The Massive Hall of Fame Post

I. A short history

First, just a little bit of history. The Baseball Hall of Fame, more or less, was the brainchild of two people. The first knew nothing whatsoever about baseball. The second romanticized the game beyond all reason.

You can think about whose spirit still lingers over Cooperstown.

The first was a man named Alexander Cleland, a businessman who had come from Scotland when he was 27 years old. To say he knew nothing about baseball probably undersells the truth. But according to James Vlasich’s book A Legend for the Legendary, one day in 1934, on other business, he was walking around Cooperstown and he saw workers expanding Doubleday Field. He struck up a conversation with one of the guys, who happened to mention that everyone in Cooperstown was very excited because the 100th anniversary of baseball’s invention in Cooperstown was coming up in just five years.

Of course, baseball was not really invented in Cooperstown. It was certainly not invented in Cooperstown in 1839 by a Civil War hero named Abner Doubleday, who was not even there. But this was a time when that myth was powerful, and Cleland was struck by a brilliant business idea: Cooperstown ought to have a baseball museum. “Fathers,” he would write in his proposal to his boss Stephen Clark, “would be interested to stop at Cooperstown and show the building to their sons and perhaps throw a baseball or two on the field.”

He estimated that “Hundreds of visitors would be attracted to the shopping district right in the heart of Cooperstown.”

Cleland did not dream up this project as a Hall of Fame. He thought of it as a museum with “funny old uniforms” and “baseballs thrown out and autographed by presidents,” and the “bats of baseball’s greatest players.” In other words, he saw it as a fun place that celebrated the game. He did not know baseball. But he understood there was business in nostalgia.

The Hall of Fame part was thought up by a man named Ford Frick, who is probably best known today for trying to slap an asterisk on Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Frick was a sportswriter (he was ghost writer for Babe Ruth’s autobiography), then a baseball executive and finally the commissioner of baseball. His love for baseball was deep and rosy and idealized.

Here’s a a representative paragraph from his essay, “Why Baseball Is National Pastime:”

“I think baseball is our National Pastime because the qualities it develops in its contests — the team play, cooperation of all the members toward one purpose, with stardom achievable only through and with such cooperation — come closer to representing the fundamental principles that make up the spirit of the American people than is true in the case of any other sport on the calendar.”

Frick was came up with the idea of a Baseball Hall of Fame after he visited the Hall of Fame for Great Americans — then on the campus of New York University — and saw the busts of people like George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant and Phillips Brooks and Maria Mitchell. Frick thought such an idea would work perfectly for baseball. The Hall of Great Americans is still around on the grounds of Bronx Community College. There are a few questionable choices in there too.

Frick’s dream for a Hall of Fame to honor the greatest players combined with Cleland’s business vision for a baseball museum proved to be a powerful combination. Frick was a strict believer in the Doubleday myth, so Cooperstown was the only place it could be built. The Baseball Hall of Fame — which would have Cleland’s museum with memorabilia AND Frick’s Hall of Fame lionizing the game’s greatest players — would open in 1939.

You will notice that up to this point nobody had worked out how to actually PICK the greatest players. This is because: Nobody even thought about it. The Hall of Fame election process wasn’t even discussed enough to be fairly called an afterthought. They Hall of Fame founders simply dumped that part on the most obvious group of the 1930s, the Baseball Writers Association of America. The BBWAA was really the only option at the time — this was years before television, and when owners were still reluctant to have their baseball games on the radio. The Hall gave the BBWAA almost no instruction. Best I can tell, there were only two directives.

1. Pick the best players — and there should be 75% agreement.
2. Player should be considered based on their record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his various teams.

The second of these directives has come to be called the “character clause” because, as you can see, it includes integrity AND sportsmanship AND character, as if you didn’t get the point. Nobody seems too sure who put the clause in. Writer Bill James thinks it might have been Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who, of course, was charged with cleaning up the game after the Black Sox Scandal. More and more, though, I think it was Ford Frick. It sounds like him. Through the years the clause has been, like a smoke alarm, mostly ignored until it goes off in the middle of the night because of a worn-down battery.

The character clause is beeping like crazy now.

So what’s the point of all this? It’s good to know history. The Hall of Fame, in my view, has never really married its two founding visions. Some people still view it as Cleland’s place for parents and children to enjoy the history of baseball and maybe go to the field for a catch. Some view it the way Frick did, as baseball’s “Hall of Great Americans,” to honor players who represent the fundamental principles that make up the spirit of the American people. This divide has never been wider than it is right now, and on the subject of performance enhancing drugs.

One final point on the history: The Hall of Great Americans had one rule of election that Frick did not bring to the Baseball Hall of Fame. To get into the Hall of Great Americans, a person had to be dead. For 25 years. That certainly simplified things.

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II: Players who fall just short

This year’s Hall of Fame ballot was the most challenging in my decade-plus of voting because I believe there are at least 15 players on it who belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The limit is 10, so I had to leave out five people I believe are fully qualified Hall of Famers as well as a few more I think have strong cases. There is a temptation to play games with the Hall of Fame voting. For instance, I’m a big supporter of Alan Trammell’s Hall of Fame case. So I could have, reasonably, left off a worthy player I know will get elected — someone like Tom Glavine — to give support to Trammell, who needs it more.

I didn’t do that. I decided that was not voting in the spirit of the Hall. I don’t believe i bring much expertise to the table here, but whatever expertise I do bring would be because I have spent a lot of time learning about baseball. I chose the 10 baseball players who I think are most worthy and and regretfully did not check the boxes of five others who I hope will stay on the ballot. No, it’s not ideal. But, realistically, the entire process seems broken to me. That’s a topic for another time.

I ranked 24 players who I think have at least a mild Hall of Fame case, based on their worthiness. Here’s the list I came up with, in reverse order:

24. Kenny Rogers. He’s a player easy to dismiss because of his career 4.27 ERA and the fact he only once received ANY Cy Young votes and because you just don’t think of Kenny Rogers and Hall of Fame together. Kenny Rogers and chicken: Yes. But Rogers is probably better than you remember. He threw 3,000 innings with a 107 ERA+ (100 ERA+ is average — Rogers career ERA was roughly 7% better than league average). He also threw a perfect game and pitched a dominant game in the 2006 World Series. He’s probably as good as two or three pitchers in the Hall, and his case might be, for some, uncomfortably similar to Jack Morris’. Rogers falls well short for me, but he was a very good pitcher.

23. Luis Gonzalez. I pulled this little trick earlier on my blog: Name the only player in baseball history who hit 575 doubles and 350 homers, drove in 1,400 RBIs, stole 100 bases and was hit by pitch more than 100 times.

The answer is Luis Gonzalez. He’s the only one. That’s looks pretty impressive. But the real trick is to get someone to say, “come on, who cares about how many times he was hit by pitch?” Because then you can say, fine, forget that, who are the only players to hit 575 doubles, 350 homers, drive in 1,400 RBis and steal 100 bases? They say: Who?

You say: Hank Aaron. Carl Yastrzemski. Barry Bonds. And Luis Gonzalez.

This is just playing with numbers, though. Gonzalez had one ridiculously great year, 2001, when he hit .325 with 57 homers, scored 128 runs, drove in 142. But it’s worth mentioning that those 57 home runs were only good enough for THIRD in the National League that year, to give you an idea about the insane offense of the time. Gonzalez had two or three other excellent years and several good ones. It was a fine career.

22. Lee Smith. I don’t know what to do with relievers. Should they be treated like punters and kickers are treated by the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Right now there is just one full-time kicker in the Hall of Fame (Jan Stenerud) and no punters (though Ray Guy might get in this year). The football thinking is that these positions are so specialized that unless you were the very best who ever lived, literally the very best, you cannot be considered one of the greatest football players ever.

Lee Smith was a superb closer for many, many years. His consistency still amazes. He led the league in saves four times and, when he retired, held the all-time saves record of 478. But the save record has since been smashed by Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, and anyway saves are a pretty flawed statistic. Smith was a specialist (he pitched fewer than 1,300 innings), and a first-class one. I just don’t see him as a Hall of Famer.

21. Don Mattingly. Donnie Baseball had a stretch, from 1984 to 1987 or so, where he was pretty widely viewed as the best player in the American League and maybe in baseball. In retrospect, he probably wasn’t quite THAT good — Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken were all probably better – but he was damned good and, more, he was the kind of player you admired. The eyeblack. The mustache. The cool crouched stance. The slick way he would scoop bad throws out of the dirt.

If Mattingly’s back had not gone out on him, sapping his power and consistency, I feel sure he would be a Hall of Famer. That’s not an uncommon story, though. As it was, Mattingly’s career descended too quickly and ended too young. But he remains an icon of the 1980s.

20 Jack Morris. Speaking of 1980s icons. I have written way, way too much about Jack Morris’ Hall of Fame case through the years. There’s no point in rehashing it all. Morris was a remarkably durable pitcher and he pitched one of the greatest World Series games ever. He was a conspicuous pitcher because of his mustache and competitiveness and unwillingness to come out of games. He is, I think, remembered by his fans as being better than he was.

If I had to guess, Morris will probably not be elected this year (a victim, I think, of the overloaded ballot). But the good news for him is that means he finally will be off the BBWAA ballot and can put his fate with the veteran’s committee. I suspect they will be more sympathetic to his case. I think within five years Jack Morris will be in the Hall of Fame.

19. Jeff Kent. Other people like his case more than I do. He was an excellent hitter — his .500 slugging percentage ranks him third among second basemen, after Hornsby and Robbie Cano — and his 377 home runs is the most ever for the position. But, in my mind, much of this was time and place. He was a very good hitter hitting behind Barry Bonds in a time when home runs were flying like crazy. He was a subpar fielder, he couldn’t really run, and he only had three of four seasons you would qualify as outstanding. He does have a compelling Hall of Fame case, but in my view it’s not as good as the cases of Lou Whitaker or Bobby Grich.

18. Rafael Palmeiro. Is there any difference between someone who used steroids before testing began and someone who tested positive after? This might be nitpicking, but I say yes. I say that, while it was certainly wrong to use steroids before testing, PEDs were baseball’s happy little secret. The game needed several jolts of good feeling after the 1994 strike left everybody embittered, and the home run helped bring the game back. People came back to the ballpark. Baseball players became national figures again. Chicks, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine assured us all, dig the longball.

How do you get more longballs? It’s really not that complicated. You lighten the baseballs and harden the bats and give players body armor and and bring in the fences and shrink the strike zone and build more weight rooms and cover your ears when whispers of steroid abuse make their way around. I will always believe that the extensive steroid use in baseball was a league-wide effort, which is why I find it disingenuous to throw all the blame on the players.

But after home runs grew tiresome, after it became clear that steroids and HGH and other PEDs were powerfully tainting the game, after it became so blatant that everyone agreed to drug testing … yes, I think using at that point is different. It feels a bit like the difference between making a racist statement in 1918 and making the same one in 2008. Rafael Palmeiro’s positive test for anabolic steroids — shortly after pointing during a congressional hearing and saying “I have never used steroids” — is different to me. So is Ryan Braun’s shenanigans and Alex Rodriguez’s nonsense and so on.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m passing on Palmeiro (he has always continued to deny using steroids, by the way). His 500 homers and 3,000 hits are obviously Hall of Fame worthy — at least before the 1990s — but I think those numbers are a reflection of durability and the time when he played. Was Palmeiro a truly great player at his peak? That’s a tough question. He never had a 7.0 Wins Above Replacement season. Not one. Here are the first basemen/DHs just of Palmeiro’s time who had at least one season of 7.0 WAR.

