Rice debate gets heated

December, 11, 2008
In the Boston Globe today, Dan Shaughnessy makes (or regurgitates) a Hall of Fame case for Jim Rice, then writes this:

    On the other hand, we have members of Bill James Youth who've never been out of the house who believe Rice has no business being in the Hall. ESPN.com's Rob Neyer ran the numbers and came up with Rice as the equal of Ken Singleton (James himself established that Rice was not as good as Roy White). Neyer states that Rice was not a dominant power hitter and disputes the idea that Jim Ed was the most feared hitter of his day.

    Guess you had to be there. Or maybe talk to some of the players and managers who were there. Rice was dominant. Rice was feared.

    Last year Neyer wrote, "With Rice clearly lacking objective Hall of Fame credentials, they [Boston baseball writers] are forced to fall back on the ill-founded, untestable notion that he was the 'most feared' hitter for more than a year or two. What I don't understand is why so many voters in so many other cities believe it."

Is this a BBWAA initiation rite, like paddling me on the rear 50 times or making me drink a dozen cups of cheap beer in five minutes? And if so, now may I have my spiffy new membership card, please?

Seriously, though. Jim Rice did some things that Hall of Famers do. I've written about his qualifications many times before, and today's not the day to rehash that conversation once again. Whatever I might think, Rice will be elected next month, and then we can move on to someone else. But you're going to read a lot of things about the guy over the next month or so. And here's a little tip: If you do read that Rice was "feared" and you don't read anything (substantive) about his defense or the significant advantage he gained from playing half his games in Fenway Park, then what you're reading is not serious. What you're reading is propaganda. Ad hominem attacks like Shaughnessy's can be a lot of fun, and they've always enjoyed a place of honor in newspaper columns. But they don't do a great deal to advance the discussion. Nor are they meant to.


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