So how do today’s major leaguers stack up against the greatest players of all time? To find out, Scripps Howard News Service selected a Greatest Baseball All-Star Team. Then we selected our Modern All-Star Team. You can argue about the picks, but here’s how the two squads compare.
Greatest: Johnny Bench, Cincinnati, 1967-83. Modern: Mike Piazza, NY Mets.

An all-time team without
Ty Cobb? Or Mickey Mantle? What about Joe DiMaggio? And where’s Pete Rose? No Stan Musial? How about Frank Robinson?

Defense trumps offense. Piazza has a better batting average (.321 to .267), but that’s about it. Piazza needs 42 homers to pass Bench’s total of 389, but his power means less in today’s modern slugfestgame. Defensively, there’s no comparison as Bench won 10 Gold Gloves and two MVP awards. Piazza’s totals — 0 and 0.

Greatest: Lou Gehrig, NY Yankees, 1923-39. Modern: Jason Giambi, NY Yankees.

The only thing these two share is Yankee Stadium. Giambi’s best season — a .333, 43 HR, 137 RBI, MVP-year in 2000 — was surpassed by Gehrig (career .341 hitter) four times (1927, ‘31, ‘34 and ‘36). “The Iron Horse” averaged .341, 47 HRs and 169 RBIs in those seasons. And Giambi has yet to do what Gehrig did every season from 1926-38 — play every game.

Greatest: Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis Cardinals, NY Giants, Boston

Braves, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Browns, 1915-37.
Modern: Roberto Alomar, NY Mets.

An easy one for the Greatests. Alomar has more steals (462-135) and is amazing defensively (10 Gold Gloves). But “Rajah’s” .358 career average (second behind Ty Cobb) is 52 points higher with better power (301 HRs to Robbie’s 201) and more production (four 100-RBI seasons to Alomar’s two).

Greatest: Honus Wagner, Louisville, Pittsburgh, 1897-1917. Modern: Alex Rodriguez, Texas.

Let’s give this one to A-Rod. Both fine fielders, Wagner’s career .328 average (including eight batting titles) is impressive, but ARod has more HRs the last two years (109) than Wagner did in his career (101). And “The Flying Dutchman” never got near A-Rod’s awesome 2000-2002 stretch (averaged .311, 50 HRs, 136 RBIs).

Greatest: Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia Phillies, 1972-89. Modern: Troy Glaus, Anaheim.

The consistent Schmidt (548 HRs, 10 Gold Gloves, three MVPs) deserves even more credit for surviving 18 seasons with those wicked Phillies fans. Glaus (.261, 118 HRs, 321 RBIs since 2000) is currently the best at baseball’s weakest position.

San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds is coming off two of the most amazing seasons in is coming off two of the most amazing seasons in baseball history, breaking the all-time home baseball history, breaking the all-time home run record with 73 in 2001 then hitting .370 run record with 73 in 2001 then hitting .370 with 46 HRs last year. Photo by Darryl Bush / with 46 HRs last year. Photo by Darryl Bush / San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco Chronicle

These are just a few of the greats that couldn’t make Scripps Howard’s Greatest Baseball Team starting lineup. As you see, picking just one player as the best in history at a position will start plenty of arguments. Among current players, only San Francisco’s Barry Bonds and Texas’ Alex Rodriguez could even be considered close to the best. And while the big names mentioned may cause the most outrage, consider these lesser-known talents who also fell short. At pitcher, Walter Johnson held off a pair of his contemporaries — Cy Young (511 wins, 14 straight 20-win seasons, five 30-win seasons) and Christy Mathewson (373 wins, four 30-win seasons, 13 20-win seasons). At first base, Jimmy Foxx may best be known as the character Tom Hanks’ played in the 1992 baseball flick “A League of Their Own.” Yet Foxx’s combination of power (534 home runs), average (.325) and consistency (12 straight 30-HR, 100-RBI seasons) fell just short of Lou Gehrig, who won the 1934 Triple Crown, a year after Foxx won it. Center field was also tough. Willie Mays was the pick over the elegant DiMaggio and mercurial Mantle. But what about Tris Speaker (.345, 3,515 hits, 793 doubles)? While Rose supporters will cry foul over the omission of baseball’s banished all-time hits leader, he really has no chance at any of his positions (left field, third base or first base) — due mostly to the superior power skills of Ted Williams, Mike Schmidt and Gehrig. And as a singleshitting left fielder, Rose isn’t anywhere near the great but reviled Cobb, whose .367 lifetime batting average is easily the best ever. The warrior Robinson, the only man ever to win MVP honors in both leagues to go along with 586 homers, Musial (.331, 475 HRs, three MVP awards) and Roberto Clemente (3,000 hits, four batting titles, 12 Gold Gloves) were several right fielders who just couldn’t surpass the incomparable Babe Ruth.

