Pete Rose in . . . The Nagging Question

January 7, 2008


There’s a lot of voting going on lately, what with the New Hampshire primary and the announcement of the results of the Hall of Fame vote both happening tomorrow. I was going to spend the morning writing about the existential implications of a particularly light-hitting utility infielder from the 1970s named Luis Gomez, but I feel like getting into the voting frenzy instead, especially since the most likely candidates for this year’s official seal of baseball immortality come from the ranks of the Cardboard Gods. Some of the more deserving candidates, including Alan Trammel, Dale Murphy, and Tim Raines, started to become prominent just as my childhood was ending, but the other names expected to make the strongest showing in this year’s vote were in or at least entering their prime during my baseball card years: Jim Rice, Goose Gossage, Andre Dawson, and Bert Blyleven. I have no inside knowledge about this, and haven’t researched the reports of those who do, but if I had to guess I’d predict that Rice and Gossage get in tomorrow, with Blyleven a narrow miss.

Whatever the result, it is sure to stir up controversy about the arbitrary nature of Hall of Fame voting. If Rice gets in, many will wonder why he’s in and, say, Dick Allen isn’t. If Blyleven doesn’t get in, many will wonder why he’s not in and, say, Don Sutton is. Why Lou Brock but not Tim Raines? Why Pee Wee Reese but not Alan Trammel? Why 1930s basher Chuck Klein but not 1990s basher Mark McGwire? (OK, that last question was kind of loaded, or perhaps even juiced, but the point is every player is a product of their times, more or less, and so why ignore the inflated numbers of the 1930s—a segregated era, no less—while completely discounting the inflated numbers of the 1990s?)

You know, I don’t know the answer to any those questions. So instead of trying to answer them, I propose to pass the time today in the pursuit of determining which of the Cardboard Gods is most deserving of an even more arbitrary and ridiculous designation: Best Everyday Player of the 1970s.

I got the idea for this designation a few days ago, during a discussion about Reggie Jackson on Bronx Banter. A participant in the discussion, williamnyy23, provided a list, via baseball-reference.com, of the top twelve OPS+ averages in the decade among players with at least 5,000 plate appearances (for more on OPS+ see baseball-reference.com’s glossary; basically, it is the best single statistic for reflecting a player’s worth as a hitter):

1 Willie Stargell 156 OPS+, 5083 plate appearances
2 Reggie Jackson 148, 5912
3 Rod Carew 142, 5916
4 Reggie Smith 142, 5352
5 Joe Morgan 140, 6320
6 Ken Singleton 139, 5778
7 Johnny Bench 132, 6001
8 Bobby Bonds 132, 6561
9 Bob Watson 132, 5625
10 Tony Perez 129, 6155
11 Cesar Cedeno 128, 5482
12 Pete Rose 128, 7399

So I present that list to you, the voters, as the ballot for Best Everyday Player of the 1970s. But first, a few things:

  1. I am well aware that this is all very ludicrous. For example, Mike Schmidt’s career started too late to be on the above list, but does that make him worse than all the players mentioned? Of course not.
  2. But then again, who cares if it is ludicrous? I grew up in the 1970s, and really in many ways I still live in the 1970s, and so by god I want to know who was the Best Everyday Player of the 1970s.
  3. Please note the word Everyday. My feeling is that if pitchers were included in the discussion, there would be less debate. Tom Seaver tops everyone on the above list in terms of being the Best of the Decade.
  4. Please feel free to write in a vote. I myself have struggled all morning over the question of whether to lodge a middle-finger vote for the immortal Luis Gomez. The system doesn’t work! We’re all doomed anyway! Luis Gomez for Best Everyday Player of the 1970s!
  5. Why, you may ask, am I featuring the 12th player on the ballot, below such fringe candidates as Bobby Bonds and Cesar Cedeno, as the card illustrating today’s ramblings? Pete Rose? You must be joking! Indeed, Pete Rose was at any given time not the best player on his team. He was not even the second best player. He may not, if the above list and its inclusion of Tony Perez is any indication, have even been the third best player on his team. For comparison’s sake, consider (as I often do) this year’s Boston Red Sox. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz are the top two players, and this season Mike Lowell joined them to make a Big Three. So was Pete Rose no better than the 1970s version of the Red Sox’ fourth best player, Kevin Youkilis? And if so, please tell me, Wilker, that you aren’t casting your vote for Pete Rose for Best Everyday Player of the 1970s.
  6. I’m casting my vote for Pete Rose for Best Everyday Player of the 1970s. Mind you, I’m not that confident in the vote. I realize that at their peaks Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan were superior, and may even have been during those peaks the best to ever man their respective positions. I realize the sheer power of Stargell and Reggie would give your team an explosive element that Rose could never provide. I realize that the kind of offensive firepower Rose could provide (think knife-jabs and slashes rather than cannon shots) may have actually been provided more effectively by Rod Carew. But even given all that Rose still contributed significantly to his team’s offensive attack, and, more than that, he did it every single day every single year of the decade in question. Bench was a catcher and could not play every day and wore down by the end of the decade. Morgan also slowed down and played fewer and fewer games as the decade wore on. Stargell’s relatively low number of plate appearances speaks to his problems with injuries, and one of the bigger knocks against Reggie was that he occasionally took games off even when he was in the lineup. I know I’m verging on the much-lampooned idea of “clutchitudiness” when I start talking about things like this, but I think it’s fair to say that Pete Rose was never accused of mailing in his efforts. He played every day and he played hard and he played effectively every position he was asked to play (the former second baseman entered the 1970s as a sure-handed outfielder, became a sure-handed third baseman, and ended the 1970s as a sure-handed first baseman) and he hit. He helped his team win every day, from the beginning of the decade until the end. He gets my vote.

