Every once in a while, you state that there’s a solid argument that a certain pitcher is the greatest pitcher of all time. I think I’ve seen you say that of Roger Clemens & Tom Seaver. Do you think that there’s a solid argument that Pedro Martinez is the greatest starter of all time? Inning for inning, the guy very well might be.
Well. ..it’s an argument you can make if you want to. It’s a “performance relative to era norms” argument, and those kind of arguments are prone to certain characteristic flaws, as are others. People—including me—will focus on Babe Ruth’s 1920/1921 home run seasons as the greatest home run efforts ever, because Ruth hit so many home runs relative to the era norms. It’s a little misleading; no one else had really caught on to the home run thing yet. Within five years other players would be hitting home runs, and, indeed, would be hitting almost as many home runs as Ruth would. Perhaps the greatest pitching performance ever was Dazzy Vance in 1924. Vance went 28-6, and struck out 262 in a season in which only one other pitcher in the league struck out one-third as many (Burleigh Grimes struck out 135). If Pedro was the greatest American League pitcher ever, was Randy Johnson in the same years the greatest National League pitcher ever, for the same reasons? Isn’t that a little suspicious? Pedro was an extremely dominant pitcher, and if you want to argue that he was the greatest ever, well. . .don’t let me stop you.
What are the HOF chances for Gary Sheffield?
Extremely difficult to calculate. I think he meets the rational tests of Hall of Fame quality, but a) the effects of expansion—which are just now hitting the Hall of Fame—are certain to push the line upward; b) people will discount steroid-era records in a haphazard way, creating muddled results, and c) Sheffield bounced from team to team and burned his bridges on the way out of town most of the time, leaving him with no real constituency to make a Hall of Fame case for him. I’d vote for him. I don’t expect him to make it in the next ten years.