Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hall Pass

On Tuesday, the Baseball Writers Reporters Association of America will announce the results of their Hall of Fame voting for 2008. I've already exposed you to some of the sheer lunacy by which members of the BBRAA make their selections; the really scary thing is that the reporters usually do a BETTER job of selecting than the Veterans' committee does. More about that later.

Since Bob and I don't have the "privilege" of entering a smelly clubhouse to ask real live players and managers stupid questions, we have no real say in the voting. But we can tell you how we would vote, if we could.

The BBRAA votes from a ballot of players with at least ten years service in the major leagues. A committee pre-screens candidates to remove guys like this and cut the field to players who were actually good players. The weakest candidate on the ballot this year is probably Todd Stottlemyre, and Todd Stottlemyre won 138 games in the big leagues. That counts as a good player.

Bob and I have been over most of this ground before, but it's a really crappy, cold, rainy, windy day here today so I have nothing better to do than to cover it all again. Let's start with the guys who are honored enough just to be on the ballot and are not really qualified in any way for the Hall of Fame:

Brady Anderson (although highly qualified for Bob's fantasy team HOF)
Rod Beck (overqualified for the facial hair HOF)
Shawon Dunston
Chuck Finley
Travis Fryman
David Justice
Chuck Knoblauch
Robb Nen
Jose Rijo
Todd Stottlemyre

Pretty much the entire new group of nominees, with one exception. We'll come to him later.

Now let's commence the arguin'. Not getting my vote:

Harold Baines. The sponsor of his baseball-reference.com page says, "Here's to one of the greatest White Sox of all time and my favorite player! Harold belongs in the Hall !" Harold Baines is also my favorite player, and I'm here to tell you that no, he doesn't. Only in 1984 could he reasonably have been considered to be one of the best players in the league, and accomplishing that only once in a 22-year career doesn't make you a Hall of Famer.

Dave Conception. Yes, he was the best NL shortstop of the 1970's. Being the tallest midget in the circus is not a HOF-worthy acheivement. Conception was a good player, but nowhere near as good as the guy who succeeded him as the Reds' SS. No, not Kurt Stillwell.

Andre Dawson. Don't even start with the knee injury stuff. Yes, the injuries reduced his skills and hurt his career. That's part of the game. A Hall of Fame election should be about what a player did, not what he might have done. The same claim about the knees could be made, in fact even more so, for Harold Baines. Injuries very likely kept Tony Oliva, Pete Reiser, Hal Trosky, Charlie Hollocher, and many others out of the Hall. Sorry about that, but those are the breaks.

The only things Dawson has going for him are (1) he won an MVP award, (2) he's a nice guy, and (3) he was a very athletic player. Well, the most athletic guy I ever saw in a baseball uniform was Glenn Braggs, and this was his career. Looking great in the uniform doesn't cut much in this election. Neither does being a nice guy, although it's certainly a positive for your karma. As for the 1987 MVP election, that was one of the worst choices of all time, rivalled by the AL vote the same year (more on that one later). Andre Dawson wasn't one of the 20 best players in the NL in 1987, 49 homers or not. And if you don't believe me: Tony Gwynn, Tim Raines, Mike Schmidt, Will Clark, Jack Clark, Ozzie Smith, Dale Murphy, Pedro Guerrero, Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis, Kal Daniels, Bill Doran, Andy Van Slyke, Tim Wallach, Juan Samuel, Howard Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Orel Hershiser, Mike Scott, Rick Reuschel...I could go on for a bit, but that's piling on.

OK, one more thing. Andre Dawson's career on-base percentage was .323. Dave Conception's was .322. If you're a power hitting outfielder with the same low OBP as a light hitting shortstop, are you really a Hall of Famer?

Tommy John. I'm a big Tommy John fan. Tommy John was a better pitcher than many who are already in the Hall (I'm looking at you, Pennock, Hoyt, and Haines). But being a really good pitcher for a long time isn't the same as being a great pitcher. All throughout his career, he had contemporaries who were better: Palmer, Carlton, Perry, Jenkins, Clemens. Sure, it's a tough standard, but this is the Hall of Fame, for crying out loud. The standard had better be tough.

Don Mattingly. I know that this is an emotional issue for a generation of New Yorkers, but facts are facts. No matter how bright your childhood memories, no matter how nice a guy he is, Don Mattingly had a career of only fourteen years, and in only four of them was he a HOF level player. Back injuries suck. Mattingly is another great "if." If he had two or three more years like 1984-1987, if he had been able to play even at his 1988 level for three or four years, then I could see a case. Lacking that, I can't.

