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Who was better? Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds?

Jun 24, 2013, 11:03 AM EDT

Ruth Called Shot Baseball

This is a fun exercise from David Laurila of FanGraphs. He asked ten major leaguers — some players and some coaches — who they thought was “better,” Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds. David didn’t define the terms. He left it up to the respondents to decide what “better” meant and to explain their choices.

I won’t give away how many thought Ruth was better than Bonds — you have to read that for yourself — but I will say I was pretty impressed with the answers. Especially given who a couple of the respondents were (note: Luke Scott was one of them, and in the past his reasoning on various topic has been … curious). I was impressed because the players seem to have a way better appreciation of the differences between eras than most fans and even many baseball writers do. I was a bit disappointed that a couple of them didn’t appreciate that Ruth was also an elite pitcher when talking about the “all-around game” of the two, but on the whole I think the answers are pretty darn good. Even Scott’s. Indeed, his may be one of the best-reasoned in the lot.

As for me: I agree with the guy who said that Bonds would do better in Ruth’s era than Ruth would in Bonds’. I think it’s hard to argue against that. If you differ, please give me your reasons for it. I’m genuinely curious.

254 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Old Gator - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Let me put it another way – after a tough game, with whom would you want to go out on the town and get sheschmetered, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds?

    • wonkypenguin - Jun 24, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      Gator – we all know that’s simply how Americans pick a president. Don’t bring that into something important like this. :)

  2. rcali - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    Well one of them is in the Hall so I’ll go with that guy.

    • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      Excellent point. This is the same reasoning I use when I explain why Lloyd Waner was better than Jeff Bagwell,

    • yahmule - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      Damn, that was good.

  3. waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    Bonds by a million billion miles. Ruth only played against white people who threw him fastballs.

    I’m not sure Ruth is better than Adam Dunn.

    • Old Gator - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      I’m not sure you weren’t dropped on your head in the delivery room.

    • valarmorghuliss - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      And Barry Bonds injected himself with everything he could get his hands on. A trailblazzer in using drugs to help him play the game.

      Ohhh and LOL at you for thinking that spitball didn’t exist, or not knowing that pitchers have been throwing curveballs since the 1870’s. Actually no, that’s not LOL at you, it’s sad that someone so utterly ignorant to baseball facts comes and posts here like he knows something.

      • waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:36 AM

        /passes box of tissues to whiny internet crybaby

      • waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:42 AM

        Also: Bonds was a HOF before he started roiding up, which was due to Selig turning a blind eye to Sosa+McGwire. If you knew anything about baseball history I wouldn’t have to explain myself.

        Ruth still only played against whites, and you hate Bonds because you are racist. The end, thanks for playing.

        LOL at who? Grab a mirror.

      • valarmorghuliss - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        You’re still talking?
        Now I’m a racist?

        LOL Go piss off somewhere, you’re not worth replying to whatsoever

      • hcf95688 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        I’m SO tired of the “Bonds was a HOFer before he started juicing” narrative.

      • valarmorghuliss - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:06 PM

        Every steroid apologist love the narrative where steroid use in Pro sports only effects the pro athletes. They will actually blame the media during the 80’s-90’s for ignoring their use, but today continue the same narrow line of thinking.

        I wish I could be there when their sons turn 16 and start juicing and F’up their lives and watch them spin their steroid apologist garbage then.

        And ya, Bonds was a HoF’er before he started juicing just like Andrew McCutchen is knocking on the door today.

      • cur68 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:14 PM

        ^^^Great Moments in “Somebody ThinK Of The Children!!!!!”


      • valarmorghuliss - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        Greater moments in pretending the two are not connected.

        I played baseball in the SEC on scholarship, where did you play?

      • cur68 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:51 PM

        Wow. This here be a plethora of Great Moments. Lessee…lets file this one ^^^ under: Great Moments In Conflating Playing Ball With Being An Authority On Moral High Ground, Steroids, And Everything Else.

        Also: I am SpiderMan.

        See? The Internets! Where anyone can make any claim, WHATSOEVER.

      • nbjays - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:38 PM

        I hate Bonds because he is an unapologetic cheater who became so because he felt “entitled” to the praise being heaped on McGwire and Sosa.

        “I’m not sure Ruth is better than Adam Dunn.”

        There is so much stupid and ignorant in this sentence alone that it just might break the internet.

        I’m not even going to compare Ruth’s career numbers against Dunn’s, just his 15 years with the Yankees vs Dunn’s 13 years.

        H / HR / RBI / BB / SO / BA / OBP / SLG / OPS

        Ruth: 2518 / 659 / 1978 / 1852 / 1122 / .349 / .484 / .711 / 1.195
        Dunn: 1470 / 426 / 1066 / 1204 / 2120 / .238 / .367 / .498 / .865

        Yep, look at those strikeout numbers… Dunn sure beat the crap out of Ruth in that category.


      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        I wish I could be there when their sons turn 16 and start juicing and F’up their lives and watch them spin their steroid apologist garbage then.

        Cur took care of the rest of your inane arguments, but left this one alone. Know whose fault it is if the hypothetical 16 year old starts taking ‘roids? The parents! Learn to be involved in your kids’ activities and be the adult in their lives. Stop placing blame on athletes.

        And yes I have a son. If and when he fucks up, it’ll by mine and my wife’s fault. Not society. Not the easter bunny. And not some professional athlete he won’t ever know.

      • waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        I’m saying if you put Ruth in today’s era or Dunn in Ruth’s era. Ruth would most likely have struggled had he been teleported to today’s era and Dunn would have been a massive superstar had he stepped into a time machine and played in the 1930’s. These are not stupid things to say at all.

      • Old Gator - Jun 24, 2013 at 2:32 PM

        Oh yes they are. very, very stupid.

        Then again, much stupidity is relative so that, whereas they may be objectively stupid things to say, it is entirely possible, when one evaluates the rest of your textual defecations on this thread, that they rank among the brighter things that you in particular might have said.

    • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:35 AM

      Well…if you go by the standard of who would be better if you invented a time machine and transplanted them each in time to the others respective era, Barry Bonds would almost certainly do better in the 1930s (this time machine also cures racism for the purposes of this exercise) then Ruth would in 1990s.

      This says nothing bad against Ruth. But athletes are progressively better than the previous generation. It’s true of every Olympic event….the world record for the 100 meter in 1920 probably wouldn’t even qualify them today. Almost certainly, in those terms, Bonds is better and so are many other players.

      BUT, you can’t judge athletes that way. You have to judge them against their competition. You can’t knock Ruth because he wasn’t privy to 60 additional years of sports medicine, technique refinement and increased knowledge of the game. What you can do is measure them both against the competition they competed against…and they both thoroughly dominated the competition. Or are you going to knock Jesse Owens now?

      At his absolute, steroid fueled best….Barry Bonds was a bit better. But Ruth dominated for longer (note: Bonds still dominated in the 1990s and was handily the best player of the decade, just not to the same insane degree). Ruth postd an OPS+ over 200 11 times. Bonds did it…umm..”just” 6 times.

      • waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:47 AM

        So I have to judge AAA players the same as big leaguers? That doesn’t make sense.

        Lets not forget Selig also blacklisted Bonds, he had a 1045 OPS in his final season and begged any team to take him and no one did, that is literally insane. Bonds could have played another 5 years, easy.

        Barry Bonds was the best, he also played in a pitcher-friendly park while Ruth had a short porch.

        If you want to include Ruth’s pitching career, I’d give him the nod though.

      • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:54 AM

        1. “So I have to judge AAA players the same as big leaguers? That doesn’t make sense.”

        What the fuck are you talking about?

        2. “Bonds could have played another 5 years, easy.”

        Bonds could no longer effectively field his position, play ever day and he was 42 years old. Do you want a fun comp:

        Player A: Second to last season:
        22 HR, 84 RBI, .288/.448/.537 160 OPS+, 5.1 WAR
        28 HR, 66 RBI, .276/.480/.565 169 OPS+ 4.0 WAR

        Presumably player A had 5 more good years in him?
        Yeah, player A was Babe Ruth. The next year he hit .181 and was out of baseball.

      • waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        “BUT, you can’t judge athletes that way. You have to judge them against their competition.”

        That doesnt make any sense to begin with. You can’t make this argument black and white like that. Bonds was better than Ruth because he played against the best in the world, not the best of white people in America. This is fact.

        OH RAD! Now you are saying a guy with a 1045 OPS, who everyone hates for using steroids, is going to fall off a cliff because suddenly the steroids wont work? Fuck your comp, you are a moron.

    • American of African Descent - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      It’s not just that Ruth played only against white people. Ruth also played in an era when the best athletes did not necessarily play baseball because there was just not as much money in the sport.

      Bonds was probably the greatest player I ever saw. Ruth was great for his time, no doubt. But we just don’t know how great he was.

      One other thing. In 2001, Bonds would have hit 80+ home runs had pitchers given him anything to hit during the last eight weeks of the season.

      • pjmitch - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        Are you kidding me? Are we really having this discussion? If Bonds was the greatest player you ever saw, then you haven’t seen too many and you are an apologetic for his drug use. What a joke.

      • js20011041 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        Um, what exactly were the best athletes dong in 1927? The probably weren’t playing professional football or basketball. Baseball was THE sport in Ruth’s era. Today, many great athletes play sports other than baseball. In fact, it’s probably easy to argue that the absolute best athletes play football and basketball. There are ways to argue that Bonds was better, but this isn’t it.

      • waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:08 PM

        @pjmitch – holy shit now youre downgrading what Bonds actually did? You fucking idiot, he WAS the greatest anyone posting in this thread has ever seen!

        Baseball is a skill game. All these roids-haters who are the densest morons Ive ever seen always forget this. That, and the entire issue of steroids rests on the shoulders of Bud Selig. Blaming the people who he refused to deal with is like blaming the plane models for 911. Makes not one lick of sense whatsoever. Please log off.

      • yahmule - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:33 PM

        Wow AofAD, you have this argument 100% ass backwards.

      • American of African Descent - Jun 24, 2013 at 7:36 PM

        No, I’ve actually done a pretty good job with the argument.

