Last week, I took a look at some recognizable names throughout MLB history -- Yogi Berra, Tony Perez, Pete Rose and more -- through the lens of their sons whose careers were not quite as prosperous. Now, and perhaps more appropriately, given some of the big names in 2020 MLB, we'll look at the other side of the coin.
The below list is full of MLB stars who took what their fathers did throughout their major league careers and surpassed it by a huge amount. We're seeing some MLB sons performing at a very high level right now; coincidentally, most of these names are on the Toronto Blue Jays. It's certainly not easy to play to the standards set by Hall of Famers Vladimir Guerrero and Craig Biggio -- as well as four-time All-Star Dante Bichette -- but their sons are all doing an admirable job.
With that said, they won't appear on the list below, because they certainly haven't surpassed what their fathers have accomplished to this point. Names like Mike Yastrzemski won't be on this list either, as his father, the son of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, never made it to the majors. Lastly, guys like Prince Fielder will be absent from the list. He was fantastic, picking up six All-Star nods, but he wasn't markedly better than his father, Cecil Fielder. Fun fact: they both finished their careers with 319 home runs.
So which MLB sons did blow their fathers' performances out of the water? Let's take a look.
Players are ranked by the differential in WAR between the father and son.
12. Fernando Tatis Jr.
WAR Difference: 0.1
Fernando Tatis had over 3,000 at bats in his big year career in over 900 games. Fernando Tatis Jr., at the time of writing this, has 481 at bats in 121 games. And his career WAR of 6.4 is still higher than that of his father, if only by a slim margin.
While there are other MLB sons who beat out their father by more than just 0.1 WAR, the huge gap in how many opportunities the two of them had to build on that statistic makes the younger Tatis worth mentioning. Before long, Tatis Jr. will have doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc. his father's WAR total at his current pace. He's leading the bigs in home runs, RBI, runs and many more statistics.
One place where the elder Tatis may have a leg up was in the "notable grand slam" category, as he belted two in the same inning. But even that feat isn't safe anymore, as Tatis Jr.'s 3-0 grand slam was the subject of much debate earlier in the 2020 season.
11. Joc Pederson
WAR Difference: 11.0
We're not sure if Joc Pederson has already hit his peak, drilling 36 home runs and slashing .249/.339/.538 in a near-everyday role with the Dodgers in 2019. But even if that's the best we're going to see from the 28-year-old slugger, it's still a significant step up from what his father, Stu Pederson, was able to accomplish.
Stu was 0-for-4 in his entire career, knocking in one run with a sacrifice fly in 1985. However, Joc credits him with teaching him everything he knows. His teaching was probably more helpful than just mechanics, too, considering Stu spent 12 years in the minors, desperately scraping at the surface of breaking through to the bigs for more than just four at bats.
For Stu, watching Joc launch any of his career 128 bombs (so far), many of which have landed 400-some feet from the plate, has to be just as, if not more, fulfilling as having a prominent career himself.
10. Cody Bellinger
WAR Difference: 18.1
Isn't it crazy the little guy on the left went on to win Rookie of the Year and MVP once he came to the bigs? Not really, actually: he was a top prospect throughout high school and eventually became MLB's No. 1 prospect as he rose through the minor leagues. And besides, his dad was a big leaguer, too!
Now, his dad wasn't necessarily a good big leaguer. Clay Bellinger finished his career with an uninspiring .193/.257/.363 slash line, a WAR of -0.2 and a long history of traveling throughout the minor leagues, spending time in the farm systems of the Giants, Orioles, Yankees and Angels.
Cody, on the other hand, was drafted by the Dodgers. He was brought up by the Dodgers. He raked in the minors for the Dodgers. And he's now one of the best players not only on the Dodgers, but in the entire league. Expect this WAR differential to shoot up.
9. Nick Swisher
WAR Difference: 23.4
Steve Swisher was an All-Star in 1976... for some reason. At the halfway point, he was hitting .268 with three home runs and was chosen as one of the National League's backup catchers. It admittedly wasn't a great year for NL catchers, but it seems like a bit of a reach. His career slash line of .216/.279/.303 with unspectacular defense doesn't seem to suggest an All-Star player.
However, his son's 2010 All-Star bid was much more well-deserved. Nick Swisher put up 15 HR and a .298/.377/.524 line in his lone All-Star season, and that was business as usual for Swisher. He hit over 20 home runs in nine straight seasons, finishing with 245 round-trippers, and brought home a World Series ring in his first season with the Yankees.
8. Danny Tartabull
WAR Difference: 23.4
Jose Tartabull was a career pinch hitter and occasional starting outfielder whose complete lack of any power hindered his road to becoming an everyday player. In nearly 2,000 at bats, Tartabull was able to muster just two home runs -- something he owed to his purposefully short swing at the plate.
The same can't be said for his son, Danny Tartabull, who finished his career with 262 bombs. He ranked in the league top ten in home runs multiple times, hitting over 25 in seven different seasons. A one-time All-Star, his best year came in 1991 when he led the majors with a .593 slugging percentage.
7. Michael Brantley
WAR Difference: 28.5
Mickey Brantley was actually a solid hitter in his brief career, peaking in 1987 when he slashed .302/.344/.499. He took his short-lived MLB success into his coaching career, spending time with the Giants, Mets and Blue Jays organizations.
