If you’re a fan of Bruno Mars or you have been listening to the radio at all, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard Bruno Mars’ new hit single “24K Magic.” “24K Magic” was released in early October as the lead single from his new album, also titled 24K Magic. In honor of one of my favorite artists releasing his first album in four years I wanted to find a way to incorporate the new album into today’s blog post. So that brings me to todays topic: the best MLB players to wear #24 all-time. A few disclaimers before I get started. Firstly, this is all my opinion. I used statistics among other things to determine who should go where on the list, but it’s not simply a compilation of the guys with the most WAR (Wins Above Replacement, basically a measurement of how valuable a player was over a replacement level player) who wore #24. Additionally, I chose to only include players who wore #24 for five seasons or more, so guys like Bobby Bonds (one season with #24), Andre Dawson (one season), and Jerry Koosman (two seasons) didn’t make the list. Even if they didn’t wear #24 their entire career, as long as they wore it for at least 5 years, I elected to consider their entire body of work.
Without further ado, I present you the top 24 MLB players to wear #24.
#24: Deion Sanders, OF (Stats)
Are there players more deserving than Prime Time of this spot from a statistical standpoint? Probably. He only amassed 5.5 WAR over his nine-year baseball career (just about half of what Mike Trout had in 2016), but I felt as though I needed to include him on this list because he was a freak athlete. In 1992 he led the league in triples (he had 14) in 97 games played. He only beat the second-place finisher in triples (Steve Finley) by one triple over the course of the season, but Finley had to play 162 games to get to 13 triples, whereas it took Neon Deion 65 fewer games. He also stole 56 bases in 115 games in 1997, good for fourth in the league. Here are a few guys he beat in steals that year, all of whom played more games than him: Delino DeShields, Omar Vizquel, Craig Biggio and Rickey Henderson (yes, seriously). He wasn’t the greatest hitter but he was able to cover a ton of ground in the outfield, and whenever he got on base, you can be sure that he was going to wreak havoc.
#23: Mike Lieberthal, C (Stats)
Mr. Lieberthal wasn’t a stellar catcher and he had the bad luck of playing in the same division as Mike Piazza, so he was often overshadowed. He didn’t have the numbers of Piazza, but he did have a solid career; he had seven seasons (out of 14 years) where he hit double-digit homers, and had a career triple-slash of .274/.337/.446 (AVG/OBP/SLG). Putting him on this list is a little biased of me because he is one of the guys on this list I actually got to see play firsthand. With that said, he was a dependable all-around backstop, 2x all-star and even won a gold glove. He’s also Jewish, which is a rarity in baseball these days. Go Lieby.
#21 (tie): Gary Sánchez, C/DH (Stats)
Sanchez has only played one season and he’s already without question in the top 25 players to wear the hallowed number of 24. He took the baseball world by storm and socked 20 HR in 53 games this past season, an astounding feat for any player, let alone a rookie catcher. Unfortunately he didn’t win ROY in the AL (I think he should have, but that’s a post for another day) but Sanchez has a bright future ahead of him, and the Yankees organization has to be pleased that they have found their catcher of the future who could very well turn out to be the next Mike Piazza.
#21 (tie): Gary Pettis, OF (Stats)
Pettis is a name known to few in baseball circles, mostly because he never played a great offensive game. He hit only 21 career HR (ha, Sanchez almost has him beat) and his triple-slash was a paltry .236/.332/.310. The reason Pettis gets to be on this list is because of his speed. Fans of his sometimes referred to him as “Pac-Man” Pettis due to his ridiculous speed and his spectacular defense. He stole 354 bases in 11 seasons (more than 30 a season) and had more career triples (49) than HR (21). He also added 5 gold gloves (he won the gold glove in 45% of his major league seasons). Not too shabby.
