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Arguably, list lacks substance

Bill Conlin Philadelphia Daily News

Gentlemen, start your arguments.

When the Phillies took on the Yankees over the weekend in the $1.5 billion House That Ruthless Built, the teams included nine of the 50 greatest players in the game today.

Says who? A substantial number of the MLB fraternity, that’s who.

They will represent 18 percent of a list compiled for the Sporting News by a blue-ribbon panel of voters that included 13 Hall of Famers, 13 Cy Young Award winners and 12 league MVPs among a jury 150 strong. The rules stressed that the “greatest” designation applied only to current stars, not players still active but in the twilight of great careers. So, if I was starting the first argument, the question would be: How on earth does Mets outpatient Carlos Delgado weigh in at No. 47? The old warhorse can still launch a fastball but has averaged just 143 games over the past five seasons.

But I’ll give you Delgado and throw down a bigger mace. How does the team that plays in BrokeBank Field lead this august assembly of living and breathing stars with six current players? I guess Choke Factor didn’t make it onto the ballot. But Mets Meltdown ’08 was certainly not the fault of lefthander Johan Santana, No. 3 on the list. The other Mets are David Wright (13), Jose Reyes (22), Carlos Beltran (23), Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez (34) and Delgado.

Hopefully, the panel missed the Dodgers’ three-game sweep of Jerry Manuel’s Hollywood revival of the Keystone Kops. The only thing missing from the end game of the second game of the series was calliope music and a ringmaster. Players were provided by Hertz Rent-a-Clown.

The No. 1 greatest current player, of course, is Albert Pujols, the main reason Tony La Russa is still managing in St. Louis. Pujols topped 55 percent of the ballots. I guess the other 45 percent hate to bet the favorites when they go to the race track.

Ah, but confessed cheater Alex Rodriguez – A-Roid was No. 2. And ashamed and embarrassed Manny Ramirez will have the No. 4 ranking to comfort him until he is reinstated from a 50-day suspension toward the end of his first trimester.

Interesting. In their heart of hearts, the pastime’s elite seem to have forgiven the bloated rascals who have skewed the record book, stained the already-shaky integrity of the sport and face no harsher penalties than a crooked hedge-fund manager or Ponzi schemer. The only difference between a juiced ballplayer and a banker is the size of the golden parachute.

Three Yankees made the top 10 – A-Rod (2), Derek Jeter (8) and Mariano Rivera (9). Newcomers Mark Teixiera (17) and CC Sabathia (29) complete the strong showing of a ballclub with a $201,449,189 payroll.

The Sporting News was once known as “Baseball’s Bible” and the publication has rediscovered the sport that was its bread and butter during the years before the NFL became god and the NBA and NHL claimed their places in the great indoors. It is nice to see TSN edge a little closer to its roots with a hefty and arguable list of greats like this, selected by 150 demigods and icons. OK, four former Phillies managers – Jim Fregosi, Terry Francona, Lee Elia and Pat Corrales – were on the panel. Better make that “demiicons.”

Meanwhile … Gentlemen, start your arguments.

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