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Archive for the tag “Barry Larkin”

Baseball’s Surprising Stats: Craig Biggio

It won’t be long before Craig Biggio comes up for Hall of Fame voting.  The former second baseman / outfielder (he caught a little, too) of the Houston Astros was one of the finest infielders of his era.  Though this post is not specifically meant to be an argument in favor of his HOF induction, the stats we will be looking at today certainly do nothing to diminish his case.

Acknowledging the appreciation of the fans aft...

Acknowledging the appreciation of the fans after a double against the Reds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to middle infielders like Biggio (and he was primarily a second baseman), the usual expectation as far as offense is concerned is a player with around a .300 batting average, good bat control (meaning few strikeouts and a reasonable ability to bunt), and decent, if not spectacular, speed.  Durability and solid defense are obvious pluses as well.

What we don’t necessarily expect from a middle infielder, (though there have been some notable exceptions) is solid power.  Most middle infielders survive with the occasional homer, breaking into double digits in the odd season.  Some push a bit further than that, into the 10-20 home run range.

When I was first studying Craig Biggio’s stats, there were several that impressed me a great deal.  First of all, in his amazing 1997 season, he grounded into exactly zero double plays in 744 plate appearances.  That same year he led the N.L. by being hit by 34 pitches, one of five seasons in which he led the N.L. in that statistic.

I was also impressed that when he led the N.L. in stolen bases in the strike-shortened 1994 season with 39, he was also caught just four times.

Perhaps most impressively, Biggio’s 4,711 career total bases are just one short of Rogers Hornsby’s record of 4,712 among players who primarily played second base in their careers.

And how about those 668 doubles, fifth most in baseball history?

English: Jeff Bagwell (left) and Craig Biggio ...

English: Jeff Bagwell (left) and Craig Biggio (Right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It occurred to me, then, almost as an afterthought to take a closer look at his home run numbers.

So here’s an exercise for you.  (In the spirit of the upcoming school year), take out a piece of paper and a #2 lead pencil.

Now write down the following players’ names in the order you believe they had the most to least 20 homer seasons.

Bobby Grich, Alan Trammell, Joe Morgan, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazzeri, Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, Ryne Sandberg, Frankie Frisch, Bobby Doerr, Jeff Kent, Rogers Hornsby, Charlie Gehringer, Lou Whitaker, Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio.

I know that you know where this is going, but hell, play along anyway.

Finished yet?

The now obvious question for this post is, then, “How Many 20+ Home Run Seasons Did Craig Biggio Accumulate in His Career?”

Here is the list of players in order from most 20+ homer seasons to fewest:

1)  Jeff Kent – 12

2)  Craig Biggio – 8

3)  Joe Gordon – 7

3)  Rogers Hornsby – 7

5)  Ryne Sandberg – 5

6)  Joe Morgan – 4

6)  Lou Whitaker – 4

8)  Roberto Alomar – 3

8)  Bobby Doerr – 3

8)) Derek Jeter – 3

11) Bobby Grich – 2

11) Barry Larkin – 2

11) Alan Trammell – 2

14) Charlie Gehringer – 1

15) Frankie Frisch – 0

15) Tony Lazzeri – 0

As you can see, few middle infielders in baseball history consistently hit as many home runs as Craig Biggio.  Yet ten of the players on this list are already in the HOF, and Derek Jeter will surely follow them in when the time comes.

Biggio retired after the 2007 season at age 41.  He hit 291 home runs in his career, the same number as “Toy Cannon” Jimmy Wynn, and just ten fewer than Rogers Hornsby.  He hit more homers than did first basemen Will Clark, Steve Garvey and Ted Kluszewski.

Craig Biggio’s eight 20+ home run seasons are also as many as Don Mattingly and Roberto Clemente  accomplished, if you put them together.

The point here is that if you are looking for a hole in Craig Biggio’s potential Hall of Fame resume, you’ll have to look elsewhere, for hitting for power was a relative strength of his.

All statistics, of course, are, to a certain extent, arbitrary.  I am not arguing that Craig Biggio was the best player on this list  (though few on this list were clearly better.)

There is no doubt, however, that Craig Biggio’s power was an underrated, and perhaps surprising, facet of his game.

The Baseball Hall of Fame: A Qualitative Analysis, Part 1

Many times over the past couple of weeks I’ve read the following comment regarding a player that someone doesn’t think should be inducted into the Hall of Fame:

 “If he is elected, it will lower the standards of the Hall of Fame.”

 Or, alternatively, “The Hall used to have very high standards, but they’ve been watered down over the years.”

 I know you’ve heard or read these comments as well.  Perhaps you’ve even uttered them.

I decided to take a look back at HOF elections going all the way back to the first one in 1936 to see if there really was a Golden Age when only the best of the best were inducted, and where the proverbial train went off the rails.  

I didn’t have to search very far.

What follows is Part 1 of a multi-part series analyzing the year-by-year inductees (MLB players only) to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, gratuitous commentary included.  (BBWAA: Elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America; VC: Elected by the Veterans Committee):

1936 — BBWAA: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner.

So far, so good.  Eleven writers left Ruth off their ballots, perhaps out of concern that his induction would “water down The Hall.”

1937 — BBWAA: Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Cy Young

Nice to see Cy Young just barely squeak in with 76% of the vote in his second year on the ballot.

1938 — BBWAA: Grover Cleveland Alexander

Career WAR of 104.9 is fifth best all-time for pitchers.  Poor bastard suffered from epilepsy, shell-shock from WWI, and alcoholism.  But boy, could he pitch.  His 90 career shutouts are still the N.L. record.

1939 — BBWAA: Eddie Collins, Lou Gehrig, Willie Keeler, George Sisler. VC: Cap Anson, Candy Cummings, Buck Ewing, Hoss Radbourn

Keeler was a career .341 hitter, but a career WAR of 60.8 ties him with Buddy Bell for 103rd place among position players.  Not a slam dunk.

Sisler hit over .400 twice, and set single-season hit record (257) later broken by Ichiro.  A.L. MVP 1922.  Yet career OPS+ 124 is the same as Sixto Lezcano and Bobby Bonilla.  Career WAR of 50.4 is just 168th all-time.

Old Hoss Radbourne tossed 678 innings in 1884.  Ouch.

Cummings pitched six years in the 1870’s, and allegedly invented the curveball.  So is 1939 the year the HOF begins to lose its way?  Much worse is on the way.

