SweetSpot: Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame elected Tom Yawkey, the longtime owner of the Red Sox who presided over a franchise that didn't integrate until 12 years after Jackie Robinson debuted with the Dodgers and didn’t win a World Series in his 44 years of ownership.

It elected the bumbling commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who presided over numerous labor wars, demanded Jim Bouton "retract" what he wrote in "Ball Four," declined to offer congratulations to Henry Aaron when he hit his 700th home run, and was inexcusably in Cleveland instead of Atlanta when Aaron passed Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list.

It set up a special Negro Leagues committee in 2006, essentially designed to elect Buck O'Neil to the Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game. It elected 12 players and five pioneers/executives ... but not Buck O'Neil.

It has elected managers, general managers, umpires and owners.

So the Hall of Fame has honored a wide swath of people associated with the game. How about Dr. Frank Jobe? Jobe, who died Thursday at the age of 88, pioneered Tommy John surgery on the Dodgers' left-hander in 1974 and is one of the most important baseball figures of the past 40 years. How many pitchers have had careers saved by the surgery?

[+] EnlargeFrank Jobe
Nancy R. Schiff/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesDr. Frank Jobe, pioneer of "Tommy John" surgery.
The Hall of Fame recognized Jobe and John during the 2013 induction ceremony. But if the Hall is intent on electing non-players, take it a step further: Open up the Veterans Committee candidates to more than just turn-of-the-century umpires and owners from the 1920s who enforced the game's rigid racial code. Consider contributors like Jobe.

"Ten to 15 years ago, you didn't see many major league pitchers with scars on their arms," Jobe said in a 1978 Sports Illustrated story on pitchers and sore arms. "Now you see quite a few. The players recognize that what they have is a career. Their earning capacity is so very high that they are more willing to take the risk of surgery. They are beginning to understand something about the importance of sports medicine. And I think doctors now have a better understanding of what a pitcher's arm must do. More surgeons know the game; the Baseball Physicians' Association has contributed to the exchange of knowledge and to more meticulous techniques and care."

That statement is more true than ever. Back in 2012, Jon Roegele of Beyond the Box Score documented nearly 500 players who had undergone the surgery. That total is well over 500 now, and probably much higher when considering the number of cases likely missed in the study.

In Jobe's initial surgery on John, he transplanted the palmaris longus tendon from the pitcher’s right wrist (a tendon only 75 percent of us even have and is essentially useless) to his left elbow. A few weeks later, a follow-up surgery was required to arrest nerve deterioration. Jobe advised John that he'd never pitch again.

He did. John began his rehab by playing catch with his wife. He could barely toss a ball 30 feet. He threw balls against concrete walls, iced his arm and ran eight miles a day. Eventually, the nerves in his hand responded. He pitched batting practice. He returned in 1976. John won 164 games after the surgery, including three 20-win seasons. He pitched in three World Series and finished with 288 career victories.

Jobe's surgery -- and John's hard work -- made it possible.

The Hall of Fame is a museum, and while it honors the greatest players of all time with plaques and induction ceremonies and speeches, it also tells the story of baseball. The story of Tommy John's comeback is one of the most important stories of the past four decades.

I'm all for electing more players -- in fact, John himself is a pretty worthy case on his playing merits alone. But if the Hall is going to elect important contributors, think outside the box. Think of Marvin Miller. Bill James. Great scouts like Hugh Alexander and Tony Lucadello. Vin Scully. Dr. Frank Jobe.
I've wondered this: What if an individual already in the Hall of Fame admitted to using PEDs? Would that change the thinking of the voters who don't vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and the other implicated steroid users? Hmm, we've already elected a PED user. How can we justify keeping out Bonds and Clemens?

That hasn't happened, but former Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell just raised this issue, telling Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald that players from his generation know PED users have already been elected to Cooperstown:
Q: You've been outspoken about suspected PED users and the Hall of Fame. Why?

A: I just think it's too bad that only the handful of guys take the brunt of it from everybody. Meanwhile, a ton of other guys were into it. You can't fix the other part, the players who (Hall of Fame voters) say are clean.

All of us who were around kind of smirk at each other. There are guys in there (HOF) already that everyone knows (weren't clean). It's part of the deal.

Unless you're going to use a lie detector on everybody, you're never going to know who did and who didn't.


McDowell pitched in the majors from 1987 through 1999, winning his Cy Young Award with the White Sox in 1993. McDowell was never one to hold back on words while an active player, so his thoughts shouldn't be viewed as bitter ex-ballplayer talk. It seems to me that McDowell is using an argument I've used before: The steroid users are a product of a generation where many players used and the sport showed no inclination to care (at least until Bonds broke the game with a string of the greatest seasons ever in his late 30s). Back in January, McDowell wrote a minor tirade directed at "arrogant" Hall of Fame voters:

This s--- was so far into the game for decades ... and still is. You will never know the extent, nor will I, nor will anyone, so stop the stupid judgments on the big five of Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, Palmiero (sic), McGwire. Am I happy I had to compete with all that? No. But the point is this ... you have NO IDEA who did or didn't and you all would probably poop your pants if you found out.


McDowell has nothing to gain here. In fact, he's just returning to professional baseball to manage the Dodgers' rookie level team in Ogden, Utah, this summer, so if anything he probably has something to gain by simply nodding his head and muttering "steroids bad."

Will his message sink in? Probably not. Voters can always lean on the rationale that they simply didn't know that they voted for a steroids user.

But that's exactly McDowell's point. It wasn't just the guys with the biggest muscles using.
Bill James has published the final article of his 10-part series on Big Game pitchers and takes a look at everybody's favorite Hall of Fame candidate, Jack Morris. Was Morris a Big Game pitcher? James writes,
He was not.

He had the one brilliant post-season, of course, but other than that one three-week period he absolutely was not; it is not questionable, it is not debatable, it is not unclear. It does not seem likely that the conclusion could be altered by studying the question in a different way. Jack Morris did not have a great or even good record in Big Games, and the people who believe that he did believe that because they believe that, but not because there is any actual evidence for it.

In the games that our system has designated as regular season Big Games, Jack Morris made 46 starts, won 18 games, lost 19, 3.79 ERA. His teams were 24-22.


So there you go. Using a higher standard for Big Games, James reports that Morris was 10-14 with a 3.51 ERA. Morris still had the great postseason in 1991. He went 3-0 in the 1984 postseason with five runs allowed (for some reason, James failed to mention that postseason). As James concludes, "If you want to advocate for a pitcher being in the Hall of Fame based on his performance in Big Games, advocate for Ron Guidry, or Jim Kaat, or Mickey Lolich, or Mike Mussina."
Bill James has a fascinating series over at the Bill James Online website, attempting to examine the idea of how pitchers fared in "big games." It's something I've always wanted to do, but the task always seemed as daunting as climbing Mount Everest in sneakers. For starters: What is a Big Game?

The impetus for the series was, perhaps not surprisingly, Jack Morris, although now that Morris has officially seen his time on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot expire, he's a little less interesting (at least until he gets elected via the Veterans Committee).

James writes in the first part of the series:
OK, but we circle back to the argument that Morris was a Big Game pitcher, in general, rather than merely a Big Game pitcher in the 1991 post-season. Traditionalists assert that Jack Morris was a Big Game pitcher, because they have to assert this to defend Morris, and Analysts sneer and scoff at that because there is no general evidence for it, and also because sneering and scoffing are what we are best at.

We reject the argument that Jack Morris was a Big Game pitcher because there is no evidence for it beyond a few World Series starts, but think about it. Is there any evidence that it isn’t true? Have you ever seen any evidence that it isn’t true? What if it is true?

This is what started me off on this two-week research tangent, neglecting my wife, my personal habits and the Boston Red Sox. What if it is true that Jack Morris was, in fact, a Big Game pitcher? How would we know?


I don't want to give too much away here since the series -- James is nine articles into it, with one left to be published -- is behind the site's pay wall. Using data back to 1952 (aka the Retrosheet era, when we have box scores for nearly every game), James devised an ingenious method to isolate big games, creating what he called a Big Game Score, based on the time of the season, the status of the pennant race (or wild-card race) and the records of the teams involved. Every game with a Big Game Score of 310 or higher is regarded as a Big Game. In the end, he has 7.7 percent of all regular-season games labeled as Big Games, or one in 13.

In Part IV of the series, he lists the pitchers who started the most Big Games. Since those games usually occur late in seasons when a pitcher is on a good team, it's perhaps no surprise that Andy Pettitte has started the most Big Games with 82, one more than Jim Palmer and Roger Clemens. (Again, these are regular-season totals only; Pettitte has also started the most postseason games in history.) The three pitchers with the highest percentage of their career starts marked as Big Games are Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres (Dodgers teammates in the '50s and '60s when the Dodgers were in a series of tight pennant races) and Jon Lester. The pitcher with the most career starts never to start a Big Game is Zach Duke, with 169.

James has another article going over some of his results, another one examining Jim Kaat's record in Big Games more closely, and then unveils his list of the top 11 Big Game pitchers. I won't give away the No. 1 guy, but I will tell you that he pitched in the major leagues last year. The No. 2 guy -- fitting his reputation -- is Bob Gibson. Mike Mussina is 11th. In 54 Big Games, Mussina went 27-13 with a 3.04 ERA. Maybe that will eventually help his Hall of Fame case.

Maybe my favorite stat from the series came in another article on teams: The Kansas City A's, in their 13 years in Kansas City, never played a Big Game.

What to make of the series? Do the results prove anything? For example, if you make a more stringent definition of Big Games than James did, you may end up with different results. Still, as James writes:

But what happens in Big Games is important whether or not it is indicative of an underlying skill. Bill Mazeroski’s home run in the 1960 World Series is a big deal, whether or not it had anything to do with Mazeroski’s ability as a hitter. Madison Bumgarner pitching 8 shutout innings in the 2010 World Series and 7 shutout innings in the 2012 World Series is important, whether or not it has anything to do with Bumgarner’s character, his underlying skills, or the allegation that he has a girl’s first name and is a bad gardener.


It's just another layer to add to what we already know about pitchers, an important one since the subject of Big Games is often brought up. And Morris? How did he do in Big Games? Stay tuned. That will be covered in that final article of the series.






This is sports: We argue about the silliest things, no matter how unimportant. The latest example: Which cap should Greg Maddux wear on his Hall of Fame plaque?

SportsNation

Which cap should Greg Maddux wear on his Hall of Fame plaque?

