Frank Thomas vs. Hawk Harrelson – Who is more Cooperstown-bound?
Famed broadcasterFrank Thomas
. // Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Thomas has been included on the writer’s ballot for consideration to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hawk Harrelson is a nominee for the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting. If selected, both would be honored at the induction weekend in Cooperstown and bring pride to the White Sox franchise.
Let’s arbitrarily pit them against each other in a tale of the tape, as if they have to compete in a head-to-head battle. Why? Because humanity is a blight upon the Earth.
Each Hall of Fame ballot has room for 10 selections. Thomas is one of 19 newcomers joining the ballot along with 17 holdovers. 36 candidates allow for a lot of variance between over 600 voters, and with five holdovers having received over 50% of the vote in 2013, and easy cases for well over 10 candidates, Thomas will have to uniquely capture the passions of the electorate to force his way through in his first year.
As one of the 10 candidates for the Ford C. Frick Award, Hawk is not actually being considered for Hall of Fame induction. If he wins, the honor is bestowed upon him at the induction ceremony, and his name is carved into a plaque listing all the winners, and that plaque is in the Hall of Fame. But Hawk will not be inducted. He cannot be inducted. It is likely he will never be inducted and he certainly isn’t being inducted this year.
He has no chance.
Frank Thomas has a .301/.419/.555 career batting line through more than 2300 games, good for a 154 wRC+; meaning he was over 50% better than the league average hitter for a nearly two-decade span. His wRC+ never dipped below 168 in his first eight seasons. These are linear weight measures, by the way, which are used to demonstrate how much Thomas’ production stood out from an era already insane with offense.
Despite clocking 521 career home runs and having a .254 ISO (big power), he was an unfathomably disciplined hitter who walked more than he struck out. Career WAR, Hall of Fame Monitor, JAWS, etc. There’s no statistical measure that hesitates to pronounce him as safely Hall of Fame-worthy.
Hawk Harrelson started broadcasting in 1975, joined the White Sox booth in 1982, took a break to ruin the team, and has been back in the booth since 1991. He has a lot of catch-phrases, local support, and an owner who seems to have adjusted well to his work not being at all what he initially wanted.
"“When we hired Hawk and (Don) Drysdale in 1982, I asked them to do a straight network broadcast and it went over like a lead balloon. Our market demands homers, so I told Hawk to go ahead, be a homer. People tune in even when we stink because they like listening to Hawk and to Steve Stone. And he knows the game, he teaches the game. The two of them explain the game. They really love baseball. He’s colorful.”"
WHAT ARE HIS ACTUAL CHANCES?
While Thomas enters an extremely crowded and logjammed and poisonous Hall of Fame field, his strategic and endless expressions of disgust and disappointment with the steroid use of his colleagues should throw off the haze of unfounded suspicion that has stalled other Hall of Fame campaigns, and maybe even gain him points with writers who appreciate his enthusiasm for attempting to right past wrongs through exclusion.
Between how carefully he’s managed his public persona, the easy brilliance of his performance resume, and the fact that yeah, there’s really nothing tying him to steroids, give him as good of a shot as any non top-50 all-time player of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer. If not this year, his selection still seems inevitable.
Hawk Harrelson is regularly derided as being completely abysmal and outright neglectful of his job by pundits across the country. Considering the other nominees, the length of his tenure is unremarkable. As a novelty case, are his contributions more unique than those of French-language Canadian announcer Jacques Doucet? Or Spanish-language Padres announcer and Mexican sports ambassador Eduardo Ortega? He’s old, but not so much that there’s some rush to honor him before he dies. Hell, one of the other nominees already is dead. You can’t beat that.
But consider, no one really understands why Harrelson was nominated. The fact that he’s even in the final 10 suggests we have no great grasp on what the criteria for selecting the winner of Ford C. Frick Award is. Perhaps the criteria is “what would make people notice the Ford C. Frick Award?”
WHOSE SELECTION WOULD RESULT IN AN ALL-CONSUMING BUBBLE OF OUTRAGE THAT WOULD SUCK ALL OF THE OXYGEN OUT OF THE ATMOSPHERE AND END LIFE?
Frank’s selection would likely be met with lots of moralizing praise from writers championing his induction as a win for players who did things the right way, as opposed to another victory for unfathomably talented, generational offensive monsters (those guys just can’t lose), which would likely draw the ire of those who think that the Hall of Fame should be used to memorialize all important baseball players, not just ones who can be celebrated free of context.
However, since very few believe that annoying tweets and articles are reason enough to actually oppose Thomas’ candidacy, the potential for an apocalypse bubble is muted.
With Hawk, there is certitude. The rivers will burn, the skies will cry blood, the trees…will shoot knives in every direction. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper…
OVERALL ADVANTAGE: HAWK (The last category was the only one that mattered)
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan