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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

George Vecsey: Nothing Wrong With Being a Tough Out in Hall of Fame Voting

If We Wait…..a Year.

However, if I did vote, I would be a strict constructionist. This year, five players with the best statistics are handcuffed together in a squad car of suspicion and evidence and admission.

As somebody who has told the very nice sons of Roger Maris and Gil Hodges that I do not quite think their fathers were Hall of Fame players, I could make the same judgment about Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly and Lee Smith. Too many really good players in the Hall right now.

There is no tangible evidence against Mike Piazza. His career numbers seem worthy of the Hall. Wait a year.

Edgar Martinez may have been the best designated hitter in history. But designated hitter is still a gimmick in my opinion. It means he didn’t play defense most of the time. Wait a year.

Jeff Bagwell has the statistics but is generally suspected of bulking up. I don’t know. Wait a year.

Curt Schilling? Great post-season statistics. Wait a year.

Craig Biggio? He played three positions – very impressive – and has excellent longevity numbers – but was not necessarily the most feared hitter on his own team. Wait a year.

Repoz Posted: January 08, 2013 at 07:05 AM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: January 08, 2013 at 08:15 AM (#4341782)
Jeff Bagwell has the statistics but is generally suspected of bulking up. I don’t know. Wait a year.

...

Craig Biggio? ... was not necessarily the most feared hitter on his own team. Wait a year.


<head explodes>
   2. Fanshawe Posted: January 08, 2013 at 09:32 AM (#4341805)
<head explodes>


I'm surprised it was still intact after reading his Piazza "argument."
   3. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 08, 2013 at 09:38 AM (#4341809)
Craig Biggio? He played three positions – very impressive – and has excellent longevity numbers – but was not necessarily the most feared hitter on his own team. Wait a year.


Lou Gehrig? He played only one position - not very impressive - and has excellent longevity numbers - but was not necessarily the most feared hitter on his own team. Wait a couple of years.
   4. joeysdadjoe Posted: January 08, 2013 at 09:38 AM (#4341811)
Craig Biggio? ... was not necessarily the most feared hitter on his own team. Wait a year.



Good thing this guy wasn't voting for Gehrig. I know he went in special but still.

How does this work? Coke to #3?
   5. Bob Tufts Posted: January 08, 2013 at 10:01 AM (#4341821)
Management did not want to know why the players had new muscles on their muscles – even when a reporter like Steve Wilstein spotted the evidence sitting there in McGwire’s locker.


It was andro - and it was legal and over the counter at the time.

And the Players Association was fighting off drug rules and drug testing on the spurious grounds of individual rights


No individual rights are spurious, especially those that relate to the 4th Amendment.

There is no tangible evidence against Mike Piazza. Jeff Bagwell has the statistics but is generally suspected of bulking up.


Wait? What?

Pete Rose was a Hall of Fame player, absolutely, but he hurt himself by betting on baseball as a manager


As a player/manager

   6. thetailor Posted: January 08, 2013 at 10:45 AM (#4341853)
George Vecsey, 2004: "What if somebody had offered the Babe a magic potion to cure hangovers and help him lose weight and buff up those spindly calf muscles of his? What if some sleazo had offered to sell gimpy, pained Mick some homemade steroids and human growth hormone out of the back of his van? Maybe the Mick would have said, "That ain't right." Or maybe not. What about the great players who have dabbled in red juice, greenies, goofballs, uppers, anything to get them going? I saw one the other night on the tube, in a suit and tie, talking moralistically. I remembered how he used to jabber a blue streak before a game.

We just don't know." http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/12/sports/baseball/12vecsey.html?ref=georgevecsey&_r=0


Vecsey, 1997: "IF the various sports halls of fame banned drunks, drug addicts, wife beaters, check bouncers, philanderers, racists, bullies, foulmouths, sneak punchers and general misanthropes, you would have yawning gaps in Cooperstown, Canton, Springfield and Toronto. At every sports banquet you have been forced to attend, there has undoubtedly been a gaseous speech about the character-building aspect of sports. But in fact, is there any place for even a minimal character requirement in sports?

