We'll take a break from Orioles rumors that most likely won’t come to fruition -- I never say never, but I say "most likely not" a whole lot in the winter -- to look at the findings of a pretty cool book I thought would be of interest to many of you.
In October, Sports Illustrated put out a monstrous coffee-table book called “Baseball’s Greatest,” in which a panel of SI’s baseball writers and editors looked at the best at each position in the game’s history. It also ranked the Top 10 in some other categories, such as best ballpark, best slugger, best defensive player and best character in the game.
Each member of the panel ranked people (or places) from first to 10th -- with first place getting 10 points, second getting nine, etc. Then the panel ranked the top point-getters. It’s a solid look at comparing eras and players -- something I love about baseball.
The results, for Orioles fans, were mixed.
The victories for the modern-day Orioles: Cal Ripken Jr. finished second among all shortstops, behind only Honus Wagner and ahead of Derek Jeter. Ripken’s consecutive games played streak was named the second-best record, falling behind only Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. I can live with that one.
Brooks Robinson was named the second best defensive player of all-time, behind Ozzie Smith and ahead of Willie Mays.
Now, for the finger-pointing shockers:
Jim Palmer didn’t get one single vote as a Top 10 right-handed pitcher of all-time. Hey, I get the competition: Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Greg Maddux, Tom Seaver. But Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander each got votes, and Palmer couldn’t get one? (All that received votes are listed in the back of the book.)
Also, Brooks Robinson was listed fifth among third basemen. I’m quite aware of the faithful Mike Schmidt contingent -- I spent four years arguing with that group while I was at a Pennsylvania college (my argument: Schmidt was unquestionably great, but if he played for the Orioles in the 1960s, he’d be one of the greatest left fielders of all-time, because he wasn’t moving Brooks Robinson from the hot corner).
I can stomach the Schmidt decision, but George Brett, Eddie Mathews and Wade Boggs also got the nod over the Human Vacuum Cleaner. Heresy, I say.
Eddie Murray was listed as the eighth-best first baseman, which seems low until you look at the competition.
I was a tad irked that Weaver didn’t crack the Top 10 for greatest characters (only one manager, Leo Durocher, made that one) or that Robbie Alomar was all the way down at seventh for second base. The only one ahead of Alomar that played in my lifetime, though, was Joe Morgan, who was second.
OK, here are the positional Top 10 lists. Feel free to add your two cents (or $32.95). If you want the book, you can order it at SI.com/baseballsgreatest.
2B: Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, Eddie Collins, Jackie Robinson, Nap Lajoie, Charlie Gehringer, Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, Rod Carew, Frankie Frisch.
C: Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Ivan Rodriguez, Josh Gibson, Mickey Cochrane, Carlton Fisk, Bill Dickey, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter.
CF: Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Tris Speaker, Ken Griffey Jr., Duke Snider, Oscar Charleston, Kirby Puckett, Cool Papa Bell.
RF: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, Mel Ott, Pete Rose, Al Kaline, Tony Gwynn, Paul Waner.
LHP: Sandy Koufax, Lefty Grove, Warren Spahn, Randy Johnson, Whitey Ford, Steve Carlton, Carl Hubbell, Eddie Plank, Tom Glavine, Lefty Gomez.
Relievers: Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckerseley, Rollie Fingers, Rich Gossage, Trevor Hoffman, Hoyt Wilhelm, Bruce Sutter, Dan Quisenberry, Lee Smith, Billy Wagner.
Manager: John McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Tony La Russa, Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson, Connie Mack, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Walter Alston.