Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Tiger and the Iron Man

Congratulations to a pair of worthy superstars — San Diego Padres batting champion Tony Gwynn and Baltimore Orioles iron man Cal Ripken Jr. — upon their election today to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Given that both men garnered support from more than 97% of the eligible electors, I trust that no one has a legitimate argument in either instance. If any players of the modern generation merit Hall inclusion, Ripken and Gwynn stand right at the top of the list. Gwynn's record-tying eight National League batting titles, 3,141 hits, and .338 career batting average (not to mention five Gold Gloves) speak for themselves. If anything, Ripken's a slightly less dominating case — like many baseball aficionados, I think he extended his record-busting streak of 2,632 consecutive games played at the cost of his team's success, especially defensively — but you can't dispute two MVP awards or Ripken's stellar offensive totals as a shortstop (431 home runs, 3,184 total hits).

I'm again disappointed that relief ace Rich "Goose" Gossage and Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice, both of whom are eminently credible as potential Hall of Famers in my estimation, missed the cut. I hope both men ultimately gain election. I'm less hopeful about Andre Dawson, Lee Smith, and Jack Morris, though I'd have voted for all three of them as well.

Sadly, the great news about Ripken and Gwynn is overshadowed by the nonelection of Mark McGwire, who polled only 23.5% — largely because of the groundswell of sentiment against his alleged steroid use. I wouldn't vote to put Big Mac in the Hall of Fame either, but not because of his pharmaceutical habits or lack thereof. To my mind, McGwire was little more than a marginally more successful Dave "Kong" Kingman — a guy with a massive power stroke who, aside from home runs, often couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat. A player who, at the peak of his career (1988-91, when McGwire was in his mid-20s), had four consecutive seasons in which he hit .260, .231, .235, and .201 should not be in the Hall of Fame — juice or no juice.

It's regrettable that the suspicions or allegations about steroids — regardless of their foundation — will tarnish the history of an entire generation of baseball players. I heard one sportswriter (Paul Ladewski, of suburban Chicago's Daily Southtown) affirm today that he won't vote for a single player for the Hall of Fame who played during the "Steroid Era." That's unfair. If a guy's a proven user — even though steroids weren't specifically forbidden by baseball rules until just the past couple of seasons, their use was against the law — fine. Deny him the Hall. But don't penalize others against whom there's not a shred of proof that they did anything but play clean.

As always, I'm baffled and incensed by some of the players who landed votes at the bottom of the ballot. Who were the four clowns who voted for Tony Fernandez? Or the three who penciled in Dante Bichette? Did Jay Buhner's mom somehow get hold of a ballot? Otherwise, I can't fathom how that guy picked up his single vote. Nobody voted for Devon White (and rightly so), and he wasn't that much worse a player than Jay "The Bone" Buhner.

Kudos again to Messrs. Gwynn and Ripken. I'm only sorry I had to mention either of their legendary names in the same post with Jay Buhner or Dante Bichette. Never mind Mark McGwire.


1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Gooch offered these pearls of wisdom...

I can't help but laugh at the idea of someone not voting for Tony Gwynne because he played during the "steroid era". Based on Tony's appearance, if he was intending to take steroids, I would suggest he should sue his dealer.

9:51 PM  

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