A while back, I asked the question, “Is the Wrong Red Sox Outfielder in the Hall of Fame?” This is a follow-up of sorts, though the intent is not necessarily to turn this into a new series. Nevertheless, I do become intrigued from time-to-time by the often haphazard approach the various Hall of Fame voting groups take to selecting their Hall of Famers. This is one of those times.
Player A is in the Hall of Fame. He gained entry into the Hall of Fame in his 15th-year on the ballot, receiving 77.4% of the votes cast that year. In his first year on the ballot, he received just 4% of the vote, but there was apparently no rule at the time that a player must receive at least 5% to remain on the ballot.
Player A spent his entire career with the Giants. He batted and threw left-handed. He was a Southerner. He stood 6’1″ and weighed 200 pounds.
Player B is not in the Hall of Fame, having fallen off the ballot in his first year of eligibility when he received 4.4%, a bit more than did Player A on his first year on the ballot. But as it stands today, if a player doesn’t receive 5% of the ballot, he drops off the ballot.
Player B spent the first half of his career as a Giant, and it is the team he is still primarily associated with. He batted and threw left-handed. He, too, was a Southerner. He stood 6’2″ and weighed 190 pounds.
Now let’s compare their respective career statistics:
Player A: Player B:
Career Hits – 2,193 Career Hits – 2,176
Doubles – 373 Doubles – 440
Triples – 112 Triples – 47
Home Runs – 154 Home Runs – 284
RBI – 1,078 RBI – 1,205
Runs – 1,120 Runs – 1,186
Batting Average – .341 Batting Average – .303
On-Base % – .393 On-Base % – .384
Slugging % – .506 Slugging % – .497
OPS – .899 OPS – .880
OPS+ – 136 OPS+ – 137
Walks – 537 Walks – 937
Strikeouts – 449 Strikeouts – 1,190
WAR – 54.2 WAR – 56.2
As you can see, they were close in a few statistical categories, and each “won” seven categories. If you throw in their respective Black Ink scores, which indicates the number of times a player led his league in a statistic in a particular season, Player A scored a 12, while Player B scored a 13.
Neither player won an MVP award. Player A finished third twice in the voting, while Player B once finished runner-up in the voting.
So, have you guessed the identities of each of these players?
Player A is Bill Terry.
Player B is Will Clark.
If you think Terry’s .341 career batting average should give him the edge, keep in mind that Terry won just a single batting title in his career, and generally played in a much hitter-friendlier era than did Clark.
It appears to me that if one of them is in the Hall of Fame, then so, too, should be the other. Whether you believe either of them belongs in the HOF is another matter.
But it does raise the question as to whether or not the 5% rule should be abandoned.
After all, clearly a player’s stature can grow significantly over time, as it did with Bill Terry (not to mention Bert Blyleven, Jim Rice, and several other Hall of Famers.)