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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sporting News: Collusion hurt Al Oliver’s Hall of Fame case; can he still get in?

The former National League batting champion had last played in 1985, unable to get a contract for the following season. But on Jan. 10, 1995, arbitrator Thomas Roberts ruled that collusion by Major League Baseball had cost Oliver and nine other players jobs in 1986. Roberts awarded Oliver $680,031.05.


For Oliver, the stakes were high when he lost his livelihood. Oliver stalled out at 2,743 hits and a .303 lifetime batting average. A few months past his 39th birthday heading into the 1986 season, it’s conceivable Oliver could’ve reached 3,000 hits by his early forties.

“I could easily have DH’d another four or five years without any problems at the rate that I was going and the condition I was in,” Oliver, 70, told Sporting News in a recent phone interview from his Ohio home.

Dennis Eclairskey, closer Posted: March 15, 2017 at 09:05 AM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: al oliver, collusion, dave parker, hall of fame

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   1. JohnQ Posted: March 15, 2017 at 03:54 PM (#5417877)
HIs argument doesn't seem to hold much water. If his goal was to get 3000 hits, he could have just taken "less" money in 1986. As it was he was a 39 year old DH coming off a season where he hit .252/.286/.357. Oliver didn't really hadn't had much value since 1983 when you look at it. What G.M. in 1986 was looking for a 39 year DH hitting .250 with no power???

Oliver was one of those players back then that people thought was massively "underrated" because of his batting average and his lack of main stream popularity. In reality he was a below average fielder who would hit .300 all the time but he didn't draw walks and he had modest power. He didn't really have a big peak either. He was more or a player who played for 12-14 seasons and averaged 3-3.5 BWAR every season.

The Strike of 1981 was probably more damaging to his HOF chance. He probably lost about 70 hits from that season.

Some combination of Mark Grace & Shannon Stewart if you want a more modern comparison.
   2. zonk Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:03 PM (#5417889)
Agree... 43 WAR and just 11 WAA? Even if you lop off everything after his age 35/1982 season - that still puts his WAA up to just 16 or so.

I'm not even sure he's HoVG material.

Certainly a member in good standing of the Hall of Perfectly Cromulent.
   3. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:04 PM (#5417890)
I don't think Al Oliver is going to get into the Hall of Fame. His historical legacy is being the guy who was Dave Parker's teammate whom many people thought was almost as good as Dave Parker. So there is at least one other player who needs to get in first.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:06 PM (#5417894)
Agree... 43 WAR and just 11 WAA? Even if you lop off everything after his age 35/1982 season - that still puts his WAA up to just 16 or so.

I'm not even sure he's HoVG material.

Certainly a member in good standing of the Hall of Perfectly Cromulent.


You never struck me as a small HoVG guy.
   5. zonk Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:10 PM (#5417899)
He did make 7 ASGs and got MVP votes in 6 seasons -- despite 1982 (when he did lead the NL in total bases, on top of the batting title) probably being the only year he belonged in the MVP discussion.

His heyday was a bit before my time - but rather than being underrated/underappreciated, he seems like the sort that got tagged as being "underrated" because everyone kept saying how underrated he was.

Different skillset, but seems a bit like Maury Wills to me...
   6. zonk Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:11 PM (#5417901)
You never struck me as a small HoVG guy.


Heh... I wasn't.

But that was before I saw the marketing potential of a possible Hall of Perfectly Cromulent, so I've adjusted accordingly!
   7. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:17 PM (#5417904)
If his goal was to get 3000 hits, he could have just taken "less" money in 1986.


I'm not sure that was possible. As I understand it, the collusion of the time was not a gentleman's agreement to not offer salaries above a certain amount, but a "gentleman's" agreement to not offer contracts, period, at any price. Which is what prompted Andre Dawson to show up at spring training in 1987 and dare the Cubs to fill in a contract at whatever salary they wanted, because literally nobody was willing to offer him anything privately.

But others here know more about this stuff than I do (I was in college in those years and probably at my nadir as a baseball fan).
   8. dlf Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:18 PM (#5417906)
Oliver was one of those players back then that people thought was massively "underrated" because of his batting average and his lack of main stream popularity.


