Hall of Fame 2009


As another year comes to a close and we settle firmly into the middle stretch of the offseason, the annual rite of passage that is to proclaim who does and – more importantly it seems sometimes – who does not belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame is at its peak. In two short weeks, smoke will appear from a chimney in Cooperstown and then we will all know which former players the honored and sagacious men of the BWAA have deemed worthy of baseball immortality.

The potential class of 2009 is a small one, historically so I hear. Every one of them, though, was a heck of a ball player in his time. As a Red Sox fan, I remember well many of Mo’s slams, his swagger, and his clear role as the leader of a re-emergent franchise after some poor and selfish teams in the early 90’s. Ron Gant, of course, was key on many of those great Braves teams. He joined a team that couldn’t win at all and helped turned them into an all time great one. Harold Baines was the energizer bunny of baseball; no matter how old he was, he just hit. David Cone led several teams deep into the playoffs. Of course, not all of them can make it into the Hall of Fame.

If I had a vote, I’d support: Lee Smith, Bert Blyleven, Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Jim Rice, and Dave Parker. I’ve written at length in the past about the players that were also on last year’s ballot. Rickey is my only new “Yes” and I don’t think that he needs a lot of explanation.

Jim Rice’s case is of course getting a lot of attention. I’m passionately in favor of Rice’s candidacy. As I’ve noted in the past here, here, here, here, and here. Jim Ed came darn close last year, but I don’t think he’s going to get it this year. My sense is that Rice’s case has become ideological battle. It’s really about drawing a line in the sand for the “sanctity of the hall.” While he nearly slipped in last year, those opposed are probably the more committed than ever to defeating Rice’s case.

Rice’s case, to me, comes down to what is more important: having a dozen years when you are among the top two or three players in the game (each year) or having 17 or 18 years, a few of which are great, most of are solid, and some at the end that are below average but allow you to build up career numbers. I’m solidly in the camp that great years matter.

Look, if Luis Gonzalez was able to hold down a job with the Mariners or other non-contending team for the next three years and get 136 hits each year, he still wouldn’t have had a Hall Of Fame career in my book. Yes, he’d have the magic number of 3,000 hits. However, he’d still have only a five-year run of being a better than average player. Jim had incredible, great years. He got one MVP – with a strong case for two others: 75 which he lost to injury (his numbers are at worse a toss up with Lynn’s) and 86 (when baseball writers decided that it was one of those years when a pitcher should get the everyday player’s award) – and many others among the tops.

Regardless, I’ve lost my objectivity when it comes to Rice. So, I’ll just present the criteria for the Hall of Fame that Bill James set out in his book: The Politics of Glory. Data from www.baseball-reference.com. In his book, James doesn’t set claim that a player should pass all of these to be hall materials. But they are good bench marks and help to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of each player’s candidacy.

Black Ink Test – leading the league in a category
Rickey Henderson 50
Mark McGwire 36
Jim Rice 33
Dale Murphy 31
Ave Hall of Famer 27
Dave Parker 26
Don Mattingly 23
Tim Raines 20
Andre Dawson 11
Matt Williams 8
Mo Vaughn 4
Mark Grace 3
Harold Baines 3
Greg Vaughn 0
Jay Bell 0
Ron Gant 0
Alan Trammell 0

Grey Ink Test – finishing in the top ten in a category
Jim Rice 176
Andre Dawson 164
Dale Murphy 147
Dave Parker 145
Ave Hall of Famer 144
Rickey Henderson 143
Tim Raines 114
Don Mattingly 111
Mark McGwire 110
Mark Grace 86
Mo Vaughn 78
Matt Williams 58
Ron Gant 52
Alan Trammell 48
Harold Baines 40
Jay Bell 32
Greg Vaughn 22

Hall of Fame Standards – gives points on career statistics
Rickey Henderson 52.6
Ave Hall of Famer 50
Tim Raines 46.6
Harold Baines 44.3
Andre Dawson 44.1
Jim Rice 43
Mark McGwire 42.1
Dave Parker 41.5
Mark Grace 38
Alan Trammell 36.9
Dale Murphy 34.4
Don Mattingly 34.2
Mo Vaughn 29.9
Jay Bell 29.6
Matt Williams 29.4
Ron Gant 26
Greg Vaughn 25

Hall of Fame Monitor – assess likelihood of entry in the hall
Player HOF Monitor
Rickey Henderson 183.5
Mark McGwire 169.5
Jim Rice 144.5
Don Mattingly 133.5
Dave Parker 124
Alan Trammell 118.5
Andre Dawson 117.5
Dale Murphy 116
Ave Hall of Famer 100
Tim Raines 89.5
Mo Vaughn 86.5
Matt Williams 70
Harold Baines 66
Mark Grace 60.5
Greg Vaughn 50
Ron Gant 41.5
Jay Bell 30.5

Finally, I’m including some objective data that I think is very important. It’s the Career MVP Awards Share. All players that are ranked ahead of Parker and Rice are either in the Hall, sure-fire inductees when eligible, or banned from the Hall (hello Mr. Rose). In fact, you’d have to get down to around the mid fifties in player rank before you start to see a mixture of non-hall of fame players and then it’s about half and half.

MVP Shares
Player score rank
Dave Parker 3.19 28
Jim Rice 3.15 29
Rickey Henderson 2.46 55
Andre Dawson 2.36 66
Dale Murphy 2.31 67
Don Mattingly 2.22 74
Mark McGwire 1.94 91
Matt Williams 1.86 105
Mo Vaughn 1.53 139
Alan Trammell 1.22 186
Tim Raines 0.99 237
Ron Gant 0.89 270
Greg Vaughn 0.68 334
Harold Baines 0.29 599
Jay Bell 0.11 864
Mark Grace 0.11 864

Bottom line, Jim Ed should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.



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