By In Baseball, Hall of Fame

Unanimous Hall of Famers

Every time an undeniably great baseball player retires — the latest being Mariano Rivera — there will be a handful of people who will wonder:Is he finally the one? Will he become the first unanimous Hall of Famer?
In a way, it’s a bizarre concept. How could there have never been a unanimous Hall of Famer? I don’t know a single person who does not consider Mariano Rivera a Hall of Famer. You could invent cockamamie arguments against Rivera if you want — he wasn’t effective as a starter briefly at the start of his career, one inning closers are vastly overrated, whatever — but that’s just like a thought exercise. Everybody willing to look at his career with even the slightest bit of objectivity thinks Mariano Rivera should get elected into the Hall of Fame.
But Rivera is not the greatest player in baseball history. There have been significantly better players than Rivera who have not gotten in unanimously. By my best guess, there should have been 20 unanimous Hall of Famers already. Actually, it’s more than 20 when you consider Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner and other players before World War II, but the Hall of Fame was a different thing in their time. Well, it didn’t even exist in their time. So that’s a different thing.
The Baseball Writers of America have been voting more or less the same way since 1962. And I think, since 1962, there have been 20 players who should have been voted in unanimously.

This actually leaves out quite a few legendary players. They are players I personally would have voted for without hesitation, but there is a REASONABLE baseball argument against them. Take Brooks Robinson. I’m a huge Brooks Robinson fan — he was one of my father’s two favorite players (the other being Frank Howard). I grew up wanting to be Brooks Robinson. But if someone said: “Look, he was more or less a league average hitter for all those years, his great defense doesn’t quite make him a Hall of Famer for me” — I’d disagree but I’d respect the argument.
Same goes with Ozzie Smith. Same goes with Nolan Ryan. Of course I think Ryan is a Hall of Famer. But someone could legitimately argue that because he walked almost 1,000 more batters than anyone in baseball history, he gave up a lot of runs and falls short. Disagree. But see the point.
And there’s no point in rehashing Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
There are, however, 20 players who I think there is no legitimate argument against. Well, there are 19 plus 1 — you’ll see below. I list them by the number of people who did not vote for them:
* * *
Tom Seaver, 98.8% of vote, 5 people did not vote for him.
Seaver, you probably know, has the highest percentage in the history of Hall of Fame voting. Well, that might not be entirely right. Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente were both elected in secret special elections and it is possible — especially in Gehrig’s case — that those elections were unanimous. Seaver received all but five votes in an open election which has granted him a special place in Hall of Fame history. A lot of people have found it curious that it was Seaver — not Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or someone like that — who holds the record.
But to me the better question is this: Why would anybody NOT vote for Tom Seaver? He seemed to have everything Hall of Fame voters crave: Amazing peak, 300 career victories, more than 3,600 strikeouts, represented the game well and so on. He has a viable case as the best pitcher ever. Who the heck looked at Tom Seaver’s name on the ballot and thought, “Nah.”
Theory: Five people did not vote for Seaver because they wanted to prevent him from being a unanimous pick. There are people — sort of like the Brotherhood that protects the Holy Grail in the Indiana Jones movie — who think it is their duty to make sure no one gets in unblemished. This will be a recurring theme.
* * *
Cal Ripken, 98.5%, 8 people did not vote for him.
He seemed lined up for unanimous selection. Everybody knows he was a truly great player (the greatest shortstop, I think, since Honus Wagner). He won MVPs, Gold Gloves, he was a 19-time All-Star, he got 3,000 hits, he got 400 home runs. And, of course, he set the iron man record that exhilarated America in the aftermath of the 1994 World Series cancellation. He was everything anyone wants a baseball player to be.
Theory: Eight people did not vote for Ripken because they wanted to prevent him from being a unanimous pick and because he hit .276 for his career. Batting average, too, seems to be a good excuse to not vote for someone who is clearly a Hall of Famer.
* * *
Henry Aaron, 97.8%, 9 people did not vote for him.
What’s left to be said about the great Henry Aaron? Class. Consistency. Brilliance. Dignity. The essence of the game. He broke Babe Ruth’s home run record under the most intense racial pressure, and he collected 700 more total bases than any player in the history of the game. If I had to pick one player, above all others, who most certainly should have been selected unanimously, it would be Henry Aaron.
Theory: The nine people who did not vote for Henry Aaron should be ashamed of themselves. There can be no viable reason.
* * *
George Brett: 98.2%, 9 people did not vote for him.
Brett’s career is particularly notable for the lack of good arguments against it. What didn’t George Brett do well? He hit, hit for power, ran well and aggressively, developed into an outstanding third baseman and hit .373/.439/.529 in the World Series. He has as many memorable moments as any player of his time, and he was the heart of an expansion Kansas City baseball team that became a powerhouse. He also had the lifetime .300 batting average (.305) and 3,000 hits that bedazzle the Hall of Fame voters.
Theory: Nine people did not vote for George Brett because, great as he was, he wasn’t Ted Williams or Stan Musial, and they did not get voted unanimously. As you will see, this absurd cycle feeds on itself.
* * *
Bob Feller: 93.8%, 9 people did not vote for him.
Feller should have had a real shot at unanimity. Not only was he a legendary pitcher, he was also a very prominent person in the game who had relationships with lots of reporters. Heck, he was a syndicated writer himself. Feller missed three full seasons and most of a fourth while serving in the Navy during World War II — he volunteered the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Those four seasons were at the very height of his career.That prevented him from winning 300 games or getting 3,000 strikeouts, two Hall of Fame standards. With those four seasons he might have won 350 games and collected 3,500 strikeouts. He was the pitcher of his time, and everyone voting knew it.
Theory: Nine people did not vote for Bob Feller, I think, because there was a tremendous negative energy among the BBWAA at the time. Before that year, the writers voted every other year, but they had not voted in a single player in 1960 or 1958. So it had been six year since the BBWAA had voted anyone in. I think there was a growing “nobody is good enough for the Hall of Fame” vibe growing, and while Feller and some others would get a high percentage of the vote over the next 15 or so years, nobody had a real shot at getting in unanimously.
* * *
Johnny Bench: 96.4%, 16 people did not vote for him.
Bench was widely viewed as the greatest catcher in baseball history when his time for vote came up. He was a two-time MVP, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, a pioneer in catch-and-throw brilliance, the National League’s starting All-Star catcher every year from 1969 to 1977. He was the greatest collection of defensive skill and offensive power in Major League history — Josh Gibson is another category.
Theory: Sixteen people did not vote for Bench, I think, because of his relatively low career batting average (.267) and because, like just about all catchers, he wasn’t a great player after age 30. I can only guess that some of the voters still associated Bench with the guy he was at the end of his career. LIke I say, it’s a guess. I have no real idea why people would not vote for the greatest catcher in MLB history. Then again, Yogi Berra — who many others, including Bill James, considers the greatest catcher in MLB history — did not even get ELECTED on his first ballot.
* * *
Mike Schmidt: 96.5%, 16 people did not vote for him.
Schmidt, like Bench, was widely viewed as the best ever at his position when he came up for the Hall of Fame. The achievements are so obvious as to be blinding. Schmidt won three MVPs, eight home run titles and 10 Gold Gloves. He hit 500 career home runs. He stole 174 bases and was one stolen base short of a 30-30 season in 1975 — people forget just how good an athlete Schmidt was. I’ve long thought that Schmidt — as celebrated as he was — was still underrated because people never credited him for his high on-base percentages. Three times he led the league in OBP.
Theory: Sixteen people did not vote for Schmidt, I think because of his relatively low career batting average (.267) and because there was always this theory that there was some insubstantial about him, perhaps best symbolized by his .220 career World Series batting average. I’ve always thought the charge was spurious — there has never been a better third baseman.
* * *
Ted Williams: 93.4%, 19 people did not vote for him.
Neck and neck with Babe Ruth as the greatest hitter in the history of the game.
Theory: Nineteen people did not vote for Ted Williams because they did not like him. I think it’s that simple. Williams had many famous clashes with sportswriters, and he held grudges, and they held grudges. Through the years sportswriters charged him with being an indifferent fielder (at least partly true), a terrible teammate (at least mostly false), a selfish player (a ridiculous charge) and a failure in the clutch (absurd). The absurdity of 19 people leaving out Williams leads to the next bizarre injustice.
* * *
Stan Musial, 93.2%, 22 people did not vote for him.
I’ve written again and again about Stan the Man — a legendary player, a wonderful teammate, a symbol of excellence and a profoundly decent man. Everybody loved him. Everybody admired him. You can talk about all the hits (3,630 — 1,815 at home and on the road), all the batting titles (six), all the doubles and triples (more combined than any man ever — no one ever turned at first base with as much speed and ambition as Stan the Man). You can talk about the remarkable consistency, the 52 times he led the league in a major offensive category, the countless people who were inspired, directly or indirectly, by his play. Stan Musial lifted the game. I really didn’t believe you could find 22 people in AMERICA who did not see Stan Musial as a Hall of Famer.
Theory: Twenty-two people did not vote for Stan Musial, I believe, because 19 did not vote for Ted Williams. Musial, great as he was, was not quite as good a hitter as Ted Williams. So the 19 who did not vote for Williams certainly did not vote for Musial. This is what I mean by this kind of voting foolishness rolling downhill. You do something stupid like not vote for Ted Williams, then you use that as a REASON to do something stupid like not vote for Stan Musial. Or our next player.
* * *
Willie Mays: 94.7%, 22 people did not vote for him.
I imagine none of the people who did not vote for Willie Mays would ever admit it.
Theory: What theory could possibly explain how 22 people who allegedly have watched a baseball game in their lives did not vote for Willie Mays?
* * *
Carl Yastrzemski, 94.6%, 23 people did not vote for him.
Let’s see here. Three thousand hits. A triple crown. An MVP award (and should have won a second the next year — I mistakenly wrote back-to-back in first edition). Three batting titles. Seven gold gloves. One of the greatest one-man shows in the history of baseball in 1967. Beloved figure. Represented everything good about the game. Yep, not sure there are many good arguments against Yaz.
Theory: Like Bench — and they went in the same year — Yaz was not the same great player the last five or so years of his career that he had been before. Also he was at his best when pitching utterly dominated the game so his excellence from 1965 to 1970 — he hit .299/.404/.530 — doesn’t look as excellent as it really was.
* * *
Rickey Henderson, 94.8%, 27 people did not vote for him.
Hmm. Scored more runs than any player in baseball history? Check. Stole more bases than any player in baseball history? Check. Posted a career .401 on-base percentage, walked more than any man other than Barry Bonds, managed 3,000 hits on top of that, was just three shy of 300 career home runs? Check, check, check, check on the sanity of the 27 people who did not vote for him.
Theory: Some people have not appreciated the baseball genius of Rickey Henderson partly because some of the things he did (walk a lot, score runs) are generally under appreciated, and partly because he has been a bit of a space cadet who refers to himself in the third person. Nobody has to explain their Hall of Fame vote if they don’t want to, which is kind of a shame. I’d love to hear someone give a viable reason why they did not vote for Rickey Henderson.

