About five times a year, one of my fellow Reds-fan friends will bring up the hard-to-believe 1986 and 1987 Eric Davis seasons. The quote is always the same: “27 and eighty and then 37 and fifty!”
When E.D. was 24 years old, he played his first “full” season as a Cincinnati Red. In 132 games, Davis crushedÃ‚Â 27 homers, stole 80 bases and hit .277/.378/.523 in that ’86 season. Todd Frazier belted 29 homers in 2014. Can you imagine him stealing eighty bases, too? (He stole 20.)
Then, in 1987, in just 129 games, Eric cracked 37 homers and swiped 50 bases. You figure if he plays in 145 games, he’s the first 40-40 player in baseball history (and he didn’t need steroids to do it.). Billy Hamilton stole 56 bases in 2014. Can you imagine him hitting 37 taters, too? (He hit six.) Or this: Joey Votto knocked 37 HRs in 2010, his MVP season. Can you imagine fifty steals to go with that? (He stole 16.)
Take a look at what Eric the Red did from 1986-90, his first five “full” seasons:
30 HR/41 SB per year
2 All-Star, 3 Gold Glove, 2 Silver Slugger
Davis was 28 years old, and in the last season of that five-year span when he helped lead the Reds to a World Series sweep over the heavily-favored Oakland A’s. But, as we know, the Los Angeles native damaged his kidney diving for a ball in Game 4. That, combined with a slew of other ailments, forced E.D. to miss hundreds of ballgames the rest of his career, in addition to the games he missed from 1984-90.
This leaves us with a big, fat “What if?”
What if Eric Davis had remained relatively healthy throughout his 17-year career? Would he have a plaque in Cooperstown today?
Keep in mind that Davis, even during his five prime seasons, never approached 162 games played. But let’s figure conservatively and put a healthy Eric Davis at 145 games per season for 17 seasons. Then let’s take his prime numbers and see where that gets us:
557 HR, 780 SB, 2,378 hits with about a .277 batting average.Ã‚Â
That’s more home runs than Mike Schmidt and Mickey Mantle. More than Lou Gehrig, Willie McCovey or Ted Williams. That’s more stolen bases than Vince Coleman, more than Joe Morgan and more than Kenny Lofton. Add another 5 All-Star games, 2 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers and most likely, an MVP award to go along with the 1990 World Series ring.
That’s a slam dunk Hall of Fame resume.
Now, most players don’t make it through 17 seasons without missing most of one or two seasons due to major injury, and most players decline toward the end of their careers. So, let’s say Davis never quite gets to the 500 HR mark. We know he wouldn’t have come close to 3,000 hits either. But 500 steals seemed pretty likely with good health. 30 SB/year over 17 seasons gets him to that mark.
So, maybe more realistic numbers for Eric would have been:
455 HR, 520 SB, 2,050 hits with about a .270 batting average plus a ring, 7-10 All-Stars andÃ‚Â 5-7 Gold Gloves.Ã‚Â
That’s still more home runs than Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline and Joe DiMaggio. And more swiped bags than Cooperstown residents Roberto Alomar and Paul Molitor.
Hmm, would those stats and accolades be enough to get #44 into the Hall?