Friday, December 29, 2006

Hall of Fame Garbage

"Famers on the Fringe" is supposed to debate the credentials of guys with marginal chances of making the hall of fame. Instead a trend quickly emerges here. The people defending the respective player's merits use statistics to show how they were comparable to other guys already inducted (a laudable argument technique for this situation), while the people assigned to the other side of the argument all just end up saying "well I don't really think he makes it in because he wasn't great, just good", hardly citing any evidence to support it. I think that is probably because the easiest way to explain why a player shouldn't get into the hall of fame is by saying that he wasn't dominant enough at any time or dominant for an extended period of time, and the hall of fame requires you to be dominant. This makes sense to an extent, but the problem is that over the years really the most hard and fast statistical benchmarks for entrance have proven to be additive stats over a players' career. While being arbitrary and era-dependent, the stats are 500 home runs, 300 wins, 3,000 hits, and a .300 career average, among others. Many deserving relievers haven't yet gotten in and probably never will mostly because there are basically no stats that clearly show how good a reliever was over the long term. So to defend a guy like Palmiero, you might say his career stats are ....., which are close to what hall of fame inductees in the past achieved, but the desenters would say that he wasn't dominant enough.

Now to me, at some point I think dominance and career excellence have been confused. Once the "benchmarks" were set by consensus over years of voting different players in, the numbers became set in stone even as the times have changed. Nowadays guys can add up homer numbers near to 500 without ever being a whole lot better than other players of their generations. The key really is how good a player is, not the numbers he is able to add up over his career. This is for some reason more clear for pitchers, as voters realize that not many pitchers are going to be reaching 300 wins in the next 50 years. However with hitting for some reason the benchmark stats remain and voters lament the fact that a 500 homer guy is going to elected in despite never having a dominant season or series of seasons. In reality they are just failing to realize that those benchmarks were set because of guys being excellent over their entire careers (edit: to clarify I'm referring to pre-90s players here), which allowed them to reach the marks. Afterall, what single season achievement would ever get a player a guaranteed ticket to the hall? There isn't any. People still question Pedro Martinez's chances based on his pedestrian career win total and he has had several of the most dominant seasons ever pitched, even more dominant than the symbol of short term dominance, Sandy Koufax. Is there really an advantage to your team or otherwise by compiling more of your stats in a couple truly brilliant seasons as opposed to a career of excellent seasons? If it is really your career totals and the label of "dominant" that is being looked at, then clearly the couple brilliant seasons gives you more of a chance of hall admittance, which is just silly.

Hall of Fame hopefuls should always be compared to their peers in career stats, as opposed to the players which have already been inducted, and as opposed to looking at career totals and trying to determine who could be nebulously classified as "dominant" based on a few select seasons. Doing so will avoid an onslaught of very good, but not great hitters entering in the next 10 years from the offense heavy 1990s. The hall is supposed to just be the greatest of players, and great should refer to your standing in relation to the players of your time.

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