Indeed, Guidry says, "I don't deserve to be in the Hall yet. This will only be the 10th season I've pitched a lot of innings." The same number of seasons, Ron, that Koufax pitched.
Ozzie Smith's chances are quickly dismissed. He's strictly a defensive player, critics say, and fielders aren't Famers. Now wait a minute. Lest we forget, shortstops make the Hall with their gloves as well as their bats: Of the 15 shortstops at Cooperstown, only six had career averages of .300 or higher. And by every measure of excellence, from the memories of old men to the complicated formulas of young computer whizzes, Smith is the greatest fielding shortstop of the last half century.
But Ozzie has a lower lifetime average (.243) than any Hall of Fame shortstop, comes the refrain. Well, batting average can be misleading. Would you take Mike Schmidt and his .266 lifetime average—or Ken Oberkfell and his .286?
O.K., Smith doesn't have Schmidt's power, but Ozzie isn't the offensive liability he has long been perceived to be. For one thing, a .243 average isn't that bad for a No. 8 hitter being fed breaking balls and off-speed pitches. Averaging 56 walks, 34 stolen bases and only 35 strikeouts a season, Smith is a guy who can reach base with two outs and make sure the pitcher doesn't lead off the next inning. Or, with fewer than two outs, he can steal second himself if the pitcher fails to bunt him over. "I have pride in being able to do little things, like score a man from third with fewer than two outs or move a man into scoring position," Smith says.
Last year he learned to drive the ball and had his best season—hitting .276, with six homers and a game-winning tater in the playoffs—while winning his sixth consecutive Gold Glove. In the 1986 Baseball Abstract, Bill James calls Smith, not Willie McGee, last season's National League MVP.
"It's a little early to be talking Hall of Fame," Smith says. Technically he's right. He won't qualify for selection until he completes his 10th season in 1987. Then he should be considered a solid choice. Tony Perez and Ron Guidry are already in my Hall of Fame.