Today, we look at the player that the Halos Heaven Voting Board voted the fourth-greatest acquisition in team history, whose resume demands Hall of Fame consideration that was strongly overlooked at his first go-round on the ballot.
'Twas after the 1976 season. The Baltimore Orioles had built up to be a success in 1976, cashing it all in on the chance to, hopefully, overtake the likes of Boston and New York in their division. While ultimately finishing second place, the Orioles knew that things would be tougher in 1977. Reggie Jackson, who they acquired in a monster trade with Oakland, would be departing via free agency, not likely to stick around for perceived failure in Baltimore. Their rotation was aging, and a certain star second baseman of theirs was hitting free agency for the first time, and was likely to be too pricy for the MacPhail family to keep around. Luckily, Gene Autry, he of the deeper pockets, opened up the wallet with a blank check to get this man to hold second base down for the team. He'd stick around for ten years and establish a fan love, a legacy, and several offensive second base records for the team. Arguably should have his #4 retired if ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. Bobby Grich, ladies and gentlemen.
BOBBY GRICH, SECOND BASEMAN
.269/.370/.436, 1103 H, 154 HR, 557 RBI, 630 BB, 183 2B, 124 OPS+, 32.9 WAR (3.3 average, 10 seasons)
Drafted in 1967 by the Orioles in the first round (they would select fellow Top 15 Acquisition Don Baylor in the second round), Grich proved early on that his strong suit was simply getting on base. Even after coming to the Angels, with 7 years in Baltimore under his belt, Grich proved he still had it, despite an injury-hampered first season caused by him trying to lift an air conditioner whilst moving. 1978 saw him bat.251, but with an OBP of .357. 1979, however, was his breakout year as an Angel.
Fellow 1967 Orioles draftee and now reunited-teammate Baylor would win the AL MVP that season, but Grich led the Angels (if I'm not mistaken; him or Brian Downing) in WAR that season. Hitting .294/.365/.537, with 30 HR and 101 RBI, notching his first Angels All-Star appearance and finishing 8th in MVP voting. After another impressive 1980 season, Grich tied for the AL lead in home runs in the strike-shortened 1981 season with 22 (and would've been on pace for 36 had the season not been interrupted), but holding the sole lead in slugging percentage (.543) and OPS+ (165), while also topping a .300 average for the first time (.304), finishing 14th in MVP voting but winning a Silver Slugger.
Keeping with the low-average, high-OBP stat trend in 1982, Grich set a career high in on-base percentage in 1983 with a .414 clip. His stats--even OBP--started to sink in 1984 and hit a valley in 1985, but he came back for one more season in 1986.
That 1986 season was shortened by injury, as Grich was limited to 98 games, but even at 37 years old he was putting up career-average numbers for cheap pay--going .268/.354/.412 with 9 homers and 30 RBI. His highlight of his final season, however, came in the ALCS against the Red Sox, when he hit a walkoff single off of Calvin Schiraldi in Game 4 to give the Angels a seemingly-commanding 3-1 series lead.
His numbers for his overall career warrant some Hall of Fame reconsideration--his career .371 OBP, 1033 runs scored, 1833 hits, 320 doubles, 224 HR, 864 RBI, 1087 walks and a 125 OPS+. He had the misfortune of playing in an era of "benchmarks or bust," where players were lumped into sure shots and sure misses for the Hall. Arguments weren't easy to pose for borderline guys, as Grich certainly was. He was the greatest offensive second baseman of his era, taking the torch from Rod Carew, who shifted to first, before passing it on to Ryne Sandberg in the twilight of his career. Of course, things like that weren't considered in 1992, when Grich first appeared on a ballot, when he was quickly disposed of with just 2.6% of the vote.
In voting, Grich received three second-place votes, three third-place votes, five fourth-place votes, two fifth-place votes, two sixth-place votes, one seventh-place vote, and one ninth-place vote, for a total of 130 points.
Let's start making the Veterans Committee push for Grich to wind up in the Hall of Fame--he's due, and with several voters on the committee being former opponents, maybe he and Davey Concepcion go in together?