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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Jim Rice

Rice

Jim Rice toiled for fifteen years on the BBWAA ballot before finally getting over the 75% threshold in his final year of eligibility. Rice was a feared slugger during his career, winning the 1978 AL MVP award and finishing in the top five during five other seasons. He finished his career with 382 longballs and 1451 RBI.

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1983 Donruss and the search for a Hall of Fame rookie card

pack 1

pack 2

I picked up two rack packs of 1983 Donruss last night at the Redsfest for $1 each. I thought surely they were just in the wrong place on the table, but no…$1 each. And with a Reggie Jackson Diamond King showing on top, how could I resist?

Of course, the only real reason to buy packs from 1983 is to find a rookie card of Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, or Ryne Sandberg. So did I do it? Find out after the jump…

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1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Cards #28-33

In 1986 Topps teamed up with Quaker to issue a 33-card set full of superstars, including a nice handful of future Hall of Famers. Today we have the final six cards in the set…

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars 19-27

Five out of the last six cards feature Hall of Fame players. Tom Seaver received the highest-ever percentage of votes when he was inducted in 1992 with 98.8%, and it was thought that Cal Ripken might challenge that mark when his name appeared on the ballot. Ripken ended up with 98.5% of the vote, which landed him third on the list behind Tom Terrific and Nolan Ryan. Jim Rice struggled the most to get into Cooperstown, finally garnering the 75% required in his fifteenth and final year on the BBWAA ballot.

The lone non-Hall of Famer here is Dan Quisenberry, one of the best closers in the majors in the first half of the 1980s and especially famous for his submarine style of delivering the ball to the plate. He finished in the top five in Cy Young voting five times, and top 10 in MVP voting four times. Quisenberry retired in 1990 and passed away in 1998 from a brain tumor. In addition to his baseball career, Quisenberry is known for his writing; a book of his poetry was published in 1998.

What makes a Hall of Famer?

Fortunately, not Reggie Jackson‘s opinion. I’m not talking about players involved with the steroid scandal, but guys who are already enshrined in Cooperstown. Jackson said the following to a Sports Illustrated reporter:

I didn’t see Kirby Puckett as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Gary Carter as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Don Sutton as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Phil Niekro as a Hall of Famer. As much as I like Jim Rice, I’m not so sure he’s a Hall of Famer.

So you have a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Puckett, a catcher who is considered by many to be among the best ever in Carter, and two pitchers who reached the 300 win and 3000 strikeout plateaus in Sutton and Niekro, and none of them are Hall of Famers? This isn’t a discussion of who isn’t in that should be (Don Mattingly says hello), but of who is in that shouldn’t be, according to Mr. October himself. And that even includes the pitcher who is in fifth place on the all-time strikeouts list, Bert Blyleven. Reggie says, “No. No, no, no, no. Blyleven wasn’t even the dominant pitcher of his era, it was Jack Morris.” Alright, I’ll agree that Morris belongs, but his omission should not distract from Blyleven’s accomplishments.

While the voting process isn’t perfect, requiring a 75% consensus is a pretty lofty standard and one that is hard to achieve. For the most part, the BBWAA has done a pretty good job on their end of keeping the riff raff out of the Hall. The Veterans Committee hasn’t done so splendidly, but most of their choices can at least be rationalized to some extent. If the BBWAA has failed at all, it has failed by its omissions (see also: Tony Oliva, Minnie Minoso). Reggie is simply wrong on this point.

Retired Numbers: #13 & #14

Of these eight players, only two were elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, and only one of them was first-ballot. Two others gained entrance via the Veterans Committee. A reasonable case can be made for three of the remaining four for Cooperstown.

Larry Doby, Cleveland Indians

I was surprised to find that Doby was not inducted into the Hall of Fame until 1998 by the Veterans Committee. The first black player in the American League, Doby slugged 253 home runs and drove in 970 during a career that was shortened not only by racism, but also by war service. Doby started in the Negro Leagues in 1942, but served in the Navy in 1944 and 1945. He came back to the Negro Leagues in 1946 for one final season before signing with the Cleveland Indians to play in the majors.


Dave Concepcion, Cincinnati Reds


Ernie Banks, Chicago Cubs


Gil Hodges, New York Mets


Jim Bunning, Philadelphia Phillies


Jim Rice, Boston Red Sox


Ken Boyer, St. Louis Cardinals


Kent Hrbek, Minnesota Twins

Who’s going to Cooperstown?

One is a shoo-in. We know this. There is no way the Man of Steal is not headed to the Hall.

The question then becomes, who (if anyone) is going with him? Will Bert Blyleven finally be given his due?

Will Jim Rice’s relationship with writers keep him out on his last chance?

What do you think?

Where is the support?

Yesterday I wrote about Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, and Dave Concepcion’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame. There are a number of other players on the ballot who are considered borderline candidates for the Hall. Some of them have been gaining support over the years, while others have not.

Andre Dawson, on the ballot since 2002, has risen from 45.3% to 65.9% this year. The Hawk became nationally known while playing for the Cubs in the late 1980s after spending the first part of his career in Montreal. He had a monster year in 1987, hitting 49 home runs and winning the MVP while playing for the last-place Cubs. He finished his 21-year career with 438 round-trippers, a more than respectable number for the pre-steroid era. (I’m really starting to hate that phrase.)

