Posts Tagged ‘Larry Walker’

Nine Thoughts on the Class of 2019

January 23, 2019

Roy Halladay

The voters have spoken in both the Veteran’s Committee (whatever they call it today) and among the writers. There are six new member of the Hall of Fame. In keeping with my traditional use of nine, here’s a few thoughts on the class of 2019.

1. Congratulations to Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, and Lee Smith on their election to Cooperstown.

2. I’m gratified to see someone finally get all the votes in the BBWAA election. I’m certain Mariano Rivera shouldn’t have been the first (see, Ruth, Babe; Aaron, Henry), but I’m happy someone finally made it.

3. Mike Mussina came as close as you can to failing enshrinement. That’s a shame, he was a terrific pitcher who, like Sandy Koufax, quit when he seemed to still have plenty in the tank. I’d have liked to see more of him, but he made the decision he felt best for himself. So far, he doesn’t have the same glow as Koufax (as a pitcher who went out on top).

4. Harold Baines still is an awful choice, but I hope he, his family, and his fans enjoy the induction ceremony.

5. Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds failed inclusion again. They each got around 60% of the vote (actually 59.5 and 59.1). Clemens turned out to receive two more votes than Bonds. I’m not sure how you justify voting for one and not the other and I do not expect the 2 guys who did to explain it.

6. Which leads to the question, are they ever getting in? There are too many variables for me to make a valid prediction, but my guess (and that’s all it is) is that both will either make it in their 10th and final try so that the writers can say they punished them as long as the could, or that the writers will kick the can down the road and let the Veteran’s Committee make the call. That call will, of course, depend on who the preliminary committee puts on the ballot. That action should tell us what the keepers of the keys to the cathedral think of Clemens and Bonds.

7. Curt Shilling came closest to getting in of all the people not chosen. He’s moving steadily up and has three years remaining on the ballot. I think that bodes well for his election. Listen, I don’t think much of his politics, and I’d hate for him to espouse them at a Cooperstown ceremony, but enshrinement should be based on his career, not his politics.

8. Larry Walker has one year left on the ballot and made a major jump this time. Maybe he makes it in 2020.

9. Fred McGriff missed out for the 10th and final time. Look for him to appear on the next ballot for which he is eligible. With the support he got this time, there’s a good chance he gets in (see Smith, Lee).

 

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Thoughts on the 2019 Hall of Fame Ballot

November 23, 2018

Mike Mussina with the Orioles

Alright, I know you people have been breathlessly waiting to see who I think the writers ought to add to the Hall of Fame. Well, not being one to disappoint, at least not too often, here we go. As usual, I figure if they’re going to give me 10 votes, I’m going to take them.

In no particular order:

1. Mariano Rivera–if you have to ask why, you haven’t been paying attention.

2. Todd Helton–will be hurt by playing in Coors Field and being a gap power guy, but he was a good first baseman and an excellent hitter. I think he ought to be in, but I also think it may take a while. His WAR is 61.2.

3. Roy Halladay–first off, the playoff no-hitter will help a lot. Not getting a ring may offset that. His 65.5 WAR will help, as will the two Cy Young Awards (and two runners-up). I’m not sure whether his death will lead to a sympathy vote or not. It seems to help some guys and not help others. I also think that some of the writers will focus on his two seasons with 20 wins, while on the other hand, he never won an ERA or strikeout title.

4. Lance Berkman–frankly I’m not convinced Berkman is a Hall of Famer, but he’s a player I really liked and I’d like to see him get a second (and third, and…) chance so the writers can get more  time to evaluate him. A winner with both Houston and St. Louis and a valuable member of the 2011 World Series winner. He also has an RBI title and one doubles crown (both with Houston).

And the holdovers:

5. Edgar Martinez–sorry, guys, but designated hitter is a position and he was the best at it. It’s also his last chance before the Veteran’s Committee.

6. Mike Mussina–has a lot of good stats, both traditional and new age. For the old guys, he has a lot of wins. For the new guys his WAR is 82.9. He has one wins title and one 20 game win season (not the same season). A knock on him is that he was never a member of a championship team.

7. Curt Schilling–certainly was a member of championship teams, three of them. He is instrumental in breaking “The Curse of the Bambino” (if you believe in things like that), and he has the “Bloody Sock” (which is kinda like the “Bloody Shirt” after the Civil War). He also led his league in both strikeouts and wins twice. His WAR is 80.6, which exceeds a lot of Hall of Fame pitchers. But he has political opinions that are, in some quarters, unacceptable. He’s not being chosen for the Hall of Great Political Scientists, fellas. There are a lot greater rogues in the Hall than Schilling. I think it will probably hurt him at least one more time.

