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My Picks for the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

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My Picks for the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

On Monday, Jan. 12, Jim Rice will likely join Rickey Henderson in celebrating the results of the 2009 Baseball Writers Association of America balloting, and this summer, will join the ranks of baseball’s immortals. 

 

This writer has no ballot, but perhaps posting the would-be ballot will help lead, somewhere down the road, to actual membership in the BBWAA.

 

The Hall of Fame voting has been dissected in 14 directions by every writer, blogger, and columnist in the country, but since I obviously know better than all of them (except the fortunate few who happen to agree with me), it’s only right that I add to the noise.

 

To that end, we have an examination of the candidates, broken into categories that made sense at the time of writing. 

 

I think it’s nearly as important when we get to this point to remember the careers of the stars who were good enough to get on the ballot as it is to argue the merits of the serious candidates:

 

 

Not Even a Snowball’s Chance

 

I mean this in no way to be disrespectful to these men.  To even be on the ballot is a testament to decades of dedication and hard work, to elite athleticism that most of us could never dream of attaining, and to outstanding performance in the Major Leagues. 

 

That said, some of the candidates clearly do not belong on the ballot, and shouldn’t stick around for another year.

 

 

Jay Bell

 

Bell enjoyed a long, productive career that rarely rose above dependability.  A two-time All-Star (1993 and 1999), Bell won both the 1993 National League Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards at shortstop.

 

His best season offensively was certainly his sensational 1999 season with Arizona, when he batted .289/.374/.557 with 132 runs and 112 RBIs.  That year, he posted a 131 OPS+. 

 

His career OPS+ of 101 labels him as just about exactly a league-average hitter, and at shortstop, that provides significant value.

 

In my mind, the most memorable bit of his career came as a bench player for the 2001 World Champion Diamondbacks, who toppled the latest Yankee dynasty.

 

 

 

Dan Plesac

 

A three-time All-star, Plesac was a very successful closer in the late 1980s and successfully transitioned to a lefty specialist and setup man for the bulk of his career. 

 

From 1987-89, he made the All-Star team every year, saved 86 games, and averaged a strikeout per inning.

 

 

 

Slightly More Than a Snowball’s Chance, But Not a Whole Lot More

 

These candidates had productive careers just below the level I would expect from serious candidates.  Each of them was outstanding in some facet of the game.

 

 

 

Matt Williams

 

For the first half of his career, Williams was certainly on a Hall of Fame track.  From 1990-99, Williams made five All-Star teams, won four Silver Sluggers, and hit at least 30 home runs six times.

 

As a third baseman, a normal career trajectory, tailing off as he aged, probably would have put him in Cooperstown, below the level of Schmidt and Brett, perhaps, but certainly into the middle of the Hall’s third-base class. 

 

Unfortunately, his career basically consisted only of those 10 seasons.

 

For his career, Williams batted .268/.317/.489 with 378 HR and 1218 RBIs.  His atrocious walk numbers work against him, but had he reached 450 home runs or 1500 RBIs, his power and fielding would have made a strong case.

 

Williams won four Gold Gloves and was known for his lateral range and strong arm.  He finished in the top six of MVP voting four times and topped 100 RBIs four times.

 

Williams played in three World Series, having an outstanding series as his Indians lost to Florida in 1997 and playing a key role in Arizona’s 2001 Championship club. 

 

In addition to his other qualifications, Williams was simply terrifying after he started shaving his head.  It later came out that Williams almost certainly used performance-enhancing drugs when he was named in the Mitchell Report. 

 

Williams is at the center of a small balloting controversy, as Corky Simpson with the Green Valley News and Sun voted for him but left Rickey Henderson off the ballot.

 

 

 

Ron Gant

 

A stupendous combination of power and speed, Gant gained distinction as only the third player to have back-to-back 30-30 seasons, joining Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds. 

 

Gant was a two-time All-Star and won the 1991 Silver Slugger.  In a 16-year career, he had four 30-HR seasons, three 30-steal seasons, scored 100 runs four times, and drove in 100 twice.

 

From 1990-96, he was one of the game’s dominant offensive forces.  In 1990, his best season, he batted .303/.357/.539 with 32 HR, 33 steals, 107 runs, and 84 RBIs in a breakout campaign.  He maintained that level of production somewhat inconsistently for the next six years.

 

A part of six post-season teams, Gant played for the Braves dynasty from 1987-93, but was gone by the time Atlanta went all the way.  He never won a World Series.

 

 

 

Greg Vaughn

 

An all-or-nothing hitter, Vaughn enjoyed a brief peak and gained notoriety as one of the veteran superstars the then-Devil Rays brought into Tampa in an attempt to buy respectability their first seasons in the league. 

 

In 1996, 1998, and 1999, Vaughn was one of the game’s preeminent sluggers, hitting over 40 home runs and topping 115 RBIs each year. 

 

An epically bad fielder, Vaughn also had trouble drawing a number of walks commensurate with his power, and is a fairly one-dimensional player.

 

His career line of .242/.337/.470 appears fairly pedestrian by the standards of the Steroid Era, but Vaughn dealt with frequent injuries and still managed to accumulate 355 HR, 1017 runs, and 1072 RBIs. 

 

A four-time All-star, Vaughn won the 1998 Silver Slugger and finished fourth in MVP voting in 1998 and 1999.

 

 

 

Mo Vaughn

 

Vaughn enjoyed a Hall of Fame peak, but his career was destroyed prematurely by injuries that may or may not have been weight-related. 

 

Notorious for crowding the plate, Vaughn wore signature body armor on his front elbow and tucked his chin to his shoulder for one of baseball’s more distinctive stances. 

 

He was famous for leaning over the plate with his arm in the strike zone, forcing pitchers to go away or risk having him pull the ball.

 

Vaughn was a three time All-Star and won the 1995 American League MVP Award.  From 1993-2000, Vaughn topped 30 HR six times, 100 RBIs six times, 100 runs twice, .400 OBP four times, .550 slugging percentage five times, and a .300 batting average five years in a row.

 

His career line of .293/.383/.523 reflects an abrupt decline at the end of his career.

 

Mo Vaughn is my Mom’s all time favorite player, but the fact that he looks like a teddy bear does not make him Hall worthy. Vaughn was also named in the Mitchell Report.

 

 

 

Jesse Orosco

 

Jesse Orosco’s finest moment came when he flung his glove in the air after recording the final out of the Mets’ 1986 World Series Championship.  In 24 seasons, that was his only World Series. 

 

Orosco made two All-star teams and is the all time leader in games pitched.  A closer for about five seasons, Orosco became the consummate lefty setup man, and was the oldest player in the league for the last five seasons of his career.

 

 

 

Legitimate Candidates

 

This section pains me.  Each of them is an outstanding player, among the greatest in the game’s history. 

 

At this point, the story of their careers becomes defined as much the argument against them as by a recitation of their accomplishments and accolades.  That negativity leaves a bad taste.

 

 

 

Dave Parker

 

We all know the arguments.  Parker was better than Rice.  Parker is underrated.  Parker is overlooked.  Parker was a better fielder than Rice.  And so on and so forth.

 

Parker was amazing.  A seven time All-star, he won three Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, won the 1978 MVP Award, five times finished in the top five, won two batting titles, led the league in slugging twice, doubles twice, total bases three times, RBIs once, and was in the top five in home runs four times.

 

And yet….and yet….what does one say?  Parker doesn’t feel like a Hall of Famer?  I think the answer is that his career was too scattered.  He was dominant for four out of five seasons from 1975-79.  Then he trailed off and appeared in decline. 

 

He was hurt for half of two years in a row.  He was downright bad for two years, then had a two-year resurgence where he was his old self again.  Then he was terrible.

 

In order to have a career like that, you need some outstanding counting stats, and Parker doesn’t have them. 

