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The Roger Maris discussion heats up

Aug 23, 2011, 10:00 AM EST

Roger Maris

George Vecsey wrote a column on Sunday — and follows up with a blog post today — about Roger Maris, his legacy and his Hall of Fame chances.  In both places Vecsey says that he would not vote for Maris for the Hall of Fame if he had the franchise (he doesn’t, because the New York Times does not allow its writers to vote). The blog post, however, features many reader comments in support of Maris for the Hall.

As I said last month, I’m sort of keeping track of this stuff because Maris will be up for consideration by the Veteran’s Committee this December.  I think the general shape of this coverage in the Times — “we really need to appreciate Maris’ accomplishments more in light of what happened in the 1990s and 2000s, but I’m not sure he’s a Hall of Famer — will be the dominant one.

I agree with Vecsey. My view is that Maris is decidedly not a Hall of Famer, because two really good seasons is not enough, even when one of them featured a significant record. His career is worthy of celebration, of course, but it’s not like it’s been lacking celebration, especially in recent years as folks have used his accomplishment to draw distinctions between the Steroid Era sluggers and those who came before.

Which is fine if illumination and understanding of these things go is all you’re interested in doing.  But if you take the next step and decide that he’s now Hall of Fame worthy because of that comparison, it seems to me you’re making a political argument (“take that, PED guys!”) as opposed to a genuine assessment of Maris’ Hall-worthiness.  That assessment was done for years and years prior to the Steroid Era and Maris was found lacking.  What has changed?

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Isn’t there plenty of mentions of Maris’s accomplishments in the Hall already? I haven’t been there so I am not sure, but I have read plenty and from what I understand, they have exhibits and memorabilia of his great season there so why does he also have to be put in the hall for his career too?

    He had a couple of Hall of Fame years, but he isn’t a Hall of Famer. Period.

    • phillysoulfan - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:23 AM

      Yes, Maris is all over the place, which is why I am shocked he does not have a plaque.

      • paperlions - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:41 AM

        Why are you shocked? He shouldn’t have a plaque.

    • nudeman - Aug 23, 2011 at 2:04 PM

      A solid all around ballplayer who caught lightning in a bottle one year; two straight MVPs. As much as I’d like to say he’s a HOFer (partially as a thumb in the eye to McGwire and other cheaters), I’d have to say “no”. Very good career, but not great.

      And btw, before we have a referendum on Maris, we should discuss Dale Murphy. Also 2 straight MVPs, 399 career HRs on lousy teams, great center fielder. Why is HE not in?

      • explodet - Aug 23, 2011 at 9:49 PM

        Because Dale Murphy fell off a cliff offensively at age 32. His Hall of Fame case is very similar to, but slightly weaker than, Andruw Jones’. And Jones isn’t a slam dunk HoFer either.

        (Personally, I’d vote for ‘em both, but Murphy is about as borderline as you can get.)

  2. stevejeltzjehricurl - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    Jose Canseco heard thirdhand rumors from a guy who once served a drink to George Steinbrenner’s drycleaner, and that guy said that Maris used PEDs, specifically caffeine and other chemicals. I don’t see how we can vote him into the Hall of Fame under those circumstances.

  3. yankeesfanlen - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    If Moose Skowron isn’t in the Hall, how the hell could you put Maris in?

    • proudlycanadian - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:40 AM

      Joe Carter is not in the Hall Of Fame either. Not enough votes from Philadelphia I assume.

      • Alex K - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:49 AM

        You mean Joe Carter with

        .259/.306/.464
        396 HR
        105 career OPS+
        .336 career wOBA

        He shouldn’t sniff the Hall.

      • The Baseball Idiot - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:51 AM

        Yeah, Alex, because it’s all about the numbers.

        Ozzie Smith had worse numbers than that. So did Bill Mazeroski.

        Are they out?

      • stevejeltzjehricurl - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:06 AM

        It’s not just about the numbers, but are you really going to compare Joe Carter to two guys who are pretty much universally regarded as the best defensive players ever at their positions (positions which are defensively slightly more relevant than Carter’s corner outfield position) and say their inclusion means we need to consider Carter for the Hall?

        Joe Carter was a fine player, a world champion, and a class act. He’s not a Hall of Famer.

      • Alex K - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM

        Carter:

        .259/.306/.464
        396 HR
        105 career OPS+
        .336 career wOBA
        22.2 fWAR

        Smith:

        .262/.337/.328
        28 HR
        87 OPS+
        .327 wOBA
        70.3 fWAR
        Most likely the best defensive shortstop of all time, deserves the HOF honor because of that.

