By In Stuff

Ballot 10: Vlad and Manny

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Manny Ramirez

Played 19 years with five teams

Twelve-time All-Star hit 555 home runs, won a World Series MVP, led league in slugging and on-base percentage three times. 69.2 WAR, 35.6 WAA

Pro Argument: One of the greatest hitters who ever lived.

Con argument: PEDs and was a subpar outfielder

Deserves to be in Hall?: Yes.

Will get elected this year?: No

Will ever get elected?: 45-50%

* * *

Vladimir Guerrero

Played 16 years with four teams

Nine-time All-Star hit .318 for his career, twice led the league in total bases. 59.3 WAR, 29.4 WAA

Pro Argument: One of the greatest hitters who ever lived.

Con argument: Shortish career … he retired at 36 before he reached some of baseball’s magic numbers.

Deserves to be in Hall?: Yes.

Will get elected this year?: 43%

Will ever get elected?: 99%

* * *

If you listened to this week’s PosCast, well, first of all, thank you for that. That thing was long, wasn’t it? We can’t shut up. But back to the point, if you listened to this week’s PosCast you already know that at some point it became clear to me that there were 11 players I absolutely wanted to vote for this year. And the rules only allow 10.

Yes, I could have left off Bonds or Clemens or both … I knew neither one would be elected anyway and it’s likely they both did act shamefully when baseball was the Wild, Wild West and so on. But I couldn’t leave either one off because I feel sure that they are the two best players on the ballot, and I think it’s my job to vote the best players in the Hall of Fame.

I was obviously going to vote for Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell. It’s ridiculous that it has taken this long to get them into the Hall of Fame.

I considered ditching Curt Schilling for being an Internet troll, but I didn’t consider it very long. For one thing: It doesn’t have anything to do with his baseball career. But two, I see Curt Schilling as a not-borderline, no-doubt, slam-dunk Hall of Famer and because I see him as that (and many others don’t) I feel the responsibility to push his case every chance I can.

Mike Mussina: Same thing.

Edgar Martinez was one of the greatest hitters ever and has waited too long simply because he was a DH. Larry Walker, as I’ve written before, is one of the 10 most complete players in baseball history and belongs in the Hall of Fame. Pudge Rodriguez was a marvel, the greatest defensive catcher I ever saw and that includes Johnny Bench.

Well, that’s nine. It leaves only one spot.

So, here are Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero, two players I adored for very different reasons, two players I absolutely and unequivocally believe belong in the Hall of Fame. And I could only choose one.* The 10-player rule is absurd and groundless and should be changed and … well, it’s still the rule.

*If I’d had 11 picks, I would have had to leave off Gary Sheffield, who I also believe is a qualified Hall of Famer. I would have felt a bit bad about that, but not as bad as with Manny and Vlad.

So, here’s what I did – this is absolutely true. I made a copy of the Hall of Fame ballot. And I filled out two ballots. One had Manny Ramirez on it. One had Vladimir Guerrero on it. And I looked at the two of them for very long periods of time and tried to decide which one to send in.

Very … long … periods of time. It’s embarrassing, really.

* * *

“In my lifetime,” I wrote three years ago, “I think that there was nothing in sports more fun than watching Vlad Guerrero hit a baseball.”

In the ensuing years, we’ve had the emergence of Steph Curry who is impossibly fun to watch. Usain Bolt won more gold medals – impossibly fun. Jordan Spieth came along and had that stretch of time when he figured out the calculus of golf and kept winning even though he wasn’t really the best at any one thing – impossibly fun. Novak Djokovic won some points that boggle the mind – impossible fun.

Simone Biles. My gosh. Simone Biles.

And yet, that thing I wrote, it’s still true. There has not been a single thing in my lifetime of sports watching that I enjoyed more than watching Vlady hit – the closest anything can get is a tie. The thing that made it all so joyous, so fun, is that nobody in the history of everything enjoyed anything more than Vlad Guerrero enjoyed hitting a baseball. Baseball is, of course, filled with terrific hitters who did not walk. Most of them did not have the abilty to walk … they lacked the rare ability to differentiate between balls and strikes in that blink-of-an-eye time between pitcher’s release and the ball reaching the plate. They lacked the rare talent of being able to hold back when a pitch looked like a strike and then broke or dropped or rode out of the strike zone.

Well, I don’t believe that Vlad Guerrero lacked either of those talents. Frankly, I don’t think there is a hitting talent of any kind that Vlady lacked. He was a hitting savant and I’m pretty sure he had the instincts to know if a pitch was a ball or a strike, and I’m pretty sure he had the reflexes to hold back. He could have been a different hitter if he wanted.

What he lacked was the CAPACITY to hold back.

If there was a pitch thrown anywhere in Vladimir Guerrero’s solar system, he wanted to hit it. He needed to hit it. That was the fundamental character of Guerrero. See the ball. Hit the ball. Every pitch left alone was a missed moment, a flower unnoticed, a dream unremembered, a glance unreturned. If the pitch was in the dirt, Guerrero golfed. If the pitch was in the clouds, Guerrero leaped. If a pitch was three feet outside, Guerrero reached. If a pitch was two feet inside, Guerrero eluded and swung the bat in the same motion.

He could not wait. COULD NOT WAIT. He hit 126 home runs on the first pitch of an at-bat, which as far as we know is the most ever, more than Bonds, more than McGwire, more than Griffey. He put 1,780 balls in play on his first pitch – only Derek Jeter did it more. Jeter put 56 more first-pitches in play. Jeter also played 600 more games than Vlady.

Guerrero’s career walk numbers are deceiving … I fall for it all the time. Guerrero walked 737 times in his career, which isn’t terrible, and he walked 84 times in a season once, which is very good. But it’s an illusion. Guerrero walked only when pitchers had basically given up trying to pitch to him. More than one-third of his walks were intentional walks (only Garry Templeton joins him in that club). Then you throw in the walks where pitchers pitched around him.

Of course, it was very hard to pitch around Vlad Guerrero. Because of the joy.

Everything about Guerrero’s game was joyful, not just the hitting. He had this throwing arm,  lord, what a thing THAT was. He could throw a baseball about as hard and far as anybody ever. The thing is, he never had any real idea where it was going. In his life as an outfielder, he had 126 assists (28th all-time) and 125 errors (5th all-time). He airmailed countless cutoff men, hit the screen behind home plate on the fly … but also made absurd throws that would stick with you and stick with you until one day, months later, you were at work or at school or just sitting around and you would smile thinking about it.

He ran with wild abandon. Guerrero stole 40 bases one year. He was caught 20 times that same year. He had 11 triples one year. He also twice led the league in grounding into double plays. Everything he did on the bases was big and bold and electrifying and frustrating and entirely wonderful.

What a hitter. In the end, I suppose, those three words sum up the Hall of Fame case. Guerrero hit .318 for his career and only twice failed to hit .300, once in his last season when he hit .290. He racked up total bases like few ever have; he reached 350 total bases in a season five times, same as Henry Aaron, one behind Stan Musial and Willie Mays who had much longer careers.

Vlad retired with 2,590 hits, but he also retired at 36. That’s more hits than Tony Gwynn, Carl Yastrzemski, Paul Molitor, George Brett and Lou Brock had at the same age. Even a few mediocre years would have easily gotten him to 3,000. And he did try to keep going, but his body just couldn’t take the pounding of his bigger-than-life game any longer.

When Vladimir Guerrero retired, one of my first thoughts was: I can’t wait to vote him into the Hall of Fame.

* * *

“The following column,” I wrote in 2008, “is dedicated to the admittedly bizarre proposition that one Manuel Aristides (Onelcida) Ramirez, sometimes known as Man-Ram or Manny Being Manny or just plain Manny is a genius.”

Well … he was a genius. OK, no, he was not a genius in life … “It’s not an easy case to make,” I wrote then, “that a man who tries to run to third on a ground-rule double, who sometimes disappeared into the Green Monster during pitching changes, who gets pulled over by police for having overly tinted car windows is a genius.”

But he was a hitting genius. In this series, I have written about what an amazing hitter Jeff Bagwell was. Manny Ramirez was a better hitter than Bagwell. I have written about the extraordinary Edgar Martinez, at one point referencing him as a genius too. Manny Ramirez was even MORE of a hitting genius than Edgar.

He is the second-best hitter on this ballot, and he’s only second best because the BBWAA still has not voted in Barry Bonds, who is a whole other category. In the purest form of excellence – the talent to hit baseballs often and hard – there are a few men who separated themselves from the rest, there is Ruth and Williams, Aaron and Mays, Gehrig and Foxx, Hornsby and Bonds, Mantle and DiMaggio, Musial and Greenberg and in today’s game Pujols and Miggy and Trout. Manny Ramirez is in this stratosphere as a hitter.

The Manny stories, as Mike Schur likes to say, may or may not be true … but they FEEL true. One of those (told by Bill James, no less) is that Manny used to purposely get into full counts with runners on first base so that they would be on the move on the pitch and would score when Ramirez ripped a double, as he did 547 times.

Another, told by many, is that Manny would sometimes swing and miss at a pitch in April (or during spring training) to give the pitcher a false sense of comfort. Then, when it mattered, the pitcher would inevitably throw that pitch and of course this time he would hit it to the moon, as he did 555 times.

