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The Hall of Fame Vote Review Continues
by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution
January 27, 2006
Sam Rice and George Sisler
I donít even know what happened with Sam Rice and George Sisler. I think these guys represent a fundamental difference in my approach to the Hall compared to Scott and Keith. In my mind, milestones matter a lot more in Hall of Fame credentials than they do in Top 100 credentials. The Top 100 should be reserved for only the best players, but there is room in the Hall for players who accomplish certain things while not being great all around players Hitting .250 for 23 years until you get to 3,000 hits does not make you a great player, but getting 3,000 hits does put you in a select company, and deserves recognition. To me.
I voted for Dave Kingman because he hit 400 home runs. I voted for Early Wynn and Don Sutton because they had 300 wins. This is the Hall of Fame
after all, and I do feel that there are certain automatic-in accomplishments.
That having been said, I think Rice and Sisler were great players who came up short of great milestone, but would have accomplished them if not for external factors unique to their eras.
My thinking on Sam Rice is pretty straight forward. He finished with 2987 hits. He debuted at the age of 25, and didnít play more than 58 games until the age of 27. He missed all but seven games in 1918 because of World War I. I think he probably could have eeked out 13 more hits had these factors not been the case.
Its not like excuses need to be made for Rice. He still managed 1514 runs in his career. He hit .322. He struck out 41 times in his first full season, then never struck out more than 26 times the rest of the way. He had 200 or more hits 6 times, and once had 199. His average never dipped below .293 in any season in the league, partial or full. His 112 OPS+ (12% better than the league) reflects the fact that he had 34 career homeruns while playing through the single greatest offensive era in baseball history. He was also 5í9Ē 150. While his career average was inflated by ERA, his era hit about 20 points above the all time league average, which makes him about a .300 hitter, overall. I really donít get why Rice didnít merit a single point from either Glab.
George Sisler I can understand a little more, but I still think he deserved more than just my two points. Sisler was very much like Rice Ė for-average hitter who didnít slug, high average in an inflated era, and didnít strikeout ever but rarely walked. Sisler was an empty-average type guy - .340 average but .379 on-base.
George Sisler is, to me, the other side of the Sandy Koufax equation. Like Koufax from 1962 to 1966, Sisler was just a lights out fantastic player from 1917 to 1922. In those years, he posted OPS+ numbers of 161, 157, 154, 181, 140, and 170, which ranked him 3rd, 4th, 5th, 2nd, 6th, and 3rd. Keep in mind, he was in a league Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Harry Heilmann, Shoeless Joe, and Bobby Veach in those seasons. In those seasons, his average was .353, .341, .352, .407, .371, and.420. Then, in 1923 he developed sinusitis in his optic nerves, and reportedly was seeing double. After missing all of 1923, he returned but was never the same.
This is where he and Koufax diverge. At the age of 31, Koufax retired, leaving the world wondering what would have happened if he would have played ten more years with his injury, and letting many people erroneously consider him one of the top pitchers of all time.
About Sisler we do not have to wonder. At the age of 31, with his OPS+ never having dipped below 132 in a full season, Sisler decided to return to play seven more seasons rather than let the world wonder. His average stayed high, but not as high. His OPS suffered. For the rest of his career, he was merely a good ballplayer, collecting 200 hits three more times.
In the three years before his injury, he gathered 257, 214, and 246 hits. In the two years after he returned, he got 194 and 224. It is safe to say that, without the injury, he would have collected 3,000 hits based simply on that 1923 season, and would have surely collected more in each of the subsequent seasons.
And this isnít a Roy Campanella/Mickey Cochrane situation, in which the fact that their careers came to tragic ends tends to overshadow the fact that they were already in full decline. Sisler was 29 before the injury, playing fantastically, and approaching the second half of the 1920s, a fantastic offensive era.
Maybe George Sisler doesnít say automatic Hall of Fame to Scott and Keith, but to fail to give him even 1 point as Keith did is simply negligent. It makes me giggle to wonder what drove Keith to give Ken Singleton two points while giving Sisler zero.
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Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Asher B. Chancey resides in Alexandria, Virginia, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org