8. Scott Rolen–a much better third baseman than most people realize. He followed Mike Schmidt, wasn’t Schmidt (neither was anyone else), and was never forgiven for it. He did pick up a ring in 2006 with St. Louis (and had a fine World Series). I’ll bet most people don’t know his WAR is 70.2. He was a Rookie of the Year, but never led his league in any major hitting category, but he does have seven Gold Gloves and unlike a lot of winners, deserved most of them.

9. Larry Walker–super arm and a terrific hitter, but he, like Helton, played a lot of his career in Coors Field. He won an MVP and two batting titles there. He also moved to St. Louis late in his career and did well. He hit .357 in his only World Series (a loss). Unfortunately, he has no huge home run number nor RBI number to impress writers, but a 141 OPS+ and 72.7 WAR ought to get someone’s attention.

10. Jeff Kent–has an MVP, but it was controversial at the time. Has a lot of home runs for a second baseman, but wasn’t all that great a second baseman. He made one World Series (two years following his MVP year) and had a good series, but the team lost. He has the advantage of being arguably the best second baseman of his era. Not sure that’s enough to get him elected, certainly not this time.

So there it is, my list. And if they don’t all make it, the writer’s are wrong (and I’m, of course, right). My guess is we’ll see about 3 elected this time (just a guess).

Random Musings on the Class of 2018

January 25, 2018

A few random thoughts on the Hall of Fame Class of 2018:

1. First, congratulations to Jack Morris, Alan Trammell of the Veteran’s Committee and Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, and Jim Thome on election to the Hall of Fame.

2. There is a certain amount of hope for both Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina for next year. Both showed a rise in percentage of votes, with Martinez landing over 70%. He ended up 19 votes short of election.

3. The bad news for Martinez is next year is his last year on the writers ballot. At 70% it should still be relatively easy for him to make the Hall.

4. The next three guys down ballot were Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens. The one I’m most interested in is Schilling. It seems his post career activities are hurting him (some writers admit it) and I’m not sure whether to accept that as a legitimate concern or not. The “character clause” is so ill-defined as to allow for about anything to be considered “good character” or “bad character” and doesn’t seem to know whether those definitions (such as they are) involve on the field issues, baseball related issues, or just about everything a fellow does. Is having unpopular political views “bad character” or not? Is cheating on your wife “bad character” or not? I have my opinion, but it’s strictly my opinion and it seems the Hall is allowing every voter to have his “my opinion” and that leads to all sorts of swings in meaning. Personally, I presume the “character clause” to relate strictly to those things that directly effect a player’s baseball career. I’m not sure how much Babe Ruth running around on his first wife changed what he did on the field (maybe yes, maybe no). I do know that Joe Jackson joining in throwing a World Series (and that’s 100 years next year) effected baseball. I also know that we may not think much of Ty Cobb’s views of race, but in 1910 a lot of people agreed with him (it’s possible to say he was even in the majority in 1910), so we have to be careful how much the standards of our time effect how we look at players who played even just a few years back.

5. The purging of voters and adding of new guys didn’t seem to help either Clemens or Bonds much. They’re up a little with four years remaining on the ballot. It will be interesting to see how much movement there is over the four years. It’s possible they’ll get there in four years, but I’m still betting on the writer’s kicking it to the Veteran’s Committee and letting them make a final decision. That could be particularly interesting as the Hall does present the Committee with a ballot and forces them to confine their vote to the 10 people listed. The appearance of any of the steroid boys on a ballot (McGwire would come first) will tell us something about the Hall’s own stand on the issue.

6. Next year is a walk over for Mariano Rivera. The guy I’m most interested in his Todd Helton. He played in Colorado and that seems to matter a lot to voters. We’ll see what happens (see Walker, Larry).

7. I love the idea of “light” votes and “dark” votes. That’s the way they’re describing the votes. Light votes are those that were published prior to election and dark votes aren’t. Kinda catchy. I wonder if anyone’s tried to use “Hey, kid, I have a dark ballot for the Hall of Fame” as a pickup line?

The Hall elections are always fun and next year promises more of the same. Ain’t it grand?

Watching the Tracker

January 22, 2018

Jim Thome

Wednesday marks the announcement of the latest class in the Hall of Fame. It appears to be a significant class.

I’ve been following along with the balloting by checking in on a Hall of Fame Tracker run by Ryan Thibodaux. He scours the internet and social media looking for Hall of Fame voters who announce their ballot early. He then posts a running total without commentary. It’s a quick and convenient way to keep track of who’s in and who’s out.

As I type this he’s recorded a little less than 50% of the total voters. It’s possible to see as many as six or as few as three players enshrined in Cooperstown. Polling at over 90% (remember that’s 90% of the 50% recorded, not 90% of the total vote) are Vlad Guerrero, Chipper Jones, and Jim Thome. Edgar Martinez is at 80% while both Trevor Hoffman and Mike Mussina are in the 70% range (Hoffman just over 75% and Mussina just under the magic line). Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds are all in the 60% range, with Schilling being just ahead of the other two. Larry Walker is the only other player above 40%.

