By In Stuff

When It Raines, Part I

A fantastic point here made by Tom Tango, and I have to admit that it has made me (for the nine millionth time) rethink the Baseball Hall of Fame. As you might have heard, Fangraphs asked a bunch of writers to name the three best eligible players not in the Hall of Fame. They asked the writers to leave out Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Pete Rose, which was smart, those players are bogged down by issues other than baseball. THe point here, as I understood it, was to simply name the best eligible baseball players not in the Hall of Fame.

Tim Raines got the highest vote total, with Mike Piazza second and Jeff Bagwell third. Then came Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling. That seems right in line with what I’ve been writing for the last couple of of years. BUT — and this is strange — when I saw the list, I had this weird and utterly counterintuitive thought, something I almost don’t want to write.

I almost don’t want to write this because, as anyone who reads this site knows, I am a huge Tim Raines fan. Huge. OK, maybe I’m not quite at the Jonah Keri level, but I’m a big fan and I absolutely believe that he is a Hall of Famer. I have made that argument many times. I have made that argument based on Raines’ greatness compared to the players who are actually in the Hall of Fame right now. As I wrote here, of the 11 left fielders that the BBWAA has voted into the Hall of Fame, Raines is comfortably in the middle. He was, I think, a better player than Ralph Kiner or JIm Rice or even a great player he resembled, Lou Brock. His career value was very similar to right fielder Tony Gwynn’s … it’s just that Gwynn’s greatness came in obvious and bold colors (lots of hits, absurdly high batting averages, batting crowns galore, Gold Gloves galore) while Raines’ greatness tended to be cloaked in drab gray (lots of walks, extraordinary base stealer, lots of runs scored, a lot of value as a part-time player later in his career).

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Tim Raines should be in the Hall of Fame.

So here comes to the counterintuitive part: If I was only given three votes — and this is even if I was told to skip over Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Pete Rose — I would not vote for Tim Raines.

Like I say: It hurts me to say that. I have long looked at Raines as my guy, as someone I not only vote for the Hall of Fame but also as someone I lobby for the Hall of Fame. I am on the picket line, holding up my “Vote Time Raines” sign. But, see, that’s by the current rules, where we voters are allowed to vote for 10 players.

With 10 players, I can afford to be pretty generous. I don’t need to make too many hard choices. If I think they deserve to be in, I vote them in. Let’s come up with a bizarre analogy: If I go into a Brookstone with a gift certificate that allows me to get TEN THINGS, sure, I might pick up the water foot massager or the Rosetta Stone langugage lessons for Spanish or a travel water purifier or an electric globe.

But If I’ve only got a gift certificate for THREE things, I’m going to be a lot choosier and choose things I NEED rather than things I want. Admittedly, this distinction might not help me as much in a Brookstone, but I think you get the point. Ten things, sure, a water purifier sounds great. Three things, no, I’m probably getting something like luggage.

Tim Raines … great player. Belongs in the Hall. But is he one of the three best players not in the Hall? No. I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s particularly close. That’s not a knock on his awesomeness, it’s simple reality. I put together this list of the highest WAR (I average Baseball Reference and Fangraphs WAR) for non Hall of Famers. Let’s see how far down we have to go to get to Tim Raines. Then, next post, I’ll go through Tango and Bill James ideas for a better Hall of Fame vote:

In this list, I’m going to include ALL retired players (after 1900), including those who are just retired and those who are not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. I’ll bold out the people who are already on the Hall of Fame Ballot.

1. Barry Bonds (163.4 WAR).

How about this Bonds tidbit: If Barry Bonds had retired after the 1998 season — so before anyone believes he was a using anything, before 73 homers, before the most absurd stretch of baseball ever — look at how his career compares with the entirety of Duke Snider’s career..

Bonds through 1998: .290/.411/.556, 1,1916 hits, 411 homers, 1,364 runs, 1,216 RBIs, 445 SBs, 164 OPS+, 8 Gold Gloves.

Duke Snider: .295/.380/.540, 2,116 hits, 407 homers, 1,259 runs, 1,333 RBIs, 99 SBs, 140 OPS+.

It’s not just lip service: Barry Bonds was a clear Hall of Famer even before his bulked up.

