Jessie M. D, Homans, A 4th-Generation Citizen of Red Sox Nation
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I was just at a baseball talk site, and the folks were discussing whether Dwight Evans ought to be in the Hall of Fame. He won 8 Gold Gloves in his career as right fielder for the Red Sox. But here's why I think he falls short:
I was in Fenway to watch Dewey play in both his early and late career, while missing most of his prime (1979-86). He was a star ballplayer. He had arguably the best arm in the American League, and the best of anyone who ever wore a Red Sox uniform.
But he does not quite have the stats, nor the intangibles-- he was a quiet type-- to put him in the Hall of Fame. His best year might have been 1981, the strike year, in which had he maintained his pace in home runs and RBIs he would have had 33 homers and 127 RBIs.
Now, there are any number of players in the Hall with a .272 or lower BA. Harmon Killebrew hit .258 career. But he had 573 home runs, with 40 or more 8 times, and 100+ RBIs 10 times.
Ozzie Smith is in the Hall with a .262 BA. But he was a 15-year AllStar with 13 Gold Gloves, to Evans' 3 and 8, respectively, probably as good a modern example as can be found of a player whose glove got him in the Hall.
Reggie Jackson hit .262 career also. But he had only 10 HR less than Killebrew, career, was a 13 year AllStar, and had an MVP Award (1973), besides the greatest single-game performance ever in the World Series-- 3 homers and 8 RBIs.
Mike Schmidt hit only .270, but he led the National League in homers 8 times, slugging 5 times, walks 4, and won 3 MVPs, plus 9 gold gloves, including 8 years in a row, 12 years AllStar, all but one in a row. Had he hit for average too, Schmidt would be one of the top ten PLAYERS that ever played. He even was a threat on the basepaths, stealing 171 bases over a 16-year career, with a career high of 29 in 1975, while leading the league for his second time in HRs.
Bill James, the eminent baseball historian, in his book, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, posits four possible definitions for a Hall of Famer. Evans clearly does not fit definitions A or B.
Definition A is, simply, the greatest ever, arguably, to play his position. Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Lefty Grove are examples of that level of HOFer. Mike Schmidt, mentioned earlier, also probably fits this definition, up there with Jimmy Foxx and, today, Albert Pujols, whose place among the all-time greats is cemented, with 432 homers in 11 seasons, the biggest Rookie of the Year season of the century, 2 Gold Gloves and 3 MVPs (with no evidence that he is "juiced") so far, but how high he'll rate is unclear. All three of those arguably-greatest-ever first basemen also played significant time at third base, so they are really comparable.
Definition B says, "one of the greatest ever" at his position. "Such a player should be the dominant player at his position at the time he is active," with the exception of one-of-the-greatest-ever talent doubling up at one position, like Mantle and Mays concurrently in center field. "He should be the biggest star on the field at any time," says James.
Evans was not the dominant right fielder in baseball at any time, or the biggest star on any field at any time. He does, however, fit SOME OF definition C for HOFers: he was consistently (especially after he became a power hitter) among the best in the league at his position for a long time.
James says, "Such a player would ordinarily be the biggest star on his team unless it was a pennant-winning team, in which case he would be regarded as one of the most valuable members of the team." Some HOFers James says are covered by this definition include Billy Williams, Willie Stargell (the only one of this list I ever actually watched, in HIS ONLY MINOR LEAGUE SEASON, in Asheville in 1962-- 42 homers in 140 games, off he went to the Pirates after the minor league season was done in September), Johnny Evers and Harry Heilmann.
And sorry, there is no way that Evans comes anywhere close to Heilmann. Between 1921 and 1927, Heilmann, Ty Cobb's teammate, led the American League in hitting four times with BAs of over .390. (In fact, between 1907 and 1927, only five batting titles were won by players who were not Detroit Tigers.) He is one of the select bunch (the last being Ted Williams) to hit over .400 in a full season.
Stargell had 479 homers and was an MVP and World Series MVP in the same season, 1979. He was not the biggest star on the team when Roberto Clemente was there, but thereafter he arguably was.