Depending on the way the other 50% of the vote goes Martinez and Hoffman are currently in and Mussina will just miss. The other three would almost have to totally whiff on the rest of the votes to fail election.

I’m not sure what I think of all this. I’m not a supporter of the “steroid boys” getting elected, so I’m OK with them waiting another year. I’m happy to see Walker doing well and thrilled that Edgar Martinez is finally getting his due. Even if he doesn’t make it this year, it’s a good sign for next year. And Hoffman I would support, but he’d be toward the bottom of my list of 10. He’d certainly come in below Mussina. But it’s also a good sign that Moose is moving up the line enough. We might see him jump over the magic 75% next year (or just maybe this year). I also wonder how much the utterly ill-defined “character clause” is effecting Schilling. Don’t care much for his politics, but they’re not electing him mayor, they’re electing him to the baseball Hall of Fame.

So there the vote stand less than a week from the big reveal. Good luck to all six who are close and the others can remember the old Brooklyn cry, “Wait ’til next year.”

 

Having just gone through a major family crisis, I’ve been away from here for a while (except for the post just below). Although the problem isn’t yet completely solved we’re mostly through it, so I hope to get back to something like a regular musing again. Thank you for your patience.

2017 Hall of Fame Ballot

December 5, 2017

 

Chipper Jones

I’ve spent the last while waxing wonderful (I do that, you know) about the Modern Era Veteran’s Committee’s upcoming vote, that I’ve basically set the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot on the back burner. As I can pretty much only do one thing at a time anymore (doing two things at once is now doing three too many), that was the right thing for me. But now it’s time to weigh in on the players who will be announced in January.

The rules allow for 10 picks and as I believe in voting as many times as they’ll let me I’m picking 10 guys again this year. Some years because of a weak ballot, that’s not the best idea in the world, but this year there are a lot of really worthy candidates for the Hall so I’ve actually had to eliminate some I might otherwise at least consider. Normally I write-up short blurbs attempting to justify my choice of a particular player for the Hall of Fame. Well, I’m tired, I’ve done it a gazillion times, so this year I’m going to skip it for most of my list. Because most of the list consists of holdovers from 2016. So seven of my picks are seven players I’ve chosen before: Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Shilling, and Larry Walker. If you want to know my reasons for each, find the post about this time last year when I wrote about each. Having written all that, there are still three spots on the 10 man ballot. All are new guys and all deserve a comment, in alphabetical order.

Chipper Jones: During my lifetime baseball has produced an inordinate number of truly great third basemen, Brook Robinson, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, Mike Schmidt, George Brett (in no particular order). Chipper Jones deserves recognition as a member of that group. He has an MVP award which maybe he shouldn’t, but there is nothing wrong with his statistics with either the bat or the glove. As “first ballot Hall of Famer” has become a thing, I think he probably deserves to be one of them.

Scott Rolen: Hear me out before you yelp. Rolen doesn’t have the big offensive numbers that guys like Jones, Mathews, and Schmidt have, but he was an excellent hitter. His OPS+ is 122, his offensive WAR is 52.1. That’s good enough for consideration. But he was an amazing defensive player. His defensive WAR is 20.6, he’s 11th in career assists, is top 20 in both double plays turned, and fielding percentage. He has a Rookie of the Year award (which he probably deserved). He’s going to have trouble making the Hall because he followed Schmidt at Philadelphia and he wasn’t Schmidt (but then neither was anyone else) and he’s up against Jones who was always more well known, played for a more popular team, and was flashier. I just want him to get enough votes so he’ll hang on the list. Then maybe voters will take time to look over his career and move him up the ballot and ultimately into the Hall.

Jim Thome: You get 600 home runs without a whiff of steroids in the steroid era you should automatically get consideration for the Hall of Fame. That’s Jim Thome. But he also has 1699 RBIs (what? He couldn’t stay around for one more?), an OPS of .956 with an OPS+ of 147, and 77.1 WAR. But then he struck out a lot, you say. Yeah, he did, but he also walked a lot, leading his league in both three times. And of course he got bigger as time went on (so did I, but I’m not talking about around the waist) and that surely will lead someone to go “Ah ha, steroids.” We’ll see how well he does. I expect him to stay on the list, if not be elected.

So there’s my list. I’m sticking with seven previous picks and adding three new ones. Good luck to all of them.

