This enigmatic, sometimes even seen as “problematic,” power hitter won Rookie of the Year honors and an MVP during a career that has been fiercely debated as worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. To his supporters, he sadly never eclipsed an 18.9% positive vote on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot. Primarily a corner infielder – 84.8% of his career PAs as a third or first baseman – his 58.7 WAR is a touch below the average Hall of Fame third baseman (67.5), but his 7-year peak bests the average HoF hot corner (45.9 to 42.8) and he trails, ever-so-slightly, in Jay Jaffe’s JAWS measurement (52.3 to 55.2). He has been compared favorably to three Hall of Famers in age-performance similarities (Willie Mays, Duke Snider, and Willie Stargell). From his Rookie of the Year campaign through to his age-31 season, he led all of baseball in OPS+ (165). According to Bill James Online, seventeen players, now enshrined in the Hall, played at least 1000 games during the same span and this prodigious slugger outdid them all by that measurement. His career slash line is .292/.378/.534. That career slugging percentage would rank him 24th amongst current Hall of Famers; ahead of Mel Ott, Stargell, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Matthews, Joe Medwick (amongst many others, it need not be stated, but for clarity’s sake I will).
During that same 10-year stretch in which he led the world in OPS+, he hit 287 homers, 254 doubles, 73 triples, and drove in 887 runs. He even stole 103 bags at the time! In his lone MVP season, he led the league in home runs, RBIs, walks, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+.
Interestingly, he also had a second career as a musician during and after his playing days. Can you name this should-be-Cooperstown-bound slugger?
*Statistical information gathered, with infinite gratitude, at Baseball Reference and Bill James Online.