Here’s to the winners, but…

January 25, 2018 · 0 comments

Congrats to the newest members of the Hall of Fame: Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Vladimir Guerrero, and Jim Thome. As the headline from the article posted on the Hall’s official website says, let them savor the moment.

Image result for chipper jones, ballplayerJones, who spent his entire career with the Atlanta Braves (and most of those torturing my Mets), came out with Ballplayer last year (did that have any influence on the voting?). No doubt his election will give sales a real boost (as of this posting, it was the No. 1 best-seller in the baseball biography department). None of the others have had adult books written about or by them. That might change. If it does, you know it will be sooner rather than later.

At 16, Bryce Harper was a super-prospect better than A-Rod or Ken Griffey Jr. at the same age. Eight years later, Harper's baseball career is right on track. Through five years on the Nationals, he's been an All-Star four times and won an MVP. With all due respect, I don’t know if I would be that interested in reading about any of them. Perhaps Guerrero, but that’s only because he played for my second-favorite team, the Expos. There just doesn’t seem to be the same sense of accomplishment that there was for players like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, etc. I don’t see the same dramatic story in any of these new fine athletes. And I think, with some exceptions, that will be the norm for contemporary players who are lucky enough to be enshrined in years to come. Many of them will not have had to overcome poverty, prejudice, sickness, or other forms of adversity. I would further venture to say that many of them will be like Bryce Harper — himself the subject of several books by the time he turned 25; they will have enjoyed the experiences of growing up playing on elite travel teams, receiving expert coaching (and hype; he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old and there’s talk of him becoming the first $30-million-a-year player), on their way to inevitable success.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. It hard to conceive of players I watched after I was an innocent child becoming Hall of Famers. The comparison with their baseball forebears may there statistically, but not narratively. And even the numbers might not be quite right anymore. I haven’t finished Keith Law’s Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball yet, but as the subtitle says, maybe the stats we grew up worshiping are not true indicators of worthiness. That and the way we engage with them through the media. No doubt the heroes of the game in Ruth’s era had the benefit of sportswriters’ flowery phrasing which may or may not have inflated their accomplishments and that are just not duplicated today, all due respect to the fine writers out there.

So add Ballplayer and subsequent books about the rest of this year’s quartet to my previous entries regarding books about Hall of Famers. And mazel tov, gentlemen.

 

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