(This is part of a series of posts about the 2017 Hall of Fame inductions. Read them all here.)
As the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies drew near, fans everywhere were doing what fans do best — talking about the big event, second-guessing the HOF voters, and thinking about what might come next.
And when it comes to overall knowledge and strong opinions, few groups are as ardent as baseball card collectors.
After all, we’ve spent hundreds of hours over years and years pouring through our cards, memorizing every wrinkle and errant print dot on card fronts, and devouring the statistics on card backs.
So who better to chime in all things Cooperstown-related than a bunch of fellow collectors?
No one, I say.
Over the course of a couple of weeks leading up to Hall of Fame weekend (July 28-30), I posed a series of questions on Twitter, and — as you might expect — hobbyists told me exactly what they think.
Here, then, are the results of nine Hall of Fame polls, as told by our collective baseball card consciousness.
The Snubs, Hitter Division
Which of these eligible superstars who retired before 1994 and currently NOT in the #HallOfFame is most deserving of a Cooperstown plaque?
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 15, 2017
This one sparked some good debate as the underrated Bobby Grich continued to be underrated here and his supporters reminded us of his statistical record (7th best second baseman of all time according to Baseball Reference.
This question also generated several write-in candidates, which led to …
The Snubs, Hitter Division – Round 2
First #HallOfFame poll was fun & yielded more intriguing names. So which of THESE players is most deserving of a Cooperstown plaque?
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 16, 2017
This question really illustrated the classic conundrum of “famous good” players v. “SABR good” players.
For this poll, at least, old-school stars won out, but there was plenty of discussion.
We still had some leftover hitters, so it was on to …
The Snubs, Hitter Division – Round 3
One more round of pre-1994 retirees to pick up other hitters mentioned in previous runs. Which of these most deserves a #HallOfFame plaque?
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 17, 2017
- Graig Nettles – 68.0 WAR
- Reggie Smith – 64.5 WAR
- Al Oliver – 43.3 WAR
- Steve Garvey – 37.7 WAR
This wrapped up our trip through the hitters on the outside looking in, at least momentarily, but there was still the matter of …
The Snubs, Starting Pitcher Division
We went deep w/hitters; you knew we had to do THIS. Which pitcher is most deserving of a #HallOfFame plaque? (One is not like the others.)
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 18, 2017
It’s probably not too surprising that the ever-popular Jack Morris ran away with this one, or that Sabermetrics fans in the group were fairly disillusioned with the results.
Regardless of who your pitcher is, though, he can’t pitch a complete game every time.
That’s why we had to move on to …
The Snubs, Relief Pitcher Division
By request, which of these Modern Era reliever is most deserving of #HallOfFame induction? Any?
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 20, 2017
Folks weren’t necessarily enthusiastic about this group but still chose Lee Smith by a wide margin over the late Dan Quisenberry. Still, the overarching sentiment of a large swath of the group was that these relievers were underwhelming on the whole.
Having covered most of the (maybe) overlooked candidates who played during the 1970s and 1980s, we moved on to …
It's one thing to not get elected to the #HallOfFame, but another to only get 1 try. Which of these 1-and-dones was most surprising?
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 23, 2017
These guys were all superstars at some point during their careers, yet they all fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after just try. Lou Whitaker won this one in a romp, but Kenny Lofton received fairly vocal support among more recent snubs.
Of course, not all HOF debate centers around the guys who were left out.
Indeed, even the players already enshrined are not safe from fan scrutiny, so we joined that fray with …
Slightly darker #HallOfFame poll … which of these HOF players who appeared in the 1970s least deserves his Cooperstown plaque?
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 25, 2017
Continuing with the theme of enshrined players who may or may not actually belong in Cooperstown, we turned to ..
(Or … Do We HAVE to Have a Reliever?)
You're building a team full of #HallOfFame players & have room for only 1 reliever, who can be used ONLY as a reliever. Who do you pick?
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 26, 2017
As with the snubbed reliever poll above, enthusiasm for this group of HOF hurlers was lukewarm at best.
We wrapped up our consideration of Hall of Fame specialists with …
The Old Sluggers
Your #HallOfFame team is in a DH league. Which of these HOF players who saw significant DH time in the 80s and/or 90s is your guy?
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 27, 2017
Collectors dig the long ball … but we picked the least-accomplished home run smasher among this group as our HOF designated hitter.
Also taking the field not all that long ago were …
The Forgotten Sluggers
There were 4 hitters on 2017 Today's Game Era #HallOfFame ballot. Which, if any. is most deserving of Cooperstown enshrinement? (0 got in).
— Wax Pack Gods (@WaxPackGods) July 28, 2017
Mark McGwire won this poll by a Big-Mac-Sized margin, but there were also fewer votes here than in any of our other surveys. Voter fatigue or a no-vote for all those listed?
Could go either way, but McGwire is clearly not a complete pariah among collectors at this point.
So what did we learn from all these Hall of Fame polls?
Well, for one thing, we learned that collectors hold onto their childhood affinities well into adulthood and have plenty to say when it comes to their diamond heroes.
We also learned that, as a group, we’re not blind to the statistical advances of the past couple of decades.
As mentioned above, there was plenty of discussion on both sides of the fame v. stats debate, and most had there merits. Here’s one of my favorite comments, from a collector firmly in the Sabermetrics camp:
— Mark Mosley (@mosley_mark) July 27, 2017
It sums up in one quick shot the light-hearted tensions of long-time fans and collectors struggling to reconcile what we saw on the field 35 years ago with what we see in the record book todya.
What we really learned, or reinforced, was that baseball and baseball cards are fun.
More fun than ever, if you let them be.
We may lament the passing of the local card shop or real (hard) gum in wax packs, but we’ve never had such a huge and vibrant community of fellow collectors at our fingertips, 24-hours a day, as we do now.
Enjoy the ride like it’s 1984, guys!
Where do we go from here?
More baseball cards, and more talk about baseball cards, naturally!
And, probably, more polls and good-natured group self reflection.
Thanks to all those who have participated so far — it’s been a lot of fun!
And let me know if you have ideas for other topics we ought to tackle.
I can almost guarantee we’ll have strong opinions and a good time hashing through them.