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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Hall of Fame’s Refusal to Acknowledge Steroids Era Insulting to Entire Generation of Fans

Dan, Dan, he’s our Manna! Dan Duquette, Jr. steps up.

McGwire, to me, will always be somewhat of a mythical figure, a behemoth of a man who sent towering home runs into the Fenway night at the 1999 Home Run Derby. The same goes for Barry Bonds. That’s what baseball is to me and my generation. Our memories are what they are.

I couldn’t care less that McGwire or Bonds used steroids, I really couldn’t. Yet somehow this has become a life-and-death issue to some voters, that allowing Big Mac into the Hall of Fame is an affront to all that is right and holy about baseball. They’re wrong.

...The history of the game is an integral piece of what makes a Hall of Fame, but you can’t pick and choose when to opt out and what to cherry-pick. The Steroids Era happened. We were all there for it, and for some of us, it is all we know. Choosing to ignore that time period does a disserve to the players that excelled during that time and is an insult to the fans that grew up in the middle of it.

There is a generation of fans out there who grew up in the Steroids Era and there is a generation of players out there who played in it. One day, those fans will want a place to be able to show the next generation their childhood memories and what it meant to them to see a great baseball player.

The Hall of Fame should be that place. If it isn’t, then what’s the point?

Repoz Posted: January 03, 2012 at 11:09 PM | 156 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   101. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:16 PM (#4028744)
Again, you're changing the argument when you say a "non-roids" Bonds. I was talking about actual value, not hypothetical value of what would've/could've/should've happened had Bonds made different choices.

My list is not based on actual accumulated value.

Josh Gibson should be in there over Berra.

I know almost nothing about Negro Leaugers. But yes, he'd be the third C.

   102. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4028745)
Again, you're changing the argument when you say a "non-roids" Bonds. I was talking about actual value, not hypothetical value of what would've/could've/should've happened had Bonds made different choices.

It's like the argument about giving "credit" for color barrier/war service but not for injuries. It's totally different to say that someone WOULD HAVE been a great player if not for injuries than it is to say that Josh Gibson WOULD HAVE been a great player if not for the color barrier - he WAS a great player; it's irrelevant to the discussion whether or not he was able to prove it on the major league level.

Bonds WAS better than most of the outfielders you listed. WHY he was better is a different argument entirely. Do you really not understand the difference between these two points?


You're not getting my list's concept.

My concept is more like we find out that someone cloned all of the 500 greatest players of all time 18 years ago and they've all been growing up in suburban America with identical diet/training/instruction. Now we're going to have a draft. Who fills out the A-team.

It's about ur-talent, not actual production.
   103. . Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4028752)
I think he's so much better than the next best SS, that he can withstand a huge amount of discounting.

He's got 8 career OPS+ points on Arky Vaughn, A-Rod has barely started his decline phase, and Vaughn missed 4 good years in WWII. Vaughn was also a shortstop; A-Rod will wind up playing well over half his career at 3B.

If your "adjustment" is 8 OPS+ points, Bonds belongs in your top 10 easily.
   104. Kurt Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4028753)
To have a top-10 that's all CF suggests a flaw in the methodology.

Why? A top 50 list of football players wouldn't have as many fullbacks as quarterbacks.
   105. Booey Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:24 PM (#4028755)
My concept is more like we find out that someone cloned all of the 500 greatest players of all time 18 years ago and they've all been growing up in suburban America with identical diet/training/instruction. Now we're going to have a draft. Who fills out the A-team.

Well in that case, I doubt that Ruth makes the team. He wasn't in good shape even for his own era. Having access to better diet/nutrition information doesn't mean a person would actually follow it...
   106. Booey Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:27 PM (#4028760)
My list is not based on actual accumulated value.

Well obviously. You're adding moral judgments and hypotheticals into an argument that wasn't supposed to be about that.
   107. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:31 PM (#4028765)
Well obviously. You're adding moral judgments and hypotheticals into an argument that wasn't supposed to be about that.

