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Off Base

The Funny Beard Contingent

January 11, 2006

One man, one vote. What a country, huh?

Look, we lowly Internet scribes don’t have a vote yet, but if you ask me, Bruce Sutter is an uninspired pick. I’d put Rich Gossage in ahead of Sutter, with Bert Blyleven, Steve Garvey, Jack Morris and Jim Rice in before the Goose.

Exit polling is an inexact science, and tracking data failed to produce a trend, so there’s no explaining Bruce Sutter.

I don’t know. Maybe it was the funny beard vote that turned the tide this year. I happen to think Al “the Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky had a funnier beard than Bruce Sutter, hysterical in fact, and he had it first. And Jim Kern had a weird beard. Let’s not forget Jim Kern.

Lee Smith’s beard wasn’t grab-your-stomach funny, but it was pretty damn amusing; and shoot, so was Jeff Reardon’s, and those guys had 178 and 67 more saves respectively than the Brucester.

Catch the Reardon play on words there, did ya? You’re a sport. I was aiming for something akin to the old “Ron Leflore lead the league in steals…with a TV under his arm” joke, but “shoot” was the best I could come with for Jeff Reardon. I was on deadline, OK, and my editor’s a stickler. Better luck next time.

Here’s the thing: The Hall of Fame vote is a subjective grab bag of contradiction and strangeness. The writers choose based on geography as much as anything else, voting for players they covered, based on whichever statistics mean the most to them, and perhaps unconsciously, based on race.

They vote for the players they remember best and most fondly. No writer under 40 can possibly fathom what Rice and Garvey meant to their teams and to their sport from memory alone. And you can forget all about Gil Hodges. It's the record books or nothing.

More annoyingly, you’ve got Vets guys like Joe Morgan with a foot firmly against the door, pushing to keep the club safe from hooligans like Garvey and Rice, both of whom, btw, had more home runs and RBIs than did Morgan, with lifetime batting averages that put the little guy to shame.

Since many of the voters are no longer with us, maybe Mr. Morgan can demonstrate the Hall of Fame worthiness of Jimmy Collins, King Kelly, Roger Bresnahan and Tommy McCarthy.

Or, perhaps he can explain how shortstop Rabbit Maranaville can hit .258 lifetime, commit a whopping 700 errors, and be named on 83% of the ballots, while Morgan’s Reds mate Dave Concepcion can hit nine points higher for a career, make a paltry 300 less errors, win twice as many championships, and never top 17% of the vote.

Dig this: Joe Tinker hit .262 lifetime, and is in the Hall. Johnny Evers managed .270, with, are you ready, 447 errors in his career. Evers booted 54 one year, 44 another, and 30-plus in seven additional seasons. And he’s in for his glove.

The stud of the group, Frank Chance, made 138 errors as a first baseman, but since he banged out 20 homers lifetime, with nearly 600 RBIs, he’s an HOF’er.

So the lesson must be, star in a baseball expression and you're a shoe-in. Warren Spahn’s a member, so surely Johnny Sain should follow. And come to think of it, rain too.

Bobby Wallace hit .268 lifetime, with 2309 hits. A nice little career, sure, but Hall of Fame worthy? I don’t think so.

These guys are in too: Ray Schalk, .253 with 11 homers lifetime; Dave Bancroft, .279 with 32 homers; Harry Hooper, .281 with 75 homers; and Bid McPhee, .271 with 53 homers. Yeah, yeah, yeah; the dead ball era, but .271 is .271.

Guess who else hit .271 lifetime. Yep, Joe Morgan.

Rube Waddell won 60 less games than Jack Morris, with zero in October. Morris won seven in the World Series.

Ted Lyons posted a lifetime record of 260-230, a 3.67 ERA and 1071 strikeouts, while Blyleven is on the outside looking in with his 287-250, 3.31 and 3701 Ks, which is fifth all-time. Of the top 15 on the strikeout list, there are four still playing, 10 securely in the Hall, and Blyleven. Oopps, sorry; longevity is a bad thing.

Is Elmer Flick a Hall of Famer or a cartoon character? And what’s so great about Waite Hoyt, or for that matter, Hoyt Wilhelm?

Sam Crawford, Zach Wheat, Goose Goslin and Chuck Klein needed the bleeping Veteran’s Committee to get in. Lucky Joe Morgan wasn’t running things then.

Cy Young was elected with just 76 % of the vote. Cy freaking Young, with his 500 bleeping wins, couldn’t pass muster with one fourth of the electorate. But hey, Elmer Flick is in, so all is right with the world. Or at least, with Cooperstown…

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Indians have signed Todd Hollandsworth to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training. Oh, and the Pads inked Shawn Estes, tipping the balance of power in the National League West to San Diego…

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Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues, so please scroll back to the upper right panel of this page and vote yes on 32. 2006 is the year…

Go City of Anaheim!!

This is the absolute last time I’m extending my best wishes and get well soons to old buddy Dave Gleason. I believe Frank Jobe performed the operation so Dave should be back before J.D. Drew, and with four years and 44 mil still on the table, he’d better be. Gleason, like Jeff Kent, was injured washing his truck.



Remember, glove conquers all….




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