Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Frequent Spins (2012.2)

The All-Time Teams series is taking an unintended hiatus for a few weeks. I was doing well at piecing these together during my very limited free time, but I've kind of hit a wall of late.

So, I'm going to try to do a few shorter posts in the meantime and hope I can return to this series in a couple more weeks. That said, it seems like an appropriate time for the second Frequent Spins post of the year...with a twist.

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Leaving Eden
This band is old school. Not Cole Hamels old school. More like Mariano Rivera old school. In other words, they don't need to say they're old school. They just are.

Damien Jurado - Maraqopa
Jurado's latest, while far from his best, reminds me of Jeremy Hellickson, unspectacular peripherally, but surprisingly effective. (I was going to say Mark Buehrle, but decided it isn't quite that good.)

Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
I'm going to compare Nada Surf to Michael Young, in that both are not particularly well-liked by the critics—which, in baseball terms, means sabermetrics—but I still can't help but think they're good at what they do.

The Shins - Port of Morrow
The Shins are Josh Hamilton. That's not to say this album is as great as Hamilton's year so far, but the band has the potential to be one of the best and have certainly shown flashes of that ability. But, then you realize it's been 11 years since their first album and this year's effort is just their fourth overall. Hamilton, despite how great his career has been at times, is 31 years old and is going to have to keep producing at a high level to have a shot at the Hall of Fame.

Todd Snider - Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables
A while back I was working on an all-underrated team. The idea was it would include the best veteran player at each position who has never made an all-star team, won a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger, or finished in the top ten in MVP or Cy Young voting. Snider is Carlos Ruiz, a workmanlike player who epitomizes underrated based on the aforementioned criteria.

Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Spiritualized is a band that's been around for a while (20+ years) and one I've known about for most of that time, but have never really given them their due until now. The analogy is far from perfect—actually all of these analogies are far from perfect—but they're kind of like Ben Zobrist, a player I've consistently refused to believe is as good as the advanced metrics say. Of course, Zobrist's 2012 to date might be a clue I was right in the first place, but if his slow start turns out to be just that, consider me a believer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Take LC Out to the Ballgame

I've been to games at 30 major league parks, 19 of which are currently in use by big league clubs. I've also been to a whole lot of minor league parks, but I honestly don't know how many that is. I've tried to figure it out, but it's not as easy to jog your memory when there are so many minor league teams that have come and gone over the years.

In fact, I know I saw one game at Reading, Pennsylvania when I was in Lancaster on a work trip, but I can't remember if I also hit Harrisburg. I also once received a job offer—that I didn't accept—from the Williamsport Cubs, but I believe my only visit to that park was for the interview.

My rough count has it at around 30, including independent leagues, spring training sites and the inaugural home game of the Sun City Rays.* So, that's an approximate total of 60 professional baseball parks I've seen games at. Little Chuck has some serious catching up to do—but, we plan to give him every opportunity—as this past Saturday he got his first live taste of the sport that both his parents revere.

*In case you're wondering, the Rays were a team in the Senior Professional Baseball Association, a league for players 35 and older that began play in 1989 and folded halfway through their second season due to poor attendance.

KJ, LC and I went on a little overnight jaunt this past weekend to Portland, Maine—a two-hour drive up I-95 for us—as one of my birthday presents was to take our son to his first game.

Interestingly enough, Portland happens to be one of the ballparks I couldn't seem to recall whether I'd been there or not. I certainly spent a lot of time in that neck of the woods when, in my previous career, Poland Spring was my client. But, as it turns out, walking up to Hadlock Field was all the evidence I needed to realize it was my first time there.

The Portland Sea Dogs are the AA Eastern League affiliate of the Red Sox, so for some reason they thought it would be a good idea to turn their home into a bit of a replica of Fenway Park. The left field wall, dubbed the Maine Monster, is a wooden version of Fenway's Green Monster, complete with miniature Coke bottle, Citgo sign and WB Mason billboard. However, the scoreboard is electronic rather than manual, probably because there's nowhere for the scoreboard operator to hang out, or for Manny Ramirez to "take a break," had he ever played there while on rehab.