“It’s freaky,” Brian Bannister said of Manny. “Sometimes, he will just let a pitch go by, like he doesn’t care. If you’re lucky enough to strike him out, he will just kind of walk back to the dugout like it didn’t even matter. And you’re on the mound thinking, ‘What’s going on here? Is he setting me up?’”

The first time Bannister faced Ramirez, he got Manny to fly out. And Ramirez walked away like it meant nothing. The next time up, Bannister was freaking out, trying to remember what he’d learned on tape, trying to garner the courage to throw Ramirez something, and he threw a 2-1 fastball that was supposed to be low and away. It ended up being a bit higher and less away than he wanted. Manny hit the home run to center so hard that Bill James will still tell you it’s the hardest ball he’s ever seen hit.

“In the end,” Bannister said, “you can’t help but admire it.”

The numbers are the numbers. Ramirez finished his career 32nd all-time in on-base percentage, eighth in slugging percentage, 31st in doubles, 15th in homers, 21st in runs created and so on. But it’s the wonder of watching him hit that stays with you. He was this mad genius who was terrible on the bases, uninterested in the outfield, a constant pain in the neck. People who played with Manny to this day will tell horror stories about the experience.

But they will always finish with this: The guy was the greatest hitter they ever saw.

When he retired, even knowing it would be controversial, I knew I would vote for Ramires to go in the Hall of Fame.

* * *

So there they are, two ballots, one with Vlad, one with Manny, and I could only send in one. It irritated me that I couldn’t vote for both based on some baffling rule. It frustrated me. I have always promised that I would vote for the 10 best players, that I would not use the ballot to play games, to vote for this guy because he would need the votes or to pass on that guy because I would get another chance to vote for him next year.

Best player. That’s all.

Well, no, that’s not all. Because if it was that simple it would be simple: Manny Ramirez was a better player than Vlad Guerrero. Well, I should say he was a better hitter, better enough that it made up for his utter lack of interest in doing anything else. Manny had 30 points of on-base percentage and thirty points of slugging on Vlad and he had a somewhat longer career. Vlad created 1,600 or so runs. Manny created more than 2,000. There’s no way Vlad could make up that gap with defense or base running.

But …

Manny Ramirez twice tested positive for PED use, this was at the end of his career when he was just hanging on. Yes, I will vote for players who used steroids but Manny’s positive tests are \different. He used steroids after baseball had made a clear rule against it, after public opinion turned hard against steroid users, after it became clear just how much PED use was hurting the game. Two positive drug tests is definitely part of the equation.

How much of a part? Should it utterly disqualify a player from Hall of Fame consideration? Some would argue yes. Some would say it should be one factor in the bigger question. I tend to fall in that category.

Vladimir Guerrero, by everything we know, was clean, was a team leader, was a great teammate.

But …

Manny fundamentally altered the direction of the game. He played on four World Series teams, he was a great hitter on 10 different playoff teams, he was an unstoppable playoff force for the first Red Sox team in forever to win a World Series. MannyBManny hit 29 postseason home runs which is by far the most in postseason history. Yes, postseason greatness is a tricky thing because other great players, like Vlad Guerrero, through no fault of their own, just didn’t play on as many great teams. Still, this is baseball history. MannyBManny didn’t just take part in that history. He made it.

But …

Vlad Guerrero is what baseball is all about. He’s WHY I love baseball.

But …

There is no right answer. On the PosCast, I suggested that I was so upset that I had to pass on one of them that I would keep it to myself who I voted for. I was joking. I’m about to tell you.

I took the Vlad the Impaler ballot … and I took the MannyBManny ballot. I folded them both up. And then, finally, I put one in the envelope and took it right to a mailbox and dropped it in, so there would be no more vacillating.

I sent the Manny Ramirez ballot.

I regretted it the instant the envelope dropped into the mailbox. Though, to be fair, I probably would have regretted it just as much if I had sent the Vlad ballot.

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159 Responses to Ballot 10: Vlad and Manny

  1. Marshall says:

    I’m curious if Joe thinks that Vlad is a better candidate than Sosa because Vlad was better, or just more fun? I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for casting HoF votes based on the fun (or even “fame”) factor, but it’s interesting to tease out the subjective criteria that make up someone’s own HoF. The case for Manny over Sosa comes down to either 1)longevity vs. peak or 2)whether batting should count for HoF more than it apparently does in standard value calculations.

    • Spencer says:

      I promise you it’s because he thinks Vlad is better.

      • Marshall says:

        I’m not savvy enough to make a detailed comparison between the two using advanced stats other than WAR, and I never watched either play much (not that I’m a competent scout anyway), but WAR makes them look extremely similar.

        I’m almost certainly reading too much into the specific order of Joe’s rankings, but I’m a bit puzzled that Joe seems to rank Sheffield, Vlad, and especially Raines ahead of Sosa.

        I think Raines has gotten to the point where he was so underrated that he became a pet project of the sabermetrics community and is now overrated, while Sosa was so overrated by fans generally that he has become underrated by Joe and others.

        • anonymous says:

          Joe talked a good bit about Sosa’s career on the podcast as well as in the article, and he puts a lot of weight on the fact that Sosa wasn’t really good at any particular offensive tool except dingers, and wasn’t a good defender. I’d also say that Sosa’s peak was really pretty short and he was not very good at all outside of it. And even within that peak, a lot of the value comes from his extraordinary year in 2001. It’s a very tricky Hall of Fame case. I think it’s especially tough because the ballot this year has a lot of serious contenders whose value as players came exclusively or primarily from their offense – Edgar, Manny, Vlad, Sheffield, and McGriff all fall into this category – and then you look at Sosa and he had years where he was as good as any of those guys, years where he was probably better than they ever were. But he just did not sustain it.

          • Marshall says:

            I plan to listen to the podcast, but haven’t yet. I love Fangraphs’ WAR chart for comparing players (thanks Invitro for pointing me to it!)–I think the perception that Sosa had a short peak relative to those other players is misguided. For instance, Sosa’s nth-best year is as good or better than Vlad’s for almost every single year, including the tail ends.

          • anonymous says:

            Ehhhhh, yeah, I would say that with Sosa and Vlad, the difference between them is a lot less than I would have thought; similarly there’s a lot more daylight between Manny and Vlad than I would have thought. Vlad is probably my favorite player of the three – man he was awesome to watch – but I think you have more of a point with regards to Vlad.

    • anonymous says:

      I think you have to be really, really, really strongly weighted in favor of peak to think that Sosa’s case for HOF is as good as Manny’s. Although I was interested to see looking through the stats, which I hadn’t realized, that Sosa actually has more PA than Sosa – Manny really did miss quite a bit of time. Still, Manny’s superiority as a hitter over his career is non-trivial.

      • Marshall says:

        I always thought that Manny was a much better player, and I’m not saying he’s not, but Manny’s entire WAR advantage (by Fangraphs, anyway) is due to having a couple more years at roughly league average.

        • anonymous says:

          Manny was better than Sosa in every career year outside of their respective 7-year peaks (going by BR but IIRC they’re not significantly different for batters). He had five more seasons where he was an above-average player than Sosa did. I don’t think that’s insignificant. I think it’s a lot of career value. It speaks to his skill and ability as a baseball player.

  2. This is the first time I’ve finished one of your pieces disappointed. So badly wanted to read Vlad’s name.

  3. Owen says:

    Ouch. I was hoping for Vlad, just because there was zero chance that Manny would make it in year one, and a non-zero (looking to be fifty-fifty) one that Vlad would. But you’re right, both belong.

  4. Crazy Diamond says:

    Wrong decision, Joe. I hope – as I know you do, too – that Vladdy doesn’t fall one vote short. But Manny intentionally broke the rules. There’s no doubt. No whispers. No allegations. No leaking of secret testing. He was caught red-handed. Twice. There’s no excuse for that. Vladimir Guerrero deserves to be enshrined because he not only played baseball at the highest level and with the carefree spirit that we all love…but also because he played baseball the RIGHT way. He did it clean. He did it fair. He deserves this honor.

    • Marshall says:

      I was a bit surprised by the choice of Manny over Vlad, based on his distinction between PED users in the periods before and after testing was implemented. I wonder how much higher Manny would rank were it not for the failed tests?

    • Rob Smith says:

      Exactly. There’s been a lot of parsing of PED allegations in many of the articles written on this topic. There is none of that needed for Manny. I think it’s disingenuous for Joe to note that the failed tests happened at the end of Manny’s career. To imply just because the positive tests came late means that he didn’t use earlier in his career is the opposite of a logical conclusion. He played well over half his career before testing even began. Come on. The late testing failures might have been sloppiness of an older more desperate player or better testing… probably the latter in that he was caught taking a female fertility drug often taken with steroids. That might not have been caught earlier. Thinking he didn’t use throughout his career is just magical thinking. Wishing. Hoping. I don’t buy it.

      • moviegoer74 says:

        I don’t think Joe’s reference to Manny’s positive tests coming at the end of his career (which is true) was intended to imply that Manny didn’t use earlier.

      • Kael says:

        Joe has actually written about this in an earlier post (a few years back, I believe). He called it the “Obvious Factor”. He tied it in with how he enacts discipline for his daughters and his basic point was that if one of them misbehaved in some way, he might respond with some mild consequence or even just let it go. However, if one of them performed an action they were explicitly forbidden from doing, then that would lead to more severe consequences – even if it was the *exact* same action.

