It’s interesting to look back at different legends in sports history and wonder how they would compare today. NBA fans have long been debating Michael Jordon versus Lebron James, and NFL viewers have always compared Tom Brady to every other quarterback in history. However, it’s a little different for MLB fans to look at baseball all-stars then in contrast to now.
Sandy Koufax vs. Clayton Kershaw
Beloved pitcher, Sandy Koufax, is still one of the most beloved Dodgers’ player of all-time. It’s incredibly rare to find an athlete who sticks with the same team throughout their entire career like Koufax. Before even joining the Dodgers he became one of the most talked about men around the country. His fastball became legendary, with multiple teams remarking he might be the best pitcher they had ever seen. However, the Dodgers were the first to get him under contract and unlike a lot of other rookie hotshots, Koufax saved his large paycheck to spend on college tuition.
However, it’s twelve season career that made him so important to his team. He made history playing alongside his teammates setting multiple records. The first was his unanimous vote to win the Cy Young Award, something that had never happened before. He would win three times before his tenure in the MLB would come to an end. Koufax also averaged 9.28 strike and less than seven hits per nine innings for both. Both statistics were the best of his time, and the first one in history to achieve such accomplished performances. His other accolades boast of how important he was to the Dodgers including his seven All-Star Wins, four World Series Championships (with two MVP awards), four MLB Strikeout Leader titles, and three time MLB Wins Leader. However, fans today will remember Koufax for the decision to sit out during the first game of the 1965 World Series to honor the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The team still won, but it showcased the integrity that he brought to the Dodgers team.
Looking at the modern day, there is an emerging player who is often compared to Koufax in the MLB. Pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, has also become a staple of the Los Angeles Dodgers in his time there. He’s led a somewhat similar career compared to Koufax, since he’s been on the same team since 2008. In two more years, they will have shared the same amount of time on the infamous Los Angeles team. Like Koufax, he’s also won seven All-Star games, and a handful of Cy Young awards. However, their greatest similarity is the amount of character they bring both on and off the field. He seems to spend all of his free time assisting with charity work around the globe alongside his wife. That kind of selfless work is exactly the reason why Kershaw has become beloved by so many Dodgers’ and baseball fans alike. While he definitely has the skills and capabilities to pass Koufax’s records, the Dodgers should mainly be proud they have two accomplished players who distinguished themselves based on their personalities.
Mike Stanton vs. Aaron Judge
Throughout his career, Mike Stanton has never played better than when he was a part of the New York Yankees. He earned his All-Star win and three World Series rings from his time with the Yankees where he distinguished himself as a solid relief pitcher. Unfortunately, it seems as though Stanton was never able to recapture the performances he had with the New York team with anyone else. He was later accused of using HGH, an accusation he thoroughly denied but still plagued the legacy he built for himself.
On the complete opposite side is modern day powerhouse, Aaron Judge. The young player has only been in the league since 2016 when he also joined the New York Yankees. Even people unfamiliar with baseball have probably heard the named: Aaron Judge thrown about in casual conversation. The professional outfielder has been smashing records and is widely considered one of the best, if not the best, current player. He set two records in his rookie season: most homeruns (52) and most walks (127) with the former being held by Joe DiMaggio on the Yankees roster. The ceiling for this guy is so high, it’s hard to imagine where his potential ends. New Yorkers are ecstatic over his amazing level of play, as he’s often compared to other Yankees legends. However, he is consistently praised for his humble attitude and strength as a true team player. Unlike other All-Stars, who tend to be prima donnas, Judge has quietly solidified himself as one of the most likable young players in the MLB.
Aaron Judge vs. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris
Is it possible for Aaron Judge to ever compare to legends like Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris? Judge is proving quickly that he’s a force to be reckoned with in the MLB. That being said, he still has a long way if he wants to solidify his legacy alongside some of the greatest players in history. Of the two, he’s much closer to overtaking Maris’ records compared to Mantle. Roger Maris only played for the Yankees for six seasons before moving onto the Saint Louis Cardinals where he finished his career. He’s been a World Series Champion three times and an All-Star seven times. He ended his tenure with 826 runs, whereas Judge is already at 141 runs with his career.
Being considered even relatively close to Mickey Mantle is an honor within itself. Like the endless Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan debate, there’s a strong chance some will never consider Aaron Judge to be better than Mickey Mantle. The game is so different now, that it’s almost impossible to see who would succeed in what era. However, Mantle has been an All-Star twenty times and a seven time World Series champion. He played on the best team and roster in baseball history, which probably helped him secure said legacy. Judge will never be surrounded by teammates who are nearly as good as Maris and others. But what makes a great player, is being able to elevate your team’s level of play. Obviously, Mantle was up to the task but it has to be seen if Judge can do the same. He’s a young layer, and he will have a few more years before taking on a true leadership position within the Yankees. That being said, he has the potential to become a new role model for his teammates and to rival the legacy these two left behind. Hey, maybe Giancarlo Stanton and Judge can be this era’s M & M boys like Mantle and Maris were back then.
Looking at the statistics, it feels like comparing the MLB now and then is like looking at apples and oranges. Everyone is still striving to win, but the game has transformed since it was originally created. All of these players are talented, and it feels like an injustice to call one better than the other simply because the times are different