Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Ron Cey

What he did: Let’s be clear– I don’t consider Ron Cey a Hall of Famer. The point of this column isn’t to mount a hopeless case that Cey belongs in Cooperstown. The power-hitting third baseman didn’t come close to making the Top 50 in my recent project on the best players not in the Hall of Fame, receiving 13 votes out of 86, with just one voter saying he deserved a plaque. Don’t get me wrong, Cey was very good for much of his career, maybe even one of the best in the National League in the 1970s, hitting 316 home runs with a lifetime OPS+ of 121. His career WAR of 52.0 isn’t bad. But there may be dozens of other players who merit enshrinement before Cey.

I’m writing this column for different reasons. Specifically, I was inspired by a commenter here last week who argued that Steve Garvey deserved higher placement in the Top 50 because he batted before the .261-hitting Cey in the Dodger lineup. I looked on and found that Garvey and Cey had almost identical offensive production for their time in Los Angeles, posting OPS+ scores of 122 and 125, respectively. This being said, I doubt the commenter is alone in his misconceptions or that it was any help to Cey his only year on the ballot.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Cey was a one-and-done candidate, receiving 1.9 percent of the vote in 1993, his only year on the writers ballot. He became eligible with the Veterans Committee last year under its new format and can be considered again by the committee in two years.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Again, just so we’re clear, no, Ron Cey does not belong in the Hall of Fame. I’d appreciate if no one leaves a comment like, “Heck no! How can you even say Cey’s a Hall of Famer?” People see the titles here, don’t bother to read my posts, and treat the comment button like a trigger. It’s a little risky to feature players like Cey. But I think it makes for interesting copy.

I believe Cey and others suffer from the attitudes espoused by the commenter above. It’s easy to discount Cey for his .261 average, early decline, or relatively low career homer totals. Surface stats can sink a man’s shot at Cooperstown, even if a little more research suggests he might at least be worth more consideration. For Cey, the stakes aren’t as high, being that the research merely shows him to be as good or better than Garvey, one of the more overrated Hall of Fame candidates in recent years. I wouldn’t give either man a plaque.

Other more deserving men, though, may have suffered the same fate as Cey. Bert Blyleven was in this group for a long time, though last year he became perhaps the first player enshrined on the basis of sabermetrics. I doubt Cey will ever follow, and I don’t have any problem with this, but perhaps a few other underrated, misunderstood players like Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, and Rick Reuschel will eventually get their due.


Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert Blyleven, Bill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiLarry Walker,Manny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaWill Clark

9 Replies to “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Ron Cey”

  1. Oh, a good one.

    Does Ron Cey belong in the Hall of Fame? No, he does not.

    Does he deserve more respect than he’s gotten? Yes, he does.

    Was he a more valuable player than Steve Garvey? Yes, he absolutely was. The people who will blast you for featuring Cey probably support Garvey.

    Are there Hall of Fame third basemen right now who were not as good as Ron Cey? Yes, there are.

    By Weighted WAR, Ron Cey is the 19th-best eligible third baseman of all time. There are 17 third basemen among the best 207 players in history, so by my Hall of wWAR, those 17 deserve to be enshrined. That makes Cey the second best third baseman outside of the Hall of wWAR. That means he was damn good.

    The thing is, the Hall of wWAR already contains a ton of third basemen not in the Hall. Third base is, by far, the most effed up position in the Hall of Fame. Luckily, Ron Santo was just inducted. He was the most egregious omission at the position, so at least that started what might be an adjustment.

    The third basemen ahead of Cey and not in the Hall:

    1. Deacon White – I can’t believe this 19th century star is not in the Hall.

    2. Sal Bando – Incredibly underrated.

    3. Ken Boyer – Didn’t fare well on the Golden Era ballot this time, but he has many similarities to Santo.

    4. John McGraw – John McGraw is in the Hall of Fame as a manager. But they should have put him in as a player first.

    5. Buddy Bell – Incredible defender and was an average hitter for a long time. Kind of a poor man’s Brooks Robinson.

    6. Graig Nettles – Power, defense, on-base skills. His average was low and it has kept him out.

    7. Ezra Sutton – Because of the short schedules of the day, he played 100 games just three times. He still collected 1500+ hits with a .294 average and 119 OPS+.

    8. Darrell Evans – This “.248 hitter” got on base 3828 times. He also smashed 414 homers.

    9. Stan Hack – This longtime Cubbie owned a .394 OBP. He didn’t even play 2000 games but still racked up enough value to be Hall-worthy.

    That’s NINE third basemen with excellent Hall of Fame cases. Beyond Hack is Robin Ventura, another amazing fielder with some pop. Then comes Cey. Cey hit over 300 homers and he would have collected 2000 hits if he wasn’t walking s’damn much. Hey played a long time at third base, which is also valuable. He had an OPS+ of 121.

    While Ron Cey isn’t a Hall of Famer, he deserves this type of post. He was certainly better than Pie Traynor, George Kell, and Freddie Lindstrom. All are Hall of Famers.

  2. It’s great to see write-ups on Ron Cey as I strongly agree that he is seriously underrated. Agreed I don’t think he should be in the Hall of Fame but he certainly wouldn’t be the worst selection. Off the top of my head I would put Cey in before (recent inductee) Jim Rice (though if I were to look into it maybe I wouldn’t… of course, I don’t think either should be in). And Adam, I like your list in the previous comment. I would probably rank them slightly differently, but certainly agree that Deacon White is at the top.

  3. Adam:
    Where do you rank Pie Traynor vs your list of Hall-worthy 3Bs? His name sometimes comes up in discussions about players who should never have been enshrined in the HOF.

  4. Brendan:

    I don’t know exactly where he ranks because I haven’t even collected data for all players ahead of him. This is an incomplete list, but should be close:

    Mike Schmidt
    Eddie Mathews
    Wade Boggs
    George Brett
    Home Run Baker
    Ron Santo
    Deacon White
    Brooks Robinson
    Sal Bando
    Ken Boyer
    John McGraw
    Buddy Bell
    Jimmy Collins
    Graig Nettles
    Ezra Sutton
    Darrell Evans
    Stan Hack
    Robin Ventura
    Ron Cey
    Ned Williamson
    Bob Elliott
    Heinie Groh
    Toby Harrah
    Lave Cross
    Matt Williams
    Larry Gardner
    Denny Lyons
    Arlie Latham
    Bill Joyce
    Billy Nash
    Pie Traynor

    1. No offense, but I am a baseball sportswriter, student, player, and blogger, and I’d sort your above list like this: Brett, McGraw, Boggs, Schmidt, Robinson, Mathews, Bando, Baker, White, Boyer, Traynor, Collins, Bell, Cross, Elliott, Groh, Latham, Lyons, Hack, Joyce, Cey, Ventura, Evans, and all the rest without much further consideration.

  5. Adam:
    I’m not so surprised to see Pie Traynor way down the list. The real shocker for me is how high Toby Harrah ranks. I always thought of him as a just-barely-above-average kind of player.
    Thanks for providing this list in response to my question (and thanks also for your earlier kind words about the Morris/Lolich comment).

  6. Ron Cey was always my favorite player on my favorite team-LAD so I might be a bit biased but if you take his defensive abilities and throw those in with his offensive numbers, by that I’d say he is HOF worthy

    1. And his World Series success…he was clutch! If you just look at regular season stats, then he should be left out. But he had glorious post-season moments that baseball playing kids dream about!

  7. Good. You have a very good article here. My objections are that Reuschel is not a Hall of Famer (from a Giants fan) and that Cey is very far down the line of Hall of Fame worthy. He was indeed a very good player, and should have stayed on the ballot for five years or so, but is not in the top 150 players outside of Cooperstown. Check out my blog if you want to see who I think is better.

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