So close for Dick Allen.
Earlier this week, the Baseball Hall of Fame Veteran's Committee considered players from its Golden Era ballot but ended up electing none of them into Cooperstown. Dick Allen and Tony Oliva came the closest - each missed by one vote. Also missing out were Gil Hodges and Ken Boyer, players mentioned in this blog when we looked at the first basemen and third basemen who missed out.
So I thought it would be a good time to move around the diamond and look at the shortstops. Shortstop is a tough position to evaluate because it's so demanding defensively that offensive production is frequently not expected. Many "great" shortstops have had a light bat. There's Mark Belanger and Marty Marion (who aren't in) and Ozzie Smith and Rabbit Marranville (who are). Expectations changed somewhat in the 80s with Ripken, Yount and Trammell and most especially in the 21st century with A-Rod, Jeter and Garciaparra. Slick gloves and sluggers alike make this list.
Here are the top 10 shortstops who are not in the hall of fame:
10. Tony Fernandez
The 1980s saw the first wave of Dominican shortstops making their mark in the major leagues. Tony Fernandez was one of the first, and probably still ranks as the best (save for Miguel Tejada but his steroid issues will mar his legacy). He was a journeyman by the end of his career, but for a four-year stretch with the Blue Jays in the 1980s, he was terrific – twice batting over .300 and winning 4 gold gloves.
9. Cecil Travis
A career .314 hitter, Travis had the misfortune of: 1) playing for the Washington Senators, and 2) having his career interrupted in World War II. And not just interrupted - Travis reportedly suffered a severe case of frostbite in the Battle of the Bulge. Bill James ranks him as the best candidate among the players who may have lost a Hall of Fame career to World War II.
8. Bert Campaneris
A key cog in the great A”s teams of the 1970s, Campaneris actually started with the A’s in 1964 when they played in Kansas City. He was a 4-time All Star with Oakland and finished his career with over 2200 hits and 646 stolen bases.
7. Maury Wills
A 5-time All Star with the L.A. Dodgers, Wills practically rediscovered the stolen base, breaking Ty Cobb’s 47-year old single-season record in 1962, with 104 stolen bases. He won the NL MVP award in 1962.
6. Jim Fregosi
He’s best remembered as the player who was traded to the Mets for Nolan Ryan – surely one of worst trades in baseball history. But people forget why it seemed like a good trade at the time. Fregosi, an original Los Angeles Angel, was a terrific shortstop - a 6-time All Star and, easily, the best hitting shortstop in the American League in an era dominated by pitching. But he had some injuries and, of course, he was a bust with the Mets.
5. Dave Concepcion
For my money, Concepcion was the most underrated player on the great Red Machine team of the 1970s. He was best known for his defense - his 5 Gold Gloves, his great range and strong arm. But he also batted .280 or better 8 times and finished his career with 9 All Star game appearances and over 2300 hits.
4. Nomar Garciaparra
The 1980s gave the American League Cal Ripken, Robin Yount and Alan Trammell. The late 1990s introduced an even more promising trio of young shortstops – Jeter, A-Rod and Nomar. Jeter and A-Rod are now done with their spectacular careers and only injuries have kept Nomar from joining them. He’s eligible for the first time this year, but he didn’t have the longevity he needed to mount a serious campaign. Still, between 1997 and 2003, in the 6 full seasons he was healthy, Nomar batted .300 or more 6 times, won 2 battling titles (batting over .350 twice), and drove in 100 runs 4 times.
3. Bill Dahlen
It’s hard to know how to rank players from the dead ball era, but it’s hard to ignore Bill Dahlen, a player with 2.461 career hits who was a power hitter for the Cubs, Brooklyn Superbas and N.Y. Giants around the turn of the century and a wizard with the glove.
1. 2. Vern Stephens
In the 20th century, only Ernie Banks and Cal Ripken hit for more power from the shortstop position. Stephens starred for both the St. Louis Browns and Boston Red Sox and between 1942 and 1950, no major league player had more RBIs (938) and only Ralph Kiner hit more home runs.
1. Alan Trammell