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.
This year’s Hall of Fame ballot was announced yesterday. Hopefully, the baseball writers will see fit to vote three players into the Hall this year: Rickey Henderson, Jack Morris and Jim Rice.
The case for Henderson is clear: He is the greatest lead-off hitter and base-stealer in the history of the game (or, at least, pre-Ichiro). Don’t believe me? Just ask Rickey. He’ll tell you how great he is. Meanwhile, Jack Morris was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, not to mention one of the great big-game pitchers ever. He anchored championship teams in Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto. That’s a heck of a resume.
The case for Jim Rice has been made time and time again. Still, some baseball writers remain unconvinced. Last year, Rice finished a mere 16 votes shy of inclusion, which all but ensures he’ll eventually be inducted into the Hall by the Veteran’s Committee. Hopefully hesitant baseball writers will accept the inevitability of Rice’s inclusion and allow him to enjoy his induction in 2009. For those who still need some convincing, here, once again, are the facts:
From 1975 to 1985, Rice led the American League in home runs, RBIs, runs scored, slugging and extra base hits. (Aside from home runs, the only one CLOSE to him in any of those categories was Hall of Famer George Brett.) Rice spearheaded the Red Sox to three seasons – 1975, 1978, 1986 – that are among the greatest in the storied history of the franchise. Rice’s historic MVP season in 1978 was one of the great offensive displays in baseball history (prior to the steroid era). In all, over the course of his career Jim Rice received more MVP votes than any eligible player in baseball history who is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.