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Sunday, January 11, 2004

Keltner Lists ‘04 - Part 4 of 5

In the 4th installments, we look at Terry Pendleton, Juan Samuel, and Big Daddy.

Last week, the Hall of Fame rejected Cecil Fielder, Juan Samuel, and Terry Pendleton.  Of course, this was completely unexpected, but did the trio deserve at least a little more support than the scattered votes that were given them?  Let’s take a second look with our old friend, the Keltner List (pace David Smyth).

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

While he was never regarded as the best player in baseball, for a brief period after hitting 50 homers in 1990, long before it came into style, some did suggest that Fielder was at least the best hitter in baseball.  Except for the aforementioned 1990 season, he really wasn’t.  I don?t believe anyone ever suggested that Samuel or Pendleton was the best player in baseball.  Even when the latter won the MVP in 1991 and was the runner-up in 1992, nobody outside of a few insane Atlanta reporters really thought Pendleton was the best in baseball.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Fielder was the best player on the 1990 Tigers, but that was about it.  Pendleton was the best player on the 1991 Braves and the best position player on the 1992 edition.  Samuel was never the best player on his team and even ignoring that the Phils had Mike Schmidt, making it a near impossible task, Samuel was still generally bettered by other Phils.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Other than 1990 for Fielder and 1991/1992 for Pendleton, clearly no.  Samuel made a run at it a few times but was well short of Ryno in the NL in 1984 and 1987.  Samuel’s best season, 1987, was a solid 272/335/502, but he wasn’t a good enough defender to really be one of the elite.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

The Tigers were never really in contention while Fielder was on the team.  Fielder was a mild plus for the 1996 Yankees, hitting 260/342/495 after being picked up for Ruben Sierra.  The 1987 Blue Jays had Fielder but he wasn’t used as a regular and during the notorious 7-game losing streak that ended the season, he went 2-for-9 with a homer and 5 strikeouts.


Samuel’s first pennant race was in 1989 when the Mets acquired him for Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell, and a player to be named.  The Mets made the race to catch the Cubs interesting for a while with a big run until a losing streak at the end of Augut doomed them.  Samuel wasn’t a help, hitting 228/299/300 for the Mets.  In the 1991 pennant race with the Dodgers, Samuel was a bit better and hit 232/303/404 in September.


Pendleton was terrible during the Cards’ pennant drive in 1987, hitting 219/276/323 in September.  However, he bettered that in September 1991, going 311/359/513 in the great Braves/Dodgers race which possibly resulted in him getting the MVP nod.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Fielder was not.  He had old players’ skills as a youngster and was effectively done by the time he turned 35.  Samuel’s days as a starter were over after his stint in LA, but he reinvented himself as a solid role player and played until he was 37.  Pendleton was also done at 35 but a few teams didn’t notice and acquired him anyway.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

No for all three and it’s not particularly close.  Tough question, though.  Even making it “at his position” isn’t terribly kind to any of the three.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

No.  Only Pendleton has a single one, George Kell.  Of the non-eligible similarity score players, only Carlos Delgado for Cecil Fielder has a chance, but if Delgado does make the Hall, it will be after another decade of quality play after which he will no longer be on Fielder’s list.

8. Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Fielder is the only one that’s close on any of the tests, with a 24 in the Black Ink Test (average HOF = 27) and a 75 on the monitor (likely HOF >100).

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Pendleton and Fielder suffer by having some of their best seasons in the Forgotten Pitchers’ Era of 1988-1992 but it wouldn’t be enough to make them Hall candidates.  Fred McGriff is an example of a player who suffers from having some of his best years during that time.  Samuel was quite the butcher at second base but Pendleton was quite a good third baseman in his primer.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Just going post-war and ignoring actives, Fielder is well behind Dick Allen, Keith Hernandez, Don Mattingly, non-candidates like Cecil Cooper or Bob Watson.  Pendleton doesn’t match Doug DeCinces or Buddy Bell or Ron Cey, let alone the best candidates like Ron Santo or Darrell Evans.  Samuel’s behind just Sandberg, Grich, and a few dozen others.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Pendleton scores here, winning an MVP award and almost winning a second.  Those were his only appearances in the top ten and the only two years you can come close to justifying it, however.


Fielder finished second in both 1990 and 1991 and ninth in 1992.  Samuel never finished in the top ten.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Samuel and Fielder both played in three All-Star Games.  Samuel was only really an All-Star-type in 1987 and Fielder in 1991 and 1992.  Pendleton, strangely enough, didn’t even make the team when he won the MVP and only played in a single game.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

The 1990 Fielder and 1991 Pendleton, yes.  Everywhere else, no.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Samuel made no such contributions.  Neither did Pendleton unless you consider his stint with the Royals proving that teams aren’t bound by the age-old prejudice that DH cleanup hitters should be able to hit.


