DDT's Pop Flies (43)

DDT (AKA Darryl Tahirali) is a freelance writer living in Orange County, California. Originally from Canada, DDT enjoys writing about music, baseball, and other areas of Western pop culture from the tasteful to the trashy. DDT can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Responding in late March to the allegations of performance-enhancing drug use that have dogged him throughout his career, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz forcefully denied the charges while stating unequivocally "[h]ell yes I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame" in a post entitled "The Dirt" on The Players' Tribune website.
Ten years. That is the new maximum length of time a player can remain on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, effective for the current (2015) ballot and for future ballots, a one-third reduction in eligibility length from the previous maximum of 15 years.

Oh, sure, there were other changes announced by the Hall on July 26 of this year: The voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), those who are actually eligible to vote for the candidates on the ballot, must complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct before they can receive a ballot, with the code of conduct stating explicitly that the member will not transfer the ballot to another person or entity, and with the penalty for doing so being a lifetime ban from voting on a Hall of Fame ballot.
You know how hard it is to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame? In 2013, with a ballot brimming with qualified candidates, not one player received the 75 percent of the votes needed for admission. (I identified 14 likely Hall of Famers on the 2013 ballot.)

Granted, 2013 was the first year of eligibility for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both poster boys for performance-enhancing drugs (PED), bringing to a head the contentious debate about "cheaters" and their admission into the Hall. But there were certainly several "clean" players on that ballot, and a few of those, such as 3000-hit-club member Craig Biggio, would have been uncontroversial picks in any previous year.

And although 2014 saw the election of three players—Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas—it was merely the tip of a talent-heavy iceberg (I identified 18 likely Hall of Famers for that ballot), while providing a burn to Biggio yet again as not only did he miss election by one vote (he garnered 74.8 percent of the vote), but three first-time candidates leapfrogged him into Cooperstown.
F. Scott Fitzgerald may have said that American lives had no second acts, but some former baseball players can get a second chance: Even if a player finds no success for the Baseball Hall of Fame on the ballot voted on by the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), he may get a second look from the Veterans Committee to see if he had been unfairly passed over previously. But do any of the candidates on this year's ballot deserve that second chance?

(And if the reference to novelist Fitzgerald sounds like irrelevant pretense, recall that in The Great Gatsby he alluded to the gambler who put in the fix for the 1919 World Series and thus destroyed "the faith of fifty million people," while that phrase became the title of the third "inning," or episode, of Ken Burns's celebrated documentary series Baseball.)
In the words of Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, it's déjà vu all over again because it seems as if I was doing this exercise only a year ago. That exercise is evaluating the fifteen nominees for the 2015 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced on October 9, 2014. (And just to clarify, the inductees will be announced later in 2014 for the induction ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 18, 2015.)

As I did for the 2013 ballot and again for the 2014 ballot, I profile these fifteen nominees and indicate whether I think the Hall voters will vote for them, and whether I would vote for them were I issued that precious ballot as a voting member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
As Martha and the Vandellas once put it, summer's here and the time is right for dancing in your seat.

All right, so the lyric doesn't go exactly that way, but with concerts so regimented these days, you don't get much opportunity to dance in the aisles, let alone dance in the street. But having recently seen three rock acts in concert, one already a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee while one of the two not in the Hall has a huge groundswell clamoring for its induction, You may be interested in how they perform onstage.

What's funny is that in the last few years I had been attending hardly any rock shows. Rather, my taste for live music had run toward jazz, folk, and international acts in smaller, more intimate settings. And as far as classic-rock acts go, I had been leery of the nostalgia circuit. I used to write for the concert guide of a local venue, and I fluffed up my share of articles touting the likes of Iron Butterfly and Robin Trower, acts trading on their glory days (and in the case of a band like Iron Butterfly, that may have been day, singular) while occasionally promoting their latest album, released on a small, independent label, and noticed by few outside the fanbase.

But as I get older and become nostalgic myself, my curiosity gets the better of me. After all, none of us are getting any younger, and didn't I want to see some of these acts before they head off to the great festival in the sky? Even if, at this stage, they are past their prime?
THE SHOW NEVER ENDS: HALL OF FAME-WORTHY LIVE ALBUMS OF THE CLASSIC ROCKAND SOUL PERIOD

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame may not be at the level of inducting individual albums yet, but if it did, this list of live albums from the classic rock and soul period, along with a few honorable mentions, would surely be included.

Why a live album? It is true that nothing can replace the experience of actually being at a concert, but a live recording can be the next-best thing to being there. It preserves the memory of what happened when that music had been created. A quality live recording can be close enough—a reminder of the concert you had experienced, or, more likely as you explore the music of artists from decades past, a sample of music that you'd have never been able to hear in person, anyway. With a live album, the show never ends.
Now we get to the really fun part of this, er, appreciation of science-fiction films from the 1950s: the bad ones. Yes, these are the films about which you cannot say that the acting "could have been stronger," or the effects "lacked realism," or the story seemed "weak." These films are so lacking in quality that you can safely say this: These films are sci-fi stinkers.

Or as Frank Zappa put it, these films all exhibit "Cheepnis," the name of his song saluting sci-fi stinkers that first appeared on the Mothers' 1974 live album The Roxy and Elsewhere. As Zappa explained in the introduction to "Cheepnis," "the cheaper they are, the better they are," and while he noted that a film's budget, or lack thereof, is not necessarily a factor in its exhibiting "Cheepnis," it does help.

The ten films in this, our final list of 1950s sci-fi films, not only have "Cheepnis" but also some kind of lasting notoriety. Because—let's face it—there are a lot of bad science-fiction films and not just from the 1950s, and I'll leave it to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, to memorialize those. For example, The Giant Gila Monster (1959) is certainly bad—the special effects include an obvious model train and an ordinary lizard in a diorama to make it seem "giant"—but no one in the cast had any fame nor went on to any fame, the narrative and dialogue are not memorably atrocious, so it is merely bad but not notably so.
Ten votes for ten candidates. That is the maximum number of votes a member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) can cast on the 2014 ballot that contains players eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, the highest honor a player can receive from the sport. Each vote can be for one candidate only, up to a maximum of ten; a voter is not required to cast all ten votes; in fact, a voter does not have to vote for any candidate.

The problem is that this year's ballot, announced on November 26, 2013, contains 36 candidates—and half of those candidates qualify for the Hall of Fame, at least by my reckoning. The fact is that two issues have plagued Hall of Fame voting in recent years: a logjam of qualified candidates and a backlash concerning players who have used, or have been suspected of using, performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

This reached a head last year, when on a ballot of 37 candidates, not one player received the minimum 75 percent of votes required for election to the Hall. Not one. This includes a ballot that listed Jeff Bagwell (449 home runs, 1529 runs batted in), Craig Biggio (3060 hits, 668 doubles), Barry Bonds (all-time leader in home runs with 762), and Roger Clemens (354 wins, 4672 strikeouts) among the candidates. In fact, the only player inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013 was Deacon White, the catcher selected by Pre-Integration Era committee who last played a game in 1890, and good luck finding anyone who remembers that event first-hand.
Once again the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its nominations for this year's class of inductees, fueling spirited speculation about which artists should or should not be voted into the Hall. As I did last year, I have profiled the sixteen nominees for the 2014 class and have indicated whether I think Hall voters will vote for the nominee, and whether I would vote for the nominee if I were a voting member of the Hall.

The sixteen nominees are the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, Kiss, L.L. Cool J, the Meters, Nirvana, N.W.A., the Replacements, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Link Wray, Yes, and the Zombies. Five of the nominees are returning from last year: the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, the Meters, and N.W.A..
Although we are not scraping the bottom of the 1950s science-fiction film barrel just yet, you can see patches of wood below as we dig through ten sci-fi flicks that have significant deficiencies from a creative or technical standpoint. In other words, now we are starting to get into what for many viewers epitomizes 1950s sci-fi flicks: cheap and cheesy.

These ten flicks are not quite lame and tawdry, but neither do they exhibit narratives or performances that could redeem a film in the way that they could for the last ten films we explored. However, we are now confronted with the reality of 1950s science-fiction cinema: A lot of films made in the genre were made quickly and cheaply to cash in on the demand, and they lack distinction, dubious or otherwise. As we look at these ten not-so-good films and certainly at the ten bad films in the next installment of the series, we will see that each film must have had some mark of notoriety to differentiate it from the mass of simply unremarkable—did someone say simply terrible?—films.

One film that probably belongs in this group but is not described below is When Worlds Collide, another technically splashy effort from producer George Pal released in 1951: As a star approaches Earth and promises imminent annihilation, efforts begin to construct ships to rescue a lucky few amidst growing panic and chaos. Among the cast are incipient 1960s sitcom mainstays Frank Cady (Sam Drucker from Petticoat Junction and Green Acres), Larry Keating (Roger Addison from Mister Ed), and Hayden Roarke (Doctor Bellows from I Dream of Jeannie). However, I did not include it below because it's been years since I've seen it, and I've been unable to get hold of a copy to view it again, so I don't feel that I can describe it adequately nor justify why it should be included.
My, how time flies! Here it is more than a year since my last "audit" of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, my foolhardy attempt to evaluate the artists the Hall has inducted since its inaugural class of 1986, and I had better post my assessments now so I don't have to add another year's worth of inductees once the honorees for 2014 are announced.

To recap briefly, I have indeed evaluated the 186 performers who have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1986, in this audit and in five previous installments, each covering a five-year period:

Part 1 covers the first five years of induction, from 1986 to 1990.
Part 2 cover the next five years, from 1991 to 1995.
Part 3 covers the years 1996 to 2000.
Part 4 covers the years 2001 to 2005.
Part 5 covers the years 2006 to 2010.

Debates about the various Halls of Fame are legion and have existed as long as Halls have existed; they certainly continue today: Will the Baseball Hall of Fame ever recognize players associated with performance-enhancing drugs? Will Ray Guy finally gain admittance to the Football Hall of Fame in 2014? Is the Hockey Hall of Fame ever going to show some love to Dave Andreychuk?

However, unlike the sports halls of fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame faces specific challenges. First, the very term "rock and roll" is nebulously defined and has proved divisive to many listeners and fans. (By contrast, you know what sport you're getting at the Basketball Hall of Fame.) Second, the Hall itself uses vague criteria such as "musical excellence" to indicate its standards for inclusion. Third, and related to the previous point, there are no objective metrics—"stats"—that can be used to impartially evaluate artists. Fourth, the Hall has made some arbitrary and dubious choices over the years. Fifth, and related to the previous point, not only have those choices prompted denunciations from listeners of all stripes, but those very listeners, harkening back to the first and third points, have specific biases regarding just what "rock and roll" is and which artists are deserving of enshrinement.

All of which prompted me to undertake an audit of the Hall. This, as noted, is not only a foolhardy task but possibly an arrogant one as well, but—hey, baby—that's rock and roll. I have no insights or wisdom not available to the average listener willing to develop a basic understanding of how popular music has evolved in the West since the 1950s. I do have the following baselines, though.

First, at the end of any assessment, the artist either is or is not a Hall of Fame act. I don't subscribe to relativism or contingency, the idea that an artist may be a Hall of Famer but that another artist needs to be inducted first. It is either Yes or No. Now, I do use the term Borderline Yes, but that is to indicate only that the artist must have the case made for inclusion as that artist may not be universally accepted as a legitimate Hall of Fame act. Otherwise, I consider the artist to be qualified for the Hall.

The criteria for inclusion (or not), as indicated above, is ultimately subjective; however, I use what I call Defining Factors to help me evaluate each artist:

Innovation. The artist has invented or refined one or more aspects of the music.
Influence. The artist has made a demonstrable impact on the music of either contemporaries or succeeding artists.
Popularity. The artist has achieved an appreciable measure of commercial or critical success.
Crossover appeal. The artist is recognized and appreciated outside the artist's primary arena.
Legacy. The artist's accomplishments have lasting impact and appeal.

To be considered a Hall of Fame act, I think that an artist must rate as highly as possible in as many Defining Factors as possible. Again, this is a subjective assessment, but these Defining Factors help to form the basis of each argument.

But even with the problems the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame faces now, it is only going to get worse as time marches on.

"Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring"?

As we move forward into potential nominees for 2014 and beyond, and as the list of eligible candidates grows to include artists whose first recordings were issued in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the title to that 1968 song by Traffic becomes ever more salient: The pool of candidates becomes both wider and deeper. This can only force reappraisal of what we consider to be "rock and roll" along with reappraisal of the criteria that determine whether an act is worthy of the Hall of Fame. Simply put, we don't know what tomorrow may bring because that "tomorrow" is becoming more expansive, more diverse, and more diffuse—and that makes it harder to know what the "fame" in the "Hall of Fame" really signifies.

The start of the 1980s was informed by the punk-rock explosion of the late 1970s, which was a schism in the development of rock music as profound as the advent of the Beatles and even Elvis Presley himself—it relegated the existing order to the past as it announced a new order. Punk itself was too abrasive and too limiting to survive for very long in its raw state, but its commercially successful—and, frankly, more adaptable and appealing—cousin New Wave heralded the birth of modern rock. And as we will soon see, punk itself soon submerged—and soon flourished in various guises.

The late 1970s also saw the birth of hip-hop, which also saw the transformation of soul music into hitherto unexplored territory. Simply put, punk stripped down rock music to its primitive roots and salted it with social expression. Hip-hop, though, encompassed an array of musical elements that had been isolated, extracted, and recombined into a new form: In lieu of instruments, DJs manipulated records of existing artists, primarily funk, soul, and disco records (although not exclusively: Africa Bambaata's seminal "Planet Rock" was built on a bed made from proto-electronica Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express"), while MCs rapped over the musical underpinning, with rapping derived from Jamaican "toasting" and even the tradition of "the dozens" from African-American culture. That rapping, at first confined largely to party and sexual boasts, soon extended into extensive social and political commentary.

Not only did punk and hip-hop help to broaden the range of rock and soul, but advancements in technology and media distribution, to pick just two elements, combined with the relatively accessible "do it yourself" attitude of both musical styles to produce a quantum change in rock and soul.

The 1980s heralded both the "Great Expansion" and the "Great Bifurcation" in popular music. The Great Expansion, which we have touched on already, is the broadened range of rock and soul as new hybrids and offshoots of existing styles and genres developed, and it does not need much more elaboration in this summary. However, the Great Bifurcation is much more intriguing—and it has even more problematic ramifications for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

What I mean by the Great Bifurcation ("bifurcate" means to split into two distinct branches) is that not only did significant sectors of rock and soul develop and transform, but that many of those sectors split from the mainstream branch and developed "underground." And not only did they develop—they flourished, or at least remained viable. The upshot was the establishment of two realms of popular music: the mainstream, or "overground," with exposure on commercial radio and MTV (itself part of the concurrent technological and media changes), and the "underground"—what we now call "independent" (or "indie") and "alternative"—with much less commercial exposure yet with its own growing outlets, for example, a growing number of college radio stations, leading to yet another label, "college rock."

Furthermore, the underground did not need as much overground support to thrive. For example, pop-metal (or "hair-metal") bands (Def Leppard, Poison, Ratt, Skid Row, and others) had the commercial exposure that was not afforded to harder heavy-metal subgenres such as thrash-metal (Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, and others), yet those bands developed and thrived without traditional promotion. The flourishing of independent record labels and advancements in home-recording technologies meant that musical acts were becoming less dependent upon major labels and their studios for creating, recording, and distributing their music.

As the 1980s went on, the underground continued to blossom as its own entity, although crossover was inevitable: R.E.M., for example, started on the I.R.S. independent label but the band's popularity grew to such proportions that it signed with Warner Bros. in 1988 (although its I.R.S. records had been distributed by another major label, MCA Records). Nirvana, too, began on Seattle's Sub-Pop independent label before moving to Geffen Records.

Arrangements became variable—sometimes the indie labels were seen as the "farm teams" grooming talent for the major labels; sometimes acts preferred to stay on their own smaller labels and just make distribution deals with the majors. Moreover, a growing contingent of acts embraced the underground designation as both an ethos and, having proved its viability, a business model. They and their also-growing legions of followers sneered at their brethren and sistren who "sold out" and went the major-label route.

"You Can All Join In" (and Be Divided)

By the 1990s and the invention of the World Wide Web, another two barriers previously held by music labels, promotion and distribution, were taken down as artists used the web to market themselves directly to audiences. Listeners not only could receive updates from artists but could download the artists' material directly as bands such as Pearl Jam, Phish, and Radiohead, to name just three, made extensive, often exclusive material available to fans without needing to release it through the traditional channels.

Indeed, music downloading and the evolution of devices to support digital forms helped to spell the end to what had been historically the sole outlet for music acquisition: the record store. (And by "record store" I include record sections and departments in stores that sell other goods as well.) Those "brick and mortar" operations began to collapse as listeners could order and download music from internet-connected devices without having to go to a specific physical location. (And the demise of the local record store should be seen as a casualty in the overall revolution in retail shopping prompted by the internet.)

Into this environment came the ever-widening circles of musical styles and genres—and sub-genres, sub-sub-genres, and sub-sub-sub-genres as hybrids begat hybrids. By the 1990s and certainly into the 2000s it became a full-time job just to keep up with all the trends and variants going on in popular music. The obvious upshot to this will be: In the not too distant future, what will the "Fame" signify in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Popular music has become so expansive, so diverse, so diffuse that it is much more difficult for an artist to seize the dominance, the influence, the presence to signify the "Fame," at least as it is currently understood.

I've maintained for a while that we will probably never see an artist like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones again. That is not because either of those bands was so supremely talented and innovative that no one could hope to approach their legacy. It is because it is highly unlikely that the environment in which they established their fame will ever present itself again.

When the Beatles and the Stones came to prominence in the early 1960s, rock and roll had weathered its tumultuous birth in the mid-1950s, withstood the backlash, and despite a perceived abatement during the first couple of years of the 1960s, came roaring back stronger than ever; rock and soul have remained the pre-eminent musical forms ever since. (In the final installment of his sweeping documentary series Jazz, Ken Burns cites the ascendancy of rock, and specifically the rise of the Beatles, as being the event that pushed jazz, which had been at the forefront of American popular music since its inception in the early 20th century, permanently to the margins.)

Furthermore, other factors contributed to the keen attention paid to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The pool of rock and soul acts was much smaller at the time, with that pool to become much larger even a decade later, let alone the Great Lake, if not sea, it is today. Correspondingly, there were much fewer major producers and distributors of music than there are today. Professional recording studios were primarily in the hands of the recording industry, and even though local acts (at least in the United States) had been able to walk into a "mom-and-pop" recording studio and make recordings since before the advent of the Rock and Soul Era, the overwhelming majority of those never achieved more than regional fame. (Elvis Presley famously cut his first single ostensibly as a gift for his mother, although his having chosen Sun Records in Memphis, a professional label, lends credence to the supposition that he wanted to be discovered on a national scale.)

To gain widespread fame required promotion and exposure. There may have been many local or regional recording labels, but there were a relative handful of national or international labels, with the smaller labels usually acting as feeders to the larger ones. Getting discovered required hard work and luck over and above the talent necessary to be noticed. Even in the United States in the 1960s, there were only a handful of national television networks while each municipality had only a few radio stations, overwhelmingly AM radio as FM radio was in its infancy at least with respect to rock and soul. Not only was the pool of talent smaller than it is today, but the production, distribution, and promotion channels were narrower. And for audiences, there were limited outlets to learn about new music from either new or existing acts, which is why attention focused on the major acts, particularly sensations such as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, was magnified during this time—there simply were not many alternatives to diffuse that attention.

By contrast, listeners today have many alternatives beginning with an enormous pool of musical acts to choose from before getting to the wealth of media alternatives available—the internet and cable and satellite television and radio—choices that dwarf what was available in the 1960s, when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were both at their peaks. (And although the Beatles were done by 1970, the Rolling Stones' peak extended at least to 1972's Exile on Main St.)

The problem we face now is that with so many artists, styles, and genres available to us through so many different channels, it is difficult to establish that widespread exposure—that "crossover appeal"—unless an artist chooses to pursue the overtly commercial pop route and hope to become a household name such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, or Justin Beiber.

"Rock and Roll Stew"

All of this means that as we move into the future and more acts become eligible, it is getting harder to assess artists' qualifications for the Hall of Fame. This greatly expanded range of artists makes it harder for any artist to establish dominance in the marketplace in general or in the ears and minds of an equally diverse, diffuse listenership in particular.

And as the pool expands with the corresponding lack of dominance—the conditions that fostered the Beatles and the Rolling Stones no longer exist—individual biases and limitations will only become more pronounced: To be truly conversant about so many different areas of popular music will require ever-increasing effort—these are the limitations—and as the music becomes more diverse, what one listener considers to be "rock and roll" is ever more likely to diverge from what another listener calls "rock and roll"—these are the biases—making it difficult to come to a consensus on whether an artist is worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Every year's addition of eligible artists only expands the "rock and roll stew" even as it seasons that stew with a greater array of popular music. However, that also forces more explicit definitions of "rock and roll" and of "fame" itself. For example, hip-hop and electronica, just to pick two forms, have developed extensive infrastructures over the last few decades, which might be all but unknown to devotees of industrial or heavy metal, and vice versa, even as elements of all four can be found in any of the four—and even as those definitions become more ambiguous: Is Massive Attack hip-hop? Electronica? Both? Is Ministry industrial? Heavy metal? Both? Does it matter?

These are just a few of the questions that will continue to inform the always-lively discussion about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whose selections are bound to alienate at least as many as are delighted by them.

Using the baselines I described above, I hereby present my audit for the Hall of Fame's selections from 2011 to 2013. As noted, my conclusions are ultimately subjective, and are informed by my own biases and limitations.



2011: Slim Pickings

5 Inductees: Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love, Tom Waits

Yes: None

Borderline Yes: Alice Cooper, Tom Waits

No: Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love

By 2011, the Hall of Fame had been inducting artists of the Rock Era for twenty-five years, but on this silver anniversary the inductees for this year couldn't help but give the impression that the Hall had had to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Yes, Neil Diamond had been a pop icon for nearly twice that time, while Alice Cooper enjoyed notoriety among the hard-rock and shock-rock factions. But Dr. John and Tom Waits had always been on the fringe of popular consciousness even if both were respected and influential among musicians and the cognoscenti, while Darlene Love, an archivist's wet dream if no one else's, lurked even more deeply in the historical shadows.

Of the inductees who genuinely deserve enshrinement, Alice Cooper exerted an influence, such as it was, that lasted long after the band's early 1970s heyday, and Waits, plowing his own furrow from the start, eventually accumulated enough recognition and industry respect to nudge him past the gate. But Diamond, despite his stardom, had yearned to be an artist from the start but had always fallen short—think of him as another Billy Joel—while Dr. John and Darlene Love simply do not have the presence or influence to be in the Hall of Fame.

Schlock and Arr: Alice Cooper, Tom Waits

Hardly two candidates for a "separated at birth" speculation, both Alice Cooper, the band and the singer, and Tom Waits sported off-kilter showmanship, Alice Cooper with garish theatricality that almost overshadowed some fairly strong, if conventional, rock chops, while Waits drove his grizzled-beatnik pose through the heart of Saturday night on his way to a burgeoning musical proficiency, albeit one with a distinctive bent. Neither are obvious Hall of Fame candidates, but neither are they gratuitous choices.

Alice Cooper: This is "Alice Cooper" the band that was inducted into the Hall of Fame, although lead singer Vincent Furnier also called himself "Alice Cooper" and subsequently embarked upon his lengthy solo career under that name. That is appropriate as the "Alice Cooper" that deserves to be inducted is the band—although just barely. Despite early encouragement from Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper struck out with its first two albums and appeared headed toward obscurity until it hooked up with producer Bob Ezrin and released its first hit single, "Eighteen," an archetypal youthful cry that ushered in a string of hard-rock hits in the early 1970s that included "Under My Wheels," "Elected," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," and "Billion Dollar Babies," although the greatest of them was "School's Out," a roaring, ringing blast with a defiantly droll verse—"We got no class/And we got no principles/And we got no innocence/We can't even think of a word that rhymes!"—hinting at the brains behind the hard rock that showed surprising fealty to bygone styles.

In fact, what earned Alice Cooper its lasting notoriety wasn't its dexterous, if hardly original, music but rather its outlandish showmanship. This band pushed stage theatrics to a new level of garish spectacle. Furnier's early androgyny was embellished with mock-pantomime of torture and execution, a pounding Grand Guignol that delighted fans and outraged parents while exerting an influence on post-punk felt from White Zombie through Gwar. However, it didn't take long for the shtick to lapse into parody, and when Furnier went solo in 1975 he was already experiencing diminishing returns ("Welcome to My Nightmare") although he did develop a balladic touch—despite the potentially scatological title, "Only Women Bleed" was a lot more sensitive than you might expect from the man cavorting onstage with fake blood and a boa constrictor, and who was destined for the gallows at the climax of the show.

Those hard-rock gems from Alice Cooper the band still hold up today, providing the sturdy underpinning for a performance legacy that introduced grandiose showmanship into rock concerts for good. It's a shaky premise for a Hall of Fame induction, but in the history and development of the music, it is still a noteworthy one.

Tom Waits: Coming on like the bastard child of Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski, Tom Waits writes and sings as if he's splayed out on Skid Row swilling Thunderbird from a greasy paper bag while gleaning insights from a tattered copy of The Subterraneans as the ghost of Thelonious Monk wafts woozily from a nearby manhole cover. Beginning his career with Elektra in the 1970s, Waits often strained to personify the beatnik wastrel ("The Piano Has Been Drinking") even if a couple of his early songs have gained mass acceptance: The Eagles popularized the wistful "Ol' 55" while Bruce Springsteen embraced "Jersey Girl" hard enough to make listeners think it's one of his.

Waits's first few albums were a search for style and voice, beatnik ("(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night," "The Piano Has Been Drinking"), amphetamine (the huckster-capitalist gem "Step Right Up"), or otherwise ("Ol' 55"). He honed this approach with Foreign Affairs (the noir-by-way-of-Mose Allison "Burma Shave," the noir-as-duet-with-Bette Midler "I Never Talk to Strangers") and Blue Valentine, on which the cover of "Somewhere" (from West Side Story), the sprightly "Whistlin' Past the Graveyard," the surprisingly affecting "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis," and the late-night blues of "Wrong Side of the Road" effectively wedded their musical arrangements to Waits's lyrical ruminations. That trend continued with Heart Attack and Vine ("Jersey Girl," the title song) even if the sentiments seemed familiar.

Waits's move to Island Records started with the superb 1983 set Swordfishtrombones and emphasized his increasing musical complexity; at times he recalled Captain Beefheart ("16 Shells from a Thirty Ought Six," "Gin Soaked Boy"), while the piano instrumental "Rainbirds" echoed Thelonious Monk, although "Frank's Wild Years" was a vintage late-night caffeine ramble, and "Swordfishtrombone" belied its bounce with another hard-bitten tale. Rain Dogs contained "Downtown Train," a big hit for Rod Stewart, while Frank's Wild Years expanded on the song with help from artist wife Kathleen Brennan. Waits's albums became more sporadic as he branched out into film and soundtracks, but like Van Morrison and other icons outside the mainstream, his every action generates interest. A cult figure with some general visibility, Tom Waits is not an obvious choice for the Hall of Fame, but neither is he an unwarranted one.

Too Much Fame or Not Enough: Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love

The biggest name here is Neil Diamond, but like Billy Joel's 1999 induction, being a pop superstar is not an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame, particularly if, like Joel's, Diamond's music rarely cut below the surface sheen. Dr. John has the opposite problem of being a supporting star for decades while enjoying only a brief stint in the popular consciousness. And although Darlene Love might have been held more obscurely than she deserved, that glory period was so brief regardless that it's hard to justify her inclusion.

Neil Diamond: A fixture in pop music since the mid-1960s, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond has yearned for the kind of artistic recognition accorded to his contemporaries from Carole King to Paul Simon to Bob Dylan but despite his best efforts—and Diamond has made extraordinary efforts throughout his career—he has never been more than a competent craftsman, both as a performer and as a songwriter. Granted, Diamond's songs have spawned a fairly broad array of cover versions, from the Monkees ("I'm a Believer") and Deep Purple ("Kentucky Woman") to UB40 ("Red Red Wine") and Urge Overkill ("Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon"), and he has scored a passel of hits on his own. But Diamond's instincts have always been Brill Building, if not Tin Pan Alley—his starring in the hoary 1980 remake of The Jazz Singer epitomizes this tendency—and his catalog has consistently lacked the depth and resonance of the artists to whom he has always aspired.

Diamond got off to a decent enough start with the spare mood of "Solitary Man" and the rollicking "Cherry, Cherry," while the Elmer Gantry manqué "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" feinted toward both sly humor and lyrical substance. But the success of 1969's "Sweet Caroline," his highest-charting hit in the U.S. to date and his first British hit, presaged the soft-rock schlock that would dominate his output in the 1970s ("I Am . . . I Said," "Song Sung Blue," and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," his duet with Barbra Streisand) although he could still kick out a jaunty gem like "Cracklin' Rosie" every now and then, even if "Forever in Blue Jeans" was one of those finger-snappers that could go either way. He kept his streak going through the early 1980s—both "America" and "Heartlight" found Diamond unafraid to make big statements both social and personal, although the former echoed the ersatz significance of The Jazz Singer, from whose soundtrack it was taken, while the latter was inspired by the overweening sentiment of another film, Steven Spielberg's E.T. ("America" did subsequently develop some cachet when it was included on Clear Channel Communications' hysterically misguided memo of "inappropriate" songs following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.)

By the 1990s, Diamond was coasting on his reputation while charting occasionally with covers of pop and traditional standards, his sought-after artistic acceptance still a mirage. His career is that of the survivor and, were he a professional athlete, that of the compiler, piling up stats because he has managed to hang in there for so long. That's not an insignificant feat, but neither is it a Hall of Fame-worthy one.

Dr. John: Singer, pianist, and songwriter Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John (or Dr. John Creaux, or even Dr. John, the Night Tripper), is by now a part of Rock and Soul Era history, having begun in New Orleans as a studio musician while still a teenager in the late 1950s before lighting out for Los Angeles in the following decade. A disciple of New Orleans piano legend Professor Longhair, whose signature song "Tipitina" he eventually covered, Rebennack developed his Dr. John persona in L.A., and by the late 1960s he had begun releasing a series of psychedelic-gumbo records, especially the 1968 classic Gris-Gris, that were easily among the trippiest in a period of decidedly out-there music—even Roky Erickson and Syd Barrett combined couldn't conceive of anything as grandly, hauntingly bizarre as "I Walk on Gilded Splinters."

In the 1970s, Dr. John even notched a hit single with the funky "Right Place, Wrong Time," which has cropped up on a number of movie soundtracks (including a version by B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt for Air America), while the follow-up "Such a Night," which had just missed the Top 40, gained further exposure when Dr. John performed it for the Band's 1978 valedictory concert film The Last Waltz. But that was the extent of Dr. John's popular peak, even if he has won a number of Grammys starting in 1989 with the nostalgic and traditional musical approach he began emphasizing by the late 1970s. A studio stalwart for most of his career, Dr. John would have been a shoo-in for the Hall's Award for Musical Excellence (formerly the Sidemen) category, but inducting him as a performer is not warranted as his record as a performer is neither strong enough nor long enough to justify such a selection.

Darlene Love: In an ensemble that largely stressed anonymity, singer Darlene Love stood out among producer Phil Spector's Wall of Sound cast of characters thanks to her surging voice with its capacity to convey a range of emotions. Indeed, Love emerged as a solo star on the legendary 1963 Christmas album originally titled A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records. However, the album, which has become arguably the greatest Christmas album by any artists associated with the Rock and Soul Era, sold poorly initially—it was released the same day President John Kennedy was assassinated and thus was overshadowed by that landmark tragedy. Although reissues eventually gave the album its now-exalted status, it seems to echo Love's own fate—and suggests why her induction into the Hall of Fame is problematic.

In addition to the unfortunate timing of the Christmas album's release, Love was also the sometime-lead vocalist for the girl-group the Crystals—she's the lead on their hits "He's a Rebel" and "He's Sure the Boy I Love"—as well as a lead- and backing vocalist for another Spector singing group, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans—she duets with Bobby Sheen on "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"; thus, Love's accomplishments are partially obscured by Spector's seemingly arbitrary accreditation system. Love is credited as the solo artist on three hits: "A Fine, Fine Boy," "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry," and "Wait 'Til My Bobby Gets Home." She gets the spotlight on Christmas Gift with "White Christmas," "Winter Wonderland," and especially "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," which has become her signature song.

After her early-1960s flurry of fame, Love worked as a back-up singer, quit the business to raise a family, and then returned to performing on the nostalgia circuit, which although it remembered her warmly, is hardly enough to push her into the Hall of Fame. Should the Crystals, a borderline candidate and one of the few girl-groups to merit induction, ever be picked for the Hall, including Darlene Love in the selection would be the right action to take.



2012: Modern Acknowledgement, Classic Over-Representation

6 Inductees: The Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns 'N Roses, Laura Nyro, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Small Faces/Faces

Yes: The Beastie Boys, Guns 'N Roses

Borderline Yes: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Small Faces/Faces

No: Donovan, Laura Nyro

By the time the Hall inducted the six artists for 2012, the dividing line between classic rock and modern rock had been sharply drawn. (In 2012, six acts were retroactively inducted into the Hall; they are discussed in the separate section below.) The three artists from the modern (post-punk) period—the Beastie Boys, Guns 'N Roses, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers—are among the most significant names since the mid-1980s, and although the Chili Peppers have never been truly accomplished musically, their pioneering fusion of styles transcended their artistic limitations. On the other hand, the Beastie Boys quickly transcended what could have been novelty status to emerge as one of the more considered musical forces in the last three decades, while Guns 'N Roses, which burst forth as one of the most explosive hard-rock acts of any time, deftly, even slyly, straddled the line between classic and modern rock.

However, the three (or is that four?) artists from the classic period—Donovan, Laura Nyro, and Small Faces/Faces—continue the Hall's persistent backfilling with ever-diminishing returns. Donovan may be emblematic of his day—but how many more folk-rock and psychedelic-rock acts not already inducted are truly worthy of the Hall? Nyro is problematic because she may indeed belong in the Hall—but as was done with Carole King and as should have been done with Isaac Hayes, as a non-performer. And unless Small Faces and Faces are linked by a common rhythm section into a unified package, neither act had the impact and influence individually to make the Hall.

Latitude and Attitude: The Beastie Boys, Guns N' Roses

Both the Beastie Boys and Guns 'N Roses exploded into prominence in the 1980s, and while GNR self-destructed fairly soon afterward, the Beasties kept it alive into the 21st century. The Beasties made a genuine effort to merge hard rock with hip-hop, not simply using one to flavor the other, and although it may not have been wholly successful it was innovative and influential. Guns 'N Roses combined a classic hard-rock approach with contemporary attitude to forge a new template for a hard-rock band, and had been expanding its musical range even in the relatively short time it was together.

The Beastie Boys: Not merely showing that white boys could rap, the Beastie Boys more significantly effected a union of rock and rap that echoes Sly Stone's wedding of rock and soul a generation previously—it was a hybrid that softened the distinctions between the two forms even as it heralded an exciting new direction. Not that the Beasties' 1986 debut album Licensed to Ill, released after a handful of nondescript singles, necessarily suggested such a momentous event as it remains one of the greatest adolescent boasts of the Rock and Soul Era. Producer Rick Rubin channeled the (somewhat privileged) urban attitudes of MCs Michael "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "MCA" Yauch, and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz into a series of brash, often hilarious vignettes—"Girls," "Paul Revere," the rock-hard "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn," and the sophomore anthem "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)"—that sampled everything from AC/DC, Kool and the Gang, Led Zeppelin, and War to the 1960s sitcoms Green Acres and Mister Ed.

Which makes the band's next album, Paul's Boutique, all the more remarkable because its lyrical and musical sophistication, including a burgeoning social conscience, underlined the Beasties' ambition to develop a viable rock-rap merger and not merely use elements of one to garnish the other. That approach didn't spell commercial success—only "Hey Ladies" showed significant singles action—and Check Your Head, despite the compelling "So What'cha Want," offered tired, cliché efforts instead ("Gratitude," "Pass the Mic"). However, 1994's Ill Communication announced the Boys' maturation in no small measure, from the sinewy funk of "Root Down" to the stripped-down exhortations of "Sure Shot"—although the rap-metal crunch of "Sabotage" became a Beasties touchstone, thanks in part to its 1970s-crime-drama-inspired music video directed by Spike Jonze.

Indeed, by the time of Hello Nasty (1998), the Beastie Boys had achieved their synthesis (for example, "Intergalactic" could fall into hip-hop or electronica space), although as popular music entered the 21st century, it had absorbed so many stylistic influences that trying to delineate or categorize much of it could become a fool's errand. And even if a newer track such as "Ch- Check It Out" harkens back to old-school approaches, another one, "An Open Letter to NYC," informed by post-9/11 realities, suggests that the inclusive, cosmopolitan approach the Beastie Boys had been trying to establish was finally here. That's a long way from the snickering silliness of "Brass Monkey," but that path led eventually—and unreservedly—to Cleveland.

Guns 'N Roses: Once you strip away the charisma and the controversy, the balls and the bluster, what is most remarkable about Guns 'N Roses is how it upheld the classic-rock tradition while updating it for contemporary sensibilities. The specter of the Rolling Stones surrounds this band in attitude, approach, and style even as its frank, sometimes graphic drug- and sexual imagery blasted away the slick glitziness of 1980s commercial hard rock and replaced it with an edginess all the more powerful for its believability and candor. The kicker was the insight, if not outright empathy, that lay at the heart of the band's often astute observations, although lead singer Axl Rose's penchant for pugnacity and prejudice sullied GNR's reputation at times.

Nevertheless, the band's scintillating debut album Appetite for Destruction was undoubtedly the biggest hard-rock introduction since Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced? two decades before. Just as Hendrix captured his zeitgeist, Guns 'N Roses chronicled the urban blight amidst it in "My Michelle," "Rocket Queen," and especially in the anthem "Welcome to the Jungle" while the unabashed drug odes "Nightrain" and "Mr. Brownstone" were impressive ripostes to Ronald and Nancy Reagan's Just Say No to Drugs national climate. However, GNR landed its biggest blow with a ballad, "Sweet Child o' Mine," whose touching lyrics put the band leagues ahead of the competition.

For Appetite alone, Guns 'N Roses merits serious Hall consideration, but even though its follow-up EP G N' R Lies prompted accusations of bigotry for "One in a Million," the band delivered a pair of aces in Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Criticized at the time for their simultaneous release—although fans quickly put them both at the top of the charts—they stand as twin pinnacles of the near-original band with their array of songs that encompasses not just notorious sexism ("Back off Bitch," "Pretty Tied Up") and trademark truculence ("Right Next Door to Hell," "Get in the Ring") but auspicious power ballads ("Estranged," "November Rain") and, in a nod to classic rock, covers of Bob Dylan ("Knockin' on Heaven's Door") and Paul McCartney and Wings ("Live and Let Die"). In fact, the band's addition of keyboards to its attack suggested the stylistic expansion of mid-period Rolling Stones, and as the pre-eminent hard-rock act of its day, Guns 'N Roses looked set for the long haul.

So what happened? The group's combustibility fed its appetite for self-destruction only a few years after its meteoric rise, with Rose and lead guitarist Slash—the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the time—falling out not long after having recorded the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" (used on film soundtracks including Interview with the Vampire). The band effectively ceased operations as a front-line unit, although Rose's promise for another blockbuster album, Chinese Democracy, which eventually arrived in 2008, was the modern rock equivalent to Brian Wilson's assurances that the Beach Boys' mythical masterpiece album Smile was, like prosperity during the Great Depression, just around the corner. (Wilson did release a version of Smile in 2004.)

But despite what might seem like a short reign, Guns 'N Roses redefined the hard-rock model while upholding the classic-rock tradition. Those are Hall of Fame credentials.

Hybrids of Differing Stripes: The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Small Faces/Faces

Both examples of the various ways hybrids have formed during the Rock and Soul Era, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Small Faces/Faces represent two different aspects. The Chili Peppers are pioneers, having been the first successful act to combine various genres into a recognizable funk-metal style. Other succeeding acts may have refined or expanded the approach but the Peppers sustained a career while influencing others by doing so.

The Small Faces and Faces merger is another kind of hybrid reminiscent of how Funkadelic and Parliament were combined into one entity for induction. As with those two bands, both Small Faces and Faces shared some of the same personnel although unlike those two bands, Small Faces and Faces did not exist during the same time. In any event, doubling up seemed to work because neither Small Faces nor Faces were Hall-worthy on their own.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers: Slam-dancing lustily at the intersection of punk, funk, hip-hop, and heavy metal, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have always had difficulty translating their boundless street-level exuberance into effective songcraft. Right up through 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik album, sheer attitude and energy couldn't always obscure the Peppers' penchant for skeletal song structures and sing-songy melodies. Yet the band's approach was undoubtedly influential—Fishbone might have been funkier, Primus might have been quirkier, and Faith No More might have been grander, but the Chili Peppers put this hybrid style on the musical map and have held it there since the 1980s under the guidance of band mainstays singer Anthony Kiedis and monster bassist .Flea.

The first three albums, recorded largely with guitarist Hillel Slovak, found the band thrashing for its voice through exhortation ("Get up and Jump," "Fight Like a Brave"), homage (a cover of Sly Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay"), locker-room lasciviousness ("Catholic School Girls Rule," "Special Secret Song Inside"), and offbeat observation ("True Men Don't Kill Coyotes"). Slovak's overdose death in 1988 brought the band sobering reflection and a new guitarist, John Frusciante, whose metal-edge playing ignited Mother's Milk ("Knock Me Down," "Stone Cold Bush," Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground") and fired up the band for its breakthrough album.

Produced by lean-and-pristine Rick Rubin, Blood Sugar Sex Magik solidified the Peppers' punk-funk attack ("Give It Away," "Suck My Kiss," "Naked in the Rain") while a ballad, "Under the Bridge," ushered the band into the mainstream (and Kiedis gets off a nice ode to Slovak in "My Lovely Man"). However, four years elapsed before the appearance of One Hot Minute, with Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction) replacing Frusciante, and its relative disappointment, along with recurring drug problems, set the Peppers on choppy waters. But although it took four more years, 1999's Californication, with Frusciante back in the fold, spotlighted a mature band with its chops still functioning (the hit title track and "Scar Tissue"), reasserting the band as exemplars of the style it had pioneered, an impression bolstered by the continuing growth on 2002's By the Way although the Peppers still lacked the musical ability to make it convincing.

While the concept of the Red Hot Chili Peppers has always been stronger than its actual execution, its influence on rock since the 1980s is unmistakable, which is justification enough for the band's induction into the Hall.

Small Faces/Faces: Would Small Faces and Faces (purists insist that the definite article preceding the proper noun is unnecessary) have made it into the Hall as separate acts? Probably not, so they get the Parliament/Funkadelic treatment, and thanks to the diminutive rhythm section core common to both groups—keyboardist Ian McLagan, bassist Ronnie Lane, and drummer Kenney Jones—both groups are inducted as a package deal.

Name branding aside, the two bands sported distinctive, and separate, personalities. Led by singer and guitarist Steve Marriott, Small Faces itself had a few phases, beginning as the best exemplar of the Mod movement this side of the Who while recording for Decca in the mid-1960s. Then, following a change in labels to Immediate, Small Faces dabbled in late-1960s psychedelia (the trendy "Itchycoo Park" became the band's best-known song in the States) before returning to the earlier harder-edged style that presaged Marriott's approach in Humble Pie. As singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Wood brought a similar hard-edged style from their stint with Jeff Beck, Faces also became a hard-rock band, albeit a sloppy one in part due to its reputation as a hard-drinking outfit best known for the driving rocker "Stay with Me."

The early Small Faces combined the raw power of the Who ("E Too D," "It's Too Late," "Own up Time") with the lyrical immediacy of the Kinks ("All or Nothing," "I Can't Dance with You," "Sha La La La Lee") to emerge as a top-flight Mod band—and Led Zeppelin fans listening to "You Need Lovin'" will get a nasty shock of recognition. Moving to Immediate, the band's writing and arrangements became more complex as Marriott's singing grew in confidence, exemplified by the first-class singles "Itchycoo Park" and "Tin Soldier" and the classic album Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake ("Afterglow (Of Your Love)," "Lazy Sunday," the title track), while "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am" previewed Marriott's upcoming boogie gig with Humble Pie.

Faces' output amounted to a handful of early-1970s albums, and Stewart's concurrent solo career quickly overshadowed the band's efforts. Still, following a tentative start ("Flying," "Three-Button Hand-Me-Down"), Faces roared to life with Long Player ("Bad 'n' Ruin," "Had Me a Real Good Time") and especially A Nod's As Good As a Wink . . . To a Blind Horse, which sported the razor-sharp hit "Stay with Me" along with "Miss Judy's Farm"—just as hard as "Stay with Me" and a tad nastier—and the Allman Brothers-like "Debris," while the band established a reputation as a raucous live attraction. However, Ooh La La was desultory, and the band broke up soon afterward.

After Stewart and Wood left, Marriott rejoined but the moment had passed. (Jones took over the drum chair in the Who after Keith Moon's 1978 death.) Although neither Small Faces nor Faces would merit the Hall on their own, linking their careers through shared personnel results in combined credentials sufficient to gain them all admittance to Cleveland.

