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Archive for the tag “Jack Morris”

Harper, Trout, and the Early ’90’s

I read last night that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were both being called up to their respective Major League franchises for their 2012 debuts.  For Harper, this will be his first cup of coffee in the Majors.  Whether he sticks this year or not remains to be seen.

Mike Trout

Mike Trout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Mike Trout, he is returning to the Majors after a brief trial run last season during which he batted .220 with five home runs, 16 RBI and an OPS+ of 88.  Not really all that bad for a young kid.

And that may be the point we are forgetting here.  Yes, we know they are young.  But let’s really try to put into perspective how young they are.

Mike Trout was born on August 7, 1991.  Bryce Harper was born October 16, 1992.  Let’s take a look at what was going on in the world in each of those years.

In 1991, the year Trout was born:

1)  Operation Desert Storm was launched by Bush I vs. Iraq.

2)  Boris Yeltsin becomes Russia’s first popularly elected President.

3)  Apartheid in South Africa is officially dismantled.

4)  The internet is first made available to unrestricted commercial use.

5)  The Balkan War begins when Slovenia and Croatia declare independence from Yugoslavia.

6)  Lead singer Freddie Mercury of the Rock band Queen dies of AIDS.

7)  A former postal worker kills four people in the post office where he used to work in Ridgewood, N.J., resulting in the first use of the phrase, “Going Postal.”

8)  Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is arrested in his apartment in Milwaukee.

9)  Heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson is arrested and charged with rape.

10)  The Twins defeat the Braves, 4 games to 3, in the World Series.  Jack Morris pitches a ten-inning complete game in the Series Game 7 clincher.

In 1992, the year Harper was born:

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1)  Prince Charles and Princess Diana separate.

2)  Bill Clinton is elected President of the U.S.A.

3)  The Nicotene patch is introduced to help stop smoking.

4)  America’s largest shopping mall, The Mall of America, opens in Minnesota.

5)  In a triumph of the public sector over the private sector, Mafia boss John Gotti is sentenced to life in prison.

6)  The first McDonald’s restaurant opens in China.

7)  Rioting breaks out in Los Angeles following the acquittal of four police officers in the Rodney King trial.

8)  The NAFTA Treaty, between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, is signed.

9)  The F.D.A. urges stopping the use of silicone gel breast implants.  The high water mark of the big-busted beach bimbo comes to an end.

10)  The Toronto Blue Jays defeat the Atlanta Braves in a six game World Series.

I don’t know about you, but most of these events don’t feel like they took place two decades ago.  I suppose two decades from now, if we’re still around, we’ll be able to evaluate the careers of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.  Here’s wishing both young men the best of luck.

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...

Image via Wikipedia

Who Belongs in the Hall of Fame: Player A, or Player B?

There is a popular game among those of us who like to compare players who may or may not belong in the Hall of Fame.  You simply take the statistics of two or more players, place them side by side, and remove the players’ names.

The reason you take away their names is that with names come memories, emotions and biases.  These subjective “inputs” then cloud one’s judgment when attempting to objectively compare two or more players.

O.K., so it’s not much of a game.  But it does serve to illustrate that sometimes, what we think we know about a particular player may actually be at best just a pale shadow of who that player actually was.

On the other hand, as you shall soon see, the data that one chooses to use may also have its limitations.

Case in point:  Here are the career statistics of two pitchers, one right-handed and the other a southpaw.  Using only the data I have listed below, I will allow you to decide which pitcher you would rather have leading your hypothetical rotation.  I have chosen ten categories to use as a basis of comparison.

Pitcher A:

Career ERA+  105

Career WAR:  39.3

WHIP:  1.296

Strikeouts / 9 innings:  5.8

Strikeouts / Walk:  1.8

Career Shutouts:  28

Career ERA:   3.90

Peak WAR:  5.9

Seasons with ERA less than 3.oo:  0

Career Post-Season:   7-4, 3.80

Pitcher B:

Career ERA+   114

Career WAR:   38.7

WHIP:   1.233

Strikeouts / 9 Innings:   5.8

Strikeouts / Walk:   2.38

Career Shutouts:  30

Career ERA:  3.18

Peak WAR:  8.6

Seasons with ERA less than 3.00 – 4

Career Post-Season:   2-2, 1.40

As you can see, Pitcher A wins only one category, Career WAR, 39.3, just barely beating Pitcher B by 0.6 percentage points.  Pitcher A also ties Pitcher B in Strikeouts / 9 Innings at 5.8.

Pitcher B wins the other eight categories, and even seems to be the better pitcher in the post-season.

Both pitchers, by the way, pitched well over 2,000 innings in their respective careers, and neither of them won a Cy Young award.  One pitcher was named an All-Star game MVP, and the other won a World Series MVP award.  Both pitchers began their careers after 1970.

So which pitcher would you rather have on your team?

Choosing simply by the numbers I have listed, I am confident that most people would choose Pitcher B over Pitcher A.  Pitcher B simply has too great an advantage in too many important stats to ignore.

Therefore, most people would have chosen Jon Matlack over Jack Morris.

Yet, many people believe that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame, while virtually no one that I’ve ever met (there’s a pun there) would argue that Jon Matlack belongs in that same august association.

So what are we to make of these statistics?  None of the statistics I have chosen is in and of itself misleading, yet can we feel comfortable with the outcome I have presented?

Jack Morris, who spent his entire 18-year career in the American League, finished his career with a record of 254-186.  He led his league in wins twice, posted three 20-win seasons, had three 200 strikeout seasons, was a five time All-Star, and finished in the top five in his league’s Cy Young voting five times.

He was the ace of every staff he led, and, of course, he pitched one of the most famous games in World Series history, Game 7 of the 1991 World Series against the Braves, when he hurled ten shutout innings as the Twins won their second World Series in four years.

Jon Matlack, meanwhile, while pitching for the Mets and the Rangers in the 1970’s and early 80’s, finished with a career record of 125-126, never led his league in wins, won the N.L. Rookie of the Year award in 1972, made three All-Star teams, and led his league in shutouts twice.

Jack Morris won twice as many games as Jon Matlack, pitched about 1,500 more innings in his career, and pitched in an era that was, generally speaking, more favorable to hitters than the era in which Matlack pitched.

So now what?  This is not, as some might argue at this point, an example of how modern sabermetrics have their limitations, because we all “know” that Morris was a better pitcher than Matlack during their  respective careers.

What we do know for sure was that Morris was more durable than Matlack.  We know that Morris pitched for teams that generally won more games (even when he wasn’t pitching) than Matlack. And we know that sometimes, fortune favors one person over another for no particular reason.

On a game by game basis, it is clear that Matlack could have held his own with Morris any day of the week in any era.  But it is also true that Napoleon had it right when (so the story goes) he was asked who his favorite generals are. He replied, “The lucky ones.”

This is not to cast aspersions on the fine career of Jack Morris.  But aside from the obvious conclusion that he really doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, it is clear that fortune smiled on him throughout his career.  Matlack’s numbers, as I have shown, clearly indicate that he was clearly an excellent pitcher for over a decade.

But Matlack also doesn’t merit serious Hall consideration.  No matter how you cut, split-up, and regroup the numbers, a pitcher with a career losing record just ain’t never getting into the Hall, nor, in my opinion, should he.

Because when all is said and done, the Hall of Fame isn’t simply about numbers.  It is also about memories, emotions, and personal connections.  Although the Hall of Fame shouldn’t simply be a Hall of Celebrity, it is also not merely a math problem to be solved with modern computer-generated algorithms.

A legitimate Hall of Fame career should be that narrow intersection where the emotional, metaphysical and, if you will, spiritual,  meets the sensible, rational and objective.

If that intersection is hard to find, that standard hard to meet, well, isn’t that the point?

Underrated / Overrated: Baseball, and Other Stuff – Part VI

Frankie Frisch's fiery personality won him a l...

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

Welcome to Episode Six of Underrated / Overrated.  On tap today,we have HOF hopeful Jack Morris, The Who, Robbie Alomar, The Alamo, Saturday Night Live, and Sam Adams beer.  Enjoy!

Overrated:  Jack Morris – More than a few people believe that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Dave Stieb pitching in Toronto, Canada in 1985...

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They point to his outstanding ten-inning marathon performance in the 1991 World Series Game 7 vs. the Braves as Exhibit A for evidence of HOF worthiness.  His supporters also point out that Morris was the winningest pitcher of the ‘80’s.

Taking the last point first.  Decades, as such, are purely artificial constructs.  Why not, for example, choose the “decade” 1975-85, or 1985-95.  Or, for that matter, 1978-88?  You would almost certainly come up with a different“winningest” pitcher whose career would also significantly overlap with Morris’ career.

Also, wins, as a measure of pitching greatness, are no longer front-and-center these days.  And Morris has precious little else to offer in terms of statistical analysis that points to unappreciated excellence.  His career ERA+ is 105, meaning that he was actually just 5% better, overall, than a typical replacement level pitcher, taking his career as a whole.

