Thurman Munson’s Hall-of-Fame Case (Part 4 – Article: “Munson Played Long Enough&#
Munson Played Long Enough by the Munson for HOF Committee
The Hall of Fame eligibility rules provide that a player may be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame if the player had played at least ten years. Thurman Munson meets this requirement as he played 11 years for the New York Yankees.
Thus, in discussing and considering Thurman Munson’s Hall of Fame credentials, it CANNOT be argued that “he didn’t play long enough” or “he did have accumulate enough career statistics”. Both statements are untrue. These statements also violate the spirit of the 10-year rule and render the 10-year rule meaningless.
If the 10-year rule is to mean anything and if the spirit of the rule is to be met, the HOC needs to consider a player’s “total body of work” (e.g., statistics, awards, honors accumulated over a career). It also means that voters should not simply look at a handful total career statistics against some arbitrary “magical” benchmarks but compare the player against his contemporaries. In Munson’s case, this means comparing his decade of accomplishments against the performance of other catchers of his era as well as evaluate his decade of excellence against the peak performance periods of the other catchers enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Steve Jacobson once said, “I voted for Munson for the Hall of Fame even though his major-league career was barely more than the minimum of 10 seasons. He was a dominant player.”
Another famous sportswriter when asked about a player’s resume for the Hall of Fame responded: “Does he have the hardware?” Translation: Did he win any awards? Did he win any World Series? How did he fare in the postseason? Was he ever the best at what he did?
Here are those answers for Thurman Munson:
• 1976 American League Most Valuable Player
• 1976 The Sporting News American League Player of the Year
• Named The Sporting News Catcher of the 1970s.
• 1977 World Series Champion
• 1978 World Series Champion
• 1970 Rookie of the Year (First American League Rookie of the Year as a catcher)
• 7 Times All-Star
• 4 Times Sporting News All Star Team
• 3 Times Gold Glove Winner
• First Team Captain Since Lou Gehrig
Thurman Munson ranks 3rd all-time with 60+ assists over 9 consecutive seasons Schalk (11) Cochrane (10)
*All-Time Leader 9 straight seasons 1,000+ innings caught, 100+ complete games caught
He ranks 3rd all-time WAR (162 game avg) Cochrane 5.69 Bench 5.65 Munson 5.25
He ranks 3rd all-time with 130+ complete games caught during a season: Carter (5) Berra (5) Munson (3)
What did Munson do in the Post-season? He took it to another level.
• Hit .357 in six post-season series (94 points higher than next HOF catcher)
• Postseason OPS (.874) higher than every Hall of Fame Catcher except one
• Hit safely in 27 of 30 postseason games – no other player has ever done that!
• Hit safely in 10 consecutive world series games
• 7 consecutive hits in world series
In addition to awards and post-season achievements, Thurman Munson had one of the most impressive decades ever delivered by a catcher in the history of baseball.
SUMMARY of KEY REGULAR SEASON TRADITIONAL BATTING ACCOMPLISHMENTS
• 1st catcher to have consecutive 4 seasons with 180+ hits –
• 1 of 3 AL catchers with 7 consecutive seasons with at least 130 hits
• 1 of 3 catchers with 3 consecutive seasons with a .300 avg. and 100 RBI
• 5 times finished in the Top 10 in batting average
• Finished 3rd, 4th and 4th in hits for a season – only catcher in history
• Batted .330 with 2 outs and RISP from 1975 to 1978 (team batted .243) Compare to – Fisk (273), Bench (.255) and Carter (.220). only exceeded by Carew and Stargell for HOFers in same time period
• Hit .288 and .310 with 2 outs and RISP with a 46% caught stealing in 1979
• Career BA .292 – Compare to Bench (.267), Fisk (.269) and Carter (.262.)
• 1 of 8 catchers to finish multiple times in top 10 in Total Bases for a season and had 230+ TB (1975-1978).
• Caught 120+ games for 7 consecutive seasons (‘72 to ‘78) and ’70 (117 games in ’71 due to reserve duty) or would have been 9 consecutive seasons
• Top 5 for games caught – 8 seasons (Led the league 3 times with 1 runner up )
• Top 5 for Putouts – 6 seasons
• Top 5 for Assists – 8 seasons ( Led the league 3 times with 4 runner-up)
• Top 3 for DPs turned as C – 5 seasons ( Led league 2 times with 1 runner-up)
• Top 5 for runners caught stealing – 5 seasons (with 1 runner-up)
• Top 5 Caught % – 7 seasons ( Led the league 2 times with 1 runner up )
• Career 44% caught stealing
• led the league in COMPLETE games caught in the 1970’s 3 times (Fisk 2, Bench 0)
• led the league in innings caught 4 times (Fisk 2, Bench 0)
Modern Baseball Analytics
• 10 consecutive seasons of WAR- 45.6 WAR
• One of 10 Catchers in history to catch 1000+ games and produce 40+ WAR in 10 consecutive seasons (only 6 catchers higher-all HOFers)
• 12th all- time in JAWS for catchers.
• 14th all-time in WAR for catchers.
• 7th in 7 yr. peak War
• 1 of 5 AL catchers with 9 consecutive years OPS% above league average (others HOFers).
• 1 of 4 AL catchers with 4 top 20 finishes in OPS+ (I-Rod, Fisk, Mauer and Posada)
• 3rd best WAR per 162 games with 5.25 WAR. (minimum 1,000 games caught)
Munson hit .529 in the 1976 World Series which began drawing comparisons to Johnny Bench. The Bench-Munson debate raged through the mid-1970s. In Baseball magazine’s feature article written by Dan Schlossberg, players and managers rated both players over 10 categories covering the baseball gamut. It was a virtual standoff. Munson not only held his own, but graded higher in two most important categories— clutch hitting and team leadership.