I have very mixed feelings about seeing Bill Mazeroski elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I don’t wish to insult Mr. Mazeroski, or to diminish the skills it takes to be a quality major league second baseman, but…
Does ANY .260 hitter deserve to be a Hall of Famer, based on fielding alone?
If Mazeroski is deserving, why not Frank White? Why not Lou Whittaker? Heck, why not Horace Clarke (he batted .265 every year, and led the A.L. in assists 7 years in a row)?
Why not Willie Randolph or Bobby Grich? All of them were very good second basemen, and all had offensive numbers at LEAST as good as Mazeroski’s.
I’m NOT adamantly opposed to Mazeroski, and I DO understand the rationale behind his induction. The question is: is outstanding defense alone enough to make one a Hall of Famer? Mazeroski was a great player in one area only- is that enough?
I grant you, I could say the same of many guys who ARE in the Hall of Fame. Harmon Kilibrew and Ralph Kiner were utterly one-dimensional players, too. It just so happens the one thing they did well was hit home runs. Doing THAT one thing well will usually get you in (unless you’re Dave Kingman).
So, is it fair to say that Kilibrew and Mazeroski both deserve to get in, for excellence at exactly ONE phase of the game?
IF defense alone qualifies a player… well, Mark Belanger was DEFINITELY the best defensive player I’ve ever seen, at ANY position. Should that be enough to make Belanger a HAll of Famer? I’m inclined to say no, because his offensive numbers were pitiful. But I can’t see how Belanger is unqualified, if Mazeroski is qualified (after all, Belanger was brilliant at the most demanding position in baseball).
On one hand, I DO think defensive excellence ought to be rewarded… but I fear the election of Mazeroski simply means that a HOST of good-fielding .260 hitters will now start clamoring for induction. And that bothers me.
On a totally unrelated note, I don’t see ANY purpose for having a Veteran’s Committee at all. If you can’t get enough votes from the sportswriters, you simply shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.
At ONE time, the purpose of the Veterans’ Committee was to find long-forgotten players from the old days, players who’d been forgotten or unpublicized. Can ANYONE seriously claim that Bill Mazeroski was an unknown? Can ANYONE claim that Phil Rizzuto was underpublicized? Hardly.
MAYBE there are still some stars from the 1870s… or more likely, from the Negro Leagues, who still deserve some consideration. Otherwise, the Veterans’ Committee is completely unnecessary.
You’ve answered your own question as to how a .260 hitter gets into the Hall of Fame. The Veteran’s Committee. It’s time that this committee stop voting on players that have been considered by the Baseball Writers. The Veteran’s Committee should only be considering managers, executives, umpires, Negro leaguers, and players whose careers ended prior to the creation of the HOF.
That doesn’t mean a great defensive player doesn’t deserve to get into the Hall in spite of his mediocre batting average. But the the writers who have watched him everyday should be deciding that.
I guess this Maz was such a wizard on defense (turning 188 double plays in a season?!), that it affected the voting of this committee. The problem with honoring HR hitters and such is that eventually, especially at this day and age, you will have too many great ones. Seeing that this will be a trend, the voters may turn to the way players play defense as a factor in voting. The odds are now definitely good for Ozzie Smith.
I still wonder why Gil Hodges wasn’t so honored. Probably because he didn’t make an immortal or legendary play, such as a home run that ended the World Series. He did have that magical season in 1969 as manager of the Mets. At least three in the veteran’s committee did not vote for him. Hmm.
The problem with Willie Randolph and Lou Whittaker was that Ryne Sandburg, Joe Morgan and Robin Yount played the same time they did. Maz was considered the best shortstop in the NL.
You could make a long list of people who “statistically” do not belong in the Hall of Fame (list on request-I don’t have time to type it right now). Bill Mazeroski falls into the gray area between the truly great players and the ham-and-eggers that somehow squeaked in. He deserves to be in the Hall for one reason: he was a dependable, consistent second baseman (and how many times have you seen that said about ANY second baseman?) and he has a World Series ring for my beloved Pittsbugh Pirates. So there. I rest my case.
Pitchers are defensive players who are not generally known for offense. Lots of them in the Hall.
