I am not a big Hall of Fame guy, but I am a Big Hall of Fame guy.
The sport of baseball has been around long enough for there to be definable ‘eras,’ and even those eras have existed for so long we generally fail to acknowledge the first three decades of the game, too. Hell, the ‘modern era’ of baseball is now over 120 years old.
That’s a huge pile of baseball played by a huge pile of baseball players. Nearly 20,000, by many estimates. Even if you only focus on the absolute best of the best, we’re talking hundreds upon hundreds of Hall of Fame caliber players at this juncture, a number where splitting-hairs becomes a bit ridiculous.
Six new members were elected to the Hall last night, each of whom is deserving in their own right. Gil Hodges, legendary 1B of the Brooklyn Dodgers who won a pair of World Series title was one. Minnesota Twins icons Jim Kaat and Tony Olivo joined him, as did the inimitable Minnie Miñoso of Chicago White Sox fame. And finally, after an embarrassingly long overdue time, Buck O’Neil was inducted for his lifetime of tremendous influence on the game as a player, coach, and scout.
Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs had his usual excellent recap of the decisions, noting not only the results but the process behind the voting. And while the honor for the six who got elected is certainly something worth of a hat-tip, Jaffe’s reaction to the announcement was similar to mine in that it was as much about who missed out as who got in:
How the hell did Dick Allen get snubbed once again?
I’m admittedly someone who values peak much more than longevity, as quality>quantity has long been a pretty obvious tenet of how I view the game as a whole. Even with that in mind, Allen’s statistical candidacy is (and has long been) rock-solid in my eyes. From 1964-1974, for instance, not a single player in Major League Baseball could top Allen’s 163 wRC+ - not Frank Robinson, not Willie McCovey, not Hank Aaron, not Mickey Mantle, all of who ranked behind him on that leaderboard. In other words, his numbers relative to his elite crew of peers were off the charts, and that’s before you even factor in his Rookie of the Year and MVP awards as icing on the cake.
Much of that 11 season window came during a time of record-breaking pitching, too. You’ll recall MLB moved to lower the mound in the midst of it because offensive numbers had taken such a massive blow relative to their pitching peers. Anyway, to see a player like Allen - a guy who once led the entire American League in HR, RBI, BB, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+ in a year where he posted a freaking 199 OPS+ - not get his due shortly after serial complier Harold Baines was elected creates the kind of incongruity that makes this entire exercise seem silly.
Hence, I am no big Hall of Fame fan much anymore. Dick Allen was one of the absolute best players who has ever picked up a bat. The more baseball fans focus on that rather than on who was popular enough to get a plaque in a building in New York, the more the future of this sport will be truly connected to its history.