Top Ten Hall of Famers Who Should Make it Obvious to Anyone With A Pulse That Gil Hodges Should Be in the Hall of Fame
by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution
December 30, 2005
Before we get started here, it is important to point out the possible misguideness of this venture. I do not think that a player belongs in the Hall of Fame simply because there are lesser players also in the Hall. What this really means is that such lesser players should be expelled from the Hall.
However, sometimes, when baseball fans discuss the Hall of Fame, and who should be in and who should be out, it is clear that these fans are holding the Hall of Fame to a standard which it has not always maintained, and indeed may never have even come close to maintaining.
In his note on Ron Santo, Bill James notes that "[t]he Ted Williams/Bob Gibson/Honus Wagner standard for the Hall of Fame selection has never existed anywhere except in the imaginations of people who don't know anything about the subject." Rather, the Hall has always been about a standard which is fall below that, one which, in his words, resulted in "six decades of honoring players like Tommy McCarthy, Rabbit Maranville, Elmer Flick, Dave Bancroft, George Kell, and Tony Lazzeri."
That having been said, the following ten players (and I will avoid using his examples) represent not arguments in favor of Gil Hodges, but rather proof that those who would keep Hodges out of the Hall are holding Hodges to high of a standard.
Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez
We already covered these guys
Of Schalk, Bill James says that he was "elected on a whim of the Veterans' Committee." I don't agree with everything James says, but anyone described has having been selected "on a whim" does not belong in the Hall. Schalk's career OPS was .656, or 83% of his league's OPS. In his career, he scored 579 runs, drove in 594 RBI, hit 11 homeruns, went unindicted in the Black Sox scandal, batted .253 with a .340 OBP, and walked way more than he stuck out. He apparently was fantastic defensively, and participated in more double plays than any catcher ever, but still, Schalk was admitted to the Hall of Fame under a very low standard indeed.
It is too bad that Gil Hodges did not have a Hall of Fame brother to break in at the same time as he. Lloyd Waner broke into the league in 1927 and promptly got 220 or more hits three years in a row, and hit .335 or better in each of those seasons. Have I mentioned yet that the late 1920s are one of the best offensive eras ever?
Tragically, Waner was hurt in 1930, the greatest offensive season of all time, or else his numbers would be even more gaudy. After 1930, he would he get to 200 hits once more, 1931 at the age of 25, and then become a decent played for the rest of his career. Despite his quick start, or maybe because of, he is a .316 hitter with an OPS 99% of his league. He scored 1200 runs in 7772 at-bats, but only 598 RBI to go with his 27 dingers. He was excellent at not striking out, with only 173 in his career, but he only walked 420 times. He was a solid defensive outfielder.
I will tattoo Lloyd Waner's name to my forehead if Ichiro Suzuki does not end up in the Hall of Fame.
Ashburn is a perfect example of what I am trying to do here. I like Richie Ashburn a lot. He walked twice as many times as he struck out. He has a career average over .300, with an OBP near .400. He scored lots of runs, was a very good defensive outfielder, and apparently a lot of fun to be around in the clubhouse. I am not arguing that Ashburn should not be in the Hall of Fame, but rather I propose Ashburn as proof that the bar simply isn't that low.
Ashburn hit for no power – his career slugging was 14 points less
than his career on-base percentage. He never drove in more than 63 runs. He scored more than 100 exactly twice. He was a very good hitter, but might be characterized today as an "empty average" guy. He was out of baseball at 35, playing just under 2200 games. He is what I would call very good. I think if he is in, Gil Hodges should probably be in.
Chick played outfield for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1924, at the age of 21, to 1937, at the age of 34. He missed the 1936 season, played only 15 games in 1935, and didn't play more than 103 games until 1927. All told, Hafey played 140 or more games exactly twice, 130 or more twice, and 120 or more twice. By my estimation, he played approximately 6 full seasons, out of 14.
Hafey's craeer OPS is solid, .898, 33% better than the league. Which is minimally impressive in 4600 career at-bats. Why he didn't play more is beyond me; all I know is that he didn't. He scored 100 and drove in 100 in 1928, 1929, and 1930 which, by the way, are some of the best offensive seasons of all time. His biggest batting average seasons also happen to be those, but also 1931 when he hit .349. Hafey struck out more than he walked, he enjoyed three good seasons in a great era for a great team, and he never played full seasons. For my money, this sets a pretty low standard for the Hall of Fame.
All I can say is that it is a shame that no one ever started a "Reese to Robinson to Hodges" slogan, or Hodges might be in the Hall today. Chance's OPS+ was 35% better than the league, but he played only six full seasons in 17 years, finishing with underwhelming numbers. He also managed the Cubs to 4 World Series, and two victories.
Hodges managed the 1969 Mets to World Series victory in his second season as manager. If we are going to start letting being a manager counts for something, I think Hodges measures up.
Also a corner infielder, Collins played third. Like Hodges, was also a manager. His OPS was 13% better than the league. Scored just over 1000 runs, drove in just under 1000. 1999 career hits in 6795 at-bats. Went to 1 World Series, against Pirates in 1903, and won. Not a whole lot sets him apart from Hodges.
In about 1700 more at-bats, this outfielder had 300 more runs, 450 less RBI. A career .281 hitter, his OPS is 14% better than the league. He walked more than he struck out, generally. He hit 160 triples, which is plenty, and stole 375 bases. However, caught stealings were not kept consistently back then, and in the years when they were kept, his caught stealing totals are similar to his stolen base totals, which means it appears his success rate was very close to half. Won four World Series with the Red Sox, but never had a dominant season.
I don't know how to break it to you Yankees fans, but Phil Rizzuto sets the bar so low for Hall of Fame admission that it creates a very veritable at-bat requirement – you achieve a certain number of at-bats, you're in, no questions asked.
From where I stand, Rizzuto's two greatest attributes are a) that he went to war and missed four seasons, and b) that he played in 9 World Series, winning 7 of them. Neither of these were really his doing.
Rizzuto was a shortstop, and for that matter, a good shortstop. I am all about up the middle defense, so I should not complain about this, but it does not make him a Hall of Famer.
I am also the Captain of the "If Only He Wouldn't Have Had to Go to War." This works for Greenberg, Williams, DiMaggio, Feller, and a host of others, but it does not for Rizzuto. What did we miss from Rizzuto going off to war? you may ask. Well, he scored 79 runs in 144 games the year before he left, and he scored 53 in 126 the year he got back. He never hit more than 7 homeruns, only twice hot his average over .300, finished with a .706 OPS, which was 93% of his league, and he only scored 100 runs twice, never driving in more than 68. I am simply not under the impression that this is very impressive.
Yankees fans will, of course, talk about leadership, what he meant to his team, and probably other intangibles such as that. To which I say – Exactly; you have just established the standard under which Gil Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame.