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Missing Hall of Famers for Each AL Team

A couple of days ago MLB.com’s Will Leitch put together a list of each team’s missing Hall of Famer – as he states it, “every team’s best player who isn’t in the Hall of Fame.” Before reading any of it, I predicted that it would be atrocious, much like the lists we’ve seen over the years at ESPN. To my surprise (and I must admit disappointment it wasn’t that bad. Still, I thought that it was flawed, and I thought we at the HoME could better. So we endeavored to do just that. Today and Monday, we’ll look at all 30 major league teams and the best player from each who’s not in the Hall of Fame.

By Leitch’s rules, we’re looking at team most associated with a particular player. This subjective measure works quite well for me. For example, I most associate Fernando Rodney with the Rays because of his incredible 2012 season there, or perhaps it’s because I saw him in a Baltimore hotel bar after a game that year. Dave Roberts had over 3000 trips to the plate as a major leaguer, just 101 of them for the Red Sox. But his 2004 stolen base in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees makes him a Bostonian forever, at least in my mind.

Other rules of Leitch’s are reasonable, such as no active players and none who haven’t had a ballot appearance yet.

So in Leitch’s order, here are my picks. Think along with me and comment below if you agree or disagree.

Blue Jays

Leitch’s call: Dave Steib

HoME call: Hell yeah it’s Dave Stieb, one of the more underrated pitchers ever. What if a couple of those near misses turned into no-hitters? For those who don’t remember, Stieb pitched an incredible final week of the 1988 season. On September 24, Julio Franco broke up a no-no with two outs in the ninth. Then in Stieb’s final start, Jim Traber did the same. The pain continued in 1989. Stieb was perfect through 8.2 on August 4 against the Yankees. Then a double by Roberto Kelly ended the bid for perfection. A Steve Sax single ended the shutout. One that people likely forget was four starts later against the Brewers. Stieb hadn’t allowed a hit through 6.2. A Robin Yount grounder to third ended things, and Stieb didn’t allow another hit all day. At least it wasn’t soul-crushing like the other three starts over the previous year. A year later, September 2, Stieb no-hit the Indians. One no-hitter. Imagine if he had four or five. Imagine how we’d look at his career differently if it weren’t for four batters.

Orioles

Leitch’s call: Mike Mussina

HoME call: Leitch is right. Mussina started with, pitched two more years for, and pitched 450+ innings more for the O’s than the Yanks. He’s an Oriole, and he belongs in. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. I think it’s going to happen this year. It’s sure going to be close.

Rays

Leitch’s call: Fred McGriff

HoME call: Let’s start with McGriff being impossible. Maybe he’s a Blue Jay, maybe he’s a Brave. Whatever the case, he certainly isn’t a Ray. The right call is that there’s nobody even remotely deserving of this distinction, but naming nobody would be against the rules. For whatever reason, I consider Lou Piniella a Ray. Maybe he’s a Mariner. Maybe he’s a Yankee. He won a World Series as a Red. And he was Rookie of the Year with the Royals. But he’s a Ray to me. It doesn’t matter though. Managers shouldn’t count here. So I’m going with Aubrey Huff. First and foremost, he’s a Ray. Second, he holds their all-time single-season records for hits, total bases, doubles, extra base hits, and intentional walks, all in 2003. He’s also the only eligible Ray on the team’s single-season RBI list. I think he’s the all-time leading eligible Ray in WAR. Julio Lugo? He’s not a Ray, right? I’ll take Huff over Matt Garza.

Red Sox

Leitch’s call: Roger Clemens

HoME call: I don’t know. As a Red Sox fan, I don’t want to claim Roger. But Leitch is right. I can’t make a non-foolish argument for any other player.

Yankees

Leitch’s call: Don Mattingly

HoME call: I like Mike Mussina a lot more, but he can’t be most associated with two teams. Roy White is also in the HoME, and there’s no team with which he’s more closely associated than the Yankees. But I think this is an easy enough call, and it’s not Don Mattingly. It’s a player from a generation earlier who was just about equally beloved, Thurman Munson. While Munson beats him by less than four career WAR, he was clearly a better among catchers than Mattingly was among first basemen. I rank Munson 16th behind the plate, and I feel pretty confident he’s in the top-20. Mattingly, on the other hand, is 49th at first base and almost certainly outside the top-40. Regarding Munson, for those interested in silly trivia-type items, the 1970 Rookie of the Year and 1976 MVP never reached 30 doubles, never topped 20 homers, yet reached 100 RBIs on three occasions.

Indians

Leitch’s call: Kenny Lofton

HoME call: I really thought about Manny Ramirez for a bit. And I landed on him being an Indian despite an extra 116 games for the Red Sox. Leitch is right though. It’s Lofton – criminally underrated and absolutely deserving of a plaque. So what makes Lofton so underrated? I think it’s a few things. First, he played between 20 and 129 games for TEN different teams. In that regard, he could be considered his generation’s Bobby Bonds in a way. I think it’s defense as well, in that his wasn’t appreciated. He was a contemporary of both Ken Griffey and Jim Edmonds, both of whom I bet you can see making spectacular catches. I don’t have such particular memories about Lofton. And finally, there’s the center field thing as a whole. That position has to be more top-heavy than any other, skewing our perception of all center fielders below the group containing Mays, Cobb, Speaker, Mantle, DiMaggio, and Griffey. Lofton, Edmonds, Andruw Jones, Jimmy Wynn, Willie Davis, Paul Hines. HoMErs, all of them. Yet none are in the Hall.

Royals

Leitch’s call: Bret Saberhagen

HoME call: I wanted Leitch to be worse at this. He’s right. Bret Saberhagen was at least somewhat misunderstood when he played. He had the not-totally-incorrect reputation of following great seasons with poor ones. I say that’s not totally incorrect because he did have great seasons By BBREF WAR, he put up 7.2, 8.0, and 9.7 in 1985, 1987, and 1989 respectively. But the seasons following those were anything but poor – 2.0, 3.8, and 3.6. That’s an average of 3.1+ WAR. Saberhagen played for 16 seasons. Had he averaged the same numbers he averaged in those “poor” seasons for an entire 16-year career, he’d have totaled 57.6 career WAR, the same number as Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg and more than Whitey Ford, George Sisler, Luis Aparicio, Bill Dickey…. You get the point.

Tigers

Leitch’s call: Lou Whitaker

HoME call: Yes!! I don’t know when it happened or why, but though I prefer Bobby Grich,  Whitaker has replaced him as the 2B who I most want to get into the Hall. I think it’s the induction of Alan Trammell that makes me so disappointed that Whitaker isn’t in. In 1994’s The Politics of Glory, Bill James “predicted” that Whitaker and Trammell would be inducted together in 2013. I should have happened.

Twins

Leitch’s call: Kent Hrbek

HoME call: The first name that came to mind was Tony Oliva, and he’s preferable to Hrbek. I thought about Joe Judge as well. On the mound, there’s Jim Kaat, Camilo Pascual, and Brad Radke. But I’m going with Johan Santana, and I feel pretty confident this is the right call. He’s clearly a Twin, and he’s the only one mentioned who likely belongs in the Hall. If you’re reading this, you likely saw Santana pitch. And if you saw Santana pitch, you likely saw him dominate. He won three ERA titles, three strikeout titles, three ERA+ titles, and two Cy Young Awards. He pitched within the last decade, yet he’s nearly forgotten in many circles. Why? That’s a real question. Correct me or explain in the comments. It’s not that he won just 139 games. Perhaps that’s why he dropped off the Hall ballot so quickly, but it’s not why he’s forgotten. It’s not that his career fizzled so quickly. We remember guys with really disappointing endings. It’s not that he stunk as a Met as many free agents seem to. He won an ERA title there, made an All-Star team there, and averaged over 5.2 WAR per season as a Met before injuries struck. Is it that he’s not Pedro Martinez or Clayton Kershaw? I don’t buy that. I also don’t buy playing in Minnesota. That didn’t seem to hurt Kirby Puckett any. And he never averaged 7+ WAR over a five-year span. What the heck?

White Sox

Leitch’s call: Eddie Cicotte

HoME call: Though Leitch correctly mentions that Jackson played for the Indians more than he did for the White Sox, it’s clear that we remember Shoeless Joe Jackson from his time on the White Sox, not the Indians. He’s the right call here.

Angels

Leitch’s call: Bobby Grich

HoME call: The Angels actually have a few good choices. I like Jim Fregosi more than most, and if we believe the last couple of decades are underrepresented in the Hall, we should all like Chuck Finley more than history has. Still, Grich is a good call. And in spite of my Tiger comment above, I will forever heart Bobby Grich. By the way, our hero was hit 20 times in 1974 but never more than eight in any other season. Do you think it’s possible that he started leaning into pitches that year and stopped because he figured out it hurt to do so? I know it’s almost certainly just coincidental, yet I’d like to hear what he has to say about it. Could be a fun story.

Astros

Leitch’s call: Jose Cruz

HoME call: I’m simply stunned that Leitch didn’t take Cesar Cedeño. But he’s right to have chosen Cruz, a better player by just a tad. This is a fine time to reiterate that Leitch did more than an acceptable job with his list. Some calls are debatable, a couple are silly, but most are quite good. I remark on that again because it’s not at all what I’d expect from a mainstream guy. Also, I not-so-secretly believe he forgot Cedeño.