Arguing about whether someone is overrated or underrated is generally pointless since it is difficult enough to agree on absolute value and darn near impossible to agree on how someone is rated in comparison to that value. But no one has ever accused me of avoiding the pointless so ... I actually thought the opposite. While Oliver was a 7 time all star (reflecting plenty of mainstream acknowledgment) he had a pretty empty performance line. He was, together with Bill Madlock, and Bill Buckner, always described as a 'professional hitter' because of the frequent contact and reasonably frequent line-drives while not noting the lack of walks and limited slugging.

I do wonder what would have happened if he had come up with a club that could have just stuck him in LF or 1B from the get-go. Playing in CF, flanked by Willie Stargell and an old Roberto Clemente, had him waaaaay out of position and possibly harmed his offensive development.
   9. dlf Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:23 PM (#5417910)
I'm not sure that was possible. As I understand it, the collusion of the time was not a gentleman's agreement to not offer salaries above a certain amount, but a "gentleman's" agreement to not offer contracts, period, at any price. Which is what prompted Andre Dawson to show up at spring training in 1987 and dare the Cubs to fill in a contract at whatever salary they wanted, because literally nobody was willing to offer him anything privately.


Generally, I'd agree, but there were a few exceptions who changed teams despite the collusion. You mention Dawson. Another was Lance Parrish who went from Detroit to the Phillies. Of course for each Parrish, there are several Gedmans, Fisks, and Boones - before leaving catchers - who were unable to move elsewhere.
   10. QLE Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:31 PM (#5417917)
Unless the goal is to make Cepeda, Perez, and Rice look a lot better by comparison....

   11. zonk Posted: March 15, 2017 at 04:31 PM (#5417918)
He was, together with Bill Madlock, and Bill Buckner, always described as a 'professional hitter' because of the frequent contact and reasonably frequent line-drives while not noting the lack of walks and limited slugging.


Sounds about right... though, I think I'd argue that Bill Madlock actually was a far better than Buckner - and at least measurably better than Oliver (perhaps not far better).
   12. Walt Davis Posted: March 15, 2017 at 05:09 PM (#5417943)
People are defining "low power" by today's standards. For Oliver's career, league average ISO was 125 so his 148 was well above-average. Along with his 303 BA, this gave him a SLG 16% above league average. That's not anything close to HoF-worthy but it ain't "low." Madlock had a slightly above-average ISO which in conjunction with his high BA gave him a SLG 13% above-average ... out of a 3B.

Madlock's HR rate was just 2.2% ... but league average was 2.1%. Madlock also drew about a league-average number of walks (8.2% vs 8.6%), leading to a very healthy 365 OBP. That's actually a smidgen better than Adam Dunn's career OBP and the same as Josh Donaldson's.
   13. Howie Menckel Posted: March 15, 2017 at 05:35 PM (#5417983)
1991 Hall of Merit results

In his debut, Al got two out of 54 HOM voters to give him one of their required 15 voting spots. Both had him 14th.

this is the year that we unanimously elected newcomer Rod Carew over a modest returning class that led us to somewhat reluctantly elect Ken Boyer and Negro Leaguer Dobie Moore (who wasn't even named on half the ballots).

Fellow newcomer Rusty Staub, who like Al Oliver had some hits, was named on 13 ballots and got 174 pts for 23rd place. Ken Singleton was named on 11 ballots, Bobby Bonds on 9, and Reggie Smith on 8. Tony Oliva was on 3 ballots and Bobby Murcer on 1.
   14. JohnQ Posted: March 15, 2017 at 06:43 PM (#5418026)
From dlf #8:

Arguing about whether someone is overrated or underrated is generally pointless since it is difficult enough to agree on absolute value and darn near impossible to agree on how someone is rated in comparison to that value. But no one has ever accused me of avoiding the pointless so ... I actually thought the opposite. While Oliver was a 7 time all star (reflecting plenty of mainstream acknowledgment) he had a pretty empty performance line. He was, together with Bill Madlock, and Bill Buckner, always described as a 'professional hitter' because of the frequent contact and reasonably frequent line-drives while not noting the lack of walks and limited slugging.


I'm not "arguing" that he was "underrated, I'm saying that the perception of him as a player during the late 70's/early 80's was that he was among the most underrated players in baseball. They would have segments like "Most Underrated Player" If you read those baseball magazines back then like "Baseball Digest" and Street & Smith's baseball yearbook or the Sporting News. Part of that was that he was overshadowed by Clemente, Stargell & Parker and then he played in the anonymity of Texas with the Rangers while he hit .320 over 4 seasons. He seemingly would hit about .300 every year and he would get his 175 hits. His baseball cards didn't sell very well and weren't that valuable. He had 2500 hits by the age of 36 and people thought he had a very good chance at 3000 hits and the HOF. He did make 7 all star teams but 6 of those were as a reserve, he only started his last AS game in 1983. He didn't get major attention until his 1982 season at age 35.

