It’s a double-edged sword of a question that needs asking. Is Cooperstown really worthy? Is it worthy of all the respect it is given, considering just how much the people charged with its hallowed gate-keeping have dropped the ball over the years? Also, is it really worthy of all the hoopla, considering that it sits out in the middle of nowhere and requires a pilgrimage, a dependable guide, some sherpas, and a team of camels to get you there?
First there is the issue of respect based on the voting process and the membership. Ron Santo hasn’t made it in yet. Bert Blyleven still isn’t a member. There’s no Roberto Alomar or Lee Smith in there yet. I’m not here to argue in favor of any of these men, but I’ll go on record as saying that much lesser players (aka Joe Morgan) have already made it past the gatekeepers. There seems to be no clear standard. Worse yet, there seems to be no accountability for voters who inevitably “pull a Robin Ventura“. That’s when someone votes for someone who has absolutely no business getting into the HOF (Note: Ventura received precisely 7 votes in his first year of eligibility, so he did not receive the minimum required to appear on the ballot again.) In his 5th year of eligibility, Harold Baines received votes on 6.1% of the ballot last year. Really? Harold Baines? The guy had 2866 hits in 22 seasons, but he accumulated a total WAR of 37.0 in that time. At least Ventura had a career WAR of 55.5 in just 16 seasons. Sure, the voters get it right more than they get it wrong, but the omissions are often glaring and ridiculous. The HOF shouldn’t need a “Veteran’s Committee” to right the wrongs that the BBWAA is guilty of committing.
Did I mention something about a guide, some sherpas, and a few camels?
I’ve been there. It’s an awesome trip. I highly recommend it to all hardcore baseball fans. I’ll probably never go back again. Our family was in the middle of a lengthy vacation to Maine, and my wife mentioned Cooperstown. How awesome is that? I protested on the basis that we really didn’t have the extra time for such a big detour. Yep. I really fought tooth and nail to not see the baseball Hall of Fame. Sure did. That battle lasted all of 10 seconds, and it ended when I said “You’re right, that’s a great idea.” (Note: I find myself uttering those words a lot. She’s accustomed to hearing those words.)
Seriously, it’s really awesome to see the memorabilia, and the exhibits are amazing. The HOF has so much stuff that you really don’t know what you’ll see when you go there (which makes it a lot like the Smithsonian in that regard). The staff does a great job of changing the exhibits on a regular basis to keep it fresh and to reflect current baseball events, milestones, achievements, and honor baseball history at the same time. That said, I went at quite possibly the best time for a Cardinals fan. I was there the year after the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, so there were a lot of Cardinals-centric things to see. Sure, there was already a great 6-foot-tall poster of Ozzie doing his backwards up-in-the-air-thingy. There was also this little gem:
As I started writing this post, I began thinking about whether any current Cardinals besides Albert Pujols has a “reasonable” chance to reach the HOF. Carpenter has missed far too many games due to injury, and Adam Wainwright only has 66 wins at age 29, so I think that they are unlikely candidates. Holliday would have to maintain his current pace for another 10 years to push into the 3000 hit / 400+ hr territory, although he could certainly make it without hitting those “magic numbers”. After really thinking about it, I’d like to present for your consideration the case for Yadier Molina.
He’s one of the best defensive catchers in the game (if not the best), and he’s an efficient, productive machine on the offensive side, and it’s about time to give him some respect for what he does when he’s not behind the plate. The man plays the most demanding position in baseball, and he’s been pretty darn reliable in his 7 big league seasons (6 full seasons). From 2004 through 2010, Yadi played in 114, 129, 111, 124, 140, and 136 games respectively. Throw in the 51 games from his rookie year, and he’s played in 805 regular season games since the start of 2004. What if he keeps doing what he’s doing for another 6 or 7 seasons? Will the HOF chatter start then?
He’s far from being an offensive liability, and he’s extremely efficient at producing runs. His career stat line shows a .268 average, .325 obp, .361 slugging %, and .688 ops. He has 41 hr and 325 career rbi to go along with 718 hits. His 2010 stat line of .268/.329/.342/.671 was in line with his career numbers, so he’s consistent as well as reliable. While those numbers might not overwhelm anybody, I’d encourage people to look closely at what I call the “peripheral stats” that show Yadi’s true value to the team. In 2010, Yadi hit .286 in 133 at-bats with runners in scoring position for 57 rbi. With the bases loaded, Yadi hit a ridiculous .533 in 15 at-bats and had 2 grand slams. Just how good are those numbers? Pujols hit .343 in 144 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and he drove in only 18 more runs than Yadi did. Holliday hit just .271 in 177 such at-bats for 67 rbi. What about AP and Holliday with the bases loaded? Well, Holliday hit only .250 in 16 opportunities, and AP struggled to a .111 average with the bases full.
What about hitting when it really counts (like the playoffs)? Yadi has only stepped up his game to the tune of .315/.351/.444/.795 in 8 postseason series.
Keep in mind that he’s only 27. If he plays for 12 more years and gets 10 seasons worth of games (accounting for some injury time), he would have a reasonable shot at 2000 career hits, a total WAR of 35.0+, and 10+ All-Star game appearances along with 8-10 Gold Gloves. That’s a best-case scenario, but this is just an academic discussion, anyway. If he finishes his career and is widely considered the best defensive catcher of his generation, will he have a shot at the HOF?
TIDBIT: Yadi primarily bats 5-8 spots in the lineup. His batting average by batting order is interesting: 5th(49 at-bats) - .224, 6th(250 at-bats) - .316, 7th(159 at-bats) - .189, 8th(7 at-bats) - .286.