On ESPN.com, Skip Bayless wrote:
He has one of the sweetest swings ever. So effortless, so rhythmic, this left-handed stroke of baseball genius has produced 566 home runs and 2,999 hits. Rafael Palmeiro is about to join some rare Hall of Fame company.
Only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray topped 500/3,000. Well done, Raffy.
But you do not belong in the Hall of Fame.
Skip gives a few reasons, most notably that Palmeiro is not a “game-changing player.” Well done, Skip.
But you do not know who belongs in the Hall of Fame.
According to the Hall of Fame itself:
Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
That is the benchmark we need to look at when deciding if Rafael Palmeiro belongs in the Hall of Fame. So let’s look at each of those:
- The numbers speak for themselves in this category. Only the fourth player ever to have 3000 hits and 500 home runs. If he plays next year, he could very well join only Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in the 3000/600 club.
- Palmeiro is also the ONLY player in history to have 38 home runs and 100 RBI in eight consecutive seasons. When it comes to power and run production, being the ONLY player to do something over a course of eight seasons is an amazing feat. Babe Ruth had a seven-year streak once. Hank Aaron had eight such seasons in his career, but never more than two in a row. Willie Mays did it seven times in his career, including five in a row from 1961 to 1965. Barry Bonds has also done it seven times, including three in a row beginning in 2000.
- Playing ability:
- This goes hand-in-hand with the record, I guess. In addition to the offensive stats, Palmeiro has won three Gold Gloves. Pretty straight-forward, if you accept the stats, you accept the ability.
- Let’s see. Other than Jose Canseco, has anyone in the history of the world ever accused Palmeiro of being anything other than honest and full of integrity? Absolutely not. Palmeiro had already gone from an 8-homer season to a 26-homer season before he ever met Canseco, and there are no physical indications that he ever did anything unnatural or illegal to make himself bigger or stronger. It is a testament to the piece-of-crappiness of Jose Canseco that we even have to mention steroids when talking about Rafael Palmeiro.
- Again, Rafael Palmeiro is nothing but classy. They say all publicity is good publicity, and maybe that counts against Palmeiro here. He simply has not had much publicity throughout his career, and it’s all his fault. He has never attacked an umpire, a fan, a camera man, or his wife. He has never wrapped his car around a telephone pole, or broken his hand dirt-biking, or made racist remarks in a magazine. He has never had a high-profile injury. Unfortunately for him, he has also never played on a great team. A lack of post-season opportunities has meant that guys like Mark Lemke and Jim Leyritz have spent more time in the big spotlight than Raffy has. He has just continued to quietly put up numbers that very few have ever done, and he has done it all with a smile on his face.
- As long as Ty Cobb is in the Hall of Fame, I will refuse to believe that character really makes up a huge piece of the HoF pie. But just in case, let’s quickly state that when it comes to character, you aren’t going to find much better than Palmeiro. Again, the lack of arguments against that statement is the best support for it. On Baseball Tonight yesterday, former pitcher Jeff Brantley was discussing the latest Kenny Rogers incident, where he got upset with a camera man for filming as Rogers was booked for attacking a camera man. Brantley said, “Kenny is just embarrassed. He is a major league pitcher, and he is being booked into jail! He just wants it all to go away.” Well guess what, Jeff and Kenny! The best way to make bad situations go away is to not be an idiot. And once you have been an idiot, if you have even an inkling of “I can’t believe laws apply to famous people too!” then you need to be sent to Siberia. Throughout history, professional athletes have acted like the world owed them something, like the rules don’t apply to them, and we have rewarded them for it. Now, people want to punish Rafael Palmeiro for being quiet and professional.
- Contributions to team:
- No one player has ever made a team great. Ruth had Gehrig and Co.; Aaron had Eddie Matthews, Warren Spahn, etc.; Mays had McCovey and Marichal; Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, like Sonny and Cher, had each other, babe. Rafael Palmeiro has played with a pre-prime Greg Maddux, a post-prime Cal Ripken, a prime-but-surrounded-by-the-worst-pitching-staff-in-history Alex Rodriguez, and now a prime Miguel Tejada and a post-prime Sammy Sosa. Ted Williams never made his team great, nor did Ernie Banks, Dan Marino, or a bunch of other guys in all sports. Team sports are team sports, and a reliance on team records to judge individual qualifications is ridiculous. So we can throw out the fact that Palmeiro has never won a World Series. What we need to look at is, like the heading says, his contributions to the teams he has played on. And the best way to do that is, again, to look at the stats. Throughout his career, he has consistently hit 35-45 homers, driven in 100-140 runs, scored 90-110 runs, hit 30-40 doubles, and played great defense. What more could you ask of a guy? It is clear that for all the bad years his teams have had, it has not been for a lack of contributions on his part.
So there you have it. In every regard, Rafael Palmeiro is a Hall of Famer. You can’t punish a guy for not being flashy, especially when he has put up such amazing numbers. Sorry, Skip, you are absolutely wrong on this one.