Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rickey Henderson: Deal him in to the Hall

Squawker Lisa and reader Jonmouk71, card games or no, Rickey Henderson is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And it's not his fault that Met fans' most recent memories of him are him somehow being hired as a coach in 2007.

And as for Gil Hodges vs. Allie Reynolds for the Veterans ballot, obviously I'm going with Gil, though I concede that his overall managing record wouldn't do it on its own, so it has to be more for his playing days and overall body of work.

As for Reynolds, I don't think two no-hitters in one year is a qualifying stat, though maybe I'm just bitter because the Mets have no no-hitters in 47 years. (Yes, reader Uncle Mike, it does matter to me! And thanks for not piling on when you mentioned Seaver, Gooden and Cone pitching no-hitters after leaving the Mets and left out Nolan Ryan.)

And Reynolds has six rings? So does Willie Randolph!

The guy I most think has been unjustly left out of the Hall is Jack Morris, who won 254 games and had dominant performances in two World Series - 1984, when he won two complete games with an ERA of 2, and 1991, when he won two games in three starts with an ERA of 1.17, including the classic Game 7, when he pitched a complete game, 10-inning shutout on three days rest, beating Atlanta and outdueling John Smoltz, 1-0. Morris was named World Series MVP. Complete games were more common then, but his achievements are still really impressive.

But as for the Veterans' ballot, it includes another former Mets manager who will need to rely more on other credentials to make the Hall. Lisa and Jonmouk71 and all you other Yankee fans out there - surely you haven't forgotten about Joe Torre!


Anonymous said...

I would say the most egregious error by the HoF is not including Bert Blylevin, over Jack Morris. For more on that, check out FireJoeMorgan (R.I.P.)...

"The Expert" said...

I say that Henderson, Blylevin, Morris and rice should get in. And I would not be upset if Mattingly got in too. as far as the Veterans, I would be happy to see Gil Hodges in but I really want to see Ron Santo in.

Uncle Mike said...

Rickey Henderson does deserve election to the Hall of Fame based on his on-field accomplishments. But wouldn't it be nice if, just as he's beginning his acceptance speech, ESPN or whoever broadcasts the ceremony says, "We are experiencing technical difficulties," and the feed is miraculously restored just as the next honoree begins to speak?

As for Jonmouk's comments that Rickey wasn't a great Yankee or a great Met, he wouldn't be the first guy to go to the Hall after playing as a Yankee, but being better known for another team. Enos Slaughter (number retired in St. Louis) doesn't have a Plaque in Monument Park, nor does Catfish Hunter (who had most of his good years in Oakland), nor does Wade Boggs (who will always be a Red Sock to some). It escaped my notice at the time, but while Rickey was invited back for Old-Timers' Day this past season, he was not invited to the Stadium finale. This tells me that, no matter what he did in Oakland and Toronto (winning a Series with both), he'll never be in Monument Park at the new Stadium.

Gil Hodges absolutely belongs in the Hall of Fame. His lifetime batting average may be only .273, but then, so is Phil Rizzuto's. Gil's OPS+ is 120. Contrast that with those of his teammates already in the Hall: Snider 140, Jackie Robinson 132, Roy Campanella 124 (I would've bet that Campy's was considerably higher than Jackie's, as Jackie was a contact hitter rather than a power hitter), and Pee Wee Reese (as with Rizzuto, admittedly not there for his power numbers) 99.

His total of 370 home runs doesn't sound like much, especially since he played in the bandbox of Ebbets Field. On the other hand, at the time he retired, he was 8th all-time. The only guys ahead of him then: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial and Duke Snider. Of those, all are in the Hall, and all but Snider got elected in their first year of eligibilty. (Just one homer behind Hodges: Ralph Kiner, and Joe DiMaggio rounded out what was then the Top 10.) And of the players ahead of Hodges on the list, none was as renowned for his fielding as Hodges was. Before there was Moose Skowron, Chris Chambliss, Keith Hernandez, Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez, there was the best-fielding first baseman in New York history, maybe all of baseball history, and it was Gil Hodges. The first three years that Gold Gloves were awarded, 1957 to '59, he won them.

If they counted playing and managing achievements together, Hodges would have to be in. This man led the New York Mets to a World Championship. The word "Miracle" got thrown around a lot, but considering what the Mets had been before 1969, it wasn't far off. (Not that Davey Johnson will ever get into the Hall without a ticket.) But since playing achievements and managing achievements are considered separately, neither has gotten Hodges in. Enough: The guy was the best first baseman in baseball in his time, he played on seven Pennant winners and two World Champions (1955 in Brooklyn and 1959 in Los Angeles), and every one of his teammates, including Jackie who just barely survived him, spoke well of Gil's leadership qualities, even if Pee Wee was the official captain of the team.

As for Joe Torre, again, achievements for playing and for managing are considered separately. As a player, Joe falls just a little bit short. He'll get in as a manager after he retires as such, but he shows no sign of doing so. They may have to take him out of the ballpark under a sheet. He's a lifer. Then again, so is a certain other Dodger manager, Tommy Lasorda, and he hung 'em up. On the other hand (third hand?), I think the reason he quit is because he wanted to give a Hall of Fame induction speech. He's a great ambassador for the game, but he's SUCH a ham.