1. Albert Pujols, 8 seasons
2. Jeff Bagwell, 4 seasons
2. Todd Helton, 3 seasons
(tie) Jason Giambi, 3 seasons
4. John Olerud, 2 seasons
(tie) Frank Thomas, 2 seasons
(tie_ Jim Thome, 2 seasons
7. Derrek Lee, 1 season
(tie) Mark Teixeira, 1 season
(tie) Carlos Delgado, 1 season
(tie) Mark McGwire, 1 season
(tie) Edgar Martinez, 1 season

For a first baseman/DH to stand out in this era, he had to be some kind of sensational. Palmeiro was very good for a very long time. But I don’t think Palmeiro was ever the best first baseman in his own league, must less the game’s overall best player, not even for a single season.

17. Sammy Sosa. He hit 60-plus home runs three times in his career — and did not lead the league in any of those three seasons. I love that bit of trivia. Offers a pretty good idea of what the era was like.

Sosa put up numbers — particularly the 606 home runs — that would traditionally be viewed as slam dunk Hall of Fame numbers. And it’s easy to forget now but, for a time, he was perhaps the most beloved player in baseball, a guy who ran around the outfield, could throw like crazy and was a joy to watch.

Steroid suspicions have hurt him unquestionably but for me there are other questions. Sosa’s career on-base percentage was quite low (.344). He became an indifferent, often dreadful, outfielder as his home run numbers skyrocketed. He could really run as a young man but, again, after the home runs, he became a liability as a baserunner. The joy sapped out of him.

When looking at the Steroid Era — even beyond the questions of cheating and morality and so on — there might be a more fundamental question to ask: With all the home runs flying around during the time, are home runs (and home runs alone) enough to make someone a Hall of Famer? I don’t know. Sosa’s case is basically that: 60 homers three times, 606 homers total. Is that enough? I think maybe not. I do know Sosa could fall off the ballot this year.

16. Fred McGriff. The Crime Dog was a fantastic hitter — and a remarkably consistent one. He hit between 30 and 37 home runs 10 times in his career. He drove in between 100 and 107 RBIs eight times. He probably had his four best seasons before the numbers explosion that was the Steroid Era. The two times he led the league in home runs were with 36 and 35. Compare that with our previous candidate.

Was McGriff a Hall of Famer? Wow, that’s close. Like Palmeiro, his peak feels a bit short to me. No MVP awards and, in retrospect, I don’t think he quite ever deserved one. He too never had even one season with a 7.0 WAR. He was a subpar fielder and he couldn’t run, so all of his value was really in his power and his ability to walk. I guess I look at it this way: Is he the best first baseman/DH not in the Hall of Fame? Just on this ballot, I have Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas ahead of him. Many would put Palmeiro ahead too. How about off the ballot? Was he better than John Olerud? Will Clark? How about Keith Hernandez? Awfully close.

I think the Hall of Fame line is more or less right down McGriff’s back. Fantastic player. He would be better than many players already in the Hall of Fame. I will look closely again next year. This year, he’s just outside.

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III: The five I left off

So, now, there are 15 players I believe are Hall of Famers. I could only vote for 10. Here are the five that I had to leave off.

15. Mark McGwire. I just asked the question in the Sosa section: Is hitting home runs in the steroid era enough to make someone a Hall of Famer? McGwire couldn’t run at all, and he was a defensive liability (despite the Gold Glove he won in 1990). But McGwire has two advantages over Sosa.

One, his on-base percentage was 50 points higher. That’s a pretty big deal.

And two — McGwire, by the numbers, was not just great at hitting home runs. He was better at hitting home runs than anyone who ever lived. He hit a home run for every 10.6 at-bats. Nobody in baseball history is even close to that, not Ruth, not Bonds, not anybody. I know people dismiss that entirely because of his admitted steroid use. But those home runs happened anyway.

McGwire is also, as far as I know, the only Hall of Fame candidate who (1) Has fully admitted taking steroids; (2) Has shown true contrition about it and (3) Has worked to educate young people about them. At some point, once people get beyond the anger, I think this should matter. He has no chance whatsoever of ever getting elected by the BBWAA — and he has accepted this fate — but I think he’s a Hall of Famer and would vote for him if I had enough spots.

14. Edgar Martinez. One of the great hitters in baseball history. That’s no exaggeration. Among players with 7,500 plate appearances in the big leagues, Martinez is 12th in career on-base percentage (.418), which I think is the single most most important offensive statistic. He’s just behind Stan Musial, just ahead of Frank Thomas.

He hit .312/..418/.515 in his extraordinary career. And this is true though he didn’t play a full season until he was 27 years old because the Mariners, for reasons that are still not clear, kept sending him back to Class AAA Calgary. even though he hit .329 there when he was 24, hit .363 there when he was 25 and hit .345 there when he was 26.

Martinez’s problem then — and his Hall of Fame problem now — was that he really didn’t have a defensive position. The Mariners finally made him a full-time DH finally in 1995 when he was 32 years old. He promptly hit a league-leading .356 with a league-leading 42 doubles and 121 runs. For the next five years, he never hit less than .322, and he led the league in on-base percentage two more times.

How should a DH be viewed by Hall of Fame voters? Well, I look at it this way: There are four relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame — five if you count Dennis Eckersley — and soon Mariano Rivera will go, Trevor Hoffman will probably go, Lee Smith has a chance too. That’s eight.

There is no pure DH in the Hall of Fame. Paul Molitor is the closest — he was a DH about 45% of the time. I think a great DH should be viewed like a great relief pitcher. If anything, a great DH contributes more than a great reliever. Martinez is a definite Hall of Famer for me.

13. Larry Walker. I’m a bit worried that Walker might fall off the ballot this year. He’s hurt by the shortness of his carer and the fact that his people tend to discount the extraordinary heart of his career, between 1997 and 2002, because he was playing in that hitting haven that was Coors Field. In those six seasons, Walker hit and almost unbelievable .353/.441/.648 and scored 630 runs in 775 games.

The Hall of Fame has honored players who took advantage of great home ballparks. I’ve done this before but it’s always fun. Let’s take a look at a typical Larry Walker season.

Home: .361/416//690, 28 homers, 75 RBIs.
Road: .269/.325/.512, 18 homers, 64 RBIs.

That’s a huge difference but … wait, that’s not Larry Walker. That’s Jim Rice at Fenway Park in 1978. OK, here’s a real Walker season.

Home: .467/.516/.789, 20 homers, 81 RBIs, 62 runs.
Road: .280/.338/.436, 8 homers, 39 RBIs, 39 runs.

That’s just ridiculous but … yeah, you didn’t fall for it that time. That’s Chuck Klein’s triple crown season in 1933. Let’s do one more.

Home: .358/.422/.673, 28 homers, 88 RBIs, 78 runs.
Road: .286/.359/.498, 14 homers, 41 RBIs, 59 runs.

No, not Walker. That’s Billy Williams in 1970 at hitter-haven Wrigley Field.

The career was short, yes. But Walker’s case is that he did everything well in a way only a handful of players ever have. He hit for average (.313 lifetime), hit for power (.565 slugging), got on base (.400 career OBP), ran the bases, stole bases, played first-class outfield and could throw like crazy. Think how many players could do all those things. Now think about how many are not in the Hall of Fame. Not many.

12. Alan Trammell. It breaks my heart not to vote for Alan Trammell for the first time this year. I think he’s one of the most underrated players in baseball history. But this year, because of the backlog, he falls just outside my Top 10. Trammell hit, had some power, stole some bases, played terrific shortstop and was the MVP in the one World Series he played in. He was a victim of his time, a time when Cal Ripken was redefining offense for a shortstop and Ozzie Smith was redefining defense. He suffered by comparison*.

*Trammell couldn’t hit like Ripken, but I do like playing this game. From 1984-1990 — seven season in both of their primes — pick which one was which:

Player A: .270/.348/.447 with 170 homers, 19 steals, 676 runs created, 121 OPS+.
Player B: ..294/.359/.448 with 110 homers, 198 steals, 632 runs created, 123 OPS+.

Obviously, by the steals you should know, that Player B is Trammell. And it’s not a a fair comparison because I managed to pick the years between Ripken’s MVP seasons. But the point is that for many seasons in their careers, Trammell was actually the better hitter.

I’ve written before: Trammell absolutely should have won the 1987 MVP award. He was robbed by voters who wildly overvalued George Bell’s 47 home runs. If Tram had won that award. maybe people would better appreciate just how great he really was.

11. Mike Mussina. After Greg Maddux, I felt like there were three pitchers all pretty equally deserving of the Hall of Fame. One, Tom Glavine, will probably get elected overwhelmingly because he did things that catch the eye, like win 300 games and two Cy Young Awards. The second, Curt Schilling, will probably finish around 40% because he’s famous and was such a great postseason pitcher.

And Mike Mussina, I suspect will finish not only behind those two but also behind Jack Morris* and maybe even Lee Smith because his greatness is harder to sum up in a single sentence. Mussina didn’t win 300 games (he won 270). He didn’t win a Cy Young (he finished Top 5 six times). He won 20 just once (and won 18 or 19 five other times). He didn’t have a bloody sock game. He’s not the ESPN color commentator for Sunday Night Baseball.

*By the way, I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Morris and not vote for Mussina. I literally do not get it. Even by the plainest standards, Mussina won more games, lost fewer, had a superior won-loss record, a lower ERA, struck out 300 more batters, walked 600 fewer, had a lower postseason ERA, virtually the same World Seres ERA, and even won five Gold Gloves to Morris’ zero. Hey, if you want to vote for Morris, please, vote for the guy. But vote for Mussina too. Be reasonable about this thing already.

But Mussina was basically every bit the pitcher than Glavine and Schilling were. Fangraphs WAR — which judges pitchers based on their strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed — actually ranks Mussina MUCH HIGHER than Glavine. It’s easy to see why when you compare the numbers.

Mussina struck out 7.1 per nine innings, Glavine just 5.3 per nine.
Mussina walked two per nine innings, Glavine walked 3.1 per nine.
Mussina gave up more home runs, but he also pitched in easy home run parks.

I did not have room on the ballot for all three. I very seriously considered voting Mussina over Glavine, but in the end I took Glavine. It wasn’t a fun decision to make. I certainly hope the ballot clears up a bit so I can vote for Mussina next year..

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Part IV: The 10 on my Hall of Fame ballot

10. Tim Raines. One of the best players in baseball from 1981 to 1987, perhaps the best pure base stealer in the history of the game. Here’s a simple argument for Raines: In a career that was almost identical in length to his contemporary Tony Gwynn, Raines reached base just 18 fewer times and he scored 200 more runs. If Gwynn is a slam dunk Hall of Famer (and he is) then Tim Raines belongs in the Hall of Fame as well.

