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Dick Allen, A True Hall of Famer

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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. 

*statistical references: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players.shtmlhttp://web.baseballhalloffame.org

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About Anthony Tobis

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    You’d think a guy like Bill James, who’s all about re-inventing the way we look at statistics, would be all about Allen’s HOF campaign. Not so. (PDF link)

    He did more to keep his teams from winning than anybody else who ever played major league baseball. And if that’s a Hall of Famer, I’m a lug nut.

    So, he was Manny before Manny was Manny.

    His teams may not have won, and he may’ve been a large part of that with clubhouse divisiveness, but last I checked, teams don’t get voted into the HoF and individuals do. I don’t think selfishness and douchebaggery can propel one’s OPS+ to 150, and if they did, then I’d probably be a five-tool corner infielder.

    So I don’t have a problem if Allen got in, but like you said, it was first up to the writers, who hated him, and now it’s up to the players, who hate him even more. It probably won’t happen until the anecdotal stories about him are wiped from the mind and stats are all that remain.

  • Tony

    I think the greater point of this Dick Allen situation is that the voting for the Hall of Fame is so flawed that it is compromising the integrity of the institution itself. If Dick Allen doesn’t clearly illustrate that something needs to change I don’t know what will.

    An interesting note to James’ comments: I found this quote in an article by Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News published on December 3.

    “BILL JAMES, the sultan of statistics, the dean of decimal points, wrote some time ago that Dick Allen did not belong in the Hall of Fame. Said he was a cancer in the clubhouse, divisive, distracting, delinquent. And besides, his teams never won.
    And then Goose Gossage, squinting into the Cooperstown sunlight on his induction day, called Dick Allen “the greatest teammate” he’d ever had.”

    This was one of the only articles that I could find, out of Philly, supporting Allen.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    I saw that article. Funny thing is, Gossage and Allen played for just one season together, the 1974 White Sox. Goose was a 22-year-old middle reliever and Allen was near the end of his career. (Fun postscript: also on that ’74 Sox team? Ron Santo.) Gossage would go on to play 20 more seasons with hundreds of teammates, and of all those, he says Allen was one of the best. I wonder what the relationship would’ve been like if Gossage was also in his prime and was held more accountable for his part of the pitching.

    Now then,

    “the voting for the Hall of Fame is so flawed that it is compromising the integrity of the institution itself”

    Well, you’re right and wrong. Sure, it’s flawed, but is there a better group of people to vote in HoFers? Fans certainly aren’t better qualified, because they’ll just be privy to vote in their own and try and block others. For example, Cubs fans would try to bring in Ron Santo and vote against Steve Garvey, simply because they are Cubs fans. You want to talk about compromising integrity? We fans don’t know any better. That leaves George Will as the only person who can be truly objective and omniscient about baseball.

    Sportswriters are biased, and players/managers/GMs are biased, and fans are biased. Therefore you’re going to have biased results. Bruce Sutter is in the Hall and Bert Blyleven is not. Do you involve everyone, like the All-Star game? Do you have BCS-like components? Can you possibly quantifiably enshrine someone using stats alone? How could it improve? Do you lower the 3/4 majority? Do you hold a mock Supreme Court “trial” where impassioned fans/teammates make a case for players like Dick Allen and Dom DiMaggio?

    These are valid questions, and if there’s a smarter way to name Hall of Famers I say go for it. But I don’t have too many quarrels with the way it’s conducted.

  • Tony

    How about an independant body that looks at a sent standard of critera? What the standard involves is obviously debatable but there definately needs to be some semblence of a standard, even if that standard adapts to the times periodically.

    We live in an age where, because of the influx of various ways to establish the true value of ball players, it is easier than ever to evaluate a player based on tangible aspects rather than whether he was “a feared hitter” or other baseless concepts with no statistical relevance.

    Is there more to baseball than just stats? For sure. Is there more to determining qualifications for the Hall of Fame? I would aruge not really.

    I don’t believe the fans should vote but when a guy like Joe Gordon gets in and Allen is last on his respective ballot there is something obviously lacking in player evaluation.