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    68%
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    9%
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    10%

Discuss (Total votes: 18,122)

Maddux decided to go with the logo-less cap, saying he couldn't decide between the Braves and Cubs. "Obviously, I feel like I had more success as a Brave. We did get a World Series there," he said. "But I kind of came up a Cub. For me, I couldn't pick. I really couldn't. Both places mean so much to me personally, to my family. I couldn't pick. So I'm going to go in neutral, I guess."

Maddux won three of his four Cy Young Awards with Atlanta and was 194-88 with the Braves, 133-112 with the Cubs. Hey, at least he didn't choose a Padres cap.

He's not the first player to have a Hall of Fame cap plaque controversy. Hank Aaron has an Atlanta Braves cap instead of a Milwaukee Braves cap, even though he had more years in Milwaukee. Dave Winfield went with the Padres over the Yankees even though he played 55 more games with the Yankees. (Considering how George Steinbrenner treated him, that's understandable.) Gary Carter went with the Expos, although he won a World Series with the Mets. (He played a lot more with the Expos, so this made sense as well.) Catfish Hunter went without a logo, even though he was much better with the A's than with the Yankees. (It may have been a shot at Charlie Finley.) Reggie Jackson went with the Yankees over the A's, perhaps another shot at Finley. Carlton Fisk went with the Red Sox over the White Sox despite playing 350 more games with Chicago.

Tony La Russa also went without a logo, also understandable considering that he had long stints managing the White Sox, A's and Cardinals.

What do you think? Which cap should Maddux have gone with?
It's been a week since the Hall of Fame announcement, and while the Baseball Writers' Association elected Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas -- its first three-member class since 1999 -- there was still a lot of fallout from the voting results and calls for the system to be fixed.

How broken is the system, or at least how strong is the perception that the process is broken? Even longtime Dayton Daily News writer Hal McCoy -- a BBWAA member since 1970 -- is calling for revisions:
The major problem with the voting process is that once a writer is in the BBWAA for 10 years, he is eligible to vote for the rest of his life, as long as he remains a member in good standing.

THERE ARE VOTERS who haven't covered a baseball game for 20 years and some who only watch games sporadically and casually. They aren't at ballparks often enough to see players every day.

What the process needs is a screening committee to revise the list of eligible voters every year. There is no reason why a long retired sports editor should have a vote. There is no reason why a long retired sports columnist should have a vote.


McCoy's gripe seems to be that Craig Biggio and Jack Morris didn't get elected and that 16 voters failed to vote for Maddux. That's a different complaint than the one offered by Jayson Stark, who believes the Hall of Fame should recognize the greatest players, including those tainted by PEDs. As Jayson wrote, "What do we want the Hall to become -- a museum of history or a shrine only to players who we'd love to pretend were both icons and saints?" Buster Olney suggested some fixes, such as expanding the voting maximum to more than 10 players and creating a higher threshold (20 percent) to remain on the ballot. Joe Posnanski wants an entirely new voting system, one that would include fans.

You get the idea. Everybody wants changes. My question: What is the goal to be accomplished? To elect the PED players? Or to simply elect more players? Or to do a better job in electing the right players?



The discussion starts with the PED guys. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens once again failed to rally up much support, banished along with Mark McGwire, as Joe Sheehan wrote, to Elba, where Alex Rodriguez will one day join them.

The argument goes that the PED guys have crowded the ballot, possibly leading to the exclusion of other players, as voters can only vote for up to 10 candidates. In the case of Craig Biggio, who missed election by two votes, that is no doubt true; several writers tweeted that they would have voted for Biggio if not for the 10-player limit.

But not all voters are checking 10 names on their ballot. And only three other players even reached 50 percent this year. In 2012 -- before Bonds, Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro were even on the ballot -- only four players topped 50 percent, with just Barry Larkin getting elected. It's not really clear that the PED guys are locking out other candidates.

McGwire was the first steroids guy to hit the ballot, in 2007. Let's break down the election totals into eight-year blocs -- players elected by the BBWAA (ignoring whatever shenanigans the Veterans Committee may have had going on):

2007-2014: 12
1999-2006: 15
1991-1998: 10
1983-1990: 15
1975-1982: 11
1967-1974: 13

We'll stop there since elections weren't held annually prior to 1966. Yes, last year's shutout got everyone up in arms, but the recent eight-year bloc doesn't stand out as an aberration (which is perhaps why the Hall of Fame itself has remained quiet on the issue). Are some of the PED guys getting short-changed? Sure. Let's review.

Bonds and Clemens: Two of the 10 greatest players of all time -- maybe the best position player and best pitcher -- and thus obvious first-ballot Hall of Famers without PEDs.

McGwire: His statistical case is actually borderline. But his legacy and historical impact likely would have outweighed those concerns and he would have been a first-ballot selection.

Palmeiro: With 3,000 hits and 569 home runs, I think he would have been a first-ballot choice as well, even though he was never really regarded as the best first baseman in the game. But of eligible 3,000-hit candidates, only Palmeiro and Paul Waner didn't get elected on the first ballot. Palmeiro is now off future ballots after failing to receive 5 percent of the vote this year.

Piazza: He received 62.2 percent of the vote this year, his second time on the ballot. Yes, he's widely regarded as the best-hitting catcher of all time. His statistical case is strong, although because of his short peak -- 10 seasons -- and defensive shortcomings, his career WAR lags behind, say, Gary Carter, 69.8 to 59.2. Carter wasn't elected until his sixth year on the ballot. I'm not absolutely sure Piazza would have sailed in by now.

Jeff Bagwell: The advanced metrics point to Bagwell as a strong Hall of Famer, with the second-highest WAR of any first baseman since World War II, behind only Albert Pujols. But much of Bagwell's value was "hidden" in things such as walks, defense and baserunning, areas a lot of voters aren't tuned in to. With 449 home runs, he failed to get to 500. His fame was below a guy such as McGwire, and Bagwell was a flop in the postseason (.226, two home runs in 33 games). He's been on the ballot four years; even minus PED rumors, I'm not sure he's in yet.

Sosa: He would have made an interesting debate. There are the 609 home runs, which would seem to make him a slam dunk, but his relatively low career WAR (58.4) means he may have taken a few years to get in.

So, yes, if we include the four players tied to PEDs (Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Palmeiro) or believed by some to have used (in the case of Piazza or Sosa), we'd be talking 17 or 18 Hall of Famers elected in the past eight years. That suggests that the BBWAA hasn't been any tougher than historical norms, minus the PED issue.



The debate, then, switches to another issue: Small Hall versus Big Hall, which has little to do with electing Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

A chart. This plots all 115 Hall of Famers elected by the BBWAA, with career WAR on the vertical axis and year of major league debut on the horizontal axis.

Hall of Fame chartESPN Stats & Information

What's the chart show? We can form a dividing line of sorts where the plots congregate. The average BBWAA Hall of Famer has a career WAR of 79.7; the mean (half above, half below) is lower, between Ted Lyons (71.5) and Frankie Frisch (70.4). Get to 70 career WAR and you have a very strong Hall of Fame case. But it also shows how it was easier to compile a higher WAR back in the old days.

A quick aside. I use WAR here as a guide, not a be-all, end-all to the statistical arguments for each individual player. WAR doesn't factor in what a player did in the postseason or other reasons you may want to draw up support. As Bill James wrote back in November about his own system for evaluating players:
Such it is with Win Shares, WAR, and all other Total Player Ratings. It is not that there is no value in the effort, but we should never forget that what we are trying to do here is, in the end, impossible. We are trying to state all contributions to a team in one dimension, but in reality they exist in many different dimensions. What we are trying to do is not merely impossibly difficult, but theoretically impossible, in the same way that it is theoretically impossible to state both height and weight in one scale. ...

Because this is true, I think that it is best, in reviewing Hall of Fame candidates, not to try to go all the way to the finish line with one metric. Let us say, for example, that 350 Win Shares represents a Hall of Famer, or that 60 WAR represents a Hall of Famer. You can say that Vladimir Guerrero and Dazzy Vance are the same, in that they are both at 59.9 WAR, but the reality is that they are NOT the same. They are very different. In saying that they are the same, we are merely pretending that something is true that we know very well is not actually true.


OK, so 70 WAR is, generally speaking, a strong Hall of Famer. Not including active players, ineligible players (Pete Rose) or players not yet eligible (such as Randy Johnson, Chipper Jones or Pedro Martinez), here are the players with 70 career WAR not in the Hall of Fame:

Barry Bonds: 162.5
Roger Clemens: 140.3
Mike Mussina: 83.0
Curt Schilling: 79.9
Jeff Bagwell: 79.5
Jim McCormick: 75.8
Bill Dahlen: 75.3
Lou Whitaker: 74.8
Larry Walker: 72.6
Rafael Palmeiro: 71.8
Bobby Grich: 71.0
Alan Trammell: 70.4
Rick Reuschel: 70.0

You see what's happened? Other than McCormick, a pitcher from the 1880s, and Dahlen, an 1890s shortstop, all the players listed above are from the 1970s and later. If we stretch the bar down to 65 WAR, we get the following non-Hall of Famers: Tim Raines, Kevin Brown, Edgar Martinez, Kenny Lofton, Graig Nettles, Tony Mullane, Dwight Evans, Luis Tiant, Buddy Bell and Willie Randolph. Again, other than Mullane, another 1880s pitcher, all players from the 1970s or later.

As I've written before, the problem is this: The voters haven't adjusted for the fact that we now have nearly twice as many teams as in the 1950s and earlier. Logically, that should mean twice as many Hall of Famers.

Of course, it's not quite as simple as just recognizing that and voting in more players. It's also harder to separate the potential Hall of Famers from their peers.

Here are two examples. The BBWAA voted in Don Drysdale -- 61.2 career WAR -- in 1984. His case isn't really as strong as that of Mussina or Schilling or Brown. But compared with his contemporaries, Drysdale looks pretty good. Only Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax and Hoyt Wilhelm from his era have a lower WAR, and all three of them are unique candidates -- Ford was part of the great Yankees dynasty, Koufax had that ascendent peak and Wilhelm was the first long-term, dominant relief pitcher. Get past those three and you're looking at Billy Pierce (53.1 WAR) or Larry Jackson (52.5 WAR), and I don't see a lot of people fighting for those two to make the Hall of Fame.