Now in retrospect we know that he didn't walk and he had modest power. He was a subpar defender as well.

   15. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 15, 2017 at 06:55 PM (#5418035)
Generally, I'd agree, but there were a few exceptions who changed teams despite the collusion. You mention Dawson. Another was Lance Parrish who went from Detroit to the Phillies.
You've exhausted the list. Giles broke collusion to sign Parrish, but took a ton of heat from the other owners, and no other owner was willing to do that. And Dawson was just such a ridiculous case that the Cubs had no choice. They couldn't say he cost too much with his blank contract stunt, and Donald Trump on his worst day is more believable than the Cubs would've been in claiming they didn't want Dawson at that point in his career.
   16. JohnQ Posted: March 15, 2017 at 07:15 PM (#5418048)
From Kiko:

I'm not sure that was possible. As I understand it, the collusion of the time was not a gentleman's agreement to not offer salaries above a certain amount, but a "gentleman's" agreement to not offer contracts, period, at any price. Which is what prompted Andre Dawson to show up at spring training in 1987 and dare the Cubs to fill in a contract at whatever salary they wanted, because literally nobody was willing to offer him anything privately.


The agreement was not to "compete" with each other over free agency so as a result the original team could sign the free agent with no increase in pay with a shorter overall contract. So players were essentially forced to stay with their original club without a pay raise which resulted in salaries not increasing. Most of this applied to the biggest free agents who set the salary standards. Many of the lesser players did leave their original teams if their original team didn't want to resign them.

Oliver was making $750 K in 1985 which was a pretty good salary for a 38 year old DH with a .250 average and 5 HR. He basically had no value at that point in his career and he would have still had to have played 3-4 seasons to reach 3000.
   17. The Duke Posted: March 15, 2017 at 07:24 PM (#5418052)
First and last article on al olivers hall of fame chances. There is no there there
   18. JohnQ Posted: March 15, 2017 at 07:41 PM (#5418059)
From David Nieporent:


You've exhausted the list. Giles broke collusion to sign Parrish, but took a ton of heat from the other owners, and no other owner was willing to do that. And Dawson was just such a ridiculous case that the Cubs had no choice. They couldn't say he cost too much with his blank contract stunt, and Donald Trump on his worst day is more believable than the Cubs would've been in claiming they didn't want Dawson at that point in his career.


Yeah Parish & Dawson were a few of the rare exceptions to move among the high profile guys after the 1986 season. Gary Ward was another one that rarely gets talked about. He went from the Rangers to Yankees but took a sizable pay cut and his career tanked. Parrish's career tanked as well. Rick Dempsey went from the Orioles to the Indians and took a pay cut. Jerry Royster went from the Padres to the White Sox and took a pay cut. Steve Carlton went from the White Sox to the Indians. I think Carlton was making about $60 K a year. Reggie retired. Toby Harrah retired. Bob Horner retired. Dusty Baker Retired. Dave Kingman retired although he claimed there was another collusion to stop him from hitting 500 HR. John Denny retired. Tom Seaver retired and then tried to make a come back with the '87 Mets.
   19. Dennis Eclairskey, closer Posted: March 15, 2017 at 09:29 PM (#5418096)
Oliver had 2743 hits & a lifetime .303 BA--but his OBP was a much less impressive. 344. He had moderate pop but didn't add much with the glove or on the basepaths. He absolutely should get a look at the HOF (even though he's below the line for me), however, there are many better candidates from his era who have yet to even appear on a VC/Era ballot

He hit .300 each year from 76-84 but 83 & 84 were empty .300 years
He did have a decent 76-82 peak & played at a or at least close to a HOF level in Texas .319 BA 131 OPS+

He was similar to Damon in that he looked like he had a good chance at 3,000 hits but then fell apart quickly and fell short
   20. Howie Menckel Posted: March 15, 2017 at 10:04 PM (#5418111)
Steve Carlton went from the White Sox to the Indians.

He was 9-14 with a 79 ERA+ in 176 bad IP for the Phillies and Giants and White Sox in 1986 at age 41.

