Keltner List for Charlie Culberson

Just to be clear, I really like Charlie Culberson. So in the spirit of Big Hall standards, herewith my best case for putting Charlie in the Hall of Fame.

  • Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
    Answer: Yes, at least with a little editing.  According to SportsTalkATL: “If there is one thing we have learned about Charlie in his two years in Atlanta, he is [the] best….Is he as clutch as they come? Yes.”
  • Was he the best player on his team?
    Given the first quote, obviously.  See quote above.
  • Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position? 
    Well, that’s thing about Charlie.  Since he can play pretty much anywhere, including pitching (though he has not yet caught a game), and given the quote above, he must be the best at just about every position.
  • Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
    Not enough info to know yet.
  • Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame? 
    Until Barry Bonds is in the Hall of Fame this question should be retired.
  • Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
    Here, we have to admit no, at least not for the statistics most people use to evaluate baseball players.  But as I am often reminded, baseball is so much more than mere numbers.
  • Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
    Charlie has worn numbers 33, 23, 6, 37, 16 and 8.  All of those numbers are represented in the Hall of Fame.
  • Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics? 
    Since his statistics aren’t that great, I refer again to the quote above and say: “Obvs.”
  • Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?
    Probably not.  But at all of his positions?  Even there, I think he’s behind Bert Campaneris.
  • How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
    Let’s just skip this one.
  • How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go into the Hall of Fame?
    OK, none.  But you can’t pass every category.
  • If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
    Refer back to the first quote.  He is the best, and his teams have won their division 8 times in his 10 years in baseball.  How Colorado failed to win in the other two years is inexplicable.  I blame his manager then, Walt Weiss.
  • What impact did the player have on baseball history? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
    Along with Dansby Swanson, he has changed the rule that allows players into clubhouses without showing IDs.
  • Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

43 thoughts on “Keltner List for Charlie Culberson”

  1. “Charlie has worn numbers 33, 23, 6, 37, 16 and 8. All of those numbers are represented in the Hall of Fame.”

    Best pro HOF argument I’ve ever seen.

  2. Knucksie is my all time favorite pitcher—no pitcher has ever approached him in my affection (just as no player will ever rival Mr. Aaron in my mind). To understand why, you had to have been there as a Braves fan through the 1970’s. The obit in the Times is quite good, although describing the Braves teams he pitched for as “mediocre” casts doubt on the entire piece. Those teams were about as far from mediocre as the 1990’s Braves were, just in the opposite direction.

    That he was so consistently good on teams that otherwise were so abominable, and that he did so with a cheerful attitude and no complaints, is the largest part of his appeal.

  3. As usual JonathanF’s logic is impeccable. Charlie needs to go ahead and retire in order to start the five year eligibility clock.

  4. Culberson’s most amazing achievement, in my opinion, is attaining folk hero status without having to die (see John Henry).

  5. First of all, thank you for the amusing Keltner list, Jonathan F. Not sure it all makes sense, but hey…it’s Charlie Clutch!

    And I have to make note of my personal experience with Phil Niekro on this day. In 1998, my step-father was at Emory taking treatment for Leukemia (which he would go on to die from, sadly.) He loved baseball (I mean LOVED it) and did his best to teach me when I was in little league. It didn’t take unfortunately, but his passion informed mine and in 1991 I obviously got on board. So Cliff (my step dad) was in the cancer ward and Phil comes through just to lift spirits and sign some baseballs. He signed many including one for my step dad and one for me. A truly class guy!

    Unfortunately (other than the obvious…my step father passed-it was aggressive), we had golden retrievers at that time. The eldest got her mouth around Cliff’s when the ball came home from the hospital. It did not last. Mine still sits in my collection (along with Cox, Aaron, Maddux and Leo Mazzone.)

