This is something I've wanted to do for a while and have tried a couple of similar lists before but ended abandoning them. I once had an almost completed list for the top 100 players since 1986, which I consider my sports lifetime, but I ran into problems when it came to evaluating players who may have had their peak occur after 1986 but had played several years before 1986. I also felt the list I had compiled was overly subjective and I just simply was not satisfied by my results.
Now of course trying to assemble a list of the top 100 players since 1979 was going to have the same problems. My intention was to only take into account what players have done since 1979 and nothing before. Tom Seaver for example is one of the greatest pitchers of all time but the majority of his career occurred before I was born so it wouldn't make sense to include him on this list. So I decided I would have to have a cut off year which would admittedly eliminate some players who if you considered on their career from 1979 on would warrant placement on this list. But I also want to be able to consider a player's whole career and not just a portion of it.
The cut off I decided on was I would only consider players who's official rookie year was no later than 1978 as I was born on the final scheduled day of the 1978 season (the day before the Bucky F'n Dent game). Now I emphasize their official rookie season as to include players who had cups of coffee in the Majors prior to '78. Now this obviously eliminates some great players who I did grow up watching as a kid but I had to put a cut off year in to real make this manageable. Because of this some of the players you will not see on this list are:
And that's just the Hall of Famers as there's also Andre Dawson, Dave Parker, Dale Murphy, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Evans, and Willie Randolph. I didn't put in a cut off debut year for active players but it ended up being 2001 by default because of 9/11....okay not really, it just kind of worked out that way. If I was just focusing on peak certainly someone like Chase Utley could appear on the list but since career is being considered Utley just wouldn't really fit on this list. That's important to keep in mind when it comes to active players and where they end up on the list. Albert Pujols on peak alone is one of the five best players of my lifetime without a doubt but we don't know if he'll have a serious decline at some point thus he won't be in the Top 5 on this list.
For the statistics I used, I went with Win Shares and Wins Above Replacement (WARP3). I went with them because both are good for career/peak evaluations and both take defense into account, although both have huge flaws when it comes to how they measure defense. To assemble a list of players to put under consideration I used career Win Shares with cut offs of 200 Win Shares for position players, 180 for starting pitchers, and 150 for relievers. I ended up with around 160 players to consider and I ranked them by the players primary position first, grouping designated hitters with first basemen and grouping left and right fielders together, before doing the main list. I will say I wouldn't completely rule that I accidentally left a deserving player off the consideration list who would have made the top 100, in fact I'd say the odds are pretty good.
As mentioned I mentioned part of the problem of prior lists I've tried to do is I felt they were too subjective. This time around though I decided that is almost impossible to not have subjectivity in a list like this. I could have put in several months of research to make this list completely objective but I'm not Bored enough to do that. In fact this list is probably too subjective when it comes down to it as for example I'm not a fan of career closers so don't be shocked but the dearth of closers on this list. I also say that my placement of pitchers in the list is a bit haphazard. I finished the list a few days ago and already thought about making changes but I said "fuck it" I'll just go with what I came up with originally, even if the final list sucks ass. In fact don't even bother looking at it.
Top 100 MLB Players from 1979 - 2008 (#100 - #81)
Disclaimer: If you didn't read anything above, cut off was 1978 rookies.