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Six for the Hall of Fame

This is my third year as a Hall of Fame voter and, like the other folks who have a ballot (the exception being whoever supposedly played the whore for Deadspin), I take the responsibility seriously. I have found that the decision-making process doesn’t get easier, regardless of how many years you’ve voted.
The BBWAA has formed a committee to study, among other things, whether the 10-candidate ballot limit should be expanded or even done away with entirely. I don’t a problem with limiting the vote to 10 guys; it’s another way to filter who truly belongs in the Hall. At first, I expected my ballot to be full this year. After spending a few days of my Christmas vacation poring over stats, watching video and reading other reporters’ opinions on the candidates, I put checkmarks next to six names:
Craig Biggio
Greg Maddux
Tom Glavine
Frank Thomas
Lee Smith
Jack Morris
Maddux was a no-brainer. Glavine also was a relatively easy pick. Thomas has some really gaudy stats, and I’ll never forget the balls he mashed during the 1994 All-Star home run derby at Three Rivers Stadium.
I voted for Smith the past two years. I don’t expect he’ll ever get in, but he was one of the players who always impressed me when I was a young (pre-beat writer) baseball fan. He retired as the ML leader in saves and games finished. Ironically, one Smith moment that sticks with me is when Barry Bonds beat him with an 11th-inning homer in 1991 — a great moment that validated Bonds’ status as the best player in the game at that time.
Speaking of Bonds … yeah, I’m in that camp of voters. Mike Piazza was a very, very tough call for me. His admission of andro use tipped the scales against him — for now, at least.
I voted for Morris because he pretty much was The Pitcher of the ’80s. Awesome in big games, too. This is his final year on the ballot. If he’s not voted in this year, it will be up to the veterans committee fellas down the line to do it.
Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines and Curt Schilling also were difficult decisions. I spent more time on these guys than any of the others, probably. And there’s a good chance each of them will turn up on my ballot somewhere down the line.
Fire away with your comments, but please keep it civil. Remember my Twitter rule: I’m not here to babysit.
– Rob Biertempfel

49 Comments

  1. You appear to contradict yourself. You claim “like the other folks who have a ballot (the exception being whoever supposedly played the whore for Deadspin), I take the responsibility seriously.” However, after typing that laughable sentence you proceeded to only vote for 6 people despite close to 20 viable Hall of Famers on the ballot. Worse than only voting for 6 is fact that among the six you included two of the weaker candidates; Smith and Morris. I have no doubt that the crowd sourced ballot from Deadspin (if there really is one) will be a better product. You voted for a slightly above average pitcher (Morris) but somehow excluded the greatest hitting catcher ever? Really? And then claim to have taken the responsibility seriously? Not hardly! Actually a better comparison is you excluded Mussina who beats Morris by any statistic (tradition or advanced). Morris is hardly distinguishable from Jamie Moyer. Are you intending to vote for Moyer when he shows on the ballot?

    • “Morris is hardly distinguishable from Jamie Moyer.” I bet even Jamie Moyer would have a hard time keeping down his dinner after reading that. I’m not saying Morris should get in, but c’mon, Large. Doesn’t the Morris track record in post-season count for anything? Doesn’t the fact that he pitched in big-time offensive parks in Detroit and Toronto count for anything?

      • Agree with your analysis of Morris. Being a big game pitcher is definitely worth factoring in. And Morris was THE big game pitcher of the decade.

  2. Why did you vote for Bagwell, Schilling, and Raines last year, but not this year, with 4 ballot spots left?

  3. Jack Morris was a top-three Cy Young Award finisher *twice* in the 1980s. He never finished higher than third. He was never better than Jim Palmer or Dave Stieb or Roger Clemens, let alone anyone from the National League.

  4. I am very disappointed by some of the choices you have made in filling out your ballot. In particular, I find it hard to understand why you would vote for Morris, but not Mussina.

    Mussina pitched in a much more hitter-friendly offensive context than Morris did, for teams that were generally worse than Morris’s, and yet in spite of this, his numbers dwarf those of Morris. His ERA is lower (3.68, compared to Morris’s 3.90). He allowed fewer runners to reach base (1.19 WHIP, compared to Morris’s 1.30). He struck out more batters (2,813, compared to Morris’s 2,478) in fewer innings pitched (3,562 2/3, compared to Morris’s 3,824). I don’t think pitchers’ totals of wins and losses convey anything important, but if you do, then Mussina has the edge there as well (270-153, compared to Morris’s 254-186).

