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.”
As previously promised, today we roll out the goods on longtime Tigers GM Jim Campbell. Campbell’s tenure ran more than 20 years, during which time he won a World Series and set the team up for another. Mark Armour and Dan Levitt named him their 22nd best team builder of all time. In the modern sense of it. Well, maybe. The figures we’ve arrived at from his transaction logs tell a somewhat different story, especially when we couple it with a piece or two of key information.
Let’s do the numbers.
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Campbell’s teams performed reasonably well. Just a little worse than Joe Brown’s Pirates in a GM career of comparable length. On the other hand, among our good GMs (the ones above the gray line), his winning percentage is the third worst. Branch Rickey’s is only one point better, but then Branch Rickey has nearly double the number of team decisions under his belt. Looking beyond the W-L record, and comparing again to Brown, Campbell was a little worse in wins against expectation, but did much better in wins against Pythagenpat. The latter suggests that hiring Billy Martin, Ralph Houk, Mayo Smith, and, of course, Sparky Anderson was a lot better than giving the helm to mostly Danny Murtaugh. On the other hand Brown’s teams got into the playoffs more, got to one more World Series, and won one more title. Campbell’s record is not superb at the team level. It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not great.
Now let’s look at how the GMs themselves did at constructing competitive clubs. BASE: Talent in WAR that a GM inherited
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Campbell did a pretty good job of keeping the Tigers in contention with frequency. He’s middle of the pack so far in that regard. He’s also middle of the pack for creating World Series level teams. Again there’s nothing here that’s screaming out PICK ME!
OK, let’s see what these guys actually did to build their teams.
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As we look at the number of transactions Campbell made, let’s group him with an appropriate cohort: those who spent all or most of their career in the amateur draft era but not to deep into the free agent era. And we’ll see how many transactions they made per annum.
As you can see, Campbell was very careful. Al Campanis didn’t need to make lots of transactions. He had a huge farm surplus to work with and a core of talent that lasted for nearly ever. He didn’t need to get free agents, go waiver trawling, or make splashy trades because his farm system kept burping up quality players. Similar things could be said about Bob Howsam. How much tinkering do you need to do to Bench, Rose, Perez, Morgan, Concepcion, Foster, and company? Also, Bob Howsam hated free agency with a passion, an owner’s kind of executive. On the other end, MacPhail oversaw two rebuilds and needed to make more transactions to improve his talent base, while Harry Dalton moved his pieces around the chessboard pretty frequently in the scramble for contention. Campbell, on the other hand, had no such conditions. When he took the job in Detroit, most of the key pieces to the 1968 pennant winner were already in place: Kaline, Cash, Freehan, McAuliffe, Lolich, Horton. Many of those guys had come aboard while Campbell had been Farm Director (1956 to 1961) or Farm and Scouting Director (1961-1962), so he had a big hand in acquiring them, of course. His two important additions as GM were pitchers Denny McClain and Earl Wilson. He added no other crucial pieces to that team. That same team, for the most part, won the East in 1972 with contributions from Campbell adds Joe Coleman and Aurelio Rodriguez. All told, however, Campbell’s acquisitions from the time he gained the GM’s seat didn’t do most of the heavy lifting for his only two October teams. After 1972, the Tigers retracted their claws and didn’t play much meaningful baseball until the early 1980s. The question at hand is exactly how much Jim Campbell had to do with the next wave of Tiger greats.
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Overall, Jim Campbell did a pretty good job of acquiring talented players. The amount of Inbound value is pretty good, especially for a GM of his era. He’s also number one on the board among good GMs in terms of the least value given away. This is a fine combination, obviously. There is, however, just a little more to it.
There’s nothing in the Outbound transactions that should make you start. Campbell did a really nice job limiting the downside risk of letting players go. He didn’t make many moves, and those he did on the Outbound side didn’t haunt him too badly. He rarely let go of a top-quality player. He also came out ahead on trades, which is good, and which we’ll look at a little more in just a minute, though he made few of them. On the Inbound side, however, there are some strange goings on. He got nearly two-thirds of the value he acquired in the draft. Yet, he got next to nothing out of the Amateur Free Agent market. He never signed free agents, never got much out of the Rule 5 draft. Even in trades, he got and gave up relatively little. Denny McClain accounts for the relatively good showing in the waiver market (though Johnny Sain might also have something to do with the success of that particular move). So what do we make of this? Without more information, we’d say that Campbell’s philosophy was to build from within via amateur talent and make a few stabilizing trades as needed. A classic scouting/development approach, right?
