mweir145 wrote:Everything I've ever read on this topic has come up very inconclusive. I also don't really think there is a truly accurate way to account for the difference in eras, so I think this is pretty much an unanswerable question.
This is pretty much the conclusion I've drawn as well, though it's been quite enjoyable debating it, and actually getting some insight from various folks on the issue. I was so afraid from the get go that this would degenerate the way so many previous attempts had. If you really want to consider some other things that have either been touched upon or not mentioned, think of some of the following...
- If Babe Ruth played today, he would likely be on a special diet and lifting plan, and his heavy drinking, etc. would likely be severely limited by management or some sort of sports psychologist.
- The average baseball player today is nearly 1 1/2 inches taller than 50 years ago, a testament to advanced nutrition during the childhood and adolescent years.
- In 1964, 4% of ML at-bats were made by players 35 or older. In 2004, 14% were. Ruth's ability to remain healthy into his later years was much more rare than it is today.
- Pitchers today are able to be much mroe effective and overcome due to things such as Tommy John surgery and other advanced medicinal procedures, which would have put a pitcher's career to an end during Ruth's time.
- Ruth never faced a player from Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Venezuela, Japan, etc. All of these nations are now represented in the MLB.
- According to Baseball Prospectus, league difficulty has steadily risen since the World War II draft.
- Although statistics like BRAR take stealing bases into account, they do not consider things such as taking additional bases on another player's hit. In all likelihood, Bonds was vastly superior to Ruth in this respect.
The last sentence in BP's dedicated chapter to this debate is probably where we end up, though.
Let's thank Barry Bonds for forcing the argument--and let the debates begin. (or in this case, continue).