It's time for the Modern Triple Crown (cont.)
OK, and that takes us to the last 50 years. You have your guesses ready? It should be said that when Mauer wins the MTC this year, he will become the first American Leaguer to do it in 29 years. That should give you a good hint for one of the players. Here we go:
Frank Robinson, 1966: .316/.410/.637
Carl Yastrzemski, 1967: .326/.418/.622
But from 31 on, Yaz hit .275/.370/.430, and he only once hit more than 21 homers in a season, he only once hit 30 doubles, he only once hit .300 (.301 to be exact). These were low-scoring times, true, and he still walked a lot, which helped his value. But he clearly was not the same player after age 30. And yet, because he stayed around he got his 3,000th hit, his 450th homer, his 1,800th run scored and RBI.
And that's my question: Did Yaz secure his place in the Hall of Fame and baseball history by hitting those career landmarks with a whole bunch of pretty good seasons after age 30? Or is he mostly in the Hall of Fame because of the brilliant young player he was? I know this is basically just a remodeled version of the longevity vs. peak question that people have been asking about the Hall of Fame for a long time. But it's the Hall of Fame question I think about all the time.
Anyway, the next MTC winner is a bit of a shocker.
Fred Lynn, 1979: .333/.423/.637
Was Lynn's 1979 better than Jim Rice's famous 1978 season? Rice played 16 more games in 1978, so that really helps his case. Rice has more win shares, 36-34. Sixteen games is a big difference. But Lynn had a better batting average, a much better on-base percentage and a better slugging percentage. Lynn played center field, while Rice played left (and actually played DH 49 games in '78). Whether it was better than Rice's season or not, Lynn probably deserved the MVP award, which would have been his second (he didn't come close to winning the MVP -- he finished fourth). And he deserved to have 1979 remembered as one of the all-time great seasons. And those two things, too, might have made a difference in his Hall of Fame case.
George Brett, 1980: .390/.454/.664
From there there was a 19-year gap between MTC winners ... and the gap would have been even longer except for the erecting of a place called Coors Field and a laboratory in California.
Larry Walker, 1999: .379/.458/.710
Helton is a tougher case in some ways -- he has never played for any team but Colorado and never played in any home park but Coors Field. His home road split is outrageous. He's hitting .361 and slugging .642 at home. And he's hitting .294 and slugging .489 on the road ... But those road numbers are pretty good (his road on-base percentage is .395) and at the end of the day a player who hits .328 with walks and power belongs in the Hall of Fame, right? He has had a pretty nice comeback year -- even if his 30-homer days seem to be over -- and he has a few years left to tack on some Yaz counting stats. I think he will get in.
Barry Bonds, 2002: .370/.582/.799
MLB Truth & Rumors