* * *
Jackie Robinson, 77.5%, 28 people did not vote for him.
Did you SEE Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Theory: It’s easy to suggest that Robinson only got 77.5% of the vote because of some, er, let’s call them outdated racial views of some voters. And I suspect that was part of it. But there was also the relative shortness of Robinson’s Major League career (he had 1,518 career hits), which — when viewed without any context at all — might give someone an excuse to not vote for the most important baseball player in the game’s history.
Then again, if you look at it with some context — such as the fact that he was not ALLOWED to play Major League Baseball until he was 28 and then played under the most intense pressure the game has ever known — then you wonder how anyone who used that “short career” excuse could look themselves in the mirror.
* * *
Mickey Mantle, 88.2%, 38 people did not vote for him.
Mantle — like a few others in the game’s history — was both blessed and cursed with the power of unlimited potential. It is what made him the hero of millions. It is why people who met him later in life would sometimes break down in tears. It is what made Bob Costas carry a Mantle baseball card with him wherever he went.
That power of unlimited potential also led people to believe that, somehow, his career was disappointing or, at the very least, less than it might have been. Mickey Mantle hit 536 home runs, won a triple crown, won three MVP awards, led the league in runs five times and homers four, had a career .300 batting average going into his final season and hit 18 World Series home runs, with his team winning six World Series titles. He’s one of the 15 best everyday players in the history of the game, and unquestionably a Hall of Famer. But, alas, peole could not help but believe it wasn’t as fantastic as it might have been without the knee injuries and late nights.
Theory: I think Mantle is at the end of the Ted Williams-Stan Musial chain. Musial wasn’t quite as good as Williams. Mantle wasn’t quite as accomplished as Musial. And the dominoes fell.
* * *
Al Kaline, 88.3%, 40 people did not vote for him.
Three thousand hits. Ten Gold Gloves. A gentleman. An icon.
Theory: With Kaline, you can see a few cracks in the career if you want to see them. He was injured a lot and so played fewer than 140 games in half of his seasons. And his brilliance was in his consistency — and consistency is almost always undervalued. He never hit 30 home runs in a season, but hit between 25 and 29 seven times. He hit .340 as a 20 year old, and never again matched that but hit .300 or better either other times in a pitch-dominated era. His career did not scream out to the voters the way, say, Roberto Clemente’s career might have. But Kaline was almost exactly as valuable a player as Clemente over the whole career.
* * *
Frank Robinson, 89.2%, 40 people did not vote for him.
I’m actually stunned that 40 people did not vote for Frank Robinson. He had 586 home runs, won a triple crown, won MVP awards in each league, He was also the first African American manager in the game. Forty people thought he wasn’t a Hall of Famer? What? Baffling.
Theory: I admit that I don’t really want to try and get into the minds of 40 people who did not vote for Frank Robinson.
* * *
Sandy Koufax, 86.9%, 45 people did not vote for him.
The left arm of God.
Theory: Well, here’s the “plus one” i mentioned earlier. There is a reasonable argument to be made against Koufax. His career was very short. He was a dominant pitcher for five or six seasons at most — you could argue that he was truly dominant only from 1963-66. He retired at 30. He won “just” 165 games — and wins have long swayed Hall of Fame voters. But I put him on this list anyway because, despite all of this just justification, I simply cannot imagine that any of the 45 people really and truly believed that Sandy Koufax does not belong in the Hall of Fame. What would happen if you said to this to the 45 people: “Look, we’ll leave it up to you, should Koufax be in the Hall of Fame? If you say no, he will not go in.” I think all 45 would have said yes. I would hope so, anyway. But the 45 wanted to make some sort of statement or something. And Koufax’s shooting-star-across-the-sky career gave them an opportunity to make that statement.
* * *
Warren Spahn, 83.2%, 53 people did not vote for him.
I don’t care about wins, but Hall of Fame voters historically have cared A LOT and Spahn led the league in wins eight times, he won 363 career games, and all this despite not pitching his first full season until he was 26 (he served in the military during World War II).
Theory: I’ve always been a bit baffled by the relative lack of support for Spahn. My only guess it that the Hall of Fame voters were particularly judgmental and hypercritical and exacting for about a 10-year period from 1966 to 1976. During that time, they did not vote Yogi Berra on first ballot. Whitey Ford did not get in on first ballot. Early Wynn, a 300-game winner, got 27.9% of the vote his first year. Duke Snider could not even get 20% his first year. Eddie Mathews with his 500 home runs could not even garner one-third of the vote. Robin Roberts had to wait until his fourth year. I think Spahn just got locked up in all the crazy negativity.
* * *
Bob Gibson, 84%, 54 people did not vote for him.
As I’ve written before, 54 people did not vote for Gibby, and I’d bet all 54 would be afraid to admit it in public. They SHOULD be afraid to admit it in public.
* * *
Joe Morgan, 81.8%, 66 people did not vote for him.
The ultimate sabermetric player, even if he was not exactly the ultimate sabermetric analyst.
Theory: This one is perfectly easy to explain. Morgan was a .271 career hitter, and he did not come particularly close to any of the benchmark Hall of Fame numbers (3,000 hits, 500 homers, etc). I suspect had it been even 10 years earlier, Morgan would not have made it at all first ballot. Looking back now at Morgan’s remarkable career — his career .392 on-base percentage, his astounding seven-season peak from 1971 to 1977, his unappreciated ability for getting on base, for stealing bases at a spectacularly high rate, his surprising power — it seems obvious that there no legitimate argument against his Hall of Fame worthiness.
* * *
So there are 20 players who I think absolutely should have been voted in unanimously. I think there are good arguments too for others, but those 20 seem to me an absolutely lock. Coming up this year, I feel the same way about Greg Maddux. There’s no argument against Maddux. None. And yet, someone will almost certainly not vote for Greg Maddux. I have no idea what reasoning they will use. I suspect they will say that if Bob Feller, Ted Williams, WIllie Mays and Hank Aaron weren’t unanimous, then Greg Maddux should not be either. And that argument is every bit as bad as it sounds.

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164 Responses to Unanimous Hall of Famers

  1. clashfan says:

    I think Joe is subtly suggesting that some of the BBWAA members were racially motivated in a few of their Hall of Fame ballots.

    • doc says:

      Suggesting? 7 out of the 20 are African-American…I’d be proclaiming it from the rooftops…

    • invitro says:

      I don’t see any evidence whatsoever of racial bias except for maybe Jackie. What are you guys seeing, either in Joe’s comments, or in the actual voting? 7 of the 20 means nothing… the seven got the same %s as their peers. If those seven were around 80% then you’d have evidence.

    • clashfan says:

      Invitro, the only players for whom Joe said that BBWAA members should be ashamed for not voting for were black. That’s what I based my assertion on.

    • billydaking says:

      Uh, no he didn’t. He didn’t say that BBWAA members should be ashamed with Mays, Henderson, Robinson–just that there’s absolutely no reason at all that could be used not for an unanimous selection—and even said that Morgan’s is “easy to explain.”

    • invitro says:

      clashfan: Well, that is true, but it’s also true that the only player he said that for is Hank Aaron. Anyway, I don’t buy that Joe is pushing a racism argument with anyone other than JRobinson.

    • Will More says:

      I don’t think he’s saying that, but I do believe it’s true. Not all of them, Rickey in particular, but seriously, 22 people did not think Willie Mays should be in the Hall of Fame. Do you really believe that every one of those 22 non-votes were not racially motivated? This was 1979, mind you.

    • invitro says:

      Will More: well, don’t you think to decide that question, we should compare the number of 22 with the number of non-votes roughly worthy players got? Like Ted Williams and Stan Musial? Shouldn’t you require Mays’ non-vote count to be much larger than Williams/Musial’s non-vote counts before levying the charge of racism on the writers?

  2. 陳朗 says:

    Well, I think all five voters that did not vote Seaver have been identified, and their reasons had been elucidated. Three of them submitted blank ballots to protest Pete Rose being ineligible, one of them just overlooked Seaver, and one was the traditional “no to first ballot player” voters. So there’s that.

    And I would love to see Maddux get elected unanimously, but he’d have to convince all of the steroid moralists who allegedly won’t vote for anybody from the era, the conventional anti-first-ballot voters and the voters that remember Maddux for his final six season where he was just a league average pitcher.

    • Rob Smith says:

      The argument I always hear against Maddux is that he took advantage of a generous wide strike zone that was offered at the time. No matter that nobody else could do it like he did, no matter that anything at, or above the belt was called a ball at the time. Nevermind all the CY awards (four straight, which I believe is unprecendented) and ridiculously dominant seasons. Also, he wasn’t league average his last five years. He had positive WAR until his last season…. which is amazing since he was throwing in the low 80s by then. Nobody should be able to be a starter with that little velocity, but somehow he pulled it off in a productive, though certainly unspectacular fashion. That and all the Gold Gloves…. he might have been the best fielding pitcher of all time…. always in perfect position after delivery and caught damn near everything hit back through the middle, no matter how hard it was hit. But yeah, people will find reasons as stupid as they are.

    • invitro says:

      He was the first to win three Cys in a row, and then four. Randy Johnson then won four in a row (to add to his one from the AL). Clemens won 6 total and several have won 3 total (Koufax, Seaver, Palmer, Carlton, and Pedro).

      Maddux’s WAA his last seven years are -0.4, 1.5, 1.1, 0.2, 1.2, 1.0, -0.6, and -0.4.

      He is one of my all-time favorites dating back to 1988 and I am curious to see what %age he gets in January. I’m surprised at all this Rivera nonsense as Maddux seems a far-and-away much more likely choice for 100%. I really don’t care if he gets it or not, but I look forward to reading the reasons from his non-voters.

