Affectionately known as “The Cuban Comet,” Minoso streaked along the base paths and in the pasture like a comet, racing for that extra base or line-pursuing flyball with a reckless abandon. A five-tool talent, Minnie was seemingly without a weakness on the ball diamond. The right-handed hitter could hit for both average and power and possessed a set of wheels that could put Olympic sprinters to blush. A star defender with a solid arm, Minoso had all the five tools and even had an extra sixth tool that scouts salivate over: fearlessness. With all the talent Minoso’s sinewy-strong build harbored, the man also had more than his share of grit and determination. A reckless hustler between the lines, Minoso had one thought whenever he suited up for a game: to win the contest. After one particular game, in which Minnie nearly maimed himself chasing after a flyball that sent him crashing into a wall, he was asked by a reporter why he tossed himself into harm’s way in pursuit of a flyball he had little chance of catching. Minnie replied, in the great ballplayer fashion, “Even if there was dynamite in the area, I would have went after the ball.”
Before Jackie Robinson broke the color line, there had been several Cubans in the Major Leagues. Dolf Luque was a star pitcher who toiled with Brooklyn and Cincinnati while the Reds also owned the contract of Armando Marsans. But unlike Marsans and Luque, Minoso’s skin was too dark for the Majors and he had to break in with the Negro Leagues in the 1940s. This kept Minnie from reaching the Majors when he was ready, pushing back his debut until he was near 25. Despite the late arrival in the Majors, Minoso played in five separate decades at the Major League level, beginning in 1949 and finishing with a brief, publicity schemed theme in 1980 with the White Sox. Over the course of his career, Minoso was able to lead his league in several categories, to include three first place finishes in both triples and stolen bases. The Black Ink Test, which uses a player’s leader board levels to decide Hall of Fame eligibility, ranks him at 15–ahead of Hall of Fame peer Al Kaline’s 12 Black Ink standing.
A gifted, well-rounded performer, Minoso’s slash lines stack up awfully well to other enshrined outfielders who played in roughly the same time. Minnie’s career slash was .298 BA/.389 OBP/459 SA. These numbers greatly exceed Hall of Famer Lou Brock (.293/.343/.410) and stack up awfully well to power-hitting peers like Kaline (.297/.376/.480) and Larry Doby (.283/.386/.490). Taking into account Minoso’s overall game, his WAR (wins above replacement) was higher than both Doby (47.0) and Brock (42.8) with a solid 47.5 mark. But if new-fangled stats like WAR aren’t your cup of tea, then go with the tried and true stats and Minnie has plenty advantages too. Minnie hit .300 or higher in eight separate seasons–more such campaigns than Hall of Fame peers Doby (2) and Duke Snider (7).
The focus in baseball is broad, with one analyst zeroing in on one stat and another analyst lauding the merits of another. But at its basics, baseball is, and always has been about scoring runs. The team that scores the most runs wins–simple, right? Manufacturing runs is the number one, most important aspect of the game and in that regard, Minoso was quite swell. On average, Minnie scored 0.619 runs per game–superior to Hall of Fame peers Al Kaline (0.572) and Billy Williams (0.567). He coupled his runs scoring skills with terrific RBI numbers which made him that rare double-threat; capable of hurting a team by scoring or driving in runs. He did something that Hall of Fame peers Lou Brock, Larry Doby, Al Kaline and Billy Williams never did: post back-to-back 100-RBI and 100 runs scored seasons.
Minoso had all the tools but where he really distanced himself from the pack was in the plate discipline department. He had speed to spare and hit for above average power, but he had an uncanny knowledge of the strike zone which enabled him to do something many of his peers could not do: walk more than he struck out. In only one year as a regular player did Minnie fan more than he walked. Over the course of his career, The Cuban Comet struck out just 584 times, and he offset that with 814 free passes. By contrast, Hall of Fame peers Duke Snider (971 walks to 1,237 strikeouts) and Larry Doby (871 walks to 1,011 whiffs) were vastly inferior.
One of the best Hall of Fame peers for Minoso is Larry Doby. Both Minoso and Doby had their Major League debuts pushed back on account of their skin color, which makes Doby an ideal measure for Minnie. When you put the two up against one another, you see that Doby has the edge in power, but little else. For some reason, the Veteran’s Committee viewed Doby in a better light than Minoso, although the writer’s clearly understood who the better player was. Doby’s second year on the writer’s ballot he received all of 0.3% of the vote (but nevertheless, was enshrined by the Veteran’s Committee years afterward) while the scribes gave Minoso 19.9% his sophomore year on the ballot. The writers had the right man in Minoso. Minnie had four Top Five MVP finishes in his career while Doby had just one. Doby had one Top Ten finish in batting average while Minoso finished among the top ten eight times. The Cleveland Hall of Famer never had a year with 300 total bases, while Minoso reached the feat.
With accolades that push Hall of Famer Doby aside, Minoso should have a solid chance for the Hall of Fame–unless one views Doby as a mistake by the voters. So let’s look at Al Kaline–a slam dunk Hall of Famer. Kaline’s career numbers exceed Minoso’s in almost every category, but Kaline debuted when he was 18 while Minoso had to wait until he was 25 before he became a Major League regular. The following statistical line makes Kaline more comparable to Minoso by eliminating the years Kaline played from his career stats when he was 18 through 24–years Minoso was forbidden to play in the Majors. Although Kaline distances himself well in homeruns, the other modified stats are in close proximity to Minoso’s career numbers. They are as follows:
RUNS SCORED: Minoso (1,136), Kaline (1,101)
RBI: Kaline (1,039), Minoso (1,023)
HITS: Minoso (1,963), Kaline (1,960)
DOUBLES: Kaline (342), Minoso (336)
BATTING AVERAGE: Minoso (.298), Kaline (.290)