When discussing MLB suicides last week, I said that I couldn’t understand anyone’s suicidal thought process. Well, I don’t have any better understanding of murder. Sure, there’s a crime of passion element. And simple research points to a connection between murder and socio-economic standing. But, c’mon. I don’t get it – the thought process or lack thereof that would allow someone to take the life of another. And the truth is that when dealing with a sample of five, as we are today, all of the trends go out the window. These are just five awful anecdotes.
Playing his first professional game when he was just 16, Greg Halman was a power hitting outfield prospect who smacked 110 home runs over the four minor league seasons leading up to his first promotion to the bigs in 2010. While in Seattle, the Dutch righty struggled with -0.4 WAR over 121 plate appearances in 2010 and 2011. On November 21, 2011, he was killed by his brother Jason in the Rotterdam apartment they shared. Nine months later, Jason was released by Dutch courts because he suffered from psychosis at the time of the killing. Wright Thompson wrote a thoughtful, detailed, and chilling account of the relationship between the brothers at ESPN that I highly recommend.
Dernell Stenson was a corner outfielder for the Reds. Not a big prospect, Stenson appeared in his only 37 games during the 2003 season, hitting three homers and totaling 0.1 WAR. That November, Stenson was kidnapped, bound, shot multiple times, and run over with his own car. Four men were charged with multiple crimes. Three were convicted. Two weeks prior to his kidnapping and murder, an ex-girlfriend, Jennifer R. Gaddis, sent him a disturbing text message saying, “U better pray I never see you U again. I swear Dernell U R worth a Murder charge 4 & that is all U R worth.” However, it was determined she was not connected to the crime.
In the 1990s, Gary, Indiana was sometimes called the murder capital of the United States. On September 23, 1978, Lyman Bostock, an Angel and former Twin, after going 2-4 with a double and a walk in a losing effort against the White Sox, was murdered there. Bostock was a star at the plate, batting .311 and totaling 13.0 WAR over his first four seasons in the majors. On that day in Gary, was visiting his uncle, Ed Turner. With Turner driving and two women in the car, Bostock rode in the back seat. The estranged husband of one of the women, Leonard Smith, drove up to the car and began his jealous rage. Turner drove away. But at a traffic light, Smith pulled up and fired his shotgun into the back seat. Though he said the shot was intended for his wife, he hit Bostock. After one mistrial, Smith was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. He was sentenced to psychiatric care and released less than one year later. For more information, read Tim Connaughton’s SABR biography on Bostock.
By the way, though it’s a sample of only three people at this point, and only one in the United States, two of the above murderers spent no time in jail. A quick internet search reveals a 1991 study commissioned by the National Institute of Mental health that says an insanity defense is only used in about 1% of county court cases. And it’s successful in only 26% of those. Just like in baseball, don’t let a sample of three cases make you believe differently.
The Seattle Pilots played for only one season before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers in 1970. Miguel Fuentes threw their final pitch. All told, Fuentes tossed 26 innings over eight games, four of them starts. He won once and finished the year and his career with 0.0 WAR. After the MLB season, he went home to pitch in the Puerto Rican Winter League. After that season ended, Fuentes was in a bar in his hometown of Loiza Aldea. Apparently there was a plumbing problem in the bathroom, so Fuentes went outside to relieve himself. As the story is told, he did so too close to someone’s car. Fuentes was shot and killed. I do not know the identity of his murderer. I am not sure if it is known.
Two pitchers in MLB history have been named Ed Morris. The one who was murdered is not the one who I sometimes call the best pitcher ever with that surname. This pitcher was a righty. After a cup of coffee with the 1922 Cubs, Morris pitched for the 1928-1931 Red Sox, totaling 42 wins and 7.4 WAR. Before spring training in 1932, a group of Morris’ friends threw a fish fry in his honor. An argument between Morris and fellow guest Joe White broke out. During the scuffle, White pulled a knife and stabbed Morris in the chest.
I do not claim to understand suicide any better than the next person. I do think those of us who have never had suicidal ideation should be very thankful, and those who have probably still should not suggest they understand what any other person is going through. Five active Major Leaguers have committed suicide, none since 1940. In this post, we’ll look at those five players, how they fared on the field, how they ended their lives, and how we can find out more about them.
Willard Hershberger was Ernie Lombardi’s backup behind the plate for the 1938-1940 Cincinnati Reds. He posted 2.0 WAR and died during the 1940 season, his suicide very much tied to his baseball career. With his Reds in first place in July, Lombardi was out. Hershberger replaced him, the Reds began to lose, and Hershberger blamed himself in multiple conversations with teammates and coaches. He told manager Bill McKechnie that he was going to commit suicide, just as his father had. Hershberger didn’t come to the next day’s doubleheader. He had slit his throat with a safety razor, becoming the only player ever to commit suicide during the season. Please check out Charles F. Faber’s biography of Hershberger.
Known for a six hit game, for posting three triples in the first World Series, and for being the second ever manager of the Red Sox, Chick Stahl put up 31.7 WAR in his 10-year career, which lasted from 1897-1906. Bill James called him the 51st best center fielder ever in his New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, and he was the most successful player on this list. Dennis Auger’s SABR biography discusses theories as to reasons behind his suicide. It could have been stress related to the game. Perhaps it was a woman claiming to be pregnant with his child trying to force marriage upon him. Or maybe, as the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette noted, he had been depressed and suicidal since 1889. Auger seems to suggest that a possible relationship with a man, or lack of such a relationship, could have caused Stahl’s ultimate demise. Whatever the case, drinking carbonic acid ended his life early in 1907.
Win Mercer was a talented pitcher from 1894-1902, posting a total of 28.9 WAR for four teams. He won 20+ games twice and had over 4 WAR three times. Overall, he won 132 games and was still just 28 when he died early in 1903. The outward reason for his suicide is even less clear for this fan favorite than for that of others on this list. Some say there was a suicide note, others disagree. If the note is real, it was said to have included a warning about the dangers of women and gambling. He killed himself by inhaling gas. Check out his SABR biography written by William Akin for more.
The chief backstop for the 1896-1899 Boston Beaneathers, Marty Bergen posted 339 hits and 0.0 WAR over his four seasons. Brian McKenna’s SABR biography of Bergen says that the catcher “ became increasingly despondent and irrational” over the course of his career. His son died in 1899 due to diphtheria. It’s hard to say whether it was the death of his son, what might have been the end of his career because of a hip injury, the hip surgery anesthesia from which his doctor said he never seemed to recover, or something else that ultimately made Bergen snap. He killed his wife and daughter with the blunt end of an axe, his son with the sharp side, and himself with a razor to the throat.
I don’t think Edgar McNabb, the 1893 Oriole pitcher who posted 1.1 WAR, necessarily counts as active since Bill James says he wasn’t asked to return to the team for the 1894 season. But since he was just 27 that season and not terrible, he’s included here. McNabb was having an affair with Louise Kellogg, the wife of R.E. Rockwell, the president of the Pacific and Northwest League. In the Pittsburgh Eiffel hotel on February 28, 1894, McNabb shot Kellogg either two or three times depending on the source. Then he turned the gun on himself. McNabb was found dead. Kellogg died two days later.
You’ve heard by now that Mike Trout is on the disabled list for the first time in his career. And no pun intended, this injury hurts the Trout loving community, which really should be all of us. I shamefully admit that I was checking BBREF on a daily basis to watch his 2017 WAR creep up. After all, we are in the middle of what could have been a historic season, certainly another 10 WAR season. But what now? Trout is out until near August, and I would expect that he won’t be right when he comes back. Thumb injuries can be like that.