1942 — BBWAA: Rogers Hornsby.

The only player elected during the five years of the WWII era.  The nation must have been rationing HOF votes along with everything else.

1945 — VC: Roger Bresnahan, Dan Brouthers, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Hugh Jennings, King Kelly, Jim O’Rourke

Just nine years after The Hall’s initial Mount Rushmore election, the Veteran’s Committee apparently

Hall of Famer and first baseman Hughie Jenning...

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got drunk and elected every 19th century Irish ball player they could think of.  Maybe they were celebrating the end of WWII.

Bresnahan invented shin-guards, which is nice, but career WAR of 41.6 is pretty low.  Brouthers and Delahanty definitely belong in The Hall.

Clarke is borderline, as is Jimmy Collins (a great defensive third-sacker.)  Collins accumulated 1,999 hits.  You would think he would have found a way to get just one more hit.

King Kelly was a legend in his own time.  How do you objectively assess a legend?  You don’t.  We simply don’t abide his kind these days.

Hughie Jennings is interesting.  He led his league in WAR four straight seasons (1895-98), which is pretty damned impressive.  He accumulated 35.3 WAR in just those four years.  But that represents fully 76% of his entire career value (46.4).  So, do you prefer a player with a high peak, or a player who plays reasonably well over a long period of time?

Jim O’Rourke is one of my favorite players in The Hall because he hails from my hometown of Bridgeport, CT, and because he was known as Orator Jim.  It was said of him, “Words of great length and thunderous sound simply flowed out of his mouth.”  That is my all-time favorite quote about a ball player.  If there is an orator’s HOF somewhere, he should be in it.  As for the baseball HOF, well, perhaps not.

So by my count, the class of 1945 includes two definite HOF’ers, four borderline inductees, one poor choice, and King Kelly.

1946 — VC: Jesse Burkett, Frank Chance, Jack Chesbro, Johnny Evers, Tommy McCarthy, Joe McGinnity, Eddie Plank, Joe Tinker, Rube Waddell, Ed Walsh.

Tinkers to Evers to Chance wasn’t great poetry, and it wasn’t a great day for The Hall.  Tinker was an excellent defensive shortstop but a poor hitter who doesn’t belong in The Hall.  Evers won the 1914 MVP award, but also doesn’t belong.  Chance was the best hitter of the three, had a short peak, and finished with less than 50 career WAR.

At age 30, in 1904, Jack Chesbro started 51 games for the N.Y. Highlanders, won a Major League record 41 of them, pitched 454 innings, and posted a WAR of 8.8.  Also reached 20 wins four other times.  But he won fewer than 200 games in his career, and his career WAR is less than 40.  If he is in on the strength of one huge season and a few good ones, then a case can be made that Roger Maris also belongs in The Hall.

Jesse Burkett, one of the great hitters of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, belongs in The Hall, as does Gettysburg Eddie (326 wins) Plank.

Though he pitched just seven full seasons, Fordham University’s Ed Walsh won 40 games for the ’08 White Sox, and his career ERA of 1.82 is the lowest in MLB history.  So you gotta give him a nudge into The Hall as well.  Rube Waddell was one of the strangest, and one of the greatest, pitchers of all-time.  He led the A.L. in strikeouts six consecutive years, but would go chase a passing fire truck in the middle of a game.

Iron Joe McGinnity completed 314 of his 381 starts, topping 300 innings pitched in the first nine of his ten Major League seasons.  Led N.L. in wins five times.  Topped 400 innings pitched twice.  Back-to-back seasons of over 10.0 WAR.  He’s O.K. by me.
Outfielder Tommy McCarthy must have slipped into the Hall of Fame when no one was looking.  There is no other way to account for his inclusion.
By my count, that makes five solid HOF’ers inducted in ’46 out of a group of ten players.

1947 — BBWAA: Mickey Cochrane, Frankie Frisch, Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell.

With the Old-Timers Gang out of town, the BBWAA reasserts itself with some classy picks.

1948 — BBWAA: Herb Pennock, Pie Traynor.

Pennock was a very poor choice; a case can be made that Pie Traynor belongs in the HOF, but not a very strong one.

1949 — BBWAA: Charlie Gehringer. VC: Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Kid Nichols.

Each of these three are fine choices.  Gehringer was one of the all-time great second basemen.  Brown and Nichols were among the very best pitchers in their respective eras.

Of the first 45 players elected to the Hall of Fame up to this point, approximately 28 were excellent choices, six were poor choices, and the other 11 were borderline or questionable picks.  That means fully 38% if the picks were not of the highest quality.

That brings us up to the 1950’s, which I will tackle in Part 2 of this series.  As you shall see, the questionable inductees continue unabated.

Dan Brouthers

Image via Wikipedia

2012 Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Analysis

Let’s try to sift through the wreckage of the 2012 BBWAA Hall of Fame vote, and

Barry Larkin, Cincinnati Reds, 2004, by Rick D...
attempt to reconstruct the debacle.  Maybe we’ll find a black box or something.

1)  Reds shortstop Barry Larkin received 86.4% of the vote, easily exceeding the 75% he needed for induction into the Hall of Fame.  One of the top ten shortstops of all time, he is a worthy addition to the Hall of Fame.

2)  Jack Morris received 66.7% of the vote.  He has a couple of years left on the ballot, and stands a good shot at getting elected before his time is up.  His career WAR was 39.3, the second lowest among the 14 players on the ballot who survived the cut.  Morris received 382 votes.  Brad Radke, career WAR 40.9, received just two votes and fell off the ballot.  Morris had a mustache.  Radke didn’t.  BBWAA voters like men with mustaches.  They think it makes them look tough, you know, like a Hall of Famer should.

3)  Forty-four percent of the American public believes that the world is less than 10,000 years old.  This is the same percentage as BBWAA voters who left Jeff Bagwell’s name off of their HOF ballots.  One has to wonder if they are, in fact, the same people.

4)  Lee Smith, a relief pitcher who specialized in taking naps before his 9th inning cameos, received 50.6% of the vote.  Apparently, this means that about half of the voters believe the save is a crap statistic, and they are correct.

5)  Tim Raines got 48.7% of the vote.  What’s interesting here is that no one mentions anymore that Raines was part of a cocaine scandal that rocked baseball back in the 1980’s.  It was a very big deal at the time.  Yet Raines now has a real chance of someday getting into the HOF.  What are we to make, then, of all the hullabaloo surrounding the PED scandal of recent times?  My guess is that it’ll ultimately go the way of all American scandals, including Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair, etc.  The public doesn’t so much forgive.  It simply forgets.

