After only being able to induct three players last year, the Modern Era Committee and the BBWAA did us a solid, though not necessarily with the right players, by allowing us to add six players to the HoME in 2018. Our ballot a year ago was far less crowded than that of the BBWAA because we had previously elected pretty much the entire backlog. But for us, we chose Sam Rice by a hair over Vlad Guerrero. So either Vlad was the entire backlog, or there wasn’t one.
Like the Hall, we stock our ballot with a list of new candidates each year. Unlike them, however, our ballot basically includes all other players in baseball history who have previously been eligible. That’s how we were able to elect Rice a year ago. We’ll write obituaries for those candidates we’ll almost certainly never elect a week from today. But for now, today’s six inductees mean we have now equaled the Hall by electing 226 players to the Hall of Miller and Eric.
Here’s how we voted in 2018.
Miller Eric ================================== 1 Chipper Jones Chipper Jones 2 Jim Thome Scott Rolen 3 Scott Rolen Jim Thome 4 Andruw Jones Andruw Jones 5 Johan Santana Johan Santana 6 Minnie Minoso Minnie Minoso 7 Vladimir Guerrero
Chipper Jones was an incredibly easy vote. Perhaps he’s as high as the seventh best third basemen ever. Maybe it’s a few notches below that, but the vote remains an easy one. Despite how he looks by the Black Ink measure. With only 4 points out of an approximate 27 for an expected Hall of Famer, he appears far off. And he looks poor by Gray Ink too. But Chipper compiled some great numbers, especially for his position. He could hit and hit for power. When he was young, he had some speed, and he was a plus runner and a plus at double play avoidance over his career. He wasn’t a very good defender, and the Braves tried to move him to left field at one point, but it didn’t take. The 1999 NL MVP added some nice value in the playoffs, right around his career numbers in BA and OBP, if a bit short in SLG. To reiterate, he was an easy call, though a year ago at this time, I told Eric I wasn’t so sure he’d get in on the first try. After all, he’s no better than Ron Santo, a guy who the BBWAA never supported. Hell, he wasn’t really better than Ken Boyer, a guy who still isn’t in. And though he’s totally deserving, it’s not like he was a lot better than another third baseman on this ballot. I’m hapy to have been wrong.
Do I remember correctly that I expected Jim Thome to be the leading vote-getter of 2018? I believe I did. Clearly nobody saw Vlad beating him, and I just thought the BBWAA would find his greatness easier to understand than Chipper’s. Depending on how you see things, Thome could rank as high as about #11 or as low as #25 in a very tight clump at first base. Either way, he was a pretty easy vote. And given that almost all of his value comes with the bat, something we feel more confident than defensive value, we are certain that the man who is eighth all-time in home runs and seventh in walks is well deserving of a spot in the HoME
It’s simple enough to miss Scott Rolen if you’re not looking closely. The 1997 NL Rookie of the Year and eight-time Gold Glove winner literally has zero Black Ink. He never finished in the top-10 in homers and only twice did so in runs batted in. But for us, it wasn’t hard at all to find a vote for Rolen. He was a very good hitter, a fine baserunner, and an excellent fielder. He was sometimes accused of having injury problems, yet he’s 12th in history in games at third base. He didn’t seem to have a lot of power, yet only five 3B ever had more homers and WAR. Rolen is one of those guys who needs close inspection. Some BBWAA voters may not pay him that respect, but those at the HoME certainly do.
No matter the measure you use, Andruw Jones is one of the greatest defensive players in history. By defensive WAR, he’s 20th, with nobody higher on the all-time list posting a higher slugging percentage than the former Brave great. And if you prefer Defensive Regression Analysis, which I do, you like him almost as much. I suppose Andruw is a controversial choice to some who devalue defensive metrics, but we can’t forget he could hit a little too, as 434 homers show. Were it not for Albert Pujols, there’s a shot he and his 2/3 of a triple crown would have won the 2005 NL MVP to go with his ten Gold Gloves. Jones could be seen as high as the 9th best center fielder ever. Assuming you value defense at 100%, it’s hard to get him much below 15th.
Many writers look at the paltry 139 wins that Johan Santana amassed in his dozen years in the majors, and they don’t think they need to look at anything else. Well, they do. Whether he is the modern version of Sandy Koufax or a better version of Dizzy Dean, take your pick. Santana won two Cy Youngs and finished in the top-5 three other times. For the first decade of the 21st century, only Roy Halladay compiled more WAR among pitchers. And from 2002-2009, a period of eight years, Johan was the best. That’s a pretty impressive period of dominance. No, Santana isn’t the most obvious call, and I can’t blame the writers for finding ten better players on their ballots, but the HoME doesn’t have the backlog they do. Santana belongs.
When I was a kid, Minnie Minoso made me angry. I thought he and Bill Veeck made a mockery of the game with his appearances in 1976 and 1980. But the Minnie Minoso I knew as a kid wasn’t the real Minnie Minoso, at least not so far as the HoME is concerned. The Cuban Comet is a really tough candidate to understand. Eric and I agree that he falls just short based only on his major league career. I rank him 25th in left, while Eric sees him as 26th best. We agree that he’s in a battle with Joe Kelley, Joe Medwick, and Ralph Kiner if we’re only considering his contributions as a major leaguer. But Minoso didn’t only play in the majors. He also played in the Negro Leagues, and it’s very probable that he spent extra time in the minors because of the color barrier (even though his Indians were the first in the AL to integrate). So what do we do? We can consider Minoso a major leaguer and look only at his games in the majors, which is what we do with most players. We could view him as a Negro League player, but that would be quite odd since he spent just three seasons in the Negro National League (NNL). We could consider him a combo candidate, but we’ve only done that for combinations that include non-playing contributions. Frankly, not one of those solutions is satisfactory. The right thing to do is use Eric’s conversions for Minoso’s time in the NNL and in the minors. Why the minors? It’s because he was excellent in AAA at ages 23 and 24, and we believe it’s highly likely that he was kept out of the majors because of the color of his skin, not because of his ability. With those adjustments, we believe Saturnino Orestes Armas (Arrieta) Minoso is a fully qualified HoMEr, just a shade above the once-again-rebuffed Vladimir Guerrero. Welcome HoME, Minnie.
Eric: Minoso is over the line. Not way over, but far enough over to make a reasoned and informed decision to take him over Vladimir Guerrero.
Miller: I see things a little differently than Eric does, not about the players, but about how to vote. Given that we must elect exactly six players in this election to keep in step with the Hall of Fame, I don’t believe we should vote for any more or any fewer. Eric and I disagree, but whatever. It’s basically just a matter of taste, especially since we agree on the six players. To me, there’s nothing wrong with putting Vlad in, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping him out either. There’s always next year.
Another surprising election, at least based on what I expected as recently as six weeks ago. There are now 226 members of the player wing of the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Miller and Eric. In about a year, we’re going to do this all over again as Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and others join Vladimir Guerrero on what looks like another very crowded ballot. We hope you’ll check out the Honorees page to see all of the HoME members, whether players, managers, or pioneers/executives. Enjoy.
When we started filling the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric, we cast a wide net. We looked at guys who owned and ran teams, sabermetricians, commissioners, coaches, announcers, and more. Like Babe Ruth and Roger Clemens, it was easy to elect Kennesaw Landis and Marvin Miller. And like Roy White and Pud Galvin, it was hard to elect Bob Howsam and Joe Brown. It’s even harder to elect our 30th member.
Let me share a little of what’s gone on behind the scenes. I fought pretty hard for Pud Galvin as one of our final players. Though Eric didn’t love Galvin, he was less passionate about any one player than I was about the 365-game winner. Thus, Galvin was elected.
From 22-24, the HoME elected J.G. Taylor Spink, Sean Forman, and Walter O’Mally. Those were the last three guys I was totally certain about, and it was around that time that I began lobbying for Vin Scully. I think there’s tremendous merit to enshrining the greatest announcer in the game’s history.