Misguided and Mis-Categorized: Donovan, Laura Nyro

An earnest folkie before he became an earnest hippie, Donovan Leitch was a dreamy-eyed poster boy of the 1960s, but although he might be a mite more substantial than the Lovin' Spoonful, he, just as that band, loses luster beyond the context of his era. And just as the Lovin' Spoonful shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, nor should Donovan. By contrast, Laura Nyro is one of the great unsung talents of the Rock and Soul Era, largely because it is her songs performed by other artists that define the convincing portion of her legacy. Nyro is a worthy Hall of Fame talent—but as detailed below, not as a performer.

Donovan: In Don't Look Back, D.A. Pennebaker's brilliant documentary film about Bob Dylan's contentious 1965 British tour, Dylan is introduced to Donovan Leitch, already being billed as "the UK's Dylan," who plays Dylan one of his songs before Dylan summarily dismisses him. Although the new-Dylan label was perhaps unfair to both, Donovan did seem derivative before he moved into psychedelia later in the 1960s, which brought him his greatest success and largely defines his legacy.

The Scottish singer, guitarist, and songwriter couldn't help but brook comparisons to Dylan with his earliest hits as even his inflections in "Catch the Wind" and "Colours" held a familiar twang and drawl, while his cover of Buffy Saint-Marie's "Universal Soldier" echoed folk's social conscience. And although Donovan was becoming established in the British Isles, he was yet to prove popular in the United States as all three songs, all Top Five in the United Kingdom, failed to crack the US Top Twenty. But like Dylan, Donovan was restless and ambitious, and he soon embraced the burgeoning psychedelic sounds of the mid-1960s, with which he is most closely associated.

Not coincidentally, Donovan's hippie period is also his most successful commercially—both "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow" became huge hits on both sides of the Atlantic in 1966, putting him in the forefront of the psychedelic movement, while "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "Barabajagal (Love Is Hot)" continued the string.

In addition, album tracks such as "The Fat Angel," written about Cass Elliott of the Mamas and the Papas, gave him cachet with psychedelic rockers such as Jefferson Airplane, which is mentioned in the song, and which covered the song on its live album Bless Its Pointed Little Head, while the Allman Brothers used "There Is a Mountain" as the basis for their live opus "Mountain Jam." Indeed, decades later Donovan's halcyon songs began to crop up on film soundtracks including Goodfellas ("Atlantis"), To Die For ("Season of the Witch"), and Election ("Jennifer Juniper"), lending him retro-chic prestige.

But as the 1960s closed, Donovan, significantly, did not catch the wind for the singer-songwriter boom of the 1970s, and his hits and popularity had effectively dried up by the time punk rock arrived to render hippies quaint anachronisms. Donovan was part of the cultural landscape of the 1960s, and his keynotes may be remembered fondly decades later, but his overall body of work, earnest if derivative folkie to patchouli-scented troubadour, does not rise to the level of the Hall of Fame.

Laura Nyro: For a time in the late 1960s, Laura Nyro helped to shape the course of pop music through the plethora of songs she wrote that became hits for artists from Blood, Sweat and Tears ("And When I Die") to Barbra Streisand ("Stoney End") and Three Dog Night ("Eli's Coming"), and especially by the Fifth Dimension, with whom Nyro was most closely associated ("Stoned Soul Picnic" and "Wedding Bell Blues," among others). Combining a Brill Building approach to songcraft infused with soulful feel, Nyro proved to be influential on an array of artists from Jackson Browne to Joni Mitchell to Todd Rundgren with her guileless songs filled with impressionistic allusion and naked emotion.

In fact, Nyro's career has a loose parallel in Carole King's—and that illustrates the crux of the problem with Nyro's induction as a performer: King was an actual Brill Building inmate before becoming an archetypal singer-songwriter in the early 1970s; her 1971 album Tapestry was an influential blockbuster hit that established her solo career. King was rightly enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1990—as a non-performer, in the category now called the Ahmet Ertegun Award. Yet King has a better case than does Nyro to have been inducted as a performer, as Nyro's handful of albums through the early 1970s enjoyed at best only modest commercial success; much like Leonard Cohen's, they served as sources for other artists seeking cover material. However, Cohen has remained a performer for several decades, and his recording and performing record has combined with his songwriting influence to merit inclusion as a performer.

As a performer, Nyro appeared at the landmark 1967 Monterey Pop Festival leading a soul revue, and then announced a retirement from music in 1971 around the same time as her release of a delightful collection of soul and R&B covers, Gonna Take a Miracle, with Labelle backing her winsome if undisciplined lead vocals. Nyro returned to action in the late 1970s, acknowledged—though not nearly enough—as an influence on numerous artists even as her absence had pushed her further into the background. Laura Nyro is certainly an important if sometimes overwrought ("Save the Country") and abstruse ("When I Was a Freeport and You Were the Main Drag") songwriter whose accomplishments and influence deserve recognition by the Hall of Fame—as an Ahmet Ertegun Award recipient as a non-performer, not as a full-fledged performer, as her track record does not warrant such recognition. This is the same verdict reached previously for Isaac Hayes, although Nyro's approach was as understated as Hayes's was overblown.



2012: Rectification: Retroactive Induction of Backing Bands

6 Inductees: The Blue Caps, the Comets, the Crickets, the Famous Flames, the Midnighters, the Miracles

Yes: The Crickets, the Famous Flames, the Miracles

Borderline Yes: The Blue Caps, the Comets

No: The Midnighters

In 2012, the Hall of Fame also inducted, retroactively, six backing bands for artists who had been inducted in previous years. United at last with their respective leading figure were the Blue Caps (Gene Vincent), the Comets (Bill Haley), the Crickets (Buddy Holly), the Famous Flames (James Brown), the Midnighters (Hank Ballard), and the Miracles (Smokey Robinson).

Evaluation of the backing bands mirrors each of their leading figures: None of the backing bands change the original evaluation of the leading figure in either a positive or negative manner; in other words, no backing band is deficient enough to degrade the original assessment of the leading figure, nor proficient enough to improve the original assessment of the leading figure, which would be a factor only in the case of Hank Ballard—the addition of the Midnighters isn't enough to change Ballard's status to being worthy of the Hall.

Inducting the backing bands is certainly a laudatory acknowledgement of their contributions to the leading figures' success and credentials for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. After all, making music is overwhelmingly a collaborative effort; more on that below. This of course, though, begs the question for the retroactive inclusion of other backing acts, such as Bob Marley's Wailers, Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band, and Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. At what point did the leading figure stand alone as a Hall-worthy talent in the first place?

What about occasional backing acts? For instance, does Crazy Horse get to ride, retroactively, Neil Young's coattails into the Hall? Young has recorded several albums with Crazy Horse, but some of his best-known albums were recorded without Crazy Horse, which had its own largely undistinguished career separate from Young—is that career worthy of enshrinement merely because of the band's association with Young? Speaking of which, the Crickets, for instance, sustained a recording and touring career long after their break from Buddy Holly—does their now-Hall of Fame career reflect that status too?

Now, from another tack, comes the argument that, at least in most cases, these are not really "backing bands" at all—they are the bands whose most famous member had been initially recognized and the rest of the band had been initially ignored. Certainly in the case of the Crickets or the Famous Flames, the two leading figures, Buddy Holly and James Brown, respectively, had collaborated with the rest of the band in a collective manner so that their contribution is intertwined with the others'. But in the case of Brown, does it slight his later solo career to be associated with the Famous Flames? Or does that entail a separate induction?

All of which highlights the complex dynamics that underlie evaluating Hall of Fame talent. Once you begin to tinker with the assessments, will that prompt re-evaluations of previous inductees?

First-Line Support: The Crickets, the Famous Flames, the Miracles

Considering that the front men for these three backing bands—Buddy Holly, James Brown, and Smokey Robinson, respectively—are three of the biggest names that emerged from the first decade of the Rock and Soul Era, their backing bands themselves hardly merit controversy. The hair-splitting comes from deciding just who from each band—the Crickets, the Famous Flames, and the Miracles—was significant enough to be included in the unit that was actually inducted. Those thorny questions are explored below.

The Crickets: Although Buddy Holly's ambition exceeded that of the rest of the Crickets, leading to Holly's break from the group in 1958, the Crickets were unquestionably a vital component of Holly's initial success, and thus they are integral to the development of early rock and roll. In fact, the collaboration showed by the Crickets with Buddy Holly provided the model for subsequent rock bands, not the least the Beatles, who not only ultimately mirrored the two guitars-bass-drums instrumental lineup of the Crickets but chose an insectoid name to honor the Crickets. And although singer-guitarist Sonny Curtis, included in the induction along with drummer Jerry Allison, bassist Joe B. Maudlin, and rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan, did not technically join the Crickets until after Holly's death—calling into question again just what is entailed by this retroactive recognition—Curtis did write the proto-punk anthem "I Fought the Law" and, endearingly, the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show ("Love Is All Around," later covered by Joan Jett).

The Famous Flames: How many Famous Flames can dance on the head of a pin, and during which time frame? Epitomizing the hornets' nest that gets stirred up by these retroactive admissions, the Famous Flames refers only to the best-known version of the vocal group that initially included James Brown before he quickly became its most prominent member. This does not mean that any of the instrumentalists who played with the Famous Flames at this time are Hall of Famers (officially, that band is the James Brown Orchestra), nor are any of the replacement Famous Flames hired by Brown during disputes with the best-known variant—Bobby Bennett, Bobby Byrd, Lloyd Stallworth, and Johnny Terry—included in the induction, and nor does this explain Brown's status once he finally broke with the Famous Flames for good in 1968, even if Byrd briefly rejoined Brown in 1972. Whew! We need an organizational chart here!

The issue began early, with the release of "Please Please Please" in 1956, and the eventual pressing of the single with the label James Brown and the Famous Flames instead of the initial credit only to the Famous Flames. This appears to be the start of a raft of conflicts, many of them revolving around money owed to whom, that turns this into a soap opera. Suffice to say that without the ensemble vocals and the choreography supplied by the Famous Flames from the mid-1950s through the late 1960s, James Brown would not be the James Brown we know and love, and the "Famous Flames" deserve to be recognized. But what about the JBs, the band with whom Brown helped to pioneer funk in the early 1970s? Uh, oh . . .

The Miracles: Perhaps the one clear-cut case of a "backing unit" getting the initial snub, the Miracles made it possible for Smokey Robinson to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987 in more ways than one. The first, most obvious way is that the ensemble singing of the Miracles behind Robinson is inextricable from the bounty of timeless gems the group recorded at Motown primarily in the 1960s. But the more technical aspects include these: Robinson's solo career did not begin until 1973, which is well below the 25-year threshold required by the Hall at the time of Robinson's induction, and Robinson's solo efforts, while including some fine moments, are not worthy of the Hall divorced from his association with the Miracles in any case. And if Robinson's induction involved his protean work at Motown as a writer, producer, and A&R man, which are legitimate qualifications, they are nonetheless those of a non-performer. So, this is the least complicated, least controversial of the retroactive inductions: Belated congratulations to Pete Moore, Claudette Rogers Robinson, Bobby Rogers, Marv Tarplin, and Ronald White.

Close-Knit Ties: The Blue Caps, the Comets

Much the same issue that marked the three backing units above pertains to this pair that supported Gene Vincent and Bill Haley, respectively. However, even the full names of their bands makes the association that much stronger.

The Blue Caps: Many sources insist that the proper name of the band is Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, a proprietary distinction that both subordinates the band to the lead singer and weds singer and band into a unit. Known primarily for the deathless single "Be-Bop-A-Lula," Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps are often considered to be a one-hit wonder; they did chart other singles, and the body of work they created in the 1950s was part of the seedbed from which rock and roll sprang. Lead guitarist Cliff Gallup in particular proved to be an influence on countless guitarists including Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. Some Blue Caps remained with the band for only a brief time, but Gallup, Tommy Facenda, Dickie Harrell, Bobby Jones, Johnny Meeks, Jack Neal, Paul Peek, and Willie Williams are all inducted. Is it worth arguing at this point? No.

The Comets: Just as many insist that the proper name is Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, sources too aver that it should be Bill Haley and His Comets. Of course, the number of Comets, "his" and otherwise, has gone into triple digits in the six-plus decades since Haley changed the name of his backing unit from the Saddlemen to the Comets in 1952. But as Haley's heyday was the mid-1950s, only the Comets from that period have been inducted: Joey Ambrose, Franny Beecher, Danny Cedrone, Johnny Grande, Ralph Jones, Marshall Lytle, Rudy Pompilli, Al Rex, Dick Richards, and Billy Williamson. Cedrone, who died in a fall in 1954 at age 33, is an interesting case: Although his involvement with Haley dates back to the Saddlemen days, Cedrone never actually joined either of Haley's bands in a proper, full-time capacity as he opted to do session work while he led his own band. However, it is Cedrone's guitar break on "Rock Around the Clock" that launched him into immortality—even if it is essentially the same break he played on the Saddlemen's "Rock the Joint."

Right Idea, Wrong Decision: The Midnighters

Of the six backing units inducted this year, the Midnighters, united at last with Hank Ballard, inducted in 1990, are in one sense perhaps the most deserving: For most of their relevant career in the 1950s and early 1960s, they were known simply as the Midnighters. It wasn't until their first release of "The Twist" in 1959 that they were credited as Hank Ballard and the Midnighters although Ballard had been the group's lead singer at least since 1953 and their first success on the US R&B charts with "Get It"—and that was officially credited to the Royals, the group's original name, which had been changed by 1954 to the Midnighters to avoid confusion with the "5" Royales. (Scoring only on the R&B charts in its original issue, "The Twist" was re-issued in 1960 and this time it peaked at Number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart—although Chubby Checker built a career on his chart-topping cover version.) The point is that it wasn't until later in the group's career that Hank Ballard was singled out for specific mention; they were simply a collective until then.

None of which matters as the group with or without Ballard, or his name appended to the group's name, rises to the level of the Hall of Fame. The Midnighters introduced a refreshing ribaldry to the early Rock and Soul Era—all three songs in the "Annie" saga ("Work with Me, Annie," "Annie Had a Baby," and "Annie's Aunt Fannie") were banned by the Federal Communications Commission, which didn't stop them from conquering the R&B singles charts—but they should be seen as one of the multitudes that helped to shape the music during its tumultuous inception rather than as a lasting influence. For the record, Henry Booth, Cal Green, Arthur Porter, Lawson Smith, Charles Sutton, Norman Thrasher, and Sonny Woods were all inducted, although the group's founder Alonzo Tucker was mysteriously omitted. Interestingly, four men who were former members of the group or else had some bearing on their career had been inducted separately from the Midnighters: Little Willie John, Johnny Otis, who discovered them in 1953, Levi Stubbs, inducted as the Four Tops' lead singer, and Jackie Wilson.



2013: Transitional Backfilling

6 Inductees: Heart, Albert King, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush, Donna Summer

Yes: Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Donna Summer

Borderline Yes: Rush

No: Heart, Albert King

Of the six inductees in 2013, all but Public Enemy reflect backfilling from the 1970s and 1980s. These are artist who have been eligible for some time, and three of them do represent the transition from the classic period to the modern period that occurred in those years.

Blues guitarist Albert King and singer-songwriter Randy Newman are the most traditional inductees. King's style and approach proved most amenable to rock and soul fans, but his appeal was his most notable feature as his talent and track record do not merit inclusion. On the other hand, Newman has been overlooked year in and year out for two decades. Not just his sterling songwriting but his understated performances have formed an influential thread in the Rock and Soul Era.

Heart, Rush, and Donna Summer all exemplify the transition from one mode to another with Rush and Summer, in their respective genres, actually helping to effect that transition, Rush with its wedding of hard rock/heavy metal with progressive rock, and Summer with an eclectic approach that transcended 1970s disco and anticipated dance-music styles of the 1980s and beyond. Both efforts make them Hall of Famers. Heart managed to thrive in two careers, first as a hard-rock band in the 1970s and then as power-balladeers in the 1980s. Moreover, Heart was the first successful hard-rock band to be led by women, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, a notable accomplishment. However, Heart the band followed the trends of those two phases and was not distinguished or innovative; that does not rise to the level of the Hall of Fame.

Public Enemy represents the only modern (post-punk) rock and soul artist in the class of 2013. Its impact and influence extended beyond hip-hop and into popular music, combining a complex musical bed with an astute, committed lyrical outlook. Ironically given its forceful and sometimes controversial stances, it is the least contentious candidate of 2013.

Last year, I did a detailed evaluation of all 15 artists who appeared on the 2013 ballot including, obviously, the six who were elected from that ballot. So, if some of the arguments below seem repetitive, it is because I've covered this territory within the last year.

Ecumenical and Eclectic: Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Donna Summer

The three definite picks for the 2013 Hall of Fame class—Randy Newman, Public Enemy, and Donna Summer—help to symbolize the diverse and diffuse path the Rock and Soul Era has taken: Newman is a quintessential classic-rock singer-songwriter (admittedly hardly an underrepresented genre) with a decidedly singular approach while Public Enemy not just vital to the development of hip-hop but to popular music in general, and Donna Summer, the "Queen of Disco" whose style and approach transcended the genre, is similarly an influential artist in popular music. An unlikely grouping, but one that underscores how diverse and universal the Rock and Soul Era is becoming.

Randy Newman: The fact that it took 15 years for Randy Newman to get on a Hall of Fame ballot from when he first became eligible in 1991 sums up this singer, pianist, and songwriter's career in a nutshell: Newman has always been around—he just doesn't get noticed. His songs do, though, and they had been getting noticed early and often. Newman had begun penning hits for artists such as Jerry Butler and Gene Pitney in the mid-1960s before he released his first album in 1968. That was a modest precursor to a string of more successful albums—and even a hit single, "Short People"—through the early 1980s, when Newman began to concentrate on film scores. And although Newman was nominated for 2005, it took another eight years, until 2013, for him to appear on another ballot. Fortunately, he made it—and it is about damn time.

Why is Randy Newman's a legitimate induction? I could go on at length—and in fact I have. Not only did I make Newman's case in my evaluation of the 2013 ballot, but I presented an extensive case for Newman's Hall inclusion in 2011—to date the only article I've written for this site that concentrates expressly on one artist only.

To summarize, then: Apart from his film work, Randy Newman is best-known as a singer-songwriter, one like Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell, whose compositions proved to be as successful for other artists as for themselves. But Newman was poles apart from that openly confessional style, his terse, understated, but finely-drawn observations, overwhelmingly in the third person, concealed his droll irony until after the final note evaporated; this left the listener to turn around to gape at the sly songster already halfway out the door. Newman's best albums are 12 Songs ("Suzanne," "Lucinda," "Mama Told Me Not to Come") and Sail Away (the title song, "You Can Leave Your Hat On," "Political Science"), both essential rock albums, and many of the rest from this period are not too far behind.

As an artist whose songs have been covered by acts from Three Dog Night to Joe Cocker to Linda Ronstadt to Bonnie Raitt to Harry Nilsson (who recorded an entire album of Newman's songs), Newman himself as a performer has provided the wryest commentary on the Rock and Soul Era than anyone else. In fact, his strength as a performer pushes him past Isaac Hayes and Laura Nyro and even Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, all artists whose songs often overshadow them. And although I stated at the top of this article that I don't subscribe to the relativist idea that an artist might be worthy of the Hall only if another artist is inducted first, Randy Newman really should have been inducted before any of them because he made their inductions possible in the first place.

Public Enemy: It is hard to overstate the importance of Public Enemy, not just as one of the greatest hip-hop bands but as one of the great bands of the Rock and Soul Era. Hip-hop had discovered its social and political consciousness by the time Public Enemy arrived on the scene in the late 1980s, but PE combined a social and sonic message that exploded from the speakers and established it as the premier commentator on the scene. Chuck D was one of the most commanding MCs to rock the mike, with Flavor Flav a canny comic foil, while DJ Terminator X supplied imaginative cuts and scratches in a rich, resonant production atmosphere generated by Hank Shocklee's peerless Bomb Squad.

PE's debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show was as much pose ("Sophisticated Bitch," "Miuzi Weighs a Ton") as promise ("Rightstarter (Message to a Black Man)," "Timebomb"), but It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back cashed in that potential to become an essential album not just of hip-hop but of the post-punk period. It bristles with brilliant manifestoes from "Don't Believe the Hype," "Bring the Noise," and "Prophets of Rage" to the tremendous "Rebel without a Pause" and "Party for Your Right to Fight." Meanwhile, "She Watch Channel Zero?!" was not only a scathing media critique, it was built on a heavy-metal sample (Slayer's "Angel of Death") that continued the cross-pollination of hip-hop and metal. ("Bring the Noise" was later re-done with Anthrax.)

Even better was Fear of a Black Planet as the production was richer and more intricate, bolstering the white-hot tracks "Burn Hollywood Burn," "Who Stole the Soul," and "Welcome to the Terrordome," and culminating with "Fight the Power," the keynote to Spike Lee's superlative film Do the Right Thing. By now, Public Enemy was being lauded and reviled in equal measures depending on which side of the street you stood; the sound snippets that lace Black Planet provide an incisive commentary on its circumstances and on the social climate overall. The follow-up Apocalypse 91 . . . the Enemy Strikes Black kept the streak alive, particularly on "How to Kill a Radio Consultant"—continuing the media critique from Black Planet—and the pounding "By the Time I Get to Arizona."

Then PE lost its broad pulpit by the mid-1990s as subsequent albums found the group preaching to the converted, although the group kept its intelligence and integrity intact. However, Public Enemy had already established itself as one of the guideposts for the Rock and Soul Era with its rich blend of sonic impact and social commentary. Its induction into the Hall is a foregone conclusion.

Donna Summer: A conspicuous face—and a pleasing one—in a genre, disco, that thrived on faceless anonymity, singer Donna Summer was never a great singer but she was decidedly an effective one who helped to define pop music in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Thus, it is a lasting indictment of the Hall that Summer, eligible since 2000 and a nominee in four of the last five years before her 2012 death, had to be inducted posthumously.

But although Summer may be known as the Queen of Disco, her approach actually transcended such narrow categorization as she combined elements of rock, rhythm and blues, and burgeoning electronica with the basic disco template to create dance music that was more varied, more lasting—and often more soulful and spiritual—than the typical formula.

Despite this, Summer nearly pigeonholed herself early on when, with German producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, she released a racy novelty in 1975, the lengthy "Love to Love You Baby," which featured Summer's steamy moans and groans. Although a shortened version became a huge single, it took Summer a couple more years before she had a hit that big again, but when she did strike gold with the ahead-of-its-time "I Feel Love," the floodgates opened: "Last Dance," "MacArthur Park," "Heaven Knows," "Bad Girls," "Hot Stuff," "Dim All the Lights," "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" (her duet with Barbra Streisand), and "On the Radio" were all chart smashes that established Summer's supremacy; several of those were from Summer's 1979 album Bad Girls, the greatest disco album this side of the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.

