Tuesday, January 08, 2008

An Exercise in the Absurd

There is no rhyme nor reason among voters for the Hall of Fame.

For 14 years enough voters for one reason or another have kept Jim Rice out of the Hall. Some claim that he wasn't as good as his numbers because of Fenway (yet the same didn't apply for Ted Williams? Carl Yasterzemski?), others claim that he just didn't do enough, and his numbers don't stand up against those of others in the Hall.

Let's take a look at what those baseball writers really know about Rice...

From 1975 until 1986 (12 of his total 16 seasons) Rice was the single most dominant offensive force in the game, leading the league in 12 offensive categories including runs, homers, RBIs and slugging percentage. At the time of his retirement Rice was 36th on the all-time RBI list - only 35 players over the course of the (approximately) century's worth of baseball before Rice's retirement knocked in more.

But, according to detractors, those numbers are inflated by Fenway Park. The last time I checked, that shallow left field takes away just as many hits as it grants - that little flare into left field that gives you a hit in Yankee Stadium is an out in Fenway. The ball hit into the left field gap that goes to the wall in Veteran's Stadium and clears the bases sees runners hold up at third in the shallow confines of Fenway. That low linedrive that clears the left field fence in Detroit is a single in Fenway. So, I don't buy the idea that Fenway inflated his numbers.

Let's address the idea that his numbers just aren't good enough. Here are James Edward Rice's career numbers (in regards to the statistics that voters tend to look at) compared to other Hall of Famers...

Jim Rice 1974-89 (16 seasons)__2089__8225_1249_2452_382_1451_.298_.352_.502_128

Billy Williams 1959-74 (16 Seas)_2213__8479_1306_2510_392_1353_.296_.364_.503_135
Orlando Cepeda 1958-1974(17 )_2124__7927_1131__2351_379_1365_.297_.350_.499_133
Duke Snider 1947-63 (17 Sesn)__2052_6994_1243__2081_403_1316_.298_.382_.545_141
Al Kaline 1953-71 (19 Seasons)__2490_8970_1465__2695_366_1442_.300_.380_.488_137
Tony Perez 1964-78 (15 Seasn)__2030_7429_1022__2106_310_1284_.283_.346_.477_128
Ernie Banks 1953-67 (15 Seasn)__2112_7999_1145__2232_442_1397_.279 _.336 _.510_126

And my personal favorite inducted in 2001, since their careers overlap so much...

Dave Winfield 1973-88 (16 Seas)_2269__8421_1314__2421_357_1438_.287_.357_.481_135

Sure, Winfield brought home the defensive hardware, but was considerably less productive - in 180 more games he produced fewer at bats per game (3.7 for Winfield to Rice's 3.9), batted .012 lower, hit 25 fewer home runs (Rice hit one per every 21.5 at bats, to one every 23.6 for Winfield), and Rice had 13 more RBI's in those 180 fewer games or 0.69 RBI's per game to Winfield's 0.63.

Rice missed the Hall this year by 16 votes yet somehow Harold Baines received 28 (384 home runs and only 178 more RBI's over the course of 22 seasons), and players like David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, and Todd Stottlemeyer all received one vote. Todd-freakin-Stottlemeyer of the 138 wins over 14 seasons with a 4+ ERA. That writer needs to be ferreted out and beaten.

Hell, Mark McGwire received 128 votes and many say that if it weren't for the steroid issues he would have been a first ballot HoFer, in spite of the fact that Big Mac trails rice significantly in almost every major offensive category other than home runs.

How the writers apply their standards for voting is beyond me.


David Sullivan said...

I've never understood Winfield and Perez getting in over Rice. Winfield was a whiny, overpaid underachiever and Perez wasn't even in the top players on his team, never mind the league .

Kevin Smith said...

I think it was Winfield who Steinbrenner dubbed Mr. May - a reference to his complete lack of clutch hitting.

soxfaninny said...

The writers should not be in control of the HOF. It should be a panel of former players, coaches, GM's, etc. People who know the game and knew who the best who played were.

This is obviously personal for many of the voters whom Rice wasn't friendly to. It's a shame.

Suldog said...

It's a personal thing for some writers, much as it was when Ted Williams was not MVP due to one writer not naming him in his top 10 that year.

Having been a fan during all of Rice's tenure with the Sox, I will say that I didn't think he was worthy of The Hall when he retired. I thought he needed a couple more years of good numbers. I also recall him being something less than the ultimate clutch performer. He wasn't a choke artist, by any means, but he maddeningly hit into DPs more often than you would have liked in the late innings. Also, his glove was average at best.

The numbers do stack up nicely, though, upon inspection. I'd have no problem with him going in.

Kevin Smith said...

The thing about it is that part of the requirement that is supposed to be applied by the voters is the player's impact during the time in which he played - not how he stacked up against players that played 20 years earlier, or 20 years since. And no player from 1975 to 1985 was the offensive force that Rice was - and Rice played on some pretty mediocre teams in the early 1980's.

I used to watch the Sox at Yankee Stadium (my parents moved from Sudbury to NY in 1978), and I can honestly say, there was no (opposing) player that I saw at the Stadium that caused as much trepidation as Rice.

soxfaninny said...

Exactly. Rice struck fear into opposing pitchers. When he came to the plate everyone's heart beat a little faster. Oxygen was at a premium. It was very similar to the feeling I get when Papi strides to the plate today. To me that is what puts him over the top.