Eric was far less excited about Scully. Though he eventually stipulated that Scully was indeed the announcer we’d be most likely to elect, it’s not like the Dodger great contributed to any wins on the field. Others in the HoME either very clearly did or at least debatably did.
Still, Scully lingered on our list of options as we elected Al Campanis, Sam Breadon, Barney Dreyfus, and Bob Howsam. I’d have given him a vote; Eric wasn’t so sure. Then about a month ago, the same thing happened with Scully as with Galvin. I was somewhat more passionate then Eric was, and we agreed to make Vin Scully our 30th inductee.
Then Rob Neyer wrote about David Neft, and we paused.
We un-scheduled our Scully post, and we talked about the idea we’d dismissed Neft and his work on The Baseball Encyclopedia too early.
Eric told us on Monday that, “As the research community used it, found discrepancies, recommended adding this or that, the book could change and grow. So now could any baseball book that relied on a background database. Which eventually gets you to BBREF. The rapid evolution of baseball research, analytics, and publishing were enabled by Neft’s breakthrough thinking.”
I can’t disagree. And I can’t disagree with Eric’s argument that millions of baseball fans around the country would call Harry Caray, Ernie Harwell, Mell Allen, or Red Barber the greatest ever. Sure, I think they’re wrong. But I acknowledge that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I realize that art is subjective.
So is entrance to the Hall of Miller and Eric, especially at this level. In the end, Eric’s belief that we should elect David Neft was greater than my belief that we should elect Vin Scully. So congratulations to Neft on becoming the 30th and final member of the Hall of Miller and Eric. And thank you for The Baseball Encyclopedia.
Scully fans can possibly take heart though. The Hall will elect another pioneer or executive soon enough. And that means there will be one more spot in the HoME. Maybe it will go to Vin Scully.
Vin Scully, a Dodger from 1950-2016, is the best announcer in the history of baseball. Period.
In 1982, he won the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions from a baseball broadcaster. He is a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame. In 1995 he earned a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. He owns a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. MLB Network’s Prime 9 named him the greatest baseball broadcaster ever. He received the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award in 2014, an award to recognize historic accomplishments to the game. He’s only the second non-player to win it after Rachel Robinson. American Sportscasters Online named him the best sportscaster ever.
Scully’s case for enshrinement in the HoME rests on an argument for art over science. And at the HoME, science has won every time. It doesn’t matter how beautiful Fernando’s windup was or how smoothly Maz turned two. What matters is the value they brought to their teams. Even in the Pioneer/Executive wing, we’ve worked to measure the value of owners, general managers, and coaches.
If you didn’t have particular value, you did something to change the game. David Neft, as Eric described on Monday, changed the game with his research leading to the first meaningful baseball encyclopedia.
Vin Scully didn’t change the game. His claim is that he was the personification of the art of baseball. And sometimes art should win.
After all, we love baseball because of the art. Nobody ever goes to a game to see Mike Trout put up WAR. They go to root for their favorite team, to sit out in the sun with family and friends, to have a beer and a dog. We listened to Vin Scully for nearly 2/3 of a century because he told the story of baseball better than anyone ever has. He helped us love the game.
“As long as you live, keep smiling because it brightens everybody’s day.”
“Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost, for support, not illumination.”
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be a bridge to the past and to unite generations. The sport of baseball does that, and I am just a part of it.”
“The roar of the crowd has always been the sweetest music. It’s intoxicating.”
“Losing feels worse than winning feels good.”
“Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. Aren’t we all?”
“To be honest, I’ve never been interested in how many games I’ve done and seen. It doesn’t mean anything to anybody. All I know is I’m eternally grateful for having been allowed to work so many games.”
I grew up with Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola on NBC in the mid to late 1980s. I’m grateful to him for helping make me the fan I am today. I was proud to wish him farewell in October. And I am proud to say Scully gets my vote as the 30th and final member of the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric.
