Well, it finally happened. On his 15th and final try Jim Rice, who hasn’t played an inning since 1989, miraculously became worthy of the Hall of Fame in the eyes of the voters. With one of the most ridiculous selections in history, the voters’ negligence in their analytical process has once again compromised an institution that is supposed to honor the greatest men to ever play the game of baseball. Instead, the standards and legitimacy of this hallowed body have now been compromised to the point where it might serve itself well – for purposes of accuracy – to change its name to the “Hall of Very Good.”
The case against Rice is clear cut and definitive. His statistics are extraordinarily average, especially for an outfielder who was supposedly known for his “dangerous” slugging ability. He did not hit .300 for his career (only topping the mark six times in 16 years), did not reach even 400 homeruns (only hitting 40 or more in a season once), and carried a measly .352 career OBP (never topping .385 in a season).
Rice, lauded for his power production, in reality was only average in this department. His meager .502 slugging percentage, .854 OPS, and 128 OPS+ testify to this assessment much more accurately than the remembrance of those who saw him in action. Sure, his 1,451 career RBI total is very good total – 56th all time – but even that number leaves him well short of deservedly snubbed Hall candidates Andre Dawson (1591) and Harold Baines (1628) and 15 short of non-Hall of Famer Rusy Staub, who also had a higher OBP than Rice in a dominate pitchers era.
His supporters claim Jim Rice was a “feared” hitter, so “feared” that this state of terror of which his bat apparently evoked in the pitchers he faced, was valuable enough to his team that it warrants a Hall of Fame selection. In truth, about the only place one might have “feared” Rice was at home, in the ridiculously hitter-friendly Fenway Park, where he spent his entire career. While he did post an outstanding .920 OPS in Boston, his .789 road figure gives far more insight into the true value of Rice as a player. In fact, Rice was so “feared” that he was never intentionally walked even 10 times in a season and is tied for 179th on the all time list with “feared” hitters such Jerry Grote, Ken Henderson, Claudell Washington, and Fred Lynn among others. That’s less than Boston outfielder Mike Greenwell, Lou Whitaker, and even B.J. Surhoff. Rice’s one attribute that got him elected is the supposed “fear” he induced, and yet the statistics say he wasn’t even as “feared” by pitchers as B.J. Surhoff?
Moving beyond pure hitting statistics Rice’s case for the Hall gets even weaker. He stole only 58 career bases in a mere 92 attempts, never won a Gold Glove, and grounded into 315 double plays, poor enough for 6th on the all-time list. So essentially, his statistics show he was a slightly above-average power hitter who rarely got on base, had no speed, and wasn’t much of a fielder. Not the typical profile of a Hall of Famer.
I would love for the voters to release an explanation pertaining to what exactly makes Jim Rice an elite among those who have played the game. It would behoove every baseball fan, who cares about the Hall of Fame, to have an understanding of this magical, incalculable quality — so powerful that it trumps the conclusions drawn from a player’s statistics — so they can better understand what constitutes greatness.
This seems especially necessary as Tim Raines, a player with exponentially more value than Rice, wallows in the doldrums of the Hall of Fame balloting with an embarrassing and pathetic 22% of the vote. Yes players like Orlando Cepeda – who had statistics similar to Rice’s – have been elected in previous years, but this does not mean Rice is worthy; it simply means the Hall voters never learn from their mistakes.
Ironically during Rice’s press conference at Fenway Park on Monday he took the writers to task, lecturing, “When you’re talking about a Hall of Famer, let’s base his numbers on what he accomplished during that time.”
Mr. Rice, I totally agree.Powered by Sidelines