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Friday, December 06, 2019

The Hall of Fame Case for Thurman Munson

To share an opinion against my own:

The case against his induction:

We cannot know where Munson’s career would’ve ended up had he not died in that 1979 plane crash. The big question — unanswerable in my view — is what to do about that with respect to his Hall of Fame case.

Given that Munson had shown a pretty noticeable offensive decline in 1978 and the first half of 1979, it seems analytically unwarranted to make assumptions that he’d have continued to be an elite-hitting and fielding catcher for several more years into the 1980s. Of course it also seems kind of heartless to say “welp, sorry, he only played ten and a half seasons, so he falls short.” I suppose this is part of why I left Munson’s story for last. I really didn’t want to contend with that. It’s just sad.

Where does that leave us? With a nice but not overwhelming peak, and with career value that is a notch below his ballot-mate Simmons. If you’re a voter who is big on peaks, postseason performance and fame, Munson probably passes muster for you. If you like to see greater overall career value or a period of unequivocal dominance you might find him lacking. Either way, he’s one of the tougher cases on the ballot.

Well, that’s all the candidates- it will be interesting to watch Sunday night for the results.

QLE Posted: December 06, 2019 at 11:17 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, thurman munson

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   1. cookiedabookie Posted: December 07, 2019 at 09:41 AM (#5906487)
He supports Simmons, but doesn't Munson. But Munson was better in the 1970s. Simmons had three more good seasons, during which he was transferring to non-catching positions. I think they both should be in the Hall, but I guess I'm more interested in peak, and Munson was significantly better.

And saying he'd pick Murphy over Munson makes no sense to me. They both were known as top players in a decade. But Murphy's 1980s were 1.4 wins better than Munson's 1970s, in an additional 700 PA. Murphy is 17th in WAR7 among CFers, Munson is 8th among catchers.
   2. The Duke Posted: December 07, 2019 at 09:53 AM (#5906491)
Munson is right on the edge - he’s obviously hurt by the what-ifs but I’d be fine with him in - The Hall is short of catchers.

The real issue he will confront over and over is that he is dead and the others are alive. If I were voting I would put in the the guys who can still enjoy their moment. I think the Ron Santo mess is still in everyone’s mind
   3. salvomania Posted: December 07, 2019 at 09:35 PM (#5906694)
He supports Simmons, but doesn't Munson. But Munson was better in the 1970s.
... I guess I'm more interested in peak, and Munson was significantly better.

I think this overstates the difference between the two. Munson's entire career, save for 97 PA and 0.3 WAR in 1969, was the 1970s, during which time he put up 45.8 bWAR while a full-time player each season.

Simmons' first full-time season wasn't until 1971, and from 1971-1980 he put up 44.4 bWAR. So yes, Munson was better in the 1970s (45.8 vs. 39.6 bWAR) but his 1st full 10 years vs. Simmons' first full 10 years are essentially a wash.

Regarding peak, Munson's best 6-year stretch was 32.5 bWAR, Simmons best was 27.8, and while I would agree that Munson had a better peak, I wouldn't say it was *significantly* better. He had two 6+ WAR seasons that push him in front of Simmons for "peak" (Simmons had zero), but he also had a 3.0 WAR year in that stretch that is lower than anything Simmons had in his 10 full seasons as a Cardinal.

Outside each's six-year peak, Simmons had seasons of 5.5, 4.5, 4.2, and 4.0 WAR, while Munson's best outside-peak seasons were 5.5, 4.1, 3.5, and 3.3.

Simmons had three more good seasons, during which he was transferring to non-catching positions.

Not really. Simmons had 12 seasons with 3.3 or more bWAR, and in only the last of these (1983) did he not start at least 108 games at catcher (his next lowest was 118 starts; for reference, in 2019 six teams had a catcher make 108 starts). As a Cardinal from 1971-1980, Simmons started 1302 games at catcher (130 a year), while Munson averaged 128 starts a year at catcher from 1970-78.

While a Cardinal, the team would "rest" Simmons by getting him starts at 1B and LF, so that, for instance, when in 1978 he started 23 games in LF, he also started 134 games behind the plate. His last two seasons as a Cardinal, though, he only made 5 total non-catching starts.
   4. "RMc", the superbatsman Posted: December 08, 2019 at 10:29 AM (#5906774)
His case is better than I thought: 46 WAR plus 9-10 bonus WAR for catching at least puts him in the discussion. Throw in the fact he played for the Yankees, the ROY, the MVP, the rings, the 7 ASGs, the 3 GG, and of course the Dying Tragically bit, and, well, it's surprising he's hasn't received more support. (He was on the ballot for 15 years, but only got a double-digit percentage once, in his first year on the ballot in 1981. Revenge of the writers, maybe?)
   5. Dock Ellis Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:16 AM (#5906790)
All these years, I had assumed Munson played like 9 years and was not eligible for the Hall of Fame, because between being a star, being a Yankee, and dying tragically young, why wasn't he in, if he were eligible in the first place?
   6. bunyon Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:18 AM (#5906793)
I get the emotion behind it but I'm not sure I get the distinction between death and injury. If a guy would have been a HOFer had he not become injured, how is that different than a guy who would have been a HOFer if he hadn't died. Death is a form of injury.

Is it just that it wasn't "on the field"? That seems strange to me. Giving credit for "what-if?" seems a slippery slope.

With that said, the HOF is light on catchers (and too strict on them, as well). So I'd be fine with both Munson and Simmons. Though if one goes, both ought, I think.
   7. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:34 AM (#5906799)
Whenever people say Yankees get a bump when it comes to HOF voting, Munson is one of the first counter-examples I raise. [7] puts his case succinctly. It's surprising that the heart and soul of a NYY dynasty got such little HOF support.
   8. Jack Sommers Posted: December 08, 2019 at 07:55 PM (#5906880)
2nd best catcher of the 1970's. Only one better was Bench. LINK

Add in all the other stuff, and just put him in the HOF already.

   9. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 08, 2019 at 08:28 PM (#5906890)
Simmons in, not Munson.
   10. PreservedFish Posted: December 08, 2019 at 08:38 PM (#5906893)
I get the emotion behind it but I'm not sure I get the distinction between death and injury. If a guy would have been a HOFer had he not become injured, how is that different than a guy who would have been a HOFer if he hadn't died. Death is a form of injury.


Some injuries (like Mattingly's back) seem like they are part of what we consider a player's "skill." It's a shame that these players sustain these injuries, but it's part of their natural potential and story as ballplayers. It's a tragic flaw.

Others (like Puckett's glaucoma) seem unfair and extraneous. These are seen to have robbed the player (and the fans) of the productive years that he (and we) deserved to have. It's deus ex machina.

Death, naturally, will tend to be more in the latter category than the former, although when the death is self-inflicted it gets complicated. Munson and Clemente both died in plane crashes, but...

I don't know if this is fair or proper, but I think it's a good explanation.

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