My friend and I were debating Hall of Fame candidates. There’s an obvious no brainer candidate eligible for the first time this year. Rickey Henderson was the greatest leadoff hitter of all time. We both agreed on that. In fact we agreed on many candidates. All that agreeing did not lead to a very interesting debate, but our discussion got really interesting when we got to Jim Rice.
Since I typically write about the Yankees, I should probably warn the Yankee fans: If you really hate the Red Sox, you should probably stop reading now.
In case all the Yankee logos on this page didn’t give it away, I’m a Yankee fan. I became a Yankee fan in the mid-seventies. If there’s one guy in baseball history that I should not be campaigning for, it’s Jim Rice. There’s just one problem: After watching him play, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. If the Yankees were holding on to a small lead at the end of a game, and Goose Gossage was on the mound I usually considered the game to be over, just like when Mo comes in now. There were only two guys I worried about Goose facing: George Brett and Jim Rice, and I would much rather have had him face Brett.
Jim Rice is the only man in baseball history to have over 35 HRs and 200 Hits 3 years in a row. Think about that. Babe Ruth never did that, Ted Williams never did that, and neither did Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Stan Musial. Over 16 seasons Rice averaged 190 Hits, 30 HRs, and 113 RBIs per 162 Games to go with his .298 career batting average. During a good part of his career 30 HRs and 113 RBIs was an impressive season, and yet that’s what he averaged. I tried to research players who have averaged over 30 HRs and 190 Hits over a career of at least 15 years. There may be others, but the only two I was able to find were Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez. What’s more impressive is the list of players who do not make that list. Again Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Stan Musial in addition to Barry Bonds, and Frank Robinson.
My friend who I debated with is a staunch follower of sabermetrics, so he pointed out that Rice didn’t walk much. That’s true, but while walks can be important hits are more important. If there’s a runner on second base a walk would keep that runner on second while a single would probably score the run. In any event Rice has a .352 OBP which is better than Robin Yount, Lou Brock or Cal Ripken. His slugging percentage is better than Reggie Jackson’s or Dave Winfield. He has an offensive winning % of .627 which is better than Eddie Murray, Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield and Ernie Banks. His career OPS+ of 128 is better than Ernie Banks, Paul Molitor, Tony Perez, and this year’s no brainer Rickey Henderson. Rice also finished in the top 5 in MVP voting in 6 of his 16 seasons.
Looking at some tools that were developed to predict whether or not someone will be elected to the HOF, Rice has a HOF Standard of 43. An average HOFer has a 50, so he’s a little below the average HOFer in that category, but his HOF Monitor is 144.5. A likely HOFer has an HOF Monitor of over 100. In terms of Black Ink (the number of times he led his league in an offensive category) Rice scores a 33 (an average HOFer has a 27). In terms of Gray Ink (the number of times he is in the top 10) Rice scores a 176 with an average HOFer getting a 144.
I hope that the voters will finally give Rice his due and elect him this year.