 

 

10 For the 2017 Hall of Fame

November 23, 2016
A Roy Campanella statue at the Hall of Fame

A Roy Campanella statue at the Hall of Fame

With the new Hall of Fame ballot out, it’s time to announce to a breathless, adoring audience my 10 picks for the Hall. I always vote for 10 no matter the list (well, I can make exceptions, but not many) because it gives me a chance to acknowledge a personal favorite who I know doesn’t seriously belong in Cooperstown (unless he pays for a ticket) but who deserves at least a mention as a stalwart. So now for the breathless and adoring crew (and the rest of you too) is the 2017 list:

1 Jeff Bagwell–after Albert Pujols the best first baseman in the last 30 years. One MVP award, a World Series appearance at the end of his career. There is some question about steroids, but not enough to worry me.

2. Trevor Hoffman–arguably the finest reliever in the National League. He’s second in saves, but has the same problem as any other reliever; too few innings pitched. I’d still take him as the best in NL history.

3. Jeff Kent–overlooked at second base. He’s something of a borderline case for me, but ultimately I think I’d take him. Has an MVP and lots of good numbers.

4. Edgar Martinez–came up late because the idiots at Seattle were idiots. Probably the best Designated Hitter ever. They named the DH Award for him (but then there’s an award for everything and you have to name them for somebody). I don’t hold being a DH against a player. It’s been a position for 40 years and isn’t going away so we’re going to have to deal with it.

5. Mike Mussina–has the problem of never winning a Series, or of having a lot of 20 win seasons. Still one of the better pitchers of the era although he gets lost behind Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Randy Johnson, etc.

6. Tim Raines–Please, Lord, it’s almost the end for his time on the ballot. Let the BBWAA finally figure out he was really, really, really good.

7. Curt Schilling–bloody sock or not, he was a terrific postseason pitcher, a premier pitcher on multiple pennant winning teams (don’t forget the Phils) and a consistent thrower. Unfortunately, his political views may create a problem for him, but remember he’s being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame not to the State House.

8. Larry Walker–I don’t want to hear about Coors Field. He was terrific in Montreal, great in Colorado, damned good on the road with the Rockies, and still pretty fair while with the Cardinals late in his career.

9. Vlad Guerrero–the Will Rogers of the late 20th Century. He never met a pitch he didn’t like. Not much of a fielder, but the man could hit a white ball in a snowstorm. I can’t imagine he gets in on the first try, but I’d take him.

10. Jorge Posada–catchers have lower numbers to begin with, but Posada was a mainstay on a ton of Yankees teams that won a lot of games. He fit the 1990s Yanks mold of being very good at a lot of things. Again, I don’t think he’ll make it (after all he’s not Yogi Berra or Bill Dickey) but Jeter wasn’t the only player on that team worthy of consideration.

All of which brings me to the question of who I left off. The obvious new name is Ivan Rodriguez. He’s one of the handful of players you can legitimately call the greatest catcher ever (although I wouldn’t), but there is the stench of steroids hanging over him. Until that is resolved he joins Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa as guys you couldn’t pay me to vote for (well, maybe for enough money). I’m sorry to have left off Fred McGriff who I think suffers from ending just short of 500 home runs and looking like a piker after the steroids era. I’d like to have thrown a vote toward Tim Wakefield. And frankly, I’d like to give J.D. Drew a shout out. He deserves remembering, but he’s not really a Hall of Famer.

That’s my list and I’m sticking to it.

2016 Hall of Fame Ballot and My Take

November 16, 2015

As usual, I have an opinion on this year’s Hall of Fame voting for the Class of 2016. And as is equally usual, I’m more than willing to share that opinion with the rest of the world; a world that I know is deathlessly waiting to hear exactly what I think on most anything. There is humility in my family; I just don’t have any of it.

Here’s my ballot for the Class of 2016 (are you reading, BBWAA?). As there’s still a limit of 10 votes, I’m going to continue my policy of “If they’re going to give me 10 votes, I’m gonna take ’em.” Here’s my picks, new guys first, in the order they show up on the Hall of Fame website.

Ken Griffey, Jr.–You had that one, right? There’ll be a lot of worshipful commentary on him, but let me remind you that after he left Seattle he was something of a mild bust. He had some good years, but was also hurt a lot. A lot of people thought he would run past Henry Aaron on the home run list, and he didn’t even make it beyond Willie Mays. Still, he’s exactly what they envisioned as a Hall of Famer way back when they started the place.

Trevor Hoffman–when he retired he had the record for most saves in MLB history. He’s since dropped to second, but remains one of only two men with 600 or more saves. Against his enshrinement is the fact that he only led the National League in saves twice in 18 years, didn’t do particularly well in the postseason, and seemed to blow a lot of saves in critical situations. I think he needs to get in pretty quickly because of the impending arrival of Mariano Rivera on the ballot. If he’s not in by then, he could have a lot of trouble making it.