So today I want to look at some kind of, sort of, maybe comparable players to see if they had a year like this. I want to see if there’s historical precedent for Trout to fall off track and get back on.
In terms of career rankings, Mantle is the guy I’ve been aiming for since about 2014. At just age 25, Trout had set himself up to top Joe DiMaggio in center field, but catching Mantle would have been a real trick. Mantle wasn’t the healthiest guy ever. Even so, while in his 20s, he only missed more than a dozen games in a season once. It was that year, 1953, when Mantle was just 21, that he posted his worst season of the decade, just 5.3 WAR. He would never fall below 6.3 again, not until the injury plagued 1962 campaign. In 1963, after a Brooks Robinson fly ball and Mantle’s aggressive outfield play led to a broken bone in his foot and other issues, Mantle played just 65 games and totaled just 2.9 WAR. He was 31 and essentially done being the elite Mantle.
I don’t want to get into a deep Mantle-Trout debate right now – and there could be one. Trout needs at least half a dozen seasons of 9-win baseball in front of him to catch Mantle in terms of my MAPES ranking system. Sure, he could do that, but to get there, he’d have to repeat what he’s done so far, and then some. But here’s the debate. Mantle played at a time of poor integration. He didn’t face relief specialists. He only played against seven teams throughout his glory days, so he could become very familiar with the pitchers. He got to play through an expansion, a time when great players have all-time great seasons. And on and on.
Mantle hit his 534 career homers against 224 pitchers. That’s 2.38 per pitcher. Thus far, Trout has 184 homers against 134 pitchers. That’s 1.37 per pitcher, and it absolutely suggests that Trout has had a harder road in that one regard. For his career, Trout has hits against 401 different pitchers. Mantle did the same against only 427. And Mantle had over 6000 additional plate appearances.
Anyway, the only reasonable position to have on Trout and Mantle now is that one is a generational player. The other should be if healthy. Once Trout becomes that player, we can have a Mantle-Trout debate.
I must say that if I’m Trout, I aim a bit higher than Clemente. Still, the Pirate right fielder is next on our list of comparison players because he’s not entirely dissimilar – an athletic outfielder whose chief skill is something other than power. Of course, at Trout’s level, you see how hard it is to compare him to anyone, as you’ll see below.
As it turns out, Clemente isn’t a great comparison. He wasn’t really healthy until he turned 25. Actually, through age-27 Clemente averaged just 4.2 WAR per 650 plate appearances. To this point, Trout’s at 9.5 per 650 trips. Once Clemente became Clemente in 1963, he remained largely healthy. And if Trout plays from here on like Clemente, he’d retire in a virtual tie with Stan Musial on my all-time list. For reference, that’s between Ted Williams and Eddie Collins.
Like Trout, A-Rod got started when he was very young. And like Trout, Rodriguez basically hit the ground running. There is some good news here. Through A-Rod’s age-24 season, he only topped 148 games played once. And once he was as low as 129. On the other hand, he wouldn’t dip below 124 until he was 35, which Trout will this year. And A-Rod wasn’t below 138 until he was 33. That was the year we stopped seeing elite A-Rod.
Angel fans don’t like this comparison because they see first-hand who Pujols has become. Through age-32, Pujols was basically never hurt, bottoming out at 143 games in 2006. In his eleven years in St. Louis, Albert never put up less than 5.3 WAR. Again, he was never hurt. Trout is.
By age-21, Foxx was about an 8-win player. He never missed meaningful time until a decade later. And even then, that was 124 games. It seems that these elite players just don’t have seasons where they miss the number of games Trout will miss this year.
There’s a real shot Longoria gets to the Hall of Miller and Eric one day. Among third basemen, he was ranked 30th all-time on my list coming into this season, and he’s probably passed a couple with his return to defensive form thus far in 2017. Also, I admit that Longo isn’t a great comparison, though he did begin his career with seasons of 4.8, 7.0, 8.1, and 7.4 WAR. Then in 2012, at the age of 26, he missed significant time with a hamstring injury, and he hasn’t been the same since. Before that season, he averaged 7.9 WAR per 650 trips to the plate. Since, it’s been a much more pedestrian 4.6.
We forget how great Nomar was. Only eighteen players totaled more WAR from seasons two through five than Nomar. They’re all in the Hall or going, except maybe Barry Bonds and Dick Allen, both of whom are clearly over the line for me. Anyway, from 1997 through 2000, Nomar put up seasons of 6.6, 7.1, 6.6, and 7.4 WAR. He was only 26, and he was well on the way to a Hall of Fame career. Then a wrist injury struck. In 2002 and 2003, he again put up 6.8 and 6.1 WAR. Then came a groin injury, a trade to the Cubs, a Red Sox World Series win, and essentially the end of Nomar’s career. He went from 6.9 WAR per 650 plate appearances through 2003 to 1.5 per 650 after that.
We know that the Splendid Splinter’s career was disrupted from 1943-1945 due to WWII. He was great before he left, and he was great when he came back. Then in 1950 he shattered his elbow in the All-Star Game. He was elite again in 1951, but in 1952 and 1953 he totaled only 43 games (and 2.3 WAR) because he was off in Korea. By the time he returned, he was 35. Yet, he still played seven more seasons at less than peak health averaging a cool 8.0 WAR per 650 trips to the plate.
Frank Robinson is another example; it wasn’t until age-36 that he had a season with fewer than 129 games played. The only thing that kept Mike Schmidt from playing a full schedule was the 1981 player strike. Mel Ott played in at least 120 games every year from the time he was 19 through the age of 36. Eddie Mathews’ first year with fewer than 134 games played was his last. Aside from missing 1945 due to military service, Stan Musial never played in fewer than 134 games until he was 38. Lou Gehrig, you might have heard, never missed a day. Rickey Henderson presents some hope. He played in only 95 games in 1987 because of a hamstring injury, yet was elite for three more years before dropping off at age-32 and remaining less than 100% healthy for much of the rest of his career.
So what have we learned? I don’t know. Not a lot, maybe. It seems that the elite, inner-circle guys among whom Mike Trout hopes his name is mentioned in 20 years, don’t have injuries like the one Trout is having this season. Yes, it’s a freak injury. No, I don’t expect it to linger into 2018. Still, among the greats, there’s more health than Mike Trout is having right about now. Let’s hope the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb is nothing more than a bump in the road. Those who look for daily WAR updates on BBREF are holding our collective breath.
Miller and I love to get comments! Here’s one that grabbed me from one of our most loyal readers, Ryan, about the series of articles we recently posted about the HoME Standings. Those articles calculated standings solely based on playing time:
Do you have an alternative standings with a weighting of CHEWS+ values of each player for every franchise?
In a word, no. But it prompted me to put together standings based instead on the WAR values I compute. Thanks, Ryan!
Rather than run a three-article odyssey again, I’m going to sum things up in one post. This time around, I’ve based the standings on the percent of a player’s career spent with a given team. If Joe Schmuckface had 50 WAR with the Yanks and 50 WAR with the Sox, then each team gets 0.50 standings points assigned to them.
First off, let’s note that the standings by playing time included managers and executives who were specifically associated with teams in the roles we elected them for. And to answer another reader question, this time from JD, we elected Spalding as an executive. We didn’t feel that his case as an exec required the support of his playing career, unlike combo candidates Roger Bresnahan, Clark Griffith, and Frank Chance. In the same way, we didn’t include John McGraw and Connie Mack’s executive and/or player careers because they weren’t necessary for their election.
