Tuesday, January 13, 2009

John or Jobe?

I don't have a lot to say about yesterday's Hall of Fame announcement. Rickey Henderson was clearly going to get in, clearly belongs there, and I don't mind Jim Rice being there. He seems borderline to me, not sure if I'd vote for him, but he's no blot on the Hall.

There's been a lot of commentary about who should be in, who shouldn't be, and the amount seems to climb every year. I offer nothing unique, except to wonder how they exclude Bert Blyleven (and I'm not even going to start on the Veterans Committee and Ron Santo), and to wish that Andre Dawson hadn't developed knee problems relatively early in his career, as then this fine man would be a no-brain pick. (I also think Tim Raines deserves a lot more support, and Alan Trammell a bit more support.)

Bob Markus wrote for the Chicago Tribune for many years, and, while never flashy, was a solid writer, reporter, and columnist. In retirement, he has started a blog (My Life in Sports) to which he, unfortunately, only posts once a week. He weighs in today on the Hall of Fame voting, and makes his case for Tommy John, who, in his last chance before going to the VC, received only 32% support. It seems unlikely now that he'll ever get in.

Bob Markus saw a lot more of Tommy John than I did, and he makes the case well (though I don't quite think of John as a Hall-of-Famer), but he brings up one point that I've seen from quite a few other people the past month: that Tommy John deserves credit for the elbow surgery that bears his name.

I have a bit of trouble with that idea. I'm sure that there was a certain amount of pluck in Tommy John in willing to undergo an unproven procedure, but he didn't have a wide range of choices if he wanted to prolong his career. He also had to work hard in rehab to come back and win 164 games post-surgery, but a lot of athletes have had to do that.

If anyone deserves to get credit for this operation, it's surgeon Frank Jobe. He has been responsible for quite a few saved careers, and has had a real effect on the quality of play and players' lives. It seems to me that Jobe is as least as deserving of enshrinement (and isn't that term somewhat overblown?) in Cooperstown as the guy who laid on the table and received the surgery.

[I would love to have been first with this idea, but, as I searched for a link to information about Dr. Jobe, I found this article by Chris Isidore from 2007 in which he makes the same case. So call me a second vote for the good doctor.]

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