Year Inducted: 1982 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 370/415)
Sometimes, it takes years after a trade is made to tell how impactful it was for both sides, despite how lopsided it looked at the time. Sometimes, it’s easy to tell right away. After the 1965 season, the Reds had one of the best right handed hitters of all-time on their roster. This player had compiled a batting line of .303/.389/.504 in the prior 10 seasons, and hit more than 300 homers. Reds owner Bill DeWitt thought the player was now an “old 30”, so he traded him to the Baltimore Orioles, where he immediately won the Triple Crown in 1966 and led them to two World Series titles. Frank Robinson certainly had a lot of great years left in his bat when traded, and as a result shunned the Reds for a long time.
In total, Robinson hit .294/.389/.537 with a wRC+ of 153. After being traded, Robinson would go on to play another 11 seasons in the bigs, including spending time in Cleveland as their player-manager, making him the first African American manager in the game’s history. Robinson used an unusual batting stance for his time, crowding the inside part of the plate more than most batters did back then. As such, he was the subject to many brush-back pitches, and was hit nearly 200 times in his career. Robinson never caved in to pitchers, however, and used his lean 6’1″ frame to belt 586 homers, 528 doubles and 72 triples while becoming to date the only player to win the MVP award in both leagues. One of the greatest run producers of all-time, Robinson drove in and scored over 1800 runs, while actually being a solid baserunner with over 200 steals and +15 runs on the bases. Offensively, Robinson could do just about everything.
Robinson was one of the most fearless players of all-time. In addition to his batting style, the reason he was able to steal so many bases and was worth so much as a baserunner (at least compared to other big hitters) was that he would slide hard and into fielders. While playing with Cincinnati, he slid hard into Braves’ third baseman Eddie Mathews, which prompted a fight between the two legendary players. That hard-nosed style of play would be something that would, in his own words, stunt his career as the hard slides would take their toll on Robinson’s already aching legs and knees. Though he still had the power, he saw his batting average start to slip a lot in the later years of his career.
When Frank Robinson retired, he had the fourth most homers of all-time, finishing just shy of being the 4th person with 600 homers. He also finished with the 14th most fWAR of all-time, an incredible amount for a poor outfield defender (which was primarily due to his leg injuries as early in his career he was a decent fielder). He also had the same wRC+ as fellow member of the class of 1982, Hank Aaron. In fact, Aaron is probably the reason why Robinson failed to collect 90% of the ballot, as he probably drew lots of comparisons to Aaron, which is unfair to both players. Aaron had better luck with injuries than Robinson did, but Robinson produced similarly to Aaron in fewer plate appearances. Robinson was a dominating, imposing and fearless player who will always be one of the finest to ever play this game.
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