ESPN recently came out with their top 100 baseball players of all time list and there certainly were some interesting choices made by their panel of voters. Babe Ruth getting the number one spot over Willie Mays, Pedro Martinez ranked higher than Ken Griffey Jr., and Cal Ripken Jr. ranked lower than Ernie Banks are a few examples.
But there were a couple players I feel strongly about who shouldn’t have been ranked higher than Tony Gwynn on this list. Gwynn was ranked at 44th.
Before getting into the names, I want to be clear. Gwynn being ranked at 44 shouldn’t really be viewed as disrespectful to him when you realize how many players have suited up in Major League Baseball. Last season, the league broke the 20,000 player mark. I’m also not saying he should be ranked as a top three player of all time or anything like that but he should be ranked at least higher than 44th.
Ted Williams, who came in at #5, is arguably viewed as the best hitter of all time. Why do I say arguably? Because some would say that honor goes to Gwynn. So how can there be a 39 player gap between the two best hitters of all time and it’s debatable which one is better than the other? That just doesn’t make sense.
Now let’s move to a couple players Gwynn should’ve gotten the edge over.
George Brett (Ranking: #43)
I get that Brett had a higher career WAR and won a World Series with the Kansas City Royals. However, Brett isn’t considered on the same level as Gwynn in terms of being a pure hitter. Whenever we criticize lists it feels like we are bashing the player we’re arguing against but Brett was still obviously a great player and is viewed as one of the best third baseman of all time. He hit .305 with a .369 OBP for his career which is great. But Gwynn hit .338 for his career with a .388 OBP.
Brett won one gold glove while Gwynn won five. Gwynn is a 15-time all star while Brett was selected 13 times. Gwynn won seven silver sluggers and Brett won three. We are splitting hairs with the two guys I am talking about but I’d give Gwynn the edge.
Derek Jeter (Ranking: #28)
I can already envision all of the Yankees fans coming at me right now. Derek Jeter is one of the best shortstops to play the game so I’m not saying he didn’t deserve getting a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame (he was one vote short somehow). However, the team he was on certainly factored into some of his statistics, such as RBI and runs scored in addition to probably getting better pitches to hit because of who was lurking behind him. He was in the same lineup during parts of his career as Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Curtis Granderson.
In comparison, while Gwynn did have Ken Caminiti and Greg Vaughn for a little bit, Steve Garvey was in San Diego when his top five MVP finishes were long behind him and Phil Plantier, who had a career 2.3 WAR, was the Padres cleanup hitter during Gwynn’s near historic season in 1994. In case you were curious, Gwynn compiled 12 seasons with a WAR better than Plantier’s career WAR.
Both Jeter and Gwynn played for 20 seasons so it’s easier to compare their own accomplishments outside of their team’s success than it is for other pairs of players. Gwynn had one more All-Star selection than Jeter. He also won two more silver sluggers, the same amount of gold gloves, and eight more batting titles (while Jeter had zero). And despite playing on a team that missed the postseason in 17 of his 20 seasons, Gwynn’s WAR was only 2.1 wins worse than Jeter’s.
Jeter isn’t viewed as one of the best hitters of all time. Gwynn is, right along with Ted Williams, but isn’t just not ranked higher than Jeter but he’s also nowhere near the top five where Williams sits. It just doesn’t make sense.