Dick Allens Hall of Fame Case Ran Out of Time

Allen had 351 homers and 1,848 hits. He never played in the World Series and was traded five times in a six-year stretch. He won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards with a .292 career batting average. But other rate statistics, like on-base and slugging percentage, were not especially valued in Allen’s era. Totals mattered most.

There are exceptions, like Ralph Kiner, who had 369 homers, never played in the World Series and did make the Hall of Fame. But it took 15 tries, an obvious and compelling accomplishment — Kiner led the N.L. in homers in each of his first seven seasons — and a postcareer spotlight in the Mets broadcast booth to get him in.

Allen has vocal advocates like Schmidt, the greatest third baseman in history, and a former Phillies groundskeeper, Mark (Frog) Carfagno, who has passionately promoted Allen’s cause for years. The controversies of his past have faded, and ultimately, it seems, Allen’s absence from Cooperstown has mostly to do with an inconsistent application of greatness.

If a pitcher dominates for a 10-year stretch, like Roy Halladay or Pedro Martinez, he usually gets in easily. But if a pitcher is a tick below that level over 10 years, like Ron Guidry, or has a comparable peak that lasted only seven years, like Johan Santana, he’s an afterthought on the ballot.

How long must a hitter excel? Apparently, longer than 10 or 11 years. More recent sluggers like Albert Belle and Lance Berkman had comparable stat lines to Allen’s: fewer than 2,000 hits, between 350 and 399 homers, and a career average in the .290s. Neither lasted even three years on the ballot.

(As an aside, their relationships with voters hardly mattered — Belle’s was stormy, Berkman’s was warm. Several strong candidates in recent years were also dropped within two ballots despite being extremely cooperative with the news media, like David Cone, Carlos Delgado, Orel Hershiser and Bernie Williams. All deserved better.)