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Almost exactly nine years ago, in December of 2011, I remember sitting in the media work room in a Dallas hotel and hearing the announcement that Ron Santo had been voted into the Hall of Fame. It was such a bittersweet moment. The die-hard Cubs fan in me was ecstatic, but also kind of angry. He hadn't played in a baseball game since 1974 and lived to December of 2010, yet he didn't get his rightful place in the Hall until he had passed away. 

Dick Allen might share the same fate.

The former Phillies and White Sox star (he also played for the Cardinals, Dodgers and A's for a season each) died at 78 on Monday. In a bit of a cruel twist of fate, the Golden Age Hall of Fame committee wasn't able to hold its previously scheduled vote on Sunday (Dec. 6) due to the coronavirus pandemic. Allen was likely to be on that ballot, and last time he was on a veteran committee ballot he fell just one vote shy. 

The hunch here is he gets voted in next December when the committee meets again.

There's a good argument Allen should already be in Cooperstown. 

Allen's case is a peak one, as he didn't have the longevity needed to rack up the impressive counting stats many require for enshrinement. With only 1,749 games played, he would have the lowest number of any Hall of Fame position player in the expansion era, coming in shy of Kirby Puckett's 1,783. Injuries and personal issues are the culprits, but there's necessary context behind the personal issues -- which led to Allen being labeled a malcontent or worse -- and that would be his enduring of horrible racism (some of which is outlined pretty well by Jay Jaffe in "The Cooperstown Casebook," pages 212-222). 

When Allen was on the field, his peak was as good as anyone in baseball. That's not an overstatement. Allen's prime was 1964-74, a span during which he hit .299/.386/.554, good for a 165 OPS+. In those 11 years, only Hank Aaron had a higher OPS and it was by one point (Dan Roche on Twitter). Those trailing Allen include Willie McCovey, Frank Robinson, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Carl Yastrzemski and we'll just stop there. You get the idea. 

Allen's 162-game averages in those 11 seasons were 31 doubles, nine triples, 35 homers, 107 RBI, 106 runs and 12 steals. Here are Allen's top-10 finishes in his league by stat: 

  • Average: 6
  • OBP: 7
  • SLG: 8
  • OPS: 10
  • OPS+: 10 
  • Hits: 3
  • Doubles: 4
  • Triples: 6
  • Home runs: 8
  • RBI: 4
  • Runs: 6
  • Steals: 2
  • Walks: 7

Allen wasn't just all over the leaderboards, he topped them. He led the league in runs once, triples once, home runs twice, RBI once, walks once, on-base percentage twice, slugging percentage three times, OPS four times, OPS+ three times, extra-base hits three times, times on base once and position-player WAR once. 

He was feared enough that he was in the top five in intentional walks four different seasons. He won a Rookie of the Year and an MVP. He got MVP votes seven times and was a seven-time All-Star. 

Oh, and by the way, OPS+ adjusts for ballpark and era and Allen sits 19th all-time, tied with Frank Thomas and Willie Mays. He's ahead of Joe DiMaggio, Mel Ott, Aaron, Robinson and a litany of some of the very best hitters ever (the top five is Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig and Mike Trout, for those curious). 

This is absolutely a peak Hall of Famer. 

Now, many believe he falls short on the longevity end. He ended up with 1,848 hits, 320 doubles, 351 home runs, 1,119 RBI and 1,099 runs. A so-called compiler he was not. 

Sure enough, Allen falls short of the Hall of Fame standard in both JAWS and WAR whether we slot him at first base or third base, though he's above the standard for his seven-year peak, sitting above the likes of Brooks Robinson, Edgar Martinez and Paul Molitor. 

There's room in the Hall of Fame for all kinds of players. Some racked up the counting stats in long careers. Others were among the best players in baseball for a shorter period of time. For 11 years -- which, to be clear, is not a short period of time -- Allen was only one point behind perhaps the greatest slugger in history in a stat that combines getting on base and hitting for power. For ELEVEN YEARS, he was one of the very best hitters in all of baseball. There's certainly room in the Hall of Fame for that guy, right? 

Unfortunately, he won't be around to hear the news that is likely coming next year: Dick Allen is a Hall of Famer.