Players’ View: Who was Better, Bonds or Ruth?

I recently posed a question to seven players and three coaches. It was a question that doesn’t have an easy answer. Given the subjectivity involved, it may not even have a right answer.

Who was better, Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth?

The question was phrased exactly that way. It was up to the people responding to interpret the meaning of “better” and to elaborate accordingly. They were asked face-to-face, with no opportunity to reference statistical data on their phones or on their laptops. Their responses — listed below in alphabetical order — were both interesting and varied.

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Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins infielder: “If you look at the overall game dominance Ruth had — he was doing something nobody else was doing. I’d lean more toward him and what he did in his time. I played against Barry Bonds, who was obviously great, but what Ruth did stood out even more against his contemporaries. It’s hard to compare them because things were so much different when Ruth played, but I’d have to say Ruth.”

Jonny Gomes, Boston Red Sox outfielder: “Babe Ruth, for the simple fact that he also pitched. If we’re talking all-around player… the guy was frigging one of the best pitchers in the game. And I mean one of the best ever.”

Jim Hickey, Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach: “The difference in eras makes it almost impossible to say. Even so, I kind of use the barometer that Ruth changed the way the game was played. Bonds really didn’t. But who knows, maybe Ruth was chemically-enhanced. It‘s a hard question because they played in completely different eras.”

Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder: “I wish I’d have had the pleasure of watching Ruth play. For what little bit I saw of Barry… I don’t know. It’s tough. I’ve seen highlights of Ruth, and I know he was also a pitcher with an incredible arm. Barry could do it all. I don’t think I could pick one or the other. We’re talking about two of the best to have ever played the game. I have to be neutral on this one.”

Dave Martinez, Tampa Bay Rays bench coach: “I played with Barry — he was unbelievable — and I’ve obviously only seen video of Ruth. I’ve obviously seen the numbers. As far as all-around players, Barry was one of the best to ever play the game. He could play the outfield, hit, throw, steal bases. He did it all. Ruth was obviously hitting home runs — a lot of home runs — when no one else was. But I have to go with Barry.”

Brandon Moss, Oakland A‘s outfielder: “It’s a decision I’m making having obviously never seen Babe Ruth play, but I would have to go with Barry Bonds as the better player. That’s because of the all-around game he displayed. And along with having seen him, I’ve played in the same park Bonds did in San Francisco. To do what he did there is just amazing, because that ballpark is so hard to hit the ball out of. I feel Bonds is the greatest player ever.”

Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians infielder: “I don’t know much about Babe Ruth, but minus whatever people say about Barry — you know what I mean by that — you still need to have the ability. To be able to do what he did; it’s just remarkable. I play the same sport he does and know how hard it is. He made it look like tee-ball; kind of like Miguel Cabrera is doing right now. As far as Babe Ruth goes, I’m no expert, but I’ll venture out on a limb and say that — back in those days — they didn’t have specialized guys out of the bullpen throwing 100. Starters stayed in 9, 10 innings. It was a different game.”

Luke Scott, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder: “In one respect that’s an easy question. Barry Bonds was a superior player because of the era he played in. The level of baseball is much better now, just as basketball and the NFL are better. That said, I don’t think Barry Bonds had as much impact on the game as Babe Ruth. No one has ever impacted the game the way Ruth did. He was “The Sultan of Swat,” “The King of Swing.” He did more for the game than anybody. But again, if you put the two of them together on a baseball field, who would outperform the other and put up better numbers? It would be Barry Bonds.”

Dave Trembley, Houston Astros third base coach: “Ruth was a very good pitcher, and that has to be considered. He also played in the dead ball era, and changed baseball. But I would say Bonds was a better all-around player, because he had both speed and power. He had to hit in the age of specialization, with relievers, match-ups, shifts… there are a lot variables. Travel, night games. Back in Ruth’s era, starting pitchers went longer and you saw them more often. It would be interesting to see how they’d have done in each other’s era. I think Bonds would do better in Ruth’s era than Ruth would do in Bonds’. Of course, they wouldn’t have let Bonds play in Ruth’s era.”

Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox infielder: “I’ve never seen Ruth play — not even on TV — so it’s hard for me to compare him to Barry Bonds. I know how impressive Bonds was. I can also say pitching was more advanced when Barry was playing, and so was training. But I don’t know if I can say one or the other. Well, I guess maybe I’d lean Barry.”

——

FINAL TALLY

Bonds: Six votes (Martinez, Moss, Reynolds, Scott, Trembley, Middlebrooks)

Ruth: Three votes (Carroll, Gomes, Hickey)

Neutral: One vote (Joyce)



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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Iron
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Iron
3 years 2 months ago

It’s fair to say Bonds is much more athletic than Ruth, and that Ruth would not be able to do what he did against modern pitching. But it ignores what kind of hitter he might have been with modern strength, conditioning, swing analysis, lighter bats, etc. The argument does not only go in the one direction.

Jason H
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Jason H
3 years 2 months ago

Why is it fair to say Bonds is much more athletic than Ruth?

TimothyS
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TimothyS
3 years 2 months ago

Because people always picture Babe Ruth at the end of his career, when his girth had gotten quite large.

abreutime
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abreutime
3 years 2 months ago

Are you arguing otherwise?

Jason H
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Jason H
3 years 2 months ago

While I have no idea who was more athletic, or how you would measure that, I would be comfortable saying that neither was “much more” athletic than the other. They both displayed otherworldly athletic talent by dominating their sports in unprecedented ways in the case of Ruth, and with a lone precedent (Ruth) in the case of Bonds.

jbergey
Member
Member
jbergey
3 years 2 months ago

Ruth was one of the best pitchers in baseball until he became a full time hitter. As far as speed and defense Bonds was “much more athletic” but in the case of being a world class pitcher Ruth was “much more athletic” so I am not sure if the athletic comments holds up in this situation.

UZR
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UZR
3 years 2 months ago

He has the second most runs saved of any player ever.

los
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los
3 years 2 months ago

Didn’t you guys ever learn that Athletic = “Black”. Just like Scrappy = “White”

baycommuter
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baycommuter
3 years 2 months ago

Not necessarily. Buster Posey is an unusually athletic catcher; Jose Altuve is scrappy.

Jake in Pittsburgh
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Jake in Pittsburgh
3 years 2 months ago

Forget Ruth…Willie Mays is the best all-around baseball player in history. When you compare Ruth and Bonds, you automatically gravitate toward home runs. But for the whole position player package, it’s Willie Mays.

And that’s the tragedy of Barry Bonds. He should have been the next Willie Mays. He should have been the best combination of speed and power and baseball dynamism since Say Hey. Mays’ fielding would keep him at #1, but we would be speaking of them as #1 and #1a.

But that wasn’t good enough for Barry. He threw away the chance to be Willie Mays. And for what? To reach the storied heights of Mark McGwire (!) and Sammy Sosa (!!).

He should be mentioned alongside Willie Mays (the godfather he supposedly admires so much). But he crumpled it up and threw it away so that he could be mentioned in the same breath as McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, and Giambi.

Way to go, Barry.

Synovia
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Synovia
3 years 2 months ago

Why do you think Willie Mays didn’t use performance enhancers?

enhanced performance
Guest
enhanced performance
3 years 2 months ago

It is fair to say that Dave Laurila is a complete moron. It is generally a bad idea to get personal but this post is so damaging to the integrity of the game that it deserves its author to be personally slandered.
Barry Bonds is a historic cheat and to gloss over that is to miss the point in a way that shows a colossal failure to see the forest from the trees. His ability to hit the ball was only historic BECAUSE he cheated. He was a very good player, like a Ken Griffey, and then he cheated. From 2000, his 35 year old season, he hit over 300 homeruns, led the league in walks and won 4 consecutive MVPs and finished second once. There is a book called Game of Shadows that meticulously details when and how he cheated. Hint, this stuff happened AFTER he cheated.

Next is Dave Laurila going to discuss how great a financier Bernie Madoff was…. he was the chairman of the NASDAQ stock market. To discuss Bonds in the same breath as Babe Ruth is simply disrespectful. It is like equating Benedict Arnold to George Washington and never mentioning that Arnold was a traitor who invalidated his service to America. Bonds was an excellent player who did more to destroy the sanctity of the game than any other player. This is because he was so successful at cheating that he produced statistics that ruined the comparisons among eras. He was a fraud and Babe Ruth was not.

Ethics are a real thing
Guest
Ethics are a real thing
3 years 2 months ago

Beautifully said.

Madoff = Bonds = Lance Armstrong = Marion Jones.

Success through the repeated, systematic cheating of others and un-leveling of the playing field is a disgrace. As is Laurila, for celebrating one such disgusting and disgraceful individual in Bonds. Being the greatest cheat in the history of one’s sport in no way elevates — and all who celebrate Bonds now, knowing what we know, are a blight.

Synovia
Guest
Synovia
3 years 2 months ago

The same could be said about Ruth though. We know he did illegal things to gain advantage. I mean, this was a guy who injected himself with sheep testicle extract to try to get an advantage.

Babe Ruth is the godfather of PEDs.

Simpleton Sez
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Simpleton Sez
3 years 2 months ago

It’s a good thing those pre-1980 players never did anything wrong! Do you hear me?!? NOTHING!!!

Willie
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Willie
3 years 2 months ago

I have been a Giants fan since my first game in 1964. San Francisco is my home town. I love the Giants.
Thre is really no way to discuss this question because Barry Bonds was a liar and a cheat. Ruth was a drunk, but as far as I know that doesn’t count as enhancement against the rules.
All of baseball knows he is a cheat and they do not respect him. The proof…he couldn’t get a job. The folks who talked about his athleticism and strength are missing the obvious insults that Barry poured upon the game in a near-blasphemous manner.
His name should be removed from all of the record books. The same for all who taint the game with their lies and deceit.
If you can’t play to the level you want to without cheating, then be a man…settle for what you can do honestly or get the he– out of the game.

Synovia
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Synovia
3 years 2 months ago

“Ruth was a drunk, but as far as I know that doesn’t count as enhancement against the rules.”

No, but injecting yourself with sheep testosterone probably does. Ruth has no “sanctity of the game” leg to stand on.

Bradley Woodrum
Member
Member
3 years 2 months ago

Of course, they wouldn’t have let Bonds play in Ruth’s era.

Winner: Best line.

Gus
Guest
Gus
3 years 2 months ago

“But who knows, maybe Ruth was chemically-enhanced.”

That’s my nomination for best line.

David
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David
3 years 2 months ago

Ruth used the same chemical enhancement as Miguel Cabera: Alcohol.

MDL
Member
MDL
3 years 2 months ago

Wasn’t Mickey Mantle an alcoholic? I think you’re on to something here.

ndavis910
Member
ndavis910
3 years 2 months ago

You’re forgetting his other main chemical-enhancer: ballpark hot dogs

Hmmm
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Hmmm
3 years 2 months ago

Rogers Hornsby went years without eating anything but steak for his supper.

potcircle
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potcircle
3 years 2 months ago

ruth was a fat joke at the end of his career… 26% k rate and couldn’t run… probably did cocaine, too…

http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2010/09/life_liberty_and_breaking_the_rules.html

bonds, otoh, was run out of baseball with a 1.045 ops and 157 wRC+… i believe the owners colluded to end the mockery he was making of the records… at least in part because he was black… (& also, in part because he was an asshole… )

but the numbers are undeniable – & that nobody would hire him – even as a dh – even on a minimum contract – screams collusion… which isn’t all that hard to achieve when all you need are 30 rich old white guys to agree to fuck over a black guy…

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2008-06-25-bonds_N.htm

& far as i can tell, ALL baseball players are cheats… stealing signs, beanings, spiking runners, corking bats, scuffing balls are no more or less legal than peds… it is only the delusional designation of relative sin that allows the racists to pretend they’re not racists and the purists to pretend the game has anything to with them…

Ed
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Ed
3 years 2 months ago

potcircle, you’re really going to argue that stealing signs and PEDs are the same level of cheating?

One’s an unwritten rule at best, the other is a federal felony.

snack man
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snack man
3 years 2 months ago

I’m going to go with stealing signs is part of the game.

potcircle
Guest
potcircle
3 years 2 months ago

ed & snack man…

stealing signs brings bean balls & bean balls are forbidden, right? & the penalty is one free base, even though it could end another player’s career? so, how many pitchers have broken the rules & thrown at someone? (answer – all of them)…

but, to you, a guy taking a substance that had yet to be banned is a true cheat, but stealing a sign that could end in breaking a teammate’s wrist (which you seem to encourage), or plunking the guy who you thought saw your curve coming is just playing hard?

wow… the yummy hypocrisy of the american prole…

and the federal felony thing isn’t accurate, either… no evidence bonds ever possessed or even ingested anything on a banned list – his stuff was too cutting edge for the list, and by the legal letter of baseball law (or even wada), not cheating… bonds was never banned from baseball for peds because he did not take any banned substance…

& he is still in perfectly good standing with mlb, as far as being a rosterable player… so his ouster from the game, given his 1000+ ops in his final season, was political, racist and the most shameful moment in baseball history, as far i’m concerned… we all lost out on a few more years of the greatest hitter on earth…

finally, if you say you abhor cheating, but you love professional sports, you are dumb as a hammer, because every one of our big money sports is full of drugs, spying, fraud, collusion and tainted officials… just read the news…

Jimmy
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Jimmy
3 years 2 months ago

I believe this is a reference to Bonds’ skin color… not the particular type of vitamins he was taking.

Pustulent Martinez
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Pustulent Martinez
3 years 2 months ago

Of course, Barry wouldn’t have been able to play in his own era, if federal drug laws had been applied the same to professional athletes as they were (and are) to the general population. He’d have been behind bars, keeping Giambi, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens, and Lance Armstrong company.

Here’s to Roger Maris and Henry Aaron: the REAL home run kings!

Kumar
Guest
Kumar
3 years 2 months ago

What on earth are you talking about? HGH is not illegal for the general populace, and more importantly, it wasn’t illegal in baseball when Bonds *allegedly* took it. What an ill-informed comment.

Barry Bonds
Guest
Barry Bonds
3 years 2 months ago

Oh, I took many, many more drugs than HGH. My fave was Tetrahydrogestrinone. But I was doin’ so much injectin’ and ingestin’ for so many years, I honestly lost track of what I was sticking in and swallowing! (Pretty much whatever Greg gave me.)
But thanks for sticking up for me!

Ed
Guest
Ed
3 years 2 months ago

The issue with Bonds was always steroids.

As for HGH, it’s illegal without a prescription. Prescriptions are only legal for a very limited set of conditions, most of which would make a career as a pro athlete impossible.

Details from the FDA if you want specifics: link

Synovia
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Synovia
3 years 2 months ago

This is hilarious, considering that Aaron and Maris are both confirmed amphetamine users.

fergie348
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fergie348
3 years 2 months ago

This – if we’re talking pure hitting ability maybe we have to include Josh Gibson in the conversation. Hard to do because of the lack of statistics kept in the negro leagues when compared to MLB, but it’s a thought..

Rogers Hornsby
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Rogers Hornsby
3 years 2 months ago

You’re forgetting about me you miserable little prick

chief00
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chief00
3 years 2 months ago

But the biggest oversight was not asking Jamie Moyer’s opinion. He pitched to both of them.

Sabertooth
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Sabertooth
3 years 2 months ago

Also: Nolan Ryan.

TimothyS
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TimothyS
3 years 2 months ago

I don’t like how people always ignore all of the advancements in training and medical sciences that have been made in the last fifty years that can extend any great player’s career. That is a definite advantage that players nowadays have, that if they were to have to play 80 years ago, who knows if they would have been able to have a career long enough to hit 700 home runs, steroids or not.

bobabaloo
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bobabaloo
3 years 2 months ago

considering bonds 4 best years (by wrc+) were his 38,37,40,39 age seasons, you may have a point

Jaime
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Jaime
3 years 2 months ago

But that cuts both ways. It also means that the median player Ruth performed against would have been lower because of it.

And having said that will Bonds be the last great player to play his entire career before pitch counts. Might have to remember that if Mike Trout keeps up this pace.

TimothyS
Guest
TimothyS
3 years 2 months ago

The median player was definitely lower, but that is something people point out all the time, when looking at the international talent pool now, and relief pitching, and the like. It doesn’t diminish the fact that Ruth played a really long time without modern training.

Al Dimond
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

Bonds’ last season was 2007 and his last great season was 2004. Pitch-counting sort of started around the 80s and grew in prominence after that, with a notable drop in high-pitch-count games after 2000.

Bob M
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Bob M
3 years 2 months ago

I think Ruth starting as a pitcher gives him an edge in the “better player” category, because he was able to impact the game in ways Bonds never did.

What I find interesting is that people gravitate towards the final image of a particular player. People tend to forget that Bonds was a 30/30 player who was on a Hall of Fame career track *before* moving to SF, finding BALCO, and hitting 73 HRs in a single season.

Iron
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Iron
3 years 2 months ago

I think a lot of people believe that Bonds should have been in the Hall based only on the numbers he produced before he cheated, but that cheating should keep him out.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 2 months ago

Well then, a lot of people are a) complete fools and hypocrites (likely) or b) complete iconoclasts who want to tear baseball history down (unlikely). Babe Ruth used a corked bat. Throw him out? Gaylord Perry used the spitter. Throw him out? No, of course not, because those are the icons from the Holy Writers’ childhoods.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 2 months ago

*clap clap clap*

“Everything from my childhood was BETTER!! Everything that came after that is GARBAGE!”

Cordially,
Every pompous sportswriter born before 1960

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

Younger people from this era are just as provincial in their opinions. The only difference is older people are actually able to compare different eras first hand. Young people obviously cannot, which might explain all the noise.

Bip
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Bip
3 years 2 months ago

If those older people fell in love with baseball as young people and therefore see any change as a threat to the image of the game as they think it should be, then their comparison between the eras is biased and useless.

Lance A.
Guest
Lance A.
3 years 2 months ago

Tell me about it! All those self-righteous old jerks who hold it against you, just for doing what a bunch of other people were doing, too! I mean, just ’cause something is illegal and contrary to the declared rules of a sport, doesn’t make it wrong! God!

Jim
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Jim
3 years 2 months ago

Easy on that straw man, Bip. He’s had enough.

snack man
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snack man
3 years 2 months ago

hypocrites? so you think that most people loaded up on PEDs and are now hoping to make it into the HOF?

Jack
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Jack
3 years 2 months ago

I am inclined to say Ruth BUT let’s not forget that Ruth played in an era where players openly gambled on the games, pre-integration era, limited conception of having bullpens to create favorable matchups, and a little league ballpark built for him.

Bob M
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Bob M
3 years 2 months ago

“Original dimensions at Yankee Stadium were 295 ft. (right), 490 ft. (center), and 281 ft. (left). Centerfield became known as “Death Valley” because of its distance from homeplate.”

It was short down the lines, but I wouldn’t call it a little league ballpark.

Peter Jensen
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Peter Jensen
3 years 2 months ago

and a little league ballpark built for him.

Babe Ruth hit more home runs in away games (367) than he did at home (347). For all those who are arguing that the conditions in Ruth’s time made it easier to hit home runs than the conditions in Bond’s era I have one simple question. Why didn’t more players in Ruth’s era hit a similar number of home runs? Ruth led the league in home runs 12 times. He had twice the number of home runs of the runner up 6 times including 1928 when Gehrig had 27 and Ruth 54 and Gehrig had more ABs. Bonds led the league twice.

SurprMan
Member
SurprMan
3 years 2 months ago

If you’re going to use “number of times led league” in your argument, it’s worth pointing out that Bonds had ~2x the number of competitors as Ruth since there were also 8 teams per league when Ruth played, vs. 13-15 when Bonds played.

Geoff
Guest
Geoff
3 years 2 months ago

That could work both ways since pitching would also be more watered down.

Wobbles
Member
Wobbles
3 years 2 months ago

maybe slightly watered down in that regard, but allowing non-white players to pitch watered it right back up and then some.

ricardo
Guest
ricardo
3 years 2 months ago

Wobbles,

Considering Ruth demolished negro league pitchers, I doubt it would have had much impact on him.

AB – 55
1B – 11
2B – 2
3B – 0
HR – 12
BA – .455
SA – 1.145

potcircle
Guest
potcircle
3 years 2 months ago

Peter…

i cannot find all the data, so it is worth confirming… mostly from memory… sorry…

but, in any case, in 2001, the lh hr park factor at pac bell park was something like 57 (?)… bonds had more lh hrs at pac bell than the rest of the giants combined. & i believe enron was something like 148 (park factor for lh hrs), so on an algebraic substitution, bonds could have expected to hit 130+ hr that year, had he been in the best – and not the worst park – for his hitting… still, even in a canyon, his 73 hrs outpaced the diverse hundreds of other cheaters…

seriously, check out these 2 lists and explain why bonds must be run from the game…

here’s the hr leaders from 2001…

http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/sortable.jsp#elem=%5Bobject+Object%5D&tab_level=child&click_text=Sortable+Player+hitting&game_type='R'&season=2001&season_type=ANY&league_code='MLB'&sectionType=sp&statType=hitting&page=1&ts=1372138257505&sortColumn=hr&sortOrder='desc'&extended=0&playerType=QUALIFIER&sportCode='mlb'&split=&team_id=&active_sw=&position=&page_type=SortablePlayer&results=&perPage=50&timeframe=&last_x_days=

and here’s a known list of cheaters from 2003… look familiar?

http://www.faniq.com/blog/The-Complete-2003-MLB-PED-Test-List-of-104-Players-Blog-26246

i think bonds (each year) had only slightly less than all the competitor lh homers @ pac bell, combined… wish i could find it… (anyone?)

also, in this, the 14th season at pac bell park, the giants have hit 62 splash hits into mccovey cove… bonds has 35 of them, and hasn’t played since 2007… the competition – through 13 & 1/2 years, has 27 splash hits… about 2 per year…

so, given ruth’s far weaker competition (no minorities, bullpens, splitters, etc.), i think bonds splash hit & ped-aided dominance over the modern game is every bit as – if not more – impressive than being the only person in 1920 smart enough to know the fucking morons preaching hit-to-contact were, in fact, fucking morons…

& betcha didn’t remember that the first two giants’ non-bonds splash hits were by felipe crespo…

http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/sf/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=splash

ricardo
Guest
ricardo
3 years 2 months ago

Considering most major leaguers who played exhibition contests against negro league all-star teams had improved numbers compared to their major league statistics [small sample sizes, of course] and most negro leaguers making the jump to the major leaguers saw their numbers go down — I’m not sure the quality of competition argument holds up.

Derek
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Derek
3 years 2 months ago

Not only did Ruth lead the league in home runs, he out homered EVERY MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM at least once, possibly twice. Ruth was the first to show that swinging for the fences didn’t HAVE to lead to lower averages..his career average was ~.343..his OBP was ~.450. I would still argue Ruth>Bonds, but the gap is very small. Tomorrow, I might be convinced Bonds>Ruth.

Disclaimer:
No Google searches were harmed in this comment.

ttnorm
Guest
ttnorm
3 years 2 months ago

The current stadium set up is more favorable to HRs to RF than when Ruth played. CF has been addressed.

Peter2
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Peter2
3 years 2 months ago

The greatest player of all time was probably Barry Bonds on steroids. That’s why I don’t begrudge him his steroid use. It allowed us to see what, essentially, the ceiling performance of a baseball hitter was: take an already HOF-er with exceptional power and plate discipline, add steroids, get the absolute monstrosity that was Bonds 2000. When Jeremy Giambi takes steroids, we learn nothing interesting…it merely makes a mediocre talent slightly less mediocre.

It is weird that people assume today’s game would eat Ruth alive. There are players in the game today who are a) do not have bodybuilder physiques and b) have taken horrible care of their bodies. The reigning MVP is a strong, chubby guy with a history of alcohol abuse issues. Josh Hamilton spent his early 20s doing (hard) drugs and alcohol, and then won an MVP before he turned 30.

Talent plays in every era, and every era has both elite and mediocre talent. Does anyone really think that Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle, if playing today, would be flummoxed by the likes of Jon Rauch or Latroy Hawkins? “What is this, a fastball? How will I ever deal with such a mystery of modernity? I am at a loss.” They’d eat half the league alive. Unless we’re evolving as a species at an incredible rate, there’s not reason to expect that elite talent from any given era wouldn’t transfer to any other.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
3 years 2 months ago

peter nailed it. The one forgotten area discussed is usually the quality of the playing environment, which likely favors the modern defense and thus benefits the Ruthina era more so in a comparison as they probably had a higher babip.

Zach
Guest
Zach
3 years 2 months ago

Of course comparing across eras for absolutes is basically impossible, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Ruth played basically no night games. In fact, it’s possible he didn’t play any (I didn’t look too closely, but his last year was 1935, which was the first year an MLB team played a night game). As we all know, the ball generally travels better at night.

2. Regardless if he might have struggled against mediocre right-handed relievers, I think we can safely assume that Ruth, transported to modern times, would mostly face LOOGY types in late innings situations, and those would be LOOGYs throwing sliders and splitters the likes of which he’d never seen. Maybe he could adjust, but who knows.

3. Just the weight of the bats Ruth used (40-47 ounces at various times) should tip us off that something was very different about the game. There’s a reason that no player today uses anything that heavy: you simply can not control that heavy a bat, not against the wide array of pitches modern batters face. Someone else mentioned Ruth’s long swing: I think we’d see him challenge Mark Reynolds for most strikeouts if he came into today’s game unchanged.

4. While it’s certainly possible that Ruth could succeed while carousing and being overweight, the fact that there are a couple of players who’ve done so doesn’t mean that he’d be able to. Again, there’s no way of knowing if and how he’d respond to a modern training regimen, but it seems a bit odd to assume that his drinking and over-eating wouldn’t have ANY effect on his ability.

In short, comparing players across 70 or so years is really hard. Ruth dominated his game more (in my opinion), but it was a very different game. Bonds dominated the game of baseball as all of us know it, and given that I think we’d all agree that the game has gotten more complex and “better” (or at least more difficult to dominate), that to me means that, in a vacuum, Bonds is probably “better.”

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 2 months ago

“As we all know, the ball generally travels better at night.”

I think you mean the opposite.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

A lot of that extra weight was outside the hitting area. Imagine what Ruth could have down with these thin handled whips.

Mister
Guest
Mister
3 years 2 months ago

“there’s not reason to expect that elite talent from any given era wouldn’t transfer to any other.”

I don’t agree with this at all. If you randomly sampled 100,000 humans and asked them to play baseball, chances are that the “elite” among them would not be that good, when compared to the elite out of a group of a randomly sampled 1,000,000. Yes, you might get lucky, and the best guy out of the million might happen to be in your randomly sampled 100,000, but most likely that’s not the case. Ruth might have been that 1 guy, but I doubt it.

With just general population growth, black players, Hispanic players, Asian players, and the general expansion of organized sports for kids, I would guess that the player pool today from which the pros are selected is at least 100 times bigger than in Ruth’s time. I find it odd that people are even arguing over night games, effects of alcohol, advanced scouting, bat size, or whatever else, when it seems obvious to me that the expansion of the player pool is far more important than any other factor.

Jason
Guest
Jason
3 years 2 months ago

exactly on target. the big difference in era’s is the size of the talent pool. The greater the talent pool, the less variation, the higher the level of talent that is needed to achieve greatness.

Nickname Damur
Guest
Nickname Damur
3 years 2 months ago

Reasonable to factor in the stream of talent away from baseball to basketball, football, and soccer. Perhaps even hockey–I’d bet some of those goalies have extremely good twitch reflexes. So maybe not 100x. Also, much much larger minor leagues for developing talent then. Definitely not 100x.

potcircle
Guest
potcircle
3 years 2 months ago

there were 119 million americans in 1927, and very few foreign players… little league didn’t start til 1939 and didn’t really take off til the 50s… baseball salaries exploded in the 60s/70s…

now, there are 310 million americans, 127m japanese, 110m mexicans, 29m venezuelans, 11m cubans, 10m dominicans, 3.7m puerto ricans, etc. & they all love baseball, so the talent pool is huge, even if most american kids are busy with x-sports, call of duty, sizzurp, etc.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

Especially when you completely ignore any other factors that weaken your argument. If you were a professional athlete in Ruth’s era and you wanted to make money, your only choice was baseball. Football, hockey and basketball leagues either didn’t exist or were in their infancy. There were obviously no such thing as extreme sports. If Tony Hawk had tried to ride a skateboard back then, his steel wheels would have hit a pebble and sent him flying like everybody else. He would have been a shortstop 90 years ago.

potcircle
Guest
potcircle
3 years 2 months ago

the big money sport of ruth’s era was boxing…

Peter2
Guest
Peter2
3 years 2 months ago

You raise an interesting and intuitive point, but neither the math nor the calculations you make are super straightforward. I’m intrigued enough that I did some calculations of my own (via computer simulation). I hope you view this as constructive food for thought rather than some kind of fierce counterattack.

