Year Inducted: 1963 (Veterans Committee)
The Hall of Fame can seem very strange sometimes. How can players like Fred McGriff, who may not have been the best but certainly has a case for induction, or Mike Mussina be so far from being inducted, while players like Chick Hafey and Tommy McCarthy have gained enshrinement? Why did Bert Blyleven have to wait so long for induction while Tom Glavine made it on his first ballot? It can sometimes feel like there isn’t as much consistency among the voters. Likewise, it can sometimes seem like this ranking may be a tad random. How does a player like Sam Rice rank higher than, say, Willie McCovey? Well, let’s find out.
Rice played primarily in the nation’s capitol for most of his 20-year career. In that time period, he hit .322/.374/.427 for a wRC+ of 113. He collected 2987 hits in his career, including 498 doubles, 184 triples and 34 home runs. Rice was one of the most consistent players of the time, while having the occasional great season where he would hit well over .330, most of the time he would hover between .300 and .330. He collected 200 hits in a season 6 times in his tenure, including a career best 227 when he hit .350 in 1925. Rice was also a solid base-runner. He stole 351 bases in his career and was worth 9 runs on the base paths. He was also a very good fielder, being worth 56 runs defensively after a long career.
Rice never had a truly dominant season, but he was the model of consistency, and there is definite value in that. He also was an excellent pure hitter, and there are very few players that can get that close to 3000 hits and not have a lot of power (Eddie Collins and Pete Rose are two quick examples, but there aren’t many). While he didn’t do great at any aspect besides hitting a bunch of singles, he also didn’t do any aspect of the game poorly (nearly 500 doubles is nothing to sneeze at). Really the only thing that hurts him, besides his lack of power, is the fact that he played in the Babe Ruth era, where home runs were increasing along with batting averages, so his numbers do lose a bit of luster. But, Rice was still a very good pick for the Hall of Fame, a case made more on longevity rather than peak. Whichever is better is personal preference, of course, but Rice was definitely worthy no matter how it is sliced.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck, 9/9/16, this Hall of Famer patrolled the outfield for the Dodgers but was widely regarded as the third best center fielder in his own city.