A’s

Leitch’s call: Mark McGwire

HoME call: I like Bert Campaneris, Bob Johnson, Wally Schang, and Sal Bando in addition to McGwire. I want to disagree with Leitch, and by a nose I will. I’m taking HoMEr Wally Schang by the slightest bit over HoMErs Johnson, Bando, and McGwire. I rank Johnson 16th in left field, Bando 22nd at third base, and McGwire 26th at first base. However, I rate Schang as 15th behind the plate, though it’s close enough that none of the choices are wrong. So now’s time for a little more on Leitch, or more accurately, about his job. If he wrote about the likes of Wally Schang with any consistency, he’d lose that job. I think about things like that when I read lists like his. Deep in the recesses of what constitutes my brain, I vaguely recall a FOX Sports directive of many years ago that their announcers not talk about dead players. At the time, I found it offensive, insulting, and unnecessarily constraining. Today, I have a bit of a different opinion. MLB.com wants clicks. The average person visiting that site has no clue who Wally Schang is and isn’t very interested in finding out. But they are interested in Mark McGwire. McGwire is easy to digest; Schang takes work. Anyway, though I don’t agree with Leitch’s call here, he’s not wrong.

Mariners

Leitch’s call: Edgar Martinez

HoME call: Obviously. It’s nice that Edgar’s visage will be struck in bronze this year. The most beautiful right-handed swing ever? It has to be close.

Rangers

Leitch’s call: Rafael Palmeiro

HoME call: Let’s start by agreeing with Leitch that Palmeiro is a Ranger. Also, he’s deserving of induction based on his numbers alone. Still, I prefer Buddy Bell. Though Bell played 29 more games and came to the plate 57 from times with the Indians, he was a better player as a Ranger. However, there’s also the matter of Kevin Brown. Brown had his most value as a Dodger, and he had two great seasons as a Marlin. But he pitched 50 more games for the Rangers than for anyone else, and he threw more than 400 innings there than anywhere else. Ugh! It’s such a tough call. But since Brown wasn’t great as a Ranger, I’m going call him a Dodger and place Buddy Bell here.

That’s it for the American League. On Monday we’ll check out the missing Hall of Famers from National League teams.

Miller

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All-Time HoME Leaders, Center Field – 1-20

Do you have a good sense of what’s going to happen with Carlos Beltran when he hits the Hall ballot in a few years? I don’t. The guy never led the league in anything meaningful, he wasn’t very healthy during the second half of his career, and he had one of the more memorable called third strikes in the game’s history. On the other hand, he did make nine All-Star teams, he’s eighth in JAWS at his position (at least until Mike Trout passes him), and his post-season career overall was excellent, as evidenced by a 1.021 OPS. I’m going to err on the side of progress on this one. The voting body as a whole is getting better and better. Yes, that’s in part due to purging of old-school writers and new-school thinkers getting votes. It’s also due to some older BBWAA members making progress, learning how to think differently. So that’s it, the introduction to the first 20 guys in center.

Oh yeah, we both rank Willie Mays behind Ty Cobb [ducks].

Maybe you’ll like the rankings at other positions more. Here they are.

[MAPES+], [CHEWS+], [1B, 1-20], [1B, 21-40], [2B, 1-20], [2B, 21-40], [3B, 1-20], [3B, 21-40], [SS, 1-20], [SS, 21-40], [C, 1-20], [C, 21-40], [LF, 1-20], [LF, 21-40]

Center Field – 1-20

CF, 1-20

Where do we project the active player(s) to finish in our rankings?

Mike Trout

Finally, a really fun one! Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. If you’re too young to have seen Willie Mays, it’s possible he’s the best player you’ve ever seen. Sure, he’s behind a bunch of guys now, but for how long? A season of just 6.0 adjusted WAR gets him past Kenny Lofton, Carlos Beltran, Jim Edmonds, Andruw Jones, and Paul Hines. Since Trout is just 27 this year, let’s hold him at that conservative 8.4 for two years before decreasing it by one win per year until he reaches 10. If that were to happen, he’d also pass Richie Ashburn, Billy Hamilton, Ken Griffey, and Joe DiMaggio. Mantle is next on the list, but I think he’s too far away for Trout. Here’s what he’d need: 9.0, 9.0, 8.0, 8.0, 7.0, 7.0, 6.0, 5.0, 4.0, 3.0, 2.0, and 1.0. At that point, he’d be 38. And absolute greats can be pretty awesome at that age, worth far more than just 1 WAR. Ted Williams and Barry Bonds topped 9.0, and Honus Wagner was worth 8.0. Babe Ruth (and Bob Johnson) topped 6.0. And Eddie Collins, Joe Morgan, Bill Dahlen, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, and Ty Cobb played like All-Stars. I’m not ready to say that Trout is those guys. All I’m saying is that those guys are great even when they’re old. Maybe Trout is that great. Maybe Mantle falls. Maybe.—Miller

We all get it. Mike Trout’s amazing. Yada yada yada. Our new normal: Someone posts some amazing tidbit about Mike Trout, and we just acknowledge it briefly then move along. This guy is doing things unseen in several generations, and he is absolutely crushing the league. How badly? In the seven seasons from 2012–2018 (through May 11th), Trout earned 56.8 BBREF WAR. The next highest total was a tie between Josh Donaldson and Robinson Cano at 38.0, which means that Trout has exceeded the second best total by 49%. Forty-flippin’-nine percent!!! That’s like a person running a two-hour marathon, and the second place finisher clocks in at three hours.

But is this level of complete and total dominance rare? With the help of BBREF’s Play Index, which you subscribe to immediately, I looked up every seven-year stretch in big league history, and, yes, Trout’s 49% lead is the highest. In fact, he leads the next best by 8 percentage points (Barry Bonds leading Cal Ripken by 41% from 1989–1995). In fact only two other players led their second-place finishers by more than 30%: Ross Barnes over George Wright from 1871–1877 (32%) and Bonds leading Rickey Henderson from 1988–1994 by 31%. Once again, Mike Trout is doing things we’ve never seen in our lifetimes, or even across all time.

Digging a little deeper, only 35 different men have led MLB in WAR over a seven-year span. Just 35 in the nearly 150 years we’ve been at this professional baseball thing. Of the 55 who have finished second, 33 appear on the leader list, so en toto, a mere 57 players have managed to appear on these lists, combined. Trout has now turned the trick three times (assuming that Cano and Donaldson don’t managed to gain nearly 20 WAR in 2018’s remaining months), making him only the 21st player to do so. The other 20?

  • Barry Bonds: 13 times
  • Babe Ruth: 11
  • Honus Wagner: 10
  • Willie Mays and Stan Musial: 9
  • Ty Cobb, Albert Pujols, and Mike Schmidt: 7 times
  • Cap Anson: 6 times
  • Ed Delahanty and Lou Gehrig: 5 times
  • Dan Brouthers, Roger Connor, Mickey Mantle, and Joe Morgan: 4 times
  • Wade Boggs, Roberto Clemente, Billy Hamilton, Rickey Henderson, and Alex Rodriguez: 3 times.

Any time you’re a player under 27, and you’re in a group with Boggs, Clemente, Hamilton, Henderson, and A-Rod, you can probably feel good about your Hall of Fame chances. Given the gap between Trout and the next-best, it’s pretty likely he’s going to reach at least four to six instances of this particular way of looking at things, and the names only get better as the we go up the list. Amazing.—Eric

Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?

Where do I begin? Our first seven are pretty conventional, actually. But then there’s Put Put Ashburn who took for bloody ever to reach the Coop, and whose combo of high OBPs, steals, and ace centerfielding we find highly compelling. Paul Hines hasn’t gotten much of any attention from the Veterans Committees, and think he’s pretty great. Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton got knocked off crowded Hall ballots due to the 5 percent rule, and The Toy Cannon didn’t even get one stinking vote in 1983 before falling off the slate. I’m not sure whether Willie Davis ever appeared on a Hall ballot. Andruw Jones just barely avoided getting thrown in his Hall of Fame rodeo. We’ve got all these guys in our top twenty. We have the Duke juuuuuuust inside the top fifteen as opposed to chumming with Willie and Mickey, we’ve got little-known 1800s guys popping onto the bottom of the top twenty, and we don’t have any of Kirby Puckett, Larry Doby, Earl Averill, Edd Roush, or Earle Combs in it. Yeah, we’re flying our centerfield freak flags high. Or maybe geek flag is a better term.—Eric

It has to be Ty Cobb and Willie Mays. I think a year or three ago some ESPN piece called Mays the best player in baseball history. That’s strange. It’s Ruth, it’s Ruth, it’s so clearly Ruth. Unless you timeline. And then it’s Bonds. Unless you think PEDs changed everything. And then it’s, um, maybe Mays? Or a bunch of other potential guys. Anyway, if ESPN says the best player ever is Mays and we don’t even think he’s the best at his position, we diverge most from conventional wisdom on Cobb and Say Hey. Look at our numbers though. The two are separated by three percentage points for me and four for Eric. At their level, that’s a virtual tie. You say Mays was better than Cobb? Okay, I’m not going to argue.—Miller

Where do we disagree with one another the most?

Our order for the first eight is identical. Then our next seven are the same, though in a different order. And then there’s a bit of separation in some, but most players are close enough.—Miller

Primarily, Jim O’Rourke. Now, most folks think of Orator Jim as a left fielder, but a) he played pretty much everywhere, and b) he’s a centerfielder. Here’s the appearances that BBREF current estimates for O’Rourke by position:

  • C: 231
  • 1B: 214
  • 2B: 2
  • 3B: 148
  • SS: 40
  • LF: 770
  • CF: 463
  • RF: 217
  • P: 6

Not that is utility. Says in that list that O’Rourke’s appearances in centerfield trail his appearances in left field by 300 games. But when it comes to the 19th Century, things get wacky. The leagues’ schedules changed almost constantly until 1904 when the 154-game slate became the standard. Every few years, as the game’s popularity grew, the magnates would tack on more games, increasing profits on ticket sales and concessions. Yay! More baseball! But for guys like me who have a little dollop of engineering in their brain, assigning a primary position without accounting for the schedule feels not quite right. Especially when you also prefer to assign position based on where the player earned the most value. (For examples why, see Banks, Ernie and Rose, Pete.) So when we actually break out O’Rourke’s appearances, we find out that most of his innings in left field came in the last seven years of his career, when the schedule was as much as twice as long as in his first ten or fifteen years. During that earlier time, O’Rourke got most of his centerfielding in. Even if we adjusted the innings for a 162 sked and all that, it probably wouldn’t make enough difference to overcome the late left field advantage, but it would be awfully close. But when I season by season partition his WAR (with all my adjustments baked in) based on the percentage of his defensive innings played (or estimated to have be played) at each position, centerfield wins out over left field. Much of that is due to the fact that O’Rourke was at his physical peak during the late 1870s and a few subsequent seasons when he played centerfield most often. He was in his closing act when he went to left field to stay late in his days. “Simple” as that.—Eric

Are there any players who MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate? 

