This is the year! | Bleader

This is the year!


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It turns out it is, in fact, the year for Ron Santo to be voted into the Hall of Fame. The reformed Veterans Committee announced today he'll be inducted next summer into Cooperstown. Yet it's hard to build up much joy or elation—even for something that his fans and supporters argued for so long—given how word comes almost a year to the day after his death.

How Cubbie. Even in his greatest glory there is something less than a full-scale triumph.

This should never have taken so long. Bill James, a longtime Santo proponent, ranks Santo sixth best all-time at third base, a position traditionally slighted in Cooperstown thanks to its unique demands. Neither the baseball writers voting early on nor the Hall of Famers voting in later inductees have really appreciated what makes a great third baseman: skilled fielding and the ability to hit for power.

What's more, the acceptance of James's sabermetrics has led to an appreciation for players who walk, which led to both Joe Morgan's first-ballot induction and the more recent highlighting of on-base percentage on TV and radio broadcasts, and even in books and films such as Moneyball. Yet somehow that never benefited Santo.

In addition to hitting for power—342 homers over 15 seasons—and fielding a Gold Glove at third base, he walked like a beast. Four times he led the National League in walks, and three of those years he was retroactively ranked the best position player in the league by the Batting and Fielding Wins formula cited in The Baseball Encyclopedia by Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette. Mind you, that was in the heyday of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

It was such a no-brainer, it took people with no brains at all to deny Santo for so long—until he couldn't revel in it himself. So it's small solace to be able to say at this point, "We knew it all all the time."


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