Is Pujols among the most perfect players ever?
Updated: April 24, 2009, 2:15 PM ET
Tony La Russa might have the toughest job in all of baseball: On a daily basis, it is his responsibility to come up with new and different ways to describe how good Albert Pujols is. But Pujols put on a ridiculous show against the Mets on Thursday, clubbing a home run to right field, lacing a single down the third-base line, stealing a base and then launching a homer to straightaway center field. La Russa was inspired, as you can see in this Derrick Goold story. La Russa called Pujols a "perfect player," and added "There is nobody out there better. He's in the [mold] of that generation like Mays, Musial, Aaron. He could hit in their league. He's one of the greatest." Pujols is 29 years old and he needs just two RBIs to reach 1,000 for his career. He has 325 career homers. He ranks 13th all-time in on-base percentage, not far behind Ty Cobb. He is fourth all-time in slugging percentage, right behind Lou Gehrig and just ahead of Jimmie Foxx. He is not fast, but he is considered by scouts to be among the best baserunners in the league because of the decisions he makes. He won a Gold Glove for his play in 2006 and is among the better defensive first basemen in the game. So La Russa's observation raises an interesting bar-room conversation: Who have been baseball's most perfect players? In other words, the guys who are the best all-round players; the guys who seem to do everything well. Ted Williams might have been the greatest hitter ever, for example, but he admittedly was a poor outfielder, and in retirement he spoke with some regret that he didn't work harder on this part of his game. Ozzie Smith might have been one of the greatest defensive players ever, but there were times in his career when he made little impact with his bat. With the question framed thusly, who would be in the conversation for the most perfect player? My first instinct is to say Willie Mays: 660 career homers, 12 Gold Gloves and 338 career steals. Babe Ruth could hit and pitch, we know, and if you read accounts from Ruth's peers, he was thought to be a decent fielder and baserunner as well. Hank Aaron did a whole lot of things well. Barry Bonds was a dominant defensive left fielder (albeit with a poor throwing arm), and he hit for average and power and stole a whole lot of bases. Joe DiMaggio hit for power and he hit for average and he was known as a good and graceful center fielder. Ken Griffey Jr. did a whole lot of things well in his peak years, although he is a career .287 hitter, and that probably eliminates him from conversation. Eddie Murray could hit and field well, but was an average baserunner. Mike Schmidt hit for power and was the best third baseman of his time, but didn't hit for average. Alex Rodriguez might be in the top 10 conversation, given his range of talents. Other guys who could multi-task pretty well: Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar and Johnny Bench. The most perfect player? I might go with a top 5 of 1. Mays; 2. Pujols; 3. Bonds; 4. Aaron; 5. DiMaggio (Joe). For the readers: Who are your top 5 perfect players? By the way, another great all-around player is off to a ridiculous start: Grady Sizemore has 17 RBIs, 15 runs and six homers in the Indians' first 15 games, after his most recent explosion.
Moves, deals and decisions1. The Mets are eyeing a major shakeup, writes Adam Rubin, and coaches and starting pitchers might be targeted. Pitching coach Dan Warthen might be in trouble, according to Rubin. 2. The Giants are not planning on firing Bruce Bochy, writes Andrew Baggarly. 3. A Cliff Lee trade is not even on the Indians' radar, writes Mark Shapiro. Elsewhere • The Jays have placed an entire five-man rotation on the disabled list: Dustin McGowan (out for the year), Shaun Marcum (out for the year), Casey Janssen (out until next month), Jesse Litsch (out until next month) and Ricky Romero (out until next month). But they just keep on winning games. Scott Richmond had a nice outing against the Rangers, as Mike Rutsey writes. The big question is this, writes Richard Griffin: How are the Jays still in first place, considering the injuries they have absorbed? B.J. Ryan also was placed on the DL, and it was Scott Downs who got the save for Toronto Thursday. • The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has chilled somewhat, writes Sean McAdam. Agree completely with Sean on this. The Yankees need Joba Chamberlain to take the mound with an edge, writes Mike Vaccaro. David Ortiz doesn't want anybody getting thrown at in this series, as Kat O'Brien writes. • Barry Zito's had enough and he's not going to take it anymore, writes Rusty Simmons. To continue reading Buster's blog, with news on Cole Hamels, the swing-and-miss pitcher rankings, the Royals draft and more, please join ESPN Insider.
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