Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Other Elections

The Hall of Fame voters corrected a long-standing injustice by electing Goose Gossage yesterday. Generally, commentators attributed the nine year snub in giving Gossage his due to lingering prejudices on the part of many voters against relief pitchers. Nonsense. Hoyt Wilhelm, Dennis Eckersly and Bruce Suter are already members. Moreover, it has been commonly acknowledged for many years now that teams cannot succeed without a quality closer. Resistence to Gossage had more to do with the "relatively low" obvious number -- saves -- than the story behind them -- number of innings pitched. He is a very worthy member of the Hall.

Roger Clemens, on the other hand, may be more than worthy based on the numbers, but he has serious problems looming with the voters when he becomes eligible thanks less to the appearance of his name in the Mitchell report and more to his subsequent handling of the revelations therein. Alleged steroid users' recent history of vigorous denials have been, shall we say, less than satisfactory, and Clemens' defense has been as aggressively orchestrated as any we've ever witnessed. A common thread to several players' howls of protest is that they either didn't know what they were being injected with or insisted the substances were benign. In Clemens' case it's quite possible he was being injected with vitamin B-12, but it's far more difficult to fathom why he was being given lidocaine in his buttocks. We'll leave that discussion to the medical experts, who no doubt are chuckling among themselves. By far the most incomprehensible part of Clemens' current strategy is to announce well in advance -- heck, he isn't even officially retired yet -- that he could care less about future Hall of Fame voting where he is concerned. Ah, yes, the press, cast as villain once again.

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A quick glance at the next few years' lists of players eligible for the Hall of Fame contains very few sure bets. Only Ricky Henderson in 2009 and Roberto Alomar in 2010 are likely to get lots of support and Alomar is going to have his detractors for his personal habits involving ejections of substances rather than injections. All of this means this year's biggest loser, Jim Rice, could make it over the top next year, his last before being relegated to the Veterans' committee. More than a few pitchers who faced Rice in his prime acknowledged they dreaded seeing him come to the plate. As a long time Orioles' and AL fan, I recall a similar horror when I saw him in the on-deck circle or striding to the plate. But the other side of the coin is that he couldn't field a lick and did a fair imitation of Pat Burrell (or is it the other way around?) on the base paths. Does hitting alone make him a Hall of Famer? Not really, but when a Bill Mazeroski can get in based largely on his fielding and one home run, Rice is at least as deserving.

Speaking of the Veterans' committee, their rejection of Marvin Miller was the worst example of ingratitude in recent memory. I've yet to read one explanation of why the veterans, who literally owed their personal financial fortunes to Miller, deemed him unworthy of inclusion in their exclusive club.


Anonymous said...

Bill Conlin, in his column the other day, stated only 2 players are on the veterans committee and the rest are "management types." Perhaps that is why Marvin Milller didn't make it and Bowie Kuhn did. Kuhn's selection sure can't be because he went 0-39 head-to-head vs Miller in bargaining sessions.

Tom Goodman said...

That does shed more light on the failure to elect him. Thanks.

Tom G said...

As much as I love stats, I think they are used too much in HOF arguments. I think what should be considered most is what a player meant to his era, how was he viewed. After all, that's what the Hall of Fame is about, chronicling the history of the game. Guys like Gossage, Jim Rice and Bert Blyleven are certainly guys that had a large impact on their eras and should be HOF-ers.

Oh, and by the way Tom, great line about Alomar's "ejections".