Monday, January 12, 2009
Watering Down The Product
Come January of every year, I fear that The Baseball Writers Association of America, or The Veterans Committee before them, will elect just another VERY GOOD BASEBALL PLAYER to The Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown, New York--not one of The VERY BEST THAT HAS EVER PLAYED THE GAME. The Hall of Fame should be for the Elites of the game, not players that were just All-Stars or Team Leaders for a period of time during their careers. Or, players that were important cogs to Championship Teams.
Yet it seems The Baseball Writers and The Veterans Committee gets all caught up in the pressure of HAVING, NO ACTUALLY NEEDING, TO ELECT SOMEONE--no matter what. I am not comfortable with that.
Rickey Henderson is a NO-DOUBT First Ballot Hall of Famer. Any of the few writers that didn't vote for Henderson in the tally released today are just foolish people who should have their voting rights taken away. Whatever "I Am The Greatest" Rickey was off the field, there is no question that Old Number 24 was a game changing, revolutionary player in the leadoff spot. He used skill, athletic ability and tremendous speed to put fear in his opponents--at the plate and on base. No One Has Ever Been Better.
You can't say that about Jim Rice. Rice was a middle of order slugger--an excellent player, no question about it--you can not deny his importance to The Boston Red Sox. But is he really Hall of Fame worthy? Well, he's probably a far better choice than some of those that preceded him--like Jesse Haines, George Kelly, Red Schoendiest, Bill Mazeroski and even Phil Rizzuto. I am sure there are others that fit this dubious distinction, but those are a handful that pop out of my head while writing this post.
And this is where the problems lies. The deluding of the product.
Every player must wait five years after retirement to be considered for Hall Of Fame Election. Then each has up to 15 years of belonging on the ballot--as long as you have received just 5% of the vote each year--75% of the vote gets you into Cooperstown. You would think the sportswriters of any particular player's era would have the best understanding of how much that candidate meant to the game during their time playing. Those Writers covered that player. He is fresh in their minds. They would know how great Mr. "Such & Such" was. Yet, here we are 20 years after Rice retired and we have some sportswriters who were barely teenagers, or even possibly youngsters, at the time of his accomplishments, deciding whether Rice Is Hall Worthy.
That's not right. Some are choosing players whom they may have never seen play a Major League Game--in person--and that's important too. These voters tools of choice today are just the stats, and the ever escalating and grander stories re-told about the careers--probably by the player's friends. We have Hall Of Fame picks passed on perception, not always fact. And it doesn't help when former ballplayers are baseball analysts now pining for their buddies--year after year. It's a conflict of interest.
Feelings which are similar to what I had growing up with My Washington Senators.
I can tell you for a fact that My Favorite Player of All Time!! Frank Howard, would be a shoo-in for The Hall of Fame--if I had a vote--a tally based on adoration. But realistically I know his work falls short--even now.
There are too many outside influences affecting proper voting.
Until Hall Of Famer Joe Morgan got better control of the situation, you had former players pressuring The Veterans Committee members to vote for their friends and teammates. It's how Mazeroski got elected in the first place. Thankfully, Joe Morgan changed the rules and voting procedures to make election far more difficult--and reduced some of the politics--but not all.
Look, if any player is not good enough to be elected by a group of his sportswriting peers in just a few short years after becoming eligible for election into The Baseball Hall of Fame--then that player probably wasn't worthy in the first place. No One should be debating whether anyone is worthy of selection 20 years after you played your last game. How can you not be worth electing in 1994, or 1999, or 2004, but you are in 2009?
That makes no sense to me and why I fear The Hall of Fame voting each winter. Too many Very Good & Excellent Players are being enshrined into The Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum to stand alongside The Greats. Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven fit perfectly into this issue. Excellent players, long gone from the game whose playing careers overlap some with Rice. But, they are really not Hall worthy.
Yet, now based on the many others that have come before him, Jim Rice is today a Hall Of Fame Baseball Player. But what he is not--is One Of The Greatest Of All Time. And that's not his fault, it's the system.
The product has been watered down for far too long.
PS--And I will add this: despite how much I disliked his Home Run Splurge & HR Record Run--Barry Bonds was a Hall Of Fame Player before anything ever developed off the field with performance enhancing drugs. That man belongs in the Hall Of Fame, five years or so after he officially retires. He may not get in his first year as a protest vote from writers, but no one can deny how great a player Barry Bonds truly was. Old Number 25 was a Game Changer--just like Rickey Henderson was in his time.
PSS--What I don't have a problem with is The Veterans Committee approach to enshrining a larger group of Negro League Players and Executives over the past few years. Those whose rights to play and compete on a level playing field for many years were denied. That's history correcting itself.