A long time ago, this Supreme Court Justice was asked – how could he identify greatness in a ballplayer? He replied – I know it when I see it. (Anyhow, that’s how I remember the story….)
These days, non-statistical qualities are called “intangibles” (think Derek Jeter who is King of Intangibles), not just by stats hating reporters, but by the ballplayers themselves.
Intangible, at least to me, means that certain something about a player that makes him better than the sum of his parts.
And looks like Jim Ed Rice is going to win the intangibility contest of the year and be voted into the Hall of Fame, probably THE worst left fielder ever voted in (note that I am ignoring all the Veterans Committee of Frankie Frisch abominations) and he is going to be voted in, honestly, as a finger to the modern, supposedly roided up sluggers. Jim Ed was supposed to have been “feared” but seems that all this fear has been concentrated among modern sportswriters, dreaming about 1978. Jim Ed wasn’t much of a hitter outside of Fenway, an extreme RH hitter’s park when he was playing, and Yankee stadium. Just judging from some of the writing from 1976-1980, I think that as far as “feared” that Jim Ed fell so far behind Reggie Jackson and George Brett as to be virtually unnoticed.
Ah well, at least Jim Ed was FINE, even with that icky porn stache, an obvious great Hall worthy virtue somehow unmentioned by all the writers. And please, don’t tell me that HOT is unimportant – WHO is supposed to be my fantasy team rep from the Astros now that Bradley is retired? Hunh? Tell me that! Up and down the team is a pile of yawn.
But I digress.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Jim Ed. Back on intangibles. And also, he was a 1 team only guy, something valued by voters, don’t ask me why, as it had exactly zero to do with player “loyalty” prior to the advent of free agency. Don’t guess the media back then liked him real too much, but they sure do like those rose colored glasses they wearing these days.
As for me, I don’t think Jim Ed should be in the Hall for his stats, but rather for his intangibles – as I wrote a few years ago. (Check it out – it’s a good entry. Well, it IS.)
>A little more on the one team only guy who will be/might could be in the Hall in the FA era: The writers LOVE them. Players stay with the same team from beginning to end ONLY if it is in the best financial interest of BOTH the team and player to remain. No matter what the writers want to think, ML professional baseball is and always has been first and foremost a business.
I guess I was thinking about this in reference to John Smoltz, the long time Atlanta Brave, who just signed a last year contract with the Red Sox. He’s pretty darn close to a sure thing for the Hall – not Roger Clemens level excellence by any means, but an outstanding pitcher all the same, a guy who won’t reach 300 games because he spent 3 years as an elite closer and because he missed several years because of injuries.
Atlanta wanted him back a little, I guess, but not enough to make sure he didn’t leave. They offered him a contract with incentives which would be difficult to reach, such as 200 IP. I think they must have looked at what money John could make the team – I guess they didn’t think they could market him as a franchise icon havng a farewell tour, as the Astros did with Biggio in 07 – enough to recoup what they thought would be their losses if he couldn’t pitch 200 innings. Odd reasoning, especially as they don’t really have anyone ready to replace him. Unless, of course, Smoltz isn’t sure that this will be his last year in MLB, even at his age.
Of course, once he retires, he’ll undoubtedly be offered all sorts of liason contracts with the Braves, they’ll have Smoltz Remembrance Day, and he’ll continue to make the team money. And of course he’ll go into the Hall as a Brave along with his compatriots Glavine and Maddux.
But really, will it make any difference that he spent a year as a Red Sux? Who remembers Steve Carlton as anything but a Phillie? Who won’t remember Frank Thomas as a White Sox? Or even The Rickey as an A?
And speaking of The Rickey, one writer from some minor paper in Arizona left Rickey off his ballot, saying that guys like Tommy John and roider Matt Williams were more deserving unlike that roider McGwire and unlike The Rickey, who might could make it in someday. Apparently, the paper was absolutely inundated by emails from outraged baseball fans, uh, making, uh, remarks about the mental status/capacity of the person who deliberately omitted The Rickey from his ballot. The writer/voter, Corky Simpson, was more than miffed that internet people were making such a big deal of him actually thinking that Rickey didn’t belong on his ballot. Guess we all should have written letters to the editor by snail mail cuz that would have made ALL the difference.
Thing is the Hall of Fame is not the Hall of Stats – you DO consider the intangible.
And the fact is that there simply is NO way that any intangible could possibly be bad enough to justify keeping The Rickey off a ballot.
Other baseball writers have asked Mr. Simpson why he didn’t vote for Rickey, and all he has said is that if he had known there would be this much fuss, he would have. But, of course, it doesn’t answer the actual question; Simpson didn’t use all 10 votes, so he can’t say that he thought 10 other guys were MORE worthy. He simply didn’t think that Rickey is worthy.
But then again, there were 20 guys who didn’t vote for Ted Williams (HOW could they explain THAT?) and plenty of guys who didn’t vote for Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Seriously, WHO is their definition of a Hall of Famer, WHO is better than those men?
But speaking of intangibles, I come to Mark McGwire. There is a question of did he or didn’t he use roids – and mind, the writers aren’t forcing every other player on the ballot to PROVE he didn’t use roids – and there are 2 divergent thoughts on him:
1 – even IF he didn’t use/roids actually have no effect on performance, he was a one dimensional player who was not a good fielder or runner and either walked or hit home runs. He wouldn’t be a Hall Of Famer even if he could prove conclusively that he never used any steroid other than Andro (which was availble over the counter to anyone, including pregnant females, in 1998 and which has not been proven to have any effect whatsoever in terms of performance enhancement in healthy young male athletes.)
2 – steroid users are evil and we know that he wouldn’t have even hit as well as some crappy SS in the 60s facing Sandy Koufax if he hadn’t been shooting up because every guy who used roids hit like McGwire and everyone who hit like McGwire therefore HAD to have used roids (see Sammy Sosa because every single male continues to look exactly the way he did when he was 19 and lifting weights without roids does exactly zero for muscle development). Anyway, if he had been a real man, he would have told Congress about every drug he used, naming names of everyone else he KNOW who used and everyone he thought might could have used or anyone to whom he even mentioned the word – roids – and then he would have taken his prison sentence like a Real Man and accepted that he would never be allowed in baseball or near the Hall due to his being a convicted felon.
I am kind of undecided about the stats – he didn’t have a long period of sustained excellence, had a fairly short, almost unbelieveable peak, and was never any sort of threat on the basepaths, except maybe to mutilate any SS/2B he slid into trying to break up the DP. He did “earn” one Derek Jeter GG. And I do know that umpires gave him a strike zone the size of a postage stamp cuz anything above mid thigh to him was a ball.
I want him in because of “intangibles.” Yep. It is the Hall of FAME. And let’s be honest here, McGwire and his home runs really DID bring back an enormous amount of attention to baseball that had been gone since the strike, in spite of St. Cal and The Streak. Seligula and the rest of the owners WANTED all those homers, WANTED all the cartoon characters to promote and WANTED the Paul Bunyan-like “hero.” And no, I don’t consider steroid use to be “cheating” prior to its being banned, any more than I consider using dirty/deliberately scuffed baseballs or spitballs to be cheating.
McGwire should be in the Hall. Warts and All.