(updated to correct an error of understanding)
Next Wednesday at 2 PM EST we’ll hear the results of the 2013 voting ballot. For fans with a Braves only outlook, Dale Murphy’s last chance is their only interest. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot has 37 names – many controversial – and we’ve already seen lots voters seeking to make a name for themselves by declaring they won’t vote for anyone because some players might have used PEDs. I won’t glorify stupidity by naming those BBWA members who are hard of thinking but it’s really about time for them to fix their half of the voting process. More on that later, here’s my take on this year’s ballot.
There are 24 newcomers on the ballot including Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa. Most of those will be gone next year – sorry Ryan Klesko et al. There are 13 holdovers from previous years including Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and of course Murphy. I don’t get an official vote but the Fansided writers had an internal poll so I’ll post my ballot and explain it.
Before all these folks who never played the game started throwing numbers around and explaining what others should think, Hall of Fame players were obvious to people who watched the game. No one had to tell me Mickey Mantle’s WAR (any version you choose) to convince me he was belonged. The same for Ernie Banks, Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. The new stats do allow comparisons of players who one hasn’t seen or who didn’t play in big PR markets. To make those comparisons requires using a number of tools simultaneously; there is no one stat fits all answer. Those tools convinced me to change my mind in some cases and verified my beliefs in others. That said, here’s the ballot I would have submitted.
The idea that Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are somehow not hall of fame worthy is laughable. Some hard of thinking members of the BBWA didn’t vote for Bags because they felt he must have been a PED user. There was no evidence, no connection, no rumors, no proof other than he was friends with Ken Caminiti.
Bagwell was one of two preeminent NL first baseman of his era; a run producer, run creator, defensive standout and leader of a team that was often very bad. If you want numbers try these. Bagwell compiled 449 HR , 2314 hits, 1515 runs and 202 SB. From 1901 through 2005 only seven players compiled records close to that.
All of those players are in the Hall of Fame except Bonds and Bagwell. That’s pretty elite company
Biggio was an all star, gold glove defender and a complete baseball player who achieved 3000 hits on some pretty bad Astro teams. I heard one ‘expert’ say the Biggio only got 3000 hits because he hung around so long. Here’s a flash for that expert, you have to be better than a very good player to “hang around” in a starting lineup for 20 years, particularly on a bad team. Together Bagwell and Biggio carried teams that were otherwise average into the post season.
Roger Clemens is arrogant and hard to love unless he’s on your team. He’s also one of the finest pitchers to ever take the mound. Regardless of what I think of him as a person it wasn’t all about him. Clemens respected the game and earned his spot.
Fred McGriff had ten consecutive season with 30+ home runs for the Padres and Braves. Pitchers didn’t want to see him at the plate with the game on the line. If he’s not elected Crime Dog should bite the nonvoters hard and often.
Jack Morris was one of the finest pitchers in the game. That his ERA was high ignores the way pitchers manage a game. In the post season Morris was as good as it got.
I never saw Dale Murphy play during his prime and until last year’s discussion never considered him a candidate for the Hall. The discussion and the need to post articles for this site encourage me to look at Murphy in depth. My conclusion then and now is that had he played for the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers he would already be in the hall. This is a case where an arbitrary stat called positional scarcity and playing on some pretty bad teams skewed the general view of a very good player. When his career went down hill it did it quickly but for the 14 year period where he was a regular player he was the dominant player and that’s part of my criteria for the Hall. As I wrote last year:
In order to compare him with his peers during that time I ran a search on Baseball-Reference for players with numbers similar to his. Specifically they had to have:
- Played 50% of at least 1900 games in LF, CF or RF
- Had an OBP of at least .350 a slugging % of at least .475 and OPS+ of at least 120
The search turned up one name; Dale Murphy.
In 2011 Brian Kenny (@Brian_Kenny_ ) argued that because Murphy played center field when he should have been playing right his WARP and thus his Hall of Fame credentials suffered. I ran my search again using Murphy’s 78-90 rWAR of 46 instead of OPS+. No change. Murphy didn’t choose the position he played. He quietly did what his team ask of him without a thought to how his records would look and he was pretty good at it. How many of your super stars would do that – well aside from Chipper Jones? Dale Murphy should be in the hall.
Rafael Palmeiro is admittedly an odd case. In spite of leaked test results I always believed his story. When I read John Perrotto’s piece over at Ball Prospectus I found I wasn’t necessarily wrong in my belief. Perrotto wrote:
An extremely reliable source—with no ties to Palmeiro—told me an off-the-record story at the Winter Meetings that convinced me that Palmeiro was indeed a clean player and was tricked into using the steroid when he thought he was taking a shot of vitamin B-12 that led to his suspension and end of his career in 2005. Unfortunately, there would be too many legal ramifications to make the story public.
