Earlier this week, I finally finished putting my Topps doubles and cards from other manufacturers of players who made the Hall of Fame into plastic sheets and binders. The final (current) tally is 134 players and managers and 1,516 cards. It’s a project that has been on the to-do list for years and it’s good to have finally crossed it off. Unfortunately, Keith Hernandez is not in the Hall and thus not in my binders.

Many of you will consider this blasphemy but as a player, Hernandez has a far superior Hall of Fame case than Gil Hodges. The question is if Hodges’ nine-year managerial career, one with a World Series title but a 321-444 record, makes up the difference in Hernandez’ edge as a player. Maybe it does. But if we’re going to credit Hodges for his time as a manager, shouldn’t we credit Hernandez’ time as a broadcaster?

It’s difficult enough to judge careers as players. It only gets worse when you venture into managerial and broadcast credentials. Please, I beg you, don’t bombard this with testimonials from players on the 1969 team singing Hodges’ praises. Trust me, I’ve heard or read them all before. I grew up watching all of those rain delay segments and I’ve watched and read a bunch on that season. It’s kind of important to a Mets fan, you know.

Besides, this is about Hernandez.

It’s fairly safe to say at this point in time that 60 fWAR gets you in the conversation for the Hall of Fame and 70 fWAR makes you a virtual lock. Hernandez finished his career with 59.4 fWAR, so it’s not a surprise that he hasn’t been elected yet. But how much should his 17 years and counting as a Met broadcaster factor into his HOF candidacy?

The Hall of Fame doesn’t officially recognize it at all, at least according to its website.

Hodges was not elected as a player by the BBWAA, which is considered the most prestigious way. Instead, he was chosen by an ERA Committee, with era being a period of time, not a pitcher’s ERA. Here’s how the Hall describes it:

“The Era Committees, formerly known as the Veterans Committee, consider retired Major League Baseball players no longer eligible for election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), along with managers, umpires and executives, whose greatest contributions to the game were realized in one of four eras. Committees meet at the MLB Winter Meetings.”

Nowhere does it describe players who augmented their playing careers with a lengthy broadcast career. Maybe this is covered elsewhere but I didn’t see it. And it seems a shame.

Announcers and broadcasters have long held a special spot for fans. And there is a broadcasting wing in the Hall. There’s an argument to be made that with the advent of free agency and star players leaving teams in the middle of their careers at least as often as they do at the end, that broadcasters have a greater amount of importance for fans remaining loyal to teams than players. Hernandez himself played for three MLB teams in his 17-year career. He’s been a broadcaster for just the Mets in that same time period.

My opinion is that Hernandez used to be a big asset to the SNY broadcast team. Now, he seems like a drag, a member who has to be carried by Gary Cohen and Ron Darling, rather than one who pushes the telecast forward. Maybe it’s because color commentators have a limited shelf life. Tim McCarver was great when he was on Mets telecasts but he was virtually unlistenable at the end of his tenure as a national broadcaster.

Players lose their fastball so it shouldn’t be a surprise that broadcasters can suffer the same fate.

Regardless of my opinion on his current suitability for the booth, there are plenty of fans who are overjoyed that Hernandez recently signed a three-year deal to continue as a Mets broadcaster. And there will definitely be comfort on my end hearing his voice chime in when they wake him up in the middle of the game.

Anyway, it seems to me that we should take in the complete package of what a player does when it comes to his Hall of Fame credentials, both on and off the field. Hodges was a fine ballplayer, one who served his country – and potentially lost significant development time – in World War II. He was a driving force in leading the Mets to their first championship. All of that should be considered in his HOF case. As should his losing record as a manager and his role in driving Nolan Ryan and Amos Otis out of town.

Hernandez was one of the leaders on two World Series winners, for two different teams. He’s generally regarded as being the finest fielding first baseman of his generation, one who redefined the position. And he continues to give fans pleasure with his work as a broadcaster. All of that should be considered in his HOF case. As should his role in the cocaine trials covering the late 70s-early 80s, his rotten performance in Cleveland and his mostly banal contributions to today’s telecasts.

Questions of the Hall of Fame aside, I love this card of Hernandez showing him as a fielder. It’s just too bad there isn’t one of him shot from above, showing him five feet from the bunter and throwing to cut down the lead runner at third base. Not sure if that type of photo even exists. If so, perhaps one of the guys who re-make cards (like the late, great Warren Zvon) could make that happen.

