Friday, December 30, 2011

6 comments I Guess It Is Time to Discuss the Baseball Hall of Fame Again

It's that time of the year. The time of year when people wake up early to go online and see which MLB players/coaches have been inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame and then yell at each other for hours over the Interwebs. It is getting more crucial this year because PED/steroid users are coming up for induction. So now the debates of "Do you let PED users into the Hall of Fame or not" begin. I think there are going to be five ways the voters will look at PED users when casting their vote.

1. PED users will be considered like all other candidates, based on their performance.

2. Proven PED users will not be considered at all, if a player is only suspected of PED use then he would have his candidacy evaluated on his performance like any other player would.

3. Suspected PED users will not be considered for the Hall of Fame at all.

4. Proven and suspected PED users will be considered based on whether the voter believes PED use led to the player's career being considered a Hall of Fame career or not.

5. Some random formulation on how to consider and differentiate suspected/proven PED user Player X versus Player Y. This is probably going to be one of those head scratching ways that many won't understand and isn't consistent from player to player.

I am not exactly sure which crowd I fall into. I can't imagine a Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds in it, but I also can't imagine a Hall of Fame where guys like Rafael Palmeiro get in based on (I perceive) his PED use strengthening his statistics. It's hard to draw a hard line and say Palmeiro would not have been a Hall of Fame player without PED or steroid use. I don't have an answer unfortunately at this point. I will say I lean more towards voter way #1 than any of the others. Perhaps this makes me a steroid apologist. In fact, my order would go this way:

Way #1
Way #3

I will use Jeff Schultz's ballot as a template for this discussion, and of course I will do a little criticism of his ballot...because that's what I do. On a side note, I like Jeff Schultz and he seems to be a reasonable fellow. This isn't necessarily bad journalism, it's a Hall of Fame debate, which everyone seems to enjoy and is based on an opinion based on facts presented.

So, following are the 27 players on the ballot. Voters can select anywhere from zero to 10 players for enshrinement.

Schultz chooses 7 players for enshrinement. That's a pretty good number, if not a little bit high for this class. 10 players on a ballot chosen to make the Hall of Fame would really have to be a good class of candidates.

Some voters are really silly about this, like they won’t vote a guy in the first time because they don’t think he’s a “first ballot” Hall of Famer, but they’ll vote for him after. Seems kind of stupid to me.

I could not agree more. Voters like this deserve to have their ballot ripped out of their hand and given to a person who doesn't have a mental disability that causes them to create fake rules they believe should be used when casting a ballot for an award. A close cousin to the "I don't vote players in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot because the player isn't a 'first ballot' Hall of Famer" fake Hall of Fame rule is the "I don't vote for players as MVP if their team didn't make the playoffs" fake MVP rule.

Anyway, I’m voting for seven. (Prediction: Only Barry Larkin and Jack Morris get the required 75 percent of the vote to make it in.)

Jack Morris. My nemesis. I don't believe he is a Hall of Fame pitcher. This is my favorite way to look at Jack Morris' compared to Bert Blyleven of course. Morris is the favorite of those who use many traditional statistics, while Blyleven's induction was seen as a victory for the advanced statistics crowd. So they are sort of polar opposites in that way.

As always, those who’ve admitted or were suspected of using steroids and/or performance enhancing drugs generally are going to be rejected by voters.

I like how this is just throw in there. "As always," like this is an annual tradition that deserves no further review or justification for existing. Is it really right to keep suspected steroid users out of the Hall of Fame? Is it even right to keep admitted steroid users out of the Hall of Fame?

So with that, here are my thoughts on the candidates. And yes, I’m voting for Murphy.


Dale Murphy is my favorite Atlanta Brave of all-time. I had a goldfish who lived for 8 years named Dale Murphy and when Murphy was traded I cried like only a young child who has suddenly realized his favorite player will not always play for his favorite team would cry. I wanted to be an outfielder like Dale Murphy (dream ruined by the way. I was put at shortstop because I was...wait for the creativity in position selection by my coach...short) and I still have the newspaper clipping from when Murphy got traded. I love the guy. He's not a Hall of Fame player. Of course, I am the same guy who says John Smoltz shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, so that may ruin my credibility. Perhaps I am neutral to a fault.

