Claim to fame: Grich was a six-time All Star, five-time Gold Glove winner, and he just might be the best ever one-and-done Hall of Fame candidate, someone who appeared on the ballot for Cooperstown once and got less than 5 percent of the vote. The reason? Grich retired with a .266 lifetime batting average, no high profile or single defining moment, and a lack of understanding on what might have made him worthy. That said, he’s been getting some support as of late.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Having retired in 1986 and long since bounced off the writers ballot, Grich could have been on the 2011 Veterans Committee ballot a few months ago as someone who made a significant career mark between 1973 and 1989. He was not included.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Grich has come up before on this site, though I thought of him again recently when Joe Posnanski included him in an April 20 post on players who may have missed Cooperstown for being Not Famous Enough. Posnanski wrote of Grich:
He IS a cause celebre among a very small circle of sabermetrically inclined people, largely because his skills (great defense, power, walked a ton) were wildly under-appreciated. He got just 11 votes his one year on the ballot, which was 30 less than Pete Rose got write-in votes. He also got almost 100 fewer votes than Maury Wills though he was a clearly superior player. Wills, of course, is a pretty famous cause celebre.
The Orange County Register ran a column a week later by Sam Miller entitled, Ex-Angel Grich is a no-brainer Hall of Famer. I’m generally quick to dismiss columns written by hometown reporters (Grich played his best years in Anaheim), though I thought Miller did a good job capturing the arguments for Grich’s enshrinement. Among other things, Miller quoted Jay Jaffe of BaseballProspectus.com ranking Grich as the sixth-best second baseman of all-time, and Miller noted how Grich’s 1973 season might have been the greatest ever for a second baseman for the defensive stat Total Zone.
This (overall) position on Grich is nothing new. Back in 1986, the seminal baseball writer Bill James wrote in his annual Baseball Abstract: “I’ll say this: if Bobby Grich goes into the Hall of Fame, you’re going to have real strong evidence that sabermetrics has made an impact on how talent is evaluated by the broader public.”
It has, certainly. But it’s two decades too late for Grich and the Angels.
My take? The Veterans Committee could do far worse than Grich, and in December, it once again almost did, with Dave Concepcion coming closest to enshrinement. Concepcion was an adequate member of a high-profile team, essentially the opposite of Grich. And the committee did worse a couple years ago when it selected Joe Gordon, again another role player on a dynasty. Grich seems more deserving than either of those men on statistical merit, but I don’t know if I like his odds for getting inducted anytime soon, at least so long as business keeps running as usual in Cooperstown. For better or worse, it’s still the Hall of Fame.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Alan Trammell, Albert Belle, Allie Reynolds, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, 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, Manny Ramirez, 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