Or Tony Perez, elected in 2000 despite a 53.9 career WAR. Fred McGriff has 52.6 WAR and can't crack 25 percent of the vote. Again, it's an issue of "competition." From Perez's era (1960s and '70s), the best first basemen were Willie McCovey (64.4 WAR) and ... Tony Perez (or Harmon Killebrew and Dick Allen as well, if you want to count them as first basemen). Next is Orlando Cepeda (elected by the Veterans Committee) with 50.4 WAR. After that, you go down to guys such as Boog Powell and Steve Garvey, with less than 40 WAR, and decidedly not Hall of Famers. McGriff, meanwhile, has Pujols and Bagwell and McGwire and Palmeiro and Jim Thome and John Olerud and Will Clark -- all with a higher career WAR than Perez.

I guess my point is this: It was easier to elect guys such as Drysdale or Perez because they still managed to stand out among their peers; there were fewer great players simply because there were fewer teams. As the talent level in baseball gets more compacted (17 of the 31 players with 100 career WAR began their careers before World War II), it's more difficult to put up numbers that separate you from your peers. What's happened is that while there are many strong Hall of Fame candidates, one voter likes Edgar but another likes Raines and a third likes McGriff and nobody gets in.

And I don't know how to change that. To make matters worse is that BBWAA has elected some of its weakest members in recent years -- Bruce Sutter has the lowest WAR (24.5) of any BBWAA Hall of Famer, Goose Gossage is 110th, Jim Rice 105th and Kirby Puckett 100th.

Yes, their supporters would argue, all four had something special to add to their résumé -- Sutter made the split-fingered fastball famous, Gossage and Rice were feared in their time, Puckett was a postseason hero who had a tragic ending to his career. Still, their inclusion opens the debate for many qualified candidates.

I'd like to see more Hall of Famers. I have to assume that's what most of the people wanting change desire, as well.

In the end, it shouldn't really be an argument about whether it's a big Hall of Fame or a small Hall of Fame -- it's already a big Hall. Let's make it bigger.

But if we all agreed on that it wouldn't be quite as much fun to argue about, would it?
I'm in Hall of Fame fatigue, but here's one last post, a roundup of what some others are writing about Wednesday's results. And then we'll move on to Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, and why the Orioles haven't made a big move.

Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated:
Today is a day for celebrating why we love baseball. On a day that has become the annual hand-wringing day about the Steroid Era, two pitchers who looked like they should be shelving books at a library instead of playing in the most anabolically-enhanced era in baseball history rose above the Sturm und Drang. Maddux and Tom Glavine, fellow teammates, fellow 300-game winners, fellow golf partners and fellow summa cum laude graduates of the game, are going in to the Hall of Fame just as they navigated the teeth of the Steroid Era: together.

Dave Cameron, FanGraphs:
In other words, more than 75% of the voters would vote yes for Craig Biggio if that was the only question that was posed to them, but the limit means that is not the question they were asked, and they had to weigh his candidacy against the many other deserving candidates who made up this historically crowded ballot.

The fact that more than 75% of the voters would vote for Biggio, but could not because of an archaic rule that serves no purpose, but he did not get elected because of that rule, is reason enough to discard it post haste. Craig Biggio is, in the minds of 75% of the HOF voters, a Hall of Famer, but is being kept out by a technicality.

Joe Posnanski:
There are so many things wrong with the Hall of Fame voting right now that it feels silly to talk about just one or two. Every time I bring up a Hall of Fame voting change to Bill James, he kind of sighs and acts like I’ve said, “Hey Bill, I’ve got a way to fix Congress.”

Still, it’s clear to me that the BBWAA should make its votes public. I know there are some negatives that go with this — including the potential that voters will feel bullied into voting in a way they would not want to vote. I understand.

But the Hall of Fame does not belong to the BBWAA. It belongs to everybody. If you’re going to vote, you should stand behind your vote. And if public pressure keeps people from throwing a gag vote to J.T. Snow or skipping over Greg Maddux for some inexplicable reason, hey, I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

Buster Olney, ESPN Insider:
No. 1: Make a formal offer from the writers to the Hall of Fame for the BBWAA to recuse itself from the voting. An offer, not an outright recusal.

No matter what your perspective is on the PED generation and its Hall of Fame candidates, the balloting has become something of a mess. Maybe you want to blame the voters who cast ballots for the presumed PED users, or maybe you want to blame the hardened majority, or maybe you want to blame the users or the institution of baseball or the Hall of Fame. No matter where your opinion is, its inarguable that it’s become a controversial, convoluted, flawed process.

Think of this as a presidential crisis: When something isn't working, the administration officials involved will usually offer their resignation, because as the saying goes, they serve at the pleasure of the president. The BBWAA is involved in this only because it is asked to by the Hall of Fame. In the past, Hall president Jeff Idelson has expressed satisfaction with the voting, and he and the board of directors may want to continue using the writers as the voters. It’s their prerogative, either way.

Jeff Passan, Yahoo:
Similarly, the question about Bonds, Clemens and other performance-enhancing-drug users must continue to be asked to those who don't vote for them as well as those who do. If a myriad of Hall of Famers used amphetamines, drugs now considered illegal by Major League Baseball and thought of by some players as even more performance enhancing than steroids, how can we pretend keeping out the modern-day users somehow sanctifies the Hall? If the difference between Bonds and Clemens and others from their era who weren't caught is as simple as the fact that their drug dealers were pinched by authorities, does the organization believe it's tantamount to a drug-sniffing dog, that it knows enough about those it is electing and their potential use to prevent a scenario in which a Hall of Famer later is found to have used and the guys with seven MVPs and seven Cy Youngs are left on the outside?

For all the hand-wringing about how their candidacies are essentially dead, let's remember that the BBWAA voting bloc isn't exactly full of Captain Consistencies. In his second year on the ballot, Bert Blyleven dipped from 17.5 percent to 14.1 percent. A dozen years later, he received 79.7 percent of the vote, having not thrown a single pitch. His greatest ally was time, and the same can be said for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

They have until 2027. That's 13 more years. Think about where we were 13 years ago. Bill James was a cult hero. "Moneyball" was two years from being released. The evolution of the game since then has been staggering, frightening, glorious. If the game grows half as much over the next 13 years, it will still be a monumental shift.

Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports:
For at least some of us, a refusal to vote for a player strongly linked to PEDs is not a question of morality.

Bob Costas said on MLB Network that the issue was more one of “authenticity.” I see it the same way, knowing full well that my voting choices are fair game for those who argue — quite reasonably — that we cannot accurately judge which players did what, to what extent, and the impact their usage had on the game.

I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing by withholding votes for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others, and I reassess my choices every year. But as I've written before, election to the Hall is a privilege, not a right. And the Hall is a museum — a museum with a stated mission of preserving the game’s history, warts and all.

The so-called steroid era is part of that history. If the BBWAA chooses not to elect Bonds and Clemens, it would not mean that they are whitewashed out of Cooperstown; their respective achievements are well-documented in the museum. No, not electing them would simply mean they did not receive the sport's highest honor.

Rick Morrissey, Chicago Sun-Times:
So I had a big, fat, chemically augmented "no" for Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. And I had an agnostic "no," if there is such a thing, for Steroid Era guys such as Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Luis Gonzalez and Jeff Kent.

I can’t emphasize this enough: I’m not sorry about any of it.

Don’t blame me for the people who didn’t get into the Hall. Blame an era. Blame the dirty players (and there were a lot of them) for creating an atmosphere heavy with distrust. Blame Major League Baseball if you think it was either complicit in the Steroid Era or looked the other way. I don’t care.

I get to vote how I want, for whom I want and by whatever yardstick I want. That’s how it works when you walk into a voting booth, isn’t it? You bring in all your experiences, opinions and prejudices. Same thing here.

Russell Carleton, Baseball Prospectus:
There are some differences between those lines. Glavine pitched 850 more innings than did Mussina and 1150 more than Schilling, plus Glavine won more games (and more Cy Young Awards). Maybe more importantly, Glavine won three hundred (and five) games. But their ERAs are comparable, and Glavine notched the fewest strikeouts of the three. Looking at the WAR totals, they all rate pretty comparably. It seems like it’s the same basic case for all three men, or at least close to it. They all even have a “calling card” postseason heroic game to brag about (Schilling’s hematological hosiery heroics in the 2004 ALCS, Glavine’s eight-inning, one-hit performance in the clinching Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, and Mussina’s criminally overlooked 15-strikeout performance in Game 3 of the ALCS, although the Orioles eventually lost that game), as well as his three-inning relief appearance in 2003 ALCS Game 7.

Why then is Glavine (91.9 percent!) getting inner-circle level support while neither Schilling nor Mussina broke the 30 percent barrier? It seems that these three men should have roughly the same support. It’s tempting to think that Glavine’s crossing of the magic 300-win mark is what put him into the 90 percent, first-ballot club. ...

Let me float a slightly different theory. If I played a word association game with “Tom Glavine,” I’ll bet the most common response would be “Greg Maddux." ... Suppose that Maddux had not been on this year’s ballot. Or suppose that Maddux had been teammates for most of the ’90s with Mussina or Schilling. Does Tom Glavine break the 90 percent mark, or is he simply a 60 percent guy who will get in eventually, but only after we’ve had enough time to think about it? Did Glavine get in this time because he had Greg Maddux (and fellow electee Bobby Cox) as a wingman? It’s sort of an uncomfortable question, isn’t it?

Frank Thomas, Hall of Famer (via USA Today):
Asked whether players linked to PEDs should be allowed in, Thomas referenced current Hall of Famers he has spent time with and their vehement stance against steroid users joining the club.

"I've got to take the right stance too," Thomas said. "No, they shouldn't get in. There shouldn't be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame."
video

After pitching a shutout last year for the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers' Association of America delivered its biggest class since 1999, electing Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. It’s a good day for the Hall of Fame after last year’s dud of a group that included a player from the 1800s, an umpire from the early 1900s and an owner who helped keep the game segregated. It’s a great day for Braves fans, as Maddux and Glavine will join manager Bobby Cox on induction weekend. If you’re from Atlanta, start making those hotel reservations now.

All three are clear Hall of Famers, guys who raise the level of the Hall of Fame, the only disappointment being that Maddux not only failed to get 100 percent of the vote, but with 97.2 percent of the vote he also failed to top Tom Seaver’s record of 98.84 percent. But that’s a small thing to get worked up about. Let’s celebrate the careers of these three great players.

It’s a brutal day for Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote -- no rounding up in the Hall of Fame. Biggio fell just two votes shy of election, no doubt hurt by the crowded ballot and those who refuse to vote for anyone from the steroid era. I know writers who voted for the maximum 10 players but left off Biggio even though they would have otherwise voted for him. He’ll likely get in next year, but that extra 12 months of waiting is still a small dosage of cruel punishment.

