Disappointment over the Hall of Fame voting

January 12, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Posted in Baseball | 11 Comments

I’m sure that everyone has heard the news by now that Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were elected to the Hall of Fame today.  I am very happy about Rickey Henderson’s induction, and very disappointed by Jim Rice’s induction.

I am disappointed, however, that Henderson somehow only got 94.8% of the vote.  I can make a very good argument that Henderson was the best player of his generation, and he’s unquestionably one of the greatest of all time.  The 5.2% of the writers who did not vote for him are obviously clueless about who belongs in the Hall of Fame, and they should not be allowed to vote again.  It’s that simple.  If you don’t understand that Rickey Henderson is a Hall of Famer, there is no way that you should be voting.  What really baffles me is that Tony Gwynn got 97.6% of the vote two years ago.  Now, Gwynn is an obvious choice for the Hall too, but who in their right mind thinks that his credentials are better than Rickey Henderson?

Now, back to Rice.  Here’s what I said about him when I wrote my Hall of Fame candidate analysis post last month:

“This is Rice’s last year on the ballot and he has a lot of writers supporting him.  He almost got in last year and it may be likely that he’s voted in this year.  But he doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall.  I think the fact that he played for Boston, and the media has been glorifying Red Sox Bandwagnation in recent years, is what’s driving his support.  Sure, Rice was one of the top offensive players in the A.L. between 1975 – 1979, and he had some great years in the mid-1980s, but like Mattingly, Murphy, and Parker, his peak was not long enough for him to get into the Hall.  His main skill, and really his only great skill, was his power.  Yet, Rice fell short of 400 home runs with 382.  Yes, I know that offensive numbers were down in the late 1970s and 1980s, but I still expect Hall of Famers from that era to have 400 home runs if they’re going in as a power hitter.  Dave Winfield and Andre Dawson hit over 400, and Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, and Eddie Murray all hit 500 home runs in the same era.  Even Dave Kingman hit 442, and he’s nowhere near the Hall of Fame.  Rice is often compared to Hall of Famers like Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez, but even those guys have weak Hall of Fame credentials.  If you’re going into the Hall of Fame, your numbers should be comparable to some of the best Hall of Famers, not the weaker ones.  Rice falls short, and he’ll lower the Hall of Fame standards if he gets in.  Rice’s career stats can be seen here.”

So congratulations to Rice; he can now take his place next to Cepeda and Perez as Hall of Fame hitters with some of the weakest statistical credentials.  Future candidates who really don’t belong in the Hall will be compared favorably to Rice.  In a nut shell, the bar has been lowered.  And that’s why I’m not happy about Rice’s induction.

I really don’t understand how writers who did not vote for Rice in most of his other 14 years on the ballot suddenly decided in recent years that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.  My best guess is that it was the constant lobbying by the arrogant Boston sports writers (who will ironically claim to you that Rice was not “well liked” by the media) and the glorification of everything having to do with the Boston Red Sox since they won the 2004 World Series.  Red Sox fans who have been complaining for years about the favorable treatment that is given to the Yankees and their players now must face the reality that the Red Sox now essentially are the Yankees, and everything that they once hated about the Yankees is now true of the Red Sox.

Anyway, I would absolutely love to hear why anyone believes that Andre Dawson is less worthy of the Hall of Fame than Jim Rice.  Dawson excelled at almost every facet of the game.  He was a great fielder, great runner, and a great power hitter.  Rice was only a great power hitter, and not even for a long enough time to reach 400 home runs.  I also think that a Rice voter would have a difficult time not voting for Dave Parker or Dale Murphy, who had similar careers and also fall short of the Hall’s standards in my opinion.

And once again, 37.3% of the voters failed to vote for Bert Blyleven, and a staggering 82.6% missed the boat on voting for Alan Trammell.  Blyleven’s place as one of the best pitchers in baseball since 1970 is so obvious to me that the title of “Hall of Famer” is degraded without his inclusion.  And I really don’t understand how the voters can not include Trammell as one of the greatest offensive and defensive shortstops of all-time.  His numbers compare favorably to just about every shortstop not named Ripken, Banks, or Wagner who is in the Hall.

Finally, I’m sad to see that David Cone only got 3.9% of the vote and now will drop off the ballot.  Cone certainly isn’t an automatic Hall of Famer, but he’s worthy of a lot more consideration than he got.  I maintain that with pitchers from the last 25 years, you have to look at a lot more than their number of wins.  Cone was one of the best pitchers of his generation in my opinion, and I think that as the years go by, more people will start to realize that and they’ll wish that he was still on the ballot.

Let’s get ready to revive the debate again for 2010.  Roberto Alomar and Barry Larkin should be easy choices for election in their first year of eligibility, and I’d like to see Fred McGriff become the second Tampa Bay player elected to the Hall, though probably not on the first ballot.  And hopefully we’ll see more support for Dawson, Blyleven, and even Trammell.

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  1. I really get into the Hall of Fame voting and the discussion that follows. It really gives these old-timers a moment in the sun again.

    I started to lean towards Bly because of his CG and win stats, but he was only voted to 2 all-star games in his 22 year career. When your peers can’t vote you as one of the best during a season (20 out of 22 times)… how can writers say you’re one of the best of all time? Never winning a Cy Young or having more than a single 20-win season doesn’t help his chances either.

    You’re right on Andre Dawson – it’s a crime he’s not in the HOF yet.

  2. I think the Hall standards were lowered already when Phil Rizzuto was inducted (and probably a lot of other players even before Rizzuto) — who’s career most closely resembles, yes, Jim Gantner’s. (Bill James, who I might add hasn’t been a huge advocate of Jim Rice’s Hall worthiness, made this splendid comparison betwen Rizzuto and Gantner).

    I’m no statistical expert. I do know Rice had better stats than both Parker and Murphy. He may not have played a terribly long time, but I don’t think you can hold that against him considering what he packed into those years. And I watched all three players for the entirety of their careers. Rice was easily the most impressive and most feared of those three players. At least that’s the way I perceived it.

    I can’t explain why Rice got in and Dawson didn’t. They’re both deserving in my opinion. Some voters cite Dawson’s low on-base percentage. But to me, that’s like citing the fact that Rice wasn’t a gold-glove fielder. It’s kind of irrelevant in the face of the other stuff he achieved.

    I think what it comes down to is Rice is a border-line hall of famer. And with any border-line hall of famer, you’re going to have people who will argue for them and against them. Because the player’s case is not clear-cut.

    Lobbying? I don’t know. Possibly. I don’t think writers are swayed by that stuff, or at least they shouldn’t be. I don’t think it has anything to do with writers going ga-ga over Boston.

    And let’s not forget, the Yankees have been the Yankees for 90 years. People were complaining about the Yankees getting all of the glory back in the ’50s. The Red Sox have only been the Yankees for four years. The team, and some of their fans are a lot more annoying than they once were, but they’ve got a LONG way to go before they match the sheer history that the Yankees have.

  3. Can someone possibly explain to me how the hell Jesse Orosco gets a vote and Jay Bell gets two? Mo Vaughn with SIX! Come on!

    I’d say Dawson makes it in next year. I’m disappointed he didn’t make it in this year but I think his time is coming.

    And all I’m going to say about Mattingly is that if 3 games at 3rd base doesn’t get you into the Hall of Fame then I don’t know what will. It was on a Topps Sterling card so it must be an important stat! It’s Topps Sterling for cryin’ out loud!

  4. As much as it pains me to say it, if Blyleven gets in at all, it likely won’t be until either his last year of eligibility or posthumously by the Veterans Committee.

  5. Dawson is far more deserving than Rice – although I do support Rice to the hall, you made some great points. Great post!

