Year Inducted: 2013 (Veterans Committee)
The Veterans Committee has been lambasted enough around here. And, while picks like Tommy McCarthy, Lloyd Waner and Bill Mazeroski deserve criticism, it is also important to praise the Veterans Committee when they get it right; even if it takes almost 80 years to do so. Remember that the Veterans Committee largely has had these tasks:
- Induct those players that the BBWAA, for whatever reason, overlooked that deserve induction.
- Induct the greatest players of the early years of the game so they aren’t lost to sands of time.
Don’t induct Jack Morris. Just don’t.
- Buck O’Neil still needs induction. You should get on that.
And while the first task is difficult, as the BBWAA has done an historically decent job being the gatekeepers of the Hall of Fame, the second gets increasingly difficult as time goes by. Although the information available to everyone has increased, the connection to the past decreases over the years, so the names of players like Roger Connor and Cap Anson get shoved further down the list. And one of the players that deserved the honor much sooner than he got it was Deacon White.
White was one of the top two catchers of the early game, the other being Buck Ewing. In his 20 big league seasons, White hit .312/.346/.392 for a wRC+ of 121. The Deacon collected over 2000 hits including 268 doubles, 96 triples and 23 home runs. It’s important to remember that for much of the early 1800’s, the length of a baseball season was much shorter than current seasons, so his career totals may not look as impressive at first glance. However, when context is applied, they take on a whole new meaning. Upon White’s retirement in 1890, he ranked in the following (among players with 5000 or more plate appearances): 6th in average, 9th in OBP, 7th in runs, 2nd in RBI, 4th in hits, 8th in doubles, 10th in wRC+ and 10th in fWAR. He may not have been the exact best, but he was certainly one of the best of the early years.
White’s main drawback is his lack of power. While home runs may not have been as common in the early years, the fact that he didn’t hit a lot of doubles does hurt him in the rankings. While he was a catcher he was certainly a solid defender (+18 fielding runs at the backstop), as he got older he switched to third and was less than stellar there (-14 fielding runs). Along with stops at first base and outfield (where he was a negative defender at each), he becomes an overall poor defender (-19 fielding runs total) compared to his peers. He was also a poor base runner, stealing only 57 bases in his career and being worth -22 runs on the base paths.
Overall, White’s offense more than made up for his other shortcomings, and he was clearly an excellent player in the older game. He certainly was deserving of induction by the Veterans Committee, and it’s a shame it took almost 80 years for it to happen.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 9/19/16 This center fielder spent most of his 13 year career with the Indians and was the first AL player to hit a HR in his first official AB.