Congrats to Rickey Henderson for getting into the Hall. He was one of the best players of all time, I think if you look at his numbers you will be shocked at how good he was at just about everything. And he was also one of my favorite players to watch.
Everyone was always amazed at how fast he was. What’s amazing to me is how good he was at getting on base. He stole so many bases because he had the chance to. 40% of the time he came to the plate, he gave himself an opportunity to steal second. Tim Kurkjian has a thoroughly entertaining article on ESPN with two very telling quotes that really give you an idea of how good Rickey was:
Former Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan: “If you got 2-0 on him, you were fearful of throwing it down the middle because he could hit a home run. But if you threw ball three, he was going to walk, and then he’s on second base. We had many, many long discussions on our pitching staff about how we could control this guy. He was irritating, infuriating and great.”
Former pitcher Tom Candiotti: “I hated Rickey. Really, I couldn’t stand him. He never swung at my knuckleball, he never swung at my curveball. He never swung until he got two strikes. He had the strike zone the size of a coffee can. If you threw him a fastball, he would hit it for a home run. If you walked him, it was a triple. It was ridiculous.”
That just adds color, though, to what is important – the numbers. Rickey did some incredible things – besides stealing 1406 bases, he had a career OBP of .401, and that includes the last 4 years of his career which was decidedly worse than the rest. He hit 297 HRs, scored 2,295 runs (#1 all time), walked 2,190 times (#2 all time) and had 3,055 hits.
People say he was the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, but that is just a function of where he was in the lineup. He was one of the greatest hitters of all time. Today, there is not a player in the major leagues that compares to him.
Rice is in
Jim Rice made the Hall of Fame, because he apparently is scary. You can see his numbers, but I recommend looking at his splits as well. You may have heard about how he was a product of Fenway park. Well, check it out. Here are his splits, home and away. Just because I thought it was interesting, I not only included his career splits, I included the splits from his 1978 MVP season:
I’m not gonna dive into how those Kearnsian numbers compare to today’s players, because it was a different era. They look worse than they are, but those away numbers are still not great. Take that man away from Fenway, the story is very different. He could hit some HRs though – he hit 85 more than Rickey.
This is not to say that Rice was a bad player. I think he was a very good player, in fact, and most teams would be happy to have someone like that starting in LF. But there are teams today that are better off. Over Rice, you would arguably take Carlos Quentin, Matt Holliday, Adam Dunn, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Braun or Carlos Lee. Manny Ramirez doesn’t count, because he’s a HOFer in his own right.
As if to put a bow on this little discussion, according to Peter Gammons, Rickey himself said “ship me to Boston, hit me third, forget the steals and I’d hit .330 with 35 knocks.”