As the 1980s began, Summer showed her range and adaptability. Having reconnected with her Christian beliefs, she injected that sense of spirituality into a flavor of synth-pop that she, Moroder, and Bellotte had anticipated with "I Feel Love," yielding hits with "Cold Love," "The Wanderer" (both from another strong album, The Wanderer), and "She Works Hard for the Money," a giant hit in 1983 whose class and gender themes were especially conspicuous during the Reagan years.

Although Summer's career cooled after that, she had been a workhorse for a decade, her collaborations with Moroder and Bellotte paving the way for electronica and subsequent dance-oriented styles. Summer rightly takes her place as one of the pop divas of the Rock and Soul Era—and her inclusion in the Hall of Fame is marred only by her not being alive to see it.

Atlas Smugged: Rush

In a sense, Rush suffered a double whammy in its quest for the Hall: This Canadian power trio has featured the heavy-metal crunch since the beginning of its career, while the band quickly assimilated the lyrical and musical complexity of progressive rock. Neither genre has been warmly embraced by the Hall, and not only does the combination compound that indifference, but Rush's own technocratic elitism also conspired against it.

Beginning as meat-and-potatoes sluggers with blue-collar sensibilities ("Working Man"), Rush soon added drummer Neal Peart, whose instrumental expertise upgraded the band's skills, but it was his lyrics that began to set Rush apart from the hard-rock pack. A devotee of the philosophical and social ideas of Ayn Rand (as he noted in the liner notes to 2112), Peart introduced a libertarian bent to Rush's songs, initially tinged with science-fiction themes—the titular half of 2112 outlined a future society in which music was banned and transgressors punished (beating Frank Zappa to the punch by a few years). This may have given the band intellectual cachet but that soon evolved into smug elitism and social engineering.

With guitarist Alex Lifeson and singer-bassist Geddy Lee also honing their instrumental chops, Rush reeled off a string of technically polished, lyrically sophisticated albums from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s that contained mounting evidence that the band was stipulating a social order that positioned it on top: "Closer to the Heart" (from A Farewell to Kings), "The Trees" (Hemispheres), "Freewill" (Permanent Waves), "Tom Sawyer" (Moving Pictures), "New World Man" and "Subdivisions" (both from Signals), while "Limelight" (from Moving Pictures) whined about the perils of rock and roll fame. Listeners didn't seem to mind, perhaps because Rush's pounding dynamics wedded to its cool technical expertise became a progressive-metal touchstone, and because songs like the thoughtful "Red Barchetta," the compelling "Distant Early Warning," and the whirling "The Spirit of Radio," one of rock's great radio songs, exemplified both the band's brains and brawn.

All of them garnered Rush a devoted fan base, and the band has continued to play to that base, updating its sound while maintaining its core approach, ever since. Moreover, Rush's inclusion strikes two blows against the Hall's biases against hard rock and progressive rock. By-Tor and the Snow Dog!

Better in Concept Than in Execution: Heart, Albert King

With the induction of Heart, the Hall had its, er, heart in the right place—the band is notable for its female leadership, all but unknown in 1970s hard rock—but examination of the band's track record finds that it was a dogged survivor and not an innovative leader. Blues guitarist Albert King sported a flashy style that was attractive to rock and soul audiences, but his substance was not exceptional. Neither act should be in the Hall.

Heart: There is no disputing that, right from the start, hard rock has been a boys' game. So, for the Wilson sisters, singer Ann and guitarist Nancy, to not only have fronted Heart but to have been its driving force is undeniably noteworthy. But is it Hall of Fame-worthy? Only if the accomplishment is that the Wilsons led a hard-rock band to commercial success without recognizing that Heart in either of its two phases, an arena-rock act pounding out rockers in the 1970s and an arena-rock act pumping out ballads in the 1980s, was hardly exceptional or innovative.

In the 1970s, Heart's folk-metal approach found the band tagged as "Jethro Zeppelin," with "Dreamboat Annie" and "Silver Wheels" taking the acoustic approach while "Crazy on You," "Barracuda," and the supple, muscular "Magic Man" turned up the volume. In truth, Heart did have a hard time transcending its derivations—the band's live version of Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" is a too-faithful reproduction, while "Dream of the Archer" borrows conspicuously from Zep's "The Battle of Evermore." Nevertheless, rockers such as "Even It Up," "Kick It Out," and the droll "Bebe le Strange" had no problem mixing it up with other classic-rock staples.

Reviving its flagging market share in the 1980s, Heart discovered the power ballad, and helped by Ann's strong voice, it unleashed a string of hits starting with "What About Love" and moving through "These Dreams," "Alone," and a number of others, while songs like "Who Will You Run To" aimed for arena-rock grandeur. The band's polished production was similarly a departure from its previous lean attack. By the 1990s, women in rock were much more prevalent although the pioneering efforts of the Wilson sisters seemed to have been overlooked until now.

Thus, the questions remain: Is Heart in the Hall of Fame because it was the first commercially successful hard-rock band led by two women? Or is it in the Hall because it is a distinguished hard-rock band regardless of gender composition? The former seems more likely, and although the Hall has been fairly diligent about recognizing the distaff influence on the Rock and Soul Era, for good (Brenda Lee, Patti Smith) and not-so-good (Darlene Love, Laura Nyro), this is a gratuitous inclusion. Sometimes being first is not enough.

Albert King: Much like Buddy Guy, Albert King is a blues guitarist who had been embraced by rock fans and musicians. Indeed, with King playing his signature Gibson Flying V guitar left-handed and in a flashy style, he seemed more in sync with rock and soul than with blues. On his keynote Stax album Born under a Bad Sign he was backed by Booker T. and the MGs, and three standout songs soon gained currency among rock players: "Born under a Bad Sign" spawned versions by several artists from Cream to, er, Homer Simpson; Eric Clapton covered "Crosscut Saw"; and "The Hunter" became incorporated into Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times."

Furthermore, even though he was actually two years older than his namesake B.B. King, Albert King didn't earn significant success until the Rock and Soul Era. But despite the flash and acclaim from the rock crowd, King seldom rose above the sum of his influences, which ranged from Lonnie Johnson to T-Bone Walker to B.B. King; after hearing B.B.'s "Three O'Clock Blues," Albert King Nelson dropped the "Nelson" from his name and went with "Albert King" as his stage name. King's blues-playing could be fiery ("Killing Floor," "Why You So Mean to Me?") if derivative, but when he ventured into rock and pop, such as on a string of albums for the Tomato label (Albert, Truckload of Lovin'), King seemed out to sea, awash in the ornate arrangements—unlike B.B. King, who brought his stylistic flourishes firmly within the framework of the blues.

Albert King might have been a favorite of rock players from Mick Taylor to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Joe Walsh, but like them, King was a high-powered guitar-slinger looking for something to say. And that is not the résumé of a Hall of Fame artist.

2011 – 2013: Coda

In the last three years of selecting inductees, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted 17 artists. The table below shows those 17 categorized as noted previously: Yes, Borderline Yes, and No. (I am not including the six backing bands inducted retroactively in 2012 as they are associated with artists already inducted.)

Breakdown of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, 2011 – 2013

Year

Yes

Borderline Yes

No

Total Inductees

2011

0

2

3

5

2012

2

2

2

6

2013

3

1

2

6

Totals

5

5

7

17

Pct. of Total

29.4%

29.4%

41.2%

100%

In the expansive scenario, that the Borderline Yeses are justified, 10 out of 17, or 58.8 percent, of its inductees are worthy of induction, with 7 out of 17, or 41.2 percent, not worthy of the Hall. In 2011, the Hall did not have a sure-fire inductee, with only 2 inductees even Borderline Yeses.

In the exclusive scenario, that the Borderline Yeses are not justified, a mere 5 of 17, or 29.4 percent, are worthy of the Hall. Given the smaller than usual sample size, these percentages appear more extreme.



1986 – 2013: Reprise

In 28 years of inducting acts into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a total of 186 acts have made it into Cleveland. The table below shows those 186 categorized as noted previously: Yes, Borderline Yes, and No. (Again, the six backing acts from 2012 are not included.)

Breakdown of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, 1986 – 2013

Year

Yes

Borderline Yes

No

Total Inductees

1986

10

    10

1987

7

5

3

15

1988

5

    5

1989

4

  1

5

1990

3

3

2

8

1991

3

3

1

7

1992

4

3

  7

1993

6

1

1

8

1994

4

3

1

8

1995

6

1

  7

1996

4

2

1

7

1997

2

4

1

7

1998

3

1

2

6

1999

1

4

2

7

2000

0

3

3

6

2001

3

3

2

8

2002

2

1

3

6

2003

3

0

2

5

2004

2

2

3

7

2005

2

1

2

5

2006

3

1

1

5

2007

2

3

0

5

2008

1

1

3

5

2009

2

0

3

5

2010

1

2

2

5

2011

0

2

3

5

2012

2

2

2

6

2013

3

1

2

6

Totals

88

52

46

186

Pct. of Total

47.3%

28.0%

24.7%

100%

If you are in a generous mood, meaning that the Borderline Yeses are indeed worthy of the Hall, then the Hall doesn't look too bad: A tad more than three-quarters of the 186 acts, or 75.3 percent, are justifiably inducted. So, for all the complaining fans have done bemoaning the Hall's selections, it has made the right call three out of every four times. That's a passing grade, and a pretty respectable one at that—that is as long as you accept that all those Borderline Yeses, 28 percent of the total, are justified.

Those Borderline Yeses are of course open to interpretation, and that interpretation is understandably broad, which means that the in exclusive scenario, in which none of the Borderline Yeses are justified, the number of legitimate artists drops to below 50 percent. That seems to correspond to the general dissatisfaction that many listeners have with the Hall of Fame, that it has snubbed so many deserving acts while granting entrance to undeserving ones.

And if you think that these conclusions, whether for each of the six periods examined separately or for all inductees in aggregate, are predicated on subjective supposition, you are absolutely right: These are my assessments and conclusions, and they will not align with yours. (I thought about qualifying that last statement, but the odds are so remotely slim that even one other person will agree exactly with my conclusions. In fact, I'm not sure that I agree with all my conclusions myself.)

In truth, the range of percentages will change with each individual's perception of which act is or is not a Hall of Fame-level artist. The Borderline Yeses will provide the greatest variance as so many of the artists truly are judgment calls, or are at least subject to much greater debate. In previous audits, I listed as Borderline Yeses Solomon Burke and Sam and Dave, both of whom could have been Nos, but listed as a No Wilson Pickett, who could have been a Borderline Yes; similarly, I said No to Buddy Guy when he may be a Borderline Yes.

It is to be expected that the Borderline Yeses should be contentious, and I've given the Borderline Yes nod to ABBA, Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis, Brenda Lee, and Patti Smith, among others—some quarters will argue that they are at best on the periphery and at worst not "real" "rock and roll" in the first place.

But more significantly, my assessments of the inductees that are unequivocal to me—the Yeses and Nos—are sure to be disputed by listeners across the board. Among my Yeses, meaning that there should be no dispute about their legitimacy, are Michael Jackson, Elton John, Madonna, the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground, and all can be derided as being too pop or too punk, respectively.

Among the Nos are Ruth Brown, Eddie Cochran, and Carl Perkins—vintage Rock and Soul Era enthusiasts would argue that they are essential; Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, the Righteous Brothers, and Dusty Springfield—pop fans will protest; AC/DC, Queen, and ZZ Top—hard-rock diehards gnash their teeth and howl; and Eric Clapton, John Mellencamp, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers—surely they are the epitome of classic rock?

To all of that I say: Yes. When the bottom line in an assessment is subjectivity, then any conclusions, no matter how well-reasoned, are open to interpretation. I tried to give every artist a fair hearing—literally and figuratively—and in doing so I encountered a number of surprises.

For example, when I did my initial sort of the inductees into the three buckets (Yes, Borderline Yes, and No), I had ABBA, Leonard Cohen, and Brenda Lee marked as Nos. But while listening to their songs and reviewing their historical record, I realized that their contributions were significant enough to be included in the Hall of Fame. Listening closer to Dusty Springfield, I fell in love with her voice, but I still felt that her contributions were ultimately not substantial enough to merit inclusion.

The Dusty Springfield example underscores a key point: Liking or not liking an artist should be independent from an impartial assessment. I've had AC/DC and ZZ Top records for ages because I like their music, but I do not think either band is significant enough to be in the Hall. And historical impact is another vital consideration. I had both Alice Cooper and the Red Hot Chili Peppers initially pegged as Nos, but in examining their contributions and the impact they had on the development of the music, I had to reconsider that assessment and recognize their importance to the Rock and Soul Era.

In that respect, one laudatory aspect to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is that it does require that 25 years elapse from the release of an artist's first recording before an act can be considered eligible for induction. That allows sufficient time for a considered examination of the artist's legacy.

Not that the Hall's processes and rationale for which artists are to be included cannot be faulted. At the end of the day, I find that one-quarter of the 186 artists it has inducted into the Hall should not be there, and this is just an examination of the artists who have been inducted. The artists who have not yet been inducted is a separate issue . . . or you could check out a website such as this one . . .

Fade Out: Does It Matter?

All through the course of preparing these six audits, I regularly asked myself, Does it really matter who should or should not be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? This was particularly true in the year between the last audit, Part 5, and this one as I worked on this most recent audit in fits and starts, pushing it onto the back burner as other articles—other subjects of interest—came and went.

But even as I procrastinated, the question still ambled through my head. Leaving aside the larger philosophical and existential considerations, I have decided that it does matter which artists are inducted into the Hall of Fame.

First, the Hall of Fame is a museum, a repository of the history of the music, and the induction of each artist into the Hall of Fame announces that that artist is an example of the most significant artists in the history of the music. A qualified inductee answers questions such as, Is this artist one of the best examples of a style, genre, or period? Did this artist make a significant impact or have a lasting influence?

Second, music is an intensely emotional experience; it has the power to move us with more immediacy than perhaps any other art form. It is also an intensely personal experience, but that experience can be easily shared with others. As a result, music becomes a part of who we are, a reflection of who we are, which may be why the inclusion or exclusion of an artist from the Hall of Fame can provoke such heated reactions—it can seem like a personal affront. And for the last six decades, that music that moves us so much has been predominantly rock and roll. Or rock and soul. Or primarily Western popular music since the mid-1950s. And we're back to how to define it, but you know what I mean.

Finally, it is that collective experience of the music that has the most important impact because that music has had a pronounced influence on our society and indeed on our civilization. That is not an overstatement. Music of the Rock and Soul Era has become woven into the fabric of our personal and public lives. One of the prevailing clichés of the 1960s was that rock music could change the world; that generation is alternately known as the Woodstock Generation, named for the landmark rock festival that epitomized the zenith of the age—while the Rolling Stones' infamous free concert at Altamont six months later represented the nadir of that age. Later, punk and hip-hop became vehicles for social and political expression.

And it wasn't just in the West that music of the Rock and Soul Era had an impact. Recently, I watched a documentary about the impact of rock music behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. It was not especially good—I can't even recall its title—but it reinforced previous observations about how rock music represented hope and freedom of expression to those in authoritarian and repressive societies. Following the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, Czech playwright and politician Vaclav Havel related to the West how he had been inspired by the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention during the decades that then-Czechoslovakia was under communist rule. (Zappa later became an unofficial cultural attaché to Havel's government.)

More recently, the Russian punk-rock group Pussy Riot enacted protests against Vladimir Putin's government, with three of its members eventually imprisoned. Meanwhile, regimes from Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini to Afghanistan under the Taliban have expressly banned rock music as examples of Western "decadence."

These are just a few quick examples to demonstrate the impact that music of the Rock and Soul Era has had around the world. The bottom line is that the music does matter, and what else matters is how it is presented and celebrated in what is currently the only central repository of that musical record, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Kinks once said it was "only jukebox music." The Rolling Stones once said that "it's only rock and roll." But I like it because it is a reflection of who we are and who we can be. It does indeed matter.

Now if only we could define it.

The 2013 baseball season has seen one pitcher, Andy Pettitte, reach 250 wins, and three others—CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, and Tim Hudson—reach 200 wins. These are impressive milestones that traditionally have prompted discussion of whether that pitcher deserves induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But are pitching wins a reliable indicator of a pitcher's true worth, particularly when it comes to the Hall of Fame?

In the last three decades, the win statistic has been roughed up by sabermetrical analysis, advanced metrics that measure a pitcher's effectiveness by isolating the pitcher's performance from factors that are beyond his control: his team's ability to score runs and his team's fielding behind his pitching. Simply put, a "win" is a collective effort, dependent upon not just a team's pitching but upon its hitting and fielding as well. Yet it is the pitcher—specifically, the "pitcher of record," the pitcher in the game at the time his team took the lead for good—who receives sole credit for the team's win.

Initially, this was not a bad thought: The pitcher does have the single greatest influence of any player by virtue of delivering each and every pitch, the outcomes of which determine the course of the game. As a result, a pitcher's measure of greatness became how many wins he amassed.

Superficially, this seemed to be valid; Walter Johnson, one of the game's greatest pitchers, compiled 417 wins, second all-time, even though he pitched exclusively for the Washington Senators, a chronically terrible team. (The old joke ran, "Washington: First in war, first in peace—and last in the American League.") If Johnson managed to win many games for a team that lost many more games, it must prove that he was a great pitcher—succeeding in spite of his team's lack of support.

However, Johnson also lost 279 games, fourth-most all-time, proving that he was at least human. His winning percentage of .599 is certainly respectable, 120th all-time, but he still lost four games of every ten in which he was awarded a decision. In other words, Walter Johnson—first all-time in shutouts (110), fifth all-time in ERA+ (147), twelfth all-time in ERA (2.17)—was as dependent as any pitcher upon his teammates as to whether he would win or lose a game. (ERA+ is an indexed measurement of earned run average, league- and park-adjusted, with 100 indicating a league-average pitcher.)

Wins, though, became the coin of the realm for measuring a pitcher's effectiveness, and for pitchers who reached the charmed plateau of 300 career wins, they were almost automatically inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Elite Circle: 300 Career Wins

Historically, reaching 300 career wins was a guaranteed ticket to the Hall of Fame, and for sound reason: In a century and a half of professional baseball, only 24 men have won as many as 300 games; five of those pitched exclusively in the 19th century, while two, Kid Nichols and Cy Young, straddled the 19th and 20th centuries. Of the 21 men with at least 300 victories who were or are currently eligible for the Hall, 20 have been inducted. Roger Clemens, with 354 wins, was not elected to the Hall this year, his first year of eligibility, and it is surely only his notoriety as a poster boy for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) that kept voters from electing him.

Of the three whose eligibility is fast becoming due—Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux—all are practically locks for the Hall. I qualify this with "practically" because I have written at length on this site about the other problem, apart from PEDs, impacting Hall of Fame voting: the logjam of qualified candidates. (Please note that PEDs have never been associated with Glavine, Johnson, or Maddux.) And while this logjam might mean that Glavine will not be a first-ballot choice—he was an excellent but not dominant pitcher—both Johnson and especially Maddux are among the finest hurlers this game has ever seen, and voting them in is a mere formality; their 300-plus wins are almost gilding the lily.

Although 300 wins has proved to be a golden ticket to the Hall, at least one 20th-century pitcher who reached this charmed circle was not an elite pitcher. (It is harder to evaluate 19th-century pitchers as the quality of play and indeed the structure of the game were markedly different from the "modern" game generally regarded to have begun in 1901.)

Early "Gus" Wynn struggled to reach 300 wins; he had 299 career wins at the end of his penultimate 1962 season (finishing with 7–15 record, a .318 winning percentage) and returned in 1963 to try to reach the charmed circle, eventually notching that 300th win in the fourth of his five starts that season; he then retired. But Wynn's career record of 300–244 (.551) and 3.54 ERA, which translated to an ERA+ of 107, is not that of an elite pitcher. He was just above league-average, which is not an insult but neither is it a Hall of Fame career. Perhaps even voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) recognized this because Wynn was not elected to the Hall until his fourth year on the ballot—and at the time of his election, only 13 other men had reached as many as 300 wins.

Yet the scarcity of 300 wins retains its cachet—even more so as it appears that it could be a very long time before another pitcher reaches 300 wins. The nature of pitching has changed dramatically since the 1980s: Rarely does the starting pitcher pitch the entire game, as had been the custom since the beginning of professional baseball. Now the starter pitches the team into the middle innings, at which point a series of relief pitchers takes over, certainly if the starter was struggling but also if the starter was not. This means a greater possibility that the starter will not finish the game as the pitcher of record—should the opposing team tie or surpass his team, he would not be in line to receive the win. (Conversely, though, should his team be losing when he is taken out, and his team comes back to tie or surpass the opposing team, he would not get the loss.)

Not only, then, are there fewer opportunities for a starting pitcher to earn a win, but the rule of awarding the win to the pitcher of record, which is simply the pitcher in the game for the team that held or had taken the lead for the remainder of the game, meant that the "win" could go to a pitcher who had pitched only to a few batters, for perhaps an inning or two. Did that pitcher really "win" that game? Or was that pitcher merely the "pitcher of record" when his team scored runs that put them in the lead for good? This underscores the collective effort behind the win, and how inaccurate it is to attribute the win (or loss) solely to one player, the pitcher of record.

This had been a major consideration in the re-evaluation of the win as a critical determinant of a pitcher's overall effectiveness. Yet change comes with inertia—the win has always been the way pitching effectiveness has been evaluated, and change to that way of thinking engenders resistance to that change. Thus, wins are still regarded as a critical evaluation factor, with expectations adjusted accordingly: If it is harder for a pitcher to reach 300 wins, then 250 wins, or even 200 wins, becomes "the new 300." Pitchers reaching those adjusted milestones get the same consideration for the Hall that pitchers who had reached 300 wins had received.

The Changing Perception of the Win

Or do they? Wins might remain a legacy consideration of effectiveness, but understanding of their importance, their primacy, is changing.

In 2011, San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum posted a losing record: 13 wins but 14 losses. Yet "the Freak" finished sixth in National League Cy Young voting. Why? Because it was the quality of his pitching, not the eventual outcome expressed in wins or losses, that marked him as an effective pitcher. Of Lincecum's 33 starts in 2011, 23 of them, or 70 percent, were "quality starts," starts in which he pitched at least six innings and gave up three or fewer earned runs. Indeed, the right-hander's ERA was 2.74, fifth-best in the NL that season; that translated into an impressive ERA+ of 127. However, the Giants gave him run support that season of 2.8 runs per game, 2.7 runs in the innings in which Lincecum actually pitched; the league average was 4.5 runs per game. Lincecum posted seven "tough losses," losses in which he pitched a quality start but lost anyway. What's the takeaway? Lincecum did his job—he pitched well but his team could not support him offensively. Had those seven tough losses been wins, Lincecum is a 20-game winner, the traditional single-season benchmark of pitching excellence.