OK, on with the show.
The Grays Area
When we looked at the standings by playing time, several current MLB teams fell into what I coined “The Spiders’ Web.” These four clubs have so far failed to give HoMErs as much playing time as the highest-ranking defunct franchise, the Cleveland Spiders. But looking by value, the story is different in the details.
Five teams currently fall into “The Grays Area.” Among all long-dead franchises, The Providence Grays rank 26th among all clubs historically in our value-based standings. They received the contribution of 1.88 HoMErs, among whom were 76% of Old Hoss Radbourn’s value, 63% of Paul Hines’, 29% of Monte Ward’s, 13% of George Wright’s, and 7% of Jim O’Rourke’s.
The Toronto Blue Jays, 26th among current MLB teams are right behind them by 0.03 careers and are certain to pass them in 2019 at the latest. The Arizona Diamondbacks jump up a spot with 0.82 standings points. Only two defunct franchises stand between them and the Jays, the Buffalo Bisons (1.46) and the Detroit Wolverines (1.19). Ironically, these two teams shared a large number of core players. Two more dead teams separate the Colorado Rockies (0.65 careers) from their fellow Mountain Time foes. One is those famous old Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890s, and the other is our old pals the Spiders. The Louisville Colonels and the Cleveland Infants of the Players League stand between the Rox and the Miami Marlins (0.51 careers). And then, a yawning gulf opens, and 24 cold, dead franchises sit above the Tampa Bay Rays who, to date have accumulated 0.1 careers’ worth of HoMErs. Better get cracking, Mantamen!
The Ring of Sixteen
Another target for expansion teams to aim for is “The Ring of Sixteen.” That is, catching up to one of the original franchises of the AL/NL peace accords of the 1910s. For Twins fans holding your breath, keep those cheeks puffed out because you’re about to get owned. The Houston Astros (4.73) trail the Twinkies by less than half of a single career, far less than what the Mets by in the playing-time version of our standings. The presence of Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, and Carlos Beltran could very well get them there. The threats to the Ring of Sixteen loom less dangerously below the Stros. The New York Mets (3.27) probably don’t have enough HoME irons in the current fire to catch up very soon, even if we end up electing David Wright. But they will be well positioned to enter the 16 in the mid-term. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Texas Rangers are tied with 2.97 HoMErs’ worth of value. The Metroplex Marshalls have a lot of little slices of careers out there to add as well as something like a third of Adrian Beltre’s career and half of Ian Kinsler’s plus a not-quite predictable piece of Cole Hamels. There’s a lot of opportunity for them if things break in their favor. The Halos are in something like the same boat but with more uncertainty. Like if Mike Trout leaves someday. Maybe they do need a stinkin’ badge?
Three more teams cluster up behind these three. The Washington Nationals (2.87) will have six years of Bryce Harper and a few years of Max Scherzer but little else to look forward to. I’d say they’re stuck in committee. The Kansas City Royals (2.75) are similar to the Nats. There’s no clear line of succession between Zack Greinke and the next Royals star. The last team in this little group is the San Diego Padres (2.61) whose missionary activities have attracted no HoME followers.
Rounding out the expansion group, the Seattle Mariners (2.32) and Milwaukee Brewers (2.25) have managed to haul themselves out of the gray area. The M’s have a whole bunch of third- or half-careers in the ready plus Ichrio. King Felix, and Kyle Seager bring more support. They could move quickly. And the Brew Crew continue to enjoy their status as a recognized MLB team.
Turning It Up to 10
Once we get into the Ring of 16, teams fall fairly neatly into two categories: those who have at least 10 careers worth of HoMErs, and those that don’t. The latter category comprises seven teams. As we mentioned early, the Minnesota Twins (5.12) lag far, far behind the other originals. The next squad on the horizon is nearly two full careers away, which is a lot considering how few careers were spent in the Twin Cities. Joe Mauer and Johan Santaña could take them a ways toward their next competitor, but they’ll still be short, and there’s little in the short- or mid-term climb, let alone keep the Astros at bay. Which means that the Cincinnati Reds (7.00) aren’t facing losing their spot in the Ring of Sixteen. The Reds aren’t in much better position than the Twins, but, thanks to nearly two decades of spectacular ineptitude, the Pittsburgh Pirates (7.65) won’t be in any position to scuttle the Redlegs’ hopes. Particularly if Andrew McCutchen is permanently broken. The Chicago White Sox (8.21) are in something of the same boat as the Reds and Bucs with relatively little near-term firepower. These three clubs will struggle among themselves for “supremacy” in the standings and won’t be reaching 10 players for a decade or more. Our next three teams, however, are knocking on the proverbial door.
Just three-quarters of a player away, the Baltimore Orioles (9.21) don’t have much to sing about with only guest shots by Jim Thome and Vlad Guerrero coming up. But Manny Machado seems very likely to earn them at least half of that 0.75 WAR they need to migrate northward. Relatively speaking, the St. Louis Cardinals (9.36) got a lot more playing time from their HoMErs than they did value. They rank sixth in our playing-time-base standings and 11th in value-based standings. But 10 careers is pretty much in the bag for the Redbirds. Albert Pujols gets them most of the way, and Scott Rolen and Carlos Beltran could put them over. If things break right, they might end up chirping about more than those guys too, but that’s up to the baseball gods, Adam Wainwright’s elbow, and Yadier Molina’s bat. Finally, the Philadelphia Phillies move up from 13th in playing time to 10th in value. They trail their former city mates, the A’s, by a shade more than 1 career, and they’ve got plenty in the pipeline among Rolen, Halladay, Thome, Hamels, and Chase Utley with Hughie Jennings, Cupid Childs, and Roy Oswalt representing opportunities for pick-ups as well. In the next three to five HoME elections, they’ll earn their tenth career. Speaking of the Oakland Athletics, at 10.56 careers, they’ve broken through a barrier, but they’ve got a lot of work to do to move up in the standings. Nearly two full careers separate them from the 8th place franchise. The White Elephants have some of Tim Hudson, and a bunch of HoME question marks who weren’t with them all that long. Expect a change in the standings here as the A’s cede the #9 slot to the Phils.
Four teams sit within a single HoME career of one another, and have a position from which to launch an assault on the top of the standings. The Cleveland Indians (12.41) have a couple careers’ worth of HoMErs in the near- and mid-term, plus a few younger players who could keep them climbing in the long term. They are running neck-and-neck with the Detroit Tigers (12.42). The Bengals counter with a lot of star power in Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, Max Scherzer, and several borderliners who could make it. I’d say they’ll keep ahead of the Tribe and might even be able to turn these guys into 6th place. That’s because the Boston Red Sox (13.32) and Atlanta Braves (13.37) sit within a single HoME career. For the sox it all depends on how long Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, David Price, and Chris Sale can continue to accumulate HoME credentials. Especially Pedroia, a lifetime Sock so far. Los Bravos have more than two careers’ worth of value coming their way in Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and Tim Hudson. That’ll keep all three teams below them from reaching 5th place. But will it get them into the “Gang of Four?”
