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Ron Santo elected to the Hall of Fame – Does he really belong?

Posted by mandyf on December 5, 2011

It is wonderful for the surviving family of Ron Santo to see their loved one enshrined in the BBHOF. Santo was a decent gentleman, a competent broadcaster and an above average player during his time. Sentimentality aside, it is hard to swallow Santo as a HOF’er with so many candidates that deserve it far more. That is not a popular thing to say about the recently deceased Chicago icon, and Mr. Santo was a fine a person as I have ever met, but he is not deserving of enshrinement in the BBHOF.

Please understand, as a youngster I had the great privilege to meet MR. Santo many times over, and he was always nothing less than gracious, giving, compassionate, and a true pleasure to be around. I adore Mr. Santo as a person. As a HOF inductee, it creates pause because as much as I want to see him there among the legends, I’m not sure that he really belongs. I know that his inclusion means there are at least 10 more players not getting recognition that deserve inclusion even more than Mr. Santo might. It isn’t an easy thing to come to grips with personally, given my respect and affection for all the man has meant to the game and the community, but this one time, I have to look at things as if I were a voter.

Hall of Fame standards are not truly set in stone. From the mid 1970’s one of the criteria I always heard used for inclusion of some players I didn’t quite understand getting in was “Was the player dominant at his position over the period of a decade?” While Santo was very good, I’m not sure we can use the word dominant in relation to him. Well above average, a dominant player over four or possibly five years at his position, but not over a decade. Not 2/3 of his career.

The Important numbers on Santo are as follows – as found at Baseball Reference. Career totals with 162 game average given in parenthesis.

Games – 2243
Seasons 15
AB – 8143 (588)
R – 1138 (82)
Hits – 2254 (163)
2B – 365 (26)
3B – 67 (5)
HR -342 (25)
RBI – 1331 (96)
BA -.277
OPS – .826

Awards: 9 time All-Star, 4 Gold Gloves, 4th place MVP ballot 1967 – 7 ballot appearances overall

The only categories Santo ever led the league in are:

OBP: 1964, 1966
GP: 1963, 1965
BB: 1964, 1966, 1967, 1968 (never over 100 in any of those seasons)
Triples : 1964, 1966, 1967
Sac. Flies: 1963, 1967, 1969
Times on Base: 1964, 1966, 1967

Hall Of Fame Statistics
Player rank in (·)

Black Ink    Batting – 11 (216), Average HOFer ≈ 27
Gray Ink    Batting – 147 (91), Average HOFer ≈ 144
Hall of Fame Monitor    Batting – 88 (196), Likely HOFer ≈ 100
Hall of Fame Standards    Batting – 41 (148), Average HOFer ≈ 50

Similar Batters
View Similar Player Links in Pop-up
Compare Stats to Similars

1. Dale Murphy (875)
2. Gary Gaetti (875)
3. Ken Boyer (874)
4. Ruben Sierra (865)
5. Chili Davis (865)
6. Bobby Bonilla (863)
7. Brian Downing (862)
8. Graig Nettles (860)
9. Scott Rolen (857)
10. Adrian Beltre (855)

Looking at statistics, Santo was an above average hitter, but his career never lasted long enough to reach the key milestones. He never had a ten year stretch that he dominated all other third basemen. His defensive prowess is unquestioned, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Brooks Robinson, his main contemporary, when it comes to defense. Then there is the Ken Boyer comparison – another contemporary, but from his own league. Let’s compare them side by side as each had a 15 year career – Boyer in parenthesis.

Games – 2243 (2034)
Seasons 15 (15)
AB – 8143 (7455)
R – 1138 (1104)
Hits – 2254 (2143)
2B – 365 (318)
3B – 67 (68)
HR -342 (282)
RBI – 1331 (1141)
BA -.277 (.287)
OPS – .826 (.810)

Santo Awards: 9 time All-Star, 4 Gold Gloves, 4th place MVP ballot 1967 – 7 ballot appearances overall
Boyer Awards: 7 Time All-Star, 5 Gold Gloves, 1964 MVP – 8 ballot appearances

Is it possible that both are deserving? If Santo is deemed deserving, then Boyer certainly is as well from a statistical standpoint. There are always intangibles to be considered, but how are they defined? Is there a way to quantify them or is just a matter of “I know them when I see them”? Boyer was well liked by teammates, was generally a decent guy by all accounts, came prepared to play everyday and did all the things you expect a player to do – not much different from Santo. Boyer was an MVP on a World Championship team, Santo never appeared in a WS or won an MVP. Does that translate into the mix at all?

I love Ron Santo. I wish I saw him play in his prime. He was a solid player that made his team better year in and year out. I just can’t say he is the caliber player that deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame. It is the Hall of Legends after all, not the Hall of the above average.

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