His coaching must have also worked on his son, Michael, for the current Astros outfielder is a four-time All-Star and was an MVP candidate for the Indians in the mid-2000s. Brantley's strong play has continued into his 30s, as he's been named to the AL All-Star team in each of his three post-30 seasons, and that doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.
6. Jason Kendall
WAR Difference: 40.7
Fred Kendall knows that his son was a better ballplayer than he was. But he's not going to concede that statement without a little bit of a fight.
"I played in an era that I thought was a bit tougher than my son," Fred Kendall said (via SABR). "There's more teams now and back then we had to contend with four-man rotations and pitcher like Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Tom Seaver, and Bob Gibson."
I can't say he's wrong. And maybe that's why he was only able to produce a .234 career batting average over parts of 12 seasons -- by no means a short stretch of time to be a big league catcher.
But son Jason was a .288 career hitter over 15 years, stealing bases like few have ever had from the catcher position and earning three All-Star bids. And, no, Jason didn't have to hit against Seaver and Gibson. But he did hit -- and hit well -- against guys like Curt Schilling (.296 average in 71 at bats), Greg Maddux (.340 average in 50 at bats) and Roy Oswalt (.383 average in 47 at bats).
5. Dixie Walker
WAR Difference: 41.3
It's kind of hard to compare MLB's two Dixie Walkers. One was a pitcher in the late 1900s/early 1910s who compiled a 25-31 record and 3.52 ERA over four seasons. It was a small sample size at a weird time in baseball comparative to the post-Dead Ball Era game.
How do you compare a Dead Ball Era pitcher to a rock-solid outfielder known for his offensive consistency in an entirely different era? I guess you just have to let WAR do the talking.
The younger Dixie Walker, who is best remembered for his relationship with Jackie Robinson, brought home a batting title in 1944, led MLB in RBI a year later (124) and finished his career with five All-Star appearances and a .306/.383/.437 slash line. It's also worth mentioning that his brother, and thus the elder Dixie's other son, was another great hitter. Harry Walker brought home the batting title in 1947, batting .363 with a league-leading 16 triples.
4. Ken Griffey Jr.
WAR Difference: 49.3
The only reason The Kid isn't higher on this list is because his father was also a great ballplayer. Ken Sr. was named to three All-Star teams in the late 1970s for the Big Red Machine, acting as the team's base-stealing, run-scoring right fielder. He finished his career with over 2,000 hits and was right on the cusp of breaking the .300 batting average barrier, ending up with a .296 figure.
But his son was that much better. Junior was the face of baseball throughout the 1990s, earning an All-Star nomination in every single season of the decade, winning the AL HR crown in four different seasons, dazzling in the outfield with 10 Gold Glove awards, and bringing home the 1997 MVP Award. The duo's relationship is well known, and reached a special point when they went back-to-back in a 1990 game.
3. Roberto Alomar
WAR Difference: 56.5
Sandy Alomar Sr. was a switch-hitting second baseman who spent time with the Mets, White Sox and other teams. Roberto Alomar was a switch-hitting second baseman who spent time with the Mets, White Sox and other teams.
The difference is that Sandy Sr. was an average ballplayer, earning one All-Star nomination (that we're not sure he really deserved) and finishing his career with a career .245/.290/.288 slash line... nothing to write home about.
Roberto, on the other hand, was a 12-time All-Star, doing it with both his bat (.300 career hitter) and his glove (12 Gold Gloves) en route to a Hall of Fame career.
Also worth mentioning is Roberto's brother and Sandy's other son, Sandy Alomar Jr., who made six All-Star teams himself as the backstop for the Indians throughout the 1990s.
2. Robinson Cano
WAR Difference: 69.4
Jose Cano served up a pair of home runs during his one-year MLB career, in which he appeared in six games and recorded an ERA of 5.09.
He served up a lot more to his son in the 2011 Home Run Derby, helping Robinson to secure the title after an awesome performance (he also pitched to David Ortiz).
Jose began his journey in 1980, at age 18, in the Yankees' farm system, but ended up making his big league debut nine years later with the Astros. Robinson didn't have quite as difficult a journey, remaining with the Yankees from the time he was brought up (also, coincidentally, at age 18) and using his offensive talent to become one of the franchise's greatest second basemen.
An eight-time All-Star, Cano has a legitimate case for the Hall of Fame in front of him, though PED violations definitely hurt his case.
1. Barry Bonds
WAR Difference: 104.9
Bobby Bonds is better than most players on this list. He was a three-time All-Star. He flashed the leather on the regular, picking up three Gold Glove awards. He scored over 100 runs in six different seasons, drove in over 100 runs in two, and was a top-five candidate for the MVP Award twice. He finished his career with over 300 home runs and over 450 steals, an extremely exclusive club in MLB history that contains only one other member.
The other member? His son, of course. Barry did that and a whole lot more, and it's a testament to his dominance that he still separated from his father by over 100 WAR despite Bobby's brilliant career. Yes, we're only talking about the numbers here -- I'm not an advocate for Bonds' Hall of Fame candidacy -- but the numbers don't lie.
He took what Bobby Bonds did -- which had never been done to that point in terms of power and speed -- and completely blew it out of the water.