It’s been awhile. ’nuff said.
I was reading a post on another sports site (not the one I hated on earlier) about Tom Coughlin recognizing that he had made a mistake in criticizing the ref for ruling that Victor Cruz had fumbled, leading to a ‘Boys touchdow,n when Coughlin believed (or, at least, claimed) that the play should have been dead due to Cruz’s lack of forward progress. To his credit, Coughlin admitted that, upon seeing the video, he was wrong (though he couched it in the weasel words of a “misunderstanding from what I felt”). But this post isn’t about Coughlin or the pitiful Giants, per se.
In the comments to this post, someone made the following comment:
kev86 says:Nov 27, 2013 7:32 PM
Coughlin for Canton. One of the best.
Remembering that this man is the head coach of a team that lost 6 straight games (including a 38-0 drubbing by the resurgent Panthers) and who, prior to the Giants winning their first Superbowl, was widely thought to be on the way out, I went to check Coughlin’s career record, to see if I was missing something or, perhaps, just reading too much into the notoriously fickle New York media. Here’s what I found:
Regular Season: 155-128-0 .548
Playoffs: 11-7 .611 2 Superbowls
Putting aside the 2 Superbowls, Couglin is an above-average but not great coach. He is also overseeing a season where the Giants feature a porous defense, a QB regressing to his interception-laden form, a terrible running game. And this person thinks Coughlin should be in the Hall of Fame. Why? Because, presumably, he was a part of two Superbowl-winning teams.
Now, I am not going to be that guy who suggests that we should ignore championships and look only at the (advanced) stats. If a team wins numerous championships, it stands to reason that they are doing at least something right and, the way I see it, the Hall of Fame is intended to honour those players who exemplify the way sports should be played. Maybe Player X didn’t score the most goals or throw for the most yards, but not every player can be an offensive star. A reliable defenceman in hockey, a stalwart centre in football, a shortstop with great range or a defensive midfielder in soccer may not have gaudy stats to show for their work, but that does not mean that that they are not great at playing their position or, even, among the greatest athletes in their sports.
That said, the primary consideration in determining who was, in fact, the Best should focus largely on statistics. The reason for this is obvious (to me, at least): since championships are won and lost by teams and often rely on a great deal of luck (see Giants, New York), we need a way to determine whether players are beneficial or detrimental to their teams. During the Miguel Cabrera-Mike Trout MVP debates, one of the points raised, and a terrible one to my mind, was that Miggy should (and did) win because he led his team to the playoffs and Trout’s Angels missed the post-season both years by a mile. This is a poor argument for several reasons:
1) The playoffs in baseball are the hardest to get into (of sports with a proper playoff system);
2) At best, Cabrera and Trout represent slightly over 1/9th of their teams’ at-bats and are only involved in a minority of their teams’ defensive plays (where, it is worth noting, Trout vastly outperformed Cabrera); and
3) Many of Cabrera’s teammates (such as Max Scherzer and Torii Hunter) put up great stats whereas many of Trout’s high-profile teammates (such as Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton) grossly underperformed, each hitting under .260
While it would be foolish to ignore the fact that some players make their teammates better, or that some players develop a chemistry (or otherwise complement each other) that collectively improves their performances, an outstanding performance, even extended over a full season or full career, is not enough by itself to win a championship.
Consider Barry Sanders: he played on one of the perennially worst teams in football yet, in spite of that, was perhaps the greatest running back to ever play the game (though both Walter Payton and Jim Brown have legitimate cases as well). Sanders was often forced to run through players, as his offensive line frequently broke down, leaving Sanders to power through defensive players on his own. Similarly, Warren Moon, Ted Williams, John Stockton/Karl Malone, Marcel Dionne and Dan Marino are all among the greatest players in their sports, yet none of them have hoisted championship hardware (though admittedly all of these players are, to my knowledge, in their respective HOF’s).
My issue is that there often is a desire by HOF voters to see average players who played on dynasty (or, even, on moderately successful teams) enshrined despite the fact that they are not statistically, or in many cases, even qualitatively, the very best at their positions. Consider, for example, Phil Rizzuto. who won 5 rings with the Yankees. While a fine shortstop, he was hardly the catalyst for his teams success and far from the best shortstop, even of his era. So why is he in the Hall? Three main reasons come to mind (and I am a Rizzuto fan, it bears noting):
1) He was a well-known announcer;
2) He played for a Big Time Franchise; and
3) He was a part of 5 championships.