I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t familiar with Joe Brown, the guy who replaced Branch Rickey in Rickey’s last GM position in Pittsburgh in 1955. I don’t believe I had heard of him either before we began this process. But Joe Brown was indeed a great general manager.
He led the Pirates for 21 years, from 1955 through the 1976 season and was the architect of the Pittsburgh dynasty that went to the playoffs five times in six years from 1970-1975. He won the World Series in 1960 and 1971, plus he had a lot of influence on the 1979 winners.
Yes, he arrived with Roberto Clemente, but much of the rest of the 1960 champs were acquired under his watch.
He signed some great amateur free agents like Willie Stargell (57.5 WAR for the Pirates), John Candelaria (35.2), Dave Parker (34.7), Manny Sanguillen (28.2), Al Oliver (27.1), Richie Hebner (22.5), Tony Pena (22.3), Bob Veale (21.2), Kent Tekulve (19.6), Richie Zisk (15.7), Doc Ellis (12.8), and Dave Cash (10.2). He traded for 1960 parts Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix, and Don Hoak. He signed 1971 star Bob Robertson and drafted 1971 closer Dave Giusti. And for the 1979 winners, he drafted Don Robinson and traded for Bill Robinson. He hired Danny Murtaugh four times, but he didn’t do a great job overall hiring managers.
Oh, and one more thing. When his successor Pete Peterson was fired early in the 1985 season, he was brought on as the interim GM and oversaw the 1985 amateur draft. That’s when the Pirates signed Barry Bonds (50.1 WAR in Pittsburgh).
Joe Brown is now #29 out of 30 in our Pioneer/Executive wing. Two weeks from now, we’re going to finish things off, at least until the Hall elects another.
Sometimes you just happen into greatness. Well, maybe not. But I’d bet that many of us, if we’re being perfectly honest, can attribute some (many?) of our successes in life to one decision that could have gone either way, or one lucky break not necessarily achieved through any of your own doing.
Okay, maybe you can’t, but I certainly can.
So can Bob Howsam. Howsam’s GM career got off to a great start when he took over the St. Louis Cardinals on August 17, 1964. The Cards stood in fifth place, nine games back of the 71-45 Phillies. Of course, Philadelphia went 21-25 the rest of the way, while St. Louis closed at 30-14 to win the NL pennant. Eleven days later, they were World Series champs, having beaten the Yankees four games to three.
Howsam clearly got lucky. The champs were Bing Devine’s team. He’s the one who pulled off the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio trade. He’s the GM who deserves credit for this title. But Howsam gets it, at least a large part of it. Of course, his next two years in St. Louis, his teams played barely above .500 ball, and he moved on.
Obviously, Bob Howsam isn’t being inducted into the HoME today because of his fortunate Cardinal title. He’s being inducted because he was the architect behind the Big Red Machine. Howsam took the GM job in 1967, and in 1973 he was named President of the club. Though he only lasted until 1977 as GM and 1978 as President, there were some remarkable achievements during that time.
His teams were excellent overall, performing at a .559 clip, and he might have even gotten more out of the massively talented teams than he should have expected. From 1970-1981, his teams finished first seven times and second three others, winning the World Series in both 1975 and 1976. He traded for Joe Morgan, George Foster, Tom Seaver, Fred Norman, and Jack Billingham. He drafted Ken Griffey and Dan Dreissen. And he was smart enough to give Sparky Anderson his first big league managerial gig.
Howsam is our shortest-term GM elected to the HoME. But he’s in because he was both a bit lucky (St. Louis) and clearly great (Cincinnati). We now have 28 of 30 in the Pioneer/.Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric. Stay tuned for our next to last entrant in two weeks.
Like we said a little while back, thanks to our own petard-hoisting, we needed to shuffle some deckchairs at the HoME. Which fortunately is not the Titanic. As part of that reshuffling, we needed to elect on backlogger who was eligible before our 2016 election.
We decided in Bobby Doerr’s favor, which I’m sure his surviving family members are right now celebrating with kegs, multiple sheetcakes, and noisemakers by the fistful.
