Wednesday, January 8, 2014

If I Had a Hall of Fame Vote...

Yes, Ninety Feet from Home is back.  How long it will be back, I don't know.  But I thought this year's Hall of Fame Ballot was very important to write an article.

First, I am tired of those BBWWA members that have a vote who basically waste them, not voting on players who they "suspect" did PEDs.  Murray Chass said the following (and note that I didn't link to Chass' blog directly, though I could have, due to not wanting to give Chass' site any more hits) ;
"The boxes next to these 10 names will not get an X: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Eric Gagne, Paul Lo Duca, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa. These non-exes won’t get my vote because they were proved to have cheated, admitted they cheated or are strongly suspected of having cheated."
As a good friend said to me on Facebook, Biggio should "lawyer up" and sue Chass for slander.  To my knowledge and I am someone who has religiously followed baseball since I was seven years old and has coached Little League for the past three years (thus to show I have some knowledge of baseball), Biggio has never been "strongly suspected" of using performance enhancement drugs, nor was he mentioned in the Mitchell Report.

Murray Chass wouldn't matter to me, except for one thing.  He has a vote.

Then there's the brilliant Ken Gurnick of MLB.Com, who is only voting for Jack Morris and not anyone from "the steroid era", which includes guarantee first ballot Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.  Gurnick goes further to say "I just don't know who did and who didn't."

Really, Ken?  So based on your uncertainty, legitmate Hall of Fame candidates will not get a vote?  How about I just don't know if you deserve a vote or not.  I am sure the folks who run MLB.Com are thinking the same thing about your employment.

There needs to be a BBWAA review committee of those "writers" like Chass and Gurnick who have ballots.  If you cannot make reasoned judgments with evidence, whether statistical or not, you shouldn't have a Hall of Fame vote.

So what if I had a vote?  Well, to be considered on my 10 member list vote, a player had to at least fit one of the five criteria.  If you fit multiple criteria, you were in, three or more you were a lock;  Here are my criteria.

1) Did you reach magical number of hits (3000), HR (500) or wins (300) ?
2) Did you have a ten year dominant period, a long time Hall of Fame standard, and did that include at least one Cy Young or MVP?
3) Did you lead a statistical category, wins, ERA, Strikeouts, HRs, shutouts, SBs, BA, RBIs, runs multiple times (meaning at least three times)?
4) Did you have at least five all star appearances?  Multiple Silver Sluggers? (notes you were the best hitter at your position)
5) Do you favor comparably to other Hall of Famers based on categories like JAWS and WAR?

Other factors may include lifetime .300 hitter, top twenty in all time category and statistical analysis, JAWS and WAR to be specific.

And you ideally had to not be in the following category, though exceptions can be made for those TRULY EXCEPTIONABLE based on statistical categories.

Did you ever fail a drug test, were listed on the Mitchell Report, admit to taking steroids or PEDs, or taken to court for steroid use?   Please note, if you were none of the previous sentence, "suspicions" or the fact you took andro does not include you in this category.
So based on the above paragraph, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza are Hall of Fame worthy candidates.

Here's what would be my Hall of Fame Ballot.

1) Greg Maddux
2) Tom Glavine
3) Frank Thomas
4) Craig Biggio
5) Mike Piazza
6) Jeff Bagwell
7) Jeff Kent
8) Tim Raines
9) Roger Clemens
10 Barry Bonds

Not making the list - Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling and Jack Morris

1) Greg Maddux - Simply put, he should be a unanimous pick.  Three hundred and fifty five wins, four Cy Youngs, eight time All Star, led league in ERA four times, EIGHTEEN time Gold Glove winner, led league in Ratio four times, three times in Wins and five time in Shutouts.  One of the greats of all time.

2) Tom Glavine - The Sundance Kid to Maddux's Butch Cassidy.  Three hundred and five wins, two Cy Youngs, ten time All Star and led league in Wins five times.  Definite first ballot Hall of Famer.

3) Frank Thomas - Five hundred and twenty one home runs, lifetime .301 hitter, two time MVP, five time All Star, four time Silver Slugger.  His .419 on base percentage is twentieth all time and  his .555 slugging percentage is twenty second all time for major league hitters.  Easily had a ten year period between 1991 and 2000 where he was truly dominant.  Another no brainer for the Hall of Fame.