    It is a sort of bittersweet story, because my grandfather had chance many times back in the day to see the Yankees when they came through Atlanta and played at old Ponce field against the Crackers on their way back to NY after spring training. He saw the greats – Ruth, Gehrig, etc. Bobby Jones was hitting golf balls from home plate into the grove over the train tracks. And my granddad and his friends caught one of Ruth’s home runs. Like most kids at the time, they could have tried to get Ruth to sign it. Instead…they just played with it until it was a shell.

    What is a baseball? What is a signature? What is meeting someone that turns out to be more than just a celebrity?

    Niekro was most definitely one of a kind. I’ve only personally met 2 Braves (Dale Murphy went to the Mormon Church in Roswell, GA so I had chance to meet him too) and I can say he was just a really cool guy from those few moments that I had chance to shake his hand. The ball didn’t last (well, mine did) but his impact most certainly did. And that has nothing to do with his Hall of Fame baseball career.

  6. Thanks all.

    In 1972, Steve Carlton went 27-10 for a 59-97 team. That’s the best single year of outperforming your team in history.

    But tfloyd is right: Phil Niekro did that for just about his whole career, if not quite as gaudily. From 1966-1982, Phil was 255-217 with only three years under a .500 W-L record. The Braves were 1281-1404 over that same period, with only 6 years over .500. So over that 17 year span, he had 20% of the team’s wins, and only 15% of the losses.

  7. @6. Well said TFloyd. And I concur wholeheartedly. He was class all the way and a helluva pitcher who never got the national recognition he deserved playing for a small market team, in those days ATL was small market, and for a franchise stuck in the cellar region for most of his career. Although his career lasted a really long time, the bulk of his brilliance was before the TBS Super Station era began in ’79. #14 at least in career wins when he retired, the HoF voters showed their ignorance when he wasn’t voted in until his 5th yr eligible.

  8. Phil was my first favorite ballplayer. My father is a few months younger than Knucksie, so I’d tell him well into his 40s that it wasn’t too late to learn the knuckleball.

    Any sport being played at the highest level will eventually humble most of its participants. Phil was different, as are most knuckleballers — he came at it from a place of humility. It’s hard enough not knowing what your opponent is going to do…try taking the field not knowing what YOU are going to do. The serenity it must have taken to throw that pitch to Parker, Kingman, freaking McCovey…what can you say? He was a true master.

  9. Niekro pitched a no hitter against the Padres in 1973. It was a Sunday afternoon game. When my dad came home later that day, I very excitedly told him that Knucksie had just pitched a no hitter. Without missing a beat, he replied, “Did they win?”

    Given how hapless out team was in those days, it was not an unreasonable question.

  10. @8

    For folk hero purposes, out of curiosity, did Game 3 of the 2010 NLDS count as Brooks Conrad “dying”?

  11. Do they have pitch count stats on Niekro? I wasn’t able to find it. Is my memory skewed or did he consistently pitch well over 100 pitches per game and get close to 200 pitches at times?

  12. @22, I can’t find any pitch counts on BRef, but I did find a game on 5/3/77 in which he faced 48 batters in an 11-inning complete game home 8-7 loss to the Pirates. Since he walked five and struck out nine, it seems likely that he got close to 200 pitches. (That game shows how bad those Braves were, and how different the game was in those days – he gave up seven earned runs in the first six innings and was still allowed to pitch five more. He only gave up one run in the last five innings, so I guess leaving him in worked.)

    One thing that surprised me was the difference in his K & BB platoon splits. For his career, he had about 33% more Ks per PA and 17% fewer BBs per PA against RHBs than LHBs. I would have thought that knuckleballers would have relatively small platoon splits. Despite the K & BB differences, his results against LHBs and RHBs were about the same, as RHBs had a bit higher BABIP.

  13. @17–thanks for that memory, Rusty S. That game is one of the most memorable in my 55 years of following the Braves (and I was up past midnight watching it). I tend to discount assertions of “clutch”performance, but Knuckle’s performance down the stretch that year, and in that game in particular, was about as clutch as it gets.

