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.
This is it. Today you see the results of our final election to catch us up to the present, and you see our final four members of the Hall of Miller and Eric, at least until the Hall of Fame adds more players.
This was a somewhat trying election for both of us. See, we both love Pedro, but neither of us could choose him over Randy Johnson. The Big Unit’s peak, impossibly, was nearly as good, and Johnson just did it for longer. Folks, we’ve had a real golden age of pitching over the last 30 years with Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, Pedro, Schilling, Mussina, Glavine, Smoltz, Brown, Halladay, Mariano, and others. That group certainly rivals and likely tops Seaver, Carlton, Niekro, Blyleven, Perry, Jenkins, Ryan, Palmer, Reuschel, and Gossage.
Since this is it, we have now elected all 215 members of the Hall of Miller and Eric.
Here’s how we voted in 2015.
Miller Eric 1 Randy Johnson Randy Johnson 2 Pedro Martinez Pedro Martinez 3 John Smoltz John Smoltz 4 Gary Sheffield Gary Sheffield
Randy Johnson: Around 1993, when the Big Unit began to harness control of his fastball, hitters were in trouble. He led the league in strikeouts nine times and whiffed 300+ on six occasions, making him the second most prolific strikeout pitcher of all time. He also holds career and single-season records for strikeouts per nine. He had signature games of 20 Ks and perfection. He made ten All-Star teams, two for every year he won the Cy Young Award. He finished second three more times and third once in the Cy voting. Even at 6’10”, a guy pitching in the same era as Clemens, Maddux, and Pedro could get a little lost. But Johnson had his time on the top of the heap, possibly the game’s best pitcher from 1998-2004. Only Walter Johnson, Cy Young, and maybe Roger Clemens had as many 8-WAR seasons. And we think Randy Johnson is one of the ten best pitchers ever to take to the mound.
Pedro Martinez: At his peak, he’s the best pitcher in Red Sox history – better than Cy Young and better than Roger Clemens. Actually, his peak is what everyone thinks that Koufax’s is, but Pedro has shoulder seasons that make it clear how great he was because he could win with his arm falling off and his talent in decline. Pedro won three Cy Young Awards. He also led his league in strikeouts three times, ERA five times, and won the pitching triple crown in 1999. In 1999 and 2000, his K/BB rate was 8.65/1. He never lost more than ten games in a season. He probably ranks somewhere from 12-15 all-time, just not pitching enough innings to crack the top ten. He’s Eric’s favorite pitcher ever. He shutout the Yankees in Miller’s favorite May game ever. He pitched the best game Miller ever watched, the game Tom Boswell called the best ever in Yankee Stadium. And he offered the best relief performance Miller ever saw too. Welcome HoME, Pedro.
John Smoltz: Smoltzie had a career unlike any other. The 21 seasons is impressive enough, but the righty started as a superstar starter, became a superstar closer, and then returned to the rotation to become a (super)star starter again. The reason for the move to the pen was that TJ surgery in 2000 that caused him to miss the season and then not be healthy enough for regular starting duties. At whatever he did, he excelled. He is the evidence of what happens when you take a Hall-level starting pitcher’s arm and put it in the bullpen. The flipside is that we missed out on Mariano Rivera’s brilliant career as a starter. Smoltz led the NL in wins and strikeouts twice and saves once. He was the Cy Young Award winner in 1996, and he made eight All-Star teams. In the playoffs, he was outstanding. He put in an extra season of work, going 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 27 starts and 14 relief appearances.
Gary Sheffield: Steroids? Yeah. Made errors on purpose? That too. Defense? Awful. But Gary Sheffield produced and produced and produced. And oh that bat speed. The only players ever with more HR, RBI, R, and BB are Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Mel Ott. His record shows nine All-Star teams, a batting title, and an OBP title. For his career, he looks a lot like Dave Winfield. And he’s a bit better than Sammy Sosa and Reggie Smith. While his peak wasn’t that high, he had 16 seasons worth at least two wins. Among RF, it’s him along with Ruth, Aaron, Ott, Robinson, Clemente, and Kaline who can say that. On the trivial side, the much traveled Sheffield represented five teams as an All-Star, homered 25+ times for six teams, and joins Fred McGriff as the only players with 30+ for five teams.
That’s it. We have now elected 215 players to the Hall of Miller and Eric. Want to know all of them? Check out our Honorees page. It’s a more impressive group than those in the Hall of Fame, that’s for sure.
After an election a year ago where we had identical ballots, there was some disagreement in 2014. Miller incorporates a small amount of credit for playoff performance into his rankings, while Eric uses October as more of a tie-breaker. As a result of our respective playoff positions, Miller ranks Glavine higher than Miller does. Just by a tiny bit. Make no mistake, Miller doesn’t prefer Glavine to Mussina because of the wins but because of the additional effective playoff innings. The fact is that Glavine and Mussina are so close together in value, which makes the 2014 BBWAA vote so stunning: Glavine received 91.9% of the vote, while Mussina scored just 20.3%
With just one election to go until we’re caught up to the present, we now have 211 of our 215 elected to the HoME. Next season we have four more who will get in and four who will receive obituaries.
Here’s how we voted in 2014.
Miller Eric 1 Greg Maddux Greg Maddux 2 Tom Glavine Mike Mussina 3 Mike Mussina Frank Thomas 4 Frank Thomas Tom Glavine 5 Jeff Kent Jeff Kent
Greg Maddux: To refer to Greg Maddux as “The Professor” might be an understatement for a guy not far behind Clemens among modern pitchers. However, it’s just not accurate to say the guy did it all on guile and didn’t have great stuff. Nobody wins 355 games and whiffs 3000+ without great stuff. He’s the most valuable pitcher in NL history other than Pete Alexander and Kid Nichols. He owns a record 18 Gold Gloves, has a record with 17 straight seasons of 15+ wins, was named to 10 All-Star teams, and won four Cy Young. Overall, Mad Dog is one of the 8-10 best pitchers ever.
Mike Mussina: An underappreciated star throughout his career who one might call the Bert Blyleven of the 1990s and 2000s, Mussina went out on top with his only 20-win season being his last. He starred for the Orioles and Yankees, but he never won a World Series, never won a Cy Young, and totaled “only” 270 wins. Still, he’s one of the two-dozen or so best hurlers ever. He had more All-Star-level seasons than Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, or Pedro Martinez. He’s similar to contemporaries Tom Glavine and Curt Schilling in value, and this five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glover will certainly get into the Hall of Fame one day.
Tom Glavine: The sheen of 300 wins got Glavine into the Hall on his first try while contemporaries and equals, Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, have to wait. But let’s not diminish the greatness of Glavine, a ten-time All-Star and very deserving Hall of Famer. He led the NL in wins five times on his way to 305. He won the Cy Young Award in both 1991 and 1998. And over a 15-year span, from 1991-2005, Glavine had more value than any NL pitcher other than Greg Maddux. He had outstanding numbers in his eight World Series starts and he led the Braves to their only title during their dominant NL East run by winning the 1995 World Series MVP.
Frank Thomas: At his peak, “The Big Hurt” had one of the most deservedly feared bats of the last half century. From 1991-1997, Thomas and Barry Bonds were the game’s two best hitters. At the plate, nobody else was really close. During that stretch, he won back-to-back MVP Awards, made each of his five All-Star teams, won four OBP titles, a batting title, and an SLG title. He also hit a pretty amazing .330 and retired with a batting line of .301/.419/.555. He’s one of only 23 players ever with a .300/.400/.500 career line. And the only guys who top him in all three are Ruth, Foxx, Williams, Gehrig, and Hornsby. Thomas played a majority of his games at DH, but if we call him a first baseman, he’d compete with Johnny Mize for the #10 spot ever, a bit behind Jeff Bagwell and Pete Rose. With 521 homers and nearly 3200 combined R and RBI, there’s no doubt Thomas is an all-time great.
