Admittedly, I used to hold the concept of the Hall of Fame in the highest esteem. When I was a kid reading as much about baseball as I possibly could, Hall of Famers were flawless demigods from a thousand years ago who pitched comets and swung bolts of lightning.
My parents took me on a pilgrimage to Cooperstown when I was in fifth grade, and I dutifully took pictures of the plaques for Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and personal favorite Ty Cobb. As recently as a few years ago, I vowed to be in Canton when Dan Marino was enshrined into the football Hall.
As have many of my stances, my position has changed quite a bit over time. MarinoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s big day came and went; I never even made the conscious decision that it was too much of an effort to make the trip from New Jersey. I spent a couple days in Springfield, Mass., for a prep basketball tournament last winter and declined to check out the Basketball Hall, though I drove by it several times. (It was really cold outside.)
The baseball Hall, in particular, seems more and more laughable to me, a morality-soaked tug of war between old school Murray Chass types and new-age Dave Cameron-ites. Omar Vizquel is probably going to make it to Cooperstown, while Barry Bonds probably wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
Plus, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gotten to know a few baseball Hall of Fame voters, and though some are sharp, by no means does that apply to all of them. One in particular, I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t rely on to vote on what I have for lunch. For the most part, I tend to laugh off most Hall of Fame debates Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t involve Bonds Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as the harmless rantings of fans, and fans with press passes.
After the Yankees won the World Series on Wednesday night, Alex Rodriguez spent some time gleefully saying that he was now Ã¢â‚¬Å“just one of the guys.Ã¢â‚¬Â That he had earned his pinstripes, so to speak.
This, to me, is wishful thinking on A-RodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s part. His salary, his very public personal life, hisÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ interestingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ personality Ã¢â‚¬â€œ none of these dictates someone who will simply blend in.
So if heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not that, what exactly has he become?
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always thought that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an inherent loneliness that comes with preternatural talent.
Reflecting on the great moments one can produce with sheer physical or mental genius can be like walking through a hall of mirrors, fated to see endless glimpses of moments in time that can never be recaptured except through still or moving images.
When I look at Michael Jordan, I see a man trapped by his own greatness. The man was like Icarus; he reached heights unlike those reached by anyone else, but the problem with tasting a nectar that sweet is that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s difficult to put up the rest of your life by comparison.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve long been fascinated by JordanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ascent from mere mortal to demigod. Over time, as his talents and accomplishments grew, he metamorphosed from a high school kid to an NCAA championship hero, to a hotshot rookie to an NBA scoring leader, to an MVP to a champion Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and eventually to the greatest of all time. Not to mentionÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ a worldwide icon.
But at what cost to the manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s soul?
Suffice it to say, I look up to Michael Jordan. I have a poster with the words he speaks in that ad above hanging as the centerpiece of my living room Ã¢â‚¬â€œ along with a framed picture of the Twin Towers.
And I have my own perspective to share on the man as he enters the Hall of Fame. But not on 9/11. I believe they should have moved the induction out of respect for the remembrance of this day, but I guess eight years after the fact, maybe itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to just let this be something of just another day.
That said, I want to let the Piazza/9-11 post breathe up there. Look for my thoughts on Jordan sometime during or maybe after the weekend; Derek Jeter and Ichiro for their milestones, too. As great as all three athletes are, I personally still believe they should take a back seat today. Others agree with me; Mike Francesa on WFAN had Ari Fleischer on today and is mostly taking calls about 9/11.
So congratulations to Jordan, Jeter and Ichiro. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll get back to you guys in a few days.
Now IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not about to tell you brand new Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a great player. Of course he was. And I loved him growing up Ã¢â‚¬â€œ who didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t? He was a swashbuckling stolen base machine who referred to himself in the third person.
That said, if anyone is a better testament to selfishness, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to meet him. Rickey made it an art form.
Now, before any fans of the 45 teams Rickey played for jump down my throat, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll point out that in terms of sheer talent, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s up there with anyone. I feel like his talent might be overlooked just because he wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a prodigious slugger in an era where that was beginning to come into vogue. (Though his 297 home runs are nothing to sneeze at) Rickey had an outstanding eye at the plate. And you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t discount someone who had 130 steals in a season and 1,406 in his career.
Most impressively, as Joe Posnanski of SI correctly pointed out, Rickey not only was the all-time leader in runs scored Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the entire point of the sport Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but also in unintentional walks, demonstrating his remarkable ability to get on base and make something happen when he did.
But you also canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t discount that in his 130-steal season, Rickey was caught an astounding 42 times Ã¢â‚¬â€œ so his percentage in 172 attempts was 76%. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not terrible, but he still ran himself off the bases 42 times. Last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s MLB steals leader, the immortal Willy Taveras, stole 68 bases Ã¢â‚¬â€œ hardly 130 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but he was caught just 7 times (90%).
In that 1982 season, add up his hits, walks and HBP, take out his homers and triples (when he likely wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be stealing a base) and it comes to 247 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and he ran 172 times, 69% of the times he put himself on base. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll take out his two steals of home and the 19 times he stole multiple bases successively after getting on, and it still comes to 61%. (I admit, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an inexact science because it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t factor in getting on base via fielderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s choices, errors and things of that nature, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still telling)