Hall voters must debate induction status of DH

Posted Jan. 10, 2010, at 11:26 p.m.

The official qualifications for a player are “the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Andre Dawson met those qualifications this week in the voting by writers for entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Designated hitter Edgar Martinez did not. He received 36.2 percent of the required 75 percent of votes necessary. That was 195 out of 405 voting.

That will continue the discussion on the merits of electing a player whose career came as a designated hitter.

This was the first time Martinez appeared on the ballot. He will be eligible to appear on the ballot again and again, up to 15 times, so long as he receives 5 percent of the vote in the previous year.

This could be a long discussion.

All agree that Martinez was the epitome of the DH. In fact, the DH award is named after him.

He hit .312, with a .418 on base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. Only 20 players have reached that plateau in all three categories. Is that enough?

What does “playing ability” mean for a position player in the qualification language? Is it about the ability to hit, hit for power, field, run and throw — the standard five-tool definition of a player?

Or, are DHs more aligned with pitchers in that there is a specific task they are asked to perform and if one performs that task better than anyone else, he is a Hall of Famer?

Hall member Joe Morgan and I have discussed this often. At first Morgan believed the former, but after some discussion he came to the conclusion that if the game had created a DH role and a player performed that task to Hall heights, that should be enough.

Some believe the Hall is a place reserved for those where there is no question of their belonging. When one says Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Cy Young, there is no discussion.

They so excelled in the game and exceeded the performances of not only those who played in their time, but for all time, that there presence in the Hall is obvious.

Should the Hall be reserved for just those?

It is not now. There is a pattern in the writers’ voting where if a player does not get in the first year but receives significant support, it is just a matter of time before the votes will accumulate over the years.

Some have asked if a player is not a Hall of Fame member the first time around and nothing changes in preceding years, how can you be elected?

Andre Dawson received only 45.3 percent of the vote the first time around. Jim Rice received 29.8 percent and Don Drysdale garnered 21 percent the first time their names appeared on the ballot.

All went on to be elected.

Baseball has always been about discussions and disagreements, from who was better at this or that, to second guessing every decision ever made on the diamond. It is part of the beauty of the game.

The Hall of Fame discussion fits right in.

bdnsports@bangordailynews.net

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