A view of Hadlock Field from our seats

I have mixed emotions about the Maine Monster. I guess it's kind of a cool idea that some young fans might get a big kick out of, and I'm more appreciative of that angle these days. But, I can't help wondering if it was created for player development purposes, and this would seem like a silly idea to me.

Ultimately, there is only one Fenway and it should remain that way. Now, if they decided to tear down the original, then I'd be all for paying tribute to it elsewhere.

At least the amenities at Hadlock Field—most notably the relative spaciousness of the seats—made for a much more comfortable fan experience than at its major league counterpart.

The one important area where Hadlock was hands-down better than any major or minor league park I've visited is in beer selection.**

**I'm kind of embarrassed to say I don't remember what the selection was like at PGE Park, the former home of the Portland Beavers. You know, the superior Portland (no offense to Maine's, but Oregon's is a tough standard), also known as the craft beer capital of the United States.

The park has an entire stand dedicated to microbrews, with about a dozen selections from Maine brewers Geary's, Sebago, Shipyard, Sea Dog and Baxter, one of my new favorites. They also had Harpoon IPA, which I suppose is better than offering Bud Light, but I would have preferred it to be exclusively local beers.

In hindsight, I should have opted for one of the Baxter offerings that I've never tried, but I was in the mood for an IPA and they didn't have Baxter's Stowaway, which is excellent. So, I opted for a Sebago Frye's Leap IPA, which was good, but falls short of my favorites for the style because of its piney rather than citrusy hop characteristics.

There's also a Shipyard Grill concession stand, offering a wider selection of styles from one of Maine's weaker microbreweries—in my opinion—as well as a few interesting food options and...Bud Light. I guess you can't win 'em all.

We missed the first two innings of the game between feeding LC, taking turns in the rest room following a few hours on the road, and getting ourselves fed, but we knew this was par for the course when taking a baby to a ball game. After spending a few innings in our seats, it was fairly obvious the boy needed a respite from the sun, so we headed to the souvenir stand.

We had our sights set on an infant ball cap, which would be LC's first and would appropriately commemorate his first game. But, all they had in his size was a girl's cap. The Sea Dogs hat sized for a 2-4 year old was adorable, but I didn't see the point in buying his "first hat" if it wasn't going to fit. So, we purchased a cheap $8 Sea Dogs ball, which will be a decent souvenir we can hang onto until he loses it or decides he's not as nostalgic as we are. But still, we couldn't help feeling a little disappointed (even more so when I discovered the infant cap is not available online).

We weren't sure how long the little guy would last at the game, but our Baby Bjorn sure made it easier for his parents. The wife has more experience carrying him in it, but I quickly learned to make sure everything else I was holding was at least an LC arm's length away. So, in fact we did make it through nine innings, although LC did fall asleep briefly in the 8th, which is right about when all the fireworks were happening (literally).

The Sea Dogs led 1-0 until late in the game when both offenses came to life: the visiting Binghamton Mets scoring five runs in the top of the 8th, the home team answering with three of their own (on two homers) in the bottom of the frame, and one more to tie it up in the last of the 9th.

Portland's outburst introduced us to the lighthouse that rises behind the center field fence, accompanied by fireworks, after a home team player hits a home run. I liked this attribute of the ballpark much more than I did the Maine Monster.

Center Field Lighthouse at Hadlock Field

Now is when I admit we left after the bottom of the 9th, and didn't stick around to see Binghamton win on a solo homer in the 10th. Normally, I'm not a fan of leaving early, but I think you'll cut us some slack considering the circumstances.

Our hotel was in South Portland, only a mile or so away from two brewpubs, or so I thought. My first choice for my birthday dinner was Sebago Brewing Company, but it turned out The Beer Mapping Project needs an update as that brewer's South Portland location is no more.