It's my list. You don't get to dictate what the argument is about.
   108. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4028769)
Vaughn missed 4 good years in WWII

Vaughan played a full 1943. What war was he fighting in '46 and '47?

You're right that he deserves some consideration, although his peak is a little slim.

I wouldn't strenuously object to dropping ARod for Eddie Mathews. I'm sure one of the 2B's can back up Wagner.
   109. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:36 PM (#4028770)
To have a top-10 that's all CF suggests a flaw in the methodology.

Why? A top 50 list of football players wouldn't have as many fullbacks as quarterbacks.


Football obviously has a very different distribution of value creating opportunities than baseball.

There's no way to let your SS handle every IF defensive chance, or let Ruth bat 12 times per game.
   110. . Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:37 PM (#4028771)
My concept is more like we find out that someone cloned all of the 500 greatest players of all time 18 years ago and they've all been growing up in suburban America with identical diet/training/instruction. Now we're going to have a draft. Who fills out the A-team.

It's about ur-talent, not actual production.


That's the right way to do it.

I'd probably pick Mays #1.(**) I'd draft Bonds over at least Williams, and probably others, on your list. Bonds was a far better runner and far better fielder, which offsets any edge one would give to Williams in hitting.

(**) Which pretty much means I'm saying I think Mays was the best player ever. Ruth was probably just as toolsy overall, but Mays had better makeup. As someone noted upthread, Ruth may not have taken advantage of all the advantages baseball modernity offered him. He'd be a risky #1.

   111. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:38 PM (#4028772)
I assumed we were talking HR/power records, since that's what the steroids debate revolves around.


The records set in the 1970s and 1980s tended to be longevity-based, rather than HR/power records. It's almost as if there was some PED around that enabled players to stay on the field more.
   112. Booey Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4028780)
It's about ur-talent, not actual production.

Really? Well in that case, where are Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden and Eric Davis? They had about as much talent as anyone I can think of.

It's my list. You don't get to dictate what the argument is about.

Sigh...fine. But you changed the argument from what it was to one that you were more comfortable with. Are the "steroids are the root of all that is evil" crowd really incapable of having a single discussion about ACTUAL value rather than hypothetical value? I've already said that I don't think Bonds would have been better than Mays/Williams/Mantle without taking steroids, but he did, and thus, he was.
   113. Kurt Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4028782)
Football obviously has a very different distribution of value creating opportunities than baseball.

Baseball and football are comparable in that different positions require different skills. CF has job requirements that, say, 2B and 1B do not. LF is generally where you stick players not good enough to play CF. And so on.


   114. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4028785)

I'd probably pick Mays #1.(**) I'd draft Bonds over at least Williams, and probably others, on your list. Bonds was a far better runner and far better fielder, which offsets any edge one would give to Williams in hitting.

(**) Which pretty much means I'm saying I think Mays was the best player ever. Ruth was probably just as toolsy, but Mays had a better makeup. As someone noted upthread, Ruth may not have taken advantage of all the advantages baseball modernity offered him.


All defensible.

I'd still take Ruth #1, and hope the obscene amounts of money he could make would keep him motivated. You have to also take into account that players in his day were actively discouraged from working out.

Hard to go wrong with a top-10 pick. Walking away with any of Ruth, Mays, Mantle, Cobb, Williams, Hornsby, Gehrig, Big Train, Maddux, etc. you'd be pretty happy.
   115. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:49 PM (#4028790)
Really? Well in that case, where are Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden and Eric Davis? They had about as much talent as anyone I can think of.

Sure, they'd go high. But they're still going to fall behind the guys with equal talent who didn't wash out.

Also, they weren't at that elite level, except for Gooden for a couple of seasons. Strawberry with the Mets was a 145 OPS+ corner OF. That doesn't rate with the greats. Eric Davis couldn't ever stay on the field, even with modern medicine.
   116. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:52 PM (#4028797)
Baseball and football are comparable in that different positions require different skills. CF has job requirements that, say, 2B and 1B do not. LF is generally where you stick players not good enough to play CF. And so on.

