Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Championships" and the Idiots that Overvalue them

Okay, quick rant.

The recent NFL and MLB Hall of Fame inductions have people all over the airwaves talking about who belongs in the Hall. Who's worthy? Who's not? It's even gotten to the point now that we're debating who's worthy of getting into the Hall on their very first ballot (somehow, I'm not sure how, but getting elected on your first ballot has become some honor greater than entry into the Hall itself).

But what concerns me--strike that....what drives me up the freaking wall...is when people (columnists and radio hosts and radio callers alike) start breaking down an athlete's worthiness for the Hall of Fame based on Championships.

Here's a sampling:

"Tom Brady is a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer. The man's won three Super Bowl rings!!"

"Steve Young doesn't really deserve to be first ballot because the championships he won could have been won by anyone."

"Dan Marino was elected to the Hall on his first try, despite having never won the big game."

Let me see if I can break this down for you the way I see it.

Football and baseball are team games....right? I mean, I've never seen a man hike the ball to himself, scramble around the pocket while protecting himself from oncoming linemen, chuck the ball downfield, and then run after it and catch it for a touchdown. (now that I've typed that scenario, though, I really would like to see that! I bet it'd make some thrilling television.)

I don't mean to bring out the cliches, but it takes a team to win...right? I mean, the media is gushing all over New England (and has been for years) because of their "team attitude" or the organization's ability to "build a team." So why should the credit for the Super Bowl go to the team when they win it...but to only Tom Brady when he's up for the Hall of Fame?

It seems like a simple enough concept....let's honor and judge the players on what they do themselves...and the team by what the team does.

Let's take an example that is near and dear to my heart....Peyton Manning. Now, I'd love to see the Colts win the Super Bowl (man, I hope this is the year)...but as of yet...they haven't shown they can do it. So when Peyton retires...and he's up for the Hall of Fame....what are we going to hear? "He doesn't have any championships." My goodness people, has common sense gone out the window here? Marino never had the supporting players around him that Troy Aikman had. Why can't we just look at their individual numbers? Why do we have to say that one great QB is greater than another great QB because of what the rest of his roster helped accomplish?

Here's what I propose: Add a wing into the Hall of Fame for Championships. Then we can give a special honor to those with rings. Or...we could just call it the Hall of Champions...and kick out every player currently in the Hall who didn't win the big one.

Personally, I think the sports writers are already far too full of themselves. Why do we put the voting for the Hall of Fame (in the NFL at least) in their hands?! Because they're smarter? No. Because they are unbiased? No. Why don't we make the Hall of Fame a secret brotherhood-type society...like the skulls and bones or the Stonecutters? Then the only people who get to vote are those already in the Hall. We might even get a good musical reference to Steve Guttenberg out of it.

Sheesh. I'm just so tired of the media using whatever stats they need to prove their point and chucking the rest out the window. "Peyton Manning can't win the big game!" You're right, you babbling moron...becuase he's just one freaking guy!! He sort of needs a defense. He could use some blocking...maybe a running back...some guys to catch the throws.

Aw screw it. Let's go to my hypothetical from the beginning of this post...and make all sports one-man games. It'll make for great viewing...and will put this "who deserves the Hall of Fame" crap to rest because it really will be all on one man's shoulders.


At 8/09/2005 10:13:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I don't know if I agree or disagree with you here, but to say that Marino and Manning haven't had the people around them to win the championships is nowhere near accurate. Marvin Harrison is someone to throw to; not to mention the likes of Marcus Pollard. Edgerrin James is a hell of a running back. If anything has hurt the Colts it's defense. The only way to say the offense has hurt the team is that they don't stay on the field long enough to give the average defense a lot of rest.

Marino had some of the greatest defenses backing him up in his Dolphins stint, and he had plenty of offense. But when it came to the postseason the man just wasn't the same Marino. Maybe he was only a 14 game kind of QB, and he just tired out. The Dolphins never really had a running game, and Marino wasn't what you would call a scrambler. The way to beat Marino was to put as much pressure on him as you could, and the man would fall. If he had any weakness that was it. This is no disrespect to Marino; I would say he's a much better QB than Brady. Just because you only win in the regular season doesn't make you any less of an athlete.