Jack Morris. Among the silliest of the arguments this year are those supporting Morris over Bert Blyleven. Setting Blyleven's candidacy apart for the moment, Morris' case is weak. He was a good pitcher, and durable, but much of his record comes from the support of the teams behind him. A lot of people thought that this guy was a good pitcher, too, at least until he left Detroit. And don't give me that crap about game seven, 1991. Yeah, it was one of the greatest games ever. Yeah, Morris pitched a great game. If that's going to be the criteria for induction, here'are my votes for Johnny Podres, Don Larsen, and Steve Blass.

Dave Parker. Spent 1980-1984 blowing his career up his nose. Had his career continued at a normal progression during those years, he'd be in. It didn't; he's not. Please take note; I don't hold the drug years against him as a character flaw, I hold them against him because for what should have been five of his peak seasons he was a highly talented mediocrity.

Jim Rice. See Don Mattingly. I don't want to hear about how feared he was. Frank Howard was feared, too, and he's not in. In fact, Howard and Rice are pretty damned similar, and even finished with exactly the same number of career home runs, 382. I could even make the argument that Howard was a better player than Rice. One measure of a hitters' greatness is his OPS+ (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, compared to the league average) . On this scale, a score of 100 is exactly league average. Rice's best three seasons were 157, 154, and 147, good scores all. Howard's were 178, 170, and 170. Howard also had seasons of 153, 149, 147, and 144. Like Rice, he was considered the strongest guy in the league, was not a good outfielder (although he had a very strong arm, which Rice did not), and when his career slipped, it slipped quickly. Unlike Rice, he played in the worst hitting era in fifty years, in a poor hitters park, for teams that were bad and unpublicized. Frank Howard for the Hall of Fame, anyone?

Lee Smith. Was a fun guy to watch, racked up a lot of saves. Good for him.

And now, my waffle votes:

Dale Murphy. On the plus side, won two MVP awards (although both should have gone to Mike Schmidt), was truly outstanding between 1982 and 1987, was able to stay in center field for a long time (unlike Dawson), nice guy. There are a lot of nice guys on this year's ballot. Negatives: Didn't reach 400 homers (although he had more than Rice), played most of his career in the best home run park in the league, career went completely off the cliff in 1988.

I'm going to vote no this time, and look at him more closely next year. While he's certainly better than many outfielders currently enshrined, I don't know if the total package is enough to win my vote.

Alan Trammell. One of the biggest reasons for Jack Morris' success, and the best player on the strong Tigers teams of the 1980's. Should have won the 1987 MVP award. I mean, come on, George f*****g Bell? Trammell was a terrific defensive shortstop with a .352 lifetime on base percentage. I'm gonna vote for that.

And now, the obvious winners:

Bert Blyleven. Most of the anti-Blyleven argument is that (1) he was a good pitcher, not a great one, and (2) his W-L record isn't good. People making these arguments have been in space too long. The answer to both is the same: dude, did you look at the teams he pitched for? No one is going to look great in front of this or this or this. Those aren't just random bad teams; most of his career is like that. Until he reached the age of 37, Blyleven's ERAs were better than league average every year except 1980, when he was just a bit worse than average, and 1982, when he was hurt and only pitched in four games. And most of the time it wasn't just a little better than average, it was a lot better:

Year Bert ERA League ERA ERA+
1973 2.52 3.98 158
1974 2.66 3.77 142
1977 2.72 4.11 151
1984 2.87 4.12 150
1985 3.16 4.26 134
1989 2.73 3.81 140

And so on, and so on. If that doesn't look like the records of a great pitcher, then I don't know what else to tell you.

Goose Gossage. The greatest relief pitcher of all time, possibly excepting Hoyt Wilhelm.

Mark McGwire. Get off of your soapbox. Especially those of you who acted as his cheerleaders in 1998 and 1999. Mark McGwire didn't have an Underdog Super Energy Vitamin Pill; I didn't notice Howie Clark, Larry Bigbie, or Chad Allen hitting 70 homers. The Mitchell report named a lot of players; a lot of those names can be placed as evidence that PED's have little value as performance enhancers.

Tim Raines. Twenty three seasons of .385 on-base percentage works pretty well for me. So do the 808 stolen bases (at an 85% rate). So do the 1571 runs scored, and the 1330 walks. Raines should have won the 1987 MVP award that went to Dawson, and maybe one or two more. But the BBRAA didn't appreciate him then, and I won't be surprised if they don't appreciate him now.



  • McGwire should be it and he'll probably get snubbed. What a crap year this is.

    Yes, Mattingly, Baines, Murphy, the best player on their teams, on teams that just happened to suck.

    Raines was a great player, just doesn't scream Hall of Fame to me (maybe because he was on the drugs and played in the baseball wasteland.)

    In my opinion: Eric Davis and early Ken Griffey Jr, both more athletic than Glenn Braggs.

    Entertaining post!

    By Blogger Burrito Eater, at 10:56 AM  

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