Rice not Hall-worthy

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

Rickey Henderson?

Yes, he belongs.

Andre Dawson? Yes.

Bert Blyleven? Yes.

Jim Rice? No.

Henderson and Rice were elected to the baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. Dawson missed by 44 votes and Blyleven was short by 67 of the required votes.

In order to be elected to Cooperstown, players have to be named on 75% of the ballots cast by Baseball Writers' Association of America members with 10 or more consecutive years of service.

Henderson carried 94.8% of the populace, enough to get in, but less than Dennis Eckersley's prediction of 98%.

This was Rice's 15th and final year on the ballot. Had he missed, as the previous 14, he would've had to wait until the fall of 2010 and the veterans committee ballot.

We didn't vote for Rice in 1995 his first year on the ballot.

And we didn't vote for him last month.

The Hall voting system process gets knocked each year and we defend it each year. But it's tough explaining Rice's induction.

His final game was Aug. 3, 1989 and he retired with a .289 batting average, 382 career homers, 1,451 RBIs and a .502 slugging percentage.

And yesterday, believe it or not, he had the same numbers: .289, 382, 1,451 and .502.

Why the change?

How were those numbers branded "not good enough" or "short" for 14 consecutive years good enough today?

Don't really know.

Obviously a number of writers changed horses.

The electorate is different since 1995, plus some writers adhere to voting for only one or two players a year.

Some years we vote for as many as seven players but the only time we remember changing positions was voting for Blyleven and Alan Trammell a few years ago when passionate readers convinced us that they belonged.

Look at Rice's vote total over the years. In his first year, he had 137 (29.8% of the vote --slightly more than Tim Raines received yesterday).

Then, he increased three straight years: 166 (35.3%) in 1996; 178 (37.6%) in 1997 and 203 (42.9%) in 1998.

Rice dipped by 13% to 146 (29.4%) in 1999. Did he strike out in old-timers games or head a ball off his noggin over the fence a la Jose Canseco?

Next came two good years for Rice: 257 votes (51.5%) in 2000 and 298 (57.9%) in 2001 before he tumbled in back-to-back years. In 2002, he had 260 votes (55.1%) and 259 (52.2%) in 2002.

Then, Rice was on a roll: Increases in five of the next six elections. He was up to 276 (54.5%) in 2004, then 307 (59.5%), 337 (64.8%), 346 (53.5%). He was up to 392 (72.2%) last year and 412 (76.4%) yesterday. All this with nary an extra RBI.

How to explain?

Getting elected is a long process in Rice's case: Four years in the minors, 16 seasons with Boston and now 15 years waiting to be elected.

Coming over from the National League in 1987, we saw Rice for three seasons. He was a dangerous hitter, not a good hitter, but he could hit a mistake and lose a ball at the old Exhibition Stadium.

A Hall of Famer? Not here.

The crunchers at Baseball-Reference.com rate the five players who compare best to Rice's offensive numbers: Hall of famers Duke Snider, elected in his 11th year of eligibility in 1980 and Orlando Cepeda, elected by the veteran's committee after gaining 73.5% in his 15th year, plus Andres Galarraga (not eligible yet), Ellis Burks (also not eligible) and Joe Carter (3.8%).

Asked by reporters why it took so long, Rice said: "You have no control over it. You take it with a grain of salt because there's nothing you can do. You wait and wait and hope that someone recognizes that you were special."

Rice won the most valuable player award in 1978 and had six other top-five finishes and made eight all-star teams.

"I don't know why it took so long. I don't want to think about it," he added. "I'm happy I'm in and that's what I'm going to cherish."

Any lessons learned over the years?

"Be patient and wait to the last out," Rice said. "I guess everything was timing, because my numbers have not changed over the last 14 years."

Exactly.

Rice's election opens the door for Dawson.

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HALL VOTING

There were 539 votes cast and 405 were needed to be elected.

VOTES %

x-Rickey Henderson 511 94.8

xy-Jim Rice 412 76.4

Andre Dawson 361 67.0

Bert Blyleven 338 62.7

Lee Smith 240 44.5

Jack Morris 237 44.0

y-Tommy John 171 31.7

Tim Raines 122 22.6

Mark McGwire 118 21.9

Alan Trammell 94 17.4

Dave Parker 81 15.0

Don Mattingly 64 11.9

Dale Murphy 62 11.5

Harold Baines 32 5.9

By receiving fewer than 27 votes (less than 5%), these players are no longer eligible for election by the BBWAA:

Mark Grace 22 4.1

David Cone 21 3.9

Matt Williams 7 1.3

Mo Vaughn 6 1.1

Jay Bell 2 0.4

Jesse Orosco 1 0.2

Ron Gant 0 0

Dan Plesac 0 0

Greg Vaughn 0 0

x-elected

y-final year of eligibility for election by the BBWAA


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