Jeff Bagwell: No. He has a Hall of Fame credentials (449 homers, 1,529 RBI, .297 average, MVP).

Well then out of the Hall of Fame he goes. We don't want players with Hall of Fame credentials. We need players with borderline Hall of Fame credentials, which is why Jim Rice got in.

But he was well short of induction last year with only 41.7 percent of the vote, at least in part because he has been suspected of using PEDs.

I 99% believe Jeff Bagwell used PEDs. I don't think his Hall of Fame candidacy should be diminished because I suspect him of something that was never proven. All of the evidence I have is circumstantial and I don't believe he should be kept out based on suspicion. That being said, I don't think I have a problem with him being left out. I would probably vote Fred McGriff in first...or maybe I wouldn't even vote McGriff in.

Juan Gonzalez: No. Has been linked to steroids and HGH. He was named in the Mitchell Report, which detailed how he was found with a bag at the airport loaded syringes and steroids. Most meaningless statistic of all: his 434 homers.

Jeff Schultz takes the "no players who are linked to steroids will get his vote" (or Way #3 from above). Gonzalez hit .295/.343/.561 for his career and has 2 MVP trophies. I don't know if I would vote him in. I'm a Hall of Fame snob that way.

Sometimes I use comparable players to determine how good a player really was. What I found really interesting is Gonzalez's Top 5 comparable at Baseball-Reference are the following:

1. Albert Belle
2. Lance Berkman
3. Jason Giambi
4. Duke Snider
5. Jose Canseco

Three suspected/known steroid users, a non-Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame player. This doesn't really clear anything up, unless you didn't know Gonzalez is a borderline Hall of Famer and he probably used PEDs.

Barry Larkin: Yes. I can’t believe he didn’t get in last year (received 62.1 percent of the votes) but he’ll get in this year. A 12-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove, nine-time Silver Slugger at shortstop with Cincinnati. Finished with 2,340 hits. Slam dunk.

I have this weird vendetta against Barry Larkin. That being said, I don't see how he doesn't get in the Hall of Fame this year. I have a slight feeling at least 10% of the voters didn't feel he was a "first-ballot Hall of Famer," which is a stupid way to look at Hall of Fame voting, so he will get in this year.

Edgar Martinez: No. A strong case can be made that Martinez has HOF credentials: .312, 2,247 hits, 309 HR, 1,261 RBIs.

I have made my past feelings on Martinez felt here and here. I may have changed my mind since then, though I am not completely sure. That's the advantage of not having a Hall of Fame vote, I don't have to make up my mind and can flip flop all around. I don't really care to look at Martinez as a designated hitter and I have no problem with designated hitters being in the Hall of Fame. Many of those who seem to vote for Martinez talk about how feared he was as a hitter, which is pretty much what got Jim Rice into the Hall of Fame. Martinez's overall hitting totals are incredibly impressive, but his candidacy is hurt for two reasons.

1. His career starting later.
2. He was primarily a designated hitter.

I am not sure I would vote for Edgar Martinez into the Hall of Fame, but I also won't hate it if he gets elected. The fact he was a DH feels pretty irrelevant to me. I always found it interesting Martinez seems to have avoided a lot of the PED use accusations. His best numbers were during the Steroid Era and he seems like one of those guys certain voters would be suspicious of with no proof. For a guy like Jeff Schultz who is keeping players out of the Hall of Fame based on PED suspicion, I feel like this suspicion could go for nearly every player who had great numbers through the Steroid Era.

But I don’t like the fact that for most of his career — 6,218 of 8,672 plate appearances — he was a designated hitter. DH is a half-player in my book.

This is a very narrow way to look at this. I don't see why him being a designated hitter is really relevant. Are players really kept out of the Hall of Fame because they were poor or average at fielding? I'm not sure they are. I didn't see the fielding percentage of Andre Dawson used to support his Hall of Fame candidacy. So I would base my opinion on Martinez just like I would base my opinion of nearly every other hitter in the Hall of Fame...and that's on how well they hit the baseball.