Bert Blyleven first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1998, receiving a paltry 17.5% of the vote. Blyleven has gained a great deal of support, finishing with 61.9% in 2008. The case for Blyleven is two-fold: he won a lot of games and struck out a lot of batters. In the modern era, the only eligible player for the Hall with more wins is Tommy John. Blyleven is also fifth on the all-time strikeouts list, with more K’s than Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Fergie Jenkins, and Bob Gibson (all HOFers). The case against him is his poor winning percentage. While he won 287 games, he lost 250.

Lately, relief pitchers have been getting a serious look by the voters. Goose Gossage was elected this year, Dennis Eckersley was inducted in 2004, and Rollie Fingers in 1992. Lee Smith is still trying to get his due. Despite being the all-time saves leader for retired relievers (Trevor Hoffman passed him in 2006 to become the record holder), Smith has gained very little support among Hall voters. In 2003, his first year on the ballot, Smith received 42.3% of the vote. This year, 43.3% voted for him. Evidently there are some who thought he was Hall-worthy five years ago, but they have been unable to convince their peers of that opinion.

Next on the list is Jack Morris, the most dominant pitcher of the 1980s. The former Tiger ace’s support has increased over the years, from 22.2% in 2000 (his first year of eligibility) to 42.9% on the most recent tally. Morris was a five-time All-Star, starting the game three times for the American League. Five times he finished in the top five voting for the Cy Young Award.

What about Tommy John? On the ballot since 1995, he has never received more than 30% of the vote, but has only once received less than 20%. He has one more win than Blyleven, but his strikeout totals are far less (47th on the all-time list). He received serious consideration for the Cy Young award in 1977 and 1978 with the Dodgers, and 1979 and 1980 with the Yankees.

One to watch in future elections is Tim Raines. He received 24.3% this year, his first year on the ballot. Raines spent the first decade of his career in Montreal, making it that much more amazing that he was as popular as he was. He was an All-Star every year from 1981 through 1987, starting in left field in 1982 and 1983. He was known for his speed on the basepaths, leading the National League in stolen bases from 1981 to 1984 and five times finishing in the top four. Raines is fifth on the all-time stolen bases list behind future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and current HOFers Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton, and Ty Cobb.

Harold Baines, never considered a viable candidate for the Hall, barely received enough votes to stay on the ballot another year. Ten other players will not appear on the ballot next year, failing to garner 5% of the vote: Rod Beck (1994 NL Rolaids Reliever of the Year), Travis Fryman (five-time All-Star), Robb Nen (15th on all-time saves list), Shawon Dunston (#1 overall pick in the 1982 draft, one of my personal favorites, and a great autograph signer through the mail), Chuck Finley (23rd on all-time strikeouts list), David Justice (1990 NL Rookie of the Year), Chuck Knoblauch (1991 AL Rookie of the Year), Todd Stottlemyre (2000 Branch Rickey and Lou Gehrig Memorial Awards winner), Brady Anderson (smacked 50 homers in 1996, but never got 25 in any other season), and Jose Rijo (1990 World Series MVP; never won more than 15 games in a season). Only Anderson and Rijo failed to get any votes at all.

There’s no justice in baseball

The results of the super secret Hall of Fame balloting done by the Baseball Writers Association of America were released today. A player must receive at least 75% of the votes to be inducted into the Hall. Once again, Jim Rice fell short. Needing 408 votes, Rice only received 392. Sixteen people kept him from reaching Cooperstown. Sixteen writers with chips on their shoulders, who didn’t like Rice as a person because he was a difficult interview, who didn’t pay any attention to his accomplishments on the field. There can be no other excuse.

In sixteen seasons, Jim Rice hit 382 home runs. He led the American league in homers three times and finished second another. He started in four All-Star games, showing that fans didn’t care about his poor attitude toward the press. He was awarded the Most Valuable Player award in 1978; five other times he finished in the top five. He was one of the most feared sluggers of his era. Jim Rice’s statistics speak for themselves.

As terrible as his exclusion from the Hall of Fame is, there are others who have not gained the support that Rice has over the years. In his first year of eligibility, Rice did not even receive 30% of the vote. This year, his fourteenth on the ballot, the surly outfielder missed election by less than 3%. But there are others whose vote tallies are so far down the list it is doubtful they will ever receive enough support to enter that Hall of Fame, even though they are deserving. I speak of Dave Concepcion and Dale Murphy. Each received less than 90 votes, hovering around the 15% mark.

Concepcion’s offensive statistics alone are far from impressive, but his defensive savvy and clutch performance made him invaluable to the Big Red Machine of the 1970s–a team that included such huge superstars as Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, and Tony Perez (all Hall of Famers, except for Rose, who should be…but that’s for another blogpost). A nine-time All-Star and five-time starter before Ozzie Smith became the fan favorite, Concepcion won the Gold Glove award five times and finished in the top 15 for Most Valuable Player voting thrice.

Dale Murphy’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame defies all reason. Look at his stats. Murphy played in the era when 400 career home runs (he finished just two shy) was a near-lock for a Hall of Famer, and his other statistics further support his case. He was the back-to-back MVP in 1982 and 1983. Seven times he went to the All-Star game; five times he started. From 1982 through 1987, Murphy was either the leader or second in home runs for the National League except 1986, when he finished fourth. There was no outfielder more dominant in the senior circuit during the 1980s.

A case could be made for several other players–Don Mattingly, Andre Dawson, Jack Morris–but in this blogger’s humble opinion, Rice, Concepcion, and Murphy are the most egregious of the omissions.

Note: While watching the local Cincinnati news tonight, I learned that this was Concepcion’s last chance with the BBWAA. Perhaps the Veteran’s Committee will see fit to right this wrong.

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