Tuesday, February 12, 2013

6 comments Hall of Very Good Alert for Steve Garvey

Let's start off with a comparison of two baseball players.

Player A: 2332 games played, 1143 runs, 2599 hits, 440 doubles, 272 home runs, 1308 RBI, 83 stolen bases, .294/.329/.446 career line, one MVP award, five Top-10 MVP award finishes, four Gold Gloves, and 10 All-Star Games over 19 seasons.

Player B: 2557 games played, 1285 runs, 2586 hits, 407 doubles, 173 home runs, 1194 RBI, 281 stolen bases, .298/.365/.417 career line, zero MVP awards, zero Top-10 MVP award finishes, zero Gold Gloves and 3 All-Star Games over 23 seasons.

Obviously these two players aren't directly comparable. Player A was a player seen as having a bigger yearly impact given his MVP award finishes and All-Star game appearances, but Player B played 225 more games over his career and had similar statistics to Player A. It seems the big differences are in MVP award finishes, Gold Gloves, and All-Star appearances. Two of those three categories are essentially popularity contests, especially in the age Player A played, which consisted of 1969-1987. Player B played from 1982-2007, right in the middle of the Steroid Era, so I am sure he could be suspected of steroid use. My basic point is Player B played in an era when home run and offensive numbers were jacked up, which I suspect prevented him from making an All-Star appearance or two. Regardless, All-Star Game appearances and Gold Gloves are popularity contests and those are the two major categories that separate these two players.

So Player A is Steve Garvey, who Steve Wulf thinks should be in the Hall of Fame, while Player B is Julio Franco, who Steve Wulf doesn't mention at all in terms of deserving to be in the Hall of Fame...and rightfully so. I don't think either player deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and Steve Garvey should be a founding member of the annoyingly titled "Hall of Very Good."

The Hall of Fame would have no trouble writing the plaque:

"Steve Garvey was pretty good for a while. There are a lot of other players who were much better than Garvey but we suspect they cheated. So because there were cheaters who cheated, we have lowered the standards for the Hall of Fame. Garvey was pretty good for a while. Fuck you Fred McGriff. You were clean and can't sniff the Hall of Fame."


Irrelevant. The inability to not get injured doesn't make Steve Garvey a bigger contributor to baseball history.


The All-Star Game is a popularity contest.


It's easy to not commit an error if you don't make an effort to get to a ground ball. I'm not saying Steve Garvey did this, and while consecutive games without an error streaks are impressive, again, he doesn't hold this record any more and this isn't impressive enough to merit his Hall of Fame induction.

The problem with Steve Garvey, though, is that he's not going to Cooperstown anytime soon,

No, the problem with Steve Garvey is there are three first basemen (off the top of my head) who deserve induction before he does. Jeff Bagwell, Don Mattingly, and Fred McGriff deserve induction before Steve Garvey deserves induction.

"I don't think I was imagining it," said George Brett, who is in the club. "I know I read a lot of stories about 'future Hall of Famer' Steve Garvey."

Because we all know if sportswriters write "future Hall of Famer" a few times in front of a player's name during his playing career that means the player definitely deserves induction once he retires. Sportswriters couldn't be wrong about something this serious, could they?

For a lot of us who saw him on a regular basis, Garvey was a clutch hitter who could hit for average or power, depending on what the Dodgers needed;

There are three parts of the "traditionalist" argument for a player's Hall of Fame induction contained in this sentence.

1. You had to see Garvey play in order to appreciate him. If you didn't watch him, there's no way you appreciated him. His statistics only tell part of the story. The other part of the story is anecdotal evidence based on that sportswriter's recollection of how impactful that player was and you will never understand this because you didn't see the player play.

2. He was super-duper clutchy. Like really clutchy in certain cherry-picked circumstances.

3. He was a team player. He would hit a home run if the Dodgers needed that or get on-base if the Dodgers needed that. Sometimes a home run just clears the bases out, killing a rally, so Garvey was happy to provide a base hit in lieu of a rally killing home run.

and a paragon who played the game the right way and treated people with consideration.

Garvey treated people the right way as long as you weren't married to him or were owed money by him. Outside of his personal and business life, Garvey treated everyone with consideration. He considered whether to not pay debts he owed and then he considered whether it would feel nice to cheat on his spouse. Do these things mean he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame? Of course not, but don't say he treated people with consideration when there is a record that says the opposite.

I don't even know what "played the game the right way" means. Were there Dodgers players showing up to the ball park on game days trying to field a ground ball with a fishing rod or something? This phrase is bullshit for when a writer isn't competent enough to find something more interesting to say about a player.

He single-handedly carried his second team, the Padres, into the 1984 World Series --

Tony Gwynn and his .351 average is sad to learn he didn't contribute to the World Series run. The Padres pitchers, all of whom who had more than 31 starts and four of them had ERA's below 4.00, are also sad to learn they didn't contribute to that Padres team at all. It was Steve Garvey, he of the .284/.307/.373 line, that singlehandedly got the Padres to the World Series. Garvey had a great NLCS, but the Padres didn't win 92 games solely because of him. Plus, Steve Wulf is cherry-picking the shit out of some statistics by leaving out how Garvey hit .200/.200/.300 in the 1984 World Series. This part of the cherry-picking of statistics that goes on among traditionalists in order to advocate for their player of choice.

when "The Natural" was shown on a plane from Chicago to San Diego for the start of the Series, the passengers chanted, "Gar-vey! Gar-vey!" at the climax.

