Jan 19, 2007

Hall of the Very Good

I have no problem at all with this year's HOF entries: Gwynn and Ripken. But it just reminds me of the multitude of Hall members who don't deserve to be there.

Do y'all remember the original HOF voting? Of course not, but maybe you are aware of who was and (more importantly) wasn't voted in. The first class, in 1936, was the elite of the Golden Era: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. This can be expected in the first year of voting, as no one had been voted in yet. But still, look who missed the cut that year: Cy Young, Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Mickey Cochrane, and Pete Alexander, just to name a few. The MIAs are among the greatest players in the history of the game. Even the second year, 1937, saw the absence of many tremendous players: Hornsby, Alexander, John McGraw, Willie Keeler, Eddie Collins and more. In later years, the quality of HOF members significantly declined. These players would easily get in to the HOF today. They would dominate the balloting.

When did the voters start electing merely 'very good' players? Perhaps 1954, when Rabbit Maranville was voted in (a great defensive player, but a .258 career hitter). Maybe 1967 when Red Ruffing was the lone inductee (a 4.26 career DERA. Hardly great, and not even very good).

Was there some reason for this? Did the the Baseball Writer's Association of America suddenly feel like they had to elect someone each year? They used to conduct HOF voting every other year from 1956 to 1966. And in the classes of 1958 and 1960, no one was voted in. It also happened (for the last time) in 1971 when Yogi, Early Wynn and Ralph Kiner missed the cut. So perhaps it was after that. 1976 may be the year, when Bob Lemon was voted in (4.20 career DERA, only 26 more Ks than BBs). Because of the precedents set by the voting in the aforementioned years, the bar has been lowered several notches. I guess the conclusion is that it wasn't one year that did it, but the sum of several years voting beginning in 1954. This has led to the induction of several candidates of highly questionable quality: Don Sutton (4.25 career DERA), Earl Averill (some great years, but not much longevity), Dave Bancroft (career .279 hitter, apparently in for his D, which was up and down throughout his career), John Clarkson (4.00 career DERA), Earle Combs (just 2 great years and a below average CFer), Rick Ferrell (in solely due to longevity), Jesse Haines (4.38 career DERA), and several more.

If I really wanted to be a stickler, I would throw out many more of the current members: Rizzuto, Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Billy Williams, McCovey, Doerr, Bunning, and more.

There should be some minimum requirements for HOF members. Like a player needs at least one of the following: MVP, Cy Young Award, best pitcher/position player on his team in a given year, 5 All-Star games, 5 Gold Gloves, 600 HR, 3000 hits, 500 sb.

I've been to Cooperstown several times (I even thought about having my wedding there), and the Hall of Fame is a beautiful place. Unfortunately, the significance of it has been lessened by inducting sub-par candidates. Perhaps the HOF should create a separate wing for the 'elite' players, e.g. Ruth, Cobb, Wagner, Hornsby, Mantle, Mays, W. Johnson, Gibson, Clemens, Koufax, Gehrig, etc.


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