Even though he retired 68 years ago, New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth remains baseball's greatest player. Ruth is the allltime leader in slugging percentage (.690), while ranking second with 714 home runs, 2,213 RBIs and 10th in batting average (.342). Photo courtesy of the Baseball Hall of Fame

Greatest: Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox, 1939-42, 1946-60. Modern: Barry Bonds, San Francisco.

Baseball in Puerto Rico, where the Montreal Expos will play 22 games this season.
■ ■ Roger Clemens, who needs only seven more wins to reach the 300-victory mark. ■

A worthy debate. “The Splendid Splinter” finished at .344, the highest batting average of anyone whose career started after 1930, to go along with 521 home runs. But Bonds has already surpassed Williams in HRs (613) and 100-RBI seasons (11-9). And which is more remarkable —Williams’ hitting .388 at age 40 in 1958 or Bonds’ slugging 73 home runs at 37 in 2001?

Greatest: Willie Mays, NY Giants, San Francisco, NY Mets, 1951-

Modern: Bernie Williams, NY Yankees.

Ditto Sammy Sosa, who needs only one more home run to reach the 500 mark.

No debate here. The “Say Hey Kid” Mays is considered the finest all-around player ever (.302, 660 HRs, 1,903 RBIs, 338 steals, 12 Gold Gloves, twice MVP). The underrated Williams (.308, 226 HRs, 998 RBIs, 4 Gold Gloves, 19 postseason HRs) isn’t in the same league.

■ Long ball: Bulked up players, rag arm pitchers, bandbox stadiums and — dare we say it — a juiced ball have led to an overemphasis of the home run. ■ Older players: Randy Johnson, last year’s NL Cy Young award winner is 39 and last year’s NL MVP, Barry Bonds, is 38. ■ Variable pricing, the new scheme to pry more cash out of fans’ pockets by charging more for weekend seats and games against the most popular teams.

Greatest: Babe Ruth, Boston Red Sox, NY Yankees, Boston

Braves, 1914-35.
Modern: Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal.

Few have a chance compared to Ruth. Guerrero’s best season (.344, 44 HRs, 123 RBIs in 2000) was surpassed by The Babe (.342, 714 HRs, 2,209 RBIs) just about every year from 1920-31 (nine 45-plus HR seasons, seven 140-RBI seasons, six .370 or higher seasons). Not to mention Ruth could pitch (two 20-win seasons).

Greatest: Walter Johnson, Washington Senators, 1907-27. Modern: Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks.

This battle of Johnsons isn’t much of a matchup. “The Big Train” Walter has more shutouts (110) than “The Big Unit” Randy has complete games (87) and his ERA is also almost a run lower (2.17 to 3.08). And with 224 career wins, the Unit will have to pitch until he’s 55 to match the Train’s 417 wins.

■ Baseball in Montreal, where only the hardiest fans bother showing up for a team intent on moving on. ■ Long pants and oversized jerseys, both nixed by baseball’s fashion police.. ■ Ted Turner, the driving force behind the Atlanta Braves’ decade-long run of excellence, whose move from Atlanta to Florida closes the book on his association with the team. ■ Stolen bases. In this era of long ball fever, the stolen base is fading into oblivion. ■ Complete game: What used to be a measuring stick is now a mystery for most pitchers. ■ Once again, MLB has no scheduled doubleheaders. And even when some are scheduled after rainouts, they are usually day-night, separateadmission affairs.

Greatest: Hank Aaron, Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta, Milwaukee

Brewers, 1954-76.
Modern: Manny Ramirez, Boston.

A DH his final two years with the Brewers, Aaron (.305, 2,297 RBIs) redefined longevity and consistency en route to a record 755 home runs. The injury-prone Ramirez consistently produces as well averaging .324, 40 HRs, 132 RBIs since 1998.

March 25-26 Opening series, Oakland vs. Seattle, Tokyo. March 26 Last day to place players with nonguaranteed contracts on unconditional release waivers without paying their 2003 salaries. March 30 Opening day for other teams. June 16 Hall of Fame game, Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay, Cooperstown, N.Y. July 15 All-Star game, Chicago. July 27 Hall of Fame inductions, Cooperstown, N.Y. Sept. 30 Postseason scheduled to begin. Oct. 18 World Series scheduled to begin.

Text by John Lindsay ● Scripps Howard News Service

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