Rich Ashburn had a short career by the standard of great players—just fifteen years. He rarely missed a game, so his plate appearances don’t reflect it, and he went out on a high note. Well, as high as you can get on the 1962 Mets, for whom he netted 2.1 WAR with a 121 OPS+. If Whitey had chosen to keep grinding along with the Amazings, he might have slipped a couple pegs down the ladder. Any system that prefers longevity to peak or prime value might see Ashburn a little less favorably.—Eric

If defensive numbers are overblown, as Bill James suggests, we may overrate Andruw Jones. If the mythology put into song by Terry Cashman is right, we may underrate Duke Snider. But I want to take a shot at explaining a player who we rank correctly. I am incredibly confident that Joe DiMaggio is exactly the fifth best center fielder ever. At the HoME, we don’t give credit for seasons missed due to military service. Maybe we should, but I prefer our position for a myriad of reasons. Still, let’s say we replace DiMaggio’s three missed seasons. If we give him 5.6 WAR each year, which tips just a little more to what he did before he left compared to when he returned, he’s still fifth.—Miller

***

Join us back here in a week as we finish off center field.

Mount Rushmore, Cleveland Indians

Nap Lajoie, 1906Because they came so close but didn’t pull through last season, the 1948 and 1920 champs have the longest current drought in the game. Known as the Blues in 1901, the Bronchos in 1902, and the Naps from 1903 through 1914, the Indians are the only team, I believe, whose Rushmore all played the same position. And much to my surprise, they’re the third best team in AL history in winning percentage.

Guys It’s Not

By WAR, the greatest Indian ever is Nap Lajoie. However, he played parts of eight years with AL and NL Philadelphia clubs. Second on the Indian list is Red Sox great Tris Speaker. And fourth is another who played for the Red Sox, Lou Boudreau. Stan Coveleski is fifth on the Indian list, but he played for the A’s, Sens, and Yanks. Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome also put up great numbers while in Cleveland, but they both played everywhere. Earl Averill held on with the Tigers and Braves, and Joe Sewell was a Yankee for three years.

Al Rosen, 1951Al Rosen is the best hitter in Indian history never to play elsewhere, posting 32.6 WAR over seven full seasons before retiring because of issues with his back and legs. He’s 23rd in Indian history in WAR, but that’s not enough. There were four Cleveland pitchers who topped him, making them the only team without a hitter on their Rushmore.

Indian Mount Rushmore

Bob Feller: Rapid Robert was a hit after joining the Indians at age 17 in 1936. If we replace the three seasons and the one partial season he missed due to WWII with the average of the two years before and the two full years after he left, he moves from 63.6 WAR to an insane 84.4 WAR. That would move him from a tie for 144th with Richie Ashburn and Billy Williams to 53rd, just ahead of Pedro Martinez and Ken Griffey. I’m not saying this would have happened, just giving an idea about what might have been.

Bob Lemon, 1951Bob Lemon: With 48.8 WAR, Lemon is the sixth best Indian ever. Of course, less than 77% of Lemon’s value was on the mound. He was truly an excellent hitter, adding 0.6 WAR to 1.9 WAR every year from 1947-1956 at the plate. From 1948-1950 he averaged six homers and 22 ribbies with a .334 OBP. With just pitching value, there are only two years when he threw like an All-Star. He’s in the Hall, which is quite a surprise given that Hall voters must look at pitcher offense less than I do, and Lemon is only 117th all-time among pitchers, right between Frank Viola and Ron Guidry.

Mel Harder: Eleventh on the all-time Indian WAR chart, Harder was a better pitcher than Lemon, putting up 47.9 WAR on the mound but giving back 4.2 at the dish, for 43.7 total WAR. During his 1932-1935 peak, he trailed only Carl Hubbell and Dizzy Dean in WAR among hurlers. Expanding things to 1939, and only Lefty Grove also gets past him. We’re looking at a star here.

Addie Joss, 1911Addie Joss: With similar star power to Harder, Joss nevertheless is in the Hall. Tied with him on the Indian WAR list with 43.7, Joss and his 160 wins are in the Hall due to a 1.89 career ERA. Even though he played only nine seasons, the 1977 Board of Directors passes a special resolution to waive the ten-year rule for him. There was no good reason for that decision. BBREF neutralizes Joss’ career ERA at 2.88, still a fine number, but c’mon. Imagine 170 wins and a 2.88 ERA in the last fifty years. Such a pitcher would have no chance at the Hall. If he pitched in the run environment of, say, 2004, his ERA would be 3.75. Kevin Brown pitched around that time. He finished with 211 wins and a 3.28 ERA, and he hasn’t sniffed the inside of Cooperstown.

My Indian Rushmore

Bob Feller

Nap Lajoie: Yes, he had a significant enough career with the A’s, but he’s Cleveland’s all-time leader in WAR, and he had nine of his ten best years by WAR with the Indians.

Lou Boudreau: I’m not going to hold his short period of time in Boston against him. Speaker played in Boston too, but he had quite a significant career there. Each of Boudreau’s ten best seasons were with Cleveland.

Kenny Lofton: I’m skipping a couple of guys on Cleveland’s all-time WAR list to get to him, namely Stan Coveleski and Bob Lemon. My favorite Lofton memory is how he ran the bases like a brilliant madman in the 1995 playoffs, tripling twice and stealing 11 bases in the ALCS and WS.

Tune in next week for a look at the Cincinnati Reds.

Miller

A trad-stats view of the upcoming veterans committee ballots

It’s never too late to start a campaign. Now that we know no players have been elected via the Hall of Fame’s Today’s Game committee, we can turn our attention to the 2017 slate of Modern Baseball candidates. And beyond.

Most of the folks on these committees are either ex-players or ex-journalists who exited the profession before the sabrmetric boom. We can’t count on them to accept, let alone grok, the analytics that people like me and Miller bandy about. So we need to use the stats these folks know well to make our point. The trad stats. Baseball card stats.

In the Politics of Glory, Bill James makes a great point when he says that if a player’s career stats fall right in the belly of a whole bunch of Hall of Famers, then he’s got a solid piece of evidence in his favor. James also says that a strong candidate’s resume would be near or above the average performance of a Hall of Famer at his position. Let’s combine these two ideas. For certain key stats and certain key Veterans Committee candidates, we’ll list out how these outsiders would rank among Hall of Famers. If they consistently rank above the Hall’s average at their position, we can guess they would be really good candidates.

Today, we’ll look at hitters we’ve elected to the Hall of Miller and Eric that the Today’s Game and Modern Baseball eras could consider in the coming years.

CATCHER

Number of Hall of Fame catchers: 15
Ranking to be average or better among Hall catchers: 8th

Joe Torre

         G    R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI   BB  SB    AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
===========================================================================
TOTAL 2209  996  2342  344  59  252  1185  779   23  .297  .365  .452  .817
RANK     3    9     2    6   7    6     7    6   14    7      8    11     8
AVERAGE RANKING = 7TH

Torre sits right above the average Hall of Fame catcher. Of course, he’s a plurality catcher, not a 50% catcher, which could give some voters pause. But if they think of him as a catcher, he’s got very competitive numbers.

Ted Simmons

         G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI   BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
===========================================================================
TOTAL 2456  1074  2472  483  47  248  1389  855  21  .285  .348  .437  .785
RANK     2     6     1    1   9    6     2    4  14     8    11    13    12

AVERAGE RANKING = 7TH

The rap on Simmons is defense, not hitting. Because clearly he has the hitting stats of a Hall catcher.

Thurman Munson

         G    R     H   2B  3B   HR  RBI   BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==========================================================================
TOTAL 1423  696  1558  229  32  113  701  438  48  .292  .348  .410  .756
RANK   14    11    13   13  11   11   14   14   8     8    12    13    14
AVERAGE RANKING = 12TH

Yeah, that’ll be a hard sell, won’t it. We think Munson was deserving of our plaque but from a straight numbers perspective, the VC won’t buy it. His defense was good but not good enough to overcome this kind of deficit and lack of playing time in their eyes.

FIRST BASE

Number of Hall of Fame first basemen: 23 (including Rod Carew, Frank Thomas, Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell, and Stan Musial)
Ranking to be average or better among Hall first basemen: 12th

Keith Hernandez

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI    BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  2088  1124  2182  426  60  162  1071  1070  98  .296  .384  .436  .821
RANK     15    19    19   13  18   15    21     8  11    17    13    21    20
AVERAGE RANKING = 14TH

Here’s why Hernandez had such a hard time with the BBWAA and why he’ll continue to strike out with the VC. His hitting numbers aren’t superficially amazing like a Bill Terry (.341 average), let alone like the Jimmie Foxxes and Lou Gehrigs. Voters would have to acknowledge that but elect him because he’s the best defensive first basemen ever, while being good enough to hang in the lower reaches of Hall first basemen offensively.

Mark McGwire

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI    BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  1874  1167  1626  252   6  583  1414  1317  12  .263  .394  .588  .982
RANK     19    18    23   23  24    1    14     8  24    23     9     4     4
AVERAGE RANKING = 13TH

We know that McGwire’s passing over had steroids written all over it. But it’s not impossible that he’d be a tough sell anyway. He’s an amazingly limited player: limited to walks and homers. Good choices those. Anyway, if the steroid taint wears off, I’d expect him to make it purely based on his Harmon Killebrew profile, but he’s not anywhere near the top of this heap.

