What About Bobby?

Sometime in the recent past, before the Hall of Fame again modified its eras for Veterans Committee consideration, I sent a letter to a member of the previous screening committee. At the time, it was sent to the Expansion Era Committee, though that era is now called the Modern Baseball time frame, encompassing players whose peaks fell between 1970 and 1987.

I have no idea if that letter ever reached its intended target. So, what the hell, I’m going to repost it here, on the extraordinary off chance it finds one of the members of this crucial but overlooked Hall body. That group meets again this year, to put together the list of 10 names the voting committee will consider for Hall induction in 2018.

Dear xxx,

I’m writing to you based on your position on the Historical Overview Committee for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I believe you and your fellow committee members have an opportunity to review the case of a ballplayer from that era who badly warrants a fresh take on his career: Bobby Grich.

I was a baseball fan during Grich’s career. I remember when he signed with the Angels as one of the biggest names in that first free agent class. Neither an Orioles nor an Angels fan, I seemed to lose track of him after that. I don’t think I was alone.

So when I read, several years back, that Grich was a deserving Hall of Famer, I was stunned. It wasn’t until I gave him a second look that I realized the second baseman was not just a legitimate candidate for Cooperstown, but clearly worthy of joining the other all-time greats in the HoF.

Here we have a quality defensive infielder, who once joined Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger to form perhaps the greatest infield defense ever assembled. The four Gold Gloves he won speak very clearly about his reputation with the leather.

But he wasn’t just a glove. He combined good patience with excellent power throughout his 17-year career. Sure, his batting average is a little low for a Hall of Famer, and almost certainly obscured his credentials when he first hit the ballot back in 1992. But we know better now that BA isn’t the most useful stat when determining a player’s offensive value. Grich’s lifetime on-base percentage of .371 and his slugging percentage of .424, compiled in an era before balls were flying over the fence at record rates, would be laudable for a leftfielder. For a second baseman with a great glove, they’re simply excellent.

A comparison with the premier second baseman of his day, Joe Morgan, illustrates this nicely. Sure, Grich comes up short across the board when compared to Little Joe, but his line of .266/.371/.424 in 8220 plate appearances is not that far behind Morgan’s .271/.392/.427 slash line, though Morgan’s career was obviously much longer. However, one doesn’t need to be as good as Joe Morgan to be a Hall of Fame second baseman, otherwise Cooperstown’s second base roster would run just three players deep. It’s possible that playing at pretty much the same time as an all-time great second sacker like Morgan further muted the perception of him. We saw that happen with Tim Raines, though Rock was fortunately able to escape Rickey’s considerable shadow in his last gasp with the BBWAA.

You may not be convinced that Grich is, in fact, Cooperstownian timber. I understand. What’s undeniable, however, is that he’s never really gotten a good look from the electorate. He was gone after just one vote. The candidacies of other players under your purview, such as Steve Garvey and Dave Parker, got 15 years of consideration from the BBWAA, and each time these fine players were found to be not quite good enough.

Your screening committee does incredibly important work. You have a chance to allow the historically overlooked to get a second look from a fresh set of eyes. No one deserves that fresh look more than Grich, a great player and respected professional who, through no fault of his own, fell through the cracks the first time he was eligible.

I hope when you set out to put together this year’s ballot for the committee, you take another hard look at the full career of Bobby Grich. I’m confident if you do you will find him quite worthy of a place on the ballot for the Modern Game Committee to fully examine.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

 

 

Dan Markham

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