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Re-re-re-reexamining the Backlog

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Eric and I have been talking about what might be the Hall of Miller and Eric for over a decade, though pretty unofficially for most of that time. At this point, we’ve been working on this blog and our actual project for nearly two years. It’s a labor, a labor of love, but still a labor.

We decided to undertake this work because we so disliked the composition of the Hall of Fame. We thought we could do it better, and we truly believe that we have. But the process isn’t easy at all. Since we decided we would have the exact same number of players in the HoME as in Cooperstown, we’re planning on 215 total. With eleven elections to go, we’ve enshrined 177 players and written obituaries for another 465. We have 38 players to elect from those 91 not yet considered and from our current backlog of 12 more. Today we’re going to take another look at those dozen who are giving us trouble, as well as two others from the 2005 election who will receive neither a plaque nor an obituary when our election finishes up Friday and next Monday. We just like to let you know what’s going on behind the scenes. And each part of the process helps us get it right.

Pud Galvin

First eligible: 1901, our first ballot

Candidacy considered: 44 times

Why he’s not in: Eric won’t vote for him! I’ve voted for Galvin 25 times. And I think I’ve written about him just as many. Because I keep supporting him, even Eric wrote about him once. To my credit, I think, I’ve stopped voting for him a couple of times only to restart. That pattern as least suggests I’m being thoughtful. In Eric’s defense (as if he needs defending!), Galvin is far from a slam dunk. His era is quite full. His numbers under the surface are nowhere near as good as those underlying numbers that we claim are more important. Plus, Galvin still has competition at his position and in his era. More on that guy in a moment.

Why he’s not dead: I’m not completely sure on this one. Eric hasn’t given any indication that he’d like to eliminate Galvin. Perhaps that’s because I’m still voting for him. Even behind the scenes we haven’t yet had a player receiving support from one of us and wanting to be eliminated by the other. I’ve come off Galvin in the past. I may again.

Jim McCormick

First eligible: 1901

Candidacy considered: 44 times

Why he’s not in: Neither one of us supports McCormick right now, though Eric was in his corner for four elections from 1931-1946. Eric says that McCormick bests my guy on peak/prime, which he does. But Galvin has him for the career. And Galvin is far superior when we eliminate bats.

Why he’s not dead: I’ve wanted McCormick dead for some time, every election since 1997. My reasoning is that I prefer Galvin and won’t take two more pitchers from that era. Very simple. However, there are still eleven elections remaining. Thus, Eric and I haven’t played all of our cards yet. Don’t misunderstand, this is a very collegial partnership, but I think there are pretty deep thought processes about how to get things right and how to keep your partner from getting too bogged down in his position. It’s possible that Eric wants neither Galvin nor McCormick but is keeping McCormick around so he can make an accurate peak/prime comparison later to persuade me to vote for another pitcher over Galvin. If that’s happening, I think Eric is doing the right thing.

George Gore

First eligible: 1901

Candidacy considered: 44 times

Why he’s not in: Eric wanted him dead last election, so he’s not voting for Gore anytime soon. And I have trouble supporting a guy at a position that still has a slam dunk in Ken Griffey coming in 2016, a surprisingly good candidate in Jim Edmonds coming the same year, and defensive wizard Andruw Jones coming two elections after that. There may seem to be room for someone else in center field. Maybe Bernie Williams (2012) or Kenny Lofton (2013). We’ll have to wait to see. And Johnny Damon is still out there way down the line. Only he, Cobb, Mays, Speaker, and Mantle have 15 years of 2.0 WAR among center fielders.

Why he’s not dead: I’m not quite sure I can let go yet. While it’s incredibly close, my ranking system puts Gore a shade above HoMErs Jimmy Wynn, Max Carey, and Willie Davis. Truth be told, if we elected Galvin, I’d write Gore’s obituary because I wouldn’t take another player from that era at that point. Since I still would, and since Eric may not ever support Galvin, I can’t yet kill Gore.

Cupid Childs

First eligible: 1911

Candidacy considered: 40 times

Why he’s not in: I’ll let Eric tell you.

Why he’s not dead: Spoiler alert. Tune in next week.

