Despite what the title may lead you to believe, this is not gonna be a touchy-feely, emotional, Dr.Phil-esque post. Or at least I don’t think it will be. We’ll see, I guess.
No, the feelings I am referring to in this case are those most commonly associated with evaluating someone’s value. In this case, those someones are baseball players considered for the Hall of Fame. You know what I am talking about, right? Those gut feelings that tell someone whether or not a player is a Hall of Famer. Now statistics can be poured over, analyzed, compared, etcetera, etcetera, but when there is doubt you can always think about the player and their career and ask yourself, “Did he feel like a Hall of Famer?” It is kind of the epic debate when we come down to Hall of Fame arguments. There are those who are old school and those who are new school. There are those who value your basic stats that have been around for forever and a day and those who value WAR and other Sabermetric goodies. Then there are those that will delve into every stat, every aspect of a player’s career and then there are some that will see the statistics and whatnot, but when push comes to shove, it is that gut feeling that will sway their decision.
For some, this is hard to determine, in a way. I mean, take me for instance. Now, I never saw a great deal of the current Hall of Famers play, so any “feeling” I have one way or the other on them belonging in “the Hall” is all based on stats I’ve seen and things I’ve read about them. Obviously player’s statistics and how they stack up against their colleagues of the time is always a good place to start and is really all you can go on if you have no way of seeing them play. So, for me, Hall of Fame candidates of recent years are players that I had the distinct pleasure of actually watching play the game. So, in a way, I should have a certain idea or “feeling” of whether or not they are Hall worthy, without even looking through their stats. Well, at least that is the gist of it.
Now, I’m not sure if any Hall of Fame voters, or just plain debaters, go solely on this gut feeling and I wouldn’t recommend going on solely that, but I feel there is some merit to going by “feel” here. However, with that being said, I feel like the “feel” argument or what have you, can hurt and help players. My feeling is that the “feel” argument is more often used to dismiss a player’s Hall of Fame case. I’m sure it may not work out that way. It could be 50-50, could be 70-30, but it just seems or feels like this is the argument used for players that writers deem unworthy. Although he overcame this, you have to admit that was the main qualm against Bert Blyleven making it. Bert Blyleven just didn’t feel like a Hall of Famer. For me I could see that as being valid, but by the time I was watching Blyleven he was at the end, not the prime of his career. Now that brings up another thing about this. Not only was Bert Blyleven at the end of his career as a pitcher, but I was really towards the beginning of my career as a baseball watcher, as it were, which will change perspective quite a bit. In that regard I thought it would be fun, just for a bit, to take that into consideration. What I mean is, wouldn’t it be neat (yes, I said “neat”) to look back at some players from my childhood and remember how I felt about them and their careers as I was watching them as small lad.
I mean there were some no-brainers, like Roger Clemens, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg (who also happens to be one of my favorite players of all-time) and Tony Gwynn. But then there were some, for one reason or another, maybe they made an All-Star game appearance or two or maybe I just saw them a lot and they performed well when I did. For whatever reason these players, in my young, naive eyes, were stars to me. You ready for this list of a few guys who I felt were superstars, perhaps Hall of Fame quality, when I was just a wee little scamp? For perspective purposes, I am talking about me being between the ages of six and 12 and talking about players I now would not necessarily think (cause I have perspective and actual stats to look into) were Hall of Fame material.
Frank Viola- So really not that ridiculous I suppose, since in the years I watched him as a kid, he was pretty darned decent. From ’84-’90 he was 126- 95 with a 3.36 ERA. he threw over 250 innings in all of those seasons except for 1990 when he tossed 249.2. He won 18 plus games four times in that span and won 20 or more games twice. He finished top 6 in Cy Young voting four times, including winning the award in 1988, when he was 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA and 193 strikeouts. So maybe not so far-fetched. By Baseball-Reference standards, for whatever it is worth, Sweet Music is the 144th ranked pitcher all time. Not bad, but not quite Hall worthy and Viola, as you probably know, is not in the Hall of Fame. He received a mere two votes on his one and only ballot, which was, coincidentally, the same amount of votes received by…
Mike Greenwell- As good as I thought Gator was as a kid, I am actually shocked, looking at his numbers and resume now, that he was actually second in the MVP voting in 1988. A career OPS of .831 is very good and he also hit over .300 five times after becoming a regular. In fact in only two of his 12 seasons did he hit less than .295 and in those seasons he was plagued by injury. He had a career .303 average, but he did not offer much more than that statistically, which is probably why he did not have much of a Hall of Fame case.
Glenn Davis- Now with good ol’ Glenn, I guess he was just likeable and I probably saw his Topps All-Star card in 1989 and thought he was, well, an All-Star. In my head I feel like he was a yearly All-Star, but he only went to two All-Star games. He was top 10 in MVP voting three times though and even 2nd in 1986. He hit 30 or more home runs in three seasons and had twenty or more dingers in his first six full seasons. Wow! So, being a kid, maybe I was not that far off. Glenn Davis had superstar qualities and stats in some areas. But the fact is, he had a short peak and did not even play more than 106 games in any of his last four seasons. In fact, in three of those last four seasons he played in fewer than 93 games and played in only 49 games in 1991 and 30 game in 1993. From ’86-’89 thought he was a slugging superstar. Hitting 122 of his career 190 home runs in those four seasons, but outside of this, he was above average for a couple of seasons, and not so much outside of that, which really does not a Hall of Fame case make. So much, or little, so that Glenn Davis did not even appear on a Hall of Fame ballot.
Jack Clark- Nicknamed Jack the Ripper, I remember him being big and menacing at the plate. Four times he finished top 10 in MVP voting, with a third place finish in 1987. He appeared in four All-Star games and could certainly slug. He hit 20 or more home runs in 11 of his 18 seasons and three times led the league in walks on his way to a career .379 on-base percentage. That, his 340 career home runs and being10th in home runs in the 80s, was not quite enough to garner him more than seven votes.
Those are just a few who, at the time, I felt were lifelong superstars, and they did definitely have their time in the sun, but hard to say they deserved much more consideration than they got, for the Hall. Maybe other guys, like Teddy Higuera, Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon,Von Hayes or Jim Presley would have been better examples, and while I would absolutely love to drone on and on about my boyhood heroes and delve into their statistics, I will refrain (for now), as I think you get my point. Now sure, I was a kid and perception then is most assuredly different as opposed to when you are older but, although extreme, sort of shows you what I am driving at. The “feel” has it’s time and place and I won’t say it is something to completely dismiss, but I feel like it’s somewhat silly. But think about it. Look at the active players and tell me off the top of your head, who feels like a Hall of Famer. I’m guessing a large percentage of these players, barring injury or something, will end up in the Hall. Of course I am sure a fair share won’t. Conversely, I am sure that there will certainly be plenty of players that don’t feel like Hall of Famers who will also get in. Doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t deserve it though. For this reason I feel like the “feel” argument is more for that small Hall that we have already seemed to have lost a chance at, some time ago. And this will more than likely be my record for the use of the word “feel” in one post. At least I feel like it will be.