The bad news belongs to Jack Morris, who collected 61.5 percent of the vote in his final year on the ballot, a 6 percentage point drop. Historically, players get a final-year boost, but Morris ran into the problem of not only Maddux and Glavine appearing on the ballot for the first time but Mike Mussina as well. When you dig into the numbers, Morris paled in comparison to those guys, which undoubtedly cost him some votes.

Morris had become the most-discussed Hall of Fame candidate in years, caught in the middle of a war of statheads and bloggers versus “I was there” writers. I don’t think the stathead community ended up hurting Morris’ case (the opposite of how it helped Bert Blyleven get elected) but rather helped, as there seemed to be a big backlash from voters against the anti-Morris crowd; remember, Morris was under 50 percent his first 10 years on the ballot.

The good news for Morris is that he probably won’t have to wait long to get enshrined. He’ll get pushed over to the Veterans Committee, where he’ll be eligible in 2017, the next time his generation of players will be considered. Every player not still on the ballot who received 50 percent of the vote from the BBWAA has eventually been elected to the Hall, either by the BBWAA or the Veterans Committee, with the exception of Gil Hodges. My bet is Morris gets into the Hall of Fame in three years. Then we can, mercifully, end the Jack Morris debate and let our blood pressure return to normal.

It was terrible news for what I’ll call the Steroid Five (we need a better name). Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro all saw their vote totals drop from 2013, with Palmeiro failing to get 5 percent of the vote and now getting booted from the ballot. He has 569 home runs, more than 3,000 hits and ranks 16th all-time in RBIs, but his Hall of Fame case is officially dead until he’s eligible for some future Veterans Committee.

The other big loser on the day was Tim Raines, whose vote total decreased from 52 percent to 46 percent. He had been showing steady progress in recent years, but falling under 50 percent is a big blow. He lost votes because of the crowded ballot, but that issue isn’t going away anytime soon unless the 10-man rule is changed. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz will be on the ballot next year, Biggio is still around, Ken Griffey Jr. is eligible in 2016, and the PED guys aren’t getting elected.

There were other questionable results involving Curt Schilling and Mussina, two pitchers who would easily raise the level of the Hall of Fame, but received less than 30 percent of the vote.

But hey, we need something to argue about the next 12 months.
Let's finish up with the 14 players I consider strong Hall of Fame candidates. Of course, if I had a ballot, I could vote for only 10 ... well, that's another essay, my friends. Here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.


The Hall of Famers

14. Tim Raines (69.1 career WAR, 52.2 percent of the vote last year) -- I’m a big supporter of Raines although it’s possible that the sabermetric crowd has overstated his case just a bit. Raines had a high peak from 1983 to 1987 while with the Expos -- his combined WAR ranks fourth among position players, behind Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson and Cal Ripken, meaning he was arguably the best player in the National League over that span. He was also an outstanding player in the 1981 strike season and again in 1992 with the White Sox. Other than those seven seasons, however, he was merely good instead of great and spent his late 30s as a part-time player.

Still, as others have written, as he’s a very close statistical comp to Tony Gwynn -- Raines just happened to replace Gwynn’s hits with walks. He’s one of the best basestealers in history and the WAR is right in line with recent Hall of Fame selections. The good news is that Raines’ case is building, from 22.6 percent to 30.4 to 37.5 to 48.7 to 52.2. If he can avoid a collapse this year because of the crowded ballot, his momentum appears strong enough to eventually see election.

13. Craig Biggio (64.9 WAR, 68.2 percent) -- Results from public ballots have Biggio just crossing over the 75 percent mark. Biggio reached the magical 3,000-hit barrier, meaning the only surprise was he didn’t get elected in his first year on the ballot. In the past, 3,000 hits meant you were a mortal lock for Cooperstown. Of the 28 players to reach 3,000 hits, only Biggio, Paul Waner and Rafael Palmeiro failed to get elected on the first ballot (not including Pete Rose and Derek Jeter).

Of course, to get there, Biggio wasn’t helping his club at the end. He picked up 265 hits his final two seasons while being valued at minus-1.7 WAR. He posted poor on-base percentages and had poor range at second base, not surprising considering he played in his age-40 and age-41 seasons. That's the flaw in focusing on round numbers. Biggio only got there by hanging on.

At his peak, however, Biggio was a tremendous offensive player as a second baseman, with power, speed, on-base skills and the ability to steal bases. From 1994 to 1998 he ranked third, third, second, 12th, third and second, in the NL in offensive WAR and was right up there with the best all-around players in the game.

12. Alan Trammell (70.3 WAR, 33.6 percent) -- To me, it’s clear that the BBWAA threw its support behind the wrong Detroit Tiger. Trammell is basically the same player as Barry Larkin (70.2 WAR), except he played in the same league as Cal Ripken and Larkin played in the same league as Shawon Dunston.

The weird thing about this is that I'm pretty sure Trammell was more famous while active than Larkin, at least on a national level. Larkin did win an MVP Award but Trammell's teams were in the playoff race for most of his career while the Reds were a small-market club that was up and down during Larkin's career. I think what happened is basically this: Say the 33 percent who vote for Trammell also voted for Larkin. That leaves the other two-thirds of the voting pool. Say one-third were NL beat guys and columnists and the other third were AL beat guys and columnists. All the NL guys voted for Larkin because he was the best shortstop in his league but didn't vote for Trammell. But the AL guys didn't vote for Trammell either because he wasn't Ripken -- and then after Trammell retired, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada and Nomar Garciaparra came along. Larkin gets the easy label -- best in his league -- that Trammell doesn't. Which is too bad. Trammell was a beautiful ballplayer who did everything well.

11. Mark McGwire (62.0 WAR, 16.9 percent) -- One of the things I’ll never forget as a baseball fan is watching McGwire take batting practice while covering a Cardinals-Tigers game at Tiger Stadium in 1999. Standing behind the batting cage as he launched ball after ball onto the roof or over the roof made me re-think the laws of physics (not that I know the laws of physics).

Why McGwire and not Sammy Sosa, when their career WAR isn't that dissimilar? Maybe it is a feel thing, a feeling that McGwire is one of the game's historic figures. I think that counts for something. He also has the best home run rate in history (higher than Babe Ruth).

10. Edgar Martinez (68.3 WAR, 35.9 percent) -- Bias alert! I wrote about Martinez back in 2009 and then again the other day. I rate him a little higher than the guys above because he had more high peak seasons -- five with 6-plus WAR, eight with 5.5-plus WAR and two more at 4.9 and 4.8. Simply, one of the best hitters the game has ever seen. Sadly, if the Mariners didn't waste three years of his career letting him unnecessarily rot in the minors, his case would be much stronger.

9. Mike Piazza (59.2 WAR, 57.8 percent) -- We'll learn a lot about Piazza's future Hall of Fame hopes this year. He achieved a strong showing in his first year. If that grows this year, it's a good sign. If it falls or remains the same, it could be that he's maxed out already due to PED concerns. About that WAR total: It's difficult for catchers to compile the same WAR as other positions, as they play fewer games and often have shortened careers. Piazza ranks sixth all time among catchers, behind Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Ivan Rodriguez and Yogi Berra.

8. Mike Mussina (83.0 WAR, first year) -- As I wrote back in November, Mussina is eminently qualified for the Hall of Fame.

7. Frank Thomas (73.6 WAR, first year) -- I wrote about Thomas the other day. It looks like he'll get in on his first year on the ballot. Will Thomas' election help Martinez? Once Thomas is in, doesn't it mean you can't use the "but he was a DH" argument against Martinez? Probably not. That suggests a consistent and logical line of thinking from the BBWAA, which ... well, that's like expecting a Cardinals fan to be treated with kindness and respect while sitting in the Wrigley Field bleachers wearing a Matt Holliday jersey.

6. Tom Glavine (81.4 WAR, first year) -- Not much to add about Glavine that you don't already know. Durable, consistent, got the most out of his ability. Like Greg Maddux, an absolute joy to watch (unless you were a Mets fan). He owned the outside corner of the plate -- and maybe a few inches beyond -- with that changeup. I think Glavine and Maddux have a bit of an unfair reputation of not showing up in the postseason. Compare their results to those of Andy Pettitte, who does have a reputation as being extra-special clutch in October:

Glavine: 14-16, 3.30 ERA, 35 GS, 218 1/3 IP, 1.27 WHIP
Maddux: 11-14, 3.27 ERA, 30 GS, 198 IP, 1.24 WHIP
Pettitte: 19-11, 3.81 ERA, 44 GS, 276 2/3 IP, 1.30 WHIP

Their records aren't as good because they didn't get the same run support, not because they didn't pitch well.

5. Jeff Bagwell (79.5 WAR, 59.6 percent) -- Other than not playing an up-the-middle position, the perfect ballplayer: power, speed, on-base ability, terrific baserunner, durable (at least until a shoulder injury cut his career a few years short), excellent defender. Here's something I wrote on Bagwell last January.

There are those who refuse to vote for Bagwell under the assumption he used PEDs; Bagwell has strongly denied using PEDs, telling ESPN's Jerry Crasnick in 2010:

I never used [steroids], and I'll tell you exactly why: If I could hit between 30 and 40 home runs every year and drive in 120 runs, why did I need to do anything else? I was pretty happy with what I was doing, and that's the God's honest truth. All of a sudden guys were starting to hit 60 or 70 home runs and people were like, 'Dude, if you took [PEDs], you could do it too.' And I was like, 'I'm good where I'm at. I just want to do what I can do.'


There's nothing abnormal about Bagwell's career curve, other than his freakishly awesome 1994 MVP season when he hit .368. He didn't suddenly start posting career-best numbers in his mid-30s like McGwire or Barry Bonds. He was good as a rookie, got better, remained great and then slowly declined in his 30s.

4. Curt Schilling (79.7 WAR, 38.8 percent) -- Why Schilling over Glavine, even though Glavine won 305 games while Schilling won just 216 games? OK, here's why:

1. Wins are overrated.

2. More career pitching WAR (80.7 to 74.0).

3. Schilling had more high peak seasons -- eight 5-plus WAR seasons with three at 7.9 or higher compared to Glavine's four and one.

4. Postseason dominance.

In the end, I just feel Schilling had the bigger impact on the game's history -- the 2001 World Series triumph for the Diamondbacks, ending the Red Sox curse in 2004 and winning another title in 2007.

Glavine was more durable and lasted longer and maybe you prefer that type of career arc. But I'll take Schilling and his big seasons and go to war with him in October.

3. Greg Maddux (106.8, first year) -- The smartest pitcher who ever lived. At his 1994 and 1995 peak, maybe the best pitcher who ever lived.

2. Roger Clemens (140.3 WAR, 37.6 percent) -- Let's say Clemens started using PEDs in 1997, the year he went to Toronto and went 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA. The popular mythology is that Clemens was fat and washed up in Boston. Actually, he had ranked second among AL pitchers in WAR and led the league in strikeouts in 1996. But whatever. Anyway, through 1996 he was 192-111 with a 3.06 ERA, three Cy Young Awards and 81.3 career pitching WAR. That's more career WAR than Glavine or Schilling. After two big Cy Young seasons with the Blue Jays, he went to the Yankees. And you know what? He wasn't that great with them -- 77-36 but with a 3.99 ERA. He won a sixth Cy Young Award because he went 20-3, not because he was the best pitcher in the league. He won a seventh with the Astros because he went 18-4 (he was seventh among NL pitchers in WAR). Other than the 1.87 ERA in 2005 -- thanks to an absurdly low BABIP -- his late career basically matches what Nolan Ryan did in his 40s.


1. Barry Bonds (162.5 WAR, 36.2 percent) -- Somebody tweeted this on Tuesday night, Bonds hitting a mammoth home run at Yankee Stadium in 2002 -- a blast so impressive that even Yankees fans cheered in awe.

On a basic level, I understand the no votes: Cheaters shouldn't be honored. My colleague Christina Kahrl made a great point about how we view the PED guys: It's a litmus test that tells us what we want from the game. As she told me, we have to remember the past is plenty grimy, full of stories and people every bit as wonderful as we want them to be -- people who also happen to be human.

From 1988 to 1994, Bonds was second in the majors in home runs (to Fred McGriff) and first in OPS and sixth in stolen bases. His WAR was 13 wins higher than the No. 2 position player (Rickey Henderson). From 1988 to 1995, he was 14.5 wins better than the No. 2 guy (Cal Ripken). Ken Griffey Jr. joined the league in 1989. From '89 to '98, Bonds' WAR was 84.1, Griffey's 65.6 (and the No. 3 guy, Barry Larkin, way back at 51.1). Bonds was the most devastating force in the game before he allegedly started using PEDs sometime after McGwire and Sosa went all crazy in 1998.

Ray Ratto just wrote a brilliant Hall of Fame column and he had two great points about Bonds (and Clemens): "1. The player did things on the baseball field that few others did. ... 6. I DON’T WORK FOR BASEBALL, AND I DON’T CARE WHAT IT PURPORTS TO BE. I CARE WHAT IT IS, AND THIS IS PART OF IT."

Bonds is arguably the greatest player of all time, and, yes, a man with many flaws.

What do you want out of the game?
Let's move on to Part 3 of our 2014 mammoth Hall of Fame post. Here's Part 1 and Part 2.

Close, but not quite Hall of Famers

19. Fred McGriff (52.6 WAR, 20.7 percent) -- Here's a question: Do you think the Tom Emanski commercial has hurt McGriff's legacy? I mean, instead of remembering all those home runs or that beautiful left-handed tomahawk of a swing, we just keep seeing him in that goofy hat trying to sell a video on defensive drills, which is kind of ironic considering McGriff was hardly known for his defense.

Here's another question: Assuming McGriff was clean and didn't use PEDs, how much was he hurt by the offensive explosion in the mid-1990s? For example, compare his career numbers to Tony Perez and Eddie Murray, two Hall of Fame first basemen elected by the BBWAA:

McGriff: 493 HRs, 1,550 RBIs, .284/.377/.509, 134 OPS+
Perez: 379 HRs, 1,652 RBIs, .279/.341/.463, 122 OPS+
Murray: 504 HRs, 1,917 RBIs, .287/.359/.476, 129 OPS+

McGriff didn't quite match those two in RBIs, but he had the better career on-base and slugging percentages. Even while factoring in the high offense of McGriff's era, his adjusted OPS is higher than those two. Is McGriff being penalized by the monster numbers other first basemen put up later in his career? He led the AL with 36 home runs in 1989 and led the NL with 35 in 1992, but when he hit 32 for the Rays in 1999 he ranked just 17th in the league. McGriff's prime years -- 1988 to 1994, when he led all major leaguers in home runs (24 more than Barry Bonds) and ranked second to Bonds in OPS -- are now 20-plus years in the rearview mirror. McGriff had a seven-year run as one of the best hitters in the game. And then still hit 231 home runs after that. So, yes, I think the voters have short-changed McGriff's early dominance.

However, in career WAR, McGriff ranks just behind Perez (53.9) and significantly behind Murray (68.2). Much of that is due to defense. Baseball-Reference credits McGriff with -18.1 dWAR due to positional adjustments and defensive metrics. Perez, who spent several years at third base, is at -6.9 dWAR and Murray at -12.8. Murray, who won four Gold Gloves, is credited with +61 runs saved on defense, McGriff with -34. In the end, the difference between Murray and McGriff is almost all defensive. I think that's a fair assessment.


18. Sammy Sosa (58.4 WAR, 12.5 percent) -- If we remove the PED cloud, how clear would Sosa's path have been to Cooperstown? He's a complicated case. The 609 home runs (eighth all-time) scream pretty loudly, as do the 1,667 RBIs (27th), a total that includes four straight years with at least 138. His peak was fairly short for a Hall of Famer: From 1995 to 2002 he compiled 46.2 WAR, including a monster 10.3 season in 2001, one of just 10 10-win seasons since the divisional era began in 1969 (but overshadowed that year by Barry Bonds' 11.9 WAR). But outside of that eight-year period, he didn't do a whole lot else. Sosa had flaws in his game -- early in his career he didn't walk much so he posted poor-to-mediocre OBPs; later in his career, his once outstanding defense suffered as he bulked up and slowed down; his .273 batting average isn't anything special for an outfielder. Statistically, his 58.4 WAR is well below that 68-to-70 level that makes him a strong candidate.

Still, for a period of time Sosa was one of the biggest names in the sport, a guy who graced magazine covers, and fans paid just to watch him take batting practice. But those guys don't always get to Cooperstown. Steve Garvey didn't make it; Dale Murphy, who won two MVP awards, didn't make it; Dave Parker didn't make it. With those 609 home runs, however, I think Sosa clears the 75 percent hurdle, minus PEDs. With those allegations, however, he drew little support last year and is a good bet to fall off the ballot this year. That may not be fair, but I won't be too heartbroken about it.

17. Larry Walker (72.4 WAR, 21.6 percent) -- Speaking of fair, I do feel like I'm possibly treating Walker unfairly by putting him short of the Hall of Fame. His career WAR is well above 70, he was an outstanding two-way player, he won three batting titles and an MVP award and hit .313 in his career. In his case, it's the Coors Field cloud I can't escape. His career road batting line of .278/.370/.495 pales in comparison to what he did in Colorado (.381/.462/.710). He did have some good seasons on the road. In his 1997 MVP year, he hit 29 of his 49 home runs on the road, with a .346 average. But in 1998 he hit .418 at Coors with 17 of his 23 home runs; in 1999, he hit .461 versus .286 with 28 of 39 home runs; in 2000 he hit 100 points higher at Coors; in 2001, the split was .406 and .293.

But doesn't WAR account for the home park factor? Yes, it does. But Walker was so much better at home -- even compared to the average Rockies hitter -- that even park adjustments may not completely explain what was going on. The biggest problem I have with Walker's case is that he had teammates putting up all sorts of similar numbers at the same time: In 1996, Ellis Burks hit .344 with 40 home runs and Andres Galarraga hit 47 home runs with 150 RBIs; Vinny Castilla had three 40-homer, .300 seasons; Dante Bichette hit .340 and led the league in homers and RBIs in 1995 and hit .330 another year; Todd Helton hit as high as .372 and as many as 49 home runs. Coors Field was such an extreme hitters' park that even hitters like Castilla and Bichette were able to take unique advantage of it. If Walker had been a little more durable (he played 140 games just four times), I'd like his case a little more. He's just short for me.

So borderline I can't make a decision

16. Rafael Palmeiro (71.8 WAR, 8.8 percent) -- At one point, I wrote that I'd vote for Palmeiro if I had a ballot (that was before the ballot got so crowded). His career numbers are hard to ignore -- 569 home runs (12th), 1,835 RBIs (18th), 1,663 runs (32nd), 3,020 hits (25th), 5,388 total bases (11th), 71.8 WAR (87th). The durability and consistency were amazing, and I've said PEDs aren't an issue for me; of course, Palmeiro does fall into a different category there since he tested positive after testing began. The other issue: Isn't he kind of the Don Sutton of position players? Sutton did eventually make the Hall of Fame for being very good for a very long time. Like Palmeiro, he crossed one of those magic barriers (300 wins). But according to Baseball-Reference, Palmeiro ranked as one of the top 10 players in his league just once (eighth in 1993) and as a top-10 position player five times (topping out at fourth in '93). Here are his annual rankings among all MLB first basemen:



He was a top-three first baseman just three times. I'm not sure that's enough for me. He had five seasons of 5+ WAR, not a big total for a Hall of Famer. For now, I'd be inclined not to vote for Palmeiro. Like Sosa, he's also a good bet to fall off the ballot.

15. Jeff Kent (55.2 WAR, first year) -- I thought Nick from Clovis, Calif., made an interesting point in my Tuesday chat: "As a lifelong Giants fan, I was very surprised at how great Kent's stats ended up being; I don't believe there is one Giants fan that can honestly say that they felt like they were watching one of the greatest offensive 2B of all time or even a potential future Hall of Famer when he was playing and that is probably what hurts Kent most."

I mean, if your hometown fans are having trouble drumming up enthusiasm for you ...

Kent is an unusual Hall of Fame candidate -- most of his career value came after he turned 30: 40.7 of his 55.2 career WAR. He had his first 100-RBI season when he was 29 and followed that up with seven more, making him one of the best "RBI men" ever for a second baseman. He finished with 377 home runs, 357 of those as a second baseman (the most ever). He drove in more than 1,500 runs. He won an MVP award. He played in seven different postseasons. Those are a lot of positives. On the negative side: Only twice was he top-10 position player (2000 and 2002); his career WAR is well below our 68-to-70 level; his range, especially in his later years, wasn't great; his speed wasn't a factor.

