Case to Consider: OMS, Alejandro
1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
2. Was he the best player on his team?
Alejandro Oms was generally the best position player on the Cuban Stars (East) during the 1920s.
Oms appears to have been the best position player on his Cuban league teams in 1924/25 (Santa Clara), 26/27 (Marinao), 27/28 (champions Habana), 28/29 (champions Habana), 29/30 (Santa Clara), and 31/32 (Habana). He may have edged Pablo Mesa for title of the best position player for San Jose in 1925/26. Oms was the second-best position player for Santa Clara in 1922/23, but Charleston was the team's leader that year.
Oms may have been the third-best position player for Santa Clara in 1923/24, but Oscar Charleston and Ollie Marcelle were ahead of him, and he was competing with Moore for being third-best. In 1928/29, Oms was better than teammate Jud Wilson.
3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
I’ll compare Chris Cobb’s projections for Oms with where he would be had he competed in the majors. Since Cobb’s method lowers the peaks and raises the valleys for Oms, I’ll list similar outfielders season by season as well.
*1921 – 29 WS. Oms is ahead of any major league CF (Speaker has 27) and any NL outfielder.
*1922 – 31 WS. Oms leads all OFs (Speaker and Ken Williams have 30).
*1923 – 27 WS. Second among AL CFs; third among NL OFs (Roush has 28; Youngs, 25).
*1924 – 26 WS. First among NL CFs (Carey has 25). Second among AL CFs (Cobb has 27).
*1925 – 27 WS. Fourth among AL outfielders (Cobb and Speaker each have 25); second among NL OFs (Wheat has 27, Carey 26).
*1926 – 23 WS. Fourth among NL outfielders.
*1927 – 26 WS. Fifth among AL OFs and second among AL CFs (Simmons 26); fourth among NL OFs(Stephenson 27, Harper 26, Lloyd Waner 25).
*1928 – 28 WS. Second among NL OFs and first among NL CFs (Wilson 28, L. Waner 26). First among AL CFs, third among AL OFs (Combs 28, Goslin 26).
*1929 – 29 WS. Third among AL outfielders, and first among AL CFs. Fourth among NL outfielders (Ott 31, O’Doul 31, P. Waner 30, L. Waner 27).
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Oms' teams generally weren't in close races; when they won, they won by a lot. However, when Santa Clara won the 1924 Gran Premio by 1/2 game, Oms had the third-best batting average on the team (and the top two spots were occupied by Oscar Charleston and Dobie Moore). In 1932/33, Habana and Almendares were tied for the league lead when the competition folded; Oms led Habana in batting average.
5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
Yes. Not only was Oms a regular in Cuba, but the various MLEs and projections indicate that Oms still could have been a major league regular through the age of 40 had it not been for the color line.
6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
Given his career length and peak, Oms might be the best position player outside the BBFHOF.
7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Chris Cobb credits Oms with 340 win shares from documented competition; however, Oms had a few undocumented years with sugar mill teams before appearing in the Cuban Winter League at the age of 26. Thus, Oms should get credit for 370+ career win shares. Major league CFs with totals close to 370 include Joe DiMaggio 387 (without war credit), Duke Snider 352, and Max Carey 351. This is Hall of Fame territory.
Oms is credited with 140+ win shares over his five best consecutive seasons (1921-25; we have no numbers for 1919 and 1920). We have Dale Murphy 150, Earl Averill 143, Jimmy Wynn 141, OMS 140+, Cesar Cedeno 140, Richie Ashburn 137, Vada Pinson 137, and Edd Roush 136. Oms is around the cutoff area, and may be a little higher than that.
Oms comes out to 89+ win shares in his best three seasons. As noted, Chris Cobb’s projections lower how players do in this category. Major League CFs with similar totals include Larry Doby 97, Dale Murphy 97, Edd Roush 96, Fred Lynn 94, Earl Averill 93, Kirby Puckett 92, Mike Donlin 91, Vada Pinson 90, Lenny Dykstra 90, Roy Thomas 89, Andy Van Slyke 88, Clyde Milan 88, Chick Stahl 87, Ginger Beaumont 87, and Richie Ashburn 86. Oms is around the cutoff territory when we account for the problems with the projection method used.
8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
We don’t have the information available. Oms did lead the Cuban league in batting average 3 times, doubles 3 times, home runs once, and stolen bases once.
Oms is not in Cooperstown. While he is in the Hall of Merit, he was on 25 ballots when he was elected in 2006, and received only 25% of all possible points.
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
There are two key components here. First, Oms’ Negro League play in the 1920s came with the Cuban Stars (East). The Cuban Stars played a majority of their games, and sometimes all of their games, on the road. Since the home teams provided the umpires, this would lower the numbers of players on the team.
Second, Oms’ first season in the Cuban League is at the age of 26; Chris Cobb’s MLE projections give him about 29 win shares that year. Oms was the star of a Santa Clara club that won a regional championship in 1920-21. According to Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, the club drew its players from the top sugar mill and amateur teams in the area. Since playing for a sugar mill team would provide year-round employment, it might well be preferable to playing in the Cuban League in the winter and independent Black clubs in the United States for those barred from organized baseball by the color line. If Dobie Moore gets credit for playing baseball for an Army team, Oms should also get credit for playing on a top mill/industrial team. This would give Oms at least 30, and perhaps more, career win shares.
10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
Oms could be the best CF outside the BBFHOF; he has a huge advantage in career win shares, and his five-year peak of 140 is pretty good.
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
We don’t have MVP awards. Cobb projects one MVP-type-season for Oms, in 1922. However, Cobb admits his method evens out the peaks and valleys. Since Oms’ best seasons come out to 30, 29, 29, 28, 27, and 27 WS, and we don’t have projections for 1919 and 1920, Oms probably had around 30 MVP-type-seasons. That’s a very positive sign.
12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
Cobb’s projections give Oms nine seasons of 20+ win shares. Since Oms projects to 29 WS in 1921 and 31 WS in 1922, and was playing baseball professionally in 1920 at the age of 25 (although not in any documented competition), I figure Oms had ten or eleven seasons of play at an All-Star level. Since eight is the cutoff, this is a very good sign for Oms.
13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
Yes. A team with someone like Oms as its best player would most likely be in the pennant race most years. Cobb’s projections for 1921-29 have Oms averaging about 27-28 win shares per season, and those were the seasons between ages 26 and 34.
14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Not that I know of.
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
Oms was called “El Caballero,” or the gentleman, by his contemporaries, and certainly upheld these standards.
When I received information on Oms' Cuban league teams, I was able to determine that, at his best, Oms was usually either the best position player on his teams or trailed only BBFHOF members/serious candidates for that honor. In all other categories, Oms' record generally meets or exceeds the standards we have set for BBFHOF membership.
When we include his play for sugar mill teams, Oms comes out to 370+ career win shares. The only major league position player with at least 370 career WS who isn’t in the BBFHOF is Rafael Palmeiro, and his record is tainted by steroid use. Oms’ five year peak of 140 win shares is also solid. Oms proved himself fully worthy of induction into the BBFHOF.