Except the facts don’t really match up.
If Campbell was so into the amateur market why does he show up as the very worst among the GMs we’ve so far analyzed at signing amateur talent? How bad were they at this facet of the game? The best amateur free agent they signed was Ron LeFlore, who Billy Martin, himself, recommended after watching the fleet-footed outfielder play in a prison game. Yes, LeFlore was incarcerated, got out, signed, and put up 14 WAR for the Bengals. No other Tigers signed as amateur free agents exceeded 1 WAR for the team. What about Latin America? Good question. The first and only person from south of the Rio Grande that the Tigers signed on Campbell’s watch who contributed to the big-league team was Cuban defector Barbaro Garbey in 1980. To make the picture more bleak in this regard, Campbell did sign Dick Drago (21 career WAR) in 1964. But he never brought him up to Detroit and lost him in the 1969 expansion draft. If a team was being built by developing home-grown talent, how can they miss on that guy?
Here’s another odd piece of information. Prior to 1975, no player the Tigers selected in the January or June amateur drafts gave the team more than 5 WAR. The first amateur draft picks to return much value were Tom Brookens (12 WAR) and Dave Rozema (15 WAR), both chosen in the 1975 January draft. The entire reason the Tigers fell out of contention in the mid-late 1970s was the inability of Jim Campbell’s scouting department to find foreign or domestic talent of any quality.
But what suddenly turned their scouting around so that they drafted 329 WAR in just the four years 1975-1978? The answer there is Bill Lajoie. For years and years, Eddie Katalinas had functioned as the team’s scouting director. Katalinas had scouted and signed Al Kaline in the 1950s, and when Campbell was promoted to GM, Katalinas took over as the head of scouting. Faced with awful drafts for nearly a decade, Campbell tapped Bill Lajoie to head up scouting and pushed Katalinas first into the Farm Director role, and then in a role subordinate to that. With Lajoie at the helm of scouting, the Tigers, picking very high in the draft several years running, took:
And that is how you build a great team very quickly. You hire Bill Lajoie to do your drafting. Actually, it’s not that simple because Lajoie never again drafted a player who made good in Detroit. He did pick Howard Johnson (1979) and Glenn Wilson (1981) after that, but both were dealt before they blossomed. So was Lajoie an inspired hire that brought the team four great years of drafting? Or did the Tigers just strike it rich out of sheer blind-squirrel dumb luck? How much of the credit do we give Campbell for the hire? And for listening to his scouting director? It’s a little hard to say. But that right there was the core of the next great Tigers team that won it all in 1984 and made the ALCS in 1987.
OK, before we go, the trades game. Here are all the trades that Jim Campbell won or lost by 10 WAR
That’s a nice set of wins and losses. Obviously Jim Bunning was a stupid trade, but the Lemon for Kemp deal appears to have been a shrewd swap of a guy with limited but powerful skills for another with a broad range of abilities. And it is something like poetic justice that Don Demeter, a piece in the Bunning deal made it into the Earl Wilson fleecing. Overall, one thing to note is that Campbell rarely made in-season moves. He vastly preferred to make changes during the winter and avoid tinkering during the season.
So there you have it. It’s a very strange resume, and I can’t say that I’m entirely clear on it and on how to interpret it. Usually that doesn’t bode well for a candidate in my eyes. Especially because Campbell appears to have squandered the opportunity to transform his team on the fly by failing to go into the Latin American markets in a timely manner, eschewing free agency, and using too few of the talent-procurement channels available to him. Of course, some of that could have been limitations set on him by ownership, but it might also have been a lack of vision. I guess you had to be there.
It’s time for another look at the agate type in the HoME Times. We last checked in ten elections ago, and since then we’ve seen some interesting movement.
