Cleaning up the list at #90 is “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” Brooks Robinson. It’s hard to argue that Robinson isn’t just the greatest defensive third baseman of all time, but the greatest defensive player of all time regardless of position. Playing the hot corner, Robinson amassed an astounding 39.1 defensive WAR. He finished among the top-8 in dWAR a remarkable 14 seasons. Among third basemen, he’s the all-time leader in games, assists, putouts, double plays turned, total zone runs, and range factor per game. He led the league in fielding percentage at third base 11 times which is three more than any player from any other position in history. His 16 gold gloves are also the most for any position player in history. There’s no question that Robinson was superior with the glove, but the fact that he’s 13th all-time in sacrifice flies and produced a minuscule 8.4 career strikeout percentage shows he was skilled with the bat as well. Although he led the American League in RBIs in 1964 and finished in the top 10 in RBIs eight times, Robinson was at his best in the postseason. When merely equaling regular season rates is considered impressive, Robinson elevated his batting average 36 points and his OPS 62 points in the playoffs on his way to helping the Orioles win two World Series titles in four World Series appearances. After winning the World Series MVP in 1970, he joined teammate Frank Robinson as the only two players in history to win a regular-season MVP, a World Series MVP, and an All-Star game MVP.
Hitting the list at #91 is Mr. 38, Rafael Palmeiro. Palmeiro was the American League’s premier extra-base hit machine during the 1990s. His 1,192 career extra-base hits are the 11th most in MLB history. Palmeiro’s 9-consecutive seasons with at least 38 home runs is the all-time record and two more than any other player in history. Over that 9-year stretch, he averaged a surreal 41 home runs and 121 RBIs. He joins Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Eddie Murray as one of only six players with 3,000 career hits and 500 career home runs. Palmeiro used an impressive 11.2 strikeout rate to reel in the elusive career positive walk-to-strikeout ratio as he tallied 1,353 walks to just 1, 348 strikeouts.
Coming in at #92 is Eddie Murray. Murray earned the nickname Steady Eddie for being one of the most consistent hitters in baseball history. Murray’s career is notable in that he didn’t have a peak. It was steady production for 20 straight seasons. Murray is the only player in history with 20 consecutive seasons of at least 70 RBIs and 20 doubles. He’s 11th all-time in total bases and RBIs, and 13th all-time in hits. He joins Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Willie Mays as the only five players in history with at least 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and 1900 RBIs. Ever the tradesman with the bat in his hands, Murray produced an excellent 11.8 strikeout percentage and is the all-time leader in sacrifice flies. Murray led the American League in OPS+ in 1984 and finished in the top-10 nine times, including three second-place finishes. He led the American League in RBIs in 1981 and finished in the top-10 11 times. He finished in the top-5 in MVP voting six times including back-to-back runner-up finishes in 1982 and 1983. He produced a .825 career postseason OPS in 186 career plate appearances while leading the Orioles to a World Series title in 1981.
Entering the list at #93 is Paul Molitor, one of the premier run/hit threats in Major League Baseball history. All “Molly” did was rack up 3,319 hits, 1,782 runs, 605 doubles, and 504 stolen bases. If those numbers sound unique, it’s because they are. Only three players in MLB history have at least 3,300 career hits, 600 doubles, and 500 stolen bases, and Molitor is the only player to do it since 1920. Over his 21-year career, Molitor led the American League in hits and runs three times, and finished in the top 10 in batting average 11 times. As good as Molitor was in the regular season, he was even better in the playoffs. In 132 postseason plate appearances, he hit a robust .368 with a .435 on-base percentage and a .615 slugging percentage. He led the Brewers to the 7th game of the World Series in 1982 and then put the Blue Jays over the top in 1993 on his way to being named World Series MVP.
Entering the list at #94 is Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. It would be hard to argue that Pudge isn’t the greatest defensive catcher of all time. His 13 gold gloves are the most by a catcher in MLB history. He’s first all-time in defensive games played at catcher with 2, 427 which is over 200 games ahead of second place. He’s the all-time leader in defensive WAR among catchers and 8th overall regardless of position. Pudge led the league in caught stealing % a remarkable nine times. No other catcher has done it even 7 times and nobody has done it more than four times in more than 70 years. As great as Pudge was defensively, a combination of defensive and offensive brilliance won him the American League MVP in 1999 as he became the first catcher in either league to take home the award in 23 years. While Pudge’s calling card was his defense, he was no slouch with the bat. He is the all-time hits leader among catchers with 350 more than the next highest mark. He’s also the all-time leader at catcher in doubles and runs, and his 127 career stolen bases are the 3rd highest total by a catcher in more than 90 years. In 2004, Pudge led the Marlins to one of the biggest upsets in World Series history over the heavily favored New York Yankees. He also helped revitalize a dormant Tigers franchise, leading Detroit to its first World Series appearance in 22 years.
Slamming the door shut at #95 is legendary Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley. While Eck was an accomplished starting pitcher for the first half of his career—he was a 20-game winner for Boston in 1978, led the AL in ERA+ in 1979, and was selected to two All-Star games—he was a “light’s out, don’t let the door hit you on the way out” closer for the second half. He would redefine what an elite season looked like for a closer when he made the move to the bullpen for Oakland in 1987. After a successful first season as a full-time closer, Eck would catch fire in 1988, leading the American League in saves and finishing 2nd in the Cy Young voting. Eck’s two most dominant seasons and the two most dominant back-to-back seasons by a closer in major league baseball history came in 1989 and 1990 when he posted microscopic whips of .607 and .614. His 1990 ERA of .61 is almost hard to believe and translates to an out-of-this-world ERA+ of 603. Eck’s late-inning dominance helped lead Oakland to the 1990 World Series title and three consecutive World Series appearances. Eck would put a stamp on his Hall of Fame career by winning the Cy Young and AL MVP in 1992, becoming only the 4th reliever in history to do so. Eck is the only pitcher in baseball history with at least 390 saves and 190 wins, and no player in Major League Baseball history has more 45-save seasons.