6)  Alan Trammell:  Sometimes I think HOF voters are just kind of lazy.  Why bother taking a look at a guy like Trammell’s numbers year after year?  He just didn’t, you know, feel like a Hall of Famer when he was playing.  Yet his career WAR (66.9) is better than Ozzie Smith, PeeWee Reese, Luis Aparicio, and Ernie Banks, not to mention Phil Rizzuto and Rabbit Maranville.  In fact, Trammell’s career WAR is only slightly below Barry Larkin’s 68.9.  I’m not saying that Trammell was as good as Larkin, but he is clearly legit Hall material.  So why did he receive just 36.8% of the vote?  Ask the voters.

7)  The Designated Hitter rule came into being in the American League in 1973, the same year that Tony Orlando and Dawn dominated the singles charts with “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree.”  While Tony Orlando and Dawn are long since gone, the D.H. remains, a relic of the age of Nixon.  The bastard child of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and A.L. President Joe Cronin, it remains with us today, an oddity largely rejected by the BBWAA, who gave Edgar Martinez, the greatest D.H. ever, just 36.5% of the vote.

8)  Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff received just 23.9% of the vote.  If he’d hit just seven more career home runs, he would probably have doubled that vote total.  Writers look at their hands a lot, and the BBWAA writers noticed that they have ten fingers, so they can only think in terms of numbers divisible by ten.  493 (home runs) is not divisible by ten.  500 home runs would be.  Thus the low vote totals for Crime Dog.

9)  Larry Walker (22.9%) played during an era where we were all buried in an avalanche of three-run home runs and 14-10 ball games.  For a while, he called Coors Field home.  Coors Field was to the baseball fan what the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas would be to a group of college under-grads, the ultimate venue to enjoy a bacchanal of pure lust and carnal pleasure.  Larry Walker is being penalized for having been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and nothing’s going to change that.

10)  Mark McGwire (19.5%) – The ultimate example of how our culture is like a pair of tectonic plates crashing into each other, causing massive earthquakes and unending destruction.  We wanted massive biceps, towering home runs, Ruthian records, immortal legends.  We got all of that.  We also wanted Scouts Honor, drug-tested teachers, lock ’em up law and order, and family values.  We got some of that, too.  But the natural tension between the two caused a fissure to develop into which  McGwire’s reputation dropped, wordlessly and without a murmur from a society that demanded his creation, and his demise.

Four other players, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmiero, and Bernie Williams all received enough votes to remain on the ballot to fight another day.  Thirteen other players dropped off the ballot.  One of those players, Bill Mueller, actually received four votes for the Hall of Fame.  Every society has a subculture, and every subculture has a lunatic fringe.  Baseball is our little subculture, and, apparently, Bill Mueller voters are our lunatic fringe.

That’s as far as I care to go with this.  Let me know your thoughts about today’s voting results.

Best Regards, Bill Miller

Publicity photo of the musical group Tony Orla...

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Baseball Bloggers Alliance Hall of Fame Voting: 2012 Edition

Baseball Bloggers Alliance
January 3, 2012

BBA RECOMMENDS LARKIN, BAGWELL FOR HALL OF FAME

In the annual polling of members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin and former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell were recommended for induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  This is the third year the organization has conducted this survey of the membership.

Larkin, a 12-time All-Star who fashioned an .815 OPS over 19 seasons, received the largest percentage of votes, being named on 84.25% of the 148 ballots cast.  This is the highest percentage garnered by any player in the three years of BBA voting.

Bagwell, who hit 449 HR and had a .948 OPS in his 15 seasons in Houston, was selected on 115 ballots for a 78.77% rate.  As with the official voting done by the Baseball Writers of America, a player must be named on 75% of the ballots to be recommended by the alliance.

Last year, the BBA recommended second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven, both of whom were inducted into Cooperstown during the summer.  In 2010, no player reached the 75% mark in BBA balloting, the year that outfielder Andre Dawson was selected for the Hall by the baseball writers.

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance’s vote has no impact on the official vote taken by the Baseball Writers of America.  However, the BBA has often been a predictor of major awards granted by the writers.

The final voting results are as follows:

Barry Larkin 84.25%
Jeff Bagwell 78.77%

Edgar Martinez 60.27%
Tim Raines 57.53%
Alan Trammell 44.52%
Mark McGwire 41.10%
Larry Walker 35.62%
Lee Smith 33.56%
Jack Morris 32.19%
Don Mattingly 29.45%
Rafael Palmerio 28.77%
Fred McGriff 28.08%
Dale Murphy 16.44%
Bernie Williams 11.64%
Juan Gonzalez 6.16%
Javy Lopez 2.74%
Brad Radke 2.05%
Tim Salmon 1.37%
Bill Mueller 0.68%
Phil Nevin 0.68%
Ruben Sierra 0.68%
Tony Womack 0.68%
Jeromy Burnitz 0.00%
Vinny Castilla 0.00%
Brian Jordan 0.00%
Terry Mulholland 0.00%
Eric Young 0.00%

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was established in the fall of 2009 for the purpose of fostering collaboration and communication among bloggers from across baseball.  The BBA has quickly grown to its current membership of 347 blogs, including some of the most prominent blogs on the Internet, spanning all major league teams and various other general aspects of the game.

More information about the BBA can be found at their website, baseballbloggersalliance.wordpress.com, or by contacting the founder and administrator of the organization, Daniel Shoptaw, at founder@baseballbloggersalliance.com.

Barry Larkin, Cincinnati Reds, 2004, by Rick D...

Image via Wikipedia

 

50 Best Players Not in The Baseball Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell

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Here’s a nod to Graham Womack’s baseball blog, Baseball Past and Present. He is currently putting together a list, based on votes from his readers that he is tabulating, of the 50 best players not currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This project also fits in well with my recent series, “Cleaning Up the Hall of Fame.” 

This is the list I submitted to him for consideration.  I chose not to include either Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson because everyone knows that both of them would already be in The Hall, if not for their alleged ethical / legal indiscretions.

The first five players on the list would receive my vote for the Hall of Fame.  Some of the other 45 players might ultimately get my vote as well, but I am undecided at this point.  After the first five, they are in no particular order.

