By: Mike Carter
I know almost everyone who follows the game of baseball will likely have an opinion, strong or weak, about the Hall of Fame.
Most of the time, we can agree on the shoo-ins, I believe. There’s little doubt to any serious fan that guys like Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Vladimir Guerrero belong in the hallowed hall, hanging with the all-time greats and the ghosts of the past of this great game. Trevor Hoffman…I’ll get to him in a bit.
I was having a conversation recently with a good friend who is a diehard Boston Red Sox and Nomar Garciaparra fan. He makes a compelling argument that at his peak, Garciaparra was one of the best players in the game. Hard to disagree, even after plowing through the numbers. In fact, my friend feels that Garciaparra was a better player than Craig Biggio…who has a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Garciaparra likely will not get into the building except as a tourist. But it illustrates a point.
No one has yet come to grips with letting guys in who may or may not have done PED’s. I am unsure how I feel about it and letting these guys in to the club. It’s not a Boy Scout Hall of Fame. How do we decide? How do we look at the seemingly tainted accomplishments of guys like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa, all guys who, based on numbers, merit consideration? The answer to me is, you don’t get it in unless you confess to what you did. Own it. A missing piece of this new 21st century America we live in; make a mistake, deny it, keep denying it, and move on. Be Trumpian. Just own that you did it, that it was a mistake, and most fans will forgive you.
Look, if I were a scrub middle infielder or a fifth outfielder and I saw the PED’s helping me get a contract that gives me generational wealth, like $8-10 million, I will put anything you want to give me into this broken body. I was not blessed with natural ability for much of anything. I never had to make this kind of a decision. What I have come to think about guys like Bonds and Clemens is that they had already made their money, they had their enshrinements into the Hall, and they took PED’s because they didn’t know how to stop competing at that level. They didn’t want to ride out into the sunset, diminished by time and age. Their egos wouldn’t allow it. As has been said multiple times and multiple ways, a man has to know his limitations. That is why I don’t think I would vote for them. Yet the voters, hypocrites, voted in Pudge Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell, who had rumors cast about them as well, and now everyone is happy? Someone is going to have to figure out a criteria to lend a hand to the voting baseball writers. What do we use as measuring stick? I just don’t know the answer. But I think we all need to heal from the debacle that was PED’s, and being open and honest about it seems to be the best way to heal.
And who are these at times faceless writers? Some will stand up and support their stances, and I admire that, even if I disagree with them. But here’s my question: what about Vladimir Guerrero isn’t a first ballot Hall of Famer? It took Tim Raines ten years to get your approval? Jeff Bagwell, seven years? Why? Please tell me. I don’t get it. We don’t have strata in the Hall; there aren’t levels; you’re either in, or you’re not. And I am tired of the process. The career is not better five years later.
I have argued in this column that Edgar Martinez belongs in the Hall of Fame. In 2016, he got 43% of the vote. Last year, Martinez had 58.6% of the baseball writers’ votes. This year, he got over 70%. What gives? What changed about his career that he garnered more votes each year? The answer? Nothing. There are no rules, there are no suggestions. He didn’t simply get better in three years. And if you argue, well, guys like Griffey and Piazza and Jones and Thome should get in on the first time because it somehow further sanctifies the hall, you’re wrong. It doesn’t. Five years from now, who but the most ardent of us will care if someone was first ballot, or tenth…they’re all in. No one will remember. And fewer care. This is a silly method. If the player wasn’t good enough five years after they retired, they aren’t suddenly changed ten years later. I find this a travesty. Edgar belongs. So did Jack Morris and Alan Trammell when they were initially eligible. All were excellent, not merely average, at their craft.
In terms of closers, Hoffman was great. But we don’t really have a measuring stick yet. For example, we know that the most home runs hit has been 762. We know the most wins is 511. We don’t know yet what the measuring stick will be for closers. How many saves might Aroldis Chapman have at the end of his career? Craig Kimbrel? Hoffman had over 600. With the way the game is played now, 35-40 saves per year is not uncommon for even average closers. Might we not have ten, twenty closers in our lifetime that have well over 600? Say, more like 800? Wouldn’t that then make the accomplishments of closers more questionable? It is a thought to ponder. I have always thought that a closer is overrated in most situations; they may be protecting a three-run lead, which is not a high stress situation, or they may come in with the bases loaded and Mike Trout batting, and I can’t think of a baseball situation more stressful. I am not saying that closers don’t belong, only that I wouldn’t vote for them yet. Their statistics mislead us into thinking about their dominance. Maybe we should try and measure them differently as opposed to looking at save numbers?
As I have aged, I have become disoriented and cranky about a number of things. The Hall of Fame election process is one of them. Please leave your thoughts here and we can continue to discussion!
We are less than three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting, my friends!