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Welcome to Snyder's Soapbox! Here, I pontificate about matters related to Major League Baseball on a weekly basis. Some of the topics will be pressing matters, some might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and most will be somewhere in between. The good thing about this website is that it's free, and you are allowed to click away. If you stay, you'll get smarter, though. That's a money-back guarantee. Let's get to it.

Last week, unfortunately, the baseball world lost Willie Mays. A few days later, I had the pleasure of trying to sort out what players could take the mantle of the "greatest living player" that Mays so clearly held down for a long time. Even though I noted several times that there aren't wrong answers, this is still the sort of discussion that generates great passion. This means it's inevitable that people are going to yell at me on social media, which comes with the territory. I will not Soapbox about that, ever, because the passion is great! 

Three names that kept popping up in the most vehement of rebuttals to my article were Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose and Sandy Koufax. One person even claimed that I'm tempting the Baseball Gods by not naming Koufax, which is utterly hilarious nonsense (I must say Koufax was greater than Greg Maddux or else I'll be smited? SMITE ME, ALMIGHTY SMITER!). 

I certainly understand why the three players were brought up, as if I had forgotten about them, but they have become a bit overrated over the years due to nostalgia. I don't think any of the three could reasonably rank in the top 10 of living players. 

Uh oh, I said overrated. That's a naughty word, right? I cannot stress this enough: All three are all-time great players and by no means is this meant as a knock on any of the three. I say overrated as I'm using it literally -- because large swaths of baseball fandom hold them in higher regard than their careers say they should. 

Anyway, let's talk about nostalgia. I recently saw a poll that essentially said that most Americans believe things were better/best when they were around 18 years old. No matter the age group or years in question, an overwhelming majority of respondents would have the best memories of their approach into adulthood. After that, it's all nostalgia and lamenting how things "just aren't the way they used to be" and yearning for a return to the way you fondly remember them. Humans have a tendency to block out all the negative stuff from our nostalgia years -- and it doesn't matter how old you are, there were tons of negatives when you were 18 -- and just remember what made us happy. So when there are flaws in players from our childhood, we'll tend to ignore those in our memories and instead just focus on what made said players so amazing. It makes us subconsciously overrate them. 

Koufax had a similar run of legendary mound work to Pedro Martinez, only Koufax's was shorter and a bit inferior. Koufax's run of insanity was five years. Pedro's was seven. In 1963, Koufax had a 1.88 ERA. The league average ERA was 3.46. That's sheer brilliance. But look at 2000, when the league average ERA was 4.76 and Pedro was at 1.74. There's no question what's more impressive there and I could do this with every one of their outrageous seasons (and, again, Pedro had more of those). Martinez's ERA+ in those seven seasons was 213 while Koufax in his five was 167. 

I know baseball fans from that era love wins and Koufax only won 165 compared to Martinez's 219.

Pedro was better, plain and simple. But older people like yelling about Koufax because I just never experienced him playing and can't appreciate his greatness or something. Or maybe it's just nostalgia, because it's absolutely just nostalgia. 

On Ryan, we remember all about those seven no-hitters and all those strikeouts -- all 5,714 of them. He threw serious gas! He got Robin Ventura in a headlock and punched him a few times! He was so tough he threw to pitch counts that would get managers fired these days and he never even got hurt. On a personal level, I remember one time watching him carve up an opposing team and he mixed in a screwball. I was obsessed because a screwball is such a fun pitch. We've all had those moments and Nolan provided a ton of them to so many baseball fans.

He also led the league in walks eight times and is the career leader in walks issued. He had a losing record in eight different seasons (ignoring his 0-1 in 1966). He never won a Cy Young. I'm not disputing that he's an all-time great (he absolutely is!), but if we're talking about the single greatest player alive, how is that list not disqualifying? 

But there's an understandable nostalgia for Ryan, given that he was such an absurd strikeout pitcher in an era where there were so few of those. And he did it for so long and was so durable. He was a remarkable anomaly. He just wasn't the greatest and that's perfectly fine to admit. 

Regarding Rose, we've been over this before but I guess it's needs to be reiterated: Having the most hits doesn't make someone the best hitter ever. That's balderdash. It's like saying the basketball player with the most field goals in a game is the best shooter. If a player was 2 for 5 with two singles and zero RBI while another was 1 for 2 with three walks and a grand slam, who was the better hitter in that game? C'mon. 

Rose was a great hitter. One of the best! He has a career average over .300. His longevity helped him to record the most MLB hits ever. He was not as well-rounded a hitter as the inner-circle, all-time greats, however. He won three batting titles, led the league in on-base percentage twice and never led in slugging or OPS. He was also a poor defender and wasn't a huge base-stealing threat. Again, he was an amazing player, but we were discussing the absolute best player alive. 

You know who else I didn't mention? Wade Boggs. He won five batting titles, led in OBP six times and OPS twice. Rod Carew won seven batting titles, led in OBP four times and OPS once. It seems to me that they were better than Rose at Rose's strength, they just didn't hang around and compile as long. 

I also didn't mention Derek Jeter. Here's a link to a Baseball Reference comparison between him and Rose. On a surface-level basis, Jeter and Rose's baseball resumes aren't all too different. Rose just hung around a lot longer and compiled more hits, runs and RBI. You can't yell at me about championships, because Jeter won more. Neither is the greatest living player and both are all-time greats. 

So why is there so much fanfare? Nostalgia. You're yelling at me because you fondly remember the era in which Pete played and loved his "Charlie Hustle" traits. I also think his permanent ban from baseball makes those who loved him as a player dig their heels in even more, as if they are defending his honor. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with fondly remembering players of the past, but if we want to be accurate, we need to do a better job of fending off feelings of nostalgia and instead fairly judge the entire picture. That picture says that while Rose, Ryan and Koufax were all-time greats, they have inferior cases to more than a handful of other, still-living players