  14. @23 – Great research on that, thanks! With the walks and the ks, facing 48 batters, I could easily see over 4 pitches per batter and over 200 pitches thrown. Of course they didn’t have the same philosophy on playoff pitching then, but if they did, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitching in 4 of 7 playoff games. Of course we would have had to make it to the playoffs.

  15. Cheers to the Padres for going for it. They’ve been bold in their rebuilt cycle from the beginning through signing Machado through today. Love it for them.

    Now I’d just like to see a certain other team push their chips in…

  16. Is Darvish really that great of a pickup? He had an excellent resurgence last year, but you have to be wonder which Darvish you’re getting for his age-34 through 36 seasons. He’s owed $20M per for those 3 years. And while they didn’t give up any elite talent, they did give up a lot of talent.

    Another way of putting it: would rather give up a proven starter pitcher and four mid-range prospects for a back-up catcher and Darvish, owed $20M per for 3 years, or would you rather sign 37-year old Charlie Morton for $15M for one year? I think I’d rather just sign Morton and use the money and prospects elsewhere.

  17. Also, I thought the Snell trade was good for the Padres. Maybe the Rays get more squeeze out of what they got back, especially Mejia. Maybe Snell isn’t as good as his ERA suggests. He’s a less-than-5-innings-per-start guy.

    Good for the Padres for making a splash. I think they’re still behind Atlanta and LA.

  18. Padres have shown at other times that they’re willing to spend money. Unfortunately their track record so far hasn’t proven a lot better than the Mets.

  19. Thought it was interesting that Cohen said on Twitter that they didn’t have the prospect capital to do these deals.

    I would think that Atlanta could do these deals to get the right bats. And considering there are few positions left on the diamond where there isn’t a clear incumbent starter, that starter could be put in the deal to land the bat. For instance, Dansby could go in a deal for Lindor or Story.

  20. @27 – Darvish has been excellent of late and is projected to be very good next season. Snell too. But most importantly, the moves give the Padres a much better shot at winning a championship, so I will say they were good deals. Those pitchers, plus the shortstop signing launched San Diego from “solid playoff team” into “maybe best team in baseball”. More teams should try to do this.

  21. I like the Snell trade, but I don’t understand the one for Darvish. It seems like a lot of prospects and money to upgrade an already good rotation. Their outfield is pretty average and Hosmer isn’t great. They could always sign Ozuna (ugh) or build a package around Gore to get almost any bat they wanted, but I don’t feel like they’ve leapfrogged us yet.

  22. I think we’re a heck of a team, too, but the Padres are going for it, and I want to stand up and cheer for any GM who wants to take a good team, spend a bunch of money or prospects, and make it a whole lot better.

  23. Major props to the Padres. I wish more teams. did this. Teams are WAY too cautious, even in non-COVID, flush money years. Teams are also IMO WAY WAY WAY too enamored with prospects. IMO, only 1-3 players in most organizations systems are really worth sneezing over and some might not even have 1. If someone wants them, use them.

    For example, the likelihood of even Pache becoming a viable (non 4th OF/defensive replacement) at this juncture is low even after I very much liked what I saw in the NLCS. He at least wasn’t intimidated and that’s probably half the battle.

    Still, the likelihood of a hitter with his miLB track record being a MLB hitting star is low.

  24. 45 2B+3B as a 20-year-old in AA/AAA last year shows some power development potential for Pache. Devon White is a decent comp at this point in his development, I think, though I’d give White the edge defensively and Pache the edge offensively.

  25. @Chief
    Ian, Soroka, Fried, Acuña, Albies, Dansby, and Minter.

    Next list: Pache, Waters,Wright, Wilson, Riley, Contreras, Davidson, Langeliers, Muller, De La Cruz.

    How can you know the first list and what that group has meant to the Braves and write that ~1-3 are important in each org? Which 3 on that first list made the cut? Are all on the 2nd list going to fail? I mean, you watch the Braves and know what value their homegrown talent has brought to the team…please help me understand.

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