The Gang of Four
The top four teams in our standings are separated by less than two HoME careers. The Braves have the Los Angeles Dodgers (14.31) under siege for the moment. But they probably can break it with Clayton Kershaw leading the charge. In the long term Seager, Bellinger, and Urias could propel them toward the top. The Chicago Cubs (14.55) are in trouble and will undoubtedly lose the 3rd spot. They might tumble to fifth and are at some risk of dropping into sixth place. They just don’t have many HoMErs coming along very soon. Most of their talent is too young to project a HoME career. The outlook is much rosier for the Evil Empire. The New York Yankees (15.75) have something like three careers’ worth of value simply awaiting our vote, and there’s more where those three came from. Lots more. They sit only one-half a career behind the top spot and will take it perhaps as soon as Andy Pettitte’s eligibility, if not Mariano’s. They will almost certainly become the first club with 20 HoME careers. That leaves us with the San Francisco Giants (16.25). Look, mostly in this country we all love to hate the Yankees. So does SF have any hope of holding off the Darth Vaders of MLB? Nope. The inevitable is going to happen unless our planet is destroyed first. I guess that’s one instance where I’d root for the Yanks. Heinie Groh and Carlos Beltran are their best near-term opportunities. Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Johnny Cueto have to nail down their claims to greatness first. A sudden and prolonged surge of great pitching from Matt Cain would help. Which isn’t much of a hope to offer. I guess bad money drives out good money. Or at least money that’s not as bad.
Here then are the standings by value. You’ll find that we’ve added this information to our HoME Stats report on the honorees page. Enjoy.
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR ===================================================== 1 San Francisco Giants 1883–2017 16.25 0.15 2 New York Yankees 1903–2017 15.74 0.14 3 Chicago Cubs 1871–2017 14.55 0.10 4 Los Angeles Dodgers 1884–2017 14.31 0.11 5 Atlanta Braves 1871-2017 13.37 0.10 8 Boston Red Sox 1901–2017 13.32 0.12 7 Detroit Tigers 1901–2017 12.42 0.11 8 Cleveland Indians 1901–2017 12.41 0.11 9 Oakland Athletics 1901–2017 10.56 0.10 10 Philadelphia Phillies 1883–2017 9.43 0.07 11 St. Louis Cardinals 1882–2017 9.36 0.07 12 Baltimore Orioles 1901–2017 9.22 0.08 13 Chicago White Sox 1901–2017 8.21 0.07 14 Pittsburgh Pirates 1882–2017 7.65 0.06 15 Cincinnati Reds 1882-2017 7.00 0.05 16 Minnesota Twins 1901–2017 5.12 0.05 17 Houston Astros 1962–2017 4.73 0.10 18 New York Mets 1962–2017 3.27 0.07 19 LA Angels of Anaheim 1961–2017 2.97 0.06 20 Texas Rangers 1961–2017 2.97 0.06 21 Washington Nationals 1969–2017 2.87 0.07 22 Kansas City Royals 1969–2017 2.75 0.07 23 San Diego Padres 1969–2017 2.61 0.06 24 Seattle Mariners 1977–2017 2.32 0.07 25 Milwaukee Brewers 1969–2017 2.25 0.05 26 Toronto Blue Jays 1977-2017 1.85 0.05 27 Arizona Diamondbacks 1998–2017 0.82 0.06 28 Colorado Rockies 1993–2017 0.65 0.04 29 Miami Marlins 1993–2017 0.51 0.03 30 Tampa Bay Rays 1998–2017 0.01 0.00
Not long ago on New York’s WFAN, there was a conversation about the Mount Rushmore of the New York Jets. Now, I know some of you must be laughing, while others are think this is a mindless discussion. I was actually part of both groups. Luckily for me I was in the car for a while that day. I listened to passionate fans who really care about something that I at first thought was silly. The passion isn’t silly. But even if it were, these exercises are fun. They get people thinking.
And I’m a person, a Red Sox fan. So I got to thinking about the Red Sox. Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski are pretty easy. I’m not sure who the fourth guy should be maybe Pedro or Papi, Cy or Dewey. Boggs is fourth in Red Sox WAR. It’s the third guy who bugs me. See, I’m really not a Roger Clemens guy. And you can’t leave Clemens off any legitimate Mount Rushmore of the Red Sox.
Unless you can.
What I started thinking about why I don’t like Clemens, it’s simple. For his last four years in Boston, he really wasn’t the pitcher he had been. Then once he went to Toronto, he was. That’s it! Rushmore should be the best players ever to play for a franchise and only that franchise. That’s the only real way to remove Clemens from Boston’s, and it seems like it would be a lot of fun.
So, next Friday and basically for the 30 that follow, the Hall of Miller and Eric will share the Mount Rushmore for every franchise, awarding only based on the WAR of guys who have only played for that franchise. So you won’t find Ty Cobb on the Tigers’. Willie Mays doesn’t make it for the Giants. And Honus Wagner isn’t a Pirate. We think this could be quite interesting. Hope you enjoy.
This is our national day of remembrance, and we thank all of our veterans whose lives were sacrificed in the protection of our democratic institutions, our liberty, and our safety. The baseball world doesn’t have a remembrance day, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back on some of the 80 ballplayers who died since Memorial Day 2016 (May 30th).
We can’t talk about every ballplayer who died because, frankly, we’d all be asleep. But we’ll list them all out and provide commentary as we are so moved. Please place your own remembrances, comments, and stray thoughts in the comments.
Obviously, we hope that the loved ones these men leave behind are comforted in their time of loss and understand the joy their ballplayer family member or friend brought to many millions of others.
And that’s our baseball memorial roll since last Memorial Day. There’s lots more to say about any or all of these guys. Please add your thoughts in the comments.
We’re finally into the top ten in the HoME Standings. If your favorite team isn’t on the list below, check back on our first two posts You’ll be shocked, SHOCKED, to learn who our top contestant is, but there’s a lot going on underneath them, and if your favorite nine remains, cheer up, most of these clubs have some very interesting prospects for advancement.
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR ================================================= 10 Cleveland Indians 1901–2017 11.11 0.10 9 Oakland Athletics 1901–2017 11.40 0.10 8 Detroit Tigers 1901–2017 13.15 0.12 7 Boston Red Sox 1901–2017 13.37 0.12 6 St. Louis Cardinals 1882–2017 13.92 0.11 5 Atlanta Braves 1876-2017 15.45 0.11 4 Chicago Cubs 1876–2017 17.91 0.13 3 San Francisco Giants 1883–2017 18.50 0.14 2 Los Angeles Dodgers 1884–2017 19.63 0.15 1 New York Yankees 1903–2017 22.16 0.21
The Tribe has done a nice job of developing and collecting HoME talent…and a lousy job of timing many of those acquisitions. But Thome and Sabathia should provide about 1 HoME career between them. As we mentioned last time, Larry Doby could also contribute 80% of a career if we do the Negro Leagues and elect him. Call it 1.9 or so careers. Tack on maybe a third of Tito’s tenure, and there’s a lot in the till. Definitely enough to claim 9th place, maybe enough to reach 8th. It’s probably too late for Michael Brantley to build enough of a case to make the HoME, but Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor are well on their way, and Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar have enough talent that if one of them goes on the Randy Johnson career path, they could be a contender. I wouldn’t be the house on that, though.
Those Swingin’ A’s are about to slide outside the top ten. We talked about the surging Phils the last time out, and the Indians just above, and they will sweep away the Athletics who have very little to come back at them with. About 40% of Hudson, Billy Bean, and tiny bits of some others who might or might not pan out. It could be 1.0 to 1.5 careers. Not enough to catch the next team, not enough to drown out the war drumming of the Indians, maybe just enough to Phight the Phils phor now.
I’m pretty sanguine about the chances of Cabrera, Verlander, Kinsler, and Scherzer together, they’d add about 2.4 careers to the Bengals’ total. That’s certain to push the team at least one or two notches upward, and maybe more. After that, however, Price wasn’t around that long and his future isn’t certain given his current injury. Jordan Zimmerman would need to turn in a great second act, and none of the other active players looks like they will step up.
