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Among the tests was a measure of bat speed: "Pujols swung his preferred 31.5-ounce bat at a speed of 86.99 miles per hour. Ruth, on the other hand, using a 54-ounce bat, swung at an estimated speed of 75 miles an hour."
Miami doesn't have a raw material athlete in Ruth's class.
And while a lot of great potential Major League talent was lost to the Negro Leagues in Ruth's day, far, far more athletic talent is lost to other sports today. There essentially were no other pro sports in Ruth's day. Pro football was a startup, and there was no pro basketball. Soccer's global reach and appeal was far less in Ruth's day than today.
Actually, they probably do in Giancarlo. They don't have a Gehrig though.
Huh? How is it not relevant to the talent and competition level in MLB if the best athletes in the world don't play MLB?
From these numbers it seems Ruth swung with 27% more force than Pujols (Force = mass * velocity ^2). I think that is consistent with the researched (non-exaggerated) accounts of his homeruns. Playing today he'd almost certainly have to use a smaller bat to keep up with the faster pitchers.
mass * velocity ^ 2
0.5 * mass * velocity ^ 2
mass * acceleration
mass * velocity / time take to reach said velocity
I think it's very likely that, if the Sox had never traded Ruth nor moved him to the outfield, he would be in the Inner Circle of the HoF as a pitcher.
Irrelevant. The question is whether the competition level is greater today. It unquestionably is.
Better Discussion- Your favorite player who hit like Koufax and pitched like Williams
Discussion- Number of MLB players who hit like Williams and pitched like Koufax. Answer- One. Babe Ruth.
Ray, I've spent more time discussing those sorts of cross-era comparisons than you ever have or ever will, without any reference to steroids. Your main contribution to cross-era discussions in the past has been to harp on the lack of statistics in the Negro Leagues, and generally denigrating as "anecdotal" any sort of outside the box, non-quantifiable comparisons.
But Ruth figured out that he could crush the competition by playing the game an entirely different way -- which was by no means a given, as his style simply hadn't been tried before (to my knowledge; maybe someone not as good as him tried it).
That said, you don't really need to assume his HoF status as a pitcher to give him credit for what he was: Far and away the finest combination of offensive and pitching talent that ever graced a Major League diamond.
Ruth was definitely bigger (both taller and heavier) than the 1993 Bonds. He was probably stronger too. I'd think that post-steroids Bonds was stronger than Ruth was at any point in his life, and while Ruth was probably heavier, Bonds had more muscle mass
Today's sports-industrial complex insists on specialization early and often.
The fact that Ruth could be both a good pitcher and a great hitter tells us as much about the era he played in as it tells us about Ruth. Only in a game with vastly less talented players could one player do both of these things.
Ruth never led baseball in WAR four years in a row,
No. Ruth did not pitch like Koufax.
Ruth had an 8.7 WAR year as a 300+ IP pitcher. Koufax had only two better years than that.
Ruth's peak year as a pitcher was better than Koufax's 1965. That's pretty ####### good.
FWIW, Ruth>>Bonds. Not sure why you wouldn't want to include pitching. Unless you just wanted to have a debate.
The virtual disappearance of players who can both hit and pitch at the MLB level is one more indicator of improving quality.
You have to do mental gymnastics to get Bonds into the discussion, which involve time machines, or quality of competition etc. Which is a great theoretical argument, but in reality, Ruth curbstomps Bonds.
Ruth was literally playing against guys the size of today's high school players.
There is nothing "theoretical" about the increase in talent level over the past century. It's real and it's large, if difficult to measure with precision. If you want to measure greatness only in relative terms, that's fine, and Ruth will presumably always be #1 in those terms. But focusing on relative performance is not the "right" way to compare players, it's just one choice.
And? Are you plucking Ruth from the past and dumping him into modern baseball without the benefit of modern nutrition, training and so on?
Guy is correct that the virtual disappearance of two-way players -- particularly stars -- is a very significant indicator that league quality is much more difficult today.
Why not? Not only is the average male a lot bigger now, the average elite athlete is a lot bigger now. Hell, the average elite team sport athlete is materially bigger than he was 20 years ago.
Bonds = Juicer
Ruth = Boozer
Both men tried to augment their playing lives in directly opposite ways.
Ruth was a physical freak in his time, at the far tail of the distribution, and so was almost certainly someone whose physical development was impaired little or none by the inferior public health and nutrition of his times.
Now, it's true Ruth would have had the opportunity to do weight training. Would he have done it? And if so, could he have become much stronger? Seems unlikely to me, but hard to say....
As the sporting industry exploded in the 1920s, athletic trainers and their charges immediately saw the possibilities of using his research. Even the Big Bambino himself, Babe Ruth, injected himself with extract from a sheep's testicles, hoping for increased power at the plate (and in the bedroom). He attempted this only once, and it made him incredibly ill; the Yankees covered the story by telling the press that the Babe just had one of his famous bellyaches. Even though the Yankees tend to celebrate all things Babe Ruth, they have never, to my knowledge, had "Sheep Testicles Day" at the stadium.
