Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Obligatory Class of 2013 Hall of Fame opinion piece

8 comments

Roger Clemens; is he a Hall of Famer or an opportunity for writers to make a PED statement? Photo unknown.

Obligatory Class of 2013 Hall of Fame opinion piece.

The 2013 Hall of Fame class ballot was released in Late November, on BBWAA’s site.   Here’s the 2013 class on Baseball-Reference.com, along with relevant career stats and past voting results.

As we’re about to read, over and over again from every writer in the Baseball world, this is the Steroid-era ballot.  Several of the biggest names of the era are on the ballot.  Just in case you were wondering who has or hasn’t been officially linked to PEDs, here’s a handy guide for your ethical dilemma.

My Previous posts on the same topic:

I typed up such exhaustive opinions on a number of candidates from the two previous versions of these posts, that I won’t repeat them here.  Instead i’ll just state below, of the returning candidates this year here’s who I’d vote for and who I wouldn’t in list form.

Returning Candidates I’d vote for:

  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Jack Morris
  • Tim Raines
  • Mark McGwire
  • Edgar Martinez

Returning Candidates that I would NOT vote for (my reasons mostly are stated in the 2012 class post referenced above):

  • Bernie Williams
  • Alan Trammell
  • Lee Smith
  • Larry Walker
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Don Mattingly
  • Fred McGriff
  • Dale Murphy

New Candidates in 2012 that I’d vote for, with some  discussion; Unlike a lot of opinions I state, my thoughts on the Hall of Fame have always been more driven by how a player “seems” to be in the pantheon of baseball history.  I don’t like to get into the same stats-driven discussions that other writers do.  So and so had a career WAR of X, or a career ERA+ of Y, which makes him better than this other guy.

  • Barry Bonds: A transcendent player before any use of “the cream” or “the clear,” this 7-time MVP is clearly in the pantheon of the greatest players of all-time.  The best 5-tool player since Willie Mays, the only thing that should have been standing in the way of unanimous voting is Bonds’ surly nature towards sports writers (several of whom would have “penalized” him by omitting him from first ballot status).
  • Roger Clemens: replace “7-time MVP” with “7-time Cy Young winner” and the Bonds argument essentially repeats itself with Clemens.  Normally we’d be talking about his place as one of the greatest right handed pitchers to ever play the game.  Instead we’re talking about how much of his later career was enhanced by virtue of foreign substances.
  • Mike Piazza: One of the best 3 hitting catchers of all time (Johnny Bench being the best, with Yogi Berra in the discussion), his purported “back acne” proof of steroid use likely costs him votes.  Which is just ridiculous, but that’s the nature of this ballot and the next 15 year’s worth of ballots unfortunately.
  • Curt Schilling: his career accomplishments don’t include a Cy Young award, but that wasn’t for lack of trying; he just happened to pitch in the same ERA as Randy Johnson and Johan Santana in his prime power.  But Schilling was a game-changing starter, an Ace who could get you the win.  He was one of the biggest “big game” pitchers out there.  And, his legendary playoff performances push him over the top for me.  Some will argue against him b/c he “only” had 216 wins or he “only” had a career 3.46 ERA.  He passes the eye test for me.
  • Craig Biggio: he wasn’t the flashiest player, but then again you can’t judge middle infielders the same way as you judge power hitters.  Biggio hit the 3,000 hit plateau, was a good combination of power (291 career homers) and speed (414 career SBs), and showed good defense (several Gold Gloves).  For one of the last career one-team guys, he makes the cut for me.

New Candidates that I would NOT vote for:

  • Sammy Sosa: 600+ career homers, and I can’t help but think that a good number of those were either PED or corked-bat assisted.  That’s probably completely unfair, but you can make a good argument that more than 150 of his career homers were likely “surplus” to his legitimate career capabilities.  He averaged 37 homers/season as he approached his prime, then suddenly averaged 60/season for four seasons.  Clearly Bonds’ 73-homer season is attributable to a single-season PED spike, but Sosa made a career of it.  There’s just no way for me to distinguish who the real Sosa was (he had a 99 OPS+ the year before his power spike) versus the PED enhanced version.
  • Kenny Lofton: I know lots of people view Lofton in the same breath as Rickey Henderson in terms of quality lead-off hitters, but to me he was just a vagabond who kept looking for work year after year.  He played for 12 teams by the time he hung them up.  Perhaps I’m not really “remembering” his time in Cleveland, where he stole a ton of bases and set the table for that powerful lineup.   He had a handful of gold gloves, a handful of all-star appearances.  I may be under-appreciating him a bit, but when I hear his name I don’t knee-jerk Hall of Famer.
  • Everyone else first time eligible, the best player of which is probably David Wells.  Wells basically had two good seasons (the only two times he received any Cy Young consideration) and otherwise was a rubber-armed hurler who prided himself on making 35 starts despite being in god-awful shape (as noted extensively in Joe Torre‘s book The Yankee Years).

I’d be shocked if anyone else on the first time eligible list got enough votes to even stay eligible for 2014′s ballot.

Critics may state that my fake ballot has some inconsistencies; how can I support a vote for Biggio but not for Trammell?   How can you vote for McGwire but not Sosa?  How can you vote for Edgar Martinez but not Larry Walker?  How can you vote for *any* PED guys but shun Sosa and Palmeiro?  How can you support Morris but not support Wells?   All these are good points; good arguable points.  Maybe if I had an official ballot I’d have a more serious discussion with myself about these points.  All the above thumbs-up/thumbs-down opinions are mostly knee jerk, did the guy “feel” like a hall of famer as opposed to a full statistical analysis.   As I covered in my Jack Morris piece, I think its ok to have slightly lesser players who contributed more to the baseball pantheon than slightly better players statistically who had no real lasting impact on the game.

And for now, that’s good enough for me and my fake Hall of Fame ballot.

8 Responses to 'Obligatory Class of 2013 Hall of Fame opinion piece'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Obligatory Class of 2013 Hall of Fame opinion piece'.

  1. Todd – Happy Holidays, and thanks for all your excellent posts. I’ll go through this one when the holiday crunch lessens!

    Wally

    24 Dec 12 at 4:18 pm

  2. Although I think Larkin made it last year, so you are ‘safe’.

    Wally

    24 Dec 12 at 4:21 pm

  3. Oh duh. I cut and pasted from last year’s post. I’ll correct it.

    Todd Boss

    24 Dec 12 at 6:09 pm

  4. Happy holidays, Todd – and thanks for keeping the posts coming :-)

    Anonymous

    24 Dec 12 at 10:52 pm

  5. Happy Holidays Todd,

    As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten less strict about who I will let in to the HOF. I think it is because all the players being voted on now I actually saw them all play and I have a connection to them.

    As for PED’s in the HOF I would think sooner or later you are going to have to put some of them in, it all was sadly part of the game and almost everyone was complicit in it to some degree, although you may disagree. Also Clemens was never legally guilty of anything which complicates the issue.

    Roy Campanella is missing from your list of great hitting catchers. Not to take anything away from Piazza for hitting or Berra, Bench, or I-Rod but there is a good chance that Campy might have been the best all around catcher ever or his name should be in the discussion. His playing time was short; he just barely meets the eligibility requirements of 10 seasons for the HOF, he didn’t come up until the year after Jackie Robinson and a car crash left him partial paralyze.

    I wish I was old enough to see him play both my father and aunt say they never saw a better all around catcher. His defense was second to none and he did get 3 MVP’s.

    Tegwar

    25 Dec 12 at 11:46 am

  6. HOF: i also think there’s going to be a big veterans committee movement to work on the slew of important players from the 80s who have gotten short-changed.

    My 2 cents; I think the Hall is a museum, and If i’m going to the museum of professional baseball then players who took steroids and succeeded are no less a big a part of the game than the pitchers who pitched in 1968, nor those who played on greenies all those years, nor those who hit in the .430s during the deadball era. But that’s not what most of the BBWAA writers think, so we’ll be having this argument for the next decade.

    Campinella; probably #4 for me ever. MLB’s Prime 9 ranked him 4th as well, behind (in order) Bench, Berra, Piazza. Campinella was ahead of Rodriguez, Fisk and a few others guys. I’m a bit too young to have seen him play, but a 3-time MVP says enough for me. I wouldn’t be too upset if someone argued that he was #1 or #2; he was a great player.

    Todd Boss

    25 Dec 12 at 8:49 pm

  7. OK, here is my take. I am not knocking anyone for PEDs (real or suspected), I value peak over longevity and start with a feeling of dominance and then do a sanity check on stats. Ideally, I’d vote for someone who was in the conversation for top 5 player in baseball for 4-5 years, and then had a similar number of very good years on top of that.

    My ballot: Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, Raines, Bagwell, Piazza, mostly for your reasons above. Sosa: I can’t deny his production. Piazza: I actually was looking for a reason not to include him, but the stats won me over.

    others: Biggio is most notably absent, but when it came right down to it, I don’t think I ever viewed him as a top 5 player in the league. Seemed like more of an accumulator. Edgar was similar: I thought he was an extremely good hitter, but maybe he is hurt by playing in Griffey’s shadow. He seemed like a good complementary piece. Trammell is kind of the anti-Piazza, I felt like he was a top player and wanted to vote for him, but the stats just didn’t back it up. I also think there is a little bit of voter bias here: I saw trammell when I was a kid, and he had a real positive effect on me that continues to this day, and Biggio was the opposite. He played his career while I was older, and I viewed him as good, not great. Murphy had the peak years, but just not enough of them. As for Morris and Schilling, I’d put Schilling in before Morris, but both failed due to their competition. That doesn’t seem fair, but it is honest at least. They just didn’t seem of the caliber of the other guys on the list.

    Wally

    26 Dec 12 at 1:34 pm

  8. The “feeling of dominance” is a very important one to me as well, and is the biggest reason I struggle with guys like Trammell and Biggio. It just confirms to me that certain types of players need to be analyzed differently than others. Middle Infielders just can’t be compared to big hulking first-baseman power hitters in terms of production. I think relief pitchers are given too much credit, but they have their place. But you’ve gotta be a darn good one (and Lee Smith was not). Lastly if you’re going to let in RPs you have to consider guys who DH’d most of their career as well; you can’t make one pro-specialist argument for closers but then say that DHs “didn’t play the field so they don’t deserve as much credit.”

    For me, I thought Edgar Martinez WAS dominant; he was absolutely one of the most feared hitters of his time.

    Jim Caple posted a great HoF article here; one of the few pro Morris pieces i’ve seen out there. He says it like it is; he covered Morris, and holds to this day the opinions of those in the game at the time who “valued him highly.”

    Todd Boss

    26 Dec 12 at 2:35 pm

Leave a Reply