Don Mattingly: Yes. Over 2,000 hits, nine Gold Gloves, seven All-Star Games. One MVP. A great ambassador for baseball. A thousand times, yes.

I go with one time, "no." Gold Gloves won and All-Star Game appearances are both awards that are in essence popularity contests. As good of a defensive player Mattingly was, Gold Gloves were often won on reputation when he played. All-Star Game appearances is a popularity contest that holds as little value to me as possible. He has an MVP, which does hold some value in my opinion, and I don't really care if he is an ambassador.

Mattingly's career line was .307/.358/.471 with 222 home runs and 1099 RBI's. Jeff Bagwell's career line was .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs and 1529 RBI's. I can't live in a world where Jeff Bagwell, who was a pretty good hitter for 10+ years, doesn't get into the Hall of Fame because there is a suspicion he used steroids, but Don Mattingly gets in because...because...because...he was a pretty good hitter for six years and above average after that. Mattingly is out.

Fred McGriff: Yes. Even if he didn’t hit 493 home runs, I think the fact that the Atlanta-Fulton Stadium press box caught on fire the day the Braves traded for him, cementing their 1995 World Series championship, is reason enough to put him in the Hall.

I realize this is tongue-in-cheek, but when you don't defend your choices for borderline Hall of Fame players I generally assume you don't have a great defense other than he won a championship for the team in the city you currently cover as a writer.

I feel much the same about McGriff as I do Edgar Martinez. I won't hate it if he gets in the Hall of Fame.

Mark McGwire: No. He only finally admitted steroid use, not because of regret or shame but because he wanted to come back to coach and try to salvage his legacy. And by the way, I’m not sure he would’ve been a HOF player without steroids.

There is absolutely no way to know if Mark McGwire would be a Hall of Fame player without steroids. Considering McGwire was linked to steroids, Schtulz doesn't even consider McGwire, but to say McGwire may not have been a Hall of Famer without steroids is pure speculation. Trying to determine any player's true ability without steroids seems pretty complicated and speculative, so it would be hard to say Player X would be a Hall of Famer without knowing how long he used steroids and the exact effect it had on the player.

Jack Morris: Yes. He also should be in already (received 53.5 percent of the vote last year). Beat John Smoltz (barely) in the greatest pitching match-up most have ever seen (1991 World Series). Won 254 games, finished with 2,478 strikeouts, 175 complete games.

Jack Morris should not be in the Hall of Fame. The fact he won Game 7 of the 1991 World Series isn't irrelevant, but it is a pretty lazy way of advocating Morris for the Hall of Fame. I say it is lazy because it ignores Morris' overall playoff record to make it seem like he was some sort of playoff ace. His career playoff record is 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA, 5 complete games, and a 1.245 WHIP. It's pretty good, but it is also easier to focus on one game than look at his overall playoff record, which wasn't entirely great.

Morris did win 254 games. We all know how I feel about wins. So I won't even touch that topic since you can look under the tag "wins are dumb" for my encyclopedia of thoughts on wins. Morris had 2478 strikeouts, which is 32nd of all-time, and those complete games are also impressive. I chalk the strikeouts up to Morris' durability and pitching in the majors for almost 20 years. Tim Wakefield has nearly 2200 strikeouts and I am not sure he is thought of as a strikeout pitcher. So if a pitcher pitches long enough he will accumulate some strikeouts.

What is also important to know is Jack Morris never finished higher than 3rd in the Cy Young voting, so he was a good pitcher, but never had an outstanding year to where he was the best pitcher that year. Morris had a career ERA of 3.90 and never had an ERA in a single season under 3.05. Basically, I am making a case that Jack Morris was a good, durable pitcher for a long time but he was never one of the best pitchers in the majors at any given time. He was never an outstanding pitcher and I think only outstanding pitchers should be represented in the Hall of Fame. If there were a Hall of Very Good, I would vote for him.

Dale Murphy: Yes. Murphy won’t get in but I’m voting for him anyway — again. I’ve heard the arguments about him not having the career numbers

Who cares if the statistics don't back it up? It's what I want, dammit!

