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No kidding - Rickey Henderson is best ever

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foxsports admin

 
   
 
Rickey Henderson is the greatest baseball player of all-time. There, I said it, and after you stop laughing, I will tell you why. Really, you can stop laughing now. No, seriously, it's not that funny, you act like you're watching "Fletch" or something. You see, baseball is a game obsessed with numbers. Who scored the most runs? Who has the highest batting average? Who has struck out the most times in night games played on days when sitting Presidents were vacationing at Camp David? If you can think of a scenario, then there's probably a baseball statistician somewhere tracking it. Numbers become etched in stone in baseball ... 56 ... 755 ... 73 ... 4256. They have become part of the very fabric of the game, the basic means of deciding who is worthy of immortality and who will be forgotten because of a batting average that never did clear the Mendoza Line. If you want to judge true greatness in baseball, you have to start by looking at the numbers. That's where Rickey Henderson comes in. Think about this...Henderson is the all-time leader in three major statistical categories. That's right, no player in baseball history has scored more runs, drawn more walks, or stolen more bases than Henderson. If that doesn't impress you, then maybe the unique company than Henderson keeps will. Pete Rose also has the distinction of leading three lifetime statistical categories (games played, at bats, and hits). Hank Aaron tops two lists (home runs and RBIs), while Ty Cobb's .366 lifetime batting average is the standard by which all others are judged. Sam Crawford hit more triples than anyone who has played the game, while Tris Speaker rapped more doubles than anyone else. Rose, Cobb, Aaron, Crawford, and Speaker. All are Hall of Famers, and all achieved things that their fellow greats never could. It's a select group, one that the likes of Ted Williams, Mike Schmidt, Frank Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, or even Mickey Mantle cannot claim entry to. But Rickey Henderson can, which gives him a strong case for being the best of all-time. Here's the point where you begin the Rickey bashing. Go ahead, tell me how big the guy's ego is. Make a few comments about how he never remembers the names of half of his teammates. Remind me of the time he decided to play cards in the clubhouse in the midst of a playoff game. I'll readily admit that Rickey has never been a player that the public could warm up to, because he's never been a choirboy. Yeah, I guess everyone loves the choirboys, the Cal Ripkens and the Tony Gwynns of the game who have the love and admiration of the media and fans alike. It's a lot safer to enjoy the exploits of players like that, who perform at a high level and just seem like all around great guys. The press can run out of ink writing about the Cony Ripgwynns of the world, but barely give Henderson a few lines on page 10 when he breaks the Babe's walks record. In case you didn't notice, Gwynn and Ripken retired without being the all-time leaders in anything. Oh, Ripken showed up for work more straight times than anyone else. But I'll argue that Baltimore fans would have probably enjoyed themselves more if Ripken had driven in more runs than Hammerin' Hank in lieu of punching his time card each day. Wow, the pennants Baltimore could have won if that had been the case ... It's bad public perception that colors your feelings about Rickey Henderson. If Ripken or Paul Molitor had Henderson's exact same stats, writers from coast to coast would gladly proclaim one of them as the best that ever played the game. But holier than thou writers can't bring themselves to do the same for a brash talking veteran of eight major league teams who also happens to be the record holder for most home runs leading off a game. Wow, what do you know, another impressive stat that strengthens Henderson's case. Did I mention that he's also the single season steals record holder as well? In case you forgot, he obliterated that record by swiping 130 bases back in 1982. To put that feat into perspective, the top two base stealers in the American League last season, Ichiro Suzuki and Roger Cedeno, only combined to steal 111. I could throw in Henderson's Gold Glove, or his World Series rings, or the 146 runs he scored in 1987, back when offensive numbers weren't artificially inflated. But I shouldn't have to. What if I back off a little and admit that Henderson might not be the best ever. Yeah, that statement was a little strong. But I'm only going to back off if you agree to include him in the debate as to just who is baseball's greatest ballplayer. What's that I hear? You're not swayed? You're saying Henderson has only set these records because he's hung around so long? Oh boy, I must have missed the meeting where everyone decided that longevity is a bad thing. In that case, let's just proclaim Joe Charbonneau or Ron Kittle as the best to ever play the game and be done with it. So I'm not backing off. Rickey Henderson is the greatest ever because he put up unreal numbers in a numbers obsessed game. You would be hard pressed to find an offensive player who was a more disruptive force to the other team than Henderson has been over his illustrious career. As leadoff hitters go, you will probably never see the likes of him again. I take that back...you will NEVER see another one like him again. Henderson is trying to win a roster spot with Boston this spring. Oh, if breaks camp with the Sox, don't expect him to take Manny Ramirez's starting position, or steal too many at bats from Trot Nixon. But I hope he does stick around one more season. That might give you people a little more time to come to your senses and appreciate what the guy has accomplished. Now, on to Walter Payton being the greatest player in the history of team sports ...
Tagged: Red Sox, Tigers, Mariners, Padres, Manny Ramirez, Ichiro Suzuki

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