        Basically, as he explained it, that scenario mirrors his reaction to steroid use. If you did steroids prior to when testing was officially enacted and before the people in charge made it clear how unacceptable it was, then he’s disappointed but it doesn’t really impact how he regards you as a player. But if you did any of that stuff AFTER these policies came through, knowing full well that it was against the rules and you just didn’t care…well, then, now he has a bit of a problem with you as a player.

        • Rob Smith says:

          And yet MannyBManny is on his ballot, despite breaking the “Obvious Factor” rule you noted? Doesn’t sound like much of a rule if he can just discard it. I didn’t sense that Joe had much of a problem with Manny. If he did have a problem with him, it was apparently one he could “let go” of pretty easily. That seems to violate the principle you noted. Hey, it’s not my rule.

      • Anon says:

        Yeah, this article made me realize that I don’t actually match up with Joe’s opinion about PEDs. Joe has made a lot of good points over the years. He’s the fact that there was no testing and little outrage. He’s made the argument that there’s something in between the extremes of not caring about PEDs vs excommunicating anyone who people think might have used steroids. And I think the best point is: PEDs were not the cause of the home run surge — that was mostly other factors.

        But this is totally different. Ramirez fails all the tests Joe has ever outlined. He not only used PEDs, but got caught, twice. He did so at a time when the outrage was at its highest. All of his career value comes from his bat, and it is highly likely that without the effect of PEDs he would not have put up HoF numbers.

        Ramirez should be banned for life; he shouldn’t be getting votes for Cooperstown. It’s reasonable to vote for Bonds, Clemens, even McGwire and Sosa, certainly Pudge and Bagwell. I’m hopeful that this is a temporary lapse for Joe, but putting Ramirez anywhere close to the top 10 and a big change from any coherent option I’ve ever heard him give on PED use.

        • Chris says:

          Anon,

          “All of his career value comes from his bat, and it is highly likely that without the effect of PEDs he would not have put up HoF numbers.”

          I’m always baffled with statements like these. How can anyone say with any certainty what any players numbers would be without PEDs.

          What exact method of study is this based on? The truth is that nobody knows. Every player is different and thus any effects are different. Do we knock 10% off? 20%?

          I realize that this is frustrating and makes it difficult to put their careers into perspective.

          My personal opinion is that unless they are banned by MLB, then their numbers and career are valid and thus should be considered for HOF induction. Manny served his penalties for the failed test.

    • Matt says:

      These guys are entertainers. Nothing more, nothing less. They are paid to entertain you and make money for the owner. It’s that simple.

      • joel says:

        This is pretty cogent. I’m watching the media try to make something out of Antonio Brown this week and just realizing–my life is too short, I don’t have enough angst or even idle curiosity to spare a drop of it on this crap.

        Now, this is not to say that it’s not fun to dig into this HOF discussion and have these kinds of barstool discussions. But I realized this week, with fresh starkness, that once we cross the line towards imposing moral standards on this stuff, or even gaining moral lessons from it (two sides of the same coin), we are basically being suckers, and at best wasting a lot of time.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Joel,

          Excellent points.

        • invitro says:

          Discussing morals and ethics is fun and entertaining for at least a few of us, including me. 🙂 Also: “we are basically being suckers, and at best wasting a lot of time.” — C’mon, man. Telling people what is a good or bad use of their time is really obnoxious, don’t you think? I mean, I wouldn’t spend a dime on a Hollywood movie, and would consider doing so a vast waste of my time and money, but hey, they are obviously well worth it for some people…

          I hadn’t heard this Antonio Brown thing, so googled it, read one article, and it seems that even sports fans are getting entirely too sensitive. Brown owes the team an apology for broadcasting a closed meeting of course, but he doesn’t owe the public a damn thing. But I just read one article, maybe I don’t have all the story, not that it seems of any interest…

          • MikeN says:

            THAT’S what he was talking about? I also was clueless what this detail was. I knew all about the video, but it didn’t even cross my mind. Figured it might be something like Delonte West.

  5. Mark Daniel says:

    I was looking at where Manny ranks all time in WAR (72nd) and I noticed Carlos Beltran above him. I find this pretty surprising. Manny was a far superior hitter to Beltran, and I just can’t imagine Beltran making up all that ground with baserunning and defense.
    I went to Fangraphs to get a better breakdown (fangraphs WAR calculation is: WAR = (Batting Runs + Base Running Runs + Fielding Runs + Positional Adjustment + League Adjustment +Replacement Runs) / (Runs Per Win)).
    And it shows sort of what I believe.
    Batting Runs
    Manny: 659.1
    Beltran: 261.0

    Baserunning, Fielding
    Manny: -35, -157.1
    Beltran: 69.0, 33.5

    Adding those numbers in, you get to something like 470 (Manny) to 370 (Beltran).
    Then there are adjustments – positional, league and replacement runs. The positional adjustment brings the two closer by almost 100 alone. Throw in the replacement runs and you have Beltran being better.

    Alas, I don’t buy it.

    • invitro says:

      I’m very curious which one (or more) of the components you’re not buying…

      • Mark Daniel says:

        Well, I think defensive scores are flawed in that they utilize context (i.e. base-out values) and on top of that they award more points for difficult plays made compared to easy plays, even though the outcome of those plays is similar. At the same time, base-out values in hitting are ignored. I understand why base-out values are ignored in hitting. I just don’t understand why actual base-out values are used in defense and not some league average value.
        And I don’t buy the adjustments part of it. I don’t think I can eloquently state why I feel this way. I am probably wrong about this. And maybe I don’t understand the adjustments more than not buying it. But my logic is that if you count baserunning, fielding and batting, Manny is significantly better than Beltran. Beltran is better only after adjustments, and the biggest adjustment is the positional adjustment. So Manny is worse because he played LF, Beltran is better because he played CF and RF.
        I understand why this is. It just doesn’t make sense in the sense that I believe Manny is more valuable by virtue of his offense, which includes getting hits with men on base, and this value supersedes any value given to the simple fact that Beltran played CF and RF.

        • invitro says:

          Thanks for your reply. I have a goal of completely working through the WAR calculation some time this year, because I don’t know, or can’t remember, exactly how such things as position adjustments are calculated. (Well OK, I suppose I don’t know exactly how any of the components are calculated.) And I don’t know why defense (including pitching) uses context while offense doesn’t. But I can’t say any more until I have a better understanding of WAR in detail.

          • Rob Smith says:

            I would imagine that context is important in individual defense, because context is everything when measuring an individual player in establishing value. A difficult play SHOULD earn more points than a two hopper.

            With offense, you could add context, but it probably wouldn’t change values much. Basically since you play the entire league many times, against good fielders and bad fielders, the context starts to average out and diminish in importance. You have a play when you’re robbed, and then you have a catchable groundball to the left of Jeter that scoots into centerfield. When I work on metrics, I try to keep everything as simple as possible. If adding a complex contextualized calculation that requires a lot of study to obtain, I’d only go that route if it will significantly change the result. If the result changes by +/- 1, or something minimal, it’s not worth the effort & it would just irritate people for being obviously unnecessary & time consuming.

          • Mark Daniel says:

            Rob, I’m trying to figure out how to make sense of this, and after wasting a bunch of time, I see that it all comes down to defense for me. In short, think it’s overvalued, and this must be to the uneven awarding of points on plays made.
            The only tool that I know of that gives the me the proper info is Inside Edge Fielding on Fangraphs. This stat breaks down the plays made by a fielder, and plays are broken down by difficulty (routine, likely, unlikely, remote, etc.). The number of opportunities of each type of play, and the percent of opportunities turned into outs, are given.
            Using Inside Edge fielding, and comparing a league average AL SS in 2016 (Alcides Escobar) to the best AL SS in 2016 (Francisco Lindor), you can determine that the difference between the two players is about 12-14 plays for the entire season. In other words, the difference between a league avg SS and the best SS in the league is 12-14 plays. Or, Lindor (best fielder in the league) would have made 12-14 more plays than Escobar (a league avg fielder), had they been given similar opportunities. This is out of 500+ opportunities per player. Now, these are shortstops, so 12-14 missed plays by Escobar means the team essentially gave up 12-14 more singles.
            However, Fangraphs (using UZR) has a 20 run difference between the two players (20.8 vs. 0.8). How does 14 singles allowed yield 20 more runs?
            20 runs is huge. Hanley Ramirez last year had a .286/.361/.505 line with 30 HR, and his total for batting runs, according to Fangraphs, was 20. These are batting runs, mind you, it has nothing to do with baserunning. So, according to Fangraphs’ defensive calculations, the 12-14 plays that Francisco Lindor made is equivalent in WAR value to the entire batting production of Hanley Ramirez. Futhermore, in addition to getting 20 runs of value out of 12-14 singles, Lindor also gets a positional adjustment boost of somewhere around 6.9 runs because he’s a SS.

            This seems ludicrous, so ludicrous in fact that I’m convinced I must have made an error that I don’t know about. But this explains, probably inelegantly, what my doubts are.

          • invitro says:

            Mark, on bb-ref, Lindor has an Rfield of +17 for 2016, and Escobar has -6, giving a difference of 23 runs, similar to what Fangraphs says. I’m curious to check out this Inside Edge Fielding and see what’s up. I agree that it definitely doesn’t seem like 12-14 plays at SS should be worth 20 runs.

