The question of who the best baseball player of all time is has been quite stale for quite a while. And that’s all Babe Ruth’s fault.
The Babe was impossibly good. If the fact that he hit more home runs than entire teams didn’t end the conversation, then the fact that he’d also once won two games in a single World Series with an ERA under 3 did.
That’s not to say that there haven't been plenty of valid counterarguments against Ruth’s status as the GOAT, because there have. He played in a segregated league and never had to face Smokey Joe Williams. He dominated in era when a pre-game cigarette was considered essential to achieving peak performance. He hit home runs off of pitchers with fastballs that would be considered decent for for a high schooler in 2023, who might’ve thrown 350 pitches a week sometimes, and whose offseason training regimens consisted solely of chopping wood and sucking down moonshine.
But still, his exploits were so unfathomable, his place in the cultural consciousness so massive, that it’s been impossible to formulate an irrefutable argument against him. Not even the subsequent all-around brilliance of Willie Mays, the game-breaking dominance of Barry Bonds, or the development of advanced statistics could knock Ruth off his pedestal. Here we are, over 100 years after The Babe’s debut, and he is still the all-time leader in bWAR. He compiled 82 more wins than Albert Pujols did, which itself is more wins than Pete Rose compiled over the course of his entire career. Think about that for a second: Babe Ruth was a full Pete Rose better than Albert freaking Pujols.
But it’s officially time for The Babe to step aside. Shohei Ohtani is the greatest baseball player who ever lived.
In Ohtani, we finally have a player who has something that none of the other worthy candidates to the throne ever had: the sense that what he is doing should not be possible. For as brilliant as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, and Mike Trout were (and are, in Trout’s case) they weren’t doing something we’d never seen before — they were just doing several things we’d seen before a lot better than all of their contemporaries.
Ohtani, though, is in an entirely different category. He finished fifth in the league in OPS+ in 2021, and then sixth in the league in ERA+ in 2022. Shohei Ohtani’s existence is impossible.
On this week’s episode of the Monsters Of Sox Podcast, Dan and Bryan were joined by ESPN’s Joon Lee (an Over The Monster alum!) to discuss Ohtani, the World Baseball Classic, and Chaim Bloom’s tenure in charge of the Boston Red Sox.
How big of a cultural figure can Ohtani become? How big can the World Baseball Classic get? Do BU students actually like BU? They get into all of that and more.
As always, thanks for listening!