9. Craig Biggio. He has the career numbers Hall of Fame voters like — more than 3,000 hits, 5th all-time with 668 career doubles, 15th all-time with 1,844 runs scored — but I think of him as a Hall of Famer because his prime is better than most people remember. In 1997, for instance, he might have been the best player in baseball. He hit .309/.415/.501, won a Gold Glove at second base, banged 22 homers, stole 47 bases, scored 146 runs and did not hit into a double play all season. He had two or three other seasons that were almost as good.

8. Roger Clemens. Let’s write one short paragraph about Clemens without mentioning you know what. One MVP. Seven Cy Youngs. Seven ERA titles. Five-time strikeout king. Six-time shutout leader. Third all-time in strikeouts. Third all-time in WAR. Won a Cy Young at 23. Won a Cy Young at 41. Based purely on what he did on the field, Clemens is probably the greatest pitcher who ever lived.

7. Barry Bonds. Let’s write one short paragraph about Bonds without mentioning you know what. Seven MVPs, including four in a row. All-time home run leader, career and single season. Only player with 500 homers and 500 steals. Only player with 400 homers and 400 steals. All-time walk leader. Eight Gold Gloves. Here’s an absurd one: Had more intentional walks than Roberto Clemente or Andre Dawson had TOTAL walks. Based purely on what he did on the field, Bonds is one of the five greatest players who ever lived.

6. Tom Glavine. Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs called him a left-handed Jim Palmer, and I think that’s a perfect description. Glavine, like Palmer, was extremely smart, overwhelmingly competitive, and he knew how to work the umpires. He never struck out 200 in a season, and he was often among the league leaders in walks and home runs allowed. But, like Palmer, he’d battle and claw and hang in there and keep finding ways to survive and advance.

Palmer, you probably know, never gave up a grand slam in his career — that’s in 213 chances. In a way Glavine’s record is even more impressive. Glavine faced the bases loaded 428 times in his career — only Nolan Ryan faced more. He allowed only two home runs.*

*Ryan, who was one of the hardest guys to hit a home run off of in baseball history, gave up 10 grand slams.

5. Curt Schilling. Bloody sock. The 2001 postseason. The best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball history.*

*Not counting Tommy Bond who retired in 1884 and pitched when it took eight balls to draw a walk. It actually annoys me that he’s listed in the record books.

4. Mike Piazza. He’s probably the best hitting catcher in baseball history. His 427 homers are 38 more than second-place Johnny Bench. His .545 slugging percentage is 45 points higher than second-place Roy Campanella. Ivan Rodriguez did have 20 more runs created than Piazza, but it took him 2,500 more plate appearances. Piazza was a suspect catcher — well, he couldn’t throw — but he had some strengths defensively as well. Will he get in this year? It’s going to be close … he might need one more year.

3. Jeff Bagwell. He’s probably the wrong guy to use for this point, but II have to make it at some point: Every year when I make my votes, I think hard about the steroid issue. My feeling now is that I will mark down a player a bit for acknowledged or demonstrated PED abuse during the era before testing — this is why I have Bonds and Clemens a little bit down the list — but it is not a disqualifier for me. My feeling is that players who used steroids before testing, well, I’m not happy about it, but it was weaved into the fabric of the game. When the Hall of Fame puts together a committee that unanimously elects Tony La Russa into the Hall of Fame — a man who for years managed the most infamous steroid-infused team of the time — I realize that there are different rules at play, and there should not be. Steroids were a part of the game. A sad part. But a part just the same.

I’m not opposed to changing my viewpoint if there’s a compelling enough reason to do so. As I’ve written before, I’d love for the Hall of Fame to take the lead and offer guidance. I think they should. In the meantime, though, I figure the only reason I have a vote is because I supposedly know something about baseball. I’ll vote based on baseball.

Jeff Bagwell is as good a reason as any to do so. I don’t know if Jeff Bagwell used. He says he didn’t. There’s nothing more than some weak circumstantial evidence that he did. And Bagwell was a fantastic baseball player. He hit, he slugged, he got on base, he ran well, he won a Gold Glove, and he was mesmerizing to watch. These kinds of players come along so rarely. If Bagwell gets into the Hall of Fame and then we find out he used steroids, I won’t feel cheated. I feel sure there are players — multiple players — already in the Hall of Fame who used steroids. They were wrong for doing it. They were also great baseball players.

2. Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt is a great nickname, no? From 1991 to 1997, Frank Thomas hit .330/.452/.604 and averaged 36 homers, 118 RBIs, 107 runs scored, he won two MVP awards, led the league in on-base percentage four times, OPS four times, walks four times. He was on pace then to battle Hornsby or Foxx or Mays or Aaron or DiMaggio as the greatest right-handed hitter ever. He wasn’t quite as good after that, though he still had a couple of great years. He’s one of the 10 best right-handed hitters ever, I think.

1. Greg Maddux. One of my all-time favorite players. I could write another 6,000 words just on him right now, but I won’t. There’s no way to sum up Maddux anyway. You could go with the four Cy Young Awards, the 355 wins, the 2.15 ERA from 1992-1998 — much of it during the heart of the Steroid Era. But, no, it was more poetic than that. Maddux wasn’t a pitcher as much as he was a zen master. He bent batters (and umpires) to his will. He pitched the corners, just off the corners, just off the off-corners, he moved the ball high, dropped it low, never walked anybody, made every defensive play (best fielding pitcher i ever saw), hit enough batters to keep them honest, pitched around home runs, and left everybody thinking, “Damn, I just missed!” Remember the line the kid says in “The Matrix” about how there is no spoon? With Maddux, there was no spoon.

152 thoughts on “The Massive Hall of Fame Post

  1. Ryan

    Surprised to see Glavine over Mussina, but if anything that might just show the absurdity of the 10 player limit that forces you to choose between the two

    Reply
    1. Bob

      I’d love to know why, since you included Clemens and Bonds on your list, you didn’t have them 1-2. Their numbers certainly warrant it.

      Reply
      1. invitro

        He says “I will mark down a player a bit for acknowledged or demonstrated PED abuse during the era before testing — this is why I have Bonds and Clemens a little bit down the list”.

        Reply
    2. trooper

      Picking Glavine over Mussina is a joke. The sum total of Mussina’s career is clearly better than that of Glavine’s. But this theater of the absurd gets worse when some pick Smoltz over Mussina. I could make a long list of how Mussina is head and shoulders above Smoltz, but I’ll only list 2. Smoltz would have to win his next 57 decisions in a row, that is go 57-0, to match Mussina’s winning percentage. For those who say, a starting pitcher’s win in greatly influenced by the team he pitches for, and I am one, Mike Mussina’s winning percentage relative to the teams he pitched for is 9th best in baseball history, tied with Seaver (175 or more wins). And far, far better than the sainted Atlanta trio and so called hard luck pitchers Carlton and Blyleven. It isn’t even a debate, at least not an intelligent one.

      Reply
  2. Drew

    I was born in 1984, which means by this Summer, I will have three decades of baseball watching/following under my belt. And as presently constructed, there’s zero reason for me to give a crap about the Hall of Fame. And that’s even with my all-time favorite player as one of the two players from ‘my’ era to make it in (Barry Larkin).

    Until at least the top twelve or so guys on this list (and I’d be fine with the top 16 or so, really) are in, that won’t change. That’s what the writers don’t seem to understand about this whole ‘let’s take a stand against steroids’ thing; they’re not righting any wrongs. They’re simply creating apathy for an entire demographic that should be putting their money into the museum.

    Let me know when the HOF cares about the 30 years I’ve watched baseball by acknowledging that the careers of Bagwell, Piazza, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Mussina and Schilling existed (I’m assuming that no one with a brain will keep Maddux and Thomas out). I’ll take all this talk seriously then.

    Reply
    1. Phil

      This is a great point, and I agree completely. I was born in 1978, and I am also of the steroid era generation Those are the players that I get to walk through the HOF pointing towards with MY kids. I have no interest in making the trip to Cooperstown to look at the plaques of the players of the old sportswriters’ youth.

      Reply
    2. Kevin Hartzell

      100% agree. Born in 1981. The HOF is supposed to be the place where you can take your kids and point out all the truly great players you watched growing up. Even though my favorite player growing up made it (Jim Rice), how could I walk my kids through a Hall of Fame that doesn’t have Clemens or Bonds or McGuire (or Bagwell or Piazza). My kids will have to spend time looking at the dreck from deadball era but there is no plaque for the baseball player that in 1997 and 1998 exited America like no other ballplayer in my lifetime? A disgrace.

      A bunch of stodgy old writers are actively devaluing and ruining the Hall of Fame. It’s really sad.

      Reply
      1. Phil

        As a Met fan who was baseball-aware from 1985 or 1986 forward, I already have almost no players represented. Seaver was before my time and Carter only had a couple good years in my earliest memories (and anyway, he trailed Doc, Darryl, Cone, Hojo and probably even Dykstra in terms of playground relevance). Omitting Piazza, I would take that as a huge slap in the face. Just the fact that he is not a slam dunk is insulting. I dont know why but I almost take it personally.

        And guys like Bonds and McGwire – heroes of my strat-o-matic teams, legends of my fantasy teams, trade targets in my Sega Genesis sim games… The guys I pretended to strike out as I pitched a foam ball against a wall over and over on a “sick” day home alone from school… They can’t take the memories away, they can only disassociate the HOF from the memories.

        Reply
        1. Drew

          That’s what I mean by ‘they’re not righting any wrongs’; what happened happened. We collected the baseball cards; we checked the box scores in the paper before there was the internet. We recorded the All-Star games on a VCR and imitated the stances in the back yard. Those years happened.

          And the players? They keep all the money they made. The league too.

          The only one the HOF is hurting is itself.

          Reply
          1. Herb Smith

            I’m older than you guys, so the content of the previous 4-5 posts had never occurred to me. But now that I’m reading it, it’s HUGELY important.

            For a certain generation of baseball fan, the Steroid era WAS baseball. Posnanski always says that nobody ever lover baseball as much as a kid between the ages of 8 to 15. Well what if you were born in the mid-80′s, like millions were?

            Then Sosa hitting 60, Bonds hitting a walkoff off Randy Johnson on the day his dad died, Piazza homering after 9/11…hell, these are like Bobby Thompson’s or Ruth’s called shot, or Koufax in his prime.

            These names ARE baseball. No WAY can you pretend it didn’t happen. Enough with the sickening moralizing. Put these men in the Hall.

          2. rucksack

            I agree.

            I think the BBWAA needs to get over its mindset that the players need to “deserve it”. The point should be that we, the fans, “deserve it”. We deserve to understand the players within the context of the entire story of baseball.

            We deserve to appreciate Tony Gwynn within the context of a baseball history that has Ted Williams in it (and we get to do that).

            But we also deserve to appreciate Ty Cobb within the context of a baseball history that has Pete Rose in it.

            And Ruth and Aaron in the context of baseball with Barry Bonds.

            And so on.

            The HOF and baseball fans suffer through the exclusion of players like Rose and Bonds and we don’t deserve that regardless of what Rose or Bonds deserve.