    • gcuzz says:

      Carlton won 4 …1972, 1977, 1980, 1982.

    • @ Rob Smith – I hear what you’re saying, although it’s worth noting that simply having a positive WAR does not make one above average. An average player is around 2 WAR, I think. So Maddux was average to below-average for the last five or so years of his career.

      Just to be clear: I still believe he should be voted in unanimously.

  3. Joe Tiburzi says:

    All this really proves is that the voters are garbage. In Keith Law’s vernacular, each of these is a #votershow. It’s honestly a wonder anyone cares about the Hall of Fame, given how awful the voting process has been.

  4. anon says:

    If so, I think he is being too subtle. There is no doubt that race affected the totals of Aaron, Mays, and both Robinsons. Now would they have been unanimous without racial bias? Unlikely given the fates of Williams, Musial and Mantle. But they would have been closer.

    • clashfan says:

      The only times Joe says that those who voted against a particular player should be ashamed of themselves is when that player was black.

    • SgtDawkins1 says:

      Agreed. Love Joe to death, but he justifies why somebody would fail to vote for Musial or Williams and excoriates those who’d fail to vote in Bob Gibson. By my count, sixteen of the above have good cases for unanimous selection, but only the Mays and Williams naysayers deserve the scorn Joe heaps upon the non-voters of the black players.

      The undertones were none too subtle, but Joe has always been a staunch advocate of those who struggled against racially-motivated adversity. Sometimes, however, I wish he’d just admit what it is he is really trying to say.

    • BobDD says:

      Both Willie Mays and Stan Musial were not voted for by 22 voters. So as easily as it is to claim racism, where is it when you look at those two great players? It makes sense to me that back then there was still more racism (I remember it rather clearly myself), but the numbers just do not bear that out.

      9 for Hank Aaron and 19 for Ted Williams. Unless you want to claim that there was obvious racism against Williams and not Aaron, then laying this to racism seems silly to me. This is a list of great players, both black and white, and the point is the silliness of voters ensuring (scheming?) that there is never any unanimous choices. There is too much horrid racism already in baseball history, but inventing some where the numbers (Williams, Mays, Musial, Aaron – didn’t you notice?) do not support it is just uglying up one of the parts that wasn’t ugly like the past.

    • invitro says:

      Straight up, BobDD. Here’s another way to look at it: Mays got the highest first-ballot percent since the original ballot in 1936. And comparing the others: Gibson did better than Spahn. FRobinson did better than Mantle. Rickey did better than Musial or Williams.

    • billydaking says:

      I don’t think you guys are reading through. From the Musial entry: “This is what I mean by this kind of voting foolishness rolling downhill. You do something stupid like not vote for Ted Williams, then you use that as a REASON to do something stupid like not vote for Stan Musial. Or our next player.”

      The next player? Willie Mayes. He’s placed Mayes in the same “absurd cycle” of not voting for somebody because you didn’t vote for somebody better than him.

      And while starting off Morgan’s as “easy to explain”, he ends it with that there’s no obvious argument against an unanimous vote. Which is the entire point of the post–what you read as “justification,” Joe is terming “idiocy.” In the middle of Bench’s, he states, “I have no real idea why people would not vote for the greatest catcher in MLB history. ” In Koufax’s, he writes, “But I put him on this list anyway because, despite all of this just justification, I simply cannot imagine that any of the 45 people really and truly believed that Sandy Koufax does not belong in the Hall of Fame.” This is the same thing as saying, ” I admit that I don’t really want to try and get into the minds of 40 people who did not vote for Frank Robinson.” or “I’d love to hear someone give a viable reason why they did not vote for Rickey Henderson.”

      And the Gibby comment made me laugh. ‘Cause everybody should be afraid of telling Gibby that they didn’t vote for him.

  5. Eliza says:

    My overly simple solution: If a player gets >90% of the vote, every writer who didn’t vote for him automatically loses his vote.

    • invitro says:

      Gotta love repression of minority opinions.

    • Eliza says:

      I’m not sure I give a rat’s a$$ about the minority opinion of somebody who thinks Ted Williams or Willie Mays isn’t a HOFer.

      How about this? Give those dissenters an opportunity to make an intelligent argument for why they didn’t vote for a sure-fire HOFer. If anything, it would be entertaining to see what comical reasons they can come up with before we banish them forever.

    • invitro says:

      That’s still repression. I do favor making the voting results by voter public, though.

    • I don’t see that as suppression of minority opinion; I see it as weeding out those who refuse to take the job seriously. And believe me, if you don’t vote for any of the 20 listed here, you’re either not taking the vote seriously or you don’t know enough about baseball to be voting for the Hall of Fame.

  6. George says:

    Jackie Robinson: 57 WAR
    Todd Helton: 56 WAR

    There is a legitimate Small Hall argument against Robinson.

    • If the Baseball Hall of Fame had five people in it, Jackie Robinson should be one of them.

    • George says:

      Ichiro wasn’t allowed to play MLB until late in his career and he has 54 WAR. Is he also a 100 percent first ballot entrant? I don’t deny Robinson is a legitimate and worthy member of the HOF. But he isn’t in the inner tier and a vote against him was explicable by something other than racial animus.

    • George says:

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Unknown says:

      Ichiro also didn’t play in a league that was, at worst, slightly worse than the majors at that time (and you could make a good argument that the Negro Leagues were on par with the white ones).

    • kkurt23 says:

      That would be a legitimate argument if no one let Todd Helton play in the majors until he was 28. If Todd Helton was the most culturally important player of the century. If Todd Helton had to play with constant death threats. If Todd Helton had to have the pressure of representing his entire race. So if you ignore all relevant facts than yes there is an argument. I think you know that, and are just playing devil’s advocate or at least I hope that

    • BobDD says:

      Jackie Robinson Robinson’s greatness goes beyond baseball and baseball should have embraced that in the HoF voting. I don’t think there will ever be a player with a better reason to be elected unanimously. I bet they would today. But if those who did the voting did so strictly as to his MLB record, then there is an understandable rationale (wrong though I think it to be) for not voting for him.

    • Dinky says:

      What KKurt said. Also, Todd Helton had more than 50 points more BA and OBP at home than on the road, and more than 100 points more slugging. Robinson was practically the same.

    • Rob Smith says:

      This is one of the inherent issues of using WAR to compare players. Career WAR merely adds up the value over their career. So a player, like Robinson who played 10 years is being compared against someone like Todd Helton who played 17 years. As others pointed out in recent blog comments, Robinson didn’t even play baseball until roughly age 26…. he was a track, basketball & football player… maybe because baseball was restrictive, maybe not. But still the racial reasons for no black players being in the league before 1947 are well documented. So, you have to factor that into the reason why his career was only 10 years. Robinson retired at age 37, so it’s not like he crapped out at age 31 like a lot of players do.

    • Sid says:

      This kind of inane thinking is one logical extrapolation of trying to turn the Baseball Hall of Fame into the Baseball Hall of the Best Statistical Performers. Joe — you among many others have helped create this monster. I’m all for getting advanced analytics into the discussion (and have been since purchasing my first Abstract in 1982), but comments like this show the pendulum has swung too far for my taste…

    • nscadu 9 says:

      What Rob Smith and kkurt said… Jackie is still in another league and a higher peak and consider the context he had to play in. What too often happens is that SABR and non-SABR are viewed as binaries. WAR and SABRmetrics are just tools to add to the evaluation, but still require context of things outside the strict use of stats. If Bill James can claim Yogi Berra as the greatest catcher, it shows that even he is not sticking strictly to what advanced statistics tell him.

    • invitro says:

      Jackie’s WAR7 is #5 among 2Bmen (although only 5 of those 7 years were actually at 2B). I think his stats are good enough to comfortably be above HoF standards.

      He hit very poorly in the WS, though.

    • What WOULD the HOF look like with only 5 people in it? Maybe like

      1. Jackie Robinson
      2. Babe Ruth
      3. Hank Aaron
      4. Cy Young
      5. Ted Williams

    • nscadu 9 says:

      What would Joe’s 5 man Hall look like?
      Mine, I substitute Walter Johnson for Cy Young and Mays for Aaron.

      Jackie Robinson
      Willie Mays
      Babe Ruth
      Walter Johnson
      Bob Gibson for Joe’s reasons above

    • bluwood says:

      Since we’re apparently doing this:

      W. Johnson
      T. Williams
      J. Robinson

    • You have to have Cobb in there:


      If I HAD to have a pitcher, then I guess Johnson.

    • Unknown says:

      So I guess Babe Ruth is the only consensus choice…

    • invitro says:


    • Chad says:

      Walter Johnson

      Apologies to: Wagner, Young, Aaron, Jackie

  7. jim says:

    I love this blog post for two reasons.

    1. It highlights Joe’s enthusiasm, especially for baseball. I basically learned to read from the sports pages of the KC Star and some of the first word’s were Joe’s Field of Dreams-like takes on baseball (uniting: father and son, generations in a city, races, etc) which immediately put me on Team Poz rather than Team Whitlock.

    2. It also highlights that he doesn’t particularly understand math. I mean, I get that he understands it in the sense that if he doesn’t talk about advanced baseball statistics he will be rendered irrelevant in a post-Moneyball journalistic world. But come on. If Mariano Rivera is a unanimous HOFer, Steve Farr is one of the 50-100 best players in MLB history. And while he perhaps had one of the 50-100 best mustaches in MLB history…well that’s actually enough for me. If Mariano is a no question HOFer, where does that leave Quiz? Joakim Soriano? Wait, who’s Joakim Soriano? Hmmm

    • Not really. “Should this guy be in the HOF” just means “is this guy at least as HOF-worthy as the least-worthy guy already in the hall? Or worthy even if he’ll be the worst after he’s let in?” Every voter should ask himself that. And we should then have hundreds of unanimous selections, and we should see split decisions only around the fringes. Because anyone tasked with evaluating baseball talent, anyone whose job is to watch ballgames and to describe them to the rest of us in a way that colors our understanding of value, should be able to compare Mariano Rivera to, say, Bruce Sutter (yes, he’s in there), and tell himself “Mo is better than Sut” and agree with himself and check the box for Mo. Every one of them should be capable of ordering Rivera above Sutter and thus stating clearly that Rivera should be in the expandable club that Sutter is a member of to represent the qualities of baseball. That’s the math that Joe is getting at.

