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Backlog Prospectus: Up the Middle Players

There's an art to waiting in line. Just ask George Gore. He's been at it since our first election.

There’s an art to waiting in line. Just ask George Gore. He’s been at it since our first election.

We haven’t looked in on the Hall of Miller and Eric backlog since August, and we’ve done a lot of trimming and a little electing since then. So it’s time to check the standing of those candidates who haven’t quite inspired us both to pull the lever yet…but who we just cant part with either. We’ll start today with up-the-middle players, do corners on Friday, and round things out with the hurlers on Monday.

At each position we note whether we see it as a position that is in balance with others, or if it has too many or too few potential electees. We note which backloggers we’ve elected and which we’ve said good-bye to since our August update. For each player, we give you an at-a-glance look at his case. Finally, there’s a special “Behind the Scenes” feature to give you a little chance to eavesdrop on our discussions.

CATCHER

Balance: Need more
Recently elected: Roy Campanella, Bill Freehan
Recent regrets: None

Roger Bresnahan

Why he might just make it:

  • Best NL catcher between Bennett and Hartnett
  • He’s a little more durable than we thought

Why he might not make it:

  • Competition from Ernie Lombardi
  • The 1900s are overrepresented

Ernie Lombardi

Why he might just make it:

  • Sweet bat

Why he might not make it:

  • Perhaps the slowest player with a meaningful career in history
  • Not coincidentally, probably the GIDPingest man in history
  • Spotty defense

Gene Tenace

Why he might just make it:

  • The 1970s need more good men
  • Another sweet bat

Why he might not make it:

  • Sure are a lot of 1970s catchers
  • He caught less than 60 percent of the time
  • Miller’s already trying to knock him off

BEHIND THE SCENES: We’ve probably moved a little toward Bresnahan and a little away from Lombardi of late. A closer look at Bresnahan’s durability revealed he was above average for catchers of his time. A closer look at Lombardi’s legs made us queasy. Thing is, we’re not even sure we like either of them well enough to elect one, which is problematic because we really want another catcher. Tenace? Well, he’s neither fish nor fowl, great nor foul, and therein lays his issue.

SECOND BASE

Balance: Probably need more
Recently elected: Billy Herman
Recent regrets: Bobby Doerr

Cupid Childs

Why he might just make it:

  • His career looks a lot like Robinson Cano’s does so far
  • There won’t be another strong second base candidate after 2013 for a decade or more

Why he might not make it:

  • 1890s are overfull
  • Tony Phillips and Jeff Kent
  • Lots of fielding value

BEHIND THE SCENES: As we narrow down to the last few slots available to backloggers like Childs, it’s an open question whether a candidate whose defense pushes him up the charts is as attractive as one whose bat does. Batting analysis is more reliable than defensive analysis, but we work with what we have. Phillips and Kent have interesting cases and could get in Childs’ way.

SHORTSTOP

Balance: No issues
Recently elected: None
Recent regrets: Hughie Jennings

Dave Bancroft

Why he just might make it:

  • Eric’s already voting for him
  • No other positional competition
  • The 1910s and early 1920s are a slightly underrepresented

Why he might not make it:

  • Lots of fielding value compared to hitting value
  • There’s no imperative to take another shortstop
  • Wilbur Cooper, Red Faber, Heinie Groh, Sam Rice, and George Uhle are also left from his era

BEHIND THE SCENES: With one vote in his pocket, Bancroft is looking for the magical second elector. Eric sees him as Joe Sewell’s equal, Miller isn’t so sure and may not trust a borderline candidate who relies so heavily on fielding value.

CENTERFIELD

Balance: Need more
Recently elected: None
Recent regrets: Pete Browning, Mike Griffin, Chet Lemon

Cesar Cedeno

Why he might just make it:

  • Good peak value
  • Tumbleweeds are blowing down the streets of the 1970s

Why he might not make it:

  • The flipside of his good peak is a very steep decline, which is why he hasn’t been elected already
  • Bernie Williams and George Gore
  • He probably loses a tiebreaker if his lousy postseasons are considered

George Gore

Why he might just make it:

  • Similar peak to Cedeno but a little more prime value
  • Probably the best centerfielder of the 1880s
  • Is it possible there’s a little bit of arm value missing?

Why he might not make it:

BEHIND THE SCENES: We actually both like Gore, but neither is willing to commit to him. Bernie Williams will not blow anyone away, but the little chinks in Gore’s armor make him vulnerable, and the two are headed for a showcase showdown in 2012. Cedeno hangs on because he’s close to Bernie in some ways, but zeal for him is evaporating by the day, and he may not be long for the ballot.

 * * *

In general, we’ve got a pretty good idea where things are headed with these guys, though we’re not yet sure which of them will make it. The closer we get to the 2015 election, the more we’ll be forced to narrow down even further. Tune in Monday for the corners.

—Eric

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