The other nearby option was Sea Dog Brewing Company. I made the mistake of telling KJ earlier my initial impression of this brewery wasn't a great one, so of course she felt bad we were settling. But, it was getting late, and being a beer snob is much further down my list of priorities than is being a parent. Besides, I didn't have a strong recollection as to why I was so non-plussed about Sea Dog, and I'm always willing to challenge such hazy impressions.

Turns out, my first impression was dead on. Their IPA was basically a Bass Ale clone passed off as brewed in the style of an English IPA. But, if you ask me, while Bass is worthy of being considered the predecessor to considerable improvements in the style, it really shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as an IPA at all.

The food was nothing to write home about either. I broke a personal rule by ordering an ethnic dish—Chicken Mole—in a region not known for that particular ethnicity. It actually wasn't bad, but the portion was a little light, even after I questioned why it included only one filet and was brought a second. KJ, on the other hand, ordered something you'd think it reasonable to expect would be done well in Maine. But, her Fish 'n' Chips looked more like fish nuggets and were a little on the soggy side.

None of this, of course, detracted from a great little birthday road trip, one I'm sure will remain in the memory bank for however many more years or decades this world has in store for me. I took my only son to his first baseball game, after all. Short of watching him play in his first game (but, let's not rush things), it doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

All-Time Teams #7: Cincinnati Reds

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, and using this as a vehicle to discuss their greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

The Cincinnati Reds all-time team features 10 Hall of Famers (including the soon-to-be inducted Barry Larkin and manager Sparky Anderson) and a handful of players about whom I've heard serious arguments regarding their credentials. And, of course, Pete Rose. I probably don't need to say a word about his Hall of Fame status, though.

Franchise History
Cincinnati Reds (1890-1953, 1960- )
Cincinnati Redlegs (1954-1959)
Cincinnati Red Stockings (1882-1889)

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Johnny Bench* (1967-1983)
1B - Tony Perez* (1964-1976, 1984-1986)
2B - Joe Morgan* (1972-1979)
SS - Barry Larkin* (1986-2004)
3B - Heinie Groh (1913-1921)
LF - Pete Rose (1963-1978, 1984-1986)
CF - Vada Pinson (1958-1968)
RF - Frank Robinson* (1956-1965)

Noodles Hahn (1899-1905)
Jose Rijo (1988-1995, 2001-2002)
Bucky Walters (1938-1948)
Eppa Rixey* (1921-1933)
Tony Mullane (1886-1893)

John Franco (1984-1989)

C - Ernie Lombardi* (1932-1941)
1B - Ted Kluszewski (1947-1957)
2B - Bid McPhee* (1882-1899)
SS - Dave Concepcion (1970-1988)
OF - Edd Roush* (1916-1926, 1931)
OF - George Foster (1971-1981)
OF - Eric Davis (1984-1991, 1996)

Clay Carroll (1968-1975)
Frank Dwyer (1892-1899)
Jim Maloney (1960-1970)
Dolf Luque (1918-1929)

Sparky Anderson* (1970-1978)

Rose's versatility allowed me a little flexibility, but not as much as you'd think. He started at 1B, 2B, 3B, LF and RF in his career, but the guys at second and in right here aren't going anywhere, and Tony Perez is certainly worthy of his spot as well. Plus, Rose didn't play regularly at first until late in his career anyway. So, it really came down to putting him at third and plugging George Foster in left, or playing him in left in favor of Heinie Groh at third. I chose the latter.

Actually, the biggest advantage Charlie Hustle's versatility added to this team is it allowed me to choose Eric Davis as a third reserve outfielder since Rose could serve as the backup third baseman.