        2. rucksack

          A hybrid reply to Kevin and Phil: Rice was my favorite player growing up and I felt about him missing the cut every year exactly how Phil is feeling about Piazza. I think he’ll get in once the logjam clears, if not sooner.

          My brain has become more sabermetric since Rice got in and, while I think there are some contextual factors that make Rice more interesting than his stats might say, I don’t know that I’d vote for him today based only on his stats and I’m not sure how much credit I’d give him for that context if I weren’t a complete homer. (Still happy he’s in).

          Reply
          1. otistaylor89

            Jim Rice was my favorite growing up and I saw most of his games from his rookie year until the 1981 lookout. I don’t care what the stats say, he was was the best hitter in the AL during that time. Unfortunately, he just wasn’t the same player after he broke his wrist in June 1980 by a pitch. He was very good, had some great periods, but came back too soon and didn’t have the same overpowering strength. Having said that, it would be a less of a HOF if he wasn’t included.

        3. Ed

          Though I understand the above points, honestly part of the problem here is being “a Met fan who war baseball-aware from 1985 or 1986 forward”. The HoF voters don’t really have alot of options with this department. Its basically Piazza (OK, it may be just be possible to build a case for Cone) or nothing.

          This is also why teams retire numbers of fan favorites who played on that team.

          Reply
      1. bellweather22

        As an overall point, voters don’t pick players, and ignore negatives, just so millennials can someday wander through Cooperstown with their kids and baby-mammas to see their personal favorites. This is yet another absurd point, there seem to be new ones every day, being made by people to excuse steroid use.

        Reply
        1. Kids These Days grrrr

          Them rowdy kids these days mucking up Cooperstown with their loud music and baby mamas and tweeter and knockout gaming and sense of entitlement that the greatest players during their youth should be recognized…

          And by kids I mean anyone who didnt serve in WW2.

          Let me tell ya about the players in MY day. Those were real players….

          Reply
        2. Which hunt?

          A baseball museum isn’t meant to appeal to an entire generation of baseball fans by including the best players of the era they grew up watching?

          Now that is news to me.

          Reply
    3. berkowit28

      You were born in 1984 but you say you have been watching baseball for 30 years? How’d you manage that? Wouldn’t 25 years be the most, at the outside, to what you can remember; maybe closer to 20 years for what you could evaluate as you were watching?

      Reply
      1. Hungus

        I DEMAND 100% ACCURACY IN THE ANECDOTES RE: YOUR AGE!!!!!

        ’83 here, so I guess I have 25 years or so of baseball memories (The Bash Brothers were my favorite players and the first ones I really remember, so I’ll let the auditors among us check my math lest I’m off by a couple years). Of all the stupid debates we can have about the Hall of Fame, I think this debate over the exact number of years a person has been watching baseball is probably the dumbest I’ve ever seen. Well done, guys.

        Reply
    4. The Dumb Money (@The_Dumb_Money)

      This resonates with me as well, but only because I also subscribe to Joe’s view that it matters whether they used before or after the ban. Otherwise, representation in the museum is enough. (I also think guys like Clemens and Bonds are Hall-worthy even if you knock off like the last seven-to-ten years of their careers or so.) Born in 1979. My first favorite player was Mattingly, then Thomas once Mattingly was done. Great post, Joe. I cannot argue with your list, though I would have probably tried to find a way to game Trammell in.

      Reply
    5. The Everlasting Dave

      Bravo, +1, spot on, etc. I’m about to turn 32 and I feel the same way. I’m a White Sox fan so I don’t share your optimism about The Big Hurt. I’m just happy he hasn’t been Bagwelled yet.

      Reply
    6. Bill C.

      “I was born in 1984, which means by thisI was born in 1984, which means by this Summer, I will have three decades of baseball watching/following under my belt.”

      So you started watching/following baseball before you were even one year old? Shenanigans. You’re a good 5 years away (at least) from “hav[ing] three decades of baseball watching/following under [your] belt”

      Reply
      1. Rob Meredith

        He can certainly claim he’s been watching baseball for three decades if he means the 90s, the aughts and the tens!

        Reply
    7. RobM

      Drew, I agree 100% and I am not even of your generation. I’m probably closer to your parents’ as I was born in 1960. The HOF really was created to help market the game, so the very idea that an entire generation of all-time greats will not be inducted is insanity and can be quite damaging.

      From my own experience, I’m not all that happy that a player from my generation, the all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, is not in the HOF, but I do understand why he was put on the ineligible list. Yet he’s just one player. We’re talking about most of the greats from your generation, players who I obviously watched too and absolutely believe should be in the HOF. MLB has not removed any of these records, has not put an asterisk next to them, and has not declared these players ineligible as they did with Rose. Yet BBWAA members have decided to make themselves the judge and jury, even in cases where there is no evidence. Quite annoying.

      I hope one day the players from your generation are inducted, and you can bring your sons and daughters to the Hall to tell them about them. I actually think that will happen, but it’s going to take more time.

      Reply
  3. Kootenai Jake

    Maddux broke my heart ….

    Took the family to Disney and stopped by Spring Training. I stood by the batting cage and waited for Glavine to sign a ball (he did, class act guy)

    and as i waited I looked down the right field line and spied my wife & our stroller full of kids talking to Maddux! I could not free myself fast enough, from the thick crowd, to get down there.

    When I got there he had walked off.

    My wife’s comment: “That ball boy was so nice! Kind of nerdy though”

    Reply
  4. Nycgeoff

    Talk about a tough standard: I think the hall of fame for great Americans hasn’t elected anyone since the 70s.

    Reply
  5. MRCS

    Disappointed you didn’t have space to vote for my favourite, Edgar Martinez, this year but I’m not sure I can fault your reasoning for putting him outside the ten you’re limited to. I’m just hoping that there are enough people who (unlike you) are prepared to game the (clearly broken) system to ensure that Gar and the five or so other deserving candidates don’t fall off entirely because of the logjam.

    Reply
  6. JiminNC

    Mattingly, like Dale Murphy and some others, is a HaHOFer: a half-a-Hall-of-Famer, a person who played at HOF level but not for long enough.

    Reply
  7. John

    Sad to see Mussina miss the cut. I’d probably have dropped Bagwell, for similar reasons to your dropping Palmeiro.
    I never saw much of Maddux, so Mussina was the best fielding pitcher I ever saw.

    Reply
    1. Nick

      What similar reasons are you speaking of? Bagwell played at a pitcher’s park, while Palmeiro played at a hitter’s park. Even so, Bagwell had a better slash line, and a higher WAR while playing 700 less games. Peak? Bagwell had 4 seasons with higher than 7 WAR, while Palmeiro had 0.

      I’m not seeing how you could downgrade Bagwell based on Joe’s points.

      Reply
  8. Trent Phloog

    Maddux — Mad Dog, The Professor — is my favorite pitcher of all time, and I grew up rooting for Steve Carlton, who I adored. A lifelong Phillies fan, I spent much of the 90s rooting for the Braves to lose 4 out of every 5 — but win on Maddux’s day. What a wizard on the mound.

    I really hope a ton of guys go in the Hall this year… but in a way it would be fitting if Maddux does go in alone, because he was incomparable.

    Reply
    1. Chris M

      I’m a Mets fan who feels the same way. Always loved Maddux. Went to this game in 2001 (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN200104110.shtml), and it was the best pitched game I’ve ever seen in person (and I’ve been to a no-hitter!). Rick Reed pitched great, but Maddux was just the master.

      It looks like Mad Dog and Glavine are gonna both get in comfortably this year. I pretty much despise Glavine, but it is cool that they will get to go in together. I’ve pretty much given up hope that Piazza is getting in this year, but hopefully Thomas & Biggio go in, and with those 4 plus Morris off the ballot, and only 2 no doubters joining next year, Piazza and Bagwell can sneak in. I could see 9 guys going in the next 2 seasons, which would be a lot better than I thought a few weeks ago.

      Reply
  9. Cathead

    First, I appreciate Joe for being open with his ballot, even if I disagree with him on the steroid issue.

    Second, I have been to the Hall of Fame three times – twice right after college, and once with my sons and their Little League team. As I read Joe’s description of the vision of the Scotsman and Ford Frick, I can certainly say that I experienced some of what they were trying to do. One of the times I went was back on a day when they had the Hall of Fame Game (day after induction ceremony). We somehow managed tix from a local drug store owner. There was a HR derby that featured Pete Incaviglia as a rookie.

    The trip with my sons had some disappointment – much of the HOF was under renovation, so there were closed exhibits, and it felt a bit rushed. But there were amateur teams playing one game after another on Doubleday Field, and being there with with a bunch of 10-12 year old boys was tremendous fun. There was a carnival atmosphere – even a pitching booth with a radar gun. The “shopping district in the heart of Cooperstown” certainly was doing a fine business, as well.

    Reply
  10. s1rweeze

    I’ll never forget sitting behind home plate at Tropicana Field watching 41 year old Greg Maddux for the Padres. He was in full “high school math teacher” mode looks-wise, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t make fools out of Carl Crawford and the Tampa lineup. He ran out of steam pretty quickly but it was still incredible to watch.

    Reply
  11. largebill

    Joe, You’ll probably get more responses regarding those you did not vote for than those you did. In that vein, I will weigh in on Palmeiro. I’ll concede your point that he never had that 7 WAR season that blows your socks off. However, there is substantial value in durability and always being in the lineup. He had 15 seasons where he played 150 or more games and almost always cleared 4 WAR. Would have been a couple more as played nearly every game of the strike shortened seasons. I supported Barry Larkin for the HOF, but his inability to stay healthy was a reasonable knock against him. If missing time is a negative then always being in the lineup is a positive. Compiling is NOT a negative if you are compiling positive stats. Palmeiro would not have cracked my top ten in this crowded ballot, but he is a reasonable choice after the back log is cleared.

    Reply
    1. buddaley

      I agree with you largebill. It seems to me that consistent excellence is as rare as and also as important as brilliant peaks. Palmero was not just a compiler in the sense that Early Wynn or Pete Rose was. He did not continue playing simply to add to his numbers. Even in his last two years, his OPS+ was 108 and in 11 seasons it was over 130 and as high as 160.

      I would not find room on a 10 man ballot this year, but think he is a serious candidate for the HOF. His adjusted OPS+ is mixed in with many non HOFers but is also better than that of outfielders Clemente and Yaz.

      Reply
      1. Patrick Bohn

        His adjusted OPS+…is also better than that of outfielders Clemente.

        And if the only thing that mattered was hitting, that would be enough.

        But Palmeiro had a dWAR of -11.2 according to baseball-reference.com. Clemente had a dWAR of +12.1. He was also below average on the bases (-8 runs, according to B-R) while Clemente was above-average (20)

        Reply
    2. bellweather22

      The other issue with Palmeiro, of course, is the finger wagging and positive test. Joe differentiated between those that used when baseball was nodding and winking at them, and those that tested positive after baseball decided to get serious about steroids. You can make a compelling argument (one I wouldn’t agree with though) that when there is no testing and everyone else is doing it, then it’s not really wrong…. Or at least not as wrong. But once testIng is in place and everyone is no longer doing it, the same argument can’t be made.