At 8/10/2005 03:06:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Yeah, we may have to delete these extraneous comments...unless Anonymous explains itself!

You know where all the problems come from in these debates about Hall of Fame or Most Valuable Player? They are general, quick-and-easy descriptions for something that is apparently a whole lot more--or a whole lot more to other people. To me, MVP means best season by a player in his sport. I believe it used to generally mean that.

Now, there's overwhelming support that "Most Valuable" has got to refer to the player on a team heading to the playoffs that would otherwise not be going to the playoffs without that player. I believed in that to some extent a few years ago--but then I wondered, "Why should that penalize a guy who has the best season?" Put that guy on a winning club and then he's suddenly the MVP. Put the "winning" guy on the losing club...is he as impactful? Of course not. A guy having a great season is entirely dependent on his team.

The problem comes in with this breaking down, this in-depth analysis, this need to put under the microscope, the meaning of words. "Most Valuable" is a sexy description for "Best Season." You can't give a guy an award for "Best Season." It sounds crappy. It doesn't even accurately describe an individual.

"Hall of Fame" is the same deal. I always thought, and I believe this is the spirit of the name, that it refers to guys you remember for their great playing skills.

I always wonder how Michael Jordan would have been perceived if Scotty Pippen and Bill Cartwright and John Paxson and BJ Armstrong never made their impact felt in the playoffs and Finals. I don't believe Jordan wins anything without those guys (and many others). And if you were to say Jordan didn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because he didn't win a championship--you would have even the most die-hard, you-need-a-championship-to-get-in guy standing up and saying, "That's absurd!"

Of course it's absurd. It's downright stupid is what it is. People who believe that championships are everything to a player's career are below average intelligence. I suddenly think of the ideas tossed around in Alfred Hitchcock's ROPE--where people of inferiority should be murdered. Not for real, of course, just ridiculed. It's funny to me that modern-day guys are trying to distort what the meanings of these things are.

And guess what? There's a lot of guys who got in the Baseball Hall of Fame just by virtue of playing on Yankees World Series teams. Some weren't great by any stretch. And Bill Mazeroski, who hit the game 7 World Series HR to beat the Yankees, doesn't deserve the Hall either. No one remembers Mazeroski for his "great fielding," which was the crap spouted off when he finally got elected--it was that HR that got him the Hall (I know...what about Ozzie Smith? Yes, great defense. Yes, deserves to be in the Hall--because he made spectacular plays. Mazeroski probably did the same--but it's not the reason he's in the Hall. That's my point).

Yeah--and there's absolutely no difference on the plaques between first-ballot HOF or second-ballot or so on. You're in the Hall, dammit. It does not designate which ballot you got in on. There's no "lower tier" when you go to Cooperstown where they bury these guys in a closet somewhere. There's some more people who need to get shot. "Well, I'm not voting for him first-ballot, but second time, we'll see." What the fuck ever, asshole. You've still got people who don't vote for certain guys because Babe Ruth wasn't unanimously voted, so they place their vote of dissent knowing full well that it doesn't matter. Those guys are sub-human. They are trash and...well beneath heaven lies hell, beneath hell lies The Cave...and beneath The Cave lies these goddamn sports writers.

At 8/10/2005 08:19:00 AM, Blogger Kevin Rector said...

I think the Bulls proved for several seasons that Jordan couldn't win it by himself. It takes a team.

I agree with everything that KW said and Chris said. Except maybe the part about murdering stupid people.

At 8/10/2005 09:09:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Jonathan, I totally agree. I think I wrote the post too quickly. I didn't mean to say Marino and Manning dont' have support around them. They clearly do and did. My point was just that to say a Super Bowl victory or loss rests entirely on the shoulders of either of them is ludicrous. Why should their Hall of Fame eligibility be based on the Super Bowl...when the Super Bowl clearly requires a team effort?

At 8/10/2005 11:02:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I will defend the opinion on who the MVP should be for. It is an award for the most valuable player not the best player. There should just be a seperate award for that, but there are batting, pitching, and fielding titles.

But a few years ago when A Rod had that monster year for the Rangers, everyone said he should be MVP. I was of the opinion however that all he did was help them not finish as far down in the cellar. What kind of value is that?

