Every decade or so a new "Generation" of baseball players seem to arise and make it to the big leagues. Some are larger, some are more talented but each generation of ball players seems to have its own personality. But i do not think there has ever been such a large or more talented crop of athletes in baseball that than the ones that have arrived or coming soon (currently in the minors). Today i wanted to take a look at the different generations of ball players (in the modern era) and analyze their characteristics and compare them to this next crop of young players. With the older generations I'm just going to list really the top players that came up at that time and hit right away. (If a player came up at the time but was not an immediate success he does not qualify for this)
The 50's was an exciting time with a very diverse crop of players coming up. Some of the greatest players to play the game came up at this time including, Willy Mays, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mccovey, Jim Perry, Don Drysdale, Eddie Mathews and Al Kaline. Many of these ball players had to deal with the hardships of the racism at the time but managed to push through it to become some of the most respected names in the game. I think this was a time when the game seemed very pure and the players still seemed like legends living amongst us mere mortals. But as the times changed so did the stars and players in later decades just dont seem quite as iconic as the players from the 50's and earlier.
The 60's were filled with many blossoming stars, many more than in the 50's but none of these players seem as iconic as the previous generation. Still some great baseball was played by the likes of Juan Marichal, Billy Williams, Catfish Hunter, Willie Stargell, Frank Howard, Carl Yasterzemski, Johnny Bench, Jim Palmer, Joe Morgan, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Rod Carew, Tom Seaver, Reggie Jackson, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose and Don Sutton to name a few. I think overall a lot more young players put up numbers that look good to todays standards, i think the 3 players from the Big Red Machine highlight the list (Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan).
I find this generation to be very similar to the one before it in both size and talent. But again as they years go on the players seem more and more human, but again there were some great ballplayers to come up during this time. Carlton Fisk, Gary Matthews, Andre Dawson, Eddie Murray, Rick Sutcliffe, George Brett, Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith, Gary Carter, Paul Molitor, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, Jim Rice, Ron Cey and Bill Madlock all were young stars at this time. To me in terms of legendary status George Brett stands out with both his talent and the infamous pine tar incident. As i said before i think this generation was very similar to the previous one in pretty much every category.
This may be one of the best decades in terms of raw talent coming up to the big leagues. Two of the best all time baseball talents, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. came up in the 80's. But when looking at numbers you have to also remember a lot of these guys used steroids so they are inflated, but the sheer number of talented players seemed to sky rocket at this time. Some of the players include, Ricky Henderson, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Leon Durham, Fernando Valenzuela, Tim Raines, George Bell, Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser, Roger Clemens, Vince Coleman, Ozzie Guillen, Will Clark, Jose Cansenco, Danny Tartabull, Ruben Sierra, Benito Santiago, Mark McGwire, Mark Grace, Roberto Alomar and Kevin Brown. As i said the steroid cloud looms over many of these players but its also hard to deny that this was a time when a lot of very talented players came up including some of the all time greats.
If the guys who came up in the 80's had the cloud of steroids around them the 90's had it even more. The best player of this generation (Alex Rodriguez) used them which hurts this group a lot. Like the 80's group there are a plethora of talented players who came up at this time but not quite as strong as before. Some of the better players of this generation include, David Justice, Kevin Appier, John Olerud, Robin Ventura, Jeff Bagwell, Chuck Knoblauch, Ivan Rodriguez, Kenny Lofton, Eric Karros, Moises Alou, Mike Piazza, Tim Salmon, Pedro Martinez, Raul Mondesi, Ryan Klesko, Javy Lopez, Manny Ramirez, Jim Edmonds, Chipper Jones, Hideo Nomo, Andy Pettite, Edgar Renteria, Jermaine Dye, Derek Jeter, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Nomar Garciaparra, Kerry Wood, Todd Helton, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Beltran, Tim Hudson, and Carlos Lee. There are some great players in here that are Hall of Fame bound but the majority of them are just good ball players. And as i said before the player that really stood out from this generation, Alex Rodriguez admitted to using steroids which discredits his achievements.
I am only including part of this decade because the latter half of the decade is what i consider to be the next generation of players. So this group can almost be considered a part of the previous but they are a little bit different. From a pitching standpoint there are not many great pitchers in this group with the exception of CC Sabathia and Roy Oswalt. But it does feature on of the greatest hitters of all time who does not have any steroid allegations looming over him and could finish as the greatest all around ball player ever in Albert Pujols. Some other players in this group include, Pat Burrell, Juan Pierre, Bengie Molina, Barry Zito, Adam Dunn, Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano, Jimmy Rollins, John Lackey, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Hideki Matsui, Mark Teixeira, Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, Ryan Howard, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Houston Street, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Johnson, Andre Ethier, Justin Verlander, Nick Markakis, Jered Weaver, Ian Kinsler, Jonathan Papelbon, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Chris Young, Hunter Pence, Dustin Pedroia, Zack Grienke and Joakim Soria. There are a lot of great players in here but many of them are still fairly young and have a lot more work to do in their careers before any analysis can be made. Overall I think this generation fall somewhere between the 80's and the 90's generation.
This next crop of players looks to be one of if not the best generation of ballplayers the game has ever seen. With teams looking more and more to their farm systems young players are getting a chance at much younger ages, similar to how it was long ago. Over the past few years we have seen more and more talented young players come up through the system and over seas and make an impact right away. Some of these young stars include, David Price, Jason Heyward, Madison Bumgarner, Neftali Feliz, Colby Rasmus, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Brian Matusz, Elvis Andrus, Tommy Hanson, Mike Stanton, Austin Jackson, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Stephen Strasburg, Pedro Alvarez, Carlos Santana, Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, Drew Storen, Jhoulys Chacin, Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Gaby Sanchez, Ian Desmond, Ike Davis, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Rick Porcello, Chris Coghlan, Logan Morrison, Jamie Garcia, Daniel Hudson, Kyle Drabik, Andrew Bailey, Evan Longoria, Geovany Soto, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jair Jurrjens, Alexi Ramirez, and in the near future Bryce Harper. These are just a few of the many up and coming players in the league, which won will become the next Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. or Albert Pujols? Who knows but this is looking to be an excellent generation of ball players and i cant wait to watch them turn into superstars.
Chris "da Franchize" Hart