[Editor’s note: Thanks, Michael Mengel, who reminded me that Doerr is alive and our oldest living Hall of Famer. I thought he had passed on this past year, and, of course, I apologize for having my facts wrong. I wasn’t making a joke in bad taste, just a bad joke. Anyway, I hope Doerr and his family remain happy and healthy for many years, and that they are, in fact, tossing a huge blowout shindig over his HoME election. And, thanks, Michael for a slice of my favorite kind of dessert…humble pie. 😉 ]
Now you might ask, how did we arrive at Bobby Doerr’s name when we had written him off previously? The answer in a word is Retrosheet. Specifically, their update last winter update that provided play-by-play data dating back to 1930. When we made our decision to send Doerr to HoME limbo many elections ago, we did so because the little we knew about his propensity to hit into rally-killing double plays boded very badly for him. We only had his seasonal GIDP totals for a few latter-day seasons. And they were bad. Really bad. As in thrice hitting into 20 our more deuces and twice leading the league in that category. Now we have information about him from before the war that suggests Doerr hit into many fewer in his early 20s than he did after the war.
Back when we wrote his obit, Doerr had -6 runs versus the league in DP avoidance for the four seasons BBREF had calculated. They’ve still only calculated those four seasons, but with the data we now have for him and for league-wide GIDP rates, we can do a little estimating ourselves. Cribbing from Extrapolated Runs, we figured out how many runs Doerr cost his team in DPs by using xR’s -0.37 runs per DP. Then we figured the same for MLB based on its DP rates, and applying that rate to Doerr’s PAs. Subtract the latter from the former, and we have a pretty decent guesstimate. Yeah, there’s issues with using xR’s weights (calculated for 1955 to contemporary days), but this level of information was easily enough for us to make an informed decision.
When we didn’t have his DP value, we’d have said this:
So our guesstimate, which put him at “only” another -7 runs felt contained. In addition, however, we’ve been doing some similar calculations about baserunning. BBREF shows Doerr at -8 for his career, but +2 for his final four seasons. Running some guesstimates based on newly available PBP data, we reckoned that where BBREF had used a regression estimate to assign Doerr -10 runs for his first 10 seasons, the real data suggest more like a -1.5 runner. That meant that Doerr picked up about 8.5 runs against average while losing those 7 for DPs.
Overall, Doerr’s value appeared to stabilize right on the borderline, and very close to fellow keystone man Jeff Kent’s. With our estimates now suggesting that Doerr wasn’t going to look like a mistake in hindsight, we also could feel really, really good about electing someone from the World War II era. We’ve got precious few of those fellows for obvious reasons, and we’re glad to bring a little balance to an era that will always have an imbalance. Positionally speaking, we also felt Doerr’s election would maintain second base’s place in the positional-balance spectrum. The position has no upcoming future eligibles with any shot, and most active players with a good case are at least 10 years away from seeing the ballot (exception Chase Utley, but it’s not yet clear how long he wants to play). So Doerr gives us a way maintain balance in our fielding forces.
In other words, everything broke right for Bobby. It could have been Heinie Groh if we’d not had similar doubts about him thanks to a dearth of data on his double plays and baserunning. It could have been Jim Sundberg if we were a little clearer on whether we think pitcher handling and game calling value is well evaluated. It could have been Sam Rice if we’d thought Vlad Guerrero was a superior candidate to him. In the end, though, we’re glad to throw open the door to Bobby Doerr.
With the Hall of Fame’s 2017 election a few weeks past, now it’s time that we turn to the 2017 election at the Hall of Miller and Eric. As you may know, the HoME is exactly the same size as the Hall, so when the Hall elects, so do we. We had hoped the committee known as “Today’s Game” would have elected a deserving player or two. No such luck, just a couple of executives. And then we hoped the BBWAA would elect four or five. Again, no such luck. But at least there were three.
Fortunately for us, we have already elected Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, and Larry Walker. So we don’t have a ballot as crowded as the BBWAA. Hey, we’ve done our job.
