4 Baltimore Orioles’ all-time greats made ESPN’s list of the best baseball players ever
Jim Palmer — No. 85
Unsurprisingly, the most loaded position on the list is starting pitcher. Jim Palmer shows up amidst a sea of stalwart hitters, so his ranking is a bit harder to judge without a pitcher close to him. The next highest pitcher is Giants legend Juan Marichal at No. 74, who makes an interesting comparison.
The two pitchers overlapped for part of their career, but Marichal started almost a decade earlier and pitched more years in pitcher-friendly environments. Palmer has a slight edge in career ERA at 2.86 compared to 2.89 and an addition 25 career wins. The voters clearly had different criteria over comparing eras and which stats matter, but it seems like wins still have some relevancy.
I would rank Palmer higher with his three Cy Young awards, but Marichal has an important place in history as the first Dominican to make the Hall of Fame. Eleven spots is not a big difference, and we will see more frustrating placements soon.
Brooks Robinson — No. 67
I will never budge on my opinion that Brooks Robinson is the best third baseman of all time. You can call it a fan bias all you want, but the numbers back up his brilliance. Unfortunately, Eddie Mathews, George Brett, Alex Rodriguez, and Mike Schmidt all slot in higher.
I get it, they are all better hitters and offense is more important than defense, but Robinson’s defense prowess is so unbelievable that he should at least rank in the top 50. His 78.4 WAR is well short of contemporaries Mathews and Schmidt, and that is wholly because of offense. Robinson has a career OPS+ of 105, but a whopping sixteen Gold Gloves to go along with that. His career dWAR of 39.1 is so astronomically high that second place is twelve behind (Adrian Beltre).
The combination of solid offense with the essence of fundamental defense made Brooks one of the most respected players in the league, and he made eighteen All-Star games to boot. Oh, and he won two World Series, an MVP award, a World Series MVP, and an All-Star Game MVP. Sounds like the best third baseman to me.