How MLB Expansion Has Affected Hall of Fame Voting
By way of comparison, lets look at the careers of newly elected Hall of Famer Jim Rice and current Free Agent who is being touted as a first ballot Hall of Famer himself, Manny Ramirez .
As luck would have it, they have both played 16 seasons, making the timing of this analysis almost perfect if you ask me.
By the Numbers: 16, 26 to 30 and 24 to 48
16: This is the number of completed seasons by both Rice and Ramirez per Baseball-reference.com , hence the comparison.
26 to 30: 26 is the number of major league teams in existence for most of Rice’s career. Two teams were added in 1977 (the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners ). 30 is the number of major league teams in existence for most ofRamirez’s career. Two teams were added in 1993 (the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins ) and another two were added in 1998 (the Tampa Bay Devil Rays [now just the Rays] and the Arizona Diamondbacks ).
24 to 48: 24 is the number of pitchers in the majors for most of Rice’s career that would not have been at that level prior to the expansion of 1977 and given pitching staffs of 12 pitchers per team. Taking a deeper look at those numbers brings to mind that out of those 24 extra pitchers, 10 were probably starters with 14 in relief roles.
Likewise, 48 is the number of pitchers in the majors for most of Ramirez’s career that would not have been at that level prior to the expansions of 1993 and 1998. Again, a deeper look at those numbers brings to mind that out of those 48 extra pitchers, 20 were probably starters with 28 in relief roles.
What this means is that baseball has seen it’s pitching get weaker and weaker with each year of expansion. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, baseball has been dubbed the Power Age which can be considered as possible proof of this theory of mine (check out the link).
You would also need to take it into consideration that when people have looked back at players from the Dead Ball Era (1900-1919) it affected how they were viewed by the Hall of Fame voting members.
One of these voters had to take into consideration, the fact that ballparks were much more spacious back in those days, making a HR an almost unfathomable accomplishment. Remember, during the Dead Ball Era , the league’s HR leaders hit fewer than 10 HR in a season 13 of those years. For more on this era of baseball, you can read the Dead Ball Era on wikipedia .
Likewise, the Power Age should work in reverse. Players from this age should not affect those of previous eras without taking into account the era in which they played and then adjusting or at least taking the difference into account and evaluate the players accordingly.
With that premise in mind, let’s finally take a look at the comparison between Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez and remember, Ramirez played most of his 16 seasons in the Power Age , so his number should be inflated when compared to Rice.
To give you an idea of how much this has affected the game, I looked up the total HRs in MLB during Rice’s 16 seasons and compared them to the last 16 seasons. In Rice’s years (1974-1989), players hit 50,557 HRs (or 3,160 average HRs per season) compared to 78,717 HRs (or 4,920 average HRs per season) in Ramirez’s 16 years (1993-2008).
That is a difference of 28,160 HRs or 1,760 more HRs per season. Have these numbers changed your thinking yet? If not, here’s a few more numbers from these two great players to help you out a little bit more.
By the way, you can find these stats on Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez by clicking on the name links provided to the left from Baseball-reference.com . Although Ramirez played in 14 more games, Rice had 60 more hits, 61 more triples, 21 more stolen bases and 11 more sacrifices while Ramirez struck out more (244 times more).
Although Ramirez hit 134 more doubles than Rice, how many would you say were because Ramirez was just standing there watching as the ball didn’t quite make it out as he expected? Ramirez does also have the advantage in runs scored by 195 runs and 274 more RBIs, but a lot of that has to do with Ramirez’s 145 more HRs in a time where the league hit a ton more HRs than in Rice’s era.
This brings me to my conclusion of players in Rice’s era not getting the respect they deserve due to the inflated numbers of current players like Ramirez (players like Andre Dawson, for example). These numbers, in my opinion, show the type of player Ramirez is: selfish. He does not hustle unless he wants to, just look at the difference in triples and stolen bases.
Take a look at pictures of both Rice and Ramirez throughout their careers, are you telling me that Rice was significantly faster than Ramirez or could it just be that Rice hustled more?
Then looking at the inflated power numbers based on the HR totals during each player’s 16 year playing span and I come out to these guys being more evenly matched than one might think, with an edge going to Rice for his defense and hustle.
Rice deserved election into the MLB Hall of Fame (given this comparison) a lot sooner than he did, but voters were swayed due to the inflated numbers players have attained over the last 16 seasons.
Do you agree or disagree? Let’s hear from you! Prove me wrong if you can. . .
You can read more from Peter Schiller at his blog, Baseball Reflections .
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