SweetSpot: Alan Trammell
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.
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.
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?
Personally, I think the one-to-one ratio of Hall of Famer per team sounds about right. It's fewer than the overrepresented 1920s and 1930s, about what we have for the '50s and '60s but fewer than what we have for the '70s and '80s.
So, who is missing from the '70s and '80s? Here are 10 guys I would put in. WAR totals and rankings from Baseball-Reference.com.
Tim Raines (69.1 WAR, 105th all time)
Ballot history: After starting out with just 24 percent of the vote in 2008 he's started climbing in recent years and was up to 52 percent last year.
This will be Raines' seventh year on the ballot, and while he'll probably stagnate in the next couple years with some big names on the ballot, he looks like he'll eventually get in before his 15 years is up.
Alan Trammell (70.4 WAR, 94th)
Ballot history: After 12 years on the ballot, he was at 33 percent last year. He won't get elected via the BBWAA.
I've never understood why Trammell was never able to build a case. His career numbers are very similar to Barry Larkin's, minus a few steals, and Larkin made it in on his third year. Even if you think Larkin was a little better, if Larkin's case is 100 percent then Trammell's should be about 98 percent. Two differences: Larkin won an MVP and Trammell finished second when he should have won; Larkin didn't have Cal Ripken in his league.
Lou Whitaker (74.8, 77th)
Ballot history: Got 3 percent his first year and fell off.
Whitaker's career numbers are pretty similar to Roberto Alomar's: .276/.363/.426 with a 117 OPS+ versus .300/.371/.443 with a 116 OPS+. Alomar had more steals and the better defensive reputation although Whitaker was very good and won three Gold Gloves. It's not necessarily that Whitaker was as good as Alomar but that he compares very favorably. The case against him is that his peak wasn't as high -- his five best seasons were worth 28.9 WAR compared to Alomar's five best at 33.0 -- but he was very good even up to his final season. You know what hurt him? He hit the ballot in 2001, when even middle infielders were putting up huge offensive numbers. Whitaker's good seasons looked less impressive at the time.
Dwight Evans (66.7, 125th)
Ballot history: First came on in 1997, lasted three years before getting booted.
Evans had received 10 percent his second year, which while not great at least gave him some momentum from his first year. Maybe his case would have exploded like Bert Blyleven's. But the 1999 ballot added Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount and everybody else suffered as a result. Evans, of course, is a sabermetric darling. He did things well that Jim Rice, his Hall of Fame teammate on the Red Sox, didn't: draw walks, play superb defense. The walks meant that Evans posted a higher on-base percentage even though Rice had the higher average. You'd think a guy who won eight Gold Gloves, hit 385 home runs in the pre-steroid era, drove in 1384 runs and scored 1470 would have been more appreciated. Part of his problem was that he was better in his 30s than his 20s. He wasn't a Hall of Famer for the first half his career so not enough people thought of him as one.
Bobby Grich (71.0, 90th)
Ballot history: One and done.
Yes, another sabermetric favorite. He had good power for a second baseman for his era, drew a ton of walks and won four Gold Gloves. An enormously valuable player in his time -- Baseball-Reference ranks him as one of the top seven position players in the AL in seven different seasons, including first in 1973.
Orel Hershiser (56.8, 209th)
Ballot history: Received 11 percent his first year and then fell off in his second. Odd.
Hershiser won "only" 204 games and thus his early exit from the ballot. I'm not saying he's a lock candidate, but why has Jack Morris' case taken off while Hershiser was dumped so quickly? At his peak, Hershiser was more dominant and his 1988 postseason heroics certainly are the equal of Morris' Game 7. OK, Morris won more games. Maybe a better comparison is another former Dodgers pitcher, Don Drysdale, who made it in with 209 career wins. Hershiser's career ERA isn't as good but he also had to pitch in the high-scoring late '90s during the decline phase of his career. Like Drysdale, he was famous during his peak (not mention Hershiser broke Drysdale's scoreless-inning record). Postseason career: 8-3, 2.59 ERA in 22 games (18 starts).
Keith Hernandez (60.1, 177th)
Ballot history: Stayed on for nine years, peaking at 11 percent.
As a first baseman, you make the Hall of Fame for your bat, thus Hernandez never drew much support. Still, he was a .296 career hitter, drew walks, played on two World Series champs and is regarded as maybe the best defensive first baseman ever. His career WAR is Hall of Fame borderline but Hernandez was also one of the most iconic players of the '80s, if you want to put stock into that. (And, yes, Hernandez over Don Mattingly, who simply had too short of a peak.)
Luis Tiant (66.7, 125th)
Ballot history: Stayed on for 15 years.
Here's what's interesting about Tiant: He received 30 percent of the vote his first year on the ballot, 1988. People have been elected with worse starting positions -- Rice, Blyleven, Bruce Sutter. Drysdale received just 21 percent his first year. So initially there was a strong belief in Tiant as a possible Hall of Famer, with his 229 career wins and popular personality. He to fell 11 percent his second year. What happened? Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins entered the ballot in 1989. Then Jim Palmer. Then Tom Seaver in 1992, Phil Niekro in 1993, Steve Carlton in 1994. He wasn't as good as those guys so everyone forgot about him.
Ted Simmons (50.2, 289th)
Ballot history: One and done. He's on the Veterans Committee ballot this year.
I'm on the fence with Simmons, but he does rank 10th all time in catcher WAR and I'd argue that the top 10 at each position are strong Hall of Fame candidates. He wasn't Johnny Bench, but who was? From 1971 to 1980 he hit .301 and averaged 90 RBIs per season.
Pete Rose (79.4, 64th)
Ballot history: Actually received 9.5 percent of the vote in 1992.
OK, maybe including Rose is cheating a bit.
* * * *
So that's 10 players. Others you could argue for: Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Willie Randolph; Graig Nettles isn't that dissimilar from Brooks Robinson; Rick Reuschel's career WAR is higher than Palmer, Drysdale, Sutton or Juan Marichal; Lee Smith has done pretty well in the BBWAA voting and is still on the ballot. Tommy John, Dave Concepcion, Dave Parker, Steve Garvey and Dan Quisenberry are on the Veterans Committee ballot this year, which makes them all candidates, although I think only John has a strong case. (Quisenberry is no different from Sutter, however, so there's that.) Dave Stieb was dominant in the '80s; with a little more luck he could have won three Cy Young Awards and been a stronger choice.
Part of the problem voters face is that as the quality of talent improves over time it becomes harder for the great players to separate themselves. So Stieb looks like Hershiser who looks like Bret Saberhagen who looks like Dwight Gooden and none of them were Tom Seaver so nobody gets in.
I know many (most?) of you believe electing guys like those above would weaken the Hall of Fame. That's sort of my ultimate point; if your Hall of Fame is Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken, then your bar is way above the established level of actual Hall of Famers. Let's just give guys from recent decades their fair due.
Back in the first draft, it was still possible to dig up a relatively unknown kid from rural Oklahoma. Bench wasn't selected until the second round -- the 36th player overall -- and seven other catchers went ahead of him. Jim McLaughlin, the Reds' farm director in 1965, in Kevin Kerrane's classic book on scouting, "Dollar Sign on the Muscle":
A friend of mine with another club said, "You better send someone down to Binger, Oklahoma, to look at this kid Bench. We're not gonna draft him because the general manager's seen another he likes up in New England." ... They took that New England catcher on the first round, and the kid never got above Double A. And we took Bench on the second round. It was kind of a poker game. Nobody else knew much about him; his team hadn't played many games, and our scout was usually the only one there, so we could wait. After the draft Bill DeWitt, my boss, said, "I've never heard of him." I said, "I know you haven't, but you will. And that's why you hired me -- to hear about kids like this one."
Does McLaughlin's story check out? Sort of. There was no catcher from New England drafted in the first round, but the Orioles did take a catcher from Dartmouth in the second round -- one pick ahead of Bench. As to the claim that nobody else knew about Bench, at least one other team saw him: the Dodgers drafted a high school teammate of Bench's in the seventh round, but passed twice on selecting Bench.
1966: Reggie Jackson falls into A's lap
In one of the more famous draft blunders, the Mets' had the No. 1 pick and passed on Arizona State outfielder Jackson to select a high school catcher named Steve Chilcott, who would battle injuries and never reach the majors. "It was a position pick," said Joe McDonald, a Mets executive at the time. "We did not feel we had an adequate catching prospect in the organization."
1966: Braves draft Tom Seaver
The Braves? Yep. Atlanta selected Seaver in the now non-existent January secondary phase of the draft (for players who had previously been drafted). Seaver, pitching at USC, had been drafted the previous June by the Dodgers, but didn't sign after the Dodgers turned down his $70,000 asking price. The Braves took him with the 20th pick of the January phase, setting off a weird chain of events. The Braves signed Seaver for $40,000, but commissioner Spike Eckert ruled Seaver was ineligible to sign because USC had already played two exhibition games (Seaver didn't pitch). But the NCAA then declared Seaver ineligible, because he had signed a pro contract. So Eckert ruled that any team willing to match the Braves' offer would enter a lottery. The Mets, Phillies and Indians matched, and the Mets won the lottery.
1971: George Brett and Mike Schmidt drafted back-to-back
Pretty cool that arguably the two greatest third basemen in history were drafted the same year with consecutive picks. The catch: They went in the second round, Brett and then Schmidt. The Royals' first-round pick was a pitcher named Roy Branch, who briefly reached the majors but never won a game; the Phillies' pick was Roy Thomas, who had a marginal eight-year career as a reliever, although never pitched in the majors for the Phillies.
1976: Trammell and Morris ... and Ozzie (sort of)
In 1976, the Tigers had one of the great drafts ever, selecting Steve Kemp in the January phase and then Alan Trammell (second round), Dan Petry (fourth round), and Jack Morris (fifth round). Trammell and Morris aren't in the Hall of Fame yet, but both could get there someday. No team has ever drafted (and signed) two future Hall of Famers in the same draft. The kicker: They also drafted Ozzie Smith in the seventh round, but he didn't sign, and the Padres selected him the following year.
1987: Mariners draft Ken Griffey Jr.
The Mariners owned the first overall pick, and penurious Mariners owner George Argyros wanted the club to draft college pitcher Mike Harkey, because he would be easier to sign and presumably quicker to reach the majors. Scouting director Roger Jongewaard won out in the end. (Harkey went fourth overall, to the Cubs.)
1988: Dodgers draft Mike Piazza ... in 62nd round
Maybe the most famous late-round pick, Piazza was the Dodgers' final pick that year -- the 1,390th pick overall out of 1,395.
1990: Braves land Chipper Jones
Hard-throwing high school right-hander Todd Van Poppel was the consensus top talent in the 1990 draft -- "the best pitching prospect ever" label had been slapped on him -- but his declaration that he didn't want to sign and instead attend the University of Texas scared teams off him. So the Braves took Jones, which worked out pretty well for them.
2000: Cardinals draft Yadier Molina
The 2000 draft as one of the worst ever -- after top pick Adrian Gonzalez (by the Marlins), the rest of the top 15 were Adam Johnson, Luis Montanez, Mike Stodolka, Justin Wayne, Rocco Baldelli, Matt Harrington, Matt Wheatland, Mark Phillips, Joe Torres, Dave Krynzel, Joe Borchard, Shaun Boyd, Beau Hale and Chase Utley (OK, finally one that panned out). Keep that list in mind when you get excited about your team's first-round pick this year. The only other first-round of note that year was Adam Wainwright (by the Braves). He would eventually get traded to St. Louis, where he would team with a young catcher from Puerto Rico also drafted in 2000.
2009: Nationals draft Stephen Strasburg
The story here is how the Mariners kicked away the No. 1 overall selection. The Nationals headed into the final weekend with a record of 59-99, having gone 3-11 over their previous 14 games. The Mariners were 58-101 and had lost 14 of 15. This was tanking at its best. All the Mariners had to do was lose one game to lock up the first pick. One loss. Easy, right? Instead the Mariners sweep the A's. The Nationals lose all three. Josh Outman's throwing error sets up Yuniesky Betancourt's two-run go-ahead in triple in the fifth inning of the season finale. In other words, if Outman doesn't throw the ball away, Strasburg might be in a Mariners uniform instead of a Nationals one. (With the second pick, the Mariners selected Dustin Ackley.)
Is this a sad day for baseball? Maybe not. There will be another election next year and one the year after that. I presume onward into the future players will get elected. But this year? The Baseball Writers' Association of America struck out.
Nobody can deny the current process is broken. This summer, the Hall of Fame will hold an induction ceremony that will honor three individuals who have been dead for over 70 years. Only one of those was a player, and Deacon White played so long ago he was a catcher without a glove.
The Hall of Fame is a museum, but there will be no Astros fans trekking to Cooperstown to see Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell inducted and take a tour of baseball history. There will be no Tigers and Twins fans going to see Jack Morris get in. No Expos fans cheering Tim Raines, Mariners fans driving 3,000 miles to see the great Edgar Martinez inducted or throngs of Mets fans making the short drive to see Mike Piazza's speech.
If you've never been to the Hall of Fame, maybe this summer is the time to go. The lines will be short.
Some quick thoughts:
The BBWAA went against its history by not electing Biggio. Every eligible player with 3,000 hits except Paul Waner and Rafael Palmeiro was elected in his first year on the ballot (Pete Rose being ineligible). Somehow the writers didn't find room for a player who scored the 15th most runs in history. He'll get in next year.
Jack Morris (67.7 percent)
I almost feel sorry for Morris at this point. His vote total went up just 1 percentage point from last year, leaving him 42 votes short of election. He has one year left on the ballot, and while players as close as Morris often get the sympathy vote when they get this close, his candidacy will be hurt by the addition of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine to next year's ballot, two pitchers in a higher class than Morris. I just heard Bob Costas on MLB Network mention that the sabermetric community has hurt Morris' case, unlike how it helped Bert Blyleven's case. I think Costas is 100 percent wrong with that statement. In Morris' first five years on the ballot, he received less than 30 percent of the vote. He was initially rejected because voters looked at his 3.90 career ERA as unworthy of Hall status. His totals have risen through the years despite the strong sabermetric evidence against him.
Jeff Bagwell (59.6) and Mike Piazza (57.8)
Bagwell's total increased 3.6 percentage points from last year, and Piazza fared well for a first-ballot guy. By historical measures, both are on an excellent Hall of Fame path. Barry Larkin, for example, received 51.6 percent his first year, 62.1 percent the next and was elected in his third year with 86.4 percent. Bagwell and Piazza are tied to PED rumors, so historical measures may not apply to them; Bagwell's total certainly didn't rise as rapidly as Larkin's did. Still, it's also true that Bagwell and Piazza are being viewed differently than Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
Tim Raines (52.2)
In his sixth year on the ballot, Raines' total increased from 48.7 percent. He still has nine years to get in; he'll get there.
Lee Smith (47.8)
While Smith's support isn't surprising in light of the fact that three of the past 14 members elected by the BBWAA have been relief pitchers, it continues to baffle me. Yes, he racked up a lot of saves, but I always put the Smith question this way: At any point in his career, even when he was at his scariest, most dominant peak, would he have been traded for a Dale Murphy, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling or Alan Trammell? Of course not. Smith's general manager would have been laughed off the phone, yet he got more votes than any of those guys. His vote total did drop and it was his 11th year, so he's a guy who was affected by the crowded ballot. His chances took a big turn for the worse.
