Thursday, August 2, 2012

Prelude to the Outfield

Let me be frank about this: our old benchmarks of 300 wins, 3000 hits and 500 homeruns I think need to be thrown out the window when it comes to the Hall of Fame.  Why do I think that?  Well, as I mentioned before, these numbers at some point become about longevity more than performance.  While the numbers are nothing to sneeze at, too many players will just hang around to reach these “hallowed numbers” and get induction whether or not their careers as a whole deserve it.  Would you think Craig Biggio was a HoFer without him reaching the 3000 hit plateau his last year?  You’d be, at best and honestly, on the fence, or you should be.  How about Eddie Murray?  He ranked pretty low on my tier list, and with good reason.  He was a good player for a long time.  His career high for HR was 33 and only 4 times in his career did he hit 30 HR.  For a first baseman, that’s not that great.  His career average for HR was 27.  He created 6.1 runs per game, which is good, but plenty of 1B have higher numbers (Johnny Mize, for instance, had an RC27 of 8.4).  Without those benchmarks, he’d probably not be in the Hall of Fame.  Am I saying he doesn’t belong?  Not necessarily.  He had some great years of 6+ WAR (5 of them according to fangraphs), but when those are scattered across a 21 or so year career, the shine comes off the apple somewhat.  A lot of people would say “But he put fear in the opposing team.” Well yeah, but so did guys like Dave Kingman and Dale Murphy and Howard Johnson who should never be considered for the Hall.  Plus that whole fear factor thing doesn’t do it for me anyways, since it tends to be anecdotal.  Now, look at a guy like Ripken.  Ripken absolutely would be a hall of famer regardless if he had 2750 hits or 3000 hits.  Why?  Great defense at shortstop combined with great power at shortstop, not to mention the streak (which was great, but not what put him into the hall).  Had he been a first baseman or left fielder, then things may be different, but as is, he was one of the best SS of all time.  3000 hits for him was more or less the icing on the cake of awesomeness, not just the reason for his greatness.  Could you say that about a guy like Biggio?  Or Murray?  It’s tough to say that, because they may have had some great seasons, but had more where they were just very good players.

Why do I bring this up?  Because we are moving on to the OF, where we have some of the toughest distinctions to draw, because so many of baseball’s greatest players were from the OF.  Think back, you’ve got guys like Cobb, Ruth, Williams (T and B), Speaker, Mantle, DiMaggio, Yaz, and so on.  Yet, we also get guys who were very good players that stuck around forever just to get that 3000 hit milestone, or just to make it to 500 HR, where you could say “If it weren’t for 3000 hits, I wouldn’t think he was a HoF player.”  The lists in the next three days are going to probably piss some people off.  To those that are going to be upset, let me say a couple of things:

1) I’m sorry.  I’m looking at this stuff as objectively as I can.  Some of my favorite players are getting “the boot” when it comes to the rankings.  I’m a Cards fan and I have bounced a team treasure in Red Schoendienst, and I actually cried a bit when I saw that.  I’m not doing this to be mean guys, I’m doing it to be objective.  What’s the point of a HoF if you don’t have good, solid standards for it?

2) If you do want to argue a certain player’s legitimacy, I’m more than willing to listen to arguments.  Just please don’t use one of the following:
a) Post season numbers.  They’re a small sample size, they fluctuate wildly and when given a full seasons worth of data, they will tend to resemble career numbers.

b) You had to watch him play.  While I think that can help augment data, and be good for supplementing conclusions, I find that tends to add bias to what you look up.  I had wanted to do this project for a while and I decided to do nothing in regards to all time players for a week before I started to clear my mind of any preconceptions.

c) He had [insert milestone here].  Sorry, but I want more than that.  Did he get there by just being a good player for 20+ years?  Was he productive?  And no, the number of pennants his team won during that stretch does not equal productivity or greatness.  If it did, Luis Sojo with his 5 WS rings would be inducted.  Great players are great players, regardless of teams they play for.

That’s all I wanted to say for now.  I’m not trying to end discussions or anything in terms of the Hall of Fame, but I am trying to start and encourage them.  It’s one of the greatest things to do in life, so please, let's keep it coming and above all, keep it civil.

1 comment:

  1. Well stated VoL! It is NOT the "Hall of Pretty Good" or " The hall of hanging out", thanks for doing this sir.