Only one week from today (Monday, January 12th), barring a totally unforeseen voting travesty, Rickey Henderson will finally be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There's been quite a few articles written lately by Hall voters, describing why they are voting the way that they are, with Rickey always considered automatic. But, even so, there will still be that one pesky voter who leaves him off the ballot (although I really hope that doesn't happen). If that is the case, I'd love to get an interview with the guy on the blog, and let him tell us why he voted the way that he did.
Being a numbers guy myself, my favorite of these articles (although it doesn't sound like he actually gets a vote himself) was written by Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated. I'm going to excerpt the most interesting segments below, but the whole article can be found here.
Unlike most posts on this blog, this post is entirely text, so if you're looking for pictures, you'll have to hold out until next time.
"OK, so that takes us to Rickey Henderson. You already know that Henderson holds the major league record for most stolen bases with 1,406 -- and that record isn't getting broken for a long, long time. You know who is the active leader in stolen bases? Juan Pierre. You know how many he has? Four hundred and twenty nine. The guy is about ONE THOUSAND stolen bases shy of Rickey. That stolen base record is mind-bogging."
"Rickey Henderson is utterly unique; if the Hall of Fame is supposed to represent the greatest players in baseball history, then there simply is not a plausible reason I can think of to NOT vote for Henderson. He's not the greatest left fielder in baseball history -- not with Williams and Bonds on the list -- but he IS the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history, and if you were putting together an all-time team you should probably find a way to have Rickey Henderson at the top of the lineup. I would love to hear explanations from those who will not vote for Rickey; you know, something other than the "Well nobody has ever been voted in unanimously" tripe."
Top 10 Unintentional Walks Leaders
1. Rickey Henderson, 2,129
2. Babe Ruth, 2,062
3. Ted Williams, 1,935
4. Barry Bonds, 1,870
5. Joe Morgan, 1,789
6. Mel Ott, 1,708
7. Yaz, 1,655
8. Mickey Mantle, 1,607
9. Eddie Yost, 1,599
10. Lou Gehrig, 1,508
Note: Intentional walks were not always tracked, so this reflects total walks for Ruth, Otto, and Gehrig.
Although Rickey trails Barry Bonds by 368 total walks, if you remove intentional walks from the equation, Rickey now holds the all-time record by 67 walks over Babe Ruth. Rickey had a total of 61 intentional walks in his career, while Bonds had 688, over ten times more.
"The unintentional walk obviously is a different weapon; it is earning a base that the other team did not want to give up. It can frustrate pitchers, it can change the tone of a game, and nobody ever drew more unintentional walks than Rickey.
And think about this: Pitchers REALLY did not want to walk Rickey, for all the obvious reasons. I mean, Ted Williams, sure, walking him often made sense; I suspect that most pitchers did not kick themselves for walking Ted Williams. But Rickey -- he was probably going to steal second on you, maybe steal third. Even if he didn't steal, he was going to create all sorts of tension. Nobody WANTED to walk Rickey Henderson."
And finally, my favorite statistic from the article, and one that is pretty hard to imagine:
"Rickey Henderson walked 796 times in his career LEADING OFF AN INNING. Think about this again. There would be nothing, absolutely nothing, a pitcher would want to avoid more than walking Rickey Henderson to lead off an inning. And yet he walked SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY SIX times to lead off an inning.
He walked more times just leading off an in inning than Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Luis Aparicio, Ernie Banks, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg and more than 50 other Hall of Famers walked in their entire careers."