But they're not comparable in that a QB can control 50%+ of the offensive plays. Or 100% in certain situations.

No baseball player can have as much impact as a QB. It's the fundamental design of the game.

Sigh...fine. But you changed the argument from what it was to one that you were more comfortable with. Are the "steroids are the root of all that is evil" crowd really incapable of having a single discussion about ACTUAL value rather than hypothetical value? I've already said that I don't think Bonds would have been better than Mays/Williams/Mantle without taking steroids, but he did, and thus, he was.

So we agree then. I never said that Bonds didn't generate a ton of value.

The issue is a discussion of actual value just gets into a WAR counting exercise, with adjustments on the edges for D-stats and war credit. It's not very interesting.
   117. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:55 PM (#4028804)
No baseball player can have as much impact as a QB. It's the fundamental design of the game.


Over the course of a season I would agree. For a single game I think the pitcher has more impact than a QB.
   118. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4028811)
Over the course of a season I would agree. For a single game I think the pitcher has more impact than a QB.

Well, yes. Old Hoss Radbourne could have as much impact as a QB over a season; but not since then.
   119. Ray (CTL) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:00 PM (#4028813)
It's my list. You don't get to dictate what the argument is about.


Yes, but even assuming steroids explain Bonds's late run, the idea that he wasn't going to be at least as good as Williams is odd. (Note how much better as a fielder and base stealer he was.)

And certainly his late run does absolutely nothing to dispel that.

You don't like steroids. Fine. But it's clouding your judgment.
   120. . Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:04 PM (#4028819)
Also, they weren't at that elite level, except for Gooden for a couple of seasons. Strawberry with the Mets was a 145 OPS+ corner OF.

Talent-wise they were, though. They were derailed by drugs/alcohol (both on the field and in ability to stay on the field); there's been a secular change in attitudes toward those vices since their time and your 1993-2011 world. If I'm drafting them as 18-year-olds in 2011, it's barely a concern (though not entirely eradicated as a concern).

I'd put them at least on the level of David Thompson or Micheal Ray Richardson, their NBA comps.(**) David Thompson clean and sober, in an environment encouraging cleanliness and sobriety, is, conservatively, a top 30 player all-time.

(**) And I'm not sure that even that does Doc Gooden justice. If someone took him in the first 10 pitchers, I wouldn't even think about laughing.
   121. Gotham Dave Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:06 PM (#4028822)
If we're going to go with clone-drafting (which is I think is a really, really stupid way to decide who the best players of all time are, but is a fun thought exercise) I'd have to go with Mantle, who achieved everything he did despite multiple catastrophic leg injuries. Take those away and just imagine.

EDIT: And maybe Mick II could get a Paxil prescription to deal with his anxiety problem and lay off the booze a little. Unless that would be considered PED use, of course.
   122. The Interdimensional Council of Rickey!'s Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:06 PM (#4028823)
Vaughn missed 4 good years in WWII


Yet another reason the Mets should have never signed him.
   123. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:08 PM (#4028827)
More like sarcasm, since that BS line about "boyhood heroes" is about the only reason our steroid apologists imagine can cause anyone to want to keep the roiders out of the Hall of Fame. But there's no reason that that same strained rhetorical logic shouldn't apply to Dan Duquette, Jr., who at least has the honesty to admit it.

No, as you full well know, the "boyhood heroes" line is a shot at those who want the "roiders" out but have no problems with the generation of players known to have taken amps being in. And holding such a distinction becasue you favor your boyhood heroes over those of a later generation at least makes sense- unlike your bizarre and incoherent arguments.


Well, here's a 25 man roster of my all-time personal favorites from the time I started following baseball back in 1952. I must have had quite an extended boyhood.