Sports should never expect athletes to be role models, but the standards should be higher for top executives. And it's always a good idea to find out if prospective owners have any money behind their big talk." http://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/23/sports/yanks-face-moral-issue-with-whiten.html?ref=georgevecsey

Oddly enough, he's actually a little more consistent than the excerpts above make him sound. Vecsey, 1996: "My poor, rumpled brothers and sisters in the baseball-writing business -- their eyes baggy from too many editions, their shoulders ruined from lugging laptops through endless airports, their morale destroyed from playing house detective with agents and owners -- individually drew a line in the sand. Wait a year." http://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/13/sports/sports-of-the-times-nice-to-see-standards-somewhere.html?ref=georgevecsey

   7. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: January 08, 2013 at 11:06 AM (#4341868)
Lou Gehrig? He played only one position - not very impressive - and has excellent longevity numbers


Longevity? He fell off a bigger cliff than Dale Murphy did and was done at 35. He had good numbers, but he himself attributed it to luck.
   8. TJ Posted: January 08, 2013 at 11:10 AM (#4341875)
Maybe this is why the NY Times doesn't allow their writers to vote. It's not because of "objectivity". It's because the NY Times realizes that their sportswriters are idiots.

I wonder if Vecsey encountered this situation before, like on his wedding night. Perhaps his wife said, "Honey, I love you, but you're a a few pounds overweight, your right eye is a touch larger than your left, and your nose haris could use trimming. Wait a year."
   9. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 08, 2013 at 01:01 PM (#4342001)
Jeff Bagwell has the statistics but is generally suspected of bulking up. I don’t know. Wait a year.


I'm trying to follow this logic. What does another year buy, exactly? The steroids controversy has been raging for over a decade. Bagwell retired half a decade ago. What does one year do for anyone? Is it just the desperate hope that something might be discovered in that time? Why would it?
   10. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 08, 2013 at 01:41 PM (#4342041)
Is it just the desperate hope that something might be discovered in that time? Why would it?

You'll find out if you wait a year.
   11. JJ1986 Posted: January 08, 2013 at 01:44 PM (#4342044)
I'm trying to follow this logic. What does another year buy, exactly? The steroids controversy has been raging for over a decade. Bagwell retired half a decade ago. What does one year do for anyone? Is it just the desperate hope that something might be discovered in that time? Why would it?


The author is only comfortable voting for him if he's sure it's as part of a sizable majority.
   12. Moeball Posted: January 08, 2013 at 01:52 PM (#4342050)
I'm trying to follow this logic. What does another year buy, exactly? The steroids controversy has been raging for over a decade. Bagwell retired half a decade ago. What does one year do for anyone? Is it just the desperate hope that something might be discovered in that time? Why would it?


Just a theory, but I'm guessing at least some of the writers are waiting for the Piazza book to come out in a few months. Not sure what that will really do - possible scenarios:

1)Piazza gets announced as elected tomorrow (not gonna happen, but work with me, people): Piazza book comes out with a mea culpa, meaning someone who openly acknowledges steroid use is now in the HOF. Actually, I think both sides of the steroid issue might like that outcome - "pro steroid" voters can say that once one is in, that opens the door for Bonds, Clemens, etc. "Anti steroid" voters may like it just for the "I told you so!" factor as their suspicions are confirmed. Murray Chass rejoices.

2)Piazza doesn't get elected tomorrow (the most likely scenario) - does anybody really think he's still going to come out with a book that says he took steroids? I don't think so. In which case, suspicions will still be there, but, as has been the case, very little evidence to work with. Nothing will really change. Next year at this time there will still be writers saying "wait a year".

   13. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 08, 2013 at 02:04 PM (#4342057)
2)Piazza doesn't get elected tomorrow (the most likely scenario) - does anybody really think he's still going to come out with a book that says he took steroids?


No. He might come out with a book that says that Murray Chass is a bitter little man, though.
   14. Moeball Posted: January 08, 2013 at 02:07 PM (#4342058)
Actually, I'd like an actual player's opinion on something, and we have one in our midst, so I'll throw this out there - Monsieur Tufts, can you enlighten us more about how the MLBPA approached the early pushes for testing? And maybe I should also ask - just how early in time did you guys first start hearing rumblings that testing may be put on the negotiating table? I'm curious, because I would think:

1)If only a tiny % of players were "using" - particularly if they were unpopular players - wouldn't the union as a whole want to put a stop to this ASAP?

2)On the other hand - if a substantial portion of players were using some form of PED - and, in the case of the "Mac and Sammy Show", fairly popular players - wouldn't the union be hesitant to slow down a train that was picking up steam in re-popularizing the game with fans, particularly post-strike?

My guess is that things are never as black-and-white as we sometimes think, and you may be able to fill in some shades of grey?
   15. John Northey Posted: January 08, 2013 at 03:02 PM (#4342128)
I think various reasons would've existed to resist testing. For example, a player who is caught but later is found to be innocent would forevermore be listed as a cheat by many writers and fans thus have his future earnings reduced due to something beyond his control. Thus the need for extensive rules on appeals and to not release results until all appeals are exhausted as well - sadly those rules were shown to be easily broken last year.

