Hall of Fame Day: What To Watch For

It’s Hall of Fame Day. This year, Ken Griffey will almost certainly get in, and Mike Piazza is pretty likely. Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines also have shots, although it will be close.

Some other things though to watch for:

1) How does Trevor Hoffman do?

The greatest closer in the history of the National League is unlikely to get in on the first ballot, but does seem likely to eventually get on. Held back by the fact he played on some crummy teams and never gaining the postseason glory of his AL opposite number (Mariano Rivera), Hoffman is perhaps not as highly-regarded as he should be. How he does in this, his first year on the ballot, will probably be a good

2) With the balloting list purged, do the PED users and Sabermetric darlings gain?

Many voters- mainly ones who are old or have not covered baseball in a long while- had their votes taken away starting this year. Normally I’m against disenfranchising people, but it was always ridiculous that a person who hadn’t covered baseball in the slightest since 1992 could vote in the Hall of Fame. These voters tended to be older, more traditional, more hostile towards statistics, and more draconian in dealing with the PED era. With them gone, will we see PED users and favorites of the statistical community gain? I feel like we will, but by how much is a big question.

3) What player is most going to get screwed over by the fact that voters can still only vote for 10 people, and then likely fall off the ballot?

Jim Edmonds. I don’t know if he’s a Hall of Famer, but he certainly shouldn’t be falling off the ballot in his first year.

4) Will some idiot not vote for Ken Griffey Jr.?

Yes. There’s always somebody.

5) Will they be brave enough to come forward?

If they do, then they are both brave and foolish at the same time, especially if they have some sort of stupid reason and it isn’t a case of “I knew he was being inducted so I voted for Jim Edmonds to try and keep him on the ballot”. Actually, that’s a stupid reason too, but that more has to do with the Hall of Fame’s continued denial of the BBWAA’s requests to be able to vote for more than 10 people.

 

So, keep an eye open for the answers to these questions.

Best of 2015- Yes, there are some long-dead white guys who still belong in the Hall of Fame

Originally published December 7, 2015.

Today, the Veteran’s Committee once again failed to induct anybody. This year, it was the “Pre-Integration Era” panel doing the voting. That in itself is a bit of a problem, as (despite the name) it only focuses on the white portion of the pre-integration days, under the logic that Sol White and other deadball-era Negro Leaguers went in during a special election. This, along with the fact that these guys are long, long dead, have made some people call for the end of this “era” in the Hall of Fame voting.

I can definitely see the reasoning, and it definitely needs to be changed, but the idea that everyone from the ancient days of baseball who is worthy is in the Hall of Fame is flawed. Yes, 95% of fans would have no idea who they are, but that isn’t a reason not to include them.

For example:

  • Doc Adams helped make baseball as we know it…. baseball as we know it. He even created the position of shortstop. Him not being in the Hall of Fame is sad, a result of not having good publicists like Alexander Cartwright had and more research coming into focus over the years after the time where there would have been people who remembered him.
  • Bill Dahlen had a 42-game hit streak, was among the leaders in most offensive categories at his retirement, and was one of the better defensive shortstops of his day.
  • Wes Ferrell, one of the few players on the Pre-Integration Ballot who was entirely in the 20th century, has one of the best JAWS scores by pitchers not in the Hall of Fame, and also has the record for most HRs by a pitcher in a career (non-Babe Ruth category, obviously).
  • Harry Stovey was one of the few players of the 19th century who could be called a power-hitter, hitting 122 career HRs, becoming the first player in history to have 100, and at one point holding the single-season HR mark (with 14).
  • And, finally, there’s Pete Browning. Pete Browning is like my pet overlooked 19th-century ballplayer. Browning’s career .341 batting average is 13th overall, and was one of the greatest hitters of the American Association and the short-lived Players League. Also, he is indirectly responsible for the creation of the Louisville Slugger, as he went to Hillerich and Bradsby for custom-made bats after one of Hillerich’s bats helped him break out of a hitting slump in 1884. Browning, amazingly, didn’t even appear in the latest VC ballot. This- and the fact he isn’t in already- probably came about because his best years came in the American Association and Player’s League, not the National League, and history, as they say, is written by the victors.

 

So, I say get those guys in… and then drastically change how this is done:

  • Make it open to Negro Leaguers as well. Yes, the 2006 inductions did a great job bringing in some of the older Negro League greats from before integration, but there is no reason why they shouldn’t still be considered.
  • Make this committee a less-common occurrence. Have it every six years, instead of every three years. Allow the “Golden Era” and “Expansion Era” votes be more common to make up for the difference.
  • Either make the committee entirely made up of just experts of the era, or have a slightly lower threshold for election.

So, yeah, that’s what I think.

Yes, there are some long-dead white guys who still belong in the Hall of Fame

Today, the Veteran’s Committee once again failed to induct anybody. This year, it was the “Pre-Integration Era” panel doing the voting. That in itself is a bit of a problem, as (despite the name) it only focuses on the white portion of the pre-integration days, under the logic that Sol White and other deadball-era Negro Leaguers went in during a special election. This, along with the fact that these guys are long, long dead, have made some people call for the end of this “era” in the Hall of Fame voting.

