Player of the Decade (1910’s)

Ty Cobb

Also considered: Tris Speaker, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins

Ty Cobb may be the most polarizing figure in baseball history. Although his nickname would suggest a well-mannered, pleasant man, The Georgia Peach was far from that. The stories of Cobb’s antics range from beating up a hand-less fan in the stands to choking a groundskeeper’s wife over the condition of a spring training field. At least he was self-aware..

“In legend I am a sadistic, slashing, swashbuckling despot who waged war in the guise of sport.”

But I’m not here to judge the character of any of the players on this list (as you’ll see later on). My goal here is to present the best player from each decade. And there is little to dispute Cobb being the face of the league from 1910-1919. Remember what I wrote about Honus Wagner in the 1900’s? Cobb was every bit as good the following decade:

  • .387 Batting Average (.366 lifetime)
  • Hit .420 and .409 in back-to-back seasons
  • Five seasons with over 200 Hits
  • 1,948 Hits in total

which led to…

  • NINE batting titles
  • First player ever awarded the MVP (1911)
  • Six seasons with 100+ Runs
  • Four straight seasons of 1.000+ OPS (lowest was .944, still .300 points above the league average)
  • Ten seasons with an On-base percentage over .400 (lowest was .429)
  • Ten seasons with at least 10 triples
  • Seven 50+ steal seasons
  • 649 stolen bases
  • Three seasons with a 10+ WAR
  • 8.4 average WAR

(.387/.457/.541, 1,948 H, 47 HR, 828 RBI, 1,051 R)

*These numbers only reflect the seasons between 1910-19*

Yet again we have a player averaging an MVP-level season over the course of an entire decade. And as ridiculous as it may be, the decade doesn’t even include some of Cobb’s other great seasons (including a .401 season in 1922). Cobb even won a home run title in 1909. Granted he only hit 9, but it’s still a title nonetheless.

His legacy is tainted by the man he was. Fact. But let’s not entirely forget the player he was either. Cobb’s playing career is not overshadowed by any player prior, or since. He retired from the game in 1928 owning 90 different records. And I believe that he was the gateway to individual athletes becoming national celebrities. Hey, all publicity is good publicity, right!?

The Georgia Peach’s impact remains felt still 100 years after his time on the field. Like him or not, he was a helluva ball player. Ty Cobb comes in as the second selection to my Player of the Decade team. Continue to check back in as I will continue revealing my choice of players each day. Tomorrow will be the 1920’s and I have a sneaky suspicion that you’ll have heard of the guy too.

Player of the Decade (1900’s)

Honus Wagner

Also considered: Nap Lajoie, Sam Crawford

While Lajoie and Crawford are well-deserving Hall of Famers. Great players, no doubt. They just aren’t Honus Wagner. Quite frankly no one is or ever has been. I’m going to brag on him for just a second here so just hold on tight:

  • Ten seasons hitting above .330
  • .352 Batting Average over the whole decade
  • Eight seasons of .900+ OPS (lowest was .857, still .200 points above the league average)
  • Nine season with an On-Base Percentage over .400 (the other season was .394)
  • Ten seasons with 30+ Doubles
  • Nine seasons with 10+ Triples (’06 he only had 9)
  • Ten seasons with 90+ Runs (and six with 100+)
  • Six seasons with 100+ RBI’s
  • 490 Stolen Bases
  • Six consecutive seasons with an 8+ WAR
  • 8.6 average WAR

(.352/.417/.508, 1,847 H, 51 HR, 956 RBI, 1,014 R)

*These numbers only reflect the seasons between 1900-09*

For those of you unfamiliar with the stat WAR (Wins Above Replacement), anything above 5 is considered All-Star caliber and anything above 8 is a level set aside for MVP’s. Therefore, for Wagner to average an 8.6 WAR per season meant that he was averaging an MVP season over a ten year span. That’s just absurd.

All of this from the shortstop position during an era where offense wasn’t nearly what it is now. I personally think Honus Wagner is the greatest shortstop of all-time. And I don’t even think it’s close. But we can save that for another time.

Nonetheless, Honus Wagner comes in as my first Player of the Decade selection. Continue to check back in as I will continue revealing my choice of players each day.

This is a Baseball Town

Every year, as sure as the flowers bloom and the crickets chirp, the same adage would roll through town, from conversation to conversation, from bar stool to church pew, like shy girls gossiping in the schoolyard…

“This is a baseball town..”

The phrase, no matter how repetitive, always would elicit an internal child-like reaction every time I heard it. I couldn’t help it. Much like a dog continuing to fall for a pump fake during a game of Fetch I would mindlessly come back captivated by the possibility of what my prize entailed. I guess my tennis ball was just too tantalizing not to.

The problem, as anyone that has performed this cruel trick knows, is that no matter how excitable the dog may be, eventually he’s going to slowly temper the expectations of the ball ever being thrown. You can’t blame him, it’s just nature.

Much like the dog, my desire for this seemingly mythical “Baseball Town” to be ‘thrown’ never wavered. Hell if anything it intensified further. But as the seasons came and went I began to guard myself from the imminent disappointment that would surely accompany the long summer days. Over time I stopped falling as hard for this trick. I hadn’t lost any of my passion for the team I loved but I’ll admit I had lost some of my curiosity.

“This is a baseball town..”