Fielder, on the other hand, did play a significant role in baseball history, partially by accident.  Fielder’s return from Japan for the 1990 season resulted in a lot of people in baseball taking Japanese baseball more seriously and considering the performance of at least the Americans in bringing people over from Japan.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

In the big picture, all three did.  Fielder did complain a lot about the MVP voting in 1990 but that’s relatively minor.  Pendleton was well-liked and the dislike of Juan Samuel was more the result of disappointment in his failures as a player such as not hacking at every pitch and some comical adventures in the field.  The Mets were particularly perturbed about the results of the Samuel trade but Samuel was pretty much the only Met player of the era not to throw firecrackers, bleach, or get busted for drugs.


Dan Szymborski Posted: January 11, 2004 at 05:00 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. BrandonMO (U L) Posted: January 11, 2004 at 03:04 AM (#614402)
If it factors in much with Cecil Fielder. Translated stats I've seen for his 1990 season give him 59 home runs. The park factors and home/away stuff I checked shows Tiger Stadium to be generous for home runs in 1990 and 1991. Still, was Cecil a big deal when 1990 started or did he have a big surprise season?

   2. Charles Saeger Posted: January 11, 2004 at 03:04 AM (#614403)
Fielder did complain a lot about the MVP voting in 1990 but that's relatively minor.

Actually, it was after the 1991 vote, when he finished second to Cal Ripken. Fielder was upset because the year before, he thought Rickey Henderson had won the MVP over Fielder because Henderson had played on a team that went to the World Series, and Fielder had played on the worst Tigers team since the 1970s. (Please, don't snicker about Tiger teams since then.) In 1991, the Tigers were mildly hot for a time and finished third, briefly in contention since the Blue Jays and the Red Sox conspired to make a pennant race between two undeserving teams unseen since, oh, the 1987 AL West race, and Ripken won, despite the Orioles finishing sixth. Fielder called the MVP a "joke" despite anyone not in the employ of the Tigers acknowledging that Ripken had a better year than Fielder did that year, much as Henderson had the year before.
   3. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 11, 2004 at 03:04 AM (#614404)
Charlie, thanks for refreshing my memory on the Cecil's MVP comments.
   4. Scott Posted: January 12, 2004 at 03:05 AM (#614429)
was Cecil a big deal when 1990 started or did he have a big surprise sea

I remember it, and it definitely was a surprise but shouldn't have been. Obviously it's always a legitimate "surprise" when you see massive HR totals from a 26 year-old whose major-league debut was 5 yrs earlier and who never had more than 175 major-league ABs in a season. And hey, 50 HR is a surprise from anyone, if you're the first person to hit that many in 14 yrs (George Foster in in 1976 was the last, I think).

But people shouldn't have been so surprised: Cecil's HR rates in limited playing time were phenomenal in all his prior MLB years (1985-88). If yuo aggregate those years, he hit 31 HR in 516 ABs. That's a HR every 16.6 AB -- not quite as good as his 1990 rate (11.2), but still a sign that this was a kid who absolutely deserved a shot to prove that, in a full season, he had the potential to be one of the elite power hitters.
   5. Scott Posted: January 12, 2004 at 03:05 AM (#614431)
Also, the sharpness of Fielder's decline was striking. 1994-96, he his a HR per 15.0 to 15.9 ABs -- like clockwork. 1997, it was one every 28 AB. 1997 was his first full season in Yankee stadium,a nd I think that really hurt -- I remember a lot of long fly balls near Yankee Stadium's oddly deep left-center (399 feet, which is as long as sone CFs). I'm sure there was real decline there too, but part of it was the move to a worse stadium for a righty power hitter right as he lost maybe 15 feet off most of his long fly balls.
   6. Zen Bitz Posted: January 12, 2004 at 03:05 AM (#614436)
Cecil Fielder did one of the most incredible things ever. I saw him steal a base (on TV, but whatever). There was no throw, merely a hushed awe.

I thought it was when he was with the Yanks, but I checked his bb-ref, and he had 2 SB in 1996 with the Tigers. Those were his only 2.
   7. Jason Posted: January 13, 2004 at 03:05 AM (#614452)
You forgot Cecil's biggest historical accomplishment fathering Prince and then making him hit left handed. Prince will lead the Brewers to a decade plus of dominance so great as to oust BUd from the commishioners office because of the public out cry that he is rigging things in the offseason.

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