#20: Ben Oglivie, OF (Stats)
A native New Yorker, Oglivie spent 16 years in the majors with the Red Sox, Tigers and Brewers. Oglivie didn’t really stand out in any category, although he did hit 235 career homers, a league-leading 41 of which came in 1980. He was pretty average on defense but he had a good bat and was a consistent presence on the field for 12 years (1975-1986) where he never played less than 100 games. Oglivie also was voted to three all-star games and one silver slugger award which is pretty solid. Ladies and gents, Mr. Oglivie.
#19: Dexter Fowler, OF (Stats)
We all know Dexter Fowler. World Series winner Dexter Fowler. 2016 OBP .393 Dexter Fowler (higher than Daniel Murphy, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Charlie Blackmon, just to name a few). He’s been a solid presence in the OF for the Cubs the past two seasons, even though he didn’t sign until late February last season due to draft considerations attached to signing him. He’s only been in the league for 9 years, but based on his consistency throughout his career and his breakout season last season, I don’t see any reason why he can’t play 9 more years and double up his career 18.1 WAR.
#18: Grady Sizemore, OF (Stats)
Sizemore is still in the league, which probably has many of you scratching your heads considering that he isn’t great anymore. Those of you thinking that probably forget about his phenomenal 5-year stretch to begin his career. From 2004-2008 Sizemore hit .279/.370/.491 with 111 HR and 118 SB. In three of those seasons he was an all-star and finished in the top 12 in MVP voting. He also added one silver slugger and two gold gloves. His WAR from only those five seasons is more than the career WAR of the aforementioned Deion Sanders, Mike Lieberthal and Gary Sanchez combined. He hasn’t had any standout seasons since 2008, but his run in the first five years of his career is enough to land him the #18 spot on this list. Well done Grady.
#17: Travis Fryman, 3B/SS (Stats)
Now we get to the good guys. The guys who have been on ballots with a chance to go to Cooperstown. Fryman, in his brief 13 year career (which was cut short due to numerous injuries) he slashed .274/.336/.443, hit 223 dingers and got selected to 6 all-star games. He won one gold glove and one silver slugger. In all honesty I’m surprised Fryman even showed up on the HOF ballot considering that he only played 13 seasons, but that’s just a testament to how good he was. He retired with 34.3 WAR to his name. Definitely not Hall Of Fame worthy, but still a very good 13-year career.
#16: Augie Galan, LF/1B/3B (Stats)
I’m 100% sure that unless you’re a baseball writer or historian, you’ve never heard of this guy, and even then I’m still not sure you have. I hadn’t even heard of him until I started to research for this blog post. But the more I read about him, the more I like him. Galan primarily played for the Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers during his tenure in the majors. He’s not in Cooperstown, and I don’t think he’s worthy of being there, but he did compile 39.2 career WAR while he was playing in the majors. In 16 seasons he hit 100 HR and stole 123 bases, which isn’t all that impressive until you take into account the fact that he walked nearly 3 times as much as he struck out. Seriously. He had 979 walks and 393 strikeouts. If a player could OPS .810 while striking out less than 35 times a season in today’s game, he would be one of the premier leadoff hitters in the game.
#15: Tino Martinez, 1B (Stats)
Tino was a Yankee for the large majority of his career. The Boss decided after Tino’s stellar 1995 season (.920 OPS, 31 HR and 112 RBI) that he must get Tino, so he traded for Martinez and signed him to a 5-year, $20.25MM contract extension. For reference, there were five teams that year whose entire payroll was not even $20MM. The rest is history. Martinez helped the Yankees win 4 rings in 5 years from 1996 to 2000 and even finished second in MVP voting in 1996 (44 HR, .948 OPS). He’s not enshrined in Cooperstown, but he did get 6 votes, which counts for something.
