Rock and Baseball Halls of Fame: Stats, Influence and Arguments

What ultimately makes baseball players and guitar players Hall of Fame-worthy?

The Moody Blues (Image: AP)
Mike Piazza (Image: AP)
Mike Piazza (Image: AP)

(WTNH) With the announcements of inductees for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of fame coming within weeks of one another, it provides a good look into the question: what makes an all-timer in these two fields of popular entertainment? Statistics? Popularity? Sales? All the above?

Baseball’s selections should be easier to parse. A sport so bound to statistics — including newer ones I simply do not understand (I’m sorry, but “Wins Above Replacement” will always be “above” my head) — enables somewhat more precise choices; 300 wins as a pitcher, you’re probably in. 3000 hits, likewise. Hence, Craig Biggio. The sturdy Houston Astro lifer who, I’m told, hit lots of doubles, got his phone call from Cooperstown yesterday. But former Dodger and Met superstar Mike Piazza, who hit more home runs than any catcher ever, didn’t.

So if even an enterprise that puts hard numbers above all else can’t make clean, inarguable Hall selections in many cases, where does that leave artistic endeavors, like music, when it comes to picking the all-time best? Frankly, it leaves me mystified. The Moody Blues aren’t in the Rock Hall of Fame. Deep Purple isn’t, either. Two influential bands with utterly distinct sounds and healthy album sales, left out in the Cleveland cold, while Heart — Heart! — is inside with The Beatles and John Lee Hooker.

But obviously, influence counts for something in the Rock Hall. Taylor Swift sells more records in a week than The Velvet Underground ever did. But Lou Reed, John Cale and company got in way back in 1996, and no one thought twice about it. Because they were, you know, so influential (a good name for a band, now that I think of it: The Influentials). But Disco music, like it or not, had a huge influence on the R&B, Hip Hop, and Electonica music that came later. Yet Disco can barely buy a ticket to the HOF ceremony, with The O’Jays and Chic the most recent odd bands out. Go figure.

The problem is that choosing The Greats often comes with a high degree of subjectivity, for individuals or for the people who actually get to vote. For example, in baseball, assumed drug use (see Clemons, R. and Bonds, B.) is a big factor. In rock music, not so much. Either way, judgments based on taste and character lurk alongside more objective factors, like statistics, sales and popularity (with the media, in particular). In the end, a fan of either baseball or rock music is left to construct their own Halls of Fame, and if I want The Moody Blues or Mike Piazza to be in, then they’re in! I’ll make the calls to them later today.

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