ST. LOUIS — In a few weeks, baseball can right a wrong that's been an injustice going on 25 years now. A National Baseball Hall of Fame-appointed electorate will have yet another chance to enshrine former Cardinal Ted Simmons in Cooperstown.
The wait has gone on far too long. It's time for 'Simba' to take his place among baseball's greats.
Ted Simmons has come up for Hall of Fame consideration five times. He fell off the BBWAA ballot in 1994 after his first year of eligibility, receiving only 3.7% of the vote.
He's been on multiple 'Era Committee' ballots since 2009, but has never mustered the votes needed for induction. He fell just one vote short of the 12 needed for induction in 2018, when Jack Morris and Alan Trammell found their way into the 'Hall'.
But in 2019, he's getting yet another shot.
The evidence that Simmons should be in Cooperstown is perhaps stronger than any player not already enshrined not named "Rose", "Bonds" or "Clemens".
So let's take a look at just why Simmons should finally get that call he's been waiting 25 years for. (And also, you should check out this great breakdown by Fangraphs' Jay Jaffe, who is one of the foremost experts on what it takes to be in the Hall of Fame)
There are currently only 18 catchers in the Hall of Fame. Third basemen are the only position with fewer representatives in Cooperstown (17). Of those 18, very few have better career statistics than Simmons.
Ted Simmons has the second most hits, doubles and RBI of any catcher that has ever played professional baseball.
He has more runs scored, hits, doubles, RBI, walks, a higher career batting average and a higher career OPS than hall of famer Gary Carter in less than 200 more games than the former star for New York and Montreal.
Simmons has the same exact average and on base percentage as Yogi Berra.
Simmons is also ahead of Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk in just about every statistical category other than home runs, even though Fisk played more games than Simmons.
Ted Simmons has the eleventh highest WAR of any catcher to ever play. Nine of those ahead of him are in Cooperstown. The other player is Joe Mauer.
The numbers are easily there, except for home runs, which might be why Simmons gets overlooked sometimes. He could find the gap with doubles, but didn't quite have the power to be a long ball threat. He's twelfth on the all-time catcher home runs list behind names like Mike Napoli and Brian McCann.
Let's talk about Simmons' defense as well. In St. Louis we talk about Yadier Molina's defensive prowess behind the plate as the main reason he should end up in Cooperstown, so it's only fair to take a look at Simmons' play in the field as well. Fangraphs' Jay Jaffe notes that Simmons' defensive stats rank him as a "basically average" catcher with the glove, and "average or better" when it came to throwing out runners.
Yes, his defense wasn't close to the level of some other elite Hall of Fame inductees behind the plate, but his longevity and impressive stats at the plate more than make up for the fact that he was simply average in the field.
Simmons also played the majority of his career in St. Louis and Milwaukee. He never got the big city notoriety like Carter, Mike Piazza, Fisk or Berra, so his name recognition throughout the country isn't anywhere close to those guys.
Oh yeah, there was also some guy named Johnny Bench who relegated Simmons to "second-fiddle" status among National League catchers in the 70's while he was busy in Cincinnati becoming the greatest catcher of all-time.
An eight-time All-Star, Simmons was a key component on his Cardinals, Brewers and Braves teams. His durability and longevity at baseball's toughest position was almost unmatched. Only Fisk and Ivan Rodriguez played more games behind the plate than "Simba".
It's going to be a tough fight for Simmons in 2019, though.
He's on the Modern Era ballot with Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Lou Whitaker.
That's some stiff competition, especially in Whitaker, Murphy and Miller.
The Hall of Fame hasn't yet announced who will comprise the Modern Era electorate this year, but that can be important as well. We just saw former Cardinals (and White Sox) manager Tony La Russa reportedly swing the vote for one of his former players, Harold Baines, on one of these committees to get Baines elected. If Simmons has someone championing his cause, it could go a long way in pushing him over the threshold.
It really should make no difference who comprises the committee, though. Ted Simmons did just about everything he could during his career to prove he was a hall of famer. The fact that he's waited this long remains frankly ridiculous.
On December eighth, all the waiting could turn out to be worth it. The results of the Modern Era vote will be announced live on MLB Network at 7 p.m. central time.
He's already a Cardinals Hall of Famer, but it's past time he gets the national recognition his distinguished career deserves.
Hopefully this is finally 'Simba's' year.