During his 10 full seasons, he totaled 1,679 base hits, more than any other major leaguer in that time. The next four players — Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial, Ted Williams and Pee Wee Reese — are all in the Hall of Fame.If you need me to explain what's wrong with that, I'll instead tell you to pick up an old Baseball Abstract and learn from Bill James how to spot a phony argument. It goes on from there...testimony from teammates who thought he was great, more cherry picked stats.
Look, Dom DiMaggio was a pretty good player. And he lost his prime -- his age 26, 27, and 28 seasons -- to the war.
That said...there are certain players who get a reputation for being underrated, and there's nothing you can do to shake it. Dom DiMaggio is an excellent example.
Here's the thing: he's not the most deserving Red Sox CF to not be in the Hall. You would think he'd have to manage that, at least, to really merit consideration, no?
Let's try this with OPS+, best ten seasons -- something that works well for the guy with only 10 seasons:
Dom D 123 121 113 110 110 108 107 105 104 102
Reggie S 168 162 155 150 143 142 137 129 127 127
Fred L 176 162 142 137 133 132 130 129 118 117
Ellis B 163 149 139 137 132 128 128 122 114 113
DiMaggio does have a couple edges over the others. He was much healthier -- I used a fairly low PA cutoff to include seasons, and if I had used 500 then he loses the 110 season but the others lose more. And he was in CF for 1338 of his 1373 defensive games, while the others all moved to corner positions, and eventually to DH or 1B. Reggie Smith had a bit over 800 games in CF; Ellis Burks had 1061; Fred Lynn, however, had almost 1600.
Really, however, there's just no way that the defensive position adjustment is going to make up for the huge gap at the plate. I'll go ahead and give you baseball reference's one-number stat...I'd take small differences here with a huge grain of salt, but c'mon: DiMaggio 31.8, Smith 64.4, Lynn 49.9, Burks 49.5. Dom's best season scores out as a 5.1...he would have to average 6 wins a year for his three missing years, averaging a full game better than his actual best year, to get to where Lynn and Burks are. But it's worse: that 5 win season was 1942 -- a war year. Not the worst of it, but still, he's not competing against the best that year.
I mean, he's missing what could easily have been his prime years. Maybe he goes nuts and has a 9 win year if there's no war. Maybe this fielding system is shortchanging him. Maybe...but you just can't come anywhere close to a strong HOF case. I mean...I didn't even mention Red Sox CF Johnny Damon (56 WAR).
What I really would like to put together is a team of guys who don't rate the HOF, aren't in it, and yet have a significant cheering section for their candidacies.
1B Gil Hodges
SS Marty Marion
3B Ken Keltner?
LF Tony Oliva (yeah, I'm moving him over)
CF Dom DiMaggio
RF Roger Maris
C Thurmond Munson
P Jack Morris
Does anyone really think that Keltner belongs? And I couldn't think of a 2B, or a proper LF, and Morris (alas) isn't going to last on this list for long. Beat my list!