I recently posed a question to nine players and three coaches. It was a question that doesn’t have an easy answer. Given the subjectivity involved, it doesn’t even have a right answer.
Should reputation and “fame” play a meaningful role in Hall of Fame voting, or should it be based almost entirely on statistics?
Their responses are listed below in alphabetical order.
Don Baylor, Arizona Diamondbacks hitting coach: “The writers vote, and at times, how a player treated them influences whether they vote for him or not. That’s what I’ve sensed over the years, from hearing people talk. You also have the steroid era, and guys saying ‘I’m not going to vote for him; I don‘t care what type of numbers he has.’ We’re in that era now. There are guys who put up big numbers and probably won’t get in during our lifetime.
“Pete Rose probably isn’t going to get in, because of gambling. Not too many guys are going to get 4,000 hits. You could play 20 years with 200 hits and still be short of his numbers. Reputation is a factor, and there are guys in the Hall of Fame who don’t have sterling credentials, too.
“During his time, Jack Morris was feared for staying out there and winning. You can look at Tommy John; he had over 280 wins. Jim Kaat had over 280 wins. They’re not in. So there’s a lot of injustice, especially when it comes to pitching. Roger Clemens, because of his reputation… he’s another one in this era — the steroid era.”
Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox infielder: “I think it needs to be based on numbers. Fame is something that… sometimes it depends on where you play and how many times you’re shown on TV. There are a lot of guys who aren’t in big markets that have great numbers.
“If you’re talking Hall of Fame, you have to look strictly at the numbers. Everything else isn’t baseball-related. The way the world has evolved, people want to make baseball players out to be celebrities. We’re just baseball players. You see guys like Yasiel Puig all over the TV now. They show his outs. I think the Hall needs to be numbers-driven.”
David DeJesus, Chicago Cubs outfielder; “I think it should be based on what you do on the field. Fame can skew a lot of things, either good or bad. Your job, as a baseball player, is to show your abilities. That’s what should count.
“I also think the post-season should count. That’s what every player aspires to play in. I’ve never gotten a chance to taste the postseason at all. Those are the big games, where each little move is so scrutinized. If a guy has the stats, and also has the ability to go on that stage and perform, he deserves some extra credit for that.”
Jeff Francoeur, San Franciso Giants outfielder: “I think 95 percent of it should be stats-drive, In this game, you have different personalities. I’ve played with a lot of great guys who aren’t very open with the media; they just like to play baseball. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
“There is stuff that comes into play. I don’t believe it should, but a lot of it does. Where do you play? How many World Series? There is this and that, which is all good, but at the same time, how do you punish a guy for never getting to play in the post-season? Meanwhile, another guys get to showcase in October. I’m a regular season stat guy. That’s what I think should be the driver for the Hall of Fame.”
Kevin Frandsen, Philadephia Phillies infielder: “That’s a tough one, because a lot of the numbers are going to create the fame in baseball. Numbers don’t lie. I don’t know about fame, and all that stuff, but I think your numbers, the way you play the game, and how you present yourself on and off the field, should be the biggest part.
“To me, it’s bullshit that Lee Smith isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He’s not a guy who goes out and tries to promote himself, but his numbers are unbelievable as a reliever. I feel he transcended the game as far as being a closer in the two-inning role. He’s not in there, and he’s also not trying to create his own stardom. Some people create themselves, and that shouldn’t matter. It should be based solely on what you do, and Lee Smith is my biggest example of that. He gets overlooked every year, and I feel he deserves to go in.”
Billy Hatcher, Cincinnati Reds first base coach: “I think it should be entirely numbers. Reputation… just because you don’t get along with someone shouldn’t help keep you out of the Hall of Fame. If people voting don’t like someone — maybe he had a rift with them at some point — shouldn’t matter.
“With something like [most-feared], one team might fear somebody, but another team might not. There are certain teams that didn’t want to face Randy Johnson, but you had other teams that didn’t care if Randy Johnson pitched or not. I think that’s irrelevant. All that should matter is the numbers.”
Wally Joyner, Philadelphia Phillies hitting coach: “That’s a good question. I think it’s such a broad spectrum where voters can pick and choose how they want to make their point, to say a player does or doesn’t deserve to be in.