1B - Eddie Murray / Tino Martinez
2B - Robinson Cano
SS - Derek Jeter
3B - Brooks Robinson / George Brett
Utility Infielder - Gil McDougald
LF - Manny Ramirez / Frank Robinson
CF - Bernie Williams / Al Bumbry
RF - Paul O'Neill / Nick Swisher
C - Elston Howard / Jorge Posada or Rick Dempsey
SP - El Duque
SP - Scott McGregor
SP - Allie Reynolds
SP - Vic Raschi
SP - Catfish Hunter
SP - Andy Pettitte
RP - Mariano Rivera
RP - Tippy Martinez
RP - Jeff Nelson
RP - David Robertson

And my all-time 25 man roster from that same era (1952-2011), regardless of my personal likes or dislikes, with "steroids discounts" (and "amps discounts", for that matter) included when appropriate

1B - Pujols / Murray
2B - Morgan / Jackie Robinson
SS - Ripken / Jeter
3B - Schmidt / Brett
LF - Bonds / Williams
CF - Mays / Mantle
RF - Aaron
C - Bench / Rodriguez
SP - Pedro
SP - Clemens
SP - Randy Johnson
SP - Maddux
SP - Seaver
SP - Koufax
RP - Rivera
RP - Gossage
RP - Fingers
All-Purpose Pitcher - Reynolds
   124. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:09 PM (#4028828)
If you're drafting players at 18 years old, you shouldn't take any pitchers at all in the top 10, probably the top 20 or 40. Getting to re-run their careers means a second chance at a career-ending arm injury.
   125. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:13 PM (#4028832)
Yes, but even assuming steroids explain Bonds's late run, the idea that he wasn't going to be at least as good as Williams is odd. (Note how much better as a fielder and base stealer he was.)

I don't think you realize how good Williams was. If you fill in his WW2 years, he would have a 9-year stretch of ~200 OPS+ and ~10 WAR seasons.

Bonds never had a peak like that, even his roid peak. It's close, but I'd still take Williams.
   126. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:17 PM (#4028836)
If you're drafting players at 18 years old, you shouldn't take any pitchers at all in the top 10, probably the top 20 or 40. Getting to re-run their careers means a second chance at a career-ending arm injury.

That's a good point, but I don't know if it's physically possible to injury Walter Johnson, short of blunt force trauma. The man averaged 340 IP+ for a decade.
   127. Ray (CTL) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4028844)
I don't think you realize how good Williams was. If you fill in his WW2 years, he would have a 9-year stretch of ~200 OPS+ and ~10 WAR seasons.

Bonds never had a peak like that, even his roid peak. It's close, but I'd still take Williams.


Aren't you adjusting for league quality and era?
   128. Ray (CTL) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:38 PM (#4028857)
Also, Snapper, if you are counting Williams's war years and assuming he would have had great years during the time he missed (which I agree with), you have to account for Bonds's late run somehow; you can't just ignore that he was producing at an insanely great level and just project him out to a normal decline after age 34. His insane late run _did_ happen, and even if you want to discount it for steroids, you can't just ignore how great it was.
   129. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:41 PM (#4028861)
Also, Snapper, if you are counting Williams's war years and assuming he would have had great years during the time he missed (which I agree with), you have to account for Bonds's late run somehow; you can't just ignore that he was producing at an insanely great level and just project him out to a normal decline after age 34. His insane late run _did_ happen, and even if you want to discount it for steroids, you can't just ignore how great it was.

I'm willing to give him at best the Aaron decline, or a little worse. It leaves him as a ~155-163 OPS+ player.
   130. Walt Davis Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:48 PM (#4028874)
Gentlemen ... Ruth made it to 10,600 PA despite spending most of his early years as a pitcher and plenty of debauchery. He is not going to age worse in the modern era. Ruth is the #1 pick.*

*Well, assuming our "clone" draft is "cloned relative to context." Start "time-lining" this stuff and Ruth probably looks like Andre Ethier or something.**

** Actually, as I often joke, if Ruth came along today, they'd make him a LOOGY. Seriously, I think there is almost no chance that he'd get get switched to a position player and especially not after, say, 600 innings of 134 ERA+ in the majors. So if Ruth came along today, he'd be Sabathia.
   131. micker17 Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:55 PM (#4028885)
#123 No ARod?

