Greetings all my loyal readers (stops counting after getting to the first finger of the first hand.) I apologize for the lack of posts lately, but a lot of factors converged at an epicenter that prevented me from the creative flow and motivation to write. But, I will not bore you with those details. I will just wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope that 2009 starts of better than 2008 ended. For some of you Yankee fans, I think the start of 2009 cannot get off on a better foot for you.
In Red Sox news, it sure has been a quiet hot stove season. With the Patriots looking at the post-season from the outside, it is nice we have 2 winter sports team who have returned to glory to keep us from killing ourselves during this hot stove borefest. Anyway, a flurry of activity picked up with regards to Mark Teixeira a while back. However, nothing came of that. The Sox did sign two players recently. Brad Penny and Josh Bard are now in the Sox’ fold, Bard for his second stint.
We all remember Bard was part of that HUGE deal, that brought Doug Mirabelli back to Boston with the State Police escort to catch Tim Wakefield in a CRUCIAL May game. I love a sentence dripping with sarcasm. Anyway, that is probably one of the few blunders that the Red Sox front office have made in the Theo era.
As with Penny, I read an interesting and inciteful post from the Yawkey St. Yaker about why the Sox may have brought Penny here. It makes sense. I would love to see the Red Sox try to bring in one other guy, as I think Penny may be more injury prone than J.D. Drew and A.J. Burnett combined. And, although this guy has been shelved quite a few times over the past few seasons with arm injuries, if he is healthy, I think Mark Mulder provides more of an upside than Brad Penny. I think lefties can pitch well in Fenway Park. I remember the days of John Tudor and Bruce Hurst, lefties who fared pretty well in front of the Green Monster.
Anyway, the Red Sox still have a bit of work ahead of them to start the 2009 year off. The biggest hole in their line-up, obviously, is at starting catcher. So, I guess it is time that we start the Jason Varitek pool. When will the Sox resign him? How many years will it be? What will the average annual salary be? Maybe I can get Mark to hand out a prize for the winner of this pool, what do you say Mark? Haha.
I hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year’s tonight. We are under 2 months before pitchers and catchers report.
I’ve recovered from Thanksgiving, Black Friday, My Birthday (Nov 29, and yes I do accept belated gifts), and Cyber Monday. Phew!
Now, it is that time of year again. The Hall of Fame Ballot has been published.
There are only 23 players on this year’s ballot. That is the smallest amount ever. 10 of those players are appearing on the ballot for the first time. Those 10 players are highlighted by Ricky Henderson who is a SURE THING to be voted in.
Of the players who are back on the ballot again, there is Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, Mark McGwire, and Jim Rice, who is entering his 15th and final year on the HOF Ballot and is the subject of today’s blog entry.
Jim Rice was one of the most dominant and feared hitters of his era (1974 – 1989), yet he has been unable to garner the necessary 75% of the BBWAA votes to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Why is that?
Obviously, that answer is subjective. However, it can probably be a combination of various things.
Firstly, Rice does not have any “Magic Numbers” in his career statistics. He did not hit 400 HRs (which was pretty much the magic HR total before the steroid era pushed it up to 500) nor did he collect 3,000 career hits. Now, what do these Magic Numbers truly mean? They mean you were either an super extraordinary player or you were a good play who played a long, long time. There can be lots of arguments with regards to using this as a standard of Hall of Fame enshrinement; I mean just compare Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. However, it is pretty much an unwritten rule that reaching these milestones will garner Hall of Fame induction.
Secondly, when you compare Rice’s numbers to other Hall of Famers, there are some things that don’t add up for him. However, should players be compared to other Hall of Fame players who played in a different era? The game is constantly evolving; nowadays, more rapidly than ever before. Not only that, but how many of the writers who vote for the Hall of Fame and are doing these type of comparisons, but have never seen Jim Rice play. You figure, if I am 37, that means I wasn’t even 3 years old when Rice made his major league debut and I was enjoying my last summer of freedom after graduating high school and getting ready to head off to Nichols College when he played his final game on August 3, 1989. What were some of these other sportswriters doing back then? Now, all they have to go by to determine if he is worthy is by comparing numbers.
