14 December 2008

Middle of the Road

My Hall of Fame ballot:

Rickey Henderson
Tim Raines
Bert Blyleven
Alan Trammell

which, incidentally, is identical to Rob Neyer's selections(see comment#16).

My rule of thumb for BBWAA candidates has evolved where they ought to be at or above the median level of previous enshrinees at their primary defensive position. In other words, I aim to induct players who enhance (or dont diminish) the standing of the overall body - which includes Veteran's Committee selections. By no means must they be icons like Aaron or Williams, but neither should they gain such early admittance, by merely outplaying the Hall's most dubious members. That clearly erodes the institution. Healthy institutions feature correcting mechanisms, and while Cooperstown wont (and probably shouldnt) retroactively oust poor selections, maybe we can provide that mechanism by agreeing not to further institutionalize history's weakest judgements.

By most modern measures, Henderson and Blyleven tower above the median HOFer at their respective positions, and Raines is pretty clearly above. He's 53rd all time (27th of 63 HOF OFers) in Career Runs Created, tied with Tony Gwynn. No eligible inductee higher than Tim on that list has ever been denied HOF membership, and tons of enshrinees fall below, way below, Raines' total of 1636 runs; Tim Raines created more runs than Gary Carter, Rod Carew or Roberto Clemente - and that's just the C's. Indeed, many HOFers, incl Jackie Robinson, Home Run Baker and the recently elected Joe Gordon failed to create even 1000 runs.

Trammell is not as clearly above my subjective median for Hall shortstops, but it's equally murky whether he's above or below that imaginary line, and that warrants my Yes vote.

Mark McGwire accumulated first rung HOF statistics. While I dont mean to categorically banish suspected PED users from consideration, neither can I, in good conscience, blithely admit a player until it's reasonably clear that PEDs were incidental, rather than integral to, his minimum HOF standing. Unlike Barry Bonds, for example, who established a HOF caliber career (1987-1998) before any hint of PED use, evidence of Mark's legitimate, PED-free greatness is, unfortunately, far less convincing.

None of the other candidates, as excellent as they were, meet the median criterion, in my view. A few are reasonably close, and the stone edifice on Cooperstown's Main Street wont spontaneously combust with their inductions, but it's important to remember - or understand - that history is also littered with scores, perhaps hundreds, of equally deserving players outside the Hall, and the imminent, largely media driven candidacies of legitimate but overrated stars like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson will gradually but inexorably erode the institution.

Song of the Day - Middle of the Road (The Pretenders)

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