    Even if you look at postseason numbers, Mussina is ahead. He has a lower postseason ERA (3.42, compared to Morris’s 3.80) and WHIP (1.10, compared to Morris’s 1.25), and posted a much higher strikeout rate (9.3 K/9, compared to Morris’s 6.2). Morris has that one great start that everybody remembers, but he also made four horrendous starts in the 1992 postseason (23 total IP, with 19 earned runs allowed, 18 K, 16 BB, and 6 HR allowed, for a 7.43 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP – Toronto lost three of those starts, and pulled out a 7-6 squeaker in extra innings in the fourth), and all of those games count as well.

    In awards voting, Mussina is likewise ahead. Both players were five-time All-Stars, and Mussina received more total voting support for the Cy Young Award, as well as a higher best single-season finish (second place in 1999 – Morris never finished higher than third). Mussina also received seven Gold Glove awards, while Morris received none.

    I believe you owe your readers an explanation for that particular decision. I would certainly be interested in knowing how you arrived at the decision that you did.

    • In defending Morris vs. Moyer, above, I failed to follow-up by saying Mussina is more deserving than Morris. Well said, Vlad.

  5. I’m just looking forward to the ending of the Jack Morris Holy War, however it ends.

    I really don’t know how you can look at Morris’ stats and conclude he belongs, but i suppose there’s more to it than the stats for the voters.

    Even if you like pitcher wins as a good metric for effectiveness, if you say “he had 254 Wins!” you also have to say “he had 186 losses…”

  6. If he thinks that Morris is deserving, that’s fine. I don’t agree, but everyone needs to draw the line somewhere, and if that’s where Rob wants to draw his, so be it.

    My issue is that I can see literally no way in which Morris is more qualified for the Hall than Mussina. So if you want to vote for the one, you necessarily must vote for the other if you want your ballot to be anything more than a mere arbitrary collection of names (a goal with which I would assume Rob agrees, given the length at which he describes in this post his efforts to research and consider all the candidates).

    • I don’t take the “if you vote for Player A, you absolutely must vote for the similar Player B” approach. I consider every candidate individually. And, at this point, I am not swayed to vote for Mussina.

      • I don’t think Vlad’s suggesting you have to vote for Player A because you voted for Player B, but rather questioning why would vote for Morris over Mussina, when Mussina was the superior player in every regard? Unless of course you’re swayed by an awesome mustache, in which case Mussina hasn’t a prayer when compared with Morris.

        He makes a pretty compelling case for Mussina over Morris which I’d be interested to see you address with a similar level of detail.

  7. Perhaps one has to be of a certain age to know how dominant Morris was. Morris was every bit the spectre that Verlander is today on the mound, if lacking the 100mph heat. He would have been every team’s #1 pitcher, save a very few, for ten years. A simple survey of stats produces a revision of history like to Bert Blyleven: no indication of the best curve of, what – two generations? Morris is a worthy hall-of-famer. There’s no doubt in my mind, or the minds of those against whom he played.

    • During Morris’s peak years 1979-1988 period he had one really outstanding season, in 1983. Aside from that year you could make the argument that there were very few if any other years when he was even one of the top ten pitchers in baseball. Yes he had some outstanding moments in the post-season but so did Curt Schilling. Much like with the exclusion of Mussina that Vlad referenced above I’d be curious how you include Morris but not Schilling.

    • Keith,
      You are completely wrong. Completely and totally.

    • If he is a no-doubt Hall-of-Famer, then when isn’t he in the Hall after 14 years? Having grew up during the Morris years, my memory of him isn’t his dominance, but his consistency that stood out. He threw a bunch of good innings, and was pretty good nearly every season — a very notable, significant player, but he earned no Cy Youngs, no ERA/ERA+ titles, no transcendent seasons. That’s just not a Hall-of-Fame career.

  8. Vlad,

    Yeah that’s a better way to put it. I agree. If morris goes in, then similar pitchers must go as well. unless the “final year on the ballot” becomes a boost for every single candidate.