Rafael Palmeiro

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI    BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  2831  1663  3020  585  38  569  1835  1353  97  .288  .371  .515  .885
RANK      3     5     5    2  20    2     6     6  11    18    16     9    11
AVERAGE RANKING = 7TH

There are folks out there who think Palmeiro isn’t worthy. He’s just a compiler. It’s hard to be a compiler and stack up stats like these. Rusty Staub? Hal Baines? Compilers. Rafael Palmeiro? Hall of Famer. Except for that steroid problem….

SECOND BASE
Number of Hall of Fame second basemen: 20 (including Rod Carew and Jackie Robinson)
Ranking to be average or better among Hall second basemen: 11th

Bobby Grich

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI   BB   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  2088  1033  1833  320  47  224  864  1087  104  .266  .371  .424  .794
RANK     15    16    18   16  21    6   15     5   15    20     9    15    15
AVERAGE RANKING = 14TH

Grich is like a second-base combination of McGwire and Hernandez. Like McGwire, he excels the most in the two most important offensive categories: homers and walks. Like Hernandez, he was a fabulous defensive player. So voters need to go beyond the traditional stats and see the Gold Glove defender with the powerful, patient bat. Collusion didn’t help him either, but I doubt that’s a talking point for these folks.

Willie Randolph

          G     R     H   2B  3B  HR  RBI    BB   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
=============================================================================
TOTAL  2202  1239  2210  316  65  54  687  1243  271  .276  .373  .351  .724
RANK     12    13    15   16  17  16   20     3   11    16     9    20    17
AVERAGE RANKING = 14TH

Willie Randolph is unlikely to gain election. Ever. His offensive profile is too deadball in this era to get a second look, and his defensive excellence probably wouldn’t be enough for most voters. What you also don’t see here is strong base running value. Still, the trad-stats case for Randolph goes like this:

Willie Randolph was a little better hitter than Nellie Fox, and near or maybe better than Fox in the field. If Nellie Fox is a Hall of Famer, then Randolph makes sense too.

That’s a terrible argument, of course. If–then only makes sense when the if player is a no-brainer Hall of Famer. Randolph’s argument is much more subtle than that, and Fox is a lower rung Hall member. But it wouldn’t surprise me if a lousy argument like that might be palatable to a VC group.

Lou Whitaker

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI    BB   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
===============================================================================
TOTAL  2390  1386  2369  420  65  244  1084  1197  143  .276  .363  .426  .789
RANK      6    11    13   12  17    6    11     3   14    16    12    15    15
AVERAGE RANKING = 12TH

Here’s your most likely guy at second base. Whitaker’s got the power and walks of Grich, a fine glove, and a longer career than both Grich and Randolph to give him a little more clout in the career figures. What he also has is a strong association with Detroit and with Alan Trammell. Since Trammell and Whitaker will likely appear on the ballot together, there’s some narrative to help his case since there could be sentiment toward enshrining them simultaneously. Unless Jack Morris gets in the way.

THIRD BASE
Number of Hall of Fame third basemen: 13 (including Paul Molitor)
Ranking to be average or better among Hall third basemen: 7th

Sal Bando

          G    R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI    BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
=============================================================================
TOTAL  2019  982  1790  289  38  242  1039  1031  75  .254  .352  .408  .760
RANK      8   11    13   13  14    6     8     7   8    14    10    12    11
AVERAGE RANKING = 10TH

This one’s a tough sell. Bando played his career in a very hard time for hitters, in a ballpark that was very hard for hitters. As a result, his numbers aren’t top-shelf on their surface. There are also differing opinions about his defense with some systems liking him OK and others disliking him. But he won three straight World Series titles and five straight divisions in Oakland when the division meant something. I wouldn’t hold my breath for him.

Buddy Bell

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI   BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
=============================================================================
TOTAL  2405  1151  2514  425  56  201  1106  836  55  .279  .341  .406  .747
RANK      5     8     5    5  13    7     8    8  10    10    13    12    12
AVERAGE RANKING = 9TH

Bell is an even longer shot than Bando. His traditional numbers are better than Sal’s, but he played for a lot of lousy teams and never got to strut his stuff in the playoffs. Like Whitaker, he’s a little below his position’s midline, but unlike Sweet Lou lacks the narrative. In reality, his excellent defense plays a very big role in his sabrmetric campaign, but not much of one in his trad-stats campaign as his defensive value isn’t communicated well even by six straight Gold Gloves. Well, and he’d better hope they don’t count his managerial days against him because he’s probably the worst long-time manager in modern baseball history.

Darrell Evans

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI    BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  2687  1344  2223  329  36  414  1354  1605  98  .248  .361  .431  .792
RANK      3     6     9   11  14    3     5     1   7    14    10    10    10
AVERAGE RANKING = 8TH

Evans—who virtually no one remembers outside of Detroit, San Francisco, and online sabrmetric hangouts—was quiet and did nothing flashy. But he lasted forever and racked up some impressive career totals in key stats. I don’t believe for a second that the VC would elect him, but you can see here that he’s got some markers that they should love. He also played a good third base and later a decent first base.

Graig Nettles

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI    BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  2700  1193  2225  328  28  390  1314  1088  32  .248  .329  .421  .750
RANK      3     7     9   11  14    3     6     7  12    14    13    10    12
AVERAGE RANKING = 9TH

I suspect that it’s Nettles who would be first in line among these four hot-corner habitués. His career stats are remarkably similar, damn near identical in many categories to Evans’ (with the exception of SB and walks, and therefore OBP). But Nettles does have a lot of fame and narrative to go with those career totals, and a reputation for Brooksesque defense. Frankly either he or Bell is the most deserving anyway, and given the paucity of third basemen in the Hall of Fame, it’s time the VC looked at guys like Nettles. I think this guy could have a real shot. Probably not next year, though, because those Tigers will get the limelight.

SHORTSTOP
Number of Hall of Fame shortstops: 22 (including Ernie Banks, Monte Ward, and Robin Yount)
Ranking to be average or better among Hall third basemen: 12th

Alan Trammell

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI   BB   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  2293  1231  2365  412  55  185  1003  850  236  .285  .352  .415  .767
RANK     11    14    10    9  22    5    10   11   11    11    12     9    13
AVERAGE RANKING = 11TH

In these 13 important trad stats, Alan Trammell would average 11th, which, in turn, would put him above the Hall’s average. The only place he scores poorly is triples, and that’s mostly about his having come along well after triples began to decline in favor of homers. All in all, Trammell’s statistics make good case for his inclusion when compared against other Hall shortstops. I would give him odds second only to Jack Morris for election.

LEFT FIELD
Number of Hall of Fame left fielders: 21 (including Stan Musial, Willie Stargell, Babe Ruth)
Ranking to be average or better among Hall left fielders: 11th

Jose Cruz

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI   BB   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  2353  1036  2251  391  94  165  1077  898  317  .284  .354  .420  .774
RANK      9    20    17   15  13   13   16    12    8    19    20    19    20
AVERAGE RANKING = 15TH

Not that Jose Cruz has an ice cube’s chance in hell of even seeing the ballot, but we elected him and the next fellow, so I wanted to be sure to at least include them. As Bill James pointed out years ago, had Jose Cruz played anywhere other than the Astrodome, he’d have been a huge national star. But because its run-suppressing power, his stat line looks kind of pedestrian. Given that and the importance of his defense to a Hall case, he’ll never get a second look.

Roy White

          G    R     H   2B  3B   HR  RBI   BB   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
============================================================================
TOTAL  1881  964  1803  300  51  160  758  934  233  .271  .360  .404  .764
RANK     17   21    19   20  21   14   21   11    8    22    19    21    20
AVERAGE RANKING = 18TH

Same story as Cruz except that the suppression of White’s offense was due to a pitcher’s era and, to a lesser extent than Cruz, his home park. Defense again plays a big part of White’s story. I have no illusions about his chances either.

CENTERFIELD
Number of Hall of Fame center fielders: 19 (including Robin Yount and Andre Dawson)
Ranking to be average or better among Hall center fielders: 10th

Jim Edmonds

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI   BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
=============================================================================
TOTAL  2001  1251  1949  437  25  393  1199  998  67  .284  .376  .527  .903
RANK     10    12    16    6  19    5     9    9  15    17    13     8    10
AVERAGE RANKING = 11TH

As far as leftovers go, this one’s pretty tasty. The BBWAA summarily disposed of Jim Edmonds, but just looking at these numbers it’s easy to see both why they did (fewer than 2000 hits) and why they shouldn’t have (everything else). In addition, Edmonds was a highlight-reel defender. Nice job, voters. Oh, and unless the VC changes, I don’t know how they would arrive at a different decision. I mean, they never elect players anymore anyway!

Kenny Lofton

          G     R     H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  2103  1528  2428  383  116  130  781  945  622  .299  .372  .423  .794
RANK     11     9    10   11   11   12   16   11    4    13    13    17    16
AVERAGE RANKING = 12TH

Seriously? One and done? Lofton was one hell a lot better than that. Actually, there’s a little wider perception than just the BBWAA that Lofton’s not Hall material. Like with Rafael, I don’t understand this position. When I put my analytics together, he’s a solid member of any but the most exclusive Halls of Fame. He’s pretty much an average Hall center fielder, especially once you add in positive defensive value and amazing base running value. Trad stats wise, he might have an incrementally better chance in the VC than Edmonds if only because his steals and impressive runs scored totals give him a narrative to hang a vote on.