#14: Mike Cameron, OF (Stats)
Cameron played 17 years in the majors, garnered 46.5 WAR and had one unreal collision with Carlos Beltran in right-center field of Petco Park (forgive me for the bad video quality, also not for the faint of heart!). Cameron emerged from that collision with a concussion and several broken bones in his face, but he made a full recovery (after surgery) and ended up playing six seasons following the collisions. Cameron has had a very storied career even without the crash into Beltran: he’s one of only 16 players to hit four homers in a game, he was the 20th player in MLB history to hit 250 HR and amass 250 SB, and he was traded in packages for Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and possible future Hall of Famer Paul Konerko. He surprisingly was only nominated to one all-star team, but he did win three gold gloves. Although he never went 30/30, he went 20/20 five times and played into his late thirties. Cameron was an all-around great player and holds a special place in my heart as a former Met. He retired with 278 HR and 297 SB.
#13: Jim Wynn, OF (Stats)
Wynn missed Mike Cameron’s benchmarks of 20 HR and 20 SB, but he did have 291 HR and 225 SB for his career, which isn’t bad by any means. It’s actually quite good when considering he only played 15 seasons. He finished in the top-5 in MVP voting in 1974 which was one of three seasons in which he was nominated to an all-star game. Wynn also led the league in walks twice, something not even on-base machine Brian Giles did (spoiler alert: Giles is next). Wynn may not be very well renowned, but he was a very good ballplayer.
#12: Dick Groat, SS (Stats)
Groat was an all-around great on multiple levels when he played; he played in five all-star games, finished first in MVP balloting once and second once, had only one below-average defensive season and served two years in the military during his baseball career (his age 22 and 23 seasons). Thank you for your service, Mr. Groat. The veteran (in more than one sense of the word) tallied 36.7 career WAR, walked nearly as much as he struck out and hit 352 doubles in 14 years. If his prime years weren’t interrupted by military service, the numbers on the back of his baseball card would likely look a lot more impressive.
#11: Brian Giles, OF (Stats)
Brian Giles and Mike Cameron actually spent some time on the same team together, so that’s kind of neat. Giles was a pretty different animal though, slashing .291/.400/.502 for his career. He has the 57th-best career OBP of any player ever and he finished 7 seasons in the top 10 in his league for OBP. The dude was an on base machine, if you couldn’t tell already, which is also exemplified in the fact that he walked more than he struck out over the course of his entire career (1183 BBs, 835 Ks). He never won MVP and never captured a batting title, but during a four year stretch from 1999 to 2002 he slashed a ridiculous .309/.426/.604 with 149 HR (almost 35/year) and only missed 38 games during that entire period. And that doesn’t even show us his ridiculous 16+% walk rate and sub 11% K rate. Giles was a beast, so it’s incredible that he only checks in at #11 on this list.
#10: Dwight Evans, OF/1B (Stats)
If you take a look at Dwight Evans’ Baseball Reference page (linked above), you’re going to see a lot of numbers in bold. That’s good, because numbers in bold means he led the league in that category in that specific year. Evans was an 8-time gold glover and finished in the top 10 for MVP votes in four different seasons (he was 11th one season). Evans hit 385 career HR, led the league in BBs three times, OPS two times, and runs, HR, OBP and Total Bases once. He was an all-around stud, just not a Hall of Fame stud. Still, Evans had a great 20-year career with the Red Sox.
#9: Tony Perez, 1B/3B (Stats)
Perez finished his career with 53.9 WAR and is the only member of this list so far to be a member of the Hall of Fame. The corner infielder had 2732 career hits, 379 of which were HR and was selected to 7 all-star teams. He doesn’t have any ridiculous four-season run like Grady Sizemore or Brian Giles did, but that’s because he was a beacon of consistency: double digit HR and a .260 minimum average every season from 1967-1979. Perez was inducted into the Hall as a Red, and for good reason; he spent 16 of his 23 seasons with them.
