Rice dominated AL for a decade
Boston slugger again up for Hall of Fame inclusion
The Red Sox of the 1970s and '80s were loaded with star hitters. If it wasn't Carl Yastrzemski, it was Carlton Fisk. If it wasn't Dwight Evans, it was Fred Lynn. If it wasn't Wade Boggs, it was Tony Armas. But during that time period, no Red Sox hitter gave opposing pitchers a more sickening feeling than Jim Rice.
Rice, who hit for average and power, and to all fields, was a dominant slugger. As of yet, that dominance has not landed him into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but the Boston strongman will make his 13th attempt in 2007.
If 2006 was any indication, Rice is gaining steam. He received 64.8 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the highest total he's had since going onto the ballot in 1995. A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain election. Results of the 2007 BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be announced on Jan. 9, and the Induction Ceremony will take place on July 29 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Rice played his entire career (1974-89) in a Red Sox uniform.
Clearly, the thing that has held Rice back thus far in his quest for Cooperstown are the longevity stats. The home runs (382) are just shy of 400. The hits (2,452) are a few seasons short of 3,000. And, oh, the batting average. If only Rice hadn't taken a free fall his final three seasons, that .298 career average would have been well over .300.
But what means more? Longevity or dominance?
When Rice was at his best -- from 1975-86 -- he mashed the opposition with pure strength and hitting technique.
During those golden years, he led all American League players in games, at-bats, runs, hits, homers, RBIs, slugging percentage, total bases, extra-base hits, go-ahead RBIs, multi-hit games and outfield assists.
He was an All-Star eight times, a top-five AL finisher in the MVP race six times (including a first-place finish in 1978), a top-10 finisher in the batting race six times, a top-10 finisher in slugging percentage eight times (including two firsts), a top-10 finisher in OPS (a popular stat of today, but one not utilized when Rice played) six times.
"I know what Jimmy meant to our team, and I know the kind of player that he was," said former Red Sox left-hander Bruce Hurst. "Jimmy was a great threat, an incredible hitter. He made a lot of people around him better because a lot of people didn't want to pitch to Jimmy. A lot of guys didn't pitch to Jimmy. I just think that Jimmy's a Hall of Famer."
Check out some of Rice's other appearances on the top-10 list: hits (eight times), total bases (nine times, including four firsts), home runs (seven, including three home run titles), RBIs (nine times, two firsts) and extra-base hits (six).
In other words, during his peak years, he was a consistent force to be reckoned with. Consider some of the players that baseballreference.com compares to Rice from a statistical standpoint: Orlando Cepeda, Duke Snider, Billy Williams and Willie Stargell. Those four men are all Hall of Famers.
"Look at the numbers: he was awesome," said Bob Stanley, the all-time leader in saves for the Red Sox. "And it wasn't just the Green Monster. He hit a lot of his home runs to center field and right field."
Red Sox official Dick Bresciani, the resident historian for the ballclub, annually releases a comprehensive look at why Rice should be with the other greats of the game in Cooperstown.
According to Bresciani's work, the 382 homers and 1,451 RBIs produced by Rice during his career topped any AL competitor during that same time period.
Anyone who wants to know just what Rice was when he was at his absolute best need look no further than 1978, the year he played in all 163 games (including a one-game playoff) and won his lone MVP award. During that season, he became the only man to lead either league in triples (15), homers (46) and RBIs (139) in the same season. His 406 total bases were the most by an AL player since Joe DiMaggio in 1937.
"Jimmy is a very, very talented player, probably one of the most special offensive players we had in Boston for a long time," said former Sox catcher Rich Gedman, who called Rice a teammate for a decade. "Hopefully, in time, he can persevere and get there. The problem is, he just needed a little bit more longevity I would think. In terms of being a special player, he was very, very good and certainly Hall of Fame caliber. The thing with Jim Rice, for the time he played, he played as well as anybody."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.