Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two Hall of Fame Angles

Now that Ricky Henderson and Jim Rice are ensconced in bronze for eternity in Cooperstown (or, at least until Hersch Klaff converts the Hall into office condos), the issue of the purpose of the Baseball has Hall of Fame comes to mind. There are two valid ways for how the Hall should manage new inductees and baseball can’t seem to make up their mind which one they want to choose.

This first way is to make the Hall as exclusive as possible. Only the best of the best would ever get in. Players like Phil Rizzuto, Gary Carter and Ozzie Smith? No chance. Sure, they were good players, but not good enough to be considered the greatest of all time. There are plenty of guys in the Hall of Fame that are not even the greatest of their time.

The second way to enshrine players is to make it more of a celebration of the players of the game over time and not an exclusive club. Such a Hall does not promote career accomplishments of exceptional players. Instead, it focuses on the memorable moments of the game itself and the players who made those moments.

The NFL clearly follows the second path. Every year they enshrine no fewer than four new members and no more than seven. Clearly, minimum numbers of inductees dilutes the quality of the players enshrined. But the NFL gets a marketing bonanza every year by letting in so many people. Having so many men standing around in yellow blazers and tying the announcement of new inductees to the Super Bowl annually gives the NFL the opportunity to promote its present and past all at the same time.

Major League Baseball, an organization that despite its success, never seems to miss an opportunity to generate positive publicity, could use a dose of NFL marketing savvy when it comes to its Hall of Fame.

Either that, or button this thin up tight and not only won’t Andre Dawson ever get in, but neither would Kirby Puckett, Tony Perez, or even Ryne Sandberg.

Frankly, it’s baseball’s Hall. They can run it the way they see fit. Right now, they seem to be running it half-assed.

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