I’m honored to have been invited to participate in the Hall of Clearly Above Replacement Level But Not Quite Average, a project dreamed up by Dan McCloskey and Adam Darowski.
The premise was simple, if by “simple”, one means needlessly complicated and deliciously absurd. Sky Kalkman and Marc Normandin assembled a team of the best writers in the blogosphere to write about 43 great-but-not-quite-legendary Hall of Famers in their eBook, Hall of Nearly Great. Dan joked on Twitter that he wanted to be involved when it was time to write about players who were clearly above replacement level (at least 8 career rWAR), but not quite average (negative career WAA). Adam couldn’t resist, so they assembled a “B team” of writers (though some of my peers here are as good as the contributors to the eBook), let us each pick a few names from a list Adam generated of players who met the requirements, and asked for no more than 100 words about each player.
I recommend you read the whole thing, but here are a few of my favorites:
Bill Miller describes Dave Kingman thusly: “Whatever block of wood Dave Kingman was carved out of was tall, narrow, and entirely devoid of mirth… Came up as a pitcher, but impersonated a position player for several years before his glove was taken away and buried.”
Tasked with encapsulating Kingman’s next-generation doppelgänger, Rob Deer, Adam Darowski opens with “Oh my, Rob Deer was glorious” before sharing with the reader his joy upon recalling a few of Deer’s season statlines.
That these two writers can look at two players so similar in skillset so differently says a lot about why I love this exercise. Bill is one of the web’s great storytellers, his colorful prose bringing baseball games old and new to vivid life. Adam tells a story with a graphic image as well as anyone in baseball blogging or just about any field, making perfect sense of the Hall of Fame and all its imperfections. Here they are together telling us about why Dave Kingman was a horse’s ass and Rob Deer was Hercules and Lincoln rolled into one.
Graham Womack opened my eyes to the reality of Bill Buckner’s subpar career with this closing line: “…Buckner’s meager power, OBP, and defense relegating him to a spot in sabermetric history worse than anything Game 6 could’ve provided.” I’d always thought of Buckner as a solid player with a long and productive career. As it turns out, that’s about the nicest thing I could say about him without grossly exaggerating his competence.
I loved Lee Richmond’s statline in 1880, courtesy of Dan McCloskey: 32-32, 2.15 ERA in 590 2/3 IP, one perfect game, which wouldn’t be called a perfect game for decades. 32 wins and a Koufaxesque ERA from a guy whose career couldn’t live up to the standard of Dan Petry. 1880 wasnt exactly 1998, was it?
If you dig into the comments, readers offer their own capsules for other players eligible for this hall. There’s so much to love here. I just hope I’m invited back when we get to the Hall of Good Enough to Play Multiple Seasons in the Major Leagues But Never Above Replacement Level.