The checkmarks are in the mail

Voting for the Hall of Fame has always been an honor and a privilege — and it has become a slightly bigger privilege with the museum having weeded out unqualified voters to trim the electorate.

The Hall — or, more accurately, its BBWAA guardians — gets ripped a lot. I’ve been known to join that chorus (I still need an explanation for how Tommy John and his 288 wins weren’t good enough).

Us writers seem to like picking our own fights. We resent being sworn into the Steroids Era jury. Yet we want to preside over the Closer Era and Designated Hitter trials and insist Lee Smith and Edgar Martinez aren’t worthy.

Hall of Fame voters are like America. What a melting pot. How can you not like the diversity in a group which is likely this year to elect Jeff Bagwell (449 homers and 1,529 RBIs) but last year did not cast enough votes for Carlos Delgado (473 homers and 1,512 RBIs) to even remain on the ballot?

With all that said, Ballot #415 is in the mail:

  • Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza: Very short version — I climbed off the PED soapbox a couple of years ago, and swore to stay off it. And you can’t argue their numbers.
  • Trevor Hoffman: How’s this for a change of pace (his signature pitch)? “Closer is a first-ballot Hall of Fame.”
  • Smith: C’mon. He’s the guy who set the trail for all these Cooperstown guys (Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Hoffman maybe now, Mo Rivera definitely to come) to follow.
  • Martinez: The Lee Smith of DHs; good heavens, David Ortiz’s platform for likely future induction is built on having won seven Edgar Martinez Awards.
  • Bagwell: He came within two RBIs in 2002 of having eight straight 30-100 seasons. Dominating an era? Check.
  • Jeff Kent: Much of Piazza’s candidacy is based on how he stood out among all-time players at his position; well, this is the Piazza of second basemen.
  • Gary Sheffield: He could be this year’s Carlos Delgado, but his 509 homers have to be seen through this prism — Sheff was the last power hitter with a controlled, not an all-or-nothing, swing. Do you realize he had 12 seasons with 500-plus plate appearances and fewer than 75 Ks? In 2003, he went to the plate 678 times and fanned 55 times.
  • Ken Griffey Jr.: No testimonials required, I know, but it must be pointed out he dominated the ’90s (382 homers and 1,091 RBIs) perhaps unlike any player has ever stood over a decade.

10 Comments

Lee Smith “set the trail for all these Cooperstown guys (Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage”…? You do know that Smith came after Gossage and Sutter, right?

As for Jeff Kent being the Mike Piazza of second basemen, Rogers Hornsby might want to have a say, not to mention Joe Morgan, who was a much better offensive player than Kent. Yes, Kent hit more home runs than any other second baseman- he also played in an era when more home runs were being hit than any other. Jeff Kent’s OPS+ (OPS adjusted for era)- 123. Joe Morgan? 132. Rogers Hornsby? 175…

I’m not going to argue with your choices, since I have learned that is a pointless exercise. Just try to give more concrete reasons behind your logic than these examples. If you can’t, just tweet the names of who you voted for.

Tim … one at a time:
(a) Of course. That was meant figuratively, since Smith held the all-time saves record at the time both Gossage and Sutter gained election.
(b) Kent had 377 homers and 1,518 RBIs — during his career, runner-up in both categories was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio – with 267 and 1,022.
(c) This wasn’t a dissertation. Just quick hits.

Yes, they are quick hits- but it is quick hits instead of comments with more substance that adversely impact the way they are taken by people like me who take the Hall very seriously. It doesn’t require a dissertation on each player to get our support (whether we agree with your choices or not). Just some reasoning beyond the quick hit level that validates your “why”. Example- Even though I would not vote for Gary Sheffield on this ballot, I get your support by your including his strikeout-to-home run rate. I never thought of Sheffield as such a contact-based hitter, and that he hit over 500 homers while striking out at such a low rate is a great example of using a stat to validate your choice.

Really, that is all some of us want- a few sentences of reasoning. Is it too much to ask?

Tim, quit being a dick!
In this world of a 6 second attention span, the level of detail you hunger for is not appropriate in a blog. Tom’s thoughts here are more than adequate, and if he cared to he could overflow your thimble brain with enough justification to satisfy even you.
A lot of great baseball fans are criticizers and complainers. You are certainly in this group. Give yourself a great Christmas present- a lightening up change in attitude.
How many times have you been married, 4 or 0?!

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I’m genuinely curious how voters justify, or come to the conclusion if you prefer, that voting for someone like Smith or Hoffman is legitimate while not voting for Schlling or Mussina. Even if you feel the latter two are not worthy HOF pitchers, they are vastly superior to a reliever. Relievers are essentially failed starters who fill a much, much easier role. I’d love to hear your take on it, Sir. Thank you.

Failed starters? What are you, a visitor from 1965?

Really? I didn’t expect such a response from the author. Let’s look at the most relevant pitchers to the discussion: Rivera, failed starter; Wagner, failed starter; Smith, failed starter; Hoffman, technically a failed shortstop. But why would he be used as a reliever rather than a starter (teams clearly recognize starters are more valuable, one need only to look at salaries to see this)? Because as a young man he could throw hard, but lacked the skill set of a starter, and you can get by for an inning or so if you can throw hard. Later he developed an exceptional changeup, and became essentially a one pitch pitcher, like Rivera with his cutter, and like Wagner with his blazing fastball. Because a reliever can get by for an inning or so with one pitch. A starter cannot, it takes greater skill, to make it as a starter. I am genuinely interested in the thought process of voters such as yourself, but if all you’re going to do is make weak ad hominem attacks, you needn’t respond at all.

Pat – Just became aware of this response so I wanted to respond in this forum, in case you have stopped monitoring the Blog.
Sorry for the flippant original remark — it was my genuine initial reaction to your dated comment; relievers have become the most indispensable part of today’s game. We’re way beyond the era when they just mopped up in lost causes. That might fly in the face of the perspective of purists — I count myself among those, incidentally — but is the way it is.
Given, and accepting, those ground rules, defending votes of Smith and Hoffman is simple. Rivera, incidentally, saved 50 of Mussina’s 123 wins as a Yankee; 10 of those came as Moose made his celebrated exit in 2008 as a first-time 20-game winner, and included No. 20 itself.
If anything, going forward, I would think starters’ achievements would be diminished by the role of relievers, not the other way around.

Tom Singer

[cid:4AE14B08-C7CB-4326-A1B4-934742DE58F5]

Thanks Tom. I did not intend to imply relievers were mop up men, simply that they are, almost universally, failed starters performing an easier task than the starting pitcher. This is true, and you can see it by looking at the minor league records of these pitchers. I fully understand the bullpen has become a much different, and more important component of the game than it has previously been; however, the idea relievers are the most indispensable part of the game I do not believe holds water. While it would be very hard to say any position is more readily dispensable than another, as teams never take the field with less than a full compliment of players, it is certain there are two roles within the game which actually can be dispensed with. First is the DH, but even there you will not see a team give up the DH to bat its pitcher as this would put them at a distinct disadvantage. The second is the relief pitcher, and while the complete game has become a very rare occurrence indeed, it is still true that teams do occasionally dispense with the relievers role in a few games each year (104 CG’s last year).

We know teams pay their top starting pitchers and top position players far more than top closers/relievers. If relievers/closers are truly the most indispensable part of the game, then teams would be rewarding them as such. Otherwise one would have to explain why every team in the league is acting irrationally and illogically by underpaying the most indispensable players.

Finally, it doesn’t seem to add up that a one inning reliever, which is what we’re talking about now in this era of voting, is a better player, or one more due HOF recognition than a starter (assuming the starter has pitched like a HOF). On a per game basis it would be giving the reliever 6 to 7 times the credit of the starter, because even in this era HOF starters are pitching over 6 innings per start, just to get them even with the starter’s contribution. On a seasonal basis it would be giving the reliever 3 to 4 times the credit to get them even with a starter who pitches over 200 innings per season relative to a closer at 60 to 70. Same on a career basis, as Mussina, for example, pitched over 3 times the innings of Hoffman and Wagner.

Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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