Monthly archives: January 2006
It seems baseball has ceded this week to the football gods. I mean, Clemens working out is the #1 story at Major League Baseball's site. The number two story is about the Seattle Moose being sacrificedthose Steeler fans are mean:
Anyway, as I await my usual combinations of 2's & 9's in the Super Bowl boxes pool, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how well the Super Bowl champs predict the World Series champ. Long story short, they don't, but I already have the table and am loath to write about the WBC being broadcast on ESPN (yawn), so here goes:
So for all of you Steeler and Seahawk fans who are expecting a Super Bowl win to bleed into success this baseball season, to quote Judas Priest, as is my wont, you got another comin'.
Oh, by the way, the Steelers will win 35-24. Really, Mean Joe.
California Piazza Kitchen
Mike Piazza took a break from reporting at Howard Stern News to sign with the Padres this weekend. He gets a $2M, one-year contract and will replace Ramon Hernandez, last year's starter, who signed a four-year, $27.5M deal with Baltimore, behind the plate.
Piazza says that the team will leave up to him how often he will play catcher. I guess the feel that Piazza's old enough to act as a coach and why not let him fill out the lineup card. Piazza says that he hopes to play about ninety to hundred games behind the plate. With the Padres also picking up career backup Doug Mirabelli, who averages about 50-60 games a year, that seems to make sense behind the plate at least.
The Padres, however, are moving Ryan Klesko back to first base after losing their previous starter, Phil Nevin, and after adding more depth to the outfield. So for Piazza to get 40-odd starts at first, would mean that Klesko would either rest, DH (which Piazza is more likely to do), or displace a corner outfielder, which I guess would mean sitting Dave Roberts (or Brian Gilesas the saying goes, you make the call). I'm fine with that, by all means rest Roberts as much as possible, but it seems like there's goes to have to be a lot of flexibility on the team.
Then there's the issue of Piazza's health behind the plate. It seemed a foregone conclusion at the second half of last season that Piazza would go to the AL and DH regularly, but I guess the opportunity wasn't there. Even though Piazza played 101 games behind the plate last year, only 53.7% of the estimable ESPN polling audience think he will be able to catch 90 this year.
I'm just happy that the rumors were wrong and the Phils aren't adding yet another catcher on the wrong side of 30 to their execrable mix next year. They already have a pair of 34-year-olds in Mike Lieberthal and Sal Fasano plus waiting in the wings are Keith Osik, Ed Ott, Barry Foote, and a Roy Partee in a pear tree. If the signed Piazza and got rid of Lieberthal, that would be fine (if they also had a decent backup). But what would happen is that they would use one of the aging catchers to become an albatross on Ryan Howard's back at first. Charlie ("I need a friggin'") Manuel does not need complications.
So let's assume that the California breezes help Piazza meet his goal of 90-100 games behind the platethey have to top the breezes from the aptly named Flushing, Queens. I have to ask, what's the big deal? How many games do starting catchers really play anyway?
Well, I looked it up. So far in the 2000s, the average starting catcher has caught just 109.67 games, and that's the second highest average all time for starting catchers, just behind the Seventies (110.76 games).
So, again I say, big deal.
For those who are interested, here are the average games played at each position for all starters across all teams (i.e., the person who played the most games at the given position). I have a table for the current decade (which contains 2005 data now that Sean Lahman's 2005 update is available) and for all-time:
OK, catchers playing just two-thirds of the games makes sense because of the demands of the position. But why have the relatively easy defensive position of left fielder dipped below catchers recently? Could it be that they tend to split time at first and as a DH more often then others? Maybe. And they same may go for right fielders, though first baseman don't seem to lose much time DH'ing given these numbers.
Finally, shortstop have consistently shown up to the most games. The last time they didn't lead all positions was when they were edged by first basemen in the Thirties. Oddly, in major-league baseball's first decade (the 1870s), shortstops cam in third (with 80.82% games played) behind left fielders (83.11%) and pitchers (81.95%), two of the worst positions for games played now.
What the A's? Doubting Thomas?
Yesterday Frank Thomas signed a one-year, $500K deal with the A's, switching teams after 16 seasons with White Sox. The question with Thomas is his health. His last full season was 2003. He has played a total of 108 games in the last two years though he remains productive when healthy (151 and 131 adjusted OPS's in 2004 and 2005 respectively).
As Alan Schwarz writes, Thomas, if healthy and, "Depending on the money, that's a valuable player. My guess is that any hurt that Thomas inflicts in '06 will be more on opponents, particularly those who passed on him, than his employers."
I know that White Sox have both Paul Konerko and Jim Thome to cover the DH/1B spots, but it's a shame that a future Hall of Famer with 16 years in Chicago couldn't finish his career there. I remember when I was a young whippersnapper that the serious rumors swirled that the Phils were about to trade Mike Schmidt to the Cards (shades of Rolen?). Of course, the deal never happened, and Schmitty finished his career a Phil, but there's a parallel universe somewhere in which Michael Jack ended up in St. Louis and Schrodinger's cat is still alive, and there Schmidt's image is tarnished, at least in Philly, and so is the Phils', though their image is so sullied that they could soak in Tarnex as long as Madge and it wouldn't matter. At least Thomas got a ring in Chicago.
Thomas's departure made me wonder how many other players had left their first team after at least 16 seasons to start off fresh elsewhere. The two that came to mind were Ty Cobb, who became a good luck charm for Connie Mack's team, and Dewey Evans, the long-time Red Sox player who ended his career with the O's.
Here's the full list. Keep in mind that the player has to be active for those first 16 years. I, however, did include those players who served in the military during his stint with the first club:
The only players who has substantial roles with the new clubs were Greenberg, Cobb, Rice, and Evans. Though they all had longer stints with their first club than Thomas.
By the way, Cobb's 22-year gap between switching major-league teams is not the longest in baseball history. Paul Schreiber came up with the Brooklyn Robins in 1922, played the next season, and then disappeared for another 22 years until the wartime Yankees let him pitch two games and 4.1 innings in 1945. Oddly, he was the third youngest player in baseball in 1922 (19 years old) and in 1923 (20), and in his next season, 1945, he was the oldest player in the game (42).
Here are the other players who took 16 seasons to play for his second team but didn't play continually for his first team before switching:
Cromartie went to Japan in the middle of his career, and Nuxhall came up as a 15-year-old with the Reds in 1944 but they kept him in the minors until 1952.
At the risk of disgusting even myself, I have to point out that the Red Sox have published the latest chapter in the Theo Epstein saga. It seems that Theo is now/has been/will be the GM again. Of course, he left at the end of October, was replaced by co-GMs a little over a month ago, and then returned in an unspecified role last week. Now, he's the GM or at least GM-elect.
Did he re-sign as the GM and the Sox just did not disclose it? Was he the GM all along? Your guess is as good as anyone's.
I guess I'm just left wondering why. Why the big drama? What was it all about? Egos? Money? Headlines? Boredom? And how does the Red Sox management have the cajones to let this drama enfold as if it were de rigueur? I'm glad though that Jed and Jethrine (interim-ish co-GMs Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington) will have senior-level positions coming out of this.
An ESPN poll finds that 57.5% of the populace, or at least those who bother to answer polls, were still very interested in the melodrama and that only 9.8% were "not interested at all".
Meanwhile the Sox attempt to snare a major-league center fielder, here played by Coco Crisp, was thwarted by Guillermo Mota's inability to pass a physical. One has to wonder how he passed the physical when the Red Sox acquired him around Thanksgiving (or if they bothered to investigate his health before giving him $3M for 2006 on January 17). Though the deal will probably be re-worked, it's another black eye for the team. Maybe Bud Selig will step in with his semi-annual Mulligans for the Sox and let them trade Mota even after he failed the physical.
It all reminds me of 1983 when Buddy LeRoux, the former team trainer and part-owner (42%), staged a coup with two other minor owners and brought back Dick O'Connell, the former GM, as "GM for a day" (Remember that old show?). He was presented as the GM on June 6 even though the previous GM, Haywood Sullivan, had not stepped down and was a part-owner as well (he actually fired O'Connell and took his job six years before). It seems that LeRoux had been trying to sell out to Sullivan, but apparently the deal soured.
