Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fame! I Want to Live Forever...

I hate to have to revisit the topic of the Hall of Fame, but I couldn't help but comment on this article in Sunday's NY Times. It was written by John Thorn, who is the editor of Total Baseball. He wrote an editorial about the recent Hall of Fame controversies regarding Buck O'Neil and Barry Bonds. He states his case as to why both of them deserve to be in. I have no particular issue with that, but then he went on to say this:

"Baseball itself is a vibrant anachronism, the museum for our archaic and most endangered values. We expect Cooperstown to embody the qualities we believe made America great and to rectify injustices in the game, even those long past cure, like the color bar."

I think that anybody who is a true fan of the game is fairly clear on the fact that the Hall of Fame has a lot of people in it of undesirable character. There are racists (pretty much anyone who played the game before 1930 was opposed to having Blacks in the majors), gamblers, cheats, thieves, wife beaters, drunks and every form of malcontent. None of these things is a bar to the Hall. The Hall is not a place for the pure. It's a place for the greatest baseball players of all time. Buck O'Neil is an incredible man. He has single-handedly kept the sprit of the Negro Leagues alive. He, more than any one individual, is most responsible for the 17 Negro Leaguers who were voted into the Hall last week. If the Hall were used as Mr. Thorn states above then Buck O'Neil would have been voted into the Hall. The truth is that the numbers that he put up on the field didn't warrant his inclusion as a player.

Mr. Thorn continues:

"Yet the Hall operates, like Augusta National, as a private club. It may create rules by which Joe Jackson is banned for life and unforgiven thereafter. It may dismiss the hobgoblin of consistency by inducting Alex Pompez, a numbers kingpin and mobster, while holding Pete Rose at arm's length."

The Hall of Fame is in fact a private institution which is able to set it's own rules and regulations for admittance. Is he suggesting that there should be no rules at all? You bet on baseball? So what, come on in. You tried to fix a game? So what, come on in. He mentions the fact that Pete Rose is not in the Hall as a problem. Pete Rose knows the rules of baseball better than probably 99.9% of the people in the sport today. He knew that the only thing you could do to get permanently banned from baseball for life was to bet on baseball. So what did he do? He bet on his own team and then lied about it for 15 years. He knew the consequences if he was caught and he chose to take the chance anyway. There are no tears to shed for Pete Rose. He made his own bed and now he has to lay in it.

And to end this ridiculous article, Mr. Thorn then decides to take some shots at Babe Ruth:

"Babe Ruth will always be the greatest of all baseball players, not for his statistics but for his aura and his era."

No you idiot! Can you believe this shit?!! Babe Ruth is the greatest of baseball players because he hit 714 home runs, had a batting average of .342 and was one of the best left handed pitchers of his day. He was probably good enough to make the Hall as a pitcher if his hitting career had not taken off. He held the record for consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series longer than he held the single season home run record. He even pitched a complete game victory for the Yankees as a 38 year old. Mr. Thorn then contradicts himself:

"Ruth may have been better than any baseball player ever was or will be (though I think not), but it defies reason to claim that his opposition was likewise better than any since."

What is he basing his statement about Ruth on? His aura? His era? No, his statistics. God this guy's an absolute moron. I don't know if Ruth will be greater than any baseball player ever to play the game (and I don't think I've heard too many people seriously make the argument that he played against the best opposition of all time), but it's pretty clear that he's the best so far. His batting average ranks 9th all time (the only other person within in even 200 hr's of him on the top 20 BA list is Ted Williams, who hit 521). He's second (for the time being) on the all time home run list. He's second in OBP, first in Slugging %, third in runs, fifth in total bases, second in RBI's, and on the pitching side he's 15th in ERA, and 12th in winning percentage. There is simply no one in the history of the Major Leagues or Negro Leagues that has a career that even approaches what Ruth did on the field. There can be an argument about who was the best hitter, best fielder, best base runner, best pitcher, but as far as best player goes, it's an easy call. Mr. Thorn continues:

"African-Americans never graced the same field as Ruth, had they been allowed to do so, many white players would have lost their positions the overall level of competition would have risen..."

Astounding! He finally came up with points that are actually somewhat true. I'm not sure about many, but some white players would have lost their jobs and the level of competition would have gone up. I'm shocked and amazed! Unfortunately, the article continues:

"... Ruth's statistical dominance would have narrowed, and many players from the golden age now in the Hall would instead be recalled only by their statistical entries in the baseball encyclopedias."

Okay, where do I start? I'm sure that some of the weakest players would have been banished to the minor leagues, but to suggest the greats of the day would have been relegated to also rans is ludicrous. Was there something special about the way the Negro Leaguers played the game that made them super human? As far as I know, Ruth could hit a pitch from anyone (Unless Mr. Thorn is suggesting that the likes of Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove are inferior talents. And given the retarded nature of his arguments, he may very well be).

Would Josh Gibson have hit 700 home runs in the Majors? Maybe. But would he have faced far superior competition on a day to day basis compared to what he faced in the Negro Leagues? Of course. The thing that is not mentioned here is that the Negro Leaguers compiled their stats in a segregated league as well and with a far smaller talent pool to draw on. Isn't it fair to assume that if the level of competition would go up for the white players, then the same would be true of the Negro Leaguers. Would the stars of the Negro Leagues have been as dominant in the Majors? Undoubtedly some of them would have been and some of them would not (I would also argue that the Negro Leaguers faced inferior competition considering that some of their stats were compiled during barnstorming tours and against semi-pro teams). All things being equal, I don't think that the conclusion that Babe Ruth is the greatest player of all time is seriously in doubt. And I'm fairly sure that the Negro Leaguers who have made the Hall of Fame would have been great players in the Majors and I am equally as sure that the great white players would still have been great.

He continues:

"Buck O'Neil and the 17 he elevated to fame would all have been in the Hall long ago."

I have made this argument in a previous post. I have no earthly idea if those players would be in the Hall, but based on the available statistical evidence, Buck O'Neil does not deserve to be a Hall of Famer. And the owners among the newly inducted group would definitely not be in the Hall, including Alex Pompez who he bad mouthed earlier in this article (Is consistency too much to ask from Mr. Thorn? Apparently it is).

Mr. Thorn wraps up his article with this statement:

"And Willie Mays or Hank Aaron ... or Barry Bonds ... might now be seen as the greatest baseball player who ever lived."

Unless they learned how to throw a split fingered fastball at 95 MPH, it's just not possible. By the way, the steroid fueled numbers that Bonds put up for the last 5 years, are roughly equal to what Babe Ruth did for about 12 years. In 1921 he hit .378, with 59 home runs and 171 RBI's! He hit over .340 ten times! It amazes me that someone who edits a seminal tome like Total Baseball and should have a good understanding of baseball history, is so completely and utterly unaware of the facts. Mr. Thorn, stick to editing. You clearly have not gleaned any actual information or knowledge from the work that you've been doing.

Holy shit, can you believe that the NY Times published this crap?



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