Leggo My Gossage!óBaseball Toaster Hall of Fame Roundtable, Part I
by Mike Carminati
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
some kind, I can type crazed ideas from my febrile mind and sound as
good as most of the HOF voters do when they say why they won't vote
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
and the like before they start hogging the ballot, because Rice was a
Real Manly Man who got his numbers the old fashioned way -- by taking
advantage of his home park.
Then again, I also think anyone who still isn't voting for Blyleven
should have their voting privileges revoked.
As for the closers, it wouldn't surprise me if neither Sutter nor
Goose got in. This ballot reminds me a lot of the mid-90s ballots --
there may be some jockeying for position, but I don't see more than
one player getting a push just because there are no obvious
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, Joe DiMaggio was elected to the Hall in 1955, just four years after his retirement. However, he had been exempted from the waiting period. When the rule was implemented, players who had received at least 100 votes in the 1953 election were spared. DiMaggio was the sole beneficiary, the Burleigh Grimes as it were, of the 5-year rule."
He was the last player to get in before completing the five-year waiting period. He got in in his fourth year after retirement. I think he was initially overlooked more because he was a young player and there were so many olde tyme guys still on the ballot who were deserving. The ballot was a log jam for most of the Forties and Fifties.
By the way, the eligibility rules have changed over the years in order to pare the list down to a manageable size:
Election Yrs Eligibility Range
1946-53 1-25 yrs
1954-55 5-25 yrs
1956-62 5-30 yrs
1963-present 5-20 yrs
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.