Monday, January 12, 2009

Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice make it into the Hall of Fame

Just a quick note about Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice, MLB's brand-new Hall of Fame picks. Henderson was a first-year pick, while Rice got chosen in his last year of eligibility. The writers did a great job with both choices.

For once, I was right - I did write last month that Rice would finally make it into the Hall of Fame this year. Not exactly the prediction of the year, but I'll take it!

I also wrote that Rickey would make it in the first time around, but being right on that is like predicting that Alex Rodriguez will make some headlines this year.

Jim Rice was a fierce competitor, and a big part of the Rivalry. My favorite Rice moment happened at 1985 in Yankee Stadium. Some knuckleheaded Yankee fan stole Rice's cap, and he went into the bleachers to look for the guy. Classic - the fan had it coming!

And Henderson, of all people, holds the Yankees' all-time steals record. He, Rice, and Yankee Joe Gordon, who was picked by the Veterans' Committee last month, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.

Good news for Squawker Jon - Mo Vaughn got six Hall of Fame votes!

What do you think about the Hall of Fame picks? Leave us a comment.


Uncle Mike said...

Rickey Henderson? I have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame. But, as I've said before, I wouldn't mind if the TV feed from Cooperstown shorts out just before he begins his acceptance speech.

As for Jim Rice, I just don't see it. And not because he was a Red Sock who hit my Yankees. A guy with his power and the Green Monster to hit toward should have more than 382 career home runs. He had four great years (1977, '78, '79, '83), 10 very good years, and that was pretty much it. Put simply, from age 22 to 26, and again from 29 to 33, he was one of the scariest hitters in the game; at 27, 28, 34 and 35, he was a very good hitter; at 36 he was practically invisible, and after that he was done. They said that all this talk about steroids makes Rice look better, because he didn't use steroids. The thing is, though, with his early burst, downgrade, then renewal of power, and then dramatic dropoff and late injuries, he actually fits the steroid profile. I'm not accusing him, just pointing out the match. As we say here in the New York Tri-State Area, "I'm just sayin'."

Rice also was one of the slowest runners of his time, and was, at best, an average left fielder. His teammate Dwight Evans was one of the best defensive right fielders ever, and actually ended up with more career home runs, 385. Yet where is the outcry for Evans? If Rice belongs, then so does Evans; if Evans does not, then Rice is hard to justify.

One final point, then I'll move on to the others: If I had told you during the Bucky Dent Playoff game that, for 30 years thereafter (but not, we now know, 31), neither Rice, nor Evans, nor center fielder Fred Lynn would be in the Hall of Fame, you'd have asked me what I was smoking. Yet Rice was denied until now, Evans hasn't been seriously considered, and injuries turned Lynn from a guy with Carl Yastrzemski-like stats into a guy with Shawn Green-like stats, and who supports Green for future Halldom?

Who else belongs, but isn't in? Andre Dawson: Yes. He hit 438 homers despite playing half his career in the cavernous Montreal Olympic Stadium, collected almost 2,800 hits, and won eight Gold Gloves despite aching knees. If he'd played his whole career in Chicago, with their media spotlight, rather than just six seasons, he'd be in, just like Billy Williams, whom says is the player most statistically resembling Andre, and who had fewer homers and hits, and has hardly anyone questioning the justice of his election.

Bert Blyleven: Yes. No contest. He was third all-time in strikeouts when he hung 'em up. He won 287 games. He won World Series games and pitched for Series winners in both leagues, the '79 Pirates and the '87 Minnesota Twins, going 5-1 in postseason play. This guy was 17-5 at age 38. Why is he not in? It is the 250 career losses? Hey, you try pitching 11 years for the Twins and five for the Cleveland Indians, and see if you make it to 287 wins! The guy went 19-7 for the '84 Tribe, for cryin' out loud! That's like going 24-4 for a good team! So he gave up a World Series-winning homer to Mark Grace. So what? He was 39, and besides, it was just a movie! ("Taking Care of Business," starring Jim Belushi and Charles Grodin, with Joe Torre as a broadcaster.) Put the Dutch Master in.

