No other sport compares to the storied history of Major League Baseball.
It has been the national sport for generations, ever evolving yet remaining the same.
Every 20 years, a new face breaks onto the scene and dominates the league, calling to question whether or not they are the greatest player of all-time.
However, baseball is nearly impossible to pick just a single player.
The moment that you pull on one thread, you are led in many different directions for who the best player is.
To get an idea of who is truly the GOAT, you have to break it down generationally.
Here are the five candidates in the GOAT conversation:
1. Babe Ruth (1914-1935)
Babe Ruth singlehandedly changed the sport of baseball.
He became the first true superstar, having one of the most recognizable faces in American history.
His memory lives on as if it is a folktale, being the first athlete who was seen as an American hero.
Much of this was because he had the stats to back it up.
Ruth put up a staggering amount of home runs in a time when they were not commonplace: the career home run record was just 138 before Ruth slugged 714 in his career.
He also had a .342 career batting average, with a staggering 162.1 wins above replacement (WAR).
Oh, and he was also one of MLB’s best pitchers for the first seven years of his career, going 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA.
Babe Ruth won an ERA title (1916) before winning his first HR title (1918) pic.twitter.com/wOVNXzT8UJ
— CirclinTheBases (@CirclinTheBases) December 9, 2020
2. Willie Mays (1951-1973)
It would be hard to argue that the “Say Hey” kid doesn’t belong on this list.
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) December 12, 2020
A true five-tool player, Mays was one of the best players in the sport’s history in every way.
With over 3,000 hits, 660 home runs, a .302 batting average, 338 stolen bases and a 136.6 WAR, Mays is statistically towards the top in most categories.
Pair that with two MVPs, 12 Gold Gloves and 20 All-Star appearances, Mays certainly belongs in the GOAT question.
3. Mickey Mantle (1951-1968)
Now, Mantle may not quite have the numbers the other players on this list have, but he may be the most talented player ever.
The stout, switch-hitting center fielder is one of the strongest and most skilled players ever.
However, Mantle was hindered by drinking problems and unbearable pain in his knees that he could hardly play through.
Regardless, Mantle has one of the best peaks of his career of anyone in the sport.
— CirclinTheBases (@CirclinTheBases) December 13, 2020
In 1956 and 1957, Mantle won back-to-back MVP awards, slugging 52 and 34 home runs, and hitting .353 and .365.
He finished his career with 2,415 hits, 536 home runs and a .298 batting average.
For Mantle though, it is a “what-if” type of question: I may take a healthy Mickey Mantle over anyone else in baseball history.
4. Barry Bonds (1986-2007)
No matter your stance on his steroid scandal, it is hard to deny that Bonds is one of the sport’s best players ever.
Barry Bonds should be in the HOF 🙌 pic.twitter.com/zBpH3MMS2v
— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) November 25, 2020
Before he even reportedly starting juicing, Bonds was on pace for an all-time career.
From 1986-1998, before he used PEDs, he had 411 home runs, 445 stolen bases and a .996 OPS.
He is the definition of a five-tool player, and many people forget that.
In the first eight years of his career, he won three MVP awards, being a consistent 30 home run and 30 steals player.
Not only is he the sole member of the 400/400 club, he is the only member of the 500/500 club as well.
His discipline at the plate, something steroids wouldn’t help with, is by far the best in MLB history.
The on-base percentages he would put up were astronomical, and a career .444 OBP is just silly.
With 762 home runs, Bonds sits atop the career total.
That is a misrepresentation of how many he truly could have hit.
If pitchers actually threw to him, rather than intentionally walking him 120 times like in 2004, then Bonds would have been comfortably in the 800-home run range.
On top of all this, he was forced out of the game when nobody signed him after 2007, even though he still was producing at the plate.
In an era when much of baseball’s talent was elevated, Bonds still stood head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Seven…. SEVEN MVP awards should tell that.
5. Mike Trout (2011-present)
Of course, it is far too early to have Trout on this list but he is here for projection purposes.
However, it is important to recognize the generational talent that is before our eyes in the MLB today.
Mike Trout’s swing is special pic.twitter.com/cfrLv2w4qE
— homerunenergy (@homerunenergy) December 10, 2020
In his 10 years in the league, Trout has been the league’s best player.
He is on record pace with his career, and he seems to be getting better.
With three MVP awards already, Trout has never finished outside of the top-five in voting.
While he may strikeout a lot, he has turned himself into a consistent 35 HR/year threat, hitting right around .300.
He is also playing in a time when the raw talent in the MLB has never been better, and he still remains the league’s premier player.
If he continues his career on these projections, he will certainly be a contender in this conversation soon.
Who Is The GOAT?
Whether you love him or hate him, Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player of all-time.
Yes, he may have used steroids, but every generation of ball player has taken advantage of something to make them better.
Statistically, Bonds is the greatest and it isn’t close.
He is by far the most feared hitting in history, and he proved it against modern talent.
If you placed him into any generation, at any point in his career, he would dominate the competition.
That is good enough to crown him the GOAT.
Now, he deserves to be welcomed into the Hall of Fame.