    How about a group comprised of baseball historians? That could be a solution to the problem of bias and false, lazy analysis. Especially considering writers from that era (Allen’s ballot) usually cover one team and see only teams from one league. Players and managers also have a very limited scope in which they actually see these men play. And I’ll promise you this, those ex-baseball men aren’t looking at Allen’s OPS.

    This idea that “we fans” don’t know any better is incorrect though. We fans have the ability to search a wealth of information to determine a player’s value, as I did in this article.

    There is no way to argue against Allen’s OPS or OPS+ numbers. They place him easily in the top 25 hitters of all time.

    I’m not a Phillies fan nor did I ever seen Allen play and I think that gives me an increased objectivity when it comes to analysis.

    People who watched Rice say he was “feared” and that’s why he should be inducted. His stats on the other hand, show an average power hitter who hit poorly with men in scoring position. Not a Hall of Famer.

    Just a note: the players you named come no where near Allen’s numbers. Garvey had a career OBP of .329 and this guy was a contact hitter. His OPS+ is 115, just barely over the league average.

    Dom DiMaggio had a solid .383 OBP but an OPS+ of 111. On top of that he didn’t hit 100 homeruns, never reached 2000 hits, and never saw 1000 RBIs. He was a barely above average hitter and belongs no where near the Hall.

    We use to have standards like 300 wins and 500 homeruns. Now that we understand OBP, OPS, and OPS + (also win shares and other sabermetric stats) why not set the standards by those, more relevant statistics?

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    The reason I brought up Dom was because Ted Williams, until his death, once made a pamphlet called “Why Dom DiMaggio Belongs in the Hall of Fame” and seemed really adamant about it. Of course, he was his teammate, and DiMaggio had a very short career, but those are the arguments I love, even when I don’t agree with them.

    “How about an independant body that looks at a sent standard of critera? What the standard involves is obviously debatable but there definately needs to be some semblence of a standard, even if that standard adapts to the times periodically.”

    A noble concept, but what kinds of people would be part of this panel? Former coaches and GMs? Hall of Fame players? Non-Hall of Fame players? Fans? Sportswriters? Bill James and Rob Neyer? This is an important part of this proposal, because “some semblence of a standard” could mean anything. It applies to the current voting collective. And if the standard needs to be tougher, then it can be reasonably raised with the current voting panel:

    • Do the BBWAA voters meet yearly and discuss each candidate, or do they sit in their den with their slippers and scribble down their choices based on their own methodology?

    • Some do, but perhaps it’s required that every voter publish their rationales for voting for and against every single player on the ballot. Yes, please spell out why Dan Plesac is not a Hall of Famer and why Rickey Henderson is, beyond “isn’t it obvious?”

  • Tony

    I kind of made this suggestion out of order in my statement but I think the body should be made up of baseball historians. Hell, you could even give them a quiz or something to make sure they are informed to the proper degree.

    And, some semblence of a standard is a general concept, but it is telling that a general concept is more structured than what we currently have now.

    The issue we have here is ill-informed voters voting on their biases rather than actual statistical analysis.

    Year after year advancements are made in statistical analysis and yet those changes are never reflected in the voting.

    People with baseball historian credentials — James would apply, Ken Burns maybe?, researchers from the Hall of Fame? — could objectively analyze a player’s impact without the baggage of having played with or against a player who is up for election.

    Again back to Allen. He posted offensive statistics that were better than many players generally thought to be the greatest to ever play the game, but bias about his attitude keeps him out of the Hall.

    Tim Raines, Bill Dahlen, and Sherry Magee are further great examples of how an ignorant voting base ignores great players because they’ve either forgotten them, never heard of them, or they played in Canada.

    If the Hall is going to keep it’s integrity it needs to start recognizing the very best in the games ENTIRE history, not whom the players perceived to be the best, or found the most personable.

    Sherry Magee: 136 OPS + and led the NL in RBI’s four times. (Dead ball era)

    Dave Orr: 161 OPS +. Died of a stroke, so a short career, but should easily get the Koufax exception.

    Charlie Keller: .410 OBP, 152 OPS+, lost time to the war, again Koufax exception.

    Gavvy Cravath: 119 homeruns in the dead ball era, 151 ops +, hit 24 homeruns…IN 1915!