          • Mark Daniel says:

            In vitro, the only thing I’ve realized is that batting runs is actually runs above average. It’s hard to figure out what that means because it’s determined relative to league avg wOBA. In 2016 it was .313, while Hanley’s wOBA .367. So roughly speaking (I think) a .367 vs. .313 wOBA is equivalent to 12-14 defensive plays made by a SS. That still doesn’t seem right.
            Also, I looked at the difference between Alcides Escobar and Marcus Semien (SS for Oak), and there was like a 30 play difference between them, but a fielding runs difference of only 4.5 (compared to 20 for a 12-14 play difference for Lindor).
            I’m guessing this is because Lindor was an elite defender, which means he made more difficult plays, which in turn gave him disproportionate value for a small number of plays.
            I will stop thinking about this now.

  6. dlf9 says:

    With – in my opinion, as well as Joe’s – more qualified candidates than ballot slots, there needs to be some way of distinguishing between players. Here is where I would have differed with Joe: the choice of Edgar Martinez (who I agree should be in) over Vlad.
    /
    As hitters Edgar and Vlad were roughly similar. BAs of .312 vs. .318 is a difference without distinction. Edgar walked more (.418 OBA vs. .379) while Vlad had more power (.515 SLG vs. .553). Their OPSs were 931 to 933, again a difference without distinction. Since a little more of Martinez’s career pre-dated the post-strike offensive boom years, there is a little gap in their OPS+ with Guerrero’s 140 a bit behind the former’s 147. In the ‘payoff’ stats, Martinez produced 2480 runs+ribbies compared to Guerrero’s 2824. Despite the similarity here, BBref’s batting portion of WAR gives Edgar a huge advantage with more than 100 excess Rbat. (Given that a point of OBA is worth more than a point of SLG, I understand the gap, but that magnitude seems off.)
    /
    As baserunners, neither was great, but Edgar was slower and stole fewer bases at a worse rate while being about equally bad at hitting into double plays.
    /
    I have a hard time comparing them as fielders. When they were on the field, I’d suspect that both were close to league average for their positions and the positions of RF and 3B are of roughly equivalent value. But Vlad played more than 3x as much in RF as he DHed while Edgar nearly reversed it. BBref’s defensive portion of WAR, including the position adjustment, had Edgar at -111 defensive runs and Vlad at -107. Bluntly, I have a hard time believing that Vlad’s defensive value, since he actually wore a glove over 1500 games, is no more valuable than Edgar’s who did so about 500 times.
    /
    To me, the big difference is durability. Taking away Martinez’s first three partial seasons, when the M’s preferred to play Jim Presley, Edgar averaged 131 games per year. Similarly taking away the partial seasons at the start, Guerrero averaged better than 10% more per year and had more than twice as many 150 game seasons.
    /
    I know that WAR has a decent gap between the two. But with the same OPS, very similar OPS+, much greater payoff stats, better baserunning, and a defensive contributor vs. a defensive zero, I don’t find this difference to be determinative. So at the end of the day, if I only could pick one, I would have differed from Joe and picked Vlad the Impailer.

    • Shonepup says:

      39 points of OBA (the aforementioned .418 vs. .379) is a HUGE difference, not nearly made up by the 38 points of slugging advantage that Guerrero has over Martinez. That’s about the same difference in OBA as Miguel Cabrera vs. Andre Ethier.

      (I know, that’s totally cherry picked. But hopefully it elucidates the magnitude of the difference between the two).

  7. Austin Dave says:

    I’m a Red Sox fan…and definitely want Manny to make the Hall – but I was disappointed in your vote for just one reason. Vlad has to go in first, as he’s polling at over 70%. So he’s going in, whether it’s this year or next. Voting for Vlad will then help clear a space so that next year you won’t have to make the same hard decision between your 10th and 11th guys. Voting for Manny just means he might have to wait longer to get in.

    • Matt says:

      Joe probably made his ballot before he knew Vlad was around 70%. I’m sure had he known, he’d change his vote.

      Also, I think Joe mixed the envelopes up and mailed one. When he came home, he opened the other and it was Vlad’s.

      • Ross H. says:

        He also mentioned that he doesn’t vote strategically.

        ” I have always promised that I would vote for the 10 best players, that I would not use the ballot to play games, to vote for this guy because he would need the votes or to pass on that guy because I would get another chance to vote for him next year.

        Best player. That’s all.”

  8. Wes Tovich says:

    Put both in. But I’d vote for Vlad first just because. What a great player this guy was. No one like him.

    Manny–despite the roids and the baggage, I am for him going in too. Just too good.

  9. invitro says:

    Joe’s top 15 turned out to go almost exactly by JAWS. Here are all the guys (plus four) by Joe’s ranking, and their JAWS…
    #1 Barry Bonds – 117.6
    #2 Roger Clemens – 103.3
    #3 Curt Schilling – 64.5
    #4 Jeff Bagwell – 63.9
    #5 Mike Mussina – 63.8
    #6 Edgar Martinez – 56.0
    #7 Larry Walker – 58.6
    #8 Tim Raines – 55.6
    #9 Ivan Rodriguez – 54.0
    #10 Manny Ramirez – 54.6
    #11 Vladimir Guerrero – 50.2
    #12 Gary Sheffield – 49.1
    #13 Sammy Sosa – 51.0
    #14 Jeff Kent – 45.4
    #15 Fred McGriff – 44.1
    #16.5 Trevor Hoffman – 24.0
    #16.5 Billy Wagner – 24.0
    #18 Lee Smith – 25.4
    #19 Jorge Posada – 37.7
    #20 Magglio Ordonez – 35.2
    #21 Mike Cameron – 39.5
    #22 J.D. Drew – 38.5
    #23 Tim Wakefield – 29.8
    #24 Derrek Lee – 30.7
    #25 Edgar Renteria – 28.8
    #26 Jason Varitek – 21.5
    #27 Carlos Guillen – 25.9
    #28 Melvin Mora – 27.1
    #29 Orlando Cabrera – 20.6
    #30 Pat Burrell – 17.6
    #31 Casey Blake – 23.5
    #32 Freddy Sanchez – 15.9
    #33 Matt Stairs – 13.6
    #34 Arthur Rhodes – 14.8
    Javier Vazquez – 41.1
    Aaron Rowand – 19.8
    Julio Lugo – 14.1
    Danys Baez – 7.0

    • anonymous says:

      Is there a JAWS equivalent that uses WAA instead of WAR? I can’t imagine it’d make a significant difference, and probably none at all, but it’d be interesting.

      • Bryan says:

        Walker 7 best years 32.8, career 48.2, JWAAWS 40.5, JAWS 58.6
        Edgar 7 best years 28.3, career 38.4, JWAAWS 33.35, JAWS 56.0
        Raines 7 best years 27.5, career 35.0, JWAAWS 31.25, JAWS 55.6
        Manny 7 best years 24.1, career 35.6, JWAAWS 29.85, JAWS 54.6
        Sosa 7 best years 29.9, career 28.0, JWAAWS 28.95, JAWS 51.0
        Vlad 7 best years 26.3, career 29.4, JWAAWS 27.85, JAWS 50.2
        Sheffield 7 best years 24.4, career 25.7, JWAAWS 25.05, JAWS 49.1
        ***
        Walker gets a big boost because his only negative WAA season is -0.3 at Age 22. Sheffield takes a big hit for having 9 seasons totaling -9.2 WAA. Sosa gets a boost because WAA does more to highlight his peak relatively speaking but has the 2nd most negative WAA with -7.8 over 8 seasons to offset that.

  10. Dave B says:

    Oh, man, Joe. You should have sent in the Vlad ballot! If it’s that close for you, you may as well play the strategic voting game and give it to the guy who might actually get in. I hope Vlad doesn’t miss by one vote.

  11. Cumberbatch says:

    Let’s get to the important stuff… anyone found the video of Ramirez’s home run off of Bannister?

    • Dr Tom says:

      Outstanding. You had to see him play to grasp how ridiculously good he was with the glove. He improved at the plate consistently throughout his career. Easily a better player all around than Aparicio, and I saw them both play.

  12. invitro says:

    I didn’t care for Vlad, and I loved watching Manny play, but this post still makes me sad. 🙁

  13. Ben says:

    Maddux is another all-time great who set up guys in spring training.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Allegedly. It could have been true, but Maddux was an all-timer at getting in batters heads. Psy-ops was an unappreciated part of his game. If he ever said anything semi-interesting to the media, it was probably to spread useful propaganda to plant in everyone’s mind.

  14. invitro says:

    Hey, let’s look ahead to 2018. Here’s my rough prediction of what Joe will be doing in a year. The guys are ranked by JAWS, with exceptions for moving Edgar up because Joe did this year. Legend:
    2017 – predicted elected in 2017.
    NEW – new to the HoF ballot.
    x – won’t get 5% of 2017 votes.
    15yrs – looks like Lee Smith is the only guy to lose eligibility from being on the ballot too long.
    nope – players on the bb-ref list that I’m guessing won’t be on the 2018 ballot.
    #n – the guys I’m predicting to be on 2018 ballot.