And we continue to do it today. Like the Hall, we stock our ballot with a list of new candidates each year. Unlike them, our ballot also, basically, includes all other players in baseball history who have previously been eligible. Sure, we write obituaries for guys when we decide we won’t elect them, though nothing, not even HoME death, is necessarily forever.
More than two years ago now, we explained why we made a mistake writing an obituary for Roy Campanella. Only a few weeks later, we elected him. Well, much to our surprise and due to some quality research and estimation by Eric, we’re at it again. Sort of. There’s a player we’re electing today who was part of our backlog, never received an obituary, but was never elected either. Keep reading.
When we add the three from today, we will have elected 220 players to the Hall of Miller and Eric.
Here’s how we voted in 2017.
Miller Eric ================================== 1 Ivan Rodriguez Ivan Rodriguez 2 Manny Ramirez Manny Ramirez 3 Sam Rice Sam Rice
To the surprise of some (many?), Ivan Rodriguez made it into the Hall of Fame in his first year eligible. He becomes only the second catcher ever elected on his inaugural ballot, joining Johnny Bench. Voters not only avoided an error of temporary omission they had made several times over, but they also, I suspect, largely ignored the PED accusations made by Jose Canseco. The real truth, I think, is that they elected the guy they believe to be the best defensive catcher of all time, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone. As for the HoME, Pudge was a no-brainer. We don’t care much about the 1999 MVP, the 14 All-Star Games, or the 13 Gold Gloves. What we care about, mainly, is the career equivalent WAR that’s about the same as Johnny Bench and peak/prime numbers that put him near the elite in the game’s history. He might well rank among the top five catchers ever, and he’s certainly among the best ten.
I don’t suppose that anyone is too surprised that Manny Ramirez didn’t get the love from the writers that Pudge did. He was pretty lousy defensively, and the PED suspensions turned off some writers, perhaps forever. Still, since we at the HoME don’t know exactly who used and who didn’t, and we don’t feel comfortable speculating, we judge a player just based on his record. And Manny’s record may just be that of a top ten left fielder in history. A placing anywhere from seven to fifteen is something I could buy. Manny did it with flair, though he did it without truly great seasons. With just one season over 6.7 WAR, according to Miller’s equivalency, he doesn’t make a great peak case, but with ten above 4.8, his extended prime numbers are outstanding. For his career, it’s only Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, Carl Yastrzemski, Ed Delahanty, and Fred Clarke who top him at the position in career WAR. Given our PED stance, Manny was an easy “yes” vote.
There were three outstanding newbies on the BBWAA ballot, so clearly today we’re electing Vladimir Guerrero. Except we’re not. We’re actually electing Sam Rice. Miller has Rice as the 25th best right fielder ever, and Vlad is just 27th. Eric used to have Vlad at #23 and Rice at #25. To be fair, they’re extremely close, too close to really make a distinction unless forced. Vlad is a shade better in peak and prime, but Rice has a career advantage based on more depth, what Eric likes to call shoulder seasons. When it comes to electing to the HoME, however, there’s no such thing as too close to call. The reason we made the call we did, ultimately, is because of Eric’s in-depth review of BBREF’s baserunning numbers. Simply, based on what we suspect he accomplished on the bases, it seems that Rice is considerably better than we previously believed, as high as #16 at the position according to Eric. He’s going to share that analysis a week from Friday. For today and forever though, Sam Rice is a member of the HoME. And Vlad, well, he becomes part of the backlog.
How’s that for an exciting and surprising election? Trust me, we were surprised too. There are now 220 members of the player wing of the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Miller and Eric. Our backlog player election due to the categorization of Joe Torre as a manager will take place on February 24. And the 2018 election will take place about a year from now.
As after every election, we hope you’ll check out the Honorees page to see all of the HoME members, whether players, managers, or pioneers/executives. Enjoy.