Jeff Kent: In a nod to the fact that quality second basemen are a rare breed these days, we’ve elected him, though he may be one of the picks about whom we’re least excited. Quality second basemen are so rare, in fact, that we won’t see another of Hall caliber for at least eight or ten years on from the 2014 election (Chase Utley) and after that, there’s Robbie Cano and…. Kent, himself, was not as bad a fielder as we all thought, but perhaps not as good a hitter. What he really excelled at was staying in the lineup and delivering power with a pretty good OBP from a position not known for offense. He’s like a longer career Bobby Doerr (whom we axed years ago), and in value is reminiscent of Billy Herman with maybe one or two fewer years of strength.
That ends our 2014 voting, so there’s just one election to go! Please check out our Honorees page to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.
This is one crazy election! Well, it’s not crazy in that we disagree; it’s crazy in that we’re electing seven players and have identical ballots. Three steroid guys get in this time ‘round. And we add a 3000 hit guy, one of the great overlooked speedsters of recent times, the best hitting catcher ever, and the guy with the bloody sock.
Your position on steroids aside, it’s criminal that only one of these seven is in the Hall of Fame today. Mike Piazza has a great chance of getting in this January since he was at 69.9% last time. On the other hand, with only 39.2% of the vote, Curt Schilling has a long row to hoe. And Kenny Lofton? In spite of being a player our systems agree is the ninth best ever at the position, he received only 18 votes his one and only year on the ballot. Shameful.
We’re down to only two more elections after today’s, but with the seven from 2013, we’re up to 206 of the greatest players ever in the HoME. And keeping with our reporting habits of elections past, we now have nine players to elect in 2014 and 2015 of the nineteen who remain up for consideration. Your chances remain nearly 50/50 to get in if we haven’t yet reviewed your case.
Here’s how we voted in 2013.
Miller Eric 1 Barry Bonds Barry Bonds 2 Roger Clemens Roger Clemens 3 Mike Piazza Mike Piazza 4 Curt Schilling Curt Schilling 5 Kenny Lofton Kenny Lofton 6 Craig Biggio Craig Biggio 7 Sammy Sosa Sammy Sosa
Barry Bonds: Say what you will about Barry Bonds, he’s baseball’s all-time leader in home runs at 762. If that number doesn’t resonate like 755, you’re probably older than 25. Bonds likely wasn’t the player Babe Ruth was, but he fights with Ty Cobb and Willie Mays for second best ever. Without a doubt he’s the best position player since Mays, and for those so inclined to timeline, possibly the best ever. He won the NL MVP seven times. He led in OBP ten times, SLG seven times, and BA twice. In both of those seasons he won the triple slash triple crown. Bonds is also the single-season HR champ, slugging 73 in 2001, though he never hit more than 46 in another season. He played like an MVP at least a dozen times, was named to the All-Star team on fourteen occasions, and won eight Gold Gloves. In a 2002 World Series loss to the Angels, Bonds homered four times and put up an insane .471/.700/1.294 line. Big head or not, Barry Bonds is one of the greatest players ever to put on a uniform.
Roger Clemens: Big Train, Cy, and Rocket. Those are the best three pitchers ever. Clemens’ BBREF page is littered with Black Ink. He won seven Cy Young Awards for four different teams. He was the 1986 AL MVP. He led the league in ERA seven times, strikeouts five times, and wins four times. He won back-to-back pitching triple crowns his only two seasons in Toronto, and he posted 354 wins in his 24 years in the majors. Say what you will about his personality or his PED use, Clemens could pitch. He’s third in strikeouts and ninth in wins. He won 12 games in the playoffs, including the clincher for the Yankees in 1999, and he was ahead when he left after seven tough innings in what could have been the clincher for the Red Sox in 1986.
