I apologize in advance for the length of this rant (and the abundance of text), but I've just got to get it out. I've been waiting for this moment for awhile now, as I knew it would be inevitable, but it still has me all riled up. Through the wonders of Google Alerts, I've been following everything Rickey Henderson related, especially articles by sportswriters who've disclosed their votes for this years National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. Rickey has been listed on every one of those ballots, until today that is.
One of the Alerts this morning was an article by Rob Neyer of ESPN titled "No Hall of Fame Vote for Rickey...Why?" It was obvious that someone had publicly announced that they had left Rickey off of their Hall of Fame ballot. That someone was Corky Simpson of the Green Valley News & Sun in Arizona. Corky wrote an article back on December 9 which announced who he had voted for. That shows you how small of a paper the GVN&S is, since it took almost a month for anyone in the mainstream media to actually notice.
Mr. Simpson voted to induct eight ballplayers into the Hall of Fame (Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Tim Raines, Jim Rice, Alan Trammell, and Matt Willilams), but Rickey was inexplicably absent for the list (and barely even warranted a mention).
It's Tim Raines' name that really sticks out from that list, considering the logical comparisons that arise between himself and Rickey. In explaining his vote for Raines he says he was a 7-time all-star outfielder, 1986 NL batting champion, and 4 time base-stealing champ. Rickey was a 10-time all-star outfielder, won the AL MVP award in 1990 (he was runner up for the batting title, 4 points behind Hall of Famer George Brett), and was the stolen base champion 12 times (including every year from 1980-1991 except 1987).
My first thought when I saw his ballot, was that he was one of the sportswriters who just refused to vote for anyone on the ballot for the first time. Ever since the first Hall of Fame induction class, when neither Ruth, Cobb, or Honus Wagner were inducted unanimously, future voters felt that no one else should receive 100% of the vote (Tom Seaver has come the closest, missing only 5 votes in 1992).
But, this is not the case with Mr. Simpson, as he voted for Matt Williams, who is also on the ballot for the first time. In describing Williams, he says, "Nobody ever played the game with more intensity, nor with more reverence for the sport. He was the inspirational leader of the 2001 World Series champion D’backs."
This is notable for two reasons: 1) Williams was one of the long list of players named in the Mitchell Report, which doesn't sound like "reverence" to me, and 2) since when does being an "inspirational leader" garner someone induction into the Hall of Fame? Rickey was the ALCS MVP in 1989, during the A's eventually World Series victory over the Giants. He also hit .474 with an OBP over .500 in the World Series itself, providing much more than "emotional" support for his team.
Rickey is finally mentioned by Mr. Simpson, as almost an afterthought at the end of his article. After discussing his regret over not being able to vote for Mark McGwire due to his steroid implications (ignoring the fact that Matt Williams was implicated as well), he includes a paragraph of players who "may well be voted into the Hall of Fame."
"Others honored with nomination this year and who may well be voted into the Hall of Fame, include Harold Baines, Jay Bell, David Cone, Ron Gant, Mark Grace, Rickey Henderson, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Jesse Orosco, Dave Parker, Dan Plesac, Lee Smith, Greg Vaughn and Mo Vaughn."
There's a pretty good chance that most of these players (aside from possibly Mark Grace, Dale Murphy, and Lee Smith) will garner enough votes to even remain on the ballot this year, let alone enough to actually be inducted. Leaving Rickey's name off his ballot, and relegated to a list of "others" is incomprehensible, and I'd love to hear an explanation of Mr. Simpsons' rationale for voting the way that he did.
Mr. Simpson is a lifetime honorary member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which means he gets to vote for Hall of Fame inductees for the rest of his life. I now hope that at least one other sportswriter leaves Rickey off the ballot, so that Corky is not the only one who kept Rickey from being the first unanimous selection in the history of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.