Monday, December 08, 2008

Sorry Ron, but You Don't Belong

I feel bad for Ron Santo. He obviously feels he merits inclusion in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, and every couple years he becomes Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. Today, the latest voting of the Veterans’ Committee was announced, and though this was again heralded as Santo’s “best chance yet,” of 48 votes needed from 64 voters—living members of the Hall—he fell 9 votes short.
With due respect for the 39 Hall of Famers—including many Santo contemporaries—who believe that he belongs in their company, I tend to agree with the 25 who don’t. Now, I say this never—at least at a conscious level—having seen Ron Santo play. So while I know he won 5 Gold Gloves, I don’t know how close he came to Brooks Robinson in the fielding department. But in analyzing his offensive statistics, he just doesn’t warrant selection.

He was a great player for several years, whose total of 342 home runs—which rank him 80th all-time—came in a non-steroid era against the likes of Koufax, Drysdale, Gibson and Maracial. But with 3 members of the 1960s Cubs—who never won anything—already in the Hall, the best justification for his getting in is that others who may be even less worthy are enshrined.

But in 1980, his first year of eligibility, Santo earned just 15 votes of 385 ballots cast by baseball writers who surely were familiar with his career first-hand. The fact that over the years, he’s come closer to getting in (lately via the Veterans Committee) while simultaneously becoming the symbol of unwavering exuberance in his role as a (terrible) Cubs radio announcer, and also has suffered the loss of both legs after a life-long battle with Type 1 Diabetes, doesn’t change his deservedness.

In my opinion, Hall of Famers should be obvious; if it takes 30+ years and myriad voting panelists to determine if you are one of the very best professional baseball players who has ever lived, well, it’s time to stop trying to kick the football from Lucy’s hold (not that Santo nominates himself; he just sets himself up for emotional devastation).

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