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

Of the 16 non-HOF players on this team, nine received seven or more votes in Baseball Past and Present's 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame poll last December: Rose, Concepcion, Mullane, Pinson, Kluszewski, Davis, Franco, Foster, Groh. There were 86 voters in the poll, so seven may not seem like a high number, but it's not insignificant either. I can almost guarantee nobody's throwing a vote to Heinie Groh because he was a nice guy and is from their hometown.

Besides Rose, Concepcion received the highest vote total, but I'm not a big fan of his Hall of Fame credentials. To me, it comes down to Mullane or Pinson, with Groh and Foster worthy of consideration as well.

At this time last year, I was leaning towards the Irish-born Tony Mullane as the successor to Larkin. Although that opinion hasn't really changed, I've grown increasingly skeptical of using the same standards to judge 19th century pitchers that we employ to evaluate their modern counterparts. In six of Mullane's 13 seasons in the big leagues he pitched over 400 innings, an obviously unheard of total these days. As a result, he's 24th all-time in innings pitched, but 61st all-time in WAR among pitchers.

Tony Mullane

Don't get me wrong here. This is not a knock on Mullane, but rather a question about how much of his career production to attribute to the way pitchers were used in the 1800s.

Now that Bert Blyleven is in the Hall, Mullane moves up to third all-time in wins among eligible pitchers who are not inducted:
  1. Bobby Mathews - 297
  2. Tommy John - 288
  3. Tony Mullane - 284
  4. Jim Kaat - 283
  5. Jim McCormick - 265
  6. Gus Weyhing - 264
  7. Jack Morris - 254
  8. Jack Quinn - 247
  9. Dennis Martinez - 245
  10. Jack Powell - 245
I guess the kicker for me, when it comes to Mullane, is that he was a pretty good hitter as well, posting a career OPS+ of 87 and an additional 6.4 WAR from batting. I think he falls a little short of my standards for the Hall of Fame, but he's still a prime example of how many borderline worthy 19th century players there are that very few people know anything about.

Next Up: Cleveland Indians

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Born on May 17

Happy Birthday to these guys (those of them who are still alive), my all-time team consisting of players born on May 17:

C - Wiki Gonzalez (1974- )
Padres/Mariners/Nationals 1999-2006

1B - Carlos Pena (1978- )
Rays/Tigers/Cubs/Athletics/Rangers/Red Sox 2001-2012

2B - Lou Chiozza (1910-1971)
Phillies/Giants 1934-1939

SS - Leo Norris (1908-1987)
Phillies 1936-1937

3B - Ozzie Virgil (1932- )
Giants/Tigers/Pirates/Athletics/Orioles 1956-1969

LF - Carlos May (1948- )
White Sox/Yankees/Angels 1968-1977

Fun fact: One of my Twitter pals, @Fryban, pointed out that May is the only player in baseball history to wear his birthday on the back of his jersey. I'm almost embarrassed I didn't already know this.

Carlos May's White Sox jersey with #17 and cap

CF - Jack Voigt (1966- )
Orioles/Brewers/Athletics/Rangers 1992-1998

RF - Jose Guillen (1976- )
Royals/Pirates/Nationals/Devil Rays/Mariners/Angels/Reds/Diamondbacks/Athletics/Giants 1997-2010

SP - Hal Carlson (1892-1930)
Pirates/Phillies/Cubs 1917-1930

SP - Pascual Perez (1957- )
Braves/Expos/Pirates/Yankees 1980-1991

SP - Al Mays (1865-1905)
Metropolitans/Solons/Bridegrooms/Colonels 1885-1890

SP - Frank Mountain (1860-1939)
Buckeyes/Ruby Legs/Alleghenys/Athletics/Wolverines/Trojans 1880-1886

RP - Billy Hoeft (1932-2010)
Tigers/Orioles/Cubs/Braves/Giants/Red Sox 1952-1966

All-Time Leaders for players born on May 17:
Games Played - Jose Guillen
Hits - Jose Guillen
HR - Carlos Pena
RBI - Jose Guillen
SB - Carlos May
Wins - Hal Carlson
Games Pitched - Billy Hoeft
Saves - Billy Hoeft
IP - Hal Carlson
SO - Billy Hoeft

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

All-Time Teams #6: Chicago White Sox

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, and using this as a vehicle to discuss their greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

There are 12 Hall of Famers on this White Sox team, which becomes the new standard for American League franchises. But, of course, the south-siders can't compare to their crosstown rivals in this department.

