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11-28-2012, 05:20 PM
  #82
Mayor Bee
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And since I wouldn't just poke holes in anyone else's theories without adding any of my own...A few years back, SABR decided to settle the discussion of "the best of all-time" by presenting a list, then striking players one-by-one until they arrived at the best. The two finalists for "best of all-time" were Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner.

Ruth we know all about. The greatest offensive force (relative to the league) in history, and a major media attraction. However, he was an outfielder, which is less important defensively, and he was average.

Wagner, on the other hand...

Honus Wagner is considered by nearly every expert to be among the three or four best players in history (like Howe). He played longer than anyone else to that point (like Howe). And he was dominant in all aspects (like Howe).

See, Wagner was a shortstop. There's a long list of guys who were great hitters at shortstop (Alex Rodriguez, Vern Stephens, Robin Yount) and some great fielders (Mark Belanger, Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel). There are a few true all-around talents (Barry Larkin, Cal Ripken). What Wagner was is a combination of one of the five best-hitting shortstops in history, and one of the five best-fielding shortstops in history. No one else compares; the gap between Wagner and the #2 shortstop is probably greater than the gap between #2 and #10, maybe #2 and #20.

So if the qualifications to compare to Howe are:
- Longevity
- Dominance throughout an entire career
- Elite play in all facets of the game
- Important records, and records that lasted for a long time
- Regarded universally as among the five best in history

In baseball, it's Wagner. It's not even Mays, Mantle, or Musial. Ruth can be argued for, if you believe that his offense more than makes up for his defensive shortcomings. But Wagner must be in that discussion.

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