FIRE JOE MORGAN: Hall of Fame Elections?! When?!

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

 

Hall of Fame Elections?! When?!

Hey, everyone. I have a question. Whom do you think should have been elected to the Baseballings Halls of Famous?

Well, before the vote yesterday, Jayson Stark had some thoughts.

Tony Gwynn
Anybody who votes against this man should be embarrassed. If Tony Gwynn isn't a Hall of Famer, why do we even have a Hall of Fame?

ITA, my friend. I. T. A.

Gwynn's career batting average (.338) is better than any player's since Ted Williams (.344). Among men whose careers began in the expansion era (1961-present), Gwynn is out there at least 20 points ahead of everybody -- except two Hall of Famers (Wade Boggs and Rod Carew).

Yes, he was a very good hitter. BA is like the eleventeenth-best stat to use to prove his worthiness, but I still TA that he should be in.

Tony Gwynn hit .350 or better five years in a row -- a streak unmatched by any hitter since Rogers Hornsby. This guy won eight batting titles (tied with Honus Wagner for the most in National League history). He finished in the top 10 in the batting race in every full season of his career -- and finished in the top five in all but two.

Dude. Stop talking about Batting Average. Seriously. .306 career EqA. Career 132 OPS+, including 169 in 1994. Toss something fun in, like his four years of 10+ WARP3.

He was a 15-time All-Star.

All-Star appearances are exactly as good an indication of a player's abilities as are the number of pets he has, or the number of floppy hats his wife owns, or the fucking number of times he ate fucking skinless chicken breast in ninth grade. Do you people hear me? It's a goddamn popularity contest voted on by drunk idiots and 9 year-olds at Reds-Giants games in early May. Stop using it as a barometer of anything.

He won five Gold Gloves.

Gold Gloves are worth less than All-Star appearances. Derek Jeter has won 3 straight GG at SS, despite being -5 FRAA in 2004. His fielding cost his team a half win, and they gave him a GG. Raffy Palmeiro won a Gold Glove at 1B in a season in which he played like 7 innings there all year. Gold Gloves are often the baseball equivalent of Grammies -- they are given to veterans with famous names whose best days are far behind them.

He batted .500 (8-for-16) in the '98 World Series.

This guy went 12-27 in the 1996 NLCS. .444/.516/.630. Vote him in!

He was a total class act.

Marginally relevant.

...if Tony Gwynn isn't unanimous, I can't wait to hear the rationale of the folks who voted against him. They obviously weren't watching the same player I was watching.

Despite the fact that you did not mention any of the top like 6 reasons he belongs in the Hall...I continue to TA.

Cal Ripken Jr.
It's sure tough to think of any other negatives on this guy's report card. I've heard people say the streak was overrated. And in a vacuum, most iron-man streaks really are. But when you consider what this streak meant to the sport, what the night of 2,131 meant to the sport, how could we ever claim this particular streak was overrated?

The fact is, though, that Cal Ripken would be a Hall of Famer whether he'd played in two games in a row or 2,000 in a row. That streak made him an icon, but he was already a Hall of Famer. The streak was just a frame around a great career.

You're right on here, man. I mean, the guy put up some truly insane numbers for SS. He had a 17.0 WARP3 in 1991. Do you realize that is higher than any one of Barry Bonds's years? Even 2001? That's crazy. Think about that. Cal Ripken was worth more wins to the 1991 Orioles than Barry Bonds was to the Giants the year he hit 73 HR and walked a million times.

Ripken had six years of 10+ WARP3 and two more above 9.0. He had a .339 EqA in '91 and a .284 overall, for a guy who played 2600 straight games at physically demanding positions. BP has him at 130 FRAA career, which is pretty damned good. And many of his negative years came after he had switched to 3B. The guy redefined a position. He is the greatest power-hitting SS ever, considering ARod's ill-conceived switch to 3B. There is no legitimate argument to keep him out and a million reasons to vote him in. What do you choose, Starky m'boy?