Leroux's restructuring of the team management agreement was called "illegal and invalid" by Sullivan. "The partnership has not changed. We don't recognize Buddy's action," Sullivan said the next day as he went to court with Jean Yawkey, the wife of the long-time Red Sox owner, to apply for an injunction against the move. Meanwhile, O'Connell showed up at Fenway (for the first time since being fired) and found a team in chaos: "I just hope that my car hasn't been towed away." Also, the team had a presentation to the 1967 championship team, for which LeRoux was a trainer, at the game that night as the drama enfolded in the front office.
LeRoux's coup (say that three times fast) was enjoined by a court order the next day by Suffolk Superior Court judge Andrew Linscott, who set a court date for July 11. Sullivan was put back in charge immediately, and LeRoux and his two fellow limited partners lost in the courts on August 10.
It's great to see that this club has not progressed one iota in twenty-odd years. By the way the Sox finished 78-84 that year, only one of two seasons between their AL championship in 1967 and their 1991 season in which the club had a losing record (1987 being the other). Bad omen? (Read the book!)
Now, the only unresolved issue is whether Theo will the GM on opening day. Where's the ESPN poll on that one?
O'Brien Fired—It's All In the Family, So Stifle
Dan O'Brien was fired yesterday as the general manager of the Reds. Such are the hazards of a GM in a losing club when that club has a new owner.
O'Brien's tenure as the Reds GM can be best summed up with what he did with overrated fan favorite Sean Casey this offseason. First, he picked up Casey's $8.5M option for 2006 in October, only to trade him to the Pirates in December. Odd. If you can find some logic in such maneuvering, explain it to O'Brien.
Anyway, O'Brien should be used to getting fired: it's in his genes. His dad, Dan O'Brien as well, was fired by three clubs (the Rangers, Mariners, and Angels), and Dan II can take some solace in the fact that his poor record with the Reds (149-175, .460) is slightly better than Dan I's career record with those three franchises (644-767, .456).
It does, however, leave just one active baseball GM who is the son of another GM, Bill Bavasi of the M's. That made me wonder what the overall record was for all of the GM families that baseball has seen over the years.
First, we have to establish what those GM families are. I found the following: The Bavasis (Buzzie, Bill, and Peter), the O'Briens (Dan I and Dan II), the Smiths (Tal and Randy), the McHales (John J. and John), the Quinns (Bob I, John, and Bob II), and the McPhails (Larry, Lee, and Andy).
Here are there career totals as individuals:
Now the totals per family:
And there you have it. The O'Brien clan is the worst of the bunch, by percentage or win total. It's not every day that someone can surpass Randy Smith in bad GM'ing. Dan II can be proud.
Getting To Number 1 As A Number 2?
According to reports Barry Bonds doesn't like the idea of batting in the two hole instead of his typical cleanup spot, an idea floated by manager Felipe Alou in the tedium of the offseason. He might be a bit hasty however.
If Bonds were batting #2, his plate appearances would potentially go up by 5%. This is based on the total number of plate appearances for major-league #2 hitters and #4 hitters for last season (i.e., 22261 vs. 21243 TPA). So 5%, that's it? Big deal! Right?
Well, if we base Barry's performance for 2006 on his last full season, 2004, the results are intriguing. Now, before we delve into them, I will concede that Bonds, a 41-year-old coming off an injury-plagued season, will have great difficulty duplicating his success from two years ago, but the man is from Krypton and I wouldn't put anything past him. If that does not allay your concerns, we'll address them in due time.
Here is Bonds' projection for 2006 based on his 2004 stats with the additional 5% more plate appearances as a number two hitter. Also, are his projected career totals after 2006 as a number 2 and a number 4 hitter this year:
Note the 755 home run total as a number 2 hitter. Hmmm, maybe batting #2 aint so bad after all. Of course, the situations he would face as a number two would be different from those he would see as the cleanup guy, but I would expect certain numbers like RBI to be affected more than homers. I think the additional at-bats with the bases empty would compensate for being pitched around more with the number three hitter behind rather than the number five (especially now that their old #3 hitter, J.T. Snow, is in Boston).
But the naysayers aren't convinced. They are still upset about basing his 2006 season on 2004 data. OK, let's base it on his 2005 numbers (i.e., times ten to reflect a, hopefully, injury-free season):
This scenario plays out a bit better for Bonds. Either way, he projects to be the home run king by this time next year though he would have an extra two dingers as a number-two guy.
Then again, with 5% more plate appearances mean 5% more times hit by a pitch, and that underscores the real issue with Bonds' 2006: the potential for injury. If I were Felipe Alou, I would do whatever I could to protect the greatest hitter in the game from injury. So if Barry feels more comfortable as a cleanup hitter, let him bat cleanup. Or would you rather have an outfield of Moises Alou, Randy Winn, and Steve Finley?
The Missing Link (Or Is It Branch?)—Searching for the First GM
In my ongoing study into the history of baseball general managers, one question has been bugging me the more I dig: Who was the first GM?
The answer may be insoluble, like the real missing link (could it be Johnny Damon?). Some of that might have to do with the nature of the job. It grew out of other jobsfield manager, owner, business manager, etc.as baseball's off-field personnel become more and more specialized. It's part of the team growing. First, there were just team captains. Then as teams went pro, they needed money men to back them up, dividing the on-field and off-field chores. Captains became field managers, who also typically handled personnel decisions. Then came GMs and coaches and travel secretaries and stretching and flexibility specialists.
And the name thing does get in the way a bit. Oftentimes the GM role was filled by personnel with various and sundry titles.
The first reference I can find to someone filling the general manager role for a team was W.H. Conant with the old Boston Beaneaters. He was named to the role on December 17, 1884. However, Conant was a part-owner of the team and was one of the triumvirate of owners (A.H. Soden and J.B. Billinsg being the other two) who sold the club to George Dovey in 1906. It appears that Conant's role was as a general manager on the business side, not a general manager in the sense that we understand today.
GMs, as I define them, are typically hired hands that manage the personnel on the team without managing them on the field. There are tons of caveats though. Some GMs are rewarded with a piece of the team. Some GMs also fill the manager's role. However, I exclude owners who decide to act as their own GM and field managers whose chores bled into the GM arena (as early managers did).
The first man who fits these criteria was a general manager for an organization that never fielded a team but that affected three major leagues. That man was John McGraw and the team was an unnamed Baltimore organization in a proposed major league, the American Association, that never actually took the field but bridged the gap between the old American Association and the American League.
Back when the National League was withstanding the Players League wars in 1890, team ownership got extremely incestuous. Owners of stronger teams supported the weak until the threat of the rival league was averted. However, as both the PL and the original American Association folded, the National League swallowed their talent as well as some of their teams but retained its bloated ownership.
With the NL the sole major league, owners started shifting their personnel from one team to another. They basically stole from Peter to pay Paul. The 12-team circuit started to show signs of severe competitive imbalance.
The old Baltimore Orioles, once a force in the NL, had been stripped of most of their stars prior to the 1899 season in favor of the Brooklyn Superbas, who were under joint ownership. John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson remain in Baltimore. After that season, threats that the NL would contract to either ten or eight teams swirl. One rumor was that the Orioles would be moved to the minor Eastern League (now the International League).
On January 18, 1900, stock company was formed to bring a franchise in the proposed American Association to Baltimore. On January 26, at the Eutaw Hotel the team is formally organized and McGraw is named the general manager. The previous day he secured a lease for Union Park, the ballpark previously used by the NL Orioles. McGraw claims to have sent letters to every player on the Orioles offering them a spot on the proposed team. Many of the Baltimore players are said to be ready to jump to McGraw's new team, according to one player, Bill Clarke.
Meanwhile, the NL denies rumors that the Washington and Baltimore clubs are going to be contracted as "fakes and pipe dreams" (Jan 28, Atlanta Constitution). It also allows Ban Johnson and the then-minor league American League to shift franchises to Chicago and Cleveland and to propose a shift to Philadelphia (which does not actually occur) to counter the American Association's moves.
On February 3, the backers of the Philadelphia AA franchise pull out. On February 7, a court orders the AA Baltimore franchise to withdraw from Union Park. On February 15, the AA calls it quits, at least for 1900 as the Philadelphia franchise fails to find backers or a park. The NL claims that Washington and Baltimore will remain in the league.