  9. I like the selections Rob. Maddux and Thomas are no brainer picks.Both dominated for a long swath of time. I’ve been politicking for Raines inclusion for many years.Was a terror on bases & was the quintessential table setter. Morris has his detractors but he won the biggest games & was a multiple World Series Champion. I think Piazza was one of the greatest catchers ever. Deserves HOF.Gigantic Rafael Palmeiro fan.Deserves Hall of Fame 3000/500 club. Johnny

    • The Palmeiro case, for me, (or, is it Palmieri?) is the quintessential one to define where you stand on the steroids issue. He got caught, plain and simple. He didn’t look the part, with the McGwire/Bonds/Sosa muscles, but he got caught. Oh, that’s right. Someone spiked his drink. Do you believe him simply because he never got the big muscles?

      It appears we are able to immediately dismiss some guys because we feel they cheated just by how they looked. There are other guys the writers may dismiss because they are pretty sure they cheated, even though they never got caught (Bagwell). I would say with as close to 100% certainty as possible that there are a lot of other guys who cheated but don’t even get suspected. I just don’t know how to make sense of any of it. I don’t see it ever being resoloved.

      • Jose Canseco said in his book that Palmeiro was juicing back when they played on the Rangers together… 10 years before he got busted and blamed Tejada. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that every player Canseco named either later admitted it or was in the Mitchell Report. Say what you will about Jose, but he did start the wave of cleaning up the game. If he named Palmeiro, and then Rafael later failed a drug test, he’s guilty. Are we really supposed to believe he just took some random spiked syringe from Tejada and shot up with it?? He’s a multi-million dollar athlete… they have trainers for these things if he really wanted to take B12 that way.

        • You’re right, Donald. Canseco ended up being the one who was telling the truth, even though everyone involved wanted to make him out to be an idiot or nut.

          But, I think the Mitchell Report was a farce – at least in part. Didn’t he manage to miss all those Red Sox users? Senator Mitchell of Maine, that is.

          • Yeah, for all the time and money spent on The Mitchell Report, practically all the evidence included comes from 3 sources. They do more asking around than that on a fender bender out on route 51! It seems like it was more of a quick PR move on the part of Bud Selig to show he wanted steroids out of the game than an all inclusive full blown investigation. But it did bag a huge name like Clemens, some all stars like Eric Gagne, and a huge list of just regular dudes that would never been suspected. I personally like the stories of Juan Gonzalez being busted twice with steroids in his bags and blaming it on people in his entourage.

  10. The only change I’d make to DK’s ballot would be to leave off Morris. Lee Smith not in at this point puzzles me. He’s MLB’s version of Art Monk except that Monk finally got in.

  11. “Morris was every bit the spectre that Verlander is today on the mound, if lacking the 100mph heat. He would have been every team’s #1 pitcher, save a very few, for ten years. ”

    I don’t know what you’ve been watching all these years, but it hasn’t been baseball.

    • Hey, let’s not forget Morris’s two 3rd places in the Cy Young, and his zero top-10 MVP finishes. Verlander’s record as a staff ace simply can’t be compared to that.

  12. The Hall has become literally the only topic in all of baseball I don’t care about anymore.

    But regardless of how much I disagree with the approach, kudos to Rob for offering a bit of transparency in the process.

  13. Today is the anniversary of the great Roberto Clemente’s ill fated flight to Nicauraga. Hard to believe it has been 41 years, I’ll never forget when I got the news.

    R.I.P. Great One……………you are missed to this day.

    • Thanks for reminding us, Gunner. I recall being a very young boy at a family gathering when our parents brought us all together to tell us what had happened. I remember my mom and dad being in tears.

  14. … And this is a terrible ballot. If you think guys are going to turn up on your ballot later, then why aren’t they there now? It’s not like you don’t have the space for them.

  15. Larry Walker – should be on every ballot. No hint of PEDs. Solid 5 tool player throughout nearly all of his 17 year career. Walker is unfairly penalized by HOF voters for having played in Coors Field. His career OPS was .965, but park-adjusted it was still an excellent .909. Walker’s OPS was .981 at age 27 in Montreal and .908 at ages 37 and 38 in St. Louis. In his MVP year at age 30 in Colorado, when Walker had his career best OPS of 1.172, Walker’s OPS was higher on the road than at home. Walker was a superb right fielder with a powerful arm. He stole double digit bases almost every year before turning 35.