Although, the next year they went ahead and gave it to him for the same reasons they denied him the year before. Mainly becuase there was no definitive player to give it to, and so by having a powerful offensive year he got it.

Basically, there is no rhyme or reason to it; they just kind of make up their own rules as they go. It is voted on commitee, but who gets to be the voters; who decides that? It's a crapshoot; a sham. All I know about this year is that the Cubs are sucking big time. Who could really care about MVP at a time like this? Poor Chi-Town.

At 8/10/2005 11:18:00 AM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

Sabermetrically speaking, Peyton Mannig had the best offensive season in history last year, but the guy can't play defense. Even in the loss to the Patriots he didn't play that poorly. It's not his fault that Edge suddenly lost the ability to run. He probably is both the best player and most valuable player right now.

That said, Tom Brady is also very good, and not just because he has the rings. He's one of the most accurate passers ever. He's not as good as Manning, but he's much better than Aikman ever was (Aikman was one of the great system QBs ever, which should be obvious to anyone who ever watched his backups come in and do just as well. Jason Garret comes to mind).

The first ballot hall of famer thing in baseball is really, really stupid. Once you're finished playing you can't possibly increase your hall worthiness, so how is someone good enough in year 6 but not in year 5? Especially considering that there is no limit on the number of people that can be elected to the baseball HOF.

At 8/10/2005 11:40:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Jonathan, that's the same criteria I once had for MVP--but I abandoned it. The reason why is because a player can't help the fact that his awesome stats didn't end up helping his team get to the playoffs. Other reasons come in to play--like bullpens blowing games, starting pitching being terrible, errors, bad judgment. I simply started thinking about what would happen if a player from a last place team with awesome stats was moved to a first place team--his impact is felt because the team around him is good. His bat can decide the close games.

With ARod in Texas a few years ago, he couldn't help the fact that his team around him sucked. You get a little bit better pitching, suddenly his stats on a winning team "qualify." ARod could have hit 100 HR with 245 RBI that year and the Rangers would have still been bad.

At 8/10/2005 03:19:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

It was most definately not A-Rod's fault that the Rangers sucked, but did he really add any value to the team. Did his prescence help them in anyway besides not finishing with a worse record? That's all I'm saying. It's not like he wasn't given any kind of accolades or awards that year, but should he be considered the most valuable player? I don't know; it's an interesting debate for sure.

At 8/10/2005 05:10:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

No, his presence didn't keep them from having the worst record--all I'm saying is that it's not his fault.

A guy who gets the benefit of the doubt because he came in with clutch hits and gave his team more wins (like Chipper Jones did a few years ago) is still entirely dependent on the other guys to do the job as well. To be in the situation to drive in runs or be at the center of a team's success requires more than that guy hitting solo HRs.

I know...it's one of those things, either you buy it or you don't. I'm one who has certainly changed his mind about it. It came about a few years ago when Bonds hit the 73 HR and the Giants didn't make the playoffs. He did everything he could by himself to help the team win, but they didn't.

In 1998, I was certainly going for Sosa to win MVP. I thought in that case, his season was still way better than McGwire's despite McGwire ending up with the HR record. I would probably still feel that way.

There's also "inflated stats," of which I'm aware. Now, I've sort of been on the side of ARod here, but I don't remember who was competing against him in those years where he won. I remember ARod having a little bit of inflated stats one year because he was hitting a ton of meaningless HR towards the end of the year. It's still something where we need to see the big picture. It can go a lot of ways.

At 8/10/2005 07:02:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Yeah, the year he didn't win MVP when everyone was so opinionated about it I can't remember who actually beat him out for it. The next year when he did win, I think David Ortiz was the runner up.

But I definately see your side of it, and I'm not sure if it's really a disagreement on my part, but more of showing a different side to the argument.

There's also the ridiculousness thrown out there where pitchers never seem to win MVP because they can win the Cy Young. How does that make any sense. In the National League right now, it's arguable that Roger Clemmens and Chris Carpenter could be up for not only the Cy Young but also MVP. Neither one of them will get MVP, but who will? Pujols? Andrew Jones? Do they deserve it anymore than dominant pitching? I don't know. I think in the long run the only thing that matters is who wins the World Series.


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