January 11, 2006
John Molori's Media Blitz
BY: John Molori
- Fried Rice
Rice’s Hall snub should signal the end of media voting
On Tuesday, the 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees were announced. Actually, the inductee was announced. Bruce Sutter, the clutch Cub, Cardinal and Brave reliever, took his place among baseball’s immortals.
While Sutter deserves all the praise due him, sports talk pundits and radio callers in New England are forced to once again ponder the plight of Jim Rice, ex-Red Sox slugger, American League MVP, and the man who in 1978 was called "the most feared hitter in the game" by Baseball Digest.
Rice’s rebuff is, at best, comical, at worst, criminal. The prevailing opinion is that while Rice's numbers (382 HR, .298 BA, 1451 RBI in 16 seasons) are good enough for election, his frigid relationship with the media keeps him in the breakdown lane on immortality highway. The opinion is valid.
I am not a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. I am not the beat writer for any Major League Baseball team. My last name is not Gammons. Despite these facts, I am about to cast a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame. In the box next to the words, "Should the media vote for entry into the Hall of Fame?" my vote is a resounding NO.
On Tuesday night, Sportsradio WEEI’s Mike Adams examined the case of 2000 Hall of Fame inductee Tony Perez. The clutch-hitting first baseman for Cincinnati's Big Red Machine had stats (379 HR, .279 BA, 1652 RBI in 23 seasons) that hardly dwarf Rice's.
However, Perez happens to be one of the nicest men to ever spit in a dugout. The same could be said for 2005 inductee Ryne Sandberg (282 HR, .285 BA, 1061 RBI in 16 seasons). These guys make Richard Simmons look like Richard Speck.
It is wrong that Rice fails to make the cut because he wasn't some media boot-licker a la questionable Hall of Famer Gary Carter (324 HR, .262 BA, 1225 RBI in 19 seasons).
For much of the 20th century, baseball scribes viewed the game as a sacred idol to be worshipped and revered. They deified players, many of whom were womanizing, racist bums.
Legends were carved from feats of greatness on the field while off-field flaws were ignored. If Babe Ruth wanted to carouse, heck, he was the Babe. Let him be. If Ty Cobb hated African-Americans, heck, he was The Georgia Peach. Let him be.
A few years ago, a witless twit named John Rocker said some dumb things to an opportunistic writer and became Saddam Hussein with a jock strap.
Ex-Red Sox Carl Everett had an old-fashioned rhubarb with an umpire and WEEI's Craig Mustard lumped him into the same sentence with accused murderers Rae Carruth and O.J. Simpson. Clearly, times have changed, so should the voting process.
What if Rocker went on to save 500 games? Would he have been denied entrance into the Hall because he had a run-in with Sports Illustrated's Jeff Pearlman?
What if Carl Everett were to hit 400 home runs and knock in 1500 runs? Would he be banished from Cooperstown because he insulted Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy?
With Rocker and Everett, Hall of Fame discussion is mere fantasy, but for Jim Rice, it’s a cold reality. Simply put, the media has lost its perspective. It’s not about ability, but accessibility. Rice was never comfortable with the media and gained a reputation for being surly and silent.
About 10 years ago, Rice was to be a guest on a nationally syndicated sports show I hosted. I was filled with trepidation at the thought of trying to get three words out of this rumored bad guy.
During a lively interview, Rice told me that the reason for his reticence had nothing to do with hating reporters, but with keeping his secrets of success to himself. This same Jim Rice, supposedly an ogre to reporters, stayed an hour after our taping was done, just hanging in the studio talking baseball.
I believed the lie that Rice was an angry man until I actually had the chance to chat with him. I wonder how many reporters denied Rice a vote based on what they heard rather than what they know. Compared to some contemporary athlete-media run-ins, Rice looks like Leo Buscaglia.
Remember when Bobby Bonilla threatened reporters at his New York Mets locker? How about when Carl Everett bullied several Boston Globe reporters and coined the now famous “curly-haired boyfriend” moniker for Dan Shaughnessy?
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen is up for Hall of Fame induction next year. I sure hope none of the writers that Saberhagen once doused with bleach have a vote.
Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Kenny Rogers, all these players have had serious physical or verbal jousts with reporters. Jim Rice was merely aloof.
The talk this week was that 2006 would be Rice’s year. With only Sutter and perhaps Rich Gossage and Andre Dawson as competition, surely the media tide would turn for Rice.
Moreover, given the current steroid scandal and the accompanying raised eyebrow cast on today’s power numbers, the ultra-clean Rice would surely benefit. Wrong. Media bias is much stronger than fact.
The relationship between the press and the players has become too antagonistic for fair voting to reign. How would sports reporters feel about players voting for media industry honors? There are no concrete criteria for induction. Media participation only serves to further cloud the waters.
Sean McAdam is a perfect example. The Providence Journal and ESPN.com writer did cast a vote for Rice this year, but didn’t do so in the past. This seems ludicrous. The excuse is that, in the past, there was better competition around Rice. Please.
Other eligible players should have no bearing on the career of Rice. If he felt that Rice was not a Hall of Famer in past years, McAdam should not have voted for him this year. Conversely, if Rice was worthy of McAdam’s support in 2006, then shame on McAdam for not casting a vote for Rice in previous years.
The answer, echoed by Adams on Tuesday night, is simple. A blue ribbon committee of current Hall of Fame coaches and players should conduct Hall of Fame voting. Bias will always exist to some extent, but at least the petty jealousy and bitterness of the media will be eliminated.
True professional honors come from one’s peers. Jim Rice’s peers held bats, not tape recorders.
Resentful feelings reside in all members of the media, but when they influence something as important as the Hall of Fame, it's wrong. Writers and reporters hold grudges. Their opinions are subjective and based on their own experiences collectively and individually.
It’s time for the Hall of Fame to end the media’s undeserved monopoly on immortality. Until it does, the game of baseball and its Cooperstown shrine will remain more hollow than hallowed.
On Wednesday, Ron Borges will be in studio with ESPN Radio AM 890 “The Drive” host Mike Felger from 5-7:00 p.m. At 6:25 p.m., Kevin Winter has a taped interview with Theo Epstein … Thursday on ESPN Radio, ex-WEEI midday host Bob Neumeier makes his return to Boston sports radio alongside Felger from 5-7:00 p.m.
John Molori’s columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Wee kly, The Providence Journal, Boston Spo rts Review, New England Hockey Journal, New England Ringside Magazine, TheRemyReport.com, ColdHardFootballFacts.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and BostonSportz.com. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.
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