Year Inducted: 1989 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 431/447)
There are two positions in baseball that have seen rapid evolution of what player is considered the best at that respective position. The best players at first base, second base, shortstop and right field have been established since at latest the 1920’s. While left field and center field were more recently than the others listed, there was very little turnover between the periods. However, there has been a lot of turnover at third base and catcher, with the latter seeing the most change. Beginning with the 1930’s, the title of best catcher of all-time was passed down by several players, from Mickey Cochrane to Bill Dickey to Yogi Berra, and there was very little time between those players’ careers. Likewise, Berra didn’t hold the mantle very long, as that title was soon passed to its current holder, Johnny Bench.
Year Inducted: 1990 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 363/444)
The Big Red Machine was one of the greatest assemblies of talent ever on a baseball roster. Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster, Dan Driessen, Dave Concepcion, Senior Griffey, Cesar Geronimo, what an imposing and deep lineup. But, while many of those players were together for a couple of years, it wasn’t until 1972 that the team gelled and began its dominance. It was this season that the Reds acquired someone to man the keystone position that proved to be the key to them exploding. That was when they got future Hall of Famer, Joe Morgan.
Year Inducted: 2012 (BBWAA, 3rd ballot, 495/573)
Most of the old teams have had their fair share of entries here so far. The Giants, Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, Cubs, Phillies and A’s have the most posts so far, but there is one of the old teams that hasn’t been mentioned much yet; the original team, the Cincinnati Reds. There have been only five posts about the Reds, and none since Bid McPhee about 40 posts ago. Why is that? Well, the Reds haven’t had many runs of being dominant unlike a lot of other teams. When the Reds had their biggest bout of dominance, the 1970’s Big Red Machine, the best players on the team were some of the best of all-time, especially Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan. But, one of the other times they had a dominant team was the early 1990’s, with the Nasty Boys in the bullpen and Barry Larkin as the team catalyst.
Year Inducted: 2000 (Veterans Committee)
Baseball is indebted to its history. The game, like this country, was built on the shoulders of giants. And, it is for this reason, it’s important to remember the players that came first. Many of them were pioneers in their fields, be it fighting for labor rights, making strides on how a position is played, or bringing the game into popular culture, without the efforts of many players the game may not have survived and thrived for as long as it has. That’s why the Veterans Committee was brought about-to not forget the past. Sometimes, as is the case with today’s player, it can take a very long time for players to gain their recognition.
Year Inducted: 2000 (BBWAA, ballot #9, 385/499)
As most people (ie the two people who read this blog) know, a lot of the numbers used to judge players are more advanced, sabermetric numbers. However, it’s important to recognize when the more traditional stats, despite their flaws, can capture the value of some players. RBI’s are the best example, as every team needs to score runs in order to win and if a player has a lot of RBI’s, he most likely has had a great season. Is it definitive? No. Does it really show the talent of a player? No, but it does a decent job at looking backwards at a player’s season to see how he contributed to his team. Some players have ridden high RBI totals to a Hall of Fame career. A great example of this would be Tony Perez, the RBI man on the Big Red Machine.
Year Inducted: 1986 (Veterans Committee)
Sometimes, it can be fun (despite how trivial it all is), to see how all the players in the Hall of Fame rank in certain stats. Some are easy to think of-who has the most [wins, home runs, RBIs, etc]. The harder part is to find out who has the least of certain stats. Unsurprisingly, since catchers tend to be as slow as snails, the player with the fewest steals in a career was a catcher. In fact, he is the only player in the Hall of Fame to have less than 10 steals in his career. That player, of course, is Ernie Lombardi.
Year Inducted: 1963 (Veterans Committee)
In recent years, the word “narrative” has been used to explain some award choices by the BBWAA. In 2012, Miguel Cabrera won the MVP over Mike Trout because there was a narrative with Cabrera regarding the Triple Crown (which hadn’t been done in 45 years), despite the fact that Trout was a better overall player (when defense and base running were taken into account), and the Angels actually had a better record than the Tigers (who made the post season by being in a terrible division). A more historical example would be Maury Wills’ MVP in 1962. Wills was a big story that year, setting the record for most stolen bases in a season with 104. However, Willie Mays trounced him in nearly every other statistical category (e.g., out homering Wills 48-6), and wound up second in the MVP race despite the fact that Mays’ Giants won the NL Pennant that season. There’s not always consistency year-to-year for the voting.
The narrative can also be seen in a lot of voting for the Hall of Fame. Pitchers that seem to be labeled as “winning pitchers” have been inducted despite the overall body of work not looking great (e.g., Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock). Often, these types of pitchers are voted in by the Veterans Committee, but a few will trickle in from the BBWAA (like Ted Lyons). One of the best examples of this would be Cincinnati lefty Eppa Rixey. Continue reading