Boston Red Sox
The Sox have been great in the Twenty-First Century, though often featuring a roster full of talented players. Among the players above, what they seem likely to end up with is about 10% of Beltre’s career, at least 80% of Pedroia’s career, at least 20% of Sale’s career, if he doesn’t break down, about 60% of Lester’s tenure, half of Theo, and a third of Tito 2.5 careers. That’s a lot! If Miller and I get sentimental, then maybe David Ortiz has a shot. At this point he’s more appropriate for the Hall of Fame rather than the Hall of Miller and Eric. Like Detroit, if things bounce right for them, the Sox could barge into the top five. In the longer term, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and, perhaps, Andrew Benintendi can give them additional fuel to continue rising in the standings.
St. Louis Cardinals
If everything goes the Cards’ way, they could make a big jump. That would mean we elected Rolen, Slaughter, Pujols, Beltran, Molina, and Wainwright, putting about 3.75 Cards careers into the HoME. Or we might only end up with Rolen, Pujols, and Beltran, which would be about 1.2 careers. When you look at how these standings are bunched, that’s a very large difference. Perhaps enough to swing 6th place to someone else.
Jones, Jones, and Hudson would give the Bravos another 2.3 careers. And they need every one because it’ll be a long time before anyone else is electable. Those are the last of the 1990s Braves and most of the last of the 2000s Braves that made the playoffs for nearly a decade. Jason Heyward? Maybe Freddie Freeman? Could Julio Tehran take a step up and stay there a long while? It won’t be enough to catch the Cubbies, it should be enough to hold off the Cards’s best case scenario.
What makes the Cubs’ a threat to go dynasty on the league is also what makes their near term HoME outlook a little bleak. The earliest they might elect a player that we haven’t already passed over is maybe eight to ten years from now. That’s when Ben Zobrist comes due. He might yet assemble a strong enough case, or he might just fall short. Jon Lester will arrive several years after that, and the team should get a nice chunk of his career. If Jason Heyward learns to hit again, his turn would be another for or more years thereafter. But he’s a big question mark. After that, you’re waiting for Theo or Maddon to retire, though Maddon will have a tougher climb if he doesn’t win another title. At that point it’s probably also Rizzo’s time. He’s been awfully good and very durable, and if we’ve seen his best, he’ll have to go the Eddie Murray route and be very good for very long. Then it’ll be Kris Bryant’s turn. He’s played a total of 344 games, so I’m not excited to start calling him a HoMEr yet. His BBREF comps have some danger signs: Danny Tartabull, Ralph Kiner, Carlos Gonzalez, Rocky Colavito, Fernando Tatis, Tom Tresh. Let’s not start casting the bronze quite yet. There’s a lot of reason for optimism here, and there’s not much we can safely predict yet.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants led the pack for many electoral years until our number one club wrested the top spot away about two-thirds through the journey. At this point, a chunk of Heinie Groh, a sliver of Beltran, probably most of Posey, and that’s the more bankable stuff. MadBum and Cueto are very much building their legend, and in the backlog, no one else is screaming elect-me to us at this time. So the Giants will need to turn to off-the-field honorees. Bochy is a slam-dunk and worth about two-thirds of a career. Sabean’s probably also a slam dunk, and he appears to be a lifer at PacBell/AT&T/whatever it’s called now. Dusty Baker ought to win the big one before any gets excited over his prospects. Sans the management team the Giants over the long term are likely to lose some ground to the pack whether or not they are passed. Their leadership is their saving grace.
Los Angeles Dodgers
We can’t realistically predict how long a player will stay with his team. Even if he signs a big, long contract, trades, buy-outs, and opt-outs happen. So I can really only give about 60% of Clayton Kershaw to the Dodgers. Adrian Beltre is worth about 40% of a career to the team. Grienke about a quarter of a career. Chase Utley about 15%. If Russell Martin should rebound enough to just ease over the line, then there’s probably another 40%. Among retirees, Andruw Jones is three points, Jim Thome’s worth 0% (just 17 PAs). En toto that’s about 1.8 careers, if things work out well. The Dodgers need 2.5 careers just to reach where the Yanks are right now. It’s absolutely possible to squint and see Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger and Julio Urias all coming through. But I don’t trust my squinty eyes that much.
New York Yankees
No doubt that no one is shocked to see Emperor Palpatine’s favorite team leading the pack. They will get 3.33 to 3.5 careers just out of the retirees. Establishing a long dynasty and staying competitive does that. Cano, Beltran, Sabathia, Ichiro together will add another 1.25 to 1.5 careers. So the New York Vaders are tacking on 5 HoMErs in short order. Toss Cashman and Girardi on the heap, and that’s for reals like 7 careers’ worth of Yankees. Hate or hate ‘em, they get the job done.
So that’s the state of play for now. Of course, this is all speculation and prediction. No one knows whether Clayton Kershaw will suddenly demand a trade to the Rays, or whether Derek Jeter will buy the Marlins and put himself at shortstop, or whether Jason Hayward will rediscover his stroke or discover he’s had a stroke. It’s all up in the air. These are just some best guesses at what the future holds. And as a certain philosopher once said: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
On Monday, we began our look at the HoME team cap standings with defunct franchises as well as the bottom third of the current league. Some of those expansion squads and the ones we’ll talk about in a moment actually have a chance to climb into the Ring of Sixteen. None has yet, but the day may be coming soon, ya know. Once again, we’ll look at each team’s future HoME outlook by examining their current HoMErs, retired players with a 95 or higher CHEWS+, and active players with a good shot (CHEWS+ through the 2016 season).
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR =================================================== 20 Kansas City Royals 1969–2017 3.18 0.08 19 LA Angels of Anaheim 1961–2017 3.92 0.08 18 Houston Astros 1962–2017 4.85 0.10 17 New York Mets 1962–2017 4.94 0.10 16 Minnesota Twins 1901–2017 6.07 0.06 15 Cincinnati Reds 1882-2017 9.20 0.07 14 Pittsburgh Pirates 1882–2017 9.83 0.08 13 Philadelphia Phillies 1883–2017 10.02 0.08 12 Baltimore Orioles 1901–2017 10.05 0.09 11 Chicago White Sox 1901–2017 10.50 0.10
Kansas City Royals
Isn’t it kinda weird that George Brett is the only KC position player to make the HoME? While Beltran (35% of a career) and Grienke (40%) will give the R’s a nice boost, no one else is an odds-on favorite quite yet. Zobrist is inching closer, but in his mid-30s, his game could collapse at any moment. Alex Gordon’s run at immortality has stalled thanks to injuries. Cueto is still very much making his case, but he spent only about two months in Royal blue. Jose Bautista spent less time than even that. So looks the team will at best tread HoME water for some time to come, and at worst will be forced to dip their crowns as other clubs pass them by. Unless, that is, Sal Perez takes a step forward as a hitter in his late 20s and deep into his 30s.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
It’s not a bad outlook for the Angels. They’ve got enough to stay ahead of the Royals and might have enough cushion to keep up with the hard-charging teams behind that. On the other hand, in the longer term, the team has little in the minor league system and may be due for a rebuild, so you Halo Hombres might be facing a long drought after Mike Trout. Who by the way, you might notice already has a compelling case for the HoME based on his performance through 2016. He’s on a 10-WAR pace again this year.
