I was listening to Brian Kenny and Steven A. Smith this morning on my way back from paddling and they were talking about who should and shouldn't be in the Football Hall of Fame. The recent election of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. to the Baseball Hall of Fame has led my to thinking about who should and should not be in the Baseball HoF.
So I figured I offer my thoughts.
In the 50's the Indians had five exceptional pitchers: Feller, Wynn, Garcia, Lemon and Score. Three, Feller, Wynn and Lemon are in the HoF, the other two are not. Feller's a no brainer - even if he "only" won 266 games. We all know about his war record, plus he was named by the Sporting News as the greatest pitcher of his time. Mr. Feller was elected with 93% of the vote on the first ballot. Early Wynn got in because of how well he pitched and how long he pitched, hanging on (literally) long enough to collect that magic 300 wins. Even then it took four ballots for Wynn to garner more than the necessary 75% to get elected. Lemon snuck in on the twelfth ballot despite a lifetime 207 - 128 record - far short of the magic 300 but, he was credited with more than 20 wins in a season seven times and led the league in wins three times. He's also second in home runs by a pitcher - a stat I just love - to another Cleveland pitcher, Wes Ferell. Garcia, who pitched only 13 years, didn't make it despite leading the league in both ERA and shutouts twice and being on both the WS champs in '48 and the Tribe team that set the wins record in '54. Score, as we all know had a very brief career. The one thing about him that I find remarkable is that Hank Aaron said that Herb Score was the toughest left-hander he ever faced - and that includes Koufax - even if it was only in spring training.
Now here's a couple of the Hall of Fame voting rules:
o Voting -- Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
o Automatic Elections -- No automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted.
Here are a couple of facts:
o No pitcher who is credited with 300 or more wins has failed to be elected into the HoF
o No player with 500 or more home runs has failed to be elected into the HoF by the BBWAA
o Other than Pete Rose, nobody with 3,000 or more hits has failed to be elected into the HoF.
Now the 500 HR thing maybe on the way out - McGwire and especially Palmeiro have little chance of inclusion.
Looking at the 50's pitchers you've got a pretty good representation of HoF criteria. Feller is clearly one of the top pitchers of all time. One of the top five maybe - top ten certainly. However, he's only got 266 career Wins - but he gets a pass for his war record. Early Wynn hung on - I might even call it pathetically hung on - long enough to get his 300 W's. As mentioned above it took four ballots for Early to get elected, since some of the baseball writers thought that his last 4 or 5 wins were at the expense of his club's record. Lemon is another issue, no 300 wins, although he did spend 3 years in the Navy during WWII, entering the major leagues at the age of 25. He's got a fist full of twenty win seasons, but it took twelve ballots to get him in. Garcia was arguably the equal of Wynn when both were with the Tribe but didn't last long enough, nor hung on long enough, to get the magic 300 wins.
Now when they make me director of the Baseball Hall of Fame, here's how I'd handle it. I would add one more criteria - ya gotta be a dominate force for at least three years. None of this pitching or playing until you reach a magic milestone - 3,000 hits say. Ya gotta dominate for at least three years. Oh yeah and one more new rule. Only 300 guys in the HoF, so that every time you put a guy in, one's gotta come out. So the electors will hafta name an ejectee for every inductee. So if Cal Ripken Jr. goes in then somebody, like my favorite HoF whipping-boy, Phil Rizzuto, gets tossed. It'd make the tenure of my favorite Indian pitcher, Addie Joss - he of the untouchable lifetime 1.89 ERA - pretty short. But it would reduce the clutter.
So applying my new rules here's what happens to the 50's Indians staff.
Feller gets in for sure - cuz he's one of the most dominate pitchers in the history of the sport. None of the other guys make it, but Lemon is close - real close. Wynn - no, Garcia - ditto.
If you apply my new rules to the 90's Indians ya got five candidates: Manny, Thome, Omar, Roberto, and Albert. And for me, two of those guys are shoo-ins. Manny's a no-brainer - he hits for power and average, but Albert Belle was arguably the most dominate offense force in the American League from 1992 until 1999. He averaged - averaged - almost 112 RBI's a season, including the strike shortened '94 season - arguably his best. He's a lifetime .295 / .369 / .564 hitter - a real, honest to god stud. But he's got no shot in the real world. Why? Well first and foremost - unlike Cal Jr. - the writers don't like him. He's a surly dude who disliked the BB writers and they in turn detested him. Second, due to injuries, he only played twelve years. Hardly enough time to get that 3,000th hit or the 500th home run. So Albert's outside looking - with a sneer I'm sure - in.
Roberto - he's the Bob Lemon in this. Damn good fielder - damn good. Let's see - .300 /.371 .443 yep he could hit a little. Plus he was a dominate force in one of the best offensive line-ups in the history of baseball. So who do we replace with Roberto? How about this Johnny Evers stiff? I guess he could field some - didn't they write a little ditty about Tinkers to Evers to Chance? So maybe he could field but he hit .270 / .356 / .334 - even as a dead ball era hitter Roberto out hits him. So yeah Roberto's in Evers goes back to whence he came - a minor player in a bad poem.
Thome I dunno - we'll leave him and Omar for the thread.
So that's it. My analogue to GM-ing as solitaire. Whatya think?