2. Roger Clemens (139.6 WAR)

3. Greg Maddux (109.6 WAR … eligible 2014)

Who will be the numbskulls to leave Maddux off their 2014 ballot?

4. Randy Johnson (107.2 WAR … eligible 2015 )

5. Pedro Martinez (86.4 WAR … eligible 2015).

One of the craziest and least appreciated parts of the Steroid Era is that while it is known for all the home runs, it really should be remembered for giving us four of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

6. Chipper Jones (85.2 WAR)

7. Mike Mussina (82.5 WAR … eligible 2014)

You probably did not expect to see Mussina this high. He seems destined to be the next Bert Blyleven, someone who will get pretty low vote totals at the start and will need to become a cause.

8. Curt Schilling (82.1 WAR)

At some point, we’re going to have to figure out a way to get postseason performance in career WAR.

9. Ken Griffey Jr. (80.5 … eligible 2016)

I added the Junior here so there would be no confusion. Ken Sr. weighs in at a more-than-respectable 36.7 WAR.

10. Pete Rose (80.0 WAR … eligible when Bud Selig melts)

(tied) Jeff Bagwell (80.0 WAR)

12. Frank Thomas (73.0 WAR … eligible 2014)

13. John Smoltz (72.5 WAR … eligible 2015)

14. Lou Whitaker (71.5 WAR … off ballot)

15. Kevin Brown (71.3 WAR … off ballot)

You will notice that we are 15 deep now, and we till haven’t gotten to Tim Raines. Truth is, we still have quite a long way to go.

16. Rafael Palmeiro (70.9 WAR)

17. Larry Walker (70.7 WAR)

Was Larry Walker a better player than Tim Raines? Such a tough question because they were such different players, they played in somewhat different eras and Walker spent the bulk of his career playing at Coors Field when it was am absurd hitters park. Also Raines played about 500 more games than Walker. You could make an argument, after neutralizing their statistics, that Raines was the more valuable offensive player.

Neutralized batting:

Raines: .299/.392/.433, 1,598 runs created.

Walker: .294/.378/.530, 1,379 runs created.

Then again, Walker was a better outfielder than Raines and had two seasons that were probably better than Raines’ best. These are the tough calls that have to be made.

18. Jim Thome (70.4 WAR … eligible 2018 if he retires)

19. Bobby Grich (70.1 WAR … off ballot)

At this point, I’m pretty sure Bobby Grich is the most underrated player in baseball history, and I’m not even sure who is in second place. Minnie Minoso, maybe? Dick Allen? Darrell Evans? Grich is the truest kind of underrated in that you almost never even hear about him being underrated. Grich was a four-time Gold Glove winning second baseman and, by the advanced numbers, deserved them — he was a brilliant fielder. He was a hugely valuable offensive player because he walked a lot and hit with power … this at a time when middle infielders could not hit. Only Joe Morgan was better offensively among second basemen and shortstops. And he was Joe Morgan.

Grich suffers from all the underrated blues. People noticed his low batting (.266) and not his high on-base percentage (.371). He played in a very low scoring era, and he played in dreadful hitters parks throughout his career. He has the misfortune of having perhaps the best year of his career (.304/.378/.543 — led the league in homers and slugging) in the 1981 strike season, which obviously was truncated. He was overshadowed by great players on his own teams (Frank Robinson for his offense, Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger for their defense, Reggie Jackson, Don Baylor the year he won the MVP), and great players on other teams (particularly Morgan, who just happened to be legendary when Grich was merely great). He also had a relatively short career, which prevented him from putting up the baseline numbers that people look at first — things like hits (he had 1,833 career hits).

20. Scott Rolen (70.0 WAR … eligible 2018 if he retires).

Is he retired? It sounds that way. I suspect he will go the way of Ken Boyer, Graig Nettles, Buddy Bell … the third basemen who just can’t garner much Hall of Fame support.

21. Ivan Rodriguez (69.5 WAR … eligible 2017)

22. Rick Reuschel (69.0 WAR … off the ballot)

23. Tom Glavine (69.0 WAR … eligible 2014)

Baseball Reference WAR has Glavine worth about six more wins over his career than Reuschel. Fangraphs WAR has Reuschel worth about five more wins over his career than Glavine.

