Monday, March 2, 2015

Minnie Minoso, underappreciated legend

Orestes "Minnie" Minoso finished in the top four
of MVP voting four times in his distinguished
career. He was 92 when he died, unless he was
a different age; nobody's really sure when
he was born in Cuba.
News broke Sunday of the death of White Sox icon Minnie Minoso, the first black major leaguer for a Chicago team, a standard bearer for black Cubans in the majors and one heck of a baseball player.

The Cuban Comet's not in the Hall of Fame; he was among the finalists turned down in December by the Veterans Committee. That he wasn't in already was and remains a mistake, of course. Beyond his pioneer status in the integration of baseballs and the influx of Caribbean players, Minoso was a standout.

In his most recent Historical Abstract, which is admittedly not very recent, Bill James ranks Minoso 10th all time among left fielders. Among the left fielders James ranks lower: Billy Williams, Ed Delahanty, Joe Medwick, Jesse Burkett, Lou Brock, Goose Goslin, Ralph Kiner, Fred Clarke, Zach Wheat, Joe Kelley, Heinie Manush, Jim Rice ... Hall of Famers all. Maybe you think some of them are better than Minoso, but this is not a random ranking.

So why is Minoso out of Cooperstown? Timing, perhaps, has a role. Minoso's career essentially spans the Stengel years of the Yankee dynasty. Minoso was with the White Sox in the year Cleveland won the pennant; he was with Cleveland the year the Sox won the pennant. His career didn't really get started until his age 25 (per Baseball Reference) season, late for a player of his caliber; race may have played a role in that. His home park for most of his career, Comiskey Park, was designed to suppress hitting; Minoso would have more impressive totals had he played for almost any other team.

But those are excuses, not reasons, Minoso was a superb player and a fan favorite, and he was recognized as such in his playing days, How the writers overlooked him for induction is yet another of their travesties.

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