Does he suffer from the Pete Rose rules; since he was enough of a team player to play where needed, he loses All Time eligibility at every position?

At the end of the day, ARod will have played more 3b than ss. He won 2 of 3 MVP's at 3rd. I'll take him over Schmidt as my all time 3d baseman.
   132. Rally Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:59 PM (#4028892)
Eric Davis couldn't ever stay on the field, even with modern medicine.


The greatness and limitations of Eric Davis were all part of the same package. Basically, an extremely strong guy despite a very slight frame, with virtually no bady fat. The strength is good for hitting the ball a long way, and the muscle/fat ratio great for running extremely fast. But when he hit the OF walls, he could have used some more padding.
   133. AJMcCringleberry Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:01 PM (#4028894)
While we're all supposed to hate Canseco the message bearer, the reality is that everything he has stated has turned out to be true.

Sure, if you ignore the stuff he said that hasn't turned out to be true.
   134. Rally Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4028901)
Seriously, I think there is almost no chance that he'd get get switched to a position player and especially not after, say, 600 innings of 134 ERA+ in the majors. So if Ruth came along today, he'd be Sabathia.


He could switch to hitting if his arm gave out. His strikeout rate from 1916 to 1919 went 4.7 - 3.5 - 2.2 - 2.0. His walk rate was rising, ERA+ falling. I've always thought if he hadn't been a great hitter, he wouldn't have lasted much longer as a pitcher anyway. An age old story of too many innings on too young of an arm. Those low strikeout rates are a product of the time he pitched in, but the direction of them is not good.
   135. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:07 PM (#4028903)
BTF is about as representative of steroids opinions as the opinions of the Iowa Tea Party are of the United States as a whole.


First time I have ever been linked to Tea Party, though a co-worker once compared me to Sean Hannity (he thought he was complimenting me). Gack.

The Bill James Mailbag is the classic rock thread - fyi.
   136. Rally Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:09 PM (#4028905)
Maybe you're right though and teams would just cut back his usage and give him chances as a loogy. That's the path Dontrelle Willis has taken, and he's a guy I'd love to see what he could do as a hitter.
   137. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:10 PM (#4028908)
#123 No ARod?

Does he suffer from the Pete Rose rules; since he was enough of a team player to play where needed, he loses All Time eligibility at every position?

At the end of the day, ARod will have played more 3b than ss. He won 2 of 3 MVP's at 3rd. I'll take him over Schmidt as my all time 3d baseman.


Yeah, it was just a case of his career value being split between two positions. If he'd spent his entire career at one or the other I would have picked him there.

That said, the obvious solution should have been to have named him as a utility infielder and drop Reynolds from the team. So consider that an EDIT, and you were right to point out the omission.
   138. Booey Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:11 PM (#4028910)
The issue is a discussion of actual value just gets into a WAR counting exercise, with adjustments on the edges for D-stats and war credit. It's not very interesting.

Arguments were a lot more interesting before WAR became the stat of choice around here, IMHO. I'm fine with using it as a starting point, but too many BTF members nowadays use it as the middle and ending point in a discussion too. So while I certainly agree that a discussion of greatness shouldn't just be a lazily copied and pasted list of WAR (like it has been in some MVP and HOF threads lately), I can't think of any credible way of ranking players that wouldn't include Bonds in the top 5.
   139. Ray (CTL) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:13 PM (#4028912)
I'm willing to give him at best the Aaron decline, or a little worse. It leaves him as a ~155-163 OPS+ player.


