It’s very easy for certain players to get lost in the shuffle. How about an infield that had two Hall-of-Famers, the greatest player of his generation (not in the Hall because he was his own worst enemy), and a Hall-of-Fame catcher to boot? Find for me a better infield in baseball history than the ’75 Reds.
’07-’08 Cubs-Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, Harry Steinfeldt (3 Hall-of-Famers)
’21 Giants-High Pockets Kelly, Frankie Frisch, Dave Bancroft, Heinie Groh (3 Hall-of-Famers, but anywhere near the ’75 Reds Level?)
’32 Yankees-Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Frankie Crosetti, Joe Sewell (3 Hall-of-Famers and a former all-star)
’55 Dodgers-Gil Hodges, Jim Gilliam, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson (2 Hall-of-Famers, a 2-time All-Star and a guy who SHOULD be in the Hall-of-Fame)
’09 Yankees- Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez (maybe this one is premature, but we have a certain Hall-of-Famer, a steroid era victim and two possible Hall-of-Famers)
Looking at all those infields, it’s hard to top any of those with the 1975 Reds. Tony Perez at First Base (Hall-of-Fame), Joe Morgan at Second Base (Hall-of-Fame), Pete Rose at Third Base (Should be in the Hall-of-Fame, but we know that story) and at Shortstop, Dave Concepcion.
Why he belongs:
He was part of the best infield of all-time and one of the best Shortstops of all-time. The guy was money in the playoffs, batting a career .297, batting over .300 in 4 of his 9 series. Let’s look at his career numbers. 2326 hits (good enough for #130 on the all-time list). While that may not look so impressive, here’s some players he has more hits than: Jim Bottomley, Eddie Mathews, Bobby Wallace, Kirby Puckett, Kiki Culyer, Joe Cronin, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Joe DiMaggio and Willie McCovey. These aren’t cupcake, shrub-type names. These are ALL Hall-of-Famers, and some are recognizable household names. He has more hits than Joe DiMaggio, one of the most iconic figures in baseball history. When you compare him to similar players, http://www.baseball-reference.com lists Bobby Wallace, Pee Wee Reese & Luis Aparicio (all Hall-of-Famers), Alan Trammell (still on the ballot and should be a Hall-of-Famer), Edgar Renteria (a man who definitely has a case) & Tony Fernandez (one of the best Shortstops of his era).
9 All-Star Games. That is something only 92 people have ever achieved. He started 5. That’s one of 87. So who else has 9 appearances? Albert Pujols, Bobby Doerr, Don Drysdale, Joe Gordon, Jimmie Foxx, Bob Gibson & Goose Gossage. 5 starts? Roy Campanella, Lou Gehrig, Chipper Jones & Jackie freakin’ Robinson. (All those are Hall-of-Famers or sure future Hall-of-Famers.)
5 Gold Gloves at Shortstop. Only 68 people have won 5 or more Gold Gloves at the same position. People with more Gold Gloves than Concepcion at Short? Ozzie Smith (Hall-of-Famer), Omar Vizquel (hopefully future Hall-of-Famer), Luis Aparicio (Hall-of-Famer), Mark Belanger (offense not really strong enough to make the Hall-of-Fame) & Derek Jeter (future Hall-of-Famer).
And what does it say that a guy played in 2488 games, good enough for #54 on the All-Time list? What about 8723 At Bats (good enough for #85)? A guy showing up and doing his job? A guy like that screams Hall-of-Fame to me.
Why he doesn’t belong:
This one hurts, as Concepcion was one of my favorites. While he has good career numbers, he never had a season that stood out. He never had 100 runs. He never had more than 170 hits in a season. His career high in Home Runs was 16. He never had more than 84 RBI’s. He only hit .300 three times (and only one of those he had more than 500 At Bats). Career-wise, he missed 1,000 runs by 7. 101 total Home Runs and 950 RBI’s. And probably the most damning, a lifetime Batting Average of .267.
He only finished in the top 10 in batting average once, hits once, doubles once, triples once, and RBI’s once. He is #19 on the all-time Grounded into Double Play list. (Of course, being at the top of that list doesn’t disqualify you from the Hall; the top 7 are in the Hall or on their way). He is also #83 in singles (which allegedly is looked down on today), but being high on that list shouldn’t look bad. All but 1 of the Top 36 are or will be in the Hall-of-Fame.
The highest he ever finished in MVP voting was #4 in 1981, behind Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson & George Foster. He only received votes three times and each one of those years, he was behind a teammate.
The highest he ever finished in the Hall-of-Fame balloting was 16.9% in 1998. Concepcion was #12, receiving 80 votes. Don Sutton was the only player elected that year (other than Veterans Committee electees). 4 players above him would go on to election in other years (Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, Tony Perez & Gary Carter). According to the Hall voters that year, 6 players deserved to go in the Hall-of-Fame more than Concepcion: Ron Santo, Steve Garvey, Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Dave Parker & Bert Blyleven. My personal opinion is that all six of those do belong, and I hope that they get there someday.
At the end of the day, you look at a guy who spent his entire career with one team. Also, the man’s number is retired for his team. If a number retired doesn’t tell you about the guy’s value to his team, take a long hard look at it.