Recently the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame released it’s ballot and currently hundreds of voters are deciding what players are worthy of being elected into the games most hallowed hallways. Certain players are no brainers, while other players garner quite a bit of debate. This is not another column on steroids and their impact…for the purposes of this column I don’t care about that. What I do care about is what criteria is being used in not just the baseball hall of fame, but all hall of fames in sports.
First let’s do a comparison. Here are two football players…one is in the hall of fame, the other is not:
Player A: 16 seasons, 1,101 catches, 13,899 yards, 130 TD, 8 time Pro Bowler, named to 11 All Pro teams, 31 times was in the top ten of a statistical category, named Walter Payton Man of the Year, led his team to 2 Conference Title Games
Player B: 16 seasons, 940 catches, 12,721 yards, 68 TD, 3 time Pro Bowler, named to 11 All Pro Teams, 8 times was in the top ten of a statistical category, helped team to 1 Super Bowl.
Ok, now which one do you think is in the hall of fame? Looking at things to me Player B looks like a good player that was an integral part of his team for a few years and into a Super Bowl. Player A looks like he was on top of the NFL, considered one of the best to have played during his time. 31 times in the top ten compared to 8, Almost 200 more catches in just as many seasons, and more Pro Bowls means respect from the coaches and fans.
Well if you said Player A is in the Hall of Fame…you’d be wrong. Player A is Vikings WR Cris Carter, while Player B is Washington Redskins WR Art Monk.
All those stats I just mentioned are fine…stats are one way to judge a players performance. It can be a meaningful way to compare players and figure out who is worthy. But no one now a days looks at, what I think, is the single most important factor to someone being in that sports hall of fame. Was a person considered the BEST at their position when they played?
Take the case of baseball pitcher Jack Morris for example. Now maybe Black Jack finally gets in this year but it’s been way to long of a wait for him. You look at his stats and his career ERA of almost 4 is not very good, his win-loss ratio of only 57.7% is also not great. Now that being said, you can’t tell me that during the time frame of the 1979 season through 1992 season he wasn’t the best darn pitcher in the American League. Any manager during that time frame would’ve picked Black Jack as his starting pitcher for one game. That to me speaks of the greatness of Morris.
The man averaged 242 innings per year and 16 wins. You want to talk pitching in the postseason, I offer you a DVD of the World Series Game 7, 1991. I rest my case.
This year Curt Schilling pops up on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. Now I do not believe that Schilling is a first ballot hall of famer, but I do believe he should be in the hall. Schillings stats don’t jump out at you…his career ERA is almost 3.5, he only had 216 wins (which is comparable to the mighty arms of Bob Welch, Rick Reuschel, and Bobo Newsom).
But again Schilling falls into the Jack Morris category…from the time between 1997 and 2006, there were few pitchers you’d rather have on that mound. That to me speaks of greatness.
I don’t like comparing Pitchers to Hitters for obvious reasons but I will in this instance. Take Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson…Did you ever think you were watching one of the greats ever when you saw him out there? Did that .279 career average speak of greatness? Not to me. Would you ever pay to watch him play? I wouldn’t. But I would pay to see Jack Morris and Curt Schilling play.
I urge the voters of all professional hall of fames to consider one thing before all others…was the player the BEST at his position during his time. Greatness has no stats.
PS. I’m not even going to get into the case of Punter Ray Guy. I’ll let Vikings punter Chris Kluwe do that for me. He’s doing a good job of arguing that point in the blogosphere.