Curt Schilling (38.8)
While it's amazing that Schilling received almost 30 percentage points fewer votes than Morris, this is actually a decent vote total for a first-year candidate. It may be a slow trek for him, but I believe he's on the path to induction.
Roger Clemens(37.6) and Barry Bonds (36.2)
No surprise that these two received less than 40 percent. The most interesting fact is that Clemens received eight more votes than Bonds.
Edgar Martinez (35.9)
In his fourth year, Martinez lost a few votes. He is already fighting the bias against designated hitters, so even though he is just one of 16 players with at least 10 seasons with a .400 OBP (11 total), this wasn't a good day for him.
Alan Trammell (33.6)
Trammell also lost votes. His bandwagon didn't really begin until last year, but it's too late for him and the ballot is too crowded. He is every bit the Hall of Famer that Larkin is, but with three years left, it will be up to some future version of the Veterans Committee to put him in.
Sammy Sosa (12.5) and Rafael Palmeiro (8.8)
They stayed on the ballot, but they're not getting in, at least not through the BBWAA.
Bernie Williams (3.3) and Kenny Lofton (3.2)
Maybe the most discouraging result of the day is that Williams and Lofton -- admittedly, borderline guys -- will be booted off future ballots, their cases never given the opportunity to be argued. Whitaker'd.
* * *
So there we go. A crowded ballot gets even more crowded next year with the additions of Maddux, Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent. Good luck, voters.
Comparison No. 1
I should note that these two are contemporaries and the Hall of Famer made it in the first year he was on the ballot.
While the Hall of Famer was never considered the best player in the game, there is an argument to be made that the non-Hall of Famer was the best player in the game at his peak.
Both were good defensive players and had speed, at least early in their careers.
Comparison No. 2
Both had some monster seasons, however. The Hall of Famer led his league in several offensive categories at various times, including runs scored, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The non-Hall of Famer also led his league in home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Both were considered good all-around players.
The Hall of Famer took a few years to get elected, but nobody ever calls him out as a poor selection.
Comparison No. 3
I can say these two were pretty similar in many ways, both among the biggest names in the sport while active, with some legendary tales about their performances.
Both pitched for multiple World Series champions but neither came close to 300 wins. Their adjusted ERAs are pretty similar.
When elected, the Hall of Famer was viewed as a controversial selection, in large part because of his win total. The non-Hall of Famer will have to face that same bias.
Comparison No. 4
The Hall of Famer made it on his first year on the ballot and made seven All-Star teams. The non-Hall of Famer made five All-Star teams. Both led their league twice in home runs.
The Hall of Famer hit 30-plus home runs six times while the non-Hall of Famer hit 30-plus home runs 10 times, including six seasons in a row at one point.
According to Baseball-Reference, both players had five seasons with 4-plus WAR.
Comparison No. 5
They didn't play the same position, but both did play key up-the-middle positions and were awarded multiple Gold Gloves in their careers.
One guy was part of more than one World Series champion while the other never played in a World Series. The Hall of Famer made it in on his third year on the ballot while the non-Hall of Famer has work to do.
As far as fame, both would rate very high in that category while active. Had they played longer, both would have a better chance to meet some of the automatic Hall of Fame standards.
Comparison No. 6
Both were arguably the best player on a World Series championship team.
While the Hall of Famer made it after a short stay on the ballot, the non-Hall of Famer has struggled to get enough support. Both players won multiple Gold Gloves. The Hall of Famer hit .300 nine times and the non-Hall of Famer hit .300 seven times.
According to Baseball-Reference, the Hall of Famer had eight four-win seasons while the non-Hall of Famer had nine. This one is close.
Comparison No. 1: Player A is Tony Gwynn and Player B is Tim Raines.
Of course, I left out Gwynn's 3,000 hits and .338 career average. But as you can see from above, the two were quite similar players: Raines drew more walks, hit a few more home runs and stole more bases at an excellent percentage, making up the advantage Gwynn had in base hits. But Gwynn won batting titles and Raines' dominant years in the '80s came in the obscurity of Montreal.
Comparison No. 2: Player A is Larry Walker and Player B is Duke Snider.
Snider's Hall of Fame case was originally hurt by the fact that he wasn't Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. Of course, who is? But he was a key member of one of the great teams of all time, the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers. Snider never won an MVP Award but finished as high as second; Walker won MVP in 1997. Of course, Walker is questioned because of the Coors Field numbers, but as you can see, each player's adjusted OPS is about the same. (Ebbets Field was a great hitters' park as well, and Snider's career OPS is 79 points higher at home.)
Comparison No. 3: Player A is Curt Schilling and Player B is Don Drysdale.
Two hard-throwing right-handers who racked up strikeouts. Schilling, of course, has the great postseason record (11-2, 2.23 ERA); Drysdale was 3-3, 2.95 in the postseason (all World Series games). Both pitched for three World Series champs. Drysdale has the lower career ERA -- 2.95 to 3.46 -- but once you adjust for eras and ballpark (Dodger Stadium in the '60s was a great pitchers' park), Schilling's ERA is a little better.
Comparison No. 4: Player A is Willie Stargell and Player B is Fred McGriff.
And both had cool nicknames as well -- Pops and Crime Dog. Stargell did win an MVP (shared with Keith Hernandez) but that was an award earned for leadership more than production; he did finish second twice in the voting. McGriff finished as high as fourth in the voting.
Comparison No. 5: Player A is Bernie Williams and Player B is Ryne Sandberg.
This was my favorite comparison on the list. Sandberg made it on the third ballot while Williams, despite playing center field for four World Series champs, got just under 10 percent of the vote his first year on the ballot. Shouldn't center fielders be given a similar defensive consideration as second basemen?
Comparison No. 6: Player A is Barry Larkin and Player B is Alan Trammell.
There is very little to separate these two. Larkin did win an MVP Award, but Trammell should have won in 1987, when he finished second. Larkin played until he was 40, but their career games totals are similar. I think his edge over Trammell is that once Ozzie Smith faded, Larkin was viewed as the best shortstop in the National League. Trammell was always behind somebody -- Robin Yount or Cal Ripken, and then after he retired, the AL had all the shortstops putting up the big numbers -- A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada. But there's no shame in being ranked behind Yount or Ripken. Trammell deserves to join Larkin in Cooperstown.
In 1978, four rookies helped the Tigers win 86 games, ending a stretch of four consecutive losing seasons. That group -- Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Lance Parrish -- would be the core of a team that would finish over .500 for the next decade, peaking with a 104-win season and World Series title in 1984 and another American League East title in 1987. While it wasn't exactly historic -- the Tigers would win 90-plus games just three times in that 11-year stretch -- it was certainly a terrific run of success.
Yet that club has just one Hall of Famer so far -- manager Sparky Anderson.
Morris, of course, has a chance to get in when the balloting results are announced Wednesday. But is he the right Tiger who should go in? Trammell remains on the ballot as well, but received just 37 percent of the vote last year. Whitaker, despite strong but underappreciated credentials, fell off the ballot after one year. Their career stats:
Morris: 254-186, 3.90 ERA, 3824 IP, 3567 H, 1390 BB, 2478 K, 39.3 WAR
Trammell: 2293 G, .285/.352/.415, 185 HR, 1003 RBI, 1231 R, 67.1 WAR
Whitaker: 2390 G, .276/.363/.426, 244 HR, 1084 RBI, 1386 R, 71.4 WAR
Let's do a quick survey of how the three players ranked in James' annual "Abstract," to give us another view of how they were viewed at the time.
Morris: Fourth among starting pitchers (behind Fernando Valenzuela, Steve McCatty and Steve Carlton). Morris had a career-best 3.05 ERA in that strike season (it was also the lowest-scoring season in the AL between 1977 and 2012).
Trammell: Sixth among shortstops.
Whitaker: Seventh among second basemen.
Morris: Fifth among starting pitchers (behind Carlton, Dave Stieb, Fernando and Steve Rogers).