I can definitely see the reasoning, and it definitely needs to be changed, but the idea that everyone from the ancient days of baseball who is worthy is in the Hall of Fame is flawed. Yes, 95% of fans would have no idea who they are, but that isn’t a reason not to include them.

For example:

  • Doc Adams helped make baseball as we know it…. baseball as we know it. He even created the position of shortstop. Him not being in the Hall of Fame is sad, a result of not having good publicists like Alexander Cartwright had and more research coming into focus over the years after the time where there would have been people who remembered him.
  • Bill Dahlen had a 42-game hit streak, was among the leaders in most offensive categories at his retirement, and was one of the better defensive shortstops of his day.
  • Wes Ferrell, one of the few players on the Pre-Integration Ballot who was entirely in the 20th century, has one of the best JAWS scores by pitchers not in the Hall of Fame, and also has the record for most HRs by a pitcher in a career (non-Babe Ruth category, obviously).
  • Harry Stovey was one of the few players of the 19th century who could be called a power-hitter, hitting 122 career HRs, becoming the first player in history to have 100, and at one point holding the single-season HR mark (with 14).
  • And, finally, there’s Pete Browning. Pete Browning is like my pet overlooked 19th-century ballplayer. Browning’s career .341 batting average is 13th overall, and was one of the greatest hitters of the American Association and the short-lived Players League. Also, he is indirectly responsible for the creation of the Louisville Slugger, as he went to Hillerich and Bradsby for custom-made bats after one of Hillerich’s bats helped him break out of a hitting slump in 1884. Browning, amazingly, didn’t even appear in the latest VC ballot. This- and the fact he isn’t in already- probably came about because his best years came in the American Association and Player’s League, not the National League, and history, as they say, is written by the victors.

 

So, I say get those guys in… and then drastically change how this is done:

  • Make it open to Negro Leaguers as well. Yes, the 2006 inductions did a great job bringing in some of the older Negro League greats from before integration, but there is no reason why they shouldn’t still be considered.
  • Make this committee a less-common occurrence. Have it every six years, instead of every three years. Allow the “Golden Era” and “Expansion Era” votes be more common to make up for the difference.
  • Either make the committee entirely made up of just experts of the era, or have a slightly lower threshold for election.

So, yeah, that’s what I think.

My justifications for my hypothetical HoF Ballot

I had my hypothetical HoF ballot yesterday. So here are my justifications. Portions of these have already been printed earlier in the blog’s history.

Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are obvious. Johnson is one of the great left-handed pitchers of all time, while Pedro’s pitching peak was perhaps the greatest of all time- maybe even greater than Sandy Koufax.

John Smoltz was likely the third-best of the Atlanta aces when his starting career is taken as a whole, but when he wasn’t starting, he was an excellent reliever, a latter-day Dennis Eckersley in his adaptability. He’s the only player in history with 200+ wins and 150+ saves.

Craig Biggio played catcher, he played second, and he played in the outfield. And he was a great hitter who could get on base any way he could- he holds the record for HBP among modern players. Probably could have been a star in any era he played. Should have gone in last year… and the year before that.

Tim Raines may not get in on the “gut feeling” test, but he is, nonetheless, a Hall of Famer in my book. While certainly being a seven-time All-Star help, the big reason is because of how great he was as a leadoff hitter. Not only could he get on base- he was a respectable .294 hitter (and that was lower than it probably should have been because he stuck around a few years too long)- he also was a great base-stealer, 8th all-time.

Mike Piazza was the greatest power-hitting catcher of all time, and yet steroid rumors (none of which have been proven and most of which seem to be innuendo like saying he had an acne problem at one point) have kept him out. He should be in or whatever real evidence there is should be revealed.

Barry Bonds is in because, well, he was a Hall of Famer before he started using steroids in the late 1990s. The steroids merely turned him from a great player to arguably the greatest hitter of all time.

Roger Clemens is a similar story. Would have been a Hall of Famer before his PED use, so I say he should still be a Hall of Famer.

Mike Mussina is known as “Mr. Almost”. He was almost a Cy Young winner, he almost threw perfect games or no-hitters, he was Orioles teams that almost made the World Series and Yankees teams that almost won the World Series. It wasn’t until his final season that he finally won 20 games. He was never the best, but he was always one of the best. It’s a sad irony that he might end up “almost” a hall of famer.

Edgar Martinez was the greatest DH-only player of his era. He won two batting titles, had a career .312 average, is 21st in career OBP and 34th in career OPS, and hit probably the most memorable hit in the history of the Seattle Mariners- the double that won the 1995 ALDS against the Yankees and arguably saved the franchise’s future in Seattle.
Should be in the Hall.

Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling, Fred McGriff, Alan Trammell, Jeff Kent and maybe McGwire and Sosa would receive votes if there was more than 10 spots on a ballot.

