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Thread: Bad Bill Dahlen

  1. #21
    I started thinking about this when I was looking at Ross Barnes' record after reading how Bill James treated him in the first Historical Abstract. James dismissed Barnes in part because of the quality of play in the NA and I thought, well, whatever else you say about the league, there are a lot of players Barnes played with in the NA who lasted a long time and are recognized as outstanding players in James' list. How did they compare to Barnes' play when they were teammates of his? (This skips over the fair-foul issue, but I don't really regard that as significant, because it really wasn't a very great part of Barnes' game)

    I found, as I expected, that Barnes compared very well with O'Rourke, McVey, Anson and one or two others, but I realized that Deacon White actually held up against Barnes better than I had expected. He didn't have the record Barnes did, certainly, but he stood up very respectably. I believe you just can't underestimate the value of a catcher at this period, and a good catcher who can hit the way White did is a pearl without price, so that's when I started thinking of White as something more than just another very good player. For whatever it may be worth, he was also at the center of a number of significant incidents in baseball history and was an interesting and admirable character. You couldn't say any of that for Dahlen except maybe the "interesting" part.

    It's amazing White could hit as he did, given the constant wear and tear that catching with almost no protective equipment would put on your body generally, and especially your hands. He did have the advantage of working with Spalding much of the time, so he had a pitcher with good control who didn't overthrow.

    Barnes and McVey were both terrific players, however. According to the figures I have, when they signed to jump from Boston to Chicago as half of the Big Four in the summer of 1875 the two of them got $2,500 each, which was a lot of money in those days, but White got $3,000. Spalding got the same, with an added attendance bonus that I think was his payment for managing and captaining the team. This is the way it works in this period. If the battery players are any good, they will probably be the highest paid players on the team. If the battery players are not any good, the team won't be, either.

    If McVey had not decided to move out west and had played into the 1880's, though, he not only would have put up better statistical record, but he would have been active in the major leagues at a time when interest in the game was growing and the press was paying much more attention, with the result that he would be a lot better remembered today. He seems to have been a remarkable athlete who could do just about anything.

    Sorry to take this thread off course, but let's face it, you could have just one 19th century thread and there wouldn't be so many contributuons on so many different topics that it got terribly confusing.

  2. #22
    I see now that in the first voting in 1936 for veteran players, or 19th century players -- I'm not sure exactly how they were defined -- Herman Long finished eighth with 15.5 votes, ahead of Hughie Jennings who had eleven votes, while Dahlen got one and Davis none. Jerry Denny got six.

    I don't present this as evidence for or against anybody's fitness for the Hall or lack thereof, merely as a specimen of how people thought. My theory, as I have said before -- and when I wrote it I did not realize how strong Long's showing had been in '36 -- is that in early years the Hall voting for 19th century players put a great premium on having played for glamor teams, which in the 1890's means Baltimore first, Boston second and everybody else last.

    I'll point out, though, that Jerry Denny got very little of this glamor premium. He played for Providence's 1884 champions, the famous Radbourn team, but after that was mired on losers and didn't come to New York until the Giants' first championship days were over.

  3. #23
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    I believe many trades were of an attitude nature back then and although Dahlen was talented, his moodiness and superiority complex is the reason he is not in the HOF

    I mean, his nickname was BAD BILL and he pissed off John McGraw

    Now, if you have a major attitude, you better be one of the best players in the league...but Dahlen only led the league in RBI and that was 1904
    His main proof to be a HOF candidate are % stats, which I feel have problems with the 1890 players, yet his cumlative stats for a player who was in the leagiue 21 seasons is very mediocre offensively. 2461 hits? 413 doubles? 96 grey ink which counts top 10 finishes in statistical categories?

    Very good player, great defensive SS which is why he was in the league 21 seasons, but not a HOFer. As for the book...it wants people to buy it...I never like comparing players
    in different eras...they should be compared to their peers.

    I love Sherry Magee and he has an astronomical 210 grey ink, but Magee with his attitude talked himself out of the league

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by csh19792001 View Post
    I wanted to post our transgressions on the forgotten great Bill Dahlen for the 19th century aficionados here to get their reactions.

