Willie Howard Mays, our own beloved “Say Hey Kid” turns 81 today and is certainly one of the most, if not the most well known New York and San Francisco Giant by sports fans around the nation. His career included Hall of Fame numbers at 660 HR, 156 OPS+, a .302/..385/.564 line, .413 wOBA, 157 wRC+, and one of three offensive players that has over a 150 bWAR and fWAR (Ruth, and Bonds are the two others). The one moment people might remember him most for is his catch in the 1954 World Series in Game 1 against the Cleveland Indians at the Polo Grounds. He wanted to be one of the best in every category within the game of baseball and that made him one of the all-time greats.
If you can’t read this it says: “Retweet this if you think Willie Mays is the best ballplayer of ALL time #SFGiants”
I get that we’re Giants fans and that we’re supporting our biggest stars (and our smallest stars, too), but I think it’s easy for us to say things sometimes that may be really difficult to back up. Willie Mays by the numbers was an absolutely fantastic player, and certainly one of the best ballplayers to have played the game. However, I don’t think he’s THE best. Being exposed to Ken Burns’ “Baseball” has been a great lesson in the history of baseball, and so I’ve learned about some of the greats of the game whom even my grandparents probably did not get to watch.
If you asked me if Willie Mays was the greatest CF to ever play the game, I’d agree with that statement. If someone asked me is he the best Giant of all time I don’t know if I could support that, probably being biased to have had the privilege to see #25 play the game at Candlestick and AT&T. Outside of the organization, Babe Ruth was a man that owned his competition when he played in the first half of the 20th century. Interestingly enough, Hank Aaron does NOT best Willie Mays in most offensive statistics (OBP, SLG, ISO, wOBA, wRC+, bWAR, fWAR, SB, OPS+) but did have 1500 PA more than Willie. Turning to pitchers, it’s hard to discard the work that guys like Walter Johnson (Washington Senators) and Christy Matthewson (New York Giants) did over their career when talking about “the best.” Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux weren’t too bad themselves, but I have a hard time comparing the greats of pitching to the greats of hitting, so for me “the best of all time” is always kind of fuzzy until I see someone that clearly separates themselves.
So, if you do believe Willie’s the best of all-time, I’d love to know why in comparison to some of these other all-time greats. I feel some excellent arguments can be made for both sides, but at the end of the day, it’s hard for me to say he’s #1 all time.