4) Craig Biggio - Three thousand and sixty hits. Seven All Star appearances. Five Silver Sluggers and four Gold Gloves. Twice lead league in runs scored and lead the league three times in doubles. Fifth all time leader in doubles with 668 and fifteenth all time in runs scored with 1844.  Should have made the Hall of Fame last season in his first year eligible on the ballot.

5) Mike Piazza - Twelve time All Star and ten Silver Slugger Awards. Lifetime .308 hitter.  Rookie of the Year winner. Had ten year dominant period from 1993 to 2002, which coincides with him winning the Silver Slugger each year during that period.  All time home run leader for catchers.  JAWS lists him as 5th all time catcher.  Of the top eight catchers in JAWS, six are in the Hall of Fame and the other two are Ivan Rodriguez (another future Hall of Famer) and Piazza.  Enough said.

6) Jeff Bagwell -  Won MVP once and was also Rookie of the Year. Four All Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers and one Gold Glove.  Eight times drove in 100 or more RBIs. Had ten year dominant period from 1994 to 2003.  34th all time with .540 slugging percentage.  JAWS lists him as 6th all time first baseman.  Of the top ten first basemen in JAWS, seven are in the Hall of Fame, the other three are Thomas, Jim Thome (a definite Hall of Famer) and Bagwell.

7) Tim Raines - Seven time All Star and one Silver Slugger.  Led league in stolen bases four times. Fifth all time leader in stolen bases with 808. The top four leaders in stolen bases are all in the Hall of Fame (Ricky Henderson, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton and Ty Cobb). Led league in assists three times, runs twice and batting average and doubles each one time. JAWS lists him as the eighth all time left fielder.  The other top seven are Hall of Famers and Barry Bonds.

8) Jeff Kent -  Won MVP once, five time All Star and four time Silver Slugger Award winner.  From 1997 to 2007, he had eight years of one hundred or more RBIs.  If there's anyone on this list that might be considered border line, it would be Kent.  But I think he was the dominant second baseman at his position for a good ten year period.

Now my last two have been involved in PEDs from lawsuits or federal cases but their numbers, especially WAR are too strong to ignore.  But before I talk about the last two players, let's note a couple of things  right now.

A) The Hall of Fame is already not pristine.  There is at least one member of the Hall of Fame who used performance enhancing means to get into the Hall of Fame and admitted as such; Gaylord Perry.  Gaylord Perry doctored baseballs, ie. used spitballs and admitted as such.  Yet, there he is in the Hall of Fame.

Also much has been made of the amphetamine use of the 1970's, 80's etc.  There was no tests for that back in the 70's till the time of testing in baseball.  I haven't heard anyone seriously question current Hall of Famers for their use of amphetamines and whether that was cheating.

B) Which leads to my second item. There were no tests for steroids or PEDs years until the past several years in baseball.  Whether there is a basis of evidence or not, at the time the players did not do anything illegal, or at least not illegal in Major League Baseball until there was approved, mandatory tests.  So, yes, there is a good deal of evidence or circumstantial evidence if you wish to say Clemens and Bonds were using steroids.  But there seems to be a good period of time when Bonds and Clemens didn't use steroids (based on body type early in career).

Also, if PEDs were the sole reason a player had Hall of Fame worthy statistics, Ozzie Canseco would have put up Hall of Fame numbers (thankfully his more talented brother, Jose Canseco, didn't either).

There are players I have left off this list, like Rafael Palmeiro, who failed a drug test, or Mark McGwire, who admitted taking steroids.  Much of that has to due with the overwhelming evidence in their cases, but also has to do that their WAR wasn't really all that good.  In Clemens and Bonds cases, their WAR is so much greater that those two and of anyone eligible currently for the Hall of Fame that their numbers trump their alleged/likely use of steroids/PEDs later in their careers.

