What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Om January 22nd, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the Class of 2019. Those elected by being on 75% of the ballots will be inducted into Cooperstown July 21st.
No matter what happens with the voting, the good news is the Veterans Committee corrected what I consider to be two serious errors of omission by selecting Lee Smith and Harold Baines for induction. You didn’t need the FBI Crime Lab to figure out Smith’s exclusion; during his time on the ballot, there wasn’t the appreciation of closers you have today; a day which is going to see Mariano Rivera get inducted on his first ballot. But the exclusion of Baines and the subsequent squawking about his selection is the most puzzling.
All the people who keep telling me Edgar Martinez was the greatest designated hitter ever never saw Harold Baines. For the numbers that matter, Baines notched 384 home runs and 1,628 runs batted in, all while the meat of his career was in the era those very same writers bemoaned for it’s “lack of offense.” Those numbers rank him ahead of such baseball royalty as Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, and Joe DiMaggio in terms of homers, and he drove in more runs than Mike Schmidt, Rogers Hornsby, and Harmon Killebrew.
That brings us to the problem I’ve said again and again. The voting process is broken, and it lends itself to creating more such errors that the Veteran’s Committee has limited power to fix. I’ll come back to that in a bit.
I’m casting this ballot as though I were a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). That means I get to vote for ten players I believe deserve induction into Cooperstown. The problem is this ballot has more than ten players worthy of induction. A while back on his radio show, Dan Patrick expressed a belief the induction process should be a one-time “thumbs up or down” vote; the guy is either a Hall-of-Famer or he isn’t, and there is no limit on the number of inductees.
It may be time to take a hard look at such an approach because there’s a logjam of players coming eligible in the near future, and this problem is compounded by the fact the BBWAA voters have clearly been softening their hard-line “nyet” on the “steroid” guys. But the process exists as it is, and while as much as it may need a bit of modernization, it’s what we have. That means I’m casting a traditional BBWAA ballot, but as I am wont to do on this blog, I’m going beyond that to at least begin a discussion on the players I believe should be inducted.
The players for whom I voted are noted in bold.
In other words, this is about if I didn’t need to limit my voting to ten players. I get to go “thumbs up, thumbs down” on every guy on the ballot. This was an idea espoused by sports-radio guru and all-around broadcast legend Dan Patrick. In this case, if I were allowed to vote for as many players as I wished, here’s six more who aren’t like a half-dozen others.
Jeff Kent: In terms of offensive production, Kent was one of the best second-basemen of all time. He was a 5-time All-Star, 4-time Silver Slugger winner, and he won the 2000 NL MVP. He is the only second basemen to have six consecutive seasons with 100 RBI and eight such seasons all-together. The only second baseman with more 100-RBI seasons is Honus Wagner.
Billy Wagner: While Wagner never led the league in saves while racking up 422 in his career, he was one the dominant closers of his time, and he belongs on the list of all-time guys in that role. And yes, I know I’ve changed my mind on Wagner, but that’s the beauty of intelligence; it allows for such a change.
Andy Pettitte: To me this guy is the “poster child” for what I like to call the “eyeball test.” His numbers are solidly in downtown Debatable City, but this guy might be one of the great “big game pitchers” of all-time. He shares a lot of similar issues with Mike Mussina in terms of being a “down the rotation” kind of guy, and there’s still people out there who won’t forget his role in the chemical McCarthyism of steroids. He and Mussina should come as a matched set; induct one, you induct the other.
Andruw Jones: Jones is one of only six outfielders to have won at least 10 Gold Glove Awards. With 434 home runs and 1,289 RBIs, when it comes to players with at least 10 Gold Gloves, only Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Schmidt have more home runs.
Larry Walker: Enter the following search in your web browser: “players who put up gaudy number’s in a hitter’s era in a hitter’s ballpark.” Three names you’ll get are Chuck Klein, Lefty O’Doul, and Larry Walker. This is another guy for whom I’ve had a change of heart, largely because numbers are one thing, but this guy was a feared hitter for a long time.
Todd Helton: See Larry Walker. Helton should be in a “Mussina/Pettitte” style package deal with Walker.
To be honest, the fact that I’m convinced Edgar Martinez is going to get into Cooperstown is a big part of why I’ve re-evaluated past stances on guys like Billy Wagner and Larry Walker. Frankly, if Martinez gets in, it will represent a serious lowering of the bar.
That’s because Martinez represents the other side of the designated hitter coin; his career numbers of 309 home runs and 1,261 RBIs just aren’t good enough for a guy who doesn’t do anything other than hit (see my discussion of Andruw Jones). If you are a DH who wants my Hall of Fame vote, you have to produce; you have less excuses not to get to the “magic numbers” of either 500 home runs or 1,500 RBIs, ergo Harold Baines or David Ortiz.
On top of that, the vast majority of the of the pro-Martinez arguments are SABR-metrically based. Baseball is the king of all sports in which statistics matter; home runs, RBIs, strikeouts are all what the game is all about. But there is something called “too much of a good thing” which is the perfect definition of SABR-metrics. The “slash line” just wasn’t good enough for a bunch of poindexters who never threw a ball in their lives. There’s two kinds of hard-core stat-quoters in all sports; there’s the people who don’t watch games and there’s the people who don’t know what they are looking at.