Jim Edmonds–I’ve seen a lot of center fielders in my day (stretching back into the 1950s) and Edmonds is one of the very best I saw. He is, to me, one of the 10 top center fielders ever (although others will disagree) and should be in Cooperstown. Having said that, I can’t imagine he’ll make it this time because the “first ballot mythology” will leave him out, which beggars the question how’d he get better six years after his retirement than he was five years after his retirement?

And now the holdovers, again in the order they appear on the Hall of Fame website.

Mike Piazza–Probably the best hitting catcher ever. Not noted as having a particularly good arm, but not an absolute bust of a defensive catcher. He’s been steadily rising in the voting and this may be his year, but the entire steroid issue may cause him to fall short again.

Jeff Bagwell–other than Albert Pujols, he’s the very best first baseman I ever saw.

Tim Raines–Why the heck isn’t he already in?

Curt Schilling–Staff mainstay on multiple pennant winners and multiple World Series champions. He was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series and is famous for more than his bloody sock. An early opponent of steroids, his lack of wins and his comments on politics will probably make it hard for him to get in.

Edgar Martinez–Still the best Designated Hitter ever. As long as it’s a position on the team, a person holding it down cannot be excluded from the Hall of Fame simply because he plays it.

Alan Trammell–His last chance. I’ve supported him for 15 years and am not about to stop now. One of the best shortstops ever, one of the best of his era (better with a bat than Ozzie Smith and not that much weaker in the field), and the top Detroit shortstop in team history.

Larry Walker–He’s going to be hurt by Coors Field, but the arm was great whatever field he occupied. He won batting titles (and a home run title) only with Colorado, but was an All Star with Montreal also. He was still darned good the last two years in St. Louis including an excellent postseason in 2004 (not so much in 2005).

That’s the list. If the Hall had added the two positions requested by the writers I would probably have gone with Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent (but don’t hold me to that).  Of the new guys I’d like to see several (Kendall, Wagner, Eckstein, Anderson) get enough votes to stay around for a while so we can get multiple chances to look over their qualifications. I really can’t see any of them getting in, but I’d like to see them hang around. And I hope Fred McGriff stays on too. It is the last chance for Mark McGwire and I fully expect the writers to punt him (and the other steroid boys) down the road for the Veteran’s Committee to make the final decision. It’s a lot less hassle for the writers.

Feel free to disagree with my list.

My Picks for the 2015 Hall of Fame Vote

November 28, 2014

Every year I post, once the Hall of Fame ballot comes out, my choices for the Hall of Fame. As the Hall gives each voter 10 votes, I, in the grand tradition of Southern Politics, take every vote I can get. So I always vote for 10, knowing many fewer will make it. But I look at it this way, it’s a chance to produce my “Jim DeShaies Vote”. For those of you who don’t remember, DeShaies was a Houston pitcher who played long enough to get on the Hall of Fame ballot. He worked in broadcasting and in 2001 started a campaign to get a vote for the Hall. He got exactly one.

Knowing that half of you are having major heart palpitations and breathing problems waiting breathlessly (see what I mean about breathing problems?) for my announcement, here we go, in alphabetic order new guys first and holdovers later.

1. Randy Johnson–if you don’t know why, you haven’t been paying attention.

2. Pedro Martinez–see Johnson above.

3. John Smoltz–Smoltz was the third of the great Atlanta triumvirate (Maddux and Glavine being the others) of the 1990s. Unlike the other two he didn’t win 300 games. He did, however, produce 154 saves. With Atlanta usually having bullpen problems, Smoltz gave up his starter role and spent a bit more than three seasons working as the closer (primarily 2002-2004 and much of 2001 in the same role) . He led the NL in saves one of those years (2002). Later he went back to starting and led the NL in wins. He has a Cy Young Award. A couple of injuries and the three + years in the bullpen cost him a shot at 300 wins. I’d vote for him anyway.

Now the holdovers:

4. Jeff Bagwell–premier first baseman in the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st Century. Won an MVP in strike shortened 1994. Hit 449 home runs with 1529 RBIs in a 15 year career. Had nine seasons of 5+ WAR (Baseball Reference.com version) and two others just under five. His OPS+ is 149. He suffers from the taint of being a good power hitter in the steroid era.

5. Craig Biggio–teammate of Bagwell at Houston. Has 3000 hits, is fifth in career doubles (behind Speaker, Rose, Musial, and Cobb). Early in his career he was thrown out stealing a lot, but got much better as his career progressed. Led the NL in steals in 1994. He began as a catcher, moved to the outfield, and to second base. Many times a player is moved to hide his glove; in Biggio’s case he moved to fill a hole. He led the NL in both putouts and assists several times. His OPS+ is 112 and his WAR 65.1.

