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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ron Santo

The Baseball Hall of Fame is a funny place. Getting into the HOF is obviously a very tall order typically reserved for the very best players in the history of the game (unless you are a very good player and happen to play for the NY Yankees or Boston Red Sox).

For years I have been reading from Cubs fans about how Ron Santo should be included in the Hall of Fame. How it is some sort of modern day greek tragedy that he is not enshrined in Cooperstown. Santo himself is essentially turned into some sort of sad-clown self-absorbed cheerleader on the subject. Personally I think that any former player that openly campaigns for entry to the hall is hurting his chances rather than helping his chances. Entry should be based on the body of work accomplished while playing - not based on your public relations spin expertise.

Let me be clear, I don't care if Ron Santo is elected in the Hall of Fame, but if he is elected it should come AFTER Dick Allen. Ron Santo had a strong career, but if you compare the two players -- in my opinion it becomes clear that DA was more of an impact player and should get the nod before Santo.

Longevity: Both players stayed in the majors for 15 years. Santo started his career three years earlier than DA and retired 3 years before. Allen's 1963 late season call-up counts in this 15 years. Santo played in almost 500 more games and had more than 2000 plate appearances than Allen because of injuries. Advantage = Santo

Offensive performance: Despite more than 2000 more plate appearances, Santo only has 400 more hits than Allen over his career. Allen has a higher career batting average (.292 versus .277) Both played positions that required "power numbers" (Santo at 3B and Allen at corner infield and outfield positions). Santo has 212 more RBIs but Allen has more HRs (351 versus 342). The real differentiator comes when you look at OPS and OPS+. Allen has an incredible .912 OPS which place him ahead of a bunch of Hall of Fame sluggers like Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, and Harmon Killebrew. When you statisically account for the ballpark he played in (via OPS+) Dick Allen is in the top 20 sluggers of all time, tied with Willie Mays and ahead of Hank Aaron. Santo just isn't in the same league with a .826 OPS and a 125 OPS+. Advantage = Allen.

Defensive performance: Santo played third almost his entire career. He was great in the hot corner. He won 5 gold gloves from 1964 thru 1968. Allen's first season in the big leagues was the first season he ever played third. He had 41 errors. In 1965 he was hit with a bat in the shoulder during a fight with a bullying teammate and in 1967 he cut his throwing hand and was never the same, moving to the outfield. Covering all positions and all years Allen has a better career fielding percentage (.975 vs .954), but Santo played the more challenging position. In his 9 seasons or so at third Allen had a .927 fielding percentage compared to Santo's .954 FP. Advantage = Santo.

Peak performance: Santo's best year was 1965 when he batted .285 hit 33 HRs and drove in 101. Allen's best year was maybe 1972 when he hit .308 had 37 HRs and 113 runs. He was named the AL MVP that season. Some would argue his real best year was 1966 when he went .317/40/110 in only 141 games. Advantage = Allen

Peer comparisons and Awards: Santo was a 9 time all star and won a bunch of gold gloves. He never finished higher than 4th in the MVP voting in any given year. He was the best 3B in the National League for a stretch but no one would ever competently argue that he was a dominate player at any time. Allen played in 7 All Star games. He was the AL MVP in 1972 and finished 4th in 1966. During the late 60s and early 70s DA was both feared and recognized as one of the premier power hitters in the game. He was the highest paid and best player in the league when he played for the White Sox from 1972-1974. Advantage = Allen.

Other stuff: Ron Santo is a popular and beloved Chicago Cub. He has been a Cubs broadcaster for 15 years which has added to his legend with the Northside crowd. Dick Allen endured a very tough career with racist fans and media in Philadelphia. He broke the Arkansas color barrier as an unprepared kid and his career is characterized as much for his anti-establishment antics as his power and skill. If you were to take Dick Allen and place him in today's environment he would not stick out like he did during his era.

Again, the point of all of this is not to pull down Ron Santo. I really hope he gets the nod someday. If it does happen and Dick Allen is still on the outside looking in, it will be a crime.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Honestly, great points made here, but very different. Santo was one of the greatest third basemen of the 1960's behind Brooks Robinson, leaving the best in the National League. You had plenty of guys in center field who are way better than Allen. I feel that even thought there were solid points made about hitting Santo still wins. There were a lot of 'he had more BUT' BUT Santo was better. The racism point is true, and it is very wrong, but Jackie Robinson went through it, Ernie Banks went through it, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron and so on so it is not like Allen was the only one. One thing on here that you are very, very wrong about is Santo "sad-clown self-absorbed cheerleader", not at all. Sure Santo was disappointed he never made it in, who wouldn't? But if you ever heard him, just getting his number retired was his hall of fame. Also, here is something to poner, Santo was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 18 and told he would live till 25. He didn't tell anyone until the early 70's and literally had to eat candy bars if he felt out of it. He even hit a game winning grand slam when he literally saw three scoreboards, three balls and three pitchers, because his sugar count was low.

Dick Allen Hall of Fame said...

I'm sorry, the story of Santo hitting a grand slam while in a diabetic fit is baloney. Yes, he had diabetes and played through it. It is not conceivable he hit a major league pitch, in a pressure situation, without the full use of his eyes.

Also:

#1: Allen did not play center-field.

#2: Santo was a good hitter and a great defensive third baseman. But he was never "the most dominate" offensive player in the game. Allen was on several occasions.

#3: Regarding your comments on the racism. You could not be any more wrong regarding what you believe Dick Allen faced in the minors and in Philadelphia.

Yes, they all faced it. Jackie Robinson was a grown man, handpicked for the task of breaking the color barrier. He enjoyed the full support of his organization and his teammates... and even with that, the stress of the journey still considerably shortened his life.

Ernie Banks, Willie Mays & Hank Aaron were all born and raised in the segregated south. Each of them was seasoned in the Negro Leagues and played the vast majority of their big league careers in racially friendly northern cities. Were there incidents? sure. But the majority of the time, they were able to perform and succeed in peace.

This is not the case for Dick Allen. He was drafted by a Phillies franchise with a real and well documented racist legacy. He was unprepared for the challenges he would face because he grew up in a desegregated environment in western Pennsylvania. As a very young man, he was sent down to break the baseball color barrier in Little Rock with virtually no support system. He had to learn to fend for himself in the Jim Crow south. After he made it up to the "safety" of the big leagues, he was physically attacked and mentally and emotionally abused by the Philadelphia fans and media throughout the decade of the 1960s.

During the same time Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays were cheered and adored by their home fans -- Dick Allen was constantly booed had to start wearing a batting helmet in the field because his home fans were throwing bolts and batteries at him.

triv said...

Santo wrote bad things about Dick when they are teammates with the White Sox saying that he was lazy. In Dick Allen's book, Crash, Dick criticized Santo for yelling at they younger players and being upset when things weren't going his way instead of not figuring out. They both didn't like each other. Both were very self-confident about themselves but I think Dick was a better teammate while Santo played up to the fans. Both did not take care of themselves off the field and that is what shortened their careers. Trying to being tough jocks on and off the field.

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