Lastly, and this is a weak reason, but there has always been some chatter that Rice was not friendly to the media during his career. Was this truly the case? Who knows? If it was the case, would voting writers hold a grudge and not vote for somebody because of this? I highly doubt it. Maybe 1 or 2 writers, but that would make a minimal difference, since Rice has always been short of reaching 75% by way more than 1 or 2 votes.
Why should Jim Rice be a Hall of Famer?
First of all, like I wrote above, he was one of the most feared hitters of his era. Ask Jim Palmer (actually, don’t ask him as he held Rice to a .219 average but he did give up the most HRs to Rice of any pitcher who faced him. So, ask him anyway! Haha), ask Ron Guidry, ask Dennis Martinez, ask Jack Morris, ask Steve Stone, ask Storm Davis, ask Rick Stutcliffe, ask Scott McGregor, ask Sparky Lyle, ask Jim Beattie, ask Doyle Alexander, ask Rollie Fingers, well, ask any pitcher from that time. I’m sure as a BBWAA member you’d be able to ask any of these pitchers, guys who actually faced Jim Rice.
Second, if Gary Carter is a Hall of Famer, than Jim Rice is a no-brainer. Carter is a career .262 hitter, 2,092 career hits, 324 HRs, 1225 RBIs in 19 seasons. His Mets defeated Rice’s Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. That is the only thing Carter has over Rice. Why is Carter in the hall? Now, let me be clear hear. I am not say Carter does not belong in the Hall of Fame. I am only saying that if you compare Jim Rice to Gary Carter, aside from position, Rice trumps Carter in most, if not all, offensive stats and is just as deserving to be in the Hall of Fame as Carter is.
Next, let us compare Jim Rice to other players of his ERA. Jim Rice played from August 19, 1974 through August 3, 1989. In those 15 seasons, 13 full seasons, his contemporaries were players such as Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, Gary Carter, Fred Lynn, Andre Dawson, George Foster, Carlton Fisk, Don Baylor, Eddie Murray, Greg Luzinski, Robin Yount, Dale Murphy. All of these players were active for AT LEAST 12 seasons during Jim Rice’s career or the Rice era.
Only 2 players hit more career HRs during the Rice era than Jim’s 382. Mike Schmidt hit 529 in that span while Dave Kingman hit 383 HRs. Only Robin Yount and George Brett accumulated more than Rice’s 2,452 hits with 2,602 and 2,523, respectively. Only Mike Schmidt had more RBIs, 1,540 to 1,451 during the Rice era. Jim Rice led all players in the Rice ERA in RBI’s per game, as he average .69 RBIs which is slightly better than Mike Schmidt’s .68 RBIs per game. His Batting Average of .298 ranked 8th in the Rice era behind Rod Carew, George Brett, Al Oliver, Bill Madlock, Paul Molitor, and Cecil Cooper. His Slugging Percentage of .502 was 3rd in the era behind only Mike Schmidt and George Brett.
For this comparison, you could conclude that Rice was the 2nd or 3rd best hitter during this era. I think, undoubtedly, Mike Schmidt is the dominate hitter of this era. You could rank Rice ahead of or behind George Brett. Aside from that, there is nobody else who compares. However, you have to take into consideration that Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, and Eddie Murray played 14, 13, and 12 of the seasons of the Rice ERA. I will concede that Reggie Jackson more than surpasses Jim Rice (although Rice did have a better career average and slugging percentage and ALMOST more career hits even though Jackson played 6 more seasons), but you CANNOT say that Dave Winfield or Eddie Murray surpass Jim Rice. The only reason they are in the Hall of Fame, is because they hit the one or both of the MAGIC NUMBERS.