I’m not sure what ramifications other than perhaps a lost source could result and I doubt it’s the story that Miguel Tejada slipped Palmeiro a mickey because he heard Raffy slept with his wife. It’s Perrotto’s decision what he discloses of course, only he knows the story and the facts. Kevin Kennedy has always said he believed Palmeiro because he knew the man and felt he was a man of integrity. That further solidified my belief that he was set up. Raffy’s numbers certainly merit his being in the Hall and as with Clemens he continues to get my vote.
Mike Piazza was simply the best hitting catcher or all time. He couldn’t throw out a runner to save his life but he called a solid game, handled pitchers well and blocked pitches in the dirt well. Like Bagwell there were whispers but no proof that Piazza used PEDs. Like Bagwell self anointed judges decided he was guilty. Perhaps those who don’t vote for him are jealous that he married a Playboy Playmate? Piazza most definitely belongs in the Hall.
I never saw Tim Raines play but this year I went in depth on his numbers as I did with Murphy and others. What I found was an amazing player who should already be in the Hall of Fame. Overshadowed by Rickey Henderson Raines never got his due recognition. It’s time to correct that.
Lee Smith retired as the all time saves leader. People say saves are meaningless stats. They aren’t meaningless to the team when you look in the win column nor are they meaningless to the fans. Try telling the Yankees that Mariano Rivera‘s saves are meaningless. Those that say any pitcher can pitch in any inning have never done it. Closer by committee has been tried many times with some very deep and talented bullpens and has always failed when compared to having a designated closer. If anyone can do it why hasn’t that worked? Lee Smith belongs in the Hall of Fame.
A Mea Culpa
I should have voted for Barry Bonds. I didn’t because as I explained to someone at the time, unlike Clemens, Bonds has no respect for the game at all; it was always all about Barry. I felt it his case to be so egregious that I omitted him. That was a mistake. I let my personal feelings over rule my common sense. There are a lot of what I’ll politely describe as self absorbed jerks already in residence in Cooperstown and that personality trait shouldn’t disqualify Binds from joining them. I should have thought that out before I submitted my vote and I did not.
I want to keep this short so I won’t go too deep into why I omitted names others scream to include but here’s the Cliff Notes version.
Edgar Martinez was a DH. He was on the field less than 15 minutes a game for most of his career. A DH is essentially a pinch hitter. I don’t know of any pinch hitter that’s Hall of Fame worthy.
I never saw Alan Trammel play but all of the arguments I’ve heard say he’s essentially Barry Larkin. I looked at his numbers the way I looked at Murphy’s and Raines’. I disagree.
Curt Schilling was a superb pitcher and great in the post season. His numbers considering his era are as good as or better than Morris’ but I had 10 votes to give and Morris is running out of eligibility and deserves to be in the Hall. That I didn’t vote for Schilling is more a factor of the 10 vote limit than a belief that he shouldn’t be elected.
Larry Walker was a better player than Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa who were both one trick ponies even ignoring that their trick was partially possibly maybe artificially enhanced. Walker was very good but not good enough for my vote. Ditto Kenny Lofton, David Wells and Bernie Williams; they don’t make the cut.
That’s A Wrap
That’s my ballot and I’m certain a lot will disagree.
That’s your right of course but before you start throwing stats like JAWS or WAR7 at me consider the case of positional JAWS (Jpos) tries to level the playing field a bit and indicate the best at the position. This year it has every eligible pitcher including Aaron Sele rated exactly the same; 57.8. Let’s see Sele or Clemens. . . tough choice. It also has Bonds at 50.7 while Larry walker and Sammy Sosa are 55.4. That’s just ludicrous. I was in error over Jpos and have removed that. It doesn’t have an effect on my choices nor the over use of statistics to make a decision about a players value. Some things cannot be quantified. If you believe otherwise we will disagree. Why WAR7 and not WAR10 or WAR5? Look at the whole player on both sides of the ball when making your argument and perhaps I can be convinced. At worst we can agree to disagree just remember that numbers don’t tell the whole story. Speaking of the whole story, it’s time that those who write the story get their act together.
The more the public knows about who the voters are the less sense it makes. This year we find for example, that three www.golferswest.com writers, Bob Sherwin, Jim Street and Kirby Arnold have votes but none have covered baseball for at least five years. These guys are reputed to have been (past tense) very good writers but they have not been focused on baseball for many years. At the same time Vin Scully, Jon Miller, Milo Hamilton and many others don’t get a vote. BBWA President Susan Slusser – @susanslusser – is an intelligent, knowledgeable writer. I‘d hope that she makes it her goal to return credibility to the BBWA voting process and pretty quickly. Failing any overt movement in that area the Hall of Fame should exercise its authority over the process by modifying the the voting so that it makes some kind of sense. members should get a vote and recognized broadcasters chosen by the Hall and it’s members should as well. The days of getting a vote because you had a title for 10 years must end. being a voting member should not be a lifetime appointment either. Being silly – as the unnamed idiot in Arizona is doing this year – should get your vote rescinded. Until change occurs we’ll continue to have voters who withhold their vote from players because they failed to get an interview or heard a rumor from a guy in a bar who knows a guy that was there. That’s silly and completely unacceptable.