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Does Ron Santo Making The HOF Open The Door For Passed Over Stars?

Posted by mandyf on December 6, 2011

Another Hall of Fame ballot has been completed, and with the inclusion of Ron Santo, who was a wonderful man but questionable inductee, the question arises as to how he got in while other players that may have been superior are still out in the cold. Taking nothing away from Santo as a player, his Hall of Fame induction does reek of just a whiff of sentimentality. Santo was a fine defender and decent hitter, but is that really enough? Putting on our “If then” hats, who belongs in based on Ron Santo being inducted – not that it will likely happen.

Don Mattingly -1B, NYY, 1982-1995

Mattingly, like Santo, never played in a World Series but did have one spectacular post season series against the Mariners in 1995. If the theory that being dominant at a position over a decade was a good enough criteria to enshrine Santo, what about Donald Arthur Mattingly?

GP – 1785
AB – 7003
R – 1007
Hits – 2153
2B – 442
3B -20
HR -222
RBI – 1099
BA – .307
OPS -.830

Awards: 6 time All-Star, 9 Gold Gloves, 1985 MVP appeared on 7 ballots

League leader:

BA: 1985
Slugging:  1986
OBP: 1986
Hits: 1984, 1986
Total bases: 1985, 1986
Doubles: 1984, 1985, 1986
RBI: 1985

Mattingly was the cornerstone of a franchise that was in a down cycle, even more so than Santo. Mattingly was the unquestioned best defensive player at his position, one of the premiere run producers of his era, and as consistent a player as could be found in the league until injuries diminished his impact his final few seasons. Still, in comparison to Santo with one less year and quite a bit fewer AB’s Mattingly is very favorable. In actuality, if you asked people that saw both play, which one they wanted to build a franchise around, Mattingly will get the bulk of the votes. That speaks volumes.

Tim Raines – 1979-2002

Tim Raines is overlooked so often that many people have forgotten him. Raines had a long career spanning 23 seasons with a variety of teams which hurts his case only so far as many people that saw him never saw him at his prime. He spent his best years stuck in Montreal being overshadowed by teammates to a degree and lacking the type of visibility Rickey Henderson enjoyed. Raines stole bases, hit with some pop, played plus defense and always managed to get on base somehow. He did all the little things right and proved to be an immense talent that translated to on-field performance.

Games: 2502
AB: 8872
R: 1571
Hits: 2605
2B: 430
3B: 113
HR: 170
RBI: 980
SB: 808
BB:1330
BA: .294
OPS: .810

Awards: 7 time All-Star, appeared on 7 MVP ballots

League Leader:

BA: 1986
OBP: 1986
Runs: 1983, 1987
2B: 1984
SB: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984

Raines was a terrifying player for pitchers to face. Reaching first almost certainly meant Raines was taking second. His game was speed, and only Rickey Henderson was better at it. Raines missed some milestone numbers, but considering the length of his career, maintaining a BA over .290 is no small feat. Then consider he missed some of those milestones because he was a platoon player from ‘96 until the end of his career aside from ‘98 when he appeared in just over 100 games, but only had about 330 AB’s. Had Raines wanted to push it or play on weaker teams for more AB’s he could have padded his numbers. Instead he chose to chase down a World Series ring which he did get with ‘96 Yankees. Raines lack of inclusion is illogical – he has plus career numbers, is one of the three greatest statistical base stealers ever and dominated for a decade.

What about Fred McGriff? The Crime Dog had some serious numbers, yet he seems to be overlooked like a fruitcake arriving in Aunt Martha’s Christmas care package. Over 19 seasons McGriff piled up 2,490 hits, 493 homers, 1,550 RBI, a .284 BA and .886 OPS. Still, he somehow only started 5 All-Star games, but appeared on 8 MVP ballots. McGriff did lead the league in homers twice, but that was basically it. His career numbers compare favorably to Eddie Matthews, Billy Williams, Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey – all HOF’ers. The rap against McGriff has always been that he wasn’t flashy enough and never tried to be a press darling. That should not count against a brilliant career.

Dave Parker was an absolute beast. In a 19 season career Parker compiled career numbers that include:  2,712 hits, 1,272 runs,339 homers, 1,493 RBI, 154 SB’s (for good measure), a .290 BA and .810 OPS. Parker was a 7 time All-Star appearing on 9 MVP ballots with a win in 1978. Parker also had 3 Gold Gloves and an absolute cannon from right field that retired more advancing base runners than the banking crisis did middle class workers. Unlike some others, Parker was a regular league leader. He led the league in slugging twice, OPS once, hits once, total bases 3 times, doubles twice and RBI once. When he didn’t lead categories during his prime years, he was usually damn close to the top.

What about Bill Madlock? Nobody ever mentions Mad Dog and he was a brilliant offensive force at third base. Madlock took home 4 batting crowns in 15 seasons with a .305 career average. He started 3 All-Star games and appeared on the MVP ballot 6 times. He walked more than he struck out over his career, 605/510, which is a rarity. He had an .807 career OPS and was at the least a top 5 defensive third baseman during his era. If Santo is in, you have to at least talk about Madlock seriously – and Madlock does have a World Series ring to boot.

Maybe Fred Lynn deserves a second look now as does Cecil Cooper and Bill Buckner. Heck, if it’s just numbers, Dave Kingman was a powerhouse with few peers, he just couldn’t hit anything but the long ball or field. The point is, it is good to see guys make it to the hall and be recognized for achievements on the field. It seems however that the Hall is getting diluted with a lot of Very good players that aren’t really elite. I’m as big a fan of Santo and many other marginal picks as anyone, but there has to be a line and there is a reason many players never make it until the veteran’s committee vote – they don’t really belong. A case like Blyleven demonstrates how the committee should work. Santo, I hate to say it, was not one of those cases.

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