“The in-season All-Star Game is something that shouldn’t be used, because of the criteria involved. There is a rule that every team deserves to have a representative, and because of that, there are players who aren’t as good making the team. All of a sudden, they’re an All-Star while others don’t make it, even though they’re more deserving.
“Gold Gloves are another issue. That’s an arbitrary vote; it doesn’t mean he’s the best at his position. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it means he hit .340, which has nothing to do with a defensive position. Players sometimes gather awards they aren’t deserving of. I’m saying all of this because there are players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, who don’t have the awards, but probably should be.
“Some guys are in because they went to the World Series a handful of times. Well, what does that have to do with anything? You could be an MVP two years in a row on a very bad team and never go to the World Series, so you’re never really looked at as a great player. Like Dale Murphy.
“I’m a big proponent of Dale Murphy. He changed the game for the time he played, and I think that’s what a Hall of Famer is — someone who is a game-changer. If you look at his career, he might not have had the opportunity to get the numbers he should have, because he was on an awful team and they pitched around him.”
Javier Lopez, San Francisco Giants pitcher; “That’s a tough call. I feel like as we keep moving along in the age of social media, fame and notoriety might be a little easier for guys in this era. That’s somewhat dependant on the market they’re playing in, but overall there’s so much more being put out there. It’s much more fan-interactive now than it was 20-30 years ago.
“Statistics will always be something you’re able to measure with. I don’t know that I could throw a percentage on how much it should be, but if you have a name and a reputation, there’s a reason you’ve earned it. That said, statistics are probably the way you want to be leaning, just to keep an even playing field with past generations that are in the Hall. Statistics would be most of the vote, and then you consider a little of the notoriety after that. Maybe notoriety would serve as a bit of a tie-breaker. That, and maybe post-season accolades if you’re fortunate enough to get there.”
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins catcher: “I don’t know. That’s a great question. The writers vote for the Hall of Fame and have for a long time. It’s very tough to get in to the Hall, but if you dominate when you’re playing — if you dominate your era — that’s pretty much all you can compare. It’s tough to compare today’s players to Babe Ruth. But if you dominate, and play for a long time, that’s a good gauge. It doesn’t hurt to have that kind of reputation.”
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins pitcher: “I think you’d have a hard time finding someone who gets in the Hall of Fame who is not a pretty big name. Just based on the criteria to get in — a guy who had a great career — you’re going to be pretty darn famous. Reputation… I think it should be, and I think it is.
“Look at Kirby Puckett. He played for 10 years, and obviously had a great 10 years, and I think a big part of his case was reputation. He’s a good example of a guy that didn’t have the career numbers, and maybe didn’t have the peak a lot of guys who are in the Hall of Fame had, but he was THE guy on a lot of good teams. For every guy who hits 600 home runs, there are also guys like that who make it for different reasons. Reputation matters.”
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds infielder: “I think there‘s a fame component to it. Sometimes it kind of makes me scratch my head when certain guys get mentioned, while other guys who are clearly more impactful, and had just as long a career, get no sniff whatsoever.
“You don’t know who is going to draft you and pay your salary. I’m sure there’s going to be a stud one day rolling through the Kansas City Royals organization, or the Reds or the Pirates or Tampa Bay Rays — a Longoria type — who is clearly better than some of the guys who play for the Red Sox, Dodgers, etcetera. He doesn’t get that same type of consistent attention, because of the market he plays in. Longoria might not be a Hall of Famer someday, but guess what? He could be the best third baseman over a 20-year period. What the hell is the Hall of Fame for then?
“I play against guys every day, and I know who is an ass-kicker and who is a bit overrated. It kind of makes me sad watching a guy who is just so awesome not get the attention, whereas a guy who is not quite as good gets a lot of attention, and then Hall of Fame attention.”
Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies infielder: “I think it’s a combination of things. Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story on a player either. It’s difficult to completely come up with a formula to evaluate a guy, but I think it’s the entire package that should put a guy in the Hall of Fame.
“When you use a word like ‘reputation’… to me, reputation is an intangible thing that’s difficult for people to get a grasp on. It’s much easier from a player’s eyes. I do think it matters. It plays a role in just how good a player is.”