Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hall of Fame 2009 – The Writers

The ballots have been counted and the Writers have approved Ricky Henderson and Jim Rice for 2009 Hall of Fame inductions. Henderson’s credentials are unassailable. Among other features, he was regarded by the Society for American Baseball Research and The Sporting News are one of the game’s top 100 players during the Twentieth Century. Rice is more disputable, but I find his qualifications to be sufficient.


Henderson’s HOF performance qualifications are so clear that there should be no need for debate. The same would be true regarding Mark McGwire, except for the steroids issues. Of the other eligibles, the following present one or more traditional statistical features often conclusive or at least persuasive in HOF evaluations (listed by position and alphabetically): Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Harold Baines, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Jim Rice. I eliminate Baines, because he is too low for HOF in seasonal quality.

Alan Trammell, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy and Dave Parker deserve consideration because they produced significant career segments of intense quality. All may be “short” either in their over-all career statistics and/or their numbers of star quality seasons. Parker is my leader among these players because he produced more high quality seasons. All four may become viable candidates for induction as Veterans.


Jim Rice enjoyed several seasons at or near the top of AL hitters, earned an MVP award, and produced eight seasons with at least 100 RBI. In my opinion, he meets minimum HOF standards, and I disagree that his induction creates “bad” precedent.

I am lukewarm on Andre Dawson. He amassed some compelling career totals, but he is moderate to low in terms of career averages and his number of star quality seasons. Raines performed at HOF levels during his first seven full seasons and then became more of a “near star” than a leading star. He deserves consideration for his status as one of the game’s foremost lead-off hitters, butt far behind Henderson. In my opinion, elite table setters don’t receive enough credit. (I seem to be one of a few who admire Earl Combs so much in this role.)

Among the starting pitchers, I favor Morris over Blyleven and John because: 1.) Morris was one of the three-four top starters for the 1980-1999 period; 2.) he is ahead of the others in big-winning seasons; 3.) he had enormous impact on some championships. (Despite his massive career statistics, Blyleven seldom could be regarded as one of the league’s upper level seasonal stars.) Until fairly recently, Lee Smith was the all-time leader in Saves. He is hard to over look. As an aside, most point systems seem to under-value relief pitchers.

My top four in performance: Henderson, McGwire, Rice, Morris.


As in too many cases, Henderson’s voting total actually raises some concerns. We need not cry for him because he received “only” 94+ percent of the votes. However, in view of all the
precedents, how could any qualified voter not include him on a ballot?

I think HOF voters should see their functions as being similar to those of judges conducting court trials. Judges should not be influenced by friends or enemies nor have any personal stake in the outcomes. They should rule solely on the basis of the applicable law and the admissible evidence. Ricky Henderson ranks first or reached classic levels in several batting categories. His career was unusually long and achieving. He gained highest seasonal honors and starred for championship teams.
He meets every objective test of baseball greatness and by huge margins. Too often in this JOF process, we are left to wonder about the apparently erratic voting patterns involving a minority of voters. Henderson wasn’t affected too much, but what of other worthies whose credentials are less certain than Henderson’s?

I don’t disparage voters because they disagree with my views. HOF qualifications can be highly debatable and differences of opinion should be expected and respected. However, close voting situations can be affected by whimsical voters.

A lot of problems in the process could be reduced with more institutional consensus regarding HOF standards and some procedural changes. More about those topics later.