      Of course, there are people who just don’t like a guy, and people who can’t abide a perfect score in a list where the Babe and Cobb didn’t get a perfect score. So they’ll ignore the math and apply the sociology and make their statement. And Mo will be in the hall, probably up there with Seaver, maybe higher. I still wouldn’t rule out the perfect score for him. And I wouldn’t mind. I can still see him looking up at Gonzo’s bloop single as it floats over his head and lands on the grass in short left-center. You don’t have to vote against him to enjoy knowing he wasn’t perfect.

    • ZelmoOfTroy says:

      Being better than someone undeserving isn’t a qualification. That just perpetuates mistakes.

      Sutter shouldn’t be in the Hall; compare him to, say, Doug Jones, and he’s exposed as just another good reliever with an especially catchy pitch. Rivera clearly belongs, of course, as does Trevor Hoffman and quite possibly Lee Smith — though Smith’s chances probably vaporized when Hoffman and Rivera blew past his lifetime saves total.

    • Herb Smith says:

      Whether we like the idea of a “closer” or not, you’d have to concede that it’s become a big part of the MLB experience over the last half-century. And “relief pitcher” has always been a kind of “position.” Mo is, by far, the best relief pitcher in baseball history.

      You don’t have to compare him to the fringe guys, like Sutter, to understand his greatness. Compare him to the Goose, or Fingers, or Hoyt Wilhelm…Mo towers above those guys.

    • invitro says:

      Whether we like the idea of a “designated hitter” or not, you’d have to concede that it’s become a big part of the MLB experience over the last half-century. And “designated hitter” has always been a kind of “position.” Edgar Martinez is, by far, the best designated hitter in baseball history.

    • KHAZAD says:

      @Herb Smith-
      Mariano was a great pitcher, but you are comparing him to guys that quite often had to face hitters more than once in a game. Hitters facing Mariano more than once hit .286/.346/.455 against him, a .801 OPS in his career. If he pitched in the 1970’s or early 80’s, or certainly in Hoyt Wilhelm’s days, his numbers would look quite a bit different. Even when those guys didn’t have to face guys more than once they had to pitch more than one inning much, much more often. And were brought out for a third inning or more many times as well.

      Mariano is certainly the greatest one inning closer. But you really are comparing apples to oranges.

    • If we’re going to use the “closer” as a position, then we have to say DH is as well, because it’s an actual line-up position in the American League. Rivera was possibly the best closer in history. His skill was throwing one inning to protect a lead (even though statistically, the NYY didn’t win any higher percentage of games when leading after 9 innings than they average AL team over Rivera’s career). He wasn’t good enough to go beyond one inning consistently nor have been more than what he was, but he was great at his job. There are 100 pitchers who were much better pitchers than Rivera not in the Hall, but he was as good at his specific job as anyone.

  8. “What would happen if you said to this to the 45 people: “Look, we’ll leave it up to you, should Koufax be in the Hall of Fame? If you say no, he will not go in.” I think all 45 would have said yes. I would hope so, anyway. But the 45 wanted to make some sort of statement or something.”

    I think that nails the whole thing there. There are people who realize their vote does not carry any weight unless they add weight to it, so they make it a form of civil disobedience. Well, fine, democracy, which works, well, better i guess than letting one guy make all the rules just because he owns the country.

    The other thing that enables this, though, is this:

    “I’d bet all 54 would be afraid to admit it in public. They SHOULD be afraid to admit it in public.”

    Even though they can make their unpopular statement, they don’t ever have to be held accountable for it. Like graffiti vandals. But, hey, you know, democracy (see above). Where even when we know exactly how everyone voted and we have 24/7 media coverage of them (cough!congress!cough!), we can’t make them do the right thing. So you’d think we’d change the rules to ask BBWAA members to put their reputations on the line when voting against something that isn’t, literally, life and death, especially when their vote carries no weight as to the outcome of the election. (Except for that last guy who openly admits his whole reason for even being a member is so he can vote against every candidate to keep the Hall free of unanimous entrants. If he changes his vote to a ‘yea’ just once, he changes everything. That guy, he’s a putz).

  9. nickolai says:

    I’m not sure why we care so much about unanimous votes. Joe’s dedicated other posts to describing what an incredibly high threshold a 75% majority constitutes. So if an immortal like Mays or Aaron flies in with “only” 95% or 97% of the vote, shouldn’t we feel validated that such an overwhelming majority agreed on their worthiness?

    Related point, but IIRC there was a writer from a tiny town paper who got lambasted for not voting for Rickey and his reasoning was that he knew Rickey would go in 1st-ballot. So this writer wanted to use his votes to recognize some down-ballot favorites. While that’s not how I would use my votes, I can see the logic / merit in that.

    • Martin F. says:

      Merit in voting for people who didn’t belong in the Hall but were favorites of his/and or his readers? Each writer gets 10 people they can vote for. I seriously doubt there were 10 people other than Ricky who deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.

    • sanford says:

      I think he is just astounded at the fact that these 20 players were not unanimous. I think most fans are.

    • manimal0 says:

      There was Corky Simpson, a retired writer from the Tucson Citizen, who said that he didn’t vote for Rickey because he “wasn’t a Rickey guy”. He admitted the stupidity of that after the internet uproar, which is itself a difference between today’s HOF elections and those in years past. Now, with so many writers detailing their choices and with fans’ ability to respond, there will presumably be less head-scratchers in the lack of votes for these kinds of players.

    • Bill says:

      I think Nickolai’s comment explains a lot about why folks don’t go in unanimously. For players like Joe is discussing, everybody knows they’re going to be in the Hall of Fame. Then there are those who seem to never quite reach the threshhold, or some in danger of losing eligibility altogether. I can easily see voters who legitimately view players in these two latter categories as HOF-worthy and who use their ten votes on them, reasoning that of course Seaver/Henderson/etc. are getting in. As manimal0 says, with so many writers discussing their votes publicly, we’lre much more likely to know the reasons for “no” votes going forward.

  10. I like Eliza’s solution. I also think that the ballots should be made public so that everyone knows who didn’t vote for whom and the public can demand an answer from them as to why.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think this could be valuable for knowing who didn’t vote for Willie Mays, for example. But the point of secret ballots is supposed to be so that writers can vote honestly without public pressure to vote in a certain way. For example, Northern California writers might be under pressure to vote for Bonds (not sure how the winds are blowing up there these days). Or, there might be a campaign for someone like Jack Morris where his supporters pressure writers and can follow up to see if they followed through on voting for their guy. That’s the reason for keeping in secret (in theory). But it does also allow people to vote their biases without revealing them. I didn’t like Rickey. I don’t like black players. Dick Allen was a jerk. Stuff like that…. and I agree we’d like to unearth that stuff. But there are puts and takes to either approach.

  11. Herb Smith says:

    A tremendous article. Thank you.

  12. Scott Wuerz says:

    If there is one single factor that contributes to people not voting for players more than others I believe that it is personality conflicts. Williams, Brett, Gibson are all players that had gruff personalities that rubbed sportswriters wrong. I believe it hurt some players who had signature achievements to get so much attention for them. I think Cal Ripken was punished because of his iron man streak. Some mistakenly believe that the only reason he was so well-regarded was because of the streak — not because of the play that earned him the playing time to make the streak possible. I also believe that Robinson’s legacy is discounted because he was know as the first black player. I have heard people say repeatedly through the years that he wasn’t even the greatest Negro League player — he was just first because of timing. I don’t believe that’s entirely true. But people view his signature accomplishment as the top reason he should be considered and failed to recognize what a great ballplayer he was over the course of his career.

    • Carl says:

      Agree about Ripken. I recall arguments made late in his career that The Streak was actually a detriment and a distraction to the team, and that Cal was “selfish” for continuing to pursue it. Can’t help but think some voters used that as their rationale.

    • Mark H says:

      I’d be interested in hearing the substance behind those arguments. I don’t know about detriment – did the Orioles have a better short stop lined up behind Ripken? Certainly not his MVP year in 1991, when Gehrig’s record was starting to be seen over a couple of horizons. In ’94 the whole MLB had other distractions to deal with. And after he continued the streak, the Orioles played well enough to secure a wildcard berth and then a division title the next year.

      In terms of it being a distraction, how much of that can be attributed to RIpken, and how much is the result of media, hype, and (as has been stated many times) the MLB organization itself, desperate for a hero after the everyone was sick of the baseball strike?

    • invitro says:

      Well at the end of his streak, Ripken was a 3B. He shifted to make room for Bordick, who has nice dWARs for those years (1997-1999). It looks like Manny Alexander had the first inning at SS in 13 years in 1996. If I’m reading that right. I wish I could remember this stuff.

      I do remember a whole lot of nay-saying about Ripken and streaking around then. His hitting did pick up in 1999 after the streak was over. That might support an argument that he would’ve hit better if he rested during 1997-1998. I have no idea of evidence supporting rest for aging players.

  13. I agree that Feller is absolutely a “no doubt about it” HOFer, but I quibble with the presumption that had he not missed those 4 years he would have reached those magic numbers of 300-350 wins and 3000-3500 strikeouts. It is possible, but nowhere near even likely let alone probable.

    Consider, coming back after WWII, Feller was theoretically entering his prime years-27 years old in 1946. He had 2 excellent years, but after a brief uptick in K/9 that interrupted the downward trend evident just before the war, it dropped precipitously and by age 29 he was essentially a mid-rotation or worse starter for the rest of his career.

    I think it just as likely that, rather than continuing his excellence for another 6 or 7 years, the wear and tear on his arm before the war would have led to his rapid decline earlier had he continued to pitch in the early 1940s, and indeed, without the interruption, he might have been through before age 30

  14. “Back-to-back MVP awards.” I don’t think that’s true. Yaz won his only MVP in ’67. He still should have been a unanimous HOF pick.

  15. Herb Smith says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Herb Smith says:

    I’m curious why Poz thought that; Yaz finished 9th in the following year’s voting, and a 4th-place in 1970 finish was the only other time he came close.

    It should be mentioned, however, that Yaz was the BEST player in the AL in back-to-back years; after his historically great 1967, in ’68 he led the league in WAR, by a mile. In fact, according to WAR, he was, by far, the best position player in MLB that year (and only Bob Gibson’s Mt. Everest ’68 season topped Yaz in WAR).

  17. Herb Smith says:

    Yaz also led the AL in WAR in 1970, and that year had the 2nd best WAR in all of MLB (2nd to that pesky Gibson fellow once again).

