Bob’s Keltner List (the original one) – Ron Santo, Kirk Gibson, Roger Maris, Gil McDougald, and Deacon White

I’m guessing that since everyone here is a BJames fan that you are familiar with his Keltner List. I won’t go into the what and wherefors of the making of the list. If you are unfamiliar (or have forgotten), you can find the explanation in BJames “Politics of Glory”, starting on page 274.

Since we have been discussing Kirk Gibson’s HOF merits, and that digressed into talking about Maris and Santo, I thought I’d use the Keltner List on these 3 guys. Santo is someone I’d assume almost all of us thinks is HOF-worthy. I’d also assume that most of us think Maris and Gibson are marginal candidates. I thought I’d add Gil McDougald for two reasons: first, to honor him at this time of his passing and because I think that very few of us think he is HOF worthy and will make a good counterpoint to Santo. I think it’ll be interesting to see if Maris and Gibson are closer to Santo and HOF worthiness or McDougald, a fine player, but not really HOF material. I am also going to add Deacon White as a lark. He’s the most worthy 19th century candidate in my opinion, and I’d like to see where he stands.

One warning/explanation. The Keltner list is entirely SUBJECTIVE. I will try as hard as I can to be OBJECTIVE with my comments and assessments. So here goes…

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in bseball?

As Bill says, that’s a very tough standard. Obviously, none of the 4 most recent players gets a “yes’ answer. White, I’m not so sure. If you are one of the best offensive players AND the best defensive catcher in a season or two, surely someone would think you’re the best player. I’ve done a lot of comtemporary reading and have never seen anybody actually say he was the best, so I’ll give him a “qualified no”.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Another tough standard. What with Banks, Billy Williams and Jenkins, Santo was occasionaly number one, but I’d have to say no. Gibson is about the same as Santo, in that he competes with Trammell, Whitaker and Morris. He too was the best once or twice, but, like Santo, I’ll say no. Maris obviously never was (except maybe in Kansas City, which doesn’t count). Mantle was always better, plus you had Ford and Howard, plus Brock, Flood and Gibson (the other one) to compete against. McDougald is equally a “no”. White often was the best on his team.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Santo, yes, often. Gibson, in 1988, yes, maybe 1984, otherwise, no. Maris, yes, in 1960 and 1961, maybe in 1962 and 1958. McDougald is a tough one to rate; he switched positions so much, but probably yes in 1955, 1956 and 1957, no to all others. White was the premier catcher in every season from 1870-1879, except 1878 when he was the top first baseman, plus 1884 when he might have been the best third baseman.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

This is where Santo gets clobbered. Other than 1969 and maybe 1967, the answer is a loud no. Gibson, other than 1984 and 1988 gets a no. Maris had 4 Yankee yesses (he didn’t contribute much in ’63) and 2 Cardinal yesses. McDougald was in a pennant race all 10 years he played. White was a significant factor in the races of 1873-1877 plus a couple of years in Detroit for a total of 7.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

This is one of the biggest reasons none of the four are in; none of them played as regulars after turning 34. Except…White; he played 122 games as a 42-year old. Granted he didn’t play very well that year for a historically bad team in Buffalo, but still, he was a good, productive player at 40.

6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the HOF?

Really tough standard. Ignoring players that are active or on the BBWAA ballot, I’d probably like to amend this question to “Is he the very best player the Veterans Committee has to choose from?” Depending on one’s views, I think “yes” arguments can be made for both Santo and White. The other three, no.

7. Are most of the players who have comparable career statistics in the HOF?

Santo, yes. Gibson, Maris and McDougald, no. Honestly, the answer for White is also “no”. There are 2 huge “buts” tho. First, he played in an era, like the Dirty Ball Era, where power numbers were depressed. Second, it’s hard to compile big numbers with the schedule of his time. His earliest years were played in the Amateur Era, when few stats were collected and aren’t included in his totals. The schedule was a lot shorter then. The first time that his team even played 100 games was 1884, when he was 36 years old. So, I guess I’m saying the answer for White is “no, but..”