Reggie Smith

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI   BB   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  1987  1123  2020  363  57  314  1092  890  137  .287  .366  .489  .855
RANK     12    16    16   11  17    7    11   11   12    15    15    11    13
AVERAGE RANKING = 13TH

The other Reggie is a very borderline candidate, even for us. He ranks out decently among Hall centerfielders but spent a lot of time in right field, too, where he doesn’t look as great. He was always hurt and that won’t help him either, especially since it hurts his career totals.

Jimmy Wynn

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR  RBI    BB  SB    AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  1920  1105  1665  285  39  291  964  1224  225  .250  .366  .436  .802
RANK     13    16    18   16  19    7   15     6   10    20    15    15    16
AVERAGE RANKING = 14TH

The poor Toy Cannon. Like Jose Cruz, his batting stats are just demolished by the Astrodome. But unlike Cruz, he got away from it. To Dodgers Stadium, another well-known pitchers park. As a homer-hitting, high walks, high-steals center fielder, you’d think he’d look pretty good, but the low batting average and park-suppressed slugging percentage are too much context for people to get past. Too bad, they’re missing out on a great player.

RIGHT FIELD
Number of Hall of Fame center fielders: 24 (including Andre Dawson and Babe Ruth)
Ranking to be average or better among Hall center fielders: 12th

Bobby Bonds

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI   BB   SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  1849  1258  1886  302  66  332  1024  914  461  .268  .353  .471  .824
RANK     19    20    21   21  23    9    19   11    3    24    23    15    18
AVERAGE RANKING = 17TH

Once again, there’s a defense argument to be made here that the VC won’t get into, so Bonds’ chances are pretty slim. The power, walks, and speed combo is might impressive, but they’ll have bigger fish to fry. Like this next guy.

Dwight Evans

          G     R     H   2B  3B   HR   RBI    BB  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
==============================================================================
TOTAL  2606  1470  2446  483  73  385  1384  1391  78  .272  .370  .470  .840
RANK      8    11    17   12  21    9    11     5  24    24    17    15    13
AVERAGE RANKING = 14TH

Evans is a sabrmetric favorite and long underrated by Hall voters of every stripe due to his OBP-heavy profile. But 385 homers isn’t exactly something to sneeze at. His arm was feared around the league and for great reason, so there’s additional value and narrative that voters could pick up on. I like his chances more than Bonds’ and many others on this list.

As we look at these guys and compare them to positional norms, we should also remember something important. These guys have been passed over because their career totals weren’t in no-brainer territory. So they go to the back door to find their way in. But also, remember that the Hall has made a ton of mistakes. Additionally, given its 217 members, the Hall should have roughly 18–20 men per position. None of the players above falls outside that range in terms of their average ranking in these key categories. In fact, only one even falls as low as that range. The rest improve on that figure. Additionally, the Hall electorates have been too tough on centerfield, third base, and catcher. Those positions are way understaffed, and the men mentioned above would be great steps toward recognizing more Hall of Fame caliber players at those needlessly scarce positions.

Next time out, we’ll look at pitchers to see who on the Modern Baseball and Today’s Game ballots might have a shot from an old-school perspective.

Miller’s Favorite Eric Posts

Brian Downing, 1982

Since this is a post about my favorite Eric posts, I’m going to include a card of my favorite player.

Not too long ago Eric had a pretty great idea. To be fair, he has lots of great ideas. I’m only talking about the one that inspired this post. We have three plus years of content at the Hall of Miller and Eric. I’m proud of it in whole, and there are tons of posts Eric has contributed that have taught me, inspired me, and changed my thinking.

Since we probably have added some new readers in the years and months since we began, I want to identify some of my favorite Eric posts to sort of refresh them for everyone else.

Thanks for Joining Us

Our first post, I suppose, was in May of 2013. That’s when Eric wrote Welcome to the Hall of Miller and Eric. It’s 172 words long, but it links to a lot of our background documents. At the time I didn’t know how far my processes lagged behind his. It’s been an incredible journey trying to catch up and electing around 250 greats to the various wings of the HoME. Without this post, we could have never really gotten started.

Owning Up

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” I don’t know if I was introduced to that quotation or to 2004 presidential election conversation about flip-flopping first. In short, the quotation means to me that you shouldn’t keep doing things or thinking the same way when you have better information in front of you. I was amazed at the traction George Bush got against John Kerry by saying that he’s flip-flopped on issues. After all, I believe it’s better to grow, to think, to admit you’re wrong, to change your mind, and to get it right going forward. The glory in having been right is almost nil; the glory in being right in the moment is pretty special.

Eric is impressive because he isn’t just unafraid to admit he’s wrong. He’ll even write about it. Late in 2014, after Roy Campanella had already received an obituary from us, Eric penned Roy Campanella Rides Again. In short, we had decided that Campy would absolutely not be a member of the HoME. And then we decided he might be. It was bold and I think inspired to resurrect Campanella. The HoME is better for it.

Just last month Eric wrote I was wrong about Bill Doak. There was a time when Eric began to champion to cause of Bill Doak to become a member of the HoME because of his invention of the webbed glove. But as Eric wrote, “…avoid making sweeping generalizations before looking at the data.” He looked at the data. The theory was that the webbed glove increased double play rates, decreased error rates, and increased the defensive importance of second baseman as opposed to third basemen. Then he did the research. Well done, Eric. It’s a good read.

Sandy

There are few more protected species in baseball history than Sandy Koufax. The angelic include him, Jackie, and, um, I don’t know. There’s a clear non-baseball reason that Jackie Robinson is universally adored. There’s no similar reason surrounding Koufax. When I write about Sandy, I do so only apologetically. It feels almost dangerous to say he’s not as good as Walter Johnson or Pedro Martinez or even Luis Tiant. The horror!

Eric took on Sandy at least twice, once in early 2014 and again early this year. In Facts and Koufax: How Saberhagen Sees Sandy, Eric admitted that Sandy had “…a handful of great years, and almost nothing else.” Overall, he paints a picture of Koufax that is far different than what the general baseball public believes. In Is Johan Santana the Contemporary Sandy Koufax?, Eric audaciously and convincingly compared someone considered by many to be one of the best pitchers of all-time to a guy who has little chance to see two Hall of Fame ballots. While this post is considerably more pro-Santana than anti-Koufax, the mere comparison is bold. And the pro-Santana argument is a strong one.

Stuff We Don’t Think About

Most of us will agree that one of the characteristics of good writing is that it will make us think. Well, the four posts in this section are those that made me and I hope us think more than we might have without them.

From 2014, Adding It Up on Offense looked at how running the bases and avoiding double plays can have dramatic changes on the value of players. And sometimes that value is unseen, as was evidenced by Kenny Lofton falling off the Hall ballot as quickly as he did.

From 2013, Why We Elected Tommy Leach when none of the other Halls we track have, Eric discussed defense, defense, and more defense. He touted DRA, and he looked at other measures as well. He looked at soft reasons for Leach’s exclusion from other Halls. And he looked at defensive greatness at multiple positions.

From 2013, Why You Should Care About Pitcher’s Batting, which is essentially the pitcher version of the 2014 offensive post, we’re reminded again that value doesn’t come just from what we typically embrace. Certain pitchers bring a bunch of extra value to their teams, and others take value away. Just because we say pitchers are paid to get outs, not get hits, doesn’t mean that’s true or should be. We pay pitchers to help win games. Getting outs does that. So does getting hits.

From 2014, Opening the Bullpen Gate is something we think a lot about. We just think about it incorrectly – the value of relief pitchers. Relief pitching is very valuable. Relief pitchers, not so much. If you don’t believe that statement, you have to read the post.

If It Were Easy…

The last group of  posts I want you to consider reviewing all deal with things we think are hard that are actually easier than we think, or they look at things that are easy, relatively speaking, that we might give too much credit to.

How easy Do you think it is to win a World Series if you don’t have a future Hall of Famer on your team? Eric’s World Champs, Hall Chumps from a couple of months ago looks at just that phenomenon. Even if you’re not so surprised, it’s an incredibly interesting read.

It’s an incredible feat to hit .400, right? Well, not so fast. The Dirty Little Secret About .400 Hitters explains that, while impressive, hitting .400 just isn’t as hard as we sometimes think. Or maybe it is incredibly hard, just a lot easier at some points compared to others.

A couple of years ago Eric wrote, “Nearly every baseball player or personality before 1901 is overlooked, especially those not in the Hall of Fame.” Writing about the SABR’s 19th Century Committee in The 19th Century’s Most Overlooked, Eric shared a pretty simple post that I think reminded readers just how difficult it is to remember greats from before the World Series.

The most important thing we’ve done and are doing in this project, at least in my mind, is determining the proper construction of the player wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric. We’re into the thousands of hours of work on that wing, probably each. And one of the highest ranked players at any position who hasn’t made it is Cupid Childs. If you want to know why, read Cupid Childs and the Case of the Missing Aces.

Teaching and Learning

I do the former in my career, and I think we should all do the latter throughout our lives. That’s why Eric’s Ten Things the HoME Has Taught Me must be one of my favorites. He does a great job putting his thinking and his learning into words. If you’re involved in any long-term project, I recommend you write a post like this. If it’s at work, in a relationship, or if you write a blog a post like this can be incredibly helpful and revealing. Or it can just be fun.

And shouldn’t this all be fun? Thanks for all of these posts, Eric!

Miller

In WAR, You Sometimes Tie

Sandy Koufax

I always put a card here,  and people love Sandy, so why not.

BBREF is good for a lot of things. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of baseball. On Monday, sandwiched around trying to sell a house and buy a car, I was looking through the career WAR leaderboard. Now this is something with which I’m generally familiar at the top, but as you move down the list there are some pretty fascinating ties. So today, we’re going to look at some of those ties, offering surface-level commentary and trying to understand perceptions of quality.

#451

Mike Trout and Fernando Valenzuela, two of the game’s most talked about rookies. Trout’s in his sixth season, fifth full. It took Fernando seventeen to get here. Next up for Trout, with 0.1 more WAR, are Don Mattingly, Jose Canseco, Lenny Dykstra, and Red Schoendienst.