I’ll readily admit: It’s stuff like this — Fangraphs having Reuschel as a markedly better pitcher than Glavine — that makes people mock the statistic. But this is really because we are so used to seeing statistics through the traditional prism. Glavine has 305 wins to Reuschel’s 214. Glavine had a much higher winning percentage (.600 to .528). Glavine won a Cy Young Award and won 20 five times; Reuschel only came close to winning a Cy Young Award once (he finished a close third) and won 20 once. Reuschel had a better career ERA than Glavine (3.37 to 3.54) but Glavine had the better ERA+, reflecting the times when they played.

So how in the world could Reuschel have a higher Fangraphs WAR? Well, of course, WAR doesn’t care at all about wins. So that goes out the window. It doesn’t exactly care about ERA either. Fangraphs WAR bases a pitcher on three things: Walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed. Based on a fairly simple formula that I just had my 12-year-old daughter (who is learning basic algebra now) help me with — ((13 times homers) plus (3 times walks+HPB) minus (2 times strikeouts) divided by innings pitched — the two pitchers raw fielding independent pitching numbers look like so:

Reuschel: .539

Glavine: .932

The lower number is better so you can see Reuschel has a pretty strong advantage. He struck out about as many batters per inning as Glavine, walked fewer and allowed fewer home runs. So then you adjust for time. Glavine obviously pitched in a much higher scoring time than Reuschel, so he gets credit for that. On the other hand, Reuschel spent more than half his career pitching at Wrigley Field when they was a dreadful park for pitchers. So he gets some credit for that. Then the whole thing is adjusted to more or less look like ERA so it will be easier to understand.

Final FIP numbers:

Reuschel: 3.22

Glavine: 3.95

That’s why Fangraphs has Reuschel as the better pitcher. You may total disagree with the method or the result. But that’s how it works.

24. Tommy John (68.9 WAR … off ballot)

25. Tim Raines (67.6 WAR)

And finally, we get to Raines. Now, it’s true that this list includes a bunch players who are not eligible for the Hall of Fame — of the players on the 2013 ballot, he is ranked seventh if you include Bonds and Clemens, fifth if you do not. But that’s still not Top 3. And four players are added in 2014 with a higher WAR, and that does not even include Jeff Kent, who has his Hall supporters.

And while you might disagree with WAR and say that Raines was definitely more valuable than a lot of players on this list — starting with Tommy John, Rick Reuschel, Bobby Grich and Larry Walker among others — you have to admit there are a bunch of players BELOW Raines on the list who have arguably as strong or stronger cases.

Would you vote Tim Raines ahead of Mike Piazza (who ranks 41st on the list)? That’s tough. Piazza might have been the best hitting catcher ever.

What about Craig Biggio (No. 32 on list)? He had those 3,000 hits, is 18th all-time in times on base, is 15th all-time in runs scored and so on.

Was Raines a better player than Shoeless Joe Jackson? We obviously know Jackson’s issue, but forget that for a moment … we’re only trying to come up with the best players not in the Hall of Fame. Was Raines a better player than Joe Jackson?

How about Alan Trammell? Graig Nettles? Dwight Evans? Dick Allen? Mark McGwire? Ken Boyer? Minnie Minoso? The Keith Hernandez?* Vlad Guerrero? All of these players and many other excellent ones rank below Raines in WAR … but maybe you think they were better players. There’s also a pitcher you might have heard of who ranks way below Raines in WAR, a pitcher named Mariano Rivera.

*For some reason, I wrote “The Keith Hernandez” in my first draft. I decided to keep it.

And we haven’t gotten anywhere near Jack Morris, who will be discussed again in Part II.

The point is: This is where the real Hall of Fame contest is waged. I have always thought that the best way to decide who belongs in the Hall of Fame is to determine where the Hall of Fame line has been drawn and vote for players who I believe are above that line. Now I’m thinking that this mythical Hall of Fame line, while worth figuring, isn’t really the deciding factor. The deciding factor is: Does a player, by whatever standard you use, have a better case for the Hall of Fame than the many, many great players out there who have not yet been elected.

Tim Raines, I love you. I absolutely will keep voting for you. I hope to be there on the day your are inducted into the Hall of Fame. But if I’m being completely honest, you are not one of the three best players not in the Hall of Fame, and that’s even if we do leave out Bonds, Clemens and Rose.

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37 Responses to When It Raines, Part I

  1. Matt says:

    Joe, thanks for the explanation about Fangraphs WAR. I’m typically a big fan of WAR, hate the pitcher Win, despise the way errors are assigned, etc etc. But I’m really starting to wonder whether Fangraphs WAR might be a HORRIBLE way to look back on a player’s career.

    I understand why FIP was designed: if a pitcher wins 20 games one year, it tells you little about what they’ll do next year. But a player with a low FIP is likely to continue to perform at that level. I get it.

    But when we’re talking about the Hall of Fame, we’re not trying to deduce what Rick Reuschel is going to do next year, all we need to know what he DID. And what he did was: he allowed 1494 runs (1330 earned) in 3548.1 innings pitched.

    I understand why you’d want to adjust for park and the era he played. I’m not trying to make an argument for or against Reuschel. What I’m saying is that FIP is designed to be forward-looking, so using it for retrospection feels like A Bridge Too WAR.

    • tomemos says:

      But my understanding is that FIP is *not* just about what a pitcher will do going forward. It’s also about what a pitcher has control of. And the statistics suggest that *most* pitchers have little to no control over anything other than walks, strikeouts, and extra-base hits.

    • Ian R. says:

      FIP isn’t quite designed to be forward-looking – that’s xFIP. As tomemos said, FIP is designed to just look at the things the pitcher can control rather than the defense behind him or batted-ball luck.

      When a pitcher consistently over- or under-performs his FIP, that means we need to take a closer look. Some guys really do have a talent for inducing weak contact, and ERA serves as a better measure of performance for those guys. Some guys, for whatever reason, are just the opposite and give up MORE hits on balls in play. It’s also possible, though, that Reuschel played in front of bad defenses throughout his career, and that’s why his ERA is higher than his FIP.

      I have no idea whether that’s true, but it’s worth investigating.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Well, I know everyone hates “pitch to the score” comments… and I don’t know if I believe in it. But in Glavine’s case, he has a lifetime WHIP over 1.3. But, an ERA of 3.54 (and those two Cy Youngs). So, knowing a little about Glavine’s style, he was a “never give in” pitcher. The antithesis of a Greg Maddux who believed in throwing strikes. Glavine believed that if he kept pound the outside corner, and not worrying too much about walks, he would get outs. He also really didn’t have a servicable curveball, and he basically only threw high 80s fastballs and changeups. (Nobody would probably be interested in signing him today with those tools). But, it obviously worked for him. He gave up a lot of baserunners, really didn’t try to fool anyone with a large repetoire of pitches, but still managed to keep a lot of runners from scoring. I don’t know if that’s “pitch to the score”, because he never varied his approach in any situation, as much as it’s just keep pounding it low and outside & make the hitter hit his pitch.

    • Wilbur says:

      The name Rick Reuschel brings back a lot of memories.

      Rick pitched for dreadful teams during the Cubs nadir: mid ’70s through early ’80s. How dreadful? One year (’75?) the Cubs All-Star representative was Steve Swisher. Look up his B-R page, if you dare. The Cubs farm system produced almost no position players for about 20-25 years, and this period was in the middle of it.

      Big Daddy was amazingly fast and nimble for a man his size. I remember him even being used as a pinch runner. A good fielder, servicable hitter, it was a joy to watch him pitch, deftly using command and movement.

      Should he be in the HOF? Probably not. He’ll never make it anyway.

    • Nick O says:

      Some pitchers do have some control over what happens when a ball is put into play. If Glavine is able to strand runners at a high rate or sustain a low BABIP over his entire career, he should get credit for that — I’d have to think even the FG folks would agree with that.

    • MaCo says:

      After about 7 years in the majors, RA becomes more reliable than FIP. i am sure everybody here has seen the regression analysis on BABIP and LOB%. SInce all of these pitchers are well over the r=.5 threshold, there is no way using FG WAR is a better idea here.

    • MaCo says:

      And nevermind the 7.5 WAR Glavine aquired with his bat.

    • Phil says:

      To my mind, the nail in the coffin for FG WAR is Carl Hubbell — I simply can’t countenance a system that ranks him so poorly (high 70s, all-time). I don’t always use WAR . . . but when I do, it’s B-R’s version.

    • MaCo says:

      FG WAR is great…until BABIP and sequencing has had enough time to stabilize halfway. I definitely use it for current seasons and for players with short careers.

    • invitro says:

      “The Cubs farm system produced almost no position players for about 20-25 years”

      Maybe… here’s the position players who were drafted (or developed) by the Cubs, and debuted for them between 1960 and 1985, with their career WAR:

      | firstyear | name | firstteam | bwar |
      | 1960 | Ron Santo | CHC | 66.60 |
      | 1961 | Lou Brock | CHC | 42.80 |
      | 1964 | Don Kessinger | CHC | 6.80 |
      | 1965 | Glenn Beckert | CHC | 14.00 |
      | 1969 | Oscar Gamble | CHC | 20.50 |
      | 1971 | Bill North | CHC | 24.90 |
      | 1981 | Scott Fletcher | CHC | 29.80 |
      | 1981 | Mel Hall | CHC | 6.80 |
      | 1983 | Carmelo Martinez | CHC | 9.80 |
      | 1983 | Joe Carter | CHC | 15.60 |
      | 1985 | Darrin Jackson | CHC | 10.50 |
      | 1985 | Shawon Dunston | CHC | 9.10 |

    • Wilbur says:

      You left out Billy Williams.

      Obviously, the period began after the Wiliams, Brock, Santo, Ken Hubbs influx.

      Beckert came through the Red Sox organization, not the Cubs.

      Gamble and North played a smattering of games for the Cubs before being traded away, and weren’t team success changers in any event.

      There IS a vast wasteland between 1964 and 1985. The leader in WAR of the list above during that period is … Scott Fletcher.

      I remember the Cubs fielding lineups for years in the 70’s with only players obtained by trade.

  2. Jonah Keri says:

    As you made clear in your post, I might be the world’s biggest Tim Raines fan. I do what I do for a living more or less because of Tim Raines. So by extension, Tim Raines is a huge part of my identity, and a way for me to feed my children…

    …and my top 3 would be Bagwell, Schilling, and Piazza, in that order. Not Raines.

    • Marco says:

      I struggle to understand the Schilling love. He’s approximately Kevin Brown with some post-season heroics sprinkled on top.

      A: 3256 IP, 127 ERA+
      B: 3261 IP, 127 ERA+

      Don’t get me wrong – post season heroics count, but I don’t know if they get you all the way from “This guy deserves no support and should fall off the ballot immediately” to “This guy is one of the three best people not in the hall”

    • Andrew says:


      I think you’ve made a better argument for inducting Brown than against inducting Schilling

    • Phil says:

      Schilling: 19 postseason games, 16% Game Score > 80, 11% < 30
      Brown: 13 postseason games, 16% Game Score > 80 (8% actually > 90), 8% < 30
      Brown wasn’t as celebrated or outspoken, and he had at least one memorable postseason meltdown, but if the 1998 Padres had upset the vaunted Yankees, his postseason resume would appear in a much different light. Both were 4-time Game 1 starters for their teams, and both started one Game 7 — a neutral observer would be hard pressed not to call their respective bodies of work comparable.

    • invitro says:

      Both Schilling and Brown are easy choices for a 200-person Hall of Fame. Schilling is an easy choice for a 100-person HoF. Like Bobby Grich.

  3. agit proper says:

    This is a great post, but I don’t see that there’s anything especially interesting about the poll results with regard to Raines. Looking at your list, Bonds and Clemens were excluded, and obviously Palmeiro would have been excluded if it had occurred to Fangraphs that anyone would have selected him. That leaves Schilling (82.1); Bagwell (80.0); Walker (70.7); and Raines (67.6), followed by Biggio and Piazza. The poll results: Raines, Piazza, Bagwell, Biggio, Schilling. Factor in Coors Field, PED rumors,* and Schilling’s unpopularity and that is not a surprising result. The real interesting thing here is the off-ballot guys, and that’s obviously a different issue.

    • agit proper says:

      * I’ve always thought the most damning “evidence” against Bagwell was Bill James’s notorious “Pass” comment. Now Why, we all wondered at the time, Would this raconteur of a baseball analyst be so pointedly tight-lipped when it came to a great contemporary player? When the PED rumors started going public I wondered whether that might have had something to do with it.