#8: Manny Ramírez, OF (Stats)
If you watched any SportsCenter during the 2000s, I’m sure you fondly remember those Manny Ramirez highlights every night where Stuart Scott reminded us that it was just “Manny being Manny.” I sure as hell am glad Manny wasn’t trying to be anyone else, because he was a pretty spectacular ballplayer. He’ll (hopefully) get into the HOF at some point, because I think he is deserving of a spot. Performance enhancing drug allegations aside, Manny hit 555 HR and triple-slashed a ridiculous .312/.411/.585. The stats don’t do him justice, though, since he was such an enigma and a presence on the field. He was the 2004 World Series MVP and finished top 4 in votes for MVP on five separate occasions (he also finished in spots 5-10 five other times). He was an all-star 13 times in total, 12 of those coming in consecutive seasons. Oh, and he also had 69.2 career WAR. The more stats you pile on, the more ridiculous it gets. Manny was a monster.
#7: Robinson Canó, 2B (Stats)
The dude hasn’t even played a full career in the majors and he’s already #7 on this list, so I can only imagine where he will end up when all is said and done. He’s easily already in the conversation for top-10 at the second base position as a whole, so it should come as no surprise that he’s high up on this list. Cano has been a model of consistency throughout his career, playing fewer than 156 games only twice in 12 seasons. Not including the two seasons where he played fewer than 156 (where he played 132 and 122), he missed 26 games total. He’s missed 26 games in the last 10 years. Seriously. We still haven’t even gotten into his batting stats. He has a career triple-slash of .307/.355/.498 with 278 HR to his name. Let’s talk about hardware and jewelry too. Aside from his 7 all-star appearances, he has 2 gold gloves, 5 silver sluggers and 1 World Series win with the Yankees in 2009. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Cano will end up in Cooperstown because he just doesn’t miss games and in his 12 seasons, he’s only hit under .295 twice. Surefire Hall of Famer, the only question is whether or not he will be first ballot. Hell, he would even be in the conversation if his career ended today.
#6: Early Wynn, SP (Stats)
Early and Jim have no relation, but Jim probably wishes they do because Early was the far superior ballplayer. Our first (and only) pitcher to crack the list, Wynn broke the 50 career WAR mark (51.6) and the 300-win mark (he had exactly 300). I spoke yesterday about how wins are a dumb stat. I still think they today, but they are very meaningful for any SP from before 1960 because pitchers back then typically pitched complete games. Proof: Wynn had 289 complete games in 23 seasons. For comparison, Clayton Kershaw has 23 CGs in 9 seasons. SPs are simply utilized differently, so wins are not meaningful for today’s pitchers. Back to the Early days, Wynn was an all-around legend. He was a 6x all-star, won the Cy Young award once (and finished 3rd in MVP voting that year), led the MLB in wins twice, innings pitched three times, strikeouts twice, WHIP once and hits allowed per nine innings once. Wynn was a winner, end of story. The fact that he’s only 6th on this list speaks volumes to the quality of the players above him.
#5: Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B (Stats)
If you think Cano’s stats are video-game like, then you might want to sit down to read Cabrera’s. In 14 seasons he has 11 all-star appearances, 7 silver sluggers and has received MVP votes in literally every single season he has been in the majors. All of them. He’s gotten votes. He’s also won twice. And he has a World Series ring. And we haven’t even discussed stats. Cabrera has 69.6 WAR in his 14 seasons, thanks in large part to his 446 HR, .321/.399/.562 triple-slash (yes that is a serious slugging number) and 523 doubles. He has led the league in BA and OBP four separate times, doubles, HR, SLG, OPS, and RBI twice, and games played only once (shame on him!) The question of whether Miggy will get into the Hall is not a matter of if, but when. And I’m 99.999999999% sure it will be first ballot. Go ahead and screenshot this, because when he gets inducted you can say you heard it here first. Oh, and he also won the triple crown once, so that’s cool.