If you’ve got a player that is head and shoulders above anyone else who played that position and made a signifigant impact on his teams winning percentage, I see no reason to keep him out because he only hit .260.( I don’t know if Maz head and shoulders above anyone, I’m just making a point)
About the low average. Maybe he had a lot of clutch hits. Maybe he had a lot of sacrifices. Maybe he walked a lot. There is more to offense than HR’s and batting averages. Maybe a high OBP? The question is what kind of impact the player had. (again, I don’t know much about this player, other than the clutch homer)
About Kirk Gibson: He would not be considered just for the one homer(even though it was the most dramatic homer,possibly of all time). He was the NL MVP of 1988, the MVP of the ALCS in 1984 and the hero of World Series in both years. Without Kirk, neither team would have have even won their division.
Look. Baseball is a game of statistics. It’s easy to look at HR’s, RBI’s, Hits (Maz did get 2,000 hits). It’s not so easy to look at defense. How about 8 Golden Gloves? How about the baseball record for all time double plays turned? Even in football you have tackles, sacks (now), interceptions. In baseball it’s basically fielding percentage.
And How about possibly the greatest clutch hit in the history of baseball?
The man is widely considered to be **the GREATEST fielding 2nd baseman to EVER play the game! If that doesn’t justify an induction I don’t know what will.
And thedoorsrule1045, not only does he have a ring, he singlehandedly won that ring with his bottom of the ninth homerun in game 7, the first time a World Series was ever won on a homerun. For that alone he deserves to be in the hall, IMHO.
Ozzie Smith was a no-brainer Hall of Famer anyway, and would have been elected without Maz making it.
There are obvious superficial similarities between Ozzie and Maz, but Ozzie was way, way beyond Maz. Unlike Maz, he actually grew into being a very capable offensive player; he was a tremendous baserunner and learned to draw walks and get on base, so he was creating a pile of runs later in his career. Smith’s career was much longer and his peak was a lot higher; he was probably the greatest player in the National League in 1987.
A player shouldn’t be elected based on the number of “dimensions” he has, but on his overall greatness. Harmon Killebrew may have been one-dimensional (to be honest, he wasn’t, but that’s beside the point) but if you look at his career as a whole, he was a great player. Time to trot out the Keltner List:
This is a list, composed by Bill James, of questions you should ask of a Hall of Fame candidate. There’s no set number of right answers, it’s just a way to frame the discussion.
1. Was this player ever considered the best player in baseball, or the best player in his league?
A tough question, but in Maz’s case the answer is obviously no.
2. Was this player ever considered the best player in baseball, or in his league, at his position?
Mazeroski was obviously the best defensive second baseman in baseball (and probably all-time.) He was arguably the NL’s best second baseman in the late 50’s and early 60’s, at lest until Joe Morgan came along. His seven All-star games would suggest he was among the league’s elite, and the NL was not awash in star second basemen at the time. Charlie Neal was pretty good but not that good. Jim Gilliam was a much better hitter but was not a good defensive player and ended up playing third as much as second. So the answer here is yes.
3. Did this player have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Maz was obviously a key part of the 1960 World Championship, in the regular season as well as the World Series homer. One championship isn’t much but it’s not bad in an era of no divisional titles. Maz wasn’t a significant part of the 1971 team.
4. If this player was the best player on his team, could that team win the pennant?
I really don’t think so, and to my mind this is a big shot against Maz; if you look at him it’s honestly impossible to imagine him being the best player on a championship team. (To use the Ozzie Smith comparison again, Ozzie WAS the best player on a championship team, in 1987.) Most legitimate Hall of Famers pass this test. Maz doesn’t.
5. Are statistically similar players in the Hall of Fame?
The most-similar player to Mazeroski is Frank White, who actually is a really good comparison. White is not in. Whitaker, who is vaguely similar to Maz, didn’t even come close to induction. MAzeroski doesn’t have many good comparisons because of his defense, but the failure of White and Whitaker to get any consideration at all doesn’t really speak well for Maz.
To partially answer spooje, Mazeroski didn’t do anything well offensively. He didn’t have much power, didn’t draw walks, didn’t steal bases, didn’t hit for high averages. He was a poor hitter.
6. Was this player better than his statistics suggest?
Mazeroski was certainly better than his HITTING stats suggest. Obviously, we would not be considering him based on his hitting numbers; he was definitely an above-average ballplayer even though he was a poor hitter. His defensive statistics are otherworldly.
7. Was this player good enough to play regularly past his prime?
No. By the time Maz was 31 he’d lost all his power and his regular job, and was out of baseball not long afterwards. IIRC, he got hurt in 1969, so this might not be an entirely fair question.