Assuming baseball talent is normally distributed, then a talent pool of 100,000 players would, on average, produce a maximally talented baseball player about 4.33 standard deviations above the mean. Now, what if there is a talent pool of 1,000,000 players? On average, only about 7 players will be more talented than 4.33 standard deviations above the mean. Based upon these assumptions (and the assumption that my 2 AM computations are correct), that means you can expect the best player from a 100,000 person pool to still be in the top 8 players, even if the pool is 10x larger. Still pretty good! And I didn’t say Ruth would be the greatest in any era, just that elite talent would likely still be elite in any era…and at least at these scales, the math plays it out.

Peter2
Guest
Peter2
3 years 2 months ago

What if the initial pool is larger? What if, instead of going from 100,000 to 1,000,000, we went from 1,000,000 to 10,000,000? The number of players expected to be better than the best player from the smaller pool actually goes down—it was about 7.5 in the above case, and is about 6.9 in this case.

Whatever the absolute magnitudes of the two pools we are comparing, the ratio between them really has to get extreme before we can even start to argue that an elite player still wouldn’t be elite. And even at 100x (as you have speculated), we still might expect the best player from the smaller cohort to be in the top 10% of the league’s players.

Peter2
Guest
Peter2
3 years 2 months ago

Here’s another question, again just meant to provoke thought, not to attack: If player talent pools grow over time, with commensurate rise in the elite competition, then over the course of an “elite” player’s long career, he should progressively become less and less elite as the talent level rises around him. So what of Hank Aaron, who played over more than 2 decades at (from what I can tell) a fairly constant level of excellence respective to the rest of the league? Did he get better over time, or was he just same-old-elite Hank, with talent that transcended era?

That-said-man
Guest
That-said-man
3 years 2 months ago

That said, Ruth would be probably be something like Pujols in my estimation.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

Pujols is a good comparison. Albert took the same reaction tests Ruth did and he posted similarly impressive results.

http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Fullerton/

Hunter
Guest
Hunter
3 years 2 months ago

“But who knows, maybe Ruth was chemically enhanced…”

Jim Hickey, WTF are you talking about?

Gus
Guest
Gus
3 years 2 months ago

Hickey is referring to the fact that it was Bonds who was chemically enhanced … hence my nomination for best line.

jbergey
Member
Member
jbergey
3 years 2 months ago

Great point.

They like to talk about how “fishy” it was in the late 90’s when these hitters started popping out 50 home runs a year regularly but isn’t there any suspicions when Ruth was matching the rest of the league at times early in his career?

I tend to think he was legit and his drug of choice was hot dogs but there has to be at least some wonder on how he changed the game like he did at the time.

Iron
Guest
Iron
3 years 2 months ago

Some do wonder if he had modern steroids delivered by Marty McFly in a Delorean, but most are willing to dismiss this as unlikely.

Greg
Guest
Greg
3 years 2 months ago

Yeah Gray’s only goes back to 1950

Synovia
Guest
Synovia
3 years 2 months ago

Wonder? We know Ruth was on performance enhancers.

I’m not sure how effective they are, but he was known for injecting sheep testosterone.

Mister
Guest
Mister
3 years 2 months ago

A lot of the interviewed players, as well as commenters, are correctly pointing out advances in science, training methods, and handling of pitchers, as arguments that (a) it is more difficult to be successful in the modern era and (b) if Ruth had played in the modern era, he would also have benefited from the same advances.

However, I haven’t seen anybody mention what I think is the biggest difference between the modern era and Ruth’s era: the expansion of the player pool. So many more kids in the US are involved in organized sports today. On top of that, we of course now have black players, which is a major expansion of the player pool compared to Ruth’s time. Then of course there’s all the players coming into MLB today from Latin America and Asia.

I think this factor alone makes Bonds production much, much more impressive. It’s one thing to be the best out of a million, but it’s another thing to be the best out of a hundred million. To be as far of an outlier as Ruth was compared to other hitters in his era is amazingly impressive, but for all we know, he might have barely cracked a major league roster today.

jbergey
Member
Member
jbergey
3 years 2 months ago

Advanced scouting would have gotten the best of Ruth’s long swing and his desire to chase curve balls. Whether he would have adjusted is anyone’s guess as it sounded like he was very stubborn just like Josh Hamilton.

bobabaloo
Guest
bobabaloo
3 years 2 months ago

haha, hold on a second…you think that 100 years later you have this inside info on babe ruth that scouts at the time had no idea about? where are you getting this info, the video room?

jbergey
Member
Member
jbergey
3 years 2 months ago

Never said it was insider info. John McGraw was able to occasionally exploit this weakness on him. Obviously pitchers werent able to consistently beat him up this way.

I am sure certain other managers on McGraw’s level understood how you could get Ruth out but they probably didnt have the pitchers that threw hard enough of pitchers with the breaking ball to exploit him.

Different times but I would think with todays scouting teams at least would have went after his weakness a bit more and not just let him have his way.

Hunter
Guest
Hunter
3 years 2 months ago

I dunno if I buy this argument. You needed advanced scouting to see Bonds had a long swing and susceptibility to breaking pitches? They might not have been as advanced today as back then, but they weren’t morons either.

potcircle
Guest
potcircle
3 years 2 months ago

you’re underestimating the value of good data, which simply did not exist in ruth’s time… there’s a massive subjectivity to baseball that clears up fast with accurate hit/pitch charts and video replay…

Jake
Guest
Jake
3 years 2 months ago

The player pool argument is easily the best one. But I think it’s extremely short sighted to assume that Ruth would have been the exact same hitter today that he was then. Given that his talent level was apparently much higher than everyone else’s it’s entirely reasonable to think that he would have made adjustments fairly well and still been one of the best players in the game Bonds was playing.

Considering the facts
Guest
Considering the facts
3 years 2 months ago

I see him as a guy like Pujols in the modern era (maybe slightly better), without the sterling firstbase defense.

JH
Guest
JH
3 years 2 months ago

Completely agree with this comment.

Between African-Americans, American-born players of color, and international players, about 40% of MLB wouldn’t have been eligible to play in Ruth’s day. Take 40% of the talent pool out of MLB and replace them with the best available Caucasian, American-born minor leaguers, and Joey Votto’s line would balloon to a level that would look right at home if plugged into Babe Ruth’s career stats. Paul Goldschmidt would look like Lou Gehrig, and Mike Trout would look like Mickey Mantle. Actually, scratch that last one. Trout already looks like Mantle.

To conclude: Damn Mike Trout’s awesome. We should talk about him more.

ElToroStrikesAgain
Guest
ElToroStrikesAgain
3 years 2 months ago

ok take away all of the black players and now take away 15 teams u mean??

JH
Guest
JH
3 years 2 months ago

Nope. Population growth has more than kept pace with the growth in the number of major league baseball teams. According to the census bureau, in 1900 there were about 67 million white people in this country. In 2000 there were over 200 million.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

The talent pool argument is flawed.

Only 16 teams when Ruth played. Major League Baseball was pretty much the only way professional athletes could make any money in that era.

Like I said
Guest
Like I said
3 years 2 months ago

Boxing was huge.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

And like today, hardly anybody made any money boxing. And like today, most of the guys doing it were fighting their way out of the ghetto. That’s why you had so many different nationalities represented as world champions in that era. The guys who won belts, then as now, were the hungriest guys, the immigrants.

Bip
Guest
Bip
3 years 2 months ago

That doesn’t mean the argument is flawed, those are just mitigating factors. Sure there were fewer teams, but the increased size of the MLB-eligible population more than makes up for it. The estimates that many are giving for the size of today’s talent pool also is already accounting for those who are trying to make the MLB. Great athletes who choose football are already excluded from the calculation.

Plus, the argument about who could live as a professional athlete goes both ways. In Ruth’s era, even MLB players often worked in the offseason because they didn’t make enough to live comfortably playing baseball. Certainly most people couldn’t afford to play in the minors for an indefinite period of time. Today, anyone with a dream of playing baseball can play in the minors for 10+ years. That allows for a whole new talent pool, which is late-bloomers. Also, these guys have been honing their game for years, meaning that the average player probably has more practice than in Ruth’s time.

chief00
Guest
chief00
3 years 2 months ago

The flaw with the talent-pool argument is that it’s circular. To wit, the players are better because there are more of them. How do we know they’re better? Because there are more of them.

JH
Guest
JH
3 years 2 months ago

With a base understanding that humans from this century are relatively similar to humans from 100 years ago, it’s not circular to say that if MLB reflected the top, say 0.1% of the universe of potential players in 1900 and only the top .01% today, the more selective set is virtually certain to be of superior quality.

But you’re mischaracterizing the talent pool argument. MLB today more or less reflects the best 750 baseball players on the planet–give or take a few dozen guys in Japan, Korea, and Cuba who are good enough to play in the MLB but lack either the opportunity or the desire to do so (and a few dozen veterans who are hanging on because they’re still under contract and who block more talented youngsters).

In 1920, MLB actively excluded huge portions of the baseball-playing world.

Barry Bonds played against the best players in the world. Babe Ruth played against the best white players in the world.

chief00
Guest
chief00
3 years 2 months ago

@JH: Notice that I didn’t offer an opinion as to which player I thought was better.