 

His career line of .290/.339/.471 with 339 HR, 1493 RBI, and 1272 runs doesn’t stand out.  He accumulated 2,712 hits, but failed to reach the milestone at 3000.

 

I see Dave Parker as a good player with half a dozen outstanding seasons scattered throughout.  So while Parker is intriguing, it just doesn’t add up.

 

 

 

Don Mattingly

 

Mattingly is one of our more beloved sports figures, and he certainly had a Hall of Fame moustache.  But setting aside the frequent comparisons to Puckett, Mattingly is on the outside looking in.  He sits with Keith Hernandez on the tier of players just shy of Cooperstown.

 

Mattingly won the MVP in 1985 and finished second in 1986, behind an epic season from Roger Clemens.  It’s such a fine line; if Clemens hadn’t won the MVP that year, we might be looking at Mattingly very differently.

 

With six All-Star selections, nine Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, a batting title, and three seasons in the top two in slugging, Mattingly also led in hits twice, total bases twice, doubles three times, and RBIs once.

 

Mattingly is often compared to Kirby Puckett.  Both had similarly abbreviated careers that were outstanding while they lasted, but Puckett’s incredible post-season performance, the infectious energy that suffused spectators watching him, and completely unexpected disappearance from the game leave a different impression than Mattingly’s exit.

 

I think a better comparison is Sandy Koufax.  And Mattingly, as great as he was, was not the batting or fielding version of Sandy Koufax.

 

 

 

Mark Grace

 

If Grace played second base, or even third base or center field, I don’t think there’s much of a discussion.  He batted over .300 nine times (and three other times batted between .295 and .300), and his career .303 batting average and .383 slugging percentage are outstanding. 

 

Grace slugged only .442, however, and a first baseman with only 173 home runs stands no chance at the Hall.

 

Grace accumulated 1,146 RBIs and 1,179 runs to go with 511 doubles, three All-star selections, four Gold Gloves, and 2,445 hits.  The area where Grace falls short is in comparison with his peers. 

 

Other first basemen of his time include Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, Don Mattingly, Eddie Murray, Fred McGriff, and Rafael Palmeiro, all of whom have greater claims to Cooperstown than does Grace.

 

In addition, he played against Cecil Fielder, Andres Galarraga, Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, Carlos Delgado, and Lance Berkman, several of whom may make a case before their careers are over.

 

In the end, Mark Grace is a superb player, a credit to the game, but not a Hall of Fame player.

 

 

 

Harold Baines

 

I loved watching Harold Baines hit.

 

One of the great things about baseball is that it requires players to perform at every aspect of the game.  A player must be able to hit, throw, field, run, demonstrate some basic athleticism and agility, and so on.

 

In order for a player to make the Hall of Fame without any contribution in some of these areas, he must be so obviously outstanding in another area that it doesn’t matter.  If you can’t hit, you’d better be Ozzie Smith or Bill Mazeroski with the glove.

 

This is why I detest the designated hitter.  It runs contrary to the spirit of baseball, which is not meant to shelter players by dividing labor to any extent, like football does. 

 

In baseball, an individual stands exposed for all the world to see and judge, in the service of the team, and it is the team that matters.

 

For a designated hitter to make the Hall of Fame, the player in question will have to be an all-time great hitter.  Edgar Martinez may make the cut.  Frank Thomas certainly will when his time comes.

 

Harold Baines was an excellent, professional hitter for two decades, but he is not in that conversation.  A six-time All-star with one Silver Slugger, Baines finished his career with 2866 hits, 384 HR, 1,628 RBIs, 1,299 runs, and a career line of .289/.356/.465.  In 2001, his final season, Baines was the oldest player in baseball.

 

 

 

Tommy John

 

John changed the game of baseball.  He was the first person to come back from ligament replacement surgery on his throwing elbow, a procedure now known as Tommy John surgery that has saved the careers of dozens of pitchers, some of whom will eventually make the Hall of Fame.

 

By all accounts, John pressed his surgeons to perform the surgery; they were reluctant to do so.  So perhaps John deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as an innovator, as someone who changed the game’s direction, but as a pitcher, he falls just short.