But when you win consecutive MVP awards, there’s an acknowledgement that you were one of the best players in the game.

I like how individual accomplishments are used to get Dale Murphy in the Hall of Fame, but the fact Jack Morris never won an individual award (like the Cy Young) for season-long success is completely ignored. Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame despite the fact he was never acknowledged as one of the best players in the game. Why? Because he pitched a really good game in the World Series one time and was very durable.

And yes, he should get points for not juicing and representing the game the right way.

No, he probably shouldn't. Again, I love that Dale Murphy was a great guy, but his Hall of Fame candidacy shouldn't be improved by the fact he played the game "the right way" and was an overall good guy. As much as I like high character guys in the Hall of Fame, the whole idea of judging which players played baseball "the right way" in reference to the Steroid Era is too much of a convoluted argument to be looked at in black and white like it often is. Dale Murphy isn't good enough to be in the Hall of Fame.

Tim Raines: Yes. He was one of those players who always scared me. He played 23 seasons and had career averages of .294 with 57 stolen bases and 93 runs. He had six straight seasons of 70-plus steals and the 808 in his career rank fifth all time. For some reason, he has been kept out.

I'm not sure I could have written this better...except for the whole "who always scared me" part. That seems too subjective for me. Tim Raines should be in.

Lee Smith: Yes. But it’s close.

I generally think the saves statistics is overrated. Should Lee Smith get credit for being one of the first and most effective closers in modern day? Maybe. His career ERA of 3.03 is pretty good. I just don't know if he will get in.

But he led the National League in saves four times and his 478 saves rank third in history. Isn’t that worth something?

Possibly. I would most likely vote "no" for Smith. It isn't because he was a bad closer or I hate saves, I just am not sure saves should be the majority reason he gets in the Hall of Fame.

Larry Walker: No. Much like my aversion to career designate hitters (Martinez), I’m predisposed to giving the stink eye to guys who build career numbers in the thin air of Colorado. Walker hit 258 homers and batted .334 in 10 years with the Rockies. He hit 125 homers and batted .282 in eight seasons in Montreal and St. Louis.

To be fair, Walker played the prime of his career in Colorado from the ages of 28 to 36. Walker played in Montreal from the ages of 22 to 27 and with the Cardinals from the ages of 37-38. So while I can understand how the Coors Effect may factor into the decision-making, it is very difficult to ignore the idea Walker played in Colorado during the years when he should have been putting up his best career numbers. It doesn't ruin Schultz's point about Walker, I am just pointing out Walker put up the best numbers of his career in Colorado, which was also the prime of his career.

Still, I have to admit Walker's home/road splits are pretty tough to justify there wasn't some Coors Effect:

Home (3429 at-bats): .348/.431/.637 with 215 home runs.
Road (3478 at-bats): .278/.370/.495 with 168 home runs.

Bernie Williams: No. Another very good player, but that’s it. If his vote total becomes inflated, it’s because he played for the Yankees.

Much like Don Mattingly's vote total would be inflated because he played for the Yankees?

I want to play a game. Let's look at Mattingly's career totals next to Bernie Williams career totals. Just for shits and giggles.

Don Mattingly: 14 seasons, .307/.358/.471, 222 home runs, 1099 RBI's, 7721 plate appearances, 7 All-Star Games, 1 MVP, 9 Gold Gloves, 39.8 career WAR, 127 OPS+.

Bernie Williams: 16 seasons, .297/.381/.477, 287 home runs, 1069 RBI's, 9053 plate appearances, 5 All-Star Games, 4 Gold Gloves, 47.3 career WAR, 125 OPS+.

Clearly there is a difference in plate appearances but Mattingly would average 20 home runs and 100 RBI's 53 walks and 40 strikeouts if averaging his career statistics over a 162 game season, while Bernie Williams would average 22 home runs and 98 RBI's, 83 walks and 95 strikeouts over 162 games.

