What he did: For an even longer take on the enormity of Bobby Grich’s career, check out Graham’s Does he Belong in the Hall of Fame piece on Grich.
For whatever reason, some players lack the mystique or aura of great players, while some flawed players have that “it factor” that creates an undeserved reputation (*ahem* Jack Morris, Jim Rice, etc.).
Unfortunately, Grich falls into the forgotten category, despite walking 1,087 times, the 28th most by a righty.
In addition, he hit the 11th most HRs by a second baseman. If you want to talk about clutch, well, four of Grich’s HRs came in a 1-0 game. This feat was done five times by Ted Williams. Bobby Bonds, Jim Wynn and Dwight Evans are the only other players in history to do it four times. That’s the list of guys with this awesome display of “clutchiness.”
Grich was a powerful and adept fielder at second base, who knew how to get on base. He finished with a .371 OBP. From 1970-1986, only Joe Morgan hit more HRs among second baseman and only Morgan, Rod Carew, Ron Hunt and Willie Randolph posted a better OBP.
Grich just picked a bad time to peak, as, arguably, his best season was the strike-shortened 1981. In just 100 games, Grich hit 22 HRs (to lead the league) and batted .304/.378/.543. He became the first AL second baseman to lead the league in HRs since Nap Lajoie in 1901 and the first to lead either league since Rogers Hornsby in 1929. He also led the league in slugging.
In addition to batting prowess, Grich’s .984 fielding percentage is near the top all time at second and his 71 total zone score is seventh best.
Perhaps, if Grich had come through in the small samples of his post-season chances (98 plate appearances), he’d be in the Hall of Fame, or at least in the discussion.
Era he might have thrived in: Grich would thrive in any era, but it’s likely his career started just a shade too early. His skills and abilities would have fit in perfectly in the early 1990s, specifically on the Atlanta Braves (heck, he’d even get to suffer through another strike-shortened season).
Why: While the Braves were gobbling up pennants and division crowns, the club’s second basemen, predominantly Mark Lemke, were providing absolutely nothing with the stick. As Lemke was busy batting .250 with a .315 OBP, Grich would post a .274/.379/.437 line with the Braves. He’d add multiple 30 HR campaigns and be an offensive stalwart along with Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff, Chipper Jones and others.
In 1997, the Braves could have put out a line-up consisting of Kenny Lofton-Grich-Jones-McGriff-Lopez-Ryan Klesko-Jeff Blauser-Michael Tucker. Those guys would have tested a pitching staff a ton, as multiple players worked counts and posted amazing walk rates.
On the Braves, there’s a solid chance Grich would challenge for MVPs: his 1979 season translated would be .293/.364/.535 with 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. Those numbers on a contender from a second basemen would draw considerable attention. In addition, his 1981 translated would be .315/.392/.561 with 35 HRs and 100 RBIs.
With Grich in tow, who knows how many World Series Bobby Cox and the Braves would have. At the least, Grich would have had more play-off appearances to prove his mettle and potentially build his myth.
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: Al Simmons, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Billy Beane, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Cesar Cedeno, Charles Victory Faust, Chris von der Ahe, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Don Drysdale, Doug Glanville, Eddie Lopat, Elmer Flick, Eric Davis, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gary Carter, Gavvy Cravath, Gene Tenace, George W. Bush (as commissioner), George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Hugh Casey, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jack Morris, Jackie Robinson, Jim Abbott, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Frederick, Josh Gibson, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film),Mark Fidrych, Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Ollie Carnegie, Paul Derringer, Pedro Guerrero, Pedro Martinez, 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, Spud Chandler, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel Brothers, Tony Phillips, Ty Cobb, Vada Pinson, Wally Bunker, Wes Ferrell, Will Clark, Willie Mays