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Applying Rock Hall standards to Baseball Hall

What if Cooperstown inductees were decided in a similar manner?
MLB.com @castrovince

The Baseball Writers' Association of America will announce the 2018 Hall of Fame class at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday on MLB Network, and this is shaping up to be an inordinately large class.

Chipper Jones is a no-doubt selection, Jim Thome is likely to join him as a first-ballot entrant, and Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman need only a modest bump from their 2017 vote totals to get in this time. There also appears to be a swell of support for Edgar Martinez in his penultimate year on the ballot. And of course, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell are already going in via the vote of the Modern Era Committee.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America will announce the 2018 Hall of Fame class at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday on MLB Network, and this is shaping up to be an inordinately large class.

Chipper Jones is a no-doubt selection, Jim Thome is likely to join him as a first-ballot entrant, and Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman need only a modest bump from their 2017 vote totals to get in this time. There also appears to be a swell of support for Edgar Martinez in his penultimate year on the ballot. And of course, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell are already going in via the vote of the Modern Era Committee.

Some people get antsy about large Hall classes. There are those who fear the Hall is becoming too watered down, despite ample evidence that Baseball Hall standards have, in fact, gotten stricter in recent decades.

Tweet from @JamesSmyth621: Updated @DCameronFG's Hall of Famers by birth decade chart from a few years ago. The HOF standards have been getting stricter. pic.twitter.com/5qjtD3VU1a

So if you're still concerned about the growing size and scope of the Baseball Hall, let this native Clevelander assure you: It could be a heck of a lot worse.

Here in my hometown, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame operates in a manner that, if applied to the national pastime, would give the purists heart palpitations.

Just for fun, here are some examples of how the Baseball Hall would be drastically different if it followed the patterns of the Rock Hall.

It would pay homage to one-hit wonders
The Rock Hall has honored acts that demonstrated little, if any, staying power. For example, if you can name a Percy Sledge song other than "When a Man Loves a Woman," you are very clearly related to Sledge (or you just think that "he can do no wrong").

Aside from "Runaway," Del Shannon's signature contribution to rock and roll was being referenced by Tom Petty in "Runnin' Down a Dream" (for singing "Runaway," of course).

Imagine inducting Mark Fidrych for going 19-9 in 1976. Or "Super" Joe Charboneau for his unrepeatable rookie year in '80 (his plaque could depict him opening a beer bottle with his eye socket). Bob Hamelin could get in not just for his out-of-nowhere '94, but for being the subject of the best/worst baseball card in history. Scooter Gennett could get in for a single game -- that outrageous evening of June 6, 2017. And in the spirit of brilliant-but-brief band outputs, we could even celebrate teams that achieved unexpected greatness, only to immediately disband (I'm looking at you, 1997 Florida Marlins).

Actually, I suppose you could argue Bill Mazeroski is already sort of a one-hit wonder, at least by Baseball Hall standards.

Video: Must C Classic: Mazeroski hits walk-off, wins title

It would induct people who didn't technically play baseball
From the beginning, the process of inducting people into the Rock Hall met the unavoidable issue presented by the phrase "rock and roll," which can be as narrow or as wide a label as you'd like it to be. Clearly, the Rock Hall went on the wide side, inducing soul stars like Sam Cooke, pop icons like the Supremes (Motown already had its own museum), blues acts like B.B. King and country crossovers like the Everly Brothers.

Nobody paid much mind to any of that, but things began to get really complicated when 1970s and '80s pop, disco and rap acts like the Bee Gees, Madonna and Run D.M.C. got in. Now, we're at a point where nobody really knows what the Rock Hall is or seeks to represent, other than, simply, "musicians we really like."

Imagine baseball going with a similarly loose definition of itself.

You could technically get Michael Jordan in there for his short Minor League stint, because, after all, he was, without question, one of the greatest athletes to play baseball. You could induct great cricketers like Sir Don Bradman and Imran Khan, because cricket is in the same genus of bat-and-ball sports. Jennie Finch and other superior softball players would also have a place in the Hall.