If we elect Oswalt, then the Astros have enough on hand to rocket past the lowest member in the Ring of Sixteen (about 1.2 careers). Even if not, they have a wide launch window. Unlike the Angels and Royals, the Stros have youngsters with the right stuff to take off into stardom. Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, and maybe even George Springer have HoME liftoff potential. Put this team in the watch bucket. And they are awfully close to passing…
New York Mets
The Mets could flex some serious HoME muscle. Santaña certainly has my eye, Beltran’s basically a given, and Wright is right on my borderline even if he never plays again. Add them up, and they’d be worth a minimum of a player and a half, maybe almost two. That’s enough to bust into the ring of sixteen. There’s also considerable young talent on the current roster. Michael Conforto is the only young hitter with potential for special things (if the team would quite jerking him around), but we already know that several of their pitchers have Hall kind of talent. But can they convert to a HoME career? Noah Syndergaard, of course. Who knows whether Matt Harvey can recapture his form, but if so, he’s got a shot. Jacob DeGrom has been great when he’s been healthy. I won’t tell you that all or most of these guys will end up near the HoME, but one might. That is if Mr. Met will leave Thor alone….
The Ring of Sixteen: The next big step for our expansion clubs is to slide into the sixteenth spot. Our next entrant has the lowest total of HoME careers among any of the teams thought of as the original AL/NL teams of the early two-league era. Consider these franchises have 60 to 100 years on their younger competitors, it’s impressive that any latter-day teams could make a run at entering the Ring of Sixteen, and it’s, in a darker way, impressive that one of the sixteen has been this unbelievably bad at collecting and locking down great players.
Yah know, that’s a heck of a pickle they got themselves into. They’ve got it worse than any other olde tyme team. How come our team is goinabe the first one of the original-16 that’s bein’ passed by some lousy expansion team? That Miguel Sano, though, he’s pretty darned important. He could be a true star and can make a HoME-run! That’ll help our Twinkies keep those Mets and Astros at bay. Well, it’s not like Brian Dozier’s going to keep it up forever after comin’ out of nowhere. And when Byron Buxton is hittin’, he looks like a walleye put into saltwater. And we haven’t had a half-decent pitcher come along since they got Radke and Santana. Well, Idaknow. things’ll get better, donchaknow.
At least the Redlegs won’t get rolled by a team half their age like the Twins. However, they are one of only two other squads in the Ring of Sixteen with fewer than 10 total HoME careers. Obviously, that’s not good. The Reds, like the Twins, have often seemed downright provincial in their operations, perhaps contributing to their general lack of HoME-level players. There’s an additional consideration here that works in their favor. Should we get play-by-play data in for Edd Roush that improves his standing, he could become a more serious candidate. The same could be true for Joe Kelley, but we know that’s not coming for eons. Aside from that, Heinie Groh is the most likely old-timer on the list to make it. The current Reds offer little in terms of future stardom, have a couple back doors to make progress, and, overall, should get into the 10+ club relatively soon. Unlike, say, the Twins.
Unless Andrew McCutchen rebounds, the Bucs stop here. Among retired players, only Groh has a real shot. Among the actives, we’ve already mentioned that Martin is in a doldrums in his mid-thirties, and we all know that McCutchen’s gone from MVP to swabbie. Gerrit Cole might help in the long term. Gregory Polanco doesn’t look like much of a hitter, and Sterling Marte just failed a pee test. As soon as Joey Votto is eligible for the HoME, the Reds will fly the flag of 14th placed. But, me hardees, that’s what happens when ye have two decades a losin’. Squawk! Two-decades a-losing’, two decades a losin’. Squawk!
Sure seems like the Phils are going places over the next few HoME elections. Halladay, Thome, and Rolen will buy about 1.0 career. Chase Utley’s near the end of the string and a strong candidate. He’d add another 85% of a career. If Cole Hamels’ injury this year doesn’t wreck his career, he’s got a real nice shot at a plaque, fetching about two-thirds of a career. Tito is very, very close to being a slam dunk and worth about another third. Plus Childs, Jennings, and Oswalt represent small potential pickups as well, though none except maybe Oswalt, is nearly as sure as those mentioned above. At the MLB level now, the Phils have very little to offer as their best youngsters haven’t yet emerged from the minors. They are neck-and-neck with the O’s and not far behind the #12 and #11 teams either. In other words, things could get real interesting in the middle of the standings. Adding two-and-a-half careers would get the Phils inside the top and maybe even as high as #8.
Another team where a long losing skid cost them a shot at a higher ranking. Thome’s tenure wasn’t long enough to make a difference, Dean’s was one game. Guerrero’s one season. Really, it’s Machado who can make the most difference. Whether Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman can be healthy or productive enough to join Manny, only time can tell. Either way, however, this team looks like its wings have been clipped, and it will a minimum of two ranks in the standings over the next couple decades.
Chicago White Sox
Most of Mark Buehrle and maybe a quarter of Chris Sale can’t hurt. It’s a little early to count on Quintana yet, but he’s well worth watching. The Chisox do, however, have a means to pick up some help. Doby and Minnie Miñoso (93 CHEWS+) are both near the borderline at their positions, and both will benefit if we choose to elect Negro Leagues players. Doby only a smidgen, but for Minnie, it’s likely three-quarters or more of a career. That won’t buy the team a boost in the standings, but it could keep a team or two at bay.
That’s a wrap for the second tier of our HoME standings. Next time, we check out the top-ten teams. There’s a lot of jockeying there for position beneath the undisputed holder of first place.
It’s been more than a year since we’ve updated you on how your favorite team has fared in the HoME standings. David Neft’s election catches us all the way up to the Hall in each of the three categories we’ve voted for: players, managers, and pioneer/executives.
In a moment, we’ll show you the agate type to find out which teams are the most HoMErific. First quick notes on what the table shows you.
To begin with, and to pay them their due while getting them out of the way, here are the results for all defunct franchises who played for five or more seasons:
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR ================================================== Cleveland Spiders 1887–1899 1.60 0.12 Providence Grays 1878–1885 1.51 0.19 Boston Red Stockings 1871–1875 1.44 0.29 Buffalo Bisons 1878–1885 1.32 0.19 Detroit Wolverines 1881–1888 1.06 0.13 Louisville Colonels 1882–1899 1.01 0.06 Baltimore Orioles 1882–1899 0.99 0.05 Cincinnati Reds 1876–1880 0.34 0.07 Cleveland Blues 1879–1884 0.27 0.05 New York Metropolitans 1883–1887 0.21 0.04 Washington Senators 1891–1899 0.12 0.01 Philadelphia Athletics 1871–1875 0.10 0.02
More on the Spiders, Grays, Red Stockings, and Bisons later. Speaking of the latter, I’m not sure if it’s Bisons or Bison, but we ain’t speaking no Queens English neither. Not surprisingly most of these are well known among Nineteenth Century squads for one reason or another.
The period of stability ushered in by the contraction of the NL and the rise of the AL gives the rest of the standings more comprehensibility. We’ll knock out the thirty franchises in descending tiers of ten. I’ll give a quick write up for each team, listing their current HoMErs with the percentage of career spent with the team; all retired, unenshrined players with at least 95 CHEWS+; and active players who we might reasonably project as strong candidates (with CHEWS+ figures through the end of 2016).
Today, we’ll cover the bottom ten, and we’ll follow on with two more articles this week to cap things off.
