Welcome to the first installment of “Ask Bernie.” The initial response was terrific and I want to thank everyone for the emails and questions. Keep pumping them in by sending questions and comments to BernScoops@gmail.com
Bernie, thanks for taking my question. Why is it, no one seems to ever talk about Kenny Boyer going into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He compares to Ron Santo pretty well … I think he is a very underrated 3rd baseman. And as you say, there are very few 3rd baseman in the hall. Ken Boyer is one they should very much consider. (From Tom C. in St. Louis)
It’s a great question, Tom. And a frustrating situation. I completely agree with you. Ken Boyer is in a group of outstanding players that have been underappreciated and largely overlooked in the Hall of Fame voting.
If we go by Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system for evaluating Hall of Fame candidates, Boyer ranks 12th all-time in career value among third basemen that played at least 50 percent of their games at their position.
The thing that jumps out at me is Boyer’s nine-season career peak (1956-64.) Using WAR, Boyer ranked 6th among all MLB position players over the 10 seasons. That put Boyer behind only Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson and placed him above Al Kaline, Ernie Banks and Roberto Clemente.
During that nine-year run Boyer had seven All-Star seasons, won five gold gloves, received MVP votes in eight seasons, and won the National League MVP in 1964. In addition, between 1956 and ‘64 he was third in the majors in hits behind Aaron and Mays, and ranked sixth in RBI and runs and eighth in extra-base hits and performed 25 percent above league average offensively. Boyer’s heroics were one of the primary reasons for the Cardinals prevailing over the Yankees in the ‘64 World Series.
Every one of the players I cited are Hall of Famers. I’m sorry, but when you’re arguably the sixth-best player in the majors (non-pitchers) over nine seasons – not exactly a small sample size – you’re a Hall of Fame caliber player. And while back problems caused Boyer to have a subpar 1965 season by his standards, he would still rank 6th in WAR among position players if we stretched it out to include ‘65. So that means he was the sixth most valuable position player in the majors for a 10-season stretch. That’s a Hall of Famer.
In my view, Boyer has been lost in history for a few reasons:
1) Voters were unusually tough in their assessments of third basemen, and I have no idea why. That explains why so few of them are in the Hall of Fame. In his 15 years on the Baseball Writers Association Hall of Fame ballot, Boyer never received more than 25.5 percent of the vote in a selection process that requires a check mark on 75% of the ballots. That’s preposterous.
2) Among his peers Boyer wasn’t as prolific a hitter as Eddie Mathews, who had 512 home runs and a fantastic 143 OPS+ for his career. And while a terrific third baseman, Ken wasn’t as good defensively as Brooks Robinson. (Because no third baseman was.) And I don’t understand the thinking. Why did Boyer have to be as mighty with the bat as Mathews, or as spectacular as Robinson at third base? What about Boyer’s all-around play and value? Point is, he was a very good hitter as third basemen go, a fine baserunner, and certainly rated among the best defensive third basemen in the game over a very long period.
3) Boyer has been disrespected by four separate committees that shine a light on overlooked Hall of Fame candidates who didn’t make it through the baseball-writer votes. But none of the second–chance committees gave Boyer the necessary support for induction, an oversight that increases the frustration. The latest snub occurred late last year, when the “Golden Days” committee bypassed Boyer to vote in Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva.
Minoso is in a separate category; his MLB numbers aren’t representative of his excellence because segregation prevented his opportunity to have a sustained MLB career.
But as for the three who made it compared to Boyer, here are their career WAR numbers:
Just look at that again. WAR isn’t the end-all, be-all — but Boyer’s exclusion is ridiculous.
It’s also important to put Boyer’s career offensive numbers in context. At the end of his final season (1969), here’s where Boyer ranked all-time among MLB third basemen:
2nd in homers (282) to Eddie Mathews
3rd in total bases
3rd in slugging percentage (.462)
5th in RBI
6th in hits
9th in runs
And Boyer did all that despite having the start of his MLB career delayed by military service.
And about Boyer’s defense: in addition to the five gold gloves, Boyer led NL third basemen in double plays turned five times, finished in the top three for assists 10 times, was in the top three for putouts six times, was in the top three for fielding percentage five times.
As Chris Budig of Cooperstown Cred points out Boyer still ranks 20th all-time in assists for a third baseman. When he retired, Boyer’s 3,652 career assists were the fifth-most in baseball history. And his 355 double plays turned are still 13th most for a third basemen. At the time of his retirement, only Robinson and Mathews had more double plays turned than Boyer.
As for Santo vs. Boyer: Santo was a slightly better hitter, with a nine-point advantage over Boyer in career OPS+. But as Jaffe (at FanGraphs) notes, Boyer was a better fielder than Santo by more than 50 runs saved, and was a better baserunner than Santo by 53 runs. Conclusion: if Santo is in Cooperstown, Boyer should be there with him.