    So, yeah, he prolly shoulda won 3 MVP’s. Anyway, it doesn’t matter; Poz’s point was that anyone who doesn’t think Carl Yaz is a HOFer should be immediately and forcefully stripped of his voting rights.

  18. I would say that Maddux, then Johnson the next year and Griffey the year after are all players for which Eliza’s solution is entirely appropriate. If you don’t think Greg Maddux belongs in the Hall of Fame (and indeed, belongs along with no more than nine others on the ballot this winter) you are undeserving of a vote for the Hall of Fame, so out you go.

  19. Justsayin says:

    Another great, thought provoking article Joe. You allow your readers to smell the popcorn and taste the hot dogs; you take us there. One little mistake though: Mantle was on 7 championship teams. 51, 52, 53, 56, 58, 61 & 62. It’s easy to remember: number 7 won 7. Thanks again Joe…

  20. Devon Young says:

    Joe, you’ve just explained why more people every year, don’t take the awards given by the BBWAA seriously. And btw, I seem to remember one writer claimed he left Henderson off his ballot ’cause he didn’t see the name listed or some stupid thing. I seriously believe that ALL voters should be tested to prove they know something about baseball in some consistent way. And anyone who doesn’t vote for Maddux, should have their voting rights revoked.

  21. MtheL says:

    Joe; I would add at least 4 more names to your list. Maybe more. But these should definitely have been unanimous as well: Ernie Banks (500+ homeruns, 2 MVPs), Yogi Berra (14 Pennants 10 WS, 3 MVPs, 4 other top 4 MVP finishes – how he was not a first ballot hall of famer is mind-blowing), Steve Carlton (300+ wins, 4,000+ strikeouts, 4 CYAs), Jim Palmer (3 CYAs, 5 other top 5 CYA finishes, Won 20+ 7 times, sub 3.00 ERA).

    • invitro says:

      On Berra, you need to understand how the BBWAA voting has changed through the years. The first-balloters before Berra was elected in 1972 and after the original 1936 ballot were Feller, JRobinson, Williams, and Musial. That’s it. I hope we can agree that the three besides Feller had distinctly better HoF cases than Berra.

  22. invitro says:

    All of Joe’s twenty were 1st-ballot choices, with the technical exception of Spahn, who received one vote in 1958, when he was still active (assuming the B-R info on him is accurate). The other 1st-ballot choices are: Clemente, Banks, BRobinson, Brock, McCovey, Stargell, Palmer, Carew, RJackson, Carlton, Ryan, Yount, Winfield, Puckett, OSmith, Murray, Molitor, Eckersley, Boggs, and Gwynn. I might’ve chosen Clemente over Yastrzemski, but there’s not much to quibble about with Joe’s list.

    My pick for best post-1962 election, non-first ballot, non-steroid player is Curt Schilling, who I think has taken Musial’s place as most underrated all-time legend. Eddie Mathews is second and Bert Blyleven is third.

    • Brett Alan says:

      Joe explained that he wasn’t considering Clemente, since he was elected in a special election for which vote totals were not announced. We actually don’t know that Clemente wasn’t unanimous.

      It’s actually pretty hard to see an argument against Stargell, Carlton, or Carew either, but no more so than the guys Joe picked.

  23. Brian says:

    Barry. Bonds. The second best everyday player in baseball history. Every single person who did not vote for him last year should be stripped of their ballot.

    (And, as should be obvious, no, I do not care what he was injecting into his body.)

    • Devon Young says:

      Who’s the 1st best?

    • Devon Young says:

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Annoying that there are a fair number of people that think that cheating on a grand scale is no big deal…. or that gambling on baseball, which is in the rulebook as an offensive punishable by a lifetime ban is just fine. If they hit HRs and got a lot of hits, forget all that other stuff. Are people really this superficial? Nevermind, I know the answer, it was a rhetorical question.

    • Alejo says:

      but you should care about what you are putting in your own body. It’s clearly clouding your mind.

    • Well said Brian. The superficial are those lemmings who have been driven over the cliff by the PED hysteria.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Robert: if you define hysterical lemming as someone who’s upset at players that rewrote the record books, over roughly a 15-20 year period, with a needle, pills and creams, over those players that came by their records legitimately…. and believe they should be ommitted from the HOF…. then sign me up as a hysterical lemming.

    • Aside from oversimplifying the usefulness and effects of many different kinds of PEDs, you also misstate the purity of those records in the first place, as if players like Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Koufax, Gibson and probably just about every other pre-1990 player did not use all sorts of illegal or questionable substances, techniques and methods to build their records.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Robert: is this another variation of the greenies = steroids argument? OK, present your evidence of that. Today, ballplayers simply use energy drinks instead of greenies. They have the advantages of being legal, of course, but an argument could be made that they are no better than greenies in terms of their impact on overall health. So, current ballplayers use stimulants, albeit legal ones, the same as old ballplayers individually may or may not have. Stimulants do not improve performance in the same way as steroids…. or at least there is no evidence that they do. They’ve been around forever in one form or another, and basically just gives a player a way to slog through a long season and long road trips. On the other hand, steroids (also illegal) vastly change performance. I shouldn’t have to point this out (but you seem to think that the usefulness of steroids & other anabolic agents is in question), but

      Babe Ruth hit 60 HRs in 1927, Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961… then in the steroids era (which is relatively short) there were several seasons above 61 and tons of 50 HR players…. In the 60 years following Babe Ruth hitting 60 HRs, only Maris hit above 60. Ten players hit above 50 HRs and everyone of them is in the HOF. There were five 60 HR seasons between 1998 and 2001, accomplished by McGwire, Sosa and Bonds all convicted users. There were also many 50 HR season accomplished by the likes of Brady Anderson, Luis Gonzalez, Greg Vaughn and Andruw Jones. How many legitimate HOFers are in that group?

      The change in output of HRs and power numbers from steroids is blatant. You don’t even need a study to see it. Greenies are harder to quantify. We don’t know who was using, but the overall league has not seen a spike, or even a regression following their removal from the game. Again, players still have stimulants, so the impact would even be harder to measure. So any suggestion that greenies were = steroids is not supported by any facts. The facts point to a big advantage for steroid users, while the facts do not point to greenies impact. The suggestion that they are equal is, at best, conjecture. At worst, it’s a superficial, mindless, regurgitated argument trotted out by steroids apologists to look past steroids and vote convicted users into the HOF.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      There is no double standard with greenies vs. steroids. Barry Bonds was busted for use of amphetamines back in ’07. The result….a collective yawn. If Bonds was guilty only of using greenies, he’d be in the HoF right now.

    • I have been through this discussion too many times to continue it at length now. The entire scandal is a media created frenzy based on a superstitious dread of drugs-superstitious and irrational in the sense the distinction between the illegal varieties and those huckstered on every TV show are unclear to most people.

      What few have done is asked the basic question: what exactly did the players do wrong? They sought to improve their performance. They used supplements to do many different things, hasten healing, build muscle mass and the like, and when they combined that with devoted training, diet, workouts and the like it worked in some but obviously not all or even most cases.

      In brief, amphetamines are probably worse than at least some of the PEDs of more recent days, worse if you consider illegality, addictive and shortcuts to improved play bad. Of the many varieties of steroids, for example, many of which appear in all sorts of legal concoctions and are sold over the counter, their purposes are many and varied, some basically intended to hasten healing. I am not sure what is wrong with that other than the somewhat twilight zone in which illegal drug use exists.

      Amphetamines, on the other hand, are not just illegal, but addictive. And they were used in place of proper training routines, in fact as means to avoid staying in shape. And in the 1960s (and probably earlier) through the 1980s at least, were prevalent as many sources (including Bouton’s book) attest. And they were taken as PEDs as the purpose was to get players on the field when the grind of the season-or their nightly carousing-made it difficult or impossible. Hardly a level playing field if an amphetamine user were pitching to or hitting against someone who tried simply to play through the fatigue without pills.

      As for the startling increase in power numbers, while PEDs might have had some effect, its exact nature is still uncertain. More to the point, we don’t know to what extent it was important independently of other factors such as new types of bats and balls, smaller ballparks and strike zones, checks on pitching inside, body armor and the like. All of those are objectively demonstrable factors and may represent the primary reason for the uptick in power just as there have other dramatic changes in offensive and pitching performance in other eras.

      I am not denying that some players-pitchers and hitters by the way-improved their performance by using certain types of steroids. I just don’t think there is much wrong with that. In fact, I consider it less “cheating” than a player like Mantle taking his salary and playing in front of paying customers who expect a superstar but get instead a player hung over and unable to perform up to the standards they expected.

      The concern over sacred records is among the sillier concerns in my view. No two eras can be compared using just raw numbers. If we are truly concerned with absolute comparisons, I suppose we should consider Roger Connor the true career home run champion with 138 since Babe Ruth had just 49 before the lively ball era which made all earlier power numbers obsolete. It is legitimate to evaluate the power numbers of the 1990s by normalizing them for the general rise in home runs in that period, but as absolute numbers, Bonds’s 73 is no more or less legitimate than Ruth’s 60. Nor are Koufax’s strikeout numbers less meaningful than Walter Johnson’s just because the 1960s strike zone and mound height, as well as the style of play, were so much more conducive to strikeouts.

    • Mr. Rittner, your post should be required reading before engaging in a debate on PEDs.

    • Chad says:

      “As for the startling increase in power numbers, while PEDs might have had some effect, its exact nature is still uncertain. More to the point, we don’t know to what extent it was important independently of other factors such as new types of bats and balls, smaller ballparks and strike zones, checks on pitching inside, body armor and the like. All of those are objectively demonstrable factors and may represent the primary reason for the uptick in power just as there have other dramatic changes in offensive and pitching performance in other eras. “

      Then why have power numbers fallen off so dramatically upon the implementation of testing, while all these other factors remain?? Hmmmmm.

    • Have they?

      Or are we simply seeing a normal ebb and flow?

      The peak home run total was 2000 with 5693. Last year the total was 4934, a drop of 759. But the drop from 2000-2002, still before testing, was 634.

      Look at other eras. In 1987 the total was 4458. The next year the total fell by 1278. In 1991 the total was 3383 and two year later it rose by 647.

      Or just look at the last 15 years. In 1998, at the height of PED use according to popular opinion, the home run total was 5064. It declined by 5 four years later. Then, in 2009, after testing had been around for 5 years or so and home run totals dipped slightly below 5000, the total was 5042, a decline of just 17 home runs from the two years before testing. And in 2012, the 4934 total gained back most of the approximately 500 home run loss from 2009-2010.

      There has been no dramatic drop in power. A few individual numbers no longer reach the stratosphere, and perhaps those individuals were boosted by PEDs although not only were they facing pitchers using various supplements, but in most cases were fanatical about training routines. And it is possible that pitchers have adjusted, especially to the most powerful hitters. Or simply that it is cyclical as the greatest power hitters aged out and newer ones excel in other ways.

    • Chad says:

      I think 1987 was quite an anomaly, as do most others. 1 fluke season doesn’t mean too much.

      Homeruns went up by 647 in 1993 partially due to the addition of the Marlins and the Rockies, who just so happened to play in thin air.

      I don’t think 1998 was the height of the steroid era … I think it was the catalyst for the boom of the steroid era. You point out that 4 years after 1998 total home runs were 5 lower, but you ignore the 9.8% increase in the 3 years in between.

      From 1998 until 2006, there were an average of 5318 home runs per year. Testing started in 2006, by the way. From 2007 through 2013, there have been an average of 4805 home runs per year. That’s a drop of over 9.5 percent over a period of time, without cherry picking a season here and there.

      I think you’re naive if you honestly think that home runs didn’t spike up beginning with McGwire and Sosa going nuts and come back down with the implementation of testing.

    • I reiterate. PEDs probably played some role in the increase in home runs, and the testing regime has probably lowered the totals. But not to the extent that makes the change unique or dramatic. Look at these numbers:

      1927: 922
      1928: 1093
      1929: 1349
      1930: 1365
      1931: 1069

      Or these numbers:
      1970: 3429
      1971: 2863
      1972: 2534
      1973: 3102

      The same sorts of dramatic swings can be seen when looking at individuals. Here is Musial’s early career:
      10, 13, 12, 16, 19; then 39, 36, 28, 32. Of course there are logical explanations for why he suddenly more than doubled his totals. Suppose someone had a similar arc today. Would the general public look for any explanation besides PEDs?

      How about Ted Kluszewski:
      8, 25, 13, 16: then 40, 49, 47, 35.

      Or Carl Yastrzemski:
      11, 19, 14, 15, 20, 16; then 44, 23, 40, 40

      I do recognize there was a spike and then a dip, but if anything the relatively mild dip and the up and down nature of the changes, suggests that PEDs were only one among many factors in the spike.

      And to get back to the crucial point, so what? What did the players do wrong? They tried to get better. They pushed the boundaries to improve their play. And for some, the results were dramatic; for many they are nowhere to be seen. Even were we to determine that PEDs were the only cause of the spike, which is very unlikely, it would not change the essential point that at most, their use was akin to a parking violation, not a DUI. The venom spewed against them is baseless.

    • dshorwich says:

      I agree with you that the PEDs hysteria is wildly overblown.

      One correction to the data presented above, if I may – the number of HRs hit in both leagues in 1930 was *1565*, not 1365. This makes the dropoff in 1931 even more dramatic, but in this case there’s a known cause: the NL deadened the ball that season, and HRs in the NL dropped from 892 in 1930 to 493 in 1931.

  24. rpmcsweeney says:

    What’s the bigger injustice, that Willie Mays didn’t get 100% of the vote or that Tim Raines isn’t in the Hall at all? I’m sure most of these non-unanimous votes can be explained by various biases on the voters’ part. But given the constraints of HOF voting—you can only vote for 10 candidates, candidates who don’t get 5% fall off the ballot, candidates can only be on the ballot so many years, off-ballot players were (until the mid-90s) permanently ineligible, etc.—it can be a reasonable strategy to skip the no-doubters and use your vote on the deserving but overlooked players. I’d sympathize with a voter who said they were employing this strategy.

  25. Great analysis, but you omitted the single player who was the likeliest to be elected unanimously. Not only was he the holder of a very important all-time record, he was also the poster child for hard work and hustle. In addition, he was a great source of quotes for writers and very friendly to them, giving them one less reason not to vote for him. I speak, of course, of Pete Rose.

    • Rob Smith says:

      He was ommitted because he was NEVER ON THE BALLOT. To me, he’s more like the poster child for gamblers anonymous or liars anonymous. But, his personality is not why he’s not on the ballot. Come on.

    • invitro says:

      You know, he -was- on the ballot. He got 9% in 1992, 3% in 1993, and 4% in 1994.

      Joe Jackson got votes too… in the initial 1936 ballot and in 1946.

    • Ian R. says:

      Rose was not on the ballot owing to his place on the permanently ineligible list. The votes he got in ’92, ’93 and ’94 were write-ins.

    • invitro says:

      Hmm… thank you! I did not know that. If he would’ve gotten written-in by 75% of the voters, would he have been elected? If so, was not putting him on the ballot supposed to be like a suggestion to the voters?

      There are lots of strange things about historical HoF voting that I’m enjoying finding out.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Interestingly, there is a voter (who apparently hasn’t covered baseball in 25 years… that’s another story altogether) continues to write in Rose every year. Given that, and since that vote is not represented on BBR, it looks like the HOF no longer counts write in votes for Rose. Another interesting fact! What a messed up process!!! Apparently, and this is priceless, the guy who votes for Rose does so because Rose being corrupt shouldn’t disqualify him because baseball itself is corrupt! Sounds like he would have made a great OJ lawyer!

    • invitro says:

      Thank you for that Rob… interesting. I think the process was more kind of fuzzy in the 1990s than messed up… and I think it’s gotten better. The Veteran’s Committee rules seem to make more sense (they are more complex but that’s ok).

      I now sort of remember this debate over HoF voting after the Rose stuff came out, or maybe the Dowd report… at first the HoF wouldn’t list him on the ballot, but write-in votes would still count. Then people said that was silly, and it was something like the HoF was waiting to add a rule that people on baseball’s ineligible list would not be eligible to receive votes, and this rule was made in 1994 sometime.

      This seems like an obvious thing to do, but I actually think the voters should be allowed to vote for whomever they want. But it’s their Hall, and I actually think they and the voters have done a very good job, excepting the various Veteran’s Committees. I mean come on, the BBWAA HoF voting is nearly perfect. Bill James wrote I think that he agrees with 90% of the BBWAA inductions, and that number sounds just right.

    • Ian R. says:

      The problem with the BBWAA isn’t the players they HAVE inducted. There are a few questionable selections, but they’re mostly great. The issue with the BBWAA is that they’ve ignored many great players – Arky Vaughan comes to mind immediately, along with Joe Gordon and Larry Doby and Johnny Mize and others. Alan Trammell is likely to be their next big miss.

    • invitro says:

      The BBWAA has a higher standard than the HoF in general, of course. I do not judge the BBWAA based on the lower standard created by the VC; I judge it based on their own standard. By that standard, Gordon and Doby are not problems. Vaughan and Mize are, and Goslin and Santo, but there aren’t many more. There are more players that they have inducted that are problems — Rice, Puckett, Maranville. It’s not a large number. I might agree with more like 80% than 90% though, when counting both inductions and non-inductions.

      (I have not looked at pitchers yet, and so don’t have an opinion on how the BBWAA has done with them.)

  26. Alejo says:

    On Aaron: yes, he should have been unanimous but I don’t think he is the great example most people believe him to be.
    I will explain: In 1998 Andres Galarraga was on pace to break the Braves’ season home run record, set by Aaron in ’62 (45 homers, since you ask). Aaron came out hard and public on Galarraga, saying he was undeserving of that honour (nonsensical, but cruel). Galarraga finished the year with 44. I was amazed, at the time, of the pettiness, the mean selfishness, the cheap sabotage on an active player, displayed by the finest gentleman in the game.
    That’s why in 2007, when Barry Bonds was closing on his all-time record I expected Aaron to snap. After all, Bonds was even at the time suspected of being the biggest cheat ever. Didn’t happen. The day Bonds broke the record Aaron lamely appeared in a giant screen offering half-hearted words of congratulation.
    He attacked the small guy because he knew no one would answer back. He didn’t attack the big guy, the godson of Willie Mays, Barry Bonds.
    He acted, in short, like a bully.
    So, yeah, he was THE slugger. He should have been unanimous. But he isn’t quite the man people want him to be. He endured a lot of racial hate, and that’s admirable, but I think it was his ambition, his tremendous ability as a player, that kept him going (not a Martin Luther King-like pursuit, as George Will said many times).
    I can’t imagine Stan Musial attacking a player for breaking his Cardinal’s offensive records.

    • BobDD says:

      I’m finding that very hard to believe of Aaron – got a link?

    • Alejo says:

      I remembered it from the newspapers back in ’98. It was all over the place in my city and we were… disappointed with Aaron. I just tried to Google it unsuccessfully. In ’98 internet was not as pervasive and it wasn’t big news in America. I remember it very clearly.

      I made a mistake on the record: Aaron hit 47 for the Braves in ’71.

      • gary says:

        Alejo – “It was all over the place in my city”…….what city was that? Personally, I don’t believe that of Aaron. Maybe some crummy writer made it up.

    • Chad says:

      I’m with BobDD on this. I suppose it could be true, but I find it very difficult to believe.

    • clashfan says:

      Considering Aaron worked for the Braves then, I’m definitely finding it hard to believe. Aaron didn’t think much of records as a thing, and believed playing to the best of your ability was the best focus players should maintain. He may have said something about that, and it was misconstrued as some kind of slap at Galarraga.

    • daveyhead says:

      Sounds like the worst kind of hearsay. Is “smearsay” a word? Oughtta be. Come up with more proof than “he came out hard and public.”

    • Rob Smith says:

      I live in Atlanta. It’s been a while on Galarraga, so I don’t recall this being a huge deal to be honest…. I can’t even remember it happening at all. But I can say two things. First, Aaron did call out Bonds for cheating/using steroids…. though he avoided doing so until it was almost impossible to not say something about it because of all the questions he was being asked (since it was his record Bonds was approaching). Aaron is very private and does few interviews and hasn’t travelled much in years. He avoids interviews and especially travel like the plague & generally uses both to stay out of the limelight & especially any controversy. But after breaking the record, Aaron took the high road and congratulated Bonds to avoid adding to the controversy. I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason he said anything at all. So, on that point, Alejo is absolutely wrong. Previously, he was on record for saying that if Bonds used steroids the record is tainted…. though again, trying to avoid controversy by qualifying his comment.
      As for Galarraga, he’s another suspected steroid user, but I don’t know for sure if that was what was behind Aaron’s reasoning. I can’t find anything on Google about Aaron saying anything about him at all, so to me, the whole point is a little suspect.

