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Cases for Enshrinement

In the year 2000, the Veteran’s Committee elected slick-fielding Bid McPhee, who played during the late 1800s, into the Hall of Fame.  McPhee’s election to the Hall of Fame marked the first time a player from the 1800s was elected into the Hall of Fame during the 2000s.  Deacon White, in like fashion, was inducted into Cooperstown, as voters have finally decided to cast another analytical look at players of the game’s early years.  Another player worthy of a glance is former Cleveland Spiders second baseman Cupid Childs.

Childs, a stocky middle infielder, came about his nickname due to his cherubic appearance.  He may have looked like the Valentine’s Day mascot, but Cupid Childs was a remarkable ballplayer.  A solid if not sound defender, Childs was one of the premier middle infielders during the high-powered 1890s.  Modern day general managers, who obsess over on-base percentage, would go gaga for Cupid, whose keen batting eye made him a difficult out.  A perfect table-setter, Childs’ career on-base percentage is well over the .400 mark, which allowed for many runs scored.

With a career slash line of .306 BA/.416 OBP/.389 SA, Cupid’s value was slapping out base hits and drawing a large amount of walks.  Childs has a few Hall of Fame peers, such as the aforementioned McPhee, George Davis and player/manager Hughie Jennings.  Of these four ballplayers, Childs was handily the best on-base machine.  Cupid’s career mark of .416 was separated nicely from Jennings (.391), Davis (.362) and McPhee’s (.355) averages.  The Cleveland second baseman posted six seasons with an OBP of .400 or higher (nine consecutive years with an OBP of .390 or higher) while Jennings had six consecutive years of an OBP of .390 or higher.  George Davis, who enjoyed four .400 OBP+ seasons, and Bid McPhee, who only had three such campaigns, weren’t on-base nearly as much as Cupid.

With a hawk’s eye, Childs was an expert batsman who never seemed to giveaway at-bats.  It wasn’t an unusual feat for Cupid to walk 100 times in a season—well before the modern day 162 game schedule.  Unlike modern day drawers-of-walks, Cupid rarely struck out.  In four different seasons, Childs drew 100 walks yet failed to register over twenty whiffs.  None of Cupid’s peers ever had a 100-walk season: Jennings never drew more than 80 in a single season and Davis never reached 70 bases on balls.  In eleven straight seasons, Cupid finished in the league’s Top Ten in walks drawn, which enabled him to enjoy five Top Five finishes in on-base percentage.  George Davis never had a Top Five finish in on-base percentage, while McPhee never even saw his name reach a Top Ten list in that important category.  Hughie Jennings was the closest to Childs in on-base percentage, and he, too, failed to mirror Cupid’s excellence in that department.  Hughie had three Top Five finishes in on-base percentage and just one Top Ten finish in walks drawn.

Drawing walks was hardly the extent of Cupid’s game.  A well-rounded ballplayer, Childs also led the league, back when there was just one Major League in existence, in doubles and runs scored.  George Davis, who was championed for Hall of Fame enshrinement several years ago by historians, never led his league in an extra base hit department, nor did he ever pace his circuit in runs scored.  Hughie Jennings, as well, never saw his name atop a leader board in either runs scored or an extra base hit department.

Ask anyone who knows the basics of baseball, and they will tell you that the most important aspect of the game is the scoring of runs.  By scoring more runs than your opponent, your team is victorious.  Profound logic, huh?  When it came to scoring runs, Childs was head and shoulders above his Hall of Fame peers.  In two separate seasons, Cupid averaged over one run scored per game—McPhee and Davis accomplished this feat in one lone season.  The feet of Mr. Childs trampled home plate at a greater clip than the fellows enshrined.  For his career, Cupid averaged 0.833 runs scored per game; far superior to Hall of Fame peers McPhee (0.788), Jennings (0.773) and Davis (0.651).

As a star of a now defunct team, the Cleveland Spiders, Cupid Childs’ memory is lost but to the few historians that embrace disbanded franchises.  The left-handed hitting second baseman enjoyed a solid career, yet given that his team is one no longer in existence, his name has gone unrecognized.  Not regarded in a club’s Hall of Fame, Cupid Childs has only the Veteran’s Committee to offer him the immortality that comes with enshrinement.