    One other thought: Walker was a left-handed hitter and is only 46. I wonder if he could still platoon at 1st base?

    • Someone get Walker’s agent on the phone, stat! I do agree that he might be able to help at 1b for the Bucs this year.

      Larry Walker was a very good player, as you say, Murtaugh. But, a HOF? I believe it is very fair to say he got a large boost from the Colorado air.

      He hit 383 career HR, and 215 were at home and 168 on the road. That’s a pretty big disparity, with 56.1% coming at home. He had 2,160 hits, which is not a number that typically gets you into consideration for HOF – although I will agree that he drew a lot of walks and, therefore, sacrificed some hits along the way.

      Career home vs. away slash lines:

      Home – .348/.431/.637
      Away – .278/.370/.495

      Throw away his altitude-induced home stats and he was a good hitter. But, if you let Larry Walker in for those stats, where do you draw the line? Dave Parker and Al Oliver, just to name a couple of former Bucs, were both equally or more deserving IMO.

      • Thanks, Jim S for the classic mis-analysis of Walker’s splits. You focus on his away stats, as if they should represent his whole career. First, Walker hit very well on the road. As your numbers show, Walkers road OPS over 17 years was .865. By contrast, Parker’s career OPS was .810 and his road OPS was 775. Oliver was similar, with a career OPS of .795 and a road OPS of .778. Further, road stats do not represent a whole career. Most hitters hit better at home than on the road, regardless of park factors. Looking only at Walker’s road stats deprives him of this benefit. It also means that Walker gets no games at Coors, while his contemporaries on other teams got some games there. OPS+ adjusts for park and era. Walker’s OPS+ was 141 for his career. Parker and Oliver both posted career OPS+ ratings of 121. Add to this that Walker was a better fielder than either Parker or Oliver by any modern measure, and there is simply no contest.

        • Walker benefited immensely from Coor’s Field, and the stats clearly show it. He hit .348 on the road for his entire career, which includes 5+ seasons in Montreal. Even all the Montreal years could not water down the home field advantage derived from Colorado. I didn’t calculate his average and other stats at Coor’s, but I’m sure they were off the charts – just like for many other players there. Dante Bichette was a beast there, if you recall. Road games give a more fair cross-section of overall performance. That’s why I included it.

          For his career, he had a .348 to .278 batting avg advantage, .431 to .370 OBP advantage, and .637 to .495 Slugging % advantage at home vs. the road. That is not normal, unless a guy had an extreme hitting advantage at home. He was good on the road and legendary at home.

          He was good as an Expo. He did not have outrageous power – 99 HR in 5 seasons. He did not hit for a Ty Cobb-like average in those seasons. That came later, as a Rockie. This is what he did as an Expo (home and away included):

          .249/.326/.434
          .290/.349/.458
          .301/.353/.506
          .265/,371/.469
          .322/.394/.587

          I excluded his first season, since he had less than 100 ABs.

          How else do you explain the career splits if it was not for Coor’s? I don’t think guys automatically hit better at home. Over time, they hit better in more favorable hitting environments. Some guys get the benefit of hitting in offensive-oriented parks and some guys have to play half their games in pitcher’s parks.

          I put Larry Walker in the Hall of Very Good. Nothing at all wrong with that. I just don’t think he was a HOF.

          You made good points about the OPS+ of Walker vs. the 2 Bucs I threw into the argument. I should not have thrown them in, anyway, since they were never part of your original argument. But, I will say that I have never heard anyone express the opinion that Larry Walker was a better fielder than Dave Parker until now. I know Walker had a great arm, but Parker was probably the best defensive RF in baseball for a long time. His arm was considered the best of anyone in baseball, along with Andre Dawson, when he played. I also think he had better range than Walker, but I guess that is hard to prove.