    #1 Barry Bonds – 117.6
    #2 Roger Clemens – 103.3
    #3 Chipper Jones – 65.8 NEW
    #4 Curt Schilling – 64.5
    2017 Jeff Bagwell – 63.9
    #5 Mike Mussina – 63.8
    #6 Edgar Martinez – 56
    #7 Larry Walker – 58.6
    #8 Jim Thome – 57.2 NEW
    #9 Scott Rolen – 56.8 NEW
    2017 Tim Raines – 55.6
    #10 Manny Ramirez – 54.6
    #11 Andruw Jones – 54.6 NEW
    #12 Vladimir Guerrero – 50.2
    2017 Ivan Rodriguez – 54
    x Sammy Sosa – 51
    #13 Gary Sheffield – 49.1
    #14 Johan Santana – 48.1 NEW
    #15 Jeff Kent – 45.4
    #16 Johnny Damon – 44.4 NEW
    #17 Fred McGriff – 44.1
    #18 Jamie Moyer – 41.8 NEW
    #19 Carlos Zambrano – 41.8 NEW
    x Mike Cameron – 39.5
    x J.D. Drew – 38.5
    #20 Jorge Posada – 37.7
    #21 Omar Vizquel – 36 NEW
    x Magglio Ordonez – 35.2
    #22 Chris Carpenter – 32 NEW
    x Derrek Lee – 30.7
    x Tim Wakefield – 29.8
    #23 Livan Hernandez – 29.4 NEW
    #24 Orlando Hudson – 29.1 NEW
    x Edgar Renteria – 28.8
    x Melvin Mora – 27.1
    #25 Kevin Millwood – 27.1 NEW
    #26 Kerry Wood – 26.4 NEW
    x Carlos Guillen – 25.9
    #27 Carlos Lee – 25.8 NEW
    15yrs Lee Smith – 25.4
    2017 Trevor Hoffman – 24
    #28 Billy Wagner – 24
    x Casey Blake – 23.5
    #29 Ben Sheets – 22.8 NEW
    #30 Jack Wilson – 22.2 NEW
    x Jason Varitek – 21.5
    #31 Hideki Matsui – 21.3 NEW
    #32 Aubrey Huff – 21.3 NEW
    #33 Adam Kennedy – 20.7 NEW
    x Orlando Cabrera – 20.6
    #34 Jeff Suppan – 17.8 NEW
    #35 Carl Pavano – 17.7 NEW
    x Pat Burrell – 17.6
    x Freddy Sanchez – 15.9
    #36 Francisco Cordero – 15.9 NEW
    x Arthur Rhodes – 14.8
    #37 Miguel Batista – 14.3 NEW
    x Matt Stairs – 13.6
    #38 Jason Isringhausen – 12.7 NEW
    nope # Brian Fuentes – 11 NEW
    #39 Brad Lidge – 10.3 NEW
    nope # Scott Podsednik – 7.4 NEW
    nope # Guillermo Mota – 7 NEW

    I’m curious how many of you folks would vote for Scott Rolen. (And Thome and Andruw.)

    • dlf9 says:

      With an unlimited ballot, I’d definitely vote for Rolen and Thome. But both would be near the bottom end and it would depend on both a very nitpicking close analysis as well as exactly who makes it this year.
      /
      Andruw, I’d need to think about more since so much of his WAR / JAWS7 is tied up in defense and the number show him to be something like 100 runs better than Willie Mays or any other CF. I have less confidence in the precision of defensive stats and take such an outlier with a large grain of salt. As someone who has changed his own mind many times over the years, I would, however, like him to get at least 5% so he can stick around long enough that this can be debated further.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      I think Sosa will make the 5% mark, so I expect to see him back in 2018. Chipper Jones should be a first-ballot HOFer. I think Thome will take two or three years to get in (similar to Fisk, Sandberg, Biggio, etc). Scott Rolen is tough because while I think he’s (probably) deserving, it’s tough to think that he’d make it in before Boyer and even Nettles. Andruw Jones is another tough decision. He’s probably the greatest defensive CF of all time and his offensive was solid. But was it enough? I dunno. Rolen and Andruw are two of the toughest decisions the ballot has had for quite awhile.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        **SORRY** I meant to post this HERE, not below! My bad. I’ve heard some say that Vizquel should be in. What are everyone’s thoughts on him???

        • Rob Smith says:

          It’s a case built entirely on defense. An Ozzie Smith, without being quite as good defensively as Ozzie. But I’m sure his case will 100% be built on his similarities with Ozzie. Making the case purely on being the 10th best defensive SS (by WAR) is a tough case to make, however.

          • Patrick says:

            Advanced stats don’t like Smith’s bat or Omar’s, but there’s a difference between -117 rBat and -244. And Smith was a +79 on the bases compared to Vizquel’s -1

          • Rob Smith says:

            Advanced stats also say that Vizquel was an excellent defensive player. Those same stats say that Ozzie was the best defensive player of all time at any position. I think that’s the issue. Ozzie overcame bad offense because he was the GOAT at defense. Vizquel’s defensive argument falls far short of that. He won’t be elected.

          • invitro says:

            Just from the FWIW dep’t… on the all-time Total Zone Runs list (http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/tz_runs_total_tf_career.shtml), Vizquel ranks #27. The top ten, copy-and-pasted:
            1. Brooks Robinson+ (23) 293 R
            2. Andruw Jones (17) 242 R
            3. Mark Belanger (18) 241 R
            4. Ozzie Smith+ (19) 239 R
            5. Roberto Clemente+ (18) 205 R
            6. Barry Bonds (22) 191 L
            7. Carl Yastrzemski+ (23) 184 R
            8. Cal Ripken+ (21) 181 R
            9. Jim Piersall (17) 180 R

          • Patrick says:

            I mean, I think that’s the difference between Omar and Ozzie. Omar was a very good defensive shortstop. Ozzie was arguably the greatest defensive player ever. Ozzie’s bat (relatively) wasn’t great, but Omar’s was worse.

            I suppose Omar’s rep may outstrip his value, but I don’t think it should

      • invitro says:

        I picked Sosa to fall off because: (a) last year, exactly one guy fell off who had gotten votes before (Nomar), so I wanted to choose one player for this distinction, and (b) Sosa had the fewest votes of players with >5% last year, with 7%, and (c) I haven’t read any signs that love for Sosa is increasing. But it’s a very rough prediction, meaningless. I haven’t even looked at any of those sites which have updates on the 2017 voting (except that a few days ago I was checking on Vlad’s %age and looked at one).

        Maybe no one will drop off, but I’ll stick with a prediction of one and maybe two returnees falling off.

        I also made a decision that Posada would be the only one of the down-ballot first-timers, the guys behind Manny/Vlad, to get 5% this year.

        • Marshall says:

          My support of Sosa is increasing! Before this series by Joe I was very ambivalent towards Sosa’s case, and now I view his lack of support (particularly in comparison to Raines and Guerrero) to be a HoF injustice.

    • Doug says:

      I would vote for all 3 of Rolen, Thome, and Andruw, although I don’t know in what order on a limited ballot. I think Thome might have a shot of going in first ballot? On the other hand, I’m sort of pessimistic about whether Andruw Jones will ever get in. I think he’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer and clearly deserves to be in – I’m very much a supporter. But his career pattern is so weird, and because he peaked so early, there’s a perception of him as a failure that I think will really hurt him. And then of course it’s difficult when someone’s case is bound up in defense and defensive numbers. But I think he should be in – he was a superlative defensive central fielder and a very valuable hitter. Hopefully he’ll get more support than I’m predicting.

      • Rob Smith says:

        I loved Andruw Jones game. He was other worldly in the outfield. But he dropped off a cliff at age 30. Basically he got fat and undisciplined at the plate where he would swing at every outside slider. Perceptions were that he stopped caring. He had an opportunity to stay in shape and have productive years in his 30s, but really didn’t. But, of course, he also started at age 19 and that helps him. As a result, his JAWs argument is decent because of his high peak in his early years. But the back end of his career was a complete disappointment. I find myself wishing that Andruw would have been able to push himself away from the table and added 3-5 more good years before declining. But that’s not the way it happened.

    • Bryan says:

      Easy choices if you don’t mind PEDs – Bonds, Clemens, Chipper, Schilling and Mussina
      6 – Johan Santana, I much prefer pitchers who dominated and blew up their arms than rewarding Glavine for being lucky with health
      7 – Billy Wagner – partly dominance and partly a “political” vote, keep Wagner on the ballot so he’s discussed every year until the voting body understands what elite relief pitching is as opposed to relying on the Saves leader board, would not vote for Hoffman even if he was still on the ballot
      3 spots left, leaning even more to “political” Edgar because he might get elected, Rolen and Andruw because they might drop off and deserve serious consideration.
      ***
      Vlad, Thome will only leave the ballot by being elected and plenty of time left for each. Walker and Manny have very little chance of dropping off or being elected in the next few years.
      If Wagner failed to get 5% this year I’d instead vote for Sheffield who might drop off because he freely offered what so many demanded of McGwire, Bonds and Clemens and you can make a credible case he was completely honest about his PED usage from the day he was asked about it. Obviously Sheffield, Nolan, Jeter, Maddux or anyone might have used steroids or other PEDs for many years.

    • Patrick says:

      Rolen and Thome, yes. Andruw, no

    • Edwin says:

      Man, the ballot next year is going to be stacked again. I think they should indeed allow voters to pick up to 12 people.

      • invitro says:

        Are you sure? It looks strongly like four players will be elected this year. There have been plenty of BBWAA HoF’ers the last few years, too. I see no need at all to increase the limit. I think it’s there mainly to make sure the rate of players going in stays about constant, and I think that’s a good idea. (I know Joe is a super-huge HoF guy, who’d probably favor at least 1000 players in the HoF, but he’s an extremist that way, and am glad there’s a rule in place to thwart this extremism.)

