Sometimes new Hall of Fame classes fit neatly into the history of baseball. Jimmy Foxx and Mel Ott, 500-home run sluggers in the shadow of Babe Ruth, went in together 1951. Johnny Bench and Karl Yastrzemski, a prestigious city in one city, met in the sublime World Series. took a turn 1989. The incomparable showman Reggie Jackson, I was able to monopolize the stage in 1993.
This Sunday, the standouts Fred McGriff and Scott Lauren stand out on the diamond diagonal, with overlapping careers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Both have played for at least four franchises and been selected to at least five All-Star teams. Both have made two World Series appearances and won one. Neither fell short of the Most Valuable Player award.
At best, they are loose connections. Most of all, McGriff and Lauren’s pairing is a powerful reflection of the changing standards for baseball’s highest honors.
McGriff was unanimously elected last December by a 16-member committee called the Modern Baseball Age Players Committee. He’s spent the longest ten years in the writer’s ballot so far, but didn’t get even a quarter of the votes until his last appearance in 2019, when he received 39.8 percent of the vote, well short of Hall’s benchmark of 75.
For McGriff, the disheartening ballot release was a tiring winter ritual.
“We have tough writers, we have tough cookies,” McGriff said with a laugh during a video call with reporters last week. “But it’s hard because every year your name is on the ballot and you’re running and people outside, your friends and friends, and everyone are calling out. And when January comes, it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re doing it again.'”
Lauren had a very different experience, gaining a following among writers each year, and achieved it on her sixth attempt. In her first poll in 2018, she received just 10.2 percent of the vote for Lauren, just 43 out of 422 votes cast. By this year’s poll, his approval rating had risen to 76.3 percent, with 297 of the 389 authors checking his name.
he still can’t believe it.
“For me to sit here and say, ‘Oh yeah, me and Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron,’ I mean, it’s not real,” Lauren said last week. “It’s not a real situation. They are true legends and I am so honored to have the opportunity to share that gallery with them.”
For some fans, Hall of Fame should be reserved for the best fans only.When it was Major League Baseball, McGriff and Lauren’s comments were decidedly unkind saluted them in a tweet in January.
But the reality is that many fans will be unfamiliar with at least half of Hall’s 342 members. If Cobb, Ruth and Aaron were standard, the room would be pretty cozy. Hall’s membership reflected voter attitudes at the time, and this class shows how those attitudes are rapidly changing.
Logistics is part of the reason for McGriff’s low approval rating and Lauren’s surge. Writer selection is limited to 10, and superstars with steroid ties (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, etc.) caused ballot congestion, which has only recently been eased. However, due to the younger age of voters and the increasing popularity of various indicators, the old keys for entry can no longer open the doors of the hall.
Consider McGriff, who said he was aiming to hit 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, and get as close to a .300 batting average as possible every year. These have been the foundational stats of baseball for generations.
“Every year, I would set goals for myself to hit home runs and RBIs, because RBIs and batting averages were all that mattered at the time,” McGriff said. “It’s a little different now, but back in the day it was important. So you always had a goal.”
284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs. Only nine players debuted before McGriff and matched all those stats: Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Fox, Ott, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Aaron, Frank Robinson and Eddie Murray. All of them (except, incredibly, Ott) were elected to Hall on the first ballot.
“I always think of Joe Morgan and how we spoke in Cincinnati,” Lauren said of the Reds Hall of Fame second baseman. “I give him credit for this statement, but I use it a lot because that’s exactly how I feel. As a player, I knew who the Hall of Famers I played with and against every day in my time.” ”
McGriff played 422 more games than Lauren, so naturally he hit more home runs and had more RBIs (Lauren had 316 home runs and 1,287 RBIs). But he’s higher than Lauren, who hits .281, and leads both in on-base percentage (.377 vs. .364) and slugging percentage (.509 vs. .490).
What he lacks is Lauren’s overall worth, measured in wins over substitutes. baseball reference: Lauren 70.1, McGriff 52.6. Context and a more comprehensive skill set can help explain the differences.
Lauren won eight Gold Gloves, but McGriff had none. Lauren also ranks among the best hitters of his era as third baseman, still the least represented position in a 16-member hall. He has 26 first basemen in the Hall of Fame, but sluggers are more common in that spot. This was especially true during McGriff’s heyday, but the likes of Jason Giambi, Mark Maguire, Rafael Palmeiro and Mo Vaughan were on record as steroid users.
McGriff hit at least 30 home runs in 10 seasons, but never hit more than 37. McGriff was never embroiled in the scandal. He has often been cited as the clean slugger of the booming era.
“I took it as a compliment. I went into the game with integrity and played the game the way it should have been,” McGriff said.
McGriff’s inauguration was, and has been, the traditional statistical triumph he was expected to produce. Lauren’s victory is a victory of a more nuanced definition of greatness, and is increasingly being appreciated by the front office, players and the news media.
“The people we watch every day talking about the game on MLB Network are slowly changing their perceptions,” said Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Evan Longoria, who has a higher career WAR (58.9) than Hall of Famers Willie Stargell, Hank Greenberg and David Ortiz.
“For the average fan, there is no tangible sense of how a player really impacts the game. But if you look at his WAR, he’s stepping up, stealing bases, defending well, and impacting the game in many ways. ”
Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is all about impact, and there are multiple ways to measure it. McGriff represents the old school and Lauren represents the new school, but the diplomas look the same in both cases.