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Hall of Fame rant

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The biggest story surrounding the Hall of Fame vote yesterday may not be who was elected, but rather who came painstakingly close but fell just barely short of election.  The whole thing leaves me...uneasy. 

I don't like the ideological struggle that's going on between the stat-oriented, online community and the traditionalists.  I don't know why we can't just take the best of both worlds, put them together and come up with some kind of reasonably objective guidelines for evaluating ballplayers.

Statistics do matter.  It's unlikely that anybody's Hall of Fame plaque will ever mention their career WARP3 or UZR, but it doesn't mean these statistics are inferior, and it doesn't mean that proponents of their use would rather play the game on paper than watch it on the field.  Home Runs, Batting Average, and RBI may have been the standard of baseball statistical analysis for the last century, but things change.  You aren't going to find many scientists or doctors relying on textbooks from the turn of the last century to practice their crafts.  

 

Andre Dawson's Hall of Fame case was made on the fact that he had 2,700 hits, 400 home runs, 300 stolen bases, and 8 Gold Gloves. But Tim Raines had 2,600 hits, and actually got on base 500 more times than Dawson, at a much higher percentage rate to boot (38.5% to 32.3%). He only hit 170 career home runs, but his career slugging percentage was only 57 points lower than Dawson's.  He stole 500 more bases than Dawson, but was only caught stealing 37 more times.  He won 0 Gold Gloves to Dawson's 8, but Raines actually had a better career fielding percentage, fewer errors, more outfield assists, and more FRAA than Dawson.

So you can say that nobody cared about on-base percentage in the 1980s and you'd probably be right, but even in the 1880s players knew that not making an out was better than making one.  Nobody knew about UZR or FRAA, but they did know that catching batted balls was important, so certain older, slower players were moved to less-demanding positions like first base or DH. 

At worst, Tim Raines is either the 2nd or 3rd best leadoff hitter of all time.  Roberto Alomar is one of the 10 best second baseman of all time.  Is anybody really going to argue that Andre Dawson is one of the 10 best or even 20 best of any category?  Despite this, Dawson is a Hall of Famer but the other two aren't.

The point of this all isn't to bash a player, or to criticize fellow fans, but rather a plea for understanding and objectivity.  Somebody in another post said "it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Statistics" but some people want to have it both ways.  It's impossible to talk about Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, or Nolan Ryan without mentioning statistics, so why can't we use them to talk about Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, or Ron Santo?