Franchise History
Chicago White Sox (1901- )

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Carlton Fisk* (1981-1993)
1B - Frank Thomas* (1990-2005)
2B - Eddie Collins* (1915-1926)
SS - Luke Appling* (1930-1943, 1945-1950)
3B - Robin Ventura (1989-1998)
LF - Minnie Miñoso (1951-1957, 1960-1961, 1964, 1976, 1980)
CF - Fielder Jones (1901-1908)
RF - Harold Baines* (1980-1989, 1996-1997, 2000-2001)

Ed Walsh* (1904-1916)
Ted Lyons* (1923-1942, 1946)
Red Faber* (1914-1933)
Eddie Cicotte (1912-1920)
Wilbur Wood (1967-1978)

Hoyt Wilhelm* (1963-1968)

C - Ray Schalk* (1912-1928)
1B - Paul Konerko (1999- )
2B - Nellie Fox* (1950-1963)
SS - Luis Aparicio* (1956-1962, 1968-1970)
IF - George Davis* (1902, 1904-1909)
OF - Joe Jackson (1915-1920)
OF - Magglio Ordonez (1997-2004)

Keith Foulke (1997-2002)
Billy Pierce (1949-1961)
Mark Buehrle (2000-2011)
Roberto Hernandez (1991-1997)

Al Lopez* (1957-1965, 1968-1969)

I meant to point out in the Cubs post that John Clarkson was the first player to appear on two different teams. Now we can add Carlton Fisk and Hoyt Wilhelm to that list. In fact, Fisk is the first player named as a starter for two teams. This might have more to do with the fact I'm less-than-impressed with Ray Schalk's Hall of Fame career, but I'm sure Pudge won't be the last. This is another thing I'll be keeping track of as this series continues.

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

Since we're talking about Hall of Fame eligibles here, that rules Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte out. Frank Thomas, of course, is not yet eligible, but will be a shoe-in unless voters start throwing the "S" word around in reference to him.

Suspicion, that is.

There are a few people out there who think Harold Baines has a case, and I'd say that Billy Pierce, Robin Ventura and Wilbur Wood are all under-rated. But, Minnie Miñoso is clearly the most worthy of this distinction, in my book.

I do have a personal Minnie Miñoso story to tell. It's nothing special, but worth a mention.

Circa 1995, I was on a work trip to South Bend, Indiana. One evening, I was in a retail store of some kind when an employee's voice came over the loudspeaker announcing a giveaway contest. They were awarding a prize to the customer who could produce evidence he or she had come the furthest to shop in their store.

South Bend is in western Indiana, bordering Michigan to the north and not far from Illinois to the west, so another customer was understandably convinced being from Ohio would prove good enough to win. That is, until I unearthed my New York driver's license with Albany address. (I suppose the fact I was from New York was enough, as I could've been from Jamestown and still won by a landslide.)

The prize was two tickets to a South Bend Silver Hawks game the following night. At the time, South Bend was the Class A Midwest League affiliate of the White Sox.

I don't recall if I successfully recruited a co-worker to accompany me to the game. In fact, my hazy memory is of going to the game solo, which is something I've done countless times without reservation.

I also don't remember much about Coveleski Stadium, the home of the Silver Hawks, which is named after Hall of Famer and 55-year South Bend resident Stan Coveleski.

What I do remember is that Minnie Miñoso was there signing autographs, for free. I've never been much of a memorabilia collector, but every once in a while I decide to seize an opportunity. This, of course, was one of those occasions.