No idea why he didn't get big offers!

he then went 6-14 with the Indians and Twins in 1987 with another 79 ERA+.

The Twins let him get kicked around in 4 more April 1988 appearances before mercifully sending him on his way to the Hall of Fame.
   21. Rennie's Tenet Posted: March 15, 2017 at 10:07 PM (#5418113)
“I could easily have DH’d another four or five years without any problems at the rate that I was going and the condition I was in,”


For anyone who actually remembers Oliver, this is exactly his voice. Fifty years ago, thirty years, no matter how brief the quote, this is Al Oliver.
   22. JohnQ Posted: March 16, 2017 at 08:57 AM (#5418174)
From Howie #20:

He was 9-14 with a 79 ERAin 176 bad IP for the Phillies and Giants and White Sox in 1986 at age 41.

No idea why he didn
't get big offers!

he then went 6-14 with the Indians and Twins in 1987 with another 79 ERA+.

The Twins let him get kicked around in 4 more April 1988 appearances before mercifully sending him on his way to the Hall of Fame.
    


I was just highlighting that old players and lesser players moved around during collusion. If you were old and willing to take less money and some team wanted you, you could find a home. And Steinbrenner seemed to constantly push the boundaries of collusion.

Late career Steve Carlton was very weird. If I remember correctly, he was really trying to be the all time win leader among lefties so he kept hanging around. I think he fell about 30 shy of Warren Spahn. I remember there's a picture of him in a San Francisco Giant uniform getting his 4000th strikeout. He received a World Series ring from the 1987 Twins that he was auctioning off a few years ago. The '86 White Sox had 2 active 300 game winners on their staff (Carlton & Seaver). The '87 Indians also had 2 active 300 game winners (Carlton & Niekro).
   23. zonk Posted: March 16, 2017 at 09:53 AM (#5418196)
For anyone who actually remembers Oliver, this is exactly his voice. Fifty years ago, thirty years, no matter how brief the quote, this is Al Oliver.


Heh - I thought that was the case, but like I said - my baseball entry came more or less at Oliver's sunset... Shea Hillenbrand is a more recent guy that I think of re: Oliver and his statements. Oliver was a much better player than Hillenbrand, of course, but they both had that way of telling you how good they are in manner that is neither Rickey! cute or Reggie-esque.
   24. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 16, 2017 at 10:46 AM (#5418223)
He did have a decent 76-82 peak & played at a or at least close to a HOF level in Texas .319 BA 131 OPS+

.319 BA 131 OPS+ isn't really a HOF peak, at least not for a 1B/OF (I know you weren't arguing that it is). To be fair, Oliver did play about 40% of his games in CF, but 131 OPS+ is a point lower than what Jim Edmonds did for his career, playing close to 100% of his games in CF, and Edmonds was one-and-done.
   25. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 16, 2017 at 11:08 AM (#5418233)
18: The agreement wrt the first two years of Collusion (Collusion III worked differently) was that no team would offer any contract to another team's free agent if the original team wanted to keep the player. So a handful of free agents did move, but Parrish and Dawson were the only ones who broke the mold.
   26. DanG Posted: March 16, 2017 at 11:08 AM (#5418234)
It's a little surprising that Oliver was one and done with the BBWAA. Here are all eligible HOF candidates with .300 BA, 2500 hits and 200 HR:

Player              BA    H  HR    PA From   To
Vladimir Guerrero .318 2590 449  9059 1996 2011
Manny Ramirez     .312 2574 555  9774 1993 2011
Al Oliver         .303 2743 219  9778 1968 1985 

BB-Ref shows Oliver as very "similar" to Steve Garvey and Garret Anderson. Anderson compiled his numbers in the silly-ball era so he's not nearly the hitter the other two were. Oliver is actually a bit better than Garvey; Oliver's edge on the bases is offset by Garvey's better defense, but AO was a somewhat better hitter.

The historical player Oliver is really similar to is undeserving hall of famer Heinie Manush.

BA vs Lg: +41 Oliver, +41 Manush
OBP vs Lg: +15 Oliver, +19 Manush
SLG vs Lg: +64 Oliver, +65 Manush
OPS+: 121 Oliver, 121 Manush
WAR: 43.3 Oliver, 45.8 Manush

Manush's better peak is nearly offset by Oliver's longer career.

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