  15. invitro says:

    Here are the results of my little contest to predict ranks #7-14. @Crazy Diamond is the winner, he ties with me being a total of 8 ranks off, but he got one more pick (IRod) exactly right than I did. But we four did essentially the same. The format below is: (predicted rank)-(Player name)-(ranks away from Joe’s rank). So “10-Walker-3” means this BR picked Walker to come in #10, but he was 3 ranks away (from the actual rank of #7).

    If I’m still around in a year, maybe I’ll run a contest like this from the start. If Joe doesn’t run a ranking, we could predict the vote % maybe…

    Crazy Diamond: -8
    7-Manny-3 8-Raines-0 9-IRod-0 10-Walker-3 11-Sheff-1 12-Vlad-1 13-Sosa-0 14-Kent-0

    invitro: -8
    7-Manny-3 8-Raines-0 9-Walker-2 10-IRod-1 11-Sheff-1 12-Vlad-1 13-Sosa-0 14-Kent-0

    MikeN: -10
    7-Manny-3 8-Raines-0 9-Walker-2 10-Kent-0 11-Vlad-0 12-IRod-3 13-Sosa-0 14-Sheff-2

    EnzoHernandez11: -10
    7-Raines-1 8-IRod-1 9-Manny-1 10-Vlad-1 11-Sheff-1 12-Walker-5 13-Sosa-0 14-Kent-0

  16. Crazy Diamond says:

    I’ve heard some say that Vizquel should be in. What are everyone’s thoughts on him???

    • Dr Tom says:

      Outstanding. You had to see him play to grasp how ridiculously good he was with the glove. He improved at the plate consistently throughout his career. Easily a better player all around than Aparicio, and I saw them both play.

    • Patrick says:

      No thanks. By WAR/WAR7/JAWS he’s Tony Fernandez

  17. invitro says:

    Now that Joe’s list is done, does anyone want to post the list of the guys they’d vote for? If there are at least (say) 10 responses, I’ll ask for votes in future Joe posts, and post the final vote percents. Rules: only guys on the official 2017 ballot (Joe’s list of 34 players) are eligible, and can pick up to 10 players. The order of the players voted for doesn’t matter. Here’s my ballot: Bagwell, Mussina, Schilling, Walker, Edgar, Raines, Hoffman, and I-Rod.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I’m going to pull a Murray Chass. More out of laziness than anything.

    • dlf9 says:

      Alphabetically: Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Mussina, Raines, Ramirez, Rodriguez, Schilling, & Walker. If it were just an up/down vote with no 10 person cap, I’d also vote for Martinez & Sosa, probably Sheffield and hope that McGriff, Posada, and Kent stick around long enough to further the debate on their candidacies.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        My ballot, in alphabetical order: Guerrero, Kent, Hoffman, McGriff, Mussina, Raines, Schilling, Smith, Walker. I’d also pick Edgar Renteria for two reasons: 1) There are only 9 players on this ballot that I think are worthy of being in the HOF and 2) Renteria’s career has been severely underappreciated and I think he deserves a longer look than just one ballot.

    • Rob says:

      I’ll play!!
      In:
      Bagwell- though I did not appreciate him at the time, he belongs no doubt.
      Schilling- no question. The recent idiocy has no bearing on his case.
      Raines- about time, took too long.
      Guerrero- Joe is right, just a joy to watch
      IRod- best defensive catcher ever, without question.
      Mussina- criminally underrated
      Not in:
      Martinez- very good hitter. Not a great hitter. No other case.
      Bonds- He cheated. No question he cheated. Didn’t need to. But he did.
      Clemens- Ditto
      Manny- No question he cheated. But I loved watching him hit.
      Sosa- No question he cheated. Not good enough anyways.
      Walker- Helped me win a Fantasy title. But I think he was more the Expo player than the Coors player. Coors numbers are just too crazy for too many players.
      Sheffield- my hardest call. But no. D numbers are horrible, and I saw him up close for a few years, and he was a real liability in the field. And I don’t like D numbers in general, but he was bad.
      The rest, not even close:
      Kent- no way. Pretty good player for awhile. Bonds sure helped. Sweet Lou way better.
      McGriff- very good. Not great.
      Hoffman, Wagner, Smith- not voting for closers. Except Rivera. He transcended. These guys had WAR’s of 28, 27.7, and 29.4. The Save is a stupid stat. And that is the only case these guys have.

    • Darrel says:

      Bagwell, Raines, Walker, Edgar, and Vlad. Real close on Mussina but I’m a small hall peak kind of guy and not quite ready to elect 5th or 6th best pitcher in his era. Might change my mind on him though.

    • moviegoer74 says:

      Bonds, Mussina, Martinez, Walker, Raines, Bagwell, Posada, Guerrero, Rodriguez (Posada would be a strategic vote. I’m not really sure he belongs, but I’m concerned he could fall off ballot, which would be terrible. When you look at where he ranks among catchers, he deserves a long look at least).

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        I agree in regards to Posada. I’m not sure he belongs, either, but it’d be a shame if he fell off the ballot this early.

        • moviegoer74 says:

          Alas. And I say this as a Met-loving Yankee hater. Is this the most injust one-and-done since Lou Whitaker?

          • invitro says:

            Posada had 37.7 JAWS, Edmonds: 51.4. Edmonds went one-and-done just last year. Short memory…? 😉

          • moviegoer74 says:

            Touche. But I was thinking about it in terms of positional ranking. Where does Posada rank all-time among catchers vs. where does Edmonds rank among CFs?

            (But yes, Edmonds deserved to stay on the ballot).

            Personally, I would like to see the 5% rule not applied until a player’s second year on the ballot. This would avoid penalizing players who missed the cut due to certain voters distinguishing between HOFer and 1st Ballot HOFer.

          • invitro says:

            By JAWS, Edmonds is #14 CF, Posada is #16 C. I like position rankings too, in fact that’s probably my #1 HoF criterion. This is a good point since top catchers have less WAR/JAWS than top other-position players, and I was hoping for more support for Posada for this reason: #16 is pretty darn good. But #14 is a notch higher. Here are some more one-and-done guys, with their JAWS ranks:

            #7 2B Bobby Grich
            #9 CF Kenny Lofton
            #10 C Ted Simmons
            #12 2B Lou Whitaker
            #13 C Gene Tenace
            #14 C Bill Freehan
            #14 CF Edmonds
            #16 C Posada

            I think that’s a complete list of guys ranked #15 or higher.

    • Doug says:

      I’d probably do Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Bagwell, Mussina, Manny, Raines, Edgar, Walker, Pudge. I really wanted to get Sheffield on there out of sheer contrarianism but I can’t in all honesty say that he’s a better candidate than any of them.

      • Shonepup says:

        Bonds, Clemens, Raines, Bagwell, Rodriguez, Martinez, Mussina, Schilling, Guerrero, Kent.

        This really is pretty tough would like to vote for Ramirez, Walker and Sheffield as well. But in the end I’d really like to see Kent in there. Being in SF and watching him every day there was no one I’d rather have up there in a clutch situation (including Bonds, since he was usually just walked. You could count on Kent to usually put the barrel on the ball). Plus, he’s a no doubt first ballot “Red-Ass” Hall of Famer, which counts a lot in my book.

        • invitro says:

          I’d like to see the members of the All-Time Red-Ass All-Stars. I don’t quite have the definition down or I’d give it a try. I’m guessing Rose and Cobb are on it. Bob Gibson as the pitcher?

        • Doug says:

          I loved Kent as well (although, from a purely fandom point of view, going to the Dodgers diminished that a little) but I just don’t think he’s a HOF. Great player though, undoubtedly an all-time Red Ass.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Edgar, Mussina, Raines, Manny, Irod, Schilling, Walker.

      Guerrero was also 11th on my list, but my mental battle was with a different player.

    • invitro says:

      Thanks for the votes guys, I’ve got 11 so far, keep ’em coming! Over 75% right now: Raines, Bagwell, and Mussina.

    • Dan says:

      Bagwell, Raines, Mussina, Schilling, Walker, Guerrero, Edgar, Pudge, Bonds, Clemens.

      I go back and forth about Bonds/Clemens – if they’re in, I’d probably say Manny should be too, but then I got 11 and I just can’t figure out whose place he would take. I toy with dropping both and throwing votes to some guys I’d like to stick around on the ballot – McGriff/Kent/Posada.

    • Edwin says:

      Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Walker, Martinez, Raines, Pudge, Vlad, Mussina for me, please.

    • Mike says:

      Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Mussina, Ramirez, Martinez, Bagwell, Raines, Rodriguez, Sheffield

  18. DevilsAdvocate says:

    Joe – I have to point out that in the second ever Poscast Draft, Five Athletes I’d Invite to Dinner, Michael took Vlad Guerrero in the third round. In the course of explaining his choice, he said, “He’s almost like Manny without the drama.” And that was in spring 2011 while they were both still playing. Cool!

  19. Knuckles says:

    Of course Joe takes the cheater over the clean player.. Then has to type 30,000 words to try and justify it without making any sense.

    JOE IF YOU ARE GOING TO CRY ABOUT ONLY 10 SPOTS QUIT TAKING CHEATERS!