Dave Winfield is a Hall of Famer. He played 22 seasons to Rice’s 15. Winfield finished with a .283 batting average, 3,110 hits, 465 HRs, and 1,833 RBIs. Rice retired at age 36. Winfield’s numbers at age 36 (he retired at 43) were: .287 batting average, 2,421 hits, 357 HRs, and 1,438 RBIs. Looks pretty similar, eh? Winfield never accumulated 200 hits in a season, while Rice did that 4 times. In his remaining 6 seasons, Winfield batted over .271 once (at .290) and averaged 18 HRs and 66 RBIs during that time. Not really HoF type numbers, but lasting those last 6 seasons, got him to the magic numbers. Winfield never won an MVP and placed in the Top 5 of MVP voting 3 times, but was a 12 time All-Star game selection. Jim Rice won 1 MVP and placed in the Top 5 6 times, but was only selected to 8 All-Star games.
Eddie Murray is a Hall of Famer. He played 21 seasons to Rice’s 15. Murray finished with a .287 batting average, 3,255 hits, 504 HRs, and 1,917 RBIs. Murray played his first full season of 160 games at the age of 21 while Rice only got 24 games at age 21 with his first full season at 22. Rice retired at age 36. Here are Murray’s numbers at 36 (he retired at 41): .290 batting average, 2,646 hits, 414 HRs, and 1,562 RBIs. Almost similar, but slightly better since that covers 16 full seasons while Rice only had 13 full seasons. In his remaining 5 seasons, Murray batted over .260 twice (.323 and .285) and averaged 18 HRs and 71 RBIs. Not really HoF type number again. However, like Winfield, Murray played long enough to reach the magice numbers of 500 HRs and 3,000 hits. Again, like Winfield, Murray never had a 200 hit season nor won an MVP. However, like Rice he finished in Top 5 MVP voting 6 times, and was selected to 8 All-Star games.
So why are Winfield and Murray Hall of Famers? You could argue that Rice was more of a feared hitter and a better hitter than both Winfield and Murray, but does that mean Winfield and Murray are only get rewarded for lasting 22 and 21 seasons? Is having a long career more important than how you performed over that career? It does seem that the combination of having a LONG career so that you can reach the MAGIC NUMBERS is the best way to guarantee yourself a plaque in Cooperstown. While injuries took their toll on Rice, forcing him to retire at 36, Winfield and Murray were able to continue playing the game at less than there full selves, but still good enough to remain useful to a team to get themselves the career numbers needed.
Personally, I think Jim Rice should be in the Hall of Fame. I think he isn’t because of what I wrote above, and also the fact that offensive numbers EXPLODED during the Steroid Era (maybe Rice should have taken some roids to hang on and over come his injury issues, like Mark McGwire) dwarfing a lot of the solid numbers of the players who dominated and were feared in the late 70s and early 80s. I think it is a joke is Rice does not end up in the Hall of Fame, yet Gary Carter is in there, especially since Jim Rice was just as great a player as Dave Winfield and Eddie Murray.
I rest my case.
PS. Sorry if this blog entry is too long. I try to keep them somewhat short, as I am sure folks don’t really want to read some War and Peace novel, but some something interesting, quick, and intersting.
In other Red Sox news, the Sox offered arbitration to Jason Varitek and Paul Byrd. You can read here why offering arbitration to Varitek is a no-lose situation for the Red Sox. Varitek and Byrd will have until Sunday, December 7th to accept or reject arbitration. If they accept, they are guaranteed to be Red Sox again in 2009.
ESPN is reporting that the Sox have signed Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa to a “term sheet” which means only passing a physical is impeding the official announcement of a deal.
HoF Ballot – Mark Newman/MLBlogs
Jim Rice – Photographed by: John Iacono (SI Vaults)
Gary Carter – http://www.garycarter.org
Dave Winfield – Unknown (off some random website I can’t remember)
Eddie Murray – Baltimore Sun (photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / July 27, 2003)
Special Thanks: Baseball Reference (I love that website) / Play Index (used to research all of the stats listed above)