BC: I've never heard the sheep-testosterone story before, but I googled Ruth and sheep testosterone and found your interview with Dave Zirin, as well as Dave's column mentioning the sheep stuff and a similar column by Stephan F. Nathans. If I weren't such a cynic, I'd be outraged by the casual acceptance of the sheep-testosterone story by the writers, and their undocumented projections of the item.
In your interview, Zirin comes across as a very bright, very concerned, very responsible journalist. But in his column he wrote, "When Ruth fell ill from his attempted enhancement [meaning the sheep testosterone], the media was told that Ruth merely had a bellyache." In doing so, Dave committed the common journalistic sin of writing from ignorance with confidence.
Who says it was sheep testosterone that made him mysteriously ill in 1925? Ruth collapsed at the railroad station in Asheville because he had been on a tear for weeks. He was in the midst of breaking up with Helen, his first wife, and taking up with Clare, his second, and in the meantime screwing every willing woman he came across as the Yankees barnstormed north toward Opening Day. He was eating too much crap, drinking too much, ####### too much, sleeping too little, wearing himself out. He developed—it's logical, isn't it?—a stomach ulcer. Every detail relating to that barnstorming trip and his own train trip from Asheville to New York and the hospital points to ulcer, and so does the medical report from the hospital—not to mention the great raw scar wound in his belly after the operation.
So which is it? My assertion that he had an ulcer? Or that sheep testosterone made him sick? Or was it, as the gossiping old ballplayers liked to whisper, syphilis? You don't cut into a man's stomach to cure syphilis or, I assume, to counteract sheep testosterone.
Ballplayers, especially old ballplayers, are like old women gossiping over a cup of tea. They pass along rumors and hearsay as fact. Read Eldon Auker's autobiography, which despite its charm and vivid recollections—the once-great Tommy Bridges as a pitiful drunk on Auker's front lawn is one—passes along gossip he heard as factual information. We sportswriters do the same. And readers and reviewers and other sportswriters accept it and it becomes what Mark Twain called the petrified truth.
If Ruth did, in fact, take sheep testosterone, I'd bet my hat and ass that he didn't take it to help him on the ballfield. He'd have taken it for the same reason Rafael Palmeiro took some other performance-enhancing substance: to have even more fun in bed.
[Editor's note: Gelf gave Zirin a chance to respond. He wrote:
I have nothing but respect for Robert Creamer, but his criticism is far too confident and self-assured by half. He is correct that there are no signed affidavits proving that Ruth injecting himself with sheep testicles. That being said, it would fit with what we know about both the early days of the development of testosterone and Ruth's own penchant for self-destructive experimentation. It is sourced in Baseball's Hall of Shame and has also been a topic of discussion by many an old-time writer. Is it plausible that Ruth tried injections to enhance his abilities (whether in bed or otherwise)? I do think it is plausible. Is it a stone-cold fact? I can't say that any more than Bob Creamer can say with certainty that it was an ulcer, or that it was syphilis.]
Even the Bonds cheerleader Dave Zirin only claims that Ruth tried this once, and it made him sick. For a one time anecdote that's about on the level of Mike Piazza's bacne, it sure gets a lot of weight.
Not just "of his times" but in an orphanage/reform school for most of his childhood, where nutrition was probably substandard even for the times. The "little or none" conclusion seems unduly optimistic to me, but we can't know.
It doesn't matter anyway -- 6-2, 215 is plenty big enough to compete at elite levels and be an elite power hitter
I'm not sure when or why people started asking this weird Ruth-in-1970-womb type of question,
Because that's the only way to determine who's better across eras.
If we think about each player having some kind of essential "baseballing soul" which exists independent of space, time, and culture then I think you have to approach it from the perspective of Babe Ruth being born in 1968 (or whichever year).
But if you're just looking at it as players as they existed, what they achieved, as products of their time and place, then I think it's a different thought experiment.
Because that's the only way to determine who's better across eras.
This moves us into science fiction
But it's not going to determine anything, because it immediately takes the argument into the realm of pure imagination. No one has any idea what George Herman Ruth would have been like if he'd been born in any other time or place. So it seems like it's an attempt to shut down discussion entirely.
I don't think it's much harder to get a wild ass guess this way. You just need to focus on 2 things: How good the player is to his peers, and the size of the talent pool he's drawn from.
Oh, no. We were already there the moment we tried to compare players whose lifespans don't even overlap. Either question of time travel is both equally fantastic yet equally valid.
None of that follows. You're making too big a deal about size. Joe Morgan was 5-7, 160 and he could pound the piss out of the ball under conditions reasonably termed modern.
