By Jason Wojciechowski on June 20, 2014 at 11:11 PM
Coco Crisp has moved up the leaderboard.
Career bWAR: 30.1
Tied with: Bobby Bonilla, Chick Hafey
Next up: Ginger Beaumont, Gary Matthews
Bobby Bo I'm sure you know. Though he's sadly more famous today for signing a contract with the Mets that deferred salary such that he'd receive about $1 or $1.5 million per year for 25 years (an arrangement that can be perfectly rational for both sides, all snark aside), he was also an excellent player for many years in the big leagues. Though he came to prominence with Barry Bonds on the Pirates, he was nearly a White Sock for his first years, as Chicago took him in the Rule 5 draft, only to trade him back to Pittsburgh for Jose DeLeon, a reasonably good pitcher who nonetheless managed a 2-19 (!) record in 1985. DeLeon, amusingly, was later traded for Lance Johnson, who I discussed yesterday.
In any event, Bonilla made six All-Star teams and finished second and third in the MVP voting in 1990 and 1991, though his best years by WAR were '88 and '89 -- 120 RBI in 1990 put him on a map he should already have been on. He never played much defense (-121 runs by Total Zone) and he played that bad defense to a significant degree in the corner outfield (though the majority of his career innings, barely, came at third base). As even just an average defender, he'd have jumped about 250 spots on the all-time bWAR leaderboard, into the range of guys like Darryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra.
Want to know the best fun fact about Bonilla, though? He wasn't even drafted. He was discovered "at a baseball clinic in Europe".
Hafey, meanwhile, is, somehow, a Hall of Famer. Now, 30.1 WAR is pretty good for a player with "severe sinus problems and headaches" and bad eyesight, but still. It's not the Degree of Difficulty of Fame. Or the Hall of Degree of Difficulty I guess is the usual construction of that joke. Bear with me. In any event, Hafey was a very good player, but he was basically done by 31. In his prime, from 1927 to 1934, he accumulated 29.1 WAR as an average-fielding outfielder with a 142 OPS+.
Since he was a Cardinals left fielder, the obvious comparison is Matt Holliday: 2006-13, 143 OPS+, -17 defense, and 37.3 WAR, but in 200 more games than Hafey, in part due to Hafey's health problems and in part due to the longer schedule in today's game. Had Hafey played 1188 games at his rate of production, he'd have managed 35.1 WAR.
Still, Hafey's best seven years by WAR stack up more with Alfonso Soriano and Greg Vaughn than with Billy Williams and Ralph Kiner. But Hafey played in four World Series, had the good fortune to be a Cardinal, and had Frankie Frisch for a teammate, so into the Hall of Fame he went via the Veterans Committee. Not bad work if you can get it. And hey, he's certainly the best player ever from Berkeley High School.