Rocking the (HOF) Vote with Dave Kindred
When I asked sportswriter Dave Kindred if he’d share his Hall of Fame votes with me and my Seamheads group at Facebook, he gladly obliged, then agreed to share his thoughts on this year’s Hall of Fame class, and the voting process in general.
Mike Lynch: First of all I want to thank you for taking time to talk to me; I really appreciate it. You voted for Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, Lee Smith, Dale Murphy, and Mark McGwire. I think most will agree that Henderson is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but can you explain why you chose Dawson, Smith, Murphy, and McGwire (weâ€™ll get to Rice in a minute)?
Dave Kindred: My Hall of Fame questions are all variations on the same theme: Was he the best in his time? If only one of the best, by what degree did he separate himself from most of his contemporaries? In his generation, was there universal agreement that he was an exceptional talent tested by time? I go to the statistics only later; if the answers to those questions are generally positive, the numbers will be there.
Henderson, Rice, Dawson, and Smith certainly fit my guidelines. McGwire gets my vote not for the scope of his achievements â€“ though we could argue even that â€“ but for the 70-home run explosion that redefined what power is. (This ignores any PED talk because we now know that hundreds of his contemporaries were on the juice, and none of them did what he did.) As for Murphy, purely a sentimental vote because any room with him in it is a better place than a room without him in it; besides, he won back-to-back MVPs, might be the only Gold Glove centerfielder who started as a catcher, and had H of F numbers until his precipitous decline at careerâ€™s end.
Rice just missed being inducted last year after receiving 72.2% of the vote and many expect him to be inducted this year, but heâ€™s getting little support from my Seamheads group at Facebook (40.9% after 181 ballots). MLB.com senior columnist Barry Bloom didnâ€™t vote for Rice (and hasnâ€™t since Rice became eligible in 1995) and he recently explained to me why he believes Rice isnâ€™t a Hall of Famer. So please tell us why you believe Rice is a Hall of Famer.
Pitchers feared him for years. They know a Hall of Famer when they see him come out of the dugout.
In the last two elections, McGwire received just over 23% of the vote and was nowhere near the required 75% to be inducted. Do you think voters are being too harsh on McGwire considering the era in which he played was rife with performance-enhancing drugs and he was just one of many who allegedly used them?
Not harsh. The statistical case can be made that he didnâ€™t do it long enough and was a one-dimensional hitter. But I vote for him because in that one dimension he was an outlier, something beyond the normal boundaries of players. Like Murphy, he suddenly lost his stroke, lost his confidence, lost whatever it is that makes it possible to hit a 95 mph fast ball. But when he had it, he really had it.
Letâ€™s go back to Henderson for a moment. No player has ever received 100% of the voteâ€”Tom Seaver has come closest at 98.84%, but was left off of five ballotsâ€”but I canâ€™t think of anyone who deserves it more than Rickey. He ranks first in runs scored and stolen bases, second in walks, and fourth in games and plate appearances; heâ€™s a 10-time All-Star, an MVP Award winner, a Gold Glove winner, and he played in 14 postseason series and was brilliant in the three World Series in which he played. And few would argue that he was the greatest lead-off hitter who ever lived. But if voting patterns hold true, he wonâ€™t get 100% of the vote. Explain to me how some voters can justify leaving him off their ballots. In other words, if one were to argue against Henderson going into the Hall of Fame, what kind of argument could one make?
Thereâ€™s no argument against him that makes anything close to common sense. But I guarantee you he will not be a unanimous choice. Cal Ripken Jr. was not unanimous! The thing to remember: no one has to make a case for why they leave a guy off, they just do it in the privacy of their voting booth. Maybe they donâ€™t like him personally, maybe they donâ€™t like him bouncing from team to team, maybe they never vote for a guy the first time heâ€™s on the ballot, maybe they forget to vote for him â€“ who knows why?
Barry said that he held his ballot until the last minute and that he discussed Rice with other voters before making his final decision. Did you discuss your choices or potential choices with any of your colleagues and, if so, were you influenced by any of their opinions?
No. I avoid committee meetings. This is not world peace, itâ€™s baseball.
You’ve been voting for the Hall of Fame for at least 20 years, by your own account.Â Has the information revolution made your job easier or do you find yourself getting bogged down with too much information?
Disraeli said, â€œThere are three kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies, and statistics.â€ I just go with the fundamental statistics. Everything else flows from those.
How about the statistical revolution? Do you still rely on traditional stats to make your selections or have you branched out to include newer measures like Win Shares, VORP, WARP, DIPS or any other sabermetric measure?
All those are fun, and someday, when I grow up, I hope to have my elders explain them to me.
How do you feel about the job the Veterans Committee is doing?
The Hall went from one bad idea to another. Theyâ€™ll get it right soon, I hope.
If you had the power to put one player in the Hall of Fame, regardless of the rules and parameters, who would it be and why?
Dale Murphy. The worldâ€™s a better place because heâ€™s in it. Cooperstown would be a better place, too.
If there was one player you could remove from the Hall of Fame who would it be and why?
My make-room-for-a-player designation goes to Chick Hafey, the Gas House Gang left-fielder with bad eyes who played more than 100 games in only seven of his 13 seasons. He was by-passed by the BBWAA but finally chosen by the Veterans Committee 34 years after his retirement, no doubt one more bow by the old-timers to the great Cardinals teams of Branch Rickey.
Thanks for your time, Dave!
Dave Kindred is a Senior Writer doing a column and features for Golf Digest and is currently writing a book about The Washington Post, to be published by Doubleday in the fall of 2009, the working title:”Morning Miracle: A Great Newspaper Fights for Its Life.”