At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

HoF 2006: The Rice Man Cometh

– Strong Man Jim Rice Knocks on Cooperstown’s Door –

While baseball’s winter meetings churn on in Dallas, baseball’s writers are busy studying their Hall of Fame ballots and making their selections. More often than not, a handful of candidates for induction leap off the page as “no brainers,” but this year’s group seems to be more human than superhuman. Add this to the mathematical nature of the selection rules and it is clear that Red Sox slugger Jim Rice today has his best shot at being elected – and with the anti-steroid sentiment currently running so high, my money is on his being at the podium next summer in Cooperstown.

Consider this: Rice played 16 years in the major leagues, during which he hit .298 and averaged 30 homers and 113 RBIs per season. He was MVP in 1978, and according to Sox VP Dick Bresciani (as reported in today’s Boston Globe), he is the only major leaguer to have three consecutive seasons of 35 homers and 200 hits, and is one of only two HoF-eligible players (the other being Dick Allen) with at least 350 homers and a .290 average not to be enshrined.

Rice’s biggest problem isn’t that he was an average fielder at best, or performed poorly in the post-season, or kind of lost it all at once at the end – no, his greatest liability likely is the fact that he was no darling of the press corp, and the media’s dislike for him no doubt cost him votes in the past. But election to the HoF is a function of receiving 75% of the votes cast, and since no one more compelling than Rice seems to be on the ballot this year, the math now seems to work in his favor.

The bottom line here is that Rice was simply dominant during his glory years, and he apparently achieved his prowess through hard work and sheer muscle. No allegations of steroids use ever have swirled around his head, and if you don’t think this is another huge mark in his plus column, then you’ve got another think coming. So make your travel plans now, Sox fans: for the second year in a row, one of your own will achieve baseball immortality, and you’ll want to be there when it happens.

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