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For those individuals well versed in baseball trivia, a question I will soon put forth might shock a great deal of baseball enthusiasts.  The Hall of Fame has acknowledged the relief pitcher, with selections of firemen such as Rollie Fingers and Hoyt Wilhelm, and recent inductions of Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter.  Sutter and Gossage are modern relief artists, who both reached 300 career saves, however, when you ask the question who has the most career saves between Hall of Famers Gossage, Sutter and their unenshrined peer Tom Henke, few people would put forth the proper answer.  The two men with plaques in the Hall of Fame were outperformed by the underappreciated closer of the Blue Jays.  Henke saved 311 career games to Gossage’s 310 and Sutter’s 300.

The closer has become a valuable piece to a roster and few stoppers were as dynamite as Tom “The Terminator” Henke.  An overpowering closer who racked up high strikeout totals while also limiting base-runners by issuing few walks, Henke was an elite fireman whose career is more impressive than his two enshrined peers.  Not only did Henke amass more saves than Gossage and Sutter, but he also posted lower career totals in ERA and WHIP.  His totals weren’t just a little lower than the two Hall of Famers—they were a great deal lower.

When Henke hung up his spikes, he walked away from the game with a tidy ERA of 2.67.  Bruce Sutter’s career mark was quite a bit higher at a respectable 2.83 while Gossage’s exceeded 3.00, albeit by the scantest of margins.  With a career WHIP of 1.092, Henke was that uncommon fireman who kept runners off base.  Not only was The Terminator difficult to hit, but he was also stingy with bases on balls.  Bruce Sutter’s career WHIP of 1.140 was much higher than Henke’s while Gossage posted a decent career mark of 1.232, far inferior to both Henke and Sutter.  Henke enjoyed three seasons with a WHIP below 1.000, a feat matched by Gossage but not by Sutter, who only had two such campaigns.

Tom Henke posted an ERA under 2.50 in seven separate seasons (Sutter only had three such years) and enjoyed six 30+ saves seasons.  Relief pitchers are typically judged by the games they saved, which baffles the analyst as to why Sutter and Gossage were enshrined at the expense of Henke.  Whereas Tom had six 30+ saves seasons, Goose only notched two such campaigns while Sutter enjoyed four.  Of the three, Henke was also the most reliable, for he stringed together four consecutive seasons with 30 or more saves, while Bruce Sutter’s 30+ saves seasons were all spread out throughout his career—he never had back-to-back 30 saves seasons.

The mark of a terrific pitcher is limiting base-runners, and with firemen, the need to keep batters off base is of uppermost importance.  Oftentimes, especially in the days of these three gentlemen, stoppers were brought into games with runners already on base.  With inherited ducks on the pond, the fireman capable of missing bats was important.  Henke bested his peers in this regard as well.  In only one season did Henke allow more hits than innings worked—Gossage allowed this to happen in five seasons and Sutter in three.  On average, Henke allowed 6.9 hits per nine innings, a mark that easily eclipsed Sutter’s 7.6 and Gossage’s 7.4.  Strikeouts, the best way to strand runners, was a forte of Henke’s as well, for The Terminator averaged 9.8 whiffs per nine innings: Gossage (7.5) and Sutter (7.4) lagged way behind.

Many things separated Tom Henke from his bullpen peers, but what was most impressive about his game was his terrific location for a power pitcher.  Your typical late inning flamethrower simply pulls back and uncorks a fastball as hard as he can throw it, with little regard to accuracy, which, as one would imagine, often leads to free passes.  Strikeout-to-walk ratios aren’t as impressive as they could be given this disregard for control.  But Henke had both the strikeout arm and the control pitcher’s accuracy.  He retired with an impressive SO/BB of 3.38, which outdistanced Gossage’s (2.05) and Sutter’s (2.79) by margins immense.  At the top of his form, Henke posted five seasons in his career with a SO/BB of 4.25 or higher—something Bruce Sutter only did once, while Gossage was never able to perform.

Tom Henke was an elite closer, who, upon his initial run at the Hall of Fame, failed to receive even two percent of the vote from the BBWAA.  Why Henke was overlooked and the voters zeroed in on Sutter and Gossage is anyone’s guess, but it seems clear to me, that the best fireman owns not a plaque in the Hall of Fame’s gallery.

To name all the former players who at one time held the career record for homeruns is to offer a short roll call of names.  Barry Bonds recently broke Hank Aaron’s record, which Mr. Aaron took from Babe Ruth, who held the record for several decades.  The Bambino toppled the mark set by Hall of Famer Roger Connor, while Connor broke the record held by the man who set the original mark: Mr. Harry Stovey.  Ruth, Aaron and Connor are all Hall of Famers while Bonds will be judged for the Hall of Fame in the up-coming year.  As for Harry Stovey, few people can recall his name because he has yet to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The honor has yet to be bestowed upon the legend of the 1800s because historians pay little notice to Stovey’s primary league: the old American Association.

The reason Harry Stovey, one of the greatest speed/power combo threats in the game’s rich history, has been passed over repeatedly for inducted is the stigma of the American Association (AA).  Often referred to as “The Beer and Whiskey League,” the AA was deemed a lesser caliber of play to the dominant National League.  Be that as it may, Stovey participated in both leagues and shined in each one.  The early legend of baseball was a five-time single season homerun champ–he won the homerun crown his rookie year–and also led the league in triples and runs scored in four separate seasons.  Due to his many league leading totals, Stovey’s rank on the “Black Ink Test,” which focuses on the totals of league-leading stats, rests high on the all-time board and exceeds most of his peers.  Stovey’s Black Ink mark is a stellar 56.  Hall of Fame peers Billy Hamilton (43), Hugh Duffy (35), Orator O’Rourke (27), King Kelly (23) and Tommy McCarthy (3) all rest well below Harry’s mark.

If one were to offer a modern ballplayer as a likeness to Stovey, the name Barry Bonds would come to mind.  Both ballplayers were exceptional athletes who were capable of leading their respective leagues in both homeruns and stolen bases.  Although the stolen base stat wasn’t kept on a regular basis during the first few years of Stovey’s career, he nevertheless led his league in that department on three occasions.  Old literature on the game will often list Stovey, in one of the years the stolen base wasn’t kept, as having pilfered over 150 bases in a single season.  Perhaps, had stats been annotated like they are today, Ty Cobb, Maury Wills and Rickey Henderson would not be considered the record holders of past and present in that department.

At one point in baseball history, Harry Stovey held the single season record in both homeruns and stolen bases.  An accomplished all-round ballplayer, Stovey was a slugging threat (he paced the league three times in slugging percentage) who also ran the bases with the speed of a gazelle.  Although his career was anything but lengthy, Harry rests 21st all-time in the career triples department.  Due to his prolific offensive accomplishments, Stovey remains, to this day, one of the single greatest run manufacturers in the game’s history.  Capable of scoring and driving in a ton of runs, Stovey is one of just a select few ballplayers in history to average over a run scored per game.  As a manufacturer of runs, scored and driven-in, Stovey is in the class of the elite.  He accounted for an average of 1.615 runs manufactured per game, a tally that exceeded Hall of Fame peers Kelly (1.586), Hamilton (1.530), O’Rourke (1.469) and McCarthy (1.412).  Modern day comparisons, Derek Jeter (1.208) and Alex Rodriguez (1.525) show that Stovey was quite remarkable, regardless the era.

When Harry Stovey passed away, he received a little support for the Hall of Fame but those individuals who turn their nose up to the American Association kept him from garnering much support.  The highest percentage of the Hall of Fame vote Stovey ever received came just prior to his death when he netted the small total of 7.7% of the vote.  A case could be made for Harry Stovey as the most underrated player in baseball history, for the man seemed to lack a weakness on the field.  He was both swift and strong, leading his league in long balls and thefts on several occasions.

Fans of sports teams have been known to gripe about ill representation, whether it be at an All-Star Game or some other function, but Washington Senators fans have a legitimate gripe when it comes to their lack of representation at  basbeball’s Hall of Fame.  A number of great Senators haven’t received much support by voters, even with such quality candidates like Mickey Vernon, Cecil Travis, Eddie Yost, Frank Howard and the former star second baseman Buddy Myer.  When a player plays the bulk of his career with that capitalized “W” on his cap, he fails to get the exposure a player of the same caliber acquires when he sports pinstripes or plays in a larger venue.  Many baseball fans have complained, justifiably so, of the Hall of Fame’s New York bias, pointing to players with lesser stats on better teams having been inducted over superior players on lesser teams.  But the Hall of Fame isn’t perfect, far from it, and when one understands the location of the museum, it shouldn’t take the application of too much reason to understand the NY bias.