          • Walker’s Coors’ stats are astounding, and if we were to judge him without a park adjustment, he’d be one of the greatest hitters ever – light-years ahead of most HOFers; however, I’m not arguing for Walker based on those stats. I’m saying adjust them fairly and look at his road stats recognizing the bias in that approach. When you consider Walker’s record fairly, the case for him is compelling.

            Let’s not talk about Oliver’s and Parker’s career hitting stats, which Jim S concedes are inferior to Walker’s road stats. Let’s focus on HOFers, such as Billy Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Gwynn and Dave Winfield. Their stats are as follows:

            Williams, Career OPS .853 and OPS+ 133 (home OPS .899, road OPS .808)
            Yaz, Career OPS .841 and OPS+ 130 (home OPS .904, road OPS .799)
            Gwynn, Career OPS .847 and OPS+ 132 (home OPS .859, road OPS .835)
            Winfield, Career OPS .827 and OPS+ 130 (home OPS .812, road OPS .841)

            How does Walker compare? His OPS+ of 141 is better than the OPS+ of these 4 HOFers by a significant margin. If you don’t trust the park adjustment in OPS+, then consider the fact that Walker’s road OPS of .865 is higher than the career and road OPS of each of the 4 HOFers. If Williams, Yaz, Gwynn and Winfield set the standard, Walker’s career stats meet the test.

            As to Parker vs. Walker in the field. Jim S is right that Parker had a strong arm, but so did Walker, which is why he had 150 career assists as a right fielder to Parker’s 137. But where Parker really fell down was in the number of errors he made –144 errors, which led to a very poor .966 career fielding percentage. Walker made only 57 errors in his career and had a .986 career fielding percentage. The fact that Parker played about 675 more innings than Walker does not begin to justify this disparity. Walker also had a few more putouts than Parker, despite playing fewer innings, so it would appear that Walker’s range was a good or better than Parker’s. Finally, Walker’s dWAR is 17 wins higher than Parker’s. By any measure, Walker was the better fielder.

          • Well, Danny, you have convinced me that Walker is more deserving of consideration than I had previously thought. I’m not sold yet, but I think he’s in the argument.

            It was a fun discussion. Happy New Year!

          • Just a bit more. Jim S argues that Walker’s Expo’s stats show that he was a much worse player before moving to Coors. Those stats show that he was young and learning to hit. Walker made it to the Majors at the age of 22. It took him a stub year and a full season to learn to hit for average and a bit longer to put it all together. Starting at age 24, Walker hit:
            24 – .290/.348/.458, OPS .808
            25 – .301/.353/.506, OPS . 859
            26 – .265/.371/.469, OPS .841
            27 – . 322/.397/.587, OPS . 981

            Walker’s development was similar to Gwynn’s and Winfield’s, both of whom first broke the .900 OPS line at age 27, and Williams, who cracked .900 at age 26. Yaz did it at 25. Also, note that Williams production in his last year as an Expo was about the same as his first year in Colorado – .301/.386/.607, OPS .988.

          • Our last posts crossed. Happy New Year to you too.

  16. If you have 10 votes, but only used 6… and you have 4 other guys you have voted for in the past / will vote for in the future… I”m not exactly sure why you didn’t just vote for all 10? Obviously they weren’t all going to get elected this year, but if you believe a guy is a Hall of Famer, then why not consistently vote for him? I would have added Mussina and Schilling at the very least.

  17. Surprisingly, Kenny Rodgers, Based on his chicken alone, couldn’t even get one vote from Rob. I know most all of the beat writers take a bucket of chicken back to the room every now and again…………Perhaps the red glare got in Robs eyes when he was looking at the ballot. Deadspin quoted Rob as saying; ” I – I need that chicken, I gotta have that chicken. Now you leave those roasters alone. Kenny never hurt anybody. Kenny? … Kenny? KENNY COME BACK! Kenny …. Kenny ……. Kenny………………..”

    But then Rob never voted for him….I just doesn’t make any sense!

  18. Good posts, y’nz. A lot of really good points were made, and you can be sure I’ll look over all this again when my 2014 ballot arrives next winter. Much of the debating is stat-heavy, which is to be expected. But, remember the directive on the HOF ballot: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Numbers don’t always tell the full story (which is why I won’t be voting for Jamie Moyer).
    Have a happy, peaceful 2014.

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