#427

This is a fun one – Hugh Duffy, Charlie Keller, and Tony Oliva. All three were clearly very good players. Hugh Duffy found his way into the Hall, though he probably shouldn’t have. Charlie Keller has six outstanding seasons. In fact, his sixth best season is about fifteenth best among all left fielders. But he was done after that. It’s hard to hit homers with a bad back. Oliva is a little like Keller. He was an All-Star for five years, excellent for eight, and then done. His eighth best season is around the twentieth best among right fielders. Of course, knee and other assorted injuries ended his run. Because of superior defense, my MAPES system actually prefers Duffy to Keller and Oliva, though the Hall of Fame is a stretch.

#409

This is where we see Hall of Famer Travis Jackson and very clear not Hall of Famer Steve Finley. By MAPES, Finley was already behind Mike Trout heading into this season. He’s even behind Hall mistakes in center field like Earl Averill, Edd Roush, and Earle Combs. Clearly, the Hall has its shortstop problems. Jackson is just one example thereof.

#387

This is a fun tie. Herb Pennock is in the Hall, but he shouldn’t be unless you’re in a camp that wants the Hall large enough to include the likes of Bartolo Colon. And no, that’s not a joke about Big Sexy’s size. Dizzy Dean is in the Hall. He’s not in the HoME since he really gave us about six years and nothing else. Harry Stovey isn’t in either. He wasn’t quite great enough when he was great, and he really only put up twelve years of note. And then there’s J.D. Drew. He was hated by Philadelphia fans because he wouldn’t sign with them for less than $10 million. He wasn’t beloved by St. Louis fans because of the perception he didn’t work hard enough and because they thought he’d be better than they perceived he was. He killed it in Atlanta for just a season. He was good in Los Angeles for two. And then Boston fans had their turn at not appreciating him after he signed for five years and $70 million in 2007. Drew was hurt a lot, topping 140 games just twice. And he seemed to underperform. That’s because fans have a hard time seeing the little things that Drew did well. He was an excellent all-around player. And while he’s no candidate for the HoME, his eleven 2-WAR seasons match Sammy Sosa and Vlad Guerrero among right fielders. And they top Elmer Flick and Ichiro Suzuki (unless he somehow makes it this year).

#379

Decon White is in the Hall of Fame, and as the greatest ever third baseman before Home Run Baker, he should be. Omar Vizquel has his backers too. He played until he was 45, totaled 2877 hits, and is perceived by some to be the greatest fielding shortstop this side of Ozzie Smith. Omar’s Rfield number at BBREF is a very impressive 128. However, his DRA, which I think is a superior fielding measure, is -31. Vizquel is just about the most overrated player in the game’s history if you prefer DRA to Rfield. The truth, I’m sure, is somewhere in the middle. But when some group wages a campaign for Omar in 25 years and it succeeds, just know that it shouldn’t have.

#366

Ernie Lombardi played seventeen years. He’s in the Hall probably because today’s advanced metrics didn’t account for his miserable base running at the time. Thurman Munson played for twelve years. He isn’t in the Hall, though he is in the HoME due to an outstanding peak and prime. His five best seasons top Mickey Cochrane. His seven best top Carlton Fisk. And his ten best top Bill Dickey.

#339

Jim Rice and Frank Viola are tied here. Why’d I bother writing an entire How the Hall Failed post on Jim Rice when I simply could have pointed out this tie?

#318

Here you have undeserving Hall of Famer Nellie Fox, if you trust DRA and realize Fox was a pretty mediocre hitter, even for a second baseman. And you also have Sandy Koufax. Since I’m a baseball fan, I love Sandy Koufax. But I really can’t stand the historical company he keeps. He’s no Walter Johnson. He’s no Greg Maddux. And he’s no Clayton Kershaw. Yes, Sandy Koufax was amazing. However, even if we look at Koufax by his best five seasons consecutively, he’s behind Pedro Martinez and Bob Gibson and Lefty Grove. If you prefer to look at only four, he still trails those three – and at least a dozen other guys by both measures. Again, I love Sandy Koufax. Don’t tell anyone, but we sort of saw Koufax in Minnesota and New York from 2004-2008, except they called him Johan Santana. It’s amazing how narrative affects our perceptions.

#315

Ralph Kiner and Dennis Martinez are tied. See Rice and Viola above. To be fair, Kiner did have an amazing power peak. But he was done at 30. El Presidente didn’t really get started until he was 33. He once said, “My concentration wasn’t on baseball; it was on drinking.” Imagine if it were on baseball.

#281

This is one of my favorite ties of all. Bobby Doerr is a Hall of Famer, though he barely, barely, barely missed the HoME. Felix Hernandez is one of the best pitchers of his generation. And then there’s Toby Harrah. For seventeen seasons, Harrah got on base and knew what to do once he was there. But he hit .264 in his career while playing in Texas and Cleveland. He never reached the playoffs, and the back of his baseball card wasn’t exciting. It’s with great confidence I say Harrah was better than Hall of Fame third basemen Freddie Lindstron, George Kell, and Pie Traynor. If he wasn’t such a hack on defense, he’d likely be in the HoME. Of course, he really was bad defensively. Really bad.

#271

Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt and Mark Teixeira are tied. Don’t get too excited Tex fans. Your guy was a Yankee, but he wasn’t a 1927 Yankee.

#248

Here we have Clayton Kershaw, 70 spots above Koufax, by the way. We also have a guy killed by perception, Ron Cey. He didn’t have a baseball body. He wasn’t as pretty as Steve Garvey. And he certainly didn’t hit for the average Garvey did. On the other hand, Garvey’s career OBP was .329 and Cey’s was .354. Steve Garvey certainly played in the right generation for a player of his type. Ron Cey didn’t.

#247

Please see #339 and #315 David Ortiz fans. He’s tied with David Wells. Then again, Papi will probably produce for another eight or twelve years, win three more World Series for the Sox, and become a unanimous Hall of Fame selection. (I can’t say bad stuff about Papi).

#236

Hall of Famers and HoMErs Max Carey and Bill Terry are tied with HoMErs Bucky Walters and Jose Cruz. We’re looking at the borderline here. Someone could certainly prefer Frank Tanana to Walters. Most people prefer Joe Medwick and Willie Stargell to Cruz. Carey was in a conversation with George Gore, Mike Griffin, and Willie Davis for a couple of center field spots. And Bill Terry isn’t so, so far ahead of Jake Beckley, Will Clark, and John Olerud. Hall and HoME lines are hard to draw and blurry. And even if you get them right, there’s a consideration about peak, prime, and career that’s pretty messy too.

#213

I’ve fallen in love with Joe Gordon these past few years. Amazing bat, amazing glove, incredible peak. And the guy he’s tied with shows either that reliever WAR is bunk or that relievers just aren’t all that valuable – Mariano Rivera. If you’re like me, you have about 70 movies and songs in your personal top-ten lists. Well, with that said, Mariano is clearly one of my ten favorite players ever. As a reminder, in 141 innings in the playoffs, he had a 0.70 ERA.

#208

Hank Greenberg and Willie Stargell are tied. The former is in the HoME, the latter isn’t. The former reached #208 all-time in 13 seasons, the latter in 21. That pretty much explains it.

#165

Sal Bando and Jackie Robinson. Yes, it took Bando sixteen years to accomplish what Robinson did in ten. Still, players from the 1970s and 1980s are criminally underrated. And we just ignore the greatness of the third basemen of that era. Sure, we bow down to Schmidt and Brett, but Buddy Bell, Graig Nettles, Darrell Evans, and Sal Bando were truly great too. And how great is it for Bando to be able to say he’s tied with Jackie Robinson in all-time WAR!

#139

Willie McCovey and Andre Dawson are tied. Seems about right.

#133

Ed Walsh and Willie Randolph. It’s not just third basemen of that era who are underrated. Nearly everybody is. If I twist my brain in certain ways, I can find a path to the Hall for a ton of players. But somehow I can’t find one for Randolph, a guy who I think is clearly qualified. There’s nothing sexy about him. Comparisons to Bid McPhee and Ross Barnes hardly help. And it’s hard to make a case for too many guys with but one year better than 5.8 WAR. Randolph, though, is one.

#131

Goose Goslin and Buddy Bell. Hey, another third baseman from an overlooked era. These two really are similarly great historically. A more apt historical comparison for Buddy Bell, however, is Brooks Robinson. If Bell were fifteen years older and began his career in Baltimore and Brooks were fifteen years younger and began his career in Cleveland, our perceptions would pretty much flip.

#114

No-brainer Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk is tied with a guy who received just eighteen career Hall of Fame votes, Kenny Lofton. Perhaps it’s not just Tim Raines who Rickey Henderson has crushed.

#103

Hall of Fame voters, please take note. Here we have one of the 1970s greatest pitchers in Jim Palmer. We also have one of the 2000s greatest players in Carlos Beltran. This may be true only for the next few days. Beltran is having a fine 2016 campaign. Maybe by the time it’s done he can be tied at #92 with Bobby Grich.

#93

Frankie Frisch is a Hall of Famer. Pretty much everyone agrees. Red Ruffing is a Hall of Famer. Pretty much everyone agrees. Ron Santo is a Hall of Famer. Even though it took forever, pretty much everyone agrees. And then there’s Alan Trammell. Let me guess. He played in the 1970s or 1980s and didn’t hit for huge average or huge power.

#55

I bring this one up for no reason other than it’s the highest tie on the all-time WAR leaderboard. Pedro Martinez is tied with John Clarkson. While it’s absolutely crazy to try to compare players with careers a hundred years apart, I’m very thankful for WAR for letting us try.

