Where does Alex Rodriguez rank in baseball history?

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Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez slugged a home run for his 3,000th career hit on Friday night, becoming the 29th player to join the elite club. He had just recently joined the 2,000 RBI club and passed Willie Mays for fourth in baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard earlier this season as well.

Rodriguez, a three-time MVP award winner and a 14-time All-Star, is an obvious Hall of Famer on statistics alone, but where does he rank all-time? According to Baseball Reference, Rodriguez has accumulated the 12th-most WAR among position players, trailing Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Ted Williams. FanGraphs has him 13th, also behind Lou Gehrig.

Of the 12 batters ahead of Rodriguez, Ruth, Cobb, Speaker, Wagner, Hornsby, Collins, and Gehrig played before integration, which rules them out. Many will interject with, “but A-Rod used performance-enhancing drugs, so he should be ruled out as well.” I’m glad you brought that up. So did Mays and Aaron, as well as fellow Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Mickey Mantle — they used amphetamines. If one invalidates Rodriguez’s place among baseball’s greats, one must do the same for Mays and Aaron and others. Assuming we’re keeping Mays and Aaron, and thus, Rodriguez, we’re dealing with an all-time list of Bonds, Mays, Aaron, Musial, Williams, and Rodriguez.

Musial and Williams played most of their careers before integration, but they should still be penalized for the years played prior to integration. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Musial accrued 32.6 of his 128.1 WAR in that time, per Baseball Reference. For Williams, it was 45.1 of 128.1. That puts them clearly behind Rodriguez. The ranking then becomes Bonds, Mays, Aaron, and Rodriguez:

  • Bonds: 162.4 WAR
  • Mays: 156.2
  • Aaron: 142.6
  • Rodriguez: 117.5

Personally, I believe more recent eras of baseball to be much tougher than those of the past as athletes are bigger, stronger, and smarter than they’ve ever been, and technology has made it simple for pitchers to research and exploit a hitter’s tendencies. But I don’t think there’s any realistic adjustment for that which would bridge the 25 WAR gap between Rodriguez and Aaron. So, with my methodology, Rodriguez is the fourth-greatest position player in baseball history.

Note: I realize that WAR has many methodological flaws, but it’s the best tool for comparing players across eras. I believe in using imperfect tools than no tools at all.

The Cubs send Kyle Schwarber to the minors

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Kyle Schwarber broke into the bigs in 2015 with a big bat. After missing almost all of the last season with an injury, he reemerged as a postseason hero, posting a .971 OPS in the World Series. As 2017 began he was supposed to be one of the key parts of a potent Cubs offense.

Then the baseball games actually started and he has hit a mere .171/.295/.378. Indeed, he has the lowest batting average among qualified MLB hitters in 2017. Given that he has very little if any defensive value, he has been a significant drag on the Cubs, who are just a single game over .500.

Now this:

The Cubs are also putting Jason Heyward on the disabled list, so the outfield is a bit of a mess these days. Lucky for them, they’re only trailing the Brewers by a game and a half.

The A’s designate Stephen Vogt for assignment

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A surprising move out of Oakland: the Athletics have designated catcher Stephen Vogt for assignment.

Vogt is suffering through a bad season at the plate, hitting .217/.287/.357, so on the basis of pure performance it’s understandable that the A’s may want to part ways with the 32-year-old former All-Star. That said, Vogt is considered to be a leader in the Oakland clubhouse and is one of the last players remaining from the A’s 2013-14 playoff teams.

Catcher Bruce Maxwell has been recalled from Triple-A to take Vogt’s place on the roster. Main catching duties will belong to Josh Phegley.