Jim Rice: Hall of Famer or not?

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Welcome to The Show! On Friday, ESPN.com baseball writer Jerry Crasnick will drop by at 1 p.m. ET for another installment of "That's Debatable," a feature in which we break down a hot topic in baseball. This week, we're examining some of the candidates on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot.

Friday's question: Is Jim Rice a Hall of Famer or not?


Rice made eight All-Star teams with the Boston Red Sox, and finished among the top five in American League MVP voting six times; the same number of top-5 finishes as Joe DiMaggio, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson and Eddie Murray. From 1975 through 1986, Rice led the American League in 12 categories, including home runs, RBIs, runs, hits, total bases and slugging percentage. He was arguably the most dominant offensive player in the game during his peak years, and a guy who hit for average as well as power. While Rice's 382 homers and 1,451 career RBIs don't seem particularly special in hindsight, his totals look better when you consider that he amassed them in the pre-steroid era.


Several years ago, Bill James ranked Rice as the 27th best left fielder in history -- two spots behind Roy White -- and called him "probably the most overrated player of the last thirty years.'' Rice never won a Gold Glove, stole 58 bases (in 92 attempts) in his career, and ranks sixth on the all-time grounded-into-double-plays list. His home-road splits also provide fodder for his critics: Rice posted a career .920 on-base slugging percentage at Fenway Park, and a much more pedestrian .789 on the road. While his peak was impressive, he fell of a cliff statistically at age 34 and was out of the game by 36. Some baseball observers believe that former Boston outfielder Dwight Evans has a stronger Hall of Fame case than Rice does. Evans topped out with 10.4 percent of the vote and dropped off the ballot after three years.


I spoke to several colleagues whose opinions I respect greatly before sending in my ballot this year, and no candidate produced more anguish than Rice across the board. Personally speaking, I passed on Rice in his first eight or nine appearances on the ballot before finally embracing the "most feared hitter of his generation'' argument and giving him my support several years ago.

I understand why the statistical community is so anti-Rice. I realize that he's a fringe candidate. But I still think his offensive accomplishments during his 12-year peak make him Cooperstown-worthy. So I swallowed hard and checked "yes'' beside Rice's name in his 15th and final appearance on the ballot, and I think he'll squeak into Cooperstown when the results come out Monday. What do you guys think? Let the debate begin.

In That's Debatable!, we give you the topic, and then we'll have one of our writers stop by to debate the issue with you. To suggest a topic for "That's Debatable," go here. Or check out the full archive.

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