    • invitro says:

      Aaron’s 47 HRs in 1971 tied the Braves’ HR record that was set by one Eddie Mathews in 1953. This record was broken by Andruw Jones with 51 in 2005.

    • Alejo says:

      About Galarraga and PEDs: man, you are raving. Galarraga never had the muscles that steroids produce or the humungous head associated to growth hormone, I mean, he was always a big guy with a tendency to go overweight (in fact, the Expos didn’t want to sign him at first because he was fat) but in Colorado he got LEANER, the opposite to what you expect to happen when steroids are in the diet. And, please remember, he was diagnosed with lymphoma that very year, spent the ’99 season under cancer treatment and came back in 2000 to hit .302 .369 .526 with 28 homers (PEDs after cancer? ridiculous).

      On Aaron: remember 1998? that was the year of the Great Home Run Race that saved baseball (from what, I’ve never known). Internet wasn’t all-knowing at the time and Aaron was belittling an obscure first baseman in a mid-size market team in the South who was hitting a paltry 40 homers. No wonder there are no links, I doubt it even made national news (although in Galarraga’s country people felt bad about it).

    • J Hench says:

      I don’t say this to smear Galaragga, but suggesting that no cancer survivor would ever use some form of performance enhancing drug is …. well, I guess it means the American public has short memories.

    • Alejo says:

      Ok, Armstrong engaged in a massive programme of PED administration before and after his cancer. Cycling doping is different from baseball doping, it has different goals (increase blood oxygen is necessary, but muscle mass is not). Galarraga, as I said, was actually leaner in Colorado than he had been in Montreal and his performance there was enhanced not by drugs, but the thin air in Mile High (look at his home/away splits)

    • Rob Smith says:

      Alejo, steroids build lean muscle mass, not fat. In fact, anti aging clinics tout “hormones”, which might be HgH or Testosterone as the miracle drugs that reverse aging, add lean muscle and reduce body fat. You would expect a PED user to have bigger muscles, but a leaner body, especially if someone was previously fat. There are definitely plenty of people who believe he was a user…. albeit without facts to back it up, like in the case of Jeff Bagwell. So, I’m not saying for sure either way. Anyway, back to the original point, I don’t remember Aaron saying anything about Galaraga, and I live here. If he did, knowing that Aaron tends to go very lightly on the controversy side to avoid publicity, I’d suggest that if he did say something, it was minor and probably not meant in the way some apparently thought, and it was blown all out of proportion in his home country…. who were probably very proud of the Big Cat. I’d add that he was a very popular player in Atlanta, so if Aaron did say something, it would have been publicized by the local media (who lives for this type of stuff) and would have been very controversial.

  27. jim louis says:

    Johnny Bench also hosted the Baseball Bunch. I mention as that as a GOOD thing.

  28. Wilbur says:

    Johnny Bench also guest-starred on HeeHaw. So did Dizzy Dean. I mention that as a good thing, I guess.

  29. Anthony says:

    All I have to say is Willie Mays. If there was ever the perfect ballplayer, it was him. There is no good reason not to vote for him.

  30. 543 says:

    The best player not included in your 20-best list is Eddie Mathews, exceptional batter, good fielder. We all know 70 WAR is considered a kind of barrier to deserve being in the Hall of Fame. Mathews got a 96.2 WAR!!! And some people doesn’t even include him in the discussion for best 3B ever (Schmidt best, I know, Mathews probably 2nd best).
    By the way, Greg Maddux was the ultimate pitcher, competitor, teamate, everything, he deserves to be unanimous

  31. Unknown says:

    Koufax always get me going about Drysdale. Drysdale had the better career. 9 years straight of 40+ starts, and his 1964 season was as good or better than Sandy’s. Don had a nifty year at the plate in 1965 and had a 6.0 WAR career batting.

    • Rob Smith says:

      It depends on how you define “better career”. Yes, Drysdale had more good years since Koufax famously was an underachiever for several years. But he absolutely dominated for five years. As for the 1964 season, it’s a push. Both were excellent, but neither won the Cy Young. The Dodgers couldn’t score enough runs, so their win/loss records suffered. Dean Chance won that year before there were separate awards for AL & NL. He had a pretty nice year too (20 wins, 1.65 ERA) Actually, recently when I looked up Drysdale I was stunned that he was finished at 32. Had a great year at 31, some work at 32 and then that was it. It must have been an injury, but I don’t recall specifically.

    • Wilbur says:

      I’m not sure if you, as a GM, could draft a pitcher with Koufax’s career or a pitcher with Drysdale’s career that you wouldn’t take Koufax.

      Drysdale is one of the weakest modern selections to the HOF.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think it’s a stretch to call Drysdale a weak selection. He did have a shortened career or he could have padded a lot of his stats, like career WAR, strikeouts, wins etc. But he had a lot of top 10 (many top 5) and/or led the league in several key categories for 8-10 years. It’s a pretty solid peak. He just didn’t have the mediocre years at the end of his career to “compile” like his old teammate Don Sutton, who to me, is more the weak candidate.

  32. zeke bob says:

    Nolan Ryan is my favorite pitcher (and no, I don’t think he was the best) and I always feel like Joe mentions his career lead in walks without bothering to note that he also leads in strikeouts by nearly the same amount. Obviously, he would have been a better pitcher with more control, but that – to me anyway – was part of the fun of watching him pitch.

    Sometimes he would be erratic, but you always hoped one of those 7 no hitters would come along when his fastball and curveball were on target.

    Just for fun:
    #1 Ryan (5714)
    #2 Randy Johnson (4875)
    #3 Clemens (4672)
    #4 Carlton (4136)
    #5 Blyleven (3701) I had no idea he was this high…
    #6 Seaver (3640)

    #1 Ryan (2795)
    #2 Carlton (1833)
    #3 Phil Niekro (1809)
    #9 Clemens (1580)
    #13 RJ (1497)
    #19 Seaver (1390)

  33. Edgar Bergen says:

    I guess I would be on Joe’s list for crazy writers because I wouldn’t vote for Rivera. He has less than 1300 career innings pitched. Only in one year of his career did he pitch over 100 innings. He has less than 1200 strikeouts. Roger Clemens has almost 5,000 innings pitched and over 4,500 strikeouts. Rivera isn’t even in the same ballpark. He didn’t start, and when he did he failed, so he was never better than the fourth or fifth best pitcher on his team. I know that it is very common now to let relief pitchers into the Hall, but that is because SUBJECTIVELY, we like closing pitchers. If you look OBJECTIVELY at his numbers, the only thing Rivera has going for him is his ERA+. It is truly tremendous. Perhaps you can say that it is so good he deserves to be in the Hall, but the reason it is so good is because he only had to pitch one inning at a time (and because he only pitched over 100 innings in a season once). Roger Clemens had a career ERA+ over 140.

    Every single player on Joe’s list is heads and shoulders better than Rivera. And, objectively so.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      Well, Rivera pitched in 406 more games than Clemens. He also needed 0 days or 1 day of rest before he was called on to pitch again, unlike Clemens who needed a whopping 4 days of rest!

    • invitro says:

      Edgar: I agree that Rivera is less qualified than Joe’s 20. I don’t know if I agree that all of the pitchers are head and shoulders better. Anyway, you say his ERA+ is the only thing going for him… what about his postseason performance? Don’t you think he pitched at a HoF level in the postseason? Maybe even near the best level ever? Do you think that adds to his HoF case?

    • Edgar Bergen says:

      Clemens didn’t need 4 days of rest between games if he pitches 1 inning per game.

      Post-season performance is subjective. I admit that pitching in the ninth inning of the world series with the game on the line makes us tense and excited. However, I’d rather have almost any starter on any team be the stopper rather than the actual person who is the stopper. There is a reason people pitch out of the bullpen. If I am a starter, I have to pace myself to pitch 120 or so pitches. If I am a stopper (or even a bullpen pitcher), I can give everything I have on every pitch until I run out of gas. It’s so much easier to pitch that way that there is no comparision between the two.

      If Rivera truly were one of the best pitchers of his era, he would have pitched more in a season than 100 innings. If he is so good, you as a manager want to play him don’t you? Get him in there. And Matthew, yes, I would take you up on your offer. My fourth best starter (on any team) will pitch more than 100 innings.

      Really, I believe the next revolution in baseball will be elimination of the starting pitcher. Managers will not allow pitchers to throw over three innings or so and then have them available to pitch three innings again in two days rather than five. Being a starter and pacing yourself is so much harder than pitching out of the bullpen that it is just tradition that keeps us with starting pitchers. Teams carry 12 pitchers sometimes now. If you elminate starters, you get more innings out of everyone and you get to reduce it to 9 or 10 easily.

      The game changes, I agree. But I still wouldn’t vote for Rivera. (Even though I too enjoyed watching him pitch in the ninth inning of the World Series).

    • Of course the reason Rivera was different is that he didnt only pitch the 9th inning during the postseason. I completely agree that the value of “closers” is generally overstated. The value of Rivera is not the same thing. To have a pitcher who can throw three or four times in a series, for multiple innings, and perform as he did — how many times did he give up a post season earned run? Its apple and antelopes. There is only one.

    • Edgar Bergen says:

      I’ll only say one final thing in response. Part of the reason Rivera was so good in the postseason (and I will say the biggest reason) is because he only pitched around 90 innings in a season. Starters who have pitched 200 innings by the time the postseason rolls around are exhausted and their arms hurt to the point where they can barely raise them.

      I’m also not saying Rivera was not a “valuable” pitcher. I’m just saying that in no year was he ever more valuable than perhaps the third best pitcher on his own team. He wasn’t ever a leading pitcher of his era, which should be the criteria for getting into the HOF. Again, if he were valuable, he would pitch more than 100 innings in a season.

      It’s going to be much easier to evaluate pitchers once we eliminate the starting pitcher as a position. Sure, it will probably take a rule change (now starters have to pitch five innings to get a win). My guess is that once we reach this stage, someone like Rivera will never be considered for the HOF again. He will be compared with other pitchers rather than other relief pitchers and his career numbers will never warrant consideration.

