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Let the arguments begin

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  January 6, 2010 02:45 PM

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    I believe this to be a non-negotiable tenet: Who should, and who should not, become baseball Hall of Famers is the number one 24/7/365 topic in all of American sports. No other sports topic generates as much passion for as many people.

    Football may be the bigger sport, but debating baseball players dwarfs any comparable discussions of football players. Let's be honest. Who among us is truly qualified to discuss the relative merits of offensive linemen, defensive linemen and defensive backs? But everyone with an interest in the sport has something to offer on the subject of all baseball players because the positions are so easily definable.

   OK, then, here are a few thoughts on today's fascinating results.

   1. Hail The Hawk

    He did it without my vote, but it certainly doesn't bother me that Andre Dawson is now in the Hall of Fame.

     We all know that the pre-injury, young Expo Andre Dawson was a wonderful all-around player. He hit, he hit for power, he ran, he could go get 'em and he had a superb arm. And he was a Man's Man.

    But here's what bothered me. He only drove in 100 runs four times. Did you know that? He wasn't quite the run producer people think he was. He only scored 100 runs twice, as well, and that was very early in his career. To me, these two things had to mean something.

    Anyway, he's in, and he will bring personal honor to the Hall. 

2. Robby Alomar was robbed

There are only two reasons for someone not to have voted for the best second baseman of the post-Joe Morgan era. The first would be the spitting incident. The second would be a personal policy concerning a vote for a first-year player.

    Well, guess what? The spitting incident was rendered totally irrelevant the instant John Hirschbeck, aka the Spitee, absolved Roberto Alomar, aka The Spitter. <a href="http://www.nationalpost.com/sports/story.html?id=2409692">Hirschbeck has not only forgiven Alomar</a>, but he has also declared him to be the best second baseman he has seen in 28 years in baseball.

    As for the idea of never voting for someone the first year, I've just got no time for that nonsense. If you think someone is worthy, vote for him. If you don't, don't.


 3. Poor Bert

       Bert Blyleven missed by eight-tenths of one percent. Wow. I wonder if they would have rounded it off had he received 75.5 percent of the vote. I think we can safely say he's a lock for enshrinement in 2011. I can hardly imagine someone who voted for him this year not voting for him next year. And surely someone who didn't will take pity.

      I haven't always voted for him, but I began voting for both Blyleven and Jack Morris a few years ago. By the way, I heard WEEI's Glenn Ordway say yesterday he couldn't understand how guys gained votes over the years. It's very simple. I can only speak for me, but can't I reserve the right to change my mind? Can't I become educated? Don't I need time to think some things over?

     Some people are no-brainers. I once came up with a list of 50 or 60 people I believed should have been unanimous selections. But no one has ever been a unanimous pick, owing, obviously, to the stubbornness of those who refuse to allow anyone in the first year.

    But most Hall of Fame candidates are subject to debate. That's why having 15 years to evaluate someone is a good thing.

    Blyleven's big calling cards were his 287 victories, his 3,701 strikeouts, his 10 seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA and his 60 shutouts, a number that won't be approached because of the way the game is played today. He was only plus-37 lifetime (287-250), but he pitched for a lot of bad or mediocre teams, and when he had good support, he was a horse. He was a big part of two World Series champs, the 1979 Pirates and the 1987 Twins.

      Let's put it this way: neither putting him in nor leaving him out would be a crime against baseball justice. I'm happy for the guy.

      I also feel for Jack Morris, another guy I began voting for  a couple of years back. That 3.90 career ERA hangs over him. Too bad all he cared about was winning, not protecting his stats. He might not have given up those late inning solo homers.   

4. Minimal love for Edgar 

     I didn't think Edgar Martinez would get in, but I thought he'd be close, getting at least 60 percent of the vote. I'm stunned he got only 36.2 percent.

    This was a big referendum on the designated hitter. Like it or love it (and I can do without it), the DH has been a major part of American League baseball for 37 years, and there has been no better DH than Edgar Martinez, who hit over .300 10 times, led the league in batting twice, slugged .515 lifetime and had a career OBP of .418.

     I'm big on anecdotal evidence; some aren't. But I am, and I know  this man was as respected a craftsman with a bat in his hands as anyone in the American League during the past 20 years. There was never a manager in his time who didn't mind seeing Edgar Martinez up there in the late innings. He passed the all-important (for me) smell test while he was playing. You knew you were looking at a Hall of Famer.

    Now he faces a long uphill climb, not solely because he needs to more than double his percentage in order to get in, but also because there is an obvious bias against the DH in the minds of too many voters.

   This vote was a refutation of the DH, and, to me, it makes no sense. Hate the DH if you like, but how can you ignore it? And how can anyone look me or you in the eye and say Edgar Martinez wasn't a great hitter?

    5. Barry who?

    Not getting in the first time is one thing. But when a man with Barry Larkin's credentials can only muster 51.6 percent of the vote, I can only say I'm mystified. Perhaps you have an explanation. I don't.

   6. Fred who?

   I didn't vote for Fred McGriff, and neither did a whole lot of other people. Are we being fair to a man who hit 493 career home runs, the same total as Lou Gehrig? Did we blow our chance to honor a man who did what he did, as far as we know, sans chemicals in a chemical era? Perhaps.

   But I never once considered him to be a Hall of Famer while he played, and I still don't. Anyway, he's got 14 more years.

   7. I'm taking a closer look next time

   Tim Raines got 30.4 percent of the vote. Tim Raines has been the subject of some interesting study lately. The great Rob Neyer has put together a compelling case for the Raines candidacy, and I'm sorry I became aware of it after I mailed my ballot.

    Nor was he the only one. It may be that Tim Raines is the most overlooked candidate of them all.   

   So I'm going to re-evaluate Tim Raines next year . See, Glenn? Sometimes it just takes time.

   8. Don't give up, Alan

   I always loved Alan Trammell as a player. Perhaps I've been making him the subject of reverse discrimination, refusing to vote for him because I think I'm biased. Well, you know what I mean.

   Here's another one I may re-think.

   9. Oh . . . him

    Yeah, you know. The Big Redhead. Mr. 70 Homers.

    Mark McGwire is holding pretty steady with 23.7 percent of the vote. It's up to him. If he ever holds a press conference in his new gig as batting coach of the Cardinals, and if he answers the questions, he could probably punch his ticket. I know many of you hate it when people like me say or write something like this, but that's the way I feel.


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About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
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