Williams belongs in the Hall of Fame
July 20, 2005
Most players in a similar situation to Matt Williams would have what I call the “Marlon Brando” complex when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “I coulda been a contender” would be their lament.
But not Williams. The 1983 Carson High graduate could be classified as an “almost” Hall of Famer, who if the circumstances of his career were just a little different, would have a legitimate case to be in the hall. He would receive my vote.
Williams told sports writer Jeremy Evans from the Tahoe Daily Tribune, our sister newspaper, last week at the American Century Championship that it’s something he’s not concerned about. And believe me, Williams is for real when saying he’s not concerned about the Hall of Fame.
“I don’t think so,” said Williams when asked by Evans if he has a shot to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. “I don’t think I’ve got the numbers, especially the way the numbers are being run up these days.
“You never know, but I don’t think there’s a chance. Which I don’t care about. I didn’t start playing the game to get in the Hall of Fame anyway. I never thought I’d play in the Big Leagues anyway.”
I interviewed Williams in 2002 when he was still playing with the Arizona Diamondbacks. While I didn’t use the term, I diplomatically asked him if he had the “Marlon Brando” complex, if he thought he could have made the Hall of Fame if not for some bad breaks in his career. Williams essentially told me he didn’t think in those terms.
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One player who is in a similar situation to Williams who I believe who has the “Marlon Brando” complex is Steve Garvey. Whenever he’s asked about the subject, Garvey is always gracious and says the right thing, but one senses he believes he deserves more consideration when it comes to the hall.
If not for injuries and the strike that took away games in the 1994 and 1995 seasons, Williams would have likely been able to put up stats that merit Hall of Fame induction. Williams hit 43 home runs in 1994 before the strike ended the season in August. Injuries also robbed him of much of his last four seasons.
“I didn’t get hurt for lack of preparation and lack of being in shape,” Williams told Evans.
To show Williams’ priorities, he had a chance to extend his career in 2003 when Arizona released him and reached an agreement to trade him to the Rockies. But Williams, who now has four children, Aleisha 15, Jake, 14, Rachel, 12, and Matson, 17 months, put his family ahead of any chance of making the Hall of Fame and retired.
It had to have crossed his mind that extending his career would have given him an opportunity to hit more than 400 home runs, thus increasing his chance significantly of making the Hall of Fame. Most players who have hit more than 400 homers who are eligible are in the Hall of Fame.
Williams, who wears several hats as an executive for the Diamondbacks and owns a small share of the team, has also been mentioned as someone who could possibly manage someday. But again, his family, and not managing or coaching, is his priority right now.
“Right now, my family situation is such that it wouldn’t be conducive to coaching,” Williams told Evans. “I’ve been gone their whole lives. So it’s nice to be able to stay at home. As they get out of high school and into college, maybe I’ll have some time to do that. But I’m happy with where I’m at and where I’m going. It allows me to stay home with them.”
I respectfully disagree with Williams when he says he doesn’t have the numbers to be in the hall. I think he does. His .268 career average and 378 home runs compare favorably with two Hall of Famers: Brooks Robinson and Johnny Bench.
Robinson had a career average of .267 with 268 homers and Bench also had a career average of .267 with 389 homers.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Robinson and Bench set the standard for defense at their positions, third base and catcher, respectively. But Williams was also an outstanding defensive third baseman.
Another area where Williams just falls short is in career RBI, which at 1,215 is about 150 short of Hall of Fame consideration. Bench had 1,376 RBI and Robinson had 1,357 RBI. Again if Williams had stuck it out for about two more seasons, he would have had an RBI total that merits serious hall consideration.
While they won’t help him receive hall consideration, Williams also has a few unique achievements. He is the only player in Major League history to double twice in an inning in the World Series (2001 with the Diamondbacks) and is the only player in Big League history to hit home runs with three different teams in the World Series (Giants, 1989; Indians, 1997; 2001). There are also not many players who have played in the World Series in three different decades as Williams has.
Williams, who played for the Carson Capitols, also told Evans he would like to see the team back in existence again. The Capitols last played under Ron McNutt in 2001.
“He couldn’t do it forever,” said Williams about McNutt when talking to Evans. “I’d like to see that get back going again. It’s just difficult to raise that kind of money.
“It’s provided the guys who play a lot of exposure, college exposure, professional exposure. We traveled all over. We went to Minnesota and all over the West. College scouts were able to see us play.”
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