Mike Piazza: As the best hitting catcher of all time with a reputation as an excellent game caller, pitch framer, handler or pitchers, and plate blocker, though a poor arm, you’d think Piazza would just waltz into the Hall. Not so fast. Someone once saw something that might have been bacne, and Piazza still waits. Of course, that’s hardly a fair argument to make. Gary Carter, a superior player overall, took six tries to get in. No bacne on him. The BBWAA just isn’t as good as they should be at identifying Hall of Famers. The 1993 NL MVP made a dozen All-Star teams and was the game’s MVP in 1996 when he homered against Chuck Finley. Not even adjusting for the rigors of catching, Piazza was one of the games’ five best non-pitchers from 1993-2001. With even a modest catching adjustment, he’s second to A-Rod. Comfortably placed with Berra, Dickey, and Fisk among catchers, Piazza is an easy HoME call.
Curt Schilling: He is a Robin Roberts brand of pitcher (big Ks, good control, lots of flyballs), but he is an extreme version with tremendous control, which allowed him to prosper during the high run environment of the 1994-2008 era. As responsible as anyone for helping the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino, Schilling is remembered for his dominance in the 2001 playoffs and the Bloody Sock Game. He was the runner-up in the Cy voting three times, and he made the All-Star team on six occasions. He struck out 300+ three times, and he led the league in wins twice. With all of these accolades, Schilling remains underrated historically. He’s right around the 20th best pitcher ever, in a tight battle with contemporaries Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina. But we still revere wins, and Schillling had just 216 of them. He pitched at or near the All-Star level eleven times. Ryan, Palmer, Hubbell, Feller, Marichal, Drysdale, and so many others fall short of that level. One day Curt Schilling will be a Hall of Famer. For now, he’ll settle for the HoME.
Kenny Lofton: Rickey Henderson spoiled us. We now think of him as the leadoff hitter against whom all are judged. And if you’re lesser than Rickey, like Tim Raines and Kenny Lofton, somehow you’re not great enough. Wrong. Lofton was great enough. He was the prototype CF/leadoff man who even hit with occasional power. Sort of the player everyone used to think Earle Combs was, except a much better base runner and fielder. Among position players, over an eight-year run from 1992-1999, Lofton trailed only Bonds, Griffey, and Bagwell in overall value (if we use Rfield for defense). He won five straight SB titles, and was only once the CS leader. He owns six All-Star appearances and four Gold Gloves. To his credit he has seven playoff home runs and an amazing 34 stolen bases (one more than Rickey). Sadly, one of the ten most valuable center fielders ever to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot by 2013 would never appear on another. He received only 18 votes. He’s no Rickey, but he’s quite easily a HoMEr.
Craig Biggio: Certainly a unique player, Biggio is the only player ever to be named an All-Star at catcher and at second base. All told, the 20-year, career Astro made seven All-Star teams, and he put up 3060 hits, though had he played in another park, he’d have reached 3000 hits much sooner. As more testament to his uniqueness, he joins only Bonds, Mays, A-Rod, Rickey, and Jeter as players with 2500 hits, 1000 walks, 500 2B, and 250 SB. Overall among 2B, he’s a bit behind the trio of Whitaker, Alomar, and Sandberg, but he stacks up well against the likes of Bid McPhee, Willie Randolph, and Billy Herman. It’s no crime that it took Biggio three tries to be voted into the Hall. He’s now where he belongs, both in the Hall and the HoME.
Sammy Sosa: Jokes and unfortunate truths and near-truths about him aside, Sosa was an incredible player. He’s a peak candidate in a career candidate’s clothing. As a younger player he had a missile for an arm, and he could really run. Sure, some would question his tactics on the bases, but he could run. And as he matured and developed as a player, his power exploded, and his walks followed. His power began to grow in his mid-20s and took off in the great home run race of 1998 when the seven-time All-Star hit 66 long balls and won the MVP. With 609 during his 18 seasons in the majors, he’s in some elite company. And though some legitimately question his Hall credentials, we see him as roughly similar to Bobby Bonds or Reggie Smith. He’s certainly not an inner circle guy, but he’s over the line.
That ends our 2013 voting, and there are only two elections to go. Please check out our Honorees page to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.