Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hall of Fame Worthy? Pt. 3: Jackie Jensen

The Hall of Fame has inducted many players who were borderline choices, and many players who deserve induction have been on the outside looking in. I want to look at some players to determine if they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

For six seasons, Jackie Jensen was one of the best players in the game. Possessing all-around abilities, Jensen was a force in the mid to late 1950's. But, is that enough for the Hall of Fame?

Coming to the Major Leagues in 1950 with the New York Yankees, Jensen was blocked in center field by Mickey Mantle, so he did not play often. He was eventually traded to the Washington Sentators, where he was finally able to play full-time. His numbers in two full seasons with the Senators were not particularly noteworthy and he was traded to the Red Sox for Tom Umphlett and Mickey McDermott.

Jensen immediately blossomed with the Red Sox and began his six year span where he was one of the best players in the game. His numbers those years were as follows:
1954 .276/.359/.472/.831, 25 home runs, 117 RBIs, 22 stolen bases
1955 .275/.369/.479/.848, 26 home runs, 116 RBIs, 16 stolen bases
1956 .315/.405/.497/.903, 20 home runs, 97 RBIS, 11 stolen bases
1957 .281/.367/.469/.836, 23 home runs, 103 RBIs, 8 stolen bases
1958 .286/.396/.535/.931, 35 home runs, 122 RBIS, 9 stolen bases
1959 .277/.372/.492/.863, 28 home runs, 112 RBIs, 20 stolen bases

Jensen also went to the All Star game twice during this period, was the AL MVP in 1958, and won the Gold Glove in 1959. He was one of the best-fielding rightfielders in Red Sox history.

Surely a peak like this would get a 1950's era player in the Hall of Fame right? Well, no. Unfortunately, these were the only six seasons that Jensen was really a good player. He spent two seasons where he was blocked and only played a third of the season. He spent two seasons as a regular for the Senators where he was above-average, but not good, and he retired for the 1960 season. He then came back in 1961, but it was clear that the year off did not do him any good.

If Jensen had continued playing after 1959, instead of retiring for the season, due to his fear of flying, he may have continued to put up strong numbers into the mid 1960's. Then his case may have been different.

Jensen's career only spanned 11 Major League seasons and he was a part-timer for two and not a good player for three. His six seasons where he played regularly for Boston were great and would have been able to propel him into the Hall of Fame, had he had some other decent years to back them up. He retired for a season in 1960, when he was still playing at a high level, but the time away hurt him and he was not as good when he returned in 1961. Unfortunately, these circumstances hurt his case irreparably and he is not a Hall of Famer.

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