I ascribe to the Bill James theory of who should and who should not be in the Hall of Fame; I have no idea who should be in or out. As James states: "The Hall of Fame is a self-defining institution that has manifestly failed to define itself."
Still, I remain intrigued when I find two players, from the same era, with similar statistics, one of whom was considered a shoe-in and the other largely forgotten.
Player A played his first full season in 1972. He played his last full season in 1991. He spent his entire career in one league and finished with impressive numbers.
Hits - 2350+
Runs - 1250+
Doubles - 400+
Homeruns - 350+
RBI's - 1300+
Average - .265+
Player A hit .280 or better in ten seasons. He hit over .300 twice, scored 100+ runs once and had two 100+ RBI seasons. Player A won one Gold Glove and was in the top ten MVP voting four times. Player A was not a frequent name on the leader boards. He went to one World Series and his team lost. He was on eleven All-Star teams.
Player B played his first full year in 1971 and his last full year in 1985. He played predominately in one league. He too amassed impressive numbers.
Hits - 2450+
Runs - 1000+
Doubles - 450+
Homeruns - 200+
RBI's - 1350+
Average - .280+
Player B hit .300+ seven times. He had three 100+ RBI seasons. When he didn't drive in 100 runs, he drove in 90+ five times. Player B was in the top ten in MVP voting three times. He was frequently on the leader boards for batting average, doubles and RBI's. He was an eight time All-Star. He went to one World Series and his team lost.
Player A struck out more than he walked. Player B walked more than he struck out. Neither was blessed with speed but Player A was faster. Player A was the better defensive player. Both were catchers, although Player A almost exclusively caught while Player B did play other positions. Player A is in the Hall of Fame. Player B is not.
Player A is...
Player B is...
Since the Hall of Fame refuses to tell us why a player is selected to join, I have no idea if Fisk or Simmons should be in the Hall. My gut tells me that Fisk would have a place in my Hall of Fame. Simmons? Maybe. The point is, Simmons deserves a closer look from the Old-Timer's Committee.
I can make the argument that Fisk should be in the Hall and was a better player than Simmons. Fisk played a grueling position for a much longer time than Simmons. Fisk won a Gold Glove and was a Rookie of the Year. Fisk was a fiery competitor and a team leader. In the 1975 World Series, Fisk provided baseball fans with one of the most memorable hits ever. Fisk's record can be found here.
Still, is that enough? Fisk provided his impressive numbers over the course of a 24 year career. Simmons provided his more impressive numbers over the course of 21 years (really 19 years, Simmons played a total of seven games in his first two seasons). In five fewer years, Simmons collected what I consider more impressive offensive numbers.
In a ten year stretch ('71 - '80) Simmons hit; .304, .303, .310, .272, .332, .291, .318, .287, .283, .303. No small accomplishment in the 1970's National League. During the course of his career, Simmons hit 22 points above the league average. By comparison, Fisk hit 3 points above the league average.
Simmons didn't just hit for average. Between 1972 and 1983, Simmons was in the top ten for RBI's six times. Simmons played in only 123 games in 1979. Still, he managed to drive in 87 runs. During his peak years, Simmons walked almost twice as much as he struck out. Unlike Fisk, Simmons played 195 games at 1B and 279 as a Designated Hitter for Milwaukee.
In the end, maybe Fisk belongs and Simmons doesn't. I just want to know how and why the Hall made that determination.
Perhaps a player can elevate himself above his statistical equals with one dramatic moment. Certainly Fisk's homerun in Game 6 of the '75 World Series qualifies as one of the most dramatic moments in baseball. Perhaps Fisk would not be in the Hall but for that homerun. Perhaps Fisk was merely a good player with one terrific, nationally televised homerun. Perhaps.
But, aren't those dramatic moments really what baseball is all about? Thomson's Miracle at Coogan's Bluff, Mays' catch off of Vic Wertz, Bill Mazeroski's series wining homer, Kirk Gibson's dramatics in 1988; those are the moments remembered forever, long after anyone can remember who won the 1966 World Series. Those moments create heroes and legends and if a hero and legend doesn't belong in the Hall, who does?