They seem to be somewhat similar hitters. I don't think Bernie Williams deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but Mattingly would essentially get in because of an MVP, five more Gold Gloves, and 2 more All-Star Game appearances. Winning personal awards is what helps a player's Hall of Fame candidacy, so this may make perfect sense. Bernie certainly has the advantage in team championships, but I'm not sure how much that should really count. I personally don't believe either player should be in the Hall of Fame.

Eric Young: No. Played for 15 seasons. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

No Eric Young? Then this is no Hall of Fame I ever care to set foot upon.

I have a question anyone who wants to answer. Wallace Matthews has given his readers a chance to talk him into Bernie Williams being voted into the Hall of Fame on Matthews' ballot. I have a hard time figuring out what I think about this.

On one hand, I think a more well-informed Hall of Fame ballot can't ever be a bad thing. Soliciting reader's opinions on Williams may help better flesh out his candidacy for Wallace Matthews. A reader could point out a fact or a comparison that would better put Williams' candidacy in a more positive or more negative light.

On the other hand, Wallace Matthews has a ballot for a reason. He is supposed to be smart and well-versed enough to be able to vote independently about Williams' credentials to decide if he gets elected into the Hall of Fame or not. If a voter needs the public to help him flesh out Williams' candidacy then that voter may not deserve to vote for players in the Hall of Fame. What's the point of having baseball experts vote for the Hall of Fame if they rely on non-experts to help them make a case for a player?

I wondered what everyone's position on Wallace Matthews soliciting the opinion of others on Bernie Williams was.


ivn said...

for some reason, I love Hall of Fame debates in baseball but not for any other sport.

I still think you have to have to have better way to prove PED use than Potter Stewart's method of identifying pornography. (side note: I wouldn't Google "supreme court pornography" at work)

I also think Hall of Fame voters have to stop pretending the designated hitter doesn't exist. I admit I'm biased, because Edgar Martinez is one of my all-time favorite players, but there are players in the Hall based almost entirely on their defense and there are players in the Hall who were below-average defensive players.

For the most part, a player generally doesn't have much of a choice as to what position he plays — that's something decided by the organization. Edgar's job was to hit, and he did it very well: 95th all time in batting average, 22nd in on-base percentage, 66th in slugging average (34th in OPS and 44th in OPS+), and 64th in offensive WAR. Whether the BBWA wants to admit it or not, the DH has been a part of baseball for 40 years, and Edgar is one of the very best to ever play.

And if we're allowed to use "the fact that the Atlanta-Fulton Stadium press box caught on fire the day the Braves traded for him," in Fred McGriff's favor, then I feel obligated to say that Edgar is given credit for helping save baseball in Seattle. So there's that.

By the way, thank you for pointing out how hypocritical it is to vote for Mattingly but leave Bernie Williams out. And for what it's worth, I do prefer what Wallace Matthews is doing to Murray Chass's "I have a vote and you don't, so I'm smarter than you," logic. Although Chass seems to be your Moriarty, so I'm sure you'd be the first to agree.

ivn said...

also, I looked up Jack Morris's stats. In 18 seasons, he led the league in wins twice (once in a strike-shortened year), complete games once, shutouts once, innings pitched once, and strikeouts once. He had a few nice years but never seemed all that dominant.

Funny how he's championed by writers who are fond of saying, "It's not the Hall of Very Good," when he's got a first-ballot resume for it.

rich said...

Juan Gonzalez: No.

The thing about the HOF is that I think it should be reserved for players that transcend their eras. You say Mantle or Ruth or Schmidt or Ripken and people know who you're talking about regardless of how old they are.

Honestly? I completely forgot about Juan Gonzalez being a major league baseball player. When you see his plaque in the HOF are you thinking to yourself "I remember watching this guy play and it was amazing?" Probably not.

Fred McGriff: Yes.

McGriff is on the complete opposite side of Gonzalez for me. I remember McGriff playing and I remember him being really good, but HOF? I don't know.

His career high in HRs is 36 in an era where people were hitting 50+, so I don't know if the 490+ HRs is really "HOF worthy" stuff.

Jack Morris: Yes.

