Let’s ask Erardi!...okay, maybe not.
I was watching the Hall of Fame announcement show on the MLB Network on Monday–congratulations to a very deserving Barry Larkin–and something Peter Gammons said as an aside in a discussion of Bernie Williams’ suitability for the Hall of Fame stuck with me: “He wasn’t as good as Kirby Puckett,” the Great Gammo almost muttered, as they cut to a commercial break.
I haven’t been able to put that comment out of my mind, because I’m not certain why Gammons is so sure. Both were excellent hitters with very different skills who nonetheless arrived at similar results. Puckett was short and stout, Williams long and lithe. Puckett reaped a huge benefit from his Metrodome home park, hitting .344/.388/.521 at home, .291/.331/.430 on the road. Williams was about the same hitter everywhere. Both were Gold Glove center fielders who won several of the defensive awards with their bats. Both won a single batting title. Puckett led the AL in hits four times; Williams walked too much to compete in that department.
Career-wise, Williams looks a little worse overall, but that’s because his peak isn’t quite so high and his career is a little longer. Due to glaucoma, Puckett’s career came to an abrupt end, depriving him of a decline phase, whereas Williams got to play until he was no longer useful. If you consider both through their age-35 seasons, it’s a virtual tie: Williams had hit .301/.388/.488 in 1804 games, while Puckett hit .318/.360/.477 in 1783 games.
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