I don’t think I’m “mischaracterizing” the population argument because the population argument being presented is no more than a circular argument. It has the potential to be more, but it has a ways to go yet. Something definitive needs to be offered to demonstrate that the players drawn from the so-called ‘larger pool’ are better. Until then, it’s a bad argument because it’s no more than a logical fallacy.

How is your comment that the talent pool is bigger and drawn from this larger pool not a circular argument? You still haven’t offered anything that’s not already been offered several (dozen) times in this thread.

I agree that “In 1920, MLB actively excluded huge portions of the baseball-playing world”. Besides the fact that the barnstorming tours made by Ruth, Gehrig, et al, were largely responsible for the growth of baseball in the world that you imply, what demonstrable, quantifiable difference does it make? Saying that it makes a difference isn’t compelling. It does no more than beg the question because it assumes that what it needs to answer is, in fact, the answer.

Then you need to wrestle meaningfully with mitigating factors from Barry’s generation, such as peds and the theory that the talent level has been watered down.

Babe Ruth was a great player in two distinct eras (“Dead Ball” and “Live Ball”). What about Bonds? What points to the greatness of these two players? Individual accomplishments? Team accomplishments? Is it a greater accomplishment to blaze the trail, or to build a skyscraper on the trail that someone else blazed?

Anyways, no trolling here. I don’t have a good answer to the question, but I’ve enjoyed thinking through it a little more than I have previously. Thanks for your input, and cheers.

JH
Guest
JH
3 years 2 months ago

Unless you have some reason to believe that people 100 years ago were more genetically predisposed to have elite baseball skills than the players of today, it’s not circular.

If the gene pools are of comparable makeup/quality, then larger pool = more opportunities to produce players with elite talent. More opportunities = more players with elite talent. More players with elite talent = the level of skill needed to be among the 750 best players in the world is higher. Therefore, the talent level is higher.

There’s nothing circular about it. If any given newborn male (yeah, we’re still in a male-only world when it comes to MLB) has a probability of, say .00001 (1/100,000) of becoming a great baseball player, the larger pool will produce more such players, and the overall talent level will increase.

And this is true even if you think genetics have nothing to do about it. More people = more baseball players = harder competition to reach the elite level = higher overall talent level in the elite ranks.

Economics smart-ass
Guest
Economics smart-ass
3 years 2 months ago

Babe Ruth did not have this problem. He made ~150,000 $ per annum average in today’s dollars.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

Those mitigating factors seem to be rather meaningless the way you’re drawing up the equation. The fact is nobody can properly assess all the various societal factors that differentiate one era from the next.

Peter2
Guest
Peter2
3 years 2 months ago

See my post above regarding how the talent pool would be expected to change with a larger pool of players. The best player from a much smaller talent pool (1/10 the size), would still be expected, on average, to be one of the 8 best players from a talent pool 10x the size. Obviously a larger pool will produce more players above a certain talent threshold, but it is much less obvious how the tails of the distribution will behave when you scale up.

RC
Member
Member
RC
3 years 2 months ago

Didn’t players make so little that many had other jobs in the offseson?

Could be that many would be “professional athletes” chose to follow some better paying form of employment instead.

RC
Member
Member
RC
3 years 2 months ago

Bip said it, but better.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

That’s my point exactly. Jay Berwanger won the first Heisman Trophy. He went to work for a tire company because pro football paid nothing.

Drew
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

I’ve always viewed these arguments along these lines: If Bonds and Ruth were both born in 1964 (or 1895) and played as contemporaries, who would have been better. You give them equal nutrition, training, travel, game environment and the like. I ignore the segregation for these purposes, as it’s just no fun to say “Barry couldn’t have played in the 1920’s.”

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I don’t think you gain much by imagining a time machine that simply transports Babe Ruth from 1919 to 1986 and put him on the Red Sox.

Considering the facts
Guest
Considering the facts
3 years 2 months ago

He’d probably get into too many arguments with Clemens.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

This is the only reasonable way to compare across eras. Which is why the more vehement Bonds supporters want nothing to do with it.

kwyjibo
Guest
kwyjibo
3 years 2 months ago

Where did the “aw shux he did it on hot dogs and beer” attitude come from?
The first known time a baseball player tries performance enhancers is Jim Galvin in 1899.
One book claims Babe Ruth tried injecting himself with sheep testicle extract.
In 1923 Ruth was caught using an illegal bat for a 40-game stretch.
Why was Ruth looking for an edge at age 27/28 when he was already a dominant force?

LK
Guest
LK
3 years 2 months ago

“Why was Ruth looking for an edge at age 27/28 when he was already a dominant force?”

Because he was a human being and looking for an edge is what we do?

Iron
Guest
Iron
3 years 2 months ago

You you believe based on a sketchy claim that Ruth tried injecting himself with sheep testicle extract that his performance was enhanced? Medicine was not at the point where he could have done anything to pharmaceutically improve his performance. I can’t see this as anything but an attempt to excuse the steroid era. Testosterone wasn’t even first isolated, much less available commercially, until after his numbers had started to drop. Hell, penicillin wasn’t even invented yet. This is some serious historical revisionism long on conjecture and short on fact.

Paul Assenmacher
Guest
Paul Assenmacher
3 years 2 months ago

He’s not saying it helped him, he’s pointing out anecdotal evidence that suggests Ruth wasn’t just some good ‘ol boy putting up numbers on raw talent. Even if the sheep balls didn’t help him, he was still willing to try anything that would give him an advantage. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, but all the anti-Bonds folks argue for Ruth strictly because of the steroid cloud hanging over Barry

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 2 months ago

Are you sure it was a book? Are you sure it wasn’t… nothing?

John
Guest
John
3 years 2 months ago

It’s hard to add anything that hasn’t already been said other than, maybe, that I don’t feel the need to compare them. But that seems like a weird thing to say in an article about comparing them… so… I’ll just go with what Hickey had to say: “I kind of use the barometer that Ruth changed the way the game was played. Bonds really didn’t.”

doohan
Guest
doohan
3 years 2 months ago

For all the wouldacouldashoulda comments, I would add that with modern media and the massive amounts of money invested in players, Ruth could never have abused himself as he did. His club, due to the huge investment his contract would have involved, would have monitored him, sent him to rehab, incentivized his contract regarding conditioning goals, etc….Regarding athleticism, Ruth was an all-star pitcher and a left-handed catcher as a youth. He also was much bigger and stronger than the average player of his day. Regarding the size of the player pool, baseball was the only game it town. There was no significant pro football or basketball, tennis and golf were pure country club. All elite white athletes would have been playing baseball, so the pool is not as small as one might think.

You forgot something
Guest
You forgot something
3 years 2 months ago

Boxing son. Boxing attracted huge volumes of talent in that era.

Wahoo Sam
Guest
Wahoo Sam
3 years 2 months ago

Boxing has always drawn their talent from what was considered the lower rungs of society, those who were trying to battle their way up the ladder. Irish, italian, blacks, latinos. I doubt there were many boxers who would ever have been stars in baseball.

JH
Guest
JH
3 years 2 months ago

Totally right. Boxing totally drew from demographics that never could’ve produced star baseball players, like Irish and Italian-Americans. I mean, how ridiculous would it have been to see last names like DiMaggio, Campanella, Biggio, Berra, Mantle or McGwire on a BASEBALL field?! Amirite?!

Economics smart-ass
Guest
Economics smart-ass
3 years 2 months ago

Joe Louis would have been awesome.

Flauta
Guest
Flauta
3 years 2 months ago

“All elite white athletes would have been playing baseball, so the pool is not as small as one might think.”

not helping your argument

potcircle
Guest
potcircle
3 years 2 months ago

many of the best athletes would have not played baseball and/or taken other jobs, because baseball wouldn’t feed their families, and we didn’t have this obsessive sports culture… others preferred boxing, which most here just don’t understand was the big money sport of the era…

the pool of white americans playing baseball in ruth’s day was actually very small and certainly not very athletic by today’s standards… just consider that decades after ruth, willie mays amazed everyone with a catch we now see every few days on sportscenter, often made by scrubs…

& for ruth, no teams west of st louis (that’s most of the country)… & very little western scouting because there wasn’t as much money in it… & lots of public &/or rural high schools all the way through the 50s (my parents, for example) didn’t even have baseball teams… so, for me, if you didn’t play against the western half of the country – or the minorities – or the splitter – or bullpens – or with good scouting – you simply cannot assume these are small hurdles… & any one of them could make the great ruth merely very good…

otoh, we know bonds can hit a baseball like nobody else ever has – just look at mccovey cove…

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
3 years 2 months ago

That is often an overlooked point in these discussions of timelining. Practically every single kid in the country at the time of Ruth or later eras would be familiar with baseball and how to play it. Pick a random high school today and 90% of the student body has never played baseball above the tee ball level.

The overall talent pool has grown larger, but mostly thanks to international sources. The domestic talent pool is probably smaller than ever with the declining African-American participation rates.

JH
Guest
JH
3 years 2 months ago

Highly doubtful. Baseball no doubt loses a lot of talent to football and basketball, but the population of the U.S. has tripled since Ruth’s day, and the proportion of the population who never would have been exposed to sports as children (both rural communities-where children are expected to work family farms as soon as physically capable and urban communities where kids started doing day labor shortly after they turned 10) is drastically smaller.

Don’t forget the financial incentives. A hundred years ago, professional sports weren’t the potential lottery ticket they are now. Today, pretty much anyone who shows signs at an early age that they may be talented enough to make a living at one of the big three sports generally has both the incentive and the opportunity to pursue it. Between public schools with organized sports teams and sponsored amateur athletic associations, the opportunity is out there, and the payload is potentially in the hundreds of millions for the most talented.

In the early decades of the 20th century when average MLB players made no more than middle-class salaries, a lot more people chose not to pursue professional athletics, even if they were incredibly gifted.

Mister
Guest
Mister
3 years 2 months ago

“All elite white athletes would have been playing baseball”

Or many potential elite athletes simply never would’ve become athletes at all because they were too busy working 14 hour days on a farm or a factory assembly line.

The business of baseball today is enormous. The salaries are enormous. The demand for talent has sky-rocketed, and the quantity supplied of talent has sky-rocketed in response. Scouts are scouring the country (not to mention other countries) constantly looking for ballplayers. I’m sure back then there were plenty of kids throwing nasty curveballs in their backyards who never even came close to playing organized baseball.

The population of the US has tripled since 1920. Factor in the overall increase in organized sports, increased effort put into scouting, black athletes, and the baseball player farms in places like the Dominican Republic, and I stand by my statement that the overall pool of players from which major leaguers are drawn from is at least 100 times bigger today.

JH
Guest
JH
3 years 2 months ago

“Regarding the size of the player pool, baseball was the only game it town. There was no significant pro football or basketball, tennis and golf were pure country club. All elite white athletes would have been playing baseball, so the pool is not as small as one might think.”

Population in 1920: ~ 106 million. Population in 1990: about 248 million.

Yeah, baseball didn’t have quite as much competition, but the population had also increased nearly 2.5times between Ruth and Bonds’ debut decades.

Bucketfoot
Guest
Bucketfoot
3 years 2 months ago

I agree with the whole idea of player of this era being better than the players of Ruth’s era. I also understand the specialization that plays a big part of the game today.

However there are some major points being missed that would have a major impact on Bond if he played in the Ruth era, including an actual strike zone, pitchers that had no problem taking the plate away from the batter and plunking him if needed and none of the protective body armor that Bonds relied on so much.

If you look at who was the better player within their own era, there is no competition. Ruth blows Bonds away. If you ignore time, then many of the players today are probably better than Ruth, just because the game and players have advanced so far since his time (as well as the fact that the game especially in the Bonds era became so biased towards the power hitter).

schlomsd
Member
schlomsd
3 years 2 months ago

Ruth blows Bonds away? Then why does Bonds have the three highest OPS+ of all-time?

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 2 months ago

Why was Bonds unable to post a single-season slugging percentage higher than .690 prior to 2001 when he was 36 years old?

Babe Ruth had a lifetime slugging percentage of .690.

ElToroStrikesAgain
Guest
ElToroStrikesAgain
3 years 2 months ago

If Bonds’ best 4 seasons were age 28 29 30 31, maybe even then i could buy into him a LITTLE bit. To post your best 4 (legendary) hitting seasons at age 37 38 39 40 is absurd, ridiculous, etc.. let’s compare Bonds age 37-40 to all of the other HOFers.

A Historian
Guest
A Historian
3 years 2 months ago

An actual strike zone? Strike zones have become far more accurate over time, not less, especially with Umpires reviewing tape and potentially bad calls. As Bonds “Body Armour,” he didn’t wear it 88-99 and was still the best player and had the best OBP.

Dean
Guest
Dean
3 years 2 months ago

I don’t think this is even a question. The larger player pool, the training/medical advances and advancements in strategy/scouting/statistics make Barry Bonds achievements much more impressive. Athletes in all sports get better in time due to these things. Babe Ruth was incredibly remarkable at his time. But So was Jesse Owens and the Ford Model T. However, we all know Jesse Owens doesn’t compare to Usain Bolt and we know the Model T is nothing compared to a Ford Focus. I love the history and tradition of this beautiful game but let’s not over-think this.

ElToroStrikesAgain
Guest
ElToroStrikesAgain
3 years 2 months ago

Ruth changed the game. Bonds changed the game’s performance enhancement testing policies.

Sabertooth
Guest
Sabertooth
3 years 2 months ago

To be fair: Ruth also helped shape MLB’s bat manufacturing policies, and is known to have used trick bats (made from more than a single piece wood) early in his career, and corked bats later.

Simpleton Sez
Guest
Simpleton Sez
3 years 2 months ago

Don’t try to counter my argument that Bonds was PURE EVIL and Ruth was a CHOIR BOY!

(Choir fat man? Whatever.)

Jesse Owens
Guest
Jesse Owens
3 years 2 months ago

I’d say that Usain Bolt was no me.

Olympic Gold medals in both short sprints PLUS the long jump? Let’s see the Jamaican drug cheat* pull that off.

* Veronica Campbell-Brown is the tip of a very corrupt Jamaican iceberg, with Bolt, Blake, and the rest. You’ll see. And soon.

ttnorm
Guest
ttnorm
3 years 2 months ago

Ruth was comparable to Koufax as a pitcher and to himself as a hitter. That makes him the best player ever for me.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 2 months ago

I’m also comparable to me as a hitter! Damn, I didn’t know I was Ruthian…

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 2 months ago

The correct answer is Babe Ruth. That is all.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 2 months ago

Well that was a solid argument you laid out there! Case CLOSED.

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
3 years 2 months ago

People always bring up the “Ruth was a great pitcher too” argument in his defense, but I think it’s the opposite.

NO ONE today has that talent. There isn’t a single player who could either be an elite pitcher or an elite hitter. Not one. Some guys can transition from one to the other, and have various levels of success, but there isn’t anyone that can be Verlander one year then decide to become Miggy the next. That alone should put into perspective the era Ruth was playing.

Otherwise, you have to believe that Babe Ruth truly was able to do things that LITERALLY no one else has ever done – or ever even really been able to come close to doing. Poppycock.

Cliff
Guest
Cliff
3 years 2 months ago

Did anyone else at Ruth’s time have that talent? If not it seems the analysis doesn’t add anything. If Verlander transitioned into Cabrera now and Babe Ruth had always been a hitter, would you say obviously Ruth was better because at his time no one could transition from a star pitcher to a star hitter? There’s only one guy who has ever done that as far as I know.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
3 years 2 months ago

There have always existed historical outliers like Ruth in every field. It’s very possible the greatest baseball talent to ever be born played in the 1920s. Most wouldn’t quibble if Einstein was named the smartest man to ever live, and he died in 1955.

Bob M
Guest
Bob M
3 years 2 months ago

Your wild conjecture about people being able to either pitch or hit, but not both, falls short.

Today, players are generally forced choose between pitching and hitting. This normally occurs before we hear about it, but there are plenty of players who have done both in the minors. There are even a few guys like Micah Owings and Rick Ankiel who were good enough as a pitcher to make MLB, yet naturally talented enough as a hitter for a team to commit to making the switch.

Then there are players like Carlos Zambrano or Yovani Gallardo. A good pitcher who has had a very good season at the plate. If they were allowed to focus on hitting, instead of only pitching, how much better would they have been?

Are you are willing to admit that Babe Ruth was a better player than anyone of the names mentioned here? Is it so much of a stretch to think that if a player today can be decent at both hitting and pitching, that a historically great player could be good at both?

Cus
Guest
Cus
3 years 2 months ago

Carlos Zambrano would have been better than Babe Ruth in the 1900s.

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
3 years 2 months ago

Yes, it is a stretch to think that Babe Ruth was so good that he could have been either the greatest pitcher or the greatest hitter of all time, just depending on what he felt like doing.

munchtime
Guest
munchtime
3 years 2 months ago

Keep building your straw man there – Ruth wasn’t the best pitcher in the league when he played, let alone all-time.

LK
Guest
LK
3 years 2 months ago

Supposedly both Bryce Harper and Josh Hamilton were considered very elite prospects on the mound. If they had been allowed to continue to pitch, and also practice hitting, I don’t think you can assume a priori that they wouldn’t have been able to do both, perhaps at a very high level.

I think it’s probably true that Ruth couldn’t be anywhere near as successful in today’s game, but I don’t think your argument proves that in any way. The premise is “Ruth was uniquely talented like no other player in the history of the game.” Your argument amounts to “Ruth did things no other player in this history of game has done since, therefore the game must’ve been easier.” The problem is that if Ruth was in fact uniquely talented, then him doing something unprecendented isn’t a referendum on the game, it’s just more evidence that he was uniquely talented.

In the end, I think that these debates are a fun distraction but pretty devoid of substance. Compared to his era Ruth was better than Bonds at his peak, but Bonds had more longevity. There is also evidence that Bonds used chemical enhancers that were unavailable to Ruth, and everyone has their own view on how much that should or should not detract from his legacy. All else being equal, the talent level was higher when Bonds played than it was when Ruth played, but it’s impossible to know exactly how Ruth would’ve adjusted to that, and how differently he would’ve prepared given what we know now about fitness/nutrition/etc. The only thing we can know for sure is that they each absolutely torched the competition of their respective eras in such a way that their dominance can really only be compared to one another.

Economics smart-ass
Guest
Economics smart-ass
3 years 2 months ago

That said, imagine having both of them in an outfield.

Dave
Guest
Dave
3 years 2 months ago

Holy crap, by far the best answer here, in the comments or in the answers from the players and coaches above. Well done, sir.

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 2 months ago

The more apt comparison is Ruth and Mays. Pre-roid Bonds was much more like Mays but still not better.
Ruth was also a much better athlete in his prime than people give credit for.
Solid fielder. Could steal above average. Actually close to a five tool player.

Rob
Guest
Rob
3 years 2 months ago

Being extremely agressive does not make you one that “Could steal above average.” He patently couldn’t. He had near as many caught stealings as stolen bases – 51% success rate. If Adam Dunn tried to steal every time he got on base, he too might rack up 120 stolen bases.

JE
Guest
JE
3 years 2 months ago

I believe Dunn actually had more career SBs than HRs his first two years in the minors. Interesting tidbit. He was a long lean athletic guy early. Former Texas QB

Name
Guest
Name
3 years 2 months ago

Didnt Dunn steal 20+ a year?

AsDevilsRuns
Guest
AsDevilsRuns
3 years 2 months ago

Babe Ruth could absolutely not steal above average. He had 123 SB to 117 CS, and that doesn’t take into account the fact that they didn’t keep track of caught stealing during 4 years of his career. Just counting years that have that data, he has 110 SB and 117 CS.

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 2 months ago

I know Ruth was not a prolific base stealer. He was better than people give him credit though. In his prime yesrs(1920 – 1924), he was a terrific athlete who could run well for a big man. He ruined his athletisicm by abusing himself with his lifestyle. It just needs to be remembered that he was a terrific athlete for his time and not the stereotype that’s always used when discussing Ruth vs. others.

Rob
Guest
Rob
3 years 2 months ago

Athleticism doesn’t need speed. Cabrera and Pujols are fantastic athletes and they aren’t renowned for their speed. You just need to be extrodinarily good at specialized physical tasks, like hitting a baseball, throwing a baseball, or taking a walk.

asaenz
Member
asaenz
3 years 2 months ago

Bonds played against tougher competition and there was not as big of a gap between the elite players and the average players

ElToroStrikesAgain
Guest
ElToroStrikesAgain
3 years 2 months ago

I think the gap in Ruth’s era was between him and everyone else….

Rob
Guest
Rob
3 years 2 months ago

Between him and Rogers Hornsby more like.

paul
Guest
paul
3 years 2 months ago

Barry Bonds only had offensive numbers that compared to Babe ruth in his later years. The offensive catergories thaT really count are OPS RBIs Runs scored . Bonds wasnt close to ruth when younger and never had as many rbi or runs scored in any season.His numbers are close to ruth for a career because ruth lost 5 years of hitting while he was the best lefthand pitcher in baseball. Ruth had incredible on base and slugging % every season and an incredible amount of extra base hits as he had many more triples and averaged more doubles and home runs per year. Barry bonds put up incredible stats in his later years but they ruth did it for longer and was the reason basebal became the power game that bonds later took advantage of. Bonds was a special player Ruth was a special personality. He carried the entire sports world on his shoulders and performed at the higgest level in the world series . obody should hit the most home runs in the series and have the longest shutout innings streak at the same time but ruth did.They are not comparable because of different eras but no baseball compares to ruth in impact on sports and baseball. everyone will forever be compared to him . Bond s will be a footnote to the steroid era.

Jason H.
Guest
Jason H.
3 years 2 months ago

I think it is safe to say, if you transported Ruth into the early 2000’s, gave him a lifetime of hitting in batting cages, modern training, and enough steroids to grow his head in inverse proportion to his shrinking testicles, Ruth would hit 240+ HR per season (since a great HR hitting team currently hits about 240 HR collectively, and Ruth used to routinely outhomer entire teams).

Waaaaaaaaaaaaay too simplistic
Guest
Waaaaaaaaaaaaay too simplistic
3 years 2 months ago

Yeah, it’s just that easy! He could outhomer teams then, so OF COURSE he could do it now! Why didn’t anyone else see this?!

No. Just…no.

Overly complicated
Guest
Overly complicated
3 years 2 months ago

That was clearly a serious comment and deserving of a good thrashing. Well done.

Gene McCaffrey
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

Two points: the superiority of today’s training and conditioning is hardly borne out by a glance at the DL. The logical conclusion is that something is very wrong with today’s methods, and that doing nothing worked better. That may not be true but the opposite assumption is even more suspect.

2. Barry Bonds leaned over the plate and wore armor. In no other era – including right now – could he have gotten away with that.

Dave
Guest
Dave
3 years 2 months ago

Regarding the DL, in Ruth’s era, injuries that send a player to the disabled list today sent players to the retirement line. And I suspect they were far less careful about injuries, letting players play through the aching hamstrings and obliques that sideline players today.

Sultan of Athletic Conditioning
Guest

The Babe swung a 40 oz. war stick when he swatted 60, and used as weighty as a 54-oz. chunk of hickory during his career.

Barry Lamar Bonds used a 32 oz. carefully tuned, custom-rolled ash baton as his tool of choice to crush 73 over the fence.

That Babe Ruth was STRONG.

Economics smart-ass
Guest
Economics smart-ass
3 years 2 months ago

Heavier Bats make it easier to hit home runs actually. Though they make contact much harder.

Dave
Guest
Dave
3 years 2 months ago

This is false. Kinetic energy in a collision is determined by mass x velocity^2. Therefore, an increase in velocity is far more beneficial than an increase in mass. Lighter bat = faster swing.

Mike Green
Guest
Mike Green
3 years 2 months ago

Who was better, Beethoven or the Stones?

Some questions don’t really lead to understanding. Ruth was the key figure in a change to the game; Bonds was not. Will either be remembered in 500 years? Damned if I know. I do know this- the greatest athletic performances I have seen in my lifetime were not in baseball. Bob Beamon’s altitude-aided jump. Usain Bolt 2008.

FeslenR
Guest
FeslenR
3 years 2 months ago

Ruth was by far the more complete athlete than Bonds…the guy pitched for many years before he became a full time hitter…and he was just a pretty mediocre pitcher at that….(sarcasm alert).

Zans steroid, Bonds was pretty good even before that, plus I just can’t push aside the steroid inflated stats. I’d still take the Babe.

Rob
Guest
Rob
3 years 2 months ago

Pre Steroid Barry was far and away the best player in his era.

Ken Griffey Jr.
Guest
Ken Griffey Jr.
3 years 2 months ago

Barry was “far and away” the best of his generation? Before the Cream and the Clear and the 7-9 other illicit substances? Not so sure about that.

Barry Bonds
Guest
Barry Bonds
3 years 2 months ago

I got you beat (89-99) in War, Steals (by 100s), walks (by 100s) and OBP, and runs saved.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 2 months ago

unfair to start at junior’s age 19 season, buddy. not saying you wouldn’t be right anyway.

Mike Trout
Guest
Mike Trout
3 years 2 months ago

There’s no contest. I’m better than either of them and should have won the MVP last year.

Devon
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

I’d go with Bonds myself. I’m glad to see most of the players chose him. As great as Ruth was, Ruth had it easier — didn’t play against some of the best of his time (’cause they were stuck in the Negro Leagues), and I dare say there’s a larger variety of pitch types thrown in Bonds time. Those two things, make things much harder in the 90’s & 00’s than the 20’s & 30’s. Altho, Ruth was clearly a fantastic pitcher too. But, most of his pitching was done with a deadball…. which makes it oh so close to call.

FeslenR
Guest
FeslenR
3 years 2 months ago

Ruth had it easier?? Ruth played in the “Dead-Ball” Era making his feat even more remarkable.

Bonds was terrific before the Roids, don’t get me wrong, but his Roided up stats goes in correlation with the rest of those cheaters.

Sabertooth
Guest
Sabertooth
3 years 2 months ago

Also: Ruth faced pitchers on roids. Bonds never did, not even when he batted against Nolan Ryan.

chief00
Guest
chief00
3 years 2 months ago

I’ve always thought that a Babe Ruth-Bobby Orr comparison was apt. Both were supreme talents who changed the game at its roots and, once they changed it, there was no going back.

Didn’t many of the old-time guys grow up on the farm (Bob Feller)? Weren’t some of them incredibly strong (Lou Gehrig; Jimmie Foxx)? Weren’t others incredibly fast (Tris Speaker)? Weren’t some multi-sport athletes in college?

I find myself unconvinced by the conditioning argument. After all, some of the old time guys went through boot camp and then fought in a couple of World Wars. They may be in better condition today (how do we measure that?), but does it automatically lead to the conclusion that they are better players? Wouldn’t one have to conclude that since all players today are ‘better conditioned’, then all players are better than their generations-ago counterparts? Boy, I don’t think I could make a sweeping generalization of that magnitude.

Fitness guru
Guest
Fitness guru
3 years 2 months ago

I am comfortable saying an average player today would be a substantially above average player in the 20s, particularly with regards to defense. However that’s not to say that Matt Carpenter would be Rogers Hornsby, but Albert Pujols, playing in that era, would hit something similar to Ruth.

chief00
Guest
chief00
3 years 2 months ago

On what basis would you be comfortable saying that? Would you give Tommy Thevenow a better glove and better fielding conditions to make the comparison fair? Yuniesky Betancourt still fields like Tommy Thevenow, in spite of the benefit of better conditions.

jdbolick
Member
Member
3 years 2 months ago

People grossly overrate the statistical effect of integration in an odd attempt to diminish Ruth. Black players make up only 8.3% of all current major leaguers, and Latin players were already around during Ruth’s era. I agree with those who think Bonds was safely on a Hall of Fame track before BALCO, but I don’t remember him being seriously discussed as the best in baseball history, so the comparison seems rather silly in light of that.

Fitness guru
Guest
Fitness guru
3 years 2 months ago

The more important arguments are more general talent pool and conditioning arguments.

jdbolick
Member
Member
3 years 2 months ago

Sure, but I’m not sure how those hurt Ruth’s case instead of help it. The best athletes went into baseball during Ruth’s day, and a much larger current player pool also means some watering down.

Synovia
Guest
Synovia
3 years 2 months ago

Babe Ruth played against roughly the 300 best baseball players in a group of 30 million white men (100M Us citizens, half are women, some percentage are not white).