I quickly popped into the nearest souvenir store and purchased a cheap Silver Hawks ball which, with Mr. Miñoso's gracious assistance, became this souvenir:

Faded Minnie Minoso autograph on Silver Hawks souvenir ball

Of course, none of this, in any way, has anything to do with Miñoso's Hall of Fame case, which is pretty much moot at this point. His name appeared on last year's Veterans Committee Golden Era ballot, but he received just nine of 16 possible votes, leaving him three short of election. He was also passed over by the 2006 special election of the Negro Leagues Committee, which inducted 17 former players, pioneers and executives of black baseball.

Miñoso's Hall of Fame case is borderline. At first glance, he appears to fall short, but when his late start in the minors due to segregation is factored in, I believe an argument can be made in his favor.

Minnie was signed by the Indians in 1948, but he was already 22, unproven at the highest level, and his road to the majors blocked by several veterans. So, he toiled in the minors for 2+ seasons before being traded to the White Sox in early 1951.

In Chicago, he became an instant star, homering in his first at bat and finishing the year with a .326/.422/.500 triple slash line, a 151 OPS+ and leading the league in triples (16), stolen bases (31) and HBP (16), while scoring 112 runs. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and fourth in MVP voting that season.

Miñoso averaged 5 WAR per year from 1951 to 1959, 4.1 per year through 1962, his age 36 season. His 1963 season was a -1.7 WAR disaster, signalling the end of his career. I've said before I think 4 WAR per year over 15 years is a Hall of Fame career. Miñoso's productiveness falls three seasons short of that, but what do we make of his late start?

I normally don't cut a guy any slack for a late arrival to the major leagues, but the fact of the matter is Miñoso was already 21 years old when Jackie Robinson made his major league debut. Obviously, the majors didn't become fully integrated overnight, and we can't fault Miñoso for not being the guy Branch Rickey handpicked to be the first.

So, it stands to reason that, given the opportunities white ballplayers had, Minnie would have been drafted younger and potentially would have fully broken into the majors 2-3 years earlier than he did.

Would this have been enough to make his Hall of Fame case that much clearer? I'm not so sure. He did flame out a little young, to be honest, and didn't quite have the peak necessary to make up for that. Regardless, Miñoso had a great career that is, at the very least, borderline Hall of Fame worthy, and that's a pretty impressive accomplishment as far as I'm concerned.

Next Up: Cincinnati Reds

Friday, May 04, 2012

All-Time Teams #5: Chicago Cubs

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, and using this as a vehicle to discuss their greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

This Cubs squad's 15 Hall of Famers easily outpaces the team that previously featured the most. That was the Red Sox with 11. Since four of the five teams profiled so far have been in existence for over a century, this makes for an interesting comparison:

Cubs - 15
Red Sox - 11
Braves - 9
Orioles - 9

The Orioles total includes eight players and manager Earl Weaver.

Of course, this information is meaningless since I could have easily crammed a couple more Hall of Famers onto each of these teams (Red Sox - Harry Hooper, Joe Cronin, Jimmy Collins; Braves - Billy Hamilton, Old Hoss Radbourn; Orioles - Luis Aparicio, Roberto Alomar). Heck, I could have even come up with two or three more Cubs Hall of Famers.

But, that's not the point of this series. This is about recognizing the players whose performance with the team in question makes them the greatest in their history. It's not about identifying the best players who just happened to play for a certain team. Still, it's interesting to note how many Hall of Famers are on each all-time team.

Will 15 hold up as the standard throughout this entire series? Honestly, it's going to be tough to beat. I'm sure there's an expectation that a certain team I'll cover a little over half-way through this thing will match, if not top, that number. But, I'm not so sure. We'll just have to wait and see.

