Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hot Stove Wrap Up - What the Hall?

Quote of the Day:

''This is not to be voted to make sure that somebody gets in every year. It's to be voted on to make sure that they're deserving. I respect the writers as well as the Hall itself. This idea that this somehow diminishes the Hall of baseball is just ridiculous in my opinion.''

-- Commissioner Bud Selig

Baseball fans, now that the slow days of winter are over we can finally look forward to the start of spring training on the horizon.  Most of the big free agents have been signed and while a big trade could still happen, it's mostly time to plug a few holes in the lineups.  

But until we get back to our regularly scheduled programming (like reviewing Jason Frasor or Brett Myers deals, examining Mike Napoli's medical records) we need to talk about something that happened this week. . .


In a much-anticipated announcement on Wednesday, it turns out that NO ONE was elected in sport's most hallowed Hall of Fame.  

In order to qualify for the Hall of Fame, a candidate must receive 75% of the vote.  Ten year members of the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) can select ten players to put on their ballot.  

Here's a few notable players and their votes by percentage.  

  • Craig Biggio 68.2 
  • Jack Morris 67.7 
  • Jeff Bagwell 59.6 
  • Mike Piazza 57.8 
  • Tim Raines 52.2 
  • Lee Smith 47.8 
  • Curt Schilling 38.8 
  • Roger Clemens 37.6 
  • Barry Bonds 36.2 
  • Edgar Martinez 35.9 
  • Alan Trammell 33.6 
  • Larry Walker 21.6 
  • Fred McGriff 20.7 
  • Dale Murphy 18.6 
  • Mark McGwire 16.9 
  • Don Mattingly 13.2 
  • Sammy Sosa 12.5 
  • Rafael Palmiero 8.8 

This isn't great.  Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Biggio all were in their first year of eligibility with arguably first ballot Hall of Fame numbers.  The elephant in the room is that with the exception of Biggio, all have been linked to PEDs.  Steroids are clearly complicating the ballot. 

A few notes:

  • Biggio?  Really?  3,000 hits with one team, a class act on and off the field.  I'm not really sure what one has to do other than that to be Hall of Fame worthy.  There has been a "first ballot" bias in the past but Craig Biggio deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I really don't see how he doesn't get in.  
  • It's a screwed up process.  With more and more players becoming Hall of Fame eligible and with only ten spots on a ballot, this could be a long term problem since the voters clearly don't have a consensus about what to do about the PED factor.  A simple solution?  A 15-20 player ballot but I also don't see this happening anytime soon.  While it's not unprecedented to have no one admitted (the last time it happened was 1996), it would definitely not be a good thing if the same thing happens next year.  
  • Could it happen next year?  Probably not.  Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Greg Maddox will be eligible for the first time next year with sure-fire Hall of Fame numbers.  Jack Morris also could get in on his last year on the ballot. Then again, I thought Biggio was a lock to get in but we all so how that went down.    
  • Speaking of Morris, is it possible that the winningest pitcher of the 1980s and the definition of clutch pitching could not make the Hall?  It's actually very possible.  While Morris has 254 career victories and averaged an incredible 7 IP, his 3.90 ERA would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall.  I expected him to get in this year, but with Maddox and Glavine on the ballot next year, it will be tough, though his percentage did climb this year.
  • See Mike Piazza to see how divided voters are about candidates from the steroid era.  Piazza with the most home runs by a catcher ever, and also never linked to performance enhancing drugs nonetheless was a contemporary of the steroid era.  While it's entire plausible that Piazza used PEDs, it's also completely unfair to accuse him of it.  And that's the situation -- it's impossible to know who used and who didn't.  57.8% is awfully low for someone with career numbers like Piazza.  
  • As tough as it is for Piazza, it's even worse for guys like McGwire, Sosa, Bonds and Clemens.  Players with clear Hall of Fame numbers are getting shunned like a goth chick at senior prom.  The dark cloud of steroids will probably prevent guys like Sosa and Palmiero from getting in, though guys like Bonds and Clemens have an outside shot if they'd ever stop being such d***s.  Palmiero and McGwire actually went down from last year.  Not a good trend for them.
  • It would be a lot easier for me to accept many Hall voters stances on steroid era players if they weren't so maddeningly inconsistent and borderline clueless.  One voter had Aaron Sele on the ballot.  Yes, that Aaron Sele.  I don't know which is worse, Biggio and his 3,000 hits not on 75% of the ballots or Aaron Sele being on one ballot.  Sandy Alomar managed to some-freakin-how find his way on 16 ballots.  
  • Kenny Lofton and Bernie Williams fell off.  Maybe these guys weren't Hall of Famers, but in my opinion, they deserved to be in the conversation for more than one year.  BOOM, you just got "Lou Whitaker'd"    
  • Baseball's Hall of Fame is now void of it's all-time hits leader (Pete Rose) and its all-time home run leader (Bonds).  Four voters had write-in votes for Pete Rose though his name is not on the ballot.  
  • Two time MVP Dale Murphy failed to cross the 75% threshold in his 15th and final try on the ballot.  Murphy was a great guy and a good player, but not Hall of Fame good.  
  • What would I do if I were a member of the BBWAA?  That's a tough call.  I probably wouldn't vote for anyone linked to steroids on the first couple of ballots.  That's fair.  Call me old school but I don't think they should get in, at least for a while.  I might make execeptions for guys like Clemens and Bonds but they are so unlikable it would be hard for me to write their names down.   
  • Guys like Biggio, Piazza, and Bagwell?  I'd put them in for sure.  I won't punish a whole generation of players for the crimes of others.  But it's a tough call.  I'd probably take months to fill out my ballot and agonize over it many sleepless nights.  I'd take it VERY seriously.  
  • A compromise?  PED users can be elected to the Hall of Fame, but can only be inducted posthumously.  It's a wild proposal but I actually kind of like it.  
  • While I understand why writers would leave a PED user off the ballot, I don't like when they justify it by saying they are trying to preserve the "integrity of the game."  Where were these journalists when PED’s were at their most rampant?  They were celebrating the resurgence of baseball while ignoring Brady Anderson hitting 50 bombs and Ken Caminiti looking like a WWE wrestler.  If you want to leave them off the ballot, fine, but at least add to the discussion instead of sitting on some sort of moral high horse in MLB's kangaroo court.  
  • Seriously though, this is a group that makes up hall of fame voting rules as they go along, they then will change those self-made rules from year to year and from player to player, they hold life-long grudges, are scared to death of advanced metrics and miss the good old days when their opinion was the only opinion, be it right or (often) wrong.  There are some great baseball journalists in America.  But there are some clowns too and they get a vote.  
  • Technically, this doesn't mean that no one will be inducted this year. Three inductees were chosen last month by a special panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1946: Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. All have been dead since at least 1939.  That kind of takes the luster off the ceremony.  
  • No one was happier about the Hall of Fame voting results than some of the actual Hall of Famers.  A few quotes for your reading enjoyment. . .

