Monday, December 3, 2012
Latest inductees point to Hall of Fame flaws
By David Schoenfield
This isn't meant to completely knock the veterans committee, as it was just fulfilling an assigned task by judging Hall of Fame candidates on the latest Pre-Integration ballot.
Look, I'm sure Deacon White, the newest member of the Hall of Fame, was a fine player. He led the National Association in RBIs back in 1873. What was the National Association? It presaged the National League, so is the oldest professional league, although it was more a loose association of clubs than an organized league. In 1873, three of the nine teams didn't complete the season (the Baltimore Marylands lasted all of six games while the Elizabeth Resolutes went 2-21 before apparently folding). White also led the National League in RBIs its first two years of existence in 1876 and 1877 and led the circuit in batting average in 1877.
So he was a good player and by all accounts a fine gentleman, which I suppose separates him from those evil steroids users -- you know, like fellow 19th century Hall of Famer Pud Galvin, who used something called Brown-Séquard elixir, which contained testosterone extracted from animal testicles.
Wait, sorry, I'm getting off tangent there. But here are two lists, Hall of Fame players who made their mark primarily in the 19th century and Hall of Famers who made their mark primarily in the 1970 and 1980s:
You see the problem? There are nearly as many players from the 19th century as the 1970s and 1980s, two periods of roughly the same time span. Baseball in the late 1800s was, of course, in its infancy, still a developing game with evolving rules changes. The modern pitching distance wasn't even created until 1893, for example. So in an era of chaotic player movement, franchise movement and fewer teams (from 1892 to 1899, there were just 12 professional teams) we have as many Hall of Famers as an era with 26 teams and a modern, developed game.
I'm sure White's descendants are happy today, but electing him only serves to devalue the Hall of Fame. It's time to put an end to electing players nobody alive has any first-hand knowledge of seeing. Early baseball is well represented in the Hall of Fame. It's time to move on.
Maybe you're thinking that the veterans committee will get around to eventually electing more recent players. True, next year the group will vote again on the Expansion Era ballot (1973 and later), just like it did in 2010 -- currently, every third year the Veterans Committee votes on the Expansion Era, Golden Era (1947-1972) and Pre-Integration Era (1871-1946). In 2010, the Veterans Committee elected ... Pat Gillick, an executive. So while more modern players are held to higher standards -- both by the BBWAA and the Veterans Committee -- the Hall of Fame keeps electing pre-World War II players or owners or umpires or executives.
Electing White also stands in contrast to what will likely happen when the BBWAA vote is announced in early January, when there is the possibility nobody gets elected, and certainly those with the PED stain like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others won't get in.
As for the other two new Hall members, Hank O'Day was apparently one of the great early umpires; frankly, he probably should have been elected long ago. Jacob Ruppert? Well, he owned the Yankees and purchased Babe Ruth from the Red Sox and helped build a baseball dynasty. And was also part of an era that excluded African-Americans from playing in the major leagues. But I guess that revolting part of baseball history is OK, just a product of the times.