      Reply
      1. bigbuffguy95

        Yes, Palmeiro wagging his finger and testing positive a few short months later is my favorite part of the otherwise disgraceful Congressional hearings. In fact (just from a comedy perspective–Palmeiro could have merely issued a denial instead of being so vociferous and adamant that those idiots in Congress actually invited him to be on an anti-steroids task force–then again, at least he didn’t *volunteer* to go before Congress like Clemens did), it’s one of my favorite things that has ever happened in sports or anywhere else.

        Reply
        1. Randy Hill

          To be fair to Rafael, he still to this day claims it was a false positive, and I think you have to give him some small benefit of the doubt. It would take huge cajones to be an active user and go say that under oath.

          Reply
    3. nscadu9

      Durability is not enough for the Hall. I’d much rather have greatness for a short period than very good consistently. Palmeiro never reached the excellence of the elite a WAR above 4 is not really anything to speak of. Sounds too much like the Jack Morris argument, though Palmeiro does have a few more credentials. Rose did compile late in his career to chase the hits record, but his peak is far better than Raf and he is nowhere near Yaz or Clemente.

      Reply
  12. Jake Bucsko

    I believe, wholeheartedly, that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, and later Alex Rodriguez, belong in the Hall. I was born in 1983, which basically means I grew up in the Steroid Era. It seems ridiculous to me that all these guys I grew up watching won’t be in. How do we know Frank Thomas, Griffey, and Jeter didn’t take steroids? Not every user grew a second forehead like Bonds did.

    But…I do have to say that I think everyone who makes the argument that “The Hall is a museum where people go to learn about baseball, they need to be in” have either not been to Cooperstown for a very long time, or have not actually been at all.

    If you haven’t been, it is probably tempting to think of it as nothing but plaques and busts, when in fact the plaques are a much smaller part of the Hall than you think, and at the very end of your tour. The vast, vast majority of the Baseball Hall of Fame consists of memorabilia and exhibits displaying the history of baseball.

    And let me tell you…Barry Bonds is in the Hall Of Fame. So is Roger Clemens. And yes…so is Pete Rose. If you took an alien who knew nothing about baseball to Cooperstown, that alien will know the names Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez before leaving.

    So you can make the argument in one of two ways: you can say, Well, its enough that there are exhibits and memorabilia with the steroid crew, they don’t deserve the honor of actual enshrinement. If you want to look at the HOF as a museum, mission accomplished.

    Or, you could say to the people who are so desperately clinging to this moral need to keep Bonds and Clemens out that they have already lost the battle. I tend to lean in this direction, but I could see the argument both ways.

    Reply
    1. Cathead

      I understand your point – the PED crowd has its memorabilia in the HOF, and their names are in all sorts of record books. But they have no plaques in the plaque room. And when future generations see that there are no plaques, they ask questions about why. And that presents the teachable moment — but only if we have learned the lessons first.

      Reply
      1. Jake Bucsko

        @Cathead

        I get that you are envisioning a scenario where a father meaningfully explains to his son the true meaning of sportsmanship where the son has stared wide-eyed at Barry Bonds’s bat and Roger Clemens’s glove and searched in vain for the plaques that bear their name.

        But what happens when these future generations raise questions about Ty Cobb, Cap Anson, and Tom Yawkey? What is the greater sin here?

        Reply
        1. bellweather22

          I doubt that any young baseball fan would know anything about these guys, except Cobb. But if you wanted a moral lesson, it would simply be that times have changed….for the better. In their day, being a racist was acceptable and thank God, it no longer is.

          Reply
      2. Ed

        This is a good argument, but it is also an argument for having a very visible exhibit on steroid use in the museum part, naming names, and making a point of featuring the allegations against the players who had plaques downstairs. The plaques themselves have short descriptions of the players, and there is space to put “tested positive for PEDs”, “alleged to have used PEDs”, “admitted to using PEDs” on the plaque itself. You don’t need an actual asterix.

        Reply
  13. Trent Phloog

    For anyone who also follows Tango’s blog, per his HOF ballot rating system, Joe has a “perfect” ballot:

    14 points for each of Bonds, Maddux, Clemens

    12 points for Thomas

    9 for Piazza, Bagwell, Raines

    7 for Biggio, Glavine

    5 for Schilling

    = 100

    So, bravo.

    Reply
      1. Trent Phloog

        I actually agree, though it’s a close thing. I was just noting the system as Tango laid it out, FWIW. Your mileage may vary — personally, I think Trammell, Walker and Edgar are all stronger candidates than Biggio — but that just highlights what a crazily stacked ballot this is.

        Reply
      2. bellweather22

        Glavine is interesting. It’s amazing how few runs he gave up vs. the number of base runners he allowed. One of the biggest things a pitcher is told from Day 1 is “throw strikes”. Glavines mantra was “never give in”, which is pretty much the polar opposite of throw strikes. When you throw in the fact that he had a fastball that only occasionally brushed near 90 mph, during his prime, and that he was a two pitch, fastball/change up pitcher with no real breaking ball, his level of success really make no sense at all. He broke all the rules of starting pitching except the part about preventing runs and winning games.

        Reply
  14. Rick Crouthamel

    I don’t understand why the BBWAA is even still involved in voting for the HOF. I mean, I understand how vital their role was in the 1930’s, before television and the Internet and the Pony Express, and such, but today? Far from being the most knowledgable fans of the game, they quite often seem the LEAST knowledgable. I think it’s time to broaden the voting population and include more fans. The BBWAA should still have a place at the table. Just not the only one.

    Reply
      1. Adam S

        Actually since fans could vote for all-stars on the Internet, the voting has been pretty good. Sure there are some mistakes but they’ve done a much better job than the BBWAA with the Hall of Fame vote.

        Reply
  15. tombando

    As usual, can’t just write up Jack Morris w/out some sorta dig at his supporters as being deluded as to the man’s greatness….ummm right, your ‘Dale Murphy/Quisenberry’ bromides for the Hall notwithstanding? Nice to see Jeff Kent is on your list of players to ‘Garvey’ now too. He’s just jumped to #1 on my list to push for the Hall just because.

    Reply
    1. Spencer

      Watch out everyone! Tombando is now pushing Jeff Kent for the HOF!!

      He’s a shoe in now!

      Someone contact Jeff and tell him the good news, tombando is on the case!

      Reply
  16. Jaack

    I agree with you on almost every player here, except for Jeff Kent. Kent compares rather favorably to contemporary 2nd basemen Robbie Alomar and Craig Biggio, who are either already in the HoF or very close. Kent obviously wins in power, finishing with and even .500 SLG and a .210 ISO, which both blow Biggio and Alomar out of the water. Its pretty well known that Kent has the most HR of any 2nd baseman with 377, but his doubles total of 560 also compares pretty well, ranking 4th among 2nd baseman and 21st overall. And while Kent did in no way have a short career, he remained a good offensive player until the end, not having the compiler type ending that Biggio. Kent did not get on base at the same rate as the other two, but after broke out with the Giants in 1997, both Kent’s walk rate and batting average are quite comparable to those two. In general, offensively, Kent is the best of the three, though they all are definitely in the same stratosphere.

    The big knock on Kent was that he was a poor defensive second baseman. I think this is in part because of his atrocious defense at the end with the Dodgers as opposed to his defense during his peak. Before going to LA, Kent was essentially a league average 2nd baseman. UZR only goes back to 2002, but Kent had 2 average years and one pretty good year, before deciding to play defense with a peg leg in LA. TZ tells a similar story, with Kent being a consistently average, with a random season either way. Biggio, in comparison, is actually shown as being worse defensively than Kent, even including Kent’s decline in LA. Even though the numbers don’t like Alomar that much, I’m willing to assume that his defense was better that what was recorded, but even so, Kent ranks the best of the three offensively, and in the middle defensively. For an extra push over the edge, Kent was a good postseason performer, essentially meeting his career lines, and including a signature moment, with a 3 run walk-off home run to break the 0-0 tie in game 5 of the 2004 NLCS.

    I think the comparison to Biggio is what really pushes me over the edge on Kent. Biggio has a slight advantage in OBP while Kent has a more significant advantage in power. While I won’t go as far to say that Kent was markedly better than Biggio, the gap is actually quite close.

    Reply
    1. KHAZAD

      It is probably a good thing for Kent that we didn’t have modern defensive ratings for most of his career. The fact is that Kent was an awful fielder for his entire career, and most particularly bad during the portion of his career when he became an offensive force.

      Normally, this is not something which holds people back. There are plenty of horrible fielders in the hall of fame right now, and there will be more. (I always find it interesting that people have no problem putting offensive guys in who were negative fielders, but won’t vote for a better offensive player in Edgar Martinez because he was a DH, which doesn’t negatively affect his value at all)

      Kent’s problem is that while he was a very good player, anyone who makes his case rests it on the fact that he was a second baseman. They compare him to other second baseman only. Offensively, when compared to other players as a whole, without regard to position, he falls short. (For instance, even in the realm of the second basemen you mentioned, he is behind Biggio and Alomar in offensive WAR, and also falls below Grich and Whitaker, who are not in, and were both much better fielders as well) Defensively, he probably SHOULD have been a DH for most of his career, so I will not give him undue credit for the fact that he happened to play at second base.

      Very good player. Not Hall worthy.

      Reply
      1. Jaack

        And the entire argument against Kent rests on his defense being DH-level, which there is no statistical evidence for. Total Zone isn’t a great measure of defense, but if Kent truly were a DH level defender for his career, than there would at least be some evidence there, but until he signed with the Dodgers at the end of his career, he only had two seasons of negative defensive value. Kent was not a great defender, not even a good one. But to produce a DH level of negative defensive value, Kent would have had to been a -20 defender at second base. Only once did he come within 10 runs of being that bad.

        And while Kent’s oWAR (263 runs on fangraphs) may have technically been lower than Alomar (275) or Biggio (271), they both had longer careers than Kent. And while Grich and Whitaker were certainly better defenders than Kent, and should be in the HoF, they still are 60 runs behind Kent with the bat. Kent is admittedly a borderline candidate, but if Kent was any better than god-awful defensively, than he should be in. I just don’t see any evidence to say that he was truly that bad.

        Reply
        1. KHAZAD

          First I prefer baseball reference WAR for many reasons, and he is rightfully behind all four players on it. Secondly, in reality, DH’s do not actually have negative value for the team. It is fine for a WAR like stat to slap additions and penalties on positions so they are rated closer together and make up for the fact that some positions are more defensive oriented historically, but it doesn’t really mean anything in the actual game.

          A DH does not hurt you team defensively during the season, a bad second baseman does. On BR, the built in difference between a SS and a 1B is 17.5 runs. But if a first baseman is +10 runs defensively while a SS is -10, and they are compared to their own positions for those +- numbers, the difference in how they affect their actual team in relation to the league in that respect is actually a 20 run difference.

