I lied! Granted, I didn’t realize I was lying when I wrote in my recent blog about Bert Blyleven’s inevitable Hall of Fame election that I wasn’t going to get into a “lather” about it.
But now I realize that I’m at lather stage not only because of the inclusion of another unworthy player into the Hall, but also because his induction represents another step in the deterioration of a once great institution.
What got me “lathered” up was Joe Posnanski’s blog wherein he revealed that Bob Costas thinks the Hall of Fame is “too big,” my position exactly. According to Costas, again echoing my feelings, the Hall should be reserved for the “great” and not include the “very good” which Posnanski interpreted as a reference to Blyleven.
Posnanski further speculated that if Costas could do it without hurting anyone’s feelings, he’d cull several existing members from the Hall. Once again, Costas and I share the exact restrictionist philosophy.
Then, in a joking response to Costas, Posnanski created what he called the “Willie Mays Hall of Fame” that would use Mays as the standard for all future inductees. If a player didn’t compare to Mays, he wasn’t Hall material. By the time Posnanski completed his analysis, the Hall only had one member: Willie Mays.
If you’re willing to considering Costas’ (and my) approach, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
The first 1936 Hall of Fame class included the following: Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner. These players didn’t qualify: Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby and others with imposing stats. In 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Hall elected Andre Dawson, Jim Rice and Blyleven. Is there anyone out there that, no matter what convoluted sabermetrics you may use, wants to argue that that Ruth and Dawson are comparable players? Can anyone successfully debate that, regardless of the era they pitched in, that Blyleven is the equal to either Johnson or Mathewson?
Here’s something else. Tell me who doesn’t belong in this picture: Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer and Blyleven.
Yet despite the huge disparities in their skills and careers, at the end of the day, baseball fans can accurately make this all-inclusive observation: “Seaver, Gibson, Palmer and Blyleven are Hall of Fame pitchers.”
Unless you go into a long-winded breakdown of their careers, that simple statement puts them all on equal footing. That is, they’re all Hall of Famers.
Maybe you’re okay with Dawson, Rice and Blyleven. But if the current relaxed standards trend continues, as I sadly expect it will, the Hall will soon be seriously evaluating, for example, Bobby Abreu.
Like Blyleven, Abreu will have played for several teams including three with strong public relations machines, the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angeles, all of whom will work hard to advance his Hall case.
For that matter, Abreu has enough money to hire his own public relations firm or, like Blyleven, develop an influential Web site to do his own advocating. Then, perhaps most helpful of all to Abreu, he’ll stay on the Hall ballot for an interminable 15 years. Since Abreu will have made friends among the voting sportswriters, locally and nationally, eventually his train will come in. By the time the spin ends, Abreu will be as good as Roberto Clemente.
In the meantime, I’m finding comfort where I can. I have Costas and some readers as allies in my losing fight for a meaningful Hall. That’s good company to be in.