Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The Hall of Why
As you probably already know, a couple of weeks ago, Andre Dawson was announced as the only player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. I am only old enough to remember the Hawk as a part-time player in the mid-'90s, so I'll only judge Dawson's selection based on what I know — his stats and achievements.
From what I understand, he was one of the NL's most feared hitters and a five-tool guy who won a Rookie of the Year award and MVP during his career, as well as eight Gold Gloves. I am a big believer in on-base percentage, and Dawson only achieved a .323 mark in his big league career. Dawson had a good on-base plus slugging percentage number when compared to the league average, and especially in his prime.
After all, if Ozzie Smith could get in first-ballot with over 90% of the vote as a below average hitter and being one of the best defensive players of all-time, Dawson should get in for being great defensively and above average offensively. So, all things considered, with the information I have at my disposal, I would vote for Dawson on my hypothetical Hall of Fame ballot. It's not an open-and-shut case, but I would vote for him.
Apparently, the baseball writers needed much longer to make up their mind on Dawson. Eight years longer, in fact. Excruciatingly obvious, Dawson's numbers didn't change in the past 13 years. Mind you, they are paid to cover baseball and most likely all saw Dawson's career in its entirety. On Dawson's first ballot, he received 45.3% of the vote, about a 32% decrease from what he obtained in 2010. That number is a good omen for Roberto Alomar and Barry Larkin, who received 73.7% and 51.6%, respectively, in their first time on the ballot.
But even having to say phrases like that is patently absurd. A Hall of Famer should be something that you can tell or can't tell within a couple years of their retirement, barring circumstances that we are all too familiar with by now.
It would be one thing to make players wait if the voters were voting for the maximum 10 players allowable every year, but they're not. Between Dawson's first year on the ballot and this year, the average number of players selected by each voter was about six.
If you were making an all-decade team (both leagues included) for the '90s, you could do much worse than to put Larkin as your shortstop and Alomar as your second baseman. In fact, I would definitely lean in that direction when considering the whole of the decade, despite the efforts of A-Rod, Derek Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra at short during the latter years of the '90s; and Craig Biggio and Jeff Kent at second.
Alomar was a career .300 hitter, had solid OPS numbers, made 12 consecutive All-Star Games in a row, and won 10 Gold Gloves, a record for a second baseman. I suppose, as ridiculous as it may seem for someone's Hall of Fame credentials, Alomar may have been penalized for his incident in 1997 with umpire John Hirschbeck. Larkin had very similar offensive numbers to Alomar, also made 12 All-Star Games, won an MVP award, was the best in the NL at his position and was the definitive player on his franchise for a generation. I don't know why Larkin didn't get more support than he did, but maybe the lack of eye-popping offensive numbers has something to do with it. However, Larkin did win a shortstop-record nine Silver Slugger Awards during his career.
Yet, why do we even care about the Hall of Fame so much?
One answer could be that we like to see the legacy of our favorite players and best players from the eras of sports we watched verified to some greater extent by some greater body. And that, I suppose, is an acceptable answer. However, there is so much controversy regarding Hall of Fame voting, and it is such a media circus every time it comes around, in football and baseball especially. It seems like the media coverage of the most prominent halls of fame in sports have gotten away from celebrating the careers of the inductees to the controversy about who gets in and who gets snubbed.
My point is that the greatest players in any sport, and the players the fans agree are the best should not need validation for their careers from a group of sportswriters who may have an agenda to serve, and fans (including me) should stop getting outraged by the system and its shortcomings.
It seems realistic, though, that I will be annoyed once again when Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker fail to get in on the first ballot. This is the system the baseball writers have created.