My first three blogs were basically bitching sessions, so I thought I would write in praise of something. Now, before you get excited, it is not a commentary of the joys of the Internal Revenue Code, nor is it something as exciting as the deliciousness of lemonade (that cool refreshing drink).
The topic is Vern Stephens.
Stephens was a shortstop for the St. Louis Browns and Boston Red Sox from 1942 to 1951 (he played another few years, but he was not productive).
He was an 8 time all star, and more telling of his greatness, he finished in the top 7 in AL MVP voting 5 times. Contemporaries of Stephens who are in the Hall of Fame (and coincidently, more famous) are Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese. (Note: I am of the opinion that anyone named Pee Wee has no business in any Hall of Fame other than the dweeb hall of fame)
Just using the two indicators, all star selection and top 7 MVP voting, we see Rizzuto and Reese fall short (no pun intended) of Stephens. Rizzuto was a 5 time all star and finished in the top 7 MVP voting three times. Reese, although a 10 time all star, only finished in the top 7 in MVP voting 3 times.
Now, it is clear that, Reese and Rizzuto were better defensive shortstops and their teams were perennial winners, but despite his average defense, Stephens was an outstanding offensive shortstop. Baseball geeks point to a statistic called Adjusted OPS+. Without boring the reader further, suffice it to say that the top 5 players in career Adjusted OPS+ are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, and Rogers Hornsby. So take it from me, it is a legit stat. It is essentially the player’s on base average plus his slugging average.
For his career, and that includes some poor years at the end of his career, Stephens career OPS was 19% better than that of his contemporaries. Rizzuto and Reese both finished their career with OPS below the average of their contemporaries.
So, while I have no intention of arguing that Reese and Rizzuto do not belong in the HOF, it is clear to me that if they are, then Stephens belongs as well.