Humanity And The Hall Of Fame

Hall Of Fame

Before anything else, I went into Bert Blyleven‘s Hall of Fame candidacy in painstaking detail almost a year ago to this day—Prince of NY Baseball Blog, 1.9.2010.

Having nothing to do with his politicking and pressuring the voters to induct him; nor his iffy win totals, Blyleven was up there with the great pitchers of his day in everything but winning percentage; he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

It’s interesting to note that Blyleven’s support was almost non-existent until the new metrics and proliferation of stat friendly writers and bloggers began pushing him so aggressively. As more stat people were allowed to vote and present their case to those that in prior years weren’t receptive to Blyleven, many slowly had their minds changed to vote yes.

With Felix Hernandez going 13-12 and (deservedly) winning the Cy Young Award a year after Tim Lincecum won the award with a less-flashy winning percentage and ERA than Chris Carpenter and a lower win total than Adam Wainwright, the numbers are having a profound affect on the post-season awards and the Hall of Fame.

Will this continue as Curt Schilling—a loud proponent of the candidacy of…Curt Schilling—gets ready for his career to be put to the ultimate test in two years?

Blyleven’s consistent harping on his own worthiness clearly had a positive influence on some of the voters; but Blyleven was well-liked in his day as a team clown; Schilling was respected on the field, but loved hearing the sound of his own voice and playing up his team-oriented nature and “gutsy” performances exemplified by the bloody sock in the 2004 ALCS.

Are Schilling’s credentials better than those of Kevin Brown? Brown was loathed by the media because he made their lives difficult— seemingly on purpose—but was gutty in his own right; his intensity to win and discomfort with the media caused many of his problems. Should he be seen in a less flattering light than Schilling because of that?

Brown was better than Schilling in the regular season—people don’t realize how good Brown really was because of his injuries and bad press; Schilling was lights out in the post-season. Along with Bob Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Dave Stewart to name three, there aren’t many pitchers you’d rather have on the mound in a make-or-break post-season game than Curt Schilling.

You didn’t see Brown schmoozing and cajoling to get his due in the HOF balloting.

Schilling?

Put it this way: people like Blyleven personally and got tired of hearing him whine; Schilling is the epitome of polarizing; he was a great pitcher who put up big post-season numbers; he’s done some incredibly nice things with his time and money in terms of charity; and he’s a relentless self-promoter who casts himself as a representative of conservative causes with his hand over his heart and waving of the American flag as if that’s the definition of right in the world regardless of context.

I truly don’t know what’s going to happen with Schilling, but I doubt he’ll get in on the first ballot and the longer he waits, the less likely he is to keep his mouth shut. Unlike Blyleven, he’s a guy who’s going to lose support the more he talks.

Regarding the other candidates, I think Barry Larkin and Tim Raines should wait a while (maybe a long while) before meriting serious consideration; that Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer; that Fred McGriff is a Hall of Famer; Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell deserve more support; and if Blyleven’s in, then Tommy John should be in. In fact, John has a better case than Blyleven in my eyes for the combination of success on the field and that he revolutionized the game by undergoing the surgery that’s saved scores of careers, is so commonplace that it’s no longer a pitcher’s death sentence and now bears his name—a name that many mentioning it don’t realize belongs to a pitcher who won 288 games.

Roberto Alomar also deserves his election to the Hall for his on-field accomplishments. He was a great fielder; an excellent, all-around hitter; a terrific baserunner; and a clutch player. He also fell off the planet in his numbers at a young age and his career was sullied by the incident while playing for the Orioles in which he spat in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck during an argument.

Then there were the PED cases Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro; the “lumped in with the offenders” types like Jeff Bagwell; and the “ballpark question from playing in Coors Field” of Larry Walker.

McGwire and Palmeiro aren’t getting in. Ever.

I don’t know about Bagwell and Walker; fairly or not, I’d say on January 6th, 2011, that I doubt either will be enshrined.

Here’s the point: are McGwire and Palmeiro being punished because of the judgments of people without a clear cut series of rules that govern how they vote? And where does this judgment begin and end?

Since the PED issues with McGwire and Palmeiro are going to prevent them from ever receiving any kind of support, does that equate with the off-field allegations about Roberto Alomar?

People have been reluctant to discuss this, but what of the continued accusations from Alomar’s former girlfriends and his ex-wife of having unprotected sex with them while knowing he’s HIV-positive?

As much as people try to claim a separation of on-and-off field behaviors in casting ballots, which is worse? A player doing what a large percentage of his contemporaries were doing during the so-called “steroid era” and putting up massive numbers? Or going beyond the scope of humanity with a repulsive selfishness as Alomar is accused of doing in his romantic life?

You can claim there to be no connection to the Hall of Fame with the allegations against Alomar and I’ll agree with you; but to equate someone using steroids to the devaluation of one’s humanity in taking another person’s long term health as nothing to be concerned about—as Alomar is repeatedly alleged to have done—is a greater level of moral repugnance than any drug use could ever be whether it’s recreational or performance enhancing.

