From today's chat:
Centreville, Va.: Hi Tom - at work so I can't look it up, but my memory is that folks like Bill James, etc. would argue that Rice's success was due in large part to where he was in the batting order. Good BA, but not a very good OBP and the RBIs a function of having people on IFO him. I think their argument was that Rice wasn't really the best hitter on the Red Sox -- not as good as, say, Dwight Evans. Comments?
Tom Boswell: Just rewatched the "Hank Greenberg Story" on TV. One of his teammates said that the thing he loved most in life, including women (he was a "matinee idol" type) was RBI.
Greenberg was very articulate (as always) talking about the value of hitting in the clutch, how most games turned on a few key at bas and how the big HIT, not the big home run, necessarily, was the most imporant thing in baseball.
The walk and on-base percentage were underrated for generations. I was one of the (many) people who beat the drum for its importance. But it is now overrated. I have no doubt of it. It's just another insight that, over time, become a cliche until, finally, it is blindly worshiped.
Over the decades, stats change much less than I'd have thought. It seems that, despite what coaches or teams may prefer in hitting styles, baseball players draw just as many -- or as few -- walks as they ever did. Some players walk more than others. It's their baseball "nature." And some drive in runs better than others.
If you asked everybody in the Hall of Fame what they thought of the idea that a player -- Rice -- might be kept out of the Hall, despite great RBI, total base and batting average stats, because he didn't WALK enough, they wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry. And they'd be right.