Claim to fame: A seven-time All Star, 1972 American League MVP, and two-time home run champion, Allen may rank as one of the best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame. He’s certainly one of the best hitters of the 1960s not in Cooperstown, his 351 home runs and .292 batting average more a facet of his relatively short career and the fact he played in a celebrated pitcher’s era. One need only look at Allen’s OPS+ of 156, fourth best of any eligible player not enshrined, to know he was something special at the plate. Stats don’t tell the whole story with Allen, though.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Allen exhausted his time 0n the writers ballot in 1997, one of those players who had a cult of support with roughly the same small percentage of people voting for him each year. For staying on the ballot 14 years, Allen never got more than 20 percent of the vote and received less than 10 percent just four times. He can now be considered by the Veterans Committee.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? My quick take is yes, but I’m admittedly somewhat sentimental in these matters. Push come to shove, I probably wouldn’t have any problem enshrining Allen or other fan favorite players who’ve been long left out of Cooperstown like Ron Santo or Gil Hodges. I don’t believe the museum would be much worse statistically for their presence, and they seem like they’d have plaques parents would want their children to see. Isn’t that the point of the Hall of Fame?
Of course, the arguments against Allen (and Santo and Hodges and so many others) aren’t hard to see, either. Allen was horrific defensively, his defensive WAR of -10.6 knocking his overall WAR down to 61.2. I wonder if his defensive woes in contrast to his offensive prowess were part of the impetus for the designated hitter position, which originated in 1973 and featured a veteran Allen as one of the first. He was also finished at 35 in 1977 and a sub-replacement level player his final three seasons. More than that, he has a controversial image and may have been the Albert Belle of his day, another fine hitter who hasn’t come close to Cooperstown.
Bill James called Allen a clubhouse cancer, writing in one of his books that Allen did “more to keep his teams from winning than anybody else who ever played major league baseball.” In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001, James called Allen the second-most controversial player in baseball history behind Rogers Hornsby. Teammates and coaches have spoken out in Allen’s defense as a team leader and captain, and even if the allegations they defended were true, Allen wouldn’t be the first jerk in Cooperstown (and probably not the last.)
It’s not always fun to see these kinds of players have their day, but Allen might deserve one.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Allie Reynolds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Will Clark