Even more instructive is the case of Felix Hernandez. In 2010, "King Felix" won the American League Cy Young Award with the Seattle Mariners despite a middling win-loss record of 13–12. But qualitatively the right-hander posted a 2.27 ERA, a sterling 174 ERA+, and 7.12 wins above replacement (WAR; Baseball Reference version); Hernandez's ERA and WAR led the League while his ERA+ was second. Like Lincecum, Hernandez had to deal with an anemic offense: His Mariners produced 3.1 runs in support of him—the League average was 4.6—while he endured 8 tough losses although an outstanding 30 of his 34 starts were quality starts. (It is possible, though, that Hernandez's 2010 Cy Young was partly compensation for his runner-up status the previous year when Zack Greinke won the award; in 2009, Hernandez posted a record of 19–5 (.792) with a 2.49 ERA typical of a more "traditional" Cy Young winner.)

But while 300 wins might still project its charm as advanced analyses now evaluate pitchers on a more qualitative basis, win totals below that storied plateau have not always been such a definitive measure of a pitcher's Hall of Fame worth. Indeed, within the range of 200 to 299 wins, Hall voting has been hit-or-miss. This combined with qualitative analyses could have an impact—both positively and negatively—on prospective pitching candidates for the Hall of Fame, even if 250 wins, or even 200 wins, might be regarded as "the new 300."

Wins and the Hall of Fame: The Quantitative Approach

If 300 wins is a near-automatic ticket to Cooperstown, then the range of wins between 200 and 299 is a crapshoot. Certainly this range of wins has produced more than 30 Hall of Fame pitchers—some who might not be deserving of the honor—but as we will see, the win totals for pitchers in this range can be deceptive. This can be deceptive as to inflate a pitcher's worth, or deceptive as to disguise a pitcher's worth. It will take qualitative analysis to strip away the deceptive allure—or lack thereof—of a given pitcher's win total. Wins cannot tell the story alone.

The following table lists, in descending order, the 49 pitchers of the 20th and 21st centuries who have between 200 and 299 wins and who are not already in the Hall of Fame. I have omitted pitchers who pitched exclusively in the 19th century; as noted above, they played a nascent game that does not correlate to the modern game of baseball. (Statistics for still-active pitchers are current through August 4, 2013.)

Non-Hall of Fame Pitchers Ranked by Wins, in Descending Order

Pitcher

Years

Wins

Losses

Pct.

ERA

ERA+

ERA–

bWAR

fWAR

John, Tommy

1963-1989

288

231

0.555

3.34

111

90

62.3

75.2

Kaat, Jim

1959-1983

283

237

0.544

3.45

108

93

45.3

69.4

Mussina, Mike

1991-2008

270

153

0.638

3.68

123

82

82.7

82.3

Moyer, Jamie

1986-2012

269

209

0.563

4.25

103

97

50.2

47.5

Morris, Jack

1977-1994

254

186

0.577

3.90

105

95

43.8

52.7

Pettitte, Andy

1995-

252

150

0.627

3.87

116

86

58.9

66.8

Quinn, Jack

1909-1933

247

218

0.531

3.29

114

89

59.0

63.7

Martinez, Dennis

1976-1998

245

193

0.559

3.70

106

95

49.5

45.7

Powell, Jack

1897-1912

245

254

0.491

2.97

106

96

56.0

46.3

Tanana, Frank

1973-1993

240

236

0.504

3.66

106

94

57.5

55.8



Wells, David

1987-2007

239

157

0.604

4.13

108

93

53.5

58.0

Tiant, Luis

1964-1982

229

172

0.571

3.30

114

87

66.1

54.0

Jones, Sad Sam

1914-1935

229

217

0.513

3.84

104

97

40.4

46.0

Mullin, George

1902-1915

228

196

0.538

2.82

101

99

34.3

38.0

Dauss, Hooks

1912-1926

223

182

0.551

3.30

102

98

35.2

39.9

Harder, Mel

1928-1947

223

186

0.545

3.80

113

90

47.9

54.5

Derringer, Paul

1931-1945

223

212

0.513

3.46

108

93

39.0

60.7

Koosman, Jerry

1967-1985

222

209

0.515

3.36

110

91

57.1

66.0

Niekro, Joe

1967-1988

221

204

0.520

3.59

98

102

28.7

26.9

Reuss, Jerry

1969-1990

220

191

0.535

3.64

100

100

33.1

52.0



Martinez, Pedro

1992-2009

219

100

0.687

2.93

154

67

86.0

86.8

Rogers, Kenny

1989-2008

219

156

0.584

4.27

107

93

51.1

47.2

Whitehill, Earl

1923-1939

218

185

0.541

4.36

100

99

36.3

49.2

Fitzsimmons, Freddie

1925-1943

217

146

0.598

3.51

112

90

33.5

32.0

Lolich, Mickey

1963-1979

217

191

0.532

3.44

104

98

48.8

61.5

Schilling, Curt

1988-2007

216

146

0.597

3.46

127

80

80.7

83.5

Cooper, Wilbur

1912-1926

216

178

0.548

2.89

116

86

49.0

46.9

Hough, Charlie

1970-1994

216

216

0.500

3.75

106

95

39.6

24.5

Perry, Jim

1959-1975

215

174

0.553

3.45

106

94

38.7

32.2

Reuschel, Rick

1972-1991

214

191

0.528

3.37

114

88

68.2

69.4



Smoltz, John

1988-2009

213

155

0.579

3.33

125

81

66.5

78.4

Brown, Kevin

1986-2005

211

144

0.594

3.28

127

78

68.5

73.8

Welch, Bob

1978-1994

211

146

0.591

3.47

106

94

43.5

36.1

Pierce, Billy

1945-1964

211

169

0.555

3.27

119

84

53.1

54.7

Newsome, Bobo

1929-1953

211

222

0.487

3.98

107

95

51.7

62.2

Cicotte, Eddie

1905-1920

209

148

0.585

2.38

123

82

56.9

49.2

Blue, Vida

1969-1986

209

161

0.565

3.27

108

92

45.0

45.3

Pappas, Milt

1957-1973

209

164

0.560

3.40

110

92

46.8

46.3

Mays, Carl

1915-1929

208

126

0.623

2.92

119

83

42.5

39.4

Hershiser, Orel

1983-2000

204

150

0.576

3.48

112

89

51.7

45.2



Orth, Al

1895-1909

204

189

0.519

3.37

100

101

44.1

43.8

Burdette, Lew

1950-1967

203

144

0.585

3.66

99

101

25.8

31.1

Halladay, Roy

1998-

201

104

0.659

3.37

131

76

65.5

67.9

Hudson, Tim

1999-

205

111

0.649

3.44

124

80

55.5

47.8

Root, Charlie

1923-1941

201

160

0.557

3.59

111

90

38.0

36.4

Sabathia, CC

2001-

200

112

0.641

3.57

122

82

54.0

60.5

Uhle, George

1919-1936

200

166

0.546

3.99

106

94

44.4

49.2

Finley, Chuck

1986-2002

200

173

0.536

3.85

115

86

58.5

56.7

Wakefield, Tim

1992-2011

200

180

0.526

4.41

105

95

34.5

38.9



ERA+: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA+ indicating a league-average pitcher, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

ERA-: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA- indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.

fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.

Based on this list, if 250 wins are the mark of a Hall of Famer, then Tommy John and Jim Kaat should have been inducted years ago; currently eligible Jack Morris, who traditionalists claim is being snubbed each year he is not elected, really should have been elected already; recently retired Mike Mussina and Jamie Moyer should be shoo-ins when they become eligible; and Andy Pettitte, who reached 250 wins on June 8 of this year, is only adding to his Hall of Fame résumé with each win he notches before he retires.

For wins between 200 and 249, it might be harder (and not necessarily Mel) to determine who is a Hall of Fame pitcher, assuming, of course, that neat plateaus such as 300, 250, and 200 can segregate candidates into easily evaluated groups of candidates.

But wins alone cannot tell the entire story. Bert Blyleven, who was eventually elected to the Hall in his penultimate year on the ballot, has 287 career wins, just one less than Tommy John, with both less than 15 wins shy of 300. (Perhaps 300 is a harsh mistress: 19th-century pitcher Bobby Mathews finished just three wins shy of 300 and has yet to be inducted by any Veterans Committee.) It took a concerted sabermetric campaign to convince voters that Blyleven is a qualified Hall of Famer—and unlike many on this list, he has two traditional rankings that place him among the elite: Blyleven is fifth in career strikeouts with 3701, and ninth in career shutouts with 60. This is after a career pitching for a lot of mediocre teams (although he did win two World Series, in 1979 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and in 1987 with the Minnesota Twins).

So what problems did voters have with Blyleven? Would they have voted him in had he somehow won 13 more games to get him to the vaunted 300? Considering that Blyleven had 99 career "tough losses" (losses in which he lost despite having a quality start of six innings or more with three or fewer earned runs) against 35 career "cheap wins" (wins in which he pitched fewer than six innings or gave up more than three earned runs, yet still won the game), he certainly had those 13 wins scattered across his playing career—had his teammates helped to contribute to that potential win. Blyleven also had 47 career "wins lost," meaning that he was in line for a win at the time he left a game, but his bullpen lost that lead. (It should be noted that he also had 58 career "losses saved," or games in which he stood to lose when he left, but his team later tied or took the lead, although this would not affect the number of additional wins he might have earned.)

This points out the problem of using wins as a critical determinant of Hall of Fame worthiness: A win is the product of a collective effort, and much of that effort is out of the hands of the pitcher. His team needs to score more runs than he and his fielders give up (and even a pitcher hitting in a lineup is still only one of nine hitters who can potentially create runs). Both Robin Roberts (286 wins) and Ferguson Jenkins (284 wins) were elected to the Hall as players with qualitative statistics comparable to Blyleven's, although you have to wonder whether Gus Wynn would have been elected had he not made it to that neat, if arbitrary, 300-win plateau. (I don't think he should have been elected in any case, but that is another issue.)

No, wins alone cannot tell the story of worthiness for the Hall of Fame. There are too many factors beyond a pitcher's control that determine whether he wins, loses, or gets a no-decision. What is needed is a qualitative approach to the pitcher's performance, to which we turn now.



Wins and the Hall of Fame: The Qualitative Approach

The following table presents those 49 20th- and 21st-century pitchers with between 200 and 299 wins who are not in the Hall of Fame ranked by the Baseball Reference version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR). (Statistics for still-active pitchers are current through August 4, 2013.)

Non-Hall of Fame Pitchers Ranked by bWAR, in Descending Order

Pitcher

Years

Wins

Losses

Pct.

ERA

ERA+

ERA–

bWAR

fWAR

Martinez, Pedro

1992-2009

219

100

0.687

2.93

154

67

86.0

86.8

Mussina, Mike

1991-2008

270

153

0.638

3.68

123

82

82.7

82.3

Schilling, Curt

1988-2007

216

146

0.597

3.46

127

80

80.7

83.5

Brown, Kevin

1986-2005

211

144

0.594

3.28

127

78

68.5

73.8

Reuschel, Rick

1972-1991

214

191

0.528

3.37

114

88

68.2

69.4

Smoltz, John

1988-2009

213

155

0.579

3.33

125

81

66.5

78.4

Tiant, Luis

1964-1982

229

172

0.571

3.30

114

87

66.1

54.0

Halladay, Roy

1998-

201

104

0.659

3.37

131

76

65.5

67.9

John, Tommy

1963-1989

288

231

0.555

3.34

111

90

62.3

75.2

Quinn, Jack

1909-1933

247

218

0.531

3.29

114

89

59.0

63.7



Pettitte, Andy

1995-

252

150

0.627

3.87

116

86

58.9

66.8

Finley, Chuck

1986-2002

200

173

0.536

3.85

115

86

58.5

56.7

Tanana, Frank

1973-1993

240

236

0.504

3.66

106

94

57.5

55.8

Koosman, Jerry

1967-1985

222

209

0.515

3.36

110

91

57.1

66.0

Cicotte, Eddie

1905-1920

209

148

0.585

2.38

123

82

56.9

49.2

Powell, Jack

1897-1912

245

254

0.491

2.97

106

96

56.0

46.3

Sabathia, CC

2001-

200

112

0.641

3.57

122

82

54.0

60.5

Hudson, Tim

1999-

205

111

0.649

3.44

124

80

55.5

47.8

Wells, David

1987-2007

239

157

0.604

4.13

108

93

53.5

58.0

Pierce, Billy

1945-1964

211

169

0.555

3.27

119

84

53.1

54.7



Newsome, Bobo

1929-1953

211

222

0.487

3.98

107

95

51.7

62.2

Hershiser, Orel

1983-2000

204

150

0.576

3.48

112

89

51.7

45.2

Rogers, Kenny

1989-2008

219

156

0.584

4.27

107

93

51.1

47.2

Moyer, Jamie

1986-2012

269

209

0.563

4.25

103

97

50.2

47.5

Martinez, Dennis

1976-1998

245

193

0.559

3.70

106

95

49.5

45.7

Cooper, Wilbur

1912-1926

216

178

0.548

2.89

116

86

49.0

46.9

Lolich, Mickey

1963-1979

217

191

0.532

3.44

104

98

48.8

61.5

Harder, Mel

1928-1947

223

186

0.545

3.80

113

90

47.9

54.5

Pappas, Milt

1957-1973

209

164

0.560

3.40

110

92

46.8

46.3

Kaat, Jim

1959-1983

283

237

0.544

3.45

108

93

45.3

69.4



Blue, Vida

1969-1986

209

161

0.565

3.27

108

92

45.0

45.3

Uhle, George

1919-1936

200

166

0.546

3.99

106

94

44.4

49.2

Orth, Al

1895-1909

204

189

0.519

3.37

100

101

44.1

43.8

Morris, Jack

1977-1994

254

186

0.577

3.90

105

95

43.8

52.7

Welch, Bob

1978-1994

211

146

0.591

3.47

106

94

43.5

36.1

Mays, Carl

1915-1929

208

126

0.623

2.92

119

83

42.5

39.4

Jones, Sad Sam

1914-1935

229

217

0.513

3.84

104

97

40.4

46.0

Hough, Charlie

1970-1994

216

216

0.500

3.75

106

95

39.6

24.5

Derringer, Paul

1931-1945

223

212

0.513

3.46

108

93

39.0

60.7

Perry, Jim

1959-1975

215

174

0.553

3.45

106

94

38.7

32.2



Root, Charlie

1923-1941

201

160

0.557

3.59

111

90

38.0

36.4

Whitehill, Earl

1923-1939

218

185

0.541

4.36

100

99

36.3

49.2

Dauss, Hooks

1912-1926

223

182

0.551

3.30

102

98

35.2

39.9

Wakefield, Tim

1992-2011

200

180

0.526

4.41

105

95

34.5

38.9

Mullin, George

1902-1915

228

196

0.538

2.82

101

99

34.3

38.0

Fitzsimmons, Freddie

1925-1943

217

146

0.598

3.51

112

90

33.5

32.0

Reuss, Jerry

1969-1990

220

191

0.535

3.64

100

100

33.1

52.0

Niekro, Joe

1967-1988

221

204

0.520

3.59

98

102

28.7

26.9

Burdette, Lew

1950-1967

203

144

0.585

3.66

99

101

25.8

31.1



By using wins above replacement, or the contribution a player makes toward a team win over an average replacement player, to measure a pitcher's effectiveness, the order of these pitchers changes significantly—because a pitcher is credited with a high number of wins does not mean that he is actively contributing to those wins as much as a pitcher who might not register as many wins but is contributing more in comparison.

To be sure, there is some correlation: In this sample, Mike Mussina is third in wins and second in bWAR; Tommy John tops the wins list and is ninth in bWAR (FanGraphs favors John more highly—he would be fifth in an fWAR sort); and Jack Quinn (whose career is quietly intriguing), seventh in wins, is tenth in bWAR. But several pitchers near the bottom of the wins list now shoot to the top of the bWAR list: Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown, Rick Reuschel, John Smoltz, and Roy Halladay, who reached 200 wins this season. Conversely, several pitchers with top-ten win totals in this sample—including Jim Kaat, Jamie Moyer, Jack Morris, and Andy Pettitte—fall out of the top ten when measured by effectiveness.

Pitchers' Profiles: Who Is a Hall of Famer?

I've written previously about the Hall of Fame chances for Pedro Martinez (eligible in 2015), Mike Mussina (eligible in 2014), Curt Schilling (eligible in 2013), and John Smoltz (eligible in 2015): Two years ago, I labeled Martinez's and Smoltz's inductions as "no brainers" while I called Mussina's and Schilling's candidacy "tough sells" only because of the overcrowded ballot—both are Hall of Famers in my view; I also had Schilling picked as the fourth-best prospect on this year's ballot; he received 38.8 percent of the vote, seventh-best in the embarrassing mess that was this year's voting.

Because I have written at length about all four, I will summarize each briefly. Martinez in his prime had a string of seasons to rival Sandy Koufax for sheer dominance—with Pedro's even more impressive because it occurred right in the teeth of the Steroids Era and its inflated offense. (By contrast, Koufax's dominance occurred during a period in the 1960s when conditions favored pitchers.) The wiry right-hander's .687 winning percentage is second only to Whitey Ford's in the post-World War Two era (it is sixth all-time) while his ERA+ of 154 is second only to Mariano Rivera's. Right-handed Smoltz is the only man to combine 200 or more wins with 150 or more saves while, like Martinez, getting to the 3000-strikeout plateau. Schilling too reached 3000 strikeouts with an insanely stingy 711 walks, which yields an eye-popping strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.38, second all-time. Oh, and the intense right-hander might have a reputation as a big-game pitcher—do I have to mention the bloody sock? Mussina's knock is a high ERA, but he pitched his entire career in the American League East, the toughest division in Major League Baseball, during a high-offense period while posting a losing season only twice; in fact, the righty won at least 11 games for 17 consecutive seasons, an AL record, while his .638 winning percentage is 39th all-time.

Schilling is currently eligible while the other three will soon be, and barring a complete meltdown among the writers in what is already promising to be a very eventful next few years of voting—between the PEDs backlash and the overstuffed ballot, the writers have much to occupy them—both Martinez and Smoltz will be elected fairly quickly, Schilling will have to wait a few ballots, and Mussina will be a struggle much as Bert Blyleven's campaign was.

As for the six remaining pitchers in the top ten list ranked by bWAR, five have already had their chances on the ballot and one is still active. Those five are at the mercy of the Veterans Committee while the active pitcher, Roy Halladay, might be eligible sooner than he might have expected to be.

Kevin Brown was a one-and-done in 2011, his first year on the ballot, probably because a) he is implicated with PEDs, b) he is seen as not having lived up to the huge contract the Los Angeles Dodgers threw at him (although that is debatable), and c) he is not very likeable. All three reasons overlook how good this intense right-hander really was. Including his only 20-game season in 1992 for the Texas Rangers (he went 21–11 with a 3.32 ERA), Brown for the next decade averaged, per season, 14 wins and 9 losses with a 3.00 ERA in 31 games started, with 217 innings pitched, 6 complete games, and 2 shutouts while striking out 172 batters and walking only 54 for an excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.18. During that ten-year period, he generated a bWAR of 54.7—an all-star average of 5.5 every year—while averaging an ERA+ of 140, and he finished in the top-ten of Cy Young voting in six of those ten years; he was runner-up to John Smoltz in National League Cy Young voting in 1996 although he was superior to Smoltz in bWAR (7.98 to Smoltz's 7.28), ERA (1.89 to 2.94), and ERA+ (215 to 149), leading the NL with those latter two categories.

Brown's appearance in the Mitchell Report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and his refusal to talk to the investigators, all but quashed his Hall of Fame chances, and his fate rests with some future Veterans Committee. Brown's career bWAR of 68.5 ranks 31st among pitchers and 108th among all players, while his fWAR of 73.8 ranks 26th among pitchers. Based on numbers alone, Kevin Brown is better qualified for the Hall of Fame than some pitchers already enshrined, but his involvement with PEDs and baseball's current attitude toward their influence will keep him on the outside for some time to come.

Right-hander Rick Reuschel is an anomaly, and critics of sabermetrics can point to him as the result of crunching abstract numbers instead of "looking with your eyes." Reushel's traditional career numbers are solid but not spectacular: a 214–191 record (.528) with a decent 3.37 ERA and a strong though not elite ERA+ of 114 while he got to 2000 strikeouts (2015) and threw 26 career shutouts. But "Big Daddy" posted double-digit wins—and losses—while toiling for some dismal Cubs teams during the 1970s. With the Cubs, he endured 55 of his 81 career tough losses as his run support was just below the league average. Late in his career, he became the veteran presence for the San Francisco Giants in the late 1980s, including a 17–8 (.680), 2.94 ERA, 115 ERA+ 1989 season that saw the Giants go to the World Series, where they were swept by the Oakland Athletics in a Bay Area series notable primarily for its Game Three being interrupted by the .Loma Prieta earthquake

In his first appearance on a Hall of Fame ballot in 1997, Reuschel garnered exactly two votes and was quickly forgotten. His further chances rest with some future Veterans Committee, and while the Hall has several pitchers whose qualifications are conspicuously suspect—Catfish Hunter, Rube Marquard, and Herb Pennock are non-elite pitchers who all benefited from pitching for strong teams—it is difficult to justify the case of Rick Reuschel for the Hall of Fame despite the impressive bWAR he compiled partly while pitching for sub-par teams.

A solid if not sterling starting pitcher for his entire career, particularly for the Boston Red Sox teams of the 1970s, Luis Tiant, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, experienced a curious reversal between his 1968 season and his 1969 season: In 1968, the last year of the 15-inch-high pitching mound and a year that saw St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson set the live-ball-era record for ERA with 1.12 and Detroit Tigers hurler Denny McLain become the last pitcher to win 30 or more games in a single season (he won 31), "El Tiante" posted an outstanding 21–9 (.700) record with an American League-leading 1.60 ERA (he also led the league, retrospectively, with his 186 ERA+) while also leading the AL in shutouts with 9, with 4 of those consecutive shutouts, for an Indians team that won 86 games. However, in 1969, as the Indians fell to 62 wins, he effectively reversed his record from the previous year: Tiant won just 9 games while leading the AL in losses with 20 as his ERA rose to 3.71 and he led the AL in home runs allowed (37) and walks (129). Injuries might have plagued him during the season—although he pitched in and started more games than in the previous season—but he eventually found his way to Boston and a new lease of life.

During his eight seasons with the Red Sox, Tiant in 274 games (238 of those starts) and 1774.2 innings pitched amassed a 122–81 win-loss record (a .601 winning percentage) while reaching the 20-games-won plateau three times; during that period, his ERA was 3.36 as he notched 113 complete games including 26 shutouts and compiled 1075 strikeouts, a 118 ERA+, and a bWAR of 36.4, all quite impressive for a pitcher between his age-30 and age-37 seasons. With Boston, the right-hander with the distinctive, deceptive delivery did win another ERA crown with his 1.91 ERA in 1972 (his ERA+ of 169 also led the AL). Tiant survived every year of eligibility on the Hall of Fame ballot; his inaugural year of 1988 saw his strongest support with 30.9 percent of the vote, but he never rose above 20 percent again, finishing with 18.0 percent of the vote in his final year of eligibility, 2002. Tiant is strong both qualitatively and quantitatively, but he is not elite in either respect, and without a dominant stretch in his record, he is not a Hall of Fame pitcher.

