With the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr., one of the most beloved players of all time, I thought I would put him to the test against my most beloved player, Jim Edmonds. They are arguably the top two center fielders of the last quarter century, and played more or less at the same time. The question I want to ask is: as a General Manager, whose career would have rather had control of? All factors are considered, performance, salary, marketability, and anything else you can think of. I'll give you the background information to get you started. WAR data courtesy of Rally's WAR database, salary information is from Biz of Baseball, and I pulled their 2010 WAR from FanGraphs.
Griffey ranks 37th all time with 78.3 career WAR, while Edmonds is further down the list at 64th with 67.5 WAR. However, he is having a good year, and could conceivable move into to top 60, leaping Hall of Famers like Jesse Burkett and Tony Gwynn. For his career, Griffey averaged 3.56 WAR per season, while Edmonds logged 3.97 WAR per season. If you prefer WAR/600 PA, Griffey managed 4.16 while Edmonds was at 5.18 They also peaked during different periods, Griffey during the mid and late 1990's, while Edmonds put up his best seasons as a member of the Cardinals in the early 2000's.
Now let's talk salary. Griffey pulled in $178,625,334 inflation adjusted dollars in his career, while Edmonds paled in comparison with $98,952,568. Edmonds also started his career four years later, meaning he would be expected to make more for similar production, as baseball player salaries greatly outpaced inflation during this time period. Overall, Griffey was paid $2.28 million per win, while Edmonds only made $1.47 million per win.
Call me blasphemous, but I would take Edmonds. Even all the marketing dollars associated with Junior cannot make me overlook the fact that on a per plate appearance, and more importantly, per dollar basis, Edmonds was the more valuable player. It's no coincidence that Edmonds made seven playoff appearances, winning one World Series, while Griffey only made the postseason three times, and won only one playoff series.
I am a little too young to fully appreciate how good Griffey was at his peak, so I'm curious what your thoughts are. Please feel free to comment.