Neil Leifer
January 02, 2017

Hall of Fame standards: 52.7 Career WAR / 34.2 Peak WAR / 43.4 JAWS)
Munson: 45.9 Career WAR / 36.9 Peak WAR / 41.4 JAWS)

Munson accumulated a boatload of Cooperstown-worthy credentials during an 11-year career (1969 to '79) that was tragically cut short by his death in a plane crash. He won the 1970 AL Rookie of the Year award, the 1976 AL MVP award and three Gold Gloves while earning All-Star honors seven times. He did all of this while leading the Yankees out of their 1965 to '75 Dark Age; they won three straight pennants from 1976 to '78 and back-to-back World Series titles in the latter two years. What's more, he hit a sizzling .357/.378/.496 in 135 postseason plate appearances.

Munson's untimely death leaves him understandably short on the career JAWS standard, but even so, he surpasses the peak standard by a full three wins. That's mainly due to defense; he was 34 runs above average for his career according to Total Zone. While his bat was in decline over his final two seasons (.293/.335/.373, down from .309/.352/.441 from 1975 through 1977), he was still getting on base enough to provide above-average offense for the position.

Given all of that, I think it's reasonable to consider him for Cooperstown. I tabbed him here instead of the longer-lasting Ted Simmons (50.2/34.7/42.5), who's two rungs above him in the overall JAWS catcher rankings (10th versus 12th) and who was passed up for election by the 2014 Expansion Era Committee despite strong credentials himself. Munson has been passed over by the VC several times, but he deserves another look.

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