January 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Ripken, Gwynn to Cooperstown

It's hard to imagine two players who were more deserving to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, in terms of their accomplishments on the ballfield, and their modest, classy sportsmanship. "Iron Man" Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn, eight-time NL batting champion, are among the rare breed of superstars who defy Leo Durocher's dictum that "nice guys finish last." Both men were elected on their first opportunity and received among the highest-ever percentages of votes; see MLB.com. Goose Gossage didn't make the cut, but he edged closer to the 75% threshhold, and may finally make it next year. Mark McGwire was way down the list, but he's got plenty of chances yet to come. Like most people, I have mixed feelings about McGwire. I suppose we'll never come up with a satisfactory way to resolve the Dope Dilemma: to forgive and reward those who 'fess up, or to punish anyone suspected of artificial body enhancements, which would only keep the problem hidden under the rug.

Today's Washington Post had a good background piece on Ripken, noting that his "431 home runs and 3,184 hits were more a testament to hard work, durability and longenvity than to sheer talent or jaw-dropping power." (In that sense, ironically, he's a lot like Pete Rose.) Ripken will rank number one among all Hall of Famers in terms of total games played (3,001), consecutive games (2,632), fielding percentage for shortstops (.979), and appearances on All Star teams (19). His lifetime batting average was well below Gwynn's, however: .276 vs. .338. Both Ripken and Gwynn spent their entire careers with one team, near their home towns. It's like they were twin brothers or something...