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The Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of Fame, and the Stupidity of Sutter

Fellow Sports Blogs denizen Marc Normandin touches on the recent HOF elections including the dismissal of Will Clark and Gary Gaetti. The Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of Fame features very good players who aren't enshrined. In some cases, Gaetti for example, these players aren't viable candidates, although in other cases, in a more enlightened world Ray Lankford's would get in.

Using some sophisticated metrics, Normandin writes,

Gaetti is ranked 19th among the 28 third basemen in the RLWHF. He is the third best defensive third basemen on the list for his career after Buddy Bell and Tim Wallach, which helps give him a great deal of value that his bat is missing. Gaetti was a fine player, and a childhood favorite of mine, so I am glad to see he stacks up well enough to be included. On a more hostile note, it is a problem that Ron Santo and Darrell Evans, the top ranked third basemen in the RLWHF, are not enshrined in the real Hall. I think spite is what is making me write this article at 5 in the morning without sleeping.

Normandin's real concern is the strange dismissal of Will Clark's great-career, which according to Marc,

"Clark is the second best first basemen not in the Hall of Fame, and if you argue that Hernandez's value is not in the form that the BBWAA would easily recognize, then The Thrill becomes the top first basemen who will not make Cooperstown without some help from the VC. Good luck with that one."

As always, Joe Sheehan, at Baseball Prospectus is the voice of reason in the Sutter love-fest, highlighting a familiar lack of actual knowledge from the electorate:

Have you ever actually looked at that award? Sutter took a fractured vote with 77 of a possible 120 points, and just 10 of 24 first-place votes. It was one of the lowest winning vote totals of the 12-team era. Moreover, Sutter benefited from one of the more ridiculous split votes of all time, as Astros teammates Joe Niekro and J.R. Richard finished 2-3 right behind him, sharing 13 first-place votes. Richard, however, was vastly superior to Niekro in every way that year, with a lower ERA (and RA) in more innings, a 313/98 strikeout-to-walk ratio (versus Niekro?s 119/107), and eight more complete games than Niekro. Niekro?s edge? A 21-11 record against Richard?s 18-13, which was worth nine first-place votes to Richard?s four.

Sutter?s Cy Young Award is essentially the product of cluelessness among some voters in evaluating those two pitchers. If Richard gets proper credit, he wins the Cy Young Award, and a major part of Sutter?s Hall of Fame case, certainly vis-?-vis Gossage, disappears.

What?s galling is that Sutter is getting his Cooperstown pass in much the same way that he got that Cy Young Award: through a crack in a voting process. This is the most frustrating aspect of his election, and the one that calls the electorate into greatest question. What was acknowledged openly in the coverage of yesterday?s voting results was the idea that Sutter benefited from the lack of qualified first-ballot candidates. With no new players to vote for (Orel Hershiser led the way with 58 votes, and only two new candidates, he and Albert Belle, will make it back for another year), the voters changed the question from, ?Is this player a Hall of Famer?? to ?Who is the best player in this group?? That?s simply the wrong question to ask; this isn?t the MVP award, where you?re trying to determine a winner from among a field of candidates. This is the Hall of Fame, where the standards are set and it is entirely possible to have a year in which no one meets them.

Good stuff. All Hail The Rat and The Thrill!