Who gets your vote?


  1. 1.  Anyone but Pete Rose.

  2. 2.  Johnny Bench. With nods to Little Joe and Reggie.

    To give some insight into why, let me just present without further comment, my favourite set of stats ever:

    Johnny Bench played 45 career post-season games. All as a catcher.

    In those 45 games, he himself stole six bases (and was caught once).

    In those same 45 career post-season games, Johnny Bench allowed… six stolen bases.

    And caught thirteen runners trying to steal.

    And picked four more runners off base.

    (OK, I said I wouldn’t comment any further, but there is one more I can’t resist… Bench’s career postseason slugging percentage is exactly equal to that of a guy known better by the name “Mr. October”.)

  3. 3.  Tally so far:

    Rose – Rose + Bench = Bench.

    Bench in a landslide thus far. Polls still open…

  4. 4.  Whenever I’m asked about the best players of the era I grew up in, Reggie Smith’s name does not come up. Looking at this list, I’m not sure why. I know that if asked, most people at that time would’ve rather had Steve Garvey than Reggie Smith.

    My vote, FWIW: Morgan.

  5. 5.  A star in the regular season, star in the post season, stars on his hat.

    Gotta be Stargell.

    Hopelessly Biased Pirate Fan

  6. 6.  3 Imagine if there were a “not” vote in public elections. What an interesting clusterfuck that would be.

  7. 7.  Bench and Morgan are great candidates, but I think the nod has to go to Reggie. He had the superior OPS+, was fanatastic in the post season (even better than Bench when confined to the 1970s) and was actually a pretty good defender and baserunner for the first half of the decade. I think Reggie also gets credit for having the most star value and producing memorable moments.

    I could live with any of the three I mentioned, but I’d give the nod to Reg-gie.

  8. 8.  5 I think Stargell having 1,000 fewer PAs hurts his case versus Reggie.

  9. 9.  Bench was good and Morgan was very good but at that time the only one of these players that was feared (the Rice arguement) was Reggie

  10. 10.  I’d go with Reggie. I started watching baseball in 1982 and 1983, so my vote is mostly based on what I heard people saying about seasons I’d just missed.

    Also, if you forget to limit the OPS+ leaders by plate appearances, Eduardo Rodriguez had a 1970’s OPS+ of 1007.

  11. 11.  By the way, if you change the decade to 1971-1980, Stargell doesn’t qualify for the 5000 PA requirement, but Schmidt does. Schmidt was third behind the two Reggies in 1971-1980 OPS+. Rose drops to 19th in that decade.

  12. 12.  I loved Pete Rose when he was a player, which tells you something about him and his popularity, since I grew up in California. I have a hard time reconciling how much I liked him with how hated he has become due to his gambling problems.

    I wonder what it would be like for young kids today if they grew up idolizing Barry Bonds, without any public knowledge about steroids and HGH. What if they grew up thinking he was nothing more than the best baseball player in an era of amazing baseball accomplishments? Imagine what it would then be like if they found out, a few years after he retired, that he had used performance-enhancing drugs during that time?

    That said, how about a shout-out for Rod Carew? I can’t vote for him for the best player of the 70’s (I’d choose Reggie Jackson), but I’d like to nominate him for 2nd best. I feel lucky to have seen him play for the Angels.

  13. 13.  Ken Singleton – just because I’m so impressed he’s 6th on this list, and thisclose to being 3rd.

    I’m not sure how easy it would be, but I wonder what the list would like look if you used a + version of a weighted OPS, that is, OPS that properly weighs the contributions of OBP vs SLG – where you multiply OBP by 1.4 and then add SLG.

