Picking one guy who deserves better
Our experts make their case for Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Arky Vaughan
We revealed players ranked 76-100 as well as honorable mentions in our Hall of 100 kickoff on Tuesday. Our experts discuss a few things related to the initial unveiling of our Hall of 100 in today's Triple Play. (For a look at the Hall of 100 methodology, click here.)
1. Pick one honorable mention and make a case for him over someone in the 76-100 range.
Doug Glanville (@dougglanville), "Baseball Tonight": Don Sutton. He was a 324-game winner who dominated within individual seasons and over a long period of time. He pitched 5,000-plus innings and had remarkable consistency. I give him the nod over his contemporary, Jim Palmer, whose success relied more on eating up innings and pitching to contact (or away from it), which he did for a much shorter time period than Sutton.
Mark Simon (@msimonespn), ESPN Stats & Info: I'm going to plug Dave Winfield in and take Sammy Sosa out. I think if you took Winfield and plugged him into the mid-1990s/early 2000s, he would have put up better numbers than Sosa did. And I think if you took Sosa and plugged him into the 1970s/mid-'80s, his numbers wouldn't have been as good as Winfield's were.
Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl), ESPN.com: There's no really good reason for Joe Cronin to be in the top 100 and Arky Vaughan not to be; as shortstops and near contemporaries, they have superficially similar stats (Vaughan had an .859 OPS, Cronin .857). But where Cronin had more power, Vaughan was a three-time league leader in on-base percentage with similar defensive value, and his only crime was to be stuck on a consistently noncompetitive Pirates team, while Cronin had the benefit of playing on better Senators and Red Sox teams.
2. Shoeless Joe Jackson (No. 102): Too high, too low, or just right?
Glanville: 102 is just about right for Shoeless Joe. During his time (1908-1920), he was one of the game's best players, but his shortened career made it hard to put him higher on the list. He did not dominate for as long as some of his competition, such as Al Simmons, who had a 20-year career.
Simon: In our voting system, I ranked Jackson around 80th best, so I think he's a little lower than he should be. His offensive numbers for that time are simply overwhelming. I love the Bill James stat -- offensive winning percentage -- which rates what a team's win percentage would be if it had nine of that offensive player in the lineup, with average pitching and average defense. Your top five of all time -- Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Rogers Hornsby, Shoeless Joe.
Kahrl: Just right. Much as some folks like to mope about wasted greatness en route to handing Shoeless Joe an undeserved pardon, it's important to remember that he was already through his age-32 season, and just a year younger than Ty Cobb and older than Tris Speaker -- and neither of them was as dominating in the '20s as both had been in the dead ball era. Jackson's career isn't missing its peak, just its decline phase.
3. Which player in this area do you think is being drastically underrated?
Glanville: I stick with Don Sutton as being drastically underrated. With 5,000-plus innings pitched, year in and year out of strong performances and a cumulative record that ranks very highly among other starting pitchers, I think he should be in the top 75.
Simon: The other guy I was considering for my answer to No. 1 was Dennis Eckersley, who I had rated on the same tier as Winfield. It's very difficult to compare him to others because his career was so unusual (good starter, great reliever) and I think it's a bit of a disservice to say he was worth only 12.2 wins above replacement from 1988 to 1992. He definitely belongs in the top 100.
Kahrl: It's a tough call, because both Phil Niekro and Tom Glavine deserve better than this, but it's much more egregious in Niekro's case. You'd think a guy who threw the knuckler would be remembered more fondly after the Year of R.A. Dickey, but apparently not. Niekro's career (with a record 121 wins after he turned 40) is more impressive to me than Cy Young's career tally, especially since he's seventh all-time in wins post-integration -- or when I'd argue we should start paying attention to the numbers.