    Mike Donlin: .333 career hitter, 144 OPS+, probably not enough at bats but I have a real problem with the longevity arguement. It’s one thing for a players skills to degrade but Donlin was just too “distracted” to commit to the game full time. A totally different era, totally different mindsets. They didn’t call him “Turkey” Mike for nothing — left baseball for vaudville where he made more money.

    All of these players, under real statistical analysis, would easily be inducted. Many have much better stats than a lot of players already enshrined.

    But instead these players aren’t honored because they were either not well liked or forgotten all together.

    Have a group of baseball “historians” vote and I’ll gaurentee you those names show up before guys like Joe Gordon or Bill Mazerowski (yes, I know, his outstanding defense “makes up” for his .260 BA, his 84 OPS+, and his .299 OBP).

  • Gerald McCully

    My older brother was first a Phillies-Richie Allen fan,and then just a Dick Allen fan. We traveled around the Tampa area to watch him go through batting practice, and maybe see him play a few spring innings. No autographs, but he appreciated my hippy-looking brothers compliments, and he was very kind. His swing was perfect to me.His stats are more impressive when you consider how the high pitching mounds and the dead balls of the late 60’s and early 70’s.
    He was awesome,…Dick had 32 Home runs in the middle of August and he took off (or injured?)the rest of the season off, and still won the AL home run title. He was a belligerent person to most, and I doubt that he ever cared about the HOF, but he was the best hitter the AL,when he was with the White Sox. The problem with the bashing of Rice is that you diminish both players.

  • Tony

    I don’t see how pointing out that Dick Allen — a player who gets no push for the Hall — is far better than Rice — a player constantly getting a push — is “Rice”bashing.”

    You must be a Red Sox fan because you didn’t accuse me of bashing Ron Santo, Paul Warner, Hank Aaron or any of the other players I noted Allen had better stats (in a given category) than.

    I believe Rice was a very good player but not a player of Hall of Fame caliber. This is not bashing him, its just drawing a conclusion from his statistics. If the conclusion his statistics present “bash” him that’s not my fault — it’s his. You can call him feared all you want but his numbers don’t lie.

    Nor do I believe I diminished Allen in any way. In fact, if you’re a Rice fan, and you believe he should be in the Hall of Fame, than illustrating how much better Allen’s statistics were, only strengthens the case that he is deserving of induction.

  • Tony

    In addition to that, every time a new class is inducted the voters do exactly what I did; determine that certain players are or are not Hall of Fame worthy. The Hall is reserved for the greatest players to play the game; letting someone in who doesn’t fit this profile cheapens the honor.

  • Tony

    Matt, in reference to your pdf, I went back and further read James’ analysis of Allen and I found it disheartening to say the least. For a man who has so enveloped his judgement in statistics, he takes an almost personal tact when judging Allen. Seems pretty contradictory to his typical views.

  • Delaware Dave

    I’m a big Allen fan. I’m not a big statistics guy. But if you are one of those people that thinks his stats are good enough for the HOF but he should not get there because of his behanvior, think about this:

    He had the guts to come back and face the Philly fans that hated him in 1975 and help the Phils get to their first post season play since 1950. I think this should cancel out his bad behavior in the past and leave the rest of the decision to the stats.

  • Tony

    Dave,

    Where did you get that impression from the piece? In fact, I entitled it “Dick Allen: A True Hall of Famer.”

    My point was that it is ridiculous that he is kept out the Hall because certain people found his personality offensive. By that standard Ty Cobb and many other would be ousted from their positions.

    Dick Allen is easily the most deserving player yet to be enshrined and is actually far better that many who are, and are to be, enshrined.

    If you look closely at what I wrote, I actually stated pretty strongly that I believe the veterans committee is using their votes as a final way to punish Allen.

    I can’t speak to his character because there are varying accounts. I tend to be he was probably kind of a jerk who also faced massive racism.

    His personality shouldn;t matter to the Hall. The man posted historic numbers and deserves enshrinement.

    P.S. If you’re not a big stats guys, being a Dick Allen fan is reason enough to give that perspective a try. Mess around on baseball-reference.com. If you’re a fan of baseball history you’ll love it.

