Because the first players selected into the Hall were in 1936- the total group of about 20 going into the first induction ceremony of 1939- I truly feel that there has been enough time for all the initial pioneers and top ballplayers to get the respect of an induction. However, because of the presence of historians- those who spend all their time studying the game, a game that existed well before any of us were born, a possibility exists that one may have had a bigger impact on the game that was ever noticed or documented.
An interesting case could be made for longtime Chicago, Brooklyn and New York National League SS Bill Dahlen. A shortstop, perhaps the most interesting number on the diamond, has long been considered a defensive first position. It does not mean, however, that the game has not had its share of great hitting SS's. That being said, more credit has been given to shortstops who have fielded well but hit adequately than, say first basemen. Over the course of stating Dahlen's HOF case, I will mention 17 other longtime MLB SS's. 10 of them are baseball Hall of Famers, another two will definitely get in and I believe another two do belong. The question will remain, which category does Dahlen belong in?
Dahlen played 21 seasons in MLB, starting in 1891 with the Chicago Colts and ending in 1911 as a player/ manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1911. His four seasons of managing the Brooklyn club from 1910-1913 kept the seat warm for the great Wilbert Robinson, who would manage Brooklyn for the next 18 seasons. For his career, Dahlen played in 2444 games (a record when he retired) and hit .272 with 2491 hits, 1234 RBI, 413 2Bs and 546 steals. "Bad Bill" finished with a career OPS of .740. He led the NL in RBI in 1904 when the NY Giants considered themselves the Champions of Baseball, then won a World Series with New York in 1905.
When comparing a top SS to the best of all time, you tend to start with the great Honus Wagner, a Dahlen contemporary. Wagner is, according to www.johnpielli.com, the 11th greatest offensive position player to ever play the game. Other top Hall of Fame offensive SSs include Cal Ripken and Robin Yount, though both spent significant time at other positions. Though both Ripken and Yount no doubt HOFs, it is not fair to compare the accomplishments of Dahlen to them. Derek Jeter would round out the list of the first category. Jeter's numbers are comparable to Ripken, Yount and Wagner and will be a first ballot HOF when he is eligible. Wagner hit .328, 101, 1732, .858 while Jeter hit .310, 260, 1311, .817. Ripken hit .276, 431, 1695, .788 and Yount .285, 251, 1406, .772. When categorizing All Time SSs, this would represent the elite section of top offensive shortstop.
Next would be the ones who played the position defensively at a level that will be remembered forever. Offense got the first four in the Hall, though they obviously played good enough defense to man such a demanding position. Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparicio and Pee Wee Reese all will forever be remembered for what they did on the defensive side of the ball, though put up respectable offensive numbers. However, any of their offensive numbers would simply have not gotten it done as a HOF if they played a different position. Omar Vizquel is a favorite for the HOF for the same reason as Smith, Aparicio and Reese. It is also the reason that long time Reds SS Dave Concepcion remains under consideration. All expect for Reese had career OPS less than 700.
The next group would be for players who were good offensive players enhanced by the fact that they played SS. The first group would have been Hall of Famers no matter where they played- the second group were because of their defensive ability. In most cases, their offensive numbers did not matter. Odds are, this next group may not be HOFs if they played a different position. Barry Larkin (.295, 198, 960, .815) and Luke Appling (.310, 45, 1116, .798) benefited from playing SS as opposed to anywhere else on the diamond. It certainly helped that they played the position well. Two others belong in this category and should be Hall of Famers. Alan Trammell (.285, 185, 1003, .767) and Vern Stephens (.286, 247, 1174, .815) have had their cases made by many, especially myself.
The final couple of Hall of Famers I mention make me wonder why they are in the Hall at all. Rabbit Maranville (.258, 28, 884, .658) and Joe Tinker (.262, 31, 785, .661) benefited from playing for well known teams. Maranville was more of a compiler and Tinker played barely 15 seasons of slightly above average SS. Tinker is in the Hall of Fame because he was part of the poem that stated "Tinker to Evers to Chance." Others to fall in that category include fellow 2016 Pre Integration nominee Marty Marion (13 seasons) and former Philadelphia Athletics SS Jack Barry (11 seasons).
In which category does Dahlen fall? Regardless of the previous voting, the last category does not belong in the Hall of Fame. I do not put Dahlen in the first two groups as he was neither a dominating offensive or defensive player. Dahlen most profiles to Appling, but he hit almost 40 points less during his career. He had more hits than Larkin or Trammell and was one of the more durable players of his time. It hurts his case that his identity does not belong to any particular team. When it comes down to it, I probably would not argue with Dahlen getting the vote, however, I would rather see Trammell and Stephens in first. All are more worthy than Maranville and Tinker.