a Yankees club simply because of how many times they played in the World Series! Surely they could have found a way to use averages rather than aggregates to give more deserving hitters a spot or two on that list.

But the book serves, as all good baseball books do, as a good argument starter, so I must give it three stars for that alone. And appropriately enough, when I posted my review, the book was averaging a 3 star rating, based on a single rating of 5 stars, and a single rating of one star! Just goes to show, the numbers can be misleading, but still make for a good argument anyway.

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