So, I was thinking about
1. 3,000 hits/500 homers
2. Positional greatness
3. The Intangible Argument (rare)
And you know ... that's pretty much it. It's funny, we spend so much time here breaking down every Hall of Fame candidate, their plusses, their minuses, how they compare with players in the Hall, how they compare with players who just missed getting into the Hall, on and on and on and on. And, looking back, it just seems a whole lot simpler than that*.
I went back to 1969 -- the year
And the only three ways to get elected, best I can tell, are, as mentioned:
Twenty four of the 41 players who were elected to the Hall of Fame hit at least one of those two magic numbers -- that's 59%. Now, because of the steroid era, that percentage could go down, especially with
There were 11 players who were elected in large part because of the position they played -- that's 29%. I'll get to those in just a minute.
Every so often the writers will vote for someone who did not reach the magic numbers and did not play a key defensive position. But it is rare -- only six of these players have been elected since 1969 (15%), and five of them are pretty contentious choices.
* * *
The players who got 3,000 hits or 500 homers are mostly obvious choices. The only one who did not get in first ballot was
The players who were elected largely because they excelled at a premium defensive position are more of a mixed bag. Some were clear choices, some were more difficult for the voters. But all of them had career offensive numbers that, if placed in a corner outfield or at first base, would have made Hall of Fame induction very tricky. Those positional players are:
I realize that people weren't looking at OPS+ in 1965, but since Morgan had the better average, more doubles, more triples, more home runs, almost double the runs scored, 17 more stolen bases ... I dunno.
Morgan was a very good player in Houston, though few seemed to know it because (a) Houston was such a dreadful hitting ballpark; (b) A lot of what Morgan did was subtle; few fully respected what it meant to walk 100 times per year; (c) He missed all but 10 games in '68 with an injury; (d) His manager,
Morgan went to Cincinnati and everyone credited the Reds for turning him around, and Morgan himself says that is true, though I suspect getting out of Houston into a good lineup and a good hitting ballpark was a big part of the story. He won the MVP in '75 and '76, but he was probably also the best player in the National League in '72 and '73 and right there with
Robinson was not an especially good offensive player over the length of his career (.322 lifetime OBP, .401 lifetime slugging), but he played in a low-run-scoring era and he did have some good years (particularly his MVP year in '64). He was a defensive wizard of course, the consensus best ever, the Human Vacuum Cleaner, winner of 16 Gold Gloves. He was also one of the most beloved players of his time -- he's my dad's favorite player. And he did get 2,848 hits -- every eligible player with that many hits is in the Hall of Fame, the exceptions being
So that leaves only the six players who did not get 3,000/500 and did not play a premium position.
In retrospect, Puckett will probably be viewed as one of the poorer choices by the BBWAA -- but Yankees fans should be happy he is in there for two reasons:
A. Puckett is the best argument for those "
B. Even more, though, Puckett will be Exhibit A when
That's almost eerie.
As we all know, I do not think much of RBIs as a statistic, but it is worth pointing out that there is probably some real truth to Perez's reputation as the guy you would want at the plate with the game on the line.
Perez's career line: .279/.341/.463
Perez's line in late and close situations:. 300/.371/.489.
I'm not saying this is enough to put Perez in the Hall of Fame, but it's nice to see numbers that back up the reputation.
So that's it ... and I think this clarifies the whole Hall of Fame voting thing for me. Take this year's ballot --
The best positional candidate on the ballot, by far, is
And then there are a whole lot of candidates on the ballot who are trying to get in through the intangible door -- Baines, Dawson, Mattingly, Murphy,
Rice will end up being the winner of this group -- I feel pretty certain he will get elected this year -- in large part because people would like to remember him a certain way. I will not vote for Rice, but I will be happy when he gets in, if that makes sense. I will not vote for him for many reasons which I have repeated countless times on this blog, but as a fan I too like to romanticize my baseball childhood, and being an American League fan in the 1970s, Rice was a prominent player in that childhood.*
My personal choice for the player on the ballot with the best intangibles argument is clearly Tim Raines. He has by far the best on-base percentage of anyone in that group (his .385 dwarfs Mattingly's .358), and on-base percentage is probably the single most important offensive statistic. Plus he's likely the best pure base stealer in baseball history: He stole 808 bases and was caught only 146 times, a ridiculous 84.5% success rate.