Hatorade On The Rocks

January 15

Let’s dip into the email bag:

“Ray … I thought you were the smartest guy at the station. Until now.”

“Ray … You suck. Totally Mays.”

“Ray … Your endorsement of Bonds over Mays is an endorsement of every loafing cheater who ever stepped on a baseball field. Embarrasing.”

“Ray … Lee Hammer says no.”

“Ray … You obviously don’t know anything about, or appreciate anything about, the game of baseball, if you could even suggest Barry Bonds was a better player than Willie Mays.”

“Ray … Are you just trying to stir the pot, or do you really believe that crap? Bonds over Mays, seriously? I guess I should expect that from someone who grew up in L.A. ”

This is a sampling of some of the responses to my on-air claim and subsequent blog that Barry Bonds was better than Willie Mays. Gee, it feels great to be so loved. And such intelligent, thoughtful replies !

Some people claim I’m being cynical: just trying to kick up some dirt and making noise for myself by “spitting” on an icon. Actually, I wasn’t going to bring it up at all until the subject came up last week, during Gary Radnich’s interview with Bob Nightengale. Then, Tony LaRussa made his ludicrous claim that Mays would have hit 1,000 home runs in this era. The next thing he’s going to tell us is that he didn’t know McGwire used steroids until Monday … oh, wait a minute.

This is not cynical noise-making. I’m not spitting on anything. This is what I truly believe, and I laid before you a long list of facts supporting my stance.

People get very uncomfortable when commonly-held notions are questioned, and their cages are rattled. They hold Mays close to their bosom, like Santa Claus or hot oatmeal on a cold winter’s day. Me, I don’t take something as gospel just because people say it is.

During his era, Mays was the best player ever, and for a generation of Bay Area fans he’s the epitome of a baseball player. He helped usher in the modern style of play. Frankly, if you asked me which player I LIKED better, I’d say Mays, and I’d want him on my team at any time. But seasons change, as Expose once sang.

In fact, Bonds isn’t the only player from this era who is better than Mays. Alex Rodriguez is, too. Albert Pujols is passing him up, and for a six-year period, Ken Griffey, Jr. was right there with Mays before he was felled by injuries.

None of this is a knock on Mays, but I’m sure the more emotional fans will take it that way. Forgive me for my honesty, o gentle reader/listener. I mean no harm.

HDTV is better than conventional TV, Ipod’s are better than CD’s, CD’s were better than cassettes and records, cell phones are better than land-lines, hybrid vehicles are better than gas guzzlers, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” is better than churning your own butter. Baseball today is better than it was 50 years ago.

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4 Responses to “Hatorade On The Rocks”

  1. ken Says:

    Hi Ray-

    I see the point you’re making, but I just cannot agree. Baseball is a very different game today, than it was when Mays played. Relief pitchers today are something that Mays never had to grapple with, and I would agree that “generally” athletes today are bigger, stronger, etc than they were in the 50’s and 60’s.

    That said, Mays had to face tougher pitching, day in and day out, as there were no ‘throwaway’ number 3, 4 and 5 pitchers. All the starters were much better than most of the starters today. Fewer teams, fewer players, more quality players. Also, I would suggest that Mays was not just a great baseball player, but a superior athlete, in his or any other era. He had no body fat, and was enormously strong. As many home runs as Bonds hit–especially during his steroids-era, Mays was hitting homeruns in two non-homerun parks in his career–the polo fields and candlestick. He hit 660 homers in this time, in these parks. Think about that. And ALL the parks of that era were more challenging to hit homeruns in.

    I saw both play–Mays when I was a boy in the 60’s and Bonds as an adult. I enjoyed watching both play, and both were special in their respective eras. But if you put Bonds in May’s era, Mays would be the better player, and if you put May’s in this era of watered-down pitching and small parks, Mays would dominate.

    Fun read and you make some good points, but I think that you’re just playing too loosely with the facts.

    Enjoy your new blog–keep at it!
    Ken in Santa Cruz

    • raywood Says:

      Lots of good arguments here, I won’t answer them all right now except to say I think Mays would certainly be one of the top players today but Bonds would be a Leviathan in Mays’ era … that what we regard as “throwaway” pitchers today have stuff that would make them among the top pitchers in the 50’s and 60’s … and not all of the parks in Mays era were challenging. Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks for your response!

  2. Conrad Says:

    Hey Ray, You make great arguments for Bonds overy Mays. I would still stick with Mays, if I had to pick one. As noted, when Van Slyke came on the scene Bonds was moved to left field. Mays would not have been moved out of centerfield for anyone. I feel that if Mays had been born 30 years later he would have benefitted, as did others born in that time frame, from better nutrition, training, scouting, video of pitchers and his swing, etc., and his numbers would have reflected that. Either way, I feel that Mays could have, without a doubt, equaled Bonds SB numbers if he had wanted to. Baseball superstars have always been noted to have the five tools and I think it is significant that Bonds throwing arm was weak. It contributed significantly to the Pirates being eliminated from the playoff when Sid Bream scored while Bonds throw bounced maybe 3 times on the way in. Strictly as a hitter, I have never seen anyone’s presence change the game the way Bonds did. Although there is more travel now for players they do travel first class on team charters, although the time zone changes are phsyiologically significant on players. It’s a fun argument either way. Hard to believe that people become insulting and personal in their remarks on such subjects. Makes me think those folks have not been socialized. Take care. I’m glad I found your site. Conrad

  3. raywood Says:

    Thanks for the response, Conrad. You make some great points, too.

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