8. Is this player the best player in the history of baseball who isn’t in the Hall of Fame? (A retroactive question in Maz’s case.) The best in baseball history at his position?
It’s pretty obvious to be that there are a lot of ballplayers greater than Bill Mazeroski who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, like Gary Carter or Ron Santo or Joe Torre or Tony Oliva or maybe three dozen other guys. To be fair to the VC, most of the player who are clearly better than Maz aren’t in their mandate yet (Carter, Rice, Torre, Simmons, etc.) but it’s pretty hard to explain why Bill Mazeroski is a Hall of Famer but Gary Carter isn’t.
To my mind this is a huge hole in the argument for Maz. You can’t logically justify voting for a player for the Hall of Fame if more qualified players are eligible for your vote. I cannot understand voting for Maz instead of Ron Santo or Ken Boyer; it’s senseless. MAYBE based on his being the best second baseman available to the VC, but there’s no logical reason to choose a second baseman now over a third baseman.
8. Did this player make any other significant contribution to baseball, or change it in any way?
I don’t think so.
Overall I think the case for Maz is ludicrously weak. He was an outstanding player, that’s for damned sure. He won many game for the Pirates because of his uber-brilliant defense. But he was NOT the best choice available, and that makes it a poor choice. I don’t believe his glove accounts for enough to offset his bat AND make him a Hall of Famer.
One small nitpick in an otherwise sterling post, RickJay. The argument can easily be made that Mazeroski was in fact a better hitter than his statistics suggest–he played his home games at Forbes Field, a definite pitcher’s park. Maz hit many more home runs on the road over his career than he did at home. Had he played in a more neutral park, one would easily expect his slugging percentage to be significantly higher. Not that this makes him a good hitter, by any means, but it should be pointed out.
That’s a good point I forgot to mention. Forbes reduced offense pretty substantially, so Maz’s hitting numbers aren’t quite as bad as they initially appear. They were still poor.
Two Keltner Questions I left off were “how many All-Star games did he appear in?” because I mentioned it anyway (seven, which is very good) and “How many MVP Awards did he win, or got close to?”
It’s instructive to note that Mazeroski got very little support in MVP voting. It’s interesting that a player being elected to the Hall of Fame was rarely regarded by a panel of sportswriters of that time as being even one of the league’s ten or fifteen best players in any given season - in fact, most years he didn’t get any votes at all (usually 20 players, at least, get at least one lousy tenth-place vote.) In 1958 he finished eighth in the voting, his best place. In 1960, when his team won the pennant, he did not get a single vote, but six teammates did, including the immortal Smokey Burgess. The only other year he got any votes at all was in 1996; 3 points. In EVERY YEAR Mazeroski was in the league, at least one other second baseman finished ahead of him in MVP voting except in 1958.
When Maz was playing, people didn’t seem to think he was a superstar.
Before continuing, I agree that Mazeroski probably doesn’t belong in the same company as Morgan, Frisch, Lajoie, et al. He just wasn’t as “great” a player as the other HOF 2B’s, however you define the term. True, he had his One Moment in Time in a World Series, but that should only have been the capstone of a stellar career, not the basis for induction by itself. If Mazeroski belongs, then arguably so do Larsen and Gibson by that accounting. But none of those people were or are considered inarguably among the vew best at their positions while they played, and that’s the 1 criterion I take most seriously.
That said, I do agree that HOF credentials are based too much on hitting and not enough on defense, even though the game depends equally on both. Yes, the HOF voters should consider good-field, no-hit players equally with good-hit, no field players, but they don’t. That may be perhaps largely because there are so many more numbers available to massage on the offensive side when trying to assemble a case, and they’re so easily misused. For instance, when comparing Mazeroski to Frank White, before going to the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, consider:
White played on Astroturf in KC. He never had to deal with a bad bounce at home. Even I would look better playing there than on a badly-maintained grass field. The plastic probably shortened his career, as it has many other athletes, through the pounding his knees took.
Mazeroski played when fielders’ gloves were substantially smaller than in White’s time or today, making it harder to field balls even when they bounced true.
Maybe I’m wrong, but my recollection is that the KC teams of the 70’s had a lot of ground-ball pitchers, while the 60’s Pirates could and did allow more fly balls. The effect of the Forbes Field distances on Mazeroski’s hitting has already had to be pointed out here.