So until Gaylord Perry is kicked out of the Hall of Fame or there is a honest, statistical discussion about whether the Hall of Fame should celebrate the greatest players of all time, no matter the circumstances or is the Hall of Fame truly only for those who played the game "clean", I can't keep out two elite players, despite the PED baggage they had towards the end of their careers

9) Roger Clemens - Seven time Cy Young award winner and won MVP once. Three hundred and fifty four wins.  Led league in ERA seven times, shutouts six times and strikeouts five times. Led the league in wins four times and won twenty or more games six times.  Eleven time All Star. Career 139 WAR, which is third all time for pitchers. Third all time in strikeouts.  Look up the definition of "dominant", you'll likely see his picture there.  Sorry, Clemens had immense talent and great pitching acumen and successfully used both, whether there was PED use or not.

10) Barry Bonds - The all time leader in home runs, first all time in runs created, third all time in runs scored, fourth all time in Total Bases, fifth in career slugging percentage (.607), fifth all time in OPS (1.051) and sixth all time in OBP (.444).  MVP seven times, three of those came early in his career (1990, 1992, 1993) when it was clear his body type was not of a "suspected" steroid user.  Twelve time Silver Slugger, eight time Gold Glove winner (he was not just a hitter).  Fourteen time all star.  His 162 WAR is fourth all time.  Thirty third all time in hits.   Just too dominant, even in his early career, to leave out of the Hall of Fame.

Now for those who I left off this list.

Fred McGriff - The Crimedog was a good home run hitter and you could even say a very good home run hitter with 493 career home runs.  Drove in 100 runs eight times in his nineteen year career.  Five time All Star and three time Silver Slugger award winner.   Led the National League twice in home runs.  Just wasn't someone considered dominant and fell short of the magical 500 home run mark.  He might be the Mike Mussina of hitting (see Mussina for description). He's much more of a borderline case than the next three.

Mike Mussina - Five time All Star and seven time Gold Glove winner.  24th all time for WAR.  JAWS lists him as the 28th best pitcher of all time. . My friend John Templon of Big Apple Buckets has the perfect nickname for Mussina - "The Great Compiler".  That's because Mussina compiles stats; wins - 270 (33rd), strikeouts 2813 (19th), WAR 82.7 (24th).

But Mussina never led the league in ERA, ratio or strikeouts or in a single season.  He led the league once in wins, shutouts and WAR.   Mussina never won a Cy Young and only came in second once.  He only won twenty games once, his last season in the big leagues.  If you look at Mussina' similarity scores, he compares closest to Andy Pettitte (and the numbers are scary).  Pettitte, good pitcher that he was, was never a dominant pitcher and not Hall of fame worthy in my book.  Likewise, Mussina never had a ten year dominant period, like say Roy Halladay or Pedro Martinez.  He was the ultimate #2 starter but not yet Hall of Fame worthy to me.

Curt Schilling -  Six time All Star, led league twice in wins, twice in strikeouts, twice in ratio and four times in complete games. Won twenty or more games three times.   JAWS lists him as the 27th best pitcher of all time.  Here's the thing; Schilling never won a Cy Young. never had a ten year dominant period.  To me he compares with Mussina, but didn't compile as much stats as Mussina or was as good as Mussina for as long a period of time.  Would vote Mussina in before Schilling.

Jack Morris - Five time all Star, led the league twice in wins (one year was strike shortened season -1981), led the league once in strikeouts, once in shutouts and won twenty or more games three times.  But that's it.  Yes Morris had the 1984 and 1991 postseasons, the five all star appearances, he was a warrior and for that, a lot of old school BBWAA writers have voted for him.

Morris compiled some good statistics on par with Mussina and Schilling.  But he was never considered "dominant", certainly didn't have a ten year dominant period and most importantly, never won a Cy Young.   I would vote for Mussina and Schilling before Morris, who JAWS lists as the one hundred and fifty ninth all time best pitcher.  Uh uh.

Now mind you, I don't have a vote, I never will and the voters are entitled to their opinion.  Most that have a vote have thoughtful explanations/reasoning/evidence/statistics for their voting.  There may be no place in the Hall of Fame for cheaters (Gaylord Perry proves otherwise) but there's also no place in the BBWWA Hall of Fame voting for writers who base their votes on suspicion and uncertainty.   Surely we can all agree the Hall of Fame is too important for that.

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