Franchise History
Chicago Cubs (1903- )
Chicago Orphans (1898-1902)
Chicago Colts (1890-1897)
Chicago White Stockings (1876-1889)

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Gabby Hartnett* (1922-1940)
1B - Cap Anson* (1876-1897)
2B - Ryne Sandberg* (1982-1994, 1996-1997)
SS - Ernie Banks* (1953-1971)
3B - Ron Santo* (1960-1973)
LF - Billy Williams* (1959-1974)
CF - Hack Wilson* (1926-1931)
RF - Sammy Sosa (1992-2004)

Mordecai Brown* (1904-1912, 1916)
Fergie Jenkins* (1966-1973, 1982-1983)
Pete Alexander* (1918-1926)
Clark Griffith* (1893-1900)
Rick Reuschel (1972-1981, 1983-1984)

Once again, I have to give thanks to Adam Darowski, whose valuable input helped me sort through a plethora of starting pitching options for this franchise.

Bruce Sutter* (1976-1980)

C - Johnny Kling (1900-1910)
1B - Frank Chance* (1898-1912)
2B - Billy Herman* (1931-1941)
SS/3B - Bill Dahlen (1891-1898)
3B - Stan Hack (1932-1947)
OF - George Gore (1879-1886)
OF - Jimmy Ryan (1885-1900)

Lee Smith* (1980-1987)
John Clarkson* (1884-1887)
Hippo Vaughn (1913-1921)
Charlie Root (1926-1941)

Frank Chance* (1905-1912)

Since Chance is essentially a player-manager on this team, I was careful not to count his name twice in the Hall of Famer total.

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

Ron Santo is one of two players I named in my post on this subject last year who has since been elected to the Hall of Fame. So, while Stan Hack, George Gore and Rick Reuschel are certainly in the conversation, I'm going to go with Bill Dahlen, who is simply one of the most under-rated players of all-time.

Bill Dahlen
Dahlen played less than half his career in Chicago, but they're still the team he played for the longest and with whom he enjoyed his best years. Since we've already established there are a ton of Cubs in the Hall of Fame, it's not surprising there aren't many "career Cubs" on the outside looking in.

Dahlen played the first half of his career—including the Cubs years—in the 19th century, while the second half was in the offensive-depressed early 20th century. His reputation was as an excellent defensive shortstop, not quite on the Ozzie Smith level, but perhaps comparable to Omar Vizquel.

But, Dahlen was a much better offensive player than Vizquel and Smith (career OPS+: Vizquel - 82, Smith - 87, Dahlen - 110), with his Cubs years being his best (.299/.384/.449 BA/OBP/SLG, 123 OPS+).

Among eligible players, only one who is not in the Hall ranks higher in Wins Above Replacement than Dahlen. That player is Jeff Bagwell, and we all know the story there. But, we'll get to that later.

Dahlen's baseball-reference.com page credits him with accumulating 75.9 WAR over a 21-year career. But, not to confuse him with a "compiler"—a player whose career numbers are more a product of longevity than peak performance—72 of that total were achieved in the first 16 years of his career (4.5 per season), after which he had only one more valuable season and two (in his 40s) in which he only appeared in a total of four games.

Dahlen's been the subject of many discussions about the most deserving players outside of the Hall, despite the fact he hasn't played in over 100 years. Among the most notable, he was one of 12 players highlighted in Adam's recent Put Them in the Hall of Fame series, covering players he believes have no flaws in their Hall of Fame cases. Additionally, he is one of 10 nominees for SABR's 19th Century Overlooked Legend honor, to be announced at their convention in late June.

Of course, winning that "award" has little impact on a player's Hall of Fame candidacy, although the SABR 19th Century Committee hopes to have some influence over who appears on the Veteran's Committee's Pre-Integration Era (1871-1946) ballot, to be voted on at this year's Winter Meetings. Still, for now, there is little reason to believe Bill Dahlen won't continue to be one of the most forgotten stars in baseball history.

Next Up: Chicago White Sox