Friday, January 13, 2012

The Hall of Fame Case for Ted Simmons

I have to believe Ted Simmons' long, overdue inclusion into baseball's Hall of Fame will finally happen, as the Veteran's Committee will be reviewing his qualifications - which are decidedly Hall of Fame caliber - in time for the upcoming January selection process.

* His career began as a full-time catcher for the Cardinals in 1970, which happened to coincide with a prolonged period of mediocrity the team would endure throughout his tenure in St Louis, which came to an end ten years later, when he was traded to Milwaukee.  Being stuck on a mediocre team wasn't his fault.  In fact, without Ted Simmons in the lineup, the Cardinals would have been something far less than mediocre through the 1980 season - in other words, they would have really sucked.

* His career roughly coincided with the career of Johnny Bench, who was arguably, the greatest catcher in MLB history.  Being second banana to the Great Bench unfairly diminished his performance, which was in fact, Hall of Fame caliber.

* Playing half his games for most of his career in cavernous Busch Stadium turned countless home runs into long outs.  Few players in MLB history ever smashed baseballs with the degree of ferocity Simmons did in 21 big league seasons, so his relatively modest home run total of 248 is misleading.

The hard-hitting (switch-hitting) Simmons amassed 2472 hits (probably none of the "infield variety") - more than Bench, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, or Jorge Posada, for that matter.  His lifetime .285 BA also leads that quartet, and his 1389 RBI total is close to the top of that heap, trailing only Bench by a mere seven runs batted in.

What about OPS+?  This is perhaps the most accurate saber-metric measurement of a player's offensive production, taking into consideration "on base percentage" and "slugging percentage", while factoring in the "degree of difficulty" associated with the playing venue.  As stated, old Busch Stadium was a pitcher's haven - not at all condusive to the long ball.  Here's how Simmons stacked up against the three Hall of Famers and the one potential Hall of Famer:

Bench - 126
Posada - 121
Simmons - 117
Fisk - 117
Carter - 115

Of the three catchers already enshrined in Cooperstown, Bench played in four different World Series, winning twice; Carter and Fisk both played in one Fall Classic (both were very "classic" Fall Classics), as did Ted Simmons - ironically, as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, playing against his old team - and losing in seven games - in 1982.  Carter was on the winning side playing for the Mets in 1986, and we all know Fisk's Red Sox fell to Bench's Reds in 1975, although Carlton's memorable Game Six walk-off home run made him an instant legend in Bean Town.

If World Series success affects Hall of Fame voting, five-time winner Jorge Posada may find himself in Cooperstown some day; hopefully, by that time, Cooperstown will have already admitted the greatest Cardinal catcher in history - Ted Lyle Simmons. 

Just ask Peter Gammons; he belongs.

Fascinated with St Louis Cardinals history?  Test your Redbird IQ!

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