1)  Jeff Bagwell
2)  Barry Larkin
3)  Alan Trammell
4)  Ron Santo
5)  Tim Raines
6)  Minnie Minoso
7)  Dale Murphy
8)  Reggie Smith
9)  Dave Parker
10) Gil Hodges
11) Dwight Evans
12) Lance Parrish
13) Al Oliver
14) Graig Nettles
15) Willie Randolph
16) Edgar Martinez
17) Ted Simmons
18)  Eric Davis
19)  Darryl Strawberry
20)  Lee Smith
21)  Sparky Lyle
22)  Dan Quisenberry
23)  Carl Furillo
24)  Jimmy Wynn
25)  J.R. Richard
26)  Boog Powell
27)  Larry Walker
28)  Rusty Staub
29)  Luis Tiant
30)  Thurman Munson
31)  Dick Allen
32)  Jack Clark
33)  Will Clark
34)  Don Mattingly
35)  Roger Maris
36)  Rocky Colavito
37)  Bobby Grich
38)  Tommy John
39)  Jim Kaat
40)  Tony Oliva
41)  Vada Pinson
42)  Bobby Murcer
43)  Fred McGriff
44)  Rick Reuschel
45)  Bobby Bonds
46)  Ron Guidry
47)  Keith Hernandez
48)  Ken Boyer
49)  Kevin Brown
50)  Wes Ferrell
There are, of course, many other players that could have been included on this list.  If I do this again next year, I am sure I will change my mind about certain players.
Who would you add or subtract?  I’m curious to know which of my choices you think are the worst, and which players you would have chosen instead.
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2011 Hall of Fame Vote: The Good, the Bad, and the Utterly Perplexing

Jeff Bagwell

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The results are in, and there weren’t any major surprises.  Bert (we suddenly loved you all along) Blyleven (79.7%), and Robbie (sorry we messed up last year) Alomar (90%), were the only two players on this year’s ballot elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

Looking over the percentage of votes each player received from the BBWAA revealed interesting results, some unexpected, some utterly perplexing.

THE GOOD:

1)  Roberto Alomar will now be enshrined in The Hall.  Alomar was a stunning offensive player, and although his defense was a bit overrated (see my last bl0g-post), he certainly belongs in The Hall.  Some bloggers / writers have Alomar rated as among the top three 2nd basemen of all-time.  I think that overstates his legacy a bit much.  I am comfortable rating Alomar in the top 5-10 second basemen ever.

2)  Bert Blyleven, the Bearded Dutchman, joins Alomar.   Personally, I don’t think I would have voted for Blyleven.  I know that some people will think it’s outrageous to hold this opinion, but if he was such an obvious HOF candidate, then why has he been passed over 13 previous times?  Some people point to his 3,701 career strikeouts (5th all-time) as one bit of evidence that he should be enshrined.  But he averaged 6.7 K’s / 9 innings in his career, good, but not great.

Voting for Blyleven isn’t voting for greatness; it voting for remarkable durability (he averaged 245 innings pitched per season in his career.)

So why file his election under THE GOOD?

First, because I have nothing against Blyleven personally, and there’s no reason to rain on his parade.  Obviously, this vote means a lot to Blyleven and his supporters.

Second, because now that his enshrinement is a done deal, we can start to focus a little more seriously on some of the other players who also deserve enshrinement.  Which brings us to…

3)  Barry Larkin: Larkin received a promising 62% of votes cast, an improvement over the 51% he received last year, his first on the ballot.  Larkin is one of the ten best shortstops of all-time, and the best N.L. shortstop of his era.  It will be interesting to see if his relatively strong showing this year represents his high-water mark, or if it is a stepping-stone to future Hall induction.

Next year’s relatively weak class of first-time HOF candidates, however, could work in his favor.  Let’s hope it does.

THE BAD:

1)  Jeff Bagwell, an obvious Hall of Famer if there ever was one (unless you really weren’t paying attention), received a lower percentage of votes (41.7%)  than I thought he would, and I had low expectations for him going into this election.  His (hopefully temporary) rejection does not, however, come as a surprise because, and there is no way to sugarcoat this, many of the BBWAA voters are cowards.

What are they afraid of?  They are afraid to induct a player that they know, statistically speaking, should be a first-ballot HOF’er because they believe he just MIGHT have used steroids.

Even though Bagwell’s name has never appeared on any list of users, and even though no former teammates of his have ever accused him of being a user,  somehow an internet driven whiff of scandal has created a false cloud of controversy over his name and reputation.

And the voters are deathly, and unreasonably, afraid that if they were to induct Bagwell into The Hall, and then it was later revealed that he was, after all, a steroid user, then they would look foolish.

But they are wrong.  If (as unlikely as it is) that Bagwell was elected and then, at some later date, it turns out he was a user, then the shame of his tainted induction would be on him, not on the voters.

In other words, placing the onus of responsibility on a particular player to prove that he didn’t use steroids is unreasonable and unjust.  Guilty until proven innocent is the fallback position favored by cowards in an irrationally fearful society, and history is seldom kind to those who accuse others of some perceived crime, who then later turn out to have been innocent.

Prediction:  Bagwell is eventually elected into The Hall, but it could take a while.

2)  Larry Walker: Much of what I have just written about Bagwell can be applied to the case of Larry Walker as well.  And, as an added obstacle to The Hall, Walker is penalized for having played in the best hitter’s park ever constructed in one of the better era for hitter’s in modern history.

Only one in five voters (20%) believe Walker had a HOF career.

Setting aside the steroid issue, on which you have probably already formed an opinion, yes, Walker benefited from playing at Coor’s Field.  But I can’t think of any other player in baseball history who was penalized for having similar good fortune.  For example, if you had put Jim Rice in the Astrodome for his entire career, he certainly would not have ended up in The Hall.  Conversely, if you had put Jimmy Wynn in Fenway Park for his career, he would have put up HOF numbers.

As another example, Mel Ott hit 323 (63%) of his 511 career home runs at the Polo Grounds, the highest total any player ever hit in their home ballpark.

Walker was already an outstanding player before he signed with the Rockies.  He was a great defensive player, an excellent base-runner, and could hit for power and average.

Yet his relatively poor showing in this year’s Hall of Fame vote does not portend, I fear, an eventual Hall induction.  More likely, he will continue to languish in the Dale Murphy/ Ted Simmons limbo, never taken quite seriously enough by the BBWAA that the full weight of his career will ever receive anything other than token appreciation.

