Friday, November 26, 2010

Hall of Fame Worthy? Pt. 6: Reggie Smith

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.

I missed Reggie Smith's career, but I get the feeling that he was a very underrated player. I base that almost entirely on the fact that I do not hear much about him and he was only an All Star seven times in 17 seasons, despite a career OPS+ of 137. Also, there's the fact that he dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot completely after just one year, in which he only received three votes. That seems like voters completely missed the mark.

Smith did not have dazzling home run or RBI numbers, but he was a very good, often great, complete player. Smith finished his career with 314 home runs, 1,092 RBIs, and a slash line of .287/.366/.489/.855. He was worth 63.4 WAR, even more than the last player I covered: Dwight Evans. Smith won one Gold Glove Award, and possibly deserved more. In his early years, he was quite fast, but his stolen base numbers dropped dramatically after he turned 28. Smith was also a very dangerous switch hitter.

Reggie Smith played for the Red Sox from 1966 through 1973, mostly in center field. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1967 after going .246/.315/.389/.704 with 15 home runs, 61 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases. He improved on those numbers with the Red Sox. He lead the league in doubles twice while with the Sox and total bases once. His best season was his last in Boston when he went .303/.398/.515/.913 with 21 home runs. Smith also contributed a 30 home run season and a 20 stolen base season with the Red Sox.

Smith was traded to the Cardinals after the 1973 season, and continued to play well. He would later also play for the Dodgers and Giants.

The only real issues with Reggie Smith's candidacy for the Hall of Fame are his in-season durability and his counting stats. Smith was never a big home run hitter during his time, certainly not as much as teammates like Carl Yastrzemski, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, and Dusty Baker. His career high was 32 home runs. Smith also had some problems staying healthy. Smith only played 150 games or more three times in his 17 year career. Finally, Smith was out of the Majors at 37, even though he was still playing well. If he could have continued a few more years, he may have gotten more notice.

With the new emphasis on non-counting stats, Smith has a chance. Hopefully, he will make an appearance on next year's Veterans Committee ballot and get in.

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