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What if Babe Ruth had been bad? Part 1

Using Out of the Park Baseball 22, we’re trying to see what would’ve happened to the Yankees if the legendary Babe Ruth had been the worst player of all time instead of the best.

New York Yankee Babe Ruth

Back in 2020, we used Out of the Park Baseball to experiment with something: what if the Yankees had a perfect baseball player?

Using the player editor feature on the game, I edited Eduardo Núñez’s ratings on the game to make him a perfect hitter, fielder, and even pitcher. It resulted in Núñez playing into his 50s, leading the Yankees to 11 World Series titles, while winning 14 MVPs and 12 Cy Youngs.

However, what would happen if we took the closest thing the Yankees have had to a perfect player, and made him into a barely playable mess?

Babe Ruth was so good over the course of his MLB career that he has an almost mythical status. Not only did he massively rewrite the record book over his career, but he gets a large share of the responsibility for turning the Yankees into the marquee franchise in the sport. Before him, the Yankees had never made a World Series, let alone win one. During his career in New York, they won four, and then won 23 of 96 after he left. Old Yankee Stadium wasn’t nicknamed “The House that Ruth Built” for no reason.

However, what would’ve happened to the franchise had he been bad? Let’s try and find out.

Using Out of the Park Baseball 22, I’ve gone back to 1920, Ruth’s first year with the Yankees, and have completely tanked his ratings in the game, turning him into an actively bad player. I’ve also set it so that the rest of the transactions remain the same, so the likes of Lou Gehrig will still join the team. Ruth was obviously the best and most famous player of that era, but the team didn’t get the “Murderers’ Row” nickname just because of him. Can they overcome the fact that the team now has a nearly useless player on the team and still turn into a dynasty like they were in real life? Let’s dive into it:

1920: 74-80, -21 wins compared to real life

In real life, the Yankees put up 95 wins in Ruth’s first season after he overcame a shaky first month. Despite that, they still finished in third in the AL.

In the simulation, Miller Huggins plays Ruth in just 23 games, after he hit .127/.127/.127 in 63 plate appearances. He recorded just eight hits and managed to be worth -1.6 WAR in not a lot of playing time. The Yankees had several solid performers, but they finished 30 games back of first place Cleveland.

1921: 89-65, -9 wins compared to real life

Just like in reality, the Yankees win the AL pennant in 1921, advancing to their first ever World Series. They did so in large part thanks to an excellent season by Bob Meusel, who leads the league in home runs with 33. Meanwhile, Ruth is not having a good time, having seen his skills vanish like the NBA players in “Space Jam.”

Huggins plays him in just one game all season, and he strikes out in his only at-bat. Taking his place is the wonderfully named Chicken Hawks, who plays 144 games, compared to the 41 he played in real life for the ‘21 Yankees.

Like in real life, the Giants defeat the Yankees in the World Series.

1922: 97-57, +3 wins from real life

Meusel again carries the Yankees’ weight as they win the AL again. He hits an extraordinary .452/.493/.783, leading them to an improvement on the real life 1922 win total. Meanwhile, Ruth has seemed to adjust to his new life as a scrub and has accepted his role.

This year, he plays in eight games, all in a late inning bench role, going just 0-for-8 on the season.

Despite their excellent regular season, the Yankees are swept by the Cardinals in the World Series, with their pitching falling apart and allowing 29 runs across the four losses.

1923: 97-57, -1 win from real life

It’s been fairly impressive that the Yankees have managed to fairly closely follow what happened in reality despite Ruth’s greatness not existing, but the script changed somewhat this year.

In the real 1923, the Yankees won the AL and broke through with their first World Series title this year. While they came close to another pennant, they finished two games behind Cleveland in the simulation. It was a similar story again with Ruth going 0-for on the year and Meusel carrying the offense. Meanwhile, a highly-rated 19-year old prospect Lou Gehrig made his MLB debut, appearing in 28 games.

1924: 84-70, -5 wins from real life

Ruth records his first hit in years, going 1-for-4 in his still-spare playing time. As a team, the Yankee finish third in the AL, a couple games behind the Tigers. Meanwhile, Gehrig continues to gain playing time at first base over Wally Pipp.

1925: 87-67, +17 wins from real life

Gehrig has fully arrived and he and Meusel lead the Yankees to a vast improvement over what happened in the real life 1925 season. Meanwhile, the Yankees finally pulled the plug on Ruth, releasing him in June after he hadn’t played all season. He finished his Yankee career nearly a decade earlier than he did in real life, after being worth -1.9 WAR. No team picks him up after his release, but he seems okay with his fate.

In part two, we’ll see how the Yankees do from 1926-34, when Ruth was still a real life force for the Yankees. While in the simulation, they won’t have him around as the legend he was, they also won’t have the fake version of him plugging up a spot on the roster.