Baseball Hall of Fame: I’m Okay With a Hall of Very Good

All sports Hall of Fames involve an element of debate but I do think the most debated Hall of Fame is the baseball Hall of Fame. A questions always asked about older players and recently retired players amongst baseball fans is “Is he a Hall of Famer?” People will then throw statistics that are either in favor of or against a player’s enshrining into the Hall of Fame.

A lot of people and maybe unscientifically most people, feel that the Hall of Fame should be very exclusive. One term that I have heard thrown around a lot (I believe it originated with Colin Cowherd but I’m unsure) is that “it’s not the Hall of Very Good, it’s the Hall of Fame”

I understand this sentiment and even the Baseball Hall of Fame itself kind of does this where they have their first class, 5 Hall of Fame class separated from the rest of the Hall and while that’s an honor more based upon the timing of entry the level of those players (Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner) also seems to suggest something different with their separation from the rest of the bunch.

With that said, over time, there have been a handful of players who one could argue, shouldn’t be there (I’m hesitant to completely make this argument because who am I to say who or who shouldn’t be considered that level of player, especially when inducted by peers. I’ve mentioned this before but I feel that over the years the opinion of those who played has been undervalued in a nearly disrespectful level) And if you argue they should be there, then there are players who are better that have been left out.

Then you add the complexity of Baseball’s Hall of Fame where some of the best are left out due to gambling or steroids and while that does add to the exclusivity and honor the position of being Hall of Famer, it does make it feel as though the Hall of Fame is missing something and when it involves leaving out the best in an era of baseball… kind of undermines it as a whole.

I feel that the baseball Hall of Fame should be more of an inclusive award mostly because professional baseball has been around so long and because at the end of the day the Baseball Hall of Fame is really a great museum about baseball history. Because there have been so many players who have played the sport it seems that there are so many great players that have been forgotten because they are not enshrined in the Hall of Fame and while, with older players who are in this realm, it’s unlikely that that will ever be fixed, if the honor had been more inclusive there’d be more awareness of different levels of players from past eras.

With that said, I do think it’s challenging to say exactly where the bar is. When I am working on my World Series project I always but 40 WAR players as borderline Hall of Famers but I also recognize the flaws of using one stat to make this argument. I also want to recognize the word “Fame” in the title of the museum and by this I mean recognize the player’s “fame” or “impact” on the sport outside of just playing the sport. If one were to do this then someone like Roger Maris, who has a sub-40 WAR, has a solid argument as he held one of the most famous records in baseball for many years.

Me with a King Kelly's Hall of Fame Plaque
King Kelly’s plaque is an example of a famous baseball player as he was the first celebrity athlete. I am also pictured and I am not those things.

It also would make Bill Mazeroski’s claim more legitimate, as while his number’s seem less Hall of Fame worthy, he had one of the most famous home runs ever hit. Ross Barnes would have more of a claim for hitting the first home run ever. Gil Hodges, who just got in, has a more legitimate claim as he performed quite well in numerous World Series. Rabbit Maranville, who has a more legitimate claim as he was incredibly famous in his day for his on field high jinx and clown like performance on the field. There are more examples but at the end of the day I do think “Fame” matters and that doesn’t always mean on field ability.

There still needs to be some kind of a bar set for who gets in and who gets out. A retooling of the Hall of Fame in some capacity would regenerate my interest in it as an honor but it’s hard to say what that looks like. I think there are guys in who probably shouldn’t be but it hardly seems right to kick them out but also even with my more inclusive Hall of Fame in mind I’m not so sure I want the bar to be set to the “worst” player in the Hall of Fame either.

I would prefer a world where at least the best players from the steroid era were in. I’d prefer Curt Schilling got in as well as it only seems he’s left out due to his political views (not that I agree at all with him but when there are men with very despicable views in it hardly seems right to leave him out for that reason)

I do have mixed feelings on Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson on some levels (though I don’t really think Shoeless Joe actually did anything to throw that series and I really don’t care if he took money to do it if he didn’t do anything to throw the series) only because anti-gambling rules were put in place by baseball in the early days of baseball and the consequences of doing anything gambling related were always very, very clear. It was done to legitimize the sport. It’s always been one of the very clear black and white rules things that Major League Baseball was always very clear on so I understand keeping up the consistency with following through on the enforcement of such rules.

With all that said, the Baseball Hall of Fame is a separate entity than Major League Baseball and not having the all time leader in hits in is weird. Especially when that’s added to the fact that the all time home run leader isn’t in either. And neither is the American League strike out leader. Like I said, the Baseball Hall of Fame just feels disjointed and off.

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