Buddy Myer, had there been no Charlie Gehringer, would be considered the best second baseman of his era.  He had other peers that were quality players, two, Billy Herman and Tony Lazzeri, have been inducted to the Hall of Fame, but the portside-swinging second baseman stacks up awfully well to those two gents.  Gehringer, The Mechanical Man, was clearly the cream of the 1930s 2B crop, but his runner-up might be left out of the Hall of Fame.  Myer was a gifted, all-round performer who had terrific offensive value and possessed a glove superior to both Herman and Lazzeri.  Buddy’s career fielding percentage at second base was an impressive .974 (five points above league average at the position) while Herman and Lazzeri fielded at an identical .967 clip. 

Myer had a substantial edge in career fielding percentage over both Herman and Lazzeri.  The Washington second baseman led the AL twice in fielding percentage while the slugging New York Yankee, Tony Lazzeri, never paced the junior circuit in fielding.  The Washington man accumulated more career putouts at second base than Laz, but Tony hit with authority while Buddy, whose homefield was the cavernous Griffith Stadium, hit more to contact.  The two men were terrific second basemen but newspaper writers of the time knew Lazzeri was inferior to Buddy at playing the position.  An article written during the prime of their careers compared Myer more favorably to Charlie Gehringer, regarded by all analysts as the best 2B of their time, than Tony Lazzeri.

Offensively, Buddy Myer left little to be desired.  The Senators weren’t known for their slugging, due in most part to their massive home stadium, but blasting the sphere, regardless his homefield, was never Buddy’s offensive game.  The best contact hitter among second basemen of his day–not named Gehringer, of course–Myer owned an enviable batting eye.  The Senators second basemen played ten years in which he had twice as many walks as strikeouts.  Charlie Gehringer is the only second basemen who played in roughly the same era to top Myer’s mark with twelve seasons–nobody else even comes close.  Billy Herman had five years in which he walked twice as much as he fanned while Red Schoendienst had five as well.  Yankee Hall of Famers Joe Gordon and Tony Lazzeri had one such year combined between the two, with Gordon achieving the feat.

One of the most interesting facts on Buddy Myer is that he is the only American League infielder of the prewar years to win a batting title and not be named to the Hall of Fame.  Buddy employed his remarkable batting eye to advantage, which enabled him to be a threat for a batting title year after year.  What his sharp eye also did was enable him to post some impressive on-base percentages.  Buddy’s career OBP of .389 exceeds all of his aforementioned Hall of Fame peers, with the typical exception of Gehringer.  Lazzeri’s career on-base percentage was nine points below Myer at .380, followed by Herman’s .367, Gordon’s ,357 and Red Schoendienst’s rather poor .337 career on-base percentage.  His on-base skills allowed him to be rack up more career stolen bases with 157 than Lazzeri (148), Gordon (89), Schoendienst (89) and Herman (67).

Although he wasn’t a slugger in the Lazzeri mold, Myer was a terrific run producer–better than Billy Herman.  The mite second basemen posted a 100 RBI/100 run scored season during his career, a feat never achieved by Herman or Red Schoendienst.  When looking at their runs manufactured average, the combination of runs scored with runs driven in, Myer has an edge on the Hall of Famers as well.  Myer average 1.053 runs manufactured per game during his career, which is an average that eclipses Herman’s 1.042 and blows Schoendienst’s meager 0.901 average out of the water. 

When an analyst wants to make a case for a player’s Hall of Fame induction, the best way is by comparing his stats to players already enshrined.  Myer’s career stats are pretty fair indeed, with many exceeding the standards of the gents already enshrined.  Billy Herman was widely regarded as the top second baseman of the National League during the pre-war years they played in, and Myer has many similarities to Herman in the most common of stats.  Buddy Myer scored 1,174 runs to Herman’s 1,163.  Myer drove in 850 runs compared to Herman’s 839.  Herman’s batting average was a point higher at .304 to Myer’s .303, as was Herman’s .407 slugging average–Myer had a career .406 SA.  But in the third slash line category, which makes Myer’s slash line far superior to Herman’s, is the 22 point separation Buddy has in on-base percentage: .389 to Herman’s .367.  When compared to his Hall of Fame peers, Buddy Myer looks to be a very strong candidate for enshrinement.

There have been many star ballplayers throughout the many years of professional baseball, but some of the game’s brightest toil in obscurity.  Tim Raines was a seven-time All-Star, representing his Montreal Expos in seven consecutive seasons.  As fleet as a gazelle with a lion chasing its tail, Raines was a threat to take an extra base whenever the man was in motion.  He pilfered bags, turned singles into doubles and hot-footed the occasional triple when most players would have held up at second.  Playing for the Expos north of the border didn’t allow for much exposure on Tim’s part, but obscurity may not be the reigning factor keeping Raines out of the Hall of Fame.  Competition, the analysis of comparing a player to his peers, might be the chief aspect keeping Raines out of the Hall.  However good he was, Raines, as a fleet-footed left fielder, was often compared to the great Rickey Henderson and always came up wanting.

Peruse any baseball site that specializes in the history of the game and you’ll find that Rickey Henderson is regarded as the greatest leadoffman in baseball history.  Henderson had the wheels and on-base skills one looks for in an ideal top-of-the-order hitter.  Tim Raines also possessed these skills.  Both men had an uncanny knack for plate discipline, that can be best understood by their batting stances–each man employed a rather pronounced crouch, thus giving them a tightened strike zone.  This enabled both Raines and Rickey to draw plenty walks while also keeping their amount of strikeouts down.  The two leadoffmen also had occasional power to go with their elite speed which gave them an edge over other swift leadoffmen like Brett Butler and Willie Wilson.  Rickey Henderson, the Hall of Famer, posted three years with at least 100 runs scored and 60 RBI–a feat matched by Raines.

Compared to Rickey Henderson, Raines is clearly the lesser player–in many aspects–but he does exceed the enshrined leadoffman in several key categories.  In the three slash line categories (BA, OBP and SA) Raines has a better mark in two columns.  His career batting average is much higher than Rickey’s (Raines has a career .294 BA to Henderson’s .279) and Tim’s slugging average even edges out Henderson’s by six points: .425 to .419.  However, in other important stats, Henderson outperforms Raines by a wide margin.  Henderson has far more runs scored and hits, and in stolen bases, their specialty, Henderson was more than a little better.  Henderson netted a dozen stolen base titles while Tim was able to lead his league on four occasions. 

To compare a player to one peer does not do the man justice.  Tim Raines has other outfield peers in the Hall of Fame and some of them appear a tad on the light side when judged against Raines.  While Tim was patrolling left field for the Expos, there were other gardeners, like Andre Dawson (a one-time teammate) Tony Gwynn, Kirby Puckett and Jim Rice playing in the pasture as well.  All these men made the Hall of Fame, with the exception of Raines, of course, but Tim’s career WAR exceeds all his Hall of Fame peers with the exception of Henderson.  The career WAR of these players are listed, best to worst: Rickey Henderson (106.8), Raines (66.2), Gwynn (65.3), Dawson (60.6), Puckett (48.2) and Rice (44.3).  As far as the important category of on-base percentage is concerned, Raines stacks up awfully well too.  Henderson leads the crew with a career .401 OBP, followed by Gwynn (.388), Raines (.385), Puckett (.360), Rice (.352) and Dawson (.323).

With a cursory glance at Tim Raines’ career, one gets the impression of a player knocking on the door of Cooperstown.  Tim won four stolen base titles in a row, netted a batting crown and led the National League in runs scored twice.  He scored 100 or more runs in six separate seasons and ranks fifth all-time in career stolen bases.  Among all the players in baseball history, only 52 men have scored more runs than him, and he was also an elite defender in left field.  Raines had the speed and instincts to play center field but Montreal always had plenty of ballhawking talent around Tim to keep him stationed in left.  Tim led left fielders in fielding percentage five separate years and currently rests seventh on the all-time list in putouts by left fielders and eleventh in left field assists.

Players who split their career between positions have had a difficult time making their way to Cooperstown.  For whatever reason, voters prefer position players with a set station, which accounts for the absence of Deacon White and Joe Torre in Cooperstown.  There have been players like Rod Carew and Robin Yount make the Hall of Fame, but both men are members of the 3,000 Hit Club, so their enshrinement was a given.  Deacon White, one of baseball’s early legends, falls into this bracket of undesignated position players since his career was split between catcher and third base.  Although White played more games at third he was a much better backstop than he was a hot corner custodian.  He caught in baseball’s early days, well before catchers donned masks and shin guards, before he shifted to third base.  When he was an everyday catcher, the schedule was significantly shorter than when he made the shift to third base, so Deacon spent more years behind the dish but played more games at third.