6. Edgar Martinez–Martinez is arguably the best DH ever. Baseball gives out an annual award for the best DH. In 2004, the award was named for Martinez. He won the award five times (David Ortiz has won it seven times). He won two batting titles, along with two doubles and one RBI title. His OPS+ is 147 and his WAR is 68.3 (despite spending almost no time in the field). Unlike a lot of people, I don’t degrade a player because he is a DH. If you think about it, most players are truly one-dimensional (pitchers generally don’t hit well, many hitters are terrible fielders) and by this time, the DH is so firmly established in the American League that I can’t imagine it being deleted any time soon. That being the case, I think we have to acknowledge the contribution of the DH.

7. Don Mattingly–It’s Mattingly’s last year on the ballot and I’ve voted for him every year so I’m not about to stop now. I know the career is short, but it is centered around a very high peak. His OPS+ is 127 and his WAR 42.2. He has a batting title, two hits titles, an RBI title, three doubles titles, and an MVP. He also hit .417 with a home run and six RBIs in his only postseason experience. And before anyone asks, I was supporting him long before he began managing the Dodgers.

8. Mike Piazza–Speaking of the Dodgers, I never thought I’d be able to say that it’s possible the greatest Dodgers catcher wasn’t Roy Campanella. But Piazza makes that a true possibility. One of the best hitting catchers, he was chided for not being a particularly good throwing catcher. That’s a particular problem when Campanella is the all time leader in caught stealing percentage (Piazza’s 23% isn’t in the top 400). But Piazza was Rookie of the Year, led the NL in OPS+ twice, hit 427 home runs, has an OPS+ of 143 and a 59.4 WAR (BTW his defensive WAR isn’t all that good, but it’s seldom a negative). He’s never going to get into the Hall on his fielding (few do) but he may be the best hitting catcher ever. As with Bagwell, the steroid era problems create difficulties in electing him.

9. Tim Raines–Raines is arguably the finest leadoff hitter in NL history. He won a batting title, led the league in runs four times, in doubles once, and picked up four stolen base titles. He had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Rickey Henderson and that’s always hurt his chances to be seen independently. There’s also a nomad phase to the end of his career that is fairly lengthy and pulls down a lot of his numbers. And then, of course, there’s the lupus issue that cost him a year and the drug problem that has hampered his case. He finished with a 123 OPS+ and 69.1 WAR.

10. Alan Trammel–You can easily argue that Trammell is the best shortstop in Detroit history. He helped the 1984 team to a World Series, then won the Series MVP. He finished second in the 1987 MVP race and garnered 12 first place votes in the process. As a shortstop he almost never led the AL in any major fielding stat, but was generally well into the upper half of the league in fielding. His OPS is 110 and his WAR is 70.4 (22.0 defensive WAR).

Who am I leaving out? Actually a lot of guys. Without picking any of the steroid boys, there’s still a lot of interesting names on this ballot. At various times I’ve touted the case for Mike Mussina, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker, and Jeff Kent. Now I can add in Nomar Garciaparra as someone I’d like to take a longer look at for addition to the Hall.

There you go, team. Now you pick ’em.

 

2014 Hall of Fame Picks

December 3, 2013
Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez

After taking some time to digest the new Hall of Fame ballot for 2014, it’s time to share with my adoring public (that would be you, team) my choices for enshrinement in Cooperstown. Remember, each voter is allowed to pick ten candidates, but may pick less. It’s a dumb rule because sometimes (not very often) there’s more than 10 good candidates, but it’s the rule. Believing that if they’re going to give me 10 votes, I’m going to take them. Here’s my list of 10. the new guys first.

Greg Maddux: If you have to ask why, you haven’t been paying attention.

Tom Glavine: see comment on Maddux above.

Frank Thomas: I’m tempted to make the same comment I just made on the two pitchers, but there’s more to Thomas that should be said. He was a leader in the fight against steroids, even trying to put together a voluntary anti-steroid testing. It failed, but it was a good effort. I think he played enough first base that his subsequent years as a designated hitter won’t be held against him. Besides, in this year of Auburn miracles (Thomas played tight end at Auburn) shouldn’t a former Auburn Tiger get in? 🙂

Jeff Bagwell:  Best 1st baseman in the last 25 years not named Pujols. Apparently worries about steroids have hurt him.

Craig Biggio: Got the 3000 hits that seems to be an automatic entry into Cooperstown. Played three positions (second base, catcher, and center field) and did credibly at all three. There seems to be no steroid questions about him. His team got to a number of playoffs without winning a championship. He did OK in some of the playoff series, not so good in others.

Mike Piazza: Best hitting catcher of the last 25 years, maybe ever (if you’re looking strictly at hitting). It’s his catching that is in question. He was considered sub par, but did lead his league in both putouts and assists a couple of times (and also in errors and passed balls). There are steroid questions about him, but no allegations that have been even vaguely substantiated. That makes him something of a poster boy for the whole steroid question. Did he or didn’t he?  I don’t know, but I’m guessing no. That makes this a vulnerable choice if he gets in and it’s later proved he took them.