Tough call. Matt Wilks on Twitter asked me to compare Ryne Sandberg to Kent. Here goes:

Sandberg: 2,164 G, 282 HR, 1,061 RBI, .285/.344/.452, 114 OPS+, 1,318 R, +60 fielding runs
Kent: 2,298 G, 377 HR, 1,518 RBI, .290/.356/.500, 123 OPS+, 1,320 R, -42 fielding runs

Sandberg also won an MVP award. Kent was a little better offensive player, Sandberg -- both by reputation and metrics -- was the superior defensive player. Sandberg could run, Kent couldn't. And the RBI total is a little misleading. Sandberg spent most of his career batting second in the National League, a terrible RBI slot. Kent spent his prime years with the Giants batting after Barry Bonds, meaning a ton of baserunners on in front of him. Sandberg had six seasons of 5+ WAR, four with 7+ (Kent had four and two). I think Sandberg was pretty clearly the more valuable all-around player. Put him behind Bonds and he, too, drives in a ton of runs. Take Bonds away from Kent and are we even having a Hall of Fame discussion?

As with Palmeiro, I'm on the fence with him. For now, I guess I say no, as focusing too much on RBIs is the easiest way to overrate a player. But I reserve the right to change my opinion.
I continue my spin through the Hall of Fame ballot ...

Pretty fine ballplayers but not Hall of Famers

25. Moises Alou (39.7 WAR) -- I was surprised to see how good Alou’s final career numbers were: .303/.369/.516, 332 home runs, 1,287 RBIs, more than 2,000 hits. The dude could flat-out hit; at age 40, playing 87 games for the Mets, he hit .341 and walked nearly as much as he struck out. He hit .355/.416/.623 for the 2000 Astros, knocking in 114 runs in 126 games -- and finished 20th in the MVP voting. That helps put his numbers in a little perspective: A lot of guys put up monster numbers in those days, thus explaining (somewhat) why Alou’s career WAR isn’t higher.

Alou missed all of the 1991 season with an injury, thus delaying the start of his rookie year until he was 25. He had that horrific ankle injury in 1993 that would rob him of his speed and affect his range in the outfield. He tore his ACL in an offseason treadmill accident and missed all of 1999. All that, and we haven't even mentioned him peeing on his hands and the Bartman play.

24. Luis Gonzalez (51.5 WAR) -- From 1999 to 2003, he hit .314/.405/.564 and earned 25.0 WAR. Heck of a five-year run. But, again, everyone hit in that era. Gonzalez’s .969 OPS during that span was better than that of any National League hitter in 2013 -- yet he ranked in the top 10 in the NL in OPS just once in those five years, his 57-homer season in 2001.

23. Kenny Rogers (51.4 WAR) -- Won 131 games after the Yankees dumped him, 219 in his career. His 4.27 career ERA doesn’t look that pretty, but it came when all those big offensive numbers were on the board. For what it’s worth, he has a higher career WAR and better winning percentage than Jack Morris.

22. Don Mattingly (42.2 WAR) -- He’s managed to hang around for 14 years on the ballot, but he peaked at 28 percent his first year, fell to 20 percent in his second year and has remained under 20 ever since, a clear sign that his career doesn’t appear as impressive in the rearview mirror. And it wasn’t. The voters are making the right call here. His peak was short -- four tremendous years, two more good ones, then a string of mediocrity due to his back problems. Minus the injuries, he easily would have collected 3,000 hits and entered Cooperstown. That didn’t happen. Maybe he’ll get there as a manager.

21. Lee Smith (29.6 WAR) -- He obviously has his supporters, collecting 47.8 percent of the vote last year, more than Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker and Fred McGriff, not to mention the PED guys. I don’t get the love the Baseball Writers' Association of America has bestowed on closers, most of whom are failed starters (Smith had a 5.98 ERA in Double-A when he was converted to the bullpen), while at the same dismissing Martinez because he was primarily a DH or dismissing the all-around ability of a guy like Trammell. I mean, you don’t think David Cone would have been a great closer? Orel Hershiser? A vote for Smith is a vote for the position as much as for the value Smith actually provided in his career.

That doesn’t mean he wasn’t excellent at his job. He was the all-time saves leader when he retired and led his league four times in saves. He even finished second, fourth, fifth and ninth in Cy Young voting, although his second-place finish in 1991 (47 saves, 2.34 ERA, 70 hits and 67 strikeouts in 73 innings) looks kind of funny in retrospect, as it wasn’t really that dominant a season other than the saves total.

Was Smith ever the best reliever in the league? To me, he always seemed like a very good closer who lasted a long time. Well, let’s check. Using FanGraphs' WAR, here are Smith’s year-by-year rankings among MLB relievers:

1982: 8th
1983: 5th
1984: 4th
1985: 5th
1986: 8th
1987: 3rd
1988: 7th
1989: 17th
1990: 4th
1991: 9th
1992: 20th
1993: 87th
1994: 31st
1995: 30th

By this method, he was never the best reliever in the league, although admittedly consistently excellent for that 10-year period from 1982 to 1991. Is that enough?

Look, most closers don’t last 14 years on the job, so give Smith credit for his durability. But a 3.03 career ERA as a reliever -- most of that spent in the pre-steroids/high-offense era -- just doesn’t blow me away. If you’re a closer, I want to be blown away if I'm voting you for the Hall of Fame.

20. Jack Morris (44.1 WAR) -- My dad has a beautiful picture hanging in his dining room. It’s him as a kid with his brother and sister, parents and grandparents, standing and sitting in front of his grandfather’s farm house in South Dakota. On the left edge of the photo is his grandfather’s 1940 Ford, a sedan with curved lines and a big front grille. On the right side of the photo is my grandfather’s old Model A, all square and rigid and looking about as comfortable as an at-bat against Nolan Ryan.

My dad laughs now: “We loved that 1940 Ford. We thought we were riding in the lap of luxury in that car compared to my dad’s Model A.”

His point: The 1940 Ford wasn’t really all that great, either.

Unlike my dad, the BBWAA is still nostalgic for that 1940 Ford, believing Morris is something more than he was. If elected, Morris will be a sentimental choice. And perhaps there's nothing wrong with that.


Why do we care so much about the Baseball Hall of Fame? I don't really know. The same passion doesn't exist with the Basketball Hall of Fame or Pro Football Hall of Fame. I mean, when's the last time you read a 3,000-word diatribe about Jack Sikma not yet getting elected to Springfield? Do we even know how players are elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame? But with baseball, we argue, scream, follow the names of voters (and tweet angrily if they don't vote for our guys) and get so worked up that we all turn into 11-year-olds arguing about Reggie Jackson versus Steve Garvey.

Not that there's anything wrong with that; we have plenty of other hours in the day to act like adults. But with the Hall of Fame ... let loose. It's good to clear the blood.

So this will be the first of a series of posts about all 36 players on this year's ballot -- probably three, maybe four posts. Depends on how it goes and how much time I have. I do not own a Hall of Fame vote, but if I did ... well, I'm kind of glad I don't because I'd have trouble narrowing my ballot down to just 10 names. There are probably 22 players on this ballot for whom you can make some sort of legitimate Hall of Fame case, but voters can vote for only 10. Some will vote for none. Many don't vote for the players tied to performance-enhancing drugs. Some don't vote for first-ballot guys unless they were super-duper-stars. One voter sold his ballot to Deadspin. One has said he may turn in a blank ballot because he's upset about all the criticism he receives.

Yes, it's a bit nasty, this Hall of Fame electing stuff.

Before we start, a few reminders, things I've written about before that you may recognize if you read this blog regularly.

1. The Hall of Fame is pretty big ... bigger than the typical sports fan realizes. For example, guess how many of the following are Hall of Famers: Ron Santo, Pat Gillick, Jim Rice, Barney Dreyfuss, Billy Southworth, Bruce Sutter, Andy Cooper, Pete Hill, Effa Manley, Ben Taylor, Bill Mazeroski, Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Nellie Fox, Richie Ashburn, Vic Willis, Phil Rizzuto, Bill Veeck, Enos Slaughter, Luis Aparicio, Travis Jackson, Tom Yawkey, Cal Hubbard, Bob Lemon, George Kelly, Ross Youngs, Earle Combs, Stan Coveleski, Heinie Manush, Rabbit Maranville, Joe Tinker, King Kelly, Roger Bresnahan, Babe Ruth.

Answer: All of them. (But you knew that, right?)

To me, this history means the Hall of Fame isn't just about electing the elite of the elite. That's easy. If the Hall of Fame were just about electing Willie Mays and Cal Ripken and Greg Maddux, it wouldn't be as fun nor as interesting. The level of a Hall of Famer is somewhere below those guys.

2. The Baseball Writers' Association of America has high standards -- it has elected just 14 players in the past 10 years -- but not impossible standards (unless you are alleged or believed to have used PEDs). Those 14 players, with their career wins above replacement via Baseball-Reference.com:

 





The average career WAR for those 14 is 70.2; the mean is at 68. You get to that level and you have a very good Hall of Fame case. Below that, and the arguments have to become more emotional and less analytical the further you get from 70. I'm not saying emotion doesn't matter -- it's not the Hall of Statistics -- but in the end, the voters are trying to elect the best players (except those who may have used PEDs). The players with lower WARs whom the BBWAA has elected in recent years -- Rice, Gossage, Sutter, Kirby Puckett, Tony Perez -- usually have some undefinable intangible going for them. For the most part, I stick to the numbers, but we can't always completely dismiss something that may not show up in the stats.

3. I'm OK with the PED guys. I view them as a product of their era. For the most part, I won't be discussing PEDs here. I'm evaluating the players on what happened on the field.

4. I'm more of a peak value guy. I like players who dominate rather than just compile. Now, compilers can end up with impressive Hall of Fame credentials -- Don Sutton, for example, won 324 games but had only three seasons with a WAR above 5.0. He was very good more than he was great. Still, 324 wins ... hard to say that's not a Hall of Famer. The problem with compilers is that we tend to reward round numbers -- 300 wins, 3,000 hits, 500 home runs. Craig Biggio isn't a strong candidate because he hung around to get 3,000 hits; he's a strong candidate because he was a great player.

OK, let's get started ...

The noncandidates

36. Jacque Jones (11.5 WAR) -- Had a big 5.1-WAR season in 2002. That was the year the Twins broke through and won the first of four division titles in five seasons. Jones started on the first three of those teams, and I'm sure Twins fans remember him fondly.

35. Todd Jones (10.9 WAR) -- He's 16th on the all-time saves list -- he has more saves than Gossage or Sutter -- which kind of goes to show that once you become a closer, all you have to do is remain semicompetent to hold the job. With a 3.97 ERA, Jones was hardly a dominant reliever even for his era.

