|Point/Counterpoint: Is Hitting 500 Home Runs Enough for the Hall Of Fame?||| Print ||
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on May 02, 2008
500 Home Runs is Enough for the Hall of Fame (Daniel Paulling)
The 500 home run club has been swelling faster than the Boston Celtics fanbase come playoff time. After all, there are 23 official members, five of whom are active. One, Barry Bonds, was led out the door by owners last year. You don’t need a subscription to Baseball Prospectus to see that the rate at which these guys are getting in is going up.
But that is okay; these newbies are not scrubs. It takes a ton of talent to hit this many. (If the player is suspected of using steroids, then I do not count him.) Guys like Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, and Alex Rodriguez are all recent additions, but they are Hall of Fame material. Manny Ramirez, who is approaching the 500 mark, should be a first ballot Hall of Famer. It’s not like solid-but-not-Hall-of-Fame-quality guys like Miguel Tejada or Gary Sheffield are hitting this many. The new guys are imposing hitters.
Furthermore, baseball is all about the numbers. Fans have a romanticism with round numbers. When you ask a baseball fan about the number 500, he or she will say number of home runs to get into the Hall of Fame. The same goes with 300 or the number commonly associated with pitcher’s wins to get into the Hall of Fame. If we need to raise the number of career home runs from 500 to, say, 550 for Hall of Fame induction, should we agree this is an age in which hitters dominate and lower the figure of 300 to, say, 275? It all becomes a crazy game of math. Who’s right?
500. That’s the number baseball has lived with and loved for years. Let’s keep it going. The sport is cyclical and soon the pitchers will start to take over and the move upward would look foolish to fans in the future. History, which has always governed baseball, should reign supreme.
Hitting 500 Home Runs Isn't that Special (Jonathan Leshanski's view)
You’ve got to be crazy if you think that 500 home runs means anything anymore. Between steroids and 20 plus year careers it doesn’t take special talent to reach that plateau any longer. In recent years Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, A-Rod, Frank Thomas, and Jim Thome have reached that mark and Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield are within sniffing distance of that number.
I’m not even sure that surpassing 600 home runs means all that much anymore when the two players who have accomplished the feat in recent years are Sammy Sosa and Barry “Bulked Up” Bonds - both known as cheaters between corked bats and steroids. Sure it has to count for something but less than a decade ago there were only fourteen 500 home run guys and those names were pretty legendary. Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Frank Robinson, Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx, Willie McCovey, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Mel Ott, and Eddie Murray, that’s it. Fourteen names that managed that feat in the first 12 decades of organized baseball.
Yet 11 players, possibly even 12 who have been active in the last seven years will enter that 500 home run club. How do you feel about Gary Sheffield? Jim Thome? Sammy Sosa? They have been great players and fun to watch, but can you really mention them in the same breath as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays? No, not with a straight face.
The 500 home run club isn’t exclusive anymore. Between players with long careers and numbers that are distorted by steroids the specialness attributed to that number has vanished. Look a little closer at Rafael Palmeiro to realize that. 20 years - no batting titles, no home run titles, no MVPs, No World Series Championships, and just three All Star selections over 20 years. That’s not all that impressive. If Palmeiro gets in the Hall of Fame, it shouldn’t be because of home runs, it should be based on other aspects of his career - including ten 100+ RBI seasons.
The home run plateau has become cheap. Over a 20 year career - which is becoming more and more common (Gary Sheffield 21 seasons, Thome 18 seasons, Frank Thomas 19 seasons) a player only needs to be consistent enough to hit 25 home runs a year; he doesn’t even have to ever have a standout year to reach 500. If a player has the longevity to play for a few more years he could even hit fewer per year and reach 500.