Then Garvey went on to stink it up in the World Series. But since the passengers on a plane chanted Garvey's name, that definitely should count on Garvey's Hall of Fame resume since it is so incredibly relevant and isn't anecdotal evidence at all.

In Bill James' seminal book on the Hall of Fame, "The Politics of Glory," first published in 1995, he used a point system called the Hall of Fame Monitor to predict which current and recently retired players would be voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He had Garvey going into the Hall in 1997, along with Phil Niekro. But Garvey would never finish higher than fourth (1996), or come close to the 75 percent of the vote needed for induction (a high of 42.6 percent in '95), even though he did outpoll future HOFers Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter and Bert Blyleven in some years.

Oh sure, now traditionalist Steve Wulf uses Bill James' research as empirical evidence something is true when it fits the point Wulf wants to prove. Bill James and Sabermetricians are the enemy when what they write doesn't match the conclusion Steve Wulf wants to reach. Sabermetrics are stupid unless they can be used to prove a point a traditionalist writer wants to prove.

"To be honest, I am disappointed," Garvey said. "I always thought of my career as a body of work and not just about numbers."

Yes, but your body of work is your numbers. Perhaps I am stupid, but I don't get how I am supposed to evaluate Steve Garvey's body of work and not make it about the numbers. I'm not sure what else the Hall of Fame committee should consider. Morality? Well, Dale Murphy should be in way before Steve Garvey. He didn't cheat? Again, there is a list of players who didn't cheat at least 10 players long who would get in before Garvey.

What happened to Garvey is partly schadenfreude: Writers turned on him for a complicated personal life that smudged an image so golden that he once had a middle school named after him.

Well, if Garvey doesn't want it to be all about the numbers then he will have to accept this as part of the consideration. If Garvey wants his "body of work" to represent him, not his statistics, and this means we look at the 10 All-Star Game appearances he made only...well that's just dumb. All-Star Game appearances should not be the main argument for a player entering the Hall of Fame.

But he's also one of the great players from that period who have been hurt by the inflation of statistics fueled by the increasing use of PEDs,

This is a lie. Plain and simple. Garvey fell off the ballot after his 15th year on the ballot in 2007. There were no accused PED users eligible for the Hall of Fame from 1992-2007. Well, maybe there was 1-2 suspected users, but none made it into the Hall of Fame at the expense of Steve Garvey. Garvey had 15 years of not being compared to PED users, including six years of eligibility before the Steroid Era even began, to get voted into the Hall of Fame and he failed to make it. Steve Wulf is lying. In reality, Garvey didn't make the Hall of Fame because of his statistics pre-Steroid Era.

which happened to coincide with the HOF eligibility for the earlier era. And, as Garvey points out, "That was also a period when the veteran writers who relied on what they saw gave way to younger writers who focused on statistics."

What the fuck does Steve Garvey want us to focus on? He doesn't want anyone to focus on statistics, but to focus on "what they saw" to get him into the Hall of Fame. I saw Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, Fred McGriff, Tim Raines, Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly, and Edgar Martinez play and they all deserve to be in the Hall of Fame before Steve Garvey does.

Now Garvey is lying. The so-called "Statistical Revolution" didn't begin until 2002 or so. Why wasn't he elected to the Hall of Fame during the years of 1992-2002? Voters weren't relying on statistics at that point. Garvey is simply in denial. His numbers didn't qualify him and what the voters saw, those who voted based on "what they saw" didn't qualify him to make the Hall of Fame.

The irony, of course, is that the writers are now punishing the players whose numbers they feel were artificially bolstered. Wouldn't it be nice if they could channel their disillusionment into a more positive re-examination of those who have been relegated to the scrap heap?

Absolutely, let's do this. Garvey would be further down this list as well, especially considering some of the players up for Hall of Fame induction over the next three or four years. I would vote for at least six other borderline players before I voted for Garvey. He's not good enough, deal with it. Maybe if Wulf and Garvey try hard enough they can find a criteria that would allow Garvey to make the Hall of Fame, but I doubt it.

Not to diminish Jim Rice, but as someone who covered Parker and Rice in their primes, I can testify that Parker was the superior player in almost every regard.

Is this based on the super-special "I saw him play" criteria that can't be quantified or is this based on the idea of comparing the two player's numbers? If it is based on statistics, then Rice appears to be slightly superior to Parker.

"It would've been nice to have gone as a fellow Hall of Famer. I think I belong there. Let's put it this way -- on almost every team I played, I was 'The Guy' or one of them. The system needs to be changed."