 

With a career record of 288-231 and a .555 career winning percentage over 26 years, John posted a 3.34 ERA and a 110 ERA+. 

 

He was a four-time All-star, won 20 games three times, finished in the top five in ERA six times in three decades, and led the league in shutouts three times.  He was the oldest player in baseball in each of his last two seasons.

 

He was never among the best pitchers in the game, however, and while he was a very productive pitcher for quite some time, he never reached the peak of a Hall of Famer.

 

 

 

Lee Smith

 

Smith retired as the all-time saves leader and currently sits third on the list.  While his ERA and ratios are not outstanding, he did make seven All-star teams and won three Rolaids Relief Man awards.  He led the league in saves four times and finished second four other times.

 

The problem is that saves are a meaningless stat; a reliever should be judged on the dominance of his outings and the usefulness to his team, part of which is the demonstrated ability to pitch more than one inning if necessary.

 

The list of Hall of Fame caliber closers is short:  Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, and Mariano Rivera.  Billy Wagner and Joe Nathan could perhaps insert themselves into the discussion.  And that’s it.

 

Another way to look at it:  the top two or so players at each position each decade are in the Hall.  If we look at closers that way, the 1980s have Eckersley, Gossage, Sutter, Quisenberry, and maybe some others I’ve forgotten. 

 

The 1990s have Rivera, Hoffman, Nathan, Wagner and half a dozen other guys who were better than Lee Smith.

 

Smith was an effective pitcher for a long time, but his candidacy is based on accumulation of a meaningless statistic and nothing else. 

 

I don’t mean to demean what he did, but we should be clear:  Smith was closer to being a mid-inning mop up man than a Hall of Fame pitcher.

 

 

 

Near Misses

 

These players are the best of the best.  Some of them simply need more consideration, more time to give perspective to their careers.  Others simply aren’t quite good enough for Cooperstown.

 

 

 

Alan Trammell

 

Trammell is the most difficult omission I make.  Trammell was obviously an outstanding shortstop, one of the better ones ever to play. 

 

Six time All-star, four Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, no MVPs but could have won two and probably should have won at least one. 

 

He had a career line of .285/.382/.415 with a 110 OPS+ which is just outstanding from a shortstop, 2,365 hits, 185 HR, 236 steals, 1,231 runs, 1003 RBIs.

 

But again, I come back to his peers, many of whom were better:  Yount, Smith, Ripken, and Larken, to start with.  After them came the next generation:  ARod, Jeter, and Vizquel.  There are too many rough contemporaries and inheritors of the position who were better than him.

 

Even though he’s a great player, I don’t think he should go in yet, and shouldn’t go in until we have more years to gain perspective. 

 

There are times when there are that many elite players at one time.  Mays, Mantle and Snider all played center field in the same city at the same time.

 

Trammell is the kind of player the Veteran’s Ballot was made for.  If he still looks like a legitimate candidate in 30 years, we’ll put him in then.  But not now.

 

Jack Morris:  People say Jack Morris pitched to the score.  To me, Curt Schilling is an example of a guy who pitched to the score.  Someone with a 3.91 ERA does not pitch to the score.

 

Morris posted a 254-186 record for a .577 winning percentage.  He struck out 2,478, but walked 1,390.  His 3.90 ERA is weak, as is his 105 ERA+, and his 1.296 WHIP isn’t great, either.

 

I realize Morris won 41 more games than anyone else over the course of his career, and he authored one of the game’s great single-game performances.  He was part of three World Series winning teams, and his 3-0 record with a 2.96 ERA in the World Series is outstanding. 

 

He was a five time All-star, won 20 games three times, and there hasn’t been a starting pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame whose career began after 1967.  Clearly, there is a problem here, but Jack Morris is not the best, or even among the best of the post-1970 pitchers.

 

We’re about to see a wave of truly great pitchers on the ballot, and if Blyleven is the only starter inducted whose career began between Nolan Ryan’s and Roger Clemens’, that’s all right by me.