#4: Ken Griffey Jr., OF (Stats)
Junior. The Kid. The Natural. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. Okay, those last three weren’t technically nicknames of his, but I think they’re appropriate given how good he was at baseball. He got elected to the HOF last year with the highest vote percentage of all time. The problem was that the percentage wasn’t 100%. The guys who didn’t vote for Griffey won’t come forward, which is probably smart considering they would likely lose their jobs and all their followers. There’s nothing about Griffey you can dislike. He popularized the backwards hat in Major League Baseball, he had an electric smile and he was just flat out good. Great. Amazing. He was picked for 13 all-star games, won 10 gold gloves, 7 silver sluggers and one MVP. He led the league in dingers 4 times and finished his career with 630. He had 83.6 career WAR, 1836 RBI and 2781 hits. Straight up, The Kid was for real.
#3: Barry Bonds, OF (Stats)
Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson both transcend reality. The only reason Bonds isn’t first is because of his PED allegations. But you can’t seriously look at his numbers and tell me he isn’t in the conversation for the greatest ballplayer of all time. Bonds played 23 seasons and finished his career with a record 762 HR and 2558 walks. He triple-slashed .298/.444/.607. He won 7 MVP awards. Eight gold gloves and 12 silver sluggers. He’ll get into the Hall eventually because the writers can’t keep the HR champ out. I could write an entire post just listing out Bonds’ ridiculous stats, but I’ll try to briefly summarize in the next few sentences. Intentional walks: Bonds was once walked intentionally four times in a game (2004), 120 times in a single season (also 2004), once with the bases loaded (yes, seriously the Diamondbacks preferred to allow a run than to face him in 1998) and has more intentional walks for his career than the two players with the next-highest totals combined (Pujols at 302 and Aaron at 293 versus Bonds at 688). On base percentage: he has 4 of the top 11 OBP seasons, including the top two at .609 and .582. He’s also 33rd all-time in steals with 514. He has 2935 hits. He had 162.4 WAR. But he doesn’t have 2000 RBI. What a scrub.
#2: Rickey Henderson, OF (Stats)
First ballot Hall of Famer (94% of the ballot), 10x all-star, 2x silver slugger, one-time MVP, and one-time gold glove winner. He has two World Series rings and 110.8 WAR to his name. He is the man, the myth, the legend: Rickey “Man of Steal” Henderson. I look at his Baseball Reference page and cannot find a single thing I don’t like. He has the all-time record for steals. He has the all-time record for runs. He led the league in SBs 12 times in 25 seasons, and swiped 100+ bags three times. He also has the single-season record for steals since the live ball era began: 130. Yup, that’s a real stat. He seriously averaged almost a steal per game. He walked 500 more times than he struck out in his career (2190 BBs, 1694 Ks). If you ignore the last 12 years of his career (that’s half!), he still has 93.4 WAR and doesn’t lose the all-time steals record. Sports Illustrated‘s Tom Verducci said the following of Henderson: “There are certain figures in American history who have passed into the realm of cultural mythology, as if reality could no longer contain their stories: Johnny Appleseed. Wild Bill Hickok. Davy Crockett. Rickey Henderson. They exist on the sometimes narrow margin between Fact and Fiction.” There is not a single flaw in this man. He is a legend.
#1: Willie Mays, OF (Stats)
Mays played in the bigs for 22 seasons. It would have been 23 but he sacrificed his age 22 season to serve in the military. Thank you, Willie. Mays had 11 gold gloves, 2 MVP awards and was an all-star 18 times. He also has a world series ring. And one of the best catches ever, which you can see here. Mays was enshrined in Cooperstown on his first ballot, garnering 94.7% of the vote. Who the hell doesn’t vote for Willie Mays? I can’t really see any reason a writer didn’t vote for him unless Mays ignored the writer’s kid asking for an autograph or something like that. He led the majors in HR four times, hitting 40 or more 4 times. He had 156.2 WAR. He had 3283 hits and 660 HR. The more stats you list, the more ridiculous it gets. Once you get into this upper echelon of baseball player, there’s no other way to describe their performance than legend. Willie Mays was just that.
(Image Credit: Atlantic Records)