Postgame Spread
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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Re: Palmeiro/HOF (again)    

Just to clarify my original argument, since I muddled it a little in my last post on the topic...

I'd still take Raffy, all things being equal.  My objection is not to Raffy in particular, but to longevity being a required factor in the HOF equation.  Raffy just happens to be the personification of my objection.  I don't disagree that longevity goes a long way... but I'm saying that it shouldn't be a requirement.

I think if you have a set of equivalent ballplayers, you don't give one guy a plaque for staying healthy in his old age and then tell the rest to screw off.  If there's no compelling argument for Palmeiro over Bagwell as a baseball player, and you elect Palmeiro, then you gotta elect Bags too.  If we have a situation where Palmeiro's in, but Bagwell is out, calling Shenanigans will be in order.  Or how about Frank Thomas... his prime overlapped with Palmeiro's, he absolutely terrorized the American League for a few seasons, and was an unquestionably huge star.  But due largely to injury, his stats haven't held up in his old age.  Does that really invalidate his career?  I don't think so.  If you pay tribute to Palmeiro (and I do think we should) then you should pay tribute to all those who are of equal of greater value.  Big Hurt qualifies, and Bags qualifies.

Baseball is the only sport where your spot in history depends on how healthy you kept yourself, instead of how well you played when you were healthy.  That's stupid.  It's meaningful to a degree... you don't give someone a spot because of one good season.  But the Hall standards are set up so that having an era of complete dominance (as Griffey, Bagwell, Palmeiro and Thomas have) is not enough... you also need to close your career with a bunch of mediocre seasons so your stats are padded.  What sense does that make?

Here's an interesting example: Albert "Joey" Belle.  Has anyone gone back and looked at his stats lately?  In the 10 seasons between 1991 and 2000, he hit 373 home runs and drove in 1199 runs.  That's 37/120 per year.  And then he never played again.  He may have been a Bonds-caliber prick, but how do you deny a guy who put up an average season of .298/37/120 (OPS .944) over 10 years???  Apparently that wasn't long enough to prove he could hit a baseball.  I don't understand that.  Apparently baseball is saying that if you don't finish your career by hitting .240 and smacking a big fat 13 home runs in a lefty/righty platoon, you aren't a Hall of Famer.  Why should that be a deciding factor?  Belle's entire career was prime, just like Jim Brown.  As such, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Albert Belle would have ever slowed down if he'd stayed healthy.  Isn't that more impressive than taking a stupid victory lap when you probably should've just quit?  Apparently not.  So because Belle's hip freakishly wore down, he doesn't have a case.

There's hope for those with short careers, but not much.  Ryne Sandberg got in without any difficulty, despite a somewhat premature career-ending injury.  I always figured that he'd never make it because of that, but gladly I was wrong.  Ryno got in based on how good he was when he played, and how he played the position.  That's a luxury that players at the offensive positions (1B, 3B, OF) don't have.  But he stands as a reminder that sportswriters will occasionally use their judgment... which is what I'm saying they should do, instead of using stats as a crutch.  Stop looking only at stats!  Take responsibility!  Use your brain!  Etc. etc. etc.

When people talk about greatness, the best ballplayers they ever saw, how many of them are talking about guys who played 25 years and amassed ridiculous stats?  My dad swears that if he could take any pitcher in Red Sox history, he'd take Luis Tiant.  Best pitcher he ever saw, says someone who has watched the entire careers of Clemens and Martinez.  Not that Tiant was a hell of a pitcher, or that he had some great years for the Sox... he was the best pitcher he ever saw.  And is Tiant in the Hall?  Nowhere close, because he didn't have the numbers.  And yet a merely "good" pitcher like Don Sutton is in, just because he won 300 games.  He wins 299, and he gets lost to time.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  I'd take Luis Tiant over Don Sutton in a Game 7... or Jack Morris... or Jose Rijo... or even Dave Stewart... the choices are endless.  The point is not that my dad is a shrewd evaluator of talent; the point is that the kind of greatness we remember has little to do with longevity, and everything to do with performance.  Setting up a system that does not reward greatness, without what I consider unreasonable longevity, is misguided and wrong.