          Look, I like Jeff Kent, I just feel he falls short of the hall. Especially on a list this packed, he has no business being anywhere near the top ten, unless a voter is completely excluding anyone with even remote steroid possibilities. The type of person who does that is liable to exclude Kent as well, who was just above average offensively for many years, and had a surge in power and offense in his 30s after joining the Giants in the height of the steroid era. No, I’m not saying he was a user, but that is how the PED zealots think. You don’t even have to have a failed test, or any real rumors, -Jeff Bagwell for example- they just have to look at your career and make it fit steroid use in their little minds, and Kent’s career is exactly the kind that will fit. They will even use opposing arguments (Player A still had power when he was 40? It must be steroids! Player B’s body broke down early? It must be as a result of steroid use!) to slap their judgement on the players they wish to put it on.

          I have him at about the same spot as Joe overall.

          Reply
          1. Jaack

            First of all, I’m going to ignore the PED bullshit because it’s as stupid as the Bagwell and Piazza PED stuff and also irrelevant as to whether Kent SHOULD be a Hall of Famer. I admit he’s probably not going in on the BBWAA ballot because of the overcrowding. I don’t even have him as one of my personal top ten players on this ballot (he’s twelfth for me).

            The question of Kent being a Hall of Famer still depends on whether he should have been a DH or not. You say you like bWAR better? The positional adjustment between 2nd base and DH is currently 18 runs there, and was so for almost all of Kent’s career. While its true that a DH doesn’t hurt the team with his defense, he hurts the team in opportunity cost. The opportunity cost of moving a player from 2nd base to DH is significant.

            Playing this out in terms of Kent, lets imagine Kent was playing for an AL team, as their primary second baseman, but they were considering moving him to DH. The two other players affected by this are the primary DH and Kent’s replacement at 2nd base. Since Kent’s bat stays in the lineup, its essentially irrelevant to the move. The real change in value comes from the difference in offense is obvious: the current DH vs the replacement 2nd baseman. The change in defense is between Kent and the replacement 2nd baseman. So the obvious question is: is the change in defense large enough to offset the loss of offense by replacing the DH in the lineup with the back up 2nd baseman. The positional adjustment intends to account for this opportunity cost. So assuming the two players imaginary players are average offensively, the difference between Kent and the new 2nd baseman has to account for an 18 run difference between the two. For this to be even a reasonable trade-off either the defender has to be fantastic, or Kent has to be truly moribund. Kent was never constantly anywhere that level of clankmittery statistically. In fact, evidence says that Biggio was a worse defender than Kent.

            You said that Kent should have been a DH. Okay, give me some evidence.

    2. invitro

      “In general, offensively, Kent is the best of the three”

      You did not mention baserunning or GIDP. Alomar is +53 runs for baserunning and +22 runs for avoiding GIDP on b-r. The baserunning alone wipes out Kent’s +55 hitting advantage, and the GIDP avoidance is what pushes Alomar to being the better offensive player.

      I like the postseason mention, and Kent’s playoff numbers are great, but Alomar’s are even greater.

      I don’t think Kent compares favorably to Alomar at all. But I did like Kent quite a bit and would be fine if he got some votes.

      I kind of think that the HoF has way too many 2B’s right now, and Grich should be ahead of all of these guys (maybe; Grich’s playoff numbers are abyssmal).

      “than Alomar (275) or Biggio (271), they both had longer careers than Kent.”

      Alomar and Kent each played 17 seasons; their careers were the same length. Kent just missed more games. This is another plus for Alomar.

      Reply
  17. Brennan

    “I think baseball is our National Pastime because the qualities it develops in its contests — the team play, cooperation of all the members toward one purpose, with stardom achievable only through and with such cooperation”

    I love baseball, but it seems that the Frick quote is more applicable to just about any other team sport than it is to the individual nature of the game.

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      To be fair to Frick, the other team sports had much less recognition during his time. Baseball was very much the standard bearer for team-oriented competition.

      Reply
  18. bl

    Here’s what aggravates me about the PED issue: members of the BBWAA were more than happy to award Bonds MVP awards and Clemens CY Youngs even when there were PED suspicions; but now they’re not HOF worthy. The BBWAA seems to be the most directionless, least consistent organization around.

    Reply
  19. Owen

    Joe, after you referenced the “Great Americans” Hall of Fame, I had to go look at the honorees and decide who the Fred Lindstroms and Rabbit Maranvilles were. Here’s what I came up with:

    James Kent – a clear example of “East Coast bias” at work. I guess he was a very important legal scholar (Commentaries On American Law is his work), but his influence was basically just New York.

    Phillips Brooks – his main claim to fame is that he wrote the lyrics for “O Little Town of Bethelem.”

    John Motley – a historian who was in vogue for a rather brief period and is no longer.

    Rufus Choate – Successfully used sleepwalking as a defense in a murder trial, and…?

    Sidney Lanier – Maybe the Hall of Very Good for Sidney.

    I think all the others have strong cases, and there are plenty of nominees who more than meet the threshold but haven’t yet gotten in.

    Reply
    1. Breadbaker

      The main charitable organization at Harvard is Phillips Brooks House, named for him. That gives him a lasting legacy (programs at PBH, of which I am proud to be an alumnus, included the models that led to both the Peace Corps and VISTA among other things). Check out the link.

      Reply
  20. Ian

    A few thoughts:

    1) I think, unless it’s PEDs, you can’t say Palmeiro isn’t a HOFer. He has more WAR than Raines, in 3 fewer seasons. His 10 year peak is better. He has the counting numbers. He had 11+ 4 WAR seasons (Raines had 6)

    2) Raines is the player that bothers me the most. He’s a compiler. Not that I’m against him getting in necessarily since the 80s are underrepresented and he did have a great peak and I’m a big hall guy. But he’s all peak, if you think he’s a HOFer, than you should think that guys like Oliva, Hernandez, Mauer, Utley are HOFers – they all had better/longer peaks. His 83-87 were wonderful but that was pretty much it. One season after that in the top 10 in OBP. (89). He stuck around enough to compile some nice numbers but he wasn’t really that great a player – something like 90th in WAR for the 90s, despite playing in all those seasons. I think his offensive decline was a bit hidden by the steroid era.

    3) I really don’t know what to do about the roiders. If you want to vote for them, that’s ok, if you don’t, that’s ok, too. I’d probably sweat over this a bit more if I had a vote. But I think it’s unfair to say that the evidence of Bagwell roiding was “weak.” He used Andro, his trainer was linked to steroids, he claimed he didn’t use it but also claimed it didn’t help. I’d bet a ton of money that he used.

    Reply
    1. nscadu9

      I will start by saying that I was a lifelong Expos fan and grew up with Raines in his prime, so I may have some bias. I’m not sure what you think he was compiling. He didn’t hang around to compile any milestones, but yes he hung around a little too long. Not sure why you’re so focused on the 90s considering he is a player of the 80s. He has an argument for greatest base stealer ever. I know Rickey has got the numbers, but efficiency and smarts on the basepaths he is one of the greatest. Couple that with his OBP and batting and he is one of the greats.

      Reply
      1. Ian

        Well, he played in the 90s, too. Again, he had a great 5 yr peak but if you take out those five years, nada. He avg less than 2 WAR for his other 17 seasons (which isn’t completely fair since many of them were partial seasons b/c he was hurt or just a part-time player). Only 6 4+ WAR seasons. That’s pretty low.

        Reply
    2. Patrick Bohn

      “He has more WAR than Raines, in 3 fewer seasons”

      This sort of misrepresentation of statistics is ridiculous. Raines didn’t even have a single plate appearance in one of these “seasons”

      Palmeiro played in 329 more games and had 1,687 more plate appearances than Raines. That means he had a lot more chances to accumulate WAR that Raines did.

      Funny how you chose exactly the one-season WAR number that would make your case strongest. If you were to look at:

      Three WAR seasons: Palmiero 13-11
      Five WAR seasons: Raines 7-6
      Six WAR seasons: Raines 4-2

      Reply
  21. Beings and Events

    I know that you made an effort not to mention steroids, Joe, and it’s quite refreshing. But I do feel like I need to weigh in, particularly because the issue has come up on other articles you have posted.

    Seems that everyone admits that the Hall is full of cheaters in the technical sense: ball doctoring, bat corking, and lots of greenies. The last one is particularly relevant since it’s another illegal substance that enhances performance. The question is: are steroids the same as these? Worse? Is Hank Aaron the same as Bonds because the latter admitted to taking amphetamines.

    Well, I can’t comment on spitballs or corked bats, since I never played professional baseball. But I can offer my take on the other stuff, because I have taken both anabolic steroids and amphetamines in order enhance performance (for powerlifting and some strongman stuff).

    They definitely are different, that’s for sure. Different effects, different side effects, different benefits, different risks. But do they both enhance performance? Oh yeah.

    Steroids are general, all-around performance enhancers. It’s not like you take them once, and five minutes later you turn into Popeye. And they’re pretty dose dependent: bigger doses, with appropriate training, get you strong AND huge. Smaller doses might not get you that much bigger, but they help tremendously with recovery. That’s why you can’t always tell when a guy is using, although with experience you can definitely tell when a guy is REALLY using — there’s a certain look about them that’s easy to spot. One trick in before-and-after pics is to look at guy’s wrists and/or calves: natural dudes almost never get these muscles that bigger (especially the wrists). But I digress…

    Again, I never played baseball. But I bet if you got all the guys using in baseball and gave them a truth serum, they would say that even more than the increased strength and power, it was the RECOVERY aspect of steroids that was the biggest benefit. Anybody who lifts heavy weights at the gym knows that it usually takes a day or two to recover from a difficult session, particularly as the weights get heavier and heavier. All that changes on steroids. And I can only imagine how much it helped get through the long grind of a 162 game season.

    Would they help you hit home runs? For sure. They’d also help you run faster, throw harder… honestly, I can’t think of one sport that steroids would not help with in some way, and that includes golf and table tennis.

    Amphetamines are a very different animal. You know that nice, awake feeling you get after a cup of coffee in the morning? It’s like that times ten. They’re both stimulants, after all. And unlike steroids, they work pretty much right away. You take one, and a little while later your nervous system feels like it’s been hooked up to a car battery. You have more energy, but you’re also stronger and faster — SO much of strength and speed is due to your nervous system, not your actual muscles. Ever hear the stories of some tiny mother whose kid gets trapped under a car, and all of a sudden they’re lifting an Escalade off of Junior? That’s honestly what it feels like. And yes, all the bad side effects are there, too: heart racing, jittery, nervous. You have to work up to them, and even then some people still can’t take them safely. But if you can get used to the side effects, they have all sorts of good effects: increased energy, increase strength/power/speed, and even increased reaction time.

    The downside is, after it wears down, you crash. And the stronger the stimulant, the bigger the crash. That’s what amazes me about those ball players from the 70′s and 80′s. The day after I took one (usually right before a meet), I would feel like I got hit by a truck. I just slept all day. For these guys to go out the next day and do the same thing over again? On top of all the booze and cocaine and who knows what else? It’s a miracle that guys weren’t dropping left and right.

    And that’s just it: despite all the hullabaloo, strong stimulants are WAY more dangerous than steroids. Yeah, the early oral steroids could give you kidney trouble. But for the most part, the worst side effects are what you’ve heard: hair loss/growth, testicular atrophy, gymnecostia, etc. ‘Roid rage is mostly apocryphal. Fact is, I knew a lot of guys who used steroids, and none of them had any health problems from them. Most of them were actually very nice people who never had violent outbursts or anything like that. Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size. But how many people die from amphetamines, energy drinks, or too many stimulants every year? Quite a few.