I’m a big fan of questioning assumptions. What I mean by that is pretty simple. We all have lots of opinions, but none of us is perfect. Thus, some of the things we believe to be true must be wrong. If we don’t question what we believe today, we’re going to continue to be wrong about a bunch of things tomorrow.
That brings me to the guy we’re electing to the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric today, Sam Breadon. Breadon was a Cardinal owner and president who won nine pennants and six World Series from 1920-1947. So what’s the assumption I’m talking about? It’s about dynasties.
I’d actually been making a couple of assumptions that helped me to hold back on electing Breadon. The first is that it may be the wrong thing to do to elect too many representatives from the same dynastic franchises. The second is that we had already elected too many Cardinals.
The second one is easier to deal with than the first. As you’ll see below, the only Cardinal who we had previously elected based only on his time as an executive is Branch Rickey. And to be fair, Rickey is a lot more a Dodger than a Cardinal. This wasn’t so much an assumption I was holding, but an error. We make those, you know. And if you don’t recheck your work, they’re subject to hold you back.
The first assumption is that we should be wary of electing too many dynastic executives. My concern is that we weren’t looking deeply enough at credentials, that we were just electing the guys who ran the teams that won the most games and titles. But I got over that for two reasons. First, Eric has never done a single thing in this process with sub-standard depth, and he liked Breadon. Second, I think I know whether the chicken or egg came first in this case. What I mean is that while it’s true that dynasties become dynasties because of the great players, those dynasties couldn’t ever come to pass if the executives in charge didn’t put all of those players on the same team.
The things that make Breadon so attractive include an unprecedented .570 winning percentage and much of his working relationship with Branch Rickey. Breadon promoted Rickey to General Manager in 1919, the year before he took over as majority owner. And he let Rickey do his thing as both GM and manager. By 1925, Breadon replaced Rickey with Rogers Hornsby, allowing him to focus on GM duties. Part of that focus led to the first strong farm system in all the game. Rickey deserves a ton of credit for this innovation. But Breadon shouldn’t be ignored. He had to lobby Commissioner Landis to allow Rickey’s brainchild to flourish. He also had to fund the farm system, doing so in part by leasing Sportsman’s Park in 1920 so he could sell Robison Field for $275,000. For an idea of how strong this farm system was, the Cardinals never bought a player from another team from 1926 until after Breadon’s last year with the club. Smart businessman.
While Rickey basically ran the team, Breadon was responsible for hiring incredibly successful field managers. There was the aforementioned Hornsby. Bill McKechnie didn’t gain fame in St. Louis, but he was a great hire. Add in Gabby Street who won a World Series, Frankie Frisch who won one, Billy Southworth who won two, and Eddie Dyer who won one. That’s a pretty exceptional group.
One area where Breadon stuck his nose in was to prevent the sale of Marty Marion to the Cubs. Marion played for the Cards for eleven years, making seven All-Star teams, winning the 1944 MVP, and posting 31.6 WAR. That was about it. Otherwise, he generally let Rickey do his thing.
And that, among his other outstanding accomplishments, make Sam Breadon the 26th member of the HoME’s Pioneer/Executive wing. Our next member will be announced in two short weeks.
A lever is a simple tool that makes things easier. It was originally made by smart people. A pulley is a simple tool that makes things easier. It was originally made by smart people too.
It’s no surprise that smart people make things so their lives will be easier. Yet, Roger Bresnahan donned what has affectionately become known as the “tools of ignorance.” He did so for 1446 major league games.
The ignorant don’t make tools. Smart people make tools (forget for a second that levers and pulleys are more machines than tools). It’s a pretty incredible dichotomy to both be smart enough to design something to make your life easier, especially after years of people not figuring out how to do so, and being foolish enough to still play that position.
Ivan Rodriguez owns the career record for games caught at 2427. Only four other men have eclipsed 2000 games behind the plate. In fact, only 29 others even have 1500 games. Contrast that with shortstop, likely the second most taxing defensive position. Omar Vizquel leads the way with 2709. Eighteen others top 2000, and 62 others are over 1500. It’s really tough to be a catcher.