McGraw and Robinson return to the Orioles, signing a contract for the 1900 season on February 28, but they are sold together to St. Louis for $15 K on March 23. On March 8, the NL announced that both Washington and Baltimore were being lopped off and that they would be an 8-team circuit for 1900. While all of this is going on McGraw re-floats the idea of the AA Baltimore franchise. Realizing this is no longer a credible threat, he proposes a semipro league based in Baltimore. Rumors are floated by the NL that he is headed to Chicago until the Cubs deny them.
When the deal to the Cards finally happens, both players refuse to report until May 8, but both have the reserve clause expunged so that they will be free after the season. He oddly refuses the Baltimore managerial job after Patsy Tebeau resigns in August. Directly after the season Ban Johnson announces that Baltimore, with McGraw in tow, and Washington will be in the AL for the 1901 season. The NL scoffs at the idea of the AL becoming a major league. Johnson then shifts a team to Philadelphia (the Athletics), and the rest is history.
W(anna) B(ust up a) C(lub?)
The World Baseball Classic 60-man rosters are set (And the new phonebooks are here!). While we await their willowing down to thirty stout men each, I am left wondering if any of this matters at all.
Aside from the hourly updates on MLB.com and some snarky remarks from Fidel Castro, does anyone even notice that the WBC is happening? I can't say that I'm all that excited myself. It has all the feel of the Pro Bowl about it.
The one WBC-related issue that I am interested in is how the players involved in the March-long baseball fest will react once the real baseball season commences. It may be anecdotal, but the teams that started their seasons with international series seem to take a hit at least in the first half of the season. Whether it's the travel, the geisha, or the international supply of steroids, I cannot say.
Anyway, here's a handy-dandy breakdown of the number of players participating in the WBC by major-league organization:
I can understand the Devil Rays not sending many playerswho would want them?but playoff teams like the White Sox and Cards are way down on that list. Tony LaRussa's not crazy.
We'll have to check back when they lop off half of the current roster to get a better idea of the impact, but it will be interesting to see how this tournament affects the start teams get out of the gate.
Marlins' Gutting Almost Complete
Dontrelle Willis signed today for $4.35 M, the most for a pitcher in the first year of arbitration eligibility. Sound impressive, right?
Well, when you consider that the Marlins will still lop off over 70% of their salary even with the four-million-dollar raise to the Cy Young runner-up. I have been keeping a running total of the Marlins fiscal frugality this offseason, and the change has been historic.
Here is the current set off players with a few recent free agents added to the end. It looks like the Fish That Saved Pittsburgh's roster:
The Marlins appear to be a lock to be the first team since 2000 with a payroll under $20 M. Here are the only teams since 1995 to do so:
I expect Willis to be the highest paid Marlin. If so, again this will be the first time since 2000 that a team's salary leader was under $4.5 M. Here are the lowest since 1995:
Let Chaos Storm!—Previewing the 2007 Hall of Fame Vote, Part II
As for the prospective 2007 BBWAA Hall ballot, below are the returning vets followed by the potential newcomers. For each, the Bill James Hall criteria are listed along with the player's career Win Shares (the Hall average is now about 337 WS) and the number of similar players who are in the Hall. Then each player is evaluated by how many of these tests he passed. Then we will look at how each of the players have fared in the Hall voting over the last five seasons and overall. Finally, I'll try to predict each player's Hall fate.
First let's look at the players and how they did with the black and grey ink tests:
Next are the Hall Standard and Monitor tests and a test for if at least half of the player's similar batters/pitchers are in the Hall:
Here are the career Win Shares for each potential candidate, a test for whether it is at least the Hall WS average, and finally the percentage of tests passed for each candidate. As for as % Passed, Hershiser is the only returning candidate with a big goose egg. Of the new candidates, Ripken, Gwynn, McGwire, and Canseco are the only ones to pass any test. Gwynn is the only one to pass all of the tests:
Here are the voting results for candidates returning for the 2007 ballot:
Finally, I attempt to handicap the Hall of Fame prospects for each candidate:
Let Chaos Storm!—Previewing the 2007 Hall of Fame Vote
The infernal storm, eternal in its rage, sweeps and drives the spirits with its blast; it whirls them, lashing them with punishment. When they are swept back past their place of judgment then come the shrieks, laments, and anguished cries; there they blaspheme God's almighty power.
Now that the 2006 baseball writers' Hall vote is in the books, it's time to recap and look ahead to 2007, a vote that promises to be highly controversial and extremely hard to handicap. The controversy stems from four potential first-year candidates of varying qualifications, all of whom were involved in varying degrees with steroid use.
There's Mark McGwire, an admitted andro (Androstenedione, that is) user, who based solely on performance would be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. McGwire stopped using andro once the controversy broke and claims it never helped him hit his gargantuan home run totals with the Cardinals. The incident seemed to slip to interesting-anecdote status until it got swept up by the larger steroid issue as it mushroomed following the BALCO investigation (and once congressmen latched onto it as a nice soft issue to win votesgod, I miss the simplicity of the flag burning issue). How will the writers weigh this in their evaluations? (That is, will it affect how the coins land when the writers toss them?)
Then there are steroids poster boys, Jose Canseco and the late Ken Caminiti. Neither is a very strong candidate for the Hall. Canseco has a better case but has probably alienated more writers with his unrepentant attitude, his outing of former teammates, and his spotlighting grabbing during the steroid brouhaha. Outside of baseball, some may see him as a whistle-blowing hero, but inside baseball that is hardly the perception. Canseco has the stats to at least become another inmate in baseball's purgatory, that is, a perpetual spot on the BBWAA ballot, the place were marginal Hall of Fame candidates like Steve Garvey and Dale Murphy languish for years. Canseco has to be on the ballot unless banned for some reason, but could easily be dropped if the writers don't express enough interest.
Caminiti has become the cautionary tale of the steroid era. He was by all reports a great teammate and a driven player, whose user mentality was susceptible to performance enhancing drugs. If there is to be a sympathetic Shoeless Joe Jackson character from this steroid mess, it will be Caminiti, though that will hardly help him in the Hall voting. In most cases, a player of Caminiti's caliber would at least make the ballot and may garner enough votes to remain on the ballot for a couple of seasons. Caminiti may easily be omitted from the ballot altogether.
The final steroid-related candidate who next year will be eligible for the Hall for the first time is Wally Joyner. Joyner is the weakest candidate of the four but has the most tangential connection to performance-enhancing drugs. He admitted to using steroids very briefly in an ESPN investigation this season. Joyner should appear on the ballot and then quickly slip into oblivionthis is the case with or without the steroid connection.
So that's what we have to look forward to, but I have gotten ahead of myself. First, let's review this year's vote. As I predicted, Bruce Sutter got in and many other candidates surged closer to enshrinement with a weak first-year class.
Jim Rice, Rich Gossage, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Tommy John, Lee Smith, and Alan Trammell all recorded Hall highs in ballot percentage. Rice, Gossage, and Dawson were all over 60%, each for the first time. Historically, 54.5% of all candidates who received 60% of the vote got into the Hall by the next ballot; 79.2% got in within three years. Only Gil Hodges, of the players no longer on the BBWAA ballot, has received at least 60% of the writers' vote has failed to make it to Cooperstown.
Rice has been hanging above 50% since 2000 and cleared 60% for the first time (64.8%) in 2006 but has just three ballots (including 2007) left. At first, I qualified my prediction for him to getting elected either in 2006 or 2007, but then in the Toaster roundtable, what with all the talk of steroid backlash, I got over eager and changed that to just 2006. Oh well, I should have stuck with my original prediction. I'll stick with that original prediction: Rice will make it in 2007 with the steroid backlash finally putting him over the top in a crowded race.
On this ballot Gossage continued his momentum from 2005, registering 64.6% of the vote, twenty points higher than his pre-2005 high and over none point higher than last year. I predicted he would make it within three years and see no reason not to stick with that prediction. Though one could buttress Gossage's argument given that Sutter just got in.
Dawson has been at or over 50% since 2003 and had matched or slightly bettered his previous ballot's showing each year from 2003 to 2005. He made an eight-point push in 2006 to 60.96%. I predicted that he would not make the Hall in 2006 but would in five years. I would just accelerate that timetable a bit to 2008 or 2009 with a crowded field this year stalling him momentarily.