  20. Dr Tom says:

    Saw Manny play in person from when he was a rookie until he left Cleveland. The best hitter I ever saw play in person, and probably the best Indian of all time. At the end of the day, however, it is clear that he had no respect for the game. But if you are going to vote in Bonds, et al, you gotta vote in Manny. I wouldn’t vote for any of them, numbers be damned. They made the numbers meaningless.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Bonds uniquely has the “pre-steroids” argument. Because, at least according to the narrative, he started using in 1999, you can cutoff his career at that point & still he has three MVPs and a solid HOF case. I think, with Manny, it’s widely assumed he used for a substantial portion of his career. That’s unprovable, of course. But Manny had significant baserunning and defensive flaws that pushed his case downwards towards borderline. Add steroid taint, and well, he’s no Barry Bonds, let’s just say that. I think everyone knows that, but somehow you were trying to conflate Barry Bonds with Manny Ramirez. Fact is, Ramirez is closer to Rafael Palmeiro who already dropped off the ballot. Both had definite positive tests and big numbers.

      • Dr Tom says:

        I agree. Not at all clear when Manny started using as opposed to Bonds. You could say that he was always “thick”. Beyond the PEDs, both went in the tank in terms of their relationship to the game. Both exuded utter contempt beyond their individual performance, not sure Manny even cared about that. But again, where do you draw the line? Let one in, you can’t make fine distinctions.

  21. birtelcom says:

    Total Bases, Age 23-35 Seasons, MLB All-Time:
    1. Lou Gehrig 4,797
    2. Willie Mays 4,543
    3. Babe Ruth 4,452
    4. Hank Aaron 4,440
    5. Albert Pujols 4,270
    6. Stan Musial 4,130
    7. Vlad Guerrero 4,107
    8. Alex Rodriguez 4,092
    9. Billy Williams 4,049
    10. Manny Ramirez 4,017

  22. birtelcom says:

    Most RBI, Age 23-36 Seasons, MLB
    1. Lou Gehrig 1,914
    2. Babe Ruth 1,827
    3. Manny Ramirez 1,660
    4. Al Simmons 1,648

    • kehnn13 says:

      Are these numbes cherry picked to make Manny look better? I’m just curious, because you changed your age range between bases and rbis, and because the age ranges seem somewhat arbitrary (Manny’s numbers before 23 and after 36 don’t look so good)

      Please don’t pull the favorite sportswriter trick ;P

      • birtelcom says:

        “Cherry-picking” in this sense can also be characterized as “identifying what is statistically interesting and unique about a particular ball player”. It’s a form of story-telling with statistics. I like to look at a player’s stats and discover what was special and unusual about him. That Manny drove in more runs over this particular 14-season age period than anybody ever except Gehrig and Ruth tells us something about (1) the arc of his career, compared to other players, 2) the era in which he played, (3) his teams and ballparks, (4) his role on those teams, and (5) how all those things combined to produce an eye-catching place in statistical history. You can call that “cherry-picking” if you wish. Cherries are delicious and good for you.

        • invitro says:

          “Cherries are delicious and good for you.” — I most certainly agree, although I’m getting a little too old for them :(. (If we’re talking about the same kinds of cherries.)

        • Patrick says:

          Well of course it’s cherry picking. That doesn’t make it not interesting, in a “Mark Grace had the most hits in the 1990s” sort of way. But it’s not especially significant

  23. Rick Rodstrom says:

    Vlad and Manny were 2 of the worst outfielders I ever saw, but for completely different reasons. Vlad went all out. He would tear after a fly ball but take a terrible route or have it clank off his glove or interfere with the center fielder, he wanted to catch it so bad. Then he would uncork one of those throws of his that would simply airmail the cutoff man if he was lucky or land in Peoria if he wasn’t. He wanted to make the spectacular play almost as much as he wanted to hit a home run off a ball that bounced in front of home plate. It was hard to hate a guy who tried so hard, but could he try your patience also.

    Manny was the opposite. He stood around the outfield in a daze, wondering why he was out there. He’d be surprised when the ball came in his direction, then turn the wrong way and watch it go over his head, or trip over his feet in an attempt to corral the bounce. Then there were his brainfarts on the field, like when he threw himself in front of the cut off man for no apparent reason. It wasn’t just that he was bad, he made you say WTF? Manny was in his own goofy world out there and he was lucky to play for so many years in Fenway Park with the Major’s shallowest left field. One shudders to think of the damage he could have done in the canyon of Coors.

    Same thing on the bases. I never saw anyone get thrown out by 20 feet more often than Vlad Guerrero. That crazy go-for-broke attitude that served him so well at the plate made him a disaster on the basepaths. He viewed his speed like Pepe Le Pew viewed his sex appeal—he had a self-confidence that his ability did not merit. Meanwhile, Manny simply didn’t care. He ran when he had to, and once in a while would do something utterly clueless, like when he tried stealing first. Hitting was the only thing that interested him.

    But man could they both hit.

    Not only were they great hitters, but I think that their outsized characters make them a natural fit for the Hall of Fame. It is the Hall of FAME, after all, and those two were so memorable, so much larger than life, that you didn’t need any advanced metrics to say, these guys were special.

  24. Michael C Lorah says:

    PEDs don’t really matter to me and Manny’s offensive prowess is extraordinary. I LOVED watching Vlad, but if I had to vote for one, I’d vote Manny too. If I could only watch one, though, it’s Vlad all the way. My first trip to Veterans Stadium was a Phillies-Expos doubleheader in ’97, and Vlad went something like ridiculous 7-for-8 on the day.

    In response to invitro’s question above, I’d certainly vote Thome and very likely vote Rolen and Andruw. I’d have to look closer at the latter two cases, but amazing defenders and generally above average bats. If I can only squeeze one on the ballot, I take Rolen – better bat, aged better despite injury history. (Surprised to see how close their career games played and plate appearances are.)

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think Rolen is going to have a tough time. He’s one of those guys that might build momentum after a few years. But a lot/most of his case is built on defense. He lacks major awards except ROY (and obviously GGs), and never really got any consideration for them. He never led the league in any major offensive stat. In 2004 he did come in third in WAR (again influenced by a dWar of 3.1) and second in Triples (oddly). There really isn’t much in the Top 5 offensively really. He just wasn’t one of the top hitters in the league at any point. His numbers look good upon inspection, but his career was right smack in the middle of the steroids era. It’s completely not fair, but that makes his numbers look pedestrian.

      You’d have to just love his defense to vote for him. I’m not seeing it, but maybe after he’s been eligible for a while appreciation will build. Perhaps voters will be able to extract him from his era & the comparisons to players who may have been using PEDs and see him as a HOF player. I don’t know. It’s a tough sell.

      • Rob Smith says:

        I wonder if, as younger voters come in and disregard PEDs more in their voting, whether that will hurt guys like Rolen. If they consider all players, regardless of PED usage, to have all been worthy… then doesn’t Rolen then become an also ran?

        • invitro says:

          If younger voters tend to be more WAR-friendly, and I’d bet that is the case, Rolen won’t have much of a problem — he’ll move below a couple of PED users, then make it up with WAR over old stats. (OK, they’ll need to be friendly to Total Zone Runs as well as WAR.)

          • Patrick says:

            The problem is, even by WAR, Rolen’s got tough sledding. He’s 8th on the 2018 ballot by WAR, but just ahead of Edgar, who is getting a ton of votes. And of course, Hoffman is nowhere near him but also taking up a ton of votes.

            I could see him being one and doned like Edmonds

  25. Grover Jones says:

    My Ballot:

    JBagwell
    BBonds
    RClemens
    EMartinez
    MMusina
    TRaines
    IRodriguez
    CSchilling

  26. Carl says:

    Way to go Joe. Wonderful way to show that known PED users continue to stain the game and hurt non-PED users in comparison to them.

  27. Brent says:

    Thank you Joe, with your story of Vlad’s throws, for reminding me of the time my high school teammate (our RF) airmailed a throw to the plate over the backstop. It was hilarious and glorious all at the same time. He had a bit of a temper, so we had to temper our amusement at his expense a bit, but truly I never giggled on the field quite so much as I did after that throw (even if it did cost us a couple runs)

  28. Josh says:

    I honestly believe that Manny didn’t go on the roids until the end of his career bc he wanted one more contract.

    Manny wasn’t Luis Gonzalez or Garret Anderson–players whose power numbers came out of nowhere and to my mind are very likely steroid users. And he’s not Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, or Arod, whose numbers were astronomical bc of the roids. Manny never hit over 45 homers. Think about what happened to Bonds, such an incredible hitter, when he went on the roids. I believe Manny, at the height of his career, would have hit a lot more dingers in Fenway had he been taking all that time.

    He was a can’t miss prospect whose career had the arc of a great player. It looks normal…until he got traded to the Dodgers and posted the highest OPS of his career. Then, all went to hell.

    I don’t have evidence for this and I’m a Red Sox fan so I recognize that I’m motivated to see it this way. But I would have liked to see Joe discuss the arc of Manny’s career in relation to the others (and I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on the matter.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      Garret Anderson? Or Brady Anderson?

    • Carl says:

      Manny was on steroids his ENTIRE career.

      • Darrel says:

        That heart of those Red Sox team’s were really. Manny, Nomar, Ortiz for sure and I thought I have heard rumblings about Youk and Millar. I could be making those last two up though as I can’t remember where and when I might have heard that.

        • Rob Smith says:

          We haven’t had a good discussion, in a long time, about whether the Yankees or Red Sox had more PED users. Discuss among yourselves.

