SweetSpot: Hall of Fame

This weekend's Hall of Fame induction ceremony features the best class we've had in a long time, with three first-ballot Hall of Famers in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas and three legendary managers in Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. After last year's shutout from the Baseball Writers' Association, coupled with a group of Veterans Committee inductees that included names last relevant more than 75 years ago, it's nice to celebrate an era of baseball we actually remember watching.

It's also a celebration of those great Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990s and early 2000s. Maddux and Glavine were teammates from 1993 through 2002, and the Braves won a division title in each of those seasons, excepting the never-completed 1994 season. Throw in division titles in 1991 and 1992 plus three more from 2003 to 2005 and the Braves won a remarkable 14 consecutive division titles, one of the most remarkable achievements in baseball history.

This article isn't meant to be a criticism or to detract from the accomplishments of Maddux, Glavine and Cox, but it's fair to point out that part of the legacy of those Braves teams is that those 14 playoff appearances led to just one World Series title (1995). Why wasn't it more? The law of averages -- if every playoff team were considered equal -- suggests the Braves should have won 2.1 championships in this period, so they underperformed by only one title by this measure.

But the Braves were often better than the opponent that beat them, at least in the regular season, so maybe it should have been at least three titles. I thought it would be interesting to go back and see what went wrong for them. We'll list three factors for each postseason series defeat during that period.

1991: Lost World Series in seven games to the Minnesota Twins
Let's go straight to Game 7, a classic game in maybe the best World Series ever played. (By starting at the end, we conveniently skip past Otis Nixon's drug suspension late in the season, Kent Hrbek doing this to Ron Gant in Game 2 and Kirby Puckett doing this in Game 6).

[+] EnlargeAtlanta Braves
AP Images/Mark DuncanThe Braves tried everything in the 1991 World Series, even rally caps.
1. Lonnie Smith's bad baserunning on Terry Pendleton's double in the eighth inning. Chuck Knoblauch often gets credited for deking Smith by acting like it was a double-play grounder, but the highlight seems to show Smith simply lost track of the ball as opposed to falling for Knoblauch's phantom double play.

2. Still, the Braves had runners on second and third with no outs and couldn't score. Gant grounded out, and after an intentional walk to David Justice, Sid Bream grounded into a 3-2-3 double play. From what I can tell from a play-by-play search on Baseball-Reference.com, this is the only 3-2-3 double play in World Series history.

3. Dan Gladden's bloop double leading off the 10th off Alejandro Pena that eventually led to the winning run. Thank you, Metrodome turf.

1992: Lost World Series in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays

1. In Game 2 -- the Braves up 4-3 in the ninth, about to go ahead two games to none -- little-used Ed Sprague (one home run on the season) hits a two-run, pinch-hit homer off veteran reliever Jeff Reardon, who had been acquired late in the season.

2. More bullpen blues in Game 3. The Blue Jays had tied it in the eighth off Steve Avery, who was removed after a leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth. Mark Wohlers enters to face Joe Carter and Dave Winfield -- but Roberto Alomar steals second, so Bobby Cox intentionally walks Carter. Winfield bunts the runners along and Mike Stanton is brought in to face John Olerud, but Cito Gaston goes again to Sprague and Cox issues another intentional walk. Candy Maldonado then delivers a deep fly-ball single off Reardon to score the winner. The big mistake was walking Carter, a free swinger, but I'm guessing Cox never imagined Gaston would have Winfield bunt.

3. Nixon's bunt. OK, Otis could run. But in the bottom of the 11th, the Braves down 4-3, pinch runner John Smoltz at third base with two outs and the World Series on the line, Nixon tried to bunt for a hit. Gutsy play or dumb play? Mike Timlin fielded the bunt, and the Jays won.

1993: Lost NLCS in six games to the Philadelphia Phillies

1. Bad run distribution. The Braves outscored the Phillies 33-23, winning two games by 14-3 and 9-4 scores but lost three games by one run.

2. More bullpen blues: Greg McMichael, the rookie closer, lost Game 1 in the 10th inning on Kim Batiste's RBI double. Wohlers was the loser in the 10th inning of Game 5 when Lenny Dykstra homered.

3. Maddux's poor Game 6 outing. He walked four batters in giving up six runs in 5⅔ innings.

1995: Won World Series in six games over the Cleveland Indians

[+] EnlargeAtlanta Braves
AP Images/Ed ReinkeThe sole World Series celebration in 1995. One out of 14 straight postseasons … that's not so bad, is it?
What's interesting about the one title is that it probably wasn't the best Braves team of this era. This club went 90-54, a .625 winning percentage. (Remember, the 1995 season was shortened by the work stoppage that started in August 1994.) The Braves had a better winning percentage in 1993 (.642), 1998 (.654), 1999 (.636) and 2002 (.631). They also beat a dominant Indians team that had gone 100-44 while averaging 5.8 runs per game. Atlanta did it, no surprise, with pitching: The Indians hit just .179 in the series. Here's the final out.