Morris’ performance in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is the stuff of legend.  But there is little in baseball history that suggests a fleeting moment of greatness on the Big Stage necessarily translates into a VIP Pass into Cooperstown.  Joe Carter, who had a very nice career, hit a walk-off home run to defeat the Phillies in the 1993 World Series.  Carter was unceremoniously dropped off the HOF ballot after just one year (2004), when he received just 3.8 percent of the vote.

Morris will, and should, do better than that.

But Jack Morris is no Hall of Famer.

Career WAR: 39.3

Underrated:  Dave Stieb –   Victimized by lack of run support his entire career, and often pitching for some very bad teams, Stieb still managed 176 wins in his career, as well as a .562 win-loss percentage.  Morris’s career win-loss percentage was .577, just slightly better than Stieb’s despite mostly pitching for better teams than Stieb ever enjoyed.

Stieb led the A.L. in ERA once, and in ERA+ twice.  Jack Morris never led the league in either category.

Moreover, Stieb’s career ERA was a respectable 3.44, and he kept his ERA at or below 3.25 in seven full seasons.  Only once in 18-years did Morris ever post an ERA below 3.25.  Morris’ career ERA was 3.90.

Stieb’s career ERA+ was 123, considerably better than Morris’, and the same as Hall of Famer Juan Marichal.

I’m not arguing that Dave Stieb should be in the Hall of Fame. But, compared to Jack Morris, he was a very underrated pitcher.

Career WAR:  53.0

Overrated:  The Who – “Tommy” – A “Rock Opera” album that definitely doesn’t “Rock,” and, like the worst of opera, has an incoherent storyline obfuscated by lots of unnecessary drama, cluttered spectacle, and bombastic music.  By 1969, a sizable cohort of that generation’s rock fans (who hoped they’d die before they got old), apparently decided that rock n’ roll wasn’t just for Saturday night keg parties anymore.  It needed to express meaning and gravitas equal to the ambitions of millions of middle class white kids who were out to change the world, one college credit at a time.  Precious little of what eventually evolved into what was called “Art Rock” left any significant legacy on rock n’ roll, let alone on society itself.

Underrated:  The Who – “Quadrophenia” – A true masterpiece by a great band at the top of their game.  Keith Moon’s drums never sounded better, and Roger Daltrey, liberated from the nonsensical off-Broadway melodies he was forced to endure on Tommy, actually sings like the street-tough that he was born to portray.  Quadrophenia actually started out as a “concept” album, God help us, and was eventually turned into a pretty decent feature film.  But it largely avoided unnecessarily pretentious operatic stylization, and most of the songs just plain rock.  Go back and listen to songs like “The Punk Meets the Godfather,” and “5:15” if you haven’t done so for a while, or especially if you never have.

Overrated:  Roberto Alomar’s Defense – I know, look, when I first heard that some baseball analysts were trying to make the case that Alomar’s defensive reputation was largely overblown, I would have none of that either. After all, I saw Alomar make enough (apparently) spectacular plays over the years that I dismissed that sort of criticism out of hand.

But once I settled down enough to take a closer, objective look at the numbers, I noticed a perplexing and disturbing trend.

Robby Alomar’s defense really was overrated.

Let’s begin with, for example, times leading his league in assists as a second baseman.

He led the league twice in this statistic.  Not great, but not bad, either.

How about times leading the league in putouts?  He led his league in this stat just once in seventeen seasons.  Hmmm.

Well, for cryin’ out loud.  How about that old standard, Fielding Percentage.  Robbie sure seemed sure-handed enough, right?  Turns out his career Fielding Percentage was .984, good for 42nd all-time, just a hair behind Jeff Frye.  Again, not bad, but nothing to write home about, either.

But his range seemed extraordinary; I saw him get to balls that no one else would ever have reached.  Yet Alomar NEVER led his league in Range Factor / 9 Innings.  In fact his career mark in that category (4.95) ranks just 91st in MLB history!  He falls between Mark Loretta and Wally Backman in that stat.

Roberto Alomar’s career Defensive WAR is a shockingly low -3.4. (Yes, that’s a negative sign before the 3.)

By way of comparison, consider the career Defensive WAR for the following players:  (all are positive numbers)

Orlando Hudson: 2.3

Ryne Sandberg: 5.3

Bobby Grich: 8.5

Bill Mazeroski: 11.9

Frankie Frisch: 13.7! (underrated)

All of which leads us to the sadly unyielding conclusion that, although Robbie Alomar certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame, it should not be for his defense.

Underrated:  Roberto Alomar – Base Stealer – Alomar stole 474 bases in his career against just 114 times caught stealing.  His 80% career success rate is about the same as Rickey Henderson’s, and is considerably better than Lou Brock’s 75%.  It is also just four percentage points behind Tim Raines all-time career best (minimum 300 steals) 84% success rate.

Alomar topped 50 steals twice, and reached at least 30 steals in five other seasons. Over a six-year period, from 1999 through 2003, he stole 134 bases in 156 attempts, an outstanding 86% success rate.

Overrated:  The Alamo –  1836 – Approximately 180-250 “Texans,” virtually none of whom were originally from Texas, were massacred by Mexican General Santa Anna’s superior numbers.  The Texans’ goal was to create a slave republic in territory annexed from Mexico, without Mexico’s permission.  Originally, the Texans had come as settlers, but soon made it clear that they had no intention of living under Mexican law and custom.  Thus, in effect, the “Texans” were breaking the law. Mexico responded with an ultimatum:  pack up and leave, or die.  So the Texans died, later to be avenged at the final battle at San Jacinto, where Santa Anna was captured, and the new Republic of Texas, a new slave territory, was born.

Underrated:  Battle of Verdun, First World War – Perhaps the biggest, bloodiest battle in human history.  Lasted from February-December 1916.  Perhaps as many as a million casualties in all, of whom about 550,000 were French. The Germans literally tried to bleed France to death, but France never capitulated.  For France, this was Marathon, Gettysburg and (yet-to-be-fought) Stalingrad combined.  Essentially ended as a stalemate, but can be viewed as a moral victory for France.

Overrated:  Sacrifice Bunts – Giving up one-third of all of your outs per half-inning to move a runner up one-base, instead of allowing your offense to try to do the same thing without intentionally surrendering an out, statistically just doesn’t make sense.  As a manager, I would happily allow the opposing team’s offense to move a runner up to second base if they were going to give up a free out.  So, when managing my offense, why would I reciprocate the favor?

Underrated: Getting Hit By a Pitch – Craig Biggio reached base due to getting hit by a pitch 285 times during his 20-year career (just two fewer than the all-time leader, Hughie Jennings.)  Biggio led the N.L. in getting hit by a pitch five times.  Imagine getting 285 extra hits in a career.  All those extra times on base certainly lead to a lot of run scoring opportunities.  In Biggio’s remarkable 1997 season, Biggio was hit by pitches 34 times, he didn’t waste a sacrifice hit one single time, and he did not hit into a single double-play all year.  He stole 47 bases, scored a league-leading 146 runs, drew 84 walks, and played in every single game.  His OPS+ was 143.  That, my friends, is pretty nearly a perfect season.

Overrated:  Saturday Night Live! – I recently watched the S.N.L. Christmas Special.  I think I laughed maybe three or four times.  Other than Tina Fey lampooning Sarah Palin, this show hasn’t been funny since around the late ‘80’s, and it hasn’t been REALLY funny since the ‘70’s.  This show is testament to the power of ego, in this case, the ego of producer Lorne Michaels, who just won’t let this Frankenstein’s monster die.

Underrated:  Fawlty Towers – (1975-79) This British comedy, starring former Monty Python alumnus John Cleese as hen-pecked innkeeper Basil Fawlty, features some of the funniest acting and writing in T.V. history.  Connie Booth, who eventually married, and later divorced Cleese, was his co-writer.  She played Polly, the maid.  The show actually lasted just two seasons, 1975 and 1979, with a three-year hiatus in between.  There were only twelve Fawlty Towers episodes ever made.

Overrated:  Scrappy, Hard-Nosed Players – David Eckstein is the poster-boy of these dirty-uniformed fan favorites who run out every grounder, dive after every ball, and generally make themselves annoying in countless ways.  They also often share another common trait:  Low career OPS+.  Eckstein’s for example, is 87, meaning that he has been just 87% as good as a typical replacement level ballplayer.

Underrated: “Lazy” Players Who Make it Look Too Easy –  Andruw Jones / Manny Ramirez, etc.  Personally, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll take Andruw Jones (in his prime) and his ten Gold Gloves, his 23.7 Defensive WAR (second only to Brooks Robinson all-time) and his 407 home runs.  And Manny Ramirez, with or without steroids, had one of the prettiest, most lethal swings of any right-handed hitter in history.

Overrated:  Sam Adams Brewery – This Boston-based brew company is extremely good at self-promotion.  If you live in the greater Boston area, it is expected that you have only nice things to say about the various Sam Adams brews.  As for me, I don’t like a beer that tries too hard to get my attention while I’m actually drinking it.  And, as a side note, Sam Adams was overrated as a patriotic “founding father” as well.

Underrated:  Warsteiner Brewery – DAS GUT BIER!!  A fine German brew.

Until next time, folks.  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog-post on this week’s BBWA Hall of Fame voting results.   Should be interesting.

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Hall of Fame Vote

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

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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.

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.

Creating a Hall of Fame Mythology

On Wednesday of this week, the results of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting by the Baseball Writers of America (BBWA) will be announced.  No matter what the results turn out to be, lots of people will complain loudly about who did or did not make it into baseball’s Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010.

And they will all be right.

The problem, of course, is that there are no objective standards by which any player can be evaluated as to whether or not they are a true HOF’er.  The bigger problem, though, is that there can NEVER BE any objective standards to determine baseball’s most fundamental question.

Here’s why.

You want to argue that a player should have 3,000 hits to be a HOF’er?  Fine, then we need to remove Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx from The Hall.

How about 500 home runs?  Obviously, you can eliminate the majority of hitters in The Hall, especially all those pesky middle infielders.  How about 400 homers? Well, now you have added Dave Kingman to the Hall of Fame, but you have eliminated Rickey Henderson, Yogi Berra, George Brett and Charlie Gehringer.

How about a .3oo career batting average?  Oooh, don’t go there.  Not only will you eliminate many fan favorites (Cal Ripkin, Ernie Banks, Willie McCovey), but don’t you know that batting average is no longer a cool stat?  These days, it’s all about On-Base Percentage.  Batting average is so 1977.

Well, how about the currently most-cool stat, OPS (On-Base plus Slugging Percentage)?  Let’s set the base-line at, say, .875.  Now you’ve eliminated Wade Boggs, Roy Campanella and, uhm, Honus Wagner.  But, hey, you’ve added Tim Salmon, David Justice and Kevin Mitchell.

O.K., let’s forget about hitters for a second and focus on pitchers.  Can’t we agree that 300 wins is the magic number?  Well, yes, if you combine Sandy Koufax with Addie Joss, you get 320 wins.

Uhm, how about 3,000 strike-outs? But if strike-outs are an extremely important counting stat, then Nolan Ryan was twice as good as Christy Mathewson, right? (2,502  K’s to 5, 715  K’s).  Except that, of course, he wasn’t.  Actually, you would have to eliminate all but nine pitchers from The Hall, including Cy Young.

Then, dammit, let’s use a cold, hard stat like Batting Average Against, because if a guy was extremely hard to hit, then he was probably a HOF’er.

Except that now you have just inducted former Mets pitcher Sid Fernandez into The Hall, since El Sid had the 3rd best BA Against in MLB history, behind only Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax.

Sure, if you try hard enough, you might be able to come up with some kind of Gordian Knot of a statistical system, perhaps even a matrix of purely objective data, tabulated by a computer hidden deep in a bunker under Cooperstown, that could identify HOF’ers in under a minute.

The problem is, however, that identifying who is or is not a HOF’er is, at its root, an emotional question that revolves around the subjective memories of people who grew up cheering for, even worshiping, their hometown hero.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

Anyone who has spent time arguing with a Mariners fan about whether or not Edgar Martinez is truly worthy of induction into the HOF will come to understand that these arguments are not primarily based on objective data analysis, although that will appear to be the primary mode of argument.

As I stated in my first blog post, baseball is all about memory.  And baseball’s two essential questions are: 1) Who deserves to be remembered and 2) How do they deserve to be remembered.

The magic of baseball is that this is where history and mythology intertwine, creating memories cherished from one generation to another.

And the Hall of Fame is the one place in baseball where everyone comes together to pay their dutiful respect to America’s greatest game.

The induction of Alan Trammel will not undermine the integrity of this institution.  Nor will The Hall be tarnished if Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Edgar Martinez or Bert Blyleven are called up to the podium to make the speech of a lifetime.

The Hall of Fame has long since evolved into an institution somewhat like the Union Army during the Civil War;  designate enough men to be generals, and some of them are bound to work out.

The Hall of Fame voting process is, then, a kind of archaic caucus system, an irrationally democratic institution uniquely American in its vulgar imperfections, even as it strives to create an air of nobility.

Thus the Hall of Fame itself, and the electoral process currently in use to designate future HOF’ers, is a satisfactory representation of America at this time and place in our history.

So, once the final ballots are announced for the Class of 2010 this Wednesday, let the arguments begin.  Because through baseball, we are adding to the rich tradition of creating our own unique American mythology.

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