Also, suppose an owner wanted out of an ugly contract (say, Vernon Wells) - if you had an extreme system set up (as owners would like) then they could try to sneak something into their drink that would make them test positive and if the appeals were set by owners then too bad, so sad for the player and bye bye millions. And we all know how the media would report any accusations - just look at the Palmeiro situation when he said he thought he was getting a B12 injection.

That said they still could've pushed for a much better system but I think I recall them doing just that. Pushing for one focused on rehab instead of being banned for various lengths of time which the owners (and media) would not go for. Owners due to still having to pay, and media due to a desire to get their pound of flesh (a banned player is a better headline than one who is in rehab or forced to take extra education).
   16. Bob Tufts Posted: January 08, 2013 at 03:11 PM (#4342146)
This link from Salon interview with Marvin Miller in 2002 is the union and player viewopint in the 80's. http://www.salon.com/2002/06/20/miller_18/

In sum:
A testing procedure was negotiated by MLB and the MLBPA for cocaine and recreational drugs (pretty much what we have today)
Ueberroth abrogated the agreement (as was his right)
The union mistrust of drug testing purposes by management grew - and mistrust was institutionalized by the collusion cases.
So, no progress could be made until collusion cases were deicded
And then the 1994-95 strike happened

Ownership's reaction to all drug usage was the same as Robert Duvall's Frank Hackett in "Network" when advised about the morality of putting the deranged Howard Beale on the air for ratings. He described the board telling him to "keep it up, good job" as the revenue poured in. (No Arthur Jensen "meddled with the primal forces of nature" moment here!)

Mangement's 80's approach was shown in "Lords of the Realm" when Ray Kroc was told by his GM that one of his players had a cocaine habit. The player had just won the game with a hit and Kroc's response was "well, give 'em all cocaine then!"

And was cocaine use rampant? About the same as it was in general society with people who had too much money and too much time.

In my talks with Don Fehr, he truly did not believe or realize the extent (no percentages mentioned) of steorid usage. It reached the critical stage where they had to act when it became a PR and political issue (the same with ownership). But, he was reluctant to re-open a CBA and set precedent for future owner's actions.

I never was in the steroid era loop, but fairness was never mentioned regarding amphetamines. You'd just have another few cups of coffee.

   17. Walt Davis Posted: January 08, 2013 at 05:00 PM (#4342285)
No movie predicted the future better than Network. Possibly my favorite movie of all-time despite its flaws.

How does this work? Coke to #3?

That you both went immediately from Biggio to Gehrig suggests that there's a far more special connection between you two so I'm thinking this is more a white wine and warm fire moment.

On waiting a year ... it's just laziness. I don't want to vote for these obviously qualified guys but I know I'm not really justified in accusing them of roid use so rather than engage that difficult decision I'll "wait a year."

What happens in that year? Well, nothing of relevance but they get another year to watch which way the herd is heading. The quotes from earlier Vecsey suggest that Vecsey senses it is safest to run with the blackballing herd right now. If Bagwell and Biggio end up on the verge of election, he might write the "there's no reliable evidence and they didn't show up in the Mitchell Report and ..." argument.
   18. cardsfanboy Posted: January 08, 2013 at 05:04 PM (#4342290)
I'm surprised it was still intact after reading his Piazza "argument."


I haven't read the article yet, but from the tone, wasn't this article somewhat sarcastic?

Edit: after reading the article, I don't think he was trying to be sarcastic, ironic or whatever the term to use.
   19. Moeball Posted: January 08, 2013 at 05:43 PM (#4342331)
What happens in that year? Well, nothing of relevance but they get another year to watch which way the herd is heading. The quotes from earlier Vecsey suggest that Vecsey senses it is safest to run with the blackballing herd right now. If Bagwell and Biggio end up on the verge of election, he might write the "there's no reliable evidence and they didn't show up in the Mitchell Report and ..." argument.


This is something I've always wondered about. For example, when Blyleven finally got elected - given how low his % was to start with - but then the momentum began to build over the years - why do I think there were writers that finally voted for Blyleven even though, in their minds, they were really thinking "I still say this guy was just a .500 pitcher". Do people really follow the herd mentality that much even though they have a fundamental disagreement with the herd?
   20. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 08, 2013 at 05:48 PM (#4342337)
It must kill the Heymans of the world that Blyleven got in while Morris is still fighting.
   21. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: January 08, 2013 at 05:57 PM (#4342348)
I haven't read the article yet, but from the tone, wasn't this article somewhat sarcastic?

Edit: after reading the article, I don't think he was trying to be sarcastic, ironic or whatever the term to use.


