A year ago, Red Sox fans were anxiously awaiting word on whether Jim Rice would FINALLY be elected to the Hall of Fame. Thankfully, he was. Now, we wait for word on the newly elected members of the Hall. To me, there are three clear-cut choices for Cooperstown, whether or not the baseball writers in all their wisdom choose to see it that way. They are:
Jack Morris – With his devastating fork ball and Hall-of-Fame porn mustache, Morris was a dominant pitcher throughout the 80s and early 90s. He was THE MAN on World Series championship teams in Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto. (Not to mention he pitched what is arguably the greatest World Series game ever – Game 7, Minnesota-Atlanta.) He may not have the padded stats that mindless Hall voters have think for them, but anyone who followed baseball during that time knows Morris was consistently great and one of the very best pitchers of his day.
Bert Blyleven – Disregarding for a moment what I just said about mindless stats, let me say the most compelling case for Blyleven’s induction is one simple stat: The fifth most strikeouts . . . ever. Blyleven spent his career bouncing between a who’s who of the game’s worst teams . . . teams that made today’s Royals look like the Anaheim Angels. And, for them, Blyleven was great. He didn’t get a ton of wins, and because of that suffered when it came to Cy Young time, but he was great. Understand, strikeouts are not some meaningless stat. Simply, each time a guy strikes out against you, your stuff was too good for that major league hitter. It’s not like wins, where you can muddle by with mediocrity if you are on a good team. Because of a long career on several good teams, Don Sutton got wins and is in the Hall of Fame . . . somehow. He wasn’t half the pitcher Blyleven was.
Roberto Alomar – Arguably the greatest second-baseman to ever play the game. During the 90s, if a team wanted to win, they went out and got Alomar. The Blue Jays, the Orioles, the Indians, all were elite teams in large part because of Alomar. Offensively, for a second-baseman, he was great. Defensively, for a second-baseman, he was incredible. His election should be a slam dunk.
Yesterday, something truly incredible happened: My brother raised a good point.
Jason and I were having a conversation about the Baseball Hall of Fame. And, like most of our conversations about baseball, it was one-sided; I make a bunch of brilliant, insightful statements, while my brother listens, drools, and occassionally grunts and/or passes gas. And then, like a lightening bolt out of the blue, Jason made a valuable point: If the Hall of Fame were only for the 20 or 25 greatest of the great players, it would be a boring place.
We all know about the greats like Mike Schmidt, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, George Brett, Hank Aaron and others. But, as someone who has been to the Hall many times, much of the fun is strolling through the Great Hall and reading the bios and stats of a lot of players who you might have forgotten about, but who were truly great in their day. Learning this history gives visitors a better appreciation for players and the game, and makes the Hall experience that much more enjoyable.
Do I think Jim Rice deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. Do I think guys like Phil Rizzuto, Don Sutton, Wade Boggs, Tony Perez and others deserve to be in there? No way. But that’s the great thing about being baseball fans. We get to passionately debate numbers and players til we’re blue in the face. And the Hall of Fame provides a great forum for encouraging this passion and interest in the game. I can’t wait to go there in July.
Following up on what my low-life brother already said, congratulations to Jim Rice on being elected to the Hall of Fame. We’re hoping to be in Cooperstown the weekend he is inducted. I’ve never been there for induction week, and I’m really hoping things work out.
In the days leading up to this announcement, I was worried it would not happen. And that would have been wrong. Even writers who didn’t vote for Rice – at least those who actually follow baseball – have to admit that from 1975 through 1986 he was one of the very best hitters in the game. That’s why he received so many MVP votes; and that’s a long time to be great. And players like that are much more deserving than the Vinny Testaverde’s of baseball (Boggs, Palmeiro, Sutton, etc.) who stick around and are able to reach milestones because of longevity, but were never really seen as great players for extended periods of time.
I can completely understand those who have the opinion that the Hall of Fame is for the greatest of the great, and Rice doesn’t belong. If the Hall were only for the Mike Schmidts, Hank Aarons, George Bretts and Willie Mayses of the world, that would be fine. But the bar has already been set; guys like Don Sutton, Wade Boggs, Phil Rizzuto, Dave Winfield and others are all Hall of Famers. You might not like where the bar is; I don’t. But it is where it is. And given that, Jim Rice — one of the very elite hitters of his era — belongs in the Hall of Fame. Thankfully, that’s where he is headed.
Getting Strong Now: If you haven’t noticed, the Sox are seriously bulking up. On the heels of bringing on Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli, they just signed former Dodger closer Saito. Injured last year, Saito struggled. But he was dominant prior to that, and there’s every reason to believe he is past his injury and ready to shine in Boston. With his addition, the Sox bullpen is looking seriously formidable. Adding Saito and Ramon Ramirez to a pen with Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and Papelbon, not to mention all the young arms like Masterson, Bucholz and Bowden the Sox can use there thanks to the depth of their rotation, Boston could end up with the strongest pen in the game. Of course, bullpen strength is the most difficult part of a team to predict from year to year. But by adding such strong depth, the Sox are doing all they can to set themselves up to succeed.
Michael Young??: When I heard Michael Young wanted a trade out of Texas, my first thought was he might be an easy fit in Boston. The Sox have kicked around the idea of an offensive upgrade at short, and they’re already talking about a trade with the Rangers for a catcher. This could expand the package. However, when I read Young’s contract has him signed through 2013 — and he’s already 32 — well, that ain’t happening.
Former Sox Hot Stove: If you haven’t heard, the Phillies are talking about signing Nomar Garciaparra. It’d be great to see Nomar play another year and hopefully have a productive year.; Things don’t look great for Pedro. He had been saying he wanted to resign with the Mets, but the Mets don’t seem to be in any hurry to bring him back. Then Pedro signs he’d like to sign with the Marlins . . . but the Marlins don’t want to sign him. Strange market this year, with so many players in the position of courting teams instead of the other way around; It’s the middle of January, and Manny Ramirez, Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets, Bobby Abreu and others are all still free agents.
If you haven’t seen it yet, the Boston Globe has a gallery ranking every manager in Red Sox history. (Check it out.) Terry Francona ranks first, of course, with two rings to his credit while managing in arguably the game’s most difficult environment. Meanwhile, it is a mystery to me how Grady Little (Number 20) ranks behind John McNamara (Number 19), who was every bit as bad in the playoffs as Grady, and was much worse overall. Even more of a mystery to me is how Kevin Kennedy ranks Number 10.
Dead last: Joe Kerrigan. How bad was he? The Sox were two games out of the wildcard when he took over on August 16 of 2001. By the end of the season, they were 19 1/2 games out of the wildcard.
A few years ago, while Joe Kerrigan was a pitching or bullpen coach for the Phillies, they played a friendly exhibition game against the D-Rays at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. There was polite applause for all the coaches when they were introduced, except Kerrigan, who received a few loud, boisterous, hateful boos from a couple of the fans in attendance . . . fans that just may have been my brother and I. It was a proud, proud moment.