Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Top Ten: Center Fielders

1. Willie Mays: Mays gets my vote not just for best center fielder of all time, but best all time. Period. Nobody has ever had his combination of speed and power. From 1955 to 1960, he averaged 36 homers and 31 steals a year. He was also probably the best fielding center fielder of all time, with the most putouts ever and the fourth most assists of all time.
2. Mickey Mantle: Mantle was possibly the most popular player of all time. He was one of the first five tool players and could have been even better had he laid off the booze.
3. Ty Cobb: Cobb had one of the highest Hall of Fame totals of all time with 98.2%. I was surprised when I read it. I know he's arguably the best player of all time, but he was such a jerk you never know. The media's pretty extreme. I wouldn't have been surprised if they had made him wait a few elections just to spite him. He may have been a jerk, but he was fantastic with a bat. A metric called Black Ink measures how many categories a player league in, gives Cobb 154 points. The average Hall of Famer has 27.
4. Joe DiMaggio: The Yankee Clipper has the most unbreakable record of all time. No one will ever hit in 56 straight games again. I can say that with 100% certainty because of how pitching has evolved. In '41, relief pitchers were seldom used, the starter went all nine innings. He would be pretty tired by the end, giving the hitter the advantage. Things are different now. If you don't get a hit in the first seven innings, it's only getting harder from there because from then until the rest of the game, you're facing nobody but fresh pitchers. He was also the subject of one of the most strangely entertaining baseball songs of all time.
5. Tris Speaker: Speaker is one of the most underrated players of all time in my book. He's the all time leader in doubles, out field assists and was a living legend in Cleveland when he played. Three of these are true, one is false: 1) He had his pilots license by 1920 2) He enjoyed wrestling alligators, 3) He threw left handed despite being a natural righty and 4) He was a rodeo cowboy on top of playing baseball. The answer is two. It was just a rumor.
6. Ken Griffey: If it ever came out that Griffey used steroids I think an entire generation of fans would refuse to speak for a month. In the era of steroids and controversy, he was the face of innocence and youth, hitting batting practice with his hat on backwards and making great plays in the outfield. As much as he was idolized by fans, he terrified by pitchers. In an eight year stretch, he averaged 44 homers a year.
7. Duke Snider: Snider has often been forgotten because Mays and Mantle were pretty much gods when they played, but they were much similar than they seem.
Snider: .295/.380/.540
Mantle: .298/.421/.557
Mays: .302/.387/.557
A lot closer than you thought right? Snider also actually hit more homers in the '60s than Mays and Mantle and everyone else.
8. Kirby Puckett: What would be one word to describe people who don't think Puckett should be in the Hall of Fame? Wrong. His lowest batting average ever, was .288, he was a terrific fielder and affected everyone on the team with his leadership.
9. Oscar Charleston
10. Cool Papa Bell: We're grouping our Negro Leaguers together because of their similarities. Here's what we don't know: Any of their stats other than what's on their Strat-O-Matic cards. (.332/.393/.495 for Bell, .391/.478/693 for Charleston) Here's what we do know: If you measured speed on a scale of one to one hundred, Bell would be something like a 150. Cool Papa used to be an extremely fast knuckleball pitcher who go his nickname after striking out, who else, Oscar Charleston in a close game.
In Charleston's case, his stories haven't survived like Bell's or Josh Gibson's. However, there are still people who consider him the best player of all time.

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