    I know in the raw version, Stargell ends up with a wOPS of 1.074, Reggie 1.015, and Singleton .991 (just using 1970-1979). Going from that raw total to a + version is beyond my skills, however.

  14. 14.  I loved Pete Rose when he was a player, which tells you something about him and his popularity, since I grew up in California. I have a hard time reconciling how much I liked him with how hated he has become due to his gambling problems.

    I wonder what it would be like for young kids today if they grew up idolizing Barry Bonds, without any public knowledge about steroids and HGH. What if they grew up thinking he was nothing more than the best baseball player in an era of amazing baseball accomplishments? Imagine what it would then be like if they found out, a few years after he retired, that he had used performance-enhancing drugs during that time?

    That said, how about a shout-out for Rod Carew? I can’t vote for him for the best player of the 70’s (I’d choose Reggie Jackson), but I’d like to nominate him for 2nd best. I feel lucky to have seen him play for the Angels.

  15. 15.  5 : Stargell was no slouch. He was also considered a great clubhouse leader, beloved by his teammates (the anti-Reggie?).

    11 : Stretching the decade a little also really benefits Reggie, I think; he had monster seasons in both 1969 and 1980. He probably deserves my vote, but what can I do, I already cast my lot with singles-hitting Pete Rose. What was I thinking? I guess maybe Pete Rose is, in the context of this discussion, one of those one-issue candidates who make some noise early but who never really receive any serious consideration and disappear when the real choices start to get made. In that light, the one issue he represents here–that Games Played should be more highly valued as a statistic–is one that I’m glad to have supported. (Concession speech over.)

  16. 16.  13 : Yeah, Ken Singleton was probably the most underrated player of the decade.

  17. 17.  As I said the other day, I have trouble limiting each of those players to those precise years. Morgan was the best player of that group, so he gets my vote.

    Pete Rose gets my Winston Churchill response: Never, never, never, never, never. Sure, he was a nice slappy singles hitter. He ran to first base on walks, and he made damn sure that everyone knew it. He was a mean-spirited, self-centered, arrogant prick who not only hustled but acted like he invented hustle.

    You know what? Joe Morgan never mailed it in, either. He played every bit as hard, and he sure as hell contributed to his team’s success every single day. He just didn’t make as big a deal about it. Morgan was also a far better player than Rose, and I think that’s one of the problems. Rose somehow gets credit for having lesser skills – even though Morgan maximized his every bit as much as Rose did.

  18. 18.  16 Singleton or Smith, take your pick. 4 is correct; everyone at that time fawned all over Steve Garvey, but Smith was a far better player.

    Move the time frame 5 years earlier, and the most criminally underrated would be Jimmy Wynn.

  19. 19.  Without performing anymore than the most rudimentary analysis, I’ll pick Morgan. Bench may actually be close. Both had alot of playing time and played key defensive postions.

  20. 20.  17 : Another vote for Morgan and another minus vote for Rose. Charlie Hustle now has -1 votes, plus a concession speech repudiating the legitimacy of his candidacy in the first place!

    You make a good argument for Morgan. He missed quite a bit more games than Rose, but it’s hard to argue that his superior OPS+, excellent defense, and great baserunning didn’t make up for those missed games.

  21. 21.  18 : Another ’70s switch-hitter in the most-underrated conversation has to be Ted Simmons.

  22. 22.  13 Carew and Little Joe would get the biggest boost thanks to an OBP of .408 and .404, respectively. Singleton’s .398 OBP during that period is also very, very impressive. Singleton has to be one of the more underrated hitters in baseball history.

  23. 23.  I’m too young to have seen any of these guys play in their prime, or even ever (I was born in 1978) but based on sheer numbers, the way he played, and the fact that he played every day, and even the fact that he played four or five different positions over the course of his career, I got to go with Rose.

    In fact, I’d argue that with the passing of Joltin’ Joe, it’s between Mays and Rose for the title of Greatest Living Ballplayer.

    As a Dodger fan, I really hate to admit that, but yeah, they’re good enough to transcend my ultimate dislike of their respective teams.

  24. 24.  I’d go with Reggie Jackson too.