The top six teams haven’t changed or changed their order but there’s nonetheless signs of imminent change among them. The Giants are still running well out in front, but Yankees narrowed the gap from four to three careers while expanding their lead over the Cubs to a full career. The Dodgers meanwhile, have now caught the Bruins and threaten to pass them. With fifteen more elections to come, there’s still time to catch the Gothams, but for teams outside the top ten, it’s pretty much impossible. The Tigers and Braves remained in fifth and sixth places respectively. Can they disrupt the standings or even catch the leaders? Whitaker and Trammell’s eligibility comes up immediately but the Bengals have little to follow up with by our 2015 election. The Braves, on the other hand, may well be poised to make a run with the core of their 1990s and 2000s dynasties en route (especially the Big Three). They may not get there by 2015, but they’ll have Chipper and Andruw Jones arriving in the next several years after.
The Red Sox continued their impressive climb. After the 1991 election, we noted they had risen 5 places in the standings, from 13th to 8th by adding about 2.5 careers’ worth of players. This time, they moved up another notch by tacking on another two players’ worth among Pudge Fisk, Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith, Tom Seaver, and Fergie Jenkins. They are within a single career’s worth of playing time of the Tigers and Braves who are fifth and sixth respectively. In fact, the Sox have spent most of the post-Impossible Dream era competitive, so we can expect them to continue their vault into the upper reaches of the standings. They may not catch the G’nts, but maybe they can at least get close enough to spoil the fun of Yankee fans.
The Phillies had their best decade from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s and have also catapulted upward thanks to Schmidt, Carlton, and Rose. They rose from 12 place to 9th. Can they continue this blistering pace? I’m not optimistic. The 1993 team had few long-time stars besides Curt Schilling, and the Phils weren’t very good until the mid 2000s.
The White Sox also pushed upward two spots to 11th place with the elections of Red Faber, Fisk, Goose Gossage, and Seaver. The Pale Hose don’t seem poised to make much of a run either. Other than Frank Thomas, there’s not a ton of frontline Hall-level talent to depend on. And they trail the Cardinals and Indians who have had extended success in the last twenty years.
A squad to watch out for might be the Orioles. Ripken, Murray, Mussina, Palmeiro, and Alomar all spent time with them and will be good candidates. Then again, the O’s were also a bad team from the late 1990s until about 2012.
Fans of expansions franchises can get ready for better times at the HoME. While the newest four teams may not show much for a few more years, the previous rounds are starting to gather some steam. The Astros (The Killer Bees, Clemens), the Expos/Nationals (Raines, Dawson, Pedro, Walker), the Padres (Gwynn, Winfield, Kevin Brown, Ozzie), Mets (Piazza, Saberhagen, Cone), and the Blue Jays (Winfield, Alomar, Molitor, Stieb, Cone, Clemens) all have strong candidates coming up. The Angels (Winfield, Finley), Brewers (Molitor), Mariners (Edgar, and The Big Unit), Rangers (Palmeiro, Brown), and Royals (Saberhagen, Appier, Cone) also have notables. Watch for lots of movement at the bottom of the pack.
One thing we haven’t run yet is a standings for all 65 teams in history who have fielded at least one HoMEr or are active now in MLB. Well, here it is to the right. One thing to notice right away is that the Cleveland Spiders, our highest ranking defunct team were awfully talented during their short existence. But like all defunct teams, they will eventually fall out of the top 30 as the current MLB teams take their places. Maybe MLB will expand soon and those legacy teams will have something to cheer about from the aether.
Clearly, the Astros and Brewers will soon be knocking the Spiders and the Providence Grays out of the top 20. The Rangers aren’t far behind, and the Royals, Nats, and Padres are all within 1 career of the Spiders and Grays and will pass them soon. Those six will push the defunct teams down to 25th place and lower. The Mariners and Jays have some catching up to do but as we saw above, they should nonetheless have a lot of chances to pass the Forest City Arachnids by 2015. The four most recent expansion teams, however, will have more trouble with the task. None has a career-long member to lean on and will be patching together bits and pieces of careers. The D’Backs will get good chunks of Johnson and Schilling, and the Rox have about half of Larry Walker. Nice foundations, but enough to spring over the olde tyme teams? The Rays and Marlins have it tougher. The Fish have little tiny bits of Brown, Sheffield, Dawson, and yes, a week’s worth of Mike Piazza plus lots of fire sales. The Rays are even worse off with Wade Boggs and…Tanyon Sturtze? It’ll be a long haul for the Florida squads, but baseball rewards the patient.
Keep tuning in for more updates!
