Monday, August 18, 2008

Should 30 = 34?

From "Dodgers great Maury Wills at peace with a sober reality" by Kurt Streeter at the LA Times:

[Maury Wills] has even found a way to work around the hurt that comes from the fact the Dodgers have never retired his number. (Team policy says only Hall of Famers can have their jersey retired and framed in the Dodgers outfield, the exception being former player Jim Gilliam, a coach for the team when he died during the World Series in 1978.)

[...] here's a recommendation for the Dodgers: If you do not want to bend the retired jersey rule, fine.

But justice can still be done.

Casey Blake wears No. 30 now. When he leaves the team, never let another player wear it again -- a sort of unofficial retirement, without the permanent sign in the outfield.

The Dodgers have already unofficially embargoed No. 34, honoring Fernando Valenzuela for his impact during the 1980s.

In the '60s, Wills was just as big as Valenzuela, just as important. And he started an on-field revolution.

While Fire Joe Morgan breaks down why Wills will most likely not make it into the Hall of Fame, Streeter has an intriguing proposition. What do you think?


Rob said...

Bill James in his 2001 Historical Baseball Abstract rated him the 19th best shortstop in history, which is pretty amazing when you consider how valuable his bat wasn't. He does not compare that favorably to Banks, though in fairness Banks played half his career at first, and that was during the Second Deadball Era.

Moreover, James says that Wills actually did not start the stolen base revolution, but instead served as its messenger, as he was merely the most visible of a wave of base stealers. What was considered acceptable in catchers' arms from 1925-1955 was pretty lax by modern standards, and Wills and his speedy peers were merely taking advantage of it. In fact, by the time Wills came into the majors in 1959, stolen base totals had already risen from a near total collapse of 650 in 1950 to a robust 853. Wills was merely the steal's most visible and successful exponent, but he was not the first and hardly led the charge.

In fact, James claims that Wills had a very negative effect on the game in that many teams ruined the careers of young speedy players by insisting they learn how to switch hit. I don't have my copy of the Abstract with me here at work, but I can tell you that it's not really a surprise.

Orel said...

"Wills was merely the steal's most visible and successful exponent." That should count for something. Maybe not the HoF, but perhaps an unofficially retired Dodger number?