    • Nick O says:

      It was because he wrote about Bagwell at length elsewhere in that book.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Really, the two pieces of “evidence” are Bagwell’s size and his friendship with Caminiti, who was an admitted PED user. Also, people bring up the shoulder injury he had & tag it to PED usage. Circumstantial at best. I was in the wait and see crowd, but I don’t see any hard evidence coming up. Not even comments from someone claiming to have known or someone who heard someone say he was using.

  4. agit proper says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. invitro says:

    I wish Joe would’ve nominated Whitaker, Trammell, Grich, Reuschel, Mussina, I-Rod, Smoltz, and Rolen for the BRHoF instead of the 5th-tier guys he piled on at the end.

  6. Bugaj says:

    My general argument for or against the Hall of Fame is, When he retired, did anyone care? By that standard, Mariano and Ripken are in because they had farewell tours. Griffey, after a late career that was modest support to his early years, went back to Seattle and played a fizzle of a year, but everyone KNEW about it.

    Biggio? “Oh hey, he got his 3000th hit. I guess that means he should be a HOFer.” Blech. Dave Winfield was DH for the World Series champs at 40. Chipper Jones, Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine all went out around the same time and everyone knew all four had a good shot. People were not saying the same things about Jorge Posada. The world knows.

    • Rob Smith says:

      HOF based on farewell tours (or at least attempted farewell tours, that failed to complete as planned, like Griffey)? Huh? Just because someone hung on too long as a role player, or ended up getting cut, doesn’t disqualify them from HOF consideration. BTW: Smoltz stubbornly hung on for two years after the Braves decided they didn’t want him. He still hung on for months after NOBODY wanted him. Definitely there was no farewell tour there. My guess is most people thought he retired long before he actually did. He was still waiting for that call that never came. The only thing worse than this, was your comment about Dave Winfield DHing for the Yankees at age 40 having anything to do with his induction. And BTW: Dick Allen is the classic case (there are others mentioned in the article) where the world and the BBWA have a very odd take on their careers. The world doesn’t know jack in a lot of cases…. witness the Brilliant Reader HOF poll, where solid HOFers weren’t voted in. It became a joke it was so bad.

    • Mark says:

      Nothing odd about the BBWA’s take on Dick Allen. As Mr. James said it best (paraphrase) “He did more to keep his team from winning than any other player…. ” And he was right. And the sportswriters of that era knew it.

      Now of course all that drama, the suspensions, the missed games, the cliques, have all been forgotten and all that remains are the statistics. And Mr. Allen had damn good statistics.

    • Mark says:

      Nothing odd about the BBWA’s take on Dick Allen. As Mr. James said it best (paraphrase) “He did more to keep his team from winning than any other player…. ” And he was right. And the sportswriters of that era knew it.

      Now of course all that drama, the suspensions, the missed games, the cliques, have all been forgotten and all that remains are the statistics. And Mr. Allen had damn good statistics.

  7. cd1515 says:

    re Bonds: if you play golf with a guy and he starts cheating on the 11th hole, isn’t he a cheater?

    • Rob Smith says:

      Good point. I do see the point that well intentioned people are making…. that Bonds’ stats (supposedly) before he started juicing were more than good enough for the HOF. But I agree with your thoughts…. and you have to wonder…. if he was willing to juice, what else did he do in his earlier career. Yeah, I know the narrative. He was jealous of Sosa and McGwire. But it strikes me that the guy is just morally bankrupt & would likely do anything to be the best. I fully expect his soul to be plucked out by the devil any day now.

    • Brett Alan says:

      Yeah, but if we’re keeping guys out of the Hall because they’re cheaters, Gaylord Perry would be gone. If we’re voting based on whether or not they’re morally bankrupt, Cap Anson is definitely leaving and Ty Cobb is probably following behind. Now, if you’re on board with all of that, that’s fine.

      But I can also see the case that we’re voting on talent, in which case I can accept that Sammy Sosa is out because if he didn’t cheat, he wouldn’t have been a Hall-quality player, whereas Bonds and Clemens are in because they were good enough to make it without that–in fact, they would likely have been Hall members if the day they first to steroids, they’d had a crisis of conscience and retired instead.

