Cooperstown Bound– and Gagged?
There seems to be a constant dialogue among today’s baseball writers about who is deserving of placement in the baseball Hall of Fame, and who isn’t. Raphael Palmeiro is the latest to endure this scrutiny—and the arguments being made have stirred up my thoughts about the shrine, and the process.
First of all, let’s deal with the REAL glaring issue of Cooperstown—why isn’t Pete Rose in? Oh yeah, that ancient rule about gambling, which owes it’s existence to a scandal that was in an era before TV, radio, cars, ESPN, MTV and microwaves—the Black Sox World Series affair.
Can we assume that Pete Rose made a little more money in his career that say, Shoeless Joe Jackson? That nickname did not mean Joe couldn’t get a Nike contract. It meant that he was so poor when the scouts found him, he had no shoes. And while Shoeless Joe is the name everyone remembers, there were several other poor-as-dirt players who were involved, too. The impoverished player of that pre-Union era was more open to getting extra cash by throwing a game.
The mega-rich players of today are different. Who could bribe, say, A-Rod? Even Bill Gates would have to think twice about laying out the cash that would take.
So was Pete accused of throwing games? No—he was accused of betting on his team. Anyone who ever met Pete knows of his fierce competitiveness (which it turns out was partially fueled by ‘greenie’ amphetamines). In the 1970’s, Pete Rose was the player we were told as children to emulate—an average guy who worked hard and got the most out of his talent. He simply became, in his own words, ‘the greatest singles hitter of all time’. But he is not in the Hall, and likely will never be.
Baseball is missing a great chance to tell both sides of the story, and create a precedent. Why not have a “Hall of Shame’ wing? Put in Pete Rose’s whole story, scandal and all. Put in Shoeless Joe Jackson. And slide that racist redneck Ty Cobb over to that section, too, please. Anyone that thinks Pete Rose had a lesser character than Ty Cobb has never read a baseball history book.
So with all this talk of character, how does Raffy Palmeiro stack up? Great, character wise. Great career stats. One of the classic swings in the history of the game. One of the great on-base and slugging players of his time. A great fielder, too. But today’s baseball writers seem split on the guy who recently joined the exclusive 3000 hit, 500 homer club.
Why is having a great career for 8-10 years good enough for the Hall, but having a really good career for 20 years doesn’t hack it? Should we say Hank Aaron is not the Homer King, because it took him so many more at bats than Babe Ruth to get there? No, of course not.
Baseball is a ‘what have you done lately for me” game, and Palmeiro contributed at a high level longer than 98% of the players ever. Why does longevity disqualify, when it should enhance?
Palmeiro facts: Ten years with over 30 homers, with a nine year streak of at least 38 round trippers. Ten times a slugging percentage over .500 while having an on-base over .370 in the same year, with a peak year of hitting .324/.630/.420 in 1999, his first year with the Rangers. That was the year Baltimore let him walk, because they thought he was done.
So if Raffy is NOT worthy, certain questions arise. It is said his numbers are inflated by Camden Yards and Texas being hitter’s parks. Does that mean no hitter from Colorado will ever be inducted? Should the owners have been warned about that when they paid those expensive franchise fees? Should we start looking at inducting Colorado pitchers? Maybe we should just lower their ERAs by 2 runs, and look them over. After all, if Palmeiro’s performance is skewed due to hitter’s parks, aren’t the pitchers also?
What would Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale’s ERAs have looked like had they played in Coors Field or Camden or Texas, instead of the famous pitching-friendly confines of Dodger Stadium? Lower the mound, stick him in one of today’s bandboxes, and just for fun, add a designated hitter to his opponent’s lineup during interleague play—does Bob Gibson still have a record 1.12 ERA in 1968?
Does this thinking make Roger Clemens’ current year, with around a 1.40 ERA in a hitter’s park that’s smaller than my back yard, the greatest pitching year EVER? Of course, his road ERA is the thing—at this time, it’s below 0.40! This thinking begs another question: didn’t Palmeiro play half his games in other ballparks, too?
It’s time for this new generation of baseball writers to get over themselves. Anyone who only knows Joe Morgan as a baseball announcer, and didn’t see him playing—the greatest second baseman of all time, to all viewers who weren’t drunk on the self-absorbed curse fixation that only infects regular travelers to Wrigley Field, making them bring up Ryan Sandberg’s name—should not have a vote. Anyone who thinks betting for his team to win as a manager disqualifies Pete Rose as a player, should not have a vote.
And anyone who thinks they could do what Raffy Palmeiro has done, at this high level, for this many years… they should not only not have a vote, they should be bound and gagged, so that the rest of us baseball fans don’t have to listen to the preposterous argument that he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.