        In any case, the best athletes were not actually making money playing sports — they were engaged in other activities. But for those who were making money in sports, the best athletes were boxing and doing track and field.

    • barrywhererufrom - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:38 PM

      An argument against the Babe is that he played in the segregated era and therefore didn’t really have to face the all best pitchers in the game. True enough, Ruth’s numbers may well have suffered a bit had he been forced to face the likes of Satchel Paige and the other pitching greats of the time who were unfortunate enough to have been born black. However, it’s equally deserving of mention that in the recent expansion era Barry Bonds has had arguably the even greater fortune of being able to face, and very often at that, pitchers who wouldn’t even have made it onto the rosters of the teams in the MLB or the Negro leagues of Ruth’s time. Ruth played during the days of the four man rotation, while Barry plays against a five man rotation. An extra pitcher on a league with far more teams makes it very likely that Barry Bonds has at the very least anywhere from 50 to 100 homers under his belt off pitchers that would never have made it out of the minors as little as twenty years ago, much less during the days Ruth was playing. Much talk is made of how fearsome Barry is, to the point where he’s intentionally walked an inordinate number of times; he’s even been intentionally walked with the bases loaded! What’s left out of this conversation is the fact that most of those intentional walks have come against these very same pitchers that desperate owners are forced to use down at the bottom of the rotation. If Bonds was facing the caliber of pitchers that Ruth faced, he wouldn’t be getting so many free passes.

      The Babe’s reputation has pretty much always rested upon his stature as the greatest power hitter of his time, but in fact George Herman Ruth was also a great hitter for average. In fact, unless Barry goes on a rampage unseen in the annals of baseball history, he stands to end up with a lifetime average thirty to forty points below Babe. That’s THIRTY to FORTY points! You want to tell me how the greatest player of all time can have a lifetime average hovering around the .300 mark? Please Ruth is the greatest PLAYER of all time!!

      • drewsylvania - Jun 24, 2013 at 7:00 PM

        “That’s THIRTY to FORTY points!”

        You lost me when you started comparing numbers across eras.

      • cur68 - Jun 24, 2013 at 7:23 PM

        My Dog, but you’re a simpleton. Oh well. Just wipe up the drool when you’re done ranting, eh?

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      “Ruth only played against white people who threw him fastballs,”
      Fastballs? Fastballs? They only threw him Fastballs? Dude…you need to do your homework on the game of baseball. It’s origins. Those who cut their teeth on the game in the early years.
      A good start would be to research the Gashouse Gang.

      With a post like that NOONE is claiming you on waivers.
      Only threw him fastballs…hahahahaha!

      • waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        Hyperbole, meet internet.

    • sabatimus - Jun 24, 2013 at 7:02 PM

      I simply assumed you were trolling or being sarcastic.

  4. Detroit Michael - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    This debate was also handled in the Baseball Between the Numbers book at the guys from Baseball Prospectus published a few years back. It really depends a lot on how much of a discount one applies when comparing players many decades apart. In other words, do you want to assume that 1920’s Babe Ruth would have trained differently and had better nutrition if he was competing in the 1990s?

    • bigharold - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:25 PM

      “ you want to assume that 1920′s Babe Ruth would have trained differently and had better nutrition if he was competing in the 1990s?”

      One could just as well consider would Bonds have trained differently, at all or ate better had he played during Ruth’s time.

      Comparing players from different eras is tricky at best. I think a better consideration would be comparing them against their contemporaries. If you look at Ruth, in 1919, the dead ball era, he hit 29 Hr in 130 games. Number 2 on the HR list that year hit 12. Ruth was about 150% better than his nearest rival. Aside from the dead ball era, that was before the Yankee Stadium short porch. And, Ruth started 15 games, relived in two others as a pitcher and went 9-5 with a .297 era. In Ruth’s best year 1927, he hit 60 Hr, 30% better than number 2 Lou Gehrig and twice as many as the number 3 on the list.

      Barry Bonds had one extraordinary year, 2001 where he hit 73 HRs, Number 2, Sosa, had 64, so Bonds beat him by 15%.

      Forget about PEDs. Bonds had a run of about 5 years where he was shown at the top of the 10 best HR list, 2000 through 2004. In addition he was in the top ten 6 times from 1990 through 1997. Not bad, .. if you don’t consider PEDs.

      Ruth, on the other hand was in the top 10 for 16 straight years, (actually in the top 5 everyone of those years), including his years with Boston when he was predominately a pitcher, 1925 when he was tied for 3rd despite the fact hat he played in less than 100 games. And, he was the leader or tied with for the lead 11 times.

      I can only imagine what Ruth’s numbers wold have looked like if he was eating right, going to bed at night, training year round and had video break down of pitchers at his disposal.

      Barry Bonds doesn’t stand a chance against Ruth, with or without PEDs.

      • Detroit Michael - Jun 25, 2013 at 8:31 AM

        If you prefer to make no timeline adjustment and compare each player against his peers and you want to look at just career value, then Ruth beats Bonds. I agree. My point was that it is a function of your assumptions.

        You aren’t being fair to the pro-Bonds argument by claiming that Bonds had only one extraordinary season. His 2001 season with 73 HRs wasn’t even his highest wRC+ of his career. All of 2001-04 were extraordinary seasons, in part because opposing pitchers and managers decided to walk him like crazy.