Trammell: Fourth among shortstops (behind Robin Yount, Dave Concepcion and Dickie Thon).
Whitaker: Third among second basemen (behind Bobby Grich and Joe Morgan).
Morris: Fifth among right-handed starters. One of his best seasons: 20-13, 3.34 ERA, led the AL in innings and strikeouts.
Trammell: Fourth among shortstops (behind Yount, Thon and Cal Ripken).
Whitaker: First among second basemen. Hit .320, won a Gold Glove, eighth in MVP voting (the only time he received MVP votes).
Morris: James rated entire rotations instead of pitchers. Morris didn't rank in the top 10 in the AL in ERA or innings.
Trammell: Second among AL shortstops. Trammell was the World Series MVP, hitting .450 with two homers and six RBIs.
Whitaker: First among AL second basemen.
Morris: Fourth among AL right-handers (behind Bret Saberhagen, Stieb and Bert Blyleven). In separate article on the Hall of Fame progress of active players, James wrote, "Among the pitchers of his generation, Jack Morris is the one who is making the strongest progress toward the Hall of Fame. It is not that he has done anything spectacular that immediately projects him forward, as Dwight Gooden did last year, but that he is picking up plusses here, there and everywhere, adding something almost every year.
Trammell: Third among AL shortstops (behind Ripken and Tony Fernandez).
Whitaker: First among AL second basemen. "May have been the only unanimous selection other than Gooden," James wrote.
Morris: Fourth among AL pitchers. "He's probably three or four good years away from the Hall of Fame now."
Trammell: Fourth among AL shortstops (behind Fernandez, Ripken and Julio Franco).
Whitaker: Third among AL second basemen.
Morris: Second among MLB right-handed starters (behind Roger Clemens). "For the ninth straight year, Jack Morris last year did a few things that would be characteristic of a Hall of Fame pitcher."
Trammell: Third among MLB shortstops (behind Ozzie and Fernandez). A little surprising that Trammell didn't rate ahead of Fernandez, after finishing second in the MVP vote (and he should have won it over George Bell).
Whitaker: Third among MLB second basemen.
James did not publish a book in 1989.
James published "The Baseball Book," but did not include player rankings. He did include his 1980s decade All-Star team and had Morris as the No. 3 starting pitcher, behind Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens. That's the argument, of course, that has essentially gained Morris momentum in recent years ("Most wins in the '80s.") Morris did pitch the most innings in the decade, and while defining a decade as artificial as any 10-year division, it is instructive to note what happened to the other top pitchers on James' all-decade team:
- Dwight Gooden: Suffered shoulder injury in 1989.
- Roger Clemens: All-time great.
- Ron Guidry: First season didn't come until he was 26, so had a short career. Crushes Morris in career Cy Young shares -- he's 16th while Morris is 76th.
- Bob Welch: 211-146, 3.47 in career, won a Cy Young award, received one vote for Hall of Fame.
- John Tudor: Developed late and then got hurt, but was great for a few years.
- Orel Hershiser: Led National League three consecutive years in innings pitched and then tore rotator cuff. Came back and managed to win 204 games. Fell off the ballot in second year.
- Teddy Higuera: The little guy from Mexico could really bring it. Was 27 as a rookie and later had back surgery and then tore his rotator cuff.
- Bret Saberhagen: Two-time Cy Young winner had thrown over 1,300 innings at age 25 (Morris had just under 600). Shoulder issues rest of career.
- Dave Stieb: Had the second-most wins in the '80s. Averaged 275 innings from ages 24-27. Morris averaged 228 at the same ages. Shoulder and back injuries.
- Fernando Valenzuela: Led league in innings at age 20. Averaged 269 innings from 21 through 25. Arm died.
You see what happened here, right? Most of the best pitchers of the '80s got hurt. With guys like Valenzuela, Gooden and Saberhagen, it's not surprising, seeing in retrospect the workloads they carried as young pitchers. This requires a more in-depth article, but the 1980s was a sort of transition decade: Teams were moving to five-man rotations, hitters were getting bigger and stronger, the 300-inning workloads of the 1970s had ceased, but pitchers weren't handled as carefully as now and medical and training techniques weren't as advanced.
Morris and Clemens -- both college pitchers, by the way -- weren't abused at a young age like some of the other top pitchers. They survived. Morris first threw 200 innings at age 24 (between the majors and minors) and threw 250 at age 25, but then had the shortened season at age 26. His first back-to-back big workloads didn't come until 27-28.
That makes Morris unique for his generation of pitchers -- but doesn't make his value more than what it was. But back to the point: Based on James' rankings, Morris was considered one of the best pitchers at the time -- not the No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3 guy, but you don't have to be the very best to achieve Hall of Fame status.
Trammell and Whitaker also ranked consistently high and there was certainly a time when Whitaker was defended as the best second baseman in baseball. Trammell might not have quite achieved that status -- but, again, you don't have to be No. 1 to be a Hall of Famer (it would be a small Hall of Fame if that were the case). On the other hand, Morris probably was the most famous of the three. One year, James wrote that one of these days America would wake up and realize how great Whitaker was. That, unfortunately, never did happen, even though Whitaker remained effective until he retired after 1995 (he slugged .518 that year).
OK, this was really just a long post to give a reason to post the poll above. What do you think?
In 1977, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, Steve Kemp and Dave Rozema debuted for the Detroit Tigers. Trammell, Whitaker and Parrish were September call-ups; Morris debuted in late July and made six starts; Rozema won 15 games as a 20-year-old rookie, completing 16 of his 28 starts; Kemp was the oldest of the group, turning 23 in August that year, and he hit .257 with 18 home runs, 71 walks and 88 RBIs.
It was an amazing collection of talent. Here, compare their career WAR figures from Baseball-Reference to the fabled 1995 Yankees' group of debut players:
What's more, the team also had 23-year-old All-Star first baseman Jason Thompson, who hit .270 with 31 home runs; center fielder Ron LeFlore, who hit .325 and scored 100 runs; outfielder Ben Oglivie, who hit 21 home runs and slugged .464; and in 1979, Dan Petry and Kirk Gibson reached the majors.
From there, it only took the Tigers until 1984 to win the division. With all the talk of Jack Morris this week, I was thinking about those Tigers teams and wondering, with all that talent, why it took them so long to finally gel into a playoff team. Their seasonal records:
1979: 85-76 (Sparky Anderson hired midseason)
For five years seasons, the Tigers remained stagnant. Why, despite all that young talent, didn't the Tigers improve? A few reasons:
1. Thompson was an All-Star again in '78 but had a poor 1979, and after a slow start in 1980, was traded for outfielder Al Cowens, who hit six home runs in two years with Detroit.
2. Oglivie was traded in 1978 to the Brewers for Jim Slaton, who pitched one year for the Tigers and then signed as a free agent with ... the Brewers. Oglivie became a three-time All-Star with the Brewers, including a 41-homer season in 1980.
3. LeFlore was traded after the 1979 season to the Expos for Dan Schatzeder. Deal didn't work out for either team.
4. It took some of the guys some time to get going. While Whitaker was the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year, he didn't really become a big star until 1982, when his power blossomed. Gibson had a strong 1981 strike season, but was injured in 1982 and had a poor 1983.
5. Sparky did weird things like fooling around with Tom Brookens at third base for the better part of a decade, long after he had shown he couldn't hit. The team played Enos Cabell two years at first base and he hit seven home runs.
6. The Tigers had problems filling the back of rotation after Morris, Petry and Milt Wilcox. Rozema kept missing time (yes, a guy who threw 16 complete games as a 20-year-old developed arm problems) and they'd rush guys to the bigs too often. GM Jim Campbell (he was the club's GM from 1963 through 1983) just couldn't find enough arms and Sparky failed to show the same proclivity for building a bullpen that he had shown in Cincinnati.