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR ================================================ 30 Tampa Bay Rays 1998–2017 0.08 0.01 29 Miami Marlins 1993–2017 0.45 0.03 28 Colorado Rockies 1993–2017 0.62 0.03 27 Arizona Diamondbacks 1998–2017 0.63 0.05 26 Seattle Mariners 1977–2017 2.48 0.07 25 Toronto Blue Jays 1977-2017 2.55 0.07 24 Milwaukee Brewers 1969–2017 2.62 0.06 23 Texas Rangers 1961–2017 2.94 0.06 22 Washington Nationals 1969–2017 3.03 0.07 21 San Diego Padres 1969–2017 3.13 0.07
As you surely would have guessed, the four most recent expansion franchises finish in the ultimate, penultimate, antepenultimate, and anteantepenultimate slots. And the rest of the 20s are occupied by the three previous rounds of expansion.
Tampa Bay Rays
Chuck Lamar, eat your heart out. Sixteen defunct franchises stand between the Rays and the Marlins, most of which clubs only existed a year or two. Longo’s a good bet to deliver at least 80% of a career, Zobrist could give them another 60%, and Price 40% more. Maddon could give them another 50% depending how long he stays in the dugout and how many more titles he wins. So at a max, we’re looking at 2.3 more HoMErs within the next 20 years, but after Longo, there’s a lot of ifs. Still, even Longo’s contribution will at least get the team in the vicinity of the famous old NL Baltimore Orioles. Overall, Mantamen fans, it’s going to be a long wait.
The Fish aren’t swimming in would-be honorees, but a few members of their school have a decent near-term shot to make a HoME splash. Cabrera is a lock, and he’s a third of a career. Ichiro is similarly locked in and would deliver at least 17% of a career. Buehrle is a borderline candidate and would give them 6% of a career should we find him worthy. So the team’s sitting on about 60% a career, give or take. At the big-league level, if Giancarlo Stanton stays healthy and productive, he should provide at least 50% of a career. After that, however, the cupboard is being restocked, but who knows who will be doing the shopping. Christian Yelich or Marcel Ozuna could go nuts for a few years and help out. This is a place where the team misses Jose Fernandez. En toto, the Marlins could see be passed by their Sunshine State rivals somewhat soon and have relatively little opportunity to climb the ladder where they swim now.
If we elect Todd Helton, which wouldn’t shock us, an entire career goes into the Rox column, which would push them beyond the Spiders’ Web (more on that in a moment). The Rockies, however, face a structural challenge like no other team. Despite the presence of 2% of Roy Oswalt’s career (and he’s no certainty for election), the Purple Mountain Majestics have to rely on hitters for virtually all of their representation in the HoME because it’s not like we’ll be seeing a long-tenured Rockies pitcher getting in soon…perhaps ever. Longer term, however, counting on Tulo to stay both healthy and productive is, uh, not a good bet. Let’s say he’s a 40% chance from this point forward to end up with a HoME career, which I think is pretty generous. He’s likely to have spent about 65% of his career as a Rocky. Multiply those odds by that career percentage, and you’ve got about another quarter of a player. Arenado (born on my birthday!) is something of an unsung hero, and I love his chances, but there’s a long way to go.
The Snakes are in rougher shape than the three teams behind them. Despite at least three-quarters of a HoME career among Grienke, Scherzer, and Goldschmidt, there’s nothing else brewing. It’s enough to stave off the Fish, at least. You know maybe if Taijuan Walker and Archie Bradley develop quickly, the team could add to this list. And maybe if Densby Swanson…oh, never mind.
The Spiders’ Web!!! Now those four recent expansion teams are miles behind all other active franchises. In fact, they each fall under within The Spiders’ Web. That is, the total for the Cleveland Spiders, who have the highest number of HoMErs among all defunct franchises (1.60). The Rockies have a way out of that one, the other teams, well, it might take them some time…and some don’t have a clear path out yet.
As we move into the mid-20s in our rankings, with the Spiders’ Web behind them, how much can teams expect to move upward in the standings? And how quickly? At this position among the teams, there’s not much hope of catching the leaders, let alone leaping into the top-ten. But no expansion team has gotten past the Ring of 16 (which we’ll talk about in our next post), the teams of the original AL/NL setup. Do they have a path to make that leap and maybe draw a bead on the bottom of the top tier?
The Mariners are within a half a career of four other teams. Among their retirees, only A-Rod (29%) has an undeniable shot at our Hall. But Beltre (about 30%) and Ichiro (about 70%) will soon follow, so that the Boatsmen might have more than 1.3 careers to tack on by 2025. That would get them to about 4.0 full careers’ worth of HoME players, a figure that would currently place #19. But the winds are in their favor over the longer haul too. Cano will bring at least a quarter of a career if not a half, Felix (minimum 70% if he sails away soon), and maybe half of Seager will help them ride the crest of the tide. That’s another possible career and a half. The Seattleites, then could push upwards of 5.0 to 5.5 careers. Still outside the Ring of Sixteen but ready to fire the proverbial shot across the bow.
Toronto Blue Jays
Halladay (75% a Jay) and Rolen (10%) should be HoMErs quickly. Buehrle has a shot. But all of the active players have a question mark or two. Martin appears to be losing his bat and might not make it across the finish line. Tulo’s body (as mentioned above) is reliably unreliable, and he still has a lot of HoMEwork to do entering his 30s. Josh Donaldson’s remarkable career path guarantees nothing going forward. Jose Bautista looks cooked. Even David Price has a scary injury this year. The Jays could really cash in and leap forward or they could end up with only Halladay and Rolen likely to contribute. That’s about 1 player’s worth, which isn’t enough to keep the Mariners at bay, but is enough to fly by two of the teams directly ahead.
Sorry, Brewers fans, but your future outlook for the HoME is worse than a flat Milwaukee’s Best from the can. You’ll very soon be the 26th best team as you’re passed by Seattle and Toronto, and you don’t have much ammunition to fire back and catch up. Especially not long term. But we can always drink to the memory of Harvey’s Wallbangers.
The Rangers lassoed the Spiders as the 1990s teams came through the electoral pipeline, and they’ve got some serious opportunities to flash their badges. A-Rod, Andruw, and the Impaler give the Metroplex Marshalls about 40% of a career if they get a plaque. All those active players could add about a career to that. Depending on how things pan out for the teams above them, the team could get into the top 20 within 15 years.
Like their real-life political counterparts in DC, the Nats appear to have a bumpy road HoME ahead of them. Scherzer is an odds-on favorite for a plaque, and he’d chip in 25% of a career. There simply aren’t a ton of good, projectable options after that. It’s very early in Bryce Harper’s career, and he’s had only one great season. Anyway, he’s likely leaving town as soon as Scott Boras can get that $400 million. I don’t know, maybe Jordan Zimmerman or Stephen Strassburg has an amazing run into his late 30s? The M’s, Jays, and Rangers are all hot on their tail, and this squad could also easily find themselves in 25th place, snuggling uncomfortably close to the Brewers. I don’t think it’ll get that bad for them, however, because our next team is losing ground even more rapidly.
San Diego Padres
We don’t need to see any good players. They can go about their boring losing. Move along. Move along…to a battle with the Nats and Brewers for the 26th spot.
So as you can see, some teams are on the move, while several are drifting. Next time out, we’ll look at the last four expansion franchises and then see how things look inside the Ring of Sixteen.
Tune in next time when you’ll hear Eric say, “Yah know, that’s a heck of a pickle they got themselves into.”