Alomar and his representatives “kinda-sorta” deny he has HIV, but if you read between the lines, it’s not a denial. It’s parsing.

Only he knows if he’s been behaving this way and possibly infecting lovers with a dreaded disease, but if it became publicly known to be true, would that seep into the voters’ minds?

As much as it’s suggested that players’ personalities and off-field tendencies have nothing to do with their careers, how long did Jim Rice have to wait for induction based more on his prickly relationship with the media than the proffered reasons for keeping him out?

The people who dealt with a borderline candidate like Brown aren’t going to be as supportive as the prototypical “blogger in the basement” who had no reason to dislike him and is simply looking at the numbers.

On the same token, Dale Murphy was considered one of the nicest, most decent men to ever put on a baseball uniform; he has a somewhat legitimate candidacy for HOF consideration, but has never come close; nor will he.

The spitting incident with Hirschbeck was said to be a major reason Alomar didn’t get in on the first ballot; but what if it was revealed that yes, he’s been putting people with whom he had intimate relations at risk due to his own denials and insistence to not practice safe sex? Would that cause anyone to hesitate?

As long as there are no clear cut criteria and people like Blyleven get results from a propaganda tour and outside support that grows exponentially, it’s not something to dismiss.

It’s a hard question to answer and I’d have to think very seriously before casting my vote for or against someone if that were the case.

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6 thoughts on “Humanity And The Hall Of Fame

  1. I’m glad for Alomar and Blyleven. They deserved entry. What I’ll never understand about the HOF voting, though, is why someone doesn’t get in one year but gets in the next. Were they less worthy last time around? Or is there a message sent: “You’re good but not first ballot good?”

    1. I will tell you one guy who I think has to be a Hall of Famer now that I never would have thought of as one borfee: Bobby Abreu. The guy has been an on-base machine his whole career, will have more steals, doubles, runs, and RBI than Dawson, and possibly more hits and nearly the same amount of home runs. Not to mention about three times as many walks. But he may be hurt by the lack of a good nickname or because he isn’t feared like Jim Rice. I have seen a lot of articles over the last day or so talking about how it’s the story that matters and it’s true. If the writers decide to make a story about you, then that story can carry you into the Hall of Fame. Dawson was a monster despite getting on base less than a backup outfielder. Jim Rice was the most feared hitter even though he was worse than plenty of other hitters outside of Fenway Park. Ozzie Smith was the greatest defensive player of all time so that makes up for him not being as good as Alan Trammel in any other way, and not by a hair or two either. Will Abreu’s fear of the wall (which is the storyline that the writers have created for him) and quiet professionalism keep him out? I wouldn’t be surprised.

  2. Check out Schilling’s Twitter, 3/20/2011: “Do I think I am a HOF? No.”
    He’s not going to whine like Blyleven did. Smart move that might work in his favor.

    He certainly ain’t getting in first ballot – those regular season stats are just sad for a HOF candidate. Nice WHIP and K/BB, and 3000 K’s, but Blyleven had all of that and more, and needed 14 ballots to get in. Then 2014-15 are loaded with sure things like Pedro, Johnson, Maddux, Glavine. Schilling may be the pitching version of Mr. October, and I say he gets in eventually, but he’s going to have to wait in line. Still, based on the tweet above, I expect him to keep his trap shut about it.

    1. While PEDs were illegal, balesabl did nothing to ban them and no player broke any of balesabl’s rules in using them. They should have been banned. The general public knew they were being used. Fans were chanting STERRR OIDDS at Fenway Park in the late 80s when Jose Canseco came to bat. The Commissioner of Baseball and the Baseball owners did nothing to deal with PEDs. Their silence made PED use okay . They were glad to see big boppers bring in the fans. If anyone is banned from the HOF for steroid use, it should be the Commissioners of that era. It is a mandate of the Commissioners to assure the integrity of balesabl. They failed that task. The players shouldn’t be punished. Competitors will do whatever they can to compete. If a few got juiced, probably most them were juiced. Every competitor is looking for an edge or at least a level playing field. The people in charge did nothing to make the rules fit the time or to keep the playing field level.

  3. Ah but the BBWA did elect Phil Rizzuto ! What a travesty.There are good plyears and great plyears.There are simply too many of the former in the Hall of Fame or waiting on another year.Blyleven should be carried in simply off the number of complete games.Alomar is paying for the infamous spitting incident but he’ll get in.And just to think that with a few more homers Dave Kingman @ 500 + would have to be considered ..mind blowing !As to Bernie Williams are not offensive plyears judged on hits,hits for power,runs,fields,throws ? Bernie had no arm whatsoever,could not steal bases, and from first to third looked like a deer in the headlights.Indeed.he hit, he hit in the clutch, he hit for power and had tremendous range in center.To me he’s short.

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