This phrase that once held this lore over my heart began to elicit a strikingly different, yet just as strong, emotion inside of me. How could people continue to say this? There is nothing baseball about this town. My doubt had become anger. All this talk seemed so cheap. The front office wasn’t spending money. Players weren’t playing a game; rather going to work. And yet worst of all, the same fans preaching this battle cry weren’t even going to games. Yet somehow, it always felt like we just needed something to cling onto. That’s all I was looking for. And that’s where my anger was rooted. I wasn’t asking for something extreme. I was asking for something that the game of baseball, by it’s nature provides; hope.

It’s the emotional first game in Shea Stadium after the tragic events of 9/11. It’s David Ortiz taking the mic after The Boston Marathon bombings. It’s Jackie Robinson daring to be bigger than the expectation. This game unifies our differences and overcomes our obstacles in the most eloquent way possible. I don’t use these aforementioned events to draw a comparison, but rather strengthen the argument of how this game empowers the people it reaches.

“This is a baseball town..”

The years continued to pass as I grew into adulthood. Still strange to type, but accurate nonetheless. I had gone off to college without much change to this “baseball town.” The university was just 45 minutes down the road. A subtle, yet not so much, extension of high school. I was able to keep up with my team, but I was no longer surrounded the like-minded passionately optimistic fans I had grown up with. My outlook of my team, and city was changing. Not necessarily positively or negatively, but changing nonetheless.

As college was coming to an end, I faced the inevitable decisions of life after school. My first 22 years were pretty much scripted out so this gave me my first real freedom. I liked the possibilities this entailed. New people. New cities. New adventures.

So naturally as I moved back in with my parents, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic. Thinking of how temporary the status was going to be. Looking for my first chance to get out of a town I thought I already knew everything about. But I was wrong. Terribly wrong.

“This is a baseball town..”

It was amazing what had happened to this blue collar, barbecue city, I like to call home. It was different than when I had left it. There was a palpable buzz in the grocery stores. There was a budding electricity in the night-life. We were no longer a mere flyover city. We were more than that now. Something had changed. And that something was baseball.

I no longer desired to live in a new city. I already was. The city I had lived my whole life in was gone. I had unknowingly already embarked on my newest adventure.

Led by a core of homegrown charismatic guys, the city, my city, was put on back on the map. It was everything my dad ever told me it once was, and then some. People couldn’t get enough of the team they once threw at the end of their punchlines. It was magical. People were happy. There was hope again.

Although that season came to an unfortunate end, the vibe throughout the city reverberated all fall, winter, and spring long as the true blue collar roots began to shine. There was no deterrence from our previous failure; only motivation.

The team never missed a beat as they lit the league and city on fire the following season. They were like a wildfire that refused to be contained. They rolled through the summer months and into the fall. The excitement however, remained tempered by the recent events of the previous season.

Luckily nothing was tempered with regards to the way the team was playing. Everything culminated on that beautiful October evening. Thirty years for some, a lifetime for others. We had done it. And that night, while surrounded by my two life-long best friends, as well as thousands of my newest ones, I couldn’t help but think:

This is a baseball town.

What’s wrong with baseball?

I’m quickly learning that my love for baseball is not rooted in my fan-hood for a particular team, but rather in the game itself.

The game is beautiful. No matter who is playing, what the situation is, or where it’s being played, at it’s core, it’s still the same beautiful game that I have loved my whole life. There are no kneel downs. Nobody is dribbling towards a corner flag. You don’t have to hit free throws. No. There isn’t a clock telling you that you’re out of time. You will always come away knowing whatever the outcome may be, it’s what you deserved on that given day. It epitomizes what I’m learning in my young age about how the world works.

“Baseball is no longer exciting.”

The common sentiment among the iCulture. We’re all part of this culture. Constantly on scrolling news feeds and timelines that are quite ironically creating more disconnections than connections. It’s now a rarity to see a couple eat-out anymore without one of them “connecting” at some point during the meal. We no longer take pictures to preserve the memories, but rather to collect the ‘likes.’ We don’t make phone calls to catch up with loved ones, but rather ‘stalk’ their profiles. And I’m just as guilty as anyone of this. I hate it. But I’m not going to blame baseball for my own short-sighted behaviors.

This directly coincides with the notion that current baseball can’t engage our developing youth, and that somehow this has become baseball’s fault. Now I’m not going to sit here and claim that I didn’t spend my fair share of time playing my Gameboy or Ps2 while growing up. Hell, I still occasionally do. But I can’t tell you about the fond memories I have of defeating a boss or winning a Super Bowl on Madden because I don’t have those memories anymore. I can however, tell you about the games of barefoot Hot-Box with my friend’s in the neighborhood. Ultimately followed by the imminent Bond-esque tip-toe through my house with the filthiest feet you could imagine. And how yet still somehow unphased, my parents continued to encourage me to get outside. Not just with their words either. I remember playing catch with my dad and how it would always involve at least one race between me and the ball down our sloped asphalt street. I always lost. No one would have ever mistaken me for “fast” as child. But nonetheless, it never stopped me from partaking in that race time and again. I remember my mom sitting on the aluminum bleachers for 8 straight hours in the middle of the summer watching me play because she wouldn’t of had it any other way. And I can’t begin to thank my grandpa enough for the stories, no matter how repetitive they may be, of his time pitching in the minor leagues. There just aren’t words to express my gratitude for all of these things.

What I’m getting at here is that my love for this beautiful game didn’t come to me because I was naturally attracted to the game. No, my love for the game came because I was taught to love the game by the people that mean the most to me.

Baseball doesn’t need to engage our youth. We need to engage our youth with baseball.

So what’s wrong with baseball? Nothing.