Jim Brown, you will notice, is in the Football Hall of Fame, and is one of the unquestionable giants of football history.  He wouldn't have made it into baseball's Hall.  So is Earl Campbell, whose thighs are still a conversation topic, despite having burnt himself out early in his career.  Barry Sanders, who like Brown wasn't hurt when he quit prematurely, will join them soon.  None of them had particularly long careers, but we remember, honor, and celebrate them.  That's how it should be.  Baseball's system is not how it should be.

That's all I'm saying.

6 Comments:

  • Ok, your point is seen, I think 10 productive years should be enough to get into the hall of fame. If 8-10 more productive ones are played those should be like bonus points to help say Raffy or whoever else get in. I don't think it should hurt Bagwell or Thomas or Belle but I do think it should help players. On a side note, Belle isn't being considered b/c he was a supreme asshole and nobody wants to vote for him.

    On a semi-tangential note, today I was thinking about how absurd it is that Terrence Morris hasn't had his jersey hung in Comcast Center, yet Steve Francis has. Francis played 1 freakin' year at MD and was eliminated from the tourney early by Ron Artest and the rest of St. Johns. Granted Francis put up huge huge numbers in 1 year(17ppg, a few steals and rbs and blocks), but T-Rock was no slouch either. He was the winningest player in MD history with 99 Ws and put up nearly a double double over his career. That to me says hang from rafters or at least get Francis down.

    By Blogger Jurassic Carl, at 3:03 PM  

  • Good, we agree. It's not about hating on Raffy. And I know why Belle isn't being considered, just saying that the numbers are flat-out staggering. He may end up being the best player left out of Cooperstown. Let's also not forget that Ty Cobb was the biggest asshole of them all.

    As for T-Rock, a.k.a. Human Brown-Eye, he exposed himself as a fraud those last two years at Maryland. Those W totals are due to Dixon/Baxter as much as him.

    Stevie Franchise has his jersey up there for recruiting purposes. It ain't coming down unless he goes to jail... and even then it might stay. That unie isn't going anywhere.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 3:28 PM  

  • Hey I agree that those wins are due to dixon/baxter and morris.... dixon and baxter have their jerseys up, morris deserves it also.

    By Blogger Jurassic Carl, at 3:50 PM  

  • Page 2's timing is impeccable... scroll down and see just how convincing the Jeff Bagwell case is. Ranked #21 all-time by ESPN's Baseball Encyclopedia? I dunno about that, but those are some nice stats.

    Maybe I shouldn't be worried about Bags. Is there enough public support for him that the statistical issues are moot? It's not as if I'm plugged into the sportswriter zeitgeist or anything.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 1:48 PM  

  • Re: Bagwell...
    pretty airtight, I'd say.

    By Blogger Alex, at 8:39 AM  

  • It only occurred to me yesterday, while reading the Page 2 story, that the Hall is about to start electing players whom I've watched from the time they made the majors. Guys whose rookie cards I had when they came up, like Greg Maddux or Barry Bonds, as opposed to after they were stars, like (say) Cal Ripken.

    Needless to say, I feel old. It's bad enough that I'm older than half the Kansas City Royals... or that I refer to prospects and rookies as "this kid"... now the greats that I've watched forever will be in Cooperstown. Wade Boggs is just the tip of the iceberg. Then there will be Gwynn... Ripken... Henderson... Clemens... Maddux... Big Unit... DeShields... Bonds... Sosa... (Hehe! When's the last time you thought about Delino?)

    Speaking of Delino, here's one for you: Oddibe McDowell! Anyone remember Oddibe? He was the first player I liked due only to that player's name, like an '80s Coco Crisp. I was disappointed to discover at age 10 that Oddibe wasn't that good. Anyway, back in Oddibe's heyday I found a salamander, kept it as a pet briefly, and named it Oddibe. How about that. Or, at least, I think it was the salamander. I know I named something I owned Oddibe. (No, not that.)

    By Blogger Jeff, at 9:50 AM  

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