        Mazeroski:

        .260/.299/.367
        138 HR
        84 OPS+
        .293 wOBA
        39.5 fWAR
        Shouldn’t have sniffed the HOF. Veterans Committiee clearly made a mistake.

      • Alex K - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:11 AM

        Basically what I’m saying is, Joe Carter was not good enough to make the HOF. Neither was Mazeroski, but you can’t take people out. Ozzie Smith was clearly good enough, methinks you need to have a better examples.

      • The Baseball Idiot - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:12 AM

        How do we know that Smith and Mazeroski were two of the greatest fielders of all time?

        This site tends towards the sabermetric more than the traditional, and even saberists admit you can’t accurately reflect defensive stats to say who is good or bad with a great degree of accuracy.

        Gold Gloves? An arbitrary award voted on by popularity. Why not let Juan Gonazles in with his two MVP’s and Bret Saberhagen with his two Cy Youngs?

        Reputation? Doesn’t that go against your argument?

        I saw them play? Okay. Fine with me. I will state to the day I day that Frank White was the best second basemen I’ve ever seen play the game, and he was as good defensively as Mazeroski. When is his induction?

        Explain your criteria for how some players get in, and others don’t, based on numbers?

        I’m not being a smartass, I’m really curious.

      • Alex K - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:37 AM

        Defensive stats can tell who is good and bad with accuracy, just not for one year. So over the course of a career the numbers will normalize and you can tell who is good and who isn’t.

        The eye test showed everyone Ozzie was great and the numbers backed it up. Maz was also a great fielder, but not great enough to make up for his awful offense. Carter was neither a good enough hitter or fielder to even get consideration for the HOF.

        WAR is a good place to start (it’s not the be all end all, but a great start) when looking at numbers to help determine if someone is worthy.

      • paperlions - Aug 23, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        You can look at basic defensive metrics and find no one that compares to Smith in terms of balls in play turned into outs, he had outrageous numbers of assists that no one else has ever come close to.

      • thefalcon123 - Aug 23, 2011 at 1:16 PM

        @The Baseball Idiot

        …so it’s not just a clever name!

      • nudeman - Aug 23, 2011 at 2:17 PM

        Dale Murphy has been long overlooked.
        A crime.
        Had he played in NY as opposed to a 2nd rate market (sorry Atlanta), the NY media would have demanded the TriBorough bridge be named after him.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 23, 2011 at 2:39 PM

        I mentioned Joe Carter just so I could get a gentle dig in at the Phillies phans. He was a winner and I was glad that he was on my team. You could count on him to get 100 RBI’s a season. If you needed that go ahead run, he would do what was necessary to bring the runner on base home even if it ment that he had to hit a walk off home run in the World Series (with Ricky on base). Carter scored the final run in one World Series and was playing first base when he recorded the final out in another World Series. I salute him.

      • Alex K - Aug 23, 2011 at 3:41 PM

        PC- I realized that after I had posted Carter’s numbers. It then grew into something much bigger.

        And if my team needed the go ahead RBI with a guy on base I would want someone better than Joe Carter at the plate.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 23, 2011 at 5:09 PM

        Joe is a bit long in the tooth these days Alex, so I do not think that any current team would want him hitting with runners on base. The exception is that he could pinch hit for Adam Dunn any day.

      • Alex K - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:20 PM

        Well even in his prime I would want somebody besides, Mr. Carter.

    • thefalcon123 - Aug 23, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      If we put everyone in the hall of was better than the worst member, we’d have to put in Ray Lankford, Fred Lynn, Darrell Evans (who may belong anyway), Babe Herman, ect, ect, ect. I mean, a lot of guys were better than George Kell.

      • nolanwiffle - Aug 23, 2011 at 1:22 PM

        1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out! It’s “etc.” or “et cetera” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

      • thefalcon123 - Aug 23, 2011 at 1:37 PM

        You think you’re so smart just because you know how to read, don’t you?

      • nolanwiffle - Aug 23, 2011 at 2:48 PM

        Well sure….literacy is the cornerstone of a well-developed mind. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go knock back a bottle of cabernet and watch some cartoons.

    • killabri - Aug 23, 2011 at 6:15 PM

      Roger Maris had one of the greatest home run hitting seasons of all time, and is still the American League single season home run record holder. I believe that season is worthy of a display in the Hall of Fame.