Think of who some of his far-more-deserving teammates were: Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Billy Martin, Allie Reynolds. Can it truly be said that the Yankees’ success was somehow driven primarily by Rizzuto, even if his “intangibles” are factored in? That said, having an entire handful of rings is seen by many to be the key to the castle that is the HOF.
Perhaps the worst example of this occurs in football. Joe Namath has some of the worst stats of a QB in Canton but, hey, he promised a Championship and won one. Bob Griese, Lynn Swann, Paul Hornung all have marginal stats, but are in the HOF largely due to their involvement is high-profile Championship-winning teams. There seems to be a lot of hype being raised around players who played for the 49ers in the 80s and the Cowboys in the 90s. Would Terrell Davis, with only 7 years of stats, albeit fantastic ones for many of those years, even be in the discussion if he hadn’t scored a pair of rings with the Denver Elways in the 90s? Roger Craig might have a better case, being (as some have called him) the “original Marshall Faulk”, but the first fact everyone cites after Craig’s 1000/1000 season is his 3 Superbowl wins. Phil Simms has better numbers in almost all categories (a few more picks and a lower completion percentage, but more yards, TDs and wins with fewer losses in fewer games) than Troy Aikman, but Aikman got in much sooner because was part of “America’s Team”‘s 3 SB’s in the 90′s while Phil Simms has only one rings (though he set the table for Jeff Hostetler to win Superbowl XXV by going 11-2 then getting hurt). And I frequently read articles by people flabbergasted over how there aren’t more players from the 70s-80s Raiders/85 Bears/80s 49ers/90s Cowboys/late-90s Broncos in the Hall (the reason there isn’t outrage, yet, from New England and St. Louis fans over their 2000s teams is that not enough time has passed for the anger to foment properly, though I look forward to earnest discussion about the injustice of Ricky Proehl not having his bust alongside Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk et al.).
In Canada, there was a similar discussion about whether Paul Henderson, hero of the 1972 Summit Series for Canada, should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Quite simply, the answer is no, though he should certainly be part of the ’72 Series exhibit in the Hall. His numbers aren’t good enough – not even close – but because of his association with that one series (heck, that one goal), people are inclined to overvalue his total career, even though that necessarily means excluding, at least temporarily, a more deserving candidate. Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates has a similar-ish story, in that his HOF candidacy is due in large part to his involvement with the Pirates’ 1960 World Series, hitting the first ever walk-off Series-winning home run. Certainly the Baseball Hall of Fame would be well-served by including a display recognizing these iconic homeruns, as well as say Kirk Gibson’s and Bobby Thompson’s legendary shots, in that they are part of the game and Cooperstown already keeps memorabilia from memorable events on display. But people keep beating the drum for, say, Jack Morris, whose regular season numbers are quite poor, even in his time, but who has three rings to his credit, Tim Raines, easily the second-best base stealer in the 80s and 90s after (admittedly by some distance) Rickey Henderson, gets far less love, since he isn’t sporting the same hardware.
Enough ranting. The point is, stupid comment poster, that mediocre coaches and mediocre players who happen to be associated with winning teams, even multiple championship-winning teams, don’t belong in their sports’ Halls of Fame. Why? Because these mediocre coaches and players already have their names in the record books and rings to show for their accomplishments. The Hall of Fame is to recognize the best players to ever play the game, some of whom won multiple championships, some of whom played on perennial losing teams. If the New York Giants want to put Tom Coughlin or Phil Simms or, for that matter, David Tyree in their Hall of Fame (or Ring of Honour or what-have-you), fine. Winning a championship is the pinnacle of success for a team; for the League, a championship is won every year. Filling the Halls with marginal players who had the fortune to be part of a championship team or several diminishes the accomplishments of the truly great players who excelled at their positions and at their sport. Coaches and players should have to measure up to the HOF, despite the desire of many to turn the HOF into a shrine to their favourite teams’ best moments. Personally, the Hall of Average Players Who Happened to Be on a Couple of Championship Teams sounds like a pretty crappy place to me. Then again, some people, like kev38, might disagree.