Allie Reynolds is a harder case, because of the way Casey Stengel used him. He won 182 games as both a starter and a reliever. With his size, speed and mindset, he would've been an ideal modern relief pitcher. But as a Hall candidate, he's a borderline case. He was a terrific pitcher, but the way Casey used him, and an injury ending his career at 37, aided by the fact that he'd invested in oil in his native Oklahoma and was one of the few players of the era who could afford to quit before he got too old, probably cost him his shot. To be in the Hall with fewer than 182 wins, you need to be an icon: Dizzy Dean's career was cut short by injury after 150, but they just couldn't keep him out. Nor could they keep out Sandy Koufax, won won 165. Lefty Gomez won 189 and he had to wait to get in through the Veterans' Committee, Ron Guidry won 170 and he's out, Dwight Gooden won 194 and he probably won't ever make it, either.

Reynolds' two no-hitters, even if they hadn't come in the same season, are window dressing: Jim Maloney of the Cincinnati Reds, another All-Star whose fastball approached 100 miles an hour, pitched three (one against the Mets that lasted 10 innings but he lost the game in the 11th), and had a better career ERA+ and WHIP than Reynolds, and he's not in. Then again, he only won 134 games and struck out 1,600 batters because he got hurt at 29 and was done at 31. If he'd been healthy until 37, that would've carried him to the Cincinnati teams that won the '75 and '76 World Series, and he'd probably be in even if he didn't reach 300 wins and 3,000 Ks, which he was on pace to do. And those Reds teams might've also won the Series in '70, '72 and '73. Along with Gooden, Herb Score, Tony Conigliaro and Smokey Joe Wood, Maloney's a real what-if story.

I agree that Jack Morris belongs. Had he not been able to pitch that Game 7 in 1991 and never thrown another pitch, I was thinking at the time, he's a borderline case for the Hall of Fame. After that game, I thought he'd pitched himself in. But he's not in yet. People see that 3.90 career ERA, but his ERA+, ERA compared to the rest of the league, is 105, 5 percent better. From 1979 to 1992, except for one bad year in 1989, he was one of the best pitchers in the American League. He won 21 games at age 37, and how many guys have done that?

Anonymous is right: Bert Blyleven has 3,701 strikeouts, 3rd all-time when he retired, 287 wins while pitching most of his career for weak teams in Minnesota and Texas, won 17 games at age 21 and again at age 38, won 20 for a .500 Twins team in '73, has a career WHIP under 1.2 (that's sensational), a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.8 to 1, is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in postseason play, and has rings with the '79 Pirates (winning Game 5 of the World Series) and '87 Twins (winning Game 2). I know, he gave up that home run to Mark Grace to lose the 1990 World Series for the Angels against the Cubs, but that was just a movie ("Taking Care of Business," starring Jim Belushi and Charles Grodin, with Joe Torre as a broadcaster). Blyleven belongs in the Hall.

The Expert is right about Ron Santo: There aren't many third basemen in the Hall, and Santo was better than some of them. I'd rank Wade Boggs, George Brett, Eddie Mathews, Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, possibly (great fielder and big RBI man) Pie Traynor, and, considering he was a slugger by the standards of his time, Frank (Home Run) Baker ahead of Santo; but not George Kell, Fred Lindstrom (a good player but a serious candidate for HOFer who least deserves it); and Jimmy Collins is probably in as much for his managing of the Red Sox to the 1903 World Series and 1904 Pennant (no Series that year) as for his playing, highly-regarded in his time but probably not up to today's standards. That's it: Ten third basemen in the Hall, and Graig Nettles (whose .247 batting average and near-miss of 400 homers will probably forever keep him out).

But I wouldn't put Jim Rice in. He certainly looked like a Hall-of-Famer. But after age 33, he tailed off, and he last played at 36. As far as I know, he wasn't seriously hurt. His career batting average dipped to .298 (though that didn't hurt Mickey Mantle's chances, and Rice's .298 didn't include a final-season .237), and he finished with under 2,500 hits and 382 home runs. If steroids were common at the time, I'd wonder. 382? With that nice close left-field wall at Fenway? Jim Rice should have had more homers than that. And he was not a great fielder. You know who was a great fielder? His teammate, Dwight Evans, whose eight Gold Gloves remain a Boston record. He had almost as many career hits as Rice, and hit 385 homers... more than Rice! And Evans was still productive at 37. Yet we never hear of Evans as a Hall candidate.

I won't pretend that Don Mattingly deserves it. For peak performance, he was better than his New York first base contemporary, Keith Hernandez. But for overall performance, Hernandez deserves the Hall by a little, and Mattingly doesn't quite make it.

mhochman said...

I say Rickey is a first ballot hall of famer, BUT, he must be required during his acceptance speech, to NOT refer to himself in the third person.

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