More instructive of how starting pitchers will come to be evaluated for their Hall of Fame worthiness is the case of Roy Halladay. In an era of high talent compression, in which players in aggregate are very good and it is harder than it had been in previous eras to stand out, "Doc" Halladay has been both dominant and a workhorse. In the ten-year period from 2002 to 2011, the right-hander led the league in innings pitched four times, in games started once, and in complete games seven times as he averaged, per season, 30 games started, 219 innings pitched, 6 complete games, and 2 shutouts as he won 170 games over that ten-year period against only 75 losses for an outstanding .694 winning percentage, winning at least 20 games three times while falling one shy of 20 games won in two other seasons. Qualitatively, Halladay posted an excellent 2.97 ERA over that ten-year period while generating a 148 ERA+ and a bWAR of 62.4, reaching an MVP-level of 8 wins above replacement per season three times and an All-Star-level of 5 WAR eight times.

Halladay has won a Cy Young Award once in each league, in 2003 with the AL Toronto Blue Jays and in 2010 with the Philadelphia Phillies, his first year in the National League. During that ten-year period, he finished in the top ten of Cy Young voting seven times total including two second-place finishes in 2008 and 2011, when it was a virtual toss-up between Halladay and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw. In 2010, Halladay threw two no-hitters, one a perfect game during the regular season, the other a no-hitter in which he allowed just one walk during the Phillies' National League Divisional Series against the Cincinnati Reds—the only no-hitter thrown in the postseason other than Don Larsen's perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series.

In a time of such high talent compression, players not only have a harder time distinguishing themselves from the pack, but the window to be able to distinguish oneself is shrinking: Players do not hit their prime until their mid-20s (barring outlier cases such as Bryce Harper and Mike Trout), and once a player leaves his prime in his early- to mid-30s, that high talent compression usually means that players' skills and effectiveness drop off significantly, enough to force many players out of the game. That looks as if it might be the case with Halladay, whose effectiveness fell off a cliff during the 2012 season. Much of that could be attributed to shoulder trouble, which continued to plague him during this season as he underwent surgery; he has not pitched a game since early May, and seeing that this is his age-36 season, Roy Halladay might have already established his Hall of Fame legacy.

Another pitcher whose career was impacted by surgery was southpaw Tommy John—although his surgery in hindsight prolonged his career to the point that he could actually be considered for the Hall of Fame. In 1974, John's career looked to be cut short when, in the midst of an otherwise-excellent season, he permanently injured an elbow ligament in his pitching arm, the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Later that year, Dr. Frank Jobe performed a surgery to replace the UCL with an undamaged tendon; at the time of the surgery, the odds of John returning to major-league pitching were very low; John spent the entire 1975 season rehabilitating. However, he did return in 1976 in his age-33 season to post a 10–10 record for the Los Angeles Dodgers, albeit with a decent 3.09 ERA—but the following season, John won 20 games for the first time in his career (20–7 [.741] with a 2.78 ERA). And when John signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees in 1978, he posted two more 20-game seasons on his way to 288 lifetime wins.

Dr. Jobe's surgical procedure soon became a career-saver for several pitchers afflicted with arm trouble, and because Tommy John was the first successful recipient of the surgery, the procedure has come to be known as "Tommy John surgery." This year, Dr. Jobe was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame for his contribution to the sport.

Ah, but does Tommy John himself deserve to be enshrined in the Hall? As we have seen, John has the highest number of wins of all pitchers in the modern era who did not reach the 300-win plateau. His surgery certainly prolonged his career—he pitched for 12 seasons before the surgery and for 14 seasons after the surgery. His final game was on May 25, 1989, three days after his 46th birthday. As the story goes, he decided to retire after Mark McGwire got two hits off him; McGwire's father was John's dentist, and as John put it, "when your dentist's kid starts hitting you, it's time to retire!"

The following table lists John's performance in the 12 years before his 1974 surgery, the first 7 years following his surgery, and the final 7 years of his career. The Totals rows reflect John's first 20 years in the Major Leagues (19 seasons—he did not play in 1975), John's seasons following his surgery, and his entire career.

Tommy John's Pitching Performance by Period

Period

W-L (Pct.)

GS

ERA

ERA+

ERA–

bWAR

fWAR

1963–1974

124–106 (.539)

318

2.97

116

85

31.0

34.2

1976–1982

113–65 (.635)

217

3.15

120

83

24.7

28.6

Totals, 1963–1982

237–171 (.581)

535

3.05

118

84

55.7

66.8

















1983–1989

51–60 (.459)

165

4.43

92

112

6.6

12.4

Totals, 1976–1989

164–125 (.567)

382

3.66

107

98

31.3

41.0

Totals, Entire Career

288–231 (.555)

700

3.34

111

90

62.3

75.2


John's surgery undoubtedly prolonged his career, and for the first seven years following his return from surgery, he pitched at the same level that he had done prior to his surgery. The surgery was a success, and the patient thrived.

But although hindsight is a luxury, it also shows that John prolonged his career to the detriment of his overall effectiveness. From 1983 to 1989, his age-40 to age-46 seasons, John was a below-league-average pitcher, scratching to add to his win totals as the quality of his pitching plummeted. Had Tommy John retired following the 1982 season, or even the 1983 season as he realized that, at age 40, he was no longer a top-flight pitcher, reconstructed arm or not, he might have appeared to be a more promising Hall of Fame candidate. Or perhaps not. John's best showing on the Hall of Fame ballot was in 2009, his 15th and final year on the ballot, when he got 31.9 percent of the vote.

John was runner-up for the Cy Young Award twice, in 1977 and 1979, and in 1979 he might have had a better case than the winner, the Baltimore Orioles' Mike Flanagan—although John's Yankees staff mate Ron Guidry probably outclassed them both. John is 8th in games started (700), 20th in innings pitched (4710.1), and 26th in shutouts (46) in addition to being 26th in wins with 288, but his ranking of 48th in bWAR (62.3) among pitchers (he is 158th among all players) reinforce that Tommy John was a compiler and not an elite pitcher, no matter the lease of life he got from the surgery named for him.

Then there's the enigmatic Jack Quinn, who didn't even begin his Major League career until his age-25 season in 1909; played for two seasons in the short-lived Federal League in 1914 and 1915, and when that league folded, toiled in the Pacific Coast League for two seasons before getting a roster spot with the Chicago White Sox in 1918 when the PCL suspended operations for the First World War; and pitched in his final game days after he turned 49 in 1933; Quinn is one of the few players to have played in four decades. Born in modern-day Slovakia and having come to the United States as an infant, Quinn's life was a quiet, almost mysterious one, with a number of his biographical details shrouded for many years.

But his playing record is fairly clear: The right-hander was never a star pitcher but he was a surprisingly solid one, and while he is not a Hall of Fame pitcher, he does match up with a number of pitchers who are already in the Hall of Fame. His 247 career wins, 49th all-time, is higher than several Hall of Fame pitchers including such high-profile names such as Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford, and Catfish Hunter. More importantly, Quinn's career bWAR of 59.0, 61st all-time, bests that of many Hall of Fame pitchers including Red Ruffing, Mordecai Brown, Ford, Waite Hoyt, Sandy Koufax, and Early Wynn, whose 300 wins is an auspicious milestone. Jack Quinn does underscore the need to look at pitchers both qualitatively and quantitatively.

On the qualitative front, of the top ten pitchers ranked by bWAR above, six are Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers: Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown, John Smoltz, and Roy Halladay. Halladay is still technically an active pitcher, although whether he returns from shoulder surgery is to be seen. But what about the other active and recently retired pitchers?



Pitchers' Profiles: Who Is Not a Hall of Famer?

Not to cut right to the chase, but if four of the ten pitchers in the top-ten ranking by bWAR are not Hall of Fame pitchers, then what chance do the next ten in that ranking have? The short answer is, not much—at least for the seven pitchers who have already retired and have had their chance on the Hall of Fame ballot. However, the three currently active pitchers could have the possibility of making the Hall.

First, one pitcher in the next ten has no chance of entering the Hall of Fame unless Major League Baseball reverses a decision that has stood for close to a century. Right-handed knuckleballer Eddie Cicotte was in 1921 declared permanently ineligible to play Major League baseball by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for his participation in the infamous "Black Sox" scandal of 1919 in which eight players from the Chicago White Sox, including Cicotte, consorted with gamblers to throw the World Series and enable the underdog Cincinnati Reds to win the Series. It would be another 15 years from Landis's ruling before the inaugural class of the Baseball Hall of Fame would even be inducted, but Cicotte would not appear on any Hall of Fame ballot.

Interestingly, there had been no explicit prohibition of players such as Cicotte from the early ballots. Other players who had been banned from baseball, such as Hal Chase—a notorious gambler, though not one of the Black Sox—and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Cicotte's 1919 Black Sox teammate and the one with the best chance to make the Hall, actually received a handful of votes. Eddie Cicotte had the next-best chance to make the Hall: He had a very good winning percentage (.585) and ERA (2.38), 24th all-time albeit garnered during the dead-ball era, while his ERA+ of 123, 84th all-time, is equal to Hall of Famer Juan Marichal's and is a tick higher than Hall of Famer Bob Feller's, and his bWAR of 56.9 is 68th all-time, ahead of Hall of Famers Mordecai Brown, Whitey Ford, and Sandy Koufax.

Another dead-ball pitcher, Jack Powell, ranks 52nd all-time in wins with 245—but he also ranks 8th in lifetime losses with 254 and thus has the dubious honor of having the most wins by a pitcher with a losing record. (Call him the Connie Mack of starting pitchers.) The right-hander had the misfortune of pitching for the often-woeful St. Louis Browns for much of his career, a team that in Powell's last three seasons struggled to win as many as 50 games in only one of those seasons. Unfortunately, statistics are not available to evaluate the kind of run support—or lack thereof—Powell got, but he did post a career ERA of 2.97.

The left-handed ace of the "Go-Go" White Sox teams of the 1950s, Billy Pierce is lost in the haze of baseball history, but he compiled a quietly impressive record including a 13-year stretch in which for each year, in seasonal averages, he posted a 15–11 record (.577) in 30 starts and 225 innings pitched, with 14 complete games—he led the American League in complete games three years in a row, from 1956 to 1958—while establishing a 3.16 ERA and 123 ERA+; Pierce led the AL in ERA in 1955 (1.97), and he posted back-to-back 20-game seasons in 1956 and 1957, leading the league in the latter year. During that 13-year period, he generated 50.5 bWAR, averaging 3.9 wins above replacement every season. Pierce is noted for his battles against a more celebrated southpaw, Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees, while being saddled with the inferior offense, certainly in comparison to those 1950s Bronx Bombers. Among left-handers in the Hall of Fame already, Pierce ranks higher in bWAR than Lefty Gomez, Rube Marquard, and Herb Pennock, and higher in ERA+ than Gomez and Marquard, but it is hard to count Pierce as one of the elite—even if no less than Bill James has a soft spot for him. Certainly, Hall voters felt that way in 1970, during Pierce's first and only year on the ballot, as he got precisely five votes.

Toiling in the shadow of his more famous teammate Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman in his first full season, 1968, made an auspicious impression when he posted a 19–12 record (.613) with a 2.08 ERA and 145 ERA+, completing half his 34 starts while notching 7 shutouts and striking out 178 against only 69 walks for an excellent strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 2.58. The lefty was runner-up for Rookie of the Year honors to a Cincinnati Reds catcher named Johnny Bench, although based on bWAR, "Koos" was the more valuable player. The following year saw the "Miracle Mets" win the World Series against the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles, and Koosman, who practically replicated his 1968 performance during the 1969 regular season, earned two victories against the Orioles including a complete-game win in the clinching Game Five—and he was one out shy of a complete game in Game Two, which evened the Series and set the stage for the Mets' next three wins; his ERA in two Series games was 2.04 as he allowed only seven hits and struck out nine.

Then Koosman embarked on a solid though hardly Hall of Fame career, mixing a few strong seasons, such as his 1976 campaign that saw him with a 21–10 (.677) record, 2.69 ERA, and 200 strikeouts as he came in second to the San Diego Padres' Randy Jones for the National League Cy Young Award, with a number of league-average or below-league-average seasons, such as his campaign the following year, which saw him lose 20 games against only 8 victories, although the Mets had gone from winning 86 games in 1976 to winning only 64 in 1977. In his first year with the Minnesota Twins in 1979, Koosman again won 20 games as he finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting—not bad for a pitcher in his age-36 season—but that was his last strong year. Compiling his way to 200 wins—and 200 losses—along with 2,556 strikeouts, Jerry Koosman was a fine pitcher, just not a Hall of Fame-caliber one. No surprise, then, that he garnered just four votes on his debut on the ballot in 1991 and disappeared.

Another southpaw who made an early splash, Frank Tanana began as a fireballer for the (then-) California Angels. In his first five full seasons, from 1974 to 1978, he averaged, per year, 16 wins against 12 losses (.586 winning percentage), a 2.86 ERA and 124 ERA+, 259 innings pitched, 33 starts, 16 complete games, 4 shutouts, and 210 strikeouts against only 69 walks for an outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.06. In 1975, Tanana led the American League in strikeouts with 269—no small feat considering his rotation mate was a guy named Nolan Ryan. (Ryan managed "only" 186 K's in 1975, breaking a consecutive string of at least 300 strikeouts from 1972 to 1977, including the single-season record of 383 in 1973.) Tanana also led the AL in ERA (2.54) and shutouts (7) in 1977 as he finished in the top ten in Cy Young voting in three of those five seasons.

Then Tanana developed arm trouble, and he had to learn to become a junk dealer as his repertoire went from throwing flames to an array of off-speed pitches including an excellent curve ball. From an elite beginning that saw him post three seasons, from 1975 to 1977, with bWAR values that put him near or at MVP-levels, Tanana toiled until the early 1990s as a survivor and a compiler, his 240 lifetime wins, 56th all-time, balanced by 236 losses, 17th all-time as he collected 2773 strikeouts, 21st all-time. Tanana's 57.5 bWAR is 65th lifetime, but his ERA+ of 106, mirrored by FanGraphs' ERA– of 94, marks him as a little better than league-average for his entire career, and with that early period of dominance being so short and not overpowering, Frank Tanana cannot be considered a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher. Voters came to this conclusion as in his first and only appearance on the ballot, he got nary a vote—and in a cold twist of fate, his erstwhile teammate Nolan Ryan, on his first ballot that same year, walked away with 98.8 percent of the vote.

Yet another left-hander, and another one who pitched for the Angels, Chuck Finley could also bring the heat as he had ten seasons of 150 or more strikeouts and finished with 2610, 23rd all-time (and just two slots below Frank Tanana). Finley was a durable starter, averaging each season, over 15 years from 1988 to 2002, 31 starts, 204 innings pitched, 4 complete games, and one shutout, which during this period of interventionist bullpens is significant. During this period, Finley collected 195 of his 200 career wins as he reached double-digits in all but two of those seasons, again a significant achievement during this period in baseball. Finley led the American League in complete games (13) in 1993 as he pitched 251.1 innings, and he led the AL in innings pitched in the strike-shortened season of 1994 with 183.1.

But it is hard not to see Chuck Finley as little more than an innings-eater: durable, reliable, but not spectacular. True, Finley was a five-time All-Star, but he finished in the top-ten for Cy Young voting only once: He was seventh in 1990 when he went 18–9 with a 2.40 ERA, but while he might have been better qualitatively (7.63 bWAR, 158 ERA+) than winner Bob Welch (27–6, 2.95 ERA, 2.99 bWAR, 125 ERA+), Finley also faced stiff competition from Roger Clemens (21–6, 1.93 ERA, 10.6 bWAR, 211 ERA+), Bobby Thigpen (a then-single-season record 57 saves, 1.83 ERA, 211 ERA+) and Dennis Eckersley (48 saves; just 4 walks, 1 intentional, in 73.1 innings; a miniscule 0.61 ERA; and a simply ridiculous 603 ERA+). Voters must have felt the same way as well because in Chuck Finley's only appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2008, he received precisely one vote—and I suspect it was cast by Orange County Register sports writer Bill Plunkett in a hometown nod to the man who had once been assaulted with a stiletto-heeled pump wielded by his wife, rock-video vixen Tawny Kitaen.

Can you believe we have another southpaw up next? David Wells might be tied with a Hall of Famer, Mordecai Brown, for 57th on the career wins list with 239, but as I detailed prior to the announcement of the 2013 ballot results, "Boomer" is at best a borderline candidate, and when the ballot results were announced, Wells had netted five votes on his first and only sojourn on the ballot. If you're too lazy to click the link, I'll sum up Wells for you here: Yes, he won a lot of games, but he pitched for some strong teams, including the Yankees, that provided him run support and mitigated that high 4.13 career ERA—albeit earned in the teeth of the Steroids Era—as his ERA+ of 108 and ERA– of 93 indicate a pitcher who is better than league-average but not enough to be enshrined among the best who ever pitched.

This leaves us with three pitchers still active who have all passed milestones this season: Andy Pettitte passed the 250-win plateau while Tim Hudson and C.C. Sabathia both became career 200-game winners.

Pitchers' Profiles: Who Might Become a Hall of Famer?

The active leader in wins, Andy Pettitte is also the active leader in games started, innings pitched, and strikeouts, and the left-hander will continue to add to those totals before he retires. Again. When he retires—again—and whether he will stay retired is another story; he retired following the 2010 season, but attending the New York Yankees' spring training camp as an instructor in 2012 renewed his desire to play, and he resumed pitching in the Major Leagues in May of that year. What might be the case is that even if Pettitte pads his résumé for another year or two, he has probably already written his legacy.

The question becomes: Still-active or not, is that legacy strong enough to put him into the Hall of Fame? Pettitte's career, which began in 1995, coincides with the rise of the Yankees as a powerhouse that saw them appear in the World Series seven times between 1996 and 2009, winning five of those Series, and it might not be such a coincidence: Along with shortstop Derek Jeter, catcher Jorge Posada, and relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, Pettitte is considered to be one of the "Core Four" of those championship Yankees. Indeed, Pettitte is the lifetime leader in postseason wins (19), games started (44), and innings pitched (276.2), and is second in strikeouts (183), and fifth in games pitched (44). This also includes his postseason appearances with the Houston Astros in 2005, for whom Pettitte pitched from 2004 to 2006 before returning to the Yankees.

Pettitte has been in double digits in wins for 14 of his 18 seasons, and for a 14-year period, from 1996 to 2009, he averaged 16 wins against 9 losses (.633 winning percentage), winning 21 games twice and 19 games once; 31 games started (he led the league in this category three times); 197 innings pitched; and 145 strikeouts while generating a 3.89 ERA, a 117 ERA+, and a 3.6 bWAR. With Rivera, Pettitte holds the Major League record for win-save combinations, in which Pettitte earned the win and Rivera the save, with 81 (70 during regular-season games, 11 in the postseason), which also points to a curious fact about Pettitte's career: in 510 games started, Pettitte has only 25 complete games.

Pettitte began his career after interventionist bullpens had been established as part of contemporary pitching strategy, and he ranks seventh (tied with Tim Hudson) among active pitchers. So, it is no demerit to Pettitte that he is not a starting pitcher from a bygone era who battled through the entire game—baseball is simply not played like that any longer. Yet it is curious that Pettitte isn't the leader in complete games among active pitchers, particularly since the runner-up to him in games started, Tim Hudson, who is tied with Pettitte in complete games, has made 83 fewer starts than Pettitte. The active leader in complete games, Roy Halladay (67), has made 125 fewer starts, and if Halladay is an outlier (which, as we have seen, makes him a probable Hall of Famer), consider that a number of pitchers, all of whom have started fewer games than Pettitte, have either more complete games than Pettitte or have a higher proportion of complete games than Pettitte.

The following table lists, in descending order, the active pitchers with the most starts who have at least 20 complete games. "Years" indicates the number of seasons each pitcher has played. Also included are the career shutouts for each pitcher. (To be credited with a shutout, a pitcher must not only prevent the opposition from scoring but must pitch the entire game.) (Statistics for still-active pitchers are current through August 4, 2013.)

Active Pitchers' Complete Games, Ranked by Games Started

Pitcher

Years

Rank

GS

Rank

CG

Shutouts

Andy Pettitte

18

1

510

7

25

4

Tim Hudson

15

2

426

7

25

13

Mark Buehrle

14

3

416

5

28

8

C.C. Sabathia

13

5

406

2

37

12

Bartolo Colon

16

6

395

3

35

12

Roy Halladay

16

7

384

1

67

20

A.J. Burnett

15

9

357

10

22

10

Roy Oswalt

13

15

339

12

20

8

Chris Carpenter

15

17

332

4

33

15

Cliff Lee

12

25

300

6

27

12

Felix Hernandez

9

30

259

9

23

9

Justin Verlander

9

32

253

12

20

6

James Shields

8

40

238

11

21

8


Several pitchers with 100 or fewer starts than Pettitte have already passed Pettitte in complete games (Pettitte's last complete game, by the way, came in 2006), while Cliff Lee with 200 fewer starts than Pettitte has already passed him. Meanwhile, Felix Hernandez, James Shields, and Justin Verlander are only a few complete games back of Pettitte with half as many starts.

The point is not to show which pitchers are willing or able to "gut it out," but this comparison suggests indirectly that Pettitte might not have been such a dominant or "big-game" pitcher over his career. It is instructive that in this sample Pettitte ranks last in shutouts; next-to-last is Verlander, who has already passed Pettitte in this category in half as many starts (and two of Verlander's blanks were no-hitters). Over his career, Pettitte has averaged 6.3 innings per start and 101 pitches per start, giving the impression that he is something of a "hothouse flower," designed only to get his team to the later innings.

Five times Pettitte has placed in the top ten for Cy Young voting, with his best showing in 1996 when he was runner-up to the Toronto Blue Jays' Pat Hentgen, but neither in 1996 nor in any other year was Pettitte robbed of the award. In 18 seasons, Pettitte has been named to an All-Star team only three times, which is not necessarily an indictment as the honor is subject to partiality and is based only on a half-year's performance. However, his seasonal-average bWAR during his 14-year peak was 3.6; a bWAR of at least 5.0 is considered to be at the All-Star level, and Pettitte generated a per-season bWAR of at least 5.0 only three times in his career. Pettitte posted an ERA under 3.00 only three times, and one of those seasons was his return season of 2012 when he started only 12 games and pitched 75.1 innings. As it stands, his career ERA of 3.88 would be the highest of any Hall of Fame pitcher unless Jack Morris, with a 3.90 ERA and also at the 250-win mark, is elected next year.