Blyleven's vote had grown steadily since slightly over fourteen percent in his first year (1999) to 29.2% in 2003. Then as the sabermetrically inclined started stating his case rather effectively, he surged to 35.4% in 2004, 40.9% in 2005, and now 53.3% in this past election. I predicted that he would make it within three years prior to this election. I'll extend that to 2010 now. But for a player, who prior to this past election I thought would have to go in as a Veterans Committee pick, he has an excellent shot at in any of the upcoming elections. Again only Gil Hodges, of the players no longer on the BBWAA ballot, has failed to get into the Hall after garnering 50% of the vote.
Of my remaining 2006 predictions, there are just a few minor missteps. Of the newcomers, I predicted that Will Clark (the best new player on the 2006 ballot in my opinion), Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser, Gary Gaetti, Ozzie Guillen (for one year given the World Series press), and Dwight Gooden would remain on the ballot (Willie McGee hung on for another year for goodness' sake). Only Belle and Hershiser get to stick around for 2007. All of the newcomers who I predicted would fail to make the cut (5%), did.
Of the veteran BBWAA candidates, I opined that McGee and Dale Murphy would drop off the ballot. Only McGee did. Murphy hit a low in voting in 2004 (8.5%) but has persevered the last two years with just slightly over ten percent of the vote each year. Go figure.
OK, enough of old business: let's look ahead to 2007.
I added all of the newly eligibility players with at least one hundred career Win Shares to the holdovers from 2006. Of course, the ballot will probably omit a good number of these players, but given that the writers threw us a curve in 2006 with the likes of Gary DiSarcina and Walt Weiss (Who my friend Mike pointed out amazingly received a vote this year) peppering the ballot, I'm exploring all, or at least most, options. That's 29 newly eligible players.
And don't forget that the Veterans Committee returns to elect no one from two possible populations, the players being one and the managers, umpires, and executives being the other. This will be the first election for the latter since 2003. The players have had two elections since they revamped the Veterans Committee in 2002 (i.e., in 2003 and 2005). They haven't picked any one in any of the elections yet far. The 2007 election becomes a litmus test for the committee itself or at least its current iteration.
To be continued
Hall Welcomes New Sutter, Hopes He Is Not A Roué
The baseball writers' Hall of Fame vote was announced today and though the voters seemed to like a bunch of candidates (five got over fifty percent), they only took one to the big dance. Bruce Sutter is now a Hall of Fame or at least a Hall of Famer-elect.
Many will look at Sutter's stats and say that he doesn't deserve the honor, but if you study the history of relief pitching (as I have), his impact is without question. If that makes him more of a Candy Cummings-type of selection, so be it. It all ends up in the same place, as they say.
And though the naysayers had be believing that no one would garner enough votes to merit election, I should have seen the writing on the wall. Last year Sutter got two-thirds of the vote.
Of the previous 48 men who received at least two-thirds of the vote but not the requisite 75% for election, 73% made it to the Hall within by the next ballot. All of them got into the Hall eventually, though one (Nellie Fox) took 12 years.
As for the next four in the vote, all of whom received at least 50%, I say take heart. Gil Hodges is the only man to receive at least 50% of the writers' vote and not get elected (and he might finally get there next year if the vets can ever pick anyone again). As for Rice, Gossage, and Dawson, who all got at least 60% of the vote, in the past 54% of those receiving that high a percentage went in by the next ballot. 71% got in within two years.
Oh, and by the way, it's the second time since 1986 that at least three players have gotten at least 60% of the vote without reaching the magical 75%. '83 had the most with five, and 1946 and '51 are the only ones with four.
And don't feel so badly for Sutter given that he cleared the bar by a measly ten votes (390 were needed and he got 400). Plenty of previous Hall of Famers have Fosbury Flopped over the bar with less room to spare.
Sutter is the 24th to go in by ten votes or less:
It's not so bad for a pitcher to be in the company of Cy Young and Lefty Grove after all.
Percentage-wise, Sutter was a bit closer, coming in at 11th for the lowest among all Hall-of-Famers:
Finally, the election of Sutter adds another Hall of Famer to the resumes of the Braves, Cubs, and Cards who are now third, fourth, and fifth (respectively) all time in Hall of Fame players. Here are the all-time standings. Surprisingly, the Yankees place seventh, one spot behind the Red Sox and just one ahead of the lowly Phils (though the Phils are famous for trading future Hall-of-Famers early in their careers):
After hearing various projections, especially Repoz's, for the BBWAA Hall vote to be released tomorrow morning, I fully expect a big Goose egg. Therefore, we fans have to console ourselves with the Negro League ballots. I think I picked everyone but Cap Anson to gain admittance to the hallowed Hall from the Negro Leagues ballots.
My friend Murray responded with an interesting question: Didn't we get everybody from the Negro Leagues who's really important into the Hall already? Aren't all these other efforts just a form of SABR-PCness?
Well, my first response to this obviously racist question (I'm joking, of course) was that it comes down to a matter of opinion. The majors have selected an expert panel to review the candidates. I happen to know a bit about the Negro Leagues and feel that a number of the candidates are Hall-worthy.
I especially felt that there were a number of non-playing Negro Leaguers who deserved representation in the Hall. The only person whose Hall credentials were helped by his non-playing career was Rube Foster, who could have gone into the Hall as a pitcher, a manager, or an executive. Yes, there was a lot of turnover among the leagues and teams in the history of the Negro Leagues, but there was a great deal of success that should be celebrated.
Murray also pointed out that Bill James lauded the work of the Negro Leagues Committee in the Seventies. He said that they completed their task and then went quietly into the night. However, I had to point out that Rube Foster, someone I would hold in the highest esteem among all Negro League candidates, did not make the Negro League Committee's cut. He got in after the Negro Leaguers were folded back into the Veterans Committee.
Here are all of the Negro League Hall of Famers broken down by committee:
So again it came down to opinion. The Negro Leagues Committee felt that only nine men deserved to be recognized in Cooperstown. The Vets Committee doubled that. So what's the standard? Now, the number of reps could be doubled in one fell swoop. That's opinion, not standards.
But the stathead in me could just accept that it was a matter of opinion. I thought it might be helpful to look at the number of white Hall of Famers active in each season and the number of Negro Leaguers. There are currently 22 Hall of Famers who played in the Negro Leagues at some point in their careers including Hank Aaron (1 year), Willie Mays (3), Jackie Robinson (1), and Larry Doby (4). I looked at the years 1884 (Moses Fleetwood and Wenday Walker appearance on a major-league roster, the last by an African-American player in the majors until Jackie Robinson) through 1955 (the last by a Hall of Famer, Satchel Paige, in the Negro Leagues). This is the period during which segregation held some sway in the game.
What is the proper ratio of Negro Leaguers to major-leaguers that should be in the Hall for this period? Some have said that there should be one Negro Leaguer per each major-leaguer in the Hall. That seems a bit high to me.
Maybe by the time that the majors re-integrated, one could argue that there were as many outstanding players in the Negro Leaguers as in the majors. However, until 1920 there was no viable organization for African-American players. One could hardly argue that the individual black teams pre-1920 developed players as effectively as the organized white leagues did. So where does one draw the line?
Let's look at where the de facto line is right now. Here is the count of active major leaguers and active Negro Leaguers per season that are in the Hall of Fame currently with a grand total for all years in the "segregation era":
Ignoring the war years, in which apparently fewer black players were detained, the highest ratio was in 1946 in which slightly more than a third of the white HoFers had active Negro League counterparts (10 to 27). Overall there's just one Negro Leaguer per every six active major leaguers for those years.
OK, so there is still a bit of opinion in the mix. What is the proper ratio? In my opinion, the fewer than 1:5 that one sees before the formation of the Negro National League in 1920 was plenty low. However, one might say that the 3:1 ratios that pop up as the timeline wends toward Jackie Robinson seem about right.
So what do I conclude? Pre-Negro Leaguers are woefully under-represented. Nods to Sol White and Frank Grant. But it might make later players like Minnie Minoso and Buck O'Neil harder sells. Also, managers and execs need some better representation, perhaps good news for the Taylor brothers and J. L. Wilkinson.