I was thinking the same thing as I read through the excerpt. The reasoning and the writing in the article would have been far better if he'd been trying for irony. "Everyone on the ballot can wait a year. Lather. Rinse. Repeat."
   22. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: January 08, 2013 at 05:57 PM (#4342349)
It must kill the Heymans of the world that Blyleven got in while Morris is still fighting.


Wait 'til tomorrow when the only inductee is Jack Morris.
   23. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 08, 2013 at 06:00 PM (#4342354)
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.


If you follow that, aren't you compelled to keep washing yourself forever?
   24. Walt Davis Posted: January 08, 2013 at 09:07 PM (#4342478)
This is something I've always wondered about. For example, when Blyleven finally got elected - given how low his % was to start with - but then the momentum began to build over the years - why do I think there were writers that finally voted for Blyleven even though, in their minds, they were really thinking "I still say this guy was just a .500 pitcher". Do people really follow the herd mentality that much even though they have a fundamental disagreement with the herd?

Apparently. Blyleven may be a bit of a special case, he had Lederer out there really pushing his case and genuinely educating voters. There's a reasonable chance all those final voters were just finally convinced.

But it is common that guys who come close on one ballot sail across the next. Larkin went from 62% to 86%, just massive. Even in a relatively competitive year, Perez went from 61 to 77. OK, he had been 68 the year before but still 68 to 77 is a pretty big jump. Aparicio, Drysdale, etc.

The main driver I think is simply "he's the best guy on the ballot" rather than joining the herd. It's no more rational but many voters seem to take this on a year-to-year basis rather than applying an historical standard and not thinking ahead. Tony Perez was at 68%. Then Ryan, Brett, Yount and Fisk hit the ballot and he falls back to 61. The next year, with just Fisk ahead of him, he jumps to 77. Concluding that Perez comes up 5th in a comparison with those guys is perfectly rational. But thinking that he meets an HoF standard in 98 (as if Ryan, Brett, Yount and Fisk didn't exist), deciding he doesn't meet it in 99 now that you see some real HoFers on the ballot, then deciding that he meets an HoF standard now that he's the 2nd best guy on the ballot ... that's some gymnastics. Of course it's possible that the 7% (or more) who dropped him from 98 to 99 did not add him in 00 but that seems unlikely. Presumably linked in with this is voters don't like turning in blank ballots.

Another irrational reason may be "giving in" (not quite the same as following the herd). I think there's also possibly some sub-conscious trading off -- "OK, they gave me Blyleven, I guess I should toss a vote to Morris". Depending on how much voters interact with one another, some trading off may be driven by social reciprocity. "OK, you've convinced me on Blyleven now hear me out on Morris..."

The only "rational" reason I can see for changing your vote in such a way* is that every induction does shift the minimum standard or the HoF average or the comparison pool a little bit. For example, if you didn't vote for Alomar or Larkin in 2011 but Alomar got elected in 2011 anyway, it seems perfectly reasonable to me for that person to conclude "well, the consensus is Alomar is an HoFer and, even though I think neither is an HoFer, I think Larkin is as good or better than Alomar, so I'll vote Larkin now. I give tepid support to Lee Smith under this argument -- I don't think closers are worthy of induction but I think Smith is close to Fingers, Gossage, Sutter. I tend towards Edgar being out but if he's inducted I might well throw a pretend vote to Giambi (depending on crowdedness).

Note that's not a "he's better than the worst HoFer" or even a "he's better than the worst BBWAA-inducted HoFer" argument. Edgar is way ahead of Perez, Rice, etc. in my book. But I am willing to shift my borderline a bit in response to inductions (the comparison pool bit essentially) or, in the case of closers, consider a new class of player. (Similarly if MLB ever shifts to having regular starting career DHs then I'd be willing to consider Edgar's place in DH rankings.) There could be a bit of mean-spirited anti-trading -- well, look, if you guys are going to be dumb enough to induct Jim Rice then I'm going to vote for Bernie and Wells and Murphy and ... to teach you a lesson. :-)

* OK, the Blyleven education path is rational but it rests on the notion that the voters don't take the time to properly evaluate candidates during the 5-year waiting period ... i.e. ignorance really should be no excuse here.
   25. SoSH U at work Posted: January 09, 2013 at 01:26 AM (#4342592)
It must kill the Heymans of the world that Blyleven got in while Morris is still fighting.


Based on the unbelievably petty and vindictive way he reacted to Bert's election, I'd say that's pretty accurate. What's funny was that the longer it took Bert to get in, the harder it made it for Jack to cross the finish line. If Bert had gone in a year earlier (say, Heyman and Murray and others decided to throw him a vote), then their guy Morris either makes it last year or this one. Now, there's a good chance he doesn't make it through the BBWAA.

Ha ha.

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