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Manny or Mantle? Your Call

It seems like every single night, something interesting is happening at Chavez Ravine.

Last night was no exception, with Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez passing Yankees legend Mickey Mantle on the all-time home run list, becoming No. 15 all-time in the process. Ramirez's 537th career homer came in the bottom of the second off Reds starter Micah Owings, a detail that's strangely fitting, considering the fact that Owings hits more homers himself than any other active pitcher.

What may be surprising is just how fast Ramirez has gotten to 537. He's in his 18th 17th (dlgood definitely deserves credit for being right about 1993) full season, has been remarkably consistent in hitting mid 30 to 40 homers a season (with the exception of 1997 and 2007) and, steroids aside, almost surely has more seasons in him.

Mantle hit his 536 in 18 seasons himself, meaning that Ramirez was right on track to pass him by. That makes the time period in which they amassed their moon shots eerily similar. It also raises an intriguing question: If you had to pick between the two today, who would you take?

Yes, it's an apples and oranges comparison, but a fascinating one nonetheless. For the record, Mantle was a three-time AL MVP and won a Gold Glove in 1962. Ramirez has never won an MVP, and is more likely to quote Aristotle in a postgame press conference than win a Gold Glove.

Naturally, there are also the intangible factors that would seem to give Mantle an edge, but consider the eras the two players are competing in. Do we really think Mantle could have been as dominant as he was against contemporary pitching?

There's another compelling comparison between the two superstars that's worth delving into, too: postseason hitting. Across 12 playoff campaigns, Mantle hit .257 with a .374 on base percentage and .908 OPS. In 10 seasons (and 21 series), Ramirez has a .286 average, .399 OBP and .949 OPS. It seems crazy, but statistically, Manny's postseason numbers are better than the inimitable Mantle's.

So, who would you take?

By Cameron Smith  |  July 21, 2009; 12:24 PM ET
Categories:  Dodgers  | Tags: Dodgers, Mickey Mantle, Yankees, manny ramirez  
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I'm not entirely certain where you're getting the career numbers from. According to, Manny's in his 17th season (not 18th) - and you really can't count 1993, when he only played 22 games.

In point of fact, Manny's played in over 250 fewer games than Mantle (Mantle 2401 - Manny 2144) and trails by about 800 plate appearances. (9909-9180, about 10%) So you'd expect Manny's absolute numbers to exceed Mantle's once you get an equivalent number of games/plate appearances.

Maybe Mantle's numbers would be better if he played in the steroid era and had modern medecine, but maybe he'd still be drinking (or doing worse) and have still had the injuries that lessened his production.

Posted by: dlgood | July 21, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Should add a quick note - OPS+ comparisons indicate that as great as Manny has been (156), Mantle dominated his league (172) by far more than Manny. And Mantle added value by doing far more for the team - fielding, baserunning...

Posted by: dlgood | July 21, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Mantle was the better player. Just take into account that Mantle used substances (alcohol) that prevented him from being the all-time HR king. While, Manny has used substances that may have actually aided his play. plus Mantle is a far superior fielder and runner than Manny ever was.

Posted by: brothbart | July 21, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

The Mick was a more complete player. And since we are talking hypothetical here let's say Mantle never hurt his knee. Then the comparison would not even be close as Mantle's numbers would be even more outstanding.

Posted by: mjwies11 | July 21, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Mantle in his prime, hands down.

Posted by: jspragins | July 21, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The key here is the wording of your question: "If you had to pick between the two today, who would you take?" I'll bet the ranch that most professional baseball people who saw Mantle play would pick him. No contest. And that's with the knowledge of Mantle's flaws -- and they were many. But he could do so many things for you that Manny can't do. He didn't get the best jump on fly balls, but you still couldn't get a ball over his head when the center field wall in Yankee Stadium was 457 or 465 feet, or whatever it was. Few ran on his arm. And nobody at the time went from home to first, or from first to third, any faster. I can remember when people were seriously asking the same question about Mantle and Ted Williams -- "Who would you take?". Would you even bother asking that question about Ted and Manny?

Posted by: fluffy4 | July 21, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

This isn't really a serious question. Mantle was so much more versatile -- a switch hitter, fast as heck, far superior defensive outfielder, core of his locker room. If hadn't wrecked the knee he'd have Mays/Aaron numbers.

Posted by: OutsideTheLaw | July 21, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Mantle was the more complete player hands down. Manny is a great hitter, but that is about it. He is a disaster in the field and doesn't run well. Mantle was a terrific centerfielder and could steal bases before his injuries caught up to him.

Posted by: jchansen14 | July 21, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Here's another vote for Mantle. He terrified pitchers; nobody hit the ball further. I never saw a better drag bunter, often putting one down successfully with two strikes. He was very difficult to double up, especially when hitting to the left side (when batting right-handed). His home-to-first time was 3.3 seconds, as I recall. Think about what he wold have been without those injuries and late night excesses. Manny, you're great, but your no Mickey.
George Gedda, erstwhile Brooklyn Dodger fan and author, "The Dominican Connection," newly published

Posted by: ggedda | July 21, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Manny has great numbers at all, but talk about a one-dimensional player. He hits and does little else. Mantle was a complete five-tool player.

As we all know, Manny has had pently of assistance. Aside from the most obvious, steroids, Manny also has benefited from modern weight training and legal supplements. Mantle meanwhile, was running all over New York chasing skirt and drinking himself into oblivion.

Here is the million dollar question...Does anyone think that Manny could go 4-5 with two dingers and 5 RBI's while running on 2 hours of sleep, still blitzed on Seagram's 7 from the night before?

I rest my case. Mantle.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | July 21, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Manny would have done fine playing blitzed a la Mantle.

On the other hand, if Mantle came up in the 1980s, maybe he's doing coke or crack instead, and his career flames out earlier rather than later.

You can only judge players on what they did and do, when they played. You can't extrapolate for Mantle as if he'd never gotten hurt - because the drinking and the injuries were who he was. Just like we can't talk about how much better Manny would be if he tried hard all the time.

Relative to their leagues, Manny's great but Mantle was even better. He doesn't need bonus points for being a drunk with bad knees.

Posted by: dlgood | July 22, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

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