<The year is 1900. It's the planet Earth157. On this Earth, people live to be 500 years old and can play baseball forever. You have the first pick in the draft and your Deluth Iowans are pondering who to take with the first pick. Everyone is considered "young" so there are no worries about Albert Pujols being too old or Babe Ruth being too dead. There is only one "era" so there is no need to worry about if Lefty Grove can even sneak a ball past Rickey Henderson. Trades are not allowed as no GM in their right mind would trade at this point with a talent pool so deep. No player on Earth157 has an "attitude", so Mel Ott is not a racist, Ty Cobb is not an A^%hole, and A-Rod is not a douche.
So who is your first pick?
There is an axiom that says "pitching wins championships", but do you really take Pedro Martinez when Willie Mays is sitting there on the board? Perhaps building defense up the middle is your path to success. Do you spend pick #1 on A-Rod as your shortstop? Is a field general needed first and thus making Johnny Bench or Mike Piazza your first pick? You have free reign over the history of baseball. You have 29 other teams you are competing with. What is the best way to build a winner?
In a league like this where you have almost limitless talent, it really doesnt matter who you take. And despite your statements otherwise, you can not really mix players of eras. Hitters before 1920 played with a dead ball. It didnt go anywhere. Their HRs (hit by players not named Ruth) mostly were inside the park HR hit in parks with vast outfields. Pitchers had a big advantage with a higher mound, although much fewer pitchers used a curve ball until the 30s and 40s. In 69 the mound got shorter, and in the 70s they changed the ball again. The 80s brought smaller parks, and in 1994 the ball changed again to increase HR totals. So what park, and what era are the games in? I actually think that whatever era you play in, the older players would thrive.
So who do I take? Of course with the first pick I take Ruth. I would take Walter Johnson, Christy Matthewson, or Warren Spahn before Pedro (but this is very close), but I would take Gehrig well before Pujols. I would probably take the Negro league players before today's stars as well. All in all, even if a team had to take today's stars, the teams would still mostly be equal in the end. There is too much talent throughout history to make any difference.
First, on Earth157, there was no dead ball era.
Second, if we are talking about taking the top (hypothetical) .01% of all talent all time, then I propose the league would end up similar to where it is now. While both are HOFers, the team with Mays will clearly have a better CFer than the team that end up getting "saddled" with Duke Snider. As the current MLB works on Earth1, we only use the very top .01% of all available baseball talent. Just as the disparity between Mays and Snider is very small, in all actuality, the disparity between Michael Bourn and Matt Den Dekker is similar. Even choosing the best players of all time and pitting them against each other on a completely parallel Earth will yield teams that win 100 and teams that lose 100.
It's just simple Math really. Just making everyone more talented will not all of the sudden turn every game into a 0-0 or 30 teams with 81-81 records.
One could theoretically use the first five picks to build the most dominant pitching staff in the league. Would that be preferable over getting one or two of the top tier all time pitchers to go along with a handful of the top offensive/defensive players?
Mel Ott was not a racist. In fact, the opposite...
You both could have Seaver and Ryan all day long... if you pass on WJ, CM, WS, Satchel Paige, or even Pedro you have lost the edge. I would take Steve Carlton or Koufax before either of those two. I may even take Clemens and Maddux too. Thats off the top of my head, with no research. BBJ thinks Seaver is the best of all time, I do not think he would be in my top 10. Ryan easily would not make my top 20.
Ryan was a great K artist, and 7 times had no hitters. That was phenomenal. He also was roughly a .500 pitcher, who had a not so great WHIP, gave up a ton of HR, but had tremendous longevity. Ryan is amazing because he lasted so long. Take Aaron for example. Henry Aaron was never the best hitter in the league. He was really good year in year out, but never the best, until you looked at his entire career. If no one ever ages, or falls off, what good is a career stat builder? Everyone would do it.
Of course steroids exist, but everyone is doing them and they have no side effects either. No backney, no roid rage, no cancer. It is a medical miracle drug and everyone does it. It is in the food and water supply as well.
So you take offense over pitching?
I like that you see there is even a tier system among the best of all time. Pedro Martinez is worlds better than Jaun Marichal just as Roberto Clemente is worlds better than Dale Murphy. Which team has the advantage at SS, the one with Ozzie Smith or the one with Ernie Banks?
I see already that many people would take Ruth, yet those same people when discussing how to build the current Earth 1 Mets into a contender are all over "pitching wins".
Patrick Roy? (can't lose if you don't allow any goals)
I don't disagree with Ruth, but you can't disagree with picking Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax, or Lefty Grove based on how dominant they were over their competition as well. A similar case could be made for Bonds....
Which leads to more wins though? I think you hit the nail on the head with "pitching, pitching, and more pitching". You have a much better chance of winning more often when your opponent is limited to 2 or 3 runs per game.
Pedro Martinez had arguably the greatest year ever when his ERA was 3 points lower than the average pitcher. Likewise, when Bonds hit 72 HR, the average player hit over 20. The average player in the league hit 20. That would mean the baseline for oWAR was 20 HR... when Ruth hit 60 the average team hit less than 20. Ruth and Gehrig hit more HR than the rest of the league combined.
Unlike Bonds who got immense power out of nowhere, Ruth increased ever year until he hit 60. In the dead ball era, when no one hit HR, Ruth hit 20. He set the record 4 years in a row. The first year with a "live ball" he hit 54. Not only that, he hit over .300 and rarely ever struck out. He walked a lot, and was a good fielder, and had good speed. The pictures of Ruth we know are when he was older and out of shape. When he was younger he was bigger and in impeccable shape. Even Gehrig who lifted weights, when no one else did, was smaller than Ruth.
As far as Gretzky over Roy, while Roy is the greatest goalie, there are other goalies who are comparable. Hacek, Richter, the guy on the Devils... Im not a hige NHL fan so I cant recall his name, nor can I go through history. But, the fall off from Gretzky to the next best player is a chasm. No one was in his class. He did it all. Ruth is the same. He was the best pitcher in his day. The best OFer, the best hitter. He was the best, and there was no #2.