Getting on Base: Major League Baseball’s headliners

Picture by Richard Lee

Picture by Richard Lee - Credit: Archant

DECIDING who the “best” players are in a sport at a particular moment in its history is always inevitably going to have an element of subjectivity to it.

For baseball, though, there is a rich enough collection of data cataloguing every act of every player on the field to make reasonably sound statements in this regard.

As far as pitchers go, it is hard to look past the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander when trying to single out the cream of the crop. Back in 2011, he achieved the rare feat of being presented with both the Cy Young award (for best pitcher) and the Most Valuable Player award (for best overall player) in the American League.

This, and a number of other outstanding seasons for the Tigers, earned him a seven-season $180 million deal (with a conditional $22 million option for 2020), making him the highest-paid pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball.

A less-established, but perhaps equally headline-grabbing, pitcher is the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg. He is still only 24 but has been closely followed by the mainstream media all the way back to his high-school days. Indeed, he is arguably the most talked about pitching prospect in the history of the game. Will he one day gain an even more lucrative contract than Justin Verlander? Only time will tell.

When it comes to batters, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angles are two veterans of the game who earn continuing major coverage in the press because of their trajectories toward breaking some of the game’s most famous all-time records. Rodriguez, for instance, has 647 home runs to his name. The all-time leader is the now-retired Barry Bonds, who hit 762. Pujols, who is a few years younger than Rodriguez, sits back on 485.

Among young hitters, Mike Trout, Pujols’ team-mate in Los Angeles, must be considered the game’s best prospect. In 2012, he not only won the Rookie of the Year award in the American League but also claimed runner-up honours in the full Most Valuable Player vote – and all at the age of 21. A more raw, but no less exciting, prospect is Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

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Next week, “Getting on base” will look at famous ballparks in North America.