Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lattanzi Land 2013 Hall Of Fame Ballot

Every year the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has the opportunity to put retired or deceased players into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. The rules for election require that a player needs to be named on seventy-five percent of all submitted ballots. He can remain on the ballot if he does not gain election for up to fifteen years, provided that the player has received at least five percent of the ballots. I have written about changing this process but this is the system we have.

I have done ballots for the past two years (2011 and 2012); no, I don't possess a BBWAA ballot, but this is how I would vote if I did.

This is an interesting year for Hall of Fame voting.  There are thirty-seven players on the ballot, and thanks to the rules of the self-appointed gatekeepers of the Hall of Fame, each voter can only submit a ballot with up to ten names on it, regardless of who is actually worthy. Thirteen of the thirty-seven are returning to the ballot from last year, so there are twenty-four new names on the list.

As I have done in the past, I divide my ballot here at Lattanzi Land into four categories:

1) HELL-No.
2) No
3) Borderline No
4) Yes

If you are looking for stats - GO HERE - this is the Baseball-Reference complete Hall of Fame Ballot, complete with the breakdown of numbers for each player on it.  There are also links to each player's page.  When I mention stats, I use the numbers from Baseball-Reference. The ballot begins after the jump!

The HELL-No Class - these guys are only on the ballot because they met the bare-minimum requirements to be on it, i.e. they played for ten years and have been retired for five. Every group will be done alphabetically, so there is no bias or hint as to who is favored over the others.

Jeff Cirillo
Royce Clayton
Jeff Conine
Ryan Klesko
Reggie Sanders
Aaron Sele
Mike Stanton
Todd Walker
Rondell White
Woody Williams

These players may have even had a nice season or two, but no one is ever going to remember any of these guys for their dominance in any capacity.

The No Class - these players all had nice careers and even a singular very good season, but they just aren't Hall-worthy for various reasons.

Sandy Alomar, Jr.
Steve Finley
Julio Franco
Shawn Green
Roberto Hernández
José Mesa
Lee Smith (Holdover from 2012)
David Wells

These players are a step above the “HELL No” group in that they all had nice careers; some may even get some vocal support for the Hall, but a complete look into their careers shows they are just short of what it takes to get into Cooperstown. The other primary difference between this group and the first one is I would raise an eyebrow if any of these guys got in. I would be INSULTED if any of the first group got in.

I want to move on to the Borderline No Class.  They are still "No" votes in this fictitious ballot, but I want to address the merits of why they are "No" rather than just shoving them on a list.  I want to start with the new people on the list, and then we will get to past ones.

Kenny Lofton - he was one of the premier lead-off hitters of the 1990's, and like so many near-Hall of Famers, he ends up being plagued by not being good for long enough.  There were some dominant seasons he had, and his 1993-1996 run (.324 BA, .388 OBP, 120 OPS+, 259 SB, 446 R, and four Gold Gloves) rivals any four year stretch of a Hall of Fame center fielder.  But then he fell off the face of the earth and reappeared as a serviceable journeyman.  Much like how it is difficult to get an "A" for the year in my class, it is difficult to be consistently dominant for a 10-15 year stretch.  Many teams would have killed to have Lofton in their lineup from about 1992-1998, but that is not enough to make Cooperstown.

Mike Piazza - this is a tough one, because he does lead some of the categories for catchers on offense, but in a generally offensively explosive era.  This may be one that I may reconsider in the future, but on the surface at present, he doesn't strike me as quite a Hall of Famer. Part of it is something similar to Lofton, in the sense of not good enough long enough, but he was dominant in many ways.  He had an OPS of 1.000 or better four different times, which is quite phenomenal for a catcher.  However, what turns the case (in my view it is important), that he was a so-so catcher, throwing base-stealers at a below-average rate (23% for his career - league average was 31%) and allowing an inordinate amount of passed balls.  A good rule of thumb for a one-dimensional player is that he has to be so overwhelmingly dominant to get in. Piazza doesn't quite pass that test, and thus is on the outside looking in.

