Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What it means to be in the Hall of Fame

The 2007 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame are Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn. For those of you who don't follow the game, Ripken holds the record for consecutive games played, surpassing the old record held for over 60 years by Yankee great Lou Gehrig. Tony Gwynn is the best hitter for average in the past 30 years, having won the National League batting title seven times in his career. In an era of free agency where good players are often tempted away from teams by the lure of big money, Ripken played his entire career in Baltimore and Gwynn was a San Diego Padre from rookie year to retirement. Besides statistical excellence, both are mensches.

The 2007 inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame are guard Gene Hickerson, wide receiver Michael Irvin, offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, tight end Charlie Sanders, running back Thurman Thomas, and cornerback Roger Wehrli. Even if you are a fan of pro football, I give you leave to ask "Who dat?" about Hickerson and Wehrli. I only remember Wehrli because his last name is goofy.

Irvin is the most deserving of this bunch for his play on the field, given his contribution to an era of Dallas Cowboy excellence along with teammates Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. Off the field, he was a pompous hypocrite and drug addict scumbag. Think Rush Limbaugh with actual talent.

At the ceremony, he wept openly and asked for forgiveness from those he hurt most, his wife and kids. This also separates him from Limbaugh in that he has a conscience. I say good on ya, Michael, and this from someone who hates the Dallas Cowboys with every fiber of my being.

The main point of my post is this. The Baseball Hall of Fame is just that. It is where the players that far surpassed their colleagues are enshrined forever and the bar for inclusion is set sometimes cruelly high. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a Hall of Pretty Good. Football itself has a cruel hierarchy of who can be famous, where a pretty good player at a "skill" position will be much more famous than an excellent player whose job it is to beat other big people up.


KELSO'S NUTS said...

There's just too much here to comment on and do it justice. I have one criterion and one criterion ONLY that is qualitative. THEY MUST BE NICE TO CHILDREN, SIGN AUTOGRAPHS, ETC. That's it. They may screw as many men or women as they like, use whatever drugs they care to, earn what the market will be, and so on. SELF-DENIAL with a little ability does not a Hall-Of-Famer make. You have said some fairly damning things about Michael Irvin. I have no idea if they are true or not. As a receiver, he's was among the best. If I had to throw one pass to one receiver for my life, I'd prefer Don Maynard, Stanley Morgan or Paul Warfield, but that's just math talking.

I also have no idea whether either Ripken or Gwynn were particularly nice people or not. Certainly, the rumor about the Kevin Costner fight and the "power outage" at Memorial Stadium hasn't gone away. So, Ripken's record could be a phony. I have quantiative proof that he was the 9th best SS or all-time which probably qualifies him. Gwynn's in the top 30 at the back end. I suppose he qualifies. He doesn't have a patch on Dwight Evans, nor Kaline, nor Billy Williams and not even Sheffield TO THIS POINT, statistically speaking. And I can think of two players who will NEVER make it into the HoF who contributed far more over longer careers than Gwynn or Ripken did: BERT BLYLEVEN and DARRELL EVANS.

Basically, I think the whole idea of a Hall Of Fame for any sport is complete nonsense because of such intense media bias and received wisdom. If for calling Cooperstown and Canton, the Official Museums Of Basball, and Football, respectively, and be way more inclusive about each.

I've posted about this before, but doesn't the "coloreds-only" segregation of perhaps the greatest hitter of all time, Josh Gibson, make the whole thing a little silly? Take a look at Newcombe and Paige's MLB stats and make a case that Gibson faced just equal pitching in the Negro Leagues to that of MLB.

When it comes down to who's better than whom, I trust the math more than I trust Peter Gammons or Bob Costas.

And if that makes no sense, I have two words: KIRBY PUCKETT.

KELSO'S NUTS said...

I'm not sure if you're aware of this but sports makes people from New York City, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis INSANE in a way nothing else does. I'm not sure of the reason for that, but I'm willing to argue these points to the death and I have yet to find anything you've written about politics or movies or music to which I wouldn't say, to quote Michael Irvin fans, "ditto."

Matty Boy said...

Your view of Gwynn is not very complementary. If Ted Williams thought he belongs in Ted's Hall of Hitters, that is more than good enough for me.

