It's nearly induction time again in Cooperstown, which means the whole of Red Sox nation — past and present — must once again band together and cry their baseless, yet admittedly passionate, argument for Jim Rice's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While it is very tempting to write yet another piece on how the Hall should be reserved for the very best and how statistically Jim Rice just doesn't fit that standard, I've decided to take a more positive spin on this issue. You wanted a temperamental outfielder, shunned by voters because of his rigid persona, despite his obvious Hall of Fame credentials, and I've brought you one. None other than the often overlooked and generally forgotten…..Dick "Richie" Allen.
Every time a new class is to be inducted into the Hall, the debate ceaselessly rages on as to what qualifies a player to be worthy of baseball's ultimate honor. While athletes like Rice and Ron Santo enjoy volleys of support from both the press and their respective fan bases, Dick Allen receives scarcely a mention despite the towering evidence his statistics present in showing that he is possibly the most Hall-worthy player still unable to obtain admission.
First lets compare the basic career statistics of Santo, Rice, and Allen:
* Santo and Allen must be elected by the post-1942 veterans committee while Rice is on the main ballot of the last time this year.
Jim Rice: .298 BA, 382 hr, 1451 RBI, .352 OBP, .854 OPS (8225 at bats)
Ron Santo: .277 BA, 342 hr, 1331 RBI, .362 OBP, .826 OPS (8143 at bats)
Dick Allen: .292, 351 hr, 1119 RBI, .378 OBP, .912 OPS (6332 at bats)
Analyzing these stats, traditionalists and sabermatricians alike, can agree it is clear that Allen is easily more deserving of induction than his two more popular counterparts. In nearly two thousand less at bats, Allen slugged eleven more home runs than Santo and only thirty one less than Rice. His RBI total also compares favorably considering his smaller sampling of at bats. Taking the analysis of power production a step further, what really sets Allen apart in this comparison is his very good .OPS (on base plus slugging percentage).
One of the most relevant basic statistics when comparing sluggers, Allen's .912 mark is 58 points higher than Rice, his nearest competition in this breakdown, and 86 points higher than Santo. While Rice — ignoring the impact of his number of at bats — produced higher career power totals, his .352 OBP and .854 OPS are the statistics of an average power hitter, not a player of Hall of Fame caliber.
Allen's OPS., on the other hand, is prolific enough to be 40th all time, ranking him above Hall of Fame players Mike Schmidt, Al Simmons, and Paul Waner (to name a few). It is hard to argue against Dick's induction when the statistics show he was more productive than players whose legitimacy as Hall of Famers has never once been called into question – especially considering he played a solid portion of his career in the late 1960s, an era that was notoriously pitcher friendly.
Further quantifying his massive hitting prowess, analysis of the OPS+ statistic – a favorite of sabermatricians – places Allen among the greatest hitters that have ever played the game. OPS+ is essentially a number that takes a hitter’s base OPS and measures it against the league average, also taking into account ball park factors. The standard rule for this statistic is traditionally the idea that a score of 100 is the league average.
Using this stat as an analytical tool, Allen accumulated a career OPS+ of 156, tied for 19th all time with Hall of Famer Willie Mays and, currently, with future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. To put this into context, Allen’s mark of 156 is higher than enshrined outfielders Joe Dimaggio, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson, the last two of which were his contemporaries, further leveling the competative balance for analytical purposes. Jim Rice, on the other hand, posted a paltry career OPS+ of 128 while Santo fared even worse at 125. And yet despite their comparative OPS+ production – and Allen’s obvious edge — Rice and Santo still receive the push for the Hall of Fame. From this viewpoint, it is obvious that the perceptions of Allen as a person have badly distorted the reality of his true ability and status in the baseball pantheon.
Due largely to his demeaner, Dick Allen is arguably the greatest (retired) slugger yet to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The numbers seem to make the case for his candidacy very clear and yet despite the important advancements in baseball analysis that now show vividly the extraordinary value Allen possessed as a player, the masses, and more consequentially, those entrusted with selecting who is worthy for the hallowed halls, still refuse to acknowledge Allen's greatness, despite the mountainous evidence in his support.
Throughout his career Allen’s abrasiveness clashed with fans, players, and the press alike. As a result, the newly restructured post-1942 veterans committee honored his accomplishments by casting for him the fewest votes of all eligible players on the ballot. Made up of – according to the Baseball Hall of Fame website – voters who were actively playing, managing, or “in” baseball during the 1960s and 1970s, Allen’s peers continue to punish him well into retirement, robbing the Hall of its integrity by using the power of election as a tool for revenge.
When Jim Rice is most likely elected this year, the first entity he should thank is the Red Sox Nation, followed closely by the Boston press, without whom, considering his similarly irritable personality, there is no way his election would be possible. The evidence of this hypothesis is embodied in Allen who, even forty years after he left, still lacks the support of the more ruthless “nation” in Philadelphia.
Dick Allen remains an afterthought to baseball history; one of the games forgotten ghosts of the past, damned to be cast off to baseball purgatory, at least until the Hall's voters change their entire perspective on the concept of what makes a Hall of Famer, and which attributes truly represent a player's value. While the Hall of Fame voting process has always been ripe with questionable judgement and outcomes, it is truly sad that some of the vigor that has gone into promoting the elections of Santo and Rice, aren't directed towards a player who truly deserves the public push; a player whose induction would only serve to help re-legitimize a storied institution that has, as of late, compromised itself far too often.