Curt Schilling - like Piazza, this is also a tough one, and in many ways he has a much better case to be made than Jack Morris (who I also think should not get in) for going to Cooperstown.  Some of the case against him is the result of circumstances beyond his control (i.e. playing for bad teams early on, injuries, and generally being a late bloomer), but part of the issue is that many people are making the case for him on the basis of a few isolated postseason heroics (1993, 2001, 2004), which ironically, is the case people make for putting Morris in the Hall of Fame as well.  Schilling won twenty or more games three times and had an ERA+ of 127 in an offensive era, while being completely dominant at times - leading the league in strikeouts a couple of times.  What brings him down is the fact that he had only five really good seasons and two more decent seasons.  He was a horse and a very good pitcher on a couple of championship teams, but his case is ultimately Hall of Very Good rather than Hall of Fame.

Now for the other Borderline No players still on the ballot that I haven't changed my mind about...

Don Mattingly (From the 2012 Ballot)
He hit the one-thousand milestone in runs and RBI (1,007 R – 1,099 RBI), and while he is a beloved figure in Yankee lore, there seems to be too much of the blinders being put on by the Yankee faithful with regard to him. Let’s face it, Mattingly is not even in the same class as a Fred McGriff or a Mark McGwire (both of whom I would not vote in), and he had better contemporaries who will not get into the Hall either (Dale Murphy). Mattingly was a good and solid player for about eight to ten years. With the exception of 1984-86, there just isn’t enough to put him in. Hall of Very Good, perhaps? I am not even sure about that. Like I said above, there are much better players who won’t be making it into Cooperstown. It’s for the very best, and Mattingly doesn’t hit that criterion.
Alan Trammell (From 2012)
Trammell is a tough one, because in our recent offensive-fueled era, he was on the downside of his career when it started, so his numbers aren’t going to be flashy by any stretch. A deeper inspection finds Trammell’s numbers to be a series of peaks and valleys without a lot of consistency to them. He was a very good fielder (four Gold Gloves) and added a lot of value to his teams (5.0 WAR or better six different times), but is it enough for the Hall of Fame?
Larry Walker (From 2012)
He is an interesting case for the reason that he was a good player who became a great player, potentially due to pre-humidor Coors Field in Denver. He was always a good all-around player no matter where he went (seven Gold Gloves, three Top-Ten MVP finishes), but it wasn’t until he went to the Rockies that his numbers really took off. Some of them are absolutely jaw-dropping, like his 1997 and 1999 stat lines…observe (click to enlarge):
He has a career OPS of .965 (OPS+ of 140), with five full seasons of over 1.000 OPS. His career OBP of .400 is nothing at which to sneeze. He has three batting titles, a career BA of .313 and over 1,300 runs scored and driven in. But I just can’t get past the gnawing feeling that it is somehow cheapened by both the place he played and the era in which he played. In some ways, he is in the same class as Juan Gonzalez, although he was a much, MUCH better player than Gonzalez. I do not exactly fit into Joe Posnanski's criticism of the BBWAA as an attempt to be a ‘gatekeeper’ of the Hall of Fame, but I am sympathetic to the notion that Cooperstown ought to be for the best. Walker – Hall of Very Good, even above guys like Dale Murphy and Fred McGriff, but not Hall of Fame.
Bernie Williams (From 2012)
A linchpin of the great Yankee dynasty of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, there is a lot of like about what Williams did – he hit .300 or better for eight straight seasons (1995-2002), won a batting title (1998) scored 100 runs eight times (including seven straight seasons), drove in 100 runs five times, and four Gold Gloves as a center fielder. It’s interesting because in some ways, Williams is the ‘forgotten man’ of the dynasty in which people like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are forever praised and worshipped. Williams played well without a lot of the glamour that accompanied the others. He was the number three hitter in a lineup that didn’t have a lot of big boppers, but would beat teams into submission with a barrage of hits. That being said, two things work against him: 1) he was never really the most valuable player even on his team. He had five seasons of at least a 5.0 WAR (and a sixth at 4.9), but those were almost always dwarfed by Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, or someone else. 2) He had a precipitous drop off after 2002. So in reality, he had eight good to very good seasons. There is nothing that blows the mind in his numbers, and I am of the belief that postseason success shouldn’t guarantee a nod (his ALCS numbers are much better than his World Series numbers, by the way). A good and solid player, but not a Hall of Famer.
Fred McGriff (From 2011)
He has some very good numbers, nearly 500 HR (493 to be exact), 1550 RBI, a .284 BA, 134 OPS+, and almost 2,500 hits. He’s a tough one to gauge, though. In a lot of ways, he mirrors Rafael Palmeiro, although he did lead the league in HR twice (1989 – AL, and 1992 – NL). The key difference between McGriff and Palmeiro is that McGriff never reached either milestone that Palmeiro did – and I would say that 3,000 hits ranks over 500 HR. The other knock against McGriff was that he was never truly a transcendent player in any way – in that era of power hitting first basemen (Bagwell, Thomas, McGwire, and so forth), it would be hard to even consider him a top five player in his own position.
Mark McGwire (From 2011)
This is another one people will argue over until the cows come home, mostly over his denial and apology of steroid usage. I think that argument misses the whole point, that McGwire was a completely one-dimensional player who could hit a baseball far. He was a transcendent player…for five seasons, 1987 and 1996-99, because he could hit a baseball far. I’ll be the first to admit that during 1998, I was transfixed to my TV whenever McGwire came up to bat. However, once the fog is removed from his 583 HR, you see that he was a .263 hitter that had only 1,626 hits in his career (36% of his hits were HR) and was a defensive liability that was only great for five seasons and good for two, maybe three others. He did have an OPS+ of 162 for his career, which is twelfth all-time. He had only seven seasons driving in 100 runs, which is actually one less than Fred McGriff had. For a guy who was on base nearly 40% of the time (career .394 OBP), he scored less than 1,200 runs. Keep in mind that he scored half the time on his own hits. You put all of this together and it just doesn’t add up. Mark McGwire brought a lot of thrills to a lot of people for a while, but it just doesn’t make him Hall-worthy.
Jack Morris (From 2011)
There hasn’t been a player that has evoked more passion in favor of a candidacy than Jack Morris. I understand why – he won 254 games, was an ace pitcher on some championship teams (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, and 1992 Blue Jays), and pitched one of the most iconic games of all time – Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, a 10-inning shutout to win it all. One moment makes not a Hall of Fame career, although I wonder sometimes with Bill Mazeroski getting in (he was a Veterans’ Committee selection, though). Ok, numbers – he never had a season below a 3.00 ERA. His ERA+ was only 105, and this was in a fairly depressed offensive era, the 80’s, when speed was the commodity teams were after. In other words, one moment tends to make Morris an incredibly overrated pitcher. His WHIP was pretty high year after year and he threw a lot of wild pitches. His reputation as a ‘big game pitcher’ and as a durable one tends to put weight behind his candidacy, but the perception doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny. Good pitcher for a long time and even great at times, but not enough to get in.
With Schilling on the ballot, it should be even more obvious that Morris should NOT get in. However, with close to 67% of the ballot last year, he is one of those who may get in with that last push from nostalgic writers who ought to have their credentials stripped.

Dale Murphy (From 2011)
This is actually a simple one, and I was debating whether to put him in the ‘No’ category or borderline category. Therefore, you can pretty much figure out how this is going to go. Murphy was great for about six seasons (1982-87), winning two HR titles and driving in 100 runs five times and scoring 100 runs four times. He won five Gold Gloves and two MVP awards. I think it is that last one that moves him to borderline. What separates him from, say, Juan Gonzalez is the era and the defense. Murph was a converted catcher who became a good outfielder. He keeps hanging around the ballot with between ten and twenty percent of the vote. I would guess he will be on it for all fifteen years (this is year 13). Nice player, nice man, but not a Hall of Famer, although he was one of the subjects of John Kruk’s more famous quips about how the 1991 Phillies consisted of ‘twenty-four morons and a Mormon’.
This is his final ballot. He may get in by the Veterans Committee sometime in the future, but that may be unlikely.

We now move on to the Yes votes. In 2011, I did some borderline "yes" votes, but decided that I would only do unequivocal yes votes last year. This year will be like last year - every yes vote is a hard yes. We start with the new yes votes on this year's ballots before putting refreshing the past yes votes.

Craig Biggio - there are twenty-eight players in the history of Major League Baseball who have made the milestone of 3,000 hits. Biggio is one of them. In my book, that is as close to an automatic bid as you will get (300 wins for a pitcher is the other - and yes, I am aware of my sabermetric leanings that normally make me anti-win). However, let's look at what else he accomplished. He is fifth all-time in doubles, he stole 414 bases - pretty damn good for a converted catcher! He scored 100 or more runs eight times. He had a 125 OPS+ in the ten years he played in the Astrodome, which is no small feat. Throw in three Gold Gloves, and you have a pretty good case for Cooperstown.

Barry Bonds - you knew this was coming, right? Let's just get this out of the way. If you think that Bonds should be kept out of the Hall of Fame because he may or may not have used performance enhancing drugs, please spare me your selective moral outrage. I honestly don't give a damn. We can talk about morals 'til the cows come home, but the fact remains that it wasn't against the rules, just as amphetamines weren't against the rules in the so-called "Golden Age of Baseball" about which infantile idiots like Bob Costas love to bloviate. Apparently, Bonds is a criminal of the highest order, but drunks like Mickey Mantle and scores of amphetamine users get a pass (nay, are glorified). Right. Nothing to see there. Let's get this straight - no steroid will ever help a player hit the ball better. It won't help them make better contact. Merely taking it actually doesn't help a player in the same fashion that taking, say, amphetamines would. And yet, we have alleged sportswriters submitting blank ballots in "protest" of the "Steroid Era" (so-called). It just makes me very tired arguing against people who will not be consistent in their outrage over alleged wrongdoings.

Now, to the case for Barry Bonds. I present without comment the following career numbers:

OBP - .444 (6th All Time)
Slugging - .607 (6th All Time)
Runs - 2,227 (3rd All Time)
Total Bases - 5,976 (4th All Time)
Home Runs - 762 (Most All Time)
RBI - 1,996 (4th All Time)
Walks - 2,558 (Most All Time)
OPS+ - 182 (3rd All Time)
WAR - 158.1 (3rd All Time)
Gold Gloves - 8
MVP's - 7 (Most All Time)

Throw in the fact that he was also the most dominant hitter in a generation and inspired fear that had never been seen before and will never be seen again. Really, 120 intentional walks in a season?? Intentionally walked with the bases loaded??

I didn't even mention the 30-30 and 40-40 seasons, or the 73 homers, or the 232 walks in a single season. Or the THIRTEEN STRAIGHT SEASONS of 1.000 or better OPS. Or the batting titles. Or the mere fact that he was the best all-around baseball player of an entire generation.

A Hall of Fame without this man is no Hall of Fame, period, and it is not a place I would want to visit. The "Gatekeepers" say that putting in Bonds would cheapen the Hall; they are projecting. It is they who cheapen the Hall by NOT putting in the best players, alleged warts and all. I hope they are ready and willing to strip the known cheaters (Gaylord Perry), the entire era of amphetamine users, and the players who got in against weak competition (pre-integration). Of course, they won't, because that would inconvenience their selective invective.

Roger Clemens - another of the boogeymen of the so-called "Steroid Era" (which by the way, seems to actually get fuzzier in its definition in each passing year). He was also one of the most dominant pitchers in both his era and of all time. Let's see here. 7 Cy Young Awards, 7-time ERA leader, 6 seasons of 20 or more wins. 354 career wins, career ERA+ of 143, 4,672 strikeouts. Everything I said above concerning Bonds also applies here to Clemens. It will be a sad day when it is inevitably announced on January 9th that neither of these guys got in this year.

Sammy Sosa - he is the forgotten man in all this, but he gets in on the strength of 8-10 WOW-type seasons. And 600+ homers, and 1600+ RBI. Yes, he struck out too much, but he was a much more well-rounded player than his great home-run counterpart, Mark McGwire. McGwire got the record in 1998, but Sosa won the MVP. 60+ homers three times? Unmatched.

The following four are holdovers from previous ballots. Will they get in? I don't know. But they should.

Jeff Bagwell
It’s amazing that people are even debating this. There is no group who is more sanctimonious about protecting their institutions than baseball writers. There are a few good ones, but a lot of the old-timers are coming out against Bagwell because of what is essentially guilt-by-association. Ok, so he played in the 90’s. It’s quite a jump to suggest that, without proof I might add, he used steroids. Let’s look at the numbers, which I believe, speak for themselves - .297 BA, .408 OBP, 149 OPS+, 449 HR, 1,529 RBI, 1,517 runs scored, and 1401 walks. At any point in his career, he had led the league in runs, doubles, RBI, HR, Walks, Slugging. He had five years of 1.000+ OPS, won an MVP, a Gold Glove, played above replacement level defense, and did this on a horrendous playing surface for most of his career in a pitcher’s park (The Astrodome). People want to rip on this because of insinuations that he could have been on steroids. Give me a break.
Bagwell will end up being the whipping boy and the one ultimately denied entrance to pay for the alleged sins of others. This is still angering me and it's been two years.

Edgar Martinez
The argument against Martinez is a pretty valid one: he was almost exclusively a designated hitter, a position that I loathe with every ounce of my existence. What gets ignored in that part, though, is that when he was a fielder, he was decent. The last two years he was a full-time 3B had him playing above replacement level defense. So, I think had he played defense for most of his career, it could not be held against him. On to his offense – for a 14-season period (1990-2003), Martinez had an OPS+ of 153. So even in an offensively stacked era, he was posting an OPS that was 53% better than league average. That’s mind-boggling. What else? Two batting titles, 500+ doubles, a .312 career batting average, five seasons of 1.000+ OPS. Others may have their hang ups about a DH in the Hall of Fame, but don’t count me in that.

Also factor in the pitching friendly parks (or at the very least neutral parks) in which Martinez has played – The Kingdome and Safeco Field. Look at Park Factors for Seattle vs. Denver (one of the arguments against Larry Walker). Put Martinez in Walker’s shoes, and he may have hit .400.
Rafael Palmeiro
I’m sure this will be a controversial pick. Yes, he tested positive for steroids, and he has also denied that he took them (knowingly or not). Ok, that is out of the way now. The big knocks against Palmeiro are these: he never won an MVP and he never led the league in any power category. Both of these are true, and yet the numbers overall don’t lie – it’s indeed hard to ignore the 500 HR-3,000 hit combination, no matter how much one tries. His OPS+ was 132 for his career and for the most part he was a plus defender. I think there are people who would like just to eliminate the entirety of the past twenty years of baseball. This cannot be done. The era has to be judged on its merits whether they like it or not.
Actually, forget Bagwell being the scapegoat, Palmeiro is the real one here. He has the numbers, but people will never forgive the finger wagging. Go ahead Gatekeepers, enjoy your amphetamine-fueled Hall of Fame.

Tim Raines
He spent his career in the shadow of Rickey Henderson, unfortunately, which masked what a great leadoff man Raines was. He led the National League in stolen bases four times, in runs twice, and showed a surprising amount of power for a man hitting at the top of the lineup. His OBP always hovered around .400 and he always walked more than he struck out. I think that Raines may be neglected again, as he has been for the past three years, but given what he did in the era in which he did it, he was definitely the premier leadoff man of the NL, and would have the best, save for Rickey Henderson.
So eight players on this year's ballot would make it if I had my way. Too bad it won't happen as such, but I always enjoy this process, and we'll be back next year to do it again!

1 comment:

Doyler said...

I'd put Piazza in as a top player in the sport for many years regardless of position. Nearly all of his comps are in the HOF, deserve to be, or will be.

And I'm warming up to putting the roiders in as well. Baseball fans are knowledgeable and intelligent and can decide for themselves when they visit. To close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and say nananananananananaanana for the sake of (false) purity is just insulting to the sport.

Roids, HGH, Greenies, Segregation, Spitters, Expansion, Raised Mound, Dead Ball... take your pick.