Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Apples and Lemons

The Trib’s Mike Downey offers his unfettered support for Sammy Sosa’s Hall of Fame campaign:

Sosa has more hits than Joe DiMaggio, Willie Stargell, Kirby Puckett, Hack Wilson, Ralph Kiner or Duke Snider.

Sosa has more runs batted in than DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Paul Waner, Tris Speaker, Lou Brock, Billy Williams or Tony Gwynn.

Sosa has more home runs than DiMaggio, Mantle, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson and all but four men in the 131-year history of the game.

To put it simply, this kind of reasoning is daft.

I don’t care if Downey thinks Sosa is a HOFer. Maybe he is. I don’t know – I usually wait the requisite five years before I make my call.

But the logic that My Guy has more fill in the blanks than Arbitrary Hall of Famer is spurious. Have we learned nothing from statistical analysis? Does Downey not understand the concept that different eras have different statistical standards?

Just taking a couple examples from Downey’s list above…Sosa has more RBIs than Billy Williams and Roberto Clemente. Williams and Clemente played a big chunk of their careers in the 1960s. You may recall that the Lords of Baseball decided to lower the mound in 1969 because of the distinct lack of offense during the proceeding nine years or so.

So maybe Billy and Roberto had a slightly harder time finding runs to drive in. Just a theory.

[As an aside, Sosa is a HOFer because he’s got more RBIs than Lou Brock? Mike, you do realize that Brock was a leadoff hitter, right? Why not just say he had more RBIs than Carl Hubbell? Sheesh…]

But it’s not just the statistical oversimplification that gets to me. Part of Downey’s case is that Sosa has more hits, homers, and RBIs than Joe DiMaggio.

Think about that for a moment. Would you consider Sosa better than Joe Freaking DiMaggio? Or even equal to the Yankee Clipper?

I wouldn’t, either.

Unfortunately, that’s not the most embarrassing thing that Downey writes. This is:

He is not exactly Jackie Robinson when it comes to being a gentleman to admire. But he has 800 more hits than Robinson did and twice as many RBIs. Sosa is a genuine Hall of Famer as far as I'm concerned.

Yes, Downey did go to the Jackie comparison. More proof that we need to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day every year.

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