13 comments on “Mets Card of the Week: 1988 Keith Hernandez

  • John Fox

    Measuring the value of a manager by focusing on the won-loss record s deplorable in my opinion. Gil Hodges managed 2 teams, the first was the expansion Washington Senators in 1963, their third year of existence, through 1967. The tam was dreadful when he started and it improved every year under Hodges except for one, I think. The Mets were a perennial last-place expansion team prior to Hodges arrival in 1968 and they quickly improved to world champion in 2 years.

    • Brian Joura

      One thing that’s fairly constant throughout the years is a good manager’s ability to win with various teams. Sparky Anderson, Lou Piniella, Davey Johnson, Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter are just some managers who were able to be big winners with two or more teams. Ted Williams, who was no one’s ideal of a good manager, turned a 65-win Senator team – one just a few years removed from Hodges at the helm – into an 86-win team.

      Wins aren’t a perfect representation of a manager’s ability but it’s an odd take to consider looking at a manager’s won-loss record as a deplorable measure of value.

      • John Fox

        I said the focus on won -loss is deplorable, not that the stat itself is. I think the improvement a team makes is more significant than simple won-loss.

        • Brian Joura

          I have a theoretical question for you. Let’s say everything about Gil Hodges’ professional baseball career plays out the way it did, except for three games in the 1969 World Series. Let’s say Agee doesn’t make the catches in Game 3, Swoboda doesn’t make the catch in Game 4 and Weis doesn’t homer and Boog Powell doesn’t make the error in Game 5. To make up for it, Yogi starts George Stone in Game 6 in 1973 and Stone matches Don Larsen and pitches a perfect game, leading the Mets to a World Series championship as improbable as the one they got four years earlier.

          If we don’t have the myth-making World Series win in 1969 – but the franchise still has it, just four years later – is Hodges still a Hall of Famer?

          • Foxdenizen


          • Denis Engel

            He should have in the Hall based on his player performance. He batted cleanup for the best team in the NL for more than a decade. He was also Keith Hernandez-like with a glove – except right handed. In the days of his eligibility for the HoF, super elites of the game had to wait three or four years to get in.

  • David Hong

    He may be the best all around all time Met ever. Excelled as a player and now as a broadcaster too for the franchise.

  • Mike W

    The Hall of Fame is great, but a lot of it is a joke. Lou Whitaker has the same exact WAR as Johnny Bench at 75.1 and he is not in. Yet Harold Baines has a 38.8 WAR and he is in.

    I loved Hernandez’s game. Great number three hitter and arguably the best fielding first baseman in history. That’s how you win ballgames with players like Hernandez.

    He absolutely deserves to be in. It’s kind of funny. When you think about players, they either are or are not hall of famers. A player gets 10% of the vote for five years. Then it goes up to 25%, then 45% and to 60% to 75%. Yet it’s still the same player.

    I almost thinks it’s better to let the players vote their peers in. They know who the great players are.

    • Brian Joura

      Yeah, there’s a long list of mistakes on both sides of the induction issue. For every Lou Whitaker, I’ll give you a Jim Rice.

  • Mike W

    Don’t forget about Billy Martin. He wore his welcome out, but he won pretty much wherever he went.

    • Brian Joura

      For sure, Martin deserves the mention.

      I often wonder how Martin would fare in the 21st Century. We recognize him now as a high-functioning alcoholic. If he got his drinking – and presumably his affinity for physical altercations – under control, would he still have been a productive manager? And how would teams view him? Would the short-term boost he gave be looked on favorably? Buck Showalter gave teams boosts, didn’t have the issues that Martin did and he went two full seasons without a managerial job after Arizona and three years without a job after being fired by both Texas and Baltimore.

      Martin went right from the Tigers to the Rangers to the Yankees to the A’s and then back to the Yankees, with no full season off, much less three. And he only had one year off between the Twins and the Tigers.

  • NYM6986

    It seems there is much confusion of who to vote Into the HOF and still some voters who don’t vote for as many candidates as they could. The lofty goals of 300 wins or 500HR or 3,000 hits as minimum benchmarks are sure to fall by the wayside as current players have little chance to last long enough to reach those heights. We need to remember that the Hall represented the cream of the crop and that membership was limited and select. Every time I see the NLF Hall inductees, it seems aside from the one true candidate, 6 more get in who were simply good players. Not as elite as baseball. Gil Hodges deserved to be voted in solely on his clutch hitting, strong fielding and the leadership he gave to the Dodgers. Keith Hernandez, based on his playing career, was a strong candidate, just not attaining the other benchmarks. He was also the best in the field. The ERA committee should move him in to the HOF. I like his broadcasting because it is a playful distraction to Gary and Ron and we can all enjoy the game and groan about Keith. I could have also listened to just Gary and Ron and enjoy those broadcasts more than when Ron takes a few days off to broadcast for FOX.

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