Whatever happens, as James pointed out, we can perhaps but one segment of the Hall debate to rest. However, given the one the issue of race has continued to play a large role in our country and in the game, I wouldn't be surprised if a new or at least different committee is tasked to investigate the issue again in a few years. At least someone will get in the Hall this year.
Leggo My Gossage!—Baseball Toaster Hall of Fame Roundtable, Part IV
To wrap this up, I had the group respond to a few questions. And away we go .
Could everyone who wants to contribute speculate on three things:
1) Who will be elected to the Hall this year? (BBWAA and special committee if you want)
2) Of the remaining players on the ballot, who will someday be inducted into the Hall?
3) Who would you put in the Hall who is not already in? (The difference being that 1 & 2 are based on what you think the voters will do whereas 3 is based entirely on your own opinions. Feel free to mention any player who is eligible but not yet in the Hall. This includes anyone on the Vet Committee ballot.)
Heck, let's throw in a #4:
4) Which current (or at least not yet eligible) players will someday be enshrined in Cooperstown?
Did I miss anything?
1) The BBWAA will induct no one. I don't know enough about the special
2) Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage will eventually make it.
3) This would be a long list: Bert Blyleven, Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, Bobby Grich, Alan Trammell, Darrell Evans.
OK, so that's six people. But those six names came to me immediately.
4) The only question with Cal Ripken is whether or not he will get 100%. He likely won't as one or two voters will feel they have to be William Plumer.
The other guys who can book weekends in upstate New York in their future will be: Roger Clemens, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux, Roberto Alomar, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Jeff Kent, and Pedro Martinez.
1) Jim Rice or nobody at all.
2) Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter
3) Minnie Minoso, because he was a pioneer, as the first black latin ballplayer, and the first black player, period, to play in Chicago. There is a dispute as to his age, but I think conservatively, he lost 2 maybe 3 decent professional years due to racism. His numbers throughout the fifties are more than respectable. They might not be great, but they are comperable to Doby's, and my feeling is that Minoso deserves to be in the Hall as much for his socio-political importance than his raw stats.
Goose Goassage, Ron Santo, Bert Blyeleven, Alan Trammell, and although I'm on the fence about this one, I'll say Andre Dawson too.
4) Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Tony Gwynn, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Kent, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, Gary Sheffield...
On the bubble right now: Curt Schilling, Bernie Williams, John Smoltz, Jim Edmunds, Mike Mussina, John Olerud...
1) If anyone gets in from the BBWAA ballot, I think it will be Sutter, but my gut tells me that the only inductees this year will be from the special committee.
2) Sutter, Gossage, Dawson
3) As a Cub fan, I have to give the obligatory mention of Ron Santo. I also think Blyleven and Trammell deserve to get the nod, although they won't, and Sutter and Gossage will deserve their eventual plaques.
4) Like what Alex said, only whittled down just a bit: Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Tony Gwynn, Mariano Rivera, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Kent, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, Gary Sheffield.
I also think, despite his having completely fallen off the table of late, that Sammy Sosa will get in based almost entirely on his eventually breaking through the '600' mark in career home runs (assuming, of course, that he finds an MLB team for this season) and misty-eyed memories of 1998. I'd personally be more likely to make him this generation's Jim Rice, but I think he'll make it anyway.
I don't think Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Bagwell, or Roberto Alomar make it. Hoffman because I don't think he'll get the credit he deserves due to his "position" and proximity to Rivera, Bagwell because the accomplishments of his early career will be overshadowed by his injury-riddled decline and the greater or soon to be greater accomplishments of some of his first base contemporaries (see McGuire, Thomas, and Pujols), and Alomar because people, particularly BBWAA members, like to hold grudges.
Oh, and as a final lock for inclusion, let's not forget the pound-for-pound greatest shortstop in the game, perhaps the greatest player of our, or any, generation: Neifi "Neifi!" Perez.
1) Sutter and Rice. NLers: Buck O'Neil is a lock. "Kick Mule" Suttles is a good bet. I could pick another ten off the list that I would give a plaque. However, I have no idea who will appeal to the committee.
2) You might find it shocking, but I believe that as many as 16 will someday get in. They are Bruce Sutter, Jim Rice, Rich Gossage, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dave Parker, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Dale Murphy, Will Clark, and Orel Hershiser. I think that the first five will be elected by the writes and the rest will be picked by whatever replaces the current Veterans Committee. I think the vast majority of these players are borderline picks but they fit the standard that the Vets have selected in the past. I don't know if it'll take a hundred years when George Herbert Walker Cheney Seacrest Hilton Shatner Hurley-Eko Mellencamp Selig Bush is president, but I would bet it'll happen.
3) From the writers' ballot: Blyeleven, Sutter, Dawson, Trammell, and Gossage. I guess in that order. As far as Vets Committe guys: Darrell Evans, Sweet Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans, Bill Dahlen, Sherry Magee, Tony Mullane, Richie Allen (though not Dick Allen), Ron Santo, Bobby Grich, Joe Torre, Ted Simmons, and Rusty Staub. From the NL ballot: Sol White, Pete Hill, Cristobal Torriente, Homer Run Brown, Ray Brown, John Donaldson, Dick Lundy, Biz Mackey, Fats Jenkins, Effa Manley, Oliver Marcell, Minnie Minoso, Buck O'Neil, Cumberland Posey, Mule Suttles, Candy Jim Taylor, C.I. Taylor, J. L. Wilkinson, Boojum Wilson, Frank Grant, Spotswood Poles, Louis Santop, and Cannonball Dick Redding.
4) Bonds, Henderson, Ripken, Clemens, Biggio, Sheffield, Gwynn, Raines, Bagwell, Roberto Alomar, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Junior Griffey, Larkin, McGwire, McGriff, A-Rod, Piazza, Manny Ramirez, Randy Johnson, Jeff Kent, Glavine, Jeter, Pedro Martinez, Pudge Rodriguez, Vlad Guerrero, Rivera, and Pujols.
Also, I predict that sometime in the middle of the 21st century after he has shuffled off this mortal coil and, thereby, quit gambling for good, Pete Rose will somehow gain admission via relativistic, revisionist history. Same goes for Palmeiro and Sosa. We as a society turned Joe Jackson into a folk hero. These guys were better players for longer periods. Their profiles will improve with time.
Using everyone else's lists as a handy starting point . . .
1) Goose Gossage and Jim Rice plus Buck ONeil via the Negro League committee.
2) Via BBWAA vote: Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith. Via Vet Committee: Steve Garvey, Alan Trammell, Dale Murphy, Tommy John.
3) Ron Santo, Stan Hack, Alan Trammell, Goose Gossage, Bert Blyleven, Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, Dick Allen, Minnie Minoso, Curt Flood, Whitey Herzog (mgr), Billy Martin (mgr), Buck ONeil (Negro Leagues, deferring to Mike on the remainder of the Negro League ballot)
4) Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent, Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, Chipper Jones, Tony Gwynn, Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Ken Griffey Jr., Tim Raines, Jim Edmunds, Andruw Jones, Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman.
Also, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox as managers, Joe Torre and Lou Piniella as managers for combined accomplishments as players/managers, John Schuerholz as GM, George Steinbrenner as owner.
I had Williams, but then cut him last second because Martin and Herzog are more clearcut choices.
No question Marvin Miller deserves a spot. I don't think any one person since the integration of the sport has had such a massive impact on the game.
OK, so we had to go and do it. We had to open the Pandora's box that is non-player Hall candidates. Okie Dokie.
I have to agree with my esteemed colleagues that Miller is a first-ballot Hall of Fame type (though he missed out in his first appearance on the Vets Committee ballot in 2003). I think Bill James said that if one constructed a baseball Mount Rushmore, Miller would be one of the faces. That's pretty big, even if he is the Teddy Roosevelt face.
The whole situation is a mess though. The Vets only vote every four years on non-players so they won't come up until next year, assuming the Vets Committee rules haven't changed by then. In the last go-round ump Doug Harvey was the only candidate to get more than 50% of the vote, and the consensus on him is that he is probably the best ump of the last fifty years. Basically, if you are going to have umps in the Hall, which they have decided to do, Harvey is a no-brain selection, and he didn't even get in. Most of the ex-players in the Vets Committee saw their income soar thanks to Miller's efforts and even they didn't vote for him (he got 44.3% of the vote).