      • bigharold - Jun 25, 2013 at 1:29 PM

        You have to make assumptions and compare them to their peers and gauge their dominance based on how much the stood out from their peers. Otherwise there are too many variables to consider. There is an assumption that Ruth wouldn’t be as dominant today but there is no way to conclusively prove that to any reasonable standard. What if he did avail himself of today’s training techniques, technology and nutrition? Who is to say? On the other hand, what if Bonds completed in Ruth’s era? What is more likely, but admittedly still can’t be conclusively proven, is he’d never had bulked up and become the power hitter he became late in his career, with or without steroids. Athletes just didn’t train that comprehensively during that era and baseball players didn’t lift weights at all. So I doubt Bonds would have achieved that late career surge under any circumstance. And, if you look at Bonds performance during the that time he lead the majors in HRs only 2001. There are a number of reasons but nevertheless that is what it is.

        The raw data shows that Ruth was a far more dominant hitter in his time than Bonds was in his own, except for Bond’s last 5 seasons. And,to a certain extent that is problematic. If one focuses too much on that late career surge than one has to consider PEDs. But, the raw data also shows that Ruth had a far better average and OBP during his career. And, as a result of a shorter season and Ruth being a pitcher in the beginning for the first 4-5 years of his career he ended up with about 1450 ABs over the same length career. I’m pretty sure that if you sprinkle 1450 ABs, about 2.5 years worth, over Ruth’s career Bonds is still chasing Ruth’s HR record.

        Comparing athletes of today to their counter parts of 50 or 100 years ago is problematic because human evolution has not progressed so much that one would say that today’s athletes are superior beings. It’s really a function of progress in baseball fundamentals, medicine, nutrition and physical training. One could speculate to no end whether or not Ruth would do as well today as he did in his time. On the other hand, I believe it would be far safer to say that Bonds would certainly not do as well in Ruth’s time. Therefore, Ruth is better, .. hands down.

      • Detroit Michael - Jun 26, 2013 at 3:50 PM

        Thanks for the thoughtful discussion, bigharold. I don’t agree yet, but I’d just be repeating the same points if I kept going.

  5. Innocent Bystander - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    Just was thinking about this. My young-ish kids were asking who the best hitter in history was. I eventually answered 1-Ruth, 2-Bonds, 3-Ted Williams. I don’t think I would argue if you rearranged the order in anyway, but am pretty comfortable with the top 3. I know PED haters are squirming right now, but Bonds deserves to be in the conversation.

    • dubsgiantsniners - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      GP on Ted Williams, one has to wonder where he’d be on the list if the Splinter hadn’t lost 4 prime years to WWII

      • American of African Descent - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:48 AM

        There was a guy . . . he think his name was Willie Mays . . . lost many prime years to the war as well.

      • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:00 PM

        Mays lost all of one year and most of 1952. They were both early in his career, his age 21 and 22 seasons, so they weren’t exactly “prime”. He was hitting .236 in 1952 when he was drafted and won the batting title in 1954 when he returned. So, that’s a big “who knows” what would have happened in the mean time.

        Williams also served in Korea in addition to WWII, adding more missing to military service.

        Less this post come across as me rambling against Willie Mays or belitting him in any way, let me assure you that I’m not. Just pointing out that Williams missed *a lot* more time to military service.

      • hcf95688 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        Willie Mays wasn’t even the best hitter FROM ALABAMA. Hank Aaron was.

      • dubsgiantsniners - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        For sure on the Say Hey Kid, that was just a brainfart, though I think cohnjusack does make a valid point, that said Give Willie Mays 2 more seasons of stats and I’m sure that 660 would’ve been a lot closer to 715

      • clemente2 - Jun 24, 2013 at 4:44 PM

        Hmmm, Aaron over Mays?

        If we want to adjust, look at the HR inhibiting effect of the home fields Mays played in versus the launching pads in Milwaukee and Atlanta for Aaron.

      • sabatimus - Jun 24, 2013 at 7:11 PM

        AofAD, I suggest researching your statements before blurting out something totally wrong.

    • valarmorghuliss - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      No he doesn’t, he removed himself from consideration.

      All you did was teach your kid that taking illegal drugs will be overlooked if you’re talented enough.

      • waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        Greenies are illegal drugs and literally every player for 40 years took them.

        But yeah, focus on the one that isn’t street amphetimines and go hard on the ones that help joint recovery.

        Clown argument bro.

      • valarmorghuliss - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:09 PM

        Another steroid apologist who tries to compare Greenies vs Steroids vs HGH.

        Not worth debating when such fail comparisons are made. Oh wait for the guy who comes in and yammers about greenies being worse.

        Yes, lets start the debate about what is worse, immature boys of the age of 16 using needles vs Greenies.

        I’ll throw out HepB and AIDS
        Your move

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:25 PM

        Not worth debating when such fail comparisons are made. Oh wait for the guy who comes in and yammers about greenies being worse.

        And you have proof that steroids are worse? I look forward to your scientific study that says taking a substance that instantly increases energy, acumen and awareness isn’t as performance as enhancing as a substance that does nothing without working out.