    As for Greatest Living Ballplayer, I think it would be between Mays and Aaron if you don’t want to count Bonds. The list of top OPS+’s among living players is pretty interesting:
    1. Bonds 182
    2. McGwire 162
    3. Musial 159
    4. Frank Thomas 157
    5. Dick Allen 156
    Mays 156
    7. Aaron 155

  25. 25.  Joe Morgan

    3 Reds on the list, no Dodgers and yet the Dodgers were somehow able to lose 3 World Series in the decade.

  26. 26.  As the votes continue to dribble in (Pete Rose is now back up to zero!), here’s my completely off the top of my head, no peeking at numbers list of other best players of the decades:

    The oughts: Honus Wagner
    The teens: Tris Speaker (but you tell Cobb that)
    ’20s: Ruth
    ’30s: Gehrig
    ’40s: Ted Williams (missed a big chunk of time–two-plus seasons, I think–in the war but still racked up a .400 season and two triple crown seasons)
    ’50s: Mantle (I think Ted Williams’ Cooperstown plague mentions that he, Ted Williams, was awarded Player of the Decade for the ’50s)
    ’60s: Mays
    ’70s: to be determined

  27. 27.  24 : Thanks for that list, Peanut. I agree about Aaron and Mays for greatest living ballplayer, but in a way I feel like Stan Musial deserves the title at least for a while just because no one ever mentions him. That list you provide underscores how fricken awesome he was.

  28. 28.  26 : Actually Williams missed three complete seasons (1943-1945) during the war. When he came back in 1946, he had pretty much the same season as he’d had in 1942. He missed most of 1952 and 1953 during the next war.

    Using the same 5000 plate appearance requirement, the OPS+ leader during the 1940’s was the great Bill “Swish” Nicholson at 134. If you only make it 4000 PA, Williams beats Nicholson by 67 points. Musial was at 172 and DiMaggio was at 162.

  29. 29.  I think Stan wins “greatest oldest living ballplayer” very easily.

    I’ll still take Mays as greatest living.

  30. 30.  Joe Morgan, so long as I don’t have to listen to his victory speech.

    26 I will not tell Ty Cobb he wasn’t the best player of the teens. And Hank Greenberg would like a word with you about your pick for the 1930s.

  31. 31.  So conflicted…

    I live one block from Willie Stargell Field–should I vote for the hometown kid?

    Reggie was my favorite player growing up, plus he was the star player on half the decade’s World Series winners.

    Then again, Morgan is also a local product, and he gets bonus points for playing a key defensive position.

    Umm…umm…umm…I’ll give it to…Reggie.

  32. 32.  Stan Musial also still holds the title as Best Player Born On November 21 In Donora, PA. Second place goes to Ken Griffey, Jr.

  33. 33.  30 : Yeah, I looked at the numbers and no way was Speaker better than Cobb in the teens, even taking into account his great centerfield play. Much as I’d like to give the ’30s to Greenberg, a quick glance at their numbers suggests that Gehrig was pretty incomparable.

  34. 34.  33 You’d be incomparable too if you were “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

  35. 35.  Good thing that speech is historical or I would have thought the whole thing was a Hollywood fabrication.

  36. 36.  As a Dodger fan, this is really painful. FOUR key members of the Big Red Machine, Morgan (as a Giant) still killing the Dodgers in the 80s, Reggie the three-time World Series adversary and victor in each. Ouch.

    Pete, it should be noted, has more than one full seasons worth of PAs more than anyone else on the list, 838.

    Can I weasel out and throw 1/2 votes to Morgan and Jackson? Morgan’s middle IF position, slightly more playing time and big OBP compensating for Reggie’s higher, more power-reliant OPS+?

  37. 37.  (Reggie Smith, the only Dodger, is tempting, but he did miss too many games for the “everyday” part of the criteria.)

  38. 38.  35 The entire text of Gehrig’s speech.

    “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?

    “Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert; also the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow; to have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins; then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology — the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Who wouldn’t feel honored to have roomed with such a grand guy as Bill Dickey?

    “Sure, I’m lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something! When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something!

    “When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles against her own daughter — that’s something! When you have a father and mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing! When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know!

    “So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for! Thank you.’ ”

  39. 39.  38 My dad was there.

  40. 40.  38
    Still moving 70 years later. That may have been the 1st movie I watched where tears flowed. Thanks for the whole speech.

  41. 41.  My vote goes to Morgan, very narrowly over Jackson. As a Red Sox and Mariners fan, I have no horse in this race, and as someone who only remembers Rose as a player-manager who cravenly gave himself at-bats, I have no sentimental connection to him.

    The idea that he’s anything like the greatest living ballplayer is ludicrous. Off the top of my head, Mays, Aaron, Musial, Morgan, Jackson, Bonds, Griffey, Ripken, Rodriguez, Schmidt, and Henderson are all far superior candidates — and with a little Googling, I could come up with probably a half-dozen, if not a dozen, more. In essence, I agree that his hustle is overrated both in terms of actual effort expended toward winning rather than appearance, and in terms of how valuable an asset hustle actually is.

