Continuing along with my current obsession with the Hall of Fame, it’s almost impossible while there and immediately upon leaving not to speculate on the membership of the institution. Of course you want to praise the addition of guys like Greg Maddux and speculate on the chances of currently eligible players to make it on the next ballot. One of the things you also do is look at a plaque and wonder “What’s that guy doing here?”
After leaving the Hall, my son and I engaged in a fun little game of trying to figure out if you could put together a full team of players (one at each position) for various teams. Some we could, although we had to get really obscure with some players (like remembering that Arky Vaughn played third for the Dodgers for a while in the 1940s). Some teams we got a full team, some we didn’t.
But one of the things we debated was the question of how good could a team be that consisted only of the bottom rung of the Hall of Fame. OK, the idea of a “bottom rung of the Hall of Fame” sounds like a true oxymoron, but of course there are those guys in the Hall who aren’t up to the Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Walter Johnson class of player. Here, briefly, are our conclusions.
First, we picked a team off the top of our heads (in other words no looking up stats or going to computers for help). We took two pitchers, one left and one right. We then took a catcher, one infielder at each position, and three outfielders (trying to make sure we had a left, center, and right fielder rather than just three outfielders at random. Here’s our team:
Jesse Haines is our right-handed pitcher and Rube Marquard is the lefty. Rick Ferrell catches. The infield is Highpockets Kelly at first, Fred Lindstrom (pictured above) at third, Dave Bancroft at short, and Johnny Evers at second. The outfield is (left to right) Chick Hafey, Lloyd Waner, and Harry Hooper. I’ll be the first to admit we could have probably come up with a weaker team than that one, but neither of us thought of some of the other choices (Schalk, Maranville, McCarthy, etc.).
Now the question became how good would they be. Well, we didn’t have access to anything like what Kevin at Baseball Revisited uses when he does his wonderful World Series replays, so there was no way to prove whatever we decided. But we did decide that if you put this team in the field and ignored you only have two pitchers, the team would still win a lot of games. They’d probably win a pennant or three and even an occasional World Series.
What I realized was that no matter how much we might question the choices the voters and committees make when it comes to the Hall of Fame, they don’t really choose bad players. Each man was actually a bona fide excellent ballplayer (try getting to the Big Leagues without being very, very good) and whether he was Hall of Fame quality or not, he was a benefit to his team. In doing this little exercise, I gained a renewed respect for the men who are on most people’s list as the very bottom of the Hall of Fame. Whether they should actually be in the Hall of Fame is another question.