It wouldn't be so USA-centric
Let's be clear that the Rock Hall is definitely guilty of leaning more toward American acts, as the snubbed likes of Kate Bush, Thin Lizzy or The Smiths can attest. But unlike the Baseball Hall, it doesn't ignore activity that takes place off American (and yes, Toronto and Montreal) soil. Ichiro has had a clear Hall of Fame career since coming to the Major Leagues, but it would be really interesting to see what the vote totals would look like for Hideki Matsui if his 332 home runs in Nippon Professional Baseball were taken into account in his Hall case.

Then again, it is explicitly named the National Baseball Hall of Fame, so Cooperstown is off the hook here.

Video: Hot Stove: Evaluating Matsui's candidacy for HOF

It would celebrate sidemen
As a Bruce Springsteen apologist, I understand his decision not to exploit his sway and demand the E Street Band go into the Rock Hall with him in 1999. But it's still disheartening to know Clarence Clemons did not live to see the band's 2014 induction.

Anyway, at least there was an avenue for entry for the E Streeters. No such luck this year for Lou Whitaker, whose absence at a time when Trammell is entering the Hall just feels odd. Omar Vizquel might have a complicated Hall case on his own, but his double-play partnership with Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar for three years in Cleveland was one of the best we've ever seen, so that would earn him extra credit. Furthermore, David Ortiz is not allowed in without Manny Ramirez, Edgar would already be in alongside Ken Griffey Jr., etc.

(By the way, this is an even more fun conversation in the NBA, where the rule would be that any player inducted from the 1990s would have to go in with his NBA Jam partner, where applicable.)

It would salute scouts
The Rock Hall honors people like Ralph Bass, who played a major role in bringing black music into the mainstream, and John Hammond, who launched Bob Dylan, Springsteen and many others.

The Baseball Hall would do right to give some of the great talent evaluators their long-overdue Cooperstown call. The likes of George Genovese, Moose Stubing, Mike Arbuckle, Mel Didier and a host of similarly effective evaluators deserve ceremony rather than anonymity.

It would honor equipment makers
Pretty simple. If we apply the principles that put Leo Fender, sire of the Stratocaster, in the Rock Hall, then Bud Hillerich, creator of the Louisville Slugger, goes in the Baseball Hall. Wood you believe that?

It would feature more Starr-gazing
You can be inducted into the Rock Hall multiple times, which is kind of cool. Eric Clapton is in the Rock Hall three times -- with the Yardbirds, with Cream and as a solo act -- and I would say each of those is justified.

But Ringo Starr -- in addition to being in the Hall of Fame as a Beatle, of course -- is also in the Hall of Fame as … Ringo Starr. As a matter of fact, Starr is the only person in a Hall of Fame band who has been inducted via the Rock Hall's Award for Musical Excellence, which seeks to honor "musicians, producers and others who have spent their careers out of the spotlight working with major artists on various parts of their recording and live careers." (It's not terribly dissimilar from the Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.)

At the time of Starr's 2015 induction, it had been 41 years since he had put out a record that reached certified gold status, but this was the Hall's way of sneaking him in so that each member of the Fab Four also had his post-Beatles portfolio saluted.

(Contrary to what your signature song says, perhaps it does come easy for you, Ringo.)

The most obvious means by which this could apply to baseball is with Hall of Fame players who go on to have managerial careers. There's not a great deal of success to speak of in this area. Frank Robinson has the historical significance of being the game's first black manager, which ought to count for something, and Paul Molitor took the Twins to the American League Wild Card Game last year, which is a start.

It would give fans their say
Whereas the Baseball Hall's foremost guardians are the 400-some writers who have maintained membership in the BBWAA for at least 10 years, the Rock Hall involves more than 900 historians, music-industry members and artists, including every living inductee. And since 2012, the Rock Hall has also given a modicum of power to the fans, with the top five vote-getters in a public poll forming one ballot weighted the same as the rest of the submitted ballots.

This year, Bon Jovi ran away with the fan vote, demonstrating the drawbacks of democracy. But look, a Hall of Fame is about "fame," right? And fame is defined as "the condition of being known or talked about by many people." So why shouldn't the public have some say in the matter? If nothing else, it would be interesting to see how the fan vote on controversial figures like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens compares to the baseball writer vote.

But hopefully Bon Jovi wouldn't get any Baseball Hall votes here just because the band did the 2009 postseason ad.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcasts and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.