Given the discussions over the last few weeks about the Baseball HOF and the pros and cons of various candidates, it made me think of what I consider one of the most overlooked players in HOF voting in the last 20 years. I have to admit to a personal bias for one of my favorite Cardinals of all time, but I'll write in support of him anyway. I'm talking about Ted Simmons. One of the top hitting catchers in the history of the game, but a guy who inexplicably received only 3.7% of the vote in his one year on the ballot in 1994.
Simba's resume is impressive, and compares favorably when bumped up against the 13 catchers already enshrined. Simmons ended with a .285 career average, higher than Johnny Bench, Roy Campanella and Carlton Fisk. His 2,472 hits are more than any HOF catcher (over 100 more than the top hitting HOFer, Carlton Fisk), and his 1,389 RBI's are more than any HOF catcher other than Yogi Berra. His 1,074 runs scored would rank him 4th in the HOF list. His HR total of 248 falls short of Bench, Berra, Carter, Fisk and others, but that is partly attributable to where Simmons played. Old Busch Stadium was one of the worst hitter's parks in the game, and was where Simba spent the prime years of his career. It was where Home Runs went to die. He was also an 8 time All-Star. Beyond that, Simmons was hard-nosed, played hurt a lot in his career and was a great teammate. He was a consumate winner, though he didn't play on a lot of great teams.
The comparison I can't help but come back to is to Carter, who played in a roughly similar time period to Simba. Simmons out-numbers Carter in avg (.285 to .262), hits (2,472 to 2,092) OBP (.348 to .335), RBIs (1,389 to 1,225) and runs (1,074 to 1,025). Carter out-homered Simmons (319 to 248) and their slugging percentage is almost identical (.439 for Carter, .437 for Simmons). Although Carter was a superior defensive catcher, I was astounded that Carter got in after six years after Teddy got nary a sniff. Did his single World Series Ring make that big of a difference?
So why such a lack of support for Simmons? I suppose it is a number of things: He spent the prime of his career on some very mediocre Cardinal teams in the '70s, and made just one World Series appearance with Milwaukee in 1982 (when he ironically faced the Cardinals and hit 2 HRs). Defensively, he didn't measure up to guys like Bench and Carter, but he was very adequate behind the plate, and as tough a customer as you would find. Another argument could be that he played DH and 1B quite a bit once he got to the AL, and some of his numbers were put up while playing those positions, but the same could be said of Bench and Fisk. Regardless, his offensive ability should have garnered him more support.
I don't know that I can 100% say that Simba belongs in the Hall, but given the numbers, he certainly deserved more consideration than he got, and I can't help but feel that if Gary Carter is a HOFer, Ted Simmons certainly is too.