Miller

 

2013 HoME Election Results

Barry Bonds San Francisco Giants May 24, 1993 X 44305 credit: Don Smith- freelance

Barry Bonds San Francisco Giants
May 24, 1993
X 44305
credit: Don Smith- freelance

This is one crazy election! Well, it’s not crazy in that we disagree; it’s crazy in that we’re electing seven players and have identical ballots. Three steroid guys get in this time ‘round. And we add a 3000 hit guy, one of the great overlooked speedsters of recent times, the best hitting catcher ever, and the guy with the bloody sock.

Your position on steroids aside, it’s criminal that only one of these seven is in the Hall of Fame today. Mike Piazza has a great chance of getting in this January since he was at 69.9% last time. On the other hand, with only 39.2% of the vote, Curt Schilling has a long row to hoe. And Kenny Lofton? In spite of being a player our systems agree is the ninth best ever at the position, he received only 18 votes his one and only year on the ballot. Shameful.

We’re down to only two more elections after today’s, but with the seven from 2013, we’re up to 206 of the greatest players ever in the HoME. And keeping with our reporting habits of elections past, we now have nine players to elect in 2014 and 2015 of the nineteen who remain up for consideration. Your chances remain nearly 50/50 to get in if we haven’t yet reviewed your case.

Here’s how we voted in 2013.

    Miller             Eric
1   Barry Bonds        Barry Bonds
2   Roger Clemens      Roger Clemens
3   Mike Piazza        Mike Piazza
4   Curt Schilling     Curt Schilling
5   Kenny Lofton       Kenny Lofton
6   Craig Biggio       Craig Biggio
7   Sammy Sosa         Sammy Sosa

The Class of 2013

Barry Bonds: Say what you will about Barry Bonds, he’s baseball’s all-time leader in home runs at 762. If that number doesn’t resonate like 755, you’re probably older than 25. Bonds likely wasn’t the player Babe Ruth was, but he fights with Ty Cobb and Willie Mays for second best ever. Without a doubt he’s the best position player since Mays, and for those so inclined to timeline, possibly the best ever. He won the NL MVP seven times. He led in OBP ten times, SLG seven times, and BA twice. In both of those seasons he won the triple slash triple crown. Bonds is also the single-season HR champ, slugging 73 in 2001, though he never hit more than 46 in another season. He played like an MVP at least a dozen times, was named to the All-Star team on fourteen occasions, and won eight Gold Gloves. In a 2002 World Series loss to the Angels, Bonds homered four times and put up an insane .471/.700/1.294 line. Big head or not, Barry Bonds is one of the greatest players ever to put on a uniform.

Roger Clemens: Big Train, Cy, and Rocket. Those are the best three pitchers ever. Clemens’ BBREF page is littered with Black Ink. He won seven Cy Young Awards for four different teams. He was the 1986 AL MVP. He led the league in ERA seven times, strikeouts five times, and wins four times. He won back-to-back pitching triple crowns his only two seasons in Toronto, and he posted 354 wins in his 24 years in the majors. Say what you will about his personality or his PED use, Clemens could pitch. He’s third in strikeouts and ninth in wins. He won 12 games in the playoffs, including the clincher for the Yankees in 1999, and he was ahead when he left after seven tough innings in what could have been the clincher for the Red Sox in 1986.

Mike Piazza: As the best hitting catcher of all time with a reputation as an excellent game caller, pitch framer, handler or pitchers, and plate blocker, though a poor arm, you’d think Piazza would just waltz into the Hall. Not so fast. Someone once saw something that might have been bacne, and Piazza still waits. Of course, that’s hardly a fair argument to make. Gary Carter, a superior player overall, took six tries to get in. No bacne on him. The BBWAA just isn’t as good as they should be at identifying Hall of Famers. The 1993 NL MVP made a dozen All-Star teams and was the game’s MVP in 1996 when he homered against Chuck Finley. Not even adjusting for the rigors of catching, Piazza was one of the games’ five best non-pitchers from 1993-2001. With even a modest catching adjustment, he’s second to A-Rod. Comfortably placed with Berra, Dickey, and Fisk among catchers, Piazza is an easy HoME call.

Curt Schilling: He is a Robin Roberts brand of pitcher (big Ks, good control, lots of flyballs), but he is an extreme version with tremendous control, which allowed him to prosper during the high run environment of the 1994-2008 era. As responsible as anyone for helping the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino, Schilling is remembered for his dominance in the 2001 playoffs and the Bloody Sock Game. He was the runner-up in the Cy voting three times, and he made the All-Star team on six occasions. He struck out 300+ three times, and he led the league in wins twice. With all of these accolades, Schilling remains underrated historically. He’s right around the 20th best pitcher ever, in a tight battle with contemporaries Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina. But we still revere wins, and Schillling had just 216 of them. He pitched at or near the All-Star level eleven times. Ryan, Palmer, Hubbell, Feller, Marichal, Drysdale, and so many others fall short of that level. One day Curt Schilling will be a Hall of Famer. For now, he’ll settle for the HoME.

Kenny Lofton: Rickey Henderson spoiled us. We now think of him as the leadoff hitter against whom all are judged. And if you’re lesser than Rickey, like Tim Raines and Kenny Lofton, somehow you’re not great enough. Wrong. Lofton was great enough. He was the prototype CF/leadoff man who even hit with occasional power. Sort of the player everyone used to think Earle Combs was, except a much better base runner and fielder. Among position players, over an eight-year run from 1992-1999, Lofton trailed only Bonds, Griffey, and Bagwell in overall value (if we use Rfield for defense). He won five straight SB titles, and was only once the CS leader. He owns six All-Star appearances and four Gold Gloves. To his credit he has seven playoff home runs and an amazing 34 stolen bases (one more than Rickey). Sadly, one of the ten most valuable center fielders ever to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot by 2013 would never appear on another. He received only 18 votes. He’s no Rickey, but he’s quite easily a HoMEr.

Craig Biggio: Certainly a unique player, Biggio is the only player ever to be named an All-Star at catcher and at second base. All told, the 20-year, career Astro made seven All-Star teams, and he put up 3060 hits, though had he played in another park, he’d have reached 3000 hits much sooner. As more testament to his uniqueness, he joins only Bonds, Mays, A-Rod, Rickey, and Jeter as players with 2500 hits, 1000 walks, 500 2B, and 250 SB. Overall among 2B, he’s a bit behind the trio of Whitaker, Alomar, and Sandberg, but he stacks up well against the likes of Bid McPhee, Willie Randolph, and Billy Herman. It’s no crime that it took Biggio three tries to be voted into the Hall. He’s now where he belongs, both in the Hall and the HoME.

Sammy Sosa: Jokes and unfortunate truths and near-truths about him aside, Sosa was an incredible player. He’s a peak candidate in a career candidate’s clothing. As a younger player he had a missile for an arm, and he could really run. Sure, some would question his tactics on the bases, but he could run. And as he matured and developed as a player, his power exploded, and his walks followed. His power began to grow in his mid-20s and took off in the great home run race of 1998 when the seven-time All-Star hit 66 long balls and won the MVP. With 609 during his 18 seasons in the majors, he’s in some elite company. And though some legitimately question his Hall credentials, we see him as roughly similar to Bobby Bonds or Reggie Smith. He’s certainly not an inner circle guy, but he’s over the line.

That ends our 2013 voting, and there are only two elections to go. Please check out our Honorees page to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.

Fixing the Hall

Hall of FameYou may have heard, the Hall of Fame is a mess. On a certain level, that’s why we started the Hall of Miller and Eric. But we still care about the one in upstate New York, so below is out plan to fix it. Enjoy.

Eric: Brighter minds than ours have written about the fustercluck that the BBWAA has managed to create on its Hall of Fame ballot. Between tighter standards for contemporary players, steroids, and the whole old-school/new-school war, things are getting a little zany. The BBWAA has yet to reform the process and seems unlikely to do so. The Hall itself tries to stay out of the fray, presumably because the BBWAA will get angry at it. We the fans get treated to multiple rounds of gridlock, and deserving players go unrecognized. It’s not getting better anytime soon with lots more candidates piling in during the coming years, many of whom are well-qualified but not the slam dunks that the writers are willing to actually vote for. What the Hall and the BBWAA really need is another couple of disgruntled bloggers to tell them what to do. So Miller and I will pretend we are in our mothers’ basements and share our concerns and our sage advice.

Miller: I’m a college professor in Speech Communication. And in my field, like almost all professional fields as I understand it, there’s this thing called professional development. We go to conferences and workshops so we can stay current in the field. And again, my field is Speech Communication – something that’s hardly changed since Aristotle! In what seems like another lifetime, I studied to become a personal trainer. To remain appropriately certified, I needed to keep taking classes. There was no one-time certification. And then we have members of the BBWAA. They aren’t required to learn that batting average, runs batted in, and pitcher wins aren’t the best measures of greatness. They aren’t required to use any objective measure of clutch. They aren’t required to understand advanced statistical measures. Hell, some of them take it as a badge of honor to ignore such numbers. And it’s hilarious to hear them talk about MVP and Cy support when they’re the very people who give players that support – right or wrong. They resort to talking about “fear” and “clutch” and “true ace” because those are abstract terms that people can’t call into question so easily. Pathetic. Just pathetic.

Are you happy with last week’s results?

Miller: I’m happy with what happened in general, yes. I’m happy that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas got what they richly deserved. I’m sad for Jack Morris and giddily happy that his supporters failed. I’m pretty upset about Rafael Palmeiro falling off the ballot though. He’s surely one of the 25 best 1B in the game’s history, and he might rank a lot higher than that. He deserves further consideration.

As for things that didn’t happen, I guess I’m okay if people gain or lose ground from one year to the next. With such a crowded ballot, I don’t know that losses this year mean a lot in the long term.

Eric: I am unhappy with the results. Electing the three obvious new candidates only means the writers passed a basic test of sentience. The average number of names per ballot increased by less than two, and the invisible majority continues to hold the election of numerous, obvious Hall of Famers hostage. Finally, the steroids issue has not begun to move towards any resolution, which further clogs up the ballot for everyone else. Happy for the Big Three, though.