For a number of years MLB Network’s Brian Kenny has been on a campaign to kill the Win. And he’s been joined by pretty much everyone who understands the game. I’m guessing Harold Reynolds is a holdout, and I have to guess because I don’t watch too much of the MLB Network these days. Anyway, it might not surprise you to know that I’ve been with Kenny and others from the start. But I’m beginning to have second thoughts. Let me explain.
We can only judge whether a statistic is good or bad in relation to other stats, right? In fact, we can only judge whether anything – a movie, restaurant, or science fair project – is good or bad when we compare it to others of its ilk.
We’re against the win because pitchers can get them when they pitch awfully, and they can fail to earn them when they twirl gems. But we’re talking about something that happens on the individual game level. Why is it that we make a big deal, or any deal at all, about something that happens in individual games?
Nobody is particularly impressed if a pitcher posts a 1.35 ERA or a hitter drives in three runs in a particular game. We understand that those things happen with great frequency, so they’re generally non-issues. We also don’t freak out if a pitcher gives up three bloop hits and a double off the wall. And it’s not the end of the world if a hitter comes up twice in a game with men on second and third only to be robbed by two great defensive plays by outfielders. Luck and random variation both happen.
Yet, we’re somehow fixated on the Win.
I’m here to tell you that Wins have value as a statistic, at least on a career level. And we shouldn’t kill it if it’s no worse than other mainstream statistics. In this pithy analysis, I’m going to look at all-time leaders in some mainstream statistical categories to see what kind of HoME membership is contained therein.
It’s possible that we can look at the Win a little differently than Kenny does. It’s possible that Wins aren’t so bad a stat relative to other mainstream measures we respect or at least stomach.
Each of the top 19 guys on the all-time Wins list is in the Hall of Miller and Eric. It’s not until #20 where we reach 307 game winner, Mickey Welch, that we find a hurler not in the HoME. Then things get a little dicey. Bobby Mathews clocks in at #25, Tommy John is #26, and Tony Mullane is tied for #29. Jim Kaat is #31, Burleigh Grimes is tied for #33, Jamie Moyer is #35, Eppa Rixey is #37, and Jim McCormick is #39. Then there’s Gus Weyhing at #40, Jack Morris tied for #43, Al Spalding at #46, and Jack Quinn at #49.
Whoa! Maybe I’m making a mistake. By my count, that’s 13 of the top 50 on the all-time wins chart who aren’t in the HoME. But let’s see how this list compares to others before we, like many, just dismiss the Win.
Mickey Lolich is #18 on the list. Then there’s Frank Tanana at #21, Jerry Koosman at #29, Javier Vazquez at #30, A.J. Burnett at #31, as well as Jack Morris, Mark Langston, Jim Kaat, Sam McDowell, Andy Pettitte, and Jamie Moyer at #34-39. Bartolo Colon is #44, Charlie Hough is #45, and Dwight Gooden is #50. Let’s not count Pettitte since he has a shot at HoME induction.
So we’re looking at 13 out of 50. Exactly the same as our Wins guys. Maybe we should kill the Strikeout?
I’m just including this category to be a pain in the ass. Trevor Hoffman, the #2 guy on the list, isn’t in the HoME. Neither are 46 others. The only guys who are in or going are Marino Rivera at #1, Dennis Eckersley at #7, and Rich Gossage at #23. That means 47 of the top 50 are out of the HoME. But we all know Saves are a terrible statistic already, much worse than the Win. Maybe we should try the Goose Egg?
And we’d have to agree if we could keep just one statistic, it would be the Win rather than the Save.
Much of this all-time list is outside the HoME, including #4, Lefty O’Doul. In fact, 21 of the top-50 Batting Average leaders are outside the HoME. However, we really should look at a more recent sample of players to learn if this is a bad statistic. Batting averages were different over 120 years ago, so I’m just going to look at the World Series era.
O’Doul is now #3 on the list. And we’re down to just 13 of 50. Of course, it’s not like 13 is so far 13 on the Wins list. I’m no math expert, but I think 13 is exactly the same.
We see the same problem on the all-time Home Runs list that we see on others. Relatively early on the list there’s a guy who’s not in the HoME. In this case it’s #12, Harmon Killebrew. David Ortiz at #21, sadly, isn’t going either. Same with Fred McGriff at #28, Willie Stargell at #30, Carlos Delgado at #32, Adam Dunn at #35, Jose Canseco at #36, Dave Kingman at #42, Jason Giambi at #43, Paul Konerko at #44, and Juan Gonzalez at #47. Additionally, I think it could be some time before #39, Vladimir Guerrero, gets in. That all depends on what Hall voters do, particularly those on the Era Committees.
All told we have 11 or 12 of 50 not in the HoME. Again, that’s not far from the 13 on the Wins list.
It’s not as vociferous a crowd who wants to dump the RBI, but we have to admit that opportunity is the driving force behind driving in runs. And the all-time list suggests to me that teams do a decent job of finding the right guys to give those RBI opportunities. It’s not until #21 where we find David Ortiz, deeper than any list thus far. Tony Perez is #28, Harold Baines is #30, Harmon Killebrew is #36, Fred McGriff is #42, Willie Stargell is #45, and Carlos Delgado is #50. That’s only seven guys in the top 50 who aren’t in the HoME. And the truth is that a few of them would be in if they did anything other than hit well. Hooray for Runs Batted In!
Johnny Damon clocks in at #25, and he’s never going to be a HoMEr. Lou Brock is #36. And that’s it! The other 48 guys on the list are all in the Hall of Miller and Eric. Forget ribbies, hooray for Runs!
Lou Brock is #23 on this list, Omar Vizquel is #36, Harold Baines is #39, Johnny Damon is #48, and Vada Pinson is #50. So compared to Hits and Runs, at least by this measure, Wins is a pretty bad statistical measure.
Dave Orr is #14, Charlie Keller is tied at #31, Gavvy Cravath is tied at #33, and Charley Jones is tied at #35. Elmer Flick, Benny Kauff, and Ralph Kiner are tied at +37. Sam Thompson is tied at #42, and of the eight guys tied at #49, only one is a HoMEr. Active players on the list include Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Paul Goldschmidt. Most of those guys are fine, but Goldschmidt still has work to do. And Votto is older than some think at 33. Should he fall off the map in the next year or two, he likely won’t make it. That’s a minimum of nine guys. It’s ten if you count two of the tie for #49, and it’s 11 if you count one of Votto and Goldschmidt. I certainly believed OPS+ would be considerably more telling than Wins, but at 11 compared to 13, it isn’t.
This list is littered with olde tyme dudes and relief pitchers. There are two dozen who aren’t in and aren’t going.
If we’re looking as WAR by position players, every single guy is either in the HoME or going. Except maybe Chase Utley. I have him #22, a place where we might or might not support him. I believe Eric likes him more than I do, so he’s going to go.
Well, we have Jim McCormick at #27, Mickey Welch at #44, Tommy John and Dazzy Vance tied at #47, and Bobby Mathews at #49. That’s five guys, more than as on the Runs list and as many as on the Hits list.
Clearly a shortcoming of this study is that the HoME is a WAR-based institution. We start with a bias toward WAR as a strong statistic. On the other hand, it’s not like the list of pitcher WAR is even as good as the list of Hits or Runs.
My conclusion is this – the Win shouldn’t die. At least not as long as we still use other mediocre measures to help us interpret performance. Omnibus stats like WAR are great, but even WAR needs context. Should we timeline? Should we adjust for shorter schedules? How should we weigh peak and prime versus career?
There’s no easy answer, and that’s why just ignoring a statistic, any statistic, probably isn’t the best idea. Long live the Win! Maybe.