Today is Jim Rice's 54th birthday, and the man should be looking forward to making a speech in Cooperstown, New York this summer to accept his entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Alas, Rice failed again to convince enough writers to vote him in, despite the record that shows he was a dominant offensive force in the American League from 1975-1986. His lifetime numbers - .298 batting average, 2,452 hits, 382 homers, 373 doubles, 1,451 RBI and 1,249 runs scored place him well within the median of Hall of Fame sluggers.
Check it out. As a member of the Boston Red Sox, Rice led the AL in the following categories during his career:
- Home Runs (Because chicks dig the long ball) (1977-39, 1978-46, 1983-39).
- RBI (1978-139, 1983-126)
- Total Bases (1977-382, 1978-406, 1979-369, 1983-344)
- Slugging Percentage (1977-.593, 1978-.600)
- Hits (1978-213)
- Triples (1978-15)
- Number of Times Reached Base (1978-276)
- Extra Base Hits (1978-86)
- Grounding into Double Plays (1982-29, 1983-31, 1984-36, a major league record, 1985-35)
- Strikeouts (1976-123)
His detractors say things like this:
"He had a short career!" Bullshit. He played in 2,089 games. By what definition is that a small number?
"He played lousy defense!" Horse-hockey. In 1,543 games in the outfield (he was a DH in 530 games) he managed 3,103 putouts, 137 assists and 19 double plays. He made 66 errors for a .980 fielding percentage, a mere one point lower than the league average at that time. He deserved Gold Glove awards in 1983, 1984 and 1986.
"He hit into too many double plays!" This is true. However, the Red Sox almost NEVER put anyone in motion on the bases. Not that I didn't get aggravated from time to time whenever he hit into a 6-4-3 DP, but, it's true, they were, and largely still are, a station-to-station team. Plus, as Jim Palmer once noted, Rice hit the ball harder than anyone of his time, so a two-hop rocket to the shortstop with a man on first and less than two out was almost a sure double play, even when Rice was younger and had decent speed.
Look, no player is perfect. Rice had some flaws. He wasn't the most patient of hitters, as his 670-1,423 walk-to-strikeout number show, but until he suddenly lost his bat speed in 1987 he was as feared a slugger as any in the game. He should be in the Hall of Fame. Check his stats at Baseball-Reference.com and see what you think. In the meantime, have a Happy 54th Jim Ed!