Anyway, the team acquired Chet Lemon for Kemp in 1982, improved in 1983 as Trammell and Whitaker had terrific seasons, Morris pitched 293 innings and Juan Berenguer blossomed as a swingman. Still, the '83 team finished six games behind the Orioles, a team that featured Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, six platoons and one pitcher who made 30 starts. It's amazing Sparky still kept his job.
It all came together in 1984, of course. What's amazing about that team is nobody really had a career season, with one notable exception: Willie Hernandez was acquired from the Phillies for Glenn Wilson and John Wockenfuss and he finally gave Sparky a dominant reliever, winning Cy Young and MVP honors after going 9-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 32 saves in 140 innings. In fact, he and Aurelio Lopez combined to go 19-4 out of the pen. Bench guys like Dave Bergman, Ruppert Jones and Johnny Grubb were also outstanding.
Even though Whitaker, Trammell, Parrish, Lemon, Gibson, Howard Johnson, Morris, Petry, Hernandez and Berenguer were still all younger than 30, that group could only scrape together one more division title, in 1987. True, the AL East was much stronger than the AL West in those days, so the Tigers faced some stiff competition. But they fell to 84 wins in 1985, won 87 in 1986, 98 in 1987 and 88 in 1988 before the bottom fell out in '89.
Two final thoughts: I wonder if Morris and Trammell would be Hall of Famers if that squad had done a little more -- another playoff appearance or two would have added another stamp to their legacies. Finally, is there a team similar to the Tigers now? That team that couldn't get over the hump ... until it finally did. The Blue Jays are probably the closest analogy, as since 2005 they've won 80, 87, 83, 86, 75, 85 and 81 games.
Maybe the Jays are where the Tigers were in 1982. They take a leap forward in 2012 and then another big leap in 2013 ...
Modern MVP voting began in 1931 so we'll focus on players whose careers began after that. We'll also limit our scope to position players. We'll use award shares, a metric invented by Bill James that Baseball-Reference tracks. If you're a unanimous MVP winner, meaning you've collected 100 percent of the possible maximum points, your award share is 1.00. If you get 80 percent of the possible maximum points, your award share is 0.80. You can than add up individual seasons to reach a career total.
Parker, by the way, had a slightly higher award shares total than Jim Rice (3.15), a similar player from the same era who did make the Hall of Fame in large part due to his success in MVP voting.
Here are the next five:
Jeff Bagwell (2.89 award shares): The unanimous MVP in 1994, Bagwell also had a second-place and third-place finish and three other top-10 finishes.
Juan Gonzalez (2.76 award shares): A two-time MVP, although his 1996 win was one of the worst MVP selections ever.
Steve Garvey (2.46 award shares): Garvey won the NL MVP in '74 with a pedestrian-looking .312/.342/.469 line. It was a good line for the time, but not that good -- he ranked 14th in the NL in OPS. But he was third in the league in RBIs and the Dodgers won the division.
Albert Belle (2.38 award shares): From 1991 through 2000, he hit .300 and averaged 39 homers and 122 RBIs per season. He had a second and two thirds in MVP voting. Despite his peak value, his Hall of Fame support was approximately equal to Herman Cain's in the Iowa caucus.
George Foster (2.37 award shares): The 1977 NL MVP when he hit 52 home runs and drove in 149 runs for the Reds, Foster had a nice run from '75 to '81. Just don't ask Mets fans what happened after that.
Some Hall of Famers with low award shares:
Wade Boggs (1.20 award shares): I was surprised Boggs' total wasn't higher. His best MVP finish was fourth in 1985. He wasn't an RBI guy, so was underrated to some extent during his time, although he cruised into the Hall of Fame. Baseball-Reference rates him as the best player in AL in 1986, '87 and '88.
Tony Perez (0.93 award shares): Despite being a big RBI guy, the kind of player MVP voters have historically loved, he had just one top-five MVP finish in his career.
Ozzie Smith (0.65 award shares): He finished second in 1987 but that was his only top-10 MVP finish. The MVP vote has always been about offense, but it's interesting that the player widely regarded -- even while active -- as perhaps the greatest defensive player ever fared so poorly, especially since he did became a solid offensive contributor in the mid-'80s.
Richie Ashburn (0.62 award shares): A Veterans Committee selection in 1995, Ashburn was a gifted center fielder with a career .308 average but only 29 home runs. He twice finished seventh in the MVP vote, his only top-10 appearances.
Bill Mazeroski (0.19 award shares): A Veterans Committee selection, he was the Ozzie of second basemen, except even less valuable with the bat. He received MVP votes in just two seasons: One eighth-place finish and one 23rd.
New Hall of Famer Barry Larkin finished with 1.10 award shares, including a 0.72 for his 1995 win. Alan Trammell, a similar player who hasn't fared well in the Hall of Fame voting, recorded 1.22 award shares.
Jeff Bagwell: He's vastly overqualified by even tough Hall of Fame standards, an outstanding all-around player who was one of the very best of his generation. A "no" vote on Bagwell can only be justified under ... well, I don't believe it can.
Barry Larkin: As valuable as Ozzie Smith, I view him as one of the top 10 shortstops of all time. Easily qualified by even tough Hall of Fame standards.
Edgar Martinez: I wrote about Edgar a couple years ago. I admit to some bias as a Mariners fan, but Martinez is simply one of the best hitters of all time. His career was a little short, and yes, he spent most of his time as a designated hitter, but he was so dominant at the plate that he deserves the votes.
Mark McGwire: We all know the issues. Look, eventually these guys will get in ... the Hall of Fame won't stand for the baseball writers determining a moral standard for election to its Hall of Fame. The Hall doesn't belong to the writers; they are merely a conduit for election. It might take five years or 10 years or 25 years, but time will pass and McGwire and others from his generation will get in.
Rafael Palmeiro: Leaving aside the PED issue, there's obviously no precedent for leaving out a player with Palmerio's career credentials -- 569 home runs (12th all time), 3,020 hits (25th), 1,835 RBIs (16th), 1,663 runs (31st) and 5,388 total bases (10th). You do read things like "Palmeiro was never one of the best at his position" as justification for not voting for him. But I don't think that's quite accurate. Using Baseball-Reference WAR, here are the top five first basemen in the majors from 1989 to 2004:
Palmeiro twice rates as the best first baseman in the league, second another time and has two other seasons in the top five (plus one season as the best DH). On top of the career totals and amazing durability, that's good enough for me.
Tim Raines: The second-greatest leadoff hitter of all time, comparable in value to Tony Gwynn. Should be a lock, but hasn't reached 40 percent of the vote during his four years on the ballot. SweetSpot readers give Raines the "yes" nod by an 85-15 vote.
Alan Trammell: I didn't write about Trammell, but his Hall of Fame support has been surprisingly minimal and he has no shot of getting in this year. In reality, you can't find two players much more identical than Larkin and Trammell.
So close I would feel guilty if I had an actual ballot
Jack Morris: I think those who rely solely on WAR sell him short. He survived in an era when most starting pitchers didn't last long enough to establish Hall of Fame credentials. He did have a certain aura about him that doesn't show up in the statistics. As I wrote the other day, he's very close. SweetSpot voters are split as well: 54 percent say yes, 46 percent say no.
Worth strong consideration, and maybe I'll change my mind in the future
Fred McGriff: I wrote on the Crime Dog over the weekend. I could be wrong here; of the nearly 3,500 votes in the SweetSpot poll, 83 percent of you consider McGriff a Hall of Famer ... a huge split over the criminally low support the BBWAA has given him (just 18 percent last year).