        I’ll throw out HepB and AIDS
        Your move

        That’s your trump card? Your trolling is bad and you should feel bad….

      • Alex K - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        Heart attack from the amphetamine. Which is way more likely than HebB or AIDS from a needle.

  6. fukpittsburgh - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Barry Bonds never won 20 games in a season. And give Babe Ruth HGH he would have hit 1,500 home runs.

    • cur68 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      give Babe Ruth HGH he would have hit 1,500 home runs

      Reference please.

      • valarmorghuliss - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        Someone failed at hyperbole class

      • historiophiliac - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:39 AM

        I really prefer that my candy bars are strictly TBHQ and not HGH. How about you?

      • cur68 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:42 AM

        Is that Tampa Bay High Quality or Total Baseball or are I missing the hyperbole in that, too?


      • historiophiliac - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        You ruined EVERYTHING!!!!!!!

      • cur68 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:52 AM

        Its what I do.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        That was hyperbole, goofball.

      • cur68 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Dang. Missed it AGAIN? I need remedial hyperbole classes. You teach those?

      • historiophiliac - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        The guys at work say I teach charm classes. A-holes.

      • cur68 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:08 PM

        Charm classes? Is that charm like in a Harry Potter book Magic Charm or charm as in “I’ll make some ridiculous statement that hasn’t any basis in fact and that perpetuates some ignorance; all of which people who are too lazy to check their assumptions will lap up” charm?

      • historiophiliac - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        It’s charm as in: this is the kind of post where you just drop a fart and leave cuz it’s gonna be vicious.

      • cur68 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        I can handle that kind of charm. Done it about a baZILLION times.

        /silent but violent and hoofs it for the door….

  7. poorwalt - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    I’m biased as a Yankees fan, but Ruth is the clear choice to me. He hit 60 homeruns in 1927. No other team even totaled that many homeruns in 1927.

    Add in his prowess as a pitcher, I just think the man was on a completely different planet than his peers at the time and that’s really what the argument has to focus on. While Bonds was very good, a lot of guys were doing what he was doing (even though not completely at his level)… I really don’t think it’s close.

    If Ruth was given the same opportunitires for training and nutrition as Bonds, who knows what type of numbers he could have produced.

    • blabidibla - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      Given the same opportunities to create distractions with the “gotcha” media who wouldn’t pass off his carousing and boozing as good natured fun, who knows how long Ruth would have lasted in the majors?

      Ruth was never known for his dedication to training or nutrition. Hard to say if he would have ever committed the way modern players do given his personality.

      Different worlds.

    • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      No other team even totaled that many homeruns in 1927.

      3 teams did actually. Giants(109), Cardinals(84), Cubs(74)

      I think you’re thinking of 1920, when no other *American League* team hit more than Ruth’s total of 54 home runs. The Phillies hit 64 that year as a group.

      • poorwalt - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        Good catch, I meant to say no American League team hit more homeruns in 1927 than he did.

      • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        Why did I get thumbs down for pointing out someone was mistaking 1927 for 1920?

        Ohhh…am I belittling Babe Ruth by pointing out that factual inaccuracies in people’s posts?

      • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:20 PM

        meant to say no American League team hit more homeruns in 1927 than he did

        I didn’t even notice that it was only NL teams on my list.

        Babe Ruth was pretty good I guess…

    • ctony1216 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      Agreed. Ruth practically invented power hitting. And he did it after/during the time he was one of the top pitchers in the league. So he was like Clatyon Kershaw AND Barry Bonds — before home run hitters even existed.

      Ruth is the best baseball player in history.

      As for the argument that today’s hitters have it tougher because of specialized relievers and competition from black players, I’d say it’s about even because expansion added a lot of mediocre arms to the game, travel is easier today, old-fashioined double-headers are extinct, you have video of pitchers, and you can practice on pitching machines.

      • clemente2 - Jun 24, 2013 at 4:47 PM

        The expansion of the league to black and foreign players has more than offset the expansion of teams.

  8. specialkindofstupid - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    I vote for “Jumping Joe” Dugan. He was Jimmy James’ favorite player, so he therefore must be the greatest player of all time.

  9. Rich Stowe - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    You’d also have to consider how Bonds would have done without the training, nutrionists and plane rides from back in Ruth’s day along with the MUCH bigger ball parks.

    How would Ruth do today with planes, small parks and pitching staffs watered down via 5-man rotations and expansion?

    • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      Ruth’s day along with the MUCH bigger ball parks.

      And how Ruth would do with intense scouting on both ends, a wide variety of new pitches, relief specialist, pitches that throw way harder than anyone back in his day…. Again, you can really only judge players across eras on the basis of the competition they competed against.

      Also, about the ballparks…umm…no, they weren’t really bigger. Weirder maybe. Ruth spent the first part of his career with the Yankees at the Polo grounds. 258 feet down the left field line and 480 feet to center. You could hit a pop-up home run or smack the ball 470 feet for a non-homer. He then moved to Yankee stadium which was designed with an extremely short left-field porch…. It was 285 feet down the left field line for the duration of Ruth’s career. So no, they weren’t bigger.

  10. mybrunoblog - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    I vote for the guy who did of on beer, hot dogs and woman. The guy who used a chemistry set was a truly gifted player who pumped up his numbers artificially.

    • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      Babe Ruth also injected sheep testicles in an effort to increase his power.

      • skids003 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:35 PM

        You mean he ate a lot of hot dogs? Good one.

  11. modellforprez - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    uh i was just curious how you can make an assumption about how either one would do in reversed ERA’S when its impossible to figure out how bonds would have been OFF OF STERIODS. this comparing nonsense is flawed because on of them cheated for years. how can you compare that. and i am not against the roid era i really dont care he didnt stay with my buccos so i have kinda disliked him since but when i was a kid he was my fav. pirate and i used to bat like him catch like him till his head no longer fit thru his shirts.

    • dubsgiantsniners - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      not to fan the endless flames of the Barry steroid debate, but for argument’s sake, even the most aggressively anti-bonds evidence, shows Barry Bonds didn’t start roiding until 1998 when he reconnected with Roy Anderson. For the sake of this comparison, we’ll assume that day they re-met Roy gave Barry steroids thus “tainting” (as the haters call it) all of Barry Bonds’ future numbers. Moreover, since the Babe started as a pitcher (that could theoretically effect his batting numbers) lets compare Barry’s undeniably clean 12 years to Babe’s first 12 years as a pure hitter (starting when he made the complete switch in 1920):

      421 HR
      1094 RBI
      417 SB
      7xAll star
      7x Gold Glove
      7x Silver slugger
      3x MVP
      5x 30/30
      1x 40/40

      467 HR
      1654 RBI
      103 SB
      1x MVP
      (no all-star game until is 14th year as a yankee in 1933, nor gold gloves or silver sluggers, so we can’t count that)

      I’m no statistician and of course the methodology is probably flawed in my analysis here, but just by looking at those numbers, we should at least be able to say the comparison is viable, or at least accept that its lack of viability has more to do with the differing types of contribution each player made combined with the extremely different style of play and level of competition in each respective era.

      I’ll cop to being a Barry Bonds fan boy. Wearing his jersey as a kid and watching him at the ‘Stick, pretending I was him when playing with friends in a back yard, I get that those experiences are going to give me a pretty big bias when considering the less-than-favorable behaviors he’s exhibited in most areas of his life (like many Bay Area natives, I also have a “Barry Bonds was a dick to me” story that I’ll get into another time), but still it’s silly to say we don’t know what he would have been like off of steroids, because we do and he was incredible. The most complete 5-tool player ever. 2000s Barry is a different story, one that’s more complicated of course for reasons we all know.

      The comparison of the two is a fun though-experiment but impossible to say conclusively not because of Barry’s steroid use but because of all the other mitigating factors enumerated in other comments.

      As we say in San Francisco, Barry may have been an asshole, but he’s our asshole.

      • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        That’s some pretty nifty stat omissions there.

        1. The Bonds era you chose (1986-1997[why omit 1998?]), he hit 374 home runs, not 421
        2. The 12 years Ruth span(1920-1931), he hit 562 home runs, not 467
        3. Ruth only won one MVP because, until 1928, players who had previously won were ineligible from winning again. Also, it didn’t exit until 1922 and the choice for MVP was usually pretty poor.
        4. Also, gold gloves (which Ruth would never have won) and Silver Sluggers (which he would have always won) didn’t exist then.
        4. You omit slash stats. Bonds hit .288/.408/.551 with a 162 OPS+. Ruth hit .357/.489/.736 for a 205 OPS+
        5. WAR! Bonds: 91.6. Ruth: 122.9

        Nothing drives me more nuts than people intentionally omitting statistics in an effort to prove a false point. You had every chance to argue that baserunning and defense closed the gap in hitting, but instead you chose to manipulate and omit. Boo sir.. Boo.

      • dubsgiantsniners - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:37 PM

        Sorry, actually totally unintentionally missing the stats, posting this all at work when my boss’s head is turned the other way.

        I omitted 1998, because, like I said, Bonds reconnected with Roy Anderson in 1998, so by the most stringent potential that Barry started roiding THAT day in 1998, it would make the numbers for 1998 include steroided results; 1986-1997 there doesn’ really seem to be any evidence that he was on steroids.

        for your point #3: oh that’s interesting, I didn’t know that

        for your point #4 totally agree with, I pointed out though that those didn’t exist.

        for points 2, 4 see my above comment re: doing this all on the sly while my boss thinks i’m doing things less important than talking baseball.

        per your last point, and i mean this will do respect, but boo right back atcha dickhead. i said that my methodology was probably flawed and incomplete. at no point did i say i was presenting a full or flesh out hypothesis, but merely a quick jotting of thoughts and quick (clandestinely put together) statistics

        so boo right back atcha douchebag

      • yahmule - Jun 24, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        Sorry your feelings are hurt because this gentleman caught you in several blatant misrepresentations. Otherwise known as lying.

  12. Innocent Bystander - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Is Matt Joyce is running for political office? Just pick one!

  13. modellforprez - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    FukPittsburgh? nice name clown maybe one day you will have the balls to put a name or face to that. where you from Puss cle land? Cincy? No Bawlimore. or let me guess medina ohio. Hahaha loser how many championships your city got????

