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One of the greatest moments in baseball history may have never happened if it wasn’t for Dwight Evans. It was the 11th inning of the six game of what would later be named one of the best World Series of all-time. With Ken Griffey on first and the season on the line, Cincinnati’s Joe Morgan hits a rocket to right field. A sure hit in any other ballpark, but not Fenway. In Fenway, that ball would have been in the stands. But luckily for the Sox season, one of the best outfielders in the game, Dwight Evans, was there to save the day and make one of the most important plays in Red Sox history. An All-time fan favorite was born.
Johnny Pesky and Bill James would agree that Dwight Evans should be in Cooperstown. The Red Sox right fielder was one of the best players to field that spot in Sox history and one of the most consistent hitters of the 1980s. I’ve noticed that in the grand scheme of things, being pretty good in the 80s hasn’t mattered much to Cooperstown voters. It seems as if being great during that decade almost doesn’t count (see: Jack Morris and Dale Murphy) to the baseball writers.
Even though Evans’ career began in the 70s, the 80s was the decade of excess where he made a name for himself. And that should count for a lot when it comes to picking faces for bronze plaques. I mean, if it only takes a minimum requirement of ten years to even be considered, why shouldn’t ten very solid years of playing be enough to get into the hall?
If you look at the average Hall of Famer, with the exception of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and such, most of these men were at the top or near the top for somewhere around ten to twelve years. Very few players are dominant from beginning to end. Injuries get in the way, and so does old age. I just feel strongly that a player’s body of work should certainly be looked at as a whole, but in many cases it should be broken down and examined to get a better perspective on a players role in the games history by decade because different decades mean different eras and different eras mean, well, different styles of play and different styles of player.
Even though Evans played in shadows of Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski during the 1970s, the 1980s (with the exception of Wade Boggs) became all his. Not just in Boston, but around the league as well. From 1980 to 1989, Evans was 3rd in runs scored, 4th in RBI, 4th in HR, 5th in total bases and 1st in extra-base hits.
Let’s not forget his stellar defense. From 1981 to 1985 he won five straight gold glove awards (ten total). For you readers out there who are into some of the “newer” stats like WAR and such, Evans led all of baseball in runs created with 1,067. This, by the way, beats out both Ricky Henderson and Robin Yount. He was the best at his position, leading all right fielders in HR, RBI, walks, runs, runs created, extra base hits, times on base, runs produced, OPS and doubles.
However, I will note that as good as he was in the 80s and as hard as I’m pushing him and trying to get him over, he never once won an MVP award and at best, he finished 3rd once. This, I feel is one of the biggest reason why Evans isn’t in Cooperstown. It’s hard to seriously consider any player who was never an MVP or at least a runner up on a few occasions.
You see, Evans was never great at just one thing and one thing only. Instead, he was just pretty good at a whole bunch of different things. He was consistent, not dominant, one of the few factors that may have actually hurt his chances over the years.
As great as Dwight Evans was at the end of the decade, he never really led the league in any offensive category. He was a jack of all trades and a master at none. With the exception of 1981′s strike shortened season where Evans led the league with 22 homers, there were a few years where he led the league in walks, but that has never and will never get anyone a plaque.
Because of his inability to really dominate any given year, he may never be viewed upon as a “true star” in the game of baseball by most fans, which, in my opinion is truly unfair. I mean, he was in the top ten for several offensive categories in
the 80s and he’s arguably one of the top ten players of the entire decade.
So, shouldn’t a top ten player for an entire decade be a serious Hall of Fame candidate? Is it really all that insane to believe that Dwight Evans is a Hall of Famer? If the thought of Evans in Cooperstown causes you to shutter, don’t think of him as joining the likes of Gehrig, Young, Wagner and Ruth. Instead, think of him as joining the likes of Andre Dawson, Ron Santo, Jim Rice, Barry Larkin and Bert Blylevin. That group should make it easier for you to handle.