Et cetera. None of that shows up clearly in any stats book. The point still is that you must look at numbers very suspiciously, or you’ll be misled almost every time.
Incidentally, be careful before you’re impressed with Mazeroski making 7 All-Star games. There were 2 of those per season during much of his career.
Although White’s still a very close comparison, I think most would agree that Mazeroski was still the better fielder. It’s rare that a player is so universally regarded as the greatest fielder ever at his position.
Maz actually made the All-Star team in seven different years: 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967.
Rickjay said, “It’s rare that a player is so universally regarded as the greatest fielder ever at his position.”
To me, that means, “Roll out the red carpet. It’s time to enter the Hall of Fame.” If the Hall isn’t about recognizing the best, I don’t know what it is about. I do understand that he wasn’t the best all around, but still …
The comments about how he lowly he was regarded during his playing career offered some food for thought, but I found them unpersuasive. People can get lost in the shuffle, overshadowed by flashier players and the fans’ hunger for offense. One of the nice things about time is that it gives you the chance to look at someone anew and recognize contributions that went unnoticed at the time.
I appreciate all the thoughtful, considered replies. I’m STILL not sold on Mazeroski as a Hall of Famer… but then, at this point, that’s like being unsure of the law of gravity. He IS a Hall of Famer, and that’s that. I’m neither angry nor heartbroken. He’s not a TERRIBLE choice. And yet…
For those of you who think Maz IS deserving, tell me this: do you consider Frank White a Hall of Famer? After all, White had 8 Gold Gloves, to Mazeroski’s 7. Their defensive stats are quite comparable. White, however, surpassed Mazeroski by a wide margin in every offensive category.
And what about Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich? Whitaker’s lifetime fielding average was actually a point HIGHER than Mazeroski’s, and his offensive numbers put Mazeroski’s to shame. Grich’s offensive numbers dwarfed Mazeroski’s, and Grich was no clouch in the field, either. His career fielding avergae was a point better than Mazeroski’s, AND he went through the entire 1973 season with only 5 errors!
I had a lot of respect for Grich, White and Whitaker, but I NEVER thought of ANY of them as a Hall of Fame candidate. With Mazeroski in… I don’t know, are THEY now deserving? Why or why not?
And, since it’s now established that brilliance in the field is sufficient to get one into the Hall, what about the following:
Mark Belanger. Greatest defensive shortstop I ever saw, easily. The anchor of a dominant A.L. team. Not much of a hitter (his ONLY offensive contribution was bunting), but a hell of a shortstop… and shortstop is the most important defensive position on the field. Is Belanger worthy?
Bill Freehan. A solid, productive hitter, but nothing spectaculr with the bat. Still, he was a perennial All-star and has the highest lifetime fielding average of any catcher in baseball history. Is Freehan worthy, on defense alone?
Ask most baseball experts to name the greatest defensive first baseman of all time, and the names you’ll hear are… #3- Gil Hodges (I never saw him), Keith Hernandez (I saw him often, and he WAS brilliant), and #1… Wes Parker (never saw him, either). If Wes Parker WAS the best defensive first baseman ever, is he worthy?
For good measure… what about Larry Bowa, Jim Kaat, or Ken Reitz?
I know, it’s BOUND to seem as if I’m bashing Mazeroski, and I genuinely regret that. I’m just trying to see how far people are willing to take the concept that defense alone can make you a Hall of Famer.
I only want to answer the above part of the argument. First basemen are not valued for their defense. If they were, Wes Parker would be in the Hall of Fame. But the guy was a mediocre hitter playing a position that normally demands a lot of power.
Mazeroski played a position that demanded good defense. He also played in an era of extremely depressed offense.
I think the Veterans Committee felt that Mazeroski’s defense was so much better than any other second baseman that it couldn’t be ignored.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a metric that satisfies everyone to demonstrate this.
As I recall, Brooks Robinson was a .268 hitter with slightly above average power, but not big slugger numbers. His main strength was defense as well.
Also, numbers can have a different meaning from era to era. A pitcher with a career ERA slightly below 4 in the 1950s and 1960s wouldn’t be likely to make the Hall, but someone with the same ERA today might be considered one of the dominant pitchers in the league. Maybe someone who could hit .260 or .270 back in the days when there were fewer teams would have much better stats with today’s smaller parks and the general lack of dominant pitching talent in the league. When you judge someone for the Hall of Fame, they need to be measured against the players of their era.