    That’s what I don’t get. We supposedly have to ban these steroid users from the Hall, because otherwise we’re sending our kids the wrong message. Both steroids and amphetamines are illegal substances. They’re both cheating, and they both enhance performance. But greenies are WAY more dangerous than steroids. Honestly, if your 21 year old son started juicing, he’d get bigger, he’d get stronger, he might even become more a jerk. But he probably wouldn’t really be endangering his health all that much. But if he took amphetamines, you might be finding out from the coroner about his heart defect that had gone undetected until now.

    Some people are probably going to discount what I say because I used these substances without any regrets or apologies. To them, I’m a cheater (although let me say… in certain powerlifting federations, I can say with 100% certainty that EVERYONE is using) and that’s their right.

    But I do think at some point, we are going to need a long, honest discussion about what exactly the role of these substances should be in sports. The stuff they have out there now, I hate to break it to you, but for the most part they’re undetectable. Users, dealers, and scientists are ALWAYS one step ahead of testers. And yes, they are still being used in ALL sports, including baseball. Maybe not as much as in 1998, but they’re still much more prevalent than a lot of people think. You’ll still catch the stupid people — I think Ryan Braun only got caught because he wasn’t expecting to be tested so early in the postseason, and I think Manny only got caught because his dealer probably gave him a batch of HCG and told him it was HGH (which is the most hilarious “MannyBManny” way to fail a drug test, if you think about it).

    But you’re not going to catch a lot of these guys, maybe even most of these guys. Sooner or later, someone who has secretly taken steroids is going to get elected to Hall (if it hasn’t happened already). What happens then?

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      I think you make great points. I personally don’t understand how amphetamines could really help a baseball player long term. I used them once and it was an awful feeling. I got really jumpy and then couldn’t sleep for an entire day. Having those kinds of ups and downs just can’t work for long. A star in his early 20s might be able to handle it for a while, but long term? Maybe. I think the advantages of steroids are obvious and well documented.

      Reply
  22. Anon

    as a DBacks fan, I really wanted Luis Gonzalez to put up a big finish to his career so he might get in the HOF. Sadly, like a lot of ballplayers he turned into a pumpkin at 38 and his early career is a little spotty so he falls just short. I suppose somebody has to have the most doubles of any player not in the HOF (or ineligible)(or likely to get in eventually)

    Reply
    1. Craig From Az

      I am also a huge DBacks fan and have been following them since their inception. Love Gonzo, but I don’t think he is even close the HoF. Just over 50 WAR and a lifetime 119 OPS+? And he couldn’t run or throw. Agree that his early career killed his overall value – he was in his 30s before he had a really good, full season. That’s how Az got him (and cash!) for Karim Garcia. Best trade the DBacks have ever made.

      Reply
      1. Anon

        He isn’t close based on his career but if he had finished stronger he would be well north of 600 2B, and close to 400 HR, 3000 hits and 60 WAR. He might have had a chance sometime after the BBWAA ballot. HIs speed wasn’t THAT bad but agree that his arm was as bad as anyone I’ve ever seen, especially just before and after his arm surgery in 2004.

        But of course ifs are just ifs. He didn’t and he’ll be gone from the ballot immediately.

        Reply
  23. jagarrett

    I can safely say that I would LOVE to see a 6,000 word post about Greg Maddux by you, Joe. And I guarantee there are plenty of readers here who would too.

    My autographed 95′ World Series ball by him is one of my prized possessions. Was a pleasure to grow up watching him pitch. You can make arguments about some pitchers being better at striking guys out, looking more impressive, etc…

    But I have NEVER seen a pitcher before or since that could simply shut down another team, do it throwing less than 100 pitches, and have the entire game over in under 2 hours. That, I think, is the kind of dominance I’m unlikely to ever see again.

    Reply
  24. BobDD

    I keep saying this, but thanks again Joe

    My 1-10
    Bonds
    Clemens
    Maddux
    Piazza
    Thomas
    Bagwell
    Schilling
    McGwire
    Martinez
    Biggio

    Reply
  25. 18thStreet

    Agreed. Consider this: Jon Miller was never a baseball writer, and will never have a Hall of Fame vote. Bill James never wrote for a newspaper, and will never have a Hall of Fame vote.

    It doesn’t make sense.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      I get the premise that some of the writers show themselves as incompetent fools through their blogs/articles, while some non writers would be very competent. And while changing the voters to only people who know what the heck they’re talking about would make sense, that still doesn’t mean you’d get 75% of them to agree on that many players.

      Assuming you think the system is broken, I’m not sure it’s clear that the voters are the root cause of the breakdown. Joe seems to suggest that the root cause is the lack of clarity in the voting rules on what makes a HOFer is at least one root cause. But to solve it, who would offer the expertise for that clarity? The HOF. Itself? There’s a reason they gave vague guidelines and dumped the voting on the BB writers.

      Reply
  26. Paul

    “First, just a little bit of history. The Baseball Hall of Fame, more or less, was the brainchild of two people. The first knew nothing whatsoever about baseball. The second romanticized the game beyond all reason.

    You can think about whose spirit still lingers over Cooperstown.”

    It seems to me the Hall of Fame is now (mostly) run (and its honorees decided) by people who romanticize the game beyond all reason, but who know (almost) nothing whatsoever about baseball.

    Reply
  27. Frank

    I enjoy these HOF columns. But I would never, ever in a million years go to the HOF. Is it free? I might, if my car had broken down in Cooperstown, step inside if they had free popcorn or something. But if it cost even $1, I’d say it’s too much. Am I alone here?

    And who does the hall belong to, anyway? To me it is only a mental exercise in ranking players – like People Magazine’s most interesting people. Who cares? I guess we all sort of do. But do most people want to care? I wish I didn’t. Oh well.

    Still, I’ll waste some time reading this column and almost 25% of the comments. What’s wrong with me?

    Reply
    1. Chris M

      Your loss. The Hall of Fame is awesome. The plaque room is probably the least interesting part of the whole thing. It has tons of really cool exhibits from all eras of baseball history. And Cooperstown is a really cool town, with more baseball memorabilia than you can even imagine.

      Reply
  28. Ross Holden

    Fun fact if not everyone knows this already: the maximum number of players who could be elected in a given year is 13. Of course this could only happen if all voters used all 10 votes and the votes were spread across the 13 mostly evenly.

    Reply
  29. Pefacommish

    With regard to Sosa, it’s amazing that someone with over SIX hundred homers would be considered unworthy. It used to be that FIVE hundred was automatic.

    I think his credibility was hurt by the corked bat even more than the PED suggestions. Did anyone actually believe he just made a mistake and that the bat was only for batting practice? I like Sammy, but I just never bought that one.

    Reply
        1. GMAN

          And if you can’t recognize the greatness of Donnie Baseball and Mike Mussina – ya just don’t have an appreciation for the Grand Old Game…

          Reply
      1. GMAN

        By the way Bellweather of fun… Yaz is one of my favorite players of all time. Tony Conigliero was a hero of mine and I liked Rico Petrocelli, Reggie Smith and Jim Longborg too. Dwight Evan had an unreal gun… George Scott, Fred Lynn were great… Oil Can was fun… But not big on Jim Rice. Later, sort of lost interest in the Sox with Pink Hat crowd and think the beard thing isn’t really that cool…How about you?

        Reply
  30. GMAN

    hmmmm… Schilling career 216-56, Mussina 270-153… you must salivate over K’s to pick Schilling on the ballot over Mussina…

    Reply
    1. Which hunt?

      Wins and losses, how quaint. If that’s what we’re using though, check out the win percentages you listed there. If Schilling had really just lost 56 games and won 216 he’d be a no-brainer inner circle guy. He lost 146.

      Reply
  31. GMAN

    sorry Schilling 216-146… Mussina 270-153… you must salivate over K’s to put Schilling on the ballot over Mussina.

    Reply
      1. dshorwich

        bellweather22, I must have missed the announcement that you’d be appointed Official Guardian of the Joe Blogs Comments Section. Congratulations! It’s a great honor – and, of course, a great responsibility. I’ll be sure to run any future comments I may have by you first, lest I deviate from what you deem to be appropriate discourse.

        Reply
    1. Which hunt?

      Honestly, the two are so damn close value wise it’s really hard to say. ERA+, Career WAR, Innings pitched are all way closer than I would have thought. Schilling had a higher peak, but Mussina edged him by 300 innings. Schilling’s k/bb is just unreal though. I think I give Moose the slight edge, but it is very close.

      Schilling Career WAR 80.7 ERA+ 127 WHIP 1.137 Innings 3261 K 3116 BB 711
      Mussina Career WAR 82.7 ERA+ 123 WHIP 1.192 Innings 3562.2 K 2813 BB 785

      Reply
  32. GMAN

    I like the 75% requirement but really at this point, BBWA should no longer be the sole electors for entry into the HOF. Certain career metrics should be established for automatic consideration. Frankly, the TV/Cable personalities have too much sway…campaigning and electioneering and it needs to be eradicated to maintain the integrity of the process.

    Reply
  33. Hal 10000 (@Hal_RTFLC)

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think the Veterans Committee is going to have to be our salvation. We’re going to see a slew of guys fall off the ballot who deserve to be there and they’re going to have to pick up the pieces.

    I wonder, if under the rules as they are now, a guy who drops off after the 1st ballot in this kind of a packed year, might get elected by the Veterans before someone who stayed on gets elected by the writers.

    Reply
    1. denopac

      This can’t happen. Players are not eligible for consideration by the VC until they have been inactive for twenty years.

      Reply
  34. GMAN

    Bellweather22 – The Wins and Losses summarize the distinction…do your own digging in the details… Mussina had the stronger career. Thanks for inviting me to the party but I don’t remember asking your permission.

    Reply
    1. nscadu9

      So Mussina has career wins, Schilling has more 20 win seasons if you like wins. Schilling also has better ERA, ERA+, WHIP, gave up less hits per 9, has a higher longer peak, has a far better post season record and dominance, and on top of that a better K/BB ratio and 3000Ks to salivate about. I like Mussina and he is in the Hall conversation, but tell me what part of Mussina’s career is stronger.

      Reply
      1. GMAN

        I also like Schilling… I’d put Mussina in ahead of him. More consistent, year in and year out. Pitched in hitter’s ballparks entire career without the luxury of facing pitchers once every 9 at bats. Higher WAR. CY votes 9 yrs. Mike’s career profiles closer to current HOF Pitchers. I’ll take the quiet Mussina and the W’s and the consistency throughout the career… you take Schilling and the K’s and charisma and the bloody sock and the ESPN analyst tail wind. If they go in the same year, I’ll buy you a beer in Cooperstown. But sorry… Schilling does not deserve to go in before Mussina.

        Reply
        1. GMAN

          Mussina had the better career, more wins and better WAR in a more challenging division in a more challenging league. Mike is the man!

          Reply
          1. GMAN

            9 CY vote seasons, 5 GG… 2 strike yrs robbed him of sure-fire 20W seasons. Give Mike his due. I give props to Schilling as he had an excellent career but honestly he did not face the same level of competition as Mussina. Also, Curt really was not a tip-top echelon hurler till age 30 and perhaps more curiously Curt was at his best from age 34-37.