3) Tim Raines: Raines was named on 37% of the ballots cast.  It is clear that Raine’s cocaine use, as well as the Conventional Wisdom that other lead-off hitters such as Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock outshone him, will probably keep Raines out of the Hall.  I can’t think of any other reason why someone would not vote for him.  The Conventional Wisdom in this case is, as it often proves to be,  just plain wrong.

The Utterly Perplexing:

1)  Edgar Martinez: (33% support) – What to do with Edgar Martinez, one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history?  The crux of the issue is, there is no consensus on what constitutes a legitimate baseball player.  And don’t wait for the Baseball Hall of Fame to clarify the issue of what to do with the virtual life-time DH anymore than they will the issue of players linked to steroids.

The Hall of Fame, an institution that should be jealously guarding its reputation, has been cryptically, irresponsibly silent on the salient issues of the day regarding baseball, and the players it accepts for enshrinement.

2)  Lee Smith: Smith, 3rd on the all-time Saves list, was snubbed, appearing on 45% of the  ballots  cast.  What is a closer to do?  Either Saves, as a statistic, impress you, or they do not.

Smith emerged from the single-inning “clean” Save era, where 9th inning specialists usually entered the game with no one on base, and three outs to work with.  Sounds simple enough, and Smith did his job well.  But is this task, however well-performed, impressive enough to merit HOF recognition?

I believe, despite the large number of closers who compiled over 300 saves, that the voters will ultimately reward only a small handful of these specialists.  Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman come to mind as probable future inductees.  But I don’t believe that the BBWAA membership is all that impressed by raw Save totals.  Nor do I believe that they should be.

3)  Fred McGriff: (18% support) – Why the lack of love for the Crime Dog?  If I told you that a player who hit just under 500 home runs, registered eight 100+ RBI seasons, who had the same OPS+ as Al Kaline, and who has never been linked to steroids, appeared to be on the road to nowhere regarding Hall of Fame enshrinement, what would you think?  Frankly, I don’t know what to think, either.

4)  Marquis Grissom received four votes.  Tino Martinez received six votes.  B.J. Surhoff nailed down two, and Brett Boone and Charles Johnson received HOF support from one voter each.  How is it that each of these decent but unspectacular players received votes for The Hall, yet so many writers do not see Bagwell, Raines, Larkin or Walker as Hall material?  It’s a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie, without the inevitable “now it all makes sense” ending.

So what are your thoughts on today’s BBWAA Hall of Fame voting results?  I’d like to know.

The complete results from the BBWAA:

Name Votes Pct.
Roberto Alomar 523 90.0%
Bert Blyleven 463 79.7%
Barry Larkin 361 62.1%
Jack Morris 311 53.5%
Lee Smith 263 45.3%
Jeff Bagwell 242 41.7%
Tim Raines 218 37.5%
Edgar Martinez 191 32.9%
Alan Trammell 141 24.3%
Larry Walker 118 20.3%
Mark McGwire 115 19.8%
Fred McGriff 104 17.9%
Dave Parker 89 15.3%
Don Mattingly 79 13.6%
Dale Murphy 73 12.6%
Rafael Palmeiro 64 11.0%
Juan Gonzalez 30 5.2%
Harold Baines 28 4.8%
John Franco 27 4.6%
Kevin Brown 12 2.1%
Tino Martinez 6 1.0%
Marquis Grissom 4 0.7%
Al Leiter 4 0.7%
John Olerud 4 0.7%
B.J. Surhoff 2 0.3%
Bret Boone 1 0.2%
Benito Santiago 1 0.2%
Carlos Baerga 0 0.0%
Lenny Harris 0 0.0%
Bobby Higginson 0 0.0%
Charles Johnson 0 0.0%
Raul Mondesi 0 0.0%
Kirk Rueter 0 0.0%

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Hall of Fame Vote

Barry Larkin, Cincinnati Reds, 2004, by Rick D...

Image via Wikipedia

Here are the official results of the BBA membership Hall of Fame vote.  Curious to see what you all think.  Personally, I voted for Alomar, Larkin, Bagwell, Raines, and Larry Walker.  I did not vote for Bert Blyleven.

BBA RECOMMENDS ALOMAR, BLYLEVEN FOR HALL OF FAME
Second baseman Roberto Alomar and starting pitcher Bert Blyleven were named today as the recommended 2011 Hall of Fame class by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.
Alomar, who is on the ballot for his second year, and Blyleven, looking at his fourteenth time, both finished just shy of the BBA’s recommendation in 2010 at just a fraction under the 75% threshold.  As was the case last year, both Alomar and Blyleven received the same amount of votes from the BBA membership in 2010, but this time it was enough to push them into the recommended status.
Both players received 117 votes out of the 154 ballots cast, resulting in a 75.97% approval rate.  Again echoing the vote taken at the end of 2009, shortstop Barry Larkin was the third man in the balloting, missing selection by being named on just 70.78% of the ballots.
The Baseball Bloggers Alliance’s vote has no impact on the official vote taken by the Baseball Writers of America and the members of the Hall of Fame.  However, the BBA has been often a predictor of awards granted by the writers, matching their selection in fourteen of the sixteen major awards in the last two postseasons combined.
The final voting results are as follows:
Roberto Alomar, 75.97%
Bert Blyleven, 75.97%
Barry Larkin, 70.78%
Jeff Bagwell, 62.34%
Edgar Martinez, 59.09%
Tim Raines, 54.55%
Mark McGwire, 44.16%
Lee Smith, 38.96%
Alan Trammell, 35.71%
Don Mattingly, 33.12%
Larry Walker, 31.17%
Fred McGriff, 27.27%
Jack Morris, 25.97%
Rafael Palmerio, 20.78%
Dale Murphy, 16.23%
Dave Parker, 12.34%
Harold Baines, 10.39%
Kevin Brown, 9.09%
John Franco, 7.14%
John Olerud, 5.19%
Al Leiter, 4.55%
Bret Boone, 3.90%
Juan Gonzalez, 3.90%
Marquis Grissom, 2.60%
Benito Santiago, 1.30%
Bobby Higginson, 0.65%
Charles Johnson, 0.65%
Kirk Rueter, 0.65%
Carlos Baerga, 0.00%
Raul Mondesi, 0.00%
BJ Surhoff, 0.00%
The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was established in the fall of 2009 for the purpose of fostering collaboration and communication among bloggers from across baseball.  The BBA has quickly grown to its current membership of 256 blogs, including some of the most prominent blogs on the internet, spanning all major league teams and various other general aspects of the game.
More information about the BBA can be found at their website, www.baseballbloggersalliance.com, or by contacting the founder and administrator of the organization, Daniel Shoptaw, at founder@baseballbloggersalliance.com.

