Sunday, August 06, 2006

Whole Hall Overhaul (The Eviction of Eppa Rixey)

Consecutive weekends of Hall of Fame inductions (Cooperstown last Sun. and Canton on Sat.) serve as reminders of the dedication and devotion logged by a lot of fat guys or pencilnecks who never played either baseball or football.
That's right ... "the voters."
Or if you prefer … the esteemed “panel.”

It’s a powerful nation that can boast of tubby dorks and skinny dweebs who perceive polo shirts as high fashion deeming themselves qualified to judge the greatest performers of sports they don't fully comprehend.
In other words, the intelligencia which picks your baseball Hall of Fame enshrinees and your Hall of Fame of Professional Football inductees might as well be explaining to you the in's n' out's of jai lai or cricket.

Various accusations were levied by the Ol’ Pitchfork accompanied by assorted protestations which were articulated in great detail by Planet Haystack in the Feb. 4 entry “U-Shaped Logic” – the lightning rod of Pitchfork/Haystack dismay being the snubbing of former Pittsburgh Steeler All-Pro center Dermontti Dawson.
To recap: In 86 years of pro football, only 10 centers are enshrined in Canton.

While it can be argued that healthy debate is good for the soul (and provides an excellent ice-breaker at social functions … y’know, “Whaddija think of Sutter getting into the Hall?” +++ “That guy had eight quality seasons. Only eight … count ‘em. So, tell Bruce Sutter and his frickin’ glorified forkball to go screw themselves, okay?”
And, that’ll ignite the throwdown, as the Wheat Thins and the crab dip go airborne.
Say, who’s gonna clean up that spilled guac?

It’s about being pre-emptive.
And, something which triggered the pre-emptivity was what ESPN aired in the aftermath of the Cooperstown gala – New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden informing America that a baseball Hall of Famer told him that it was up to "you guys" to protect the integrity of the Hall of Fame.
Now, doesn’t that sound a lot like a euphemism for "keep out, Mark McGwire!” when it's time for the “those guys” (read: the BBWAA) to turn in their Hall of Fame ballots in early-January.

Talk about playing with fire.
Instructing a Hall of Fame voter to protect the integrity of a so-called hallowed "Hall of Fame" is like demanding that a pedophile keep his e-mails to a 13-year-old "intelligent, clean and typo-free."

If the “integrity” or “sanctity” of Cooperstown is at stake here, then the housecleaning is easier than one might think.
Ergo, the process of serving eviction notices is underway for the following:
Scooter, Pee Wee, Old Hoss and Pud.
That’s four easy eliminations right there (with more to follow).
True, it’s a tough break for Phil Rizzuto – but, he had a good run as a (use your hands for the air-quotes here) “Hall of Famer.”
Now, it’s over for an overrated player.
And one helluva piss-poor Yankees broadcaster.

That’s Phase I of “the process” of “integrity protection.”
Phase II is to affix “probation” status to inductees such as Sutter, Tommy Lasorda and Gary Carter.
What that means is that Sutter is a “Hall of Fame Disqualify-ee ” (that is, until Goose Gossage and Lee Smith are enshrined).
Same deal for the chubby-and-mediocre Dodger skipper (until Dick Williams and Whitey Herzog are inducted).

Carter (Kid Pepsodent) has a lot of work to do. He’ll remain a Hall of Fame Wanna-Be until he lobbies much harder for the induction of Lance Parrish, Bob Boone and Ted Simmons, all catchers from Carter’s era.
And three backstops who, on the whole, were better than Carter.
Kid Pepsodent’s “prime” (1977-86) was quite good – but most people are startled to learn that Parrish’s stats are almost identical.
On top of that, “the voters” apparently overlooked the final six years of Carter’s career when he was all dinged up and averaging .234, 8 HR and 34 RBI per season.

Simmons, meanwhile, takes cuts in line ahead of Carter due to the fact that he was a mega-productive switch-hitter for 10 seasons in St. Loo (while catching some crappy Redbird pitching staffs) and then followed up his playing days with a bang-up job as a Pirates GM during their most-recent time of semi-glory.
Boonie was productive as a full-time catcher in his 40’s – and he was a clutch hitter in his postseason ABs (which The Kid was not).

As long as the Scooter, Pee Wee, Old Hoss and Pud are getting the boot, it might be time to rip Eppa Rixey’s plaque off the wall.
During the first nine years of his career (all with the Phillies, Rixey’s averaged a won-loss record of 9-11. During his next nine seasons (all with the Cincinnati Reds), Rixey averaged a won-loss record of 17-13.
Big whoop.
If nine seasons is what it takes, then it must be time to punch Ron Guidry’s ticket for his seasons 1977-85.
Loozee-anna Light’nin’ brung it.
(Note: Guidry was 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 10 postseason starts)
Easy, isn’t it?
It is, once you start dumping oldtimers who were getting’ cozy with sportswriters “back in the day.”
By “cozy,” we’re talkin’ ‘bout sharing a few rounds of Falstaff or Rheingold beer and a few packs of Chesterfields on the train ride from the Polo Grounds to Shibe Park.
You get the picture.