How about this as your scenario:
The time lords plan to have a baseball league for one season- 162 games, 30 teams, playoffs. To build up their rosters they have a draft. When a player is drafted, they are pulled out of their time stream at whatever point in time the manager wants to grab them. After the season, all players will be returned to their time lines with no memory or effects of the season played, that is history will not be changed. Additional constraints: nobody can be plucked up outside of the time frame of 1876-2013 (No picking up Sampson and teaching him baseball or such antics) and no player can meet past or future selves, that is, once a player has been drafted, no past or future versions of themself can be drafted by any team. So you're the manager with the first pick, who do you choose and when in their career? What if instead of one season it was 5 seasons? 10? 20?
Rk I Split Year G BF BFtot %
1 I as LHP 1950 2174 27161 96468 28.2
2 I as LHP 1951 2286 25956 96017 27.0
3 I as LHP 1952 2035 23809 94833 25.1
4 I as LHP 1953 2280 26399 95423 27.7
5 I as LHP 1954 2199 25452 95539 26.6
6 I as LHP 1955 2390 25750 95030 27.1
7 I as LHP 1956 2350 24673 95241 25.9
8 I as LHP 1957 2175 21586 95399 22.6
9 I as LHP 1958 2214 22442 94153 23.8
10 I as LHP 1959 2195 21868 94725 23.1
11 as LHP 1960 2343 24804 94784 26.2
12 as LHP 1961 2993 31074 109571 28.4
13 I as LHP 1962 3438 34149 124554 27.4
14 I as LHP 1963 3524 36223 122361 29.6
15 I as LHP 1964 3573 37585 122997 30.6
16 I as LHP 1965 3712 38211 122765 31.1
17 I as LHP 1966 3604 37753 121692 31.0
18 I as LHP 1967 3570 36416 121848 29.9
19 I as LHP 1968 3412 34155 120827 28.3
20 as LHP 1969 4242 42470 148201 28.7
21 as LHP 1970 4475 45396 149332 30.4
22 I as LHP 1971 4319 45109 146705 30.7
23 I as LHP 1972 4189 42678 139968 30.5
24 I as LHP 1973 4382 49105 148794 33.0
25 as LHP 1974 4442 48342 148855 32.5
26 as LHP 1975 4505 47572 148621 32.0
27 as LHP 1976 4378 44694 147598 30.3
28 as LHP 1977 4968 49568 161547 30.7
29 as LHP 1978 4961 52938 159192 33.3
30 as LHP 1979 4932 49596 160378 30.9
31 as LHP 1980 5106 50024 161210 31.0
32 as LHP 1981 3390 30875 105892 29.2
33 as LHP 1982 5004 48537 161104 30.1
34 as LHP 1983 5046 50005 160615 31.1
35 as LHP 1984 4948 49630 160566 30.9
36 as LHP 1985 5195 50230 160320 31.3
37 as LHP 1986 5408 50399 160858 31.3
38 as LHP 1987 5470 52339 161922 32.3
39 as LHP 1988 5056 48784 159380 30.6
40 as LHP 1989 5533 51154 160033 32.0
41 as LHP 1990 5837 54371 160316 33.9
42 as LHP 1991 5728 51375 160746 32.0
43 as LHP 1992 5549 49371 160545 30.8
44 as LHP 1993 5784 50821 174564 29.1
45 as LHP 1994 4148 34730 124483 27.9
46 as LHP 1995 5268 42524 156703 27.1
47 as LHP 1996 5736 45270 177261 25.5
48 as LHP 1997 6161 46102 175541 26.3
49 as LHP 1998 6576 49705 188280 26.4
50 as LHP 1999 6420 47423 189692 25.0
51 as LHP 2000 6172 46482 190261 24.4
52 as LHP 2001 6333 44963 186976 24.0
53 as LHP 2002 6561 46918 186615 25.1
54 as LHP 2003 6784 50801 187449 27.1
55 as LHP 2004 6367 51432 188539 27.3
56 as LHP 2005 6411 49963 186292 26.8
57 as LHP 2006 6611 50906 188071 27.1
58 as LHP 2007 6788 51735 188623 27.4
59 as LHP 2008 6760 52923 187631 28.2
60 as LHP 2009 6855 51215 187079 27.4
61 as LHP 2010 6754 51931 185553 28.0
62 as LHP 2011 6666 49564 185245 26.8
63 as LHP 2012 7122 54956 184179 29.8
64 as LHP 2013 3382 24804 85726 28.9
But it's entirely unfair to the older players. Are you going to make "time-machine Mickey Mantle" play with bum knees, or are you going to let him have the surgery available today? Adult layers are largely a construct of their era. Nutrition, health care, training, coaching, PEDs.
 I'd also pick Bonds 2001 first. And while the quality of time has no doubt improved over time, I feel like you're overstating it. We've seen players keep up star performances over 20-year careers. That would suggest that Hank Aaron was a better player in absolute terms in his late 30s than his early 20s.
I think that's ridiculous. Give Hornsby some time to adjust to modern pitching techniques, and hit the weights a little himself, and I think he's still a star.
If we don't see the talent improvement within a 20 year career, it has to be very slow and gradual. Were only talking 80 years since Ruth was dominating.
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