Rickey, Jose, the Hall of Fame, and Me
The string is unbroken. In the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame, no player has ever been elected unanimously. Not Babe Ruth. Not Nolan Ryan. Not Cal Ripken. Not Tony Gwynn. Not Rickey Henderson. The closest to achieving this elusive milestone was Tom Seaver who got 98.84 percent of the vote the year he was elected.
Rickey Henderson came within 28 votes of that mark this year. This means that he only got about 95 percent of the vote. And I don't understand the thinking here. What thinking keeps one from voting for Rickey Henderson for the Hall of Fame? (One voter has gone public with his non-vote for Rickey, and seeing how he did vote, the guy needs to be stripped of his vote.) This gives me a chance to share a story.
Right before the New Year, about two days before the ballots were due, I was invited by the Chron's Jose de Jesus Ortiz to help him decide on how to cast his vote. Two other non-sportswriters joined us. And over dinner, we discussed the vote, and the candidates.
There were 23 candidates this year. And according to the rules, Ortiz could vote for no more than 10 of the candidates. Ortiz quickly declared that he felt no discussion was needed for Rickey Henderson because he was a no-doubter, to which none of us disagreed. And we quickly eliminated several of the others.
Ortiz ended up casting votes for Henderson and four other players - Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, and Tommy John. We discussed these four, and five others, for about an hour. Ortiz even got Astros manager Cecil Cooper to weigh in on Jim Rice, who had been his teammate. I didn't at the time, and I don't now, think that Jim Rice deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Cooper's argument, which most stat guys easily refute, was that Rice was the most feared hitter in baseball. My argument is that the most feared hitter in baseball shouldn't have stats that are matched by Dwight Evans, a teammate of Rice who was never seriously considered for the Hall of Fame.
But I gave in on Rice because of my belief that Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy are more worthy of the Hall than Jim Rice. Both were far superior all-around players to Rice, and they put similar power numbers to Rice while outpacing him in other categories. So my argument was, if Rice is a Hall of Famer, then so are they. Ortiz made it clear that if the group didn't think a guy should go in the Hall, then he would go with the group, despite his wishes. I could have pushed harder against Rice, but I gave ground. I said a vote for Rice is fine, just as long as Dawson and Murphy get a vote as well.
I won't go into the detail of the discussions involving Bert Blyleven and Tommy John. Needless to say, we didn't think Blyleven deserved the vote, and that was based on his stats. But John, whose stats are close to Blyleven's, got the vote because one of the categories to use in deciding on a selection is a player's contribution to the game. And somebody had to be the first guy to have Tommy John surgery. Right? And how many careers has the Tommy John surgery saved?
I go into this all of this because, while I have problems with Ortiz's work at the Chron, I think he was really concerned about his vote, and he really wanted to get it right, and he really wanted it to count. And I don't think all of the writers who vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame think this way.
For instance, the one guy on the record as not voting for Rickey Henderson claims that he didn't do his research, and that if he could get his ballot back, he would have voted for Henderson. I don't understand this. What kind of research is needed for Rickey Henderson? If you've watched any baseball over the past 30 years, then you should be aware of Rickey's stolen base records, and of his having gotten 3,000 hits.
John Lopez at 790 The Sports Animal has a Hall of Fame vote thanks to his days at the Chron. And Lopez is known as the one guy who gave Jim Deshaies a vote for the Hall of Fame the one year that Deshaies was eligible. I love Jim Deshaies. He was a nice three/four starter for the Astros, and he's great in the broadcast booth. But thanks to Lopez, Deshaies actually got more votes for the Baseball Hall of Fame than Steve Stone and Randy Jones, and they won Cy Young awards. Deshaies got more votes than Larry Dierker, one of the greatest pitchers in Astros history, and Deshaies got more votes than Bob Horner, who was once a Rookie of the Year.
The point of this thing is that if a voter isn't going to take the Hall of Fame vote seriously, then he doesn't deserve the right to vote. Many people, many of the voters, and the players feel that the Hall of Fame is a serious matter. They want the right people to get in the Hall. So is it really too much to expect those casting the vote to take it seriously as well?
But maybe that's just me.