Off Base

Ranks of Cooperstown and voting process improving


January 11, 2011 6:20 p.m.

Whatever you think of the current state of Hall of Fame voting practices, and the electorate itself, the writers of today are considerably more adept at handling their responsibilities than were their predecessors. And they’re headed in the right direction.

Contrary to what certain members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) may think (and I’ve communicated with enough of them, so I know what they think), I did not create the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) in 2009 because I thought the men of the BBWAA were a bunch of clowns in need of replacing.

Well, I thought Jay Mariotti needed replacing, but one bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch girl. Or something.

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I was frustrated to some degree with the regular Cooperstown exclusion of Jim Rice and Bert Blyleven. Sure. But more importantly, I saw the BBWAA as a rather slow-to-evolve, even slower-to-think-on-its feet group, which charges its members hundreds in yearly dues, and makes it extremely difficult for new blood – and in particular, Internet writing new blood – to join.

Newspapers were “falling like flies in the vicinity of Andruw Jones,” I said at the time (remember, Jones was a fat Dodger in 2009), the BBWAA needed to react properly and wasn’t, and I wanted a vote. I wanted a vote for Internet writers like me, and I wanted to organize them. I wanted to show a little initiative, and a dose of creativity – fine, balls – which was in short supply at the BBWAA, it seemed to me.

And I am just not one to sit on my bountiful behind (ala Jones) and complain about the world, without making an effort to change what irks me.

We can discuss the merits of bloggers and the future of Hall of Fame voting in another post. Because like I said, the BBWAA of today has it hands-down over the old guys. Uh, older guys.  

You don’t want to get me started on the various incarnations of the Veteran’s Committee, which more often than not has proven only that Hall members vote out of familiarity, favoritism and with considerably less intelligent thought than do the writers, and since I don’t have a solution to institutions such as cronyism, I better just leave well enough alone.

The BBWAA elected Barry Larkin this year, the IBWAA voters managed the 75% threshold for absolutely no one, and in this instance, the old guard did the better job.

But listen, Hall of Fame voting is a subjective grab bag of contradiction and strangeness, with voters playing a game of “if so and so is already a Hall of Famer, then what’s his whozits also needs to be in” as a matter of course. It’s difficult not to go that route, and most of us are guilty of employing the strategy at one time or another. Or always.

But if you question the Hall-worthiness of players like Barry Larkin, wait till you get a load of this bunch. And since we’re talking shortstops, let’s start there.

When it comes to head-scratching Cooperstown choices for the position, my personal favorite is John Montgomery Ward, a career .275 hitter, and a man who made Jose Offerman look like Ozzie Smith squared. Yes, it’s pre-1900, pre-baseball-gloves-worth-a-damn, but how in the world is it physically possible to field .887 lifetime? Well, Ward committed 60-plus errors nine times, topping out at 105 miscues in 1890. That’s how.

Shortstop Rabbit Maranville hit .258 lifetime, was responsible for 700 errors, and was named on 83% of the ballots in 1954. Meanwhile, Dave Concepcion hit nine points higher for a career, made 300 less errors, won twice as many World Series championships, was a key player on a decade's worth of great teams, had more doubles, triples, homers and RBIs in less games, and never bettered 17% in an election.

I’m sorry to mess with such lofty history, people, but Joe Tinker, and Tinker to Evers to Chance? Tinker hit a whopping .262 lifetime, with 1687 hits, to go along with 635 errors at shortstop, including 50 or more seven times, 60-plus twice and 72 once.

Johnny Evers managed a career .270, with, are you ready, 447 errors at second base. 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, which is doing something, 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 you know what, just think of all that rain has meant to the game. How about a special place for precipitation in the museum?

George Kell is a big-name Hall guy, but should he be? The .306 is nice, but are the 78 homers, 870 RBIs and 2054 even remotely close to Jeff Bagwell’s accomplishments?

And lest we forget Travis Jackson (1768 hits and .149 in four World Series), High Pockets Kelly (20 homers three times), Dave Bancroft (.279, with 32 homers and 591 RBIs), Harry Hooper (.281, 75, 817) and Jesse Haines (210-158, with 981 Ks and a 3.64).

Wait, Eppa Rixey won 15 more games than he lost, struck out 1300, with an ERA of 3.62, but he did lose a World Series game that one time. And Bobby Wallace hit .268 with those 34 dingers. Hall of Famers both.

Jimmy Collins (65 homers), Roger Bresnahan (.279, 26 HR and 530 RBIs) and Tommy McCarthy (1493 hits, 44 and 732). All in.

Bobby Wallace hit .268 lifetime, with 2309 hits. A nice little career, sure, but Cooperstown-worthy and better than Tim Raines?

Rube Waddell won 60 less games than Jack Morris, with zero in October. Morris won seven in the Series.
Ted Lyons posted a lifetime record of 260-230, a 3.67 ERA and 1071 strikeouts.

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 and 53.

Is Elmer Flick a Hall of Famer or a cartoon character? Flick had a handful of great seasons, actually, but as to why he’s got a place in Cooperstown exactly, I have no idea.

But maybe I’m just looney tunes. The en, the enn, the een…that’s all folks!







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