    • aceshigh11 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      Well, we’re really elevating the conversation today.

    • js20011041 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      Is that even English?

    • fukpittsburgh - Jun 25, 2013 at 1:06 AM

      Oh boy that’s just sad. I feel sorry for your mother.

  14. lukescottsbedsidemanner - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    Of course Luke Scott’s answer was the best. Its because LukeSocott’sBaseBallIQ has had a lot of experience in rational discourse, semantics, and convincing arguments. There’s no other way for LukeScott’sBaseBallAbility to have stayed in the major league other wise.

    All kidding aside, his BedSideManner also agrees on this one. Bonds, and it isn’t even close.

  15. richyballgame - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Who is more legendary? The Babe.

  16. brickhead2012 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    The Babe- Worst sports movie EVER!

    • nbjays - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      I think you probably watched “Babe”, the movie about the pig, and confused it for a sports movie.

  17. crashdavis99 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Hank Aaron!

  18. natsattack - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    This conversation has so many “What if?”s that I don’t think there is a right answer. However, having read the Baseball Prospectus piece, I think Ruth was better because of how much he eclipsed his competition. Then again, had Ruth played in the ’90s and early 2000s, he might have used steroids himself, let alone the different quality of play.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      I think Ruth was better because of how much he eclipsed his competition.

      I’m not sure where I come down on the argument, but we also have to dock Ruth some because his competition wasn’t the best in the world. Bonds did play against the best, while many great Negro league players never faced Ruth.

      • largebill - Jun 24, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        Even that is not a clear cut as some want to pretend. No argument that black players were excluded from playing. However, NFL & NBA were jokes until long after Ruth’s time. So great athletes who today might consider other sports were much more likely to play baseball than any other professional sport.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 24, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        So great athletes who today might consider other sports were much more likely to play baseball than any other professional sport.

        I’m a little confused here. I’m not talking about white athletes playing other sports, I’m specifically talking about great negro league players who were unable to play MLB. We’ll never know how good Josh Gibson was because he couldn’t play against Ruth. We’ll never know how great Satchel Paige was because he couldn’t play in the MLB until he was 75 (or so). We know these guys could play, because many did extremely well once they were allowed into MLB.

        But it’s really not up for argument that Ruth played against the best competition.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 24, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        sigh, Ruth didn’t play against the best competition

  19. js20011041 - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    I think that it’s probably unfair to compare players who played in starkly different eras. Rather than comparing career stats, I think it’s probably better to compare their dominance relative to the players the played with and against. Ruth has a career OPS+ of 206. Bonds has an OPS+ of 182. Simply put, Ruth was more dominant in his time than Bonds was in his. This is before you take into account Ruth’s pitching. You can go back and forth on other issues. Ruth didn’t have to face players of other races. He also didn’t have access to the kinds of training methods, nutrition, and supplements that Bonds had. What you’re left with is that while Bond’s had a few dominant seasons that Ruth didn’t quite match, Bond’s didn’t have a single season that was as good as Ruth’s career average until 2001 (i.e. steroid Bonds). Ruth is the clear answer here.

    • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      Ruth was clearly the better *hitter* (I’m ignoring pitching in this because it makes my argument harder. I am a terrible person). Bonds was also a gifted baserunning and great fielder.

      Them Saber-nerds gave us a pretty good way (yeah, yeah, it’s not perfect, but what is?) to compare them via WAR:
      Ruth: 163.2
      Bonds: 162.5

      With WAR, the hitting gap is largely closed by Bonds far superior baserunning and fielding skills.

      Of course when you included pitching:
      Ruth: 183.8
      Bonds: 162.5

      In summary, Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth were both really fucking awesome at baseball.

      • blacksables - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        “With WAR, the hitting gap is largely closed by Bonds far superior baserunning and fielding skills.”

        Sid Bream and Francisco Cabrerra disagree. Bonds had a rag arm and couldn’t go into the corner to catch a cold, let a alone a fly ball. Standing still and letting the ball roll back to you does not make for a good fielder.

        I don’t know good of a fielder Ruth was, but Bonds was no better.

        As to speed, I’m pretty good with baseball history, and in his younger days, Ruth was known to be fast. He stole well over 100 bases and hit over 100 triples. Era and ballparks aside, slow runners don’t do that.

        Beyond that, I agree with everything you said.

      • cohnjusack - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        Excellent point! Barry Bonds made a not-so-great throw that one time, therefore, he’s an awful fielder.

        Hey, did yo know that Ted Williams struck out once? He’s no better than Adam Dunn.

        Also, “He stole well over 100 bases and hit over 100 triples. Era and ballparks aside, slow runners don’t do that.”

        Umm…yeah. You can’t really say “era aside” when there was a HUGE DIFFERNCE in era. There were tons more triples hit then. Also, Babe Ruth got caught steating 117 times *THAT WE KNOW OF*. There were no CS statistics in the AL prior to 1919, so there’s every possibility that he was caught more than he stole in his career.

      • blacksables - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        No, Barry Bonds was a bad fielder because he was a bad fielder.

        As to the triples, it’s still 270 feet from home to third.