I understand the Aaron kick was outstanding, and is what made him so difficult to catch in the HR race, but I don't think you can fairly give Bonds "only" the Aaron decline, let alone a little worse than that. Had Bonds not had his insane late run you could do that, but the run _has_ to be taken into account, I believe. You cannot simply say with any certainty -- even if you think steroids provide a significant impact -- that steroids caused all of it. You have to be aware of the changes Bonds was making to his swing at that time (more fly balls, swinging at higher pitches), and the decision he made (whether with steroids or not) to trade speed for power.

In any event, even a 163 career OPS+ puts him at 11th on the list, with Mantle, having played almost half a century ago now, being the most recent player above him (other than the unfinished career of Pujols). And then you have to factor in his defense and stealing.
   140. Ray (CTL) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:46 PM (#4028929)
In any event, even a 163 career OPS+ puts him at 11th on the list,


Make that 10th, since I counted ROIDED BONDS.
   141. The Interdimensional Council of Rickey!'s Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:46 PM (#4028930)
The Bill James Mailbag is the classic rock thread - fyi.


Yeah, I'm fire bombing it now.
   142. Dr. Vaux Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4028935)
An ungodly number of the greatest composers of all time come from 18th c. Germany/Austria, and 19th c. Italy.

What about 19th-century Germany/Austria? But while popularly believed, this assertion isn't actually true. The situation in music is actually quite a lot like the one in baseball: there's a cut off--in baseball, perhaps around 1970, though it seems to me to be more like 1980--after which it seems to be much harder to get acknowledged as "truly great."

In music the situation emerged around the turn of the 20th century, which is where the cutoff was for a long time (though it does inch forward periodically; it's made its way into the '30s by now), and historians have tried to figure out why for a long time. Personally, I think it came from some combination of (a) the modern symphony orchestra business model (supported entirely by selling tickets, though this is much more true in the U.S. than elsewhere and the phenomenon has manifested itself everywhere) resulting in the formation of what has been called the "musical museum" mentality and (b) the invention and proliferation of sound recording, which allowed people to listen to music they were already comfortable with instead of new music. Those things made it tougher for new works (and simply newer works) to be heard enough times to gain traction.

I see no reason why compositional talent wouldn't be distributed in the population in a predictable way, such that population growth would cause a natural increase in the number of people with such talent. We sabermetrically-inclined people seem convinced that that's the situation with athletic talent. I study 20th-century and current "classical" music--of which there is a great deal, operating in an environment very much alive and vital, by the way--and my observations seem to bear that out: I'm amazed at how frequently I encounter really excellent and wonderful things that are new to me (and I'm talking about plenty of tonal, pretty harmonically conservative music right along with anything else). I'm quite confident that there are more composers of the highest quality living today than at any previous time. Whether history will come to know that or not is another matter; most historians of music seem more interested in their various pet narratives than in reporting on the actual nature of events. They are quite like sportswriters in that regard. (The textbook situation is still worse, as the major titles are designed primarily according to the promotional desires of the publishing companies rather than to balance, truth, or objectivity.)

Even so, it may well be that Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven were the greatest. Just as it may be that Babe Ruth was the greatest. Those positions aren't logically contradictory--there has to be a greatest, and the greatest might have come at any time. Of course, since the greatest could indeed have come at any time, Barry Bonds could be the greatest (I do think that, as of today, Ruth was the greatest). The greatest composer who ever lived could be three years old right now (as of today, I do think that Beethoven was the greatest).
   143. Dr. Vaux Posted: January 04, 2012 at 04:14 PM (#4028950)
For example, there has been a wealth of great liturgical and quasi-liturgical music written in the past two or three decades. Krysztoff Penderecki, Sergio Rendine, Arvo Paart, and Einojuhani Rautavaara are just three names who spring to mind immediately. Even John Rutter (yes, I like John Rutter very much).
   144. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 04, 2012 at 04:26 PM (#4028961)
I see no reason why compositional talent wouldn't be distributed in the population in a predictable way, such that population growth would cause a natural increase in the number of people with such talent. We sabermetrically-inclined people seem convinced that that's the situation with athletic talent. I study 20th-century and current "classical" music--of which there is a great deal, operating in an environment very much alive and vital, by the way--and my observations seem to bear that out: I'm amazed at how frequently I encounter really excellent and wonderful things that are new to me (and I'm talking about plenty of tonal, pretty harmonically conservative music right along with anything else). I'm quite confident that there are more composers of the highest quality living today than at any previous time. Whether history will come to know that or not is another matter; most historians of music seem more interested in their various pet narratives than in reporting on the actual nature of events.