1996: Lost World Series in six games to the New York Yankees

1. That hanging slider from Wohlers in Game 4.

2. Earlier in that game, the Braves led 6-0 in the sixth inning when a rookie named Derek Jeter lofted a pop fly down the right-field line that Jermaine Dye chased after … until he ran into umpire Tim Welke. The ball fell for a hit, starting a three-run rally. (We should have realized back then that the Yankees rookie shortstop was destined for greatness, considering he would also hit the Jeffrey Maier home run in the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles a week earlier.)

3. Marquis Grissom's error. His dropped fly ball led to the only run in Game 5 as Andy Pettitte outdueled Smoltz 1-0.

1997: Lost NLCS in six games to the Florida Marlins

1. Eric Gregg. The worst strike zone in the history of baseball (undocumented but presumably true) helped rookie Livan Hernandez strike out 15 and beat Maddux 2-1 in Game 5. Here are all 15 strikeouts. Fast-forward to the 1:30 mark for the final out on Fred McGriff on a pitch that will make you laugh, cry and disgusted.

2. Glavine's stinker first inning in Game 6. Single, walk, single, two-run single, sacrifice bunt, intentional walk (sure seems like Cox issued a lot of intentional walks), HBP with the bases loaded, RBI groundout, strikeout. The Marlins were up 4-0 before the Braves came to bat.

3. Pinch hitting. Thought I'd throw this in here somewhere. Braves pinch hitters were generally awful in the postseason during these 14 years. I'm not sure if that had to with the strength (or lack thereof) of the Braves' benches or just something that happened. Cox always liked to carry a third catcher for the playoffs, which generally meant he wasted a roster spot when he could have had another pinch hitter available. Then again, during much of this period, he carried only nine or 10 pitchers, not the 11 or 12 you see now, so he still had plenty of pinch-hitting options. Anyway, by my count, from 1991 to 2005, Braves pinch hitters went 39-for-208 (.188) in the postseason with zero home runs, 17 walks and just 22 RBIs. Considering postseason pinch hitters are often used in critical situations, that performance had to have hurt. Outside of Francisco Cabrera in the 1992 NLCS, they were certainly lacking their Ed Sprague moments.

1998: Lost NLCS in six games to the San Diego Padres

1. Sterling Hitchcock. In two starts, San Diego’s journeyman left-hander allowed just one run in 10 innings.

2. More bullpen blues. The closer this year was another rookie named Kerry Ligtenberg, who was discovered in independent ball. He had a good year with 30 saves and a 2.71 ERA. The Braves generally had good bullpens during this period. They just didn't always pitch well in the postseason. In Game 1, Ken Caminiti torched Ligtenberg for a home run in the 10th inning.

[+] EnlargeTom Glavine and Bobby Cox
Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty ImagesThrough five innings, Tom Glavine held the Padres scoreless in Game 6 of the 1998 NLCS. But in the sixth, this happened. Again.
3. Glavine's bad inning. Game 6 was tied 0-0 in the sixth when Glavine had another one of those innings and the Braves defense made a crucial error. (This seemed to happen quite a bit, surprising since the Braves were generally good defensively.) With one out, the Padres got two base hits and a groundout to take a 1-0 lead. But Wally Joyner singled to make it 2-0, and then a hit and a walk loaded the bases for Hitchcock. He hit a short line drive to left field that Danny Bautista dropped, and two runs scored. Maybe it didn't matter in the end as four relievers combined with Hitchcock on the two-hit shutout.

1999: Lost World Series in four games to the Yankees

1. Another crucial error. In Game 1, the Braves lead 1-0 in the eighth, with Maddux pitching a gem. Scott Brosius singles. Darryl Strawberry, pinch hitting, walks. Knoblauch bunts, but first baseman Brian Hunter -- who had just replaced Ryan Klesko for defense -- boots the play to load the bases. Jeter singles to tie the game, and Paul O'Neill greets John Rocker with a two-run single, with Hunter making another error that allowed the runners to move up a base. After an intentional walk and two strikeouts, Rocker walked Jim Leyritz with the bases loaded. Yankees win 4-1.

2. The Chad Curtis Game. Knoblauch had tied the game in the eighth with a two-run homer off Glavine that Brian Jordan just missed -- a classic Yankee Stadium home run. That led to Curtis, now rotting in jail after being convicted for sexual misconduct, hitting the game-winning home run, his second of the game, in the 10th inning off Mike Remlinger.

By the way, if you're counting, extra-winning wins, 1991-2005 postseason:

Braves: 8
Opponents: 13

3. Mariano Rivera. One win, two saves. The Yankees had him; the Braves didn't.

2000: Lost NLDS in three games to the St. Louis Cardinals

1. Maddux got pounded in Game 1.

2. Glavine got pounded in Game 2.

3. Kevin Millwood got pounded in Game 3.

2001: Lost NLCS in five games to the Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Randy Johnson. The Big Unit allowed two runs in 16 innings in winning both of his starts.

2. Bad Maddux, bad defense. In Game 4 -- a must-win against Albie Lopez, the weak link behind Johnson and Curt Schilling -- Maddux gave up eight hits and six runs in three innings. The Braves committed four errors in the game, including three in a four-run third, leading to three unearned runs.

3. Three-man rotation? Maddux and Glavine started Games 4 and 5 on three days' rest while Johnson started Game 5 on four days' rest. Neither pitched well. Was this an issue throughout this era? From 1991 to 2005, Braves starters pitched 24 times on three days' rest. There were some notable successes -- Smoltz pitched 7⅓ scoreless innings in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Glavine pitched a four-hit complete game in Game 1 of the 1992 World Series, and Denny Neagle tossed a four-hit shutout in Game 4 of the 1997 NLCS -- but the Braves went 10-14 in these games and the starters allowed 4.37 runs per nine innings; when pitching on four or more days of rest in the other 98 games, the starters allowed 3.64 runs per nine innings and the team went 53-45.

So to recap, and considering Cox used his best starters on short rest:

Three days of rest: 10-14, 4.37 runs per nine innings. (The Braves were 0-3 in games started on two days' rest, after a starter had appeared earlier in relief.)
Four or more days of rest: 53-45, 3.64 runs per nine innings.

Cox understandably put a lot of faith in Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz and, early on, Avery. In retrospect, maybe he should have trusted the depth of his rotation a little more.

2002: Lost NLDS in five games to the San Francisco Giants

1. Glavine. In two starts, he lasted a combined 7⅔ innings, allowed 17 hits and 13 runs and had more walks (seven) than strikeouts (four). In his final playoff start for the Braves in Game 4, he got knocked out in the third inning after Rich Aurilia hit a three-run homer. Glavine signed with the Mets that offseason, and you wonder if his poor playoff performances in recent years was a reason the Braves let him go.

[+] EnlargeGreg Maddux
Harry How/Getty ImagesIt was as if Greg Maddux couldn't bear to watch Barry Bonds round the bases after another NLDS home run in 2002.
2. Barry Bonds. This was the postseason Bonds was unstoppable. He hit three home runs and drew four walks in the five games, including a homer off Millwood in a 3-1 Giants win in the clincher.

3. One last gasp that fell short. Game 5, bottom of the ninth, the Braves had two on with nobody out. Gary Sheffield struck out and Chipper Jones grounded into a double play.

2003: Lost NLDS in five games to the Chicago Cubs

1. No offense. By 2003, the Braves had morphed into an offensive powerhouse. This team led the NL with 907 runs scored as Javy Lopez clubbed 43 home runs, Sheffield hit 39, Andruw Jones hit 36, and Chipper Jones hit .305 with 27 home runs. They hit .215 with three home runs against the Cubs.

2. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Prior pitched a two-hitter in Game 3 (throwing 133 pitches). In Game 5 in Atlanta, Wood allowed one run in eight innings. Again, note that Wood was pitching on four days of rest while Mike Hampton went on three days.

3. Smoltz as reliever. From 2001 through 2004, following Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of 2000, Smoltz became the team's closer. However, he rarely had save opportunities in the postseason in these years; considering he later returned with success to the rotation, you wonder how Braves history would have been different had Smoltz been starting those years.

2004: Lost NLDS in five games to the Houston Astros

1. Jaret Wright. The Braves' Game 1 starter (posting a 3.28 ERA that year), Wright gave up 10 runs in 9⅔ innings in his two starts and lost both games.

2. Carlos Beltran. He hit four home runs and drove in nine runs for the Astros in the five games, including going 4-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs in a 12-3 rout in Game 5 -- yet another Game 5 loss at home.

3. Marcus Giles. He hit .125 in the series without an RBI. In 25 postseason games for the Braves, he hit .217/.277/.315 with two home runs and six RBIs in 101 plate appearances. Not to pick on one guy or anything.

2005: Lost NLDS in four games to the Astros

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1. Game 4. You could write a book on the longest postseason game ever played. The Astros prevailed in 18 innings when Chris Burke hit this walk-off home run off Joey Devine. You remember Joey Devine, right?

2. Kyle Farnsworth. The Braves blew a 6-1 lead in the eighth inning of that game. Farnsworth gave up a grand slam to Lance Berkman in the eighth and a game-tying home run with two outs in the ninth to Brad Ausmus.

3. Failed opportunities. The biggest came in the 14th inning when the Braves loaded the bases with one out. But Brian McCann struck out and pinch hitter Pete Orr grounded out. Roger Clemens, pitching on two days' rest after starting Game 2 and making his first relief appearance since 1984, then tossed three scoreless innings to get the win.

And that was it. The end of an era. That wasn't a great Braves club, going 90-72, at least compared to some of the earlier editions. In 2006, they fell to 79-83, but they rebuilt and gave Cox one final playoff appearance in 2010 -- in which the Braves lost the division series once again. (With another loss in 2013, the Braves have lost six consecutive division series, with a wild-card defeat thrown in as well.)

Still, it was a splendid stretch of baseball. From 1991 to 2005, the Braves played 125 postseason games. They won 63 games and lost 62. Maybe they should have won another World Series. In going through the play-by-play of a lot of these games, besides the obvious bullpen issues, I was struck by how many games were affected by errors. The Braves allowed 55 unearned runs in these 125 postseason games; as it turns out, that total isn't that much different from how the Braves performed in the regular season. From 1991 to 2005, not including 1994, they averaged 61 unearned runs per season; in the postseason, they were a little worse, as their total prorates to 71 over 162 games.

Of course, in the postseason, when the margin for error is smaller and the opponents better, those mistakes become more important. Still, maybe that wasn't a decisive factor; the Braves reached on an error 58 times in these 14 playoff years, their opponents 64.

Maybe a key to the Braves' success -- starting pitching depth -- just wasn't as big of a factor in the playoffs, when their opponents could shorten their rotations. Maybe power pitching does win in October; think of some of the pitchers the Braves lost to (Schilling with the Phillies and Diamondbacks; Johnson; Wood and Prior; Clemens and Roy Oswalt). The Braves' best playoff starter was Smoltz, more of a power pitcher than Maddux and Glavine. Maddux went 11-13 with a 2.81 ERA in his Braves postseason career but also allowed 18 unearned runs in 27 starts; he was good but not quite the Maddux of the regular season. Glavine was 12-15 with a 3.44 ERA in his Braves postseason career. (He had a 3.15 ERA in the regular season during this period.)

But Braves fans will always have 1995, Maddux pitching a two-hitter to win the opener and Glavine clinching it with that masterful Game 6 performance, allowing just one hit in eight innings. It's hard to believe that was 19 years ago.


COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The Hall of Fame voting process can wear on the emotions of a candidate who lingers on the ballot for a number of years. But it’s unseemly for that candidate to state his case too vigorously, lest he appear arrogant, or complain about the judgment or the intelligence of the baseball writers, in which case he stands a good chance of alienating the people entrusted with determining his legacy.


Few players had their nerves taxed on a big stage more consistently than Bert Blyleven, who passed through stages of anxiety, frustration, resignation and jubilation during his time on the ballot.


At the beginning, Blyleven waited for congratulatory phone calls that never came. He later expressed frustration over being excluded despite 287 career wins, 242 complete games, 60 shutouts and 3,701 strikeouts -- still the fifth highest total in baseball history.


By the time his 10th appearance on the ballot rolled around, Blyleven threw up his hands and spent election day having his truck serviced.


The public water torture finally ended in 2011 when Blyleven made it to Cooperstown on his 14th try. So he seemed like the ideal person to assess the latest directive from the Hall of Fame’s executive board, which condensed the waiting period for potential inductees from 15 to 10 years Saturday. If a decade isn’t enough for a player to crack 75 percent, his name is passed on to the Hall’s Era Committee in perpetuity.

[+] EnlargeJim Rice
Rich Pilling/Getty ImagesVoters took the full 15 years to put Red Sox slugger Jim Rice into the Hall of Fame.


The Hall’s decision might expedite the process, but it still isn’t going to satisfy observers who think the Baseball Writers Association of America is clueless, has too many personal agendas, or is too selective or not selective enough. And the wait, while shorter, will remain stressful for the person being judged.


“What helped me is that guys like Bob Feller and Harmon Killebrew said, ‘You’re going to get in. Be patient,’” Blyleven said. “It’s a tough thing to crack. This [change today] might put more pressure on the Veterans Committee.


“Maybe if the wait is only 10 years, the writers will look at the numbers a little bit better and quicker. I hope so. I’ve wondered over the years about some of the guys who have the opportunity to vote. You have guys like Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken and you wonder, ‘How can they not be on 100 percent of the ballots?’ Writers got more publicity for not voting for them than the guys who did it in a legit way. Maybe they ought to look at that more than the number of years [on the ballot].”


Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the Hall’s board, praised the baseball writers Saturday for their “excellent" job in the voting. In a follow-up interview, Hall President Jeff Idelson said the likelihood of a player being elected after 10 years on the ballot was "incredibly minimal," and the overriding goal is to keep the process "relevant." If the new system is more humane, helps unclutter the ballot and forces writers to come to grips with players from the steroid era more quickly, those will be significant fringe benefits.


Still, the process could be further improved by eliminating the 10-man limit on the ballot each year. The ballot continues to get more crowded as Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and other real or alleged PED users stick around but can’t generate enough support to make it to Cooperstown. Meanwhile, other candidates are being judged by factors beyond their individual merits. When Jack Morris slipped from 67.7 percent to 61.5 percent in his 15th and final appearance last year, it didn’t help his cause that some voters simply didn’t have enough room to vote for him.


The Hall’s new system will add a sense of urgency to the candidacy of Tim Raines, who received 46.1 percent of the vote last winter and now has three more cracks at Cooperstown rather than eight. The same sense of urgency applies to Alan Trammell, Lee Smith and Don Mattingly, all of whom fall in the 10 to 15 year netherworld and will receive the full 15 years of eligibility under a grandfather clause. Trammell received a strong endorsement Saturday from Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline.


“I’ve always thought that he should be in the Hall of Fame,” Kaline said. “He should certainly get more recognition than he’s gotten. I’m not being prejudiced because I’m a Detroit Tiger. I watched him play for over 20 years. He was an outstanding fielder and a very clutch hitter. He was MVP of the World Series and a leader of the club. I’ve been totally shocked that he hasn’t gotten more votes.”


Many fans and Hall-watchers wonder how a player’s Hall case can change so drastically years after he’s hit his final home run or recorded his final strikeout. It’s a valid question. Blyleven received 17.5 percent of the vote in 1998 and 14.1 percent in 1999. Twelve years later, he was celebrating his election with almost 80 percent of the vote.


Blyleven benefited from a concerted lobbying effort by the sabermetric community, and human nature invariably enters into the process. Some writers change their minds with time or loosen their standards when they know a player is nearing his final appearance on the ballot. The makeup of the electorate also changes slightly each year as new voters attain the requisite 10 years of BBWAA service time and are added to the rolls.


But every time a player makes it to Cooperstown after a lengthy wait, it debunks the notion that “A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer, and you shouldn’t have to think too hard to figure it out.” Some of that distinction might lie in the philosophical divide that separates writers who think Cooperstown should be a place for only the true elite and others who advocate a “Big Hall” approach.


Among the Hall of Famers in Cooperstown this weekend, Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter can best understand the ordeal that Blyleven endured. Sutter waited 13 years to be inducted, and Rice went the full 15. Five years after his election, Rice still questions whether the baseball writers are the best arbiters and would be open to a system in which the writers and current Hall of Famers both have a say on new inductees.


As for the question of time on the ballot, Rice insists that he never worried about it because his fate was beyond his control.


“What’s the difference between 10 years and 15?” Rice said. “The bottom line is, if the numbers are there, it doesn’t matter if it’s 10 or 15 years. The numbers aren’t going to change.”


But the rules just did.

New Hall voting bad news for Raines, others

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
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After years of tweaking and retweaking the Veterans Committee process, you could have anticipated that it was only a matter of time before the Hall of Fame also tweaked the main voting process. On Saturday, that shoe dropped, and as you might have expected, it’s a mixed bag.

The biggest part of the announcement is that it’s cutting down the length of time players might stay on the ballot, from 15 years to 10, while grandfathering in three guys in that 11- to 15-year window: Don Mattingly (headed for his 15th year next year), Alan Trammell (in his 14th) and Lee Smith (headed toward his 13th). All three remain long shots at best, but at least the voters get another shot or two at being convinced.

On one level, this may not seem like a very big deal: The BBWAA’s voters can usually congratulate itself for getting the flat-out obvious guys right, albeit with less than 100 percent success, which is why there really isn't much to brag about on that score. (Chicago remembers Ron Santo.) In a perfect world, this latest twist for guys looking to get in means that the latest version of Veterans Committee voting will take up the causes of those in their respective eras and get them to Cooperstown a little sooner, rather than leave them in the back-end, five-year “pause” while they wait to slip off the ballot.

A problem with that expectation is whether you want to get hung up on the distinction between the people voted in by the BBWAA versus those selected by any version of the Veterans Committee, because if you want to cling to the assertion that being voted in by the writers is more significant -- when I'd expect most are just happy to get their plaque on the wall -- then this abbreviates that window of possibility. Which isn't necessarily the biggest deal in the world, although it does rob the electorate of late changes of heart in the face of cogent cases advanced for eminently worthy candidates -- as happened with Bert Blyleven in his 14th year of eligibility, after years of arguments advanced by sabermetricians helped swing voters all the way ’round.

Which brings us perhaps to the case of the next great “cause” candidate: Tim Raines. What do you do about the greatest leadoff hitter in the history of the National League, the latest example of a guy who needs to be talked up and debated because he spent the best years of his career in Canadian obscurity? Raines will be in his eighth year, so he, like Lee Smith, has just three more shots at getting voted in by the writers coming to him. That’s nothing if you have complete faith that the variation of the Veterans Committee or the present “Expansion Era Committee” eventually gets this done. But considering that the Hall’s extra-electoral processes have given us frankly stupid outcomes, like inducting former commissioner Bowie Kuhn while overlooking former MLBPA honcho Marvin Miller, I wouldn’t invest too much faith in the idea this will produce better justice when it comes to inducting people.

Another way of thinking about this new tweak is that it means we’ll have that much less time to put up with sportswriters yammering about the immorality of the PED scourge they either failed to discover during its heyday, or retroactively want to employ to punish people they suspect used PEDs. Think Jeff Bagwell, a slam-dunk Hall-worthy great, subsequently smeared by more than a few chuckleheads without much in the way of evidence or even rumor. Now, Bagwell has to endure just six more years of that kind of nonsense, while known users such as Mark McGwire (two years) or Sammy Sosa (eight to go) won’t have to worry about their past being brought up every December for too much longer. For me, that’s less of a big deal. The PED story has long since become more about the public posturing of people who want to sound off on the subject. I’d agree, seeing less of that is a good thing. But I don’t see how taking a generation’s greats off the ballot sooner makes for a better Hall of Fame.

The other huge problem created by shortening the window for Hall-worthy players is that this change did not also get rid of the cap on how many guys electors can vote for: It’s still at 10. With ballots already crowded with potential inductees, leaving a hard ceiling in place on who you can vote for guarantees that guys are going to get crowded out, not for lack of merit, but because of the number of worthies they’re among, and the fixed limit for how many votes are available (10 times the number of electors). This is a potentially massive, destabilizing error. You can hope it gets fixed before the next balloting, because relying on the tender mercies of whatever variation of the Veterans Committee exists now and in the years to come won't provide an effective correction.

All of which makes me ask again the question I always put to myself every time we get on this subject: Whose Hall of Fame is it? Who does it serve?

If you say “the players,” which ones? Those already elected, as often seems the case when you have guys on the various recent iterations of the Veterans Committee keeping players out? Or should it serve those who belong?

If you say “the fans,” here again, who? Today’s fans, or those who enjoyed the players in their heyday? That would seem to ill-serve someone such as Raines, a marquee player for a franchise that no longer plays in Montreal. Or are the fans a proxy for something amorphous, like the history of the game? If so, how do you tell the story of the game’s history by excluding many of the guys who made the biggest impact on the field?

At any rate, I don’t anticipate the changes being a good thing, but in the Hall’s long history of tinkering with the election process to guarantee a full and happy house every July, we’ll just have to see who gets shafted by the latest variation on this theme.


Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.
Shawn Anderson runs a fun site called The Hall of Very Good -- a great way of honoring those who fall just short of Cooperstown status. This year's inductees are Luis Tiant, Tony Oliva and ... The San Diego Chicken. Here's Shawn's post introducing the class of 2014.

I don't have much to say about the Chicken, but Tiant actually has a pretty interesting case for Cooperstown, especially when compared to two pitchers his career overlapped with:

Tiant: 229-172, 3.30 ERA, 114 ERA+, 66.1 WAR
Don Drysdale: 209-166, 2.95 ERA, 121 ERA+, 61.2 WAR
Catfish Hunter: 224-166, 3.26 ERA, 104 ERA+, 36.6 WAR

So why Drysdale and Hunter instead of Tiant? All three were certainly famous in their time, although Drysdale and Hunter had the advantage of playing for World Series champions, while Tiant played for just one World Series participant, and his Red Sox lost. It may be as simple as that, but there were several other factors that played in to Tiant's not getting in:

1. His best seasons were spread out. He went 21-9 with a league-leading 1.60 ERA for the Indians in 1968, but followed that up with a 20-loss season and then two partial seasons due to injury issues. Healthy again with the Red Sox in 1972, he went 15-6 and led the AL with a 1.91 ERA. From 1973 to 1976, he won 20 games three times and had a 3.31 ERA while averaging 281 innings per season and completing more than half his starts. But his worst season in that span was the 1975 pennant year for Boston, when he went 18-14 with a 4.02 ERA.

If he'd had his 1966-68 seasons alongside his 1972-1976 years his record would look more like Hunter's, rather than having that three-year gap of ineffectiveness mixed in. If 1975 had been one of his best seasons, it would have had a larger impact than his forgotten great 1968 season.

2. Not understanding park effects. Why is Tiant's WAR higher than Drysdale's or Hunter's? He pitched in Fenway, a great hitter's park in the '70s, while Drysdale and Hunter spent many of their prime seasons in great pitcher's parks in Dodger Stadium and Oakland. Today, voters would consider this more than when those guys were on the ballot in the 1980s.

3. Timing. Consider this: When Drysdale hit the ballot for the first time in 1975, he received 21 percent of the vote. When Tiant hit the ballot in 1988, he received 30.9 percent. From there, Drysdale's support increased and he was elected on his 10th try. Tiant, meanwhile, fell to 10.5 percent in his second year and never recovered. Hunter sailed in more easily, topping 50 percent his first year in 1985 and getting elected in 1987.

So what happened? In 1975 and 1976, Robin Roberts and Bob Lemon were both on the ballot and Drysdale didn't get much support. After those two were elected in 1976, Drysdale's support increased more than 20 percent in 1977 as he was regarded as the best pitcher on the ballot. (Jim Bunning was the best new name on the ballot.) From there, Drysdale made steady upward progress until 1981, when Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal joined the ballot. Gibson made it into the Hall his first year as Drysdale's percentage dropped in 1981 and 1982. Marichal made it in 1983. Cleared of those two, Drysdale then gained elected in 1984.

Hunter joined the ballot in 1985. Hoyt Wilhelm was elected that year and Bunning was the only other strong pitching candidate. Hunter made it in 1987 -- a pretty weak ballot overall. Billy Williams was the top vote-getter (in his sixth year on the ballot) and Hunter was the other player elected, while Bunning, Orlando Cepeda and Roger Maris rounded out the top five. The overall lack of strong candidates undoubtedly helped Hunter.

That gets us to Tiant in 1988. He did OK for a first-timer; as mentioned, he started from a better place than Drysdale. Willie Stargell made it that year and Bunning just missed. But then look what happened:

1989: Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins joined the ballot (along with Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski, who got elected).

1990: Jim Palmer (elected).

1991: Perry and Jenkins elected, Rollie Fingers joined the ballot. (Bunning, who had peaked at 74.2 percent in 1988, fell off to 63.7 in his final year.)

1992: Tom Seaver and Fingers elected.

1993: Phil Niekro joined the ballot.

1994: Steve Carlton elected, Don Sutton joined the ballot.

1997: Niekro elected.

1998: Sutton elected.

By then, Tiant's momentum had long since ended, memories of his best days more than 20 years in the past. Drysdale and Hunter had missed the rush of Palmer, Jenkins and all the 300-game winners. Tiant paled in comparison to that group and his case died. Such is the way Hall of Fame voting often works with the borderline players.

* * * *

As for Oliva, he had half of a Hall of Fame career -- he won three batting titles and led the AL in hits five times with the Twins while twice finishing second in the MVP vote -- but bad knees eventually hurt his productivity and shortened his career. Like Tiant, his voting percentage peaked in 1988 (47.3 percent) but then declined as bigger stars came on the ballot. From 1964 to 1971, he had 42.2 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com, ninth among position players. Seven of the eight ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame (Dick Allen being the exception) as are several below him who played all those seasons (Willie McCovey, Billy Williams, Harmon Killebrew, Pete Rose, Al Kaline, Lou Brock, Willie Stargell).

Oliva was a good one.
I was asked this the other day: How many players from this year's All-Star Game will be Hall of Famers?

My quick answer: Probably more than you think. Before we answer that question, let's look back at some games of the past for reference (* indicates player started).

1994: Three Rivers Stadium

Hall of Famers (10): Roberto Alomar*, Wade Boggs*, Frank Thomas*, Kirby Puckett*, Cal Ripken*, Paul Molitor, Tony Gwynn*, Ozzie Smith*, Greg Maddux*, Barry Larkin.

Future Hall of Famers (3): Ken Griffey Jr.*, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson.

Probably make it (4): Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza*, Mike Mussina, Ivan Rodriguez*.

Who knows (1): Barry Bonds*.

Has an argument (3): David Cone, Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, Kenny Lofton.

That was some American League starting lineup -- five guys are already in the Hall of Fame and Griffey and Rodriguez will make it, assuming Pudge skirts past PED allegations that will pop up. The only non-Hall of Famers in the AL starting nine were Joe Carter and Jimmy Key.

By the way, the game itself was a good one. McGriff hit a two-run homer off Lee Smith in the bottom of the ninth to tie it for the National League and then they scored off Jason Bere in the 10th to win 8-7 (Moises Alou doubled in Gwynn). Rosters were smaller then -- only 28 players on the AL squad, which didn't even include a second shortstop. Ripken and Rodriguez played the entire game as did Gwynn. Maddux actually pitched three innings.

1985: Metrodome

Hall of Famers (16) -- Tony Gwynn*, Ozzie Smith*, Ryne Sandberg, Gary Carter, Goose Gossage, Nolan Ryan, Rickey Henderson*, George Brett*, Eddie Murray*, Cal Ripken*, Dave Winfield*, Jim Rice*, Carlton Fisk*, Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor, Bert Blyleven.

Probably make it (2): Tim Raines, Jack Morris*.

Who knows: Pete Rose.

Has an argument (3): Dale Murphy*, Lou Whitaker*, Alan Trammell, Dave Parker.

In the previous All-Star Game in Minnesota, the AL starting lineup featured seven Hall of Famers -- the most for any league since 1960. And Morris probably makes it eventually via the Veterans Committee. That leaves only the underrated Whitaker, certainly deserving of consideration if you like career WAR, so it's possible that someday all nine AL starters will make it. That has happened before: All nine 1934 AL starters are Hall of Famers -- Charlie Gehringer, Heinie Manush, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey and Lefty Gomez. The NL squad that year was pretty good as well, with Wally Berger as the only non-Hall of Famer. (Not coincidentally, the 1930s are the most overrepresented era in the Hall of Fame.)

Anyway, the NL won 6-1 in 1985 behind starter LaMarr Hoyt and Ryan, who each pitched three innings.

1979: Kingdome

Hall of Famers (15): Mike Schmidt*, Dave Winfield*, Steve Carlton*, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Lou Brock, Gaylord Perry, Bruce Sutter, George Brett*, Jim Rice*, Carl Yastrzemski*, Nolan Ryan*, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson.

Has an argument: Dave Parker*, Dave Concepcion, Keith Hernandez, Ted Simmons, Bobby Grich, Tommy John.

Who knows: Pete Rose.

The game I attended as a kid has 15 Hall of Famers, plus Rose and a few others who could eventually draw support via the Veterans Committee (although Parker, Concepcion, Simmons and John have already appeared on the VC ballot and failed to get elected). The game was one of the best All-Star Games ever.

1970: Riverfront Stadium

Hall of Famers (19): Luis Aparicio*, Carl Yastrzemski*, Frank Robinson*, Harmon Killebrew*, Jim Palmer*, Rod Carew, Brooks Robinson, Catfish Hunter, Willie Mays*, Henry Aaron*, Tony Perez*, Johnny Bench*, Tom Seaver*, Willie McCovey, Joe Morgan, Roberto Clemente, Bob Gibson, Gaylord Perry, Hoyt Wilhelm.

Also: Joe Torre (elected as a manager, but borderline as a player).

Who knows: Pete Rose.

This was the famous game when Rose barreled over Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the 12th inning. What's forgotten is the NL scored three runs off Hunter and Fritz Peterson in the bottom of the ninth to tie it.

1964: Shea Stadium

Hall of Famers (17): Mickey Mantle*, Harmon Killebrew*, Brooks Robinson*, Al Kaline, Luis Aparacio, Whitey Ford, Roberto Clemente*, Billy Williams*, Orlando Cepeda*, Don Drysdale*, Bill Mazeroski, Ron Santo, Henry Aaron, Willie Stargell, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal.

Note that 11 of the 17 Hall of Famers were from the National League -- the Senior Circuit had a big talent advantage back then. Johnny Callison hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to cap a four-run rally as the NL won 7-4. Steve Wulf wrote a great feature on Callison's hard-knock life last year.

OK, so what about 2014? History would suggest we'll have at least 15 future Hall of Famers, maybe more. Of course, we also have more All-Stars to choose from, as rosters have expanded in recent years to 34 active players, plus others who were replaced.

Here's a guess:

Locks (2): Derek Jeter, Miguel Cabrera.

If this year's game seemed particularly lacking in big stars, this is probably why: I see only two locks.

Building strong cases (2): Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre, Yadier Molina.

Borderline veterans (2): Tim Hudson, Chase Utley.

On the right path (6): Mike Trout, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen, Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton.

After that? It's a crapshoot. Adam Wainwright has 111 career wins but is already 32. Mark Buehrle will be viewed more as a compiler. It's too early to judge some of the other young players -- David Price, Yu Darvish, Paul Goldschmidt, Yasiel Puig, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner and so on. But some of that group will emerge down the road.

It does make me wonder if the talent right now is skewing young; also, we're in a pitching era, which deflates some of the hitter stats. But pitchers also have a tougher time making the Hall of Fame, at least by current standards.
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Which of these three birthday boys should go into the Hall of Fame?

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Happy birthday to Chipper Jones, Omar Vizquel and the still-active Carlos Beltran.

Today's question: How many of those three should make the Hall of Fame?

OK, Chipper is an obvious Hall of Famer, Vizquel and Beltran less so.

Some quick numbers for Vizquel: Most games ever at shortstop; 2,877 career hits; 1,445 runs; .272 average; 11 Gold Gloves; three-time All-Star; career WAR of 45.3.

Beltran: 363 home runs; 1,340 RBIs; 1,356 runs; three Gold Gloves; eight-time All-Star; 308 stolen bases; .333, 16 HR in 51 postseason games; 68.3 career WAR.
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?

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

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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?

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