          2. bellweather22

            Schilling had some of his best years in that same league. He played for a little team called the Red Sox. Some others have put cases together showing how close they are in significant ways. It’s interesting how you keep citing irrelevant factors like wins…. And you do realize that parks they pitch in show up in ERA+, which gives a slight edge to Schilling.

          3. GMAN

            Wow… Sorry didn’t mean to upset your sensibilities… I like Mussina over Schilling… You value Schilling over Mussina… Big deal… you haven’t changed my mind… I haven’t changed yours…. Remain calm gatekeeper bellwether dude…peace… It’s all good… Mussina is my guy

      2. Patrick Bohn

        Schilling spent most of his career in the National League. You don’t think Mike Mussina’s strikeout rates would be better if he faced pitchers 672 times (like Schilling) as opposed to the 45 times he did? You don’t think Mike Mussina could have found another 187 strikeouts there? You don’t think it would drop his WHIP?

        I think Schilling is a HOFer, no question. But let’s not compare an AL-only pitcher and one who was primarily an NL pitcher and pretend that stats like strikeouts and walks are directly comparable.

        Look, Schilling’s peak was obviously better, as was his postseason. But Mussina’s numbers are close.

        Reply
          1. nscadu9

            Agreed they’re close. Like most HoF arguments it comes down to your preference for peak or consistency. Schilling’s K/BB is historic and though it is difficult to compare NL and AL it is not assured that the ground would’ve been made up pitching to pitchers. It is hypothetical, there is also something to be said for a pitcher having to bat and occasionally run the bases that incur more wear and tear. Good to hear where everyone is coming from, if only more writers were more accountable. I wasn’t referring to the bloody sock game, one game does not make a career or Hall case. Schilling is dominant overall in the playoffs and a WS MVP.

          2. GMAN

            NSCADU9 – good stuff – but I’ll respectfully disagree and say it’s really not difficult to compare AL vs NL. People have their bias’ and while trying to objectify with statistics – folks tease out what they believe will most advance their case… I have no problem with Schilling being a dominant post season pitcher… He was for sure but I won’t take him into Cooperstown before Mike Mussina because I see Mike’s career as stronger than Curt’s. It’s all good. By the way, is this place for talking baseball or is it that some folks feel the need for immediate snarky chip on shoulder responses when a fan of the great game starts a conversation with a view they don’t agree with. By the way, Mike had some pretty awesome moments in post season play… Check out his1997 post season series against an awesome Cleveland Indians http://youtu.be/fS7qcPEbtsM

        1. GMAN

          Note I put the YouTube link up just for fun… Not as part of a PhD candidate’s dissertation to be vetted. If your a baseball fan you’ll enjoy it… If not… Well, that’s kind of sad…

          Reply
  35. Clayt

    My 10, in order of awesomeness:

    1. Greg Maddux
    2. Frank Thomas
    3. Tom Glavine
    4. Mike Piazza
    5. Craig Biggio
    6. Jeff Bagwell
    7. Fred McGriff
    8. Curt Schilling
    9. Larry Walker
    10. Jeff Kent

    Reply
  36. The Everlasting Dave

    Here’s mine.

    1. Greg Maddux
    2. Barry Bonds
    3. Roger Clemens
    4. Frank Thomas
    5. Tom Glavine
    6. Tim Raines
    7. Jeff Bagwell
    8. Mike Piazza
    9. Alan Trammell
    10. Craig Biggio

    And to me, it’s an absolute joke that there’s even a debate about most of these names. Writers “protecting” baseball history in 2014 is kinda like me saying “Hey! Watch out for O.J!” in 2014 to protect Nicole and Ron Goldman.

    Reply
    1. Which hunt?

      Here’s mine:

      1. Maddux
      2. Raines
      3. Piazza
      4. Thomas
      5. Trammell
      6. Bagwell
      7. Walker
      8. Mussina
      9. Glavine
      10. E. Martinez

      I left off Biggio, Schilling, Clemens, and Bonds, though I would vote for all of them if there were room, and I was, you know, a voter.

      I’m not trying to moralize with Clemens or Bonds, but the idea of Walker, Raines, Martinez, or Trammell falling off the ballot or running out the clock is too much to justify tossing a vote their way this year.

      Reply
  37. John Gale

    One of the more amazing things about Maddux is that it’s easy to think of him as less spectacular than fireballers like Clemens and Pedro and Randy Johnson because he didn’t rack up the strikeouts the way those guys did. But Maddux in 1994 and 1995 put up two of the five best ERA+ seasons *ever,* trailing only Tim Keefe in 1880, Dutch Leonard in 1914 and Pedro in 2000. His ERA over those two seasons was 1.60. Absurd.

    Reply
    1. Belloc

      He wasn’t as good as Clemens, Johnson or Pedro. He was only the fourth best pitcher of his era. Granted, he pitched in an era of All Time greats, but so did Tom Seaver

      Reply
      1. John Gale

        I’m not sure I suggested he was. Then again, by career WAR, he’s slightly ahead of Johnson (Maddux did pitch a lot more innings, but his career is only a year longer, and there’s significant value in being able to pitch deeper into games and never getting hurt), he’s well ahead of Pedro (great peak, relatively short career–Maddux pitched *seventy-five* percent more innings than Pedro did), and Clemens has connections to PEDs that Maddux doesn’t (it’s possible that Maddux used, but there isn’t anything resembling evidence). And again, his absolute peak is right up there with anyone in the history of baseball. If I had to win one game to save my life, I’d probably rank him fourth. But for an entire career? I’d have to think about it.

        Reply
  38. Glenn

    Talk to people who went to high school with little skinny Bagwell, before he started working out with his steroid using body builder friend.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      I know, he’s a tough one. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…..but I’ve yet to see any evidence other than proximity to other users… Like Caminiti, who’s PED usage started after he left the Astros…..and how he looked, and some alledged boasts from a gym owner that he provided Bagwell steroids… Which the gym owner denied to the FBI. Was he providing or name dropping? I don’t know. But the evidence is pretty lacking unlike with many others. I’m having a hard time hanging my hat on any “evidence” around Bagwell.

      Reply
      1. Glenn

        I know people who grew up with Bagwell. They are the most likely to route for him but they all know the truth. I work with high school kids. I know who is using PEDs. Not all of the athletes we see on the national stage start clean there and then change in ways we can observe publicly. Many begin PED use years before we see them as professionals. Bagwell is very quiet about PEDs for a reason. He doesn’t want any deep investigations into his past. I always routed for him and was disgusted that the Red Sox traded him. Too many people I know describe his incredible “growth” during high school and early minors whenever he came up in conversation – well before PEDs were discussed in MLB. He could be a late bloomer and freak of nature, but his bulk coinciding with training with a PED using body builder seems like quite a coincidence.

        Reply
  39. invitro

    Here are the stats I would use for the “record” portion of this HoF ballot. WAR7 is the sum of the best seven WARs, and JAWS = (WAR + WAR7) / 2. After the player’s name is
    their postseason stats. Hitters’ stats are OBP/SLG/G; pitchers’ stats are ERA/G, W-L. Clutch is the WPA column called Clutch from b-r. The top 18 players from Joe’s list + Morris are included, as well as a bunch of guys with high credentials.

    WAR WAR7 JAWS Clutch NAME (Playoffs)
    162.5 72.8 117.6 -8.4 Bonds (.433/.503/48)
    140.3 66.3 103.3 3.8 Clemens (3.75/35, 12-8)
    106.8 56.3 81.6 -2.5 Maddux (3.27/35, 11-14)
    79.9 49.0 64.4 -4.6 Schilling (2.23/19, 11-2)
    79.5 48.2 63.8 -5.7 Bagwell (.364/.321/33)

    83.0 44.5 63.8 1.0 Mussina (3.42/23, 7-8)
    81.4 44.3 62.9 2.7 Glavine (3.30/35, 14-16)
    79.4 44.8 62.1 9.6 Pete Rose (.388/.440/67)
    73.6 45.3 59.5 -9.2 Thomas (.441/.429/16)
    72.6 44.6 58.6 -4.3 Walker (.350/.510/28)

    71.0 46.3 58.6 -6.5 Bobby Grich (.247/.318/24)
    70.3 44.6 57.5 1.2 Trammell (.404/.588/13)
    70.0 43.8 57.0 -2.6 Rick Reuschel (5.85/8, 1-4)
    68.3 45.4 56.9 -3.1 Kevin Brown (4.19/14, 5-5)
    74.8 37.8 56.3 4.3 Lou Whitaker (.350/.306/13)

    68.3 43.5 55.9 -3.0 EMartinez (.365/.508/34)
    66.7 44.6 55.7 0.4 Luis Tiant (2.86/5, 3-0)
    68.1 43.2 55.7 1.7 Kenny Lofton (.315/.352/95)
    69.1 42.2 55.6 5.4 Raines (.340/.349/34)
    71.8 38.8 55.3 -4.2 Palmeiro (.308/.451/22)

    68.0 42.2 55.1 -7.5 Graig Nettles (.295/.346/53)
    62.9 46.4 54.6 -1.0 Ken Boyer (.241/.481/7)
    64.9 41.6 53.3 -2.7 Biggio (.295/.323/40)
    62.5 43.5 53.0 -1.1 David Cone (3.80/21, 8-3)
    58.7 46.0 52.3 -4.3 Dick Allen (.417/.222/3)

    62.0 41.9 52.0 -5.8 McGwire (.320/.349/42)
    66.7 37.0 51.8 -4.4 Dwight Evans (.333/.425/32)
    59.2 43.3 51.3 -0.8 Bret Saberhagen (4.67/10, 2-4)
    58.4 43.7 51.1 -17.0 Sosa (.403/.415/15)
    59.2 43.1 51.1 -7.7 Piazza (.301/.458/32)

    60.1 41.0 50.6 4.2 Keith Hernandez (.370/.359/30)
    52.6 36.0 44.3 -4.9 McGriff (.385/.532/50)
    50.2 34.7 42.5 7.0 Ted Simmons (.279/.356/17)
    45.9 36.9 41.4 2.9 Thurman Munson (.378/.496/30)
    44.1 32.8 38.4 1.6 Morris (3.80/13, 7-4)
    29.6 21.1 25.4 -1.4 Lee Smith (8.44/4, 0-2)

    My ballot would be:
    1. Maddux
    2. Schilling
    3. Piazza
    4. Glavine
    5. Bagwell
    6. Mussina
    7. Trammell
    8. Walker
    9. EMartinez
    10. Thomas

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      Interesting. Names like Reuschel, Boyer, Whitaker, etc, keep showing up in these comparisons, though few clamor for their induction. This must have taken a while to put together.

      Reply
  40. Bothrops Asper

    Great post. Few things:

    Joe Torre managed more high profile PED players than TLR or any other manager that we know of at this point. How has he remained so detached from PED controversy?

    Second, 1989 was the only year that Glavine finished in the top-10 in HR allowed. He finished top 8 in fewest HR/9 eight times. Not sure where the Glavine HR data is coming from

    Reply
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