Why Larry Walker Deserves to be in the Hall of Fame

Larry Walker

‘Tis the Season.

This is the time of year when the Baseball Writers of America (BBWA) submit their final ballots for the players they think are deserving of induction into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Among the eligible inductees this year are Bert (haven’t I been here before?) Blyleven, holdovers from last year Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin and Edgar Martinez (shame on you, BBWA,) and first-time eligibles Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmiero, Mark McGwire, Kevin Brown, Juan Gonzalez, John Olerud, Bobby Higginson, and Larry Walker.

If baseball Hall of Fame history provides any lessons, then Blyleven, Alomar and Bagwell are the most likely candidates for Hall enshrinement in 2011.

But an equally deserving candidate for HOF enshrinement is Larry Walker.

Walker was overshadowed in his day (1989-05) by players like Ken Griffey, Jr., Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa.  But, with the tainted exception of Barry Bonds, Walker was arguably a more complete player than any of the others.

In fact, only Barry Bonds and Jeff Bagwell were truly comparable to Walker as  complete Major League players.

One way to go about evaluating a potential Hall of Famer is to start with his weaknesses (or at least his perceived shortcomings.)

Thus, one can argue that Edgar Martinez, for example, was “only” a DH, and therefore, because he seldom played in the field, his Hall credentials are penalized.

As for Sammy Sosa, (aside from the steroid issue,)  he was neither a great base-runner, nor was he a legendary defensive outfielder.  And in many seasons, his batting average wasn’t all that fantastic, either.

Barry Bonds, even before he ever (allegedly) used steroids, was nearly a complete player, but his throwing arm was just average.  If he could really throw, he would have played right field.

Jeff Bagwell was as close to being as complete a player as you could find during this era, but first basemen have to be exceptionally superior around the bag to win a reputation for defensive excellence.  Bagwell won just a single Gold Glove, and his throwing arm was considered average.

Ken Griffey was a sleek, graceful defensive outfielder and an excellent power hitter who won 10 Gold Gloves, had an average arm, and who never led his league in OBP, OPS, OPS+, hits, doubles, or walks.  His base-running skills were considered solid, but not fantastic.

Frank Thomas was a devastating hitter for both power and average, walked a lot, but was a poor defensive player and a below average base-runner.

I’m not arguing that the aforementioned players have questionable Hall of Fame credentials.  If any of them don’t make it into The Hall, it will be due to the taint of steroids.

But suppose you can find a truly flawless player?  Doesn’t it stand to reason that this player, given enough time on the baseball diamond to prove himself, would be a Hall of Fame quality player?

Enter Larry Walker.

Every player has at least one minor shortcoming, right?  I’ve listed the relative shortcomings of several Hall of Famers already.

But as I searched for Larry Walker’s hidden weakness, I kept coming up empty.

Let’s start with a couple of traditional stats: batting average, and its sexy younger sister, on-base percentage.

Batting average is overrated, I know.  But a player with a career .313 batting average who happened to win three batting titles (as many as George Brett,) has certainly demonstrated at least one strength.   And for those of you who snicker at the very mention of batting average, Walker posted an On-Base Percentage in his entire career of exactly .400.

By way of comparison, Derek Jeter, whose specialty is getting on base, has posted an OBP of .400 or better in just four of 16 seasons.  Brett reached that magic number in just three of 21 seasons.  Walker topped .400 in eight consecutive seasons.

Fine.  He got on base a lot.  But what about hitting for power?  Let’s look at homers and RBI’s.  Acknowledging (again with a nod to the sabermetric crowd) that RBI’s are overrated, Walker drove in 1,311 runs, topping 100 RBI five times.  He drove in over 90 runs for the first time, while playing with the Montreal Expos, at the age of 25.  He drove in over 90 runs (104, actually) for the last time, playing for the Rockies, at age 35.  Thus, for a solid decade, he was a serious middle of the order masher.

As for home runs, he hit 383 in his career, topping 30 homers four times.  He topped the N.L. in homers with 49 in 1997, and he averaged 31 per 162 games in his career.  Albert Pujols, who, if he quit playing tomorrow, would be a definite inductee into The Hall, also reached 49 homers just once.

In addition to Walker’s 383 homers, he also produced 471 doubles and 62 triples.  His 916 extra base hits are 56th all-time, more than Hall of Famers Paul Waner, Joe DiMaggio, Harmon Killebrew and Duke Snider, and just four fewer than Willie McCovey.

Impressively, Walker’s career slugging percentage is a remarkable .565, good for 14th best all-time.  Virtually every single player ahead of him on this list is either in the Hall of Fame already, or will be elected eventually (Pujols) unless their alleged use of steroids keeps them out (A-Rod, Bonds, Manny Ramirez.)

Likewise, Walker’s OPS (on-base + slugging) of .965 ranks 16th best all-time, just below Stan Musial, and just ahead of Johnny Mize.  He posted an OPS north of 1.000 six times in his career.  By contrast, Hank Aaron reached that level five times in his career.

Enough already, you say.  So he was basically just a big, slow-footed Canadian who could slug the ball.  There have been lots of sluggers.  What else does he bring to the table?

How about seven Gold Gloves?  And how about 150 outfield assists?  Walker led the N.L. in assists three times, and his career total of 150 assists ranks seventh best, just four behind Jesse Barfield, and only five behind the legendary Dwight Evans.

Clearly, Walker was an excellent defensive right fielder with a gun for an arm.

Base-running skills?  Check.  In poll after poll of managers and of his peers, Walker was consistently on the short-list of best base-runners in his league.  Only Jeff Bagwell and a couple of other players were considered comparable to Walker during the entire decade of the ’90’s.

Not only was Walker extremely adept at turning singles into doubles, and reading the ball off the bat so that he knew when to score from second base, but he was an underrated base-stealer, too.

Larry Walker stole a surprising 230 bases in his career, and was caught 76 times.  His career stolen base percentage of 75% was about the same as Lou Brock’s and better than Maury Wills’.  Walker set a career high with 33 stolen bases in 1997, and topped 20 steals in two other seasons.

