Thursday, January 9, 2014

You Can’t Become a Hall of Famer

You know what question really annoys me? Any of the variations of a question that goes, “If Player X plays two more seasons, and gets Y number of hits, do we need to start thinking of him as a Hall of Famer?”


Just by having to ask the question, the answer is “no.”

If a player is a Hall of Famer, you already know it. You know it because of the prolonged dominance. You don’t realize it after you see he got a certain number of some stat. Frank Thomas didn’t become a Hall of Famer when he hit his 500th home run. He became a Hall of Famer when he dominated the American League for ten years. When you focused on him whenever you were playing the White Sox. Greg Maddux didn’t become a Hall of Famer when he won his 300th game. He became a Hall of Famer when he was the best pitcher in the league for five to ten years and you breathed a sigh of relief if you missed him when the Braves were on your schedule.

Which is why Craig Biggio didn’t become a Hall of Famer when he reached 3000 hits. Which is why Mike Piazza didn’t become a Hall of Famer when he hit more home runs as a catcher than anyone else. You can’t look back and go, “Huh…maybe they were Hall of Famers after all.” You have to already know it.

I’ve mentioned my personal qualifications to reach the Hall many times. I need ten years of all-star caliber play. I don’t need actual election to the team. Especially since Joe Torre, the selection of the team has very little to do with ability. But, if I asked you who should be on the all-star team, the guy’s name should come up at some point. Or, when you look at the stat line you should assume that he was on the team that year. Of those ten, I need five otherworldly years. I need five years where if you’re talking about the best player in the game (or at least at his position) his name leaps immediately to mind. Beyond those ten years, I’m not giving you much additional credit. Just don’t embarrass yourself.

It’s that second category that most of the borderline guys are missing. I don’t get those five years when I look at Biggio, or Schilling. I don’t care that they played for a long time and piled up numbers. Being pretty good for a long time is not what it takes to get into the Hall of Fame. It’s for elite players. The best of the best. It doesn’t mean the people who don’t make the cut are bad players. There’s no shame in just being a multiple all-star. It just means you weren’t the next level.

Which is why I was bothered yesterday by the discussion over Craig Biggio. Immediately after the announcement, the hosts on MLB were mentioning that he’ll get in next year. It was practically a certainty that he would pick up those two votes. They didn’t even leave it up for a question. So I’ll ask it.

Why will he pick up those two votes?

Were there two people who would have voted for him, but used up all ten of their slots on someone else? Or, are they assuming that Biggio would become a Hall of Famer in the eyes of at least two voters? How? Are his stats going to go up? Is he going to move up on any career rankings? Is he going to win any championships? Is he going to do anything that two people base their votes on? Not that I can see. So, is he a Hall of Famer, or not? The voters should have known the answer to that question at least ten years ago.

I know I did.

1 comment:

  1. How can you apply any kind of logic to the current mess they call the Hall of Fame vote? So many of the BBWAA writers have their own personal agendas, its impossible to fathom any consistency or justice comes of it at all. Using YOUR criteria... Is Kirby Puckett a Hall of Famer? I never thought so, but he's in there because he was "pleasant" to reporters and, overall, a pretty good player. Is Barry Bonds a Hall of Famer? G** Damn right he is. I've been watching baseball since the early 60s and I no doubt missed some of the best years of Mays and Aaron but, as God is my witness, among players I saw over their entire career, I never saw any better (non-pitcher) than Barry Bonds. Is Tom Glavine more Hall worthy than Biggio? I never thought so. I could go either way on either of those two. Biggio did it all and did it all over a long period of time. He changed his primary position twice for the good of the team. I think there's a place for him in Cooperstown. Tom Glavine had a fastball that couldn't break a pane of glass and ALWAYS got a larger strike zone from umpires than any other pitcher in the majors. If Glavine didn't throw the ball in the stands, he got a strike call. But he was consistent over a long period, played for some great clubs, racked up a lot of wins. I think there's a place for him in Cooperstown. Is Mike Piazza a Hall of Famer? I always thought so. ALWAYS. If you didn't think Mike Piazza was a Hall of Famer when you saw him play, then you weren't watching the game of baseball. On this year's ballot, I saw two sure thing Hall of Famers--Greg Maddux and Mike Piazza. The best players on the ballot, of course, were Bonds and Clemens, but we all knew the personal biases of the writers was going to keep them out. Let me tell you, PEDs might make you a Dave Kingman; they will not make you a Barry Bonds. And, if we're disqualifying players for PEDs shouldn't we also disqualify from voting any sports writer from the era? And what about LaRussa and Torre, who almost certainly benefitted from "enhanced" players? Did I think Frank Thomas Hall worthy? Eh. Sure, I guess. People remember him NOW as the most feared hitter of his time. I don't remember anybody thinking that when he played. I can think of any number of first basemen I'd rather start my team with than Frank Thomas...including Gil Hodges, who isn't in the Hall. Seriously. Frank was good. Maybe he was even great. Was he more Hall worthy than Mike Piazza? I don't think so. Was he more Hall worthy than Barry Bonds? Hell, no.

    Point is, you can either be a strictly numbers guy--by which measure Biggio is clearly a Hall of Famer and so is Lou Whitaker--or you can be a "gut" guy (which is entirely subjective). Its always been a combination of the two, which is why Jack Morris falls short and, I guess, why Kirby Puckett gets in. But, now, there's so much politics and holier than thou crap going on, its likely to devolve into the Hall of the Pretty Good, while truly great players like Barry Bonds are excluded. In short, its impossible to care anymore.


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