Rocky Colavito vs. Ron Santo: Favortism in the Baseball Hall of Fame?
OK, full disclosure: Mr. Rocco "Rocky" Colavito is my favorite baseball player of all time. Also, I have all the respect in the world for former Chicago Cub Ron Santo, a great ballplayer and a great human being, and I was saddened to hear of his recent passing.
Santo was no doubt an excellent baseball player...good enough for Cooperstown? Well, the Veteran's Committee thought so, and that is good enough for me. Anything to do with his recent passing? I am sure it did, but again, he was chosen for the Hall fair and square by a crew of vets—good enough for me.
Did it have anything to do with the fact that he spent (virtually) his entire 15-year career in Chicago with the Cubs? I would say it absolutely did. Colavito belonged to six ball clubs during his 14-year career (eight with Cleveland), did this have an effect? Perhaps. Did they put up very similar numbers during their careers? That answer is yes.
Again and can't stress this enough, no animosity at the selection at all; in fact, I believed Santo to be vindicated by it. But the point is this: If Santo gets in, what about Rocky?
Largely forgotten by most except die-hard Indians fans, did the fact that Santo played for a certainly more popular team earn his entrance in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Particularly today, when, despite having below-average teams, the Cubs still dominate headlines? I am not a Cubs hater, but baseball is a numbers game...let's look at these numbers, shall we?
Rocky V. Ron: Round One (Hitting Numbers)
The first part of this investigation is going to be in the hitting category. I totally understand that these two men are judged on two different platforms because Santo played third base and Colavito played right field.
Regardless, here is how these two men stack against each other based on their career numbers, and their 162-game average over their careers.
Stats from baseball-reference.com.
Santo: 2,254 (163 per season)
Colavito: 1,730 (152 per season)
Santo: 365 (26 per season)
Colavito: 283 (25 per season)
Santo: 342 (25 per season)
Colavito: 374 (33 per season)
Santo: 1,331 (96 per season)
Colavito: 1,159 (102 per season)
Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, OPS
In addition Colavito averaged 20 fewer strikeouts (77 to 97), and four more walks (84 to 80) over their 162-game average.
Rocky V. Ron: Round Two (Fielding Numbers)
While not as viable as a measuring stick as hitting obviously, we will take a look at fielding numbers next. This will be broken into a section for each player with all stats coming from baseball-reference.com.
Widely regarded as a slick outfielder with a great arm, Colavito was ranked in the top five of the American League in assists as an outfielder six times (including a league-leading 16 in 1961).
He did lead the American League right fielders in errors his second season (with 11 in 268 chances), but then had only 63 errors in his other 3,337 chances. His range factor was consistently towards the top of the list for right fielders, and his career fielding percentage was a respectable .979.
Santo won five Gold Gloves in a row (1964-68). He set the bar for all Cubbie third basemen by setting club records in double plays and assists. No doubt a fine handler of the hot corner, his range factor was a top five mark for the position nearly every year he played.
One item in the fine print, he also was top five in errors committed for the position for 12 of the first 13 years he played (including leading the league in errors three times in 1961, 1962 and 1966). This is not an attempt to minimize his accomplishments in the least, just bringing different numbers to people's attention.
Rocky V. Ron: Round Three (Accolades)
Who brought home the most hardware at season's end? One wrinkle that many folks may not realize is that from 1959 to 1962 (for whatever reason), two All-Star games were played.
Ron Santo: 9 (1963-66, 1968-69, 1971-73)
Rocky Colavito: 9 (1959, 1961-62, 1964-66)
Colavito played in both All-Star games in 1959, 1961 and 1962.
Ron Santo: 5 (1964-68)
Rocky Colavito: none
League Leader in an Offensive Category
On-Base Percentage leader in 1964 and 1966.
Led league in triples in 1964.
Led league in walks in 1964, 1966, 1967 and 1968.
Led league in home runs in 1959.
Led league in walks in 1965.
Led league in RBI in 1965.
Led league in total bases in 1959 and 1962.
MVP Ballot Box
Santo received votes seven times, with two top five performances and a best finish of fourth.
Colavito received votes six times, with three top five performances and a best finish of third.
Rookie of the Year
Both received votes for Rookie of the Year. Colavito placed second in voting in 1956; Santo placed fourth in 1960.
Rocky is also one of only 15 players in baseball history to hit four home runs in one game. Five who have accomplished this feat are Hall of Famers.
Rocky V. Ron: Conclusion
Closer than you might have thought huh? Again, I am not in the least bit opposed to Santo being elected. Please do not get my motives wrong here. I am merely saying that if you look through the Hall of Fame ranks, and look at players who are on the fringe, it seems that many smaller market players get overlooked.
The problem with letting guys who don't have the 3,000-hit, 500-homer or 300-win benchmarks (to name a few), Pandora's Box is essentially opened. It is the Hall of Fame...not the Hall of Really, Really, Really, Good. Not to say that Santo was only really good, but again, with baseball being the numbers game it is, other players should now get a look.
Santo's name was on the ballot 15 times. In his first year of eligibility, he received less than four percent of the vote. Yeesh...that was less than Andres Galarraga. Was Santo hosed for nearly three decades? Or is this a 'hat's off' to a beloved player from a nationally beloved franchise?