Did the BBWAA get the hall of fame voting right with Griffey and Piazza? It depends on perspective, and a criteria that no one can seem to nail down.
There seems to be a lot of agreement, joy, on Ken Griffey and Mike Piazza being elected Wednesday to the 2016 induction class of baseball’s hall of fame.
In fact, they comprise the entire class. What’s the scripture from the Bible about many being called, but few are chosen? Seems about right in this case.
I absolutely have no issue with Ken Griffey Jr. being an almost unanimous, first-ballot, selection. His numbers speak for themselves. He had longevity. He played clean (no drugs). And had he not been hurt for the entire time he played for the Reds I have a sneak feeling that he, not Barry Bonds, would have finished as the all-time home run leader. Enough said on the subject.
My only issues with people like Griffey are the stories I’ve heard for years about him snubbing autograph seekers before and after games, and his questionable personality with fans who simply sought a moment and a memory. But hey, Frank Robinson is a sure-fire hall of famer, too, and he was the absolute worst in that regard.
Where Piazza’s concerned, I guess anyone can make the case for selection of the game’s best-hitting catcher all-time, that is, in terms of home runs. He, too, had longevity in the game. And his story about being drafted in the 62nd round as an amateur and eventually making all the way to Cooperstown is just too good to ignore. The problem is (at least with me), for all he accomplished…I still don’t think of Piazza in terms of the game’s greatest catchers – Berra, Bill Dickey, and Johnny Bench. It’s a matter of perception, I guess.
And it also has something to do with not spending his entire career with one team, as Berra and Bench did.
On the other hand, Al Lopez, the old catcher and manager with the White Sox, is in the hall of fame and I’ve always wondered why? The veterans committee voted him in, but his body of work, overall, is no where near those of Berra and Bench.
There’s a lot of talk now with the gaggle of stars standing on the threshold of eligibility as to who belongs in Cooperstown. One of the talking heads on MLB said yesterday that there should be more thought given to getting more people in the hall, rather than discussion on how to keep some people out. He was referring, I suppose, to the PED people like Clemens, A-Rod, and Barry Bonds.
I’m not so sure.
As a baseball fan I don’t need to see Tim Raines in the hall of fame just because he was the best leadoff man in baseball (maybe) for the period he played for Montreal, the White Sox, and the New York Yankees. He had longevity (23 seasons), he had production (2,605 hits), and he could steal a base (808). But I don’t think of him as a luminary of the sport. I think of Fred McGriff in the same manner. He had great numbers, but he’s not on my Mt. Rushmore of baseball.
For my criteria there has to be more than numbers. Hits, yes. Home runs, yes. Runs batted in, yes. Wins for a pitcher, yes. Strikeouts, yes. Longevity, absolutely.
And for the fact of longevity I’ve always questioned whether Sandy Koufax belonged in the same hall with the likes of Cy Young (22 years and 511 wins). Koufax pitched for 12 seasons (but only 6, effectively), had 165 wins, and was the most dominating pitcher of his era. He left baseball, sadly, at age 30 for physical reasons. Emotion and respect for what he did between 1962 and 1966 had a lot to do with him being a hall of famer.
His teammate, Don Drysdale, pitched for 14 seasons, but only had 209 career wins. I’ll ask you. Are those hall of fame numbers?
In fact, I have a much shorter list of bonafide hall of famers, based primarily on production and longevity. But as well, my people were unquestionably luminaries of the sport?
Guys like Ruth…Gehrig…Mays…Mantle…Aaron…Clemente…Musial…Ryan and Seaver. You get my drift. And more contemporary names like Niekro, Blyleven, and Greg Maddux…certainly belong because they had the body of work, and longevity. They were luminaries of the sport.
And for the future – Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter – certainly. Jeff Bagwell and Jeff Kent? Uh, I’m not so sure.
Look, there’s going to be a bunch of these guys get in. There always has been because of favoritism and popularity with the writers who vote, especially back then. I have a feeling that’s how Mr. Lopez got there, along with Luke Appling, and Rabbit Maranville. Good numbers, even great numbers, but not Mt. Rushmore.
I prefer to have my baseball icons unquestioned…and chiseled in stone!