  42. 42.  I’ll agree that all those players are better then Rose, but since you didn’t see him in his heyday don’t discount so easily his hustle.
    I severely disliked Pete Rose but he played the game harder then anyone I’ve ever seen. Every minute, no fake hustle.
    No one got on base more times then Pete Rose in the history of the game. He wasn’t just a singles machine, the man could take a walk and had over 1000 extra base hits.

  43. 43.  It’s a close call between Joe Morgan and Reggie Jackson, but I think I have to go with Morgan. After all, Lil’ Joe didn’t cheatily (it’s a new word) thrust his hip in the way of the Dodgers’ WS championship!

  44. 44.  42 No one got on base more times then Pete Rose in the history of the game.

    True. Of course, he also made more outs than anyone else in the history of the game – by a huge margin.

  45. 45.  To diverge slightly to the subtopic of this post, and with respect to Willie Mays who is the obvious choice for greatest living player (and possibly the greatest all-around player ever if that isn’t considered blasphemy), can we create the greatest living baseball AND harmonica player title? Growing up in the St. Louis area, I always thought that every living legend on a ball club played the harmonica (or possibly the mouth harp or spoons or something). What instrument does Mays play? I guarantee that Rose has no rhythm.

    And to toss out some stats that are interesting to me (and I’m not a stat guy so this is only about 10 minutes of digging around on baseball reference):

    Career leaders in runs created:
    1. Barry Bonds 2892 L
    2. Babe Ruth 2719 L
    3. Stan Musial 2562 L
    4. Hank Aaron 2552 R
    5. Ty Cobb 2522 L
    6. Ted Williams 2382 L
    7. Willie Mays 2368 R
    8. Lou Gehrig 2233 L
    9. Pete Rose 2219 B
    10. R.Henderson 2164 R

    The name of the game is the team that scores the most runs wins, right? And they say that Musial was one of the most consistent hitters ever, right? Of his 3630 hits, 1815 game on the road and 1815 game at home. But enough hometown bias.

    If I had to vote for the best player of the ’70s, and seeing that I was born in ’83 and don’t care to much to go over all the stats, I’ll throw some love Rod Carew’s way, because he’s the only one on that list that I ever heard the Beastie Boys rhyme about.

  46. 46.  Hello Josh and fellow C.G. worshipers.

    Long time lurker here – this site is one I check out every day.

    I vote for the man who was not only a superstar baseball player, but in my view the epitome of the 1970’s – Reggie Jax.

  47. 47.  45 : “I’ll throw some love Rod Carew’s way, because he’s the only one on that list that I ever heard the Beastie Boys rhyme about.”

    Before they rhymed Carew with Woo, they worked the player whose numbers tower over all others from the ’70s into “Hey Ladies”:


  48. 48.  43 I count that as a point in Reggie’s favor. That was one of the greatest heads-up plays I’ve ever seen.

    Yeah, I’m a Yankees fan (though my vote is for Morgan, easily). But it was worth it just to hear those smug Dodgers whine about being jobbed instead of , y’know, going out and winning.

  49. 49.  I think that the Say Hey Kid has a case for the best all-time player (not sure I’d vote that way, though.) Stan the Man’s stock seems to have dropped over the years for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the Boomers who wax rhapsodic about the 50s weren’t from Saint Louis; Bob Costas being an exception. And isn’t he a Mantle fan anyways?

  50. 50.  47 Now there is a name that deserves to be considered here, if only for the amazing rhyme. That said, my vote stands. “Sure shot” is a superior song to “Hey Ladies,” even though they both pale in comparison to the collaboration with Q-tip.

    49 I don’t know about Costas and Mantle, but I personally don’t have a great opinion of Costas. I can’t for the life of me figure out why, but I have never liked him. Maybe I don’t like short people. I do, however, have the greatest respect for Joe Buck and I am sure he would rally for Musial at any given moment. But you bring up a good point? I’ve not lived in the St. Louis area for about 4 years, and since I’ve moved out I never hear about the Man except in references to Pujols as an heir. It’s not like I live in another region or anything (I’m a short 3 hour trip up I-55), but the Man’s reach has diminished for some reason. Unjustly so if I can be so assertive.

  51. 51.  and I can’t figure out for the life of me how to get those links to work, my bad….

  52. 52.  28 Always nice to hear “Swish” Nicholson come up in conversation. He was the last (and best) major leaguer to come out of my college. Sure, his best seasons were during the war, when the competition was lesser, but he still wasn’t a slouch.

    Meanwhile, back to the top at hand. My vote goes to Ken Singleton. After taking a closer look at the list, the amazing thing is that Ken was a rookie in 1970, and didn’t play full time for the first two years of the decade. His lowest on base percentage in a full season in the 70s is .363 in 1972, his first season of more than 140 games.

  53. 53.  Best all-around player ever? Not even close.

    .342/.474/.690, Career OPS+ of 207
    94-46, 2.77, Career ERA+ of 122

  54. 54.  51 : Put brackets around the number you want to link to.

    53 : Yeah, the pitching puts Ruth in a category all his own among major leaguers. The only guy who can compare is Martin Dihigo, the Hall of Fame Negro League pitching/hitting star (I believe Dihigo also was versatile enough to play every position, too).

  55. 55.  Here’s how the voting stands so far:

    Reggie: 7 1/2 votes
    Morgan: 7 1/2
    Singleton: 2
    Rose: 2 (plus two “never, ever” votes)
    Carew: 1 (plus a “second-place” vote)
    Stargell: 1
    Bench: 1

    I’m surprised Bench only has one vote so far. He probably shows up on more all-time best rosters than anyone else from that era.

    In other news, the Hall will announce the results of their vote at 2 p.m. EST.

  56. 56.  Late to the voting booth. I’m gonna say Bench.

    My Dad grew up where they threw turkey’s off of city hall, and thus was a Cards fan. I got to hear a bit about Stan the Man.

    53 that still boggles my mind.

  57. 57.  My vote:


    The only candy bar that tells you how good it is.

  58. 58.  9 Bob Watson 132, 5625

    I had no idea Bob Watson was so good. The only thing I knew about him (besides being a former GM) was that he scored the one millionth run in MLB history (thank you, Topps!).

    Also cool to see Singleton, Bobby Bonds, and Cesar Cedeño on the list.

  59. 59.  48
    We will always have 81.

    By my count were even.
    LA Dodgers 63 and 81
    Yankee’s 77 and 78

    Maybe someday we can break the tie but I don’t expect to see the Yankee’s in the World Series for quite a while.

    It was a great play by Reggie and a not so good play by Russel.

    Bob Watson used to crush the Dodgers. I hate to look it up on baseball reference and find out I’m wrong.

  60. 60.  My first instinct is to say Joe Morgan.

    Geez, look at Ken Singleton there. Where does Staub rank on that list?

  61. 61.  60 : Unfortunately I don’t yet have the (reasonably priced) subscription to baseball-reference that would allow me to manipulate the database for other players below Rose on that list, but some quick calcualtions find that Staub would probably be right on Rose’s heels. Just adding his OPS+ numbers for the decade and dividing by 10, I got an average of 124.6. Not as good as Singleton, who he was once traded for (the Mets also threw in Mike Jorgensen and Tim Foli for Staub), but Rusty certainly betters Singleton as a gourmet chef.

  62. 62.  Staub is tied for 16th. Murcer and Yaz are behind Rose at 127. Ted Simmons (another very underrated 70s player) is next at 126. Then comes Staub, Garvey and Mayberry at 125.

  63. 63.  61
    The Play Index on Baseball-Reference.com is free through January 11. Here is the full search:


    Rusty Staub is 18th with a 125 OPS+ in 6160 PA.

    What I found interesting was that Rose had way more PA in the 1970s than anyone else. He had 838 more PA than the #2 guy, Bobby Bonds!

  64. 64.  59
    I took the liberty of looking up Bob Watson against the Dodgers. Here are the numbers:


    From 1970-79, he hit .313/.385/.480 against LA, which is better than his overall 70s line of .301/.368/.454, so he crushed LA at an OPS+ of much better than 132!

  65. 65.  Morgan is still running neck and neck with Reggie Jackson in the vote. But I wanted to try to quantify a point about Pete Rose I’ve been circling around all through this process. Basically, I think the fact he was in the lineup every day greatly enhanced his value, perhaps even to the level where he is the equal of Joe Morgan, Rose’s superior in terms of percentages that don’t take games played into account, so I tried to do a little math. My logic may well be shoddy here, but consider this: during the 1970s, Joe Morgan played in 90% of his team’s games. Pete Rose played in 99% of his team’s games. If you multiply Morgan’s OPS+ average for the decade by .9, you get 126. If you multiply Rose’s OPS+ average by .99, you get 126.7. And 126.7 > 126. In short, maybe, just maybe, Pete Rose every single day is a tiny bit better than Joe Morgan 9 days out of 10.

  66. 66.  65
    Plus Rose had an amazing 7399 PA in the 70s. The have only been 64 individual seasons of 740+ PA (Rose himself had five of them), and Rose averaged that amount over the entire decade.


