The Commish Online                                                                                
Baseball Express
Worst. Article. Ever.
January 4, 2005

The latest email from TCO readers:

Hey Commish,

Will Ryne Sandberg make it into the Hall this time around?  Can you give me a reason why you think he should or shouldn't?

Ben from Wrigleyville

Quite simply, yes he should because he was the best second baseman of his era and he carried that dominance through most of his career.  Sandberg's career numbers (.285 BA, .344 OBP, 282 HR, 1061 RBI) don't match up with Hall of Fame outfielders or first basemen, but they certainly match up with second basemen of any era.  If positions weren't important, the Yankees would have put one of their extra outfielders at second base last year and taken their chances.

Defense, however, is important, and Sandberg flourished with the glove, winning nine (yes, nine) Gold Gloves.  While I believe that a Gold Glove does not always reflect the best defensive player that year (some win on popularity, some on reputation, such as Rafael Palmeiro's award a few years back for first base when he was primarily a DH that year), it still indicates a degree of excellence to even be considered.  The same can be said for All-Star appearances, and Sandberg was in the midsummer classic TEN consecutive times.  Again, if second base were so easy, then more good hitting platoon players would have made the switch years ago.  Instead, middle infield is a position which requires a complete ballplayer's skill, and few were more complete than Sandberg.

Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an article claiming that Sandberg was not worthy of the Hall of Fame.  While I have no problem with that opinion, his lack of any solid basis for his argument and utter lapse in logic made the article one of the worst I have ever read in any major publication. 

Bowman tries to downplay Sandberg's defense by comparing him to the "two best in the modern era (Nellie Fox and Jackie Robinson)," two similar players of his era in Tom Herr and Juan Samuel, and Jose Lind, whom Bowman offers up as the best defensive player during Sandberg's tenure.  Trouble is, in Bowman’s ranking (real chances), Sandberg’s stats are better than all but Fox and Robinson (yes, even better than the "incomparable" Lind).  Furthermore, Bowman calls Sandberg good but not great, yet two sentences later calls his assist per game ratio "outstanding."

Did Sandberg's surroundings help him? Bowman would have you believe that Ryno brought the team down, citing Mark Grace's outstanding defense and Shawon Dunston's range and strong arm as reasons for Sandberg's excellence in the field.  Anyone who watched the Cubs in the 80's and 90's would remember there was hardly an errant throw coming from Sandberg's direction which required Grace's fielding prowess;  Grace was busy showing his skills while trying to prevent Dunston's throws from hurting the paying customers behind the dugout.

Moving to the offensive side, Bowman calls Sandberg's home run achievement a "worthless stat."  Spending most of his career in an infield where the first baseman hit for average and third base was in constant rotation, Sandberg NEEDED to hit all those home runs.  Somebody needed to drive in the runs, and Sandberg stepped up.

Topping off Bowman's missteps, he claims that failing to lead the Cubs to the World Series is Sandberg's biggest negative.  He can't be serious.  Using that logic, no Chicago player, North or South Side, whom played in most of our lifetimes should be in the Hall of Fame.  Barry Bonds never won a World Series.  In baseball, last time I checked, pitching was half of the game, and the hitters have no control over that half.  Of the side they can control, each player can still only bat 11% of the time, assuming he plays every inning of every game.  Within that 11%, the most a player can do to maximize his team's chances is to hit a home run, thus adding the most runs for his team.  Sandberg did that more than any second baseman, but Bowman calls that worthless.  The other factor under Sandberg's control was simply playing so he can maximize his potential, and Ryno played in 150+ games 11 times in his career.

I won't get into the comparisons between Sandberg and Morgan, because Bowman has done it for me.  He wants to keep downgrading Sandberg's achievements, claiming that Sandberg "was not one of the greatest second basemen ever," yet the only ones he claims are better are Fox, Robinson, and maybe Morgan.  That puts Sandberg in the top four, which is good enough for the Hall in my book.

Growing up, I was (and still am) a Braves fan and a White Sox fan, so I have no rooting interest whatsoever in Ryne Sandberg.  As a writer, I also have an obligation to back up my opinions with facts or at least some semblance of logic.  Dale Bowman, however, appears to feel Sandberg is not "Hall worthy" because he doesn't like Cubs fans and because Sandberg is a bland character:  hardly the stuff of which logic is made.