 

 

If I had a Hall of Fame ballot… (2014-2015)

Today, the latest inductees to get into the Hall of Fame will be revealed. If I had a ballot, here’s who I’d vote for (in rough order of likelihood that they actually will get in):

1. Randy Johnson

2. Pedro Martinez

3. John Smoltz

4. Craig Biggio

5. Mike Piazza

6. Tim Raines

7. Barry Bonds

8. Roger Clemens

9. Mike Mussina

10. Edgar Martinez

WOULD RECEIVE VOTES IF I WASN’T CAPPED AT 10: Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling, Fred McGriff, Alan Trammell, Jeff Kent, maybe McGwire and Sosa.

I’ll post my justifications later today or sometime tomorrow.

The Greatest HoF Player Managing Career

With Paul Molitor taking over the Twins, there will now be two Hall of Fame players managing in the big leagues (Ryne Sandberg is managing the Phillies). It’s a trend that is becoming more and more rare, a result of the fact that Hall of Famers now are more-or-less set for life. If they are managing or coaching, you can be sure it is for the love of the game and/or a want to pay it back by teaching the next generation.

Back before ballplayers were set for life with salaries, the Hall of Fame player managing was more common, often playing at the same time. Of the five initial members of the Hall of Fame (Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson), only Ruth had never managed a single game in the majors, and would until his death dream of doing so.

But, the question we have today is: of managers who are in the Hall of Fame primarily for their playing days, who was the best?

There are many ways of looking at it:

As far as total wins, it’s probably Fred Clarke. Fred Clarke was a great player of the 19th century and early 20th century for Louisville and Pittsburgh, and was elected in 1945 by the Old-Timers Committee. As a manager, he went 1602-1181 on his career.

However, there is one problem. While his primary position he was inducted as was left field, his managerial efforts also were a big reason. He was dubbed the first of the successful “boy-managers” on his plaque, and he was a player-manager at the age of 24! He was still playing when he managed the Pirates to four NL pennants and a World Series title in the 1900s. So, while technically he had the most wins for a manager who was inducted as a player, there is that caveat.

In fact, that caveat exists for a lot of managers who were players. Cap Anson, for example, while inducted as a 1B, was also heralded for his player-managing on his HoF plaque. Joe Cronin also had his managerial days mentioned, as did Hughie Jennings, Lou Boudreau and Frankie Frisch. Interestingly, the player-who-managed with the most wins who had no reference whatsoever to his managerial career on his plaque is… Frank Robinson.

Okay, but wins are one thing. What about the balance between wins and losses? Frank Robinson won 1065 games, to be sure, but he lost 1176.

Well, for qualifying managers (at least 320 games skippered), the manager who was a HoF player with the best winning percentage is Frank Chance, of the famous “Tinkers-To-Evers-To-Chance” poem. While he went in as a 1st basemen, his time as a manager was also very successful, as he had a .593 winning percentage and won four NL pennants and two World Series titles for the Cubs (it was a long time ago). However, like Clarke, Anson, and the like, his managerial career was prominent on his plaque. Mickey Cochrane, who also could qualify for his success as a manager, also had his managerial success noted on his plaque.

As far as I can tell, the player-who-managed with the best winning percentage with no reference whatsoever to his managerial career on his plaque is… King Kelly. Yes, King Kelly, the RF/C/3B who had a 16-year career in the 19th century. He is just barely eligible, because managed 330 games in his career, all as a player-manager. His .539 winning percentage puts him ahead of others such as Gabby Hartnett (.536), Eddie Collins (.521) the earlier-mentioned Cobb (.519) and Bob Lemon (.516). And before you ask, Yogi Berra (a .522 winning percentage) did have some of his managerial feats mentioned on his plaque (his 1964 AL pennant).

So, what does this mean? Does this mean that Molitor and Sandberg are doomed to be slightly-above-average-at-best managers?

Of course not. Hall of Fame players who became managers are a far too small sample size, for one, especially Hall of Fame players who become managers without first being player-managers. And, what’s more, it’s silly to think that how good a ballplayer is on the field can be directly translated into how they will be as a manager, especially when one considers that they are also at the mercy of the players that are provided to them.

Still, it is interesting. And now you know some of the best managers in history who were Hall of Fame ballplayers.

Under the new Baseball HOF eligibility rules, the following players wouldn’t have been voted in

A new set of rules at the HOF makes the 15-year eligibility period only 10 years (players who already are past the 10 years will be grandfathered in). Besides making it that much harder for Tim Raines to get to 75% in time, this also makes one wonder who in the Baseball HOF voted in by the writers would have not been voted in under the new series of rules.

I checked, and these players wouldn’t have made it (of course, many of them may have ended up getting inducted by the Veteran’s Committee):

  • Harry Heilmann
  • Bill Terry
  • Rabbit Maranville
  • Dazzy Vance
  • Gabby Hartnett
  • Red Ruffing
  • Ralph Kiner
  • Bob Lemon
  • Duke Snider
  • Bruce Sutter
  • Jim Rice
  • Bert Blyleven

And now you know…