Many folks who know me know I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan.
Why am I? Good question.
Yeah, I know they haven’t been very good for the last 10 years or so, even though they tease us. It’s a lifelong thing for me. I grew up a Reds fan and suspect I’ll always be.
So, having said that, let me offer this about newly-elected Hall-of-Famer Scott Rolen, who played for the Phillies, Cardinals and my beloved Redlegs. I liked Rolen as a player, even before he donned the Reds’ duds.
I thought he was a good player, solid, a good leader and could get you that big hit in the clutch. He also was a good defender, as his seven Gold Glove awards will attest. But I never thought of him as a generational player.
He never struck me as a Mike Schmidt type, or a Reggie, or a Yaz, or a Bench. Rolen, was in my mind, good, not great.
There are guys like, oh, Mark Grace and Vada Pinson who have better numbers. What about Dale Murphy, who was a two-time MVP for the Atlanta Braves? I still grumble about Mike Piazza’s entry into the HOF because he was such a mediocre defensive player. Frankly, he was a defensive liability.
Sometimes I wonder what the Baseball Writers are thinking.
Some are saying that the Writers are turning the HOF into the Hall of Pretty Good. Hey, Baseball Writers Association of America: It’s okay to not have a class every year.
I blame the players’ union for a lot of this mediocrity. Rolen only had 2,077 hits. Pitchers, even the great ones, upon retirement, may have as many complete games in a career as Bob Gibson had in one season. I think Albert Pujols may be the last man to hit 700 home runs. Twenty-game winners are now as rare as 30-game winners were a decade or more ago. Same for that .400 hitter. Perhaps even that .300 hitter.
Cal Ripken’s consecutive-game streak is probably etched in granite because players don’t play more than 120 games a season anymore.
The union has made it so MLB coddles the players. We have pitch counts now, Sabrmetrics (which I think is laughable) and designated hitters in both leagues. You won’t see Juan Marichal battle Warren Spahn for 16 innings anymore. Oh, by the way, the Giants beat the Braves that day about 60 years ago 1-0. Both starters were in the game at the end of the 16-inning drama.
If that went on today, yeah, we’d label it as an instant classic, but the pundits would be howling about damage to both pitchers’ arms. Something to consider, Spahn served in world War 2 and was wounded, yet returned to the Bigs for games like this. He had fantastic numbers while pitching into his 40s.
Oh, by the way, Marichal and Spahn are both in the Hall of Fame. Why? They were both great.
Three hundred-game winners? Guys hitting .300 for a career? Hitting 500 home runs? I dare say all those feats are anachronistic.
We’ve watered down the process and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better anytime soon, until Albert is eligible in about five years. If he’s not unanimous, then there really is something wrong with the process.
Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of the Pressbox radio show, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday on 95.9 FM, WRJB, Camden, Tenn.