Thoughts on Henderson and Rice and the Hall of Fame

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Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were inducted into the Hall of Fame
yesterday. A lot of folks were either hoping or expecting that Rickey
would say something silly or arrogant or what have you, but that was
always going to be a longshot. While never one to suffer from
self-esteem problems, it’s been close to 20 years since Rickey has been
the hot dog in the Oakleys we all remember, and anyone who watched and
listened to him carefully as his career wound down knows that he
(eventually) grew into a rather mature player with a sense of history
and even, dare I say it, humility about him. I mean, how can you not be
humble when you play in the independent leagues in your 40s like
Henderson did?

Anyway, I thought his speech
was very genuine and, at least on the Rickey scale, quite appropriate
to the occasion. Indeed, given the man Henderson seems to have become,
an instance of true “Rickeyspeak” probably would have seemed forced and
wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun as a lot of commentators are
snarking about today. I especially thought his nod to Billy Martin —
“Mr. Billy Martin always got the most out of me. I miss you very much,
and I wish you were here with me today” — was quite nice.

What can you say about Jim Rice? For a couple of years a lot of folks
have been saying that he wasn’t truly Hall of Fame worthy. Bill James
called him “the most overrated player in the past 20 years” when he
wrote his “Historical Baseball Abstract
in the late 1980s. I tend to agree with that assessment, but it’s
probably not worth getting all worked up about. His worthiness, or lack
thereof, is a function of what any given person thinks the Hall of Fame
is all about. If it’s truly about “fame” he’s a fine choice, as anyone
who is around my age certainly grew up with him being talked about as
one of the best players in the game, rightly or wrongly so. If you’re
more into the whole Hall of Merit thing, well, he probably doesn’t belong there.

That argument is irrelevant now, of course, as he now and forever will be Jim Rice: Hall of Famer. As for his speech:
Pretty much par for the course as these things go. An argument could be
made that he showed less humility than Henderson, but I don’t feel too
strongly about making it. I did not know that his real name is Ed, so I
guess you really do learn something new every day.

Overall, the best speech of the day came not from a player, but from
a player’s daughter, as Judy Gordon, daughter of Veteran’s Committee
inductee Joe Gordon, said her father “insisted against having a
funeral, and as such, we consider Cooperstown and the National Baseball
Hall of Fame as his final resting place.”

That statement struck me just the right way yesterday. It seems so
spot on. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Cooperstown, but when I
was there as a kid, I got the same feeling I get when walking around an
old graveyard. I mean that in the best of ways, mind you — I love old
graveyards. The dead seem to speak there, and if the setting is
pleasing — as Cooperstown certainly is — you can’t help but feel good
about humanity as you tread about and think about those who came and
went before.

Jose Altuve and Corey Kluber head list of Esurance MLB Award winners

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The 2017 MLB award season officially drew to a close on Friday with the Esurance MLB Awards, handed out to the best hitters, pitchers, front office members and moments in the 2017 season. Jose Altuve was crowned the Best Major Leaguer overall, beating out fellow finalists Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, while two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber took home honors as Best Pitcher.

Here’s the full list of winners:

  • Best Rookie: Aaron Judge
  • Best Defensive Player: Nolan Arenado
  • Personality of the Year: Adrian Beltre
  • Best Postseason Major Leaguer: Jose Altuve and Justin Verlander
  • Best Postseason Moment: Alex Bregman‘s 10th inning walk-off single in Game 5 of the World Series (video)
  • Best TV/Radio Call: Joe Buck and John Smoltz call Jose Altuve’s game-tying three-run blast in Game 5 of the World Series (video)
  • Best Play (Offense): Nolan Arenado completes the cycle with a walk-off homer (video)
  • Best Play (Defense): Austin Jackson‘s over-the-wall catch in the Red Sox’ bullpen (video)
  • Best Single-Game Performance: Anthony Rendon‘s six-hit, three-homer, 10-RBI game (video)
  • Best Player-Fan Interaction: Joey Votto gives Walter “Superbubz” Herbert a bat and jersey (video)
  • Best Fan Catch: Fan’s brother-in-law grabs Yasiel Puig home run ball and chucks it back on the field (video)
  • Best Manager: A.J. Hinch
  • Best Executive: Jeff Luhnow

No surprises here — the world champion Astros ran away with seven awards, including those for Best Manger and Executive and a dual award for Best Major Leaguer of the Postseason. Altuve added to an impressive run this offseason after earning a Silver Slugger, two Players Choice Awards, Hank Aaron Award and MVP Award for his outstanding work in 2017, while Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge continued to be a lock for all AL rookie-based awards after locking down the Rookie of the Year title earlier this week.