what makes a hall-of-famer?

jim-rice

Jim rice ALWAYS made sure to wear his swim goggles.

Congratulations to Jim Rice, who this week was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 15th and last year of eligibility. He thereby wriggled free from his title as “The Susan Lucci of my generation’s potential hall-of-famers.” (Someone else has surely made this joke, right?) With his election, an annual rite of winter has ended.

You see, every winter for the last decade or so, Evil has read assorted sportswriters’ Hall of Fame picks/predictions . . . and within each of them, a breakdown of (a) Jim Rice’s qualifications for the Hall of Fame vs. (b) his chances of ever getting in. Now that’s over, leaving the Evil with a bittersweet taste. Though Evil’s awareness of Jim Rice’s career is based solely on such articles—Rice played before Evil cared a whit about baseball—it’s odd to see something you’ve counted on so long end so abruptly.

But it begs the question: what does make a hall-of-famer? Apparently what hurt Rice was the proliferation of new-fangled baseball statistics since the beginning of the ‘90s . . . things like OPS+, DVOA, VORP, and other words that sound like Batman sound effects. Turns out, judged by the statistics we care about now, Rice wasn’t so hot.

And the Evil wonders: who the hell cares?

It has never seemed that complicated to the Evil, because to him, hall-of-famitude isn’t a matter of numbers, but of a gut feeling. You know a hall-of-famer when you see one. (Like, for instance, when you’re reading this blog.)

Simple test: for a period of a decade, when this player came to the plate, walked onto the court, or lined up on the field, did you feel a gut-wrenching sense of dread or a jolt of elation (depending on whether he played for your team or your opponent)?

If yes, then you’ve got yourself a hall-of-famer. If no, then you don’t.

As for Jim Rice, the statistical assault on his career seems to have been counterbalanced by the fact that everyone who ever watched or played with him knew he was a hall-of-famer. His job was to step up to the plate and try to knock in runs, nothing more, nothing less. Opposing players were terrified of seeing him come to the plate. And his peak lasted a dozen years. Good enough for the Evil.

Thus, here’s a representative but by not means exhaustive list of current or recently retired baseball players whom Evil knows are hall-of-famers: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Ken Griffey, Jr.

Close but not quite, part 1—great, but didn’t inspire terror and/or awe: Chipper Jones, Bernie Williams, Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio.

Close but not quite, part 2—inspired terror and/or awe, but not for long enough: Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez.

Um, steroids? Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa.

Did the Evil miss anyone?

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One thought on “what makes a hall-of-famer?”

  1. I think Yankees fans would say Bernie Williams had hall of famitude. I watched the pageantry surrounding the last game played in Yankee Stadium, and before the game they announced an all Yankee team (or something like that) with the three or four most loved/respected/best players at each position from the whole history of the Yankees. By far the loudest cheers were for Bernie. I’d almost forgotten about him, but those fans cheered louder for him than any other Yankee in the whole awesome history of the Yankees. And winning also helps. If Biggio and Bagwell played on a consistently winning team, they’d be an easy pick. And Chipper is helping himself with good stats, since that helps these days.

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