We started out to write a piece on Bill James' latest project, and wound up with the Sports Is Life post. Ah well. Who was that TV artist with the Afro, the Happy Little Accidents guy? Dr. D may not love baseball, but he does love him some philosophy :- )
James' project is: (1) Identify the 50 "true superstars" of the game, and (2) figure out how much they REALLY changed the courses of their franchises. As compared to some "weak" Hall of Famer, let's say. In other words, how much does a Randy Johnson warp your space-time continuum as compared to a Mike Mussina? How much of a "Butterfly Effect" does Clayton Kershaw create, compared to Yu Darvish?
He won't mind my re-printing his list of inner-circle HOF'ers. And just let me know if you're curious where he got the names:
1900s—Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson
1910s—Walter Johnson, Pete Alexander, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker
1920s—Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig
1930s—Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott
1940s—Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Stan Musial
1950s—Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson
1960s—Henry Aaron, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente
1970s—Joe Morgan, Tom Seaver, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose
1980s—Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson
1990s—Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr.
2000s—Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Ichico Suzuki,
2010s—Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout
I grew up on the Big Red Machine. So their 1-3-4 hitters were the decade's True Superstars; how about that? Reggie! was the only American League player, and the one starting pitcher the Reds even traded for. Sparky Anderson took them to 2 championships and 2 other pennants; he way underperformed.
With the above players, you are not talking about 8 WAR per year, as such. You're talking about the impetus a player like that gives you to win, talking about the Brand, talking about others getting caught up in his class and elegance -- you're talking about an Alternate Universe.
Or MAYBE you are.
Of only 4 names in the 1990's, the Mariners had 2. Consider that this is equal to the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees!
And you have A-Rod as a True Superstar of the next decade; he was active (and great) WITH the Big Unit and Junior.
And you have Ichiro as one of only a few 00's players.
The Mariners have been uniquely Stars & Scrubs the last 20 years, in terms of the really titanic stars. Even now, their deployment of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez is pretty skewed relative to their market. Felix isn't THAT far off from the above type of player.
And Bob Dutton is gamely pushing them towards another iteration, the Otani-Tanaka type parlay.
Which all speaks to the really lousy job they have done with Scrubs. It would be hard to MEASURE just how bad the 1990-2017 Mariners have been with the bottom of their talent pyramid.
There is one player on the above list I don't really know. I mean, I know the name, of course, but couldn't tell you one anecdote about him, couldn't give you a little stat such as Cy Young's 511 wins. Can you guess which one?
It isn't conceivable that the Mariners have another such player in the org right now. James Paxton could, at best, give us a few thrilling years as something weird and special. But that isn't what James is talking about, not at all.
Wait a minute. The Mariners did buy Ichiro from Japan. Perhaps that makes the Otani pursuit more important ... but wait. Is there any feasible chance that Otani could make a run at Inner-Circle HOF'er as opposed to making a run at being Yu Darvish?
The question had been, HOW MUCH does one of the above players warp a franchise's space-time continuum. Me, I have no idea. I'd honestly love to read yours, even if one sentence. Maybe mine would be "It's a very extreme Position Scarcity roster-building advantage, and it motivates a team to push, and it helps the Brand."
(1) Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr and ARod were all lucky hits by the Mariners. Probably in Universe A you had a Lost Cause and in Universe B you had a taste of contention.
(2) Rose and Morgan and Bench, I would guess, took a 50th-percentile organization and made it legendary.
(3) Ruth and Gehrig are a warning not to underestimate James' project.
(4) It's not clear to me what the Angels are gaining from Mike Trout. Maybe this indicates that a Legend is not quite such a big deal? Or is Trout propping up an Elderly Mike Scioscia regime that would otherwise be a sorry excuse for a baseball franchise?
Is it your impression that True Legend makes a GM's job exponentially easier? Or no?