“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”
“No one, I think, is in my tree—I mean it must be high or low.”
“These Dreams Nightmares”
Those Halls got nothin’ on the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Hall lost much of its credibility in the late 1960s and early 1970s when for no good reason it started electing guys no one, for good reasons, had heard of. Guys with funny names like Highpockets, Pops, Sunny Jim, and Chick. To do better we need better standards.
After our 1926 election, we’ve selected 29 guys, 14 percent of our eventual total. We have at least one at every position except for relief pitcher. So how do our standards look?
You can get more information from the HOME STATS link on our honorees page, but here’s a recap:
C (1): Ewing
1B (3): Anson, Brouthers, Connor
2B (2): Barnes, Lajoie
3B (1): White
SS (5): Dahlen, Davis, Glasscock, Wagner, Wallace
LF (4): Burkett, Clarke, Delahanty, Joe Jackson
CF (1): Hamilton
RF (2): Crawford, Kelly
SP (10): Clarkson, Keefe, Mathewson, Nichols, Plank, Radbourn, Rusie, Waddell, Walsh, Young
Our typical position-player inductee, by my own way of looking at things, ranks in the top 8 to 10 at their position: about as good as Ed Delahanty or George Davis. Our average pitcher is a little better than Eddie Plank, and clearly in the top third among all pitchers historically.
The median position-player HoMEr earned about 31 points of Black Ink (about the same as Roger Connor, Jesse Burkett, or Willie McCovey) and 180 of Gray Ink (Deacon White or Eddie Murray). They were the best player in their leagues by position-player WAR twice during their career and in the top ten four times (that is, as equivalent to the top ten in a 16-team league). In history, only fifty guys have led their leagues twice or more.
Our typical pitcher collected 55 points of Black Ink (about the same as Amos Rusie or Tom Seaver) and 225 of Gray Ink (between Jim Bunning and Bob Feller). They’ve been top ten in pitching WAR 2.5 times and 5 times in the top-ten. Only fifty-three pitchers have led their leagues twice or more.
“Crazy On You”
Here’s the currently-eligible players the Hall of Fame has taken that we haven’t:
1B: Beckley, Chance
2B: Evers, McPhee
SS: Jennings, Tinker, Ward, Wright
LF: Kelley, O’Rourke
RF: Flick, Keeler, McCarthy, Thompson
SP: Bender, Brown, Galvin, Joss, McGinnity, Welch, Willis
Obviously, we’re taking things a little more slowly, but this isn’t a terrible group. Still, only Hughie Jennings (4 times) and Monte Ward led their leagues in position-player WAR. On the mound, Vic Willis (twice), Joe McGinnity (twice), and Pud Galvin led their leagues in pitching WAR.
Several of these fellows have a strong shot at getting a vote or a plaque, some in the near future. In fact, we won’t see the Hall of Fame’s biggest out stinkers until our 1940s elections. But Tommy McCarthy, Sam Thompson, Chief Bender, and Addie Joss will not get much consideration hereafter. They are truly substandard selections. McCarthy is a head scratcher; Thompson and Joss have markers that make sense given the kinds of insight and information prevalent when they were elected; Bender, well, I guess it’s the Connie Mack halo.
So far, we have elected the best of the best, or damn close to it. But like that terrible moment when every woman realizes they can only marry down, our standards can only decrease from here. That’s inevitable, of course. We committed to matching the Hall of Fame’s membership total. We’re off to a good start, we’re taking it slowly, and we’re picking carefully. The toughest times lay well ahead of us in terms of what defines our standards, our worst honoree, before we “burn into the wick.”