Let me begin by sharing this little nugget. Jim Rice was my favorite player during the time of his career. I can remember when he came up with the Red Sox in 1975 and believing, despite Fred Lynn winning the rookie of the year, that Rice would have won it, if not getting hurt in September I am not an unbiased person when it comes to his candidacy. Despite all these wistful feelings for him, I realize that Rice was not a Hall of Fame player.
It really comes down to this for me. His home splits kept him at a higher respect level than he truly deserved. His OPS in Fenway was .920, which during the time period was automatic Cooperstown numbers. It is on the road, where his OPS was .789 that changes the equation. A corner OF/DH with these numbers is just not good enough. Even his tracking stats aren’t enough, as he didn’t have 400 homers and didn’t have a lifetime BA over .300. As a player, he reminds me of Albert Belle. A power-htter who intimated with his bat and his disdane for the media, but a player who ultimately fell short of Hall of Fame numbers. Of course, now he’s in, so it just goes down as another example of the HOF voters blowing it.
(A note on Home/Away Splits: I believe they are the most underused statistic in baseball. Where it is really hard to judge players from one time period to another, it is much easier to see who was underrated and who was overrated by looking at their home/away splits. Cub fans, check out Milton Bradley this way. His road split for 2008 was very similar to what he has done his whole career. There is a reason that Michael Young isn’t as hot of a commodity in the trade market. His road OPS during his career is .just 728. Last year I discussed how the topic of Josh Hamilton being the AL MVP was completely wrong-headed, considering how much worse he was away from hitting heaven in Arlington. (OPS was .200 points lower on the road.)
The biggest travesty of the 2009 HOF voting was how Rickey Henderson didn’t even get 95% of the votes. Someone needs to do a personal investigation on this one, as Rickey was the greatest lead-off man since Ty Cobb. Some might argue that hey, what’s the big deal, he still got most of the votes, but that misses the point. There is not one person who shouldn’t have voted for him. His value to the teams he played for should have made him a unanimous choice. I realize that no one has ever gotten that high of a number, but for more than 5% of the voters to leave him off should be enough to have their membership revoked. Hopefully they work for one of the papers that will be folded by next year. Of course, the value of a great leadoff man has always been underrated. If you don’t believe me, look at the miserable voting record for Tim Raines, who should already be in Cooperstown.
I have written before on this subject, so I don’t want to spend a bunch of time revisiting my reasoning. If you want to know more specifics on who should be included, check out this piece from 2006 and add Raines to the list and take-off Gossage, who was put in last year.