Last week over at the Sweetspot, Rob Neyer proposed something new for players like Omar Vizquel, who are special or unique, but not exactly Hall of Fame-worthy:
The writers desperately want to do something for Vizquel, and they just can’t think of anything except the Hall of Fame. Roger Maris had two great seasons, a few good ones, and in 1988 43 percent of the Hall of Fame voters voted for him. Essentially, Maris got the same support in his last year on the ballot that Jeff Bagwell just got in his first year. Don Larsen had zero great seasons, a few decent ones, and one year 53 Hall of Fame voters voted for him. Today, roughly half the Hall of Fame voters fervently believe that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame … even though Morris, with the exception of one brief moment in 1991, was never considered a great pitcher by many of these same voters.
What I am proposing is a Wing of the Amazing, for players who really don’t belong in the Hall of Fame because they weren’t good enough, but did some things that do deserve to be celebrated.
Rob goes on to list some criteria for the Wing, including “no one-game wonders” (like Larsen), “no freak shows” (like Eddie Gaedel), and, most importantly, no Hall of Fame-worthy players who were somehow overlooked for their due honor, like Bobby Grich, Ron Santo, or Lou Whitaker.
I really like the idea. The Hall of Fame should be about celebrating the game (among other things), and “amazing” or “bizarrely unique” players like Vizquel or Jamie Moyer are certainly worth celebrating, even if they aren’t quite deserving to be inducted into the Hall-proper. The problem I have with the concept, though, is that last criterion.
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In tonight’s Golden Globes awards show, the film The Kids Are Alright beat out Alice in Wonderland, Burlesque, Red, and The Tourist in the “Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical” category. Meanwhile, Toy Story 3, a vastly superior film to at least four of those listed (I’ll give The Kids Are Alright a slight benefit of the doubt), was wallowing amongst the likes of Tangled in the “Best Animated Feature Film” category. Toy Story 3, of course, slaughtered its competition to take home the award. It’s a nearly meaningless victory, however: no one ever remembers who wins the “Animated” category because a) there is never any competition there and b) it’s a category full of kids’ movies. The sad thing is, Toy Story 3 had a very good chance at walking away with the much more prestigious “Comedy or Musical” Golden Globe this year if it had only been allowed to. Instead, it was relegated to the “Animated Film” ghetto and made to compete there. There is almost no doubt in my mind that the same thing will happen in two weeks when the Academy Award nominations come out.
If the Hall of Fame were ever to implement something like the Wing of Amazing, I fear the same thing will happen. At some point, an over-qualified player will get on the Hall of Fame ballot that voters, for some reason, won’t immediately gravitate to – think Edgar Martinez or Jeff Bagwell or Tim Raines or Bobby Grich or Alan Trammell or Will Clark or dozens of others. With the Wing of Amazing, writers would now have an excuse to ignore these players’ true HOF value while still “honoring” them. Instead of giving them the long, detailed look that they deserve, the writers will be able to put them in the Wing of Amazing and forget about them. With the “honor” thus bestowed, there will be no more reason to study his qualifications. It will be Toy Story 3 beating out Tangled in the “Animated” category instead of battling it out with Inception or The King’s Speech in the real “Best Film” category.
There’s a lot to love about the Hall of Fame, and a lot worthy of criticism. The Wing of Amazing could very well be a big step towards fixing some of those criticisms while also giving fans around the world another good reason to visit Cooperstown. But with the politics involved in the election process (not to mention some of the, shall we say, less-informed electorate), I would be very worried about how it might impact future inductees. We’d certainly want to look into a bit more.
Whatever the case, I think we can all agree on one thing: Toy Story 3 deserves to be placed against much stiffer competition than Tangled or Despicable Me. That just doesn’t cut it.