Edgar Martinez: The ultimate DH. The knock is always that he didn’t do anything but hit. Well, neither did Ted Williams or any number of other marginal outfielders like Rickey Henderson. Got hung up in the Mariners minor league system (and you wonder why they don’t win) and came up somewhat late. Hit for average and for power. Before his legs gave out, he was getting better in the field, but was never going to be first-rate at third.

Don Mattingly: Over at “The On Deck Circle” website, Bill Miller makes an excellent case for Mattingly. Let me suggest you read it (see the blogroll at the right of this page for a link). I want to add one thing only to it. I’ve been concerned that Alan Trammell’s failure as Detroit manager has inhibited his chances for the Hall of Fame because it’s the last thing most of the writers saw him do. That’s a shame. By the same logic, Mattingly’s recent success with LA should not be used as a reason to add him to Cooperstown.

Jack  Morris: Big time pitcher from the 1980s and 1990s. I’ve  supported him for years and am not about to change my mind when it’s his last hurrah on the ballot.

Larry Walker: Gets knocked for his time in Coors Field , but was a great outfielder with a tremendous arm wherever he played. He hit well in Montreal in the early part of his career. Won an MVP while in Colorado. He hit better in Denver (who doesn’t?) but maintained good average and power numbers in visiting ballparks.

All of this brings me to the part of this year’s voting that I hate. I have to leave off a number of quality players that I might otherwise vote for enshrinement in Cooperstown. I think it’s a shame to leave out Tim Raines, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, and Jeff Kent, but I only get 10 votes (what an absurd rule). Maybe next year, fellas.

Which leads me to the man I don’t know what to do with: Hideo Nomo. I want to make a very fine distinction here. I believe Nomo is a Hall of Famer. I do not believe he is a Hall of Fame quality pitcher. He was a good pitcher, a solid pitcher. He won the Rookie of the Year award. He has a perfect game. He was good, just not great. So I cannot see putting him into Cooperstown as a player. But as a contributor to the game he is extremely important. Without him Ichiro Suzuki does not win an MVP or a Rookie of the Year award. Hedeki Matsui does not become a World Series MVP. Yu Darvish does not become one of the most feared pitchers in the American League. Without Nomo blazing the trail no Japanese player is going to get a chance to shine in the Major Leagues. And I  suppose it’s fair to add players from Korea and Taiwan to that list. Nomo is for East Asian players, in a very real sense, the equivalent of Jackie Robinson for black American players or Roberto Clemente for dark Latin players. He simply wasn’t as good a player as either Robinson or Clemente. It becomes, simply, a question of great player versus important player. I hope that Cooperstown will find some way to create a special ballot so Nomo can be acknowledged as the most important Japanese player in the history of Major League Baseball. But I won’t hold my breath waiting.

Voting for the Hall, 2013 Version

November 30, 2012

With the new Hall of Fame ballot finally official, it’s time to weigh in on who should make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown for enshrinement. The official rules allow a voter to pick up to 10 candidates. Believing that you should vote as many times as they’ll let you, I always take all 10 votes. Sometimes there aren’t really 10 guys I think should be in, but I like to take the time to acknowledge a particular favorite, or to try to insure that a player remains on the ballot for another year so that he gets a better look the next time. I know that’s not the way the vote is supposed to go, but I still like doing it that way. I’ll get to them in a minute, but I want to comment on two other aspects of Hall voting first.

The Steroids issue clouds this entire ballot and will do so for some time. On a personal level I would never vote for someone I was sure or heavily suspected had used the damned things. I know others disagree, but that’s my position. So it means that guys like Barry Bonds (Mark McGwire, etc.) would never appear on my ballot, unless I could be convinced that the steroid allegations were wrong. Much of the defense of these guys comes down to the “character clause” in the Hall of Fame criteria. The argument seems to go something like this, “There are  con men, and thugs in the Hall so what’s a little steroids among players?” The problem is that it is different. Being a con man or a thug doesn’t impact the way the game is played in the same way that steroids do. If Ty Cobb  was a thug (and I have no problem agreeing with those who say he was) it didn’t change how he hit the ball or how he ran the bases. If Hack Wilson was an alcoholic (and he probably was) it meant that he was out of the game early because he could no longer perform. Steroids do the exact opposite of alcohol in that they prolong a career artificially. And frankly if you know your baseball history (and I presume that if you read this site, you do) then you know the “character clause” was put in place to keep out the likes of Joe Jackson, whose actions materially harmed the game, not some slug of a human being who could hit anything. From its beginning the clause was meant to deal directly with what was going on during games, not with what a player was doing off the field. In that sense, it’s very poorly worded. And I’m aware this argument isn’t the most clearly worded paragraph I ever wrote, but this is more of an emotional issue than it is a rational issue.

Another problem I have with the Hall vote is who votes. You ever meet one of these guys? Some of them are great guys, some are jerks. In other words they are about like most people. And like most people they know very little about the history of the game. They may know one team, but seldom know the others well. Sure they can read a boxscore, but we all know that it doesn’t really give you more than a cursory feel for what went on. Further, it’s “writers” who do the voting, not “media” types. Bob Costas doesn’t get a vote. Neither does Vin Scully. You think they don’t know as much about the game as the “writers”?  Sure they do, but they are excluded from voting. I’d like to see the voting system changed. I’ve suggested before the SABR guys do the job, but I’m not sur they aren’t so steeped in stats that they can’t see the non-statistical aspects of the game.  I saw on ESPN some guy (forget who) suggest that the writers (expanded to include electronic media also) pick 10 players off the ballot, then a committee of experts vote on who gets in (the NFL does something close to that) with a minimum number of people having to be  chosen. I think there are holes in the plan (like a minimum number having to be elected) but it’s worth a close look. To me the big problem is deciding who is and who isn’t an “expert” (I’m absolutely sure I and my readers are. So maybe we should be the group.).

So there’s my soap box. Below are my picks for this year. I know you’ve been dying to find them out, so here they are (alphabetically). Feel free to disagree with any of them (or with the two points above). It’s a free internet and you have the right to be wrong.

1. Jeff Bagwell–In my opinion, Bagwell is the best 1st baseman of the last 25 years who is eligible for the Hall (Pujols isn’t yet). His numbers are good enough to make it. I’m going to leave it at that because Bill Miller at “The On Deck Circle” makes a case for Bagwell on his blog (see blogroll at right) and I’m not going to be  able to top Bill’s commentary.

2. Craig Biggio–I always thought that Bill James had it wrong by making Biggio the best player of his era, but not by much. He was a good hitter, got the magic 3000 hits, could play the outfield, second base, catch, and do all of them well. He helped his team to a number of playoff spots, but they never won a ring. I don’t hold that against him.

3. Edgar Martinez–Enough already with the “he’s only a  DH”. How many really great hitting/fielding combinations are there in the Hall? Do you think Ozzie Smith is in because he could hit or that Ted Williams is in for his ability to field the Green Monster? Guys who could do only one thing well are all over the Hall of Fame. Paul Molitor is in and he was primarily a DH. Martinez was a superb hitter, had power,  and got hung up in the Mariners minor league system (no wonder they seldom win). Once he got to the Majors, he could hit anything.

4. Don Mattingly–Was always a favorite of mine. He hit well, played a good enough first base, and was a team leader. His career is short (as are a lot of Cooperstown inductees) but much of it was superior. It’s enough for a Dodgers fan to support a Yankees player (forget where he now manages) for the Hall, but Mattingly gets my vote.

5. Jack Morris–One of the best “money” pitchers I ever saw. He’s going to get a lot of support for his 1991 World Series performance, but he was better than just one game. He led three teams to the World Series (Detroit, Minnesota, Toronto) and each won. He pitched well in two (not the Toronto victory). He is the victim of one of the more convoluted arguments in Hall of Fame voting. The same people who claim he shouldn’t be in because of his high ERA are many of the same people who tell us that ERA is an overrated stat (Make up your minds, folks).

6. Mike Piazza–Best hitting catcher I ever saw, which is tough for a Roy Campanella fan to say. The knock on him is that he wasn’t much of a catcher. Well, he led the league in putouts, assists, errors, passed balls. Quite a mixed bag. As he aged he became known as a good handler of pitchers, especially as young hurlers. I’m not sure how true that was, because it seems to be said of a lot of aging catchers. Whether true or not, he gets onto my ballot for his hitting.

7. Curt Schilling–Two words: bloody sock. OK, there’s more. He was an ace (or co-ace) on three World Series winners, won a lot of games, struck out a ton of batters, and was one of the leading anti-steroids spokesmen. He is, however, something of  a loud mouth. Put a (bloody) sock in it, Curt.

8. Tim Raines–Will someone please explain to the writers that Raines was a great player?

9. Alan Trammell–Overlooked and underappreciated. I wonder how much his disastrous managing stint in Detroit hurts his chances?

10. Larry Walker–I don’t want to hear about Coors Field. He played wonderfully in Montreal, hit well in any park, and had a cannon masquerading as an arm.

So that’s my list. I really miss not being able to vote for Kenny Lofton, Julio Franco, Jeff Conine, and Bernie Williams. I’m not sure any of them belong in Cooperstown, but all meet one of the two categories I mentioned in my first paragraph. Maybe next year, fellas.