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Thrillperstown

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Will Clark was cool. The eye black. The staredowns. The sweet swing. The lack of restraint whenever he opened his mouth early in his career. There are few players - heck, few people - who could sound cool yelling, "Yeeeeee haw!", whether they ever did or not. Clark was one of those people. Han Solo is the only other non-fictional person I can think of who fits that description. If that's not Hall-worthy, I don't know what is.

As a ballplayer, he had the misfortune of having his best years in a offensively-depressed era. His 1989 line of .333/.407/.546 with 23 homers was one of the best seasons that year. It would still be an excellent season today, but it would only be considered for an MVP if it came from a shortstop. You can be sure a chunk of the BBWAA doesn't think too hard about adjusting for era, unless it fits for some pet player of a specific writer.

I'm not convinced Clark is a Hall-of-Famer, though. Marc from Beyond the Box Score lays out the statistical case here. Them's some purty numbers. Compared to Tony Perez, it's pretty clear that Clark was better. But I can listen to arguments on both sides for Clark. The pitchfork that pokes me about Clark:

Games Played
  1. 111
  2. 150
  3. 162
  4. 159
  5. 154
  6. 148
  7. 144
  8. 132
  9. 110
  10. 123
  11. 117
  12. 110
  13. 149
  14. 77
  15. 130
That's a bunch of missed time. When he wasn't in the lineup, it meant a whole lot of Todd Benzinger and Rene Gonzales. To be fair, it also meant Lee Stevens and Mickey Tettleton, who had fine years with Clark out. Also, the strike hurt Clark's totals for '94 and '95, when he appeared to be relatively healthy.

I would love for Clark to be in the Hall. I'm conflicted on whether he deserves to be there. Here's a partial list of some of the borderline candidates I would support:

Barry Larkin

If I'm supporting Larkin I'm also supporting Clark, as the argument against both is based on missed time. Larkin was a shortstop, and one of the best ever when healthy. I'm conflicted on him, but he was the National League's best shortstop for almost a decade.

Tim Raines

He was the perfect ballplayer. He had a little pop, a whole lot of speed, and the ability get on base. His biggest problem was that Rickey Henderson was more perfecter. Raines had the same set of skills as a legend at the same time, the legend was much better, and that will keep Raines from the Hall. I still don't know how a guy can get on base 276 times in one season, steal 70 bases out of 79 attempts, and still not score 100 runs. Oh, wait, yeah I do.

Edgar Martinez

Hate the rule, love the player. Baseball has a position written in the rules. Martinez played that position better than anyone else in its short history, and was one of the game's greatest right-handed hitters ever. I am not willing to penalize him for pretending to know the alternate history of his career. With no DH, could he have worked hard enough to pass at first? Would it have made him more injury-prone? I don't know, but I'm not willing to play the "What if the Bay of Pigs was successful?"-game. Baseball allowed for a player like Edgar Martinez, and it's hard to question his results.

Robb Nen

'Cause I like him. And if Bruce Sutter can get in with a combination of three great seasons/five good seasons, Nen should get in with four great seasons/five good seasons. Alright, I don't think Nen should be in, but Sutter really wasn't the best player to break the seal for relievers. He popularized the split-finger? Great. Nen popularized the toe-tap, but that just hasn't caught on yet. He's partly responsible for the modern usage of today's relievers? That's not something he should be rewarded for, that's something he should be penalized for.

I really don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about the Hall, so the above opinions aren't etched in stone. Except for Edgar. He's in. If any of y'all have arguments for Sutter, or against Larkin and Raines, I'd like to read them.