We all know how the argument goes–in support of a worthy Hall of Fame candidate, we point to a lesser candidate already in the Hall, and hold them out as the minimum requirement for entrance into the Hall of Fame.
"If we're going to put Bill Mazeroski in the Hall of Fame, how can we leave out Roberto Alomar?"
"Now that Bruce Sutter is in the Hall of Fame, where is Dan Quisenberry?"
"If Catfish Hunter is a Hall of Famer, how can Bert Blyleven not be?"
They are the Hall of Fame Standard Bearers. And by "Standard Bearer," we don't mean the guys who set the highest standard for their position, like Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron.
We mean the guys who set the lowest standard for their position, the guys to whom we will forever compare all candidates.
These are the guys at the bottom of the Hall of Fame, and if a Hall of Fame candidate was better than these guys, then the candidate should be in the Hall of Fame as well.
Let's take a look, position by position.
Rick Ferrell was the brother of pitcher Wes Ferrell. He was a below average offensive player, but pretty good for a catcher of his era.
He had a startling 931/277 BB-to-K ratio as a hitter, and finished his career with a .281 batting average. He also led the league in passed balls a bunch of times and never once played in the postseason.
If Rick Ferrell is a Hall of Famer, we are forced to ask where Ted Simmons is. Simmons hit 248 homeruns in his career, along with 1389 RBI and over 1,000 runs. He was also a good defensive catcher and handled pitchers well.
Simmons went to just as many All-Star Games as Ferrell and went to the playoffs twice.
Jim Bottomley was a very good player in his time, and he won the NL MVP in 1928 when he led the league in triples, homeruns, and RBI.
Nevertheless, he played in an incredibly inflated era and managed only 219 home runs and 1422 RBI to go along with a 125 OPS+.
Just to put that 125 OPS+ in perspective, of first baseman with as many plate appearances as Bottomley, John Olerud (128) and Keith Hernandez (128) were at least as valuable as Bottomley and have no chance of making the Hall, while Fred McGriff (134) and Carlos Delgado (138) are also doubtful.
One of the strangest statistics in baseball history belongs to Bill Mazeroski. In 1962, a year in which he hit .271 with 14 home runs and 81 RBI, he led the National League with 16 intentional walks.
Nevertheless, Mazeroski was a light hitting gold glove second baseman who hit one of the most famous home runs of all time to beat the New York Yankees in Game Seven of the 1960 World Series.
Does that justify inducting a .260 lifetime hitter (with a .299 OBP) into the Hall of Fame?
But how do you then keep Bobby Grich, one of the best hitting second basemen of all time, out of the Hall?
And how does Roberto Alomar not go in on the first ballot?
The Hall of Fame has a real third base issue. It is such an issue, in fact, that they should almost establish a committee to look into the third base issue and make findings.
I'll be the first to admit that Pie Traynor's stats are appealing. He finished with 100 or more RBI in a season seven times, and he is a lifetime .320 hitter.
Traynor also played during a heavily inflated era, and his numbers are a product of that.
For example, he hit .366 in 1930, which on the face of it looks amazing. But when you consider the fact that the National League as a whole hit .303 that year, and Traynor's .366 was good for only sixth behind Bill Terry's .401, you realize that his numbers must be taken with a grain of salt.
Meanwhile, guys like Ron Santo (five gold gloves, 342 home runs, 1331 RBI, 1138 runs, 125 OPS+), Ron Cey (316 home runs, 1139 RBI, 121 OPS+), Darrell Evans (414 home runs), Bob Elliot (1947 NL MVP, 1195 RBI, 1064 runs), and Graig Nettles (390 home runs, two gold gloves, 1314 RBI) have to buy a ticket to get into the Hall of Fame.
I'm not saying these guys are all Hall of Famers, but I am saying they're better than Pie Traynor.
Phil Rizzuto played 13 seasons because of going to World War II from 1943 to 1945. In 1950, he blew the world away by hitting .324 and accumulating 200 hits for the World Champion Yankees.
So blown away was the world that Rizzuto won the AL MVP over teammates Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio, each of whom had better seasons, to say nothing of Larry Doby, who was the best hitter in the AL that year.
Rizzuto was inducted into the Hall in 1994 by the Veterans Committee, which would seem to open up a big ol' can of worms.
For example, how do you keep out Vern Stephens, a contemporary of Rizzuto's who led the AL in home runs once and RBI three times, and finished his career with 247 home runs, 1174 RBI, and 1001 runs scored?
The list of shortstops who become Hall of Fame caliber on the basis of Rizzuto's admission is lengthy.
The lesson of Zack Wheat appears to be this: play for a long time, win a batting title, and come close to some career milestones, and we'll have a spot in the Hall of Fame for you.
Wheat finished his career with a .317 batting average, 2,884 hits, and over 1,200 runs and RBI. He also had over 4,000 career total bases. He had some good years and played during an era in which the Dead Ball Era became the Live Ball Era.
Nevertheless, if I'm Sherry Magee, Tim Raines, Albert Belle, Greg Luzinski, Minnie Minoso, Bob Johnson, or Ken Williams, I'm wondering what it is that Wheat has that I don't have.
And if I'm Jim Rice, I'm wondering what took so long.
I think the induction of Kirby Puckett was more about what he would have accomplished had he not lost the end of his career to glaucoma than what he actually accomplished.
Puckett would almost certainly gotten to 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, and about 1,300 each of runs and RBI. Plus, Kirby was a great contact hitter.
Nevertheless, Kirby's induction is problematic when you consider his home/road statistics and the fact that he didn't actually accomplish the things we assume he would have accomplished.
Kirby was a .344 hitter with a .909 OPS at home during his career, with only a .291 average and a .761 OPS on the road. If Kirby is a Hall of Famer irrespective of these numbers, it would certainly appear as though Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies would have to be as well.
Incidentally, I was going to take this opportunity to rag on the selection of Lloyd Waner, but I can't find anyone willing to defend the selection of Waner in this day and age. I think this selection is largely regarded as a mistake that would not occur today.
Kiki Cuyler once led the National League in stolen bases four times in five years and finished with over 100 RBI three times. He is a lifetime .321 hitter who went to three World Series, but played his career during an overly inflated era without making a dent in any of the career leader boards.
His 125 OPS+ for a guy who played right field more than any other position puts him behind several non-Hall of Famers, including Tony Oliva, Bobby Bonds, Jack Clark, Darryl Strawberry, Roger Maris, Gavvy Cravath, and Rocky Colavito, to name a few.
Actually, with Paul Molitor in as the only Designated Hitter in the Hall of Fame–and considering the fact that he played almost 1,500 games in the field–the Hall of Fame has set the bar for designated hitters very high.
While Frank Thomas will probably be a shoo-in, Harold Baines never really came close, David Ortiz probably has no prayer, and it will be very interesting to see how Edgar Martinez fares when his time comes.
Anyone making the case that Bert Blyleven should not be in the Hall of Fame, is a questionable Hall of Fame candidate, or even a borderline Hall of Famer should be laughed at.
Laughed at and then slapped.
As between Bert and Bunning, Bert played five more seasons and had 1,200 more innings pitched. In those five additional seasons, he had 63 more wins and 850 more strikeouts than Bunning. His ERA was slightly worse than Bunning's–3.31 vs. 3.27–but Bert's ERA+ was better, 118 vs. 114.
The Blyleven-Bunning irony is that if Bert had retired when he reached the number of innings that Bunning had pitched, there would be no question as to who was the better pitcher.
Blyleven would have had slightly fewer wins, but more strikeouts, complete games, and shutouts, a lower ERA, fewer home runs allowed, a better WHIP, and a much better ERA+.
Through 3,700 innings, Bunning couldn't hold a candle to Blyleven.
We all know that the role of the closer in baseball has changed, and that saves are easier to come by. So, the fact that Sutter had 300 saves in 12 seasons while averaging way over an inning per appearance (1042.0 innings in 661 games) is relatively impressive.
We get that.
But keep in mind that Sutter is a guy who worked as a full-time closer for nine seasons and led the league in saves five times without ever having dominant stuff.
It just kinda makes you wonder where John Franco, Lee Smith, Dan Quisenberry, Mike Marshall, and Tom Henke all are.
Wilbert Robinson managed the Brooklyn Dodgers, then called the Robins, from 1914 to 1931. During that time, the Robins went 1,375-1,341 for a .506 winning percentage. Brooklyn won two NL pennants under Robinson, losing in the World Series both times.
If Robinson can be in the Hall of Fame on the strength of this record, then any moderately successful manager can.
I mean, this isn't Tony LaRussa/Bobby Cox territory, or even Joe Torre/Terry Francona territory.
Wilbert Robinson sets a bar by which Charlie Manuel, Dusty Baker, and Cito Gaston are all headed to the Hall of Fame.
Incidentally, there are 19 managers in the Hall of Fame; the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers have four of them.