        • Josh says:

          I agree about Nomar (and I loved Nomar)–all the signs point that way. I think Manny and Papi are far more difficult to make a case against.

      • Josh says:

        Carl, Are you going to say something more? Any reasoning behind your comment or is that just it?

        • Carl says:

          First saw Manny Ramirez in 1988 when he was 15 and playing at Yankee Stadium. Youngest player on the field and just dominated 17-18 year old competition. Saw him hit an 87 mph fastball to the warning track as a 135 pound freshman at the old Yankee Stadium when it still had Death Valley, and that was impressive. Everyone just knew this kid was going to be a major leaguer.

          Next saw him in Brooklyn in 1991 as a High School senior and the boy was now a man. His voice no longer cracking, and the 5′ 6″ 135 pounder was now a 6’2″ man who was a rock-solid 175 pounds and was the best player in the city by a mile. However, there were serious concerns, despite his .700 batting average, as to whether he would develop power.

          Funny thing to share even then: 1) he was an incredibly smart hitter, and remembered the pitcher and pitches he had hit in the 1988 game @ Yankee Stadium. 2) even then he was an awful, indifferent defender wherever the coach played him.

          Next saw him in 1993, his rookie year for the Indians. The rock solid young man I had seen 2 years earlier? Was now 225 pounds with bulging biceps. His power was no longer suspect, as in 24 months he had added 50 pounds of muscle. Must have been the quality bbq minor leaguers were given in the Carolinas.

          He was always going to be a star. Just don’t think he would have hit 550+ HRs.

    • MikeN says:

      Manny was so goofy in his other behavior it is hard to imagine him able to go thru a steroids regimen. This is a guy who would leave paychecks uncashed in his locker.

  29. shagster says:

    I’m sure it’s already been said, but It seems Joe just made and confirmed the argument for keeping PEDS out of the HoF. He struggled but he had to choose, and he chose steroids over a clean player. This took place in hundreds of instances — in minor league sand lots across America. In call up / send downs. Anyone who’s played the game knows you need the reps. The At Bats to build momentum. Numbers. The steroid era story is best told by keeping the PEDS players OUT – they become the Black Sox of our era. NO ONE should walk into the HoF and think “… Barry, the best HR hitter of all time”. We need to be honest enough to ask ourselves; who came in 11th, who came in twelfth? Who by nature of numbers and managers (or writers) didn’t get in? We didn’t make these choices; Barry did. Roger did. Numerous others did. And now, after reaping handsome rewards at expense of their colleagues they’re asking BBWAA to cut them some slack and cover their bill too? And some think this is a good idea? Were the writers complicit? Is ‘going along’ the way for writers to get around responsibility for their role? Foisting some twisted syringe colored over sized head reality on visitors to HoF — simply bc they’re prisoners of numbers? Want PEDS in the Hall? Turn it over to the players cte. Let them judge it. For me it seems there’s a lesson about natural order in the Black Sox story, one that’s better told from outside than from within.

    • Darrel says:

      Amen. The writers are now doing what is human nature and taking the lazy way out. How are we to know who did what they claim? How are we to know what effect steroids had they wail? It is simply so much easier to go the Joe route and stick your head in the sand while simultaneously plugging your ears and pretend that there is no possible way to figure it out. How about at age 36 Barry Bonds hit 60% more HR than he had ever hit in a season before then and he did it in 60 fewer at bats than in his previous season high. Lets use that as a measuring stick,reduce Manny et al’s numbers accordingly then see if they are worthy.

    • invitro says:

      “twisted syringe” — One of my favorite punk bands.

  30. Tom says:

    You should have put both in the mailbox. Then whichever one gets there first is the official ballot and not even you know which one you voted for.

  31. route66news says:

    I’ll never forget that Rangers playoff game against the Yankees. It was late, and Texas had two runners on base. Yanks manager Joe Girardi decided to walk the red-hot Josh Hamilton intentionally to load the bases and pitch to Vladimir Guerrero.

    I was screaming at the TV: “Are you kidding me?! You’re loading up the bases so you can pitch to a guy nicknamed Vlad the Impaler?”

    Vlad had bad knees by then and played only DH. But I never, EVER would have deliberately loaded the bases to face him, simply because the dude could put the ball in play, and put in play hard.

    You can guess what happened. Vlad crushes a pitch out of the zone and off the wall for a three-run double. Game over. And that situation is Example A of why you don’t intentionally walk a batter to load the bases.

  32. Knuckles says:

    Good work! Vlad misses out by less than 4% points cause guys like Joe wasted votes on cheaters! So now next year the ballot stays even more crowded. Edgar will probably get screwed again.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      If Vladdy and Hoffman would’ve gotten voted in this year, I think Edgar would’ve had a real shot next year and would definitely get in in 2019. With Vladdy and Hoffman + Chipper and Thome next year + Mo and Halladay in 2019, I don’t know if there will be room for Edgar in the next 2 years. I don’t think Edgar is a HOFer, but I do think the stupidity of voters not putting in Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman is going to have unintended consequences for guys like Edgar…and that’s a shame.

  33. John Leavy says:

    One thing that rarely gets mentioned: Gary Sheffield had a knack for saying stupid, outrageous, offensive things. Things that would have made John Rocker whisper, “Geez, THINK before you shoot your mouth off.”

    But somehow, Sheffield had Teflon. Reporters never seemed to call him out on his idiocy. Invariably, writers chuckled, “Oh, that’s just Sheff.”

    Just being Sheff hid a multitude of sins.

    • invitro says:

      Check out the comments on the Sheffield article. I’ll bet a bunch of sportswriters agreed with everything Sheffield said. 🙂

  34. invitro says:

    In honor of Jorge Posada, who ranks #16 by JAWS at C, but didn’t get 5% of the vote today, here are all the batters who rank #16 or higher and didn’t get 5%. It’s ordered by year because I was looking for trends; I was imagining that things had changed, and Grich and Whitaker certainly would’ve gotten 5% if their first ballot was in 2017, but I guess the data below doesn’t really support that idea. There will be plenty of this kind of player in the next several years: Rolen, Andruw, Helton, Utley, Beltran. I’ll say though that I’d be shocked if any of those didn’t get 5%. Any thoughts? 🙂

    #14 LF Sherry Magee (1937) (got 1% in first vote, before the 5% rule)
    #14 C Bill Freehan (1982)
    #16 CF Jim Wynn (1983)
    #15 CF Willie Davis (didn’t get on the ballot, would’ve been 1985)
    #16 3B Sal Bando (1987)
    #13 C Gene Tenace (1989)
    #7 2B Bobby Grich (1992)
    #10 C Ted Simmons (1994)
    #15 3B Buddy Bell (1995)
    #12 2B Lou Whitaker (2001)
    #9 CF Kenny Lofton (2013)
    #14 CF Jim Edmonds (2016)
    #16 C Jorge Posada (2017)

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      I think Rolen, Andruw, Helton, and Beltran ALL have solid HOF cases, though Utley unfortunately was too frequently on the DL to build a HOF case. I think David Wright will end up being like Utley in that regard, which is a shame as both players were supremely talented. I think Beltran is the only lock to get more than 5%. I was shocked when Jim Edmonds and Carlos Delgado didn’t get more love. Then again, Billy Wagner’s done better than I thought. One player I’m curious about: Jimmy Rollins. Will the BBWAA view him as the next Barry Larkin…or the next Edgar Renteria? Or somewhere in-between?

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        BTW, I would probably vote for Rolen, Andruw, and definitely Helton. Beltran is a tough one because there are so many other players similar to him that never got close to the HOF. And what will happen to a guy like Bobby Abreu, who seemed to have a pretty similar career to Beltran’s?

    • MikeN says:

      None of these guys would get votes today, because the ballot is too crowded. I think Beltran stays in because of the monster postseason.

  35. Patrick says:

    So I’m going to say something controversial. I wish more writers who are lamenting having to pick between 11, 12, or 13 guys for the ballot would think a bit more strategically. I don’t know when Joe mailed in his ballot, but if you followed the Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker by Ryan Thibodeaux, it was pretty clear early on that Vlad was going to be close and that Manny had no shot.

    A few years ago, we saw Biggio miss by 2 votes. Hoffman just missed by 5. Pudge got elected by 4.

    The writers want the ballot expanded, and I agree it should be, but when you see that there are individuals who do things like drop Trevor Hoffman and cast a vote for Jorge Posada, well, that’s not helping matters either

  36. Richard says:

    A good study of why no single person is the sole arbiter of who gets selected, and why no single statistic (like WAR or JAWS) is the ultimate decider.

    And why each player on the ballot gets several chances, and even then there’s a way for oversights to be corrected.

  37. Richie says:

    Does anybody have the data to test the theory that Manny would intentionally enter full counts with runner on first?

    I see 2 ways to do it:

    1) Compare the percentage of plate appearances that achieved a full count with a runner on first plate to all other plate appearances. Does he actually get a full count more frequently with runner on first?

    2) Compare the percentage of full counts with runner on first that Manny achieves, compared to league average.

    • Patrick says:

      I mean, you can’t really go up to the plate with the idea of intentionally entering a full count as you can’t control the pitcher throwing you three pitches outside the strike zone.
      /
      You could, I suppose, intentionally decide to lay off a 2-2 pitch that’s outside or a 3-1 pitch down the middle, but even then, you’re up to the mercy of the ump to get the call right.

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