Right, the Hall of Fame should use "The Guy" criteria to vote players into the Hall of Fame. Whatever the hell kind of bullshit criteria this is. It tells you a lot about Dave Parker that he thinks he was "The Guy" on on Pirates teams with Willie Stargell and he also thinks he was "The Guy" on the A's teams that had Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

Voters need to take a closer look at players they may have bypassed because they didn't see them.

But if they didn't see them play then how the hell are they supposed to reconsider them? Trust the memory of sportswriters from 30 years ago that this player was Hall of Fame-worthy? Memories can't be wrong, can they?

And just as they agonize over what the "Valuable" means in Most Valuable Player, they need to think about what the "Fame" in Hall of Fame really means. (Uh, 10 All-Star Games is a pretty good definition.)

So we should vote in famous players too. Gotcha. Let's see, Steve Howe is pretty famous for his drug problems and he tested the Major League Baseball drug policy, so I can assume he is a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame. And no, All-Star Game selections are not an indication of "fame," but rather an indication of popularity to be voted onto a team for purposes of an exhibition game. All-Star voting also tells us the strength of a certain position on the baseball field in both the American and National League.

"I know voters are worried about steroids this year," Garvey said. "I would much rather they think about the shot of adrenaline that a few more players would give the Hall of Fame."

I think that is absolutely a great idea, which is why Fred McGriff, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Jack Morris (it pains me, it really does, but I would vote him in before Garvey) should be voted in this year. In fact, let's put Edgar Martinez in there as well. Yep, Steve Garvey and Steve Wulf, even if the Hall of Fame opens up to let more non-steroid players get inducted, then Steve Garvey is still down the waiting list.

Perhaps Garvey's career isn't forgotten, it just wasn't Hall of Fame-worthy?


Dale Murphy said...

There was a lot of PR baloney that passed as fact back in those pre-internet days. It was constantly espoused by Scully and Doggett that "The Garv" bled Dodger Blue. Playing in LA certainly helped his selection to All Star teams. If memory serves, I believe Steve had a weak arm and generally didn't like throwing to start or finish the double play at second because it might lead to those image and Gold Glove besmirching throwing errors.

Congrats on your finding your groove lately and producing great stuff. I would only fault your proclivity for mentioning Atlanta Braves players.

Eric C said...

Bill Freehan was on the roster for 11 all-star games and won 5 gold gloves and received 0.5% of the vote his only year on the ballot. Garvey was a very good player, but look at his top 10 comps on BBRef:

Garret Anderson (913)
Al Oliver (889)
John Olerud (865)
Ruben Sierra (859)
Mickey Vernon (857)
Bill Buckner (855)
Cecil Cooper (853)
Orlando Cepeda (853) *
Will Clark (849)
Mark Grace (847)

That is basically the hall of very good right there.

Oh wait I referenced a Web site with statistics, so my point has no value. Got to go, mom wants me to get out of the basement.

Bengoodfella said...

Dale, I know. I am sensitive to mentioning Braves players, but it is hard. McGriff is the typical borderline Hall of Famer, Murphy was a boy scout and great guy so he makes an easy comparison to players from the steroid era when discussing players who should get in because they were good people, and Glavine/Smoltz/Maddux are all coming up for induction soon. I do use them as a comparison a lot though.

I actually don't think of a McGriff as a Brave oddly. Well, I do sort of, but also think of him as a Blue Jay for some reason.

I can't see how Garvey should get in, especially if the new "morality clause" is any way used against him.

Eric, yep. Those are all guys who were very good, but not good enough for the Hall of Fame. I think Garvey's reputation helps him out in the eyes of some. He was a nice guy, blah, blah...

Anonymous said...

During Steve Garvey's 7 YEAR PEAK as a player (1974-1980), he hit .311/.348/.480, a wOBA of .366 and a wRC+ of 130 ...... Yes, the definition of VERY GOOD but not GREAT.

Not to rub more salt in your Braves wounds, but this just reminds me of any argument for Dale Murphy. Yes, they had high peaks relative to players at their position, but those peak years were sandwiched between mediocrity. It just adds up to, again, a VERY GOOD but not GREAT or HOF worthy career.

And for the record, I think John Olerud has a much more interesting case for inclusion looking at his numbers (CAREER wRC+ of 130, excellent defender, ton of longevity, modestly high peak of 36.3 fWAR from 1993-1999)

Cory Gibson

waffleboy said...

Let's assume we let Steve Garvey into what would they put on his plaque? It seems even Steve Wulf knows Garvey's stats are shaky at best, so what would you have for the fan coming to the Hall 50 years from now who had never heard of Steve Garvey to convince them that Steve was one of the games all time greats? Would they be a TV screen with a message besides it saying please watch the 8,000 hours of video tape from Steve's career, so you can see him doing it the "right way" every day?

Bengoodfella said...

Cory, there's no salt in my wound. I wanted to be Dale Murphy when I was little and named my goldfish after him. He was my baseball hero. Still, I know he isn't HoF material.

I don't like John Olerud and that's why I can't be a HoF voter. Olerud played for the Mets and Blue Jays. Screw him and his borderline good HoF numbers!

Waffle, yes. That's exactly what should happen. On his plaque it should talk about how he played the game the right way and you had to watch him to appreciate his greatness.