What he did: Going through the early days of baseball history, players like Al Simmons come up every so often. They are the men who retire innocuously shy of career milestones, the Tony Mullanes and Bobby Mathews’s with just fewer than 300 wins. In Simmons’ case, he, like Sam Rice, Sam Crawford, and Rogers Hornsby quit within range of 3,000 hits. Today, none of these men would be gone before hitting those marks.
Different stories drove these men from the majors in their day. Mullane and Mathews both pitched in the 19th century when hurlers rarely lasted beyond their mid-30s. Crawford left the majors in favor on the Pacific Coast League and proceeded to rack up nearly another 1,000 hits in the minors. Rice simply got old, playing until he was 44, but still quitting rather inexplicably at the end of 1934 with 2,987 hits. Simmons and Hornsby didn’t have the best reputations, though, and declined precipitously as players. They changed teams frequently in the latter parts of their career.
Era he might have thrived in: I wrote awhile back that I could see Hornsby thriving in baseball’s recent years, and I think the same holds true for Simmons. With a bat like his and a chance to serve as a designated hitter, he’d have torn up the American League in the late 1990s and certainly gotten his 3,000 hits.
Why: For starters, Simmons hit big a lot of the places he went: Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit. He and Jimmie Foxx gave the A’s a potent 1-2 punch in their heyday of the late 1920s, and Simmons was one of four men to drive in 100 runs for Detroit in 1936. Imagine Simmons filling in for Magglio Ordonez with the Tigers today or finding a spot with the Rangers in the recent World Series. No way Tony La Russa would’ve had so sweet an end to his career.
Simmons played in the greatest offensive era in baseball history, and it seems unlikely he’d hit north of .380 today or drive in close to 200 runs. Still, the late 1990’s might have been the closest thing to this era (though I made sure to put the century in that date, since the 1894 Phillies hit .350 as a team.) If ever there was an era to put up gaudy number’s besides the actual time Simmons played, it was about a decade ago when guys like Juan Gonzalez, Larry Walker, and Nomar Garciaparra were putting up huge stats.
I ran Simmons’ numbers through the Baseball-Reference.com stat converter for the 1999 Texas Rangers. There are eight different seasons from his career he’d hit .350 or better on those Rangers, including his abbreviated 1927 campaign which converts to a .399 clip with 16 home runs and 118 RBI in 111 games. More importantly, playing with these Rangers, Simmons would probably be earning seven figures or at least working towards the chance for a large free agent deal, a great juxtaposition for a player who never earned more than about $33,000 in a year. He’d also have the benefit of modern medicine and maybe steroids. That all has to be good for something.
Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.
Others in this series: Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies,Barry Bonds, Billy Beane, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson,Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Chris von der Ahe,Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Don Drysdale, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Hugh Casey, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jim Abbott, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Frederick, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film),Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson,Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Crawford, Sam Thompson,Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb, Vada Pinson, Wally Bunker, Will Clark, Willie Mays