Hall of Fame inductees come out today and it’s pretty much a given that Roberto Alomar will make it; the rest, however, could be interesting. In my mind, Tim Raines, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire, and Bert Blyleven should be no-brainers as well, but I know there are lots of people who don’t feel that way. I would likely also vote for Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell, too.
The short answer: maybe.
Here’s the thing about Hall of Fame voting: people like to point to certain numbers to prove certain points (Joe Posnanski has a great article about this very idea) but those things they point at don’t always matter. Let’s take MVP voting for example. Bernie Williams was never AL MVP. Highest he ever got in the voting was 7th. Can’t be a Hall of Famer, right? Well, in 1998, the year Bernie Williams came in 7th in the voting, he was almost certainly the MVP of the league.
Bernie’s OPS+ that year was an absurd 160, higher than all 6 players in front of him by a good margin – including MVP Juan Gonzalez. The only player to hit better than Bernie that year was Albert Belle, who finished 8th. Bernie, of course, also played great defense at a premium position. A 160 OPS+ from a Gold Glove centerfielder, even admitting that gold gloves aren’t always the greatest measure, is tremendous. Add onto that that Bernie was the best player on the best team – not just that year, but perhaps ever – and his MVP would seem like a given.
But he finished 7th. If the 1998 season happened again today, you’d have to think that the Joe Posnanskis and Keith Laws of the world would lobby and Bernie would certainly do much better (and Juan Gonzalez would do much worse). He didn’t though, so should that negatively impact his Hall of Fame chances?
Last year, on my old site, I was pretty vocal about Jim Rice not being a Hall of Famer. This had nothing to do with him playing for the Red Sox (though I suppose that wouldn’t help his cause in my book). But look at his numbers: he’s a good corner outfielder who played in a great hitters park – but hardly a Hall of Famer. Enough has been written about Rice that I’m not going to go into all the ways he’s a flawed Hall of Fame candidate.
The real problem I had with Rice getting in is this: now we can always use the Jim Rice litmus test. For example, if Jim Rice is a Hall of Famer, Albert Belle should be right? Jason Giambi? Don Mattingly? Good old Juan Gonzalez(hey – he was MVP in 1998!)? I don’t think those guys are Hall of Famers, but Rice helps add to their argument now.
I think Bernie has a better case than any of those players I just named, including Jim Rice. So is he a Hall of Famer? In truth, it’s probably borderline. Maybe his postseason heroics will sway voters enough to get him in. Or maybe he’ll be punished for never winning an MVP. Both are flawed ways of evaluating a player, but when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, there are many ways players ultimately get evaluated – fair or not.