I give the Hall of Fame a lot of credit for almost obsessively tinkering with the various voting procedures in an attempt to make the process as fair and credible as possible. Ultimately, it still comes down to subjective decisions about who belongs in the elite ranks of the game’s historical record, but you can’t fault the organization given that lofty charge for trying so hard to refine the selection process.
In recent weeks, the Hall released the ballots for Veterans Committee voting for 2009, broken down into two separate votes for pre-1943 players and those after World War II. As readers know, I love the Hot Stove League aspect of HOF voting, but I gotta admit that it just isn’t the same when considering guys I have never seen play.
I could crunch numbers and probably make a tolerable case for a couple of the 10 guys on that ballot, but the zeal just wouldn’t be there. I suspect the numbers are right there (or close) for Carl Mays, Allie Reynolds and Bucky Walters, and even closer for Mickey Vernon, but the fact that I didn’t see them play makes it hard for me to get worked up about it. For Deacon White, who played before the turn of the century, I wouldn’t have a clue how to put his numbers into a useful context.
If I were part of the 12-member voting committee that will render a decision (announced Dec. 8), I would feel compelled to do the homework and vote accordingly.
For the post-war guys, it’s a snap because I saw all of them play, many of them in person. The Hall of Famers have the say on this one, which I think makes it tougher to get to that 75 percent threshold because you’re dealing with five times as many ballots.
Without blinking (Remember, Sarah says no blinking allowed), I would enshrine Dick Allen, Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Ron Santo, Luis Tiant, Joe Torre and Maury Wills, and feel a wee bit guilty about passing on Jim Kaat. Torre shouldn't be bothered with, since he was a decent candidate just based on his playing career, and now its locked up with his manager numbers. So he's already in, but we can probably wait until he actually retires.
That’s a lot of new bronze, but, of course, it’s not going to happen anyway. I still haven’t given up hope on Gil, and while I realize Allen is a long shot, it doesn’t change the fact that he was the most feared hitter in the National League in his prime. Oliva, Santo and Tiant may never make it either, but I suspect people who saw them play would feel otherwise.
Ironically, one of the guys who had perhaps the greatest impact on the game of baseball may not get there either, but Maury Wills’ contribution is hardly diminished by the fact that its singular quality doesn’t translate effectively into statistics.