Ted Simmons is a Hall of Famer
Boy I hope you are reading this post, because if you are, that means we’ve hit publish, and the only reason we would hit publish is if Ted Simmons has FINALLY made the Hall of Fame.
It’s hard to think of a Hall of Famer as underrated – but I can’t find any better word to describe Ted Simmons’ entire career. It was a fantastic career, but one filled with unfortunate luck, and incredible under appreciation.
Simmons was a catcher, and instead of this being a plus for him, his early career struggles behind the dish gave him a poor defensive reputation that stuck with him for his career. Modern metrics tend to tell a different story, with both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference giving his defense positive marks (especially when you discount his mid-30s when he was still a full time catcher, which should hardly be held against any catcher).
As a hitter he was devalued too, thanks to playing so close to another catcher in red – Johnny Bench. Bench is a no doubt, sure fire Hall of Famer who was better than Simmons, but his presence ruined giving Simmons his proper perspective.
Bench came on the scene earlier, put up gaudier power numbers, and had the good sense to retire before his numbers really turned south. Bench also did it on one of the most famous dynasties of all time – the Big Red Machine.
Simmons was the opposite. Coming on later than the already established Bench, Simmons put up great – for Busch – numbers, held on until 38 well past his prime, and played during the last decade that the Cardinals failed to make the playoffs.
Simmons through age 30, his last year with the Cardinals, found him with a career .824 OPS despite hitting in Busch II. Through age 30, Bench’s career OPS was .827.
Bench made the All Star team every single year of Simmons’ Cardinals career, from 1968 to 1980. As a result, Simmons only made it 6 times as a Cardinal. In 1980 Simmons won the silver slugger. In two other years, Simmons garnered MVP votes. In none of those 3 years was he even selected as an All Star. Under appreciated.
Simmons played quietly behind the mask, in the shadows, and – save for 2 games in 1968 – never on a playoff team in St. Louis. Simmons appeared in the World Series only once, in 1982 for the Brewers. Naturally it was against his now former team, the St. Louis Cardinals. And even in that series where he hit 2 long, clutch home runs, Simmons team lost in 7 games. The MVP was Darryl Porter – the man who replaced him behind the dish for the Cardinals. Of course. Another shadow.
But ask any Cardinals fan from the 70s, and they’ll tell you Ted Simmons was one of the best. 2,472 hits. 28 short of 2500. Of course. But it also happens to be the 2nd most by a catcher all time. 248 home runs, 2 short of 250. Of course. Still 6th for Hall of Fame catchers. 1389 RBI. Yeah, not 1500. Still 2nd all time for HOF catchers. 483 doubles. Not 500. Once again, 2nd for catchers.
The position worked against him. The stadium worked against him. The team worked against him. The thresholds worked against him. And eventually the media worked against him. 1994 HOF vote. 3.7%. One chance. Off the ballot. Thurman Munson, whose numbers pale in comparison, got 9.8% of the vote and stayed on the ballot for all 15 seasons. Nice to be a Yankee.
Finally, painfully, in retrospect Simmons started receiving appreciation. Not even able to make more than one writer’s ballot, he had the opposite disappointment happen in 2017, where he fell one vote short.
Now all of that can be forgotten. 2020 is the season Simmons finally got the recognition his career deserved. Mr. Simmons, you’ve earned this. Congratulations. It’s about damn time the rest of the baseball world figured that out.
That’s a good time to stop, but I decided to write this for me, and not for you, so I’m going to tell you what this means as a Cardinals FAN, and a huge Hall of Fame guy.
In 1909 the Cardinals hired future Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan to be a player manager. From 1909 to 2011 Cardinals fans could say that they saw someone in uniform – a player or manager – who was a Hall of Famer. 103 total years of showing up to the ballpark and knowing you were seeing a legend somewhere on the field for YOUR team.
Except for 52 games in the 1980 season before Whitey Herzog took over as manager.
52 games in a 103 year run.
Until now. Ted Simmons has provided the missing link of Cardinals excellence.
This is also fantastic for a team that is over represented in earlier years for the Hall of Fame – with Jesse Haines, Chick Hafey and others often making lists for the least deserving to be enshrined – but is sorely underrepresented in the 1950s to today, with a huge backlog of deserving players yet to make the Hall.
Ken Boyer? Go ahead and name a better 3B than Ken Boyer from his time or before. I’ll help: Eddie Mathews. Go ahead and name another. 3B has the least HOF of any position, and Ken Boyer is just sitting out there getting no support.
Curt Flood? Need I say more? I don’t even give Flood good odds to make the next HOF ballot from his era.
Mark McGwire? Oh he did steroids. He was just a power hitting on base percentage guy, they say. In the meanwhile voters are lining up to vote for David Ortiz.
Jim Edmonds? You get one vote, just like Ken Griffey Jr., only he is going to sail in and you’re going to be dropped all together.
Scott Rolen? One of the best defenders to ever play the position, who also happened to be a great hitter isn’t getting half the votes as Omar Vizquel, WHO IS GETTING SUPPORT ENTIRELY FROM DEFENSE.
Hey, is everyone excited for more Yadier Molina isn’t a Hall of Famer articles to come out from supposedly baseball’s brightest minds? Think he’s going to hit 75% with those people as voters?
Ted Simmons is a sigh of relief for Cardinals fans. A reminder that eventually these guys – and your memories – can get the recognition they deserve.
The entire baseball world will need a fainting couch as they take in every glance, smile, and word of beloved Yankee and declared demi-God Derek Jeter’s induction. I, however, will be excited and ready to appreciate the guy standing where his entire career played out, in someone else’s shadow.