  • steve

    mega superstar dick dont call me richie sir richard anthony the king crash allen the prodigy top 5 dead or alive greatest player ever in the history in baseball you tell me 1 guy that can hit 2 inside the park homeruns in 1 game and routinely would hit 500 foot non steroid cannon shots and was the fastest ever from first to third if sleepy was playing today 50 million a year a gigantic talent that u will ever ever see again as great as jim brown was in football allen was way way ahead of his time a mega superstar basketball player the hall is a fraud without dick everybody knows that u ball up rice ripken and tony gwynn then u throw in santo grote they werent nothing to allen dick was mays aaron great these guys are b players dick was the strongest player of his time from 64 to 74 thee greatest player in every power catergory thanks for writing about the outlaw superstar dick allen u can never mention allen without first saying MEGA SUPERSTAR iam and will always b allens biggest fan when i was 8 a black man whos son was a player on my team he says to me u pitch like chris short and u hit like dick allen but dont call me richie so my dad takes me to a game allens up the crack from the bat was something like a shotgun blast he hits a line drive over the shortstops head it winds up 2 b a towering upper deck mega crash only allen could do stuff like that

  • Delaware Dave

    To Tony –

    I am with you 100 percent. My message was not directed to you. It was to those that think he has HOF stats but should not get there becasue of his behavior. My point is that he deserves a pass on behavior because it took a lot of guts to come back to Philly after what he went through and he contributed to their the Phils getting to the post season form the first time since 1950.

    But I agree that behavior does not matter. But if you want him in the HOF, you have a better chance of it if you can cancel out the bad behavior arguments and so that the behavior people can focus on the stats.

    To Steve –

    Great comments. I was at Connie Mack to see some cool stuff too. A homerun over the Coke sign and a couple fove game strikeouts.

    To anyone:

    Are the black players helping him out? They should be able to understand what ALlen went through and explain it to the rest of baseball in a more crediable way than Allen could or white supporters.

  • Bob Hanway

    I was happy to see that Ron Santo was finally elected to the HOF. He was an All-Star, a Golden Glove winner and a productive player in the National League which was laden with stars during the 1960s.

    Dick Allen was even better: Rookie of the Year in 1964, MVP in 1972. If Ron Santo was a very good, consistent player, Dick Allen was a dominant player in that era. When you compared these two great ballplayers side-by-side, I’d have to pick Dick Allen on the basis of his overall talent. As good as Mr. Santo was, no one would say that he was a dominant player.

    Some say that Mr. Allen should have handled himself better with management, fans, and the media, I think he had some justifiable reasons when you think of the 1960s segregation that existed still when he broke in and played. That man has HOF stats–akin to those of Cepeda, Perez, and Santo. He also made peace with the demanding Philadelphia fans.

    It is also noteworthy that HOFs like Mike Schmidt and Goose Gossage sing Mr. Allen’s praises. They’d know better than the rest of us–given their talent and the fact that they played with Mr. Allen. Bob Uecker, who is not an HOF, played with Mr. Allen and said the same thing.

  • Tony

    Thanks for the comment. Allen’s stats actually put him in a class with the greatest hitters that have ever played, especially from a power standpoint. I love Santo, Cepeda, and Perez but those guys are boarderline. Allen is far from boarderline. He and Tim Raines are the most aggregious disclusions from the hall.

  • Harry

    I grew up idolizing Dick Allen of the then not-so-fabulous Phils! so I am not objective. People living on Somerset Street were in mortal danger when Crash was swinging at Connie Mack. The same folks who allegedly despised him and dealt him away brought him back to Philly in the 70’s. That same organization employs him today as a community adviser and has him on the baseline on Phillies Alumni weekends. If the team that he played for during the tumultuous times is fine and square with Dick Allen, why can’t the rest of baseball be the same?
    I don’t remember the national press’ opinions during the 60’s, but the Philly papers were unrelenting. Allen bashing filled sports sections and sold newspapers. The defunct Bulletin seemed to absolutely revel in the attacks. I suppose the beat writers shared their love for the man in every NL press box, thus enshrining the mindset and non-enshrining the player.
    Yeah, I’m not objective. I think No.15 belongs in the Hall. I argue the point with my contemporaries who disagree based on the relative brevity of his career, ignoring the behavioral issues. However, in a way, the controversy itself may make a point in Dick Allen’s favor: he is still, at least in the eyes of more than the casual baseball fan, very much famous 35 years into retirement.