8. Do the player’s numbers meet HOF standards?

Just like the previous question: Santo, yes; Gibson, Maris, McDougald, no; White, no, but..

9. Is there evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his stats?

This is a hard one in my opinion for Santo. I’d say no, he wasn’t better, but he also wasn’t worse, his numbers accurately describe Santo. Gibson is also tough. I’m trying to be objective, but I don’t see it; glk obviously does. And it’s just as difficult about Maris. I “see” it; but most others don’t. How about we call it a wash and give them both “maybes”. McDougald is an unequivical yes, he was much better than his stats. He was so good that Stengel could play him anywhere, but sort of platooned him, which lowered his career numbers, makes me say yes. White also gets a yes because of playing time, as explained in question 7.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the HOF but not in?

Another tough standard with a similar answer to number 8. Santo is an arguable yes, what with Nettles and Darrell Evans in the mix; Gibson, Maris and McDougald are all getting a no answer. White is, like Santo, an arguable yes. White competes with Joe Torre and Ted Simmons. All three are offensive catchers with poor defensive reps. White was actually a very good defensive catcher, but with his move off the dish, he became an immobile third basemen, and that’s where his poor defense rep comes from (and that rep is deserved).

11. How many MVP-type seasons did the player have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Santo had 4 seasons of 30 or more Win Shares, which Bill calls MVP-type seasons. Altho he won no awards, he came in 4th in 1967, 6th in 1969, 8th in 1964 and 9th in 1963. He did have the most WS in the NL in 1967. Gibson had only 1 MVP-caliber season, 1988, the year he did in fact win the MVP; he did finish 7th in 1984. Maris had two MVP-caliber seasons in 1960 and 1961, and he did in fact won both those years.
McDougald never had an MVP-type season. As you know, there were no MVP Awards in White’s time, so I can only hazzard a guess. He probably would have won in 1877 and might have won in 1875. It’s possible that he might have finished in the top 5 in a couple of other years, but that’s just speculation.

12. How many all-star type seasons did the player have? How many all-star games did he play in? did most of the other players who played in this many go into the HOF?

Santo was named to and played in 9 All-Star games; he had 8 seasons of 20+ WS. Gibson was never selected for an All-Star game, but had 5 seasons of 20+ WS. Maris was named to 4 and played in I’m not sure how many games (the reference book I’m using doesn’t show if they played in both games or not). He was selected in 4 consecutive years, 1959-1962, when they played two all-star games a year; he had 4 seasons of 20+ WS. McDougald was named 5 seasons and played in at least 5 games. Like Maris he was named to the team in 1959 and I don’t know if he played in both; he had 6 seasons of 20+ WS. White never even heard of All-Star games until he was 85-years old. And for some unknown reason, he wasn’t selected to play!

13. If this man were the best on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

On some level, I think I can honestly say yes to all five of these guys.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

I think you might say Maris had some minor impact of baseball history. Gibson had a historical moment. White was THE catcher that all other catchers were measured by until Ewing came along. Santo and McDougald, not so much. I don’t know of any rule changes that any brought about, but White might have – the game being so fluid in his time. I know of no new equipment that any came up with, but again, with White, there is some speculation (he may have been the first catcher to pad his glove). I’d say that Maris changed the game significantly, but that might be me being subjective.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character the HOF, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

I can’t think of anything negative about any of these guys. And White was, after all, nicknamed Deacon.
In summary, White does extremely well on the Keltner List. Santo does well also. Gibson and Maris are a few notches below Santo, and I think Maris does better than Gibson. McDouglad does better than I had expected him to, but still well below Maris and Gibson. On a scale of 1 to 10, with McDougald being the 1 and White being the 10, I think I’d put Santo at 8, Maris at 5 and Gibson at 4.

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