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Three Inexcusable Omissions

Flick, Garciaparra, and Terry fail to make Asher's Top 200 List

by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
September 16, 2009

When Asher and I went over our Top 200 Lists this summer, we were actually quite surprised at the similarities between them, given our different valuation of players and the different methodology of our lists.  Still, there are indeed differences, and what better way to break the ice in discussing them than to examine the highest three players I have ranked that do not appear on Asher's list at all?  In order, they are Elmer Flick, whom I have ranked as the 111th-best player of all-time, Nomar Garciaparra (#129), and Bill Terry (#167).  Asher can apparently name 200 superior players to this trio, but I just don't see it.
2009 Player Rankings
Asher's List
Keith's List
Composite List

Elmer Flick | Nomar Garciaparra | Bill Terry


Elmer Flick (#111)


Way back in the summer of 2006, the last time we unveiled our respective lists, I asked Asher what his biggest regret of his list was after first citing my own: Hack Wilson ranked at #114 ahead of guys like Derek Jeter, Bert Blyleven and Cal Ripken Jr.  When we went over those lists and I said Hack's name, I felt slightly queasy.  It was as though someone had rearranged my list before I printed it out just to make me appear foolish.  The worst part about it was that Wilson has always been a favorite of mine, as I'm sure he was of many pre-teens pouring through historical baseball stats for the first time and stumbling upon the numbers .356, 56, and 190 (or 191 for you youngons).  So the fact that he appeared so highly on my list reflected a lack of objectivity on my part, even though I maintain it was simply an oversight.

Asher responded to my reconciliation without hesitation, saying that he regretted not being able to find a slot for Elmer Flick among his Top 200 players.  I had him ranked at #111 and Scott had him ranked at #130, making Flick the highest-ranked position player and second-highest player on our Composite Top 200 in which one person left the player off his list entirely (the only one ahead of Flick was Ferguson Jenkins, which was my doing).  I did not berate Asher for his omission, as he contended that it was an honest mistake.  When I uttered Flick's name his year once again at #111, however, Asher began to panic, thinking that he had once again forgotten to include one of the best offensive players of the dead ball era among the 200 best players of all time.  He quickly backed off that excuse, saying that there must have been some reason he left Flick off that he just could not recall.

Well if it was merely absent-mindedness, my sympathy has ended.  Asher had three years to remedy what he considered the biggest flaw in his list but did not get around to it? Puh-lease.  I dropped Wilson to #154 on my 2009 iteration, raising up Jeter, Blyleven, and Ripken as well.  Asher couldn't even eyeball Flick's stat line and stick him somewhere towards the end of his list?  Likewise, if there really was a thought process involved and Asher gave serious consideration to Flick prior to deciding against him, I'd like to hear that reasoning, because with Flick, there is an awful lot to like.

Flick led the American League in triples from 1905-1907.  In the dead ball era, that is probably more important than leading the league in homers.   He's also led his league in steals, adjusted batting runs, and adjusted batting wins twice each, plus leading the pack in runs, RBI, batting average, slugging, OPS, and OPS+ once each.  His OPS was 49% over the league average for the course of his career, giving him the 36th-best OPS+ in history among players with at least 3,000 career plate appearances.  He ranks 37th in offensive winning percentage (.735), 75th in adjusted batting wins (38.1), and 95th in adjusted batting runs (352).  He's tripled 164 times in his career, more than all but 29 major league players, and boasts 330 career stolen bases. 

One possible argument against Flick is that he had his best season in 1900.  This was the year that home plate assumed its present size and shape and just prior to the foul-strike rule being implemented.  It's reasonable to exercise skepticism about a player dominating in such a transitory period, and 1900 was the only year Flick notched 200 hits, drove in 100 runs, batted over .350, or managed an OPS over .900.  It would also be the final year that he reached base more than 40% of the time.   But it isn't as though this guy couldn't hack it under modern rules.  From 1904-1907, there was no better hitter in all of baseball except Honus Wagner and perhaps his teammate, Nap Lajoie.  That's not bad company, especially considering that Wagner also had one of his best seasons in the NL in 1900 and Lajoie certainly had his best in the AL in 1901, the league's inaugural year.  In fact, you could argue that it should have been more difficult to dominate the NL in 1900 than either league in later years because of the dilution of talent once the AL formed in 1901.

Flick did not appear to be anything special as a right fielder based on his defensive statistics, but he did evidently show enough athleticism to back up player-manager Lajoie at second base occasionally between 1904 and 1906.  I'm not suggesting that the Cleveland Naps should have been named the Cleveland Elmers, but failing to rank him among the game's 200-best players demonstrates a lack of understanding about era adjustments.

Elmer Flick | Nomar Garciaparra | Bill Terry




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.

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