Barry Bonds played against roughly the 750 best baseball players in a group of roughly 3.5 Billion men.

Rippers
Guest
Rippers
3 years 2 months ago

Bonds had a .609 OBP in 2004.
The Babe never touched that.

Old School
Guest
Old School
3 years 2 months ago

Steroids, Babe never touched that.

JS7
Guest
JS7
3 years 2 months ago

I was unaware that Ruth had to face pitchers on steriods.

Fascinating.

potcircle
Guest
potcircle
3 years 2 months ago

at least bonds never sucked… 26% k rate in babe’s last season, when he was a fat overpaid joke who couldn’t field at all…

Synovia
Guest
Synovia
3 years 2 months ago

Babe Sure did.

He was injecting himself with sheep testosterone, taking greenies, and corking his bat.

The idea that he was clean is absurd.

Slats
Guest
Slats
3 years 2 months ago

Babe injected himself with sheep testicle extract to get more power at the plate (It didn’t work, he was puking instead), and Ted Williams popped greenies. Stop being so narrow minded and realize that guys have always been trying to cheat, and always will. It seems that this last generation might have found a more effective way to cheat (and there is debate on how much steroids even help) – but don’t get all high and mighty that some other idol is pure.

jdbolick
Member
Member
3 years 2 months ago

Please don’t confuse “debate” with “legitimate debate.” Some people stubbornly denying the power of steroids isn’t really relevant to this discussion.

James
Guest
James
3 years 2 months ago

It’s amazing how many .600OBP/.800SLG seasons there were in the steroid era…

Sabertooth
Guest
Sabertooth
3 years 2 months ago

It’s also amazing how, until the 1990s & 2000s, no player had a career slg % over .600, except for a half dozen (Ruth, Hornsby, Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg, Williams) whose careers included some of the Live Ball years , from 1921 to 1921.

Sabertooth
Guest
Sabertooth
3 years 2 months ago

er… 1921 to 1941.

Warriors
Guest
Warriors
3 years 2 months ago

So far and away the best hitter I’ve ever seen. Didn’t even flinch on most balls. Could see 20 junk pitches in a game and never take the bat off his shoulder. Then pitch 21 catches a bit of the plate and someone’s fishing it out of the bay.

Just an amazing player.

PackBob
Guest
PackBob
3 years 2 months ago

Before the cartoon body armor and the neck as large as the trunks of some men, the question would have been between Willie Mays and Ruth. Bonds was the greatest old-age body-armored and chemically enhanced player ever, no contest.

The question, though, can be asked no matter what era if “baseball” is taken to be the game at the time it was played, and then how a player excelled at the game at that time. It’s hard to ignore that Ruth was so good at baseball that he was an elite pitcher before he became strictly a position player. But it’s still subjective.

Personally I can’t take Bond’s old age stats seriously, same as I can’t take Sammy Sosa’s HR stats seriously. No one else ever had three 60+ seasons in a row! Greatest HR hitter ever!

Lance Armstrong
Guest
Lance Armstrong
3 years 2 months ago

Lots of guys, probably a majority of competitors, were doping for the Tour de France. But I won more than anybody ever! I’m the Barry Bonds of bicycle riding! Yay, me! Yay, Barry! Laws and level playing fields are for suckers!

potcircle
Guest
potcircle
3 years 2 months ago

many laws are stupid, and the playing field is visibly skewed… & if everyone else is cheating, you must cheat to achieve a level playing field… or would you rather the other guy try harder – go farther – do more to win – than you?

i guess moral rectitude justifies your sloth and inconsequence, but people who would like to win study winning and do what the winners are doing… remember sosa and mcguire? did anyone not know they were juiced? hell, i knew the a’s were juicing in the 80s – you could see it in their physiques… that bonds started doing what everyone else was already doing doesn’t make him the seminal criminal of our generation… he was just following the league that certainly was fully aware of steroids but conspicuously was still not testing for them…

sandy alderson became deputy commissioner of the game while bonds was finishing… he was the a’s exec who put in the first mlb weight room… so the idea that the entire league wasn’t winking and nodding through all of this is just insulting…

& we actually have lists showing the top 20 hr hitters from 2001 were ALL on the 2003 PED list (see my links above), so denying ped saturation is just stupid… yes, the era is tainted, but the players (& owners & every fan who isn’t blind/retarded) were all aware of the situation, and they were all in on it, because mlb loves revenue and fans love dingers…

(last thought – have you not considered why mlb wants the players juiced? it creates a better game… we can take great athletes and make them superhuman, or good athletes and grease them into shape to make the kinds of plays that drive espn… mlb is profitable entertainment moreso than sport, so steroids aren’t bad for the game – it’s just the steroid scandal that is damaging…)

Iron
Guest
Iron
3 years 2 months ago

Your comment is a spit in the face of every player out there who didn’t cheat.

jdbolick
Member
Member
3 years 2 months ago

And a complete indictment on his lack of morality. People who justify cheats do so because it’s what they would have done.

Synovia
Guest
Synovia
3 years 2 months ago

“Your comment is a spit in the face of every player out there who didn’t cheat.”

Who are these players?

There certainly wasn’t anyone in the union, because they consistently voted against testing.

Marion Jones
Guest
Marion Jones
3 years 2 months ago

Barry’s the greatest, hands down! Wait a sec. I mean, Barry’s numbers are invalidated by illegal PED use — same as Sosa, McGwire, and Clemens.

Now can I have my gold medals back?

Tom Tague
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

Ruth was a GREAT athlete with great speed in his prime. He was an elite left handed pitcher who did things that REDUCE your performance, not enhance it. Pitching has not changed over the years. In a lot of ways, pitchers were more “polished” then (spitball). The ball parks were much bigger also. Bonds clearly juiced and if you figure in a natural decline, we should be having this discussion about Ty Cobb, Willie Mays or Stan Musial and Ruth. There is a clear way to compare eras… Simply look at the stats and see how many led the league marks are indicated in their stats, Ruth is first, then Musial, then Cobb. Mays, Ruth, Cobb, and Aaron were also the most consistent achievers over their whole careers. I also think because Griffey Jr. did not juice he gets short changed in these comparisons. It is my opinion that he is the greatest player of the >1980 era. The Bonds cheated argument is difficult to factor in with the so called integrity for the game argument. Ruth was an animal with no ethics, Cobb was a complete jerk, and Bonds was indeed a cheater. Ruth was the best player, but I would choose Mays or Musial for my dream team first pick.

Riley
Guest
Riley
3 years 2 months ago

Let’s not forget that Ruth had one of the highest batting averages of all time, high even by his era’s standards. On Bonds’ side, the rate at which he was drawing intentional walks for a couple of years was unbelievable, he changed the game just by being in the lineup. Ok, it was certainly in part due to the quality of the lineup around him, but no one else has been pitched to (or avoided) in the same way in history.

Dean
Guest
Dean
3 years 2 months ago

One has to break a rule in order to be labeled cheater, and since the MLB had no such rules at the time Bond did not break any rules. to be technical, he is not a cheater. However, When I hear people talk about MLB and drugs I can’t help but to think of Doc Ellis no hitter on LSD. =D

David
Guest
David
3 years 2 months ago

Impossible to compare players of such different eras. But 714 homers while being a pitcher his first five years, in an era that was just emerging from the dead ball, and doing it without today’s training, better travel conditions, is pretty amazing. And if Ruth had so much of an advantage because of his era, then why did no one else approach his numbers? Steroids do not give you the ability to hit the ball. But if you can already hit, they counter the wear and tear on the body, especially what comes on with age. I think Bonds probably bought 100-150 homers at least with the steroids, if not more. That would leave him among the all time greats — but not the greatest.

John C
Guest
John C
3 years 1 month ago

Maybe Ruth was chemically enhanced???? Well maybe, if whiskey somehow made him a better hitter.

Setting aside how Bonds even got into this discussion in the first place, which we all know, there’s an easy answer to the debate: How many games did Barry Bonds win as a pitcher?

Babe Ruth was on his way to the Hall of Fame on the mound when he switched gears and decided he’d rather slug his way there instead. There’s never been another ballplayer who’s done such a thing.

JD
Guest
JD
2 years 1 month ago

What amazes me, is that people who do not know the game as well as they should answered Bonds with the reasons they gave. Yes, it is hard to say because of the different time era’s who would be better. Here is the thing to remember though, in Ruth’s era, the baseball was softer and the fences were further away. The pitchers could through whatever they wanted (spit balls, grease balls, etc) and may not have had the speed, but definitely the spin. There are reports of Ruth hitting the ball over 600 feet and some have reported 700 feet which is the longest distance ever recorded.

Another Argument is that Bonds was more an all around player because of speed, and power. Bonds had 500 stolen bases, but only 77 triples and 600 doubles in his career. Ruth had 123 stolen bases, as well as 136 triples and 500 doubles. The other point to make, is that all of Bond’s 21 years was as a hitter. Ruth came in as a pitcher, and had limited at bats his first 6 years. Now that is an all around player. When would you see a true hitting pitcher in today’s National League? If Ruth did have those first 6 seasons only as a hitter, then he would have broken 800 home runs.

The last argument is that Ruth did more for the game during his time. Ruth grew up in an orphanage and never forgot where he came from. He always had time for kids, to sign an autograph, and always had a smile. Ruth played right after the blacksox scandel and saved the game of baseball. Bonds was a prick. He came from a baseball family, and felt that he was entitled to everything. People that played with him, that encountered him, mostly say that he was not a very nice man. He was not nice to the fans, the children, and often cursed at people in the stands when asked for autographs.

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