Did you know that no player was elected to start the All-Star Game more times than Ripken (17 times in 18 years)?

I want to slap you.

(To be fair, he then goes on to talk about some legitimate stuff. But that is the first thing he cited.)

Mark McGwire

It's going to require quoting a lot of this section in order to get to the part where I get angry. Hang in there.

There are a million reasons not to vote for McGwire. But of all the reasons people have dredged up lately, the one I find most amazing is the revisionist history that he wasn't that good -- except for those four years (1996-99) when he morphed into Babe Ruth.

Well, hold on. Ask any scout who saw him at USC, and they'll all tell you the same thing: This guy was a big-time masher from the day he was drafted until the day he quit.

I'm not sure, but I don't think college scouts' thoughts on "mashing" count towards Hall of Fame candidacy. Can we get someone to check on that? Julie? (Julie is my Exec. Asst. here at Fremulon Insurance, Inc.) Julie? Can you real quick just stop filing those claims adjustments and figure out if college scouts' thoughts on "mashing" count towards HOF inclusion? No? They don't? And it's a stupid question? Thanks, Jules. Take the rest of the day off.

If it took Jose Canseco's magic potion to make him any good, how come he had a .618 slugging percentage in his rookie season? Andruw Jones, Adam Dunn and Jeff Kent have never slugged .618 in any season, if that tells you anything.

A fine point.

And if McGwire wasn't any good until 1996, how did he manage to put up six seasons with at least 32 homers and 90 RBI in his seven healthy seasons before that? That's as many seasons of 32-90 as Chipper Jones and Moises Alou have, combined.

You're kind of cherry-picking stats here, with the 32-90 thing, which is weird, but still, it's a good point, kind of. I hate using RBI for anything, but whatever, the point is: he was good.

If he wasn't any good, how did this man make 12 All-Star teams -- as many as Mike Schmidt?

No. No no no no no. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.

Everyone? Say it with me:

All-Star Game Appearances are Meaningless.

Do I need to keep saying this?

This guy was an All-Star twice. This guy was an All-Star. This guy had an ERA+ of 85 the year he was an All-Star. This guy is one of the worst hitters in baseball, and he was an All-Star.

And before you write me e-mails and tell me that it's the number of times that counts, that that is in some way a good representation of a player's value, Fred Lynn was an All-Star 9 times. Darryl Strawberry was an All-Star 8 times. Neither of them will ever sniff the Hall of Fame.

Stop using All-Star Game Appearances as a stat when you talk about a player's career value. It is dumb to the power of retarded.

The other shaky argument here is that McGwire just had one song on his jukebox, that all he could do was hit home runs, kind of like Dave Kingman. But if he was so one-dimensional, how did he win a Gold Glove? How did he compile that .394 career on-base percentage? And even if he had just one superior dimension, he had the best home run ratio of any player who ever lived (one every 10.6 at-bats).

See? Those are good arguments. I knew you had it in you.

The Many-Timers

Goose Gossage
The Goose has more than doubled his vote totals since 2000. So he's going to get in one of these centuries. But I have no idea why it has taken him this long. None.

Have the people who don't vote for him actually looked at his stats? In this guy's first 10 years as a closer, he spun off ERAs of 0.77, 1.62, 1.82, 1.84, 2.01, 2.23 and 2.27 twice. And he racked up those numbers while absorbing double the workload of today's closers. The guy threw 130 innings three times, and 99 or more two other times.

Good arguments.

No closer in history made more All-Star teams than Gossage (nine).

Bad argument.

And according to Retrosheet, he held right-handed hitters to a .211 batting average, .285 on-base percentage and .311 slugging percentage over a 22-year career.

Good arguments.

Andre Dawson
I covered the National League in the 1980s. And every debate about the best player in the National League back then included Dawson's name.

Neutral-to-bad argument.

He won an MVP award,

So did Terry Pendleton.

and finished second twice. He was a rookie of the year.

So was Walt Weiss.

He won eight Gold Gloves.

So did Mark Belanger, Dwight Evans, Garry Maddux, Frank White, George Scott, and Bobby Shantz, just to name a few. (BTW: based on these dumb arguments, why doesn't Dewey get more consideration? I don't think he should be in, but he's every bit as good as Hawk, and better than a lot of the other people considered "borderline.") Also, Gold Gloves are stupid and meaningless.

He had one of the most spectacular throwing arms of his era.

The same could be said of Cory Snyder.

And even though he needed to run his knees into more ice than the Titanic just to get out there, he still racked up 2,774 hits, 438 homers and 314 stolen bases. The only other players in history who can match that combination are Willie Mays and Barry Bonds.

This is one of the most egregious cherry-picks of all time. "The only other players with as many as 2774 hits, 438 homers and 314 SB are..." My goodness. (Although, now that I think about it, why is it any less arbitrary than like 3,000, 500, 300?)

So consider his whole package of credentials -- power and speed, defense and award votes, and the all-important non-statistical side of him, the leadership and the respect he commanded among his peers. Consider all that, and it's tougher to figure out why Dawson shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame than why he should.

I did consider that whole package, even the silly meaningless stuff, and I saw a guy who was very very good, but not great enough. If you don't believe me, read any of the previous posts where I break down the numbers. There's like fifteen of them.

Dale Murphy
...if we're entering an age when voters feel compelled to make moralistic statements against the cheaters, maybe those voters should think about making a more positive statement -- by voting for a guy so pure and clean, he made David Eckstein look like Albert Belle.

Even mentioning Eckstein in an article about the HOF makes my skin crawl. Because you know he's going to get like 40 votes in 2017, and there will be 1000 articles with titles like,

"Small Man, Big Heart, Why Not?"

and

"Cooperstown Should Open Its Big Doors to the Little Man Who Hustled"

and

"What the Eck? Why Not Cast a Big Vote for the Smallest Man With the Biggest Heart?"

and

"Little Man with the Big Heart Has a Tiny Chance of a Huge Honor"

and

"Big, Small, Big, Small, Small, Big, Small: Those Are the Sizes of David Eckstein's Heart, David Eckstein Himself, David Eckstein's Hustle, David Eckstein's Chances to Get Elected to Cooperstown, David Eckstein's Skin Pigment Count, David Eckstein's 'Talent,' and the number of Reasons David Eckstein Should Not Be Elected to the Hall of Fame Today, Respectively"

and maybe

"Smig: That is Small Plus Big, Which is What Eckstein Is"

Also, in re: making a positive statement by blah blah blah voting for clean people blah blah...I say to this: no.

Murphy's stats may not look so dazzling stacked up against the numbers of today. But in his heyday -- the decade of the '80s -- Murphy got more hits and scored more runs than anyone in the National League, tied Mike Schmidt for most RBI and was second to Schmidt in homers. He was also a back-to-back MVP, a five-time Gold Glove winner, a proud member of the 30-Homer, 30-Steal Club and a big enough star to lead the entire sport in All-Star votes in 1985. So he sure deserves to be getting more than 56 stinking votes.

He got 50 yesterday. Sorry, dude. He wasn't that awesome.

Jack Morris
Five years ago, Morris wasn't collecting even 100 votes. Now he's over 200. But you have to wonder if enough of these voters will ever be able to look past his 3.90 career ERA to get him to the podium.

Well, if you toss out that ERA (which is lower than Jason Schmidt's career ERA, by the way), what more evidence of this man's perpetual ace-hood could a voter ask for?

Jason Schmidt isn't a HOFer, so that's meaningless. Also, Jason Schmidt's career ERA+, which is an ERA-based stat that was invented in order to compare players of different eras, is 110, and Jack Morris's is 105. So, your comparison actually hurts your argument. So, you're a dummy for using it.

This is about more than just Game 7, 1991.

I should hope so. You don't elect HOFers based on one game.

Jack Morris pitched a no-hitter.

So did Eric Milton. Len Barker pitched a perfect game.

He started three All-Star Games.

