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Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Detour: Hall Of Fame

There were two significant retirements in the world of sports this week and with each a debate raged on TV and the radio as to whether each should be in their respective hall of fames.

And while both Jeff Kent and Alonzo Morning had great careers, neither deserves to be enshrined amongst their sport’s elite.

Without going into specifics about those two players, I would like to discuss the Hall of Fame balloting as a whole.

Listening to the radio yesterday Colin Cowherd, of ESPN Radio, said it best when he said that when a player retires, baseball writers tend to fantasize their careers. The highlights become stuff of legends and their imperfections are cast aside.

What I would argue is that in order to get into your sport’s Hall, you should be able to be mentioned in the same breath as the all time greats. If you can’t then you may have been a good players, but not one of your sport’s elite.

Rickey Henderson, for example, was nominated in to the baseball HoF this year. Can you say his name along side other greats like Mickey, Babe and Willie? I would say that based on his body of work that you most certainly can.

Greg Maddux also retired this year and in 5 years he will be up for the HoF. Is he worthy? Without a doubt.

Now say the name Jeff Kent. Can you put him on the same pedestal as they other greats? Even compared just against his fellow 2B? In my mind you cannot.

There is always the argument out there for a player who has the most (insert stat) of someone not in the Hall. Be it hits, HRs, blocked shots or touchdown passes, there is always that debate. Well, I will let you in on a little secret… there will always be that guy. And when, or if, that guy gets in there will be a next guy with the most hits who isn’t in.

I believe there are certain things you can look at that should automatically qualify a guy for the Hall. In baseball I believe it is 300 wins, 3000 hits or 500 HRs. Even in a live ball era, those stats stand the test of time.

This is not to say that someone who doesn’t have those particular stats doesn’t deserve to be in, but those are the first ballot clinchers.

I think the major fault of the writers is that they feel there needs to be a Hall of Fame induction every year. Now, I understand why that is good for the individual sport, but the Hall get watered down because of this need.

A good friend of mine, Dan Russell, came up with a clever acronym for people who are generally enter the Hall discussion, but aren’t Hall worthy: HOAGie.

HOAGie stands for Hall Of Almost Great. This semi-elite category would be bestowed upon players whose career warrants some recognition, but not a bust in Cooperstown, Canton or Springfield.

Voting for HOAGies would be done on a personal basis. Did YOU feel that this person was good, but not the greatest? Great, but not the greatest? Then affix a HOAGie to them.

This would eliminate all debate for the Hall. If the Hall was only the ultra-elite, the type of player that comes around once every 5 or so years, then the hall fraternity would be made up of players that were undebateable.

Who is your favorite HOAGie? Leave a name in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

1 comment:

drussell said...

Jeff Kent's retirement raises a great debate regarding the HOF. The first thing that I want to point out is that the HOF has already been divided into two categories of greatness. First Ballot HOFers (Rickey, Babe Ruth, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux, etc) and the rest (Jim Rice, Phil Rizzuto, Enos Slaughter, etc). It goes without saying that Jeff Kent is certainly NOT a first ballot. But, does he deserve inclusion amongst the Orlando Cepedas, Johnny Evers, and Waite Hoyt's of the Hall?

The first test that Kent fails is the "Did he feel like a HOFer when he was playing." Well, no he did not. But very few people did. Did Gary Carter? Did Carlton Fisk make anyone forget Yogi Berra? Of course not, Carlton Fisk couldn't even make people forget Thurmon Munson. However, What Carlton Fisk did was simply incredible. He played catcher far longer than anyone else. This is a pretty amazing achievement. Along the way he racked up some substantial Hall-worthy numbers. I think Jeff Kent is similar. He was amazingly consistent (something that seems to get overlooked in voting). He cracked 100 RBIs 6 years in a row and 8 out of 9. He had 4 top 10 MVP finishes winning 1. He played in 5 AS games. And maybe I am deluding myself, but i get the feeling he played clean in an era that made that fact an anomoly. The length and consistency of Kent's career allowed him to put of numbers that will lead to his eventual enshrinement.

The bottomline, and the one voters will make again and again is that he was simply the best hitting 2B in 60 years (2-3 generations), that should count for something. Critics will say that he played an average 2B to which i agree, but he played well enough to stay there his entire career.

Kent will remain a HOAGie until he is elected-probably in 8-10 years. The HOAGie really should be held for players like Mark Grace, Andre Dawson, Don Mattingly, Dwight Evans, and Willie Randolph.