I just think the system will never work so long as we have ex-players doing the voting. If you turn it over to execs, then Miller is persona non gratis, and we will see more cronyistic selections like Tom Yawkey. The players always balk at us statheads using numbers to analyze their worth, but without the statistical landmarks they are completely at sea. What they should do is turn the field over to a research committee of qualified historians like they did with the Negro-Leaguers.
That said, I will offer my opinion anyway. First, managers: I studied this a couple of years ago and found that there are a number that have been overlooked. They are Gene Mauch, Ralph Houk, Charlie Grimm, Billy Martin, Danny Murtaugh, Billy Southworth, Steve O'Neill, Whitey Herzog, Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre, and Davey Johnson. Lou Piniella has driven his career wins total (1519) near the Hall average for a manager (1596 wins) so he'll probably one day present a strong case (we he ever chose to manage the D-Rays I will never know). Cox, Torre, and LaRussa appear to be locks.
Throw in Miller and Harvey. As for owners--here's where it gets really iffy--I would have to take Walter O'Malley and Phil Wrigley, who were both on the 2003 ballot, before Steinbrenner. This is where an independent research committe is really needed to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Baseball needs to start honoring GMs in Cooperstown. Buzzie Bavasi and Harry Dalton were both on the 2003 ballot. Both are excellent choices, but I have to complete my ongoing GM study to say who are the strongest candidates.
The same goes for coaches. Johnny Sain, Charlie Lau, and Leo Mazzone are some of the highest regarded coaches of all time. Mazzone might be cannonized if he can turn around the O's staff this year. It seems like at least a coach or two should be honored with a plaque by now.
Did I forget anybody (scouts, ticket takers, Bob Shepherd)?
Of course, all of this needs to be researched thoroughly, but it seems that it's not just the expansion-era players who getting short shrift from the Hall.
The Year Of Ryan Franklin
The Phils today filled their last rotation spot by signing a big-name free-agent pitcher.
Was it the Rocket, Roger Clemens, you ask. Kevin Brown? Wade Miller? Scotty Erickson? Jose Lima? Al Leiter? Jeff Weaver? It aint Wendell Wilkie?
No, it was Ryan Franklin! The sucky pitcher who was suspended for steroid use, you ask? Yes, that's the guy. The Phils are giving him $2.6M for one year's worth of work. I'd be happier if they had signed this Franklin (Roosevelt, that is):
Or even this Franklin.
And I thought Ed Wade hated young players. Pat Gillick have four viable choices amongst the youngsters for the final two rotations spots. They are Ryan Madson, Robinson Tejeda, Eude Brito, and Gavin Floyd. Floyd tanked last year in a brief trial gut has been considered a top prospect for years. Brito and Tejeda were non-prospects who pitched well in brief trials. And Madson was the staff savior for about a year and a half (until the Phils over-relied and overused him last year) and deserves a shot at the rotation.
So who does Pat Gillicka man for whom I have less respect as each day passesnab to bolster his staff? A guy who was 8-15 with a 5.10 ERA who struck out just 4.39 strikeouts in nine innings and had just 1.5 strikeouts per base on balls (plus the suspension) in 2005. And his 2004 wasn't much better (4-16, 4.90).
But to "(I Can't) Stand" Pat Gillick, Franklin was a "durable" "competitor who pitches deep into ballgames and has been a consistent starter in the American League for the last few years." Consistent? Yeah, consistently execrable.
I wondered how many pitchers lost 15 games or more and had an ERA over 4.50 for two straight years like Franklin has done. And for those pitchers, what have they done the next season (Franklin is only signed for a year) and for the rest of their careers?
I looked it up. There have been 32 pitchers, only five of whom have done it in the last fifty years. Here they are in reverse chronological order with the two years (Yr1 & Yr2) that qualify him for the dubious list, his next season (Yr3), and his career record after the two abysmal years:
So on average the have gone 8-11 with a 4.34 ERA in their next year and 39-43, 4.21 for the rest of their careers. If the Phils get anything near that I will be overjoyed. Steve Traschel did turn his career around after having two seasons as bad as Fraklin's 2004 & 2005, however.
I guess it doesn't matter since this team is as close to a lock for third in the NL East as you can get. They may as well give Buster Bluth and Franklin, that "one cool [bleep]", a spot in the rotation.
Leggo My Gossage!—Baseball Toaster Hall of Fame Roundtable, Part III
Have been on the road and haven't checked my home email over the past couple of days. My Hall of Fame thoughts are as following.
While I'm completely on board with the Blyleven campaign, I believe Alan Trammell is an equally deserving candidate. At arguably the most important position on the field, Trammell is one of the Top 10 shortstops of all-time. He is downgraded because he was the 5th best at his position during the time he played. (Ripken, Yount, Ozzie, Larkin) This logic fails from my view. Was Roberto Clemente an unworthy Hall of Famer because his stats weren't quite on the same level as Mays, Aaron, Mantle, and Robinson? To be honest there is not much difference overall between O. Smith, Larkin, and Trammell.
Trammell was the MVP of the 1984 World Series and in my mind should have been the AL MVP of the 1987 season, but finished a close second to George Bell. Another bias against him is the notion that was Trammell even the best part of the Tigers double play duo. Lou Whitaker is one of the Top 16 second baseman of all-time, but I would rate him just below Trammell. Add to this that Trammell was a leader for the Tigers, while Whitaker was a me-first guy and it puts him a clear step below. There are a number of players in the HOF that Whitaker scores ahead of but Trammell, Blyleven, Gossage, and Sutter should be inducted before his status should be argued.
I would take Gossage over Sutter, but I think both belong in the Hall. Just because I think Goose's resume is superior, if I was the HOF czar, I would put him in a year ahead of Sutter, but I have no problem with either one. in Cooperstown.
While Jim Rice was my favorite player in the Majors during the time he played, I think he falls just short of induction. Same goes for Andre Dawson.
I completely agree that Trammell should be in, but I have a couple quibbles with what Scott wrote.
To begin with, although I know Scott is simply passing on the argument others have made, if you're ranking '80s shortstops, I don't think you can place Trammell fifth so easily. He and Larkin are more or less a dead heat, with Larkin's advantage due largely to his being six years younger and thus playing some of his peak seasons during the post-strike offensive boom (including his MVP 1995 season).
Yount meanwhile, was inferior defensively and switched to center after 1984, where he remained a subpar fielder. To my mind, Trammell was a greater *shortstop* than Yount and Yount's advantage as a hitter is slight, the result of a bit more pop and longevity.
All of that said, I'm curious to see what happens when Larkin becomes eligible. I'm thinking he'll be hurt by having been a contemporary of Rodriguez, Jeter, Garciaparra, and Tejada for the better part of a decade. That can't be said of Trammell, whose final season was 1996.
Oh, my other quibble was that I've never ever heard anyone suggest that Trammell was not the superior half of the Tigers DP combo. Their career stats are alarmingly similar, with Whitaker having a slight advantage in OBP and SLG, but Trammell was the better fielder, the better base stealer, and the better teammate. Of course, those hitting stats alone should put Whitaker in the Hall alongside Trammell.
For the record, Trammell got a mere 16.9 percent last year (though that was his best total since first appearing on the ballot in 2002, for what that's worth) and Whitaker fell off the ballot after getting just 15 votes (2.19 percent) in his first year of eligibility in 2001.
Re. the shortstop debate, here are the top 25 SS by career Win Shares. This includes anyone whose primary position was shortstop. Therefore, you will see Robin Yount, who did play a great deal of center, and John Montgomery Ward, who started his career as a pitcher (but blew his arm out) and ended his career as a second baseman.
I have indicated which ones are already in the Hall:
Also, here are the other shortstops in the Hall who don't make the top 25 in WS:
As for the Whitaker-Trammell debate, here are the same tables for second basemen:
So Ernie Banks counts as a first baseman? [Mike: Yep, he played a hundred odd games more at first.]
That list of career win shares just doesn't tell the whole story as far as I'm concerned.
Soon after the Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez, I did a piece on the effect moving to third would have on his status among the greatest shortstops of all time (found here). In that post I made a top five that looked like this:
Though I'll admit my list was based primarily on offense.
I agree with what you said about Larkin, well actually I wrote that in my first offering:To be honest there is not much difference overall between O. Smith, Larkin, and Trammell.
My point with including Yount and Larkin in the debate is that they are seen as contemporaries, even if they don't exactly mirror a large time frame. I would disagree with you about Yount only being a slightly better hitter. Longevity counts for a lot and Yount reached some magical milestones which put him higher on the list. Trammell's defense is somewhat forgotten about, as he won 4 gold gloves, before the Ozzie Smith of the AL, Tony Fernandez took over.
Thanks Mike for listing statistically what I was getting at about Whitaker. Maybe I need to do a Lederer campaign extolling the virtues of the Tigers double play combo. It's truly amazing to me on how asleep a majority of the voters could be on these two players, considering their all-time ranking.Cliff:
Since our conversation's stalled, can I solicit opinions on Albert Belle? Jay Jaffe makes a convincing argument for him in his recent JAWS series on Baseball Prospectus (here). Of course, between his bad 'tude, corked bat, unfavorable offensive context, and injury-shortened career, he may not have a prayer, but do any of we Toasters think he should?
The argument you'll hear from folks inclined to see Belle get in will be that the only issue keeping him out (beyond his seeming to be an extremely unpleasant man) is his longevity, and that with the lack thereof being tossed out in the case of Kirby Puckett, it should darn well be done in Belle's case because by any objective measure, he was a monster when he was out there, and better than Puckett during that peak by a not insubstantial margin.
There's truth there, but just because the voters made what I think was a mistaken exception in Puckett's case doesn't necessarily mean they should make a similar one for Belle. Still, I'm on the fence here. That peak is awfully compelling. Consider this: I think a lot of folks look at Sammy Sosa as a very likely HOFer, in great part due to his home run hitting prowess during his best years. When measured by WARP3, Sosa had one season worth more than 10 wins, and four seasons worth more than 8. Belle had six seasons with at least 10 wins, three of which were worth no less than 11.2 wins. That, my friends, is performing at a high level. I don't know if it's high enough to passionately argue for his inclusion, but it's high enough to make the discussion worth having.
Re. Belle: I think he's another borderline candidate. If he played another five marginal seasons and pushed his home run total over 500, he would be a lock. Was he among the best in the game when he played? Yes. Does he fit the de facto standards? Yes. Will the writers give him the short shrift? Yes. I expect him to either very quickly fall off the ballot or remain in limbo a la Jim Kaat, Dave Parker, and Dale Murphy until his 15 years expire.
As for comparing him to Puckett, I think James showed in his multi-titled Hall of Fame book who that sort of logic collapses in on itself like a house of Cards or maybe Cubbies.
I have no problem with his going in nor I am a big advocate. The Hall will remain largely unchanged either way.
Leggo My Gossage!—Baseball Toaster Hall of Fame Roundtable, Part II
In this segment we turn our attention to the special Negro Leagues ballots:
What I haven't seen discussed is the special Negro League vote. Rob Neyer's addressed this a couple times and there could be 10-12 NLers. It's hard to say they "don't deserve" recognition or how it may affect the votes.
Oh, I hadn't even considered the Negro League/Veteran's Committee guys. My vote for Vet Committee/Negro League guy goes squarely to Orestes "Minnie" Minoso. He played two years in the Negro Leagues (46-47), was one of the first wave of black players to player in the Majors (Indians, 1949), was the first black Latino to play in the Majors, and the first black man period to play for either Chicago team (1951). During the 1950s there was no greater Latin player in MLB. (Maybe Aparicio, but he came out in the second half of the decade...Vic Power was good but didn't have his first big season 'til 1955, and Cepeda didn't break out until 57-58, and Clemente, though he arrived in '55 didn't bust out 'til 1960.)
Here's a good question: after Minoso, who was the next great Latin or black player to debut in the AL? (Other than Aparicio or Power?)
The age question--was Minoso 25 or 28 or 29 in 195--effects his HoF merits for some, but to me, the guy missed potential MLB seasons to racism. Maybe he wouldn't have been ready in 46-47, but I have to think that 48, and at least 49 and 50, where he tore up the Pacific Coast League, would have been productive years in the majors.
Bottom line, the guy was a pioneer, whose reputation kind of morphed into one that Louis Armstrong faced during the 1960s--his old school, people-pleasing persona became unfashionable in light of more modern Latin sensibilities like Power and Clemente and Cepeda. Minoso's long career, and stunt pinch-hitting appearances in 1976 and 1980 did not help him either--he's viewed more as a clown than as a legend. But put him up against Larry Doby, and the dude should be inski.
As for Minoso, James has written extensively on him, and he is one of the best players after age 30 ever in the game. I think given that and his circumstances, one could make a very strong case for his candidacy. Then again, I'm still shocked Bobby Grich isn't in.
For all the talk about the bar being too low at the Hall of Fame, the percent of the vote required to get in requires an awfully high consensus. And although many voters seem to have blinders on, they also seem to have acquired their blinders from competing blinder boutiques. I sense no widespread rallying cry for anyone, no agreement that "It's time John Wayne got an Oscar." Guys like Gossage and Rice could get an extra look (Blyleven almost seems too polarized at this point - he's the Hee Seop Choi of the candidates), but this could just as easily simply be a Negro League year.
The bar has not gotten lower. It's gotten much, much higher for expansion-era players. The problem stems from the bifurcated system. The writers have always had a very high standard. However, the Vets have let much less deserving players in the back door. However, now that they have established a de facto standard, they no longer adhere to it.
The Vets Committee is in the process of withering away and dying, while the writers harangue deserving candidates like Gary Carter and Ryne Sandberg. The problem isn't that a few guys like Blyleven and Santo are not getting in. The problem is that whole swaths of guys like the Evans boys, Bobby Grich, Sweet Lou Whitaker, Allan Trammell, etc. barely get a passing notice whereas in years past, they would get in.
It has to do with the 15-year eligibility rule and having to get enough votes from year to year to remain eligible. In the past guys would languish at under 5% of the votes and then eventually muster enough to go in. Now, they get jettisoned from consideration. For a time, they weren't even eligible for consideration by the Vets Committee. That's been addressed somewhat with the changes to the committee a few years ago, but given that they increase the size of the committee from Ted Williams and a couple of old cronies to everyone who has ever visited Cooperstown, it's almost impossible to get a consensus.
And you know, there'd be tremendous justice in that [i.e., this "simply be[ing] a Negro League year"]. While I have my folks I'm rooting for off the regular ballot, I think it would be fitting, and certainly appropriate, to give the Negro Leaguers inducted through this special election their own day.
By the way, the special ballot was flawlessly researched. Well, not exactly--the pre-NLers are spotty. I wanted to see Moses Fleetwood Walker, Bud Fowler, and George Stovey. But the only NLers I was disappointed to not see was "Gentleman" Dave Malarcher, a Rube Foster protégé.
The fact that they included individuals like Effa Manley, C.I. Taylor, and J.L. Wilkinson, architects of the NLs and prominent team owners, was tremendous. Manley could become the first woman enshrined, and Wilkinson the first non-African-American to go in as a NLer. Rube Foster is the only executive from the NLs to gain admittance to Cooperstown and he deserved to go as either a pitcher, a manager, or an executive.
There are easily a dozen or so guys who could go in. I'm pulling for Sol White who seemed to be involved in every early development and wrote the Rosetta Stone of early black baseball history.
Whatever happens, the biggest development could be that they put this one category to bed. Then they can set up special committees to review 19th century players, and then any guys missed from 1900 to expansion. That would allow the Vets to focus on more recent players and maybe elect someone some day. Ironically, the first vets committees were set up to be short-lived initiatives. They were supposed to close the book on the 19th century. Then they were commandeered to get some new HoFers, any new HoFers, when the writers' ballot was too crowded with deserving players in the Forties for them to pick anyone.
Leggo My Gossage!—Baseball Toaster Hall of Fame Roundtable, Part I
We here at Baseball Toaster wanted to commemorate what should be a very interesting Hall of Fame election with a little roundtable to start the new year. As we started commenting I found that there was plenty for at least three pieces. I hereby present part one for your enjoyment:
Would anyone be interested in a roundtable on the Hall sometime soon? This sort of pap (i.e., the anti-steroid vote) will probably have a big effect and the voting should be interesting. The results will be announced 1/10/06.
I'll throw out the first question: With a weak class of first-year candidates, who, if any, of the returning candidates will garner enough votes to earn a plaque?
Since I'm likely down for the count the next two days with a bug of
Blyleven got just 40.9 percent last year and Morris got a mere third. I think you have to look at the guys who were over 50 percent last year. In descending order that's Sutter, Jim Rice, Gossage and Andre Dawson. I'm still flabbergasted that Gossage isn't in yet. Of those four I think Goose (55.2 percent in 2005) and Rice (59.5 percent) have the best chance as they were the players who most felt like Hall of Famers during their playing days, being dominant players on winning teams for signature franchises. If the voters are going to vote someone in just for the sake of doing so, I'd expect it to be Gossage and Rice, in that order.
I have a breakdown of the players eligible and whether they meet the Bill James qualifications if it helps:
I also predicted that Sutter and Rice would go in this year.
I think Rice is almost a lock, as a 'protest' vote against McGwire
Then again, I also think anyone who still isn't voting for Blyleven
As for the closers, it wouldn't surprise me if neither Sutter nor
With regards to the contrast between pre-juice stars and stars of the steroid era, I was taken aback by the photo of Rice that sat atop ESPN's baseball front page over the past day or so. I remember Rice being a beefy guy, but he looks like a slim speedster in that photo.
What does Goose Gossage need to do to get in? Man, this one is just puzzling. Is Sutter's reputation that much higher than Gossage's right now? The two of them should go in together, but I wouldn't put Sutter in first. I think Erik is right about Jimbo Rice though. He's getting the revisionist steroids-related push and I think he's got a great shot at getting in now. Plus, with Albert Belle now eligible, there is an even surlier and left field candidate who was even more unpopular with the writers than Rice was. Alan Trammell I'd put in but I think he's never going to get his due. I'm also curious to see if the great Rich Lederer campaign will help Blyeleven's numbers go up any.
Sutter and Goose both should go in. What screwed them was that Rollie Fingers got in first and the writers have this belief that there is one great closer per era. Wilhelm to Fingers to Eck (possibly to Mo).
As for why all the attention to Sutter, well, not to give the writers too much credit, but Sutter revolutionized the role. He deserves to go in first. Maybe it should be as a Candy Cummings-type election (i.e., for a special contribution to the game). If one attempts to tell the story of relief pitching (as I have in the past) and wants to reduce the story to one individual, one name, it would be Sutter's. I think that deserves a plaque.
Gossage was a better pitcher than Fingers who happened to pitch longer and become eligible later. He got screwed by the process. He also finished his career as a non-closer which leaves a bad impression in the writers' already well-dented heads (how's that for not giving them too much credit?).
I'd honestly not be shocked to see absolutely no one get in - it may be a symptom of being out of the loop for the last week or so, but I just haven't seen consistent buzz behind a particular candidate, despite the recent ESPN piece on Rice that Cliff referenced.
That said, I'm very interested to see how much steroid-scandal-induced backlash there is in the voting - especially with the likes of Rice and Dawson it could be enough to get somebody enshrined. Will Dale Murphy get significantly more love? Will Dave Parker? I don't know that they deserve it, but I'd be willing to bet we'll see a spike in their vote totals.
I'm with Alex. I don't get the fascination with Sutter at the expense of Gossage. True, Sutter was dominating in his prime, but so was Gossage, and Goose did it for so much longer I would think that would at least pull him even when one adds in the theoretical pioneer factor of Sutter's splitter.
All Hail Mr. Lederer and his campaign for Blyleven! I don't think he's picked up enough support yet, but my goodness, Rich has made some strides, and I hope we see the fruits of that sooner rather than later (or, heavens forefend, not at all).
Dave Parker won't get the revisionist love because of his role in the drug scandal of the early 80s. Mex Hernandez might be able to escape being tarnished by it--though I'm not suggesting he'll ever make the Hall--and so will Rock Raines--and I'm sure most of us are prepared to carry the Raines for the Hall banner with conviction when the time comes--but I can't see Parker escaping the role of the heavy.
Good point about Parker. For some reason I'd blocked that part of his career out.
I'm all about the Raines campaign when the time comes, although in his case it'll be interesting to see, not only if he needs the sort of grassroots work that Blyleven's candidacy has required, but if his entry is blocked until Rickey Henderson goes in, or just blocked by Henderson period. At least in his case, Raines would be the lesser compared to a guy who is going to get the vote, rather than being like Blyleven and, in the minds of too many writers, caught behind or beside fellas like Jack Morris and Tommy John who won't and shouldn't make it.
Yeah, I've been wondering if Raines being eligible before Rickey will help or hurt him.
Raines is going to get some support from the fact that he's still in the game and the Sox should likely be behind him some. It'd be interesting to see if they'd put him in with an Expos hat on given the team doesn't exist. Has that ever happened before?
[Mike: Actually, it's happened a few dozen times. Players representing various clubs (i.e., wearing their insignia) that no longer existed have gone into the Hall quite often after teams started relocating in the Fifties. They include the New York Giants (Irvin, Jackson, Kelly, Lindstrom, Willhelm, and Youngs), old Washington Senators (Gooslin and Rice), Boston Beaneaters (Hamilton, McCarthy, and Nichols), Brooklyn Dodgers (Grimes, Campanella, Snider, Robinson, and Reese), Boston Braves (Maranville), Milwaukee Braves (Matthews and Spahn), Brooklyn Robins (Wheat and Vance), Brooklyn Superbas (Keeler), and Cleveland Naps (Lajoie, of course, and Cy Young). Finally, any Negro League player with an insignia represents a defunct club: Leon Day (unidentified Venezuelan League team), Ray Dandridge and Willie Wells (Newark Eagles), Bullet Joe Rogan (KC Monarchs), and Joe Williams (New York Lincoln Giants).]
Raines before Henderson is something like the Palmeiro question. McGwire is going to be the flashpoint for the steroid debate and Palmeiro is likely to benefit from the fact that he'll have several years between his test and his eligibility. I don't think he makes it now, with the test being the main reason. Has any other player had much debate about character before being voted on? Did anyone not vote for Perry because of the spitters?
Perry did have to wait two years, which I do believe was because of the spitter (he was the first man below the cut in both 1989 and 1990). Also, I believe I read somewhere that the writers made Joe DiMaggio wait a couple of years because he was cold to them. Indeed, he was on the ballot in 1953 and 1954 (the eligibility requirements must have been different then, can anyone confirm?), but fell short both years with 44.32 and 69.44 percent of the vote respectively.
Meanwhile, I'd vote in Gossage long before I'd vote in Sutter. Gossage was just flat out better and "Sutter's" innovations were the implemented by his managers and pitching coaches.
Actually, DiMaggio is a special case. He first became eligible as they were changing the eligibility rules. I wrote about it here:.
And I quote...
By the way, the eligibility rules have changed over the years in order to pare the list down to a manageable size:
Also, Perry got elected in his third year of eligibility. In his first Bench and Yaz were elected and in his second Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer got in. I think he was just caught in a numbers crunch.
As for the Sutter-Goose argument. Yes, Gossage has far better stats. My point is that Sutter has a special place in baseball history (some of which can be attributed to his injury history and Herman Franks use of him) which may be making him the cynosure of the writers' attention, again giving them way too much credit.
He also had a much better, though briefer, peak. Some of you may not be old enough to remember (though I am) but Sutter was considered one of the most dominant, if not the most dominant, pitcher in the NL for a brief time. And his splitter caused a sensation. I don't think Gossage's peak was nearly as good. However, as someone who has studied relief pitching, I think that both deserve a plaque.
Sadly though, the way Joe DiMaggio was chosen has remained a precedent for many voters. Even though, if I can borrow a legal term (and likely incorrectly), the case is not on point. It's not as if a lot of the BBWAA voters are going to delve in to the intricacies of their voting systems.
I've believed that both Sutter and Gossage deserve induction (or is it enshrinement or elevation or canonization). I agree with Mike that Sutter was revolutionary in the way the game was played. But did the 1-inning save reliever change the game for good or ill? Obviously not all closers are created equally. For each Mariano Rivera or Eric Gagne there seems to be a corresponding Jose Mesa or Bob Wickman.
Gossage was a terrifying presence on the mound, except to George Brett it seemed.
Jim Rice does have the most GIDPs of any player not in the Hall of Fame or who has not come up for election yet.
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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