    Also, Pete Rose had 8862 PA from 1969-1980, a 12-year span (738.5/year).

    In Cal Ripken’s most prolific (PA) 12-year stretch (1982-1993), he had 8485 PA (707/year), with a high of 726 (Rose had higher than that in 11 of this 12 years listed above).

  67. 67.  66 Durability is a good skill to have, but you’re ignoring something important. The number of PAs a guy has is going to depend on where he hits in the lineup. A leadoff hitter gets what, about 20 more PAs/year than the guy hitting 2nd, 40 more PAs/year than the guy hitting 3rd, and so on down the line.

    IIRC, Rose always hit leadoff. To use your analogy to that team-stealer who’s name I refuse to use, that guy usually hit 3rd, sometimes 4th. Lineup slot alone gives Rose anywhere from 60-80 more PAs than the team-stealer a year, or 600-800 more PAs than him over a decade (720-960 more PAs for a 12 year span).

  68. 68.  Which is of course why he made the most outs in baseball which is also why I find that the most useless stat I’ve ever heard.

    Getting a lot of at bats when your good is a good thing, getting alot of of at bats when your Juan Pierre is a bad thing.

  69. 69.  68
    But Pete Rose wasn’t Juan Pierre in the 1970s…he was one of the top hitters in baseball. I was just pointing out that while Rose was good on a rate basis, his enormous amount of PAs (while good) created tremendous value for him.

  70. 70.  Yeah, not only did Rose hit leadoff, he hit leadoff for an offensive juggernaut that routinely pummeled its way around and around the order.

    On the other hand, his appearing in 99% of his team’s games for a decade is something he did all on his own.

  71. 71.  Just to separate the two most recent strands here:

    Plate appearances: not so good an idnicator of worth

    Percentage of team’s games played: Maybe a way to put percentage-based numbers such as OPS+ in context and highlight the value of a guy such as Rose who played at a very high level in virtually all of his team’s games. I’m interested to hear whether people think I’m sniffing glue on this one or not.

  72. 72.  My post in 66 was meant to be more Starkian than anything else, to show the novelty of it all.

  73. 73.  68 I cited the number of outs he made, but not because I think it’s an important stat. I just think that the total number of times he reached base is just as completely unimportant – and entirely meaningless unless you also consider the outs.

  74. 74.  71 I see your point. I just don’t think it’s enough to bring Rose up to Morgan’s level.

    Of course, I also deduct points for Rose’s prickitude. I’ve loathed him for 35 years or so, probably more than any other ballplayer. Fortunately, Morgan’s second career as a startlingly brain-dead broadcaster doesn’t figure in these calculations.

    Singleton, btw, might have a case for best hitter – though I doubt it – and certainly for nice guy, underrated, prototypical Weaver player and so on. But he was maybe a fair-to-middling outfielder(with a pretty good arm), and he was slow as mud. Not in Morgan’s league as an overall player.

  75. 75.  69
    I was not being critical of your comment, I was using your data to comment on a previous comment that 73 references.

  76. 76.  I would love to trade Rick Monday for Ken Singleton.

  77. 77.  76 I assume you’re referring primarily to the broadcasters rather than the players.

    Singleton is an excellent play-by-play guy – but of course YES uses him far more often as a color commentator, which he’s not as good at. They’d rather use Michael Kay at p-b-p, even though he’s not very good.

    The year before last, someone missed a flight and Singleton had to do a game solo. It was the best broadcast I’ve seen in years.

  78. 78.  I heard him several years ago when I had the MLB package and he was the lone bright spot on a blight of terrible MLB broadcasters. He has a warmth and intelligence that I enjoyed.
    I actually also liked Jim Katt.

    By the way the best ballplayer with a gazillion letters in the 1st month of the 70’s decade was Billy Grabarkewitz. Hands down.

  79. 79.  So as of Wednesday morning, the results of the various voting frenzies are in:

    Clinton and McCain in New Hampshire
    Goose Gossage in Immortality
    And, with polls open indefinitely, Morgan and Reggie tied with 8.5 votes each, followed by Bench, Singleton, and Rose with 2 each.

  80. 80.  I’ll cast a vote for Morgan. He just brought so much to the table.

  81. 81.  65 “If you multiply Morgan’s OPS+ average for the decade by .9, you get 126. If you multiply Rose’s OPS+ average by .99, you get 126.7. And 126.7 > 126. In short, maybe, just maybe, Pete Rose every single day is a tiny bit better than Joe Morgan 9 days out of 10.”

