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LOOKING AT THE 1970s WAR LEADERS

LOOKING AT THE 1970s WAR LEADERS

By Paul Semendinger

March 16, 2022

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Quick Quiz – Name the only two players to lead American League position players in WAR in more than one season in the 1970s.

The more I look back at the 1970s, the decade when I first became a fan (at the tail-end of that decade), the more I see that there were a number of very good players who have been underappreciated in baseball history, who were underappreciated when they played (as shown by the very few times they won major awards), and who have been underappreciated by Hall of Fame voters.

I decided to look at the players who finished in the Top-10 in Positional Player WAR for each year from 1970 through 1979.

The results, I believe, will shock many.

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To begin, the following are Hall of Famers who led the American league in WAR in a given season in the 1970s:

Carl Yastrzemski (1970)

Rod Carew (1974, 1975, 1977)

Jim Rice (1978)

This is interesting in that some great players from the decade are not on that short list.

Moving forward, the following are the non-Hall of Famers who led the American League in WAR in the 1970s:

Graig Nettles (1971, 1976)

Dick Allen (1972)

Bobby Grich (1973)

Fred Lynn (1979)

You now know the answer to the question I posed to begin this article.

Graig Nettles and Rod Carew are the only two players to lead the American League in WAR for more than one season in the 1970s.

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Let’s examine the list of Top-10 finishers by season a little closer.

The following are Hall of Famers and the numbers of times they finished in the Top-10 in Seasonal WAR in the 1970s (in alphabetical order):

George Brett (5 times)

Rod Carew (5 times)

Carlton Fisk (3 times)

Reggie Jackson (6 times)

Paul Molitor (1 time)

Tony Oliva (1 time)

Jim Rice (2 times)

Brooks Robinson (2 times)

Carl Yastrzemski (2 times)

Now, let’s look at the non-Hall of Famers who appeared on the Top-10 lists multiple times (also in alphabetical order):

Sal Bando (6 times)

Paul Blair (2 times)

Bert Campaneris (3 times)

Bobby Grich (6 times)

Toby Harrah (2 times)

Chet Lemon (2 times)

Fred Lynn (2 times)

John Mayberry (2 times)

Thurman Munson (2 times)

Bobby Murcer (2 times)

Graig Nettles (5 times)

Billy North (2 times)

Amos Otis (3 times)

Reggie Smith (2 times)

Gene Tenace (2 times)

Roy White (4 times)

Note – There were 25 players who reached the Top-10 for the American League only once.

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Taking a careful look at the above, it seems (and I have not, yet, done a study like this for other decades) that there was a true sense of parity among the elite players. There were a lot of players who did not dominate for long periods or for many years over time.

I suspect that because of this seeming equality among so many that its possible that some really special players got over looked at the time and have been under appreciated since.

Looking at the lists above in a slightly different manner, the following are the only players to finish among the Top-10 players in the league in five or more different seasons in the 1970s:

George Brett, Rod Carew, Graig Nettles – 5 times

Sal Bando, Bobby Grich, Reggie Jackson – 6 times

Those six players present an interesting case study. Three of them are in the Hall of Fame, the other three are on the outside looking in. This made me wonder, do Sal Bando, Bobby Gritch,. and Graig Nettles have Hall of Fame cases?

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Long time readers of this site, know that I already believe that Graig Nettles belongs in the Hall of Fame.

According to WAR, Graig Nettles is 12th all-time among third basemen.

The only third basemen who rank above Nettles who are not in the Hall of Fame are Adrian Beltre and Scott Rolen, both of whom will probably be elected into the Hall in upcoming years.

By WAR Nettles ranks above the following Hall of Fame Third Basemen: Home Run Baker, Jimmy Collins, Decon White, George Kell, Pie Traynor, and Freddie Lindstrom.

Third basemen are under-represented in the Hall of Fame.

All of this seems to make a strong case for Nettles to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Bobby Grich:

According to WAR, Bobby Grich is 8th all-time among second basemen.

The only second baseman who ranks above Grich who is not in the Hall of Fame is Robinson Cano.

By WAR, Grich ranks above the following Hall of Fame Second Basemen: Frankie Frisch, Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, Joe Gordon, Billy Herman, Bobby Doerr, Nellie Fox, Bid McPhee, Tony Lazzeri, Johnny Evers… and more!

All of this seems to make a strong case for Grich to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Sal Bando:

The only third basemen who rank above Bando who are not in the Hall of Fame are Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen, Graig Nettles, Ken Boyer, and Buddy Bell.

By WAR Bando ranks above the following Hall of Fame Third Basemen: Home Run Baker, Jimmy Collins, Decon White, George Kell, Pie Traynor, and Freddie Lindstrom.

Third basemen are under-represented in the Hall of Fame.

All of this seems to make a good, if not great case for Bando to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Before Bando should be considered, there are other players, including Nettles and Grich, who have better cases.

***

The 1970s, especially in the American League, was an interesting decade. It seems that some of the best players of that time period just did not get the recognition they deserved at the time and deserve now.

Among the players of that time, Bobby Grich and Graig Nettles have been overlooked and under appreciated.

It is time to right those wrongs.

#CarlYastrzemski #GraigNettles #ReggieJackson #RodCarew

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