 

Changes need to be made to improve the process in the future. Let’s start with ballots. Should they be secret or public?

Miller: They need to be public ballots. Transparency in the Hall process is critical.

Eric: Every voter must make their ballot public, or their vote isn’t tallied. All other BBWAA votes are public. This one should be too.

 

Voting rule 5 states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Should anything be done about that?

Miller: I used to think the rule was fine. But writers have bastardized it so much. There’s no way it was intended to allow writers to moralize about candidates, though that’s exactly what’s happening. The rule either needs to be done away with or changed to something like, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Remove all morality from our evaluation of baseball players.

Eric: Rule 5 doesn’t need changing. It’s always been enforced selectively. Look at the managerial class going in. The Hall, itself, doesn’t care about Rule 5 much. If it did, it wouldn’t have allowed the enshrinement of a wife beater and of probably the most steroid-enabling manager we know of—who also got caught for DUI and whose teams had a string of such offenses. The Hall has let Leo Durocher in despite his being banned a year for associating with gamblers. My point: The Hall should give some instruction to the electorate to the effect that innuendo isn’t enough, and starting steroid whisper campaigns is unacceptable. We can’t wipe out an entire generation. Positive test? I think that may be an acceptable application of Rule 5. Short of that, you’d better have a credible source on the record with back-up: this ain’t Salem. But also they ought to think long and hard about Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford as well as about amphetamine usage in prior generations.

 

Currently there’s a rule that players must appear on 5% of ballots to remain in consideration the next year. Is this a good rule?

Miller: It’s not. In recent years we’ve seen credible candidates such as Rafael Palmeiro, Kenny Lofton, Bernie Williams, and Kevin Brown fall off the ballot when they really deserved more consideration. How about something like this:

Year 1:          1%
Year 2:          2%
Year 3:          3%
Year 4:          4%
Year 5:          5%
Year 6:          7%
Year 7:          9%
Year 8:          11%
Year 9:          13%
Year 10:        15%
Year 11:        18%
Year 12:        21%
Year 13:        24%
Year 14:        27%

I don’t know that mine is a good system. But it would do two things. First, it would allow candidates like Lofton and Bernie to build support. Second, it would remove from consideration down-ballot players like Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, and Dave Parker. Those are guys who clog the ballot and take votes, but will never earn induction by the BBWAA.

Eric: The 5% rule could be reasonably changed to more of a sliding scale.

 

How about the 10-man ballot?

Miller: I really hate to make changes to fix a current problem that, first, can be solved without a change, and second, may cause bigger problems down the road. My 10-man ballot view is, sure, 10 is a blindly chosen number. However, it does offer an anchor. Without it, there’s going to be a lot more big-Hall, small-Hall controversy. And basically, I think less-than-deserving players will be able to get in. I think Morris would have been voted in this year had writers been able to vote for as many as they wanted.

Also, I think the current system, flawed as it is, can work out this glut by itself. Step one was getting Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas elected this year. Step two is getting Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Craig Biggio elected next year. If either John Smoltz or Mike Piazza goes in too, that’s even better. If we get at least three next year, the glut can begin to work itself out in 2016.

Eric: I see both sides of the 10-man issue. On one hand, given the current depth of the ballot, the electorate is not able to vote yes for all they may feel deserve enshrinement. Since the ballot is not intended to be rank-ordered but is a yes/no referendum on each guy, that’s a serious issue. On the other hand, a bigger ballot may encourage worse voting. Joe Sheehan has it right: the Balkanization over steroids is the big clog.

 

What did you think about the quality of Dan Le Batard’s ballot of Maddux, Thomas, Glavine, Piazza, Biggio, Edgar, Bagwell, Clemens, Bonds, and Schilling?

Miller: I might have preferred Mussina and Trammell to Edgar and Biggio. Or I might have voted strategically Biggio or Palmeiro. In any case, the ballot has ten names without Morris, Mattingly, or McGriff. I’m happy.

Eric: His/our ballot was excellent and would have nearly matched mine. Good job, fans!

 

Should Le Batard have had his voting privileges taken away?

Miller: I don’t know. Maybe. On one hand, the BBWAA rules say yes. On the other, the quick backlash against Le Batard continues to marginalize the writers. How dare Le Batard let non-members vote!

Eric: I think Le Batard made a more appropriate protest vote than Ken Gurnick or Murray Chass, for example. And his ballot had more integrity and rigor than, say, Dan Shaughnessey’s. Those guys and others like them bore no consequences. Le Batard knew what was coming, and the penalty was apt. I’d have done the same thing the BBWAA did. Le Batard was willing to take his lumps for the cause. Gotta give him that.

 

Should we reform the electorate?

Miller: Yes! Yes! Hell yes! But I have to admit that I don’t know what the right plan would be. I hate saying this, but I don’t really like the plans I’ve seen floated, and I can’t do better. So I won’t pretend to try.

On a positive note, let’s look at the SABR/old school debates over the last so many years:

1998: Ron Santo, loss
2006: Bruce Sutter, loss
2009: Jim Rice, loss
2011: Bert Blyleven, win
2014: Jack Morris, win

Tim Raines will be a victory. Alan Trammell will be a loss. Lee Smith will be a victory. I don’t think Fred McGriff, Jeff Bagwell, and Mike Piazza are wins or losses, though I think they’ll all go the way of the SABR. Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina will go too. While massive problems remain, I do believe we’re moving in the right direction in general.

I have no doubt that the BBWAA is the wrong electorate, but I do think they’re becoming somewhat less bad at their job.

Eric: The big problem here is pretty obvious, right? As a group, the writers are knuckleheads. Not even because of the hypocritical steroids gridlock, but because they can’t seem to tell the difference between great players and good players. For every Bert Blyleven, there’s a Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, Kirby Puckett, Goose Gossage, Tony Perez. And the Jack Morris fetish. And the inability to see Trammell, Raines, and Schilling as obvious Hall of Famers. Oh, and dumping Kenny Lofton, Lou Whitaker, Keith Hernandez, and plenty others on the first ballot. Especially galling for a guy like me are the codgers who haven’t been in a clubhouse in twenty years and the ones still in the field who don’t actually cover baseball. Ever. How are those particular subsets of the electorate more qualified to vote than, oh, Miller and Eric?

I’m fine with the BBWAA participating in the vote, just not with them owning the vote. Here’s some specific reforms that I’d suggest. First, for the BBWAA itself:

1.) Every BBWAA voter must be actively covering the game to vote.

2.) The vote should be granted to other baseball media members, subject to accreditation, as well as to researchers and other experts. The wisdom of crowds approach benefits from diversity and numbers, and the world’s greatest players deserve to be considered by the most informed, modern, and high-quality electorate possible.

To start with, I, like many others, would include current MLB broadcasters. So that’s the local radio and TV guys, including Spanish-language announcers. And, like with the writers, they must meet requirements for being active. The local guys add maybe as many as 75 to the actual voting pool. And we’ll have a big infusion of people who actually watch games and interact with teams. I do recognize that we then may allow some Rex Hudlers in, but I would prefer him to guys covering golf for a living.

There is a third kind of media member we should include, and that is the independent. This would include writers/contributors to websites or blogs who are not already members of other voting groups. This would necessitate the formation of an association or body to vet and accredit those sites and the members of those sites who may petition for a vote. They, too, should have serve some time and be active. This group would include the likes of FanGraphs, BBREF, Baseball Prospectus, Hardball Times, Bill James Online, ESPN.com, MLB.com, Grantland, Seamheads.com, etc…. Anyplace online that does serious baseball coverage. The independent group should also include studio analysts. So Brian Kenney, yes. And, yes, John Kruk, Harold Reynolds, and Mitch Williams. As always, they are subject to accreditation.

One other group that should get a vote is baseball researchers and historians. John Thorn and Pete Palmer, for example, know more about baseball than about 99.99% of the world will forget. There aren’t tons of those guys, but they merit a vote as well, and were I the Hall, I would put SABR in charge of creating a way to accredit these voters.

There is one final group that I believe wants to participate and should. That group is called Everyone Else. Players, managers, Hall of Famers, scouts, front office people, my mailman, the guy at the grocery store with the funny mustache, cranky retired BBWAA members, and, yes, you and me. The awful truth of democratic institutions is that we aren’t all well-qualified to provide input. More importantly, the Web is the only good way to poll this group, and it is subject to mobocratic manipulation. But the Deadspin vote-buy this year provides a useful example to follow. Everyone Else’s vote could count as a single ballot. Or as one percentage point of all ballots, that is, if there are 500 other ballots, Everyone Else’s vote would be worth five ballots. We can play with the details, but the point is that we be inclusive but only to a certain, tiny degree. There are ways out there to control for simple vote-rigging schemes (use a landing page that requires sign in; limit one ballot per IP address; etc.). The point is that we all get a say, if we want it, even if it is essentially token. Because being part of the solution and the dialogue helps one of the Hall’s constituencies express their opinion directly and contribute.

On total reform…

While the BBWAA front-door vote needs some repairs, we’ve already put forth a VC reform plan. The two reforms should be seen as one. We know the BBWAA is stricter than the VC, and probably too strict. We also know that the VCs are made up of guys who are either just like the BBWAA or just like the Joe Morgan Superfriends electorate that failed to elect anyone. Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker, to name two, have no chance for the fair hearing they deserve with this setup. As a last-resort, the VC needs to be that much better informed about the game’s history and even about advanced analytics. Whitey Herzog and Bert Blyleven (who were on the Expansion Era Committee this year) are not likely to be historians and researchers. They know their own period in a very narrow way, why would we expect them to be able to place players in a larger historical perspective. The back door is about catching mistakes and overlooked players, but they’d need to be able to see the overlooked first.

There. Everything’s fixed.

Miller and Eric

Institutional History

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