I never thought of him as a 'high road' guy - instead, a very arrogant, impressed with himself guy. Will he get in this year? Should he?Another pitch for Jim Rice
by TOM CARON
January 6, 2009
AVERAGE: .298; Rice would rank 11th of 16 left fielders in the Hall
HOME RUNS: 382; Rice would rank 16th out of 60 outfielders in the Hall
RBI: 1,451; Rice would rank 33rd of the 147 players in the Hall
Over the course of his 16-year career, Jim Rice caused a lot of sleepless nights for pitchers in the American League. This week, Rice will once again be facing a few sleepless nights as he awaits word on whether or not he has made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He came within 16 votes of making it last year, and no player has come that close without eventually being inducted. This year's class will be announced Monday.
Rice was a hulking, stoic presence as a player, and he has remained silent through his near misses as a potential Hall of Famer. That's the reason so many people have lobbied for him.
We did it a year ago in this column and we're doing it again, even if the voters have sent in their ballots.
Obviously, I am biased, having worked alongside him in the NESN studio for the last five years. But this is not about my friendship with Rice. This is about justice being served and one of the most feared hitters of the 1980s getting his rightful place among the game's greats.
This is Rice's final year on the ballot. It's also the smallest ballot in history. Other than Rickey Henderson, there isn't a surefire Hall of Famer among the newcomers.
Rice, an eight-time All-Star, won the American League MVP award in 1978 and finished in the top five in voting five other times.
Red Sox historian **** Bresciani and baseball writer Bill Chuck have made the most compelling cases for Rice's Hall of Fame credentials. In their statistical arguments, they point out that Rice's career batting average of .298 would rank 11th among the 16 left fielders in the Hall; his home run total (382) would rank 16th out of 60 outfielders, and his RBI total (1,451) would put him 33rd of the 147 players in the Hall.
And numbers don't do justice to the man who wore number 14. For a solid 10 years, there was no more potent right-handed hitter in the game. He was the clean-up hitter pitchers feared, a man who fundamentally changed the opposing team's strategy.
Had he been healthy in October of 1975, the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds might have had a different outcome.
One of the arguments against Rice over the years has been he did not reach the milestone of 400 home runs. That's ridiculous. He came up 18 homers short. Two more seasons at nine home runs a year does not make the difference in a career.
The other problem for Rice and other power hitters of the 1980s (Andre Dawson is also on the ballot and has come up short) is they have seen their offensive totals overshadowed by the inflated numbers of the past 15 years. Now we understand it wasn't just the totals that were inflated. The modern ballplayers also were puffed up like steroid-stuffed balloons.
Rice came by his numbers the old-fashioned way. He worked tirelessly at his craft in a time when players didn't use video or spend the entire offseason in the weight room.
Rice continues to take the high road and refuses to campaign for his seat among the game's greatest players. It's time for the Hall's voters to take the right road and put him there.
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