It’s coming. The Baseball 100 is just two days away from starting. Thrilled to have you along for the ride. And for those of you who would like to join JoeBlogs, the membership link is here … and throughout this post.
The first rule of the Baseball 100 is I don’t talk about the Baseball 100. That is to say that once this thing gets rolling — and we’re now just a couple of days away from No. 100 — I don’t spend any time explaining WHY I picked a certain player for a certain spot. If I pick, say, Yuniesky Betancourt to be my 100th best player, I will write about Betancourt, what made him so, um, Yuni. I will write about his distinct qualities, his background, perhaps, his breakthrough moment. I might write the whole thing about one play he made, or the spelling of his name or, really, anything Yuni.
But I will not write anything along the lines of: “Yuniesky Betancourt is No. 100 on my list because …” I will not say, “Yuniesky Betancourt beat out Neifi Perez for No. 100 because he was better at this …” I will not refer at all to my system.
There is a specific reason for this, one I’m sure that you can figure out. The Baseball 100 is more than just a ranking system to me. The difference between my 78th-ranked player and my 212th-ranked player is so miniscule that’s it’s mathematically irrelevant. With one slight adjustment, I could have those two players switch places. There’s a tiny bit of science to this — thanks in large part to Tom Tango, who helped me design the system. But there’s more art than science, more heart than brainpower.
It’s like Tom himself says: “If we don’t follow our heart, why are we watching baseball to begin with?”
So before we get started, let me tell you the rules that I used to put together the Baseball 100.
Rule 1. Oh, wait, I already told you Rule 1.
Rule 2: Only major leaguers are on the Baseball 100.
In the original version of this list, I included a bunch of Negro leaguers — I can tell you that four were in my Top 20. I still believe this. But Negro leaguers will now be a major part of my corresponding Shadowball 100. I thought long and hard about this — the last thing in the world I wanted to do was create some sort of awful “separate but equal list” for the great players of the Negro leagues (and other leagues, as you will see).
But here is my thinking.
- The Shadowball 100 is not a separate list. It’s an eclectic list that includes players who are, in their own ways, larger than life. And it will sync with the Baseball 100 — meaning that one of the ways I’ll be ranking the players is to put them where I believe they WOULD have ranked all-time in major league baseball had they been given a chance. In other words, when I get to Satchel Paige in the Shadowball 100, he’ll be ranked where I think he belongs in baseball history. I think this will make sense as I go along.
- I have come to believe that it’s a disservice to Negro leaguers to just put them in the Baseball 100 as if I can rewrite history and pretend they were given the chance to play in the major leagues. They were not. It’s a travesty. They were utterly denied an opportunity to play. Yes, I think Turkey Stearnes was one of the greatest players of all time. But by ranking him No. 58 on my original list — right between Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter — I think I unintentionally underplayed the challenges that he faced, the opportunities that were denied him and the fact that for reasons entirely beyond his control, he wasn’t like Reggie Jackson or Derek Jeter. This was one of the things that I really had to work through before I could commit to this project. And I will admit: I love the way the Baseball 100 and Shadowball 100 work together. I hope you like it too.
Rule 3: Peak value is given precedence over career value.
I thought a lot about this, and it ended up here: My system is built around a player’s peak. The 100 players on this list, all of them, were GREAT for four years, five years, six years, seven years, more. This is what the system measures. They don’t get extra value for being good or average for a bunch of other years. There are no compilers on this list. There are no players who were very good for many years but were never quite great at any point.
This is not to underrate the value of very good players or compilers. The Hall of Fame is rightly filled with players who were very good for a long time, players who may never have been top five in baseball but who lingered in the top 15 or so for 15 years. Those players, many of them, were extraordinary in their own right, and a few of them are in my Shadowball 100, as you will see. But the Baseball 100 is for peak performance. This will mean that there are quite a few surprises on the list.
Rule 4: There is an openly subjective quality to the Baseball 100.
So Tom and I (mostly Tom) came up with the Baseball 100 system, and it spit out a fascinating list of 100 players (well, the list actually goes to 500, but you get the point). It was a really fun list. But there were various problems for me. Certain players were overrated, others underrated, others entirely discounted. I wasn’t quite sure how to make those adjustments.
And then I realized that I could make the adjustments simply by MAKING ADJUSTMENTS. That is to say, I created a subjective score — I got this idea from Bill James, by the way. The subjective score default was 100. And the more I lowered the score, the more the player would move up the charts. So I played around with it a lot. Catchers were underrated in my opinion, so I adjusted. PItchers who threw a ton of innings in seasons were overrated in my opinion, so I adjusted. Certain players had unique value that I thought was missing from the stats. Maybe they were brilliant in the postseason. Maybe they lost their best years to war. Maybe they were pioneers. Maybe they fundamentally changed the game or had a larger impact than the stats suggested. Etc.
I didn’t want to completely rewrite the list, and I didn’t. But I also didn’t want to be a slave to a system that, as much as I like it, is plenty subjective too.
Rule 5: Baseball has improved through the years.
I wrote about this already and there is some great conversation going on about it. I feel confident that baseball history is well represented in the Baseball 100. The great players of the past are on this list, and in places of honor. You’re not going to find Babe Ruth ranked 47th or anything like that. But yes, our system is built on the basic idea that baseball has improved, and players have improved, and because of this you’ll see some names on the list that you’re probably not expecting.
And not to give too much away, but this theme will start right with No. 100.
Would love to have you come along for the Baseball 100 and join JoeBlogs. All you have to do is click the link. Or this link. Maybe you’d prefer this link … YUNI!