Friday, January 30, 2009

Number of Days Until Spring Training: Jim Rice (#14)

In his final year of eligibility, and somewhat under the radar thanks to Rickey Henderson, James Edward Rice was elected into the 2009 Hall of Fame class thanks to 76.4% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Statistically, the argument for Rice to reach the hall has been questioned - 2452 hits and 382 home runs, but a career line of 298/.352/.502. Rice led the league in home runs 3 times, along with leading in slugging and RBIs twice. Jimbo would be tagged an all-star 8 times in his playing days in left field, would rank 3rd in the MVP voting as a rookie in 1975, and go on to win the AL MVP in 1978. For most of his career, Rice lined up alongside Dwight "Dewey" Evans and Fred Lynn to form one of the all-time great offensive outfields.

What likely kept Jim out of the Hall for so long was his lack of glitz, glamour, and what I'll call impactual stats. Yeah, he was a big hitting lefty - but other than the MVP in '78, it's not like he took over the league. His years of eligibility were also coinciding with the steroid era. While Sammy was chasing Big Mac and Bonds was laughing at everyone - Jim's stats suddenly weren't that impressive anymore. However, thanks to Debbie Clemens, the freakish growth of Bonds' feet and head, and the Viagra man - the fact that Jim Rice collected those stats in a "clean era" were finally appreciated.

Jim Rice's last game was in 1989, thus he was a bit before my time, as I was tuning into Alf at 7 pm rather than the BoSox. The only Jim Rice I knew was the hitting coach or the guy in the NESN booth, looking a cross between Stuart Scott and Jackie Chiles, with Neon Deion's wardrobe (color necessary to truly appreciate the matching tie and pocket square).

Frankly and understandably, I never was up in arms when Rice would miss The Hall each year by dozens of percentage points. I was honestly a bit hesitant to write this at the request of our Editor in Chief. But after doing a bit of research, I think the stats show that Jim Rice should be in there.

By far the most impressive and meaningful stat was that Jim Rice was a member of the Red Sox from the day he was drafted 15th overall in 1971 until his last day as a Major Leaguer in 1989. That type of commitment from both player and franchise just isn't seen enough anymore. The all mighty dollar.

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