Who is No. 1?

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My daughter will begin many sentences these days with these words: “This is controversial, but …” She will use it to say something like, “This is controversial but ‘The Black Cauldron’ is the best Disney movie,” or “This is controversial but strawberries are just not very good,” or “This is controversial but peanut butter and jelly is a terrible combination.”

I don’t know if this is something the kids say these days or if it is something Elizabeth specific, but it seems like a good place to start. 

This is controversial, but I’m going to announce the Baseball 100 special just for you here. I really shouldn’t do this. I should let The Athletic announce it. But you’ve been such loyal readers and I’m an impatient person by nature. This has been so many months’ worth of work. It is almost 300,000 words. I’m only human. I have to tell you.

OK, here goes …

Brandon McCarthy is No. 1 in the Baseball 100.

Now, hold on, before you say, “Wait, what, did he deposit $250,000 in a Cayman Islands account in my name or something?” I should tell you that he did, in fact, deposit $250,000 in a Cayman Islands account in my name. 

But he was No. 1 even before he did that. I’ve had him No. 1 the whole time. 

I’ve certainly had him No. 1 since he raised that check from $100,000 to $250,000. I mean, for $100,000, what can you really expect? Maybe you get into the 40s of the Baseball 100, somewhere near Roberto Clemente, an unparalleled outfielder and hitter who died a heroic death delivering much-needed aid to Nicaragua and, as such, did not deposit any money into an s offshore account.

Why Brandon? Well, first it must be said that his 69-75 career record is deceiving. You know how won-loss records lie. An astute analyst will focus on other things such as him finishing second in complete games in 2011. Brandon was that kind of pitcher. Finish what you start. That’s what he always said, probably.

Four times he finished among the Top 10 in the league in shutouts. Baseball purists lament that the shutout is a lost art. Not for our man. In 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014 he was among the league leaders in that noble category.*

*He threw one shutout each season. 

Longtime baseball observer Mike Schur believes that McCarthy has been historically underrated.

“You might not think of Brandon McCarthy as one of the all-time great pitchers in baseball history,” he said, “but the numbers don’t lie. He led the AL in FIP in 2011. No one else can say that -- not Cy Young, not Walter Johnson, not Roger Clemens, no one. Not a single one of those so-called ‘inner sanctum’ guys led the AL in FIP in 2011.”

McCarthy was also celebrated for his tallness.

He was, I have to say, quite unsurprised by the honor.

“Was Mays good?” McCarthy said of Willie Mays, who many expected might get the top spot. “I guess? But it’s likely the average fastball he faced in his career was about 83 mph. Not impressed.”

Of Babe Ruth, he simply said: “FAT.”