Larry Walker: My friend Jim Caple asks how I could consider Martinez a Hall of Famer, but not Walker, considering Walker's all-around brilliance, similar career length (8,030 plate appearances for Walker, 8,672 for Martinez) and similar OPS+ totals (147 for Martinez, 140 for Walker). I'll investigate Walker further next year, but three things still bother me:
(1) His home/road splits during his Coors Field days are generally quite large:
1995: .343/.401/.701 at home, .268/.361/.484 on the road
1996: .393/.448/.800 at home, .142/.216/.307 on the road
1997: .384/.460/.709 at home, .346/.443/.733 on the road
1998: .418/.483/.757 at home, .302/.403/.488 on the road
1999: .461/.531/.879 at home, .286/.375/.519 on the road
2000: .359/.446/.615 at home, .259/.371/.399 on the road
2001: .406/.483/.773 at home, .293/.416/.549 on the road
2002: .362/.453/.671 at home, .312/.387/.530 on the road
2003: .338/.469/.551 at home, .227/.370//395 on the road
(2) Dante Bichette, Ellis Burks, Andres Galarraga, Todd Helton -- a lot of players put up monster numbers in Coors in the '90s and early '00s.
(3) Martinez didn't have a long career, because the Mariners screwed around with him for three years. Walker only reached 8,000 plate appearances because he was very injury-prone -- he missed 495 games during his prime years with various injuries. (Walker played 140-plus games just four times; Martinez did it nine times.)
Bernie Williams: A brilliant player for eight seasons and a key player on four World Series champs. But the Hall of Fame is simultaneously a mix of peak performance and endurance; Williams' peak value is close, but I believe he falls short on the career trek.
A little short for my tastes
Dale Murphy: Similar to Williams, except he won two MVP Awards but lacks the rings. His run was even shorter -- really only an outstanding player from 1982-1985, plus 1980 and 1987.
Lee Smith: I'm not a big fan of closers, even if they did last forever. When I wrote about Smith, my biggest issue is that I don't think he was ever the best closer in the game. It might also be worth considering that the four modern closers in the Hall -- Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and Dennis Eckersley -- were all closers for World Series winners. Smith appeared in only four postseason games in his career (and lost two of them).
Player A is Raines. Player B is Tony Gwynn. That final column is times reached base. Yes, Raines reached base more often in his career than Gwynn, in just slightly more plate appearances. I'm not the first writer to come up with that comparison. Joe Posnanski, among others, is especially fond of this factoid. The point of the statistic isn't to bring down Gwynn, rather to show how potent and devastating an offensive player Raines was. The arc of his game was a little different than Gwynn's but the results are similar: Gwynn got more singles, Raines walked more and had a little more power. He was one of the great base stealers of all time and scored more runs in his career than Gwynn.
That's what Raines did: He scored runs. He's 51st on the all-time list and of the 50 players ahead of him, all eligible candidates are in the Hall of Fame except for Jimmy Ryan and George Van Haltren, two 1890s outfielders; turn-of-the-century shortstop Bill Dahlen; and Rafael Palmeiro.
A common refrain about Raines from his advocates is that he was one of the best players in baseball over a span in the 1980s. This isn't some after-the-fact hocus-pocus going on. It was widely believed at the time. In a 1984 Sports Illustrated piece on Raines, Pete Rose said: "Right now he's the best player in the National League. Mike Schmidt is a tremendous player and so are Dale Murphy and Andre Dawson, but Rock can beat you in more ways than any other player in the league. He can beat you with his glove, his speed and his hitting from either side of the plate." In his annual Baseball Abstracts, Bill James often argued the case of Raines' all-around brilliance. Raines finished fifth, sixth and seventh in MVP votes, despite playing for mediocre Expos teams.
Raines' five-year peak was 1983 to 1987. According to Baseball-Reference's WAR ranking, the top five players during those years were Wade Boggs (39.7), Rickey Henderson (34.1), Cal Ripken (33.3), Schmidt (31.4) and Raines (30.7). Pretty nice company. (The next five were Alan Trammell, Gwynn, Eddie Murray, Murphy and Keith Hernandez.)
To be fair, this alone doesn't make him a Hall of Famer. I checked every five-year period since 1969 (1969 to 1973, 1970 to 1974, etc.) and not all of the names that appear in the top five are Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers. Heck, Sal Bando rated as the best player in baseball from 1969 to 1973.
Some characterize Raines as having too short of a peak level of dominance. From 1988 to 1995, he averaged .283/.375/.409, with 81 runs and 33 steals per season. Maybe not an MVP candidate anymore, but still a good player, top leadoff hitter and valuable contributor. He's hardly alone in this aspect. He had six seasons with an OPS+ of 130 or higher, the same as Jim Rice, Dawson and Ernie Banks, and more than Kirby Puckett, Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra, Tony Perez or Robin Yount.
Maybe Raines doesn't have a slum-dunk case. But he has a case. Maybe voters have forgotten his great years in Montreal (and they have forgotten; he received only 37 percent of the vote last year). Maybe they remember his final seasons with the Yankees, when he became a part-time player on two World Series champions. Maybe they can't believe he compares favorably with Tony Gwynn.
Catcher: Ted Simmons. Simmons was a career .285 hitter with more than 2,400 hits and during his 1971-1980 peak he hit .301/.367/.466. Only Yogi Berra has more RBIs among catchers -- yes, Simmons has more than Bench, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter or Carlton Fisk. He has more hits than any catcher except Ivan Rodriguez. I'm not saying Simmons was better than those guys, but he produced at the plate like few catchers.
First base: Jeff Bagwell. Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Albert Pujols and Jeff Bagwell: The four greatest first basemen of all time. Bagwell received only 41.7 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot. He'll get in eventually.
Second base: Lou Whitaker. Here are the players who rank ahead of Whitaker on Baseball-Reference's WAR (wins above replacement-level) list for second basemen: Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Joe Morgan, Nap Lajoie, Charlie Gehringer and Frankie Frisch. That means Whitaker ranks just ahead of Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar and Ryne Sandberg. OK, maybe you don't think Whitaker is quite as good as those three. But he had a terrific all-around game, with good power (242 home runs), patience (.363 career OBP -- the same as Biggio, 19 points higher than Sandberg), a good glove and speed on the bases. Yet he received only 15 votes his first year and was booted off the ballot.
Third base: Ron Santo. Christina Kahrl made Santo's case here.
Shortstop: Alan Trammell. Barry Larkin received 62 percent of the vote last year and should deservedly make it this year, so I'll stump for Trammell, who peaked at 24 percent last year but is running out of time, as it was his 10th year on the ballot. Trammell hit .300 seven times, won Gold Gloves, was the best player on a World Series winner and should have won the 1987 AL MVP Award.
Left field: Tim Raines. Arguably the best player in the NL in the 1980s, or at least for a five- or six-year span. (B-R ranks him fifth, behind Mike Schmidt, Dale Murphy, Ozzie Smith and Keith Hernandez, but Raines wasn't a rookie until 1981. Give him another season and he'd move up to second.) He reached base more times in his career than Tony Gwynn (3,977 to 3,966, in just 127 more plate appearances). He was one of the greatest basestealers of all time.
Center field: Dale Murphy. If you like peak value, then Murphy is your guy.
Right field: Larry Walker. His case isn't a slam dunk, but I was surprised he fared so poorly on his first year on the ballot (20.3 percent). The various injuries hurt his counting stats and the three batting titles are discounted a bit because of Coors Field, but the guy still produced a .313/.400/.565 and was regarded as the best right fielder in the game for many years.
Designated hitter: Edgar Martinez. Simply put: One of the greatest hitters of all time.
Pitcher: Kevin Brown. Now that Bert Blyleven finally made it, there isn't an obvious pitcher. The six highest guys on B-R's list would be Rick Reuschel, Brown, Luis Tiant, Tommy John, Jerry Koosman and David Cone. Brown received just 12 votes last year, despite 211 wins, two ERA titles, a remarkable stretch from 1996 to 2001 when he posted a 2.53 ERA during the height of the steroid era, and a World Series title with the Marlins. Plus, he helped the Red Sox win it all in 2004.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.