Morris played 18 seasons, good for an average of an incredible 14.1 wins a year. He has a career ERA+ of 105 and a career WHIP of 1.3. Those aren't very good numbers for a staff ace, let alone a HOFer.

Oh, right, but he has that win against Smoltz in the WS. Cole Hamels should be in the HOF b/c he pitched in the rain delayed game in the 2008 WS! Congratulations Cole!

And yes, he should get points for not juicing and representing the game the right way.

So not only are we going to punish the suspected juicers, but we're going to also give the ones who didn't (although they may have, we'll never know) an advantage?

I mean, I could see one or the other, but both?

Wallace Matthews has given his readers a chance to talk him into Bernie Williams being voted into the Hall of Fame on Matthews' ballot. I have a hard time figuring out what I think about this.

Well here's my thing. Twenty years ago, this would have been okay in my opinion since you wouldn't have had the same coverage of sports or the same ability to watch certain teams.

However, if you're talking about today's era when you can pay 300 bucks a year to watch all of the games (and if you're a baseball writer, you'd think this would be a good thing to have), then no. Even if you don't want to fork over the money for that, there are only two networks that televise games nationally (Fox and ESPN) during the week and then you can catch highlights from the internet or ESPN... there's no excuse to not know about anyone who is considered a borderline HOFer.

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, I am the same way. I don't like HoF debates in other sports. I don't know of the best way for PED users. I lean towards just saying let them into the HoF no matter what. I don't think we should judge player by player. Should McGriff not be in b/c he wasn't linked to PEDs, though that doesn't mean he didn't use PEDs of course?

I'm not a big Edgar fan, but I wouldn't mind if he got in. I don't agree w/ the idea he didn't play defense and that's why he shouldn't be in for the very reason you state. There are bad defenders in the HoF.

You can't vote Mattingly in, but leave Bernie out. They seem to be fairly similar hitters. Clearly, Mattingly has Bernie in personal achievements, but Bernie also played right in the middle of the Steroid Era. So if we are going to penalize players for using PEDs, shouldn't we give Bernie a boost for being clean? If he didn't go up against PED users would he have more AS appearances or been higher in the MVP vote? Who knows? It's speculation, but for me, it is hard to put Mattingly in and just say Bernie absolutely shouldn't be in. I don't think either should be in.

I was originally against Wallace's way of doing it, but at least he is somewhat open-minded. I don't like he has to ask others their opinion of Bernie, but at least he isn't as closed-minded as Murray Chass.

I'm just not a Jack Morris fan. It's not only that he wasn't dominant, but he just wasn't one of the best pitchers of his era...wins be damned.

Rich, for me McGriff is probably like Jack Morris. He was really good for a while, but I don't think he is one of the best players of all-time.

You bring up great points about Morris. What's worse is even in his best years he wasn't a great pitcher. His best year was probably 1986 and he had a 3.27 ERA and 1.165 WHIP. That's his BEST year. He was a really good pitcher who completed a lot of games. That's about it for me.

I guess that's my point. Why give Fred McGriff an advantage for not juicing b/c he didn't get caught? Bagwell didn't get caught and he is getting punished. So at what point is speculation proof of PED use? No players should get more points for being "clean." We don't know who was or wasn't clean.

That is a good point as well. I don't hate Wallace did this, but it does bug me a bit he is supposed to be qualified enough to make the decision. Still, at least he is open-minded about voting.

Pat said...

In what state of mind can you convince yourself that Edgar Martinez should not be in the Hall of Fame because he was a career DH and thus, according to that logic, only a part time player and on the same ballot trumpet Lee Smith. A reliever, especially a closer, is the definition of a limited player which writers love to throw out against Martinez's candidacy.

Bengoodfella said...

Pat, not a bad observation. I was against Edgar being in the HoF. I would vote no, but only because I'm a snob and I probably shouldn't have a vote for that reason. I haven't ever bought the "he didn't play defense" reason for not letting a DH in the HoF. Partially because relievers are part-time players and because starters only pitch every fifth day as well. So they are, in a way, a part-time player.

I would leave out Edgar for other reasons, not because of his being a DH. Some writers probably don't realize their reasoning doesn't make sense.