In fairness, though, Pettitte has pitched most of his career in the American League East, the toughest division in the Major Leagues, even if his Yankees were the toughest of those teams a number of times. Indeed, Pettitte has enjoyed career run support averaging 5.4 runs per game while the major-league average during his career has been 4.7 runs per game. Pettitte has had 40 career tough losses, meaning he pitched a quality start—at least six innings and allowing three earned runs or fewer—but his team could not score enough runs for him, and 11 of those came during his three seasons with the Houston Astros. He has 41 career losses saved, or games in which he was in line to get the loss when he left but the relief staff and his offense at least tied the game subsequently, against only 34 wins lost, or games in which he left the game with the lead but the bullpen allowed the opposition to at least tie the game.

Unmentioned until now has been the specter of PEDs that clouds examination of Pettitte's career. Having been named in the Mitchell Report in 2007, Pettitte admitted to using human growth hormone (HGH) twice in 2002, explaining that it was to enable him to heal more quickly from an injury. However, he admitted subsequently that he had used HGH again in 2004, and he also claimed that friend and teammate Roger Clemens had told him that he, Clemens, had used HGH in 1999 or 2000. Clemens then stated that Pettitte "misremembered" the comment, but by then the PEDs taint was enveloping them both, with Clemens becoming the face of drug cheating in baseball along with Barry Bonds.

Leaving aside how Andy Pettitte will be regarded with respect to PEDs come voting time, he could be elected to the Hall of Fame for his 250-plus wins and his postseason pitching record, but both underscore his dependence on his team: As has been the theme throughout this article, wins are a team-dependent statistic, and a pitcher has to be on a winning team in order to get to the postseason in the first place.

However, it could be a while before we see another pitcher reach 250 wins. Both Roy Halladay and Tim Hudson, who reached 200 wins this season, have sustained injuries that have ended their seasons. Halladay is 36 and Hudson is 37, with scant few seasons left in their careers provided they can return from their surgeries. C.C. Sabathia also reached 200 wins this season, and as he is in his age-32 season he still has a few years in which to compile more wins.




With 8 seasons in which he notched at least 15 victories while posting double-digit losses in only 3 of his 15 seasons, right-hander Tim Hudson has earned his reputation as a winning pitcher. That started with his stint as one of the "Big Three," along with lefties Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, of the Oakland Athletics from 1999 to 2004 before being traded to the Atlanta Braves, with whom he has garnered 113 of his 205 career wins. Yet Hudson has pitched for mostly winning teams for his entire career, and while it can be argued that his performance is one of the factors as to why the team was a winner, he has always enjoyed run support around the league average; only in 2009 did he get run support of 3.6 runs per innings pitched, against the league average of 5.0 runs, although Hudson pitched only 42.1 innings in 7 starts in 2009 as he was still recovering from the Tommy John surgery he had undergone near the end of the previous season.

Hudson has always been an excellent pitcher, with 274 of his 426 career starts being quality starts (64 percent). Recall that a quality start requires a pitcher to pitch at least six innings while surrendering three or fewer earned runs. In Hudson's career, he has allowed only 94 unearned runs more than earned runs, 1077 of his 1171 total runs allowed are earned runs. (An unearned run is a run that scores as a result of a defensive error at some point during an inning.)

As a sinkerball pitcher with 1896 strikeouts in 2813.2 innings pitched, a ratio of 16.2 percent, Hudson has relied on his defense to help him get outs, particularly his infielders—indeed, his ground-out-to-air-out ratio of 2.01 is nearly twice the MLB average of 1.08. Yet for a ground-ball pitcher to have been charged with only 94 unearned runs in more than 2800 innings is remarkable. Hudson's career ERA is 3.44, and his FIP, or fielding-independent pitching ERA, is 3.77, indicating that without defensive help, his ERA would be higher. (FIP measures the factors a pitcher can control—walks, strikeouts, home runs—against league-average ERA and FIP.) Over his career, Hudson has averaged 2.7 walks per nine innings pitched and 0.7 home runs per nine innings pitched, both relatively low ratios, and his 3.77 FIP is above-average but not exceptional. Furthermore, Hudson's lifetime average leverage index, or the measurement of the overall pressure he faced while pitching, is 0.98, with average pressured measured at 1.00, meaning that he was not unduly pressured by the offenses he faced over the course of his career.

Tim Hudson finished in the top five in Cy Young voting three times (he was sixth in 2001), with his best showing a runner-up finish in 2000. However, Hudson has hardly been robbed of the award in any of those years; in 2000, he placed second to Pedro Martinez, who had had a phenomenal year: for instance, Martinez's ERA was 1.74—none of the other six candidates posted an ERA under 3.00, and three, including Hudson, had ERAs over 4.00. Hudson attained a seasonal bWAR of 5.0 or higher, considered to be at an All-Star level, only three times; coincidentally, he has been selected to three All-Star teams, although in the same year in which his bWAR was at the All-Star level only once, in 2010.

Pitching for teams that scored runs for him and played well defensively behind him, Tim Hudson has reached the 200-win plateau, which as we have seen is an exceptional honor for a pitcher in the contemporary era. But as we have also seen, wins are a team-dependent statistic and do not accurately reflect the effectiveness of the pitcher individually. Hudson is an excellent pitcher—he has amassed a career bWAR of 55.5 and ERA+ of 124—but he has never shown that he is a dominating or elite pitcher. He has led the league in starts twice, indicating durability, and he led the league in wins and winning percentage in 2000, his only 20-game season, and one in which he was runner-up in American League Cy Young voting. His 2000 win-loss record was 20–6 (.769) while AL Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez posted an 18–6 (.750) record; however, Hudson's ERA was 4.14, translating to an ERA+ of only 113 and bWAR of 4.0—by contrast, Martinez's ERA was 1.74, which translated to an unearthly ERA+ of 291 (by this measurement, he was nearly three times better than the average AL pitcher) and bWAR of 11.7.

Tim Hudson might recover from his 2013 season-ending ankle surgery to pitch a couple more seasons, and depending on his effectiveness he could then add to his counting numbers. He would need three 15-win seasons to reach 250 career wins, which is not inconceivable, but neither is it likely given that he is a) returning from surgery, b) in his late-30s, and c) playing in a period of high talent compression with many young arms competing for his slot in the rotation. Again, though, as we have been examining, wins in and of themselves are not an accurate indicator of pitching greatness. Thus, Tim Hudson's Hall of Fame legacy is already established, and he falls short of the greatness required of a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher.

A few years younger than Halladay, Hudson, or Pettitte, CC Sabathia has already posted a promising record as he reached the 200-win mark this season. In fact, with eight seasons with at least 15 wins, including one with 21 wins and three with 19 wins, the big left-hander has never posted a losing full season—although he has experienced a swoon this season as his velocity has dropped, resulting in several ineffective and disappointing starts. Whether this indicates difficulties generated by his return from elbow surgery last year, a coincidental off-year, or, in his age-32 season, a notable decline as he struggles to stay afloat in an environment of high talent compression, remains to be seen.

Up until 2013, though, Sabathia was the very definition of a workhorse. In his first year in the majors, he posted for the Cleveland Indians a 17–5 record (.773) with a 4.39 ERA in 33 starts and 180.1 innings, finishing second behind the Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki for American League Rookie of the Year honors. He went on to demonstrate his durability for the first 12 years of his career: From 2001 to 2012, Sabathia has averaged, per season, 32 starts in 214 innings pitched with three complete games and one shutout while exhibiting both dominance and command with 184 strikeouts against only 64 bases on balls for an excellent 2.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has notched nine season with 150 or more strikeouts and three seasons with 200 or more (and has fallen three shy of 200 in back-to-back seasons, in 2009 and 2010). Sabathia's qualitative stats over this period, per season, are a 3.50 ERA, a 125 ERA+, and a 4.5 bWAR. He won the AL Cy Young Award in 2007 with a 19–7 record (.731); 3.21 ERA, 141 ERA+, and 6.3 bWAR; and four complete games, one shutout, and 209 strikeouts in 241 innings pitched—which, against only 37 walks, yielded an eye-popping major-league leading 5.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio—and although Sabathia garnered a substantial number of votes, that year was a toss-up among Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard, John Lackey, and Sabathia's teammate Roberto Hernandez.

Following his Cy Young season, Sabathia was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in the middle of 2008 as Cleveland went on to have a dead .500 season but the Brewers secured the National League wild-card slot. Sabathia made an auspicious impression in the NL as in 17 starts for the Brewers, he went 11–2 (.846) with a 1.65 ERA, a 255 ERA+, and a 4.9 bWAR while striking out 128 in 130.2 innings against only 25 walks for a remarkable 5.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio. With both Cleveland and Milwaukee, Sabathia pitched 10 complete games, leading the NL with seven, while with five shutouts, two for the Indians and three for the Brewers, he managed to lead both leagues in shutouts in 2008. But although Sabathia helped the Brewers get to the postseason, he was disappointing in his only start in the NL Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, giving up six hits and five earned runs while walking four in only 3.2 innings as the Brewers lost the series; the Phillies went on to win the World Series for the first time since 1980.

In 2009, Sabathia signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees, and in the majors' toughest division, the American League East, he had been outstanding until this season, leading the AL in wins twice while finishing in the top five for Cy Young voting his first three seasons with the Yankees. Sabathia earned a World Series ring in 2009 as his Yankees defeated the defending-champion Phillies, with the burly southpaw pitching better against the Phillies than his record might indicate—in two starts against Philadelphia, his record was only 0–1 but he pitched 13.2 innings, allowing 11 hits and 5 earned runs (3.29 ERA) while fanning 12—although he was sparkling in both the American League Divisional and Championship Series: In the former, he beat the Minnesota Twins in his only start, allowing one earned run in 6.2 innings (1.35 ERA) while striking out eight; in the latter, he beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim twice, allowing just nine hits and two earned runs over 16 innings (1.13 ERA) while fanning 12.

Yet apart from a brilliant performance against the Baltimore Orioles in the 2012 Divisional Series—in two starts, Sabathia won both games, coming one out shy of pitching a complete-game victory in Game One while getting the complete-game victory in the clinching Game Five, posting a 1.53 ERA while striking out 16 against only three walks in 17.2 innings—Sabathia's subsequent postseason performance has been middling at best. In last year's AL Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, Sabathia lasted only 3.2 innings in his Game Four start, coughing up 11 hits, two home runs, and six runs, five earned, as the Yankees looked dismal overall.

Throughout his career, CC Sabathia has enjoyed run support of about a half-run better than the major league average: In runs support per games started, Sabathia has received 5.1 runs per game against the 4.6 MLB average, and in runs support per innings pitched, he has gotten 5.0 runs per game against the 4.6 MLB average. In nearly 13 seasons, he has had just 30 tough losses against only 25 cheap wins while his wins-lost total of 32 (games in which he was in line for the win when he left the game but his bullpen lost that lead) is balanced by his losses-saved total of 34 (games in which he left while his team was behind but in which his team subsequently rallied to at least tie the score). In addition to the support he has received from his team, Sabathia has a career average leverage index of 0.99 (average leverage index measures the pressure a pitcher faces, with an index of 1.00 indicating average pressure), signaling that Sabathia has enjoyed relatively comfortable environments when he pitches, with offensive and fielding support aiding his chances to win.

Sabathia has been named to six All-Star squads, but curiously he has pitched in only two of those games, with each appearance lasting one inning; in 2004, he gave up four hits and three earned runs, while in his 2007 appearance he allowed only one hit. The All-Star Game is an exhibition game, so a player's performance shouldn't be indicative of his career, but it is instructive that Sabathia has only three seasons in which his bWAR was at or above the All-Star level of 5.0 wins above replacement player per season—his 2007 Cy Young year (6.3), 2009 (6.2), and 2011 (7.5). In 2008, he did generate 1.9 bWAR with the Indians and 4.9 bWAR with the Brewers, although his performance with the Indians before he was traded, after the All-Star Game, was hardly All-Star quality.

To date, Sabathia has generated a career bWAR of 54.0 and an ERA+ of 122. Perhaps his less-than-stellar 2013 season is an aberration and he might recover from it, or perhaps it is an indication of his declining skills and effectiveness. As the youngest of the active pitchers we have examined so far, CC Sabathia could have significant chapters of his career yet to be written. However, at this point, he has been a strong, though not dominating, starting pitcher whose Hall of Fame credentials are anything but convincing.

Pitchers' Profiles: Other Active Pitchers

Two active pitchers are within 20 wins of 200 total wins for their careers. Bartolo Colón, who won the 2005 American League Cy Young Award while with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is currently at 185 wins and in his age-40 season Colón is enjoying a stellar 14–3 (.824), 2.50 ERA season with the Oakland Athletics. Following his Cy Young year, Colón missed a lot of baseball because of injuries and "personal matters" he attended to in his native Dominican Republic; he missed the entire 2010 season. Had it not been for that, the big right-hander might already be at 200 career wins—between 1998 and 2005, he won 135 games against only 75 losses for a .643 winning percentage—and we might be considering Colón for Hall of Fame enshrinement.

However, performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) will dog Colón for some years to come. Last year, he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for synthetic testosterone, and he is among the high-profile names, along with Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, associated with the ongoing Biogenesis of America scandal. Not that Colón has much of a Hall of Fame case at any rate, but the suspension expected to be levied against him (as of this writing), and both this stigma and his age make further employment in the major leagues fairly unlikely.

Four wins behind and six years younger than Colón, Mark Buehrle seems to be a sure bet to reach 200 wins even if he is currently having a middling season in his first year with the disappointing Toronto Blue Jays. The big left-hander is another workhorse, averaging 33 starts and 219 innings pitched in the twelve full seasons since 2001, when he became a full-time starter for the Chicago White Sox until he signed as a free agent with the Miami Marlins in 2012; in this period, his win totals have been in double digits every year, reaching a high of 19 in 2002—he has, however, been in double digits in losses in 8 of those 12 years. For his career so far, Buehrle owns a 181–139 win-loss record (.566) with a 3.84 ERA, a 118 ERA+, and 54.2 bWAR.

Buehrle won a World Series ring in 2005 with the White Sox, who swept the Houston Astros—he pitched a no-decision in Game Two and picked up the save in the 14-inning Game Three—and he has pitched two no-hitters, one of them a perfect game in 2009, all the more remarkable as Buehrle is a pitch-to-contact pitcher who has managed more than 150 strikeouts only once, in 2004 (165). Not surprisingly, the southpaw has allowed 126 unearned runs in his career while he is the active career leader in home runs allowed with 316 (coincidentally, Colón is next with 304). Yet Buehrle holds the major league record for most consecutive batters retired with 45 in a row, and is the only pitcher to win multiple Gold Gloves while throwing multiple no-hitters.

Already in his age-34 season, Mark Buehrle is likely to reach 200 wins before he retires, provided he can stay healthy and not have his skills deteriorate too significantly. Whether that will help his Hall of Fame case remains to be seen although based on the evidence so far, he does not seem to be a likely candidate.

Among remaining pitchers with less than 200 wins, Derek Lowe retired this season with 176 career wins while five pitchers with at least 140 wins—Barry Zito (164), Roy Oswalt (163), Freddy Garcia (155), Chris Carpenter (144), and A.J. Burnett (141)—are in their age-35 or older season this year. Several pitchers in the age-31-to-age-34 range have between 120 and 139 wins: Johan Santana (139), Jon Garland (136), John Lackey (135), Cliff Lee (135), Josh Beckett (132), Carlos Zambrano (132), Jake Peavy (129), Dan Haren (125), Kyle Lohse (125), and Jason Marquis (121).

Of the 30-and-under active pitchers, Justin Verlander, with 135 career wins currently in his age-30 season, would be the odds-on favorite to reach 200 wins as his averaging 13 wins over the next five seasons would do the trick. Felix Hernandez, at age-27 and 109 wins; Jared Weaver, at age-30 and 108 wins; Ervin Santana, at age-30 and 103 wins; Zack Greinke, at age-29 and 99 wins; and Cole Hamels and Jon Lester, both at age-29 and 95 wins, have the best outside chances to make it to 200 wins, although you could also widen the net to include James Shields and Adam Wainwright, both with 93 wins in their age-31 seasons, and Matt Cain, with 92 wins in his age-28 season.

But as we have seen so far, not only is it an endurance contest to get to 200 wins, let alone 250 wins or, even more chimerically, 300 wins in an age of high talent compression and interventionist bullpens, but high win totals do not indicate how effective a pitcher is to his team—a win is a team effort and often unfairly rewards, or in the case of a loss penalizes, a pitcher by awarding him the sole credit. Wins have never been a strong metric for evaluating a pitcher's qualifications for the Hall of Fame. We turn now to one method for such an evaluation.

JAWS: Putting the Bite on Pitchers' Performances

Sabermetrician Jay Jaffe has developed his JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system) measurement system to evaluate players by position against Hall of Fame players at that same position, using their career bWAR averaged with the bWAR from their seven-year peak (not necessarily in consecutive years). The intention is to evaluate players on an even keel including those who might be overvalued by high counting numbers (recall Early Wynn and his 300 wins) and those who might be undervalued by not posting such high counting numbers (recall Pedro Martinez and his 86.0 bWAR).

The table below lists many of the starting pitchers discussed in this article so far, including big win-total pitchers Jim Kaat, Jack Morris, and Jamie Moyer, in descending order of their JAWS ranking. (Statistics for still-active pitchers are current through August 4, 2013.)

Starting Pitchers by JAWS Ranking

Pitcher

Rank

bWAR

bWAR7

JAWS

Wins

ERA

ERA+

Martinez, Pedro

21

86.0

58.2

71.1

219

2.93

154

Schilling. Curt

27

80.7

49.0

64.4

216

3.46

127

Mussina, Mike

28

82.7

44.5

63.8

270

3.68

123

** Average of 57 Hall of Fame Pitchers **



72.6

50.2

61.4







Halladay, Roy

42

65.5

50.6

57.6

201

3.37

131

Reuschel, Rick

45

68.2

43.8

57.0

214

3.37

114

Brown, Kevin

46

68.5

45.4

56.9

211

3.28

127

Tiant, Luis

51

66.1

44.6

55.7

229

3.30

114

Smoltz, John

58

66.5

38.7

54.1

213

3.33

125

Cicotte, Eddie

66

56.9

44.0

51.0

209

2.38

123



Finley, Chuck

73

58.5

39.8

49.1

200

3.85

115

John, Tommy

78

62.3

34.7

48.3

288

3.34

111

Tanana, Frank

79

57.5

38.5

48.2

240

3.66

106

Hudson, Tim

82

55.5

38.4

47.7

205

3.44

124

Sabathia, CC

83

54.0

40.4

47.7

200

3.57

122

Powell, Jack

88

56.0

36.8

46.8

245

2.97

106

Pettitte, Andy

89

58.9

34.1

46.4

252

3.87

116

Quinn, Jack

94

59.0

33.2

45.6

247

3.29

114

Pierce, Billy

96

53.1

37.8

45.6

211

3.27

119

Koosman, Jerry

99

57.1

36.6

45.2

222

3.36

110



Kaat, Jim

100

45.3

38.4

44.9

283

3.45

108

Buehrle, Mark

101

54.2

35.8

44.6

181

3.84

118

Wells, David

118

53.5

31.4

42.5

239

4.13

108

Moyer, Jamie

124

50.2

33.2

41.8

269

4.25

103

Colón, Bartolo

149

44.2

34.5

39.1

185

3.96

114

Morris, Jack

158

43.8

32.8

38.4

254

3.90

105


bWAR:
Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference. Note: To be consistent with its usage throughout the article, I used the bWAR value for the pitcher's pitching performance. Jaffe uses the pitcher's overall performance bWAR, which has a slightly different value.

Rank: The pitcher's standing in Jaffe's ranking of starting pitchers throughout baseball history. Note: Jaffe's ranking includes both Hall of Fame pitchers and non-Hall of Fame pitchers.

bWAR7: Sum total of the pitcher's best seven seasons by bWAR; does not have to be consecutive years.

JAWS: The pitcher's career bWAR averaged with his seven-year bWAR peak.

Of the 20 pitchers ranked ahead of Pedro Martinez, 16 are already in the Hall of Fame; of the four who are not in the Hall, two are Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux, both of whom should be elected in their first year of eligibility, one is Roger Clemens, who would have been elected in his first year of eligibility (which was this year) if PEDs were not an issue, and one is Jim McCormick, a 19th-century star who might be selected by a future Pre-Integration Committee.

Of the 29 pitchers ranked behind Martinez, up to and including Red Ruffing at the 50th spot, 18 pitchers, including Ruffing, are already in the Hall, with three not yet eligible (Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, Roy Halladay) and one being Curt Schilling, whose first year of eligibility was this year.

Jaffe's scoring system is based on wins above replacement, and as he acknowledges, it does not account for postseason play, awards won, career milestones, or league-leading in key categories. JAWS is, in essence, a refinement of the bWAR assessments we have examined previously, emphasizing a pitcher's peak and keyed to pitchers already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. What emerges, though, is that a pitcher's effectiveness, his contribution to his team's ability to win, is more valuable than whether he is credited with a win.

Conclusion: Closing for the Starter

We began by examining the traditional assumption that the number of wins a pitcher earned over his career is an indicator of his worthiness for the Hall of Fame. This examination was prompted by milestones that have occurred this season: Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, and CC Sabathia all reached 200 wins this season, while Andy Pettitte reached 250 wins. In an age of interventionist bullpens, with starting pitchers leaving a game often before a final decision is reached, it is harder for starting pitchers to earn a victory. Thus, the charmed circle of 300 wins could be out of reach for pitchers for many years to come, and now win plateaus of 250 wins or even 200 wins could become "the new 300 wins."

However, just as pitching strategy has changed, so has the evaluation of a pitcher's effectiveness—a win is no longer considered to be a reliable indicator of how well a pitcher performs. There are too many factors that contribute to a win (or the lack of a win) that are out of a pitcher's control, notably the run support he gets from his team's offense and the fielding support he gets from the team's defenders. Instead, metrics such as wins above replacement (WAR) and adjusted earned run average (or ERA+) attempt to isolate a pitcher's individual contribution to his team's ability to win.

As a result, pitchers with high win totals might look like Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers because they have quantitative strength: Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Jamie Moyer, and Jack Morris have all collected at least 250 wins, as has Andy Pettitte, still pitching in the major leagues. But pitchers with qualitative strength—having amassed high WAR totals or high ERA+ ratings—compare favorably with Hall of Fame pitchers who have also demonstrated qualitative strength, pitchers such as Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and Roy Halladay, who have reached the 200-win plateau even though several pitchers not already in the Hall of Fame have considerably more wins, although Mike Mussina is that rarity—a pitcher who has posted a high win total and high qualitative statistics.