Deacon and his brother Will were professional baseball’s first brother battery as the White Boys were elite players at their respective positions: Will being the Greg Maddux of his time, complete with pinpoint control.  When baseball became a professional enterprise, Deacon was on the ground floor.  Of all the players who participated in the inaugural season of professional baseball only Hall of Famer Cap Anson has more career hits, runs and RBI than Deacon.  There were some exceptional players in baseball’s first season, such as Hall of Famers George Wright and Anson, as well as other forgotten stars like Cal McVey, Ross Barnes and Tom York.  But White’s career 1,140 runs, 2,067 hits and 988 RBI eclipsed every player from the game’s infancy not named Anson.

Deacon White often played with powerhouse teams during his career.  He was a member of the three-time champion Red Stockings in the mid 1870s and teamed with Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers, and stars Jack Rowe and Hardy Richardson to comprise the Buffalo Bisons’ fabled “Big Four.”  His status as one of the game’s elite stars during the early days of the game was unquestioned given his production from the catcher position: a post that caused severe bodily harm to many men of the period.  The Hall of Fame has done little to recognize players of the game’s early years, having enshrined the Wright Brothers, Al Spalding and Cap Anson from the original 1871 professional ranks.  Deacon White, who tallied the first base hit in Major League Baseball history–off of right-hander Bobby T. Mathews–may have been a better player than the lauded George Wright.

Over the course of White’s lengthy career in the Major League ranks he nabbed a pair of batting titles and led his league on three separate occasions in the RBI department.  George Wright, the Derek Jeter of his time, never once won a batting title.  Deacon was able to accumulate more career hits, runs and RBI than the star shortstop.  Taking into account each man’s slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging average) Deacon has a clear advantage over Wright the Younger as well.  White ended his career with a solid slash line of .312 BA/.346 OBP/.393 SA compared to George Wright’s .301 BA/.318 OBP/.398 SA.  When one takes into consideration that White played a more physically demanding position than Wright, the impression that the lesser ballplayer resides in the Hall of Fame is presented.

In order to make a convincing case for a player’s Hall of Fame enshrinement, one must compare the player to his position peers–those men who played the same position in roughly the same era.  Deacon White’s closest peers are King Kelly and Buck Ewing–both catchers of baseball’s early years who also saw plenty action at other posts on the diamond.  Neither Ewing nor Kelly played at the outset of baseball’s professional status, like Deacon White, as the enshrined duo debuted several years after White when schedules had lengthened.  But White’s durability allowed him to post career numbers on par with the enshrined catchers.  Their career stats are in relative proximity to one another.

Both Deacon White and King Kelly won a pair of batting titles in their careers.  All three players caught for an extended period in the Majors with White besting the Cooperstown gents in longevity.  Like White, Kelly saw more action at another post than catcher but many historians view Kelly as a catcher rather than an outfielder, where he settled after his days backstopping.  White’s career totals in the major categories of hits, runs, RBI and batting average outdistanced Buck Ewing, and the same can almost be said of Kelly, but King tallied a slightly higher total of career runs scored.  Despite Kelly’s career runs total eclipsing White’s, Deacon had a better career WAR than Kelly: White posting a 44.2 to Kelly’s 42.4.  Behind the dish, Kelly’s arm was superior to White’s but Deacon was a more reliable receiver.  White had three Top Two finishes in fielding percentage at the catcher post while Kelly never had a whiff of leading catchers in fielding percentage. 

Inducting players from the 1800s into the Hall of Fame picked up a little steam a few years ago when slick-fielding second baseman Biddy McPhee was enshrined, but the coals have since gone cold.  One of the main factors in White’s Hall of Fame absence is the lack of knowledge concerning baseball’s early days.  When the game became a professional enterprise, teams did not engage in 162 games–far from it.  Thirty games seemed an ample amount of contests in the game’s early stages before the schedules began to expand courtesy a semblance of league stability.  Exceeding 2,000 career hits in White’s day is akin to reaching 3,000 in modern times.  The legendary Cap Anson was the only player from the 1800s to reach 3,000 hits.  White was analyzed a few years ago by the modified Veteran’s Committee, but he was, for whatever reason, found wanting.

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)