Keith Hernandez, who spent parts of seven seasons with the New York Mets, was to first base as Ozzie Smith was to shortstop.
Watching Hernandez field his position was just as awe-inspiring. Hernandez hit .296 for his career, finishing with 2,182 hits. He received over 1,000 free passes, sporting a high on base percentage of .384.
As good as he was as a hitter, Hernandez did not reach that mythical number of 3,000 hits. It doesn’t seem to matter that he was the batting champion and co-MVP in 1979, was a five-time All Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and captured 11 Gold Glove Awards. Apparently, the one thing that is keeping Hernandez from getting elected to the Hall of Fame is that he only slugged 162 home runs with 1,078 RBI at a position that is unfortunately known for power hitters. Or is it?
So why the snub? Numbers don’t say everything about a player. But, certainly, Hernandez’s numbers compare to some other first basemen in the Hall of Fame:
Frank Chance, elected in 1946, of Tinkers to Evers to Chance fame, had career totals of 20 home runs, 596 RBI and 1,274 base hits.
George “High Pockets” Kelly, elected in 1973, played 16 years in the Major Leagues, and had what amounts to seven good seasons for the New York Giants in the early 1920’s. Kelly batted .297 and collected 1,778 base hits, including 148 home runs with 1,020 RBI.
George Sisler, elected in 1939, played 15 seasons in the early part of the 20th century. He had 2,812 base hits while hitting .340 with an OBP of .378. Sisler hit 102 homers and drove in 1,178 runs.
Two other members of the Hall, Dan Brouthers, elected in 1945, and Roger Conner, elected in 1976, each had 18-year careers prior to 1900. Brouthers was a five-time batting champion with a .342 career average and 2,303 base hits. He hit 107 home runs. Conner also won a batting title, finishing with 2,467 hits and a .316 career batting average.
Hernandez didn’t reach some of the numbers that are considered “automatics” for inductees, but, apparently, neither did some other first basemen who are in the Hall. And why should a middle infielder be considered so much for his fielding, but not a first baseman? And a first baseman who had some pretty good offensive stats. Speaking of middle infielders…