Lee Smith: No. In fact, the best reason for voting him in is no longer there: He's no longer the all-time saves leader. Maybe the home run he gave up to Steve Garvey to lose Game 4 of the 1984 NLCS is what's keeping him out. A Cub Pennant might have made the difference. (Yeah, right: You wanna see the Cubs in the World Series, go rent "Taking Care of Business." It's actually a good movie.)

Jack Morris: Yes. The winningest pitcher of the 1980s. He won World Series with three different teams, the 1984 Detroit Tigers, the '91 Twins and the '92 Toronto Blue Jays. The guy pitched a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 in '91. In the Metrodome, no less. Who's got the guts to pitch that today? What manager has the gets to let his pitcher try it? He had control, he had courage, and he won. What more do you want? A career ERA under 4.00? His career ERA+ was 105, so it's not like he was lesser than the league as a whole.

Tommy John: Yes. And that's not just a "Yankee Fan's pick," since he spent a good chunk of his career with the hated L.A. O'Malley Bums. He won 288 games, pitched in four World Series (though never won one), had three 20-win seasons (one at age 37) and didn't walk batters. And that's before you honor him for being willing to undergo the pioneering elbow surgery that now bears his name. If William "Candy" Cummings is in for inventing the curveball (a possibly dubious claim), and little else (a good pitcher by the standards of the 1870s but was washed up at age 28), T.J. should be in for being a consistent winner from age 22 to 45. However, he's used up his Writers' Association eligibility.

Tim Raines: Yes. The best leadoff hitter in National League history, 800 stolen bases (only four have more), and a very good fielder. Like his teammate in the Expo outfield, Dawson, had to go to Chicago (in his case, the White Sox) to get noticed. Unlike Dawson, actually played in a World Series -- two, in fact, for the 1996 and '98 Yankees. They both belong.

And finally...

Mark McGwire: No. And we all know why. You see, Mark, there are a lot of things that baseball fans like to talk about. And, very often, we ARE here to talk about the past.

Now, if the Veterans' Committee can get around to putting in Gil Hodges...

Jonmouk71 said...

Congratulations to snarling Jim Rice and the Red Sox for one of their own to make it into the Hall. I believe that there are (with Joe Gordon's election) twice as many plaques in the Hall with Yankee caps as Red Sox caps. Perhaps one day they'll even catch up - and before some hater rails about too many Yankees in the Hall, they have the same as the Cardinals and much less than the leader, the Giants. Maybe another reason to keep B. Bonds out?

Ryan O said...

I think Rickey will go in with an A's hat right?

She-Fan said...

Yeah, Rickey said he's going in with the A's hat. Sounds like a cliche, I know, but he was definitely a game changer the way he made pitchers crazy on the bases. I loved watching him as a Yankee. I just didn't love listening to him!

Roy said...

Rickey was always entertaining. I can't wait to see his speech.

Uncle Mike said...

Jonmouk: There are 22 HOFers who are in having made significant contributions as Yankee players: Yogi Berra, Wade Boggs, Jack Chesbro, Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Joe Gordon, Goose Gossage, Waite Hoyt, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Willie Keeler, Tony Lazzeri, Mickey Mantle, Herb Pennock, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing, Babe Ruth and Dave Winfield. (I counted 19 in a response to Squawker Jon, but that failed to count Boggs, Keeler and Winfield.)

For the Red Sox, there are now 15: Boggs, Jimmy Collins, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Rick Ferrell, Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Harry Hooper, Jim Rice, Ruth (yes, he does have to be counted here), Tris Speaker, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Cy Young. If you want to add Dennis Eckersley, that would be 16.

This does not include HOFers who are there as managers (like Casey Stengel and, for the Red Sox, Dick Williams, though Collins and Cronin also managed), executives (like Ed Barrow and Tom Yawkey) or broadcasters (Mel Allen, Curt Gowdy and the newly-elected Tony Kubek).

Jonmouk71 said...

I think my numbers are actual cap numbers - Ruth is wearing a Yankee cap, not a Red Sox cap. On your theory, the Mets have another HOF because of Rickey - and that should only be true if there is a deck of cards on the plaque.

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