      However, Roger Maris should never sniff the Hall as an official inductee. Roger Maris had a very nice major league career, and was a big piece of some world championship teams. What this does NOT make him, however, is worthy of Hall induction. If we start putting in guys with .260 career average, 275 home runs and 875 RBI (Maris’ career numbers), then you have turned the Hall into a joke frankly.

      Let’s remember Roger Maris for what he did, and the amazing season he had. Let’s also not disrespect the members of the Hall of Fame who earned their way there with far superior play.

  4. Joe - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    Maris isn’t remotely worthy of the Hall. If they put him in as a backlash to the steroids era, they might as well just lock the doors to the place.

    • phillysoulfan - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:24 AM

      agreed

  5. bleedgreen - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    Its called the Hall of FAME. Maris is famous. Its not called the Hall of the Elite, or Hall of the Best Players Ever. Its about FAME and Maris has it. Let him in.

    • phillysoulfan - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:26 AM

      No dude, this isn’t football. This is baseball. You can’t just be popular and get in. You have to EARN it. He has not. He should not be in. And nothing in his career has changed in the last 30 years to allow him to go in, which is why I think the VC won’t put him in

      • paperlions - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:44 AM

        You obviously know very little about the Football HOF, it is much harder to get into the NFL HOF (unless you are a QB) than into the Baseball HOF. There are many more obstacles to overcome, especially for players that played positions that don’t throw/carry/catch the ball.

        If you look at the list of HOF members for baseball and football….you will see many more clear non-HOFers in the baseball version than in the football version….and there is a much longer waiting list of deserving football players, than baseball players.

      • nolanwiffle - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:35 AM

        How then do explain Chuck Bednarik’s induction? (this oughta get ‘em going….good morning Philadelphia!)

    • stevejeltzjehricurl - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:29 AM

      And while we’re at it, let’s put in Debbie Allen, since she was in the cast of “Fame.”

      Based on this argument, we should put Jose Canseco in. Dave Kingman, too. Hell, you could make an argument that every big leaguer achives some level of “fame” simply by playing in the majors. Steve Jeltz for the Hall! He once hit homers from both sides of the plate in one game!

      • bleedgreen - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        These people are famous. Their stories should be told, as they all figure into the history of the game. So yes, I think they should be in the hall of fame. The HoF should tell a story of the history of the game of baseball, and it you leave out Canseco, or Maris, you do not get a complete picture of the history.

      • The Common Man - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:34 AM

        Ummm…a lot of the guys you mention are represented in the Hall of Fame by their memorabilia and in the exhibits wing. Also, their stories get told ad nauseum. Nobody has forgotten about Canseco, or Kingman, or Maris, or Kluszewski, or Haddix, or VanderMeer, or Merkle just because they aren’t honored with enshrinement. History is plenty complete without suggesting that any of those players belong in the same discussion with Ruth, Gehrig, Robinson, Aaron, and Mays as ranking among the greatest players in the game’s history.

      • southofheaven81 - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:37 AM

        When the average baseball-watching fan thinks ‘Roger Maris’, they think ‘huge baseball accomplishment.’ When they think ‘Jose Cansaeco’ they think ‘jackass fame whore.’ (or ‘steroids’ but I don’t think that’s as big a deal as many people). There is a difference.

      • The Common Man - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        Well, when I think of Roger Maris, I immediately remember how much better Mickey Mantle was in 1961, but that’s just me.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:34 AM

      Right, and since Deion Sanders is already in the Football Hall of Fame, let’s throw him into the Baseball Hall of Fame too.

    • Detroit Michael - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      The Hall’s selection criteria does not include fame.

      It might be called the Hall of Fame because players honored by the Hall should be remembered, i.e. should be famous, not because they were already famous before being honored by the Hall.

    • thefalcon123 - Aug 23, 2011 at 1:17 PM

      Totally agreed Bleed Green. We should put Kevin Costner in the Hall of Fame.

  6. The Baseball Idiot - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Two points about Hall of Fame nominees:

    “It’s my Hall of Fame, and I can have whomever the hell I want in it. So can you. Why is this even a matter of discussion?”

    “Lesser players do not cheapen the Hall of Fame. We over-idolize individuals in a team sport. Even the ’27 Yankees and ’75 Reds had utility infielders.”

    If enough people vote for Maris to go in, then he belongs. It’s that simple.

