Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg said in a recent sports radio interview that Sammy Sosa shouldn’t make the Hall of Fame due to Sosa’s use of performance enhancing drugs. Sandberg made the point that baseball’s Hall lists integrity as one of the voting criteria for election to Cooperstown. Rightly, Sandberg feels that Sosa and others like him who cheated the game should not be rewarded with sporting immortality.
I could not agree more with Ryne Sandberg. It was brave of him to say it. I’m glad he said it.
Then, I got to thinking. Why exactly is Ryne Sandberg in the Hall of Fame?
In parts of 16 seasons, Sandberg hit 282 home runs with 1,061 RBI, a .285 batting average and a .344 on base percentage. Not horrible by any stretch. In addition, he managed to win about 30 Gold Gloves.
Still, a lot of guys had offensive stats like him and didn’t make the Hall anywhere as easily as Ryno. And some worked at much tougher positions that Sandberg.
Sandberg contemporary Lou Whitaker played second for Detroit for 19 seasons. He didn’t win an MVP like Sandberg, but he did win a Rookie of The Year Award and won a World Series unlike Sandberg. Whitaker hit 244 homers, knocked in 1,084 runs, batted .276 with a .363 on base percentage. Whitaker didn’t win the 300 Gold Gloves that Sandberg managed to win in just 16 seasons, but he did win three as well as four Silver Sluggers as the AL’s second basemen with the most pop in his bat.
It’s no slam dunk that Whitaker has a better Hall case than Sandberg, but they’re clearly in the same range. Yet, Sandberg got in relatively easily and Whitaker has never gotten a serious sniff from Cooperstown.
And you don’t have to go much further. Take a look at Whitaker’s double play partner all those years in Detroit. Alan Trammell’s stats include 185 homers, 1,003 RBI, .285 and .352. And this was all in an era in which shortstops didn’t need to contribute much to the offense. Yet, Trammell’s vote total seems to decline every year and didn’t start out with much Cooperstown support to begin with.
We all know Joe Torre as a future Hall of Famer due largely to his managerial success with the Yankees. Yet, Torre’s stats as a player don’t look all that much different than Sandberg’s. 18 seasons, 252, 1185, .297 and .365. Torre has never threatened to enter the Hall as a player.
Frankly, Sandberg’s career stats don’t even dwarf Ray Durham, who in 14 seasons put up 192, 875 along with a .277 batting average and .352 OBP. Ray Durham was a respectable major leaguer but he’s rarely confused with a baseball immortal. So, why are even his stats within shouting distance of Sandberg’s?
I guess there’s a few answers for that one. Seems to me that Sandberg was undeniably talented. He won a lot of gold gloves and was beloved in Chicago. His really good years were on a different level than most of the other guys on this list and that helped his legend grow. The one MVP year didn’t hurt him at all either.
It’s not that Sandberg wasn’t a good player. He was. Chicago knows their baseball. And again, he did pile up Gold Glove Awards year after year.
It’s that Sandberg’s prime if you really look at it was too short to have merited getting into the Hall so quickly.
On Sandberg’s page of baseballreference.com his page sponsor’s quote is that Ryno was the best Cub the sponsor ever saw.
Guess he never saw Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, or Billy Williams to name just a few… And by the way, Santo’s not in the Hall of Fame.
PS – here’s a link to Ryne Sandberg’s stat page: