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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Goldman: Bernie Williams vs. Kirby Puckett

Let’s ask Erardi!...okay, maybe not.

I was watching the Hall of Fame announcement show on the MLB Network on Monday–congratulations to a very deserving Barry Larkin–and something Peter Gammons said as an aside in a discussion of Bernie Williams’ suitability for the Hall of Fame stuck with me: “He wasn’t as good as Kirby Puckett,” the Great Gammo almost muttered, as they cut to a commercial break.

I haven’t been able to put that comment out of my mind, because I’m not certain why Gammons is so sure. Both were excellent hitters with very different skills who nonetheless arrived at similar results. Puckett was short and stout, Williams long and lithe. Puckett reaped a huge benefit from his Metrodome home park, hitting .344/.388/.521 at home, .291/.331/.430 on the road. Williams was about the same hitter everywhere. Both were Gold Glove center fielders who won several of the defensive awards with their bats. Both won a single batting title. Puckett led the AL in hits four times; Williams walked too much to compete in that department.

Career-wise, Williams looks a little worse overall, but that’s because his peak isn’t quite so high and his career is a little longer. Due to glaucoma, Puckett’s career came to an abrupt end, depriving him of a decline phase, whereas Williams got to play until he was no longer useful. If you consider both through their age-35 seasons, it’s a virtual tie: Williams had hit .301/.388/.488 in 1804 games, while Puckett hit .318/.360/.477 in 1783 games.

Repoz Posted: January 12, 2012 at 06:52 AM | 68 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, sabermetrics, twins, yankees

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   1. Jacob Posted: January 12, 2012 at 07:34 AM (#4034909)
Bernie Williams OPS+125, WS teams 4, 4 GGs, 0.51 Career MVP Shares
Kirby Puckett OPS+124, WS teams 2, 6 GGs, 2.56 