Monday, January 12, 2009

Jim Rice makes it to Cooperstown

I said last year that I'd be happy to see Jim Rice make it in, but I thought he was one of those "just shy guys", and that both Dwight Evans and Andre Dawson were more deserving. I stand by what I said, but I also remain very happy for Rice that he finally made it, on his last year of eligibility.

Rickey Henderson, of course, was a no-brainer, as much as Tom Seaver, Cal Ripken, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Bob Gibson. Henderson was not only the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, he redefined the position. Sure, he could be an annoying showboat, but as the saying goes, "it ain't bragging if you can back it up", and Henderson always did. He got in on the first ballot, as he should have.

Here's what I don't understand and never did:
Why did Rice have to wait 15 years? If he was deserving this year, he was deserving last year, too, and in fact he was deserving on his first year of eligibility. Rice didn't get any more hits, RBI or homers between his last game on August 3, 1989 and today. His statistics were the same that day, just as they were when he was eligible in 1994 (and didn't come close to induction) as they are now. Either the guy's a Hall of Famer or he's not. Exactly how could a voter look at the same guy, with the same stats, the same history and the same strengths and weaknesses, and say "he's not a hall of famer, sorry", do that again year after year after year, and then suddenly decide at the proverbial last minute "Ok, NOW he deserves to be inducted".

I have a little trouble with voters who don't have the courage of their convictions.

Then there are the guys with BETTER numbers, who don't get voted in until later (or possibly never). Candidate #1 is Mr. Andre Dawson. Again, I don't begrudge Rice his plaque, I'm just saying I can't understand why Rice is going to be in Cooperstown while Dawson still isn't. Candidate #2 is, of course, Dwight Evans, who won't ever get in, unless the veterans committee does the right thing some years from now.

In any case, congratulations to Jim Rice. After he's inducted, the next thing that should happen is his #14 should be retired on Fenway's right field facade, alongside Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk and Jackie Robinson. That'll be a great ceremony, even better than the one in Cooperstown next summer.

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