January 12, 2009
BASEBALL: Rickey and Rice
So the Hall of Fame has inducted Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice, and has yet again snubbed Mark McGwire, Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines.
My quick take:
1. As I explained in my column on the tablesetters, Henderson's a no-brainer, but Raines should be in too.
2. Rice, I would not have voted for but I regard him as right on the bubble and not a particular embarrassment to the Hall. I came down against Rice for the reasons set forth here (more on Andre Dawson, a comparable but much weaker candidate here) but I had previously supported Rice, who was a genuinely fearsome slugger for 12 years even adjusting for the context of his home park and his proclivity for GIDP.
3. Blyleven, of course, should be in; I stand by what I wrote 8 years ago on Blyleven, Morris and Tommy John.
4. McGwire belongs in the Hall, it's just too late in the day to set a standard for the Hall other than excellence on the field.
5. I discussed Alan Trammell here.
Here's the voting trends for the long-term candidates (Henderson got 94.8% of the vote, meaning 5.2% of the BBWAA is unfamiliar with Major League Baseball), I'll be updating the chart as I get the full tallies:
Six Year Voting Trend:
Note that other than Mattingly dropping below Parker, the order of the candidates in terms of vote totals was unchanged (I left off Dale Murphy and Harold Baines, both of whom are trapped in the area between 5-15% of the vote). Tommy John now drops off the ballot after 15 years, and all the first-time candidates properly drop off for lack of the 5% minimum other than Henderson (David Cone was a HoF quality pitcher in a number of seasons, and Mo Vaughn in his prime was a comparable hitter to Rice, but neither had the kind of durability needed to make a serious Hall case for players of their quality).
Vote totals here, 2003-08 sources here; the Hall has a drop-down menu of all past votes here.
UPDATE: One final thought about Rice: the one thing I really hope is that the election of Rice is not used as precedent to put in Dawson.
I guess Rice is now the most feared marginal Hall of Famer.
Blyleven and Dawson seem to have gotten close enough to eventually be elected, although Bert's only got a few more go-rounds. I think you can only really justify Dawson if you regard him as a career long, high quality defender in CF, which he really wasn't despite his peak excellence. He simply wasn't a HOFer as a pure hitter. I'm really not sure why he's getting so much support, other than that the way he carried himself created an impression of great leadership even though almost all the teams he played on underacheived.
It's discouraging to see Raines failing to build on last year's totals. I'll take a lineup of Raines's over a lineup of Dawsons anyday.
Why Tim Raines lags in the 20%-ish range is mind-boggling. The only thing that was a negative in his career was the Ricky Henderson was setting the standard at the time. I can see maybe not a first ballot guy but a lower percentage than the first time around?
I'm glad Rice is in. He was my favorite player growing up and he was an incredible hitter, if a crotchety, stubborn bastard as well that no doubt impacted his career, for several years.
The McGwire vote is certainly telling for Barry B. That Lee Smith gets a higher vote total than any of the other pitchers is criminal.
Only one vote for Jesse Orosco? Boooo!
It's pretty clear that the Hawk is getting in. As Verducci points out, once you get to 60%, you're going to get in. I personally think it's that MVP award that makes him look so good to some people. Which, when you think about it, is such a circular, stupid argument. Hey, the writers should vote for him now, simply because the writers voted for him then! Sorry, you can mention the so-called "intangibles" but don't make them the crux of your argument. Any writer who leads with those types of points immediately loses respect.
The question I have is the same as a guy at SI: who the heck left Ricky off their ballot? Is it for that stupid "if Babe Ruth wasn't unanimous, then no one should be"? Yes, we SHOULDN'T learn from our mistakes.
Rice isn't the worst player in the Hall, nor even the worst left fielder, Lloyd Waner is that. I still think Rice's greatest ability was to create outs faster than anybody this side of Omar Moreno. But writers can't seem to tell the difference between Fenway and Oakland. Nor that sometimes, one or two good years are not supposed to get you in.
I agree that I hope it doesn't set a precedent for Dawson, who will get in if good players who are great teammates is the standard. However, and you can't go back, if Rice is in, then Maris should be too by the standard they set. Roger was a way better player than Rice. And then, why not Albert Belle? Or is there only one place in the Hall for a crabby, nasty right hand hitting outfielder?
And yes Linus, that is the thought. Henry Aaron complained he wasn't unanimous. And writers who just voted for Rice probably won't cast a first ballot for Manny either, because they have no clue sometimes.
28 people didn't vote for Ricky. I would love to hear the rationale behind those votes.
Pluses for Dawson: He could hit, hit for power, run, throw, and field.
Minuses: His career OBP, and he played the majority of his career in Montreal--not NY or Boston.
Yeah, Dawson's definitely in at 67% now. I don't want him in either but I'd take him over Rice, Tony Perez or Bruce Sutter. Man, the Hall of Fame standards have gone down recently huh? At least Blyleven looks like he'll make it. A proud day for internet geeks everywhere (speaking as one myself).
Unanimous or not Rickey is in. I am not ate up about a couple dozen voters leaving him off the ballot. While the totality of Rickey's career screams Hall of Famer, there are areas of his career to pick and scratch at if a voter was looking for a reason to wait until the next ballot to consider him. He had a well earned reputation for dogging it in the first half of his career. He is the only 3,000 hit guy to never hit 180 or more in a season. He would miss stretches of seasons in the trainers room. I can remember more than one manager questioning whether he took to long to come back from hamstring twinges. It is similar to Manny Ramirez or Gary Sheffield. Manny is likely going to end up as one of the 5 best right handed hitters ever. Sheffield will be a borderline HoF candidate. Writers in Boston (and to a lesser extent Cleveland) will remember Manny quitting on teams. In Milwaukee Sheffield is unlikely to get many votes after he admitted to making errors to force the team to trade him.
It won't be immediate, but Rice's election will have an effect on future minimum standards. Dawson will cross the line one of the next two years and Dale Murphy should see his vote total climb.