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Friday, December 5, 2008

2009 Hall of Fame Candidate - Harold Baines

Ok. Harold Baines. This will be controversial, but I'll going to argue the best I can anyway.

Unlike Rice and Rickey, Harold Baines is not going into the Hall of Fame this year. A victory for Harold will be staying on the ballot. The past two years he has barely gotten enough votes to stay on the ballot with 5% of the vote and that's with one voter who supported him forgetting to vote for him. I don't know if he'll ever get in, I kind of doubt it anyway, but I'll still say right here that he's worthy.

Let's start with the stats:

Career Batting Average - .289
Career OPS - .821
Hits - 2866
Home Runs - 384
Runs - 1299
RBIs - 1628

All solid numbers, but nothing flashy. That's Harold's whole problem. All he did was play excellent baseball for over two decades (most of that time with a bum knee) and provide consistent, steady production. He wasn't a sexy player, he didn't hit .350 or bop 50 homers. He didn't hit the home run to win game 7 of the World Series (although he had 10 game-winners in his career) and nobody wants him for their reality show. You can't deny they are great numbers though, they match up very closely with Tony Perez and he's in the Hall. So the numbers are good so what's keeping him out? A big reason is that he was a DH for most of his career due to that knee he wrecked in 1986 in a collision at first base.

A lot of baseball fans hate the DH. They hate it like the DH beat up their grandma. There is an image in purist's minds of a fat, spoiled DH being rolled up to the plate in a diamond encrusted wheelchair by Jeeves the butler, taking their 4 at bats a game while not breaking a sweat and then rolling back to the dugout to soak in their champagne jacuzzi while the poor oppressed pitchers weep bitter tears because their bats have all been taken from them. This is crap. Throughout baseball history, pitchers have never hit worth a damn because they were all too busy concentrating on their pitching. The American League has used the designated hitter pretty much all of my lifetime. It's a part of the game now, whether anyone likes it or not. And as a DH, Harold Baines is one of the Elite.

Now, Harold isn't just a bat only player. Before he got hurt he was a damn good right fielder. But as other bloggers have already stated, as a DH he defined the position. There are too many clubs that through necessity or neglect don't address that DH position in the AL and just throw out whoever's on the bench that day. To win in the AL, you need a hitter like Baines to anchor that DH spot in your lineup. Where would the Red Sox be without David Ortiz? In third or fourth place, that's where they'd be.

I don't consider the Pro Football Hall of Fame to be a legitimate Hall and here's why: Ray Guy is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ray Guy is also the best goddamn NFL punter in the history of ever. He was even the punter on the NFL's 75th anniversary all-time team. So why isn't the best NFL punter in the Hall of Fame? Are punters just not that important to the game? Could NFL games be played without punters? No, it's completely impossible to play an NFL game without a punter. The game would be completely different, all football strategy would be right out the window and the games would become a joke. But, Ray Guy is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because the people who vote on the inductees are a bunch of fat old cronies in a smoke filled room who have their heads so far up their own asses that they have to peer out of their mouths to see the other voters. To say someone isn't worthy of Hall consideration just because they are a DH is as ridiculous as saying a punter is not worthy of the hall. They are both a part of the game and a great one can help their team win.

Harold may very well end up being the next Tony Oliva. A brilliant player, hobbled by injuries, who still managed to put together an excellent career that is just an eyelash short of the Hall of Fame. If that's the case, then so be it. Just make the case on Harold's numbers and not the fact that he was a DH. And when you look at the numbers, please take into account that a lot of that career was in the non-juice inflated '80s. I'm not saying you have to vote for him, I'm just saying be fair to the guy.

Oh, and if you want to see a sweet Harold Baines card, click here.

Prediction: Stays on the ballot with 7% of the vote.

This card: 2005 Donruss Diamond Kings Framed red foil parallel
Rookie cards: 1981 Topps, 1981 Fleer


White Sox Cards said...

One of the biggest reasons why Harold isn't flashy comes from some advice that his father told him.

"The way he raised us," Baines said of his father, "was just to get the job done. We were supposed to be businesslike, and that was on the field, too."

page 163 - "Game Of My Life" by Lew Freedman

Dave said...

Based on Baines' numbers, he falls short of the Hall of Fame. And when you look at the numbers, please take into account that a lot of that career was in the juice inflated '90s.

Also, I disagree with your argument about the DH. I am a huge supporter of the DH rule, and I wish that the N.L. had DH's too. However, the fact is that any position player could play DH. The opposite is not true though; most DHs cannot be successful position players. So I don't feel that it's necessary for DHs to be in the Hall of Fame. If a DH comes along who has legit Hall of Fame career numbers, then sure, they should be elected. But if there numbers fall short, like Baines, the fact that he was a DH should not be something that helps him get into the Hall.

Andy said...

I love Baines but he's definitely not Hall worth, as I've argued over at the Stat of the Day blog.

I also do not expect Raines to get in this year. I think it will be Henderson and Rice only.

dayf said...

I agree that the stats are really borderline, but they are worthy of heated debate. I've seen too many people write off DHs as somehow less than a true baseball player since they don't go out in the field. It's true that any position player can be a DH, but that's almost like saying anybody who can pitch can be a closer. there is a very specific skill set needed to be a successful DH and there are not that many people who have truly succeeded and excelled at that position.

I agree on who is getting in, Andy. Rice and Rickey are locks. I think Blyleven and Dawson might pull an upset and squeak in, but I'd only give either less than about a 25% chance of doing so. Everyone else will be at 60% of the vote or under. I meant to put a prediction on these posts, but I keep forgetting. Time to update.