  7. theonlynolan - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    I agree with almost everything you wrote but Hack Wilson is in the Hall of Fame for his 191 RBI season and not much else. He was a good ballplayer but a few great years and a major record got him into Cooperstown.

    • The Common Man - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      As is Jack Chesbro for his 40 win season in 1904. Those were both terrible decisions by the HOF voters, and ones I hope they don’t repeat with Maris.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:44 AM

      Wilson hit .307 for his career. That’s pretty good.

      I wonder why he didn’t get ANY votes at all the year he knocked in 191(1931). Was he blackballed that year or something?

      • The Common Man - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM

        There was no MVP award in either league in 1930 after the American and National Leagues stopped awarding theirs. The BBWAA award was established in 1931.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 23, 2011 at 12:45 PM

        Oh OK…I get it…they SKIPPED 1930. I didn’t notice that…thanks.

    • thefalcon123 - Aug 23, 2011 at 1:20 PM

      I don’t think Hack Wilson should be in the hall, but he was a bit more than a 1 year wonder. He had a 4 or 5 year span as the best offensive center fielder in the game and lead the league in home runs 4 times. He finished in the top 7 in WAR 5 straight years.

      My problem with Wilson and the hall is that he had a Hall of Fame peak….and nothing else.

  8. Glenn - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    No one seems to mention that Maris was a lucky product of being in the right place at the right time – a left-handed pull hitter in Yankee Stadium peaking in an expansion year when home run numbers went way up. That’s not a knock on the guy and he had a fine career, but if his pro-HOF supporters want to hang their hats on 61, it should be noted.

  9. tuftsb - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    Maris HOF vote totals – which happened in the blissful years before we talked about steroids and he was being measured against his purportedly “clean” peers – never topped 50%.

    His addition by the Veteran’s Committee is merely the enshrining of a player that deserves mention – not a plaque.

    For once, the writers were correct.

  10. lardin - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    What everyone needs to recognize is there is difference between being in the Hall of fame and being a Hall of FameR. Roger Maris is in the Hall of fame. He won back to back MVPs. He broke one of the most celebrated records in all of sports. He was class act. He is celebrated throughout the HOF. He is NOT a Hall of Famer. Whats the difference? A Hall of FameR gets a bronze plaque, in a room, with in the Hall of fame.

  11. southofheaven81 - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    I’m sorry, but Maris TOTALLY deserves to be in. It’s called the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of Statistics. He did something that was considered impossible at the time, and completely shook up the baseball world in the process. The Sex Pistols did the same thing with 1 album and got in the Rock & Roll HoF, Maris should be in for baseball. End of rant.

    • lardin - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:34 AM

      And he is a prominent member of the Hall of Fame, There are exhibits glorifying his ability. But he is not a Hall of FAMER. He does not deserve a bronze plaque.

      • The Common Man - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:36 AM

        Amen. If famousness is all that’s required, Steve Garvey, Mark Fydrich, and Marv Throneberry should be inducted immediately.

      • rhandome - Aug 23, 2011 at 4:20 PM

        Edgar Renteria has not one, but TWO World Series-winning hits. If that doesn’t make him FAMOUS then what does? Put Edgar in the Hall, pronto!

    • tuftsb - Aug 23, 2011 at 12:18 PM

      and until the Moody Blues are indcuted, the R&R HOF is not on my “to do” list on a visit in Cleveland.

      Craig – when you think rock and roll, do you immediately think “Cleveland”?

      • nolanwiffle - Aug 23, 2011 at 12:44 PM

        That place is a shamockery until the day Lowell George and/or Little Feat is inducted.

  12. Old Gator - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    I don’t believe that Maris deserves a plaque, but I do think he should be represented as the one genuine holder of the single season home run record.

    And, if there were a hall of fame for assholes, I’d enshrine most of the New York sports press of Maris’ day in it for behaving like a liquored-up lynch mob towards him.

    • rhandome - Aug 23, 2011 at 4:24 PM

      Wrong. It’s Barry Bonds, period. Steroids do not make you a home run hitter.

  13. thefalcon123 - Aug 23, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    Everyone has their own bottom line on who they feel is a HOFer and who isn’t. Most people would agree that their opinion of a HOFer is a player who was very good for a number of years. By this standard, Maris is not a hall of famer. He only played for 11 seasons and only topped 500 PA’s in five of those seasons.

    The players who career numbers are most comparable to Maris aren’t hall of famers. Instead, Maris’ most similiar players are Bob Allison, Hank Sauer, Jay Buhner and Jesse Barfield. They were all very fine ball playes. But all good ball players that virtually no one would consider for the hall of fame (collectively, they nabbed a whopping total of 5 hall of fame votes).