First define what "greatest" means. Then get people beyond your own demographic group to be exposed to all sorts of music from all over the world, going back as far as modern technology makes it possible. Then you can have a real discussion.

Until then, you're going to wind up like that "greatest" rock and roll thread discussion where nobody seems ever to have heard of James Brown, or a discussion of "greatest" film directors that somehow forgets to mention Akiro Kurosawa.

EDIT: This wasn't intended to be directed at you (Vaux). And of course the greatest composers ever were Bach, Buxtehude and Handel----but everyone knows that.
   145. Dr. Vaux Posted: January 04, 2012 at 04:57 PM (#4028998)
Beethoven regarded Handel as the greatest, which counts for something.

Clearly, it's impossible to define what "greatest" means. That's why I prefer to use terms like "of the highest quality," which are infinitely applicable. 1,000 things could all be "of the highest quality" without diminishing or elevating any of them with respect to the others. Yet it could still be that everything else was of lower quality than those things.

I don't understand people who get offended when a discussion of "the greatest" includes things they haven't heard of. I get excited, because I like to add things to "the highest quality."

When talking about the phenomenon of composing music, we don't really have a demographic or cultural problem, because once "composing" is defined as an activity, "composer" simply refers to someone who has done that activity, no matter where in the world he or she worked, and no matter when. We're then limited to talking in terms of genre. The rock thread is about certain genres of popular music that are broadly considered part of "rock." My discussion above was about genres of music that are broadly considered part of "classical music." There are certainly composers in popular music, but it's difficult to compare them to composers of "classical" music, since they don't, for the most part, attempt the same genres. The one exception to that is the "song" genre--the one genre in which popular composers work, but also one in which "classical" composers do (in turn, the concept album is essentially the same thing as a song cycle). I do think that there are popular songs from the past fifty years that stand level as compositional creations with great "classical" songs, though there is still naturally some difference that makes truly direct comparison difficult.

The "rock" discussion seems limited to music with lyrics in the English language, for understandable reasons, since this is an English-language message board, but of course there is music in probably most of those genres from various other parts of the world, some of which is no doubt just as good as the music they're discussing. One of the great things about instrumental music (or, for whatever reason, texted "classical" music--perhaps because we're accustomed to listening with translations before our eyes) is that there is no language barrier to our reception of it. Thus, it has the prospect of being, and has generally been, a quite international phenomenon.

   146. micker17 Posted: January 04, 2012 at 05:37 PM (#4029020)
Ah, Bach.

I'm partial to the fugue.
   147. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 04, 2012 at 06:18 PM (#4029040)
Ah, Bach.

I'm partial to the fugue.

Slaked? Ooooh.
   148. Lassus Posted: January 04, 2012 at 06:47 PM (#4029059)
WHY WASN'T I INFORMED OF THIS THREAD

edit: Oh, it's recent.


Even so, it may well be that Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven were the greatest.

Honestly, I cannot help but describe Mozart as overrated.
   149. cardsfanboy Posted: January 04, 2012 at 07:22 PM (#4029095)
This is probably the case. Hopefully it'll be somebody like Yastrzemski, so the "The Baseball Greats of my youth are better the the Baseball Greats of your youth" crowd can take a long walk off a short pier.


