Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Obligatory Hall of Fame Outraged Response

Since starting this lightly-read blog, I've gone out of my way to avoid recycling material that I'd written for my previous internet employers. But, every year around this time, I reach back to 2005, when I cobbled together an exhaustive feature that examined the Hall of Fame prospects for 100 current and retired players.

Here's what I wrote about the newest Hall of Fame inductee, Andre Dawson:

So goes the story of Andre, whose most Gigantic* seasons materialized in Montreal and away from the big-market media. An eight-time All Star and Gold Glove winner, Dawson was very good for a very long time, but seldom great. He only reached the 30 HR plateau three times, his lifetime OBP of .323 is borderline awful and the fact that he collected nearly 1,000 useless and unproductive at-bats over his final four years make his case for Cooperstown all the less compelling.

* - And, no, I can't believe I went there in 2005.

M'man Smitty and I have had a few heated debates on Dawson's candidacy – he's pro, I'm con. In the end, I'm not going to get too worked up over it. I would only ask that his supporters in the media stop with the revisionist history. Dawson's absolute offensive peak was a four year stretch from 1980-83 (.302/.350/.518). He was solid for the rest of his 11-year run in Montreal, but there wasn't any HoF buzz until much later.

And, his 1980s peak took a back seat to Dale Murphy's (.293/.383/.533) from 1982-85; Darryl Strawberry's (.272/.378/.549) from 1985-88 and even Eric Davis' (.281/.377/.537) from 1986-89.

I will, however, get worked up about Roberto Alomar. Here are my thoughts from five years ago:

Despite the numerous changes of address (seven different teams in 17 years); Alomar was unquestionably the best second baseman of his era. 12 All Star appearances, 10 Gold Gloves and five top 10 finishes in the MVP race would be enough by themselves. Throw in a career .300 average and .371 OBP and you've got one of the finest top of the order hitters of this generation. 2700+ hits and 470+ stolen bases (and counting) are just icing on the cake.

Alomar is on the short list of my all-time favorite players who never wore the Oakland A's green and gold. You know those hackneyed platitudes that sportswriters have been belching out since the 19th century? Well, Alomar's play at second base was jaw-dropping, breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

With Alomar's crazy range at second base on the early 1990s juggernaut Toronto Blue Jays squad, they could've sat light-hitting shortstop Manny Lee – let Alomar cover SS, too – hit eight players and still won the AL East by eight games. I kid, but Alomar was that good.

Now, if he'd only gotten 50% of the HoF vote, I'd have been disappointed. Alomar was great for a long time, but after a terrific 2001 season – at the age of 33 – he was done. His final three seasons included a disastrous, high-profile flop with the Mets and MAYBE Alomar's HoF omission could be explained away with the "recency effect".

Instead, Alomar missed inclusion by eight votes. And, there's not a doubt in mind that he was targeted by just enough voters who felt obligated to deliver a post-dated punishment for a singular on-field sin in 1996. It's all detailed in this
absolutely terrific story.

Alomar intentionally spat on umpire John Hirschbeck during a heated dispute. Afterwards, Alomar implied that the umpire's terminally ill child was the cause for Hirschbeck's short fuse. Alomar was subsequently crucified in the media. Alomar eventually apologized and the two became close friends, working together for Hirschbeck's charity.

Recapping: the ONLY two parties involved have moved on and turned a vile, repugnant moment into something positive, productive and – quite possibly – life-saving.

Meanwhile, too many Hall of Fame voters chose to make a statement on character instead of listening to the message unfolding right in front of them.

(If you haven't done so, make sure you read Joe Posnanski's phenomenal piece on his HoF ballot. You won't agree with every selection/omission – I didn't – but, he's the rare sportswriter with an open mind and a willingness to consider all arguments.)


SHough610 said...

I think it's the recency effect (and the number of teams he played for) rather than the spitting thing.

I don't get the holier-than-thou deal with the HoF. Let Bonds and Clemens and Rose in, just make clear what they did. I hate Clemens but he should be in the Hall, just mention he took PEDs.

Have you ever mentioned the double standard for Bonds that Clemens never got? Bonds was dogged for YEARS about PEDs but Clemens just had "grit" and "work ethic" and "white skin". I'd like to have seen Bonds say he wasn't going to travel or only play half a season and get away with it.

Tom said...

Great stuff. Three things:

1) If Albert Belle played one more season, he would have done in 10 years what it took Dawson 21 to do. Belle got like 7% of the vote when he came up on the ballot.

2) I would love for the 300 or so writers who voted Yes on Dawson and No on Fred McGriff to explain to me, in detail, what the difference was. The difference can not be "Gold Gloves".

3) If "he was injured a lot" is now a valid thing for Hall of Fame induction, then Yankee fans have a legitimate argument for Don Mattingly... which is insanity.

throwdini said...

I am assuming that the main reason that you linked to the Posnanski article was merely because he gave a shout out to he of the porn star mustache, Carney Lansford. I acyually agree with almost all of his picks. I would probably put Baines in also. McGwire, I am not absolutely sure about--but it has nothing to do with steroids. The fact that Raines, Martinez, and Alomar are not in is ridiculous. Maybe I would give the nod to Lee Smith, maybe.

Jag said...

Completely agree with Alomar. I'm from Toronto and Robbie is still the best Blue Jay in the club's history (and probably in the top five of athletes to ever play in the city EVER). I don't think I've ever seen a ball get by him and his clutch home run against Eck and the A's in 1992 is arguably the second biggest home run in the team's history (after Carter's World Series blast, of course).

Where do you think Alomar stands as the all-time best second baseman? Everyone picks Joe Morgan as the greatest but Alomar has to be in the top five at least.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Sam: I don't think I did a very good job of explaining. I do believe there were those who didn't vote for Alomar because of his vagabond career or the miserable way it ended, too. But, at eight votes shy, I think it's reasonable to assume that a handful of voters - maybe 10? more? - followed sportswriter/voter Marty Noble's grandstanding and used their vote to make a statement.

To your other point, while I think that race played SOME role in the national villification of Bonds, I think the media made up the difference in negative coverage towards Clemens after his PED use came to light.

Tom: Your Belle and Mattingly points are spot on. *No one* remembers how great Belle was. And, I really think that Mattingly gets a sympathy build towards eventual, undeserved election in another five years.

Dini: I should go back an update my original in/out HoF list. I know I've been a proponent for Lee Smith and Mark McGwire.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Jag: Ah, yes. The Eck home run. It killed off the A's "dynasty" once and for all, while elevating the Jays to the World Series and Alomar into the national spotlight.

Only the Eck/Kirk Gibson shot was a bigger gut-punch for me as a fan.

Alomar's the best 2B I ever saw. Definitely in discussion of top five ever, but considering the offensive-era he played in, I think it's hard to put him #1.

SHough610 said...

If Belle doesn't make it or it takes a while it's the Jim Ed Rice/ Barry Bonds "he was an asshole to us and we can get him back now" reasoning. Belle might have been a crazy asshole but he was incredible at baseball.

Too often self-righteous sports writers forget they're electing people to the Hall of Fame, not picking the Pope or canonizing someone as a saint

Tom said...

@SHough610: It is the one time in a baseball player's relationship that media has the upper hand. It is their time to air all their grievances.

Belle's candidacy is already over. He got 7% his first year and 3% his second year. Less than 5% removes you from the ballot.

Chad said...

As one of your many (?) Canadian readers I had to throw this little video out there. Alomar could have been the worst 2nd baseman of all time and he should still be in the HOF simply based on this excellent Fruit Punch commercial. Catch The Taste Cam, Catch The Taste.

That Bootleg Guy said...

I would put this a solid second behind that awesome Frank Thomas spot with him hitting the kid with the pillow (wasn't that commercial ultimately taken off the air) in the all time rankings for Canadian ads featuring Blue Jays or Expos. Glorious.

Joe said...

You know what's worse than sportswriters that leave a specific player off their ballot for a simple grievance? Sportswriters that leave their ballot BLANK (Jay Mariotti & Lisa Olson).

Here's an article you might enjoy about the whole thing: