CINCINNATI — It was a vote, not a conclave of experts which determined it, but the results are the results: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Johnny Bench were just named the four “Greatest Living Players.” Sandy Koufax threw out the first pitch to Bench to kick off the action here tonight.
This vote was part of the “Franchise Four” vote Major League Baseball asked fans to participate in, and as far as I’m concerned the fans got it half right. Maybe 3/4 right depending on your view of defensive value.
There are few arguments against Willie Mays and Hank Aaron as two of the greatest living players of all time. Maybe they’re one and two.
Koufax, well, I’m sorry. He was great, but his legend has become greater than his value. Partially because of the era in which he pitched, partially because he left while on top and partially because he is universally seen as a class act. Wonderful player, but I don’t know that he makes a four Greatest Living Pitchers list, let alone players.
Bench is interesting. Quite probably the greatest ever catcher, not just the greatest living one, and catcher matters, especially once you factor in the defense. Still, Bench is something of a surprise here.
I’d personally say Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and/or Tom Seaver have greater arguments than Bench and Koufax. But like we said: this was a fan vote. And the fans get what they want.