In his base-running prime, over a seven-year period (1993-99), Walker’s stolen base percentage, in 153 attempts, was an even more impressive 81%.

So Larry Walker could hit for average and for power, he could field his position with the best of them, and he was an excellent base-runner.

Oh, and due to his great base-running and his excellent power, he scored 1,355 runs in his career, topping 100 runs scored four times, and 90+ runs scored in two other seasons.

But I’ll bet he hit into a ton of double-plays, right?  Sluggers like him, even if they are smart on the base-paths, are susceptible to the old 4-6-3 double-play. And hitting into double-plays is an underrated killer of a player’s total value.

Even here, however, Walker’s career numbers are fantastic.  He hit into just 153 double-plays in his career.  Cal Ripkin is the all-time leader, having hit into 350 double-plays.  Jim Rice and Eddie Murray each hit into 315.  Frank Robinson checks in at 270.  Willie Mays hit into 251.  Charlie Hustle himself grounded into 247 twin-killings.  Derek Jeter clocks in at 235.

Walker was about as difficult to double-up as Craig Biggio (150), and Biggio once went an entire season (1997) without grounding into a double-play.

Larry Walker was a five time All-Star.  He won the N.L. MVP award in 1997.  He won three Silver Slugger awards.  He had a 200 hit season.  He won three batting titles, a home run title, and he led his league in OPS twice.

Now this is where you pull out your trump card.  Walker played his home games for nine+ seasons in the most favorable hitters park ever constructed, Coors Field in Denver, Colorado.

There is no doubt  his overall career numbers were given a boost by this ballpark.  But in the last of his five seasons with his first team, the Montreal Expos, (1994) Walker posted an OPS+ of 151, a number he surpassed just four times in nine full seasons in Colorado.

Walker’s career OPS+, which takes into account a players’ home ballpark as well as the era in which he played, sits at 140, the same as Hall of Famer Duke Snider.

Moreover, while in Montreal, he had already established himself as a fine defensive outfielder by winning two Gold Gloves.  He had also already demonstrated fine base-running skills by swiping 29 bases in 36 attempts in 1993, and he led the N.L. in doubles with 44 in ’94.

As for his home-road splits, consider the following.  In Walker’s finest season, 1997, he slugged .709 at home, and .733 on the road.  He belted 20 homers at home, and 29 on the road.  He drove in 68 runs at home; he drove in 62 runs on the road.  His home on-base percentage was .460; his road OBP was .443.  So his numbers, in some cases, were actually better on the road, and even the stats that were better at home were not vastly superior.

Other Hall of Fame ball players certainly benefited tremendously from their home ballparks.  Mel Ott, for example,  hit 323 of his 511 career homers (63%) at the Polo Grounds.  If Jim Rice had played his entire career in Houston, there would have been little difference between him and Jimmy Wynn.

Finally, a few of you may even pull out the “whiff of steroids” excuse to besmirch his reputation.  But no credible evidence exists to suggest that Walker ever used steroids.  Frankly, as intelligent adults, we need to move beyond the perversely gratifying,  sensationalist rumor-mongering on this issue.

Not everyone who hit 25 or more home runs in a season in the ’90’s and early 2000’s used PED’s.  Unless credible evidence has come to light regarding a particular player, we have no choice but to extend to them the benefit of the doubt on this issue.

According to baseball-reference.com, of the ten players whose careers were most similar to Walkers, four of them, (DiMaggio, Snider, Chuck Klein and Johnny Mize) are already in the Hall of Fame.  Another close comp., Vlad Guerrerro, will be once he becomes eligible.

Taken as a whole, then, Larry Walker clearly produced Hall of Fame numbers.  Whether or not the BBWA sees it this way, and I suspect many of them won’t agree with me, Walker deserves enshrinement in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

Yesterday, December 1st, was Larry Walker’s 44th birthday.  Consider this blog-post a birthday present, Larry.  You deserve it.

My Hall of Fame Ballot

Well, the Hall of Fame ballots have been tabulated, and the winners are…Andre Dawson?

So, of the 26 retired players who were on the ballot this time ’round, only Andre Dawson is a Hall of Famer.  Hmmm.  Interesting.

Most reasonable people were shocked to find out that Roberto Alomar fell just eight votes short of Hall induction.  He was perhaps the most obvious HOF- worthy candidate on the ballot.

Dawson, on the other hand, could have ended up as a perennially oh-so-close candidate, a career to be retrieved, dusted off, and sneezed upon by the strange little people who live in the dark bowels of the HOF, and who call themselves, The Veterans Committee.

These Terry Gilliamesque creatures are never allowed to see daylight, are forced to read ancient copies of Baseball Digest by candlelight, and are startled by the strange, mechanical noises of modern technologies such as electric pencil sharpeners.

It appears that the Veterans Committee will have plenty of work to do for years to come, considering the results of Wednesday’s HOF balloting.

If I had a HOF ballot, here’s how I would have voted, and why.

1)  Roberto Alomar –  What does a ballplayer have to do to gain admittance into the HOF?  Alomar was a complete ballplayer.  He was a career .300 hitter who could hit with reasonable power (210 career homers.)  He was a run producer, scoring just over 1,500 runs, and driving in over 1,100.

Baserunning?  Check.  He stole 474 bases with a career success rate of 80%.  He also legged out 504 doubles and 80 triples.

Fielding?  Check.  He was one of the most graceful, acrobatic fielders of his time at any position, and he has ten gold gloves to prove it.

Intangibles?  Check.  He played on two World Champion Blue Jays teams, batting .313 in post-season play.  He also finished in the top ten in MVP voting five times, and he made 12 All-Star teams.  Add 2,724 hits and four Silver Slugger awards, and you have an obvious HOF career.

So why wasn’t he enshrined this time around?  Well, it can only be due to the “spitting incident,” when he once spat on an umpire who called him out on a third strike pitch.  It was a stupid, disgusting this to do.  MLB handed him a suspension, he apologized, the umpire apologized, and that was the end of that.

Or apparently not.  It seems obvious that at least a few baseball writers refused to vote for him based on this one isolated incident.  Some have tried to connect this incident with the immoral behavior of those who have been accused of steroid use.

