We are back with our MLB history quiz, this time for the ignored stat within the game.
In an era of increasingly obscure measurements of hitter value, baseball remains a game dependent on scoring runs. RBI totals, therefore, remain MLB history vital statistics but are sometimes neglected by modern analysts.
- Thus, name the career MLB leaders in runs driven in — the top three.
- Of those three leaders’ names you surely gave correctly for #1, who was the most efficient regarding RBI per plate appearance?
- Who are the top three active RBI leaders, where are they ranked on the all-time list, and what is the available information about their possible PED use?
MLB History Leaders (no. 1): Until the middle of 2016 the all-time top three run-producers remained untainted by accusations of drug-enhanced performances unless one considers alcohol a drug, for 40 years. They were Hank Aaron (2297 RBI), Babe Ruth (2214), and Cap Anson (2075). Aaron retired in 1976.
However, on June 9, 2016, Alex Rodriguez passed Anson with a two-RBI day to collect his 2076th RBI. Rodriguez, of course, is an admitted PED user. He finished his career with 2086 RBI. After Anson, the next “clean” RBI man on the leaders list is Lou Gehrig, now 6th, who drove in 1995 runs. He follows Barry Bonds (1996), an alleged PED user, who is sticking by his claim to have been ignorant of the reality of certain substances he used.
Hank Aaron’s 2,297 runs driven is very arguably the most anonymous significant record in baseball.
MLB History No. 2: Among Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Alex Rodriguez, Ruth was the most efficient, driving in a run for every 4.8 plate appearances. Rodriguez was second at 1:5.9; Aaron was third at 1:6.1.
For the record, Cap Anson’s rate was 1:5.5, but whether or not Anson belongs on the list is debatable for two reasons — since he finished his 27-year career in 1897, he was arguably handicapped by “dead balls.” However, he also played his whole career before the foul strike rule. Which is more important?
This is interesting because Anson is the only player in the top 20 to have played his entire career in the 19th century. The only other player in the RBI top 25 to play any part of his career before the foul strike rule is, currently, Honus Wagner at no. 23 (1732 RBI). Wagner played four years before 1901.
MLB History No. 3: Among active players, the leaders are Albert Pujols (9th all-time), Adrian Beltre (30th), and Miguel Cabrera (33rd). Only Cabrera has never been accused of PED use. This used to be true of Pujols, who had for years consistently denied PED use without evidence to the contrary surfacing. In 2013, another former Cardinal but not a teammate, Jack Clark, presented a hearsay accusation Pujols had used steroids. Albert Pujols filed a lawsuit against Clark; Clark apologized in 2014, and the suit was dropped.
Beltre was accused of PED use vaguely by radio show host Doug Gottlieb in 2017. Months later, it appears Beltre has not taken legal action against Gottlieb. (Go ahead – you can do a Google search as well as anyone.)
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The range of RBI here runs from Pujols’ 1942 to date down to Cabrera’s 1634. Barring catastrophic injury in the near future, Albert Pujols may well be the last 2000-RBI man for quite a while. Beltre is 39; Cabrera is only 35, but if he doesn’t pick up 366 RBI before he retires, the next closest active player is miles back – Robinson Cano, currently suspended for PED use, has 1206 RBI.
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