Who are the biggest Hall of Fame snubs? Here's one way to tell
Every baseball fan's personal Hall of Fame would be a little bit different
The Baseball Think Factory created the Hall of Merit to identify the all-time best
There are 56 players in the Hall of Merit who are not in the Hall of Fame
It seems to me that every baseball fan's Hall of Fame would be a little bit different. My Hall of Fame is different from anyone else's* -- and so is yours. There are, for our purposes, an infinite number of combinations -- or, anyway, a number close enough to infinity to make the number beyond any of our imaginations -- and there are surely more than enough combinations to give every single person his or her own personal Hall of Fame.
*"Yes, tour group, please follow me as we wander down Kuiper Hall... excuse me Sonny, please don't kick the Cory Snyder statue, that is very valuable. Now, here in Buddy Bell wing, there behind the giant Frank White glove, you will see..."
Maybe your Hall of Fame has only the 25 best players in baseball history. Then it seems to me that your Hall of Fame -- assuming you bear no grudge against steroids or other human frailties -- might look something like this:
Now, of course, this list does not include George Brett, Eddie Collins, Frank Robinson, Rickey Henderson, Mel Ott, Nap Lajoie, Jimmie Foxx, Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Carl Yastrzemski, Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson, Bob Gibson, Cal Ripken, Bob Feller, Buck Leonard and a bunch of other all-time greats. You could move some of them in I suppose -- you could replace Seaver with Mathewson, or put in Clemente in for Speaker, or put in Rickey for DiMaggio, Collins for Morgan, Brett for Bonds. Maybe you take more pitchers and cut down on all those center fielders. Maybe you want another shortstop and yank Bench out.
But if you keep it to 25, you are pretty limited with what you can do. If you move it out to 50, then you will have a little more freedom, but the arguments will only grow. Now you may find yourself leaving out slam dunk Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson or Tony Gwynn or Hank Greenberg or Ozzie Smith or Kid Nichols. You might not have room in your Hall for a Steve Carlton or Three Finger Brown or Cool Papa Bell or Carl Hubbell. Every one person you add creates two or three similar players you leave out.*
*This was the Jim Rice issue -- by putting in Jim Rice, it seems strange to only lightly consider similar or superior players such as (partial list): Minnie Minoso, Dale Murphy, Jimmy Wynn, Keith Hernandez, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Ron Santo, Reggie Smith, Dave Parker, Andre Dawson, Bobby Grich, Will Clark, Dick Allen, Albert Belle, Dwight Evans, Lou Whitaker, Rusty Staub and on and on and on and on.
So you could go to 100 players in your Hall of Fame. Or 200. Or 500. You would not be right or wrong at any of these levels -- it is, after all, your Hall of Fame. You, and you alone, decide how big or small the Hall of Fame should be, how you measure peak value vs. career achievement, how you feel about steroid use or gambling, how much a player's character (as best we can judge it) should play a role. You think Roger Maris should be in the Hall for one remarkable achievement? He's in. You think Don Larsen should be in the Hall for one perfect game? He's in. You, and you alone, determine exactly what are the qualifications, and where the lines are drawn.
What I'm getting at is that when you determine in your own mind if a player is or is not a Hall of Famer, that really says more about you and how you view baseball as it does the player. Maybe you believe in a big old Hall of Fame that would have all of the players listed in the Jim Rice aside and plenty of others. Maybe you believe in a tiny Hall of Fame where no player below Seaver or DiMaggio belongs. The players stay the same. You make the difference.
The last week or so, I've been exploring this concept by comparing the players in the Baseball Hall of Fame with the best available counterweight, which is the Baseball Think Factory Hall of Merit. I'm a very big fan of the Hall of Merit, which was created -- and I quote from the site directly -- "to identify the best players in baseball history and thereby identify the omissions and errors that can be found in the other venerable institution."
I think the Hall of Merit does a magnificent job of this. The Hall of Fame was voted on by a mishmash of writers, Hall of Famers and a Veteran's Committee of various shapes and sizes. The Hall of Merit, meanwhile, was voted on by people who love baseball and take great care to study the history of the game. They both have great value, and I thought it would be interesting to compare their results.
OK, so, here we go. Best I can tell:
There are 181 players in BOTH the Fame and the Merit.
*The Hall of Fame actually has 100 people who are not in the Hall of Merit, but about half of these are umpires, managers, executives or people of various other talents. I count about 50 players who are in the Hall but not in the Merit, but I may have missed some Negro Leaguers and hybrid player/manager talents.
First off, the vast majority of players involved are in the both the Fame and the Merit. And that tells you that there is much more agreement than disagreement. Babe Ruth is in both, Willie Mays is in both, Lefty Grove is in both. There are a million ways to judge players, but just about every way to judge players will come to the same conclusion that Ted Williams was pretty good at hitting a baseball, and Walter Johnson wasn't too bad at getting people out. The Hall of Fame in so many ways is less about the obviously great players and more about the players on the fringes.
So, let's talk about those players who are in one but not the other. Every player in the "Tinker to Evers to Chance" poem are in the Hall of Fame, but none are in the Hall of Merit. I think if there was no poem, there's a pretty good chance that none of the three would be in the Hall of Fame -- and this makes Franklin Pierce Adams one of the more influential baseball writers ever. He got THREE good-to-great players into the Hall of Fame. Man. And he wasn't even a baseball writer. I AM a baseball writer and I've been trying vainly for years to get people just to look at Dan Quisenberry. Maybe the problem is that I never tried a poem.
Here are the saddest of possible calls
Some of the weirder Hall of Fame choices are not in the Hall of Merit. These include: Earle Combs, Freddie Lindstrom, George Kelly, Chick Hafey, Lloyd Waner, Ross Youngs, Kiki Cuyler, Jesse Haines, Waite Hoyt, Vic Willis, oh man, we can go on and on like this for a while. This is one thing people fail to realize -- there are probably at least 100 people in the Hall of Fame that you have never heard of, unless you are a real baseball historian. I forget this, too. People may complain about Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter, but Candy Cummings is in the Hall for inventing the curveball and he probably did not invent the curveball.
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