Year Inducted: 1980 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 340/385)
One of the more fun things to do in the offseason, especially around Hall of Fame ballot times, is to try to piece together each team’s all-time greatest team, and even compare them to each other. Of course every person will probably have a different team for each franchise, but the Yankees would obviously be the best in the AL, with the Red Sox and A’s vying for second, but the Tigers shouldn’t be overlooked. For their outfield, the Tigers would have to choose three of Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann and of course, the great Al Kaline.
Kaline may be one of the most underrated players of all-time. All he did for 22 seasons was hit .297/.376/.480 with a wRC+ of 134 all for the Detroit Tigers, yet he’s very rarely brought up as one of the best hitters of all-time. He may not be in the class of Ruth and Williams, but he is certainly in the group of players below them with 3007 hits, 399 homers, 498 doubles and 75 triples. Kaline was always the heart of the Tigers lineup, and took full advantage by driving in 1583 runs over his marvelous career, nine times driving in over 80 runs at a time that the Tigers didn’t have a very deep lineup. A solid baserunner, Kaline scored over 1600 runs, stole over 130 bases and was worth +7 runs on the bases.
Not only was he great offensively, but Kaline was a top fielder as well. After 22 years, an outfielder having a positive score defensively is incredible. Kaline was worth +33.6 runs defensively, second only to Roberto Clemente during his career. Kaline had over 160 assists in his career, ranking behind only Clemente and Hank Aaron defensively.
Kaline was always one of the top players in the game, but played his entire career in Motown at a time when the media attention wasn’t on Detroit. This is why Kaline didn’t get more than 90% of the vote, and why 45 people didn’t vote for him. He often gets pushed to the side in most people’s memory when the best players are thought of. No, he wasn’t Hank Aaron or Willie Mays, but he certainly should be in the conversation.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 11/30/16:
#41- The best hitter of the early game
#40- The best shortstop of the early game