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Mitch Cumstein (Chicago, IL): Mr. Morgan, I've examined Larry Doby's numbers up and down and I can't see how the heck he got in. Doesn't letting players with such mediocre numbers cheapen the Hall and gives a disservice to the players who were actually good enough to be in?
A lot of times in my opinion it's not just about numbers. It's about contributions to the game. That's what the Hall of Fame is about. It's not just stats. If you examine everyone's numbers, there are many that are weaker than Larry. I won't mention names. And they didn't make the same contributions Larry made. We will never know how good Larry and Jackie Robinson really were because they were playing in fear of their life. It was tougher to play the game for them.
[Mike: No, for most the contribution should be apparent from the numbers. We don't need more Morgan Bulkely and Candy Cummings in the Hall.
So what were Doby's accomplishments? His lifetim OPS is 36% better than the park-adjusted league average. His career slugging average was about a hundred points better than league average and his on-base percentage, 40 points better. He hit 253 home runs in eleven seasons and parts of three more. He is a seven-time All-Star. Bill James ranks him 11th among center fielders all-time; every player ahead of him, aside from Jimmy Wynn, is in the Hall if he is eligible (and the only ineligible one is Ken Griffey, who will almost certainly go in). Doby is aheadof Dale Murphy, Earl Averill, Edd Roush, Whitey Ashburn, and a number of proffered Hall-of-Fame candidates.
Doby's career was short, but he was a Hall-of-Fame caliber player in that time. He wasn't the best center fielder ever, but he far from cheapens the Hall. Besides that was done years ago.]
Joe, Brooklyn, NY: Dear Mr. Morgan: I was very moved by what you wrote on Thursday concerning Larry Doby. Unfortunately, his story was not one that has been as widely told in the past. One point that you made that intrigued me concerned what Doby or Jackie Robinson would have accomplished without all of the terrible pressure that was placed on them. I've always found it interesting that Robinson rarely, if ever batted at the top of the order for the Dodgers. They felt that he was needed more in the middle of the lineup. Today, someone with his talent, speed, drive, courage, and intelligence (and not necessarily in that order would probably be batting leadoff, and be the most dynamic force in baseball. Do you agree?
Yes, I agree. There aren't that many dynamic forces at the top of lineups. There are a few but not many. It's a lost art now. There is not doubt in my mind Larry and Jackie's numbers would have been even better in today's environment where they could relax.
[Mike: That depends on the team. Batting orders are not as important as we think, but Robinson not only got on base and ran the bases well; he usually was among the team leaders in slugging percentage. The Dodgers wanted him to drive in runs which he did (led team with 124 RBI and .528 slugging in 1949 and that was it).
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