I hate you.

He was a huge figure on three World Series pitching staffs.

He was a huge figure?! Hold the phone. Call Cooperstown! Did they know he was a huge figure?!

He always started Opening Day.

I just threw up in my mouth.

And consider this: From 1979 to '92, when Morris and Nolan Ryan were both doing their thing, Morris had 65 more wins than Ryan (233-168).

That's a very very very good indicator. Of how good the offenses of the teams Morris pitched for were. And how bad the offenses of the teams Ryan pitched for were. It is a very poor indicator of how good they were at pitching.

Jim Rice
The biggest reason I vote for him: The fear factor.

Insert Joe Rogan joke here. Or, if you're me, get sleepy and bail on it.

In the 11 seasons from 1975 to '85, Anerican League pitchers would have been happier to see Jack the Ripper heading up their driveway than Jim Rice heading toward home plate.

This is a very weird thing to write. I am tired. Pass.

Bert Blyleven
If Blyleven ever makes it to Cooperstown -- and he might, now that he's finally over 50 percent of the vote -- he'll owe it to men like Bill James, Rob Neyer and the bright statistical minds who now look at baseball in so many insightful new ways.

Until last year, I was one of those people who thought of Blyleven as a not-quite candidate, 287 wins or no 287 wins. But James did an incredible start-by-start study of Blyleven's career that convinced me it was only bad luck that kept him out of the 300-win club.

And Lee Sinins' indispensable Complete Baseball Encyclopedia proved just how dominant Blyleven was by computing how his Runs Saved Above Average compared to the greatest pitchers of modern times.

Blyleven gave up 344 fewer runs in his career than the average pitcher of his time. In the entire live-ball era, the only eight pitchers who beat him in that department are Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Seaver, Carl Hubbell and Bob Gibson.

Does a guy who hangs out with that crowd sound like a Hall of Famer to you? He sure did to me -- finally.

Out of nowhere, he ends with a rational, intelligent bang. Kudos.

And congrats to Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken. They deserve it. More than Andre Dawson.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 10:02 AM
Comments:
A reader with the made-up name of Alasdair adds a few points re: Stark's comments on Gwynn:

He batted .500 (8-for-16) in the '98 World Series.

True, which is pretty impressive. Here were all of his career postseason stats, in the interest of full disclosure...
'84 NLCS: .368/.381/.526
'84 WS: .263/.364/.263 (love it when BA and slugging are identical...)
'96 NLDS: .308/.308/.385 (and when BA and OBP are identical...)
'98 NLDS: .200/.200/.333
'98 NLCS: .231/.259/.269 (ouch...)
'98 WS: .500/.529/.688

You've got to cherry-pick that one series, plus possibly the '84 NLCS, to make any kind of postseason-based argument. Much as I don't think postseason stats have great predictive quality, they do, like ERA, give a good measurement of performance in that specific situation, and Gwynn didn't generally seem to be all that special in the playoffs.

And his greatest talent was one that no player in any of our lifetimes could match: It was just about impossible to make this man swing and miss.

[Note: I did not include this point in my own analysis. --KT]


That's true - in terms of career AB/K, he's 87th, which is the best of any recent player. His career rate of 21.40 is excellent. Still, I'm a little dubious about this stat as a true indicator of quality. Take a look at the active top ten, from tenth to first:

Bengie Molina, Ichiro Suzuki, Orlando Cabrera, Jason Kendall, Lenny Harris, David Eckstein, Paul Lo Duca, Eric Young, Placido Polanco, and...drum roll...Juan Pierre. How many of those guys do you really want on your team? (P.S. #11 is Neifi Perez.)
 
Addendum:

To respond to many readers who had the same or similar criticisms of this post:

Yes, I do realize that pitchers are not voted on in the All-Star balloting. I also realize that while each of a player's individual honors (ROY, All-Star games, etc) might be relatively meaningless, that the accumulation of dozens of such honors all put together could indicate a very good player. I realize these things. Promise.

However. My point here is this.

