kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baseball's Greatest Team

OK, this is a little dorky; "inside baseball," as it were, in the most literal sense.

Ask most people to name the greatest team in the history of baseball, and the vast majority will say the 1927 Yankees. A great team, no doubt. (Others might mention the '75 Reds, the '88 Yankees, the '02 Pirates, among others, but the '27 Yankees always gets mentioned.)

A couple of examples:

1. The 1927 New York Yankees

That season, Babe Ruth hit 60 Home Runs. Lou Gehrig had 47 HR and 175 RBI. Tony Lazzeri hit .309 with 102 RBI. Bob Meusel hit .337 with 109 RBI. Earl Combs hit .356 with 231 hits and 137 Runs scored. They also had great pitchers in Waite Hoyt, Urban Shocker, and Herb Pennock. These Yankees outscored their opponents by almost 400 runs and finished with a 110-44 record. Then they swept the Pirates in the World Series. You can't get better than that!

2. A more statistical approach

The four greatest teams in Major League baseball history. Trying to separate them is difficult. What’s interesting to note is that 1902 Pirates had the best winning percentage of the four, the 1939 Yankees had the greatest run differential of the four, and the 1998 Yankees had the greatest number of Hall of Fame caliber players.

The 1927 Murders Row New York Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did not lead in any of the categories but were second in each one.

The other night, after a couple of beers, I pulled out the Baseball Encyclopedia (and then had a couple of more after spending some time amazed by Walter Johnson's pitching records). I thought it might be of interest to compare the '27 Yankees to the 1926 Yankees.

Here's the respective starting nine, from the BE's World Series pages:



The pitchers who pitched significant innings in '26:
Pennock, Shocker, Hoyt, Jones (als Ruether and Shawkey).

The pitchers who pitched significant innings in '27:
Pennock, Shocker, Hoyt, Moore, Ruether Pipgras, and Thomas.

So the starting nine is identical between the two teams, and while
there is a bit of a shake-up of the pitching staff (I'm not sure what
happened to Jones, who pitched well in '26), I don't think anyone
is suggesting that this team was the greatest in the history of
baseball because of adding Moore and Pipgras.

Thus the question: the 1926 Cardinals beat the Yankees in the
World Series. (In seven, Babe Ruth famously making the last
out in Game 7 by being caught stealing.)

If the 1927 Yankees aren't all that much different than the 1926
Yankees, and the '27 Yankees are the greatest team in baseball,
then is there some argument that the Cardinals beat what, 12
months later, was the greatest team in the history of baseball?

Just wonderin' . . . .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, but you see, the 1926 yankees, despite the same personnel, are not considered the greatest team in history. In 1926, the Cardinals beat an average team, thus making them a slightly better than average team.

The real question is: How did the redbirds fare against the 1927 Yankees, the greatest team in history?

12:07 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

Hmmm. The '26 team was "average"; 12 months later, the (virtually identical) team was the "greatest team in history." Some turnaround.

Of course, the Redbirds wouldn't have played the '27 Yanks until the Series, which the Cards decided not to attend.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem, I think, is that you're measuring greatness according to what the team _should have_ done, not what they actually did.

It doesn't matter that the roster of the '26 Yankees was virtually identical to that of the '27 Yankees. The latter achieved greatness, the former did not.

You can see parallels in basketball's "dream teams" that are paraded out every 2 or 4 years. They are usually touted as some of the greatest teams ever assembled, except that they then usually fall flat. (The '92 dream team, of course, was the exception, but it did destroy the rest of the world at the Olympics).

Greatness is not determined by a lineup. It is determined by actual achievement.

3:28 PM  
Blogger bmackintosh said...

I would like to say, that though I have no opinion on the "greatest team," I am enjoying all of this sports writing. With no Evil President to bash (though there are plenty of other nefarious fiends), perhaps this blog is reflective or the depoliticizing of America. I applaud a return to more important debates such as who was the greatest baseball team. I really enjoyed the Torre Yankees. It was weird rooting for a team that actually wins, unfortunately rooting for them for more than a couple of years is not sustainable...no challenge in constantly winning. Where's the heartbreak?

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bmackintosh said: "...there are plenty of other nefarious fiends."

Well, I think the Yankees themselves count as some of the more nefarious fiends around.

10:37 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

More? As if there are two groups of fiends, the less nefarious and the more nefarious?

Get this straight: the Yankees are in their own categories, of the fiendish and of the nefarious.

It's in the Bible, somewhere in the back.

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