Mickey Mantle: a G.O.A.T debate

This is no “Mickey Mouse” case 


Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Mickey Mantle had a dominant career and is in the conversation as the greatest of all-time.

BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor

The year is 1955, the world does not know it yet, but one baseball player is about to start a four-year stretch more dominant than what may ever be seen again.

His name is Mickey Mantle and this was no “mickey-mouse” stretch. His seasons of 1955-58 were extraordinarily dominant and cemented his candidacy in the MLB greatest of all-time debate. It’s not his only argument in the debate, but it sure does help.

During those four years, Mantle continued his streak of being an All-Star, lasting 14 straight seasons. He was a two-time MVP and finished top five in the other two seasons. Most impressively, his on-base percentage + was 200, meaning he was 100% better than the average player during that time.

For that stretch, he accrued 40.8 wins above replacement, which is nearly enough to be a Hall of Fame player for a career. The best WAR that Mike Trout had in four years was 36.7; Barry Bonds had a 43.4 with the caveat that it was during his steroid peak and Babe Ruth leads the way with a stretch of 45.2.

Back to Mantle, for his entire career, he was a well-above-average hitter with decent defense, leading to his career WAR total being 110.2. To be considered one of the greatest of all time, that total must be over 100, which Mantle comfortably clears.

Playing 18 years, the counting stats that he gathered are impressive, but it is not like the case of Albert Pujols, where the player fell off in production near the tail end of his career. Mantle retired relatively early at 36, still putting up an OPS+ of 143.

While he was not the same player he once was due to hampering leg injuries, he was still playing at a high enough level to be an everyday starter and still benefit his team.

For his career, he hit .298 with an on-base percentage of .421 and a slugging of .557. His career on-base plus slugging of .977 rivals the numbers of Bonds, Trout and Ruth in pure production.

Bringing it back to that dominant four-year stretch, he hit .331/.462/.643 with 165 home runs, 420 runs batted in and 52 stolen bases. His Yankees were also winning. They won two World Series during Mantle’s four years of dominance.

Along with Ruth, he is one of the only members of the G.O.A.T. debate that saw team success. In 18 years, his Yankees won seven World Series championships, continuing the legacy of the storied franchise that began with Ruth and Murderers’ Row.

Counting stats-wise, Mantle surpassed 500 career home runs and 2,000 hits with 536 and 2,415, respectively.

While his status in the debate is often overshadowed by his contemporaries due to injuries hampering potential longevity that could have pushed him over the hump, Mantle is one of the most talented players ever to enter MLB.