Here’s what the stat-geeks miss on Edgar Martinez. The most important ability is sports is avail-ability. I just said that a guy who just hits needs to put up the “magic numbers.” But another important one is at-bats. There’s no way that a designated hitter who is supposedly so important to a line up should have less than 500 ABs in a season. Martinez’ durability issues ensured he only cracked that mark in 7 of his 18 seasons.
I’m not going to re-hash my position on the whole steroid issue, but I do need to make clear my stance on Manny Ramirez. Obviously, Ramirez is one of the great righty sluggers of all-time. His career numbers of .312 batting average, 555 home runs, and 1,831 RBIs put him solidly on the “Boardwalk/Park Place” end of the baseball Monopoly board. But as far as I’m concerned, he can stay in baseball jail right next to Pete Rose. That may seem inconsistent given my position on “performance-enhancing drugs,” but if the self-appointed steroid moralists need the proverbial “pound of flesh” from somebody, there’s nobody more deserving than Manny Ramirez.
That’s because for all of the “pearl clutching” about players deemed to be tainted with the broad brush of PEDs, Manny is the only one on this ballot with actual suspensions on his record. That means that after Bud Selig and baseball pulled their collective head of the steroid sand and actually made AND enforced rules about this stuff, Manny was the scofflaw who on multiple occasions did the crime and did the time. That’s a major distinction because guys like Bonds and Clemens came from the “Wild West” era before rules, testing, and penalties were in place. That’s why I would vote for them and not Ramirez.
The common “wisdom” is that Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay are “locks,” and Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina are “probables.” Let’s assume that’s correct. That likely means a large number of worthy inductees will still be on the ballot with more coming in the next five years.
I’ve compiled a list of the notable players who become eligible for induction in each of the next five years. Players who are eligible have played 10 seasons of Major League Baseball and have been retired from for five full seasons.
Players who are likely to be inducted or should be inducted are noted in red. Borderline players noted in green.
Bobby Abreu, Josh Beckett, Eric Chavez, Adam Dunn, Rafael Furcal, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Cliff Lee, Alfonso Soriano
2020 will be the 10th and final year for Larry Walker if he is not elected by then.
Mark Buerhle, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Adam LaRoche, Aramis Ramirez, Alex Rios, Nick Swisher, Dan Uggla, Barry Zito
Carl Crawford, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Joe Nathan, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, Jimmy Rollins, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira,
2022 will be the 10th and final year for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Curt Schilling if they are not elected by then.
Carlos Beltran, John Lackey, Jason Werth, Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Cain, Huston Street
2023 will be the 10th and final year for Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent if they are not elected by then.
There’s a few points that must be considered in terms of discussing this list.
The first is there are two types of people who are clearly screwing up what the Hall of Fame is supposed to be about. The first group are the “steroid moralists,” a group whose complete hypocrisy should of itself be enough to disqualify them from having any say in who belongs in the Hall of Fame. The same people who are wringing their hands about what steroids did the the “integrity of the game” are the same ones who cried about how baseball was “boring” in the 1990s and couldn’t wait to sing the praises of the offensive explosion of the late 90s. Thankfully, that problem seems to be abating itself.
The second group is the people doing the voting; the process using the Baseball Writer’s Association of America is clearly broken. A few years back, Craig Biggio became the first player with 3,000 hits not be inducted in his first year of eligibility because the writers decided to invent the “played in the steroid era” excuse despite the fact Biggio was an all-star at two different position. This year, the tea leaves seem to point at Fred McGriff being left out.
But the most egregious thing which might happen is the induction of Edgar Martinez. That will represent a significant “lowering of the bar.” If you doubt that, first consider my change of direction with guys like Larry Walker. There isn’t anybody being intellectually honest who would take Martinez on their team over Walker in their respective primes. If that comparison isn’t good enough for you, how about the fact we are seriously talking about the plausibly possible induction of an above-average, part-time player over one the greatest players of the 1980s?
Seriously, it’s a fucking joke that it’s even possible Edgar Martinez could be inducted ahead of Dale Murphy. Martinez may have had a higher career batting average, but they both had 18-year careers in which Murphy out-paced him in home runs and RBIs, won five Gold Gloves, was a seven-time All-Star and was the National League MVP twice. Again, who would you rather have; a guy who was one of the best all-around players in the game for close to a decade, or a guy who pulled his hamstrings while shaving?
That leaves us with the Hall of Fame itself; specifically the Veteran’s Committee. This group needs a significant structural change because it needs broader abilities to “fix” the mistakes made by the BBWAA if the flaws in the current voting procedure aren’t addressed. Even if you reject my position on the steroid issue, look at all the names who clearly belong in Cooperstown, but won’t get there because the Veteran’s committee has limited abilities.
Regardless of what happens with the ballots, the process needs fixing.
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