"If they let these guys in ever - at any point - it's a big black eye for the Hall and for baseball. It's like telling our kids you can cheat, you can do whatever you want, and it's not going to matter." -- Goose Gossage
    "It's not news that Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro, and McGwire didn't get in, but that they received hardly any consideration at all. The real news is that Biggio and Piazza were well under the 75 percent needed." -- Mike Schmidt 
    "Wow! Baseball writers make a statement.  Feels right.'' -- Dennis Eckersley
    "I'm kind of glad that nobody got in this year. I feel honored to be in the Hall of Fame. And I would've felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were.'' -- Al Kaline

Some other stuff happened in baseball too.  For now, it's time to wrap it up.  We have a fall of fame that doesn't include the all-time home run and hits leaders.  The pitcher with the most Cy Youngs, two players that also broke Roger Maris' home run record, the best hitting catcher in baseball history

What we know is that the baseball Hall of Fame process is complex.  It is a debate between greatness and purity that has anything but a simple answer.  

My final thoughts?  I tend to agree with Ken Rosenthal, who correctly quasi-predicted that no one would get in this year.  

"Baseball is a talking sport, a sport that produces arguments like none other. The Hall arguments are especially passionate. You may agree with some, disagree with others. But the debate over the PED users, while occasionally maddening, is not a bad thing for the Hall, or for baseball. We’re talking, after all, about the game’s soul."
We may not be happy about the results, but it is no doubt part of the process that baseball will have to figure out.  For now, let's look ahead to spring training.  Coming up soon, we'll start to get out of our New Year funk and pump out some transaction reviews, some more Hot Stove Updates as they happen and start into our team previews for 2013.  Until then, here's some more good Hall of Fame opinions.

Vote about Greatness, Not Perfection

The Baseball Hall of Fame's Shocking Message: In the End, Cheaters Lose

Baseball Hall of Fame voting process is fine

Hall of Fame 2013

Hall of Fame is a Mess

Mahler: In baseball hall of fame, character shouldn't count