It’s in that spirit of complaint that we should ask if a big part of the problem is what LCD Soundsystem called “the unremembered ’80s.”
Since I’m sure some will complain that a decade starts with the ‘0’ year and others that it ends with it, let’s start by casting a wider net and look at the WAR leaders for 1980-90, while noting who’s been voted to Cooperstown and who hasn’t. It’s admittedly quick and dirty, but it’s a place to start the conversation. Looking at the 15, it’s great for the 10 who have gotten their due. (Sure, we can kibitz over Dawson for all sorts of reasons, but he was nevertheless a great player.)
Starting from here, you could put together an excellent lineup of stars from the ‘80s who haven’t made it into the Hall of Fame. Going position by position:
Catcher: Probably the weakest position, but Lance Parrish’s 324 career homers and 35.7 WAR (28.8 in the ’80s) would suit. Parrish was also one of the best-throwing catchers of his day, gunning down 39 percent on his career, helping to land him on eight All-Star teams. Effectively, he was to the AL what Gary Carter was for the NL.
First Base: Back in December, Mark Simon put together a nice overview of the case for why Keith Hernandez belongs in the Hall. I’ve slowly started coming around to this point of view, aided by the additional information from Michael Humphreys’ book "Wizardry" on all-time fielding greatness -- recommended for any stathead’s bookshelf -- with the finding that Hernandez rates as the best fielder at first in baseball history. Hernandez had all the virtues you'd want in a first baseman minus the overwhelming power.
What might surprise people is that it’s Hernandez who shines via WAR, and not New York’s other first baseman, Don Mattingly. It really shouldn’t surprise anybody. As great as Donnie Baseball was, he burned very, very brightly so very, very briefly. He has a good argument for being baseball’s best ballplayer for four years -- and then he wasn’t that guy anymore, playing through injuries and declining effectiveness. As great as his peak value was, he doesn't even present the decade’s best argument for inducting a briefly game-best ballplayer. (We’ll get to Dale Murphy shortly.)
Second Base: Has to be Lou Whitaker.
Once in a while, you’ll still get the odd stathead who argues that the BBWAA doesn’t make huge mistakes, making the easy comparison of its track record for putting people into the Hall against the various flavors of Veterans Committees the process has been saddled with over the years. Fair enough, but what about Lou Whitaker? The BBWAA eliminated Whitaker from all future consideration in his first year on the ballot, one of its most spectacularly thoughtless decisions where Hall voting is concerned.
Whitaker was the best second baseman in baseball between Joe Morgan and Robbie Alomar. Whitaker is the post-World War II WARP leader among all Hall-eligible players not in the Hall of Fame; he beats Sandberg and Willie Randolph fairly easily. He also beats Bobby Grich, 69.7 WAR to 67.6. Whitaker tops Raines (64.6) and Larkin (68.9) and Trammell (66.9).
But by receiving just 15 total votes in his first (and last) year on the ballot, Whitaker was dropped forever after from BBWAA consideration, because he didn’t reach the five-percent cutoff. He deserves much, much better, so we can hope this is one of those mistakes that whatever rules apply in 2015 or later can get him voted in by the Veterans Committee, the electoral college or the Diet of Worms. Somebody has to get this right, don’t they?
Third Base: Like catcher, the choice may fall short in a Hall of Fame argument, but Buddy Bell (60.8 career WAR) was a fine defender and paragon of professional hitterdom, but because most of his career was spent on dead-end Indians and Rangers teams, he may be better remembered for his nondescript days in the dugouts of the Tigers, Rockies and Royals.
Shortstop: If Whitaker has been flat-out screwed by the process, there’s still some hope that ’80s great Alan Trammell will get his due from Cooperstown. Tram was the signature player from those great-to-good Tigers teams of the ’80s that seem to have been collectively forgotten ever since their manager, Sparky Anderson, got elected. Maybe Trammell suffers from being the best shortstop in baseball before Ripken, and maybe he’ll get his due after Barry Larkin gets voted in, but there really shouldn’t be any controversy over voting him in. Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system puts Trammell seventh overall among Hall-eligible shortstops (leaving Alex Rodriguez out of the conversation since his career’s still a going concern).
Outfield: Tim Raines should be a no-brainer, but if Parrish’s case paled next to Carter’s in front of the current electorate, it shouldn’t be surprising that the second-best leadoff hitter of all time managed to be caught in the same sort of tunnel vision just because he happened to be a contemporary of Rickey Henderson. Although there’s nothing to be done for Whitaker, Rock should get the benefit of the same sort of campaign run by those who previously worked so hard to get Blyleven to Cooperstown. This is one of those oversights that should be corrected in the next couple of years.
As I mentioned, I’d run with Dale Murphy as a worthwhile Hall of Famer at a time when we’re putting Rice and Dawson in. Like Dawson, Murphy had a multi-year run in the sun as someone widely considered baseball’s best player, winning back-to-back MVPs in 1982 and ’83 (and arguably deserving another in 1987). Whereas Mattingly had a four-year run, Murphy's started in 1980 and ran through ’87, producing 264 homers and a .517 slugging. In some ways he had Carter’s career in reverse -- it didn’t really take off until he was taken out from behind the plate and stuck in the outfield to stay. Murphy finished with 398 homers, a low tally by today’s standard, but that's more than Rice. And with a 45.7 career WAR to Rice’s 41.5, maybe one of the signature players of the ’80s deserves reconsideration.
For right field, you could go for Dwight Evans for career value. His 61.8 total WAR puts him among the 150 top players all-time, but Dewey was as much a star of the ’70s as the ’80s -- he just aged well, like a fine wine. Since the ’80s are a controversial era, let’s go with a controversial great: Darryl Strawberry. I wouldn’t put him in the Hall, but in the ’80s he ranked seventh in runs created with his bat (Rbat on Baseball-Reference), behind five Hall of Famers and Murphy.
Starting pitching: We’ve left moundsmen to the side, but there’s a good reason for that -- Jack Morris, and the odd notion that somehow he was a great pitcher. Given that the ’80s comprised the bulk of Morris’ useful career, you’d expect that he’d rate among the best pitchers of the era. He doesn’t.
Taking a look at the pitchers’ table, you’re sure to ask: Where’s Morris? Take it all the way down to 15th, and that’s where you’d find the mustachioed workhorse -- behind Teddy Higuera and Bruce Hurst, and behind fellow warhorse Charlie Hough.
The top 10 is an interesting group itself, because it includes so many guys who suffered major arm injuries or early burnout. The ’80s represented a new, tough challenge for pitchers. Run-scoring increased, and a lot of guys broke down trying to live up to workload standards established in the ’60s and ’70s. Gooden, Tudor, Saberhagen, Hershiser -- outside of Clemens, the best pitchers of this generation all blew out their arms. The field was open for odd ducks like Mike Scott and Dave Stewart to wind up having tremendous but brief runs of greatness, but as wonderful as they were, nobody’s putting them in the Hall of Fame.
Let's bring this back to Morris. Say you want to just look at the good bits of Morris’ career -- 1978-92. Morris was just the seventh-best pitcher in that span via WAR, behind the Rocket, the Ryan Express, the Eck and Bert Blyleven, not to mention those stars of the ’80s who usually don’t get much press -- Dave Stieb and Bob Welch.
What Morris leads in from his own heyday is two big counting stats. First, there’s his 236 wins. That’s a product of three things: playing with a star-studded lineup, great run support and his durability. In the rush to condemn Morris’ worthiness, the durability seems to get short shrift, but he did throw 400 more innings than anybody else in baseball in this “Age of Morris.” If you want to argue that a man should make the Hall for being durable during an age of fast burnouts, that’s not such a bad thing.
But at that point we may as well start talking about Stieb’s worthiness as well, since he had the best balance of durability and quality during this time. But like Whitaker, Stieb is someone the BBWAA forgot, eliminating him in his first year on the ballot in 2004 with just 1.4 percent of the vote. But that isn’t going to stop me from tabbing Dave Stieb as the starting pitcher of the ‘80s, not Morris. Besides Stieb’s leading WAR tally, he was third in wins (158), behind Morris (177) and Welch (164), tied with Fernando in shutouts with 29, and his ERA+ of 128 tops even Doc Gooden (125) and the oft-injured Tudor (126). Besides, Stieb had no-hitters broken up in consecutive 1988 starts with two outs and two strikes in the ninth, and a perfect game busted up with two outs in the ninth in 1989. (He did finally get a no-hitter in 1990, against the Indians.) If anyone in this field deserves a break, it’s Stieb.
Closer: The overall leader in saves from 1980-90 was Jeff Reardon with 285, but the better pitcher was slow-shufflin’ Lee Smith with a 23.8 WAR to Reardon’s 17.4, a tally that also tops those of Dan Quisenberry (23.6) and Dave Righetti (23.0). Smith eventually set the record for saves and currently rates third all-time with 478, with 265 of those coming in the broadly defined ’80s.
Why isn’t Smith in Cooperstown? To some extent he’s being penalized for the fact that standards for Hall-worthy closers are still being made up as we go along. But another problem is that Smith’s career has one foot in the era when closers threw 100 innings and settled for 30-save seasons, and the other in the Eck era where closers have been reserved for ninth-inning save opportunities alone. Smith doesn’t properly belong in either, so you can’t bundle him with Rollie Fingers and Goose and Sutter and Quiz on the one side, or with Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera on the other. Reaching the postseason just twice in an 18-year career probably does him no extra favors with the voters.
We can’t know exactly why the ’80s have been overlooked in terms of the Hall, but given the presence of several all-time greats at key defensive positions -- like Whitaker and Trammell -- an all-time great leadoff man in Raines, a nice power tandem in Straw and Murph, and perhaps the best starting pitcher in baseball over a decade in Stieb, I’d enjoy taking my chances with these guys against all comers. They do not deserve to be forgotten, and one hopes that several of them -- beyond a likely like Raines -- get their due.
Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.
Detroit Tigers, 1976: I believe no team has ever selected two future Hall of Famers in one draft (even if a player went unsigned). The Tigers have a chance, with second-rounder Alan Trammell and fifth-rounder Jack Morris both future Veterans Committee candidates if the writers don't elect them. But the draft didn't end there: the Tigers also got Steve Kemp (130 career home runs) and Dan Petry (125 wins). Plus, get this: They drafted Ozzie Smith in the seventh round but didn't sign him.
Kansas City A's, 1965: In the first round, the A's built the foundation for their three World Series champions of the '70s by selecting Arizona State teammates Rick Monday (first overall pick) and Sal Bando (sixth round) and Gene Tenace (20th round). Monday would later be flipped to the Cubs for Ken Holtzman, who joined Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue in the rotation. (Reggie Jackson and Blue were drafted in 1966 and '67. Hunter, Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers were all signed in 1964 in the pre-draft era.)
San Francisco Giants, 1968: The Giants drafted an All-Star outfield in one draft: Garry Maddox and George Foster in the January regular phase, and then Gary Matthews with their first pick in June. Trouble is: They didn't know what to do with all these guys. Foster was traded to the Reds in 1971 for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert, and there's a reason you haven't heard of those two. Foster ended up winning an MVP Award and leading the NL three seasons in a row in RBIs.
When Maddox -- "Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other one-third is covered by Garry Maddox" -- reached the majors in 1972, the Giants already had Bobby Bonds and Ken Henderson (a good player) plus an aging Willie Mays and rookie Dave Kingman, who couldn't really play anywhere so they plunked him in left field sometimes. Anyway, they cleared space by trading Mays to the Mets but would eventually trade Maddox a few years later to the Phillies for Willie Montanez. For some reason, teams kept trading for Montanez. (He'd hit 30 home runs as a rookie, but only reached 20 one other time and never walked.) Anyway, the Giants quickly realized Montanez wasn't that good and would trade him to the Braves for Darrell Evans, who was at least a productive player.
Matthews played four seasons for the Giants before signing with the Braves as a free agent. The Giants of the '70s and '80s were churning out ballplayers left and right but kept doing stupid things like trading Maddox for Montanez or Bob Knepper for Enos Cabell or Jack Clark for a pile of landfill or playing Johnnie LeMaster at shortstop year and they never won anything.
Boston Red Sox, 1976: Bruce Hurst was the team's first-rounder in June while Wade Boggs lasted until the seventh. John Tudor came in the January secondary phase. Mike Smithson would win 76 major league games.
New York Mets, 1982: All told, the Mets would draft 17 players who would reach the major leagues, including Dwight Gooden, Roger McDowell and Randy Myers. Unsigned, however: eighth-round pick Rafael Palmeiro. (The year before, the Mets had drafted but failed to sign Roger Clemens out of junior college.)
New York Yankees, 1990: First-rounder Carl Everett never played for the Yankees as he was lost to the Marlins in the expansion draft, but two late-rounders turned out pretty well: Andy Pettitte (22nd round) and Jorge Posada (24th). They also signed a skinny 20-year-old Panamanian pitcher as an amateur free agent that year: You've probably heard of him ... Mariano Rivera.
Honorable mention: Montreal Expos, 1977 (Tim Rainers, Bill Gullickson, Scott Sanderson); Cincinnati Reds, 1983 (Chris Sabo, Rob Dibble, Kurt Stillwell, Jeff Montgomery, Joe Oliver, Lenny Harris); Minnesota Twins, 1989 (Chuck Knoblauch, Denny Neagle, Scott Erickson, Marty Cordova, Mike Trombley); Boston Red Sox, 1989 (Mo Vaughn, Jeff Bagwell, Paul Quantrill). As for more recent drafts, the Red Sox selected Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie in 2005; and the Braves' 2007 draft could be a good one: Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel (and Brandon Belt went unsigned).
Anyway, I'm sure I missed some good drafts in there. Add to the list if I did!
And so began a long run of the American League at the shortstop position. From 1980 through 2006, there were 115 shortstop seasons in the majors of 4.0 WAR or higher, from Baseball-Reference; 75 of those were from AL shortstops, 39 from NL shortstops (and one who split time in both leagues). The top 15 seasons were all from AL players and 27 of the top 30 were from AL players.
Now, that's not surprising when you see the list of shortstops with the most 4.0 WAR seasons during that span:
Cal Ripken 10
Barry Larkin 9
Ozzie Smith 9
Derek Jeter 8
Alex Rodriguez 8
Alan Trammell 8
Miguel Tejada 6
Nomar Garciaparra 5
Robin Yount 5
John Valentin 3
Larkin and Ozzie were NLers, but the rest were all ALers, and the AL guys put up a lot of monster numbers. The list doesn't even include Omar Vizquel, who had just one 4.0 WAR season. Since 2007, however, the tide has swung -- of the 18 shortstop seasons of 4.0 WAR or better, only five have come from AL players: two from Jeter and one apiece from Marco Scutaro, Erick Aybar and Jason Bartlett.
But with Jeter in decline, Aybar unable to replicate his fine 2009 and Bartlett now with the Padres, the American League seems devoid of a topflight shortstop. In 2010, the only two with a WAR of 3.0 or higher were Cliff Pennington and Alexei Ramirez. This season's group isn't doing much better, unless you count Jed Lowrie and Maicer Izturis, two utility guys who have filled in at short (or, in the case of Lowrie, potentially winning the job from Scutaro).
Maybe Jeter and Ramirez will start hitting. Maybe Toronto's Yunel Escobar will regain his 2009 batting stroke. There's not even an obvious Gold Glove candidate -- Jeter has won the last two as much by default as skill. So who is the best right now? Place your vote!
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter at @dschoenfield. Follow the SweetSpot blog at @espn_sweet_spot.