Eck, Molitor deserve Hall

This year's Hall of Fame voting demonstrates that relievers and DHs are getting more respect.

Originally Published: January 7, 2004
By Joe Morgan | Special to ESPN.com

More from Joe Morgan: Pete Rose's admission lacks contrition

This year's Hall of Fame voting demonstrates that relief pitchers and designated hitters are getting more respect. Both Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor, elected to the Hall on Tuesday in their first year of eligibility, clearly are deserving of the honor.

I'm disappointed that the Pete Rose headlines have taken attention away from the election of these two special players. They deserved the spotlight of the baseball world to be focused solely on them.

Molitor
Molitor
Eckersley
Eckersley
Historically, relievers and DHs haven't received much support from the writers who vote for the Hall of Fame. To be elected to the Hall, a player must appear on at least 75 percent of the ballots. With the election of Eckersley (83.2 percent) and Molitor (85.2 percent), that trend might be changing.

Eckersley was the most dominant reliever of his era for the Oakland Athletics, winning the AL MVP and Cy Young awards in 1992. He recorded 390 saves (third all-time).

But Eckersley spent the first 12 years of his 24-year career as a starter. He won 20 games with the Boston Red Sox in 1978 and also pitched a no-hitter for the Cleveland Indians in '77. So that probably played a part in his election.

With 3,319 hits, Molitor ranks eighth all-time (and third among right-handed hitters). He collected about 2,000 hits as a position player, but the rest came as a DH. Molitor's 21-year career was spent with the Milwaukee Brewers (15 years), Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins.

One reason DHs have trouble getting recognized is because the American League rule affords a player who's a good hitter the opportunity to attain higher career numbers. Hitters in the National League don't have the same opportunity to amass statistics.

National League stars of my generation like Johnny Bench and Willie Stargell would have achieved much higher numbers had they gone to the AL. Stargell, who finished with 475 career home runs, easily would have hit 500-plus had he continued playing as a DH.

Basically, the DH is an American League anomaly. I hope the NL never goes to it. In fact, I would prefer to see the AL go back to having the pitcher hit. I believe baseball is a better game that way.

On the other side of the ballot: Jim Rice, Ryne Sandberg, Bruce Sutter and Lee Smith are among those who were overlooked again. I hope they're all elected someday. I saw Rice and Sandberg play often, and I know they were also special players. Sutter was the prototype of the modern closer, and in Smith's case, his numbers speak volumes -- he holds baseball's career saves record (478).

An analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is the Hall's vice chairman. He won won back-to-back World Series and MVP awards with the Reds in 1975 and '76.

ALSO SEE