    If I tried to tell someone that I supported the hall candidacy of a player who had 3 30 home run seasons (one with more than 50). 3 100 RBI seasons, topped a .900 OPS twice, hit .260 for his career, was an above average but not great corner outfielder, knocked in and scored fewer than 1000 runs in his career, hit .217 for his career in the psotseason…why…I’d be laughed out of the room!

  14. 1historian - Aug 23, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    Old Gator – GOOD ONE! ‘Hall of fame for assholes’ – outstanding

    Let’s make it official – HOFA

  15. halfthemoney - Aug 23, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    I don’t think Mr. Maris is a good candidate for the HOF, especially in light of all that’s occurred since he retired from the game. What I would ask for many making comments on here about players in the HOF that don’t compare to many in recent times is place it in historical perspective. When Hack Wilson was eligible think of how many players there were to compare him to at that time. When he retired his accomplishments were, to be honest, still a bit larger than life. He also did not have to contend with a million semi-computer literate googlists dissecting his career (no offense intended as I am one). Bert Blyleven struggled to get in and made it in part due to a robust internet campaign that used both “old school” and sabermetrics.

    My main point is be careful comparing some of the “old” stats to new stats. There have been thousands upon thousands of careers and what was phenomenal 75 yrs ago ain’t as impressive now.

  16. royalsfaninfargo - Aug 23, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    If you want to really piss someone who lives in Fargo, ND (Roger Maris’s hometown) off tell them he doesnt belong in the HoF. He was a good player, but not a HoFer. This town is covered in Roger Maris stuff. There are actual billboards up on Main Ave. that have his pic and a message that says “Fargo’s own Roger Maris: The legitimate home run king”, no BS. There is a Roger Maris Cancer Center at one of the hospitals, a Roger Maris wing at the local mall complete with all kinds of memorabilia, Roger Maris Way is a street, a Roger Maris Celebrity golf tourney, and his gravesite is a tourist attraction for those who cant get enough.
    Like I said, he was a good ballplayer who has one huge accomplishment not a HoFer. Besides if he made it in they would probably re-name this town to “Maris” or something corny like that!

    • thefalcon123 - Aug 23, 2011 at 4:51 PM

      I’m still waiting for the town of Columbia, Missouri to begin celebrating Phil Bradly in that fashion.

      • royalsfaninfargo - Aug 23, 2011 at 5:25 PM

        Bradley was a great 2 sport star for the Tigers and had a decent pro career in baseball. I am from KC and grew up there so I remember Bradley quite well.

  17. offseasonblues - Aug 23, 2011 at 6:12 PM

    Count me with those who distinguish between fame and stats. And with OG for his comments about the NY press in 1961. I was old enough to read and I was horrified, even though Mantle was my idol.

    Roger Maris broke the 34 year old record of one of the greatest players ever, set one that stood for another 37 years (or still stands depending on your opinion), and did it under extreme conditions.
    I know his career numbers weren’t good enough, but his 1961 season stands alone in baseball history, and it was a lot more meaningful to the game than the careers of some of the players whose names I’ve forgotten because their great numbers had no context.

    My solution is two halls: a hall of fame and a hall of stats. (I’m not opposed to a third one for the assholes). The stats hall could have some clear standards with a little wiggle room to allow for good debates – and no character clause. The fame hall would be totally subjective.

    I know that will never happen, so I say Roger earned his plaque in a slightly different way than Mickey did, be he did earn it.

    • Alex K - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:24 PM

      No he didn’t. He had a couple great years, and a lot of mediocre ones.

  18. nlfan865 - Aug 23, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    ok so with all your theories on stats and celebrity being reasons to get into the HOF or not…what about Pete Rose…cant believe no one has brought this name up….i swear the day they elect Bud Selig into the HOF is the day i take my own life…we should let Pete in and let his example to the game speak for itself

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 23, 2011 at 7:09 PM

      What example? How being an idiot and breaking the one rule that’s expressly banned in baseball? A shining example on how to lie for a number of years, and then profit off that lie by selling a book where you outline the truth?

      With that kind of background, he should go play with the pros and run for Congress.

    • Alex K - Aug 23, 2011 at 10:26 PM

      I hope you don’t mean that about Selig, because he is about as much of a lock for the HOF as anyone currently not enshrined.

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