Baseball Reflections

Prince Fields a Whopper

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Photo taken from Google Images

It is 11° as I write this so to get in the mood I am listening to Baseball’s Greatest Hits – mostly cheesy tributes to former New York players – Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle as well as one of the best baseball songs ever written “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” by Terry Cashman.

It begs for the former more innocent era when baseball really was the National Pastime. No constant hype, exorbitant salaries, playing in November, or rent-a-player. I often wonder what would’ve happened to those great Milwaukee Braves’ players I watched as a kid if free agency existed then. Where would Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and Del Crandall have ended up playing?

I wax nostalgic because I read with awe the salary Prince Fielder just heisted from the Brewers.  To avoid arbitration, the club will pay him $15,500,000 this year. That’s certainly enough to keep the portly prince of power well fed even if it is just veggies as he claims.

It will be interesting to see how the fans react this year knowing that he will be gone when the season is over. That salary is a lot of money for basically renting a player for a season.

I would argue that currently Fielder should be ranked no higher than number seven among major league first basemen. I list Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Justin Morneau, and of course Albert Pujols above him. A corresponding level of pay is appropriate.

So Prince will take the money and run. Where he ends up in salary and club will be interesting. Look for Fielder and every GM’s nemesis Scott Boras to demand Pujols money and look for some pathetic team to fork it over.

New Feature

This week we begin a new feature. We will look at some players with impressive career numbers who are not in the Hall of Fame and look beyond “typical” statistics to determine if they are worthy of induction.

This week we begin with Dick Allen.

Allen played 15 years (1963-1977) with 5 teams but made his biggest impact during his first seven years with the Phillies where he was the 1964 Rookie of the Year and two prolific years with the White Sox. In 1972 while playing with Chicago, Allen had one of the most productive years ever for a hitter. He won the MVP while leading the AL in Home Runs (37), RBI (117), Walks, OBP (.420), Slugging (.603), OPS (1.023) and OPS adjusted to ballpark (199). In 506 AB he grounded into only 13 double plays. His RAR (Runs Above Replacement – Batting + Fielding + Replacement + Positional) was a phenomenal 72.3

Over his career, Allen hit 359 HR, had 1,119 RBI, a .293 average and a superb .912 OPS. His career RAR was 593.2 and his WAR was 67.9. Baseball historian Bill Jenkinson ranks Allen with Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle and a notch below Babe Ruth among the top long distance sluggers of all-time.

By comparison, the recently elected Jim Rice had 382 HR, 1,451, a .298 average, a .854 OPS. His RAR was 532.1 and his WAR was 56.1 while playing in 341 more games.

In 1997, his last year of eligibility, he garnered a ridiculous 16.7% of the vote. By all measurements and other standards, Allen should be in the Hall.

So why was he denied? It has to do more with the era than to the career. During his playing days, the country was faced with heightened racial tension, a difficult transformation trying to adjust to the surging civil rights movement. Any African-American athlete who was considered “outside the norm” was deemed to be “different, moody, unresponsive, unapproachable”.

Writers admonished him and according to admirer Mike Schmidt, “The baseball writers used to claim that Dick would divide the clubhouse along racial lines. That was a lie. The truth is that Dick never divided any clubhouse.”

Fans soon came to loathe him.  In this highly toxic racial environment, he soon became a symbol of fan prejudice. While he was with Philadelphia, he was greeted by fans with racial epithets, and later, with fruit, ice, refuse and flashlight batteries.

Yet just a few years later another brash African American player would arrive on the scene – Reggie Jackson – “the straw that stirs the drink” who had no problems being voted in.

Dick Allen was different. He was known for his colorful quotes such as:

“If a horse won’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.”  – Regarding playing on artificial turf

“I never worry about it. I just take my three swings and go sit on the bench. I’m afraid if I ever think about hitting it, I’ll mess up my swing for life.” – On hitting the knuckleball

“ Gibson was so mean he would knock you down and then meet you at home plate to see if you wanted to make something of it.” On the great bob Gibson

“ I can play anywhere; First, Third, Left field, anywhere but Philadelphia” – On playing in Philadelphia

There is no question, Dick Allen was denied because of the era he played in not for the player he was. This injustice needs to be revoked.

Dick Allen - Outspoken, Outstanding and Overlooked

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