If you haven’t, go check out the HOME STATS on our Honorees page. There’s some fun info, as well some pre-sorted lists of HoMErs for easy reference. For those who like to play along at home, it’s a treasure chest.
Previously, we looked at our standards via the NORMS tab, and this week I wanted to look at the TEAMS tab. I used it to create the Franchise Standings to the right.
Each of those columns shows something a little different that offers an intriguing window into how well or poorly franchises have developed talent over the years.
On the HOME STATS document, we don’t count one game as a season. That’s kinda silly. Similarly, no one thinks of Juan Marichal as a Red Sock. But if I told you he spent 1.7 percent of his time in Boston, that’s different. So for each team, we look at each team he played for and find the percentage of his career spent with that franchise. We go by a simple percentage of plate appearances for hitters and batters faced for pitchers. For example, 1951 enshrinee Jimmie Foxx stepped in 9676 times: 5241 with the Athletics (54%), 3937 with the Red Sox (41%), 250 with the Cubs (3%), and 248 with the Phillies (3%). Yes, I see the rounding errors there. For each team, we just add up the percentages of every HoMEr donned its livery to see how many HoME careers it can claim.
Looking only at the sixteen teams that have remained in constant operation since at least the founding of the AL in 1901, here’s the top 5 inclusive of our 1951 election (note that franchises are referred to by their current nickname):
Makes sense, right? The Braves and Cubs are older than dirt, and the Giants and A’s both had multiple dynasties. Meanwhile, our trailer, the Reds, went to three World Series and the most famous player during any of them was Edd Roush.
When you think about it, though, it’s kind of unfair to compare teams like the Braves, who debuted in 1876, to the Tigers who debuted in 1901. So if we divide the number of HoME careers for each team by the number of years between the franchise’s first season and our 1951 election, we can see who’s done the best job of acquiring great players. Here’s the top 5 seen that way:
Connie Mack was one smart cookie. And so was John McGraw. And so, actually was Charlie Comiskey, although dumping Jacque Fournier and replacing him with Chick Gandil turned out to be, um, not so brilliant.
Now, if you still do want to know what team has had the most HoME players appear for it regardless of how long they were there, thisis your column. Recapping the top five:
Who saw the Phils and Cards coming? Me neither.
ONE LOVE, WE DON’T GOT TO SHARE IT
Lets dig a little bit into the players themselves. Since the dawn of the free-agent era, “baseball purists” (read: old-white-guy media members) have bleated and pined for the golden days gone by when the great players played for one and only one team throughout their entire career. Thing is, that era never really existed. So far, the list of one-team HoMErs is pretty short—five:
That’s eight percent of our inductees.
Let’s reduce the threshold a little bit. Here are other HoMErs who were with their teams for 90% or more of their careers:
Oh, and Cap Anson spent 89.3% of his career with the Cubs (or what would become them).
Notice, I didn’t say they “stayed” with their teams. Remember, before 1976, they were obligated to remain due to the reserve clause. Indentured servants while the rest of us could leave a company at will. Kind of weird, that.
KINGS OF THE ROAD
How about the opposite? What players bounced around the most?
Simmons gets my nod as the bouncy aroundest of the bunch. In the 19th Century those other guys had lots more teams to choose from since teams folded (and so did leagues) much more frequently.
FUTILITY, RED LEGS BE THY NAME
What teams had the most short-time HoMErs? Players who spent 5 percent or less of their career playing time at some particular way station en route to retirement?
The Braves top this list, but the Cincinnati Reds come in last with a whimper. The Reds got 16% of Sam Crawford, 13% of Buck Ewing, 10% of Sherry Magee, 6% of Harry Heilmann, 5% of Old Hoss Radbourn, 1% of Dazzy Vance and Amos Rusie, and a cool 0.2% each of Al Simmons and Christy Mathewson. Not even one of these players spent a quarter of their time in Cincy, and even hardcore fans would be pressed to recall some of them spending any time there. In fact, every other team in our standings can claim at least one player who spent more than half his career with them. But not the Reds
But don’t worry, Red Legs partisans, you’ll have your time beginning in the late 1980s when the Big Red machine rolls into HoMEville.
There’s lots more fun stuff to learn from the HOME STATS. We update it with every election, and we’ll continue to add fun features or enhance the ones we have as either they occur to us, or you request them. Which we hope you’ll do!