Every year baseball fans debate who should make it into Cooperstown. There are some players who have fallen off the ballot and have basically been forgotten. This is the first part of a three-part series looking at the biggest Hall of Fame snubs at each position.
For this article, I will not be including players who have been snubbed for steroid use, character issues, or bans. I also will not be including players still on the ballot such as Andruw Jones or Scott Rolen as the writers still have a chance to get it right. So let’s take a look at the All-HOF Snub Team around the infield.
Thurman Munson had a career that was tragically shortened on August 2, 1979, at just 32 years old. We can look at the intangibles alone and be impressed. He was the Captain of the New York Yankees and won back-to-back World Series in 1977-78. Like all great leaders, he performed in the playoffs when it was time to lead by example. Munson had a career slash of .357/.378/.496 in 30 playoff games. He failed to get a hit in only three of those games and, unsurprisingly, the Yankees lost all three. Behind the plate, he threw out 44.4% of would-be base stealers. His toughness was never questioned as he played through numerous injuries especially into his 30s.
Lost in the mix sometimes is how good of a player Munson actually was. Baseball-Reference has his WAR at 46.0, Fangraphs has him at 40.9. If we take the average and consider Munson only played in 1,423 games his WAR/150 is 4.4. That number is better than many Hall of Fame catchers including Carlton Fisk and Gabby Hartnett. According to Fangraphs, he is one of only five catchers with 95/95 oWAR/dWAR. The others are Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Yogi Berra, and Fisk. His .292 average ranks 10th all-time among catchers with at least 5,500 PAs. Finally, his wRC+of 116 was better than Ivan Rodriguez‘s 109 in his first 11 years. These are simple examples of how he compares to some great catchers. Taking the brevity of his career into account, Munson should be in the Hall of Fame.
Dick Allen is criminally underrated. Especially his offense. Allen started off with a bang, winning the NL ROY award in 1964 for the Philadelphia Phillies. He led the league in runs (125), triples (13), and total bases (352). From 1964-1974 Allen would lead the league in OPS four times while hitting 319 HRs over those 11 seasons. He had his best season in 1972 for the Chicago White Sox. That year Allen won the AL MVP slashing .308/.420/.603 with 37 HRs and 19 SBs. He also had a stellar .450 wOBA and 199 wRC+ that year.
Speaking of those stats, let’s take a look at Allen’s career and consider how he matches up against other Hall of Fame first basemen:
Although Allen didn’t have the longevity or the counting stats these other players did, he still managed 351 career HRs and had over 1,000 runs and 1,000 RBI. He could actually run a little as well. Allen stole 133 bases in his career and is one of only three first basemen to have a .400 wOBA and 100 SBs (Lou Gehrig, Jeff Bagwell).
Lou Whitaker was the model of consistency. He didn’t have a peak but was just the epitome of excellence at the keystone. Aside from an off-year in 1980, Sweet Lou had an rWAR of between 3.5 and 6.8 every year from 1978-1993. He has the accolades voters love: 1978 AL ROY, 1984 World Series Championship, three Gold Gloves, and five-time All-Star selection. He also walked more than he struck out in his career (1,197/1,099).
How does he compare to his contemporaries you ask? Whitaker has surprisingly similar numbers to current HOFers:
The question I have for @BBWAA is how do Sandberg and Biggio both get in on their third try, yet Whitaker gets only 15 total votes and is bounced on his first ballot?
Ken Boyer was a fixture at the hot corner for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1955-1965. In those 11 seasons, Boyer won five Gold Gloves and won an MVP in 1964 leading the league in RBIs with 119. That year Boyer also helped the Cardinals defeat the Yankees in seven games to take the World Series. In the aforementioned 11-year stretch, he slashed .293/.356/.475, had a .364 wOBA, and a 119 wRC+. He is one of only five third basemen according to Fangraphs to have a 150/100 oWAR/dWAR. The others are Mike Schmidt, Wade Boggs, Scott Rolen, and Adrian Beltre.
Boyer also has some solid counting stats for his career. He had over 2,000 hits, 1,100 runs, 1,100 RBIs, and hit 282 HRs. The accolades are there with the five GGs, 11 All-Star selections, an MVP, and a World Series ring. All of this makes it surprising not only that he isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but that he only got nine votes and dropped off the ballot after his first year of eligibility in 1975.
Bill Dahlen is a player that many haven’t even heard of. Think of him as the turn of the century version of Omar Vizquel, but with a much better bat. While defensive prowess is difficult to judge back then, his skills at shortstop were spoken of by his contemporaries. Looking back on the stats, Dahlen had a career .927 fielding percentage while the league average was only .915. That is the same difference of .012 that Vizquel had during his career (.985-.973).
Dahlen’s bat is what separates him from the “fielding-only” shortstops. His OPS+ was 109. That was far better than Vizquel’s 82 or even Ozzie Smith‘s 87. Dahlen finished with fewer plate appearances than both Smith and Vizquel, yet had more runs, RBIs, and HRs than both. Considering “Bad Bill” played in the dead-ball era, his offensive achievements are more impressive.
As far as WAR goes, Baseball-Reference has Dahlen at 75.3. This puts him in the top 50 all-time among position players, incidentally not far behind Ozzie at 76.9. Aside from Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Pete Rose, and Albert Pujols, Dahlen is the only position player in the top 50 who isn’t in the Hall of Fame (Whitaker comes in at 51 with 75.1). While Dahlen’s ejections and trouble with the law have likely tarnished his reputation to a point, he has been out of baseball for over 100 years. It is time for the writers to take a look at his case seriously.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images