Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Case for Jim Rice

Jim Rice is up for election to the baseball Hall of Fame. He has been for the past 13 years - failing to make the cut each time. Much has been written about why Rice belongs in the Hall (as well as about why Rice does not). There is plenty of speculation that, with the uncovering of the Steroids Era™ resulting in Rice (and indeed all pre-S.E. players) being seen in a better light, this is the year for Rice. Of course every year seems to be the year. Yet for the past 13 years it hasn't. I happen to think Rice belongs in the Hall - but of course, I'm a Sox fan and I had the privilege of seeing him play. The articles linked to above go into plenty of stats, but here are some compelling numbers:

Rice's best years were between 1975 and 1986. In those 12 years in the AL, Rice ranked 1st in runs, 1st in RBI, 1st in hits, first in HR, 1st in slugging, 1st in total bases and 4th in batting average. He also won an MVP and finished in the top five in five other years. From 1977-1979 he became the only player in history to hit 35+ homers and 200+hits in 3 consecutive seasons.

MLB Leaders 1975-1986
Mike Schmidt* 440Jim Rice 1,276Jim Rice 2,145
Dave Kingman 365Mike Schmidt* 1,221Steve Garvey 2,121
Jim Rice 350Dave Winfield* 1,147Cecil Cooper 1,975
Reggie Jackson* 330George Foster 1,114George Brett* 1,961
George Foster 321Steve Garvey 1,076Robin Yount* 1,933
Mike Schmidt* 0.545Jim Rice 3670Mike Schmidt* 1,194
Jim Rice 0.520Mike Schmidt* 3,448Jim Rice 1,098
George Brett* 0.518Steve Garvey 3,222Dave Winfield* 1,069
Eddie Murray* 0.505Dave Winfield* 3,221George Brett* 1,021
Fred Lynn 0.494George Brett* 3,201Robin Yount* 995
* member of the Hall of Fame

What seems to be keeping Rice out of the Hall is his lack of longevity which prevented him from reaching career milestones in RBI and HRs - Rice only hit 382 HRs and only drove in 1,451 runs. Still he had more RBIs than Hall of Famers (to name a few) Duke Snider (1,333), Robin Yount (1,406), Roberto Clemente (1,305), and Kirby Puckett (1,085) and he hit more HRs than Hall of Famers George Brett (317), Joe DiMaggio (361), Carlton Fisk (376), Tony Perez (379), and Orlando Cepeda (379).

I'm not going to argue that he's in the same league as Ruth or Aaron or Williams, but Rice's career numbers match up with Hall of Famers and for 12 years he absolutely dominated the American League. I think he deserves to be in the Hall and I think the numbers back it up.

Perhaps this is the year. I certainly hope so.

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