Our 1983 election, our 23rd overall, saw five more players elected to the HoME. Brooks Robinson, Dick Allen, Jimmy Wynn, and Joe Torre all made it on their first try. Wally Schang joins our elite institution on his fifteenth. With their additions, HoME membership is now up to 118 of the greatest players in the game’s history. We have 94 more to go. Many will be newbies like Brooks and Torre were this election, and many will be part of the backlog that we’ve discussed last week.
Per our rules, players have to be named on both ballots for induction. In a reversal of the trend of our first ten elections, Miller has voted for more players than Eric for the fifth consecutive time. Here’s how we voted.
Miller Eric 1 Brooks Robinson Brooks Robinson 2 Dick Allen Dick Allen 3 Red Faber Jim Wynn 4 Jim Wynn Joe Torre 5 Whitey Ford Wally Schang 6 Pud Galvin Roger Bresnahan 7 Joe Sewell 8 Joe Torre 9 Bob Johnson 10 Wally Schang
The Class of 1983
The Human Vacuum Cleaner, Brooks Robinson, is likely the greatest defensive 3B ever to step onto a diamond. In fact, the Rfield statistic at Baseball Reference calls Brooks the single best defender in history. Since his long-time IF mate Mark Belanger is second on that list, you can only imagine how difficult righty pull hitters had it against the O’s from 1968-1975. No non-pitcher has as many as his 16 Gold Gloves. And the 1964 AL MVP played in 18 All-Star Games, though his AL squad came out on top only twice. At 3B he ranks lower than many would suggest, not in the top six or seven overall. But his overall greatness and HoME-worthiness are without question, which is why he makes it in on his first ballot.
Dick Allen many not have been a beloved character during his career, but the Wampum Walloper could hit a ton. He smacked 351 home runs in 15 seasons, despite only playing in 140+ games on six occasions. He led his league in HR and OBP twice each, SLG three times, and OPS four times. He also won the Rookie of the Year in 1964 and the MVP in 1972. If we consider Allen a 1B (he played 80% as many games at 3B), we’re looking at a guy who might be as high as #14 or #15 ever. If we call him a 3B, which he was from 1964-1967, he’s one of only nine players ever to post three seven-win seasons at the position. He’s not in the Hall of Fame and never received over 19% of the vote, but that’s a real mistake on the part of Cooperstown voters. On the first ballot, we welcome you HoME, Richie.
Known as “The Toy Cannon” because he was small and powerful, Jim Wynn, the 5’10”, 160 pound center fielder hit 20 homers eight times and 30 on three of those occasions. Wynn was a competent defender, no doubt, but it’s his bat that makes him one of the dozen or so best at his position and a first-ballot HoMEr. You may think that with only three All-Star appearances and no Black Ink with his bat that we overrate Wynn. Not so. Wynn was underrated during his time because he was outstanding at the under-appreciated – drawing walks. He put up a .366 OBP with only a .250 career BA. His last very strong season is a great example thereof. He hit just .207, but a league-leading 127 walks contributed to a .377 OBP. He was also underrated because the NL contenporary comparison to him in center was the great Willie Mays. He’s no Willie Mays, of course, but Sey Hey was the only CF in the game with more value for the quarter-century from 1963-1987.
Almost as likely that Joe Torre is an overrated manager is that he’s an underrated player. Defensively, we’re looking at a hybrid C/1B/3B. Offensively, we’re looking at a bat worthy of the HoME. Teams knew he could hit, which is why he was in the middle of the lineup enough to post five 100-RBI seasons during an era that depressed offense by 5% or more. The Brooklyn native won the 1971 NL MVP, and he was a nine-time All-Star. Better to think of him more as a hitter than a defender, once we add adjustments for his time behind the plate, Torre’s within the 120 or so best hitters ever. And among players we call catchers, he’s around #13 or #14. And that’s why he’s a first-ballot HoMEr.
Wally Schang isn’t the traditional HoME inductee. Even with some pretty generous adjustments for catching, he has only three or four seasons at All-Star level. But what’s truly great about this AL star for five teams is that he just kept churning out good seasons. He’s one of only four backstops with 15 years of 2-win ball. And he’s one of only eight with 13 years of 3-win ball. In every single three-year run from 1914-1923, Schang was one of the three best catchers in the game, and he was at the top four times. In every single five-year run from 1914-1924, Schang was one of the two best catchers in the game, and he was the best five times. On few occasions was Schang great, but he certainly was for his career. It took fifteen tries, but Wally’s HoME where he belongs.
When only one of us votes for a particular player, an explanation is in order. Below you’ll find five explanations for Miller and one for Eric.
Red Faber: He’s back. My break from Faber in 1982 was as temporary as it could be. I’m voting for him again because I’ve come to believe that an anti-Faber position may be one of aesthetics more than anything else. Check out the chart below.
Red Faber 9.7, 8.8, 5.4, 4.9, 3.7, 3.6, 3.4, 3.1, 2.6, 2.5, 2.5, 2.4, 1.7, 1.6 Old Hoss Radbourne 16.1, 8.7, 6.8, 5.0, 4.6, 4.0, 3.9, 2.0, 2.0, 1.2, 0.4, -0.1 Three Finger Brown 8.5, 7.5, 7.2, 5.1, 5.0, 4.3, 3.4, 3.2, 3.1, 2.8, 2.7, 1.6, 1.4, 0.1
Faber has five more seasons averaging one win that don’t fit on the chart above. And it’s actually a good thing that they don’t. It’s my concern that those seasons where he produced five wins might actually hurt him. Seven seasons of fewer than two-WAR really look bad. But they’re not. They have some use, some merit. I believe that Faber is truly similar to these pitchers, especially fellow reliever, Mordecai.
Whitey Ford: For me and Whitey, it’s a numbers game. No matter how small the pitching side of the HoME, I can’t get Ford out of it. Did he have a ton of advantages? Sure. Did he admit to cheating? Yeah, but it’s not like he was alone in doctoring the ball. With confidence I call him one of the best 60 pitchers of all-time.
Pud Galvin: A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the Pud Galvin arguments. I concluded that a vote for Galvin may come down to being impressed by the career counting totals, something we don’t typically embrace at the HoME. Color me impressed. Galvin gets my vote once again.
Joe Sewell: My argument isn’t deeper than the following: We strive for positional balance, we have room for another SS from our backlog, and Sewell is tops on my list. That’s clear enough, I think.
Bob Johnson: Why is it that Bob Johnson didn’t receive my vote for a dozen elections and does now? To put it simply, I can see more clearly now. Johnson was often very good – five seasons of All-Star type WAR and two more at 4.98 and 4.89. And he was never bad. In his other six seasons he averaged 3.72 WAR. That’s pretty amazing. He never fell below the respectable total of 2.58. The guy was just good at everything, and Eric tells us that he may have had some extra value in his arm. The overall package, to me, is HoME-worthy.
Roger Bresnahan: I’ll be posting more about this on Wednesday, but I revamped my catcher rankings. I realized that using games played and not plate appearances as my basis for adjustment didn’t fully address the negative impact catching has on a player’s value. Bresnahan and Schang both became more viable candidates for me. Whereas Schang is the very definition of a career candidate, Bresnahan is more balanced between peak value and career value. In fact, he looks much like Ted Simmons once both have been adjusted by my new method.
That’s all for our 1983 election. Please visit our Honorees page (to be updated by Wednesday of next week) to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.