We have often been exposed to the term “watered down” as a product that has had its contents intentionally diminished to improve the fiscal bottom line. To me the term is one I find quite comfortable in describing how the Hall of Fame has migrated from the best of the best to the almost best of the best.
Reward cards are an important marketing tool. Become a “valued customer” by simply buying more “stuff.” You get rewards. Might be a coupon or a beverage or a special offer not available to the Hoi Polloi. In the HOF you have had certain levels of rewards. The numbers that sing a tune -300 wins, 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Benchmarks that usually signal automatic entry. No waiting in line. Right to the VIP section.
Think of Dave Kingman. Look him up. Kingman was the personification of the home run bat. Of course what he did with the no home run appearances was another story. In his last season Kingman stroked 35 home runs to run his career count to 442. A few seasons away from that magical 500. Metrics followers would toast his performance.
Julio Franco was a decent player who actually once won a batting championship. Julio had a few Silver Sluggers in his resume that ended at age 48. Quite a tenure. Franco also spent a considerable amount of service time elsewhere so that resume had chunks missing. A real world traveler with stops in Mexico and Korea. Still Franco managed 2586 hits. What a dilemma if he had stayed in MLB those missing seasons are garnered 3,000 hits.
Carl Yastrzemski is a local hero. The record books have his name prominently displayed in the upper echelon of stats. But examine his career closely and what jumps out is padding. Those last ten seasons were nothing special. This is not unusual when you examine career performance, but is important when you consider career numbers and core numbers, with core being those highly productive seasons that usually start to spiral downward as a player gets deeper into their 30’s.
With the development of metrics, I wonder how some of the votes could have changed through the years? But that is a debate for another time since this is about the here and now. So I look at the ballot and have to pick. The standards have already been set with previous inductee’s.
Greg Maddux is the one pitcher that I could clearly rank with the best of the best all time or, at least, until he reached his mid 30’s. Then came his padding – a lot of padding. Should that discount him? In my view it should not. His CY Awards and his ability to consistently keep runs off the board were something special. Not bad with the glove, either. Probably the only player that looked more like a stock broker than a high profile pitcher. He is a lock.
Frank Thomas was flat out a hitting monster. Thomas hit over 500 home runs, had a .301 career average and collected some MVP iron. You could see his slippage as he got older as strikeouts passed walks each season. But in his time he was the personification of raw power. Interesting is he never won a home run title. He’d get my vote.
Biggio managed to get to 3,000 hits with a less than .300 average. Biggio was an accomplished second baseman who had some excellent gap power (668 doubles) and could hit one out (291 home runs). If Roberto Alomar is in, then Biggio should join him. He’d have my vote.
Mike Mussina won 270 games. For the WAR folks he plugs in with a nice 82.7. Was he the best? To me he rings of consistency. No MVP, no CY, just some year after year high double digit wins. Closing out a career with 20 wins is a nice touch. I would ponder a bit and then I would give him a vote.
I am finding it difficult to forgive Jeff Kent from appearing on reality shows but I would ballot him.
With the bat I’d consider Kent every bit the performer Biggio was. Kent could hit and had middle of the order power. His home run total is most by a second baseman. Kent has an MVP and was a regular at the All Star contest. His glove work was nothing special but he’d have my vote.
That would be my ballot. I have never been a fan of the system but that is not what this is about. Under the present standards those would be my selection.