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Doug Wolter: 'The Cat' gets in the Hall, fair or not

My friend in The Globe newsroom, Karl Evers-Hillstrom, and I have decided a long time ago to avoid talking politics. You might want to take my advice and leave the subject alone during your family Christmas celebration, too, by the way.

My friend in The Globe newsroom, Karl Evers-Hillstrom, and I have decided a long time ago to avoid talking politics. You might want to take my advice and leave the subject alone during your family Christmas celebration, too, by the way.

But it’s still acceptable these days to talk baseball, and to disagree on the subject of the Hall of Fame is good, clean fun.

I was told on Monday that Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. I disagreed with that assessment on the basis of steroid use, and I charged that Bonds is not in the same category as Babe Ruth despite what Karl says.

“Can you imagine,” said I, “what Ruth could have done had he taken steroids?”

Then I imagined some more. “And don’t think for a minute that he wouldn’t have taken them if they were available in his day.”

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Karl responded by saying that it’s a little unfair to judge players in the modern era the same way we judge their predecessors. And besides, Gaylord Perry cheated his entire career (with doctored baseballs) and nobody ever questioned Perry’s inclusion in the Hall.

Which brings us to 2017.

On Sunday, something called the Modern Era Committee met to vote on 10 HOF candidates: Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and union leader Marvin Miller. I don’t really know why they must have a committee to assess “modern” players only, and I don’t know why it should consist of only 16 members.

But as it turned out, it was Morris and Trammell who made the cut -- the only players from the Detroit Tigers’ 1984 championship team to make the Hall. Morris, aka “The Cat,” is a St. Paul, Minn., native and one-time Twin whose greatest moment was his 10-inning 1-0 shutout over Atlanta in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

You can come down for or against Morris and Trammell and make a strong case either way, I think. That’s because baseball’s Hall of Fame is so subjective, so lacking in agreed-upon credentials, you can almost make a good case for or against anybody.

Morris’ 3.90 lifetime earned run average is the highest ever among starting pitchers in the Hall. But he just happens to be the winningest pitcher in the 1980s. He won 254 games with 2,478 strikeouts, and he’s a 3-time World Series champion. Having followed Morris throughout his career, I always felt he wasn’t a numbers kind of guy. Yes, he gave up a lot of earned runs. He also allowed a bunch of home runs, but interestingly, he allowed few home runs to beat him. He was a bulldog, a big-game pitcher, and that’s how he always saw himself.

He pitched through pain. He didn’t like to be taken out of a game -- which is why, perhaps, he threw 175 complete games, including 20 in 1983.

I personally think Trammell deserved the Hall more, though his election, too, was controversial. Injuries hampered his career, yet he was an outstanding shortstop for Detroit for 20 years, was the 1984 World Series MVP, and had MVP numbers in 1987 with a .343 average, 28 home runs and 105 RBI. To me, minus the injuries, he was a Cal Ripken-caliber shortstop.

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I figure that if Rabbit Maranville could be a Hall of Fame shortstop -- which he is -- Trammell’s selection is more than justified.

I’m less convinced that this Hall-of-Fame-by-committee business is necessary. Last year, the Veterans Committee was redesigned so that we now have four committees representing different eras: the Today’s Game Committee covering 1988 to the present, the Modern Era Committee covering 1970-87, the Golden Days Committee for 1950-69, and the Early Baseball Committee for before 1950.

Major league baseball geniuses, I suppose, figure every so-called mini-era must be represented by a set number of players. So when regular voters pass over the marginal candidates, those players must now be graded on a curve.

Are we being told that tokenism is now the preferred way in the Hall of Fame? Must we, to be fair, insist that a similar number of 1980s stars make it alongside those who were voted in from the 1920s?

  1. If that be the case, someone please count the number of 1960s stars in the Hall. I say the era is under-represented. Find some room for Roger Maris and Tony Oliva.
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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