Based on rolling five-year data that Eric put together to help understand what kind of playing time disadvantage catchers had, we can see that the third most durable catcher played about 62.5% as much as the third most durable non-catcher. By the time Bresnahan caught his last game in 1915, the percentage was up to 83.3%. Since last year it was only 84.7%, it’s not unfair to say that the innovations to the tools of ignorance made during Bresnahan’s day are the most important in the game’s history.
After a 1905 beaning, Bresnahan experimented with a forerunner to a batting helmet, but it’s not in terms of hitter protection that we honor Bres. It’s for his contribution to the health of catchers. In 1907, Bresnahan started off the season wearing shin guards reminiscent of those worn in cricket. The next year he added padding to help cushion the blow caused by foul tips.
His innovations changed the game. They prolonged careers. And they may have been the greatest on-field contributions made by any hitter. They made the ignorant less ignorant. Roger Bresnahan was no fool; in fact, he was a pretty smart guy. And he’s now the sixteenth inductee into the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric, which means there are twelve more to go. Our next inductee will be announced in two weeks. Please check back then for #17.
Sometime around Halloween, we discussed the idea of restocking the HoME ballot. Miller thought it was a great idea, and a necessary one. He was quite confident Ken Griffey, Mike Piazza, and Bill Dahlen would all get into the Hall this year. And he kind of though Wes Ferrell and Jeff Bagwell had a shot. Eric expected only Griffey and Piazza. Eric’s not always the smarter one. Still, there’s clearly no need to restock the Hall of Miller and Eric ballot since there are two legitimate candidates this year, two players we prefer to any players from our backlog.
This election is closer than many people would expect. One of the guys we’re electing today was pretty amazing at his first stop but not so good thereafter. Another was decent, though clearly not great, in the AL, but pretty spectacular once he switched leagues. Still, the former was greater than the latter, by a large enough margin that we don’t need in-depth analysis. Combined though, we’re looking at one of the twenty best position players ever. Individually, one is in league with Joe DiMaggio. The other likely had more value than Duke Snider.
With two more in, we have now elected 217 players to the Hall of Miller and Eric.
Here’s how we voted in 2016.
Miller Eric 1 Ken Griffey, Jr. Ken Griffey, Jr. 2 Jim Edmonds Jim Edmonds
One of the smartest people I’ve ever know called Ken Griffey, Jr. the best player we were ever going to have the pleasure of seeing. He said this maybe in 1998 or 1999, and while he clearly wasn’t right, his point is still well taken. Almost from the time Griffey reached Seattle as a 19-year-old in 1989, Griffey was a revelation. He was a true five-tool talent. He led the AL in homers four times in six seasons. He reached 40 dingers seven times. He won ten Gold Gloves, made a dozen All-Star teams, and took home the 1997 AL MVP. Beyond almost anything, he was he a joy to watch play. If he were only healthy. Recurring hamstring problems sabotaged the second half of his career, but he still competes with Joe DiMaggio for the title of fifth best center fielder ever to play the game.
If we ran Jim Edmonds’ career backwards he’d get a lot more love. But that’s not how things work. He came up at 23, had his first full-time gig at 25, and soon seemed like a very good player rather than a superstar. The truth is that from 25 he began to build a HoME-worthy career, even if most people weren’t aware it was happening. He became a superstar when he was traded from the Angels to the Cardinals right before the 2000 season. From that point, Edmonds put up six straight 6-win seasons. That’s something only Cobb, Mays, Speaker, Mantle, and DiMaggio can say among CF, not Griffey. He may no longer be on the Hall of Fame ballot, but as one of the 9-12 most valuable center fielders ever to play, he gets into the HoME on his first try.
Hey, we wish it would have been a more exciting election just as much as you do. There are now 217 players in the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Miller and Eric. Pending what the Expansion Era Committee does next year, it’s quite possible there’s not just going to be a backlog waiting to get into the Hall, but into the HoME as well. So sad. On a happier note, please remember to check out our Honorees page. We think you’ll enjoy.