There might be a couple of outliers, but for the most part, current players in any major sport would easily defeat the sport’s early legends. It’s not their fault. The older dudes were the best of their era—and some of those eras still had the color line—but they would not be the best in a later era. Athletes have become stronger and faster due to more rigorous training, better diets, and the ability to devote themselves to their job without worrying about shit like the Selective Service Act. In baseball, free-agent reliever Adam Ottavino knows this.
The conversation came up in an episode of MLB.com’s Statcast Podcast. (The conversation begins at about the 29:45 mark.) Ottavino and Mike Petriello were talking about how pitching has evolved and become tougher for hitters, which led the reliever to recall an argument he had with a former coach. Via The Score:
I remember I had an argument with a coach in Triple-A about Babe Ruth’s effectiveness in today’s game, and this was, like, 10 years ago. I said, “Look, Babe Ruth, with that swing, swinging that bat—I got him hitting .140 with eight homers.”
He was like, “Are you nuts? Babe Ruth would hit .370 with 60 homers,” and I’m like, “I would strike Babe Ruth out every time.” Like, I’m not trying to disrespect him, you know, rest in peace, you know, shout out to Babe Ruth. But, it was a different game. I mean, the guy ate hot dogs and drank beer and did whatever he did. It was just a different game.
Would Ottavino, a righty who had 13.0 strikeouts per nine and a 0.99 WHIP last season, be able to consistently get the best of the immortal Babe Ruth—the Sultan of Swat, the Behemoth of Bust, the Guy with the Big Dick? Of course! He’d make the Babe look like a fucking chump!
Yes, yes, Ruth is synonymous with baseball and an all-time great, but his hitting mechanics would get eaten alive today. Look at this mess:
Bat speed: trash. Stance: trash. Running form: trash. He runs like Benny Hill. Babe was able to hit the most homers in history at the time because he launched those dingers off railroad workers and saloon owners. In 58 plate appearances, he slugged .750 against some clown named Lil Stoner. The most notable fact about Lil Stoner is that he loved to collect irises. Please. Did Babe Ruth face breaking balls like these?
Do you think, if given three at-bats, he’d be able to pick up on any difference in Ottavino’s delivery for these two types of pitches?
What about this, huh?
Babe Ruth would fill his itchy wool trousers with partially digested hot dogs if he saw that shit coming at him. Get real.