Those baseball Hall of Fame pundits who have been irked by Cooperstown’s dismissal of defensive stars can now point to the NBA Hall of Fame for some support. The latest induction to the NBA Hall of Fame was the ever-flamboyant freak Dennis Rodman. Anyone who followed Rodman’s career–it was hard not to because the media ate-up his antics–knows that Dennis wasn’t an elite offensive player. In fact, he wasn’t even a good offensive player, merely serviceable, but he was a top-flight defender. The NBA understood Rodman’s value and thus ushered him into the basketball Hall of Fame, while baseball still grapples with the notion of enshrining their defensive wizards. Bill Mazeroski was the lone exception but even his induction was met with loud cries of opposition.
Critics can point to Luis Aparacio, Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith as proof that the baseball Hall of Fame honors its defensive stars, but these men, although defensive giants, were no slouches offensively either. Little Luis was one of the greatest base stealers of his day, Brooks was a fine RBI man with above average power and Ozzie Smith was a fleet-footed table-setter who never gave away at-bats. Mazeroski is really the only Rodman-like induction in baseball history. He wasn’t a good offensive player–he couldn’t run, he couldn’t hit for authority, his batting average was ho-hum and his on-base percentage was very weak. But Maz was elite with the glove.
Perhaps the induction of Dennis Rodman in the NBA Hall of Fame will open some eyes of voters for the baseball Hall of Fame, but don’t hold your breath. Such great defenders like Mark Belanger and Frank White have received little-to-no support for the Hall of Fame and that trend will probably continue for some time.