Joining the list at #96 is on-base machine Joey Votto. Although hitting home runs is the most important skill in baseball, getting on base isn’t far behind and few have been better than Votto at doing just that. Votto has led the National League in on-base percentage seven times. Only Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Rogers Hornsby have led the league more often, and they just happen to be four of the top-20 players ever. Votto is the active leader in on-base percentage and is second among active players in career walks trailing only Albert Pujols. Votto won the NL MVP in 2010 while also finishing 2nd in 2017 and 3rd in 2015. Votto will not end up reaching the celebrated statistical milestones that have become synonymous with Hall-of-Fame resumes, but it is hard to imagine a player leading the league in on-base percentage seven times and not being one of the 100 greatest players. Hopefully, Hall of Fame voters will show more respect to Votto than they did to Johan Santana’s similarly underappreciated profile.
Coming in at #97, is Ichiro Suzuki, or simply Ichiro. The sweet-swinging savant from Japan got a late start to his Major League career after spending nine seasons tearing up the Japan Pacific League. His career in the U.S. started in earnest in 2001 at the age of 27 when he signed with the Seattle Mariners. Ichiro hit the ground running, literally, as he tallied 242 hits and 56 stolen bases in his rookie season on his way to winning the AL MVP. In only his first season Ichiro became the first player to reach 240 hits and 55 stolen bases in a single season since Ty Cobb in 1911. Three years later in 2004, Ichiro tallied 262 hits breaking George Sisler’s single season hits record that had stood for 84 years. That was just the beginning of Ichiro’s assault on the record books. He holds the record for most consecutive seasons leading the league in hits. He also holds the record for most 200 hit seasons, most consecutive 200 hit seasons, and most 200 hit seasons to start a career. Ichiro was also a standout right fielder as he holds the 3rd highest fielding percentage of any right fielder in Major league baseball history. Had he started his career in the states, it’s not hard to imagine Ichiro as the Hit King in place of Pete Rose. In addition to his 3089 hits in MLB, he also had 1,278 hits in Japan. His combined total of 4,367 professional hits, puts him 111 ahead of Pete Rose’s historic mark.
Coming in at #98 on the list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All-Time is Hall of Fame Catcher Gary Carter. Carter was an 11-time All-Star who starred for the Montreal Expos and New York Mets over a 19-year career. Nicknamed “The Kid,” Carter helped lead the ’86 Mets to 108 wins—tied for the 3rd highest total since 1969—and a World Series Championship. Carter is 2nd All-Time in WAR among catchers behind only the great Johnny Bench. No catcher in MLB history has finished in the top-10 in WAR more than Carter (8). Among catchers, Carter is in the top ten all-time in runs, hits, home runs, and RBIs. He finished in the top-6 of the MVP voting four times including a 2nd place finish for Montreal in 1980 and a 3rd place finish for the Mets in 1986.
While Carter is unquestionably one of the greatest offensive catchers in MLB history, he was an even better defensive catcher. He led the NL in games played among catchers six times, putouts among catchers eight times, assists among catchers five times, double plays turned as a catcher five times, and thrown out baserunners three times. It is that last fact that summons the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Yep, that’s Gary Carter with 23 dapper fellas born in the 1800s. Carter threw out 810 stolen base attempts during his career which is by far the highest total for a catcher since the dead-ball era. Few catchers in the history of the game have matched Carter’s offensive/defensive mix, durability, and longevity.
Hitting the list at #99 is Edgar Martinez. In order for a player who spent most of his career NOT playing defense to rate among the top 100 baseball players of all-time, the hitting tool must be something special and Martinez’s was just that. Since 1960, few hitters have been as productive. Over that time frame, he has the 5th highest on-base percentage, 10th highest OPS+, and 11th highest batting average. Martinez was truly a jack of all trades with the bat. You name the statistic, he led the league in it including runs, RBIs, doubles, batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, OPS+, times on base, Offensive WAR, and runs created. He led the league in on-base percentage three times along with a remarkable 10 top-five finishes. He also picked up two batting crowns and finished among the top 10 in batting average seven times. Martinez is the only player in MLB history to have back-to-back seasons of 100 RBIs, 100 Runs, 100 BBs, and 50 doubles. He also accomplished the elusive positive career BB-to-K ratio, becoming only the 19th player in MLB history to have 1,200 RBIs, 1,200 Runs, and 1,200 Walks with a positive BB-to-K strikeout ratio.
Starting us off at #100 is Hells Bells Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman is the greatest closer in National League history and the second greatest closer of all time. If it weren’t for Mariano Rivera, Hoffman would be the gold standard by which all closers are measured. His 601 career saves are second all-time and a remarkable 123 saves ahead of Lee Smith for 3rd place. For perspective, the gap between Hoffman and Smith is greater than the gap between Smith and the 11th spot. Hoffman led the National League in saves twice and finished runner-up five times. Even more impressive is the fact that Hoffman finished in the top 10 in saves in the National League 15 times. Hoffman twice finished runner-up in Cy Young voting including in 1998 when he lost out to Tom Glavine in one of the closest results in Cy Young voting history. In fact, Hoffman actually got more first-place votes than Glavine. History repeated itself as Hoffman again just missed out in 2006 nearly equaling Brandon Webb’s first-place vote total. Hoffman’s Adjusted ERA+ of 141 is the 15th best mark by a pitcher in Major League Baseball history.