Clark Griffith

First eligible: 1916

Candidacy considered: 41 times

Why he’s not in: I have to be honest and say for a candidate who we’ve reviewed 41 times, he’s received very little real consideration. He’s a bit of a problematic candidate since I rank him a lot higher than Eric does. My numbers put him in the Vic Willis, Tim Keefe, Rube Waddell, Joe McGinnity category. Eric sees more Early Wynn, Bucky Walters, Bob Caruthers, and Charlie Buffinton. Clearly my group is superior to Eric’s. The thing is, I don’t really like Griffith much. Behind the scenes, for the first time, I think, I have to really compare him to the aforementioned Willis, Waddell, and McGinnity. Griffith played with all three from 1899-1908. And he played with Waddell for four more years and Willis for three more. In other words, they’re pretty good comps. More on that comparison in the coming elections.

Why he’s not dead: I don’t know. We just haven’t gone in that direction. But it’s pretty hard to kill a pitcher who you rank higher than seventeen pitchers already in the HoME, even if by almost nothing over ten of them.

Heinie Groh

First eligible: 1936

Candidacy considered: 37 times

Why he’s not in: Talent? If elected he’d be my lowest ranked player other than Roy Campanella and George Wright, two players my system struggles with. I was killing him from 1993-1996 because I saw enough better 3B, and perhaps because I was still trying to make a case for a guy who I really love but just didn’t deserve induction, John McGraw. He’s also not in because I’m far more inclined to vote for a more recent near-doppelganger, Sal Bando, right now. And I think the arguments in Bando’s favor are there.

Why he’s not dead: When I wanted to kill him, Eric wisely didn’t. Right now he can’t very easily die because there’s still room at third base, and it’s not clear that we’re going to vote in Sal Bando. Just like I could see eliminating Gore if we vote for Galvin based on era, I can see eliminating Groh if we vote for Bando based on position.

Wilbur Cooper

First eligible: 1936

Candidacy considered: 37 times

Why he’s not in: Way back in 1984, the only time Eric supported Cooper, I didn’t. Our 1984 ballots were both pretty cool in retrospect. We both voted for Bob Johnson and Joe Sewell, in their 14th and 16th elections respectively. And Eric threw his support to Billy Herman and Dave Bancroft as well. Herman got in in his 26th election in 1997, and Bancroft finally made it in his 35th election in 2002. As for me, I voted for Whitey Ford, Red Faber, and Pud Galvin. Faber was elected in election #30 in 1998, and Ford made it in election #27 in 2002. Galvin still waits. Same for Cooper. In both of our systems, Cooper ranks #73 among pitchers. I suspect we’ll have to elect and obit more of the backlog before we make a determination on him.

Why he’s not dead: We’re just not sure. We see the player in much the same way, but he’s going to be a function of those around him about whom we feel more passionate, one way or the other, at least as of right now.

Sam Rice

First eligible: 1941

Candidacy considered: 36 times

Why he’s not in: Rice is one of only three backlog players, along with Clark Griffith and Tommy John, who neither of us has advocated killing nor electing. Maybe that’s because he just doesn’t stand out. He’s at a very crowded position, the most crowded in the HoME to date. Eric ranks him behind every RF in the HoME, while I rank only Reggie Smith ahead. But I prefer Smith’s era, his Runs Above Average, and the trustworthiness of his defensive ranking. Looking forward, Rice getting in might depend on how we ultimately rank him arond Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Brian Giles, and Vlad Guerrero.

Why he’s not dead: Nobody in front of him on the RF list has been killed. And he’s just so much like HoMEr Reggie Smith season-by-season. His fate may be similar to Wilbur Cooper’s, dependent on those around him.

Harmon Killebrew

First eligible: 1981

Candidacy considered: 24 times

Why he’s not in: He was a lumbering slugger who did exactly two things not terribly, hit for power and draw walks. Further, Eric has advocated for his death since the 1999 election.

Why he’s not dead: I’m not just refusing to kill him; I’m considering voting for him. Please understand my willingness to get rid of borderline, lumbering sluggers who the Hall likes. Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez don’t quite fit that mold, but they’re gone. Ralph Kiner isn’t exactly the same type of player, but he’s gone too. Perhaps the best comp for Killebrew on some levels is Willie Stargell. And another one bites the dust. But there’s a meaningful difference between Killebrew and Stargell in career value, I think. Plus, among our backloggers, Killebrew’s bat is just awesome, and his yearly WAR totals are reasonable.

