The Greatest Left Fielder…
The Greatest Left Fielder
by Cary Greene
February 9, 2022
For the Tuesday Discussion yesterday, we were asked to name the greatest left fielder in baseball history. This is my detailed response to the question.
Determining the best left fielder ever requires us to consider players whose careers might have been abbreviated due to military service. I say that because two players stand out most, from a list of many all-time greats – the debate between Stan Musial and Ted Williams seems to be where this endeavor winds up stopping at.
Stan Musial played for 22 seasons during his career, which lasted from 1941 to 1963. Musial also lost the 1945 season when he enlisted in the Navy, so it’s fair to say his career would have been even better had he played.
Ted Williams played for 19 seasons, from 1939 to 1960, but his playing career was abbreviated by military service from 1943 to 1945, when Williams enlisted in the Air Force. Not only was Williams a true hero, but his numbers would have been even more amazing had he not performed his duty to his country.
What would both Musial’s and Williams’s career numbers look like if we credited them for serving their country and add numbers by averaging the three seasons before and after each player’s military service?
Baseball historian Dean Hybl came up with a formula to do this for Ted Williams and so I likewise credited Stan Musial and below is a table that compares what Williams realistically would have wound up doing versus what Stan Musial would have easily done.
Ted Williams was by far and away the better player and I say that with the deepest respect and admiration for Stan “the Man” Musial. Williams did massive damage at the dish. The numbers are staggering.
Ted Williams would have easily wound up fifth on the all-time home run list, ahead of Willie Mays (instead of 20th). He would have also had 3,452 Hits, which would place him seventh, behind Derek Jeter (instead of 75th). Most impressively, Ted Williams would have wound up with 2,380 RBI’s, placing him at the top of the all-time list, ahead of Hank Aaron (instead of 14th).
Bottom line? Ted Williams was the best ever at driving in runs. Therefore, an argument could be made that Ted Williams would be the single most valuable offensive player to ever play the game.
Ted Williams won six Batting Titles and two Triple Crowns. Would he have won eight or nine batting titles and four or five Triple Crowns had he not served in the military? Quite possibly. He was a 19 time All-Star. Certainly he would have been a 22-Time All-Star had he not served.
Musial would have been a 25 time All-Star and he would have won 8 batting titles. He was so valuable that without him, the Cardinals weren’t a World-Series team. With him, they probably would have won yet another championship to add to their franchise legacy which currently sits at 11 championships.
In 1944, the Cardinals beat the St. Louis Browns four games to two, with Stan Musial batting third in their lineup (and playing right field quite a bit also). In 1945, the Cardinals missed the World Series, finishing 95-59 that season, winding up three games behind the Chicago Cubs, who wound up losing a historic World-Series to the Detroit Tigers, four games to three that year.
Would Stan Musial have impacted the Cardinals enough for them to win the 1945 National League Pennant? Absolutely, yes, he would have. If we add a 9 WAR MVP type player to the middle of the Cardinals lineup, they would have beaten the Cubs easily and probably would have gone on to beat the Tigers.
I say this with confidence because in 1946, with Musial back in the lineup, the Cardinals beat Ted Williams and the Boston Red Sox 4 games to 3 in an amazing seven game series.
Both players, Musial and Williams, had tremendous impact and value. Stan Musial won three World-Series championships. He was a three-time MVP. He would have probably won four championships and four MVP awards had he not served in the Navy.
However, Musial’s career was only abbreviated one year, whereas Williams’s career was cut short by three seasons. If we project the numbers out fairly, “Teddy Ballgame” is actually, “the Man!”