A lot of fuss is being made about the tears shed by Irvin. What I wanted to make the post about is Nickerson and Wehrli, who I don't think are particularly worthy candidates. I agree completely that some damn fine baseball players are still outside the Hall. As for the Negro Leagues, that's a very difficult debate to have on the numbers, and I'm glad to see the writers are putting in players from that era.

KELSO'S NUTS said...

I think Tony Gwynn was a great hitter who belongs in the HoF, albeit one with a lot of flaws as a BASEBALL PLAYER. He was a hacker at the plate with no power, so his entire value as a hitter is compressed into the batting average. He was a substandard fielder not in the sense that he didn't look graceful which he didn't, he couldn't cover any ground. That's very nice of Ted Wiliams to say about Gwynn, but I'd like to know who the others are. Ted Williams, depending on how you look at it, is the 4th or 5th best hitter in baseball history and if Gwynn is on his list then Yaz better be about 20 paces up the list from Gwynn. Surely, you wouldn't say that Gwynn was better than Ruth, Bonds, Williams, Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Musial, Wagner, Morgan, Hornsby, Ott, or, say Killebrew. Or Murray. Or Henderson. Or Reggie Jackson. He's not better than Raines. I don't think he's better than Cobb, Frank Robinson or Speaker. You could sell me on Gwynn over DiMaggio, Clemente, Larry Walker or Singleton, but that's about as much as I'll yield.

It's very hard to evaluate line-play so I have no opinion about Hickerson. As to Wehrli, I am in complete agreement with you. Very random St. Louis Cardinals DB. If he's in as a DB from that era, Bradley, Fencik, Lockhart, Mumphord, Parrish, Scott and Tatum BETTER be in. Somehow, and I'm just guessing here, none of those guys are in.

I'm not sure how difficult a job it would be to blend the Negro League players in. Paige in his late 40s was exactly as good as Lefty Gomez and Ron Guidry for their peak years. So, I really can't put Josh Gibson any lower than #10 of all-time hitters even without perfect statistical data. But there are enough Negro League stats out there to take a crack at the job if anyone feels like doing it. I FEEL like it but don't have the time.

I told you this subject makes us INSANE. Be glad you're in California.

Matty Boy said...

Here's the website for the complete list.


FranIAm said...

I am simply struggling with the need to write a sentence with Wherli's name and the word gig in it.

Ok, shutting up now.

dguzman said...

I'm just happy that Irvin made it in, as I am a shameless Dallas Cowboys homer and have been since birth (native Texan = blue and silver blood). He was greatness on the field and a jerk off the field, like most pro athletes. At least he had a sense of humor and liked the fans.

KELSO'S NUTS said...


I don't see how the Ted Williams list disproves anything I've said about Gwynn. I'd put him ahead of Simmons and Kiner and any number of others on the list, but he's not making even #30 on Ted's List by my estimation.

Well, we both love Ted Williams and that's a good thing. Ted Wiliams on Jim Bunning (R-KY) as told in BALL FOUR: "Here comes Jim Bunning. Jim Fucking Bunning and that little shit slider of his."

Go on, Ted!

KELSO'S NUTS said...

There actually is a deeper issue here than Gwynn. I have noticed an alarming tendency (AND PLEASE NOTE THAT I EXCLUDE YOU) among MEN who steadfastly question everything the mainstream media tells them about politics and foreign affairs to ACCEPT everything the mainstream sports media tells them about sports.

"How do I know Barry Bonds was on steroids? Because I read it in THE NEW YORK TIMES. Because EVERYBODY knows that..."

"How do I know players are OVERPAID? Come on? $15 million to play a game?...."

You get the point.

It's our job -- YOURS AND MINE, MATTY -- as politics and sports bloggers to try to question EVERYTHING we're told.

And as you and I have the tools of mathematics and conscience at the ready, it's not a terribly hard job to puncture valueless or dangerous myths.

Fred D said...

Whatever, I'm still happy about Cal. I remember watching him play back at Memorial Stadium, back before I watched him at Camden Yards. I remember watching his brother, and his dad when he coached too. I also liked Fred Malek's post on it too.