There are many different ways to evaluate a player's career. Many good ways. Like stats that take into account a player's era and home ballpark effects. Or stats like EqA, which measure a player's total offensive output per out recorded -- a far, far better average to use than batting average. And what bugs me like few other things on God's green earth is when people make hysterical arguments for a player's candidacy based on bad ways.

All-Star game selections are stupid. I'm sorry. They are voted on by the fans. The balloting starts in May, after like 40 games. Often, the ballots don't even contain the names of deserving players, because those players break into the league in April or fill in for an injured player or something. And even if they are deserving, they are theoretically only being judged on the first half year. This is the reason a pitcher's appearance can be misleading -- lot of pitchers tire in the second half and their year-end stats aren't great, when all is said and done.

Should I go on, with reasons ASG appearances aren't a good way to evaluate players? Okay.

There are tons of considerations for the squads -- only a certain number of guys at each position, for example. Granted, Joe Torre did take four SS one year, but that is rare. Much was made (pre-steroid-scandal) in the Raffy Palmeiro should-he-shouldn't-he debate about how he didn't have that many ASG selections. Who cares? There were a lot of awesome 1Bmen in his era, who maybe played for more popular teams or something, or just had better first-halfs (halves?), so Raffy didn't often get elected to start. It didn't mean he wasn't putting up great numbers.

And, as if it needs to get any less meaningful, there is a rule that at least one guy from each team has to be on the squad. If you are a decent KC Royal right now, you can knock off 5 or 6 ASG appearances before you reach free agency. It doesn't mean you are a great baseball player.

More reasons? Okay. How about that the managers are incredibly biased, and they now pick the reserves. (Torre used to pick every Yankee that wasn't nailed down.) They still count as ASG appearances. Also, many guys who have been very good, or popular, or both, for many years often just get elected again, year after year, regardless of whether they deserve it.

An ASG selection is simply a coarse and silly way to judge whether a guy had a good season, and therefore, even in aggregate, a career. It suggests quality. It does not define it in any way.

The same is true of Gold Gloves -- perhaps even moreso. Gold Gloves are completely phony. Was Ozzie Smith really the best fielding SS in the NL in 1992, at age 38? Or did the voters just check his name off like they'd done so many years before? Was Greg Maddux really the best fielding NL pitcher last year? Really?

The GG voting is no different from the Emmy voting or Oscar voting. Certain names just ring in voters' ears, and instead of watching the players' performances closely and making an informed decision, they just say, "Judi Dench is wonderful. I shall vote for her!"

All I ask, when someone makes an argument for or against a player, is that the argument be as informed as possible. There are many good weapons an arguer can use. Why wield a dull sword?
 
Here is a fun and nicely-presented argument from Owen, who insists I am being, in this case, too tough on our old friend the Batting Average:

"Yes, he was a very good hitter. BA is like the eleventeenth-best stat to use to prove his worthiness, but I still TA that he should be in."

Look, we all know batting average isn't nearly as related to actual production as the yokels like to think. But this is Tony friggin' Gwynn. His value was almost exclusively predicated upon his ability to hit for average year after year -- the last accomplished guys to be so average-dependent were probably Sisler and Terry. Boggs would take a walk; Ichiro runs and fields brilliantly. Gwynn ran well at times, fielded well at times... but basically he was just a cherubic little fat guy who could sneak one through the infield a couple hundred times a year. Batting average isn't a great stat, but it's *exactly* what proves the worthiness of Tony Gwynn.

That's why he was good, and that's why he was fun. Let's celebrate that.

This is a rare spot where the mainstream folksy dopes have it right...Tony Gwynn was very good in terms of WARP3+ -- but he was absurdly good, even sublime, in terms of batting average. Batting averages got him into the bigs in the first place, and they carried him all the way to the Hall of Fame. In the rare case where a weak statistic can do that for a brutha, let's don't fight it. Let's freak out and party, because baseball's weird and varied and awesome. Hail batting average, and hail Tony Gwynn.

 
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