Not long ago Ryan Spaeder @theaceofspaeder on Twitter – a must follow if you’re even a little interested in cool baseball facts – noted that Manny Ramirez finished his career with 69.2 WAR and Tim Raines finished with 69.1. Given that I think Raines is a no-brainer slam dunk and that Manny was one of my favorite players, I really had to pause for a moment. See, for me, Manny isn’t quite a no-brainer.
I started writing a post about Manny right after the Hall inductions and decided not to do anything with it. But Spaeder got me thinking about him again, so here it is.
I agree with Charles Barkley’s old comment that professional athletes aren’t role models. At least they never have been to me. So in spite of being a guy whose professional field has to do with analyzing speeches, I didn’t listen to what Ken Griffey and Mike Piazza had to say during their Hall of Fame inductions. It’s not just sports that I ignore. I don’t watch any awards shows. Sorry. I like to watch players play and actors act. That’s it.
There is one really cool thing about Hall of Fame speeches however. The moment they’re over and the players have been honored, we can safely begin discussing the next class of first-time nominees. That’s why I’m thinking about Manny now (as long as “now” refers to a few months ago…).
Manny Ramirez is part of that class, along with Pudge Rodriguez and Vlad Guerrero. Let’s get it straight. Manny Ramirez was a great player, an all-time great player. He also used his fair share of banned substances. Once he was suspended for 50 games, and once he just retired rather than take the suspension. When thinking about the Hall, I don’t need a lot of time. Simply put, Manny’s not going in. But as far as the HoME, I have a different set of considerations.
My position on PEDs is pretty clear – since I don’t know precisely who used, who didn’t, when they used, and when they didn’t, I’m not going to factor in PED use when I vote for the Hall of Miller and Eric. But two suspensions?
I don’t mind if you injected sheep testosterone more than 100 years ago. I don’t mind if you popped greenies on a daily basis 50 years ago. I don’t mind if you used androstenedione. And I don’t mind if you used steroids before MLB and the MLBPA agreed that they were banned from the game.
On the other hand, I’m very uncomfortable with players like Rafael Palmeiro, those who knowingly (I believe) used banned substances after they were banned. Manny is like Palmeiro, except for one thing. Palmeiro was caught once; Manny was caught twice. It’s unlikely that a player was caught the first and only time he used. But I suppose it’s possible. It’s super unlikely that a player was caught the only two times he used. In my view, Manny cheated. He likely cheated quite a bit.
Does it matter?
In a philosophical sense, it really matters. If I had children, I wouldn’t point out Manny as someone they should emulate. But in a HoME sense, I’ve already drawn a line. I voted for Palmeiro, a guy who pretty clearly perjured himself. I don’t think lying about PED use is so bad, but perjuring oneself is something entirely different. And I still voted for Palmeiro.
So no, it doesn’t matter.
Unless it does.
The HoME Rules
Here’s why Manny’s PED use may matter. The HoME has the same number of players in it as the Hall does. I have no confidence that the voters in the Era Committee that’s called “Today’s Game” will induct anyone. If they don’t, that means for each of Vlad, Pudge, and Manny to get into the HoME next year, the BBWAA will have to put three players through. I think Jeff Bagwell is a pretty easy case at this point. He’s been over 50% five times, and last year he reached 71.6%. As the top returning player who was very close a year ago, I expect that Bagwell will go through.
But will there be anyone else? Folks like me are really praying for Tim Raines. He’s on his tenth and final ballot and has been creeping up of late, from 46.1% to 55.0% to 69.8% last year. Even if the writers get him to 75%, they’ll also have to vote for either Vlad or Pudge to get to the three that the HoME needs to avoid a difficult decision.
What if we have a difficult decision?
Let’s take a look at what Eric and I might have to consider.
Positional MAPES Rank Points Pudge Rodriguez 3 (C) 68.59 Manny Ramirez 10 (LF) 55.23 Vlad Guerrero 27 (RF) 46.79
Looking at the chart above, it’s pretty clear that Pudge is a no-brainer for me. If just one player gets into the Hall this year, I think we’d have to vote for Pudge. Even though my catcher numbers skew toward the modern catcher more than, perhaps, they should, Pudge is still the class of this class. (Don’t even get me started on Jose Canseco’s claim that he injected Rodriguez prior to the 2005 season. That’s another post – one I hope never to write).
If the Hall elects two, it comes down to Manny or Vlad. By both positional rank and MAPES points, Manny wins. By my fandom, Manny wins. But I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Luckily, I have months to make the final call. And if the Hall doesn’t elect exactly two players, it’s not a call I’ll even have to make. It’s also lucky I have Eric. It’s good to have a partner when you have a difficult decision to make. I can always blame him…