  8. rpmcsweeney says:

    Provocative post, as always, Joe. Two responses come to mind. First, who exactly is eligible for this exercise? It’s clear who shouldn’t be considered (Bonds, Clemens, not-yet eligible players like Pedro, and ineligible players like Rose). But what about players who fell off the ballot, like Tiant & Grich)? In one sense they are ineligible—the BBWA can no longer vote for them. In another, they are still eligible—the Veterans Committee (or whatever it calls itself these days) could still vote them in. I guess considering the confusion about the rules for the actual HOF vote, it’s fitting that this hypotehtical exercise has some latent ambiguity itself.

    The other point stems from your Brookstone analogy. I think a slightly different scenario actually supports Raines as the top vote getter even if he isn’t, by the numbers, the best player on the outside looking in. Consider: the HOF contacts you and says that, in addition to regular voting, you and you alone will be given 3 votes to use however you like. If you vote for a player, that player is in (subject to the paramets about having to be eligible). Then, once you’ve selected your 3, the remaining players would go back in the pool for the regular vote. In that scenario, it’d make sense not to use your vote on Greg Maddux or Pedro or Chipper Jones or Ken Griffey, Jr. Those players are so assuredly getting into the Hall that it’d be a wasted vote to choose any of them. Instead, you might consider the players who are some combination of most deserving and least likely to make it in. Tim Raines suddenly makes a lot of sense: he clearly belongs, even if less urgently than some others; he’s languished for too long; there’s a chance that, with the upcoming glt of supermegastars (especially if voters’ beging to soften on PED users), he might fall off the ballot, etc.

    I realize that the point of the exercise was to select the “BEST players not in the HOF,” and not the “player whose inclusion would remedy the longest-standing injustice” or something. But I believe—and all the yearly debates about MVP voting, etc., tend to show—that people tend to vote with subconscious strategies, biases, agendas, preferences, etc., even when they’re told not to.

    Anyhow, a fun exercise.

  9. Alejo says:

    If you love him so much, why do you hit him so hard?

  10. Alejo says:

    Can we define Rolen as the former next Mike Schmidt?

  11. Alejo says:

    Most ballplayers go through life like Enzo Hernandez went through the San Diego Padres’ roster: indifferently, liked by a few and remembered by a handful.

    Some people are beloved by all, even their rivals (eg Stan Musial, Brooks Robinson). Some others are not beloved but respected and sometimes admired (eg Andre Dawson). There is a group that is hated but have lots of friends (eg Ted Williams…umm can I include Joe Morgan here?). Others are “feared” (relevant example here: Jim Rice) A chosen few are charismatic and attract the masses with the gravity of the sun (eg Babe Ruth, The Mick) And an even more select few have that rarest of qualities: the ability to induce hate wherever they go, really quickly. They sport this sort of anti-charisma. And here the King is, and forever will be, Barry Bonds.

    He played winter ball in Venezuela for a few days and immediately hated the league, the fans, the country, the food and decided to leave without delay. A great announcer and baseball character, lovely guy really, drove him to the airport (20 miles from the city). At arrival Bonds got off the car, slammed the door and left without saying thanks. This was the Venezuelan equivalent of hitting Vin Scully in the face with a wet sock.

    Since then Bonds in remembered as the most arrogant American ever (which is saying something).

    More than a quarter of a century later Bonds is the best hitter in history and yet somehow he managed to NOT get elected to the Hall of Fame.

    This is an unbelievable feat and yet, I can’t say I am surprised.

  12. invitro says:

    I am reading for the 5th time the most influential book of my life, the 1983 Baseball Abstract, and the entry on Raines reminded me that he played some 2B when he was young, peaking at 36 games at second in 1982. I vaguely remember some controversy back then about whether the Expos should try to make him a full-time second baseman.

    The reminder was a trivia question from James: Can you name this player? He came to the majors as an infielder, but was shifted to LF for his rookie season, when he led the NL in stolen bases. He was then shifted back to 2B, where he had a long and successful career. He remains active in some capacity in MLB [in 1983].

    • Wilbur says:

      A great trivia question. I considered the player who is the correct answer , but then dismissed him.

      I had to look it up in the NL stolen base leaders. Of course then it jumps out at you.

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