What is the deal with the recent groundswell of support for Jim Rice for the Hall of Fame?
How many of you remember Jim Rice? I watched a lot of Orioles/Red Sox showdowns in the 1980’s and I remember Jim Rice as a plodding slugger, a poor defensive left fielder who was a fair hitter with some decent pop in the bat. While he was a very good offensive player, he never struck me as being a dominant offensive force and didn’t play long enough to reach some “HoF worthy” landmarks. (Admittedly, I don’t remember much of Rice’s peak seasons of 1977-79…)
I could go on about how Rice was no better than Boog Powell, Dave Parker or Dale Murphy but there is a more striking comparison to not only one of Jim Rice’s contemporaries…but to one of his teammates; Dwight Evans.
Remember Dwight Evans? Great player. Is he a Hall of Famer? I think not. But look at the comparison.
Seasons H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS+
Rice 1975-89(15) 2452 382 1451 .298 .352 .502 128
Evans 1973-91(19) 2446 385 1391 .272 .370 .470 127
Really? These meager differences in offensive numbers mean the difference between immortality and falling off the ballot after three years?
From 1971-1990, nobody grounded into more double plays than Jim Rice. He was in the top ten for strikeouts during that span as well. He was an out-making machine. The power numbers are not great enough to offset those deficiencies.
Considering the fact that Rice was a butcher in left and Evans was a 8-time Gold Glover in right field, you could argue that Evans was the better baseball player over the course of a longer career.
If Rice belongs in the Hall of fame, he needs to get in line behind Dwight Evans; Evans is clearly the better ballplayer.
(One disclaimer; I'm sure none of this is a surprise to Red Sox fans and may be well-covered ground. I just found it to be an interesting contrast...)