For those that really take the time to study this, Boyer has a Hall of Fame resume. I just hope that enough people of influence keep him in the conversation until he makes it to Cooperstown.
Again, thanks for the question Tom. You got me rolling! My answer was too long, but Ken Boyer deserves a thorough defense. I’m sure you would agree, pal.
Would you ever be interested in writing a book about the rise and fall of the St. Louis Rams in our town? (From B. Shannon.)
Thanks for the question, B. Interested? Probably. But will I do it? Highly doubtful. I’m just too busy for a side project. In the mornings, I write columns here on Scoops, and the pivot to host an afternoon-drive show on 590 the Fan, KFNS. The column and the show require considerable preparation time. I’m pretty wiped out by the end of the day, and crave having quiet time during the weekends.
That said, I would have a lot of stories within that story.
– My behind-the-scenes role in the effort to bring the Rams from Los Angeles to St. Louis. I know that sounds egotistical, but I state this with humility. I had a unique position and perspective on how it all unfolded.
– My friendship with Georgia Frontiere, an incredibly fascinating woman. I found her to be totally different than depicted by most media and fans in Los Angeles. I was impressed by her kindness to strangers, and the way she treated employees at restaurants and other businesses here in St. Louis. She had a million stories, and a most unusual life that put her in the company of Presidents, the Royal Family, famous movie stars and musicians. I can tell you this much. Georgia LOVED St. Louis and was extremely grateful for the warmth she received from Rams fans and St. Louisans. She never would have moved the team out of here.
– The downfall of head coach Rich Brooks and GM Steve Ortmayer. There was more to it than football.
– Behind the scenes panic after Trent Green tore a knee ligament in the third preseason game in 1999 – an injury that had grown men crying and then arguing with each other over the next move at quarterback.
– The behind–the-scenes story of the dissension between front-office executives and coach Mike Martz that led to the premature collapse of the Greatest Show. It was absurd, and corrosive and never should have happened.
– Details on the deteriorating relationship (at the time) between Martz and Kurt Warner.
– The day Stan Kroenke cursed me on the phone because I suggested he could move the Rams to Los Angeles.
And so much more.
Sigh. I wish I had the time.
I have been an NFL and MLB fan of the Cardinals and Blues for 51 years after growing up in St. Louis. My question is, when did you become a fan of the Arizona Cardinals? (From D. Wisner in Michigan.)
I was hired by the Post-Dispatch in the spring of 1985 to serve as the beatwriter in our coverage of the St. Louis football Cardinals. And I was the beatwriter for the team’s final three seasons here. I got to know the Bidwill family very well, and really liked Mr. Bill Bidwill and his son, Michael. I was critical of Bidwill after the team left for Arizona, but not because he moved – but to defend St. Louis from lazy national-media attacks that wrote us off as a “baseball town” that was a “bad football town,” in an attempt to applaud the franchise transfer. That really bugged me, so I fought back by reminding everyone — over and over again – of how awful the Cardinals were here, with only three playoff seasons and no playoff victories in 28 years.
The quality of the ownership was lacking, because Bill liked to have his loyalists like George Boone around, and that led to many horrible drafts. As I’ve said a bunch of times: there’s no such thing as a bad football town – only bad owners and bad teams. The Bidwills didn’t appreciate that they viewed it as a personal attack. And it really wasn’t intended that way. But through the years, the relationship healed, and I resumed having amicable exchanges with Bill and Michael. I always looked forward to seeing them during games in Arizona.
I served on the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee for nearly 20 years. And during that time, I worked hard to push Roger Wehrli as a candidate for the Hall. We were able to get that done, and I think it meant a lot to Bill and all of the Bidwills, because Roger was a personal favorite of theirs. I also advocated for Kurt Warner, and Aeneas Williams and came to greatly appreciate the STL-Arizona connection. And I know that the Bidwill family appreciated my efforts on behalf of guys – Warner and Williams – who built Hall of Fame careers in both places.
Bill’s health went into decline, and I didn’t have a chance to visit with him in his final years. But I’ve been impressed with Michael, and continue to marvel at how much he loves his hometown of St. Louis. He’s just a very good dude. Michael Bidwill has given money to any number of charitable or community endeavors in St. Louis, and maintains a soft spot for his childhood home. That strengthened our bond, and I can’t help but pull for his Cardinals to win.
Thanks for all of your questions. I think we’re going to have fun with this. I have many more of your questions to get to, including a query about the reasons for the Mike Shildt firing. I’ll try to go back into the Bernie Mailbox later this week.
A reminder before I sign off: to submit a question, please send it to BernScoops@gmail.com
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, and Stathead unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.