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Rice a Deserved Hall of Famer?

Monday afternoon, and more than 20 years after his career ended, Jim Rice was finally elected to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. He became only the third player to ever be elected on his last try, joining Red Ruffing (1967) and Ralph Kiner (1975). He received barely enough to be elected, appearing on just 412 of 539 total ballots for 76.4% of the vote, surpassing the required 75%.

Congratulations to Jim Rice, as he was tortured for far too long about the process. But, does Rice really deserve to have his plaque hanging in Cooperstown? Was he a Hall of Fame player during his career? After a long hard look at his numbers, a few SoB staff writers are split.

Personally, I think Rice in the end was a Hall of Famer. I don’t think he’s one of the first ballot variety by any means, trust me. He finished with a career batting average below .300 (.298) and did not reach 400 HRs (382).

But, Rice was dominant for a long stretch of his career. He was an eight-time all-star, and helped carry a sorry, sad franchise (the Red Sox) to the World Series twice during his career (in 1975 and 1986).

Also, Rice had 11 seasons with more than 20 home runs and did not play in the Steroid Era. Think about that. Roid up Rice and he probably finishes with 450 HRs and is a no-brainer for Cooperstown. I think he was voted in because he didn’t play in that era. The recent attention around steroids in baseball brought people like Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco down, and brought Rice up.

The best reason for Jim Rice, in my book, was the election of former Giants first baseman Orlando Cepeda, who was voted to the Hall in 1999. Their careers are almost the same. Instead of writing out the numbers…let me show you their careers, side by side:

J. Rice 2089 8225 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451 58 34 670 1423 .298 .352 .500
O. Cepeda 2124 7927 1131 2351 417 27 379 1365 142 80 588 1169 .297 .350 .499

It’s incredible how close they are as players. If Cepeda is in, why not Rice? Both players did not play in the Steroid Era, so their numbers are natural and aren’t tainted.

In the same breath, anyone with similar numbers in the steroid era should not be in. Players like Andres Galaragga, Ellis Burks, and Moises Alou had comparable careers to Cepeda and Rice, but may have been steroid users at points in their career. Sorry, not good enough for me.

What did other SoB writers say…Should Rice have been voted in?

SoB’s Pete – No

Pete claims Rice was voted in on a “sympathy vote.”

SoB’s Mike – Yes

“I also would have voted for Rice solely because he was the most feared hitter of his time, though his peak was probably shorter than most in the Hall. However, he did what he did in the era before PEDs, so he probably was helped by the reaction against them. McGwire would never appear on my ballot for the same reason.”

SoB’s Adam – No

“Jim Rice was not the most feared hitter in his era, his intentional walks do not support that. And he was nothing special outside of Fenway.”

In other news, the entire SoB staff unanimously supported former Sox OF Rickey Henderson’s election into the Hall of Fame. DUH!

About KC Downey - @kc_downey

KC is the "head coach" of the Sports of Boston, LLC blog network. Follow him on Twitter: @kc_downey

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6 comments for “Rice a Deserved Hall of Famer?”

  1. Jim Rice is a hall o” famer .the reason he never made it sooner was because he didn’t like the media at that time because they twisted everything he said . That’s why he stopped talking to them,and ”thats the reason why they didn’t vote for him”

    Posted by p cara | January 14, 2009, 6:40 pm
  2. If Rice got in, then why not a man who was also eligible this year?

    Andre Dawson has better numbers than Rice.

    438 HR, 1,591 RBI, 13 seasons with 20+ HR, Rookie of the Year in 1977, and NL MVP in 1987.

    Not to mention that Dawson also had 314 stolen bases as compared to Rice’s 58.

    Let’s also throw in Dawson’s eight Gold Gloves which further proves that he is a more complete player than Rice (who never won a Gold Glove).

    Rice is cleary a lesser player than Dawson yet Rice got elected to the Hall and Dawson was left out.

    If Andre Dawson couldn’t get in then there is no reason Rice should have.

    The whole “he was dominant for a short period of time” argument can’t be applied to everyone. I mean, for example, when the time comes and Pedro Martinez is on the ballot, he should get in because he dominated not just for a short period of time, but he did it during the steroid era. Besides, with Rice, I don’t think we can call 16 seasons a short time.

    What about Orlando Cepeda? I don’t think he deserved it either. But just because he got in, it doesn’t mean Rice should. Frankly, that just seems like whining to me.

    In conclusion: Sympathy got Rice in.

    Posted by Pete | January 15, 2009, 1:01 am
  3. Sounds like you’re whining to be honest. One BIG reason Dawson hasn’t been elected: his .279 career batting average and his ATROCIOUS .323 career on-base percentage.

    Rice led the majors in outfield assists for a number of years, but Dawson was a better defensive player and was faster on the basepaths, I agree.