        You’re right, there were tons more triples.

        There were two reason for that. Quirky ball parks and dimensions.

        If you want to take away Ruth’s triples as not due to him being fast on the bases because of the size of the parks, then you have to give him a huge advantage at the plate, because he had to hit his home runs in those same parks.

        If you want to discount his triples because of quirky ballparks, then you have to discount Bonds triples due to playing in cookie cutter stadiums with artificial turf, which were very conducive to triples, as the guys who played in those parks generally led the league. Ruth out-tripled Bonds 136-77, when they both played in ball parks and eras conducive to hitting triples. How do you explain that without giving Ruth credit for base running and speed on the bases. Stolen bases are only one measure of speed.

  20. historiophiliac - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Ironically, I was talking at lunch this weekend with a friend about that 42 movie, and I was saying that they would make that kind of movie but not one about Bonds or Aaron breaking the Babe’s record. The only way they’d make a Bonds film is if he’s the villain — or at least an anti-hero.

  21. charlutes - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Add a mention about his pitching abilities and I go with Luke Scott’s answer, 100%.

    Thx Craig, I love this stuff.

  22. waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    If Bonds played for the Yankees and was white imagine how different this convo would be.

    • Rich Stowe - Jun 24, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      if Bonds wasn’t a giant ass, imagine how different this convo would be…his race doesn’t have anything to do with it but his mentality and ego does

      • historiophiliac - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        I’m gonna go with both, actually.

      • waiverclaim - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        You mean having to deal with racist redneck piles of shit like Jeff Kent was all Bonds fault?

        Having flair in your game shouldn’t be grounds for hatred. Baseball is the hardest game there is, being good at it IS reason to celebrate.

    • pjmitch - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      You are correct. We would be discussing how he disgraced not only MLB but also the Yankees franchise. Mark McGwire is white and doesn’t get a pass so what does color have to do with it?

      • mybrunoblog - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        McGwire was also mostly well liked by teammates and seen as fan friendly. Bonds of course was disliked by teammates and not a fan friendly person. Bonds was also a total D-bag to the media. Those guys really hated him. Still do.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:44 PM

      Hyperbole meet the internet. Wow.
      You are not making any sense whatsoever. What the hell?
      You called someone a moron AFTER claiming pitchers of Ruth’s era only threw fastballs.
      Then…you keep referring to race (even to the point of calling someone racist) when a persons race has ZERO bearing on this discussion.
      Another helpful piece of advice…
      If you keep playing the race card it losses all meaning.
      It falls on deaf ears. Much like the boy who cried wolf. Therefore, you are doing a disservice to those that have actually experienced racism.
      Barry Bonds is/was an insufferable prick. That is all. Nothing more. Just an insufferable prick.

  23. baymac408 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Barry Bonds is the purest hitter to ever play baseball.. Bat speed was so quick even before all the allegations… Hgh doesn’t improve your hand eye coordination.. Barry was the best! GIANTS LEGEND

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:40 PM

      Barry Bonds is the purest hitter to ever play baseball..

      I’d take Williams over Bonds if we’re just talking about hitting

      Williams – .344/.482/.634 – 1.116 OPS – 190 OPS+
      Bonds – .298/.444/.607 – 1.051 OPS – 182 OPS+

      • stlouis1baseball - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        Absolutely Church. I would also throw Pujols in that argument (1st ten years anyway).

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 24, 2013 at 2:12 PM

        Good idea, let’s throw him in:

        Williams – .344/.482/.634 – 1.116 OPS – 190 OPS+
        Bonds – .298/.444/.607 – 1.051 OPS – 182 OPS+
        Pujols – .331/.426/.624 – 1.050 OPS – 172 OPS+

        That Williams OBP still gets me. For his entire career he was almost a .500 OBP hitter. Insane!

  24. chip56 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    I would say that Ruth would probably do well in today’s game. While he played against some lesser competition because of the lack of integration in the sport, in today’s game over-expansion has watered down some of the competition.

    Additionally, Ruth likely would have benefited from today’s training methods and the fact that more night games would mean fewer times that he would show up to the park hungover from the night before. On the other hand, I don’t know what the average pitch speed was in Ruth’s day, additionally there were fewer types of pitches.

    For Bonds, he would benefit from the lack of diversity in pitching types, but at the same time doctoring the ball was perfectly ok back then. Bonds wouldn’t have been able to wear the kind of armor he did, he wouldn’t have had access to the kinds of legitimate daily treatments that today’s players enjoy (let alone the steroids).

    I think it’s probably a toss up.

  25. sandrafluke2012 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Ruth was the Matt Stairs of his generation. Imagine taking out everybody but white people for today. I believe only older white people and New York fans think Ruth is all that good.

    • stex52 - Jun 24, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      Babe Ruth / Matt Stairs?? This is a joke, right?

      • asimonetti88 - Jun 24, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        Hey now, Matt Stairs is kind of like the Babe Ruth of Canada, right?

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 24, 2013 at 1:47 PM

      Alright. I am signing off for the day.
      After reading WaiverClaims posts…and THIS ^ from Sandra I am now dumbed down to the point of me babbling endlessly with drool hanging from my chin.

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