Continuing with my look at the people chosen for the 2014 Veteran’s Committee Ballot, here’s an alphabetical look at the four everyday players appearing on the ballot.
Dave Concenpcion was the shortstop for the 1970s “Big Red Machine.” He usually batted seventh and played a very good shortstop. He gets credit for inventing the “hop throw” to first on Astroturf (that’s where you toss the ball to deliberately hit the turf in front of first and let it hop into the first baseman’s glove). He came up in 1970 and played through 1988. He hit .267 with 2326 hits, 993 runs, 950 RBIs, 101 homers, and 321 stolen bases. But it was mostly as a defensive whiz that he made his name. His defensive WAR is 20.9 (Baseball Reference.com version of WAR) and he led the National League in assists, putouts, double plays, range factor, and fielding percentage at various times during his career.
He was very good in postseason, hitting .297 with 30 hits (17 in the World Series), 13 runs (six in the Series), two homers (one in the Series), and 13 RBIs (all but one in the World Series). His team participated in four World Series’ winning the last two.
Steve Garvey was the face of 1970s Dodgers pennant winners. He played first base, women called him handsome, he won an MVP award, they called him “Mr. Clean”. He was generally considered the best player on one of the premier teams of the era. Well, maybe, but he had competition for best player on his team. You could make a case that Ron Cey, or Reggie Smith, or both were better. Garvey got to the Dodgers in 1969 as a third baseman who couldn’t throw. They moved him to first and his career took off. He hit .294 with 2599 hits (come on, Steve, hang on for one more hit, will ya?), 1143 runs, 1308 RBIs, 272 home runs, and an OPS+ of 117. He set a record by having no errors at first one season (1984) and was first in fielding percentage five times and range factor twice. There’s a caveat to all that. He didn’t throw well, so he tended to take everything hit his way rather than flip to the pitcher covering. Anything he could get to he caught, but he was noted for not getting to nearly as many balls as other first basemen (specifically Keith Hernandez). He was traded in 1983 to San Diego and was a major player on a team that won the Padres’ first ever pennant. He holds the NL record for consecutive games played (it’s fourth all time).
In postseason play he was, like Concepcion, very good. He hit .338 with 75 hits (36 in the World Series), 32 runs (13 in the Series), 11 home runs (only one in a World Series). He won co-MVP in the 1981 World Series, and his performance in both the 1978 and 1984 NLCS garnered MVP honors. His teams played in five World Series’ winning one, the one in which he was MVP.
Dave Parker started well, floundered on drugs and a new contract, then became an excellent player again. He got to Pittsburgh in 1973, becoming the right field replacement for Roberto Clemente. He wasn’t that good, but he did well enough. He led the National League in hitting in both 1977 and ’78, winning the MVP in the latter season. He got a big contract (for the era) in 1979, then saw his numbers slip. The complaints were that he got complaisant when he got the new contract, he got fat, he got into drugs. All that got him sent to Cincinnati in 1984. He managed to pick up an RBI title while with the Reds, but his hitting average dropped and his strikeout totals rose. In 1988 he moved to Oakland, becoming the designated hitter for a two-time pennant winning team. He had a decent 1990 in Milwaukee, then his final year was a miserable 1991 stretch in both Toronto and Anaheim. He ended hitting .290 with 2712 hits, 1272 runs, 1493 RBIs, 339 homers, and an OPS+ of 121. Parker had a great arm (again, not quite as good as Clemente’s but great nevertheless), leading the NL once and coming in second in assists a number of times. He also led in errors and double plays. He made a famous throw to cut down a runner in the All Star Game.
In postseason play he wasn’t nearly as good as either Concepcion or Garvey. He hit .234, had 26 hits (15 in the World Series), 11 runs (four in the Series), and three home runs (only one in the Series). His teams won the World Series in 1979 and 1989, dropping the one in 1988. The ’88 Series was easily his worst.
Ted Simmons was a 1970s catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals. He wasn’t all that good a catcher, but he could hit a ton. His primary problem was that he was a contemporary of both Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk. Behind those two he got lost in the shuffle. After a couple of cups of coffee, Simmons became a regular in 1970, staying with the Cards through 1980. He hit well, made a handful of All Star Games, and wasn’t a bad catcher. He led the Nl in assists, errors, stolen bases allowed, and caught stealing at various times. A truly mixed bag. In 1981 he went to Milwaukee and stayed through 1985. By ’84 he was doing more DH work than catching. He got into his only World Series in 1982, losing to his old team, St. Louis (and his replacement, Darrell Porter, was named Series MVP). He spent his last three seasons in Atlanta and retired after the 1988 season. For his career he hit .285, had 2472 hits, 1074 runs, 248 home runs, 1389 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 118.
His postseason play was limited to two seasons, 1981’s strike year and 1982. He hit .186 in the postseason with three home runs (two in the 1982 World Series)11 hits, and eight RBIs. He hit .174 in his only Series, but it was a reasonably productive .174.
So where do I stand on putting any of these four into this year’s Hall of Fame class? Again, I wouldn’t be overly upset if they all four made it and, frankly, could live with it if none of them got in. Both Garvey and Parker proved to be mild disappointments to a lot of people. Both started strong, particularly Parker, then tailed off rapidly, too rapidly to be really first-rate Hall of Famers. I looked at the Black and Gray Ink stats at Baseball Reference.com for Parker and found him to be almost exactly the Black and Gray Ink definition of a midline Hall of Fame player. The average Hall of Fame player has 27 Black Ink, Parker has 26. The average Hall of Fame player has 144 Gray Ink, Parker has 145. This year I think I’ll pass on both. The same is true for Concepcion. He’s good, and I think this election would help the candidacy of Omar Vizquel (who I think should be in). But not this year, Dave. Simmons, on the other hand, I’d vote to put in.