Question of the every other day or so: Hall evaluations

With the passing Dodger great and Hall of Famer Duke Snider, some people are comparing his career to Jim Edmonds’. I can understand much of the comparison—the numbers seem to match up. The fact that Edmonds, like Snider, had to co-exist with other great players playing his position is a good comparison.

The argument for entry to Cooperstown will lead to comparisons of people already in the Hall. The argument goes; Player X did a, b, c and he is in the Hall. Player Y also did a, b, c. Hence Player Y should be in the Hall. Q.E.D.

But why does everybody stop there? What about gamesmanship? Many Hall voters will throw the following out there:

Choose players based on their “record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team.”

Why are the players in the Hall not used for standards of “integrity, sportsmanship, character”?

Cheaters are in the Hall (Gaylord Perry)*. The level for sportsmanship, integrity and character of some very high profile players gets low marks (Ty Cobb).

* Spitballs are technically cheating, but an argument could be made that Perry was just promoting a safer alternative to split-finger fastballs. Okay. FINE. It’s cheating.

So, if voters are going to use current members of the Hall as the standard of “record, playing ability and contributions to the team,” shouldn’t those same voters also use current members of the Hall as standards for “integrity, sportsmanship and character”?

Indians note: Former bi-winning pitcher Rick Vaughn reportedly has not handled the death of former manager Lou Brown very well. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him.

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Comments

  1. Mat Kovach said...

    I choose Perry for a specific reason. Perry’s numbers get him into the Hall, but those numbers were gained while cheating. Like, say, what people are accusing Barry Bonds, et. al. of. We can’t separate Perry’s numbers from the spitball.

    I actually wasn’t talking about racism with Cobb. I was focusing on his gambling scandal (cleared because somebody didn’t testify). He was a known clubhouse cancer and hated by teammates and opposing players alike. He was, by most accounts, a completely unlikable bastard. Much like Bonds.

    I’m not asking if we should update the moral code in the whole. I’m saying that a standard is set by those in the Hall now. Writers, specifically, should not be “updating the moral code”.

    Is it fair to say that writers need to say, “We don’t like voting for Bonds, Clemens, etc. but if Perry and Whitey Ford (scuff ball artist) are in the Hall, we can’t keep PED user out.”?

  2. Charles Tanner said...

    I would have hoped that Bert Blylevin received low marks in the sportsmanship/character dept for the stunt he pulled in Pittsburgh. He still got in obviously, but have any other hall of famers overtly quit on their team mid season like he did?

  3. Allen said...

    Seems that character and other intangible considerations only come into play the most when the hard number qualifications are in doubt.  Neither of the examples you use (Perry and Cobb) had their hard number considerations in doubt for entry to the hall of fame.

    Also, I think different generations have different standards of character.  Back when Cobb was elected, some of his most egregious character flaws (i.e. intolerance of blacks) were more widely tolerated.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t update our moral code entry into the hall as society’s morality changes.

  4. Steve said...

    That “technically” bothers me.  George Brett “technically” cheated (with the pine tar incident), but he wasn’t a cheater, a guy who knowingly, continually flouted the rules of the game.

    Good comment by Allen, I think, although I would have been more direct (replacing “intolerance of blacks” with “racism,” and also more exculpatory: “Cobb, as a white Southerner growing up in the late 1800’s, had the racial prejudices common to etc, etc.”

    FWIW

  5. Allen said...

    “I was focusing on his gambling scandal (cleared because somebody didn’t testify”

    My knowledge of this was that the “someone” had an axe to grind against Cobb, and the letter he supposedly had to prove his allegation provided no smoking gun.  The individual in question did not testify, but push come to shove, it would’ve come down to he said/she said…and I doubt Cobb or Speaker would have been implicated exclusively on that evidence.

    Also, I don’t believe at the time in question that gambling was specifically prohibited.  It was frowned upon, but not banned.  Throwing games was obviously banned, but not gambling per se.

    Is your knowledge of the situation different than mine?

  6. Allen said...

    Here is what I believe to be a good rundown of the Ty Cobb threw a game question:

    http://baseballguru.com/bburgess/analysisbburgess05.html

    Basically, to summarize, there is no concrete evidence Cobb or Speaker threw a game.  There is concrete evidence that they bet on something, but that wasn’t illegal at the time.

    Here are a few quotes from the article:

    “The only thing missing is that he [Leondard] had no evidence of anything, except his own word, along with 2 letters, which spoke clearly of a bet,but not on what the bet was based on. It could have been a bet about anything. And he had no evidence whatsoever of any fixing of anything….

    By January 27, 1927, Landis had finally dealt with & gotten clear of the other scandal, and he announced his verdict in the Leonard/Cobb affair.

    He said that he could not find any proof of any fix at all. He exonerated both Cobb & Speaker, completely. He implied that they had bet, when he
    said that what they had done was inappropriate & reprehensible, but not corrupt.”

    Now if you think this article and the quotes and conclusions are incorrect, could you tell me why?  I’m very interested in this event and would love to hear other evidence.

  7. Mat Kovach said...

    Allen, thanks for the Cobb notes. I keep hearing different variations on it. I won’t say I am an expert on the issue, but you have given me something to think on. I’ll have to check Tim Gay’s Tris Speaker book to see what he found about it.

    ‘ll concede that they bet on something and, at the time, it wasn’t illegal.

    But, even if it was legal, was it “proper’‘? Did running around with gamblers and placing best show “integrity”? I think that is a fair question that has parallel today?

    Based on Cobb and Speaker (both in the Hall) we can say they engaged in something that was not illegal at the time, but can certainly could compromise their integrity. It certainly could be seen by people in a bad light, could it not?

    So, we can still look to the players in the Hall or guidance in the present? Can we look at PEDs in the same way voters looked at gambling during that time? Is it far to do so?

  8. possumkingdom said...

    yes, of course we can…and should.

    when evaluating a player’s career, things besides raw numbers ought to be taken into account…and when thinking about the HoF, it’s certainly legitimate to compare prospective members to the folks already there.  while cobb (and even more so, ruth) were virtually laws unto themselves, they were not necessarily good representations of the highest standards of morality, even in their respective times.

  9. Allen said...

    “So, we can still look to the players in the Hall or guidance in the present? Can we look at PEDs in the same way voters looked at gambling during that time? Is it far to do so?”

    I think it depends on what you think the job of the Hall voters is.  If it is simply to uphold the traditions of the past, yes.  If the job of the voter is to use his/her mind and judgement to make an independent decision rather than slavishly following past precedent, no.

    Past precedent should have a place in their decision making process, but it should be a consideration, not a sole determinant.

    If the hall voters today have considered the precendents of Cobb et al. in their decision making processes, but their conscience dictates to them that they vote otherwise, then I do not have a problem with that.

    The HoF should not be a monolithic entity, continuing to judge people on standards of 75-100 years ago.

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