Here’s a reality check.  Babe Ruth once punched out an umpire.  Juan Marichal once tried to bash in the skull of Johnny Roseboro with a baseball bat.  Tris Speaker was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.  Ty Cobb was, well, Ty Cobb.  All of these men are enshrined in the HOF as Baseball Immortals.  It is the height of hypocrisy to hold Alomar to a higher standard.

Roberto Alomar would have received my vote for the HOF.

2)  Barry Larkin – Name a better overall N.L. shortstop who has played the position since 1970.  You can’t because there hasn’t been one.

Larkin was the first shortstop of all time to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season.  He hit over .300 in nine seasons.  He stole 379 bases with a success rate of 83%.  He was awarded nine Silver Slugger awards.

Larkin won three gold gloves while playing in the same era and in the same league as Ozzie Smith.  Larkin was N.L. MVP in 1995.  His career OPS (On Base + Slugging Percentage) was .815, nearly identical to both Robbie Alomar and Joe Morgan. He played in twelve All-Star games.

Most importantly, Larkin broke the mold of what a shortstop could be.  Like Alomar, he was a complete player.  He was not the proto-typically good field, light-hitting shortstop with some speed that was the norm around baseball for at least a generation.

Ozzie Smith was a great fielder who made himself into a respectable hitter that could steal a base, but he did not wield a game-changing bat like Larkin.  Ernie Banks was a slugger, but not a great fielder or a great base runner.

Larkin comprised a skill-set unlike most shortstops of his time, but one that soon became more common later on in the ’90’s with the arrival of A-Rod and Nomar Garciappara.  Even Cal Ripkin, although a fine fielder, a team leader and a slugger, did not combine a skill-set as complete as Larkin’s.

It may take Larkin several years to make it into the HOF, but he would certainly receive my vote.

3) Bert Blyleven- If Bert Blyleven eventually makes it into the HOF, it will not be a travesty of justice.  He won 287 games playing on lots of mediocre or poor teams.  He struck out an impressive 3,701 hitters, 5th all-time.  He tossed 60 shutouts.  All excellent statistics.

But, he never won a Cy Young award in 22 seasons.  He appeared in only two All-Star games.  He is one of only ten pitchers in history to lose 250 games.  And in 22 seasons, he won 17 or fewer games 20 times.  He had one 20 win season, one 19 win season, and no 18 win seasons.

Guys that win about 16 games a season nearly every season, no matter how many years they pitch, are hard to describe as dominant.

Nor is his career ERA of3.31, mediocre in the era in which he pitched, an argument for enshrinement into the HOF.  Even his huge career strikeout total looks somewhat less impressive when you see that he averaged only 6.7 K’s per nine innings, good for 115th all-time.

Most of all, when I was a kid growing up in the ’70’s, none of the kids I knew ever considered Blyleven a great pitcher.  He was more of an oddity.  Seaver, Carlton, Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Catfish Hunter, and a couple of others were the pitchers whose baseball cards we collected, and who we tried to emulate while playing in the streets and parking lots of Bridgeport, CT.

Bert Blyleven would not get my vote for the HOF.

4)  Andre Dawson – I will simply say that I will not rain on his parade by judging his career now that he is in The Hall, although  I believe a legitimate argument could be made one way or the other about his candidacy.  The voters have spoken.  Congratulations, Mr. Dawson.

5)  Edgar Martinez – I love Edgar.  Mariners fans love Edgar.  They believe he is a HOF’er.  I don’t.

I know about his career OPS.  It is outstanding.  But although OPS is a valuable statistic that helps us understand a player’s real value to a team, it is not a statistic that makes all other stats obsolete.

Runs scored, RBI’s, Home Runs, Batting Average, all have their inherent flaws.  But each of these stats also provides us with a set of data we can use to make a relevant historical comparison to other players.

If we overrate the value of OPS, then we can make the case that, for example, Tim Salmon and David Justice were better players than Honus Wagner because each of them had a higher career OPS than he did.

Edgar was a hell of a hitter who never won an MVP award, never played on a championship baseball team, drove in fewer runs than Ruben Sierra or Paul O’Neill, scored fewer runs than Willie Randolph or Julio Franco, and hit fewer homers than Jeromy Burnitz or Ron Cey.

He also didn’t provide much in the way of base running skills as his 49 career steals in 79 attempts shows, and obviously, he never won a Gold Glove.

He did play in seven All-Star games, and he did win five Silver Slugger awards.  As I said, he was a hell of a hitter.

But not Ted Williams great.  Or Stan Musial great.  Or Rogers Hornsby great.  Or even Frank Thomas great.

And if a player brings nothing else to the table except his prowess as a hitter, he better be one dominant hitter as judged by both the sabermetric as well as the traditional counting statistics.

Edgar Martinez just doesn’t have enough on his resume to justify his induction into the HOF.

Finally,

6)  Jack Morris – Supporters use the argument that Morris won more games than any other pitcher in the ’80’s.  That’s a little like saying that the Bee-Gees were the best Disco Band of the ’70’s.  Disco sucked.  So, apparently, did ’80’s pitchers.

Morris won 254 games in his career, good for 42nd all-time.  He won fewer games than Tommy John, Jim Kaat, and Jamie Moyer.  His career .577 win-loss percentage is not very impressive, either.  He never won a Cy Young award, although he finished in the top ten 7 times, which is impressive.

Arguably, Jack Morris’ career ERA of 3.90 would have been even higher if he had pitched during the past fifteen years.

Finally, many of his supporters have stated that Jack Morris pitched the greatest game in World Series history, shutting out the Braves in a ten inning marathon in Game 7 in 1991.

Certainly, it was one of the greatest post-season performances we have ever seen, although lets not forget that Don Larsen once threw a perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.

But one fantastic post-season performance is not generally considered a convincing argument to elect someone to the HOF.  Just ask Joe Carter how his HOF chances are looking lately.

At this point, there are no other players on the ballot that I think have a realistic chance to make it into the HOF, and, with the exception of Tim Raines, there are no others I would consider voting for at this point.

I am sure Roberto Alomar will one day make it into the HOF.  I am less sure Barry Larkin will.

But the BBWA has spoken, and, for another year, they can ponder the wisdom of their choices.

Meanwhile, the little people of the Veteran’s Committee remain busy scurrying around, abacus and fountain pens in hand, weighing the relative merits of 19th century umpires and managers whose bones have long since turned to dust.

And Little Leaguers dream of being the next Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols or Roy Halladay.  On such dreams are future Hall of Fame careers launched, yesterday, today, and on into the future.

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