Since I (Evander) am always babbling (even occasionally in a coherent manner) about this subject, Martin has egged me on to comment further on The National Baseball Hall of Fame selection process: how to ensure only the greatest players are inducted. Thus, Right Off the Bat has not only come up with this Overhaul of Fame, but with the related concepts of Hall executives commissioning an Anabolic Annex and an “Anti-Chamber.”
Bill James has written far more eloquently on the subject of “immortality-inclusion” in Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? He makes passionate but statistical cases against certain “immortals” like Don Drysdale.
The subject of to induct or not to induct (as Shakespeare might have said) is filled with all sorts of subjective criteria. Did the player cultivate the right writers during his career? After it was over, does he go deep-sea or fly fishing with key members of the Veterans’ Committee? (To The Hall’s credit, this committee has been re-thought; though it still smacks of a popularity contest to me.)
Aside from the obvious issue of talent, and the more slippery-slope issue of character, today we have the added wrinkle (in or out of time) of anabolic-steroid or “protein-shake” ingestion when such were not quite banned. Mark McGwire has already been muscled out, perhaps permanently. What will be the fate of home-run king Barry Bonds, when he appears on the ballot? Of Roger Clemens?
As recently blogged, what do we do with figures implicated in gambling? Pete Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson? Rose has the most hits of any big-leaguer. Jackson’s lifetime batting average is right up there with Rogers Hornsby’s (try saying that three times fast) and Ty Cobb’s: Cobb being the number-one inductee…and, by the way, a psychopath.
Separate from these issues is the recent run of non-superstar inductions: to wit, Paul Molitor; Bert Blyleven; and recent inductee, Barry Larkin. My own subjectivity comes into play in naming these fine players. But I can hardly wait to see the July induction ceremonies when Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez, and Greg Maddux become eligible. (I don’t count on seeing Bonds or Clemens.) Rickey Henderson is the last real-star induction I can recall.
For the rest, as the chantey asks, “What do we do with the drunken sailor?” Here go The Big Concepts from ROTB: The Anabolic Annex would include Bonds, McGwire, Palmiero. “The Anti-Chamber” is for Rose, Joe Jackson, and maybe even my own favorite piano-man and Las Vegas bad boy, Denny McLain.
We wonder what Jonathan Swft would make of our Modest Proposal.