I imagine it's someone like Gary Carter, Wade Boggs or someone like that.
   150. cardsfanboy Posted: January 04, 2012 at 07:31 PM (#4029105)
Baseball reached maturity as a sport far earlier than basketball and football (I don't know hockey). Basketball and football in the 1960s were basically at the same place that baseball was in the 1890s or 1900s or so. We are skeptical that the greats of the early game were truly at the level of the greats of the 40s and 50s in a way quite similar to how contemporary fans of basketball and football are skeptical of the greats of just forty years ago.

In fifty years, basketball fans will probably be complaining about why no one can be as great as Jordan.


I've always believed that, and have never been able to word it so accurately. Great Post.
   151. Mike Emeigh Posted: January 04, 2012 at 07:38 PM (#4029108)
I must have had quite an extended boyhood.


Have you left it yet?

-- MWE

PS I haven't.
   152. cardsfanboy Posted: January 04, 2012 at 07:46 PM (#4029116)
Logically, I think a "best" list has to cover all positions. To have a top-10 that's all CF suggests a flaw in the methodology.


not necessarily, I could see a best ten list featuring pitchers, centerfielders and shortstops and I wouldn't blink an eye. In fact it would seem perfectly logical to me. Catchers have too short of a career to be best of all time, secondbase is basically considered to be a failed shortstop, thirdbasemen usually have shorter careers also. And if you can hit like a corner outfielder or firstbaseman, while playing above average centerfield, you are bringing in much more value than the other positions are capable of producing.

Mind you my top ten list isn't all centerfielders, but it wouldn't be weird to see a top ten list featuring only those three positions. (off the top of my head top ten? Ruth, Mays, Williams, Cobb, Bonds, Mantle, Wagner, Walter Johson, Hornsby, Young?)
   153. CrosbyBird Posted: January 04, 2012 at 09:28 PM (#4029209)
Which OF am I bouncing? As I said above, I can't make sense of a list with 10 out of 15 OFs. 6 is that max I can justify to myself.

If you're going to do that, then you should split OF into LF/CF/RF or at he very least, CF/corner OF. You have 4 centerfielders.

The truth is that Barry Bonds played as well as Mays, Mantle, and Aaron without steroids. He was their equal.

At the very least. Bonds was the best hitter in baseball from 1990-1993, and he was a very good defensive player, and he was an excellent basestealer. We're talking about a player who simply was on a different level than everyone else in the sport (1-2-1-1 in MVP voting, but it really should have been 1-1-1-1).

I don't think many people realize just how good Bonds was in the 1990s. Simply ending his career before the 2000 season limits him to 107.4 WAR, the same as Frank Robinson (currently 17th all-time). I'm talking about giving him no value after age 34, which is a ridiculously conservative steroid penalty, and he's still in the top 20 all-time. There's no such thing as a "normal" decline for superstars, but anything short of an abrupt jump off a cliff would have been likely to get him enough more WAR to put him soundly in the top 10 all-time. If that's not an inner-circle guy, then I don't know who is.
   154. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 09:51 PM (#4029229)
If you're going to do that, then you should split OF into LF/CF/RF or at he very least, CF/corner OF. You have 4 centerfielders.

But CF can move to RF or LF w/o difficulty. I wouldn't worry if I didn't have a 1B, b/c I figure any of the greats could play 1B.

But C, SS, 2B and 3B are different. You can't just stick an OF there.
   155. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 04, 2012 at 10:41 PM (#4029268)
I must have had quite an extended boyhood.

Have you left it yet?


Of course not. This is America, and eternal boyhood is our constitutional right.

PS I haven't.

You're a brother under the skin.
   156. Ebessan Posted: January 04, 2012 at 11:40 PM (#4029303)
The "rock" discussion seems limited to music with lyrics in the English language, for understandable reasons, since this is an English-language message board, but of course there is music in probably most of those genres from various other parts of the world, some of which is no doubt just as good as the music they're discussing.

There are bands with a good grasp of the English language and Boredoms. Except that there are no bands with a good grasp of the English language. Only Boredoms.
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