    That’s all well and good, but it ignores positional adjustments, defense, and baserunning, which all make up a good portion of Morgan’s case as an inner-circle Hall of Famer. Rose played the majority of his games in the 70s at an outfield corner: Five seasons as a left or right fielder, four as a third baseman, and one as a first baseman. Thus, the baseline against which he competes is higher — while the OPS+ of each player is superficially similar, the positional scarcity at second base makes Morgan a more valuable player. Morgan was also an excellent defender at second base, for which he gets credit that a man playing at the other end of the defensive spectrum doesn’t earn.

    The most massive difference is going to be baserunning, however. It’s hard to know from a cursory review of the stat sheets to know just how effective Rose was as a baserunner, but the evidence points to the possibility that his speed simply limited his ability: He did not try to steal very often, and when he did, he was not good at it. Rose was notoriously hustle-y. Once on the basepaths, how much did he try to stretch his unexceptional speed, and did that hurt his team when he ran into outs? I suppose one with more time on his hands could find out, but my guess would be, from antectdotal evidence alone, kind of a lot.

    Morgan, on the other hand, was an exceptional baserunner, stealing often (as many as 67 steals twice) and well (never caught more than 17 times in any one season) throughout his prime, and running more conservatively but just as intelligently as he aged. He was just a faster runner. Is that Pete Rose’s fault? No. But it still makes Joe Morgan a better player.

    So: Do we want to punish Pete Rose for his versatility and lack of speed? On the one hand, you never want to punish a player who is willing to take the field at any position just to get out there, but the fact of the matter is that Rose played a variety of positions that are reserved for the worst fielders on the team, and many guys before and since — Yaz, Frank Robinson, and Stan Musial all come to mind, but so do any of a number of lesser players like Lance Berkman — have been able to handle all of them well enough to stay on the field. As to his lack of speed, yes, we do want to punish him for that. It may not be his fault, but it still affects his value.

  82. 82.  80 : And Morgan noses into the lead.

    81 : Thanks for that analysis, Voxter. Yeah, I have to admit Morgan was better. (I think I’ve mostly been playing devil’s advocate this whole time anyway.) Even if Rose’s durability evened the playing field a little, Morgan still trumps him with his defense and baserunning.

    I would argue with the implication that Rose was a detriment to his team as a fielder. He was not nearly as valuable as Morgan, of course, but by most accounts he played left field and right field well (and, with respect to errors, near flawlessly) and also played third base well. (I’m not as familiar with his reputation as a second baseman–that was before my time.) And his almost unprecedented flexibility, which allowed the team to put him where they needed him most, again and again and again, is along with his durability another underrated element of his value to his team, I think.

  83. 83.  82 And, much as I hate to give him credit, Rose did make one fielding play for the ages – catching the foul pop that bounced out of Boone’s glove in the 1980 World Series.

    The greatest heads-up, clutch plays I’ve ever seen were Reggie’s hip move, Jeter’s flip toss, and Rose’s catch.

    But he was still a prick.

  84. 84.  82 I didn’t mean to imply that Rose was a liability in the field; just that he didn’t play very demanding positions once he moved off third.

  85. 85.  83 That was a great play. The man had focus.

    [84}: Right, I realized I was kinda putting words in your mouth not long after I posted that. Sorry ’bout that. Incidentally, I think he actually played third AFTER he played outfield.

  86. 86.  I vote for Rod Carew because, as far as I know, he was the only player on that list to whom the Beastie Boys gave a shout out to.

    But if I were making a vote based upon, say, performance, rather than cred, it would begrudgingly go to Joe Morgan.

  87. 87.  85 Yes, Rose moved from LF to 3B to make room for George Foster, nine years removed from being an everyday 2B.

    I didn’t vote for Bench because of the “everyday” criterion. Sparky Anderson tried to keep Bench’s bat in the lineup by playing him at other positions (Bench at 3rd was a weird sight), but in the second half of the 70s Bench played about the same amount as normal catchers, not playing in about 12 – 20% of the games.

    Would Reggie Jackson’s hip interference play have been so “heads-up” if the 1B umpire had had the balls to make the correct call? (As Toy Cannon alludes to in 59 , Bill Russell should have thrown that ball at Reggie’s noggin – a sizeable target.

  88. 88.  86 meet the last paragraph of 45

  89. 89.  88 : And also see 47 for some love for Beastie-celebrated Sadaharu Oh.

  90. 90.  I posted this elsewhere, but just so it’s all in one place, the tally:

    Joe Morgan: 10.5 votes
    Reggie: 8.5 votes
    Carew: 2 votes
    Bench: 2 votes
    Singleton: 2 votes
    Rose: 2 votes
    Stargell: 1 vote

  91. 91.  I’d like to vote for Cedeno since he played an up-the-middle position and I like him better than Johnny Bench.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: