Baseball’s Hall of Fame Class, 2009 Edition

Major League Baseball announced the results of the voting for the Hall of Fame, and to no one’s surprise (except, perhaps, the 5.2% of the voters who inexplicably didn’t vote for him), Rickey Henderson, the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, was voted in on his first time on the ballot.  Joining him is Jim Rice, in his last year on the ballot, and Veterans Committee selection Joe Gordon.

Henderson, obviously, was a no-brainer.  Which apparently describes the voters who didn’t vote for him.  These guys have voting privileges, why exactly again?  The man had an ego, but he backed it up, and to say he’s not a Hall of Famer is saying that you just don’t understand the game.  I’d be embarassed if I’d turned in a ballot without his name on it.

Rice was arguably the most feared hitter in the AL back when I was a young boy, just getting into being a fan of the sport.  My father, a die-hard Red Sox fan, taught me well about Rice’s hitting prowess — I had to learn later about his sometimes surly disposition, especially when dealing with the media, a fact that probably had a bearing on his agonizing wait to be elected.  Rice didn’t age particularly well, and when he reached the cliff, he dropped off of it quickly.  He had no speed and was questionable defensively, but man could he hit in his prime.  Is that a Hall of Famer?  If I’d had a ballot, I think I would have voted for him, but I can certainly see the point of those who argue that he was  a very good player, just not Hall of Fame caliber.  Certainly, the onset of the Steroid Age and the discerning eye that we now cast to any hitter putting up Nintendo-like numbers helped to reinvent Rice’s candidacy the last few years, and likely played a part in his election this year.

Can someone tell me how Tim Raines only gets 22% of the vote?  Raines was one of the greatest leadoff hitters in MLB history himself — it seems as if, much as he did during his heyday, he’s been lost in Henderson’s large shadow.  At the same time, if someone can explain to me how Jessie Orosco, Jay Bell, and Mo Vaughn all received votes, I’d love to hear it.  Maybe it’s the same voters who left Henderson off of their ballots?

I normally don’t get a chance to watch the induction ceremonies, but this year I might make an exception.  If nothing else, we might see the record for longest acceptance speech (Henserson) coupled with the shortest (Rice).  Should be a good show, and obviously, congratulations to Henderson, Rice, and Gordon on their honor.

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