    So what do you guys think? Is Dahlen the most unheralded and forgotten great in baseball history?
    If the question were simply about Bill Dahlen and the HoF, I would have refrained from posting at all. That is because, after wrestling with pre-1901 professional baseball, I just decided [for myself] that pre-1900 was another game altogether, and that MLB as we know it today, had finally evolved only after the end of the 1900 season.

    However, Dahlen DID have several seasons beyond 1901 and the several references extolling his elite all-time status, got me to looking at my own notes on defense, staring with 1901.

    First, in looking at Dahlen, in what I figure is a fair and square straight up comparison with other SS of his own time, I checked the birth dates of each player with whom I was comparing Dahlen. Dahlen was born in 1870.

    George Davis b. 1870
    Bobby Wallace b. 1873
    Billy Clingman b. 1869
    Herman Long b. 1866
    Honus Wagner b. 1874
    Geore McBride b. 1880
    Terry Turner b. 1881

    Toss out the last two if you believe the 10-11 year DOB disparity is too much. From 1901 through 1907, I have Davis, Wallace, Long, Wagner, Clingman and Turner, in turn equal to or better than Dahlen, except for 1907 when he was tops, defensively ... and 1904 when he was in the top 3.

    I cannot see Dahlen as the best from his own generation, much less among the elite who have played through the 20th Century and into the 21st Century.

    Anyone with any deep appreciation for the challenges of playing SS skillfully at the MLB level [right now I'm emphasizing defense] might wonder how disposable the likes of a Gene Alley might be.

    If those published writers who hold Dahlen in such esteem have some special connection with 19th Century play [and players], their reach and grasp are certainly well beyond my own.

  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by leewileyfan View Post
    I cannot see Dahlen as the best from his own generation, much less among the elite who have played through the 20th Century and into the 21st Century.
    He wasn't. George Davis was, and it took a massive grass roots campaign to get the Veterans Committee to even consider him.

    That said, you're vastly underrating him:
    Compare him to contemporaries or to all time SS's

    If any player from before 1920 is a lock, it's him. He's still 65th in career Win Shares, despite hanging up his spikes over 100 years ago.

    And more importantly, based on Win Shares and WAR, he's one of the top few fielders in the entire 141 year history of our National Pastime. At any position!

    The all time leaders in defensive Win Shares are, in order:
    1. Ivan Rodriguez
    2. Bill Dahlen
    T2. Rabbit Maranville
    4. Honus Wagner
    5. Cal Ripken
    6. Ozzie Smith
    7. Gary Carter
    8. Luis Aparicio
    9. Dave Concepcion
    10. Omar Vizqel
    11. Tommy Corcoran
    12. Bob Boone
    13. Tris Speaker
    14. Lave Cross
    15. Bobby Wallace
    16. Nellie Fox
    17. Joe Tinker
    18. Pee Wee Reese
    19. Jim Sundberg
    20. Bill Mazeroski

    Infielders were simply much more important/valuable in Dahlen's day...and SS was considered the toughest and most important of all.
    Last edited by csh19792001; 02-17-2013 at 08:44 PM.

  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Beady View Post
    Now, there you are again, ignoring the best position player of his decade in favor a player who, by your own statement, wasn't even the best at his position. And Deacon White went on to a long career and was an interesting and admirable person, which you certainly can't say for Dahlen.
    How, exactly, was Deacon White more valuable/greater than Bill Dahlen? It's not even close, sir. Your agenda with Deacon White has apparently clouded your judgement and obviated all objectivity.

    And last I checked, HOF qualifications don't include whether someone became "an admirable and interesting person" after their career was over.

    And speaking of McGraw? Since you keep harping on DeMontreville's trade as some proof that Dahlen wasn't nearly as tremendous as most of us think he was....

    John McGraw later called his 1904 trade for Dahlen (considered a steal at the time) "The most successful trade I ever made in my 33 year career."

    Was Dahlen pleasant and amicable? No. He was generally a prick. Deacon White might have been more saintly than Stan Musial. Does it matter when we're evaluating them as HOF candidates? No.

    Dahlen might be the most valuable defensive SS that ever lived. And perhaps a top 50 player, all time, with 200+ guys elected into the HOF. (Most of whom don't belong there).
    Last edited by csh19792001; 02-18-2013 at 11:39 AM.

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