  34. Edgar:
    Tell you what, lets play a series between evenly matched teams but I will give you the fourth best starter between us and you give me Rivera. Actually let us do this many many times, amounting to about 140 innings of work over a period of years, too long to be a fluke or sampling error. I get the greatest postseason pitcher of all time and you get … Someone else. The game is different than when you and I were young — relievers matter, and as Joe has written elsewhere there is one reliever who matters more than all the others.

    • invitro says:

      If I understand your rules correctly, let’s say I have the 1995 Braves and you have the 2001 Diamondbacks. Then the starters in order might go Maddux, RJohnson, Glavine, Schilling, Smoltz. Then you give me Schilling, and you replace him with Rivera. Is that how it works? I would make that trade.

      Now sure, I agree that Rivera is better than an average 2nd starter, if that is what you are saying. But that is hardly a qualification for the Hall of Fame. It’s like saying Tim Raines is better than an average 3rd-best hitter on a team…. big whoop, right? A Hall of Famers should be better than the -best- player on a team, at any position, if that team is chosen at random. Right?

    • It really isnt complicated. If you could have ANY pitcher throw 1, 2, 3 innings in a postseason game you would have to take Rivera. Over the largest sample size (innings pitched) he performed the best. Is that worth more over a career than the contributions of a number 1 starter? Perhaps not Koufax, who dominated in more than one series but other than that no one else springs to mind, at that level and with that consistancy.

    • Also, this goes to the issue of the evolution of the game. As it is played now, by real players, relief pitching is a roll, like the dh, like third base. The best reliever should he compared to other relievers, not something else.
      The idea of abolishing starters and having a staff of three inning pitchers sounds good. I imagine if there were a plentiful supply of Rivera’s out there we would see that play out. But there isnt, so I doubt we will.

    • Edgar Bergen says:

      And actually no, I would take Clemens, Kofax, Seaver, Feller, Maddox and about a 100 other pitchers before I would take Rivera to pitch 1, 2 or 3 innings in a postseason game (assuming he only pitched about 100 innings over the season like Rivera).

      My point is that there IS a plentiful supply of Rivera’s out there. They are just third or fourth starters on their teams. They are more valuable to their teams pitching 150 innings rather than 100 so they start instead of relieve. Once we eliminate starting pitching, the starter/stopper era, which has really only been around since about 1975, will be seen as a small blip in the history of baseball.

    • Jim Caple just covered this. Rivera is probably the most overrated pitcher in history. His save rate was about 89%, average at best. The Yankees won no higher percentage of games when leading after 8 than anyone else. He was a great 1-inning pitcher with a lead and no one on base (he ranks comically low ininherited runners). That was his job: pitch one inning with the lead and hold it. Your average 4th or 5th starter for most teams would succeed at the same rate as Rivera. He does get major credit for his longevity and being blessed to play for a franchise with great run producers and starting pitchers over the past 17 years. Read Caple’s piece, it’s pretty good:

    • Edgar Bergen says:

      Thanks. Now that I’ve read the Caple column and understand that Rivera was not very good at keeping inherited runners from scoring, his ERA+ doesn’t look so good. Based on objective numbers, I wouldn’t vote for him.

      My guess is that Poz wouldn’t vote for him either if he looked at it objectively. But I doubt that he will the subjective uninformed voter (aka Poz) will vote for him and he will get in.

    • You clearly have strong opinions about this. Because of the typos I am not sure, but are you saying Joe Posnanski is an uninformed voter? Other than the fact that he may disagree with you on the HOF worthiness of Rivera what suggests that he is uninformed or “subjective?”

  35. There is, I think, one perfectly valid reason for not voting for Maddux, and I’m pretty sure that it has been discussed here before. If you reason that Maddux will easily make the HOF without your vote, then you might better leverage your vote by voting for 10 other players.

    Such a voter might first vote for players who received over 50% of the vote last year: Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza, and Raines. They would then vote for newcomers who have a good chance of making the Hall but who aren’t locks: Glavine, Thomas, and Mussina.

    That leaves three votes and a great number of down-ballot candidates whose cases need to be pushed—including some at risk of falling off the ballot completely. Schilling, Clemens, Bonds, Trammell, Martínez, McGuire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Walker.

    Really, NOT voting for Maddux might be the single easiest choice to make.

    The best result, of course, would be that many voters chose this strategy, electing four or five players to the Hall—but not Maddux. Everyone would realize that the HOF voting system was screwed up and changes (like abolishing the 10-man vote limit) get implemented.

    • Alejo says:

      And this post is a firm candidate for Lamest Argument Ever.

    • invitro says:

      I think it’s a valid reason, although I would not do it.

      This ballot is likely to have the most future HoFers since like 1967. That one has 19 HoFs. I count 18 on the 2014 ballot that I feel sure will eventually get in… I am assuming most of the steroid players will make it one day. Of course it’s easier for me to say this as it will take 50 or 80 years until it happens.

      I don’t know if anyone cares to predict the 2014 HoF class, but it looks huge to me:
      – Maddux is a lock.
      – Cox and Torre are locks from the VC.
      – I think Morris is a near-lock.
      – And I think Glavine is a lock.
      – Biggio, Bagwell, and FEThomas have good shots, but the BBWAA hasn’t elected four since 1955.

      It will be a large class in any case.

    • BobDD says:

      I understand that kind of voting is specifically disallowed.

    • That understanding is incorrect. The rule is: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” There is nothing that says you must vote for the top 10 candidates in your mind, and it would be impossible to prove adherence to such motivation anyway. If you want to turn in a blank ballot in protest, you can still lie about your reason and say “I don’t vote for anyone in the steroid era,” or some other such nonsense. The vote will almost certainly not be disallowed.

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  37. LargeBill says:

    Problem with these sort of look back and ascribing motives to other people (especially groups of people) is it assumes each of the votes stood alone and assumes that every voter knew what we know now. It is easy for me to look at Joe’s list and say everyone of them is a clearly qualified Hall of Famer. However, that ignores who else was on the ballot when they showed up. It ignores the blemishes that every player has over the course of a long career. Ricky Henderson compiled some absolutely incredible totals in several categories. However, he earned a bad rep while in NY of being fragile and missing a lot of games in the trainers room. Jackie Robinson was a great player, but his career was relatively short and his raw totals were not eye popping. None of these players were on the ballot alone. People should read Bill James’ book the Politics of Glory to get a better sense of the the haphazard voting process in the early decades of the HoF. Even today, while most voters don’t use all ten slots on their ballot, I can see some voters omitting the top couple guys so they can vote for the 11th & 12th best candidate and help him stay on the following years ballot. The 5% cut off will soon be causing clear Hall of Famers (IMO) to fall off the ballot. If someone doesn’t vote for Maddux or Rivera in order to keep Schilling or Edgar Martinez on the next years ballot they are not claiming those players aren’t worthy of the honor. I’m not going to all worked up about no unanimous selection. It just doesn’t matter. You’re either a Hall of Famer or you’re not.

  38. Wilbur says:

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  39. Wilbur says:

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  40. Wilbur says:

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  41. Wilbur says:

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  42. In general, I think it’s silly that there hasn’t been a unanimous inductee and that the ballots are not made public. However, in the next 5-10 years (perhaps longer) of HoF voting I think there is a legitimate argument for not voting for a sure-thing Hall of Famer like Maddox or Rivera. The argument being that the ballot is getting to be so crowded that a vote for Maddox or Rivera (who are getting in first ballot and are not going to be unanimous regardless) could be better spent on trying to get a borderline candidate in the hall or keeping a borderline candidate on the ballot. A lot of voters are going to be submitting a full ballot for the foreseeable future and might want to make sure that each of those votes is being maximized and not “wasted” on a candidate who is going to get in.

    That being said, I don’t agree with that argument and think that voters should just vote for the (up to 10) most worthy players.

  43. Actually, I can think of several arguments against Maddux, none of which should keep him out of the HOF, but I’ll just bet someone will use one or more of them. 1) Surprisingly, he only won 20 games twice. That is on the extreme low end for a HOF starter. 2) He was never a dominator, as evidenced by his 6.1 strikeouts per 9 innings. 3) For all of his greatness, he was only an 8x All-Star. Compare that to Glavine (10), Johnson (10) or Clemens (11). 4) He hung on too long at the end. 82 of his wins came in 2003-08, and none of those years came with an ERA lower than 3.96 or an ERA+ better than 110.

    • dshorwich says:

      Those are all rather weak arguments, which I grant doesn’t guarantee that no one might find one or more of them pertinent. But…if not for the labor strife of ’94-’95 Maddux almost certainly would have won 20 both years (when he was 16-6 in 25 starts and 19-2 in 28 starts, respectively); he had a 190 ERA+ over a 7-year period (’92-’98), which ought to satisfy anyone’s defintion of dominance, regardless of strikeout rate; All-Star selections are haphazard things, at best; and even if Maddux had retired after 2002 his career would still easily have been of Hall of Fame quality, so why anyone would penalize him for pitching as long as someone was willing to employ him is beyond me.

  44. Lastly, this isn’t exactly an argument against Maddux, but if there are only 10 slots on the ballot, a small handful of voters may reason that Maddux is guaranteed to make it whether they vote for him or not. Then they might choose NOT to vote for him, and use that slot for some other candidate, so he won’t fall under 5% and disappear forever. I don’t think there will be many of these wise-guy voters, but I do think there will be enough to keep Maddux from being the all-time vote champion.

  45. blahblahblah says:

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  46. el Aguila says:

    As to Jackie Robinson’s low vote total, Robinson “actually told people” to ONLY consider his MLB CAREER for his Hall candidacy, not his breaking the color barrier or anything.
    So if you’re not voting for Jackie Robinson because he told you to just look at his career, and are thus treating him like any other candidate…

  47. I don’t think Rivera should even be close to a unanimous hall of famer. There is no doubt that Rivera is the best relief pitcher in the history of baseball. With that being said, he was a relief pitcher so if I had a vote, I would not put him in the hall of fame. He didn’t pitch 1300 innings, and was never a top 50 active pitcher at any point in his career. There are plenty of starters such as Cliff Lee, Johan Santana, and now CC Sabathia who will not make the hall (Johan might not make it past his first year on the ballot) and were undoubtedly better pitchers than Rivera.

    There are dozens of starters who could have done what Rivera did. Rivera on the other hand could never last as a starter. I don’t mind if he gets voted into the HOF which he definitely will and probably first ballot. I just don’t want people to put him on the same pedistal as the truly great players in MLB history

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