As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted across the country, sports are slowly going to be brought back into society.
It’s been a tough two-plus months without sports, as high school, college and professional athletes lost major events and moments in their athletic lives.
With live sports starting to be reintroduced to society, I decided to make my “Mount Rushmore” of great players from each professional sport.
This edition will be about Major League Baseball. Most of the time, these lists will signify my top-four players in each respective sport. My only slight wrinkle to this list is I wanted to make sure a pitcher was represented, even though I don’t think my choice was one of the best four players of all time.
Baseball is one of the oldest sports in the United States, sharing an unrivaled history in our country. However, unlike football, statistics have remained pretty similar throughout the years with power hitters mashing home runs, power pitchers striking out hundreds of batters each season, and great hitters batting over .300 for their careers.
Although baseball has had a large volume of players, much larger than other sports, statistical consistency made this list a little more fun to create.
Here is my MLB Mt. Rushmore:
From 1919 to 1934, Ruth changed baseball. The man with more unique nicknames than virtually any other athlete in history — I personally prefer “The Sultan of Swat” — is currently third all-time with 714 home runs, a record he almost certainly thought to be unbeatable at his time.
Ruth also finished his career with 2,214 RBIs, a surprising 123 stolen bases, 2,174 runs scored and 2,873 hits. His career average was .342 and he had an impressive .474 career on-base percentage. He also led MLB in slugging percentage and OPS an astonishing 13 times.
Very few athletes in history have dominated their sport as much as Ruth did. His career spanned 22 seasons, and he performed on the biggest stages. He helped start the Yankees’ dominance over the sport for nearly 80 years, and he did it without all the personal trainers, weight programs and agents current players have. Even people who don’t follow sports, or have never watched a baseball game, have heard of Babe Ruth.
Proving that wins and loses for a pitcher are the most overrated stat in all of sports, Ryan, unquestionably the greatest pitcher of all time, finished his career with a less-than sterling career 324-292 record. But that doesn’t even come close to painting the picture of his illustrious career.
Ryan is still the all-time strikeouts leader in MLB history. His 5,714 career strikeouts are almost a thousand more than Randy Johnson. Ryan also finished his career with a sterling 3.19 ERA, proving he normally held opponents to low scores, and he rarely got great run support. Ryan’s career WHIP (1.25) is the only stat that is a little higher than most elite pitchers. But throughout his 27 seasons in the league, Ryan was dominant and nearly impossible to hit on his day.
Pitchers rarely surpass 300 strikeouts in a season anymore — except maybe Max Scherzer — mainly because of pitch counts and injuries. Ryan didn’t have to deal with that. He pitched 222 complete games and 61 shoutouts. He struck out over 300 batters in six different seasons. Ryan’s longevity, strikeout percentage and ability to keep opposing teams off the scoreboard make him a clear legend of the game.
Aaron is the best and most consistent power hitter of all time. He played for 23 years and never hit 50 home runs in a season. Yet, he’s second all time with 755 home runs, a number a lot of baseball purists still believe to be the unofficial record due to all the steroid controversy surrounding Barry Bonds.
Aaron played in at least 145 games every season from 1955 to 1970, proving he was one of the most durable and dependable players in history. He finished his career with 3,771 hits, 2,174 runs scored, 624 doubles, 240 stolen bases, only 1,383 strikeouts — a very low number for 13,941 at bats — and a .305 career batting average.
Not only was Aaron one of the best players in MLB history, he rose to the top as an African American man in a time period marred by racism just after segregation had been lifted. Aaron drove in 2,297 runs, which is the most all time. He is truly one of the titans of the game.
This may be controversial, and a very strong case could have been made in favor of Willie Mays or Ted Williams, however, Bonds accomplished things no other hitter in MLB history could even imagine.
Bonds’ career has been tainted by steroids. He may never get into the Hall of Fame, and many believe an asterisk should be placed in front of all his records and achievements. However, there are just as many who think he should be in the Hall of Fame, and fully recognize his achievements. Bonds played seven seasons before even joining the Giants — which is when his body greatly changed and he became a legendary home-run hitter. He was still on pace to be a Hall of Famer just off the pace he had started with the Pirates.
Bonds had seasons of 33 home runs, 114 RBIs and 52 stolen bases; 25 home runs, 116 RBIs and 43 stolen bases; 34 home runs, 103 RBIs and 39 stolen bases as a Pirate. Those were some elite numbers. It wasn’t until 2001, at 36 years old, that Bonds hit his historic 73 home runs.
Bonds has the most home runs in MLB history (762). He also drove in 1,996 runs, while getting walked and MLB-record 2,558 times. He finished his career with a .298 average (pretty high for just a power hitter) and a .444 on-base percentage. He also had 2,935 hits and 2,227 runs. Bonds was an elite talent who put up historic numbers and was entertaining to watch.
Follow @abrzezin7 on Twitter