34. Mike Timlin (19.6 WAR) -- Lasted until he was 42, pitched in four World Series, and his team won all four (two with Toronto, two with Boston), which counts for something. He recorded the final out of the 1992 World Series when Otis Nixon tried to bunt his way on, with Timlin making a nice play to throw him out. The Blue Jays had scored two runs in the top of the 11th, but Jimmy Key allowed a run to score on a groundout, moving John Smoltz, pinch-running for Damon Berryhill, to third base with two outs. Cito Gaston brought in Timlin to face Nixon and turn him around to the left side. Why? Even though that meant the speedy Nixon was a step closer to first base, he'd hit .343 from the right side that year, .263 left-handed. Of course, Gaston probably never imagined Nixon would bunt. (By the way, that was a great game; Nixon had tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out, 0-2 single off Tom Henke.)

33. Eric Gagne (11.9 WAR) -- Didn't last long but had that awesome three-year run, and his 2003 Cy Young season is arguably the greatest ever for a relief pitcher in the less-than-100-innings era.

32. J.T. Snow (11.0 WAR) -- Won six Gold Gloves, twice knocked in 100 runs and once saved Dusty Baker's kid from possible death in a World Series game.

31. Sean Casey (16.3 WAR) -- A .302 career hitter, Casey looked like he might be a big star when he hit .332 with 25 home runs in his first full season, but he never really improved from there and his power went up and down.

30. Paul Lo Duca (17.9 WAR) -- He was a four-time All-Star -- who knew? -- and that doesn't even include his best season in 2001, when he hit .320 with 25 home runs. Lo Duca didn't become a regular until he was 29, rarely struck out (since 2000, he has the sixth-lowest strikeout rate), married (and divorced) a Playboy model, was named in the Mitchell report and later admitted to using PEDs, and then become a horse racing analyst for TVG after his baseball career. Maybe he's not a Hall of Fame player, but that's a lot of stuff to put on a plaque.

29. Armando Benitez (17.7 WAR) -- From 1999 to 2004 he saved 207 games with a 2.47 ERA, allowing just 279 hits in 440 1/3 innings while averaging more than 11 K's per nine, dominant numbers for that era. But his legacy will be his postseason futility; I'm not sure any pitcher has served up more big postseason home runs than Benitez: 1996 ALDS (Albert Belle grand slam with game tied); 1996 ALCS (Derek Jeter home run to tie the game, the Jeffrey Maier home run); 1997 ALCS (up 4-2, three-run homer to Marquis Grissom); 1997 ALCS (Tony Fernandez homers in 11th to break 0-0 tie); 2000 NLDS (three-run homer to Snow in ninth to tie the game). Ouch.

28. Richie Sexson (17.9 WAR) -- One of 30 players to have at least three seasons with at least 39 home runs and 120 RBIs. Twelve are in the Hall of Fame. All the others played in the 1990s or 2000s.

27. Hideo Nomo (21.1 WAR) -- If you weren't following baseball in 1995, or even if you were, it's easy to forget how big of a deal Nomo was. Maybe not quite Fernando-mania level, but close. Baseball was coming off the strike, everyone was ticked off about the late start to the season, and then Nomo, in his first season from Japan, exploded on to the scene with that herky-jerky windup that left batters completely befuddled. He didn't win a game in May but then took off: one run and two hits to beat the Mets; one run against the Expos; 16 strikeouts to beat the Pirates; two runs to beat the Cardinals; a two-hit, 13-strikeout shutout against the Giants followed by another shutout. He allowed one run against the Braves to lower his ERA to 1.99, and he started the All-Star Game. By mid-August his ERA was still 1.91. He tired a bit down the stretch but finished with a 2.54 ERA and 236 strikeouts in 191 1/3 innings. He was still great in 1996 (fourth in the Cy Young vote), but then he lost a little velocity and hitters were no longer confused by his motion, and he had a lot of trouble throwing strikes. He had some decent years -- he led the AL in strikeouts one year with Boston -- but it's the summer of 1995 that I'll always remember.

26. Ray Durham (33.7 WAR) -- Seemed like a very underrated player while active -- had a little power, got on base, stole some bases, OK with the glove. Finished in the top 10 in his league five times in runs scored, as high as second, which speaks to his on-base ability and speed.
Want an idea how Wednesday's Hall of Fame announcement may go? If the results of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America's Hall of Fame vote is any indication, then good news awaits Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio.

The IBWAA conducted its own vote, with 113 writers participating, and Maddux (111 votes, 98 percent), Glavine (100 votes, 89 percent), Thomas (95 votes, 84 percent) and Biggio (89 votes, 79 percent) cleared the 75 percent threshold that the Baseball Writers Association of America uses for enshrinement into Cooperstown.

Maddux is a lock to get elected on Wednesday, but it will be interesting to see if Glavine, Thomas and Biggio draw the same support. The BBWAA has a history of being tough on first-time candidates and while Glavine won 300 games, so did Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro and Don Sutton and it took each of them at least three years to get elected.

The IBWAA has also differed from the BBWAA in past elections: The IBWAA elected Mike Piazza in 2013 (he received 58 percent from the BBWAA) but has yet to elect Barry Larkin, who received 50 percent of the vote this year. The IBWAA writers have been a little kinder to those players alleged to have used PEDs -- or believed to, by some -- but still failed to elect Barry Bonds (58 percent), Roger Clemens (57 percent), Mark McGwire (14 percent) or Sammy Sosa (7 percent). Jeff Bagwell received 69 percent of the vote, slightly higher than the 59 percent he received from the BBWAA.

The low vote totals for McGwire and Sosa suggest both could be in danger of falling off the BBWAA ballot if they fail to receive 5 percent of the vote.

The IBWAA is open to any writer on the Internet and while it may be slightly more sabermetrically inclined than the BBWAA, some of my favorite candidates still fell well short of 75 percent -- Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez were all below 40 percent. Looks like I'll be touting those three for a long time into the future.
When Frank Thomas first arrived in the majors, he was a force of nature unlike anybody baseball fans had seen in a long time.

[+] EnlargeFrank Thomas
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesFrank Thomas, a two-time AL MVP, hit 521 home runs during his 19-year career.
There had been big guys before, of course, big guys who certainly intimidated opposing pitchers with their size and made third basemen back up an extra step or four -- players like Frank Howard, Dave Kingman and Dave Winfield. Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco were in their heyday as the Bash Brothers with the A's when Thomas joined the White Sox in 1990. Darryl Strawberry was still mashing.

But Thomas was different. He wasn't tall and lean or even tall and muscular, but instead tall and massive, built like the former Auburn tight end that he was. He wasn't merely a slugger, one who would sacrifice batting average for power. He was a hitter, right from his rookie season, a guy who matched Tony Gwynn's artistry with Ted Williams' plate selection. He hit home runs almost by accident.

From 1990 to 1997, his first eight seasons, Thomas hit .330/.452/.600. From 1946 to 1989 those numbers had been reached in an individual season just 11 times -- seven of those by Williams. My father's generation had Williams; we had Thomas. Thomas won an MVP Award in 1993 when he hit .317 with 41 home runs, 128 RBIs and 112 walks. He won another in the strike-shortened 1994 season, hitting .353 with 38 home runs and 109 walks in 113 games. He earned the nickname "The Big Hurt" and it was absolutely apropos.

Those eight seasons constitute the heart of Thomas' dominance, although hardly the end of his career. He had one final dominant season in 2000, hitting .328 with 43 home runs and 143 RBIs to finish second in the MVP voting as the White Sox won a division title. He hit 42 home runs in 2003 and with the A's in 2006 finished fourth in the MVP vote, as much for his leadership and Oakland's surprising division title as for his numbers (.270, 39 home runs).

Thomas finished with a career triple-slash line of .301/.419/.555, 521 home runs and 1,704 RBIs. He is, unquestionably, one of the 20 greatest hitters of all time and even fewer matched his peak level of offensive dominance.

He's on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time -- and he may not get in.



Edgar Martinez is on the ballot for the fifth time. He has his loyal core of supporters but he's not making progress to Hall of Fame election: he's received 36 percent, 33 percent, 37 percent and 36 percent of the vote in each of the past four years. He's a long way from getting to the 75 percent needed for election and while some Hall of Famers the BBWAA eventually elected did start with a lower vote percentage, Martinez appears to be stuck in mud. The crowded ballot isn't going to help his vote total increase; if anything, the appearance on the ballot this year of Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent (plus the final-year sympathy votes for Jack Morris), may actually cut into Martinez's total.

[+] EnlargeEdgar Martinez
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesEdgar Martinez finished his career with a .312 batting average and was a two-time AL batting champion.
Martinez's credentials don't quite jump out at you like Thomas' do. He didn't quite have Thomas' power (Martinez hit 309 home runs) and was often overlooked playing in Seattle and overshadowed by teammates Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, but at his peak he, too, was one of the most devastating right-handed hitters ever seen. Like Thomas, he hit for a high average while drawing an enormous number of walks. He won two batting titles and reeled off seasons where he hit .356, .343, .337, .330, .327, .324 and .322. He sprayed line drives corner to corner; to me, he was a right-handed George Brett (although Martinez drew more walks, so he got on base more). He had eight seasons with an OPS+ of 150 or higher -- more than Reggie Jackson (7), Willie McCovey (7), Griffey (4), Brett (4), Carl Yastrzemski (4), Ernie Banks (2), Johnny Bench (1) and numerous other Hall of Famers. Thomas also had eight such seasons (and two more partial seasons). In terms of career WAR, Thomas is only slightly higher, 73.6 to 68.0.

As Hall of Famer Paul Molitor once said about Edgar, "He was one of the most feared right-handed hitters for a long time in this league. The amount of respect he has from peers speaks to the value of the offensive player he was."



Thomas and Martinez, of course, spent most of their careers as designated hitters. Thomas played 971 of his 2,322 career games at first base; Martinez played 592 of his 2,055 career games in the field, mostly at third base. Thomas was a bad first baseman; Martinez was an adequate third baseman, moved to DH after some injury problems in 1993 and 1994.

Voters have held that against Martinez, suggesting that he was merely a "specialist," as if being one of the best hitters in the game for 13 seasons somehow lacks value; some voters will withhold a check next to Thomas' name on their ballot with the same justification. Designated hitters don't belong in the Hall of Fame.

One reason the Hall of Fame voting is so contentious is because it's often a conflict between emotion and reason. The Jack Morris case is all about emotion; it's difficult to construct an analytic defense for him as a Hall of Famer. The PED disagreements are all about emotion ("Cheaters!") versus reason ("It was part of the game in that era, we don't know who did what, etc.").

This is why the DH argument annoys me; it's an inconsistent application of reason. In recent years, the BBWAA has elected three relief pitchers -- Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage and Dennis Eckersley (who also started but was elected primarily on his merits as a closer). There is no more extreme version of a specialist than a closer. Lee Smith -- never considered the best closer in the game while active -- received more votes last year than Martinez. Who was the better player? It's not even an argument worth discussing. No general manager would have traded Edgar Martinez for Lee Smith.

Even more infuriating is that Sutter was an elite reliever for only eight seasons, Gossage for 10, Eckersely for five. You can't vote for closers and then dismiss Martinez or Thomas as specialists.

The Hall of Fame is about greatness. Few hitters achieved the level of Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez (of course, getting some voters to understand the value of all their walks is another issue). They were great, the best in the game, the core definition of a Hall of Famer.

Maybe they were one-dimensional players. But what a dimension. Both are worthy Hall of Famers.
Curt Schilling appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time a year ago with overwhelmingly strong credentials for election: The 216-game winner ranks 26th all-time in wins above replacement for pitchers (17th-highest total since the live ball era began in 1920) and 15th all-time in strikeouts, including three 300-strikeout seasons; he's got the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of any pitcher ever (well, not counting a guy named Tommy Bond who was 5-foot-7, born in Ireland and began his career with the 1874 Brooklyn Atlantics) and three 20-win seasons; and he led the league twice in wins, twice in innings, three times in starts, four times in complete games (his 15 complete games in 1998 is the highest total in the majors since 1991), twice in strikeouts and five times in strikeout-walk ratio. Schilling never won a Cy Young Award but finished second in the voting three times.

Of course, Schilling was also one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts. His October legacy includes his iconic Bloody Sock Game in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees, a win in the World Series that year that helped end the long suffering of Red Sox fans, plus his dominant performance throughout the 2001 postseason when he allowed six runs in six starts as the Diamondbacks won the World Series. He helped the Red Sox win another title in 2007. His career 3.46 ERA in a hitters’ era gives him an adjusted ERA equal to Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson and higher than Hall of Famers like Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal and Bob Feller.

Schilling was great, he has the advanced metrics that scream Hall of Famer, and he was an iconic figure in the game while active. What more do you need to get elected to Cooperstown?

More than 60 percent of voters didn’t check Schilling’s name on their ballot.

Then there’s the pitcher who finished with the same career adjusted ERA as Schilling. His best ERAs, all in seasons where he pitched more than 210 innings, were 1.89, 2.38, 2.39, 2.58 and 2.69, all coming when offensive totals were exploding. The worst of those seasons had an adjusted ERA+ of 150. Since 1920, only five other starters had five or more seasons with at least 200 innings and an ERA+ of 150 or higher: Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay. This pitcher had another season where he went 18-9 with a 3.00 ERA and another where he went 21-11 with a 3.32 ERA while leading his league in innings pitched. He won more than 200 games. He had a 16-strikeout game in the postseason. His career pitching WAR of 68.5 is higher than Palmer, Carl Hubbell or Don Drysdale.

Kevin Brown got 12 votes in his one year on the ballot, not close to the 5 percent needed to remain on the ballot, and he was kicked to the curb alongside Raul Mondesi, Bobby Higginson and Lenny Harris. Thank you for your nice career, but your case has no merit. Heck, Willie McGee received twice as many votes. I mean, Willie McGee was a nice player, and even a great one the season he won the MVP Award, but he had about half the career value of Brown.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America treats starting pitchers like they’re infected with the plague. They’ve elected one in the past 14 years: Bert Blyleven in 2011. And Blyleven, despite winning 287 games and ranking 11th all-time in WAR among pitchers, took 14 years to finally get in. Meanwhile, the BBWAA has elected three relief pitchers in those 14 years, so it’s not an anti-pitcher bias; it’s an anti-starting pitcher bias.

What’s happened here? How come no starting pitcher who began his career after 1970 is in the Hall of Fame? Leaving aside the case of Clemens, who would have been elected if not for his ties to PEDs, there are several issues going on.

1. The 1980s were barren of strong, obvious Hall of Fame pitchers. The BBWAA ignored the cases of borderline candidates like David Cone, Dave Stieb, Bret Saberhagen and Orel Hershiser, and instead embraced Jack Morris, a lesser pitcher than those four but a guy with more career wins.

2. Comparison to the previous generation of starters. Including Blyleven, there are 10 "1970s pitchers" in the Hall of Fame. Here they are, listed in order of election year along with each pitcher's 10-year peak period:

Bert Blyleven (2011): 1971-1980
Nolan Ryan (1999): 1972-1981
Don Sutton (1998): 1971-1980
Phil Niekro (1997): 1970-1979
Steve Carlton (1994): 1972-1981
Tom Seaver (1992): 1968-1977
Fergie Jenkins (1991): 1967-1976
Gaylord Perry (1991): 1967-1976
Jim Palmer (1990): 1969-1978
Catfish Hunter (1987): 1967-1976

These pitchers aren't merely just great pitchers but products of their generation. The late '60s and early '70s produced the lowest-scoring seasons in the major leagues since the dead ball era. The average team in 1968 scored 3.42 runs per game, the lowest total since 1908. That was the notorious pitchers' year, but 1972 didn't see much more offense at 3.69 runs per game. This was also the period when pitchers were worked harder than they had been in decades, making more starts and pitching more innings. The 15-year period from 1963 to 1977 saw 62 different seasons where a pitcher threw 300 innings. The previous 15 seasons saw it happen just 13 times (six by Robin Roberts); the ensuing 15 seasons saw it happen just three times, two of those by knuckleballer Niekro.

This period was the perfect time to ferment long careers with lots of wins. More starts and more innings gave pitchers the opportunity to get more wins. It's no coincidence that the peak seasons of the above pitchers all occurred in roughly the same time span.

3. Speaking of wins ... Hall of Fame voters love wins like Yasiel Puig loves driving fast. Morris has 254, a main reason he earned 67.7 percent of the vote last year despite his 3.90 career ERA. Schilling has 216 and Brown 211. The fixation on career wins -- and 300 in particular -- is the result of a unique generation of pitchers; it's a standard previous pitchers weren't held to. Bob Gibson won 251 games, Juan Marichal 243, Whitey Ford 236, Don Drysdale 209 and Sandy Koufax 165. Focus on the entire résumé, not just the win total. Schilling didn't win 254 games, let alone 300, but he's a far superior Hall of Fame candidate to Morris.

Let's compare Tom Glavine to Mike Mussina, both appearing on the ballot for the first time. With 305 wins, Glavine appears to be the much stronger candidate than Mussina, who won 270 games. Here's what one voter, Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe, wrote:
Glavine and Maddux were 300-game winners. Those are magic plateaus ... unless you cheated.

The rest of the list of players I reject are good old-fashioned baseball arguments. (Craig) Biggio got 68.2 percent of the vote last year, but I don’t think of him as Hall-worthy (only one 200-hit season). Same for Mussina and his 270 wins (he always pitched for good teams) and (Lee) Smith and his 478 saves (saves are overrated and often artificial).


There you go. Glavine won 305 games, Mussina won 270, so Glavine is the easy choice. As an aside: I love the bit about Mussina pitching for good teams. As if Glavine didn't pitch for good teams? Since when is pitching for good teams considered a demerit? Plus, as Jason Collette pointed out, "Mussina pitched for Baltimore for 10 years -- and Baltimore had losing records in five of those ten seasons. Yet, Mussina had a .645 winning percentage and won 147 of his 270 starts with the Orioles. The Yankees never had a losing record when Mussina pitched there and he had a .631 winning percentage with them. Mussina’s .645 winning percentage as an Oriole dwarfed the team’s .510 winning percentage in that same time."

(Also, Shaughnessy is apparently voting for Morris because he won 254 games, which I believe is less than 270.)

Anyway, when you examine the numbers a little deeper, Glavine and Mussina compare favorably:

Pitching WAR
Glavine: 74.0
Mussina: 82.7

ERA+
Glavine: 118 (3.54 career ERA in the National League with great defense behind him)
Mussina: 123 (3.68 career ERA in the American League with often bad defenses behind him)

5+ WAR seasons
Glavine: 4
Mussina: 10

Postseason
Glavine: 14-16, 3.30 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Mussina: 7-8, 3.42 ERA, 1.10 WHIP


The point here isn't to detract from Glavine, but that Mussina has every bit the case Glavine does -- or 95 percent of it, giving Glavine some extra credit if you wish for his two Cy Youngs. Glavine hung on and won 35 more games; Mussina retired after winning 20. That doesn't make Glavine a superior pitcher.

4. Stingy voters. To a certain extent, the BBWAA voters have become tough on all candidates -- not just starting pitchers and PED users. As Joe Sheehan wrote recently:
Consider the recent history of Hall voting. The average number of players named per ballot declined steadily up until just last year. In 1966, which was the first vote in the modern era of BBWAA balloting (that is, in which there have been no years in which the BBWAA did not vote), there were 7.2 names listed per ballot. Ten years later, that figure was 7.6. By 2000, a year that featured two players voted in and a ballot with five others who would eventually be voted in (plus Jack Morris, still kicking around), the number was down to 5.6. There were more baseball players than ever before becoming eligible for the Hall, but the voters were becoming much more difficult to impress. That would remain the case for most of this century:

2001: 6.3
2002: 6.0
2003: 6.6
2004: 6.6
2005: 5.6
2007: 6.6
2008: 5.4
2009: 5.4
2010: 5.7
2011: 6.0
2012: 5.1
2013: 6.6


Remember, that downward trend is occurring despite an increasingly crowded ballot due to the split opinions on what do about the PED candidates. With as many as 15 to 20 legitimate Hall of Fame candidates on this year's ballot it will be interesting to see if that 6.6 players per ballot increases further.

5. Timing. The starting pitching problem will be abated somewhat in upcoming elections. Maddux will get in this year, Glavine this year or next. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz then join the ballot next year. Johnson is a lock, and Martinez has the Koufax-esque peak value thing going for him, although with 219 wins he's not a first-year lock. Smoltz is similar to Schilling in many ways, down to the career win total (213) and postseason heroics, so odds are he'll face the same uphill climb.

I believe most Hall of Fame voters have the same goal: Elect the best players to the Hall of Fame, or at least the best ones they believe to be clean from PEDs. That issue is still stuck in the mud, the Hall itself refusing to give guidance to the voters. But electing Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina is simply an issue of understanding their greatness. They are among the very best pitchers in the history of the game. They deserve to be elected this year, alongside Maddux and Glavine.

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