Monday, January 12, 2009

Today, I Am The Greatest...

...or so Rickey Henderson proclaimed the day he broke Lou Brock's record for career stolen bases. Or something along those lines. Neither modesty nor public speaking are among Henderson's strong points. But one thing is for sure; he is one of the greatest baseball players ever.

Each winter, the baseball writers association votes on which of the greatest past players deserve to be enshrined in the sport's hall of fame. The voting process is questionable to say the least. Each 10-year member of the association is eligible to vote, this year resulting in 539 ballots to be cast. Each ballot can be submitted with up to 10 players included...there is no ranking or weighting. A player must be named on 75% or more of the ballots cast in order to be inducted (so 405 this year). Players are eligible after they have been out of baseball for 5 years. Rickey Henderson flew into the Hall with 94.8% of the vote in his first year of eligibility. Amazing, right? Not when you consider that 28 people did not feel that Henderson was worthy of the honor. Begging the question...what in the name of holy fuck do you have to do to be worthy? Everyone will rattle off RH's incredible stats...most pointing to his ungodly stolen base totals and the fact that he was the greatest leadoff hitter ever. But you really only need to look at one statistic...Rickey Henderson scored the most runs...EVER. Nobody in the nearly 140-year history of major league baseball has ever crossed home plate more times than Rickey Henderson. If THAT person doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, then you may as well shutter the doors of the facility and auction all the memoribilia off on eBay. I argue that RBI's and Runs are the two most critical offensive stats in the game. Every other number merely represents how a particular player arrived at accumulating their totals in those two categories. Stolen bases are great, but alone do nothing. They simply make it more likely for more runs to be scored. The WHOLE POINT OF THE GAME is to score runs. So the guy who did this the most times in history does not get voted into the Hall of Fame unanimously?

The truth is there has never been a unanimous induction. Quite ridiculous, since we know there have been several players who should have been named on 100% of the ballots. This year's crop of eligible players was the smallest in history...23. And there were probably about 10 players whom you could argue don't deserve a single vote, or even to be on the ballot at all. So that leaves only 3 slots that the writers should have to debate about in their minds. Henderson is not one of them. Whoever voted for Jesse Orosco or Jay Bell should be banished to Siberia.

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