 

 

 

Mark McGwire

 

Mark McGwire’s name will forever be tied to the steroid era.  He almost certainly took performance enhancing drugs which, while not explicitly against baseball’s rules at the time, were nonetheless criminal, and therefore implicitly against baseball’s rules.  That doesn’t figure into my voting, however.

 

Setting aside his character issues (allegedly taking steroids, probably lying about it, then definitely lying by asserting that he’d help address the steroid issue, which he never even attempted to do) and the legal but inadvisable use of androstenedione, we must acknowledge that he was the product of an endemic drug culture in baseball.

 

Unless we bar all players from the Steroid Era, we cannot ban any.  And lest we forget, all evidence against McGwire is circumstantial; we can prove he received drugs, but there has never been a positive drug test, so we can’t prove he took anything.

 

That said, he is not a worthy player.  McGwire was a one-dimensional slugger who did nothing well but hit home runs.  He had a 16-year career and only played 100 games 12 times.

 

In those 12 healthy seasons, he batted under .240 three times, including one year of .201.  He was a decent fielder early in his career, but terrible by the end.  He was immobile and slow, and ran the bases poorly.  He never won an MVP.

 

Ralph Kiner is a good comparison to Mark McGwire, a huge home run hitter with a short peak who took a long time to gain entry.

 

None of this is to say that McGwire wasn’t good at what he did.  Even with the terrible batting average, he had an excellent OBP, which is much more important than batting average.

 

His career slugging is ninth all time, his career OPS is eleventh, he’s eighth all time in home runs, he’s first all time in home run rate.  He led the league in home runs four times, and was in the top four nine times.  Those aren’t insignificant things. 

 

He also helped to revive baseball, with Sammy Sosa in their epic home run race.  He still has the second highest single season home run total ever.

 

There’s a case for and against, and his high ranks in so many career lists is a strong argument.  By the end of his career, McGwire had authored a .263/.394/.588 line with a 162 OPS+.  He had 583 HR, 1,167 runs, 1,414 RBIs, and 1,596 strikeouts. 

 

He batted poorly in three World Series, including the one he won in 1989 with Oakland.  He was a twelve time All-star, won the 1987 Rookie of the Year Award, the 1990 Gold Glove, three Silver Sluggers, four slugging titles, and four home run titles.

 

In the end, the home runs of the Steroid Era mean less than the home runs of other periods, and home runs were all McGwire did. 

 

He had several comparable contemporaries, including Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, and Albert Pujols, who took over his position and outperformed him.

 

I could change my mind on him in the future, but for now, I’ll let him be.  A one-dimensional slugger who wasn’t clearly the best at his position does not jump out at me.  I may come around on him, but he needs to percolate longer than the six years I’ve had.

 

 

 

Hall of Famers

 

The seven men who deserve induction this summer:

 

 

 

Rickey Henderson

 

Don’t be stupid.  If you need an explanation, go away, you don’t belong here.  All time leader in runs and steals.  Second all time in walks.  Career line of .279/.401/.419 with 2295 runs, 3055 hits, 510 doubles, 297 home runs, 1115 RBIs, 1406 steals, and 2190 walks.

 

He played in three World Series and won two titles, batting .339/.448/.607 with seven steals and 12 runs in 14 games.

 

He made the All-star team ten times, won the 1981 Gold Glove and three Silver Sluggers, won the 1990 American League MVP Award and finished in the top three two other times. 

 

He led the league in runs five times, walks four times, and steals twelve times including seven in a row from 1980-86. 

 

He stole 100 bases three times, and had six straight 80 steal seasons.  All other players in history have accomplished those milestones five and ten times respectively.

 

He also had 14 straight 40-steal seasons and is the only player since 1940 to have more runs scored than games played in a season.  Le Rickey is unquestionably the greatest leadoff hitter to ever play the game.

 

 

 

Tim Raines

 

From 1982 to 1988, Raines led the National League in singles, doubles, triples, and walks.  He’s the only man in history with six consecutive 70-steal seasons.  He has the best stolen base success rate of all time.

 

He posted a career line of .294/.385/.425 to go with 808 steals, 1571 runs, 430 doubles, 113 triples, 170 HR, 980 RBIs, and 1330 walks with only 966 strikeouts. 

 

He made seven All-star teams, won the 1986 silver slugger, and while he never won an MVP he probably could have won two.

 

He won a batting title, six times finished in the top five in OBP, led the league in steals four years in a row and finished in the top five nine times. 

 

He abused cocaine, but later in his career he got clean, morphed into a cagey veteran and was a bench player on the Yankees’ 1996 World Series winners.

 

The second greatest leadoff hitter of all time, he should not be penalized for not being Rickey Henderson.

 

 

 

David Cone

 

This is my most controversial pick.  To me, David Cone has a much better case than Jack Morris, or any of the players not on my hypothetical ballot.

 

You ask about David Cone and the Hall of Fame, and my initial response is no way.  Who in their right mind would vote for David Cone?  He was outstanding.  I love him a lot.  He was always, always tremendous fun to watch, but Hall of Famer?  No way.

 

But check out his 12-year peak from 1988-99:  195-96, 3.15 ERA, 1994 Cy Young, led league in wins once, had season of 20-3 with a 2.22 ERA.  Five time All-star.  Two top-ten MVP finishes, which for a pitcher since about 1970 is huge. 

 

Four top-four Cy Young finishes.  Four times led the league in K/IP, eight times in the top five.  Twice led league in Ks, ten times in top five.  From 1990-1999, his ERA+ looked like this:  116, 111, 128, 120, 161, 138, 170, 131, 140, 121, 174, 159, 124, 137.

 

That’s beyond sensational.  He was better than Oswalt, Webb, Halladay, and Sabathia are in today’s game.  If he’d hung on and done anything at all, he’d be a lock.  Instead he fell off a cliff, stunk up the league for three years, and retired.

 

Comparative stats:

 

Player A:  165-87, 2396 Ks, 817 BBs, 131 ERA+

Player B:  198-132, 1265 Ks, 690 BBs, 110 ERA+

Player C:  193-143, 2316 Ks, 803 BBs, 135 ERA+

Player D:  150-83, 1163 Ks, 453 BBs, 130 ERA+

Player E:  197-140, 2045 Ks, 840 BBs, 125 ERA+

Player G:  189-102, 1468 Ks, 1095 BBs, 125 ERA+

Player H:  175-96, 2352 Ks, 928 BBs, 137 ERA+

 

Player H is Coney from 1988 to 1999.  The others, in order, are Sandy Koufax, Jack Chesbro, Rube Waddell, Dizzy Dean, Dazzy Vance, and Lefty Gomez.  All Hall of Famers.  Comparative stats are always misleading, but that's some pretty decent company he's keeping.

 

Coney is the best compared to pitchers of his time.  He's measurably better than Koufax in several ways.  Think about that for a minute.  Koufax had that legendary peak, with the four years where he killed everyone. 

 

But Koufax only had five years in which he was 40 percent better than the league average pitcher.  Coney had six.  Even with the peak that Koufax is legendary for....Coney measures up.

 

On top of that, Cone went 12-3 in the post-season, including 5-0 with a 2.12 ERA in the World Series.  He pitched a perfect game.  He had a .606 career winning percentage, even after being among the worst pitchers in the league the last three years of his career.

 

I don’t know that David Cone necessarily belongs, particularly on the first ballot, but what pitchers beginning their careers from 1970-1990 belong in the Hall of Fame?  That’s a 20-year stretch where Cone might be the second best pitcher to break into the Majors.

 

The thing to think about is that Cone may be in position to pull a Lou Whitaker.  He could drop off the ballot this year, and five years from now we could look at him and start thinking about how he belongs and we’d like another shot at voting for him.

 

So maybe he doesn’t belong.  But he deserves a good, long look, and simply to keep him on the ballot, I’d vote for him this year to give us time to reflect on his career and the pitchers of the 1980s and early 1990s. 

 

Is he Sandy Koufax?  No, certainly not.  But he’s not as far off as you might think.

 

 

 

Bert Blyleven

 

Blyleven is an interesting case because while he was never the best pitcher in his league, he may have been the best pitcher of his generation.  Longevity and dependability matter.

 

Blyleven’s lifetime record of 287-250 give him a less-than-stellar .534 winning percentage, but his 3701 strikeouts put him fifth on the career list.  Against those strikeouts he walked only 1322.

 

His career ERA was 3.31, and his career ERA+ over 22 seasons was 118.  The fact that he was never the best in his league is an argument a lot of people have made, but being really good for a really long time makes you a Hall of Famer.

 

Eddie Murray is a great comparable.  Murray was never once, in his entire career, the best hitter in baseball, or probably even the best at his position. 

 

Yet he reached those milestones by sticking around as a decent to outstanding player forever.  And that makes him a Hall of Famer.

 

There are just certain accomplishments that can't be overlooked.  I don't care that Blyleven never won a Cy Young Award, the man has 3,700 strikeouts. 

 

Paul Molitor, Rod Carew, Lou Brock, even Wade Boggs...they were never the best in the game, they were just really good for a long, long time, and got in for having 3,000 hits and sustained excellence.

 

So I reject the argument that somebody had to be the best in the game.  The small-Hall argument would mean we’d have about 30 people in the Hall, and a museum dedicated to the history of the game needs to be more inclusive than that.

 

Comparing stats between Nolan Ryan and Bert Blyleven.  No cherry-picking of time periods.  These are career totals:

 

Blyleven:  287-250, .534 winning percentage, 60 shutouts, 242 CG, 3701 Ks, 1322 walks, 118 ERA+, 1.198 WHIP, Eleven seasons of better than 120 ERA+

 

Ryan:  324-292, .526 winning percentage, 61 shutouts, 222 CG, 5714 Ks, 2795 walks, 111 ERA+, 1.247 WHIP, Seven seasons of better than 120 ERA+

 

Blyleven is significantly better.  It's not even close.

 

 

 

Jim Rice

 

I have gone back and forth on Rice.  He’s certainly not a lock by any means.

 

We all know the arguments against him:  he benefited from his park and in a neutral location would have been an average player, he grounded into too many double plays, his career was too short, and being feared is a myth.

 

All nonsense.

 

Being feared is not a myth.  Sabermetricians cherry-pick the intentional walk to demonstrate this.  Rice did not get many intentional walks.  He did, however, finish in the top five of the MVP voting six times. 

 

Every other player to do that is in the Hall of Fame, except for Alex Rodriguez, who certainly will be as soon as he’s eligible.  Someone so consistently productive is always frightening.  Sustained excellence instills fear.

 

He grounded into more double plays than all but five men in the history of baseball.  Those five are Cal Ripken, Hank Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski, Dave Winfield, and Eddie Murray.  That is not bad company. 

 

Yes, he made a lot of outs, but he also produced a lot of runs.

 

And as for park factor:  baseball doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Adjusting numbers for park effects is useful for projecting players, but as far as analyzing what actually happened, it’s supplementary.  The only number that matters is runs.  What happened happened.  Rice did what he did.  Period.

 

I don’t care about park neutrality.  The World Series winner isn’t determined by who would have won in a Diamond Mind simulation in a neutral park.  All that neutral park stuff is good for projecting what might happen, and it’s interesting to talk about, but that’s where it ends.

 

Would Koufax have won three Cy Young Awards pitching in Boston?  Maybe, maybe not, but he won them in Los Angeles, and that’s what counts.  Rice did what he did where he did it.  End of story.

 

And the story tells a lot.  From 1975-85, Rice finished in the top five of six MVP votes.  He led the league in home runs, RBIs, runs, slugging, and extra base hits.  He had far more at bats than anyone in the game, which some have used to detract from his accomplishments. 

 

All players had the opportunity to have that many at bats.  That Rice accumulated them is a testament to his durability and should be seen as an asset.

 

He was the first black man to star for Boston.  He made eight All-star teams, won the 1978 MVP, won two Silver Sluggers, led the league in slugging twice, four times had slugging percentages of .550 or better, and batted over .300 seven times.

 

He authored a career line of .298/.352/.502 with 382 home runs, 1249 runs, 1451 RBIs, and a career OPS+ of 128.  His career ended quickly, perhaps because of the wear he took playing more than anyone else in baseball for a decade.

 

I think the difference between Rice and Parker, who on the surface looks very similar, is that Rice was a great player for a decade while Parker was a great player for seven seasons scattered over two decades.  The continuity is what separates the two.

 

 

 

Dale Murphy

 

"Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."  Performance on the field is only 1/6 of the Hall of Fame standard.

 

Dale Murphy, standing on his own, is not a Hall of Fame caliber player based on his numbers, longevity, and so on.  But he defined baseball for half the country for a decade.  It wasn’t the Braves.  It wasn’t the Cardinals or the Cubs.  It was him.  That means something.

 

So when people start going on about certain players not being good enough statistically, I think them shortsighted.  Certain players become icons, and that puts them in the Hall as much as 600 homers should.  I don't think Mattingly measures up in this area, but he gets consideration here.

 

Murphy’s career was excellent.  He made seven All-star teams, won two MVP awards, five Gold Gloves, and four Silver Sluggers.  He led the league in home runs twice and finished in the top four seven times. 

 

From 1982-85, he played every game.  His career line of .265/.346/.469 is weaker than many inductees, but he brings 398 home runs, 1197 runs, 1266 RBIs, and a 121 career OPS+.

 

Murphy gets in because he's an icon.  It’s that simple.

 

There are certain players who are legendary enough, and so much a part of the fabric of the game, that they have to be inducted.  Roberto Clemente.  Ty Cobb.  Satchel Page.  Kirby Puckett.  Some of these guys are so good there's no argument anyway.  Some are merely excellent.

 

Murphy was baseball.  Period.  In the 1980s, he was responsible for bringing baseball to the entire South and Midwest.  I don't care if he only hit 200 home runs.  Murphy did for the South and Midwest what Ripken did in the 90s.

 

There are so few players in the history of the game who have had that kind of impact:  Ruth, Robinson, Feller, Clemente, Murphy, Ripken.  Murphy belongs there.  On top of which, he won back-to-back MVP awards and was one of the stellar outfielders of his time.

 

The list of back-to-back MVP winners:  Bonds, Schmidt, Morgan, Banks, Foxx, Newhauser, Berra, Mantle, Maris, Thomas.  Murphy belongs there.

 

The best defensive outfielders of the eighties were Murphy and Dawson.  And nobody else.  Dwight Evans, Dave Winfield:  these guys were a class below Murphy and Dawson.

 

Murphy was a complete player who excelled at everything, he had an elite peak but no tail end to his career, and he was iconic in a way only a handful of players have ever been. 

 

 

I don't think we need outfielders of Murphy's caliber in the Hall, I think we need ambassadors of the game in the Hall.

 

 

 

Andre Dawson

 

Like Murphy, Dawson’s argument is based on more than his numbers, which themselves were outstanding.  He made eight All-star teams, won eight Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, the 1977 Rookie of the Year Award, and the 1987 MVP.  He finished second in two other MVP ballots.

 

He twice led the league in total bases and once in home runs.  Four times he led the league in being hit by pitches.  He accumulated 438 HR, 1591 RBIs, 1373 runs, 503 doubles, 2774 hits, and 314 steals. 

 

His career line is .279/.323/.482, with a 119 OPS+ and 4787 total bases.  The knock is his on base percentage, which would be among the worst in the Hall.

 

Andre Dawson had a perceived greatness about him, just like Vlad did for the last 10 years.&

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