I understand snubbing Hall of Fame candidates over presumed statistical compiling, a lack of "fame" and relevance to baseball history, and a reputation that precedes their statistics.
But I will never understand snubbing a Hall of Fame candidate for having the perfect career: a short, compact, drama-filled, championship-level tenure, without a downward spiral.
Yankees legend Thurman Munson, as a tragic consequence of his untimely death, seems to have the perfect career for Hall consideration. And now that he's earned a space on the Modern Era ballot for 2020's induction discussion, I see no reason his name shouldn't be forever linked with Derek Jeter's in next year's class.
Munson was, in many ways, the anti-Don Mattingly. Yankee fans were forced to watch Mattingly's agonizing decline, felled by debilitating back issues to the point of no return. Munson, featuring a decade of catching wear and tear, surely would've been subjected to the same cratering...but we never watched it.
Mattingly was the fearless leader of a Yankee team stuck in the mud throughout the bloated '80s; he didn't make the postseason until his final year, a series marred by an unrepentant choke and an Edgar Martinez double. Munson, on the other hand, starred on a national stage from 1976-1978, never hitting below .278 in a single postseason series, and securing two titles during his short career.
The case against Munson is easy: the counting numbers are not there. They're about two-thirds of the standards we're used to: 1,558 hits, 113 home runs, 701 RBI. But this argument is baffling to me, because...well, quite frankly, because the reasoning behind the lag is so clear. It's not surprising to anyone that Munson doesn't have higher totals; it's essential to his ethos.
In nine full seasons, and a tenth which ended one fateful summer night far too soon, Munson was a seven-time All-Star, MVP, Rookie of the Year, two-time champion, and the heart of the Yankees, churning the engine in much the same way Carlton Fisk powered the Red Sox.
Except, you know...Munson's motivation worked, and the Yankees actually won titles for him.
If you're looking for compiled WAR, Munson is not your candidate. But if you're looking for legends, he's the only one of the potential new inductees whose deserved reputation precedes him. There's the Hall of Very Good, and there's greatness personified, cut down in his prime before we could ever see the dark toll this position takes on the human body. This should help his candidacy. So why does it always hurt it?
Perhaps this time around, the voters will finally make a well-reasoned correction.