Now that you mention it, yes … Don Sutton is a Hall of Fame De-Shrinee until he starts campaigning more vigorously for Tommy John, Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant.
After all, those four are practically the same pitcher.
‘Cept that T.J., Kitty Kaat and El Tiante don’t have Sutton’s weak-ass perm hairdo.

The mechanics of Hall of Fame selections are simplified once we make personal attacks against the clowns which compose “the electorate.”
That’s American pragmaticism in action.
Rather than allowing Peter Schmuck – president of the BBWAA – and his vast collection of Hawaiian shirts brainwash you into believing that so-and-so “isn’t worthy” or that so-and-so “cheated,” people who actually walk inside the building in Cooperstown can decide for themselves.
Such as weighing the merits of Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn and his 59-12 record (with 73 starts and 73 complete games) for the 1884 Providence Grays against his 27-31 record for the Boston Beaneaters two seasons later.

Even if James “Pud” Galvin was 46-29 with 72 complete games for the Buffalo Bisons in 1883 and he was 46-22 with 71 complete games in 1884, his 16-26 record in 1885 can’t be ignored.
Then again, maybe that 16-26 record (or his 20-35 record for the 1880 Bisons) is what kept The Pudster out of The Hall until he was finally enshrined in 1965 – 63 years after his death at age 45 in 1902.

Look … some of us respect the hell outta the Buffalo Bisons – and some of us are married to the daughter of the man whose name is on the Bisons’ yearly MVP trophy.
Seriously, though … a record of 59-12 or 46-22 record, well … those are circus stats.

In other words, you’re damn right Big Mac should go in. Unless McGwire deposited a urine sample into the pocket of Schmuck’s Hawaiian shirt, there’s no reason to exclude Mac.
No, he wasn’t warm n’ fuzzy.
Still, his crappy years were outweighed by his monster years, which may or may not correlate to his adventures with androstenedione, which was not on The MLB’s hit list of banned substances at the time.

Writers such as Madden or Schmuck try to remain relevant by making wisecracks or getting preachy.
Bill James parlayed such schtick into higher statistical awareness, which led to number-crunching called “sabermetrics.”
James should’ve probably simply stuck to the numbers game because his quote from roughly 15 years ago was a doozy when he said that Ted Williams’ offensive numbers had to be taken in the context that “Williams never had to face the baseball’s great black pitchers.”

It was assumed that James was referring to the Negro League hurlers, but, then again, maybe he meant Blue Moon Odom or Oil Can Boyd.
Yet, based on James’ circular logic (or specious reasoning … not sure which), one would have to subtract anywhere from 105 to 217 of Hank Aaron’s record 755 career home runs because Hammerin’ Hank hit that many against truly crappy white pitchers.

It’s all relative, really.
And, it’s totally subjective when it comes to choosing who gets into the Hall and who gets locked out.
Which is what makes poking fun at the electorate more enjoyable than punching holes in the qualifications of the elected.

One thing’s for sure: Once baseballers get elected, it’s “I’ve got my Cooperstown cred! Now, quick, lock the door before McGwire or anyone else gets in.”
The footballers seem to have more of a sense of fraternity, not the cut-throat, “we-need-to-protect-the-integrity-of-the-Hall.”

In a manner of speaking, that was the case last weekend when Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Reggie Jackson and Willie McCovey were all no-shows at Cooperstown when 17 Negro League players were enshrined.
According to ESPN Radio, Hammerin’ Hank was attending a wedding; “Say Hey” was playin’ stickball at the White House (when he wasn’t talking about himself); and Stretch was at a card show in Anaheim.

Then again, we potential attendees of the Hall were given nothing more than a vague reference to “17 Negro Leaguers” … 17 individuals who, evidentally, have no identity or names of their own.
Which means it’s time to break out the Cool Papa Bell stories.
And to continue locking out Jim Rice.

If the goal is to eliminate the arbitrary nature of these elections, then the voting should be handed over to a pro-active, Regular Joe contingent – since it is, after all, the Regular Joes who dish out the $$$ for season tickets and who shell out the $$$ to take their kids to Cooperstown and Canton.
Allowing sportswriters and a “panel” of “experts” (whose only “expertise” is locating free food) to decide such matters is akin to staging an arm wrestling match between Ann Coulter and Gene Shalit to select the next President of the United States.
We’re Americans, dammit … which means that we either ignore or embrace what Simon Cowell has to say and then we vote accordingly.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, America … particularly on the baseball side of the diamond/gridiron paradigm.
At least by putting it in the hands of the people, much of the bias and personal agenda is eliminated.
Stripping Peter Schmuck and Peter Gammons and Peter King of their self-important say-so eliminates oversights such as Ted Simmons and Dermontti Dawson.

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