  6. Henderson – Some voters refuse to vote anyone not named Ruth or Cobb on the first ballot. Doesn’t make it right, but as long as those few are consistent I’m OK with that.

    Rice – Blah. Or as a local sportswriter wrote today, if Rice had played nearly anywhere but the East coast he would not have lasted as long as he did.

    Trammell – Fits into Santo / Boyer mold if you ask me. Not the best defensive SS of his time (Ozzie) nor the best offensive (Ripken) nor did he redefine the posistion (Ripken). Santo & Boyer are in the same boat having played in the era of Robinson & Matthews.

    Dawson – Should be a no brainer now that Rice is in. I wonder how many voters discount his time spent in the baseball wasteland that is Montreal?

  7. I think your home run comparison might be a bit off. Rice came into the league a few years before Murray, Dawson, Murphy and the like. Rice played in more and worse dead ball years than the others.

    I do think it is silly that voters didn’t vote for Rice for the past 14 years and suddenly put him over the top.

    Anyone that didn’t vote for Gwynn, Rikpen, or Henderson on the first ballot should be stripped of their vote. If not, they better have a damn good reason for not doing it. Like, they didn’t think he was actually eligible because they swore they saw him lead off a game with a homer last year.

    How does one justify not voting for him? The only other modern players that should be in that are not: Murphy, Dawson, Lee Smith.

  8. Even Willie Mays only received 94.8% of the votes. It seems that there are some voters that don’t believe anyone deserves to be voted in on the first.

    I am looking forward to Rickey’s speech in Cooperstown. Based on some of his past quotes it should be entertaining.

    I have a feeling that McGriff will do pretty well on the ballot next year. His power numbers are pretty much steriod free which shold delight some of the holier-than-thou baseball writers out there that hold voting rights.

  9. JRJ – interesting comments on Blyleven. My take on it is that there’s a reason why fans often complain about the All Star picks and end of year award voting. The most worthy players are often skipped over. In addition, with the All Star game, the players are selected at mid-season, so a full season’s work is not rewarded. It’s easy to find multiple seasons in Blyleven’s career where he should’ve been an All Star or should’ve received more Cy Young votes. And I’m not a believer in the “wins” stat telling us anything meaningful about a pitcher’s performance.

    Night Owl – very good point about Rizzuto. There’s no way that he’d be in if he wasn’t a Yankee or if he wasn’t a legendary broadcaster.

    Great comments from everyone. I love Hall of Fame discussions and debates.

  10. Dave – Great discussion. True, he could have been a 2nd half pitcher, but 20 out of 22 seasons? And fans don’t decide the starting pitcher or reserve pitchers on an all-star team. They are picked by players and managers.

    Given his vote patterns, it seems Bert will be in the HOF next year or the following.

    Amazing that we can pick a president without reaching 50% of the vote (92 & 96 most recently), but we can’t pick a HOFer without 75% of the vote.

  11. Dave, I’ll say this about Rice. He was a dominant guy in the league for a long time. His numbers seem weak, but in reality, you have to had watched him play. He was really quite intimidating to pitch to. A total Yankee killer, he always killed the Yanks when they played. If you ask any professional ball player from that era will tell you he deserves to be in.

    As for the missing Henderson votes. He rubbed a lot of media the wrong way. To be completely honest, I am surprised he finished with ~95%. As good as he is, it’s a club and some writers feel that you shouldn’t get in on the first ballot. They have every right to do / say that. One of the voters (Corcky Simpson) said he made a mistake. A lot of people are chucking that up to him being old. I have met and spoken with Corkey many times while in Arizona. He is one of the sharpest guys I have ever met. That being said he is also one of the quirky guys I have ever met as well. I can totally see him leaving Henderson off his ballot. He’s one of those guys that does the opposite of what you would expect. After all in 1993 he gave the University of Arizona his first place vote in the AP poll most of the seaosn. Don’t believe all you hear about Corky, he knew exactly what he was doing.


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