    The reason Dawson has more HRs, RBIs, etc., is because he played five more seasons. If Rice played until he was 41 years old, he’d have better overall stats than Dawson.

    Dawson had years with a .248 average, a .255 average, .252, .240, .253, etc etc etc. Rice was a better player if they were the same age and playing at the same time. Dawson has better total stats because he was an above-average (not great) player for 21 seasons.

    C’mon pete, just look at the stats!

    BUT…Dawson still has a few years left and will probably get into the Hall as well…and for the record, I think he should get in too. 🙂

    Posted by KC | January 15, 2009, 5:09 am
  4. While I agree that a .323 OBP is bad, the .279 average is good enough.

    Dawson is only one of three players with 400 HR and 300 SB alongside two other guys. Oh yeah, Barry Bonds (steroids pending) and Willie Mays.

    If Rice had played 5 more seasons then he would have better overall stats than Dawson? I disagree.

    Thanks to

    At the end of his career, Rice battled knee problems that needed surgery. He hit only 13 HR in 1987, got offseason surgery, then hit 15 HR in 1988. In his final, injury-plagued season, he hit 3 HR in 56 games.

    So you’re telling me that Rice, who had 382 HR, could have caught up to Dawson’s 438 HR if he had played 5 more seasons? Something tells me that Rice’s knee would not have held up and his decreasing HR totals would not have been enough to surpass Dawson.

    That goes for the rest of his stats. Rice would not have been given a full time starting job after everyone realized he was damaged goods. Even with a part time gig on a team, Rice could not have amassed enough stats to pass Andre Dawson.

    The point of this whole argument is not the credentials of Andre Dawson. I am trying to make the point that although Jim Rice was a great player, he just doesn’t have the credentials to enter the Hall.

    Maybe before the steroid era, the 382 HR would have been good enough. Now with today’s stats, Rice is 55th on the all time HR list whereas when he retired, he would have been in the top 15. We can’t forever judge a player’s career accomplishments on the playing conditions of the era in which they played but we must compare them to the current situation.

    Hell, with the way things are going, 500 career HR may not be enoough to get in because we now have 24 players in the 500 club and soon to be 25 when Gary Sheffield joins it (currently stands at 499). So if Rice can’t even reach 400 HR, then there is no reason to let him in.

    I am sorry that I am not being a bias Red Sox fan and automatically celebrating the induction of Jim Rice to the Hall of Fame. Someone has to plays devil’s advocate and make the case against Rice. I love Jim Rice and all he did for the Sox but he doesn’t deserve to be enshrined in Cooperstown. If he really, REALLY deserved it, then it wouldn’t have taken 15 years to get voted in.

    Posted by Pete | January 15, 2009, 4:34 pm
  5. Hey you make a good argument, but I don’t agree that you cant judge on what he did versus his peers. Since Rice played before the Steroid era, 384 HRs in 16 years is pretty damn good. Inflated totals from today’s players really made his power-number totals pretty average. But hey, I said he was a fringe Hall-of-famer anyway, and he proved it with just over 75% on his 15th try.

    And I think Rice would’ve caught up to Dawson’s total of 52 more HR’s in five extra years, even on a surgically repaired knee. So he needed to average just over 10 HRs for five more seasons to do that haha. Just a difference of opinion.

    And hey, I’m not using a Red Sox bias here. Just because I support the fact he was barely inducted…haha. Do you think there are 415 Red Sox writers in the writer’s association? They all have come around on Rice after a lot of thought. One baseball writer I love is Jayson stark, and he provides his reasons for both Rice AND Dawson here:

    Theres not much more I can argue. You dont think his power totals are good because of today’s power-guys, but I think they are good BECAUSE of today’s power-guys on the juice…

    Posted by KC | January 15, 2009, 6:11 pm
  6. Yeah, he’s absolutely right. IF Rice gets in, AD deserves it also. ANd I think Jim Rice DESERVES to get in the hall……………………..
    That was the biggest joke of all time. Just how valuable can the leader of a team be that he COULD NOT stop a 16 game late season slide??!??!! I mean, how valuable can you possibly be? I mean, he wins ONE lousy game more with a ninth inning homer and they will the division. I mean, Jim rice could have played SO badly that the sox could have LOST a 14 game lead and STILL won the division.

    But, I guess you could be saying,”What the hell do you expect, for this guy to carry the entire team on his back, when EVERYONE ELSE is absolutely dead weight, and win ball game after ball game BY HIMSELF, being NEAR PERFECT over the EXACT stretch where his teammates were smelling up the joint? Uhm…..yeah, thats EXACTLY WHAT I’M SAYING!!

    Because thats EXACTLY what the MVP of the American League did in the year 1978, and I mean the REAL MVP,
    Ron Guidry. (yeah, yeah, I know he won the CY. Well he should have won both, hands d0wn, no arguement.

    Posted by nck | January 5, 2010, 7:45 pm

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