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It’s graduation season! A lot of honors handed out (unless you’re Obama).

So what better time to tackle a topic like Albert Belle’s Hall of Fame candidacy? No better time, says I.

There are two ways to get into the Hall: You’ve got to be very good over a long peroid of time and rack up counting stats, or you’ve got to be dominant.

The chief knock against Belle’s HOF case is that he didn’t play long enough, and therefore didn’t reach any of the milestones that equal automatic HOF induction. No 3,000 hits. No 500 home runs. No 1,500 runs batted in.

But he was pretty dang dominant.

Belle played 12 seasons, longer than Kirby Puckett, Sandy Koufax, and Ralph Kiner. He didn’t quit because he couldn’t hack it. He was forced out by an arthritic hip. He played in 10 full seasons (and parts of two others) and during that peak decade he averaged 37 HR, 120 RBI and a roughly .360 OBP. In 1995 he became the first player to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in a season. Even in his last season, when he was hobbling around the bases, he hit .281 with 23 HRs and 103 RBI.

Belle had a better OPS+ than Harmon Kilebrew, Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Jim Rice (even if you ignore Rice’s pedestrian final three seasons). And if you’re interested in hardware, Belle made five all-star teams and won five Silver Slugger awards and surely should have won the 1995 AL MVP, except the voters hated him and instead awarded the MVP to Mo Vaughn, who had vastly inferior stats.

I’m not gonna blow smoke up your butts. I know Belle isn’t a slam dunk Hall of Famer. But surely he deserved better than the 3.5% of the vote he got in 2007, which was not enough to even merit another year on the ballot. When Belle retired in 2001, NY Daily News bloviator Bill Madden famously wrote:

Sorry, there’ll be no words of sympathy here for Albert Belle… Belle was a surly jerk before he got hurt and now he’s a hurt surly jerk… Belle’s boorish behavior should be remembered by every member of the Baseball Writers Association when it comes time to consider him for the Hall of Fame.

And they did.

Of course Belle was a jerk. But I don’t care about that. Count me among those who think the Hall of Fame should get rid of its character clause. Sports writers, as Joe Posnanski says, should not be in the business of making character judgments.

Belle should be measured by his on-the-field achievements, and they were numerous.

9 Responses to “Revisiting Albert Belle’s Hall of Fame candidacy”

  1. I don’t know if he’s a HOF’er or not, but it should only be based on what he did on the field. Nothing else. It’s not a ladies tea social, it’s a professional sport.

    We revere the guys with attitude that live outside conventional ways of life, then crucify them for doing the same thing.

    Does anybody actually read Madden?

  2. Ty Cobb was blatantly racist, should we remove him from the HOF because of that?

    Belle has the numbers to at least be seriously considered to be a member of the HOF. His personality has nothing to do with what he did on the field.

    Barry Bonds was on of the biggest jerks in the history of baseball, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not the single greatest player that I’ve seen in my life.

  3. i think he belongs in the hall. his ten years was sick, the most fread hitter left or right.

  4. Two words: corked bat. Vizquel’s slick hands weren’t reserved for the infield.

    There are arguably other HOFers who used cork. But Belle provably did so.

  5. Oops…Vizquel reported the incident; it was Grimsley who swapped the bats. He was caught because the bat had Sorrento’s name on it.

    Why did Grimsley use Sorrento’s bat? Because ALL of Belle’s bats were corked.

  6. Belle got caught corking his bat in 1994. In 1995 he led the league in RBI, HR, SLG, and doubles. Was he still corking? I dunno, but I doubt it.

    I’m inclined to forgive Belle his one corking bust. If a pitcher gets caught with sandpaper, do we assume he used it every time he pitched? Belle got caught once, and he served his suspension. Let’s let it drop.

  7. The only reason Belle isn’t in the Hall of Fame is because the fat worthless pieces of shit that make up the BBWA are a bunch crybaby pussies. “WAAA, Belle didn’t want to talk to the media! Let’s do hatchet jobs on his character! That’ll make him talk to us!” His teammates liked him, his coaches liked him, and opposing players liked him. The media shouldn’t have this kind of power. I hope they all get cancer.

  8. Whoa. That’s a little harsh. The baseball writers didn’t put cork in Belle’s bat. He was no saint. But, while Belle isn’t a slam dunk Hall of Famer, he deserved better than the 3.5% of the vote he got in 2007.

  9. Just came across this. Interesting. Here’s the way I would frame it: In the real world, not some statistical never never land, would you want Belle on your team? How many left fielders would you take over him? Did his attitude contribute to the team’s wins along with his on-the-field hitting? Bill James once predicted that Dick Allen would eventually be looked at as a possible HOFer because personalities fade while numbers don’t.

    Just speaking for myself, I cannot imagine any scenario in which I would want Belle on my team, and especially compared to the greatest players in history. The goal of the game is to win pennants, not accumulate numbers, so I think you need to consider the whole package.

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