Roy White

First eligible: 1985

Candidacy considered: 20 times

Why he’s not in: When Eric was voting for White form 1985-1987, I wasn’t. And there’s a reason I withheld a vote from a player who I thought I’d support. Michael Humphreys, who we cite frequently around here as the founder of the defensive measure, DRA, that Eric and I integrate into our WAR formulae, tells us that there’s a deduction that needs to be taken in left field in Yankee Stadium during White’s time there. It’s not huge, but it brings White into unsure territory for me.

Why he’s not dead: There’s room at his position. There’s a lot of room in his era. He’s so much like Jose Cruz, a guy who just got into the HoME in 2004. And he has some nice post-season numbers too.

Sal Bando

First eligible: 1987

Candidacy considered: 18 times

Why he’s not in: Eric hasn’t been supportive since I began taking up for Bando in 2000. Either I’m missing something, which is entirely possible, or Bando is getting in. We need a 3B, there’s space in his era, and he’s better than Groh. The counter argument is that he might not be better than Groh and that there’s more space in Heinie’s era.

Why he’s not dead: We can’t kill a guy one of us is currently supporting.

Tommy John

First eligible: 1995

Candidacy considered: 10 times

Why he’s not in: I sometimes wonder if there’s a little bit of bias at work here. See, neither one of us has voted for John yet. And part of the reason for that might be that as long as we’ve been baseball fans, we’ve known – we’ve just known – that Tommy John isn’t a Hall of Famer. But then we got into this project. And 215 is a lot of players if you’re not going to waste any on mistakes like of High Pockets Kelly, Tommy McCarthy, and Bruce Sutter. He’s right on the border, and there’s a tremendous amount of space in his era. On some levels, his election should be easy. But he still has competition on the mound, and he has competition in his era from Killebrew, White, and Bando. And with Don Sutton and Jose Cruz getting honored in the last four elections, the era isn’t quite so wide open.

Why he’s not dead: Comparatively, he’s better than we’d have thought. When we began the HoME, I think both of us would have just written John off. But then we ran numbers and just couldn’t. No, he doesn’t get credit for Frank Jobe’s surgery. And no, we give him almost no credit for playing for 26 years, though we do think that’s amazing. But sometimes I wonder. Maybe I am giving him credit for all of those seasons. See, the reason Tommy John looks so good to me is that he played during 20+ seasons that are underpopulated in the HoME. Maybe that “credit” is throwing me off some.

Tony Phillips

First eligible: 2005

Candidacy considered: still reviewing his first ballot

Why he won’t get in this election: He’s Tony Phillips, right? Even if we loved him, and we kind of do, I think we’d be considered crazy for electing a utility guy without at least considering him for a few elections. The other thing is that Phillips, if we call him a 2B, doesn’t rank ahead of a single guy in the HoME by either of our systems.

Why he’s not receiving an obituary this election: Well, he doesn’t rank behind a single second baseman who’s received a HoME obituary either. Whether he’ll get in or not, he’s going to need to percolate a little longer.

Mark Langston

First eligible: 2005

Candidacy considered: still reviewing his first ballot

Why he won’t get in this election: I’m not voting for him anytime soon. I see him as similar to David Wells, Eppa Rixey, Billy Pierce, and Chief Bender. When we get to this level for me, Eric and I can sometimes have very different rankings. We’re within eleven spots in rank on three of the above players (Langston included), but with Langston and Rixey, we’re 49 spots different.

Why he’s not receiving an obituary this election: Eric thinks he fits rather snugly within our backlog of pitchers, and he thinks Langston’s era may be under-represented.

That’s all for today. Please look for 2005 results on Friday and obituaries one week from today.

Miller

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Re-re-re-reexamining the Backlog

  1. In defense of Griffith, do not forget that he has a pennant (1901) as a manager and is a successful post-career owner. Ought to be worth a few points. Although maybe not enough for election, they do add to the totality of his baseball presence and should be considered.
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | March 23, 2015, 8:23 am

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  1. Pingback: Clark Griffith Goes Saberhagen | the Hall of Miller and Eric - April 3, 2015

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