Jamie Moyer Doesn’t Belong in the Hall of Fame
Maybe it’s the unrelenting summer heat. Or simply the typical July sports torpor that leaves us with nothing to follow but the sluggish middle of the baseball season, or a variety of events staged on foreign soil that attract attention but not passion that leads the media to ask stupid questions. I’m not taking about Jim Gray’s dignity-draining “interview” of LeBron James or the typical post-game collection of “How did it feel?” queries.
This is about the two recent articles in local newspapers regarding the Hall of Fame prospects of Jamie Moyer and Dick Allen, two of the more interesting characters in the long-running Philadelphia baseball saga. Each has a fascinating career narrative, albeit for completely different reasons, and each had — or in Moyer’s case is having — a profound impact on his team. But let’s not get carried away here. Neither belongs in baseball’s Hall of Fame. [SIGNUP]
Esteemed Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King is one of the men charged each year with selecting the players who will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When he describes the process he employs to determine who is worthy for such an honor, he often writes that the Canton, Ohio, shrine is “the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good.” For him, and many like him, the standard must be set extremely high, so as not to denigrate the institution. Those who succumb to sentiment, romantic notion or the aggravating fascination with the greatness of everything happening today miss the idea of the Hall. It’s supposed to be for the absolute best of the best, those players who were so transcendent that they must be singled out and elevated to a status of substantial renown.
Neither Moyer’s nor Allen’s career fits that description. Before you begin the process of gathering a mob, distributing pitchforks and lighting all those torches, please know that I regard each player’s substantial accomplishments with respect. They have had considerable highlights and fine careers. It’s just impossible to include them among the best ever. Period.
First, let’s look at Moyer, who has become a folk hero in Philadelphia for his continued success, despite being only three years from receiving his AARP membership card. His enduring passion for the game and continued ability to take the ball every five days and confound hitters with his location, changes of speed and guile are remarkable, indeed. Watching him pitch is akin to seeing a master craftsman set out his simple tools and go to work, while those around him try to dazzle with newfangled equipment and technology. Those of us who happen to be of a certain vintage marvel at “one of our own” out there on the mound, bewildering whippersnappers.
But is that enough for inclusion among the greatest ever? Not really. While Moyer has authored an impressive second half of his career, it is important to consider his accomplishments, not just his longevity, when assessing his worthiness. It has taken him 24 seasons to reach 267 wins, which works out to an average of 11.1 wins a year. Sure, we all know the story of how he scuffled for the first nine seasons of his career, only to experience a rebirth at age 33. But during his middle-aged renaissance, Moyer has won 20 games twice and 15 or more on three other occasions. He has thrown more gopher balls than any other pitcher in history, struck out 150 batters just once and has a career ERA of 4.24. In other words, Moyer has been good throughout his career, very good at times, but not magnificent.
Allen might have a stronger case for the Hall, thanks to his 1972 MVP season, his six campaigns of 30 or more home runs — back when players needed no needles to impress chicks with the long ball — robust .534 slugging percentage and whopping .912 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Allen was quite a force in his prime, walloping homers with his 40-ounce bat and frustrating fans and front-office types with his antics on and off the field. His career numbers (351 homers, 1,119 RBI) are good, but they are not great. And Allen was never an ingredient on a winning team. Granted, some of the Phillies outfits for which he toiled were fetid, but baseball is a team sport, and he was not someone who cared always about the bottom line.
Allen played 15 seasons, of which 11 can be considered prime. During those years, he averaged 29 homers and 88.6 RBI. Those are good numbers, especially considering he made no visits to Dr. Frankenjuice. Are they Hall of Fame worthy? No. Like many others before and after him, Allen was very good. At times, he was great. But Hall of Fame residency is for all-timers, and he is not one.
The Moyer and Allen Hall questions were mid-summer diversions as we wait for the sporting calendar to deliver us more to follow than just the Phillies’ foibles and the weather at the British Open. However, like many July reveries, they were somewhat frivolous.
Besides, we should save our strength for a real Hall of Fame argument.
* Some call Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert’s behavior in the wake of LBJ’s departure childish, but wouldn’t it be great to have an owner with that much passion?
* The Eagles’ top two draft picks, Brandon Graham and Nate Allen, remain unsigned, meaning key components of a rebuilt defense that struggled last year might miss the beginning of training camp. Not good.
* Speaking of training camp, am I the only one dying for football? Things are so bad I’m watching rebroadcasts of 2009 college games and the CFL. Only 19 days until the Hall of Fame game.