Monday, January 5, 2009

Hall of Fame ballot: Rickey Henderson

The Hall of Fame will announce its new inductees, if any, on Jan. 12. One of the best evaluations of the players on the ballot comes from superblogger Joe Posnanski, and I suggest you check out his HOF post.

As for me, I'm going to take a few moments to talk about the top players on the ballot. Today we'll focus on the sure-thing lock for the Hall, Rickey Henderson.

Henderson combined power, speed, strike zone judgment, and high-average hitting like no player in history, easily earning him the title of greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history. In his prime during the 1980s, he could steal 80 to 100 bases, smack 10 to 20 homers, score 100+ runs, and draw enough walks to give him an on-base percentage over .400. He’s one of the few lead-off hitters to win an MVP Award, and he holds career records for both runs and steals.

He was a great player, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who probably deserves even more accolades than he gets. But he was almost equally famous for me-first escapades such as playing cards in the clubhouse while his Mets teammates lost in extra innings during the playoffs, or holding out in spring training for a bigger salary with the A's.

So how do we factor in that extra stuff in our evaluation of him as a player? In the case of an unparalleled talent like Henderson, we don’t. Sure, he made good copy for sportswriters, and he created a few headaches for management. But his antics never seemed to distract his teams from winning. And win they did. He played in the post-season eight times and won two World Series. Even with the baggage, you’d be crazy not to want Henderson on your team.

I'm very eager to hear his Hall of Fame induction speech.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Henderson is the kind of player who should get close to 100% of the vote. Anyone who looks at Henderson's career and doesn't see a HOF'er should have their voting rights revoked. The only voters who won't vote for him, but think he belongs are the numb nuts who say "Cobb and Ruth weren't unanimous, so no one should be." Those voters are from another century and should realize that the dynamics of the ballot has changed in the last 30 years. Ricky is one of the two best leadoff hitters of all time (Rose being the other), and he holds so many records that it defies belief. He was an effective contributor to winning ballclubs into his late 30's.

More interesting cases than Henderson, are Raines, Rice and Blyleven. Raines is probably the 3 or 4th best leadoff hitter ever, and for a 5 year stretch was in the top 3 in runs created every year. Rice, will have voters voting on him who never got to see him play while they were adults. He should be a cause celebre for changing the eligibility rules. Staying on the ballot for years 6 to 20 of his retirement is archaic. Today, without the back log that affected the HOF balloting for the first 49 years, a player should be on the ballot for 5 years, Max, before moving to the Vets committee. Its not like Rice has improved his stats in the past 10 years. And finally Blyeven. 60 career shutouts and 5th all time in strikeouts. Everyone else in the top 20 in shutouts is in the Hall. In the most individual position in baseball, the Dutchman won more than 20% of his career wins by shutout.

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