Well, New Year’s usually signals a few things in the baseball universe. The Hot Stove Season is reaching its stretch run. The thought of Spring Trading begins to warm the soul. And perhaps more controversially, The Hall of Fame announcement is upon us.
Every year, we look to the BBWAA to give us a reason to cheer, p!ss and moan or just grit our teeth and throw up our hands with the whole damn process. After all, the guys you love don’t get their recognition, the guys you hate seem to ‘slide’ in and guys you just couldn’t care about grab some spotlight. But we’re used to it.
However, in the last few years, the landscape has changed. The Steroid Era has shed a new light upon players who for lack of ‘super’ stardom, media attention and just plain ‘average’ consistency were overlooked, passed-up or underappreciated for their efforts. Players such as Ron Santo (finally, but posthumously) have received their Veterans Committee due, while players like Keith Hernandez, Dwight Evans, Alan Trammell and Tim Raines have been on the outside looking in. With PED playboys like Big Mac, Sammy Sosa, Palmero and Jeff Bagwell (rightly or not, the shadow covers him) taking up space on the ballot, it let’s periphery guys like Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Lee Smith and Jack Morris get a little more time in the thought process over all. Unfortunately, Donnie Baseball and Murphy were superstars who produced consistently but for a shorter span of time (unfortunately, the beloved Luis Tiant may fall into this category) . Smith was a journeyman who, though possessing all the qualities of a big, menacing closer, seems to have been hurt by his many stops around the league and having no definitive ‘superstar moment’. Jack Morris… well, he’s a borderline a Hall of Famer. Yes, he won 20 plus games three times and played on World Series winning teams, catching media spotlight fire with the ’91 Twins & ’92 Jays for example, but he wasn’t the cog that ran the gears.
Then there’s Edgar Martinez. Easily one of the better hitters of his era (amidst the Steroid Era) who may have more than one glaring mark against him. First, he played in Seattle (yes, so did Griffey Jr., A-Rod and Randy Johnson… but they left), not a media market or a perennial contender. Second, and most importantly, he played the majority of his career as a Designated Hitter. Oh, my error, the Designated Hitter. A standard set so high, the annual award for best DH in the AL is the Edgar Martinez Award. But, DH doesn’t count, it’s an imaginary position created by the Wizard of Oz (you know, a designated spot in the batting order to allow aging, over-the-hill superstars who couldn’t field a position some twilight time to earn a paycheck and pad the HOF stats) and doesn’t deserve consideration. They’re part timers. A pinch-hitter who gets off the bench four or five times a day. Who cares if he produces HOF numbers, right?
So, let’s take a look at one of the most under-appreciated members of the Boston Red Sox: Dwight Evans. (keep in mind these are his totals during his 19 year tenure with the Scarlett Hose. Dewey finished his career with a one year stint in Baltimore.)
- Games played: 2505 Rank: 2nd (1st: Yaz / 3rd Ted)
- Hits: 2373 Rank: 4th (3rd: Rice / 5th Boggs)
- Average: .272 Rank: Outside top 10 ( Yaz .285 / Doerr .288)
- RBI: 1346 Rank: 4th (3rd: Rice / 5th: Doerr)
- HR: 379 Rank: 4th (3rd: Rice / 5th: Ortiz*)
- Runs: 1435 Rank: 3rd (2nd: Ted / 5th: Rice)
- Base on Balls: 1337 Rank: 3rd (2nd: Yaz / 4th: Boggs)
- OPS: .842 Rank: Outside top 10 (Yaz has an .841 / Rice .854)
So, looking at the numbers, we see obvious questions and answers to the argument. He is, for the most part, sandwiched between teammates who are enshrined in Cooperstown (Captain Carl, Jim Ed., Boggs) and legendary HOF’ers like Ted and Bobby Doerr. The second half of his career was statistically more productive than the first and was consistently so until his retirement. During years when players begin winding down, Dewey was in cruise control and producing at a steady clip.
Was he overshadowed? An integral member of the 1975 team, he was a lesser star than Yaz, Tiant, Pudge, Lee and The Goldust Twins. After Lynn and Fisk went West, Tiant let go, Yaz retired and guys like Eck and Lansford come and gone, it was Dewey who came into his own offensively while continuing his defensive excellence. Again, superstars surrounded him. Rice, Hurst, Boggs Buckner and Clemens. Evans simply continued to perform.
During the 1980′s (the latter half of his MLB career which officially began in 1972) in his playing age years of 28 (1980) through age year 37 (1989):
- 3 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Hits.
- 4 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Doubles.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in RBI.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in HR, leading the league in 1981.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in OPS% , leading the league twice.
- 6 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Runs scored, leading the league in 1984.
- 7 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Bases on Balls, leading the league three times.
Evans appeared on the AL MVP ballot 5 times (all in the 1980’s) with 4 times placing in the top 10. Finished 3rd over-all in 1981 behind winner Rollie Fingers and Ricky Henderson.
8 Gold Gloves. 3 All-Star Games. 2 Silver Sluggers.
His lifetime WAR (wins above replacement) is 61.8 (Mind you, this currently ranks 141st ALL TIME in MLB)
Looking at his basic stats or his Sabermetric stats place him in an above average category. Dwight was included on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot in 1997 (5.9%), 1998 (10.4%) and 1999 (3.6%) before dropping off due to insufficient support under the official rules of balloting (under 5% in a given year or reaching 15th year on ballot). His election, like that of Ron Santos’, would be a Veterans committee pick. Currently a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame, Dwight’s number 24 (originally 40 as a rookie) is still in circulation.