Martinez did not amass a great number of wins compared to earlier Hall of Fame pitchers, but he did generate peripheral statistics that are better than many of them. The evaluation of Martinez signals the change in thinking about a pitcher's effectiveness (a change that was heralded by the eventual election of Bert Blyleven to the Hall of Fame). Martinez reeled off several seasons of pitching dominance all the more impressive for occurring both in a period of high talent compression and inflated offensive statistics. Conversely, high win totals do not automatically indicate strength; for example, Andy Pettitte has reached the 250-win plateau—he might be the last pitcher to do so for some time to come—but he has benefited from playing on excellent all-around teams throughout his career, and he never exhibited a streak of pitching dominance even close to that of Martinez's.

Both Martinez and Pettitte exemplify the change in thinking occurring now with respect to evaluating pitching effectiveness. Traditionally, Pettitte with the high win total and postseason success would have been considered to be the better bet for the Hall of Fame. But Martinez's overall effectiveness, exemplified by his streak of dominance, makes him the more worthy candidate.

Or to put it another way, this is the lesson we learned way back on the grade-school playground: It's not whether you won or lost, it's how well you played the game.

Remember how, at the end of the first article in this series, Science Fiction Cinema: The 1950s: Ten Good Ones, I wrote that it would all be downhill from there? Don't worry—we haven't hit bottom yet. In fact, there is a still a ways to go before we get to—well, I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, now, would I?

But we are talking science-fiction flicks from the 1950s, which from our vantage point of more than a half-century later can be regarded with a fair degree of amusement (and sometimes bemusement). The most obvious differences between sci-fi flicks of the 1950s and those of today are in special effects. We are spoiled by what we see today, certainly compared to what was seen sixty or more years ago.

During that time, special effects have undergone quantum changes. In 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey set a standard that held until 1977 and the first Star Wars installment. As computer-generated imagery (CGI) grew exponentially in the 1980s with the concurrent advancements in computer hardware and software, effects became more elaborate—and more convincing. True, what had been considered state-of-the-art at any given time (think: 1982's Tron) could look stale or dated only a few years later—but hasn't that always been the case with films?—although by the time of The Matrix in 1999 spectacular special effects were simply a given.

All of which renders science-fiction films of yesteryear, in our case the 1950s, looking very . . . quaint. And, often enough, cheesy. Which for me is all part of their charm. But for me also, what makes any movie, in any genre, made at any time, compelling enough to follow is its story and characters. Those two elements will make any movie timeless, including our subjects here. That goes for movies of any genre, of course, and that is the challenge that any movie faces. But because science fiction relies so heavily on effects of some sort, any narrative deficiencies, whether with the story or the characters, can seem magnified. If the effects are cheesy, they will make a shaky story or cardboard characters even more so while, conversely, bad special effects can overshadow otherwise sturdy plotting and characters.

Make no mistake: None of the movies here are great, and to be frank, a couple of the movies from our first list were a little sketchy: Both Forbidden Planet and The Fly, from that first list, contained ideas that were stronger in concept than in execution, but those ideas were innovative enough to transcend their narrative deficiencies.

No, the ten movies below are as the title of this article puts it—pretty good. Some might seem derivative, while others might have special effects that do not match the story or performances, but all ten are, I believe, worthy science-fiction films of above-average value that will satisfy fans and won't disappoint the merely curious. Presented in chronological order—and with no spoilers!

Destination Moon (1950)

Destination Moon

"Two years in the making!" trumpets the posters, and this George Pal extravaganza is filmed in glorious Technicolor. Recall how we saw 1950s sci-fi as a reflection of Cold War fears and tensions? A decade before President John Kennedy spurred American efforts to reach the moon, Destination Moon had already urged this endeavor as a necessary expedient of the Cold War. Robert Heinlein, who co-wrote the screenplay with James O'Hanlon and Rip Van Ronkel, based partly on Heinlein's novel Rocket Ship Galileo, salts the story with paeans to American industry, brickbats for government officiousness, and mild alarmism about ceding the high ground of space before Destination Moon settles into a fairly engrossing examination of the nuts-and-bolts issues involved in sending astronauts to the moon.

After watching their conventional rocket fail, scientist Charles Cargraves (Warner Anderson) and space crusader General Thayer (Tom Powers) enlist aviation entrepreneur Jim Barnes (John Archer) to help build an atomic-powered rocket that can reach the moon, convincing other industrialists to contribute using—get this—a Woody Woodpecker cartoon to explain the concept. No joke: Woody Woodpecker illustrator Walter Lantz was a pal of producer George Pal. Spurred by patriotism, they agree, but when bureaucrats try to prohibit the project, Barnes, Cargraves, and Thayer decide to elope with the ship, bringing technician Joe Sweeney (Dick Wesson) with them.

Lee Zavitz's Oscar-winning special effects enhance the hammer-and-tongs efforts of the astronauts to reach the moon—and, having used up too much fuel landing, their desperate attempts to return to Earth, underscored by Leith Stevens's subtly urgent score. Despite its impressive technical aspects, Destination Moon fails to convey the wonder and grandeur of space exploration. That is partly due to the telegrammatic script and to the equally taciturn performances—only Wesson, as the skeptical, wisecracking Everyman, stands out—although the assured direction by veteran Irving Pichel makes full use of the film's efficient running time. (Ironically, Pichel had been among the first Hollywood figures to be blacklisted as a suspected communist, or at least fellow traveler—hardly to be expected in a film that emphasizes the space race to the Moon with the Soviet Union.) Destination Moon salutes the engineer, not the poet, in this not-so-giant leap for mankind.

The Man from Planet X (1951)

The Man from Planet X

Just how celebrated would director Edgar G. Ulmer have been had he actually had a budget to work with on his films? Instead, Ulmer's legacy is as a wizard of "Poverty Row" who managed to work minor miracles—check out his terrific 1945 film noir Detour, which made near-greatness out of nothing. In The Man from Planet X, filmed in black and white, Ulmer came pretty close again—no small feat as he had to accomplish it in a science-fiction thriller about an impending invasion of Earth.

Ulmer did have some help from his actors, who included Robert Clarke, Margaret Field (Sally Field's mother), and William Schallert, and while the story by co-writers and -producers Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg became shopworn through repetition, Planet X was among the first to dramatize this familiar story.

Tipped to the mysterious appearance of a planet soon to pass close to the Earth, California reporter John Lawrence (Clarke) travels to remote Scotland and the observatory of Professor Elliot (Raymond Bond), his daughter Enid (Field), and Elliot's assistant Dr. Mears (Schallert). On the moors, Enid discovers a spaceship and comes face to face with its diminutive occupant (Pat Goldin), and when she brings Lawrence to see it, Mears secretly trails them in shots nicely framed by Ulmer. The alien experiences some distress, which the Earthlings try to help him with, although Mears clearly has a malicious intent, and when the alien disappears, so does Enid—and Lawrence soon learns of greater peril.

Seldom have fog machines, stock footage, scale models, and recycled sets been blended so effectively, with Goldin's mask and costume giving him a creepy otherworldly appearance, while Charles Koff's score carries substantial dramatic weight. Clarke is sufficiently lantern-jawed as the hero, with Schallert a credible villain. Edgar Ulmer gets The Man from Planet X close to being out of this world.

Red Planet Mars (1952)

Red Planet Mars

In our first installment we saw how science-fiction films of the 1950s explored a variety of fears such as the fear of communism—godless communism to be exact. Well, the hand of this Cold War propaganda tract could not be heavier as Red Planet Mars uses science fiction as a cudgel to bludgeon viewers with Western superiority over the godless communism behind the Iron Curtain.

In fact, this political screed was written by John Balderston and co-producer Anthony Veiller, and it was based on the play Red Planet Balderston had co-written with John Hoare. Balderston had been a member of the Committee on Public Information (also known as the Creel Committee), the propaganda body formed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 to muster enthusiasm for America's entry into the First World War.

Despite the polemics pounded home throughout and the ginned-up ending, Red Planet Mars is smartly acted and executed by director Harry Horner, enough to sustain interest as a historical curio. Two attempts to contact Mars establish right away the dichotomy: Suburban couple Chris (Peter Graves) and Linda Cronyn (Andrea King) run a cozy mom-and-pop transmitting station near San Diego while former Nazi scientist Franz Calder (Herbert Berghof), now working for the Soviet Union, huddles in a transmitting hovel high in the icy Andes; the Cronyns enjoy middle-class affluence with their two boys while Calder is threatened by his communist handlers. This is in case you have any doubts about the generous superiority of the beneficent West or the bankrupt wickedness of the repressive East.

The science fiction pretense arises when the Cronyns begin to receive messages from Mars that astonish the world before causing global sociological and economic panics—the messages from the Red Planet are apparently so compelling that the Earth's population is helpless to resist acting on them. Furthermore, the increasingly Biblical nature of the short but pointed Martian messages also sparks a religious war behind the Iron Curtain.

Plausibility is highly suspect at this point, but Red Planet Mars proceeds with self-righteous confidence as Calder delivers a startling revelation in a finale that tries to paint a more credible—and terrestrial—explanation before going blooey. Graves and King sell the domestic angle while Berghof and Marvin Miller, as Calder's handler Arjenian, play to stereotype. Nominally sci-fi, Red Planet Mars boldly oversells its message, which is as black and white as its photography. However, this isn't only a must for science-fiction fans—it's de rigueur for Cold War historians as well.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

The Beast From 20000 Fathoms

A groundbreaking film in two respects, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was the first science-fiction movie to feature a creature awoken by a nuclear test—predating Gojira (Godzilla)—and the first to showcase Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animation and filming techniques. Those two qualities remain the highlights of a tale, based on a Ray Bradbury short story, that sports a sturdy schematic, courtesy of credited screenwriters Lou Morheim and Fred Freiburger, with little filigree or flair.

An atomic test in the Arctic stirs a prehistoric (fictional) Rhedosaurus from its million-year slumber, but only scientist Tom Nesbitt (Paul Christian) witnessed it. He is dismissed as a kook, particularly by eminent paleontologist Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway), until reports surface of fishing boats off the Grand Banks being attacked by a "sea monster." Elson's assistant, Lee Hunter (Paula Raymond), begins to believe Nesbitt as she begins to fall for him, and when one of the fishing-boat survivors corroborates Nesbitt's account, Elson signs aboard too, convincing skeptical military man Jack Evans (Kenneth Tobey) along the way. However, by then the Beast has landed in New York City and prepares to destroy Gotham unless the humans can find a way to arrest its carnage.

Harryhausen's animation techniques might look quaint in the CGI era but for their time they managed to blend plausible models into the live-action shot while establishing a distinctive appearance. Director Eugène Lourié keeps the story moving with a minimum of flab. As the lead, Christian is workmanlike even if his Swiss accent (his real surname was Hubschmid) distracts from his ostensible all-American-ness, while he and Raymond try to strike sparks. Kellaway lends delightful character as Tobey recalls his role in The Thing from Another World; the opening Arctic shots suggest that as well. The concept and techniques trump the standard narrative here. Filmed in black and white, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is an essential sci-fi film from the nuclear-mutations wing of the genre.



Spaceways (1953)

Spaceways

Like Red Planet Mars, Spaceways uses science fiction as a device to introduce other genres. In this case, espionage, police procedural, and a love quadrangle get blended into this efficient rocket-into-space story.

Michael Carreras, Jimmy Sangster, and especially Terence Fisher are the Hammer Film Studios' stalwarts who contribute to this early, black and white science-fiction effort by the studio better known for its horror films. Director Fisher keeps the story moving briskly—a Hammer trademark—while eliciting dimension from his actors, enough to unify the seemingly disparate strands drawn by writers Richard Landau and Paul Tabori, adapting Charles Eric Maine's radio play.

Stephen Mitchell (Howard Duff) and Lisa Frank (Eva Bartok) are part of the team developing manned rocket flight at a high-security base in England amidst interpersonal strife: Mitchell's marriage to Vanessa (Cecile Chevreau) is failing as Vanessa dallies with another team member, Philip Crenshaw (Andrew Osborn), whose suspicious behavior suggests that he might have a more sinister agenda. When Vanessa and Crenshaw disappear, suspicion falls on Mitchell, and when intelligence investigator Smith (Alan Wheatley) arrives, he speculates that Mitchell killed the couple, stashed the bodies in the rocket's fuel tanks, and when the unmanned rocket is launched into orbit—there's your perfect crime, right? Chagrined, Mitchell decides to disprove Smith's hypothesis by flying into orbit in another rocket to retrieve the first rocket while Frank, revealing her feelings to Mitchell, plots to accompany him.

Credible performances, particularly by seriocomic Wheatley, keep the quietly far-fetched ideas in check as Fisher paces their interactions, the better to minimize scrutiny of the unlikely melodrama and the budgetary limitations that mismatch stock footage with the model work. As the central focus, Duff and Bartok try to strike sparks with intermittent effectiveness. With its noirish approach, Spaceways is more space opera than it is sci-fi, a recipe that could fall very flat were it not for Hammer's earnest determination to succeed.

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

Yes, you saw the influence of this sci-fi stalwart in Tim Burton's wonderful send-up of 1950s science-fiction (among other things), Mars Attacks! The straightforward, prosaic description delivered by the title Earth vs. the Flying Saucers sums up in a nutshell all you need to know about this standard science-fiction yarn: We are being invaded by alien spacecraft—so how do we stop them?

That is the problem faced by Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe), head of Project Skyhook, a satellite program discovered by General Hanley (Morris Ankrum) to have been losing those satellites. On their way to the launching site, Russell and his new bride Carol (Joan Taylor) are buzzed by a flying saucer. At the base, a saucer disrupts the latest launch; it lands, is attacked, then destroys the base and abducts Hanley while Russell and Carol are trapped in a basement. As their tape recorder loses power, the recording of the saucer that buzzed them slows down, revealing that it was actually a message from the occupants requesting a meeting at the base, which is why they landed there. Oops—missed communication, and guess who's responsible for the missing satellites?

Inspired by pioneering ufologist Donald Keyhoe, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers features the iconic flying-saucer design described by Keyhoe and realized by celebrated stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, becoming the most distinctive aspect to the film as the narrative trundles down a pedestrian path: After reinitiating contact with the aliens, Russell and Carol find themselves aboard a saucer for the requisite why-are-you-here exposition: Their civilization is dying and they want to negotiate a joint occupation of Earth in eight weeks' time—just long enough to develop a weapon to help neutralize the threat, right?

B-movie stalwart Marlowe carries the story, filmed in black and white, on squared shoulders to its conclusion, with Taylor dutifully filling the female-appendage role. Workmanlike director Fred Sears paces efficiently but without finesse, rendering Earth vs. the Flying Saucers a smartly-packaged if derivative sci-fi distraction. Still, with Harryhausen's animation becoming influential—check the Washington Monument footage against what Burton did with it in Mars Attacks!—if you haven't seen Earth vs. the Flying Saucers yet, you just ain't with it.

The Gamma People (1956)

The Gamma People

How do you classify this one? Genre blending gets a sly reading in The Gamma People, part spoof, part political thriller, part science fiction, but making full use of its limited budget (no surpriseit's filmed in black and white). With a potential to do too much with its broad palette, the lively script by director John Gilling and producer John Gossage, based on a story by Robert Aldrich and Louis Pollock, keeps the narrative and the action focused on the pair of intrepids who find themselves suddenly plunged into a bizarre, ominous environment.

En route by train to Austria, reporter Mike Wilson (Paul Douglas) and photographer Howard Meade (Leslie Phillips) find the carriage they are traveling in becomes uncoupled, and they are literally sidetracked into Gudavia, a tiny, mountainous regime tucked behind the Iron Curtain. As if the Marx Brothers had stumbled into The Prisoner of Zenda, Meade and Wilson suffer the comic indignities of obsequious if officious bureaucracy—a telegraph office with no telegraph, and promise by solicitous Kommandant Koerner (Philip Leaver) of a car that might not exist.

Stuck in Gudavia, the pair witnesses the brusque treatment of youthful piano prodigy Hedda (Pauline Drewett) while hotel maid Anna (Jocelyn Lane) slips them a note begging for help against the regime. All is not good in Gudavia, and driven scientist Boronski (Walter Rilla) is the culprit: His gamma-ray experiments can alter humans into geniuses, such as uber-brat Hugo (Michael Caridia), or zombielike drones—and opposition from those such as teacher Paula Wendt (Eva Bartok) is mounting.

Director Gilling marks the transition from subtle farce to quiet thriller with unobtrusive strokes—although George Melachrino's score tends to overemphasize in the second half—while Douglas and Phillips strike an effective balance between jaded observers and engaged participants. Despite some missing pieces—how exactly did they get sidetracked, and by whom?—The Gamma People radiates witty intrigue. And some of its imagery surely found itself woven into the 1960s television cult classic The Prisoner.

X the Unknown (1956)

X the Unknown

Atomic anxieties surface as X the Unknown in this black and white science-fiction/horror blend produced with typically quiet efficiency by Hammer Film Productions. Hammer ace Jimmy Sangster penned the able script with suggestions of the studio's previously successful The Quatermass Xperiment in mind, notably the resourceful scientist, Adam Royston (Dean Jagger), who spearheads the effort to repel the spreading menace. Sangster's story emphasizes the sincere, competent efforts of the characters to stave off disaster rather than the melodramatic outbursts typical of the genre, rendering X the Unknown a more thoughtful rather than exciting thriller.

British soldiers in Scotland practicing radiation-detection exercises encounter an unexpected radiation source that kills a soldier before it moves through the countryside, claiming a young boy and a doctor at the hospital. Atomic energy inspector McGill (Leo McKern) begins investigating and soon joins forces with Royston at the local nuclear research facility. Royston speculates that the entity was trapped beneath the Earth's crust eons ago and periodically it tries to surface, seeking radiation sources—and killing living creatures in its path.

Director Leslie Norman (replacing original choice Joseph Losey, a blacklisted American and fired at Jagger's demand—more Cold War maneuvering) uses point-of-view shots to capture the victims' terror, a wise approach given the modest special effects that portray the unknown threat as an angry, glowing lava flow, although it's difficult to tell whether the entity projects deliberate malevolence or is simply a force of nature. American Jagger is clearly the star, and the veteran character actor commands the center with unassuming confidence while McKern and Edward Chapman, as the research facility's head, flank him competently. Filling background roles are Kenneth Cope, Anthony Newley, and Michael Ripper along with wee Frazer Hines (later a Doctor Who companion). Tense and earnest, X the Unknown doesn't embarrass itself—but it doesn't distinguish itself, either. A solid if unspectacular sci-fi thriller.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958)

I Married a Monster from Outer Space

Ignore the lurid title—I Married a Monster from Outer Space is really a bargain-basement Invasion of the Body Snatchers (itself hardly an "A" picture), albeit one that isn't as fully realized as that science-fiction classic. Still, this unassuming black and white flick is much better than you might think.

Louis Vittes's orderly script keeps the focus on the tension between Marge Farrell (Gloria Talbott) and her husband Bill (Tom Tryon), whose body becomes absorbed by an alien the night before his wedding. Talk about cold feet. That and the running cracks about marriage provide an intriguing sexual and psychological subtext to this monster story, particularly when Marge goes to her doctor complaining about "trying to have children for a year," followed by Bill's obvious reluctance to go for tests once Marge has been pronounced in fine form.

Director Gene Fowler, Jr., doesn't dwell on that too much, though, as he does have a monster story to tell. Secretly following Bill on a late-night walk into the woods, Marge discovers his spaceship and his terrifying secret. However, her attempts to warn others prove fruitless as other men have also become absorbed before their purpose is revealed: The aliens, all male, fled their planet when their sun's physical changes killed off their women; meanwhile, their scientists are developing methods to enable them to impregnate Earth women.

The missing alternative in Marge's options underscore the era's sexist presumptions—as always, it's only men to the rescue—but Talbott becomes a credible B-movie heroine while Tryon meets the challenge of his cold, unemotional character. Additionally, Fowler and Vittes manage some sly wit: a neighborhood bar is located next to a church-supplies store, and in a nod to The Day the Earth Stood Still, Marge's woman friend (Jean Carson) becomes, through marriage, Helen Benson—the name of Patricia Neal's character in that classic film. This modest but effective effort is a sci-fi match made in low-budget heaven.

The Giant Behemoth (1959)

The Giant Behemoth

Just how many times can you make The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms? And are there any behemoths other than giant ones?

The budget size is obvious from the black and white photography and the dodgy special effects—although the crew included Willis O'Brien, famous for his stop-motion work on 1933's King Kong—but despite some dubious sequences during the climax, The Giant Behemoth actually hangs together quite effectively.

This is thanks partly to the co-director (with Douglas Hickox) being Eugène Lourié, who had already directed Beast, and partly to a tight script by Daniel James and Lourié, from a story by Robert Abel and Alan Adler, that emphasizes the detective aspect of two scientific investigators, James Bickford (André Morell) and Steve Karnes (Gene Evans), pursuing reports of radiation and carnage. Other favorable factors are a largely British cast, which includes Jack McGowran, Leonard Sachs, and John Turner, that is used to working with little resources, and a sprightly Edwin Astley score that only occasionally approaches cliché. (Astley had done the hip scoring for the Patrick McGoohan spy series Danger Man, which in its one-hour format was known as Secret Agent in the United States.)

After warnings about atomic testing, dead fish wash up on Cornwall shores and a fisherman dies from radiation poisoning while muttering "behemoth!" Bickford and Karnes eventually uncover the existence of a plesiosaurus with electrical properties, as explained by paleontologist Sampson (McGowran), and the big beast soon advances on London.

The Giant Behemoth shows its shaky legs during the dinosaur's attack on London as crowd scenes, stock footage, and model work stumble into glaring contrasts and continuity lapses. (One type of helicopter takes off—but a helicopter of a different model blows up!) Only slightly more plausible is Karnes's plan to destroy the beast using a mini-submarine, but again the cast seems to believe in it, so why not? Evans and Morell are invested in their characters, which lends the story more credibility than the special effects and gives The Giant Behemoth a more procedural feel atypical of monster movies of the time—even recycled ones.

Epilogue

All right, no one is going to mistake The Giant Behemoth for a classic sci-fi film—it's a remake, not one superior to its source, and on technical grounds it does look suspect. Quite honestly, I had been prepared to file it in the not-so-good pile until I watched it again, and I was impressed with how well the story and performances came off—overshadowing the technical deficiencies.

Furthermore, Red Planet Mars, Spaceways, and The Gamma People fold various other genres into their science fiction, while X the Unknown splits the difference between sci-fi and monster movies. But once you get past the classics The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, and Forbidden Planet, there are still a passel of second-division sci-fi flicks left to entertain and even stimulate you: Destination Moon, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and even I Married a Monster from Outer Space are solid sci-fi fare from the 1950s. Meanwhile, The Man from Planet X remains a prime example of how to make the most of limited resources.

Again, though, we are on the downward slide, and it only gets worse—or, depending on your point of view, better—from here on in. Next up in our particular Twilight Zone of 1950s science-fiction films: Ten not-so-good ones. You've been warned.