Baseball is fun to debate because there are a million stats to back up your favorite player, but still no clear winner. Is Babe Ruth the best of all time? I’m sure Mays, Aaron, and Ty Cobb would have something to say about that.
When ranking rappers, however, we have far fewer statistics to hang our hat on. Records sold? Who cares – by that parameter Justin Timberlake would be superior to any of the old school’ers, so we’re not going there. Biggie? Tupac? Or what about Nas and Rakim? Is Eminem creeping up? The debate continues as vociferously as east vs. west, red vs. blue, and Red Sox vs. Yankees.
It got me to thinking – if rappers were baseball players, who would they be, and where would they rank as BOTH of those personas on an all-time top 10 list? So I did my best to match up their skills, personalities, and importance to the game, and came up with a top-ten list of rappers as baseball players. There are two things I’ll guarantee you about this list: that I’m wrong about some of them, and I doubt you can do better! Or can you? Let the debate continue.
So how did I match them up and then rank them?
I gave less credence to MC’s in hip hop groups, because a baseball player’s importance to his own team diminishes when his team is filled with other all stars. Due to that criteria, Run DMC, Tribe Called Quest, and N.W.A. probably don’t rank as high as they should.
Here were my rules for baseball players: 1) No pitchers (those would be the DJ’s, I guess), and 2) No active players.
Just like baseball players have home runs, RBI’s, batting average, etc. I have my categories to try and quantify something that is almost un-quantifiable.
So I judged the rappers on: 1) Straight fire, 2) Commercial success in their era 3) Importance to the game 4) Versatility, and 5) Longevity.
Here it is!
If rappers were baseball players, who would be the top 10 of all time?!
The Notorious BIG hit it out of the park EVERY SINGLE TIME he got up to bat. His career was shortened by his assassination, just like the Babe’s career as a hitter was shortened because he started out as a pitcher. The Bambino loved to party, and certainly Biggie liked his wine, women, and weed. Besides, can’t you picture Biggie standing there with a bat in one hand and a hot dog in the other?
Both men did what others said could’t be done against incredible odds, and suffered a racial backlash. Both players will go down in the record books without asterisks next to their names - I still consider Hank Aaron the single-season home run record holder, and Marshall Mathers is earning his hall-of-fame status on merit, nothing else.
Embattled by opponents, despised by other teams, and riddled in controversy, yet equally beloved by their teammates, both Tupac and Ty Cobb dominated with fear and results, and elevated the game. When it comes to both players, old timers say “there will never be another one like him.” Think of Tupac sliding into second base, cleats up.
Bigger than his astronomical home run and Gold Glove statistics, Willie Mays meant more to the game than numbers can show and just wanted to win – by all means necessary. KRS One, too, was a godfather of modern hip hop, our own version of the Sey Hey Kid who’s value will echo long after he’s gone. R.I.P. Scott LaRock.
One of the best pure hitters of all time, Williams hit over .400 an astounding three times. So, too, when you listened to Chuck D’s verbal assault on wax you had no doubt that he was one of the purest hip hop voices of all time, who’s place in the pantheon of Hall-of-Famer’s is undeniable.
Gehrig’s contribution to the game of baseball went far beyond wins and titles. It was his commitment to the team and longevity that stood out, as he held the record for playing 2,130 straight games for decades, until Cal Ripken Jr. broke the streak. Nas has been doing it, and doing it, and doing it for decades now, still as authentic and musically sharp as his rookie year.
Rakim is probably the best pure lyricist of all time, and his album, Paid in Full, was voted the best hip hop album of all time. Rakim touts the significance of the 7th Letter, G, (for God), but for his baseball counterpart we look to # 6 on the St. Louis Cardinals, Stan “The Man” Musial. A graceful lefty with a record 24 all-star appearances, Musial took a few years off to serve in the Navy before returning to baseball and won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Likewise, Rakim stepped back from his partnership with Eric B in 1994 before reinventing himself as a solo artist, and one of his most famous songs is “Eric B for President.”
For a good part of his career, Barry Bonds conquered baseball, head and shoulders above his peers. Everything Jay Z touches seems to turn to gold (and money), but with both figures, we can’t help but wonder how much they are a product of their era, Bonds aided by steroids while Hovah is both an innovator and beneficiary of the modern-day hip hop pop marketing machine.
Mickey Mantle was the poster boy for production, and ethos of the Yankees as they won title after title. Both “The Mick” and Lil Wayne were hometown favorites who’s incredible on-field achievements were accompanied by a shadowy side. Equally fearless, scrappy, and always embodying the underdog, Mantle’s alcohol abuse and marital infidelity were well-documented, as is Wayne’s hard living, though neither man’s talent is ever in doubt.
Throughout his career, Joltin’ Joe was the personification of class, quietly making a lot of noise with his bat like Black Thought does with his mic. Dimmagio was best known for his 56 game hit streak, just like the Roots never seem to let us down, staying true to the game in a time when cold profit is valued more than street cred. Sometimes taking a back seat to others for the good of the team, Dimmagio had Mantle as a teammate and Black Thought has QuestLove, the iconic drummer.
Forget the rules, let's just have fun with these.
Slick Rick = Honus Wagner.
I just picture Patch Love on one of those old baseball cards.
Big Daddy Kane = Lou Brock.
His lyrics were as fast and flawless as the all-time stolen base leader.
Dr. Dre = Shoeless Joe Jackson.
At one time the best player on the best team in the game, but swirled in controversy.
50 Cent = Pete Rose.
Both guys were all about hustle and gritty determination, and outcasts at one point.
Drake = Albert Pujols.
Hit after hit, steady as a rock, and never takes a day off.
Snoop = Ken Griffey Jr.
Snoop is a natural outfielder because he’s all about taking big hits and loves the feel of the grass. (Props for that, Raechel "Moonlight" Graham!)
LL Cool J = Roberto Clemente.
Silky smooth and soulful, both were good guys who’s positive impact spread further than their vocation.
Run DMC = Jackie Robinson. Straight pioneers and role models.
Common = Derek Jeter.
Winner, ultimate teammate, does the right things for the right reason.
Kanye West = Miguel Cabrera.
Triple Crown Winner and one of the best in the game right now, but will they be know for once they’re gone?
Puff Daddy: Connie Mack.
If Notorious BIG was the Babe then I guess that would make Puff Daddy the player/manager Connie Mack.
Big Pun = Pudge Rodriguez.
Heavy D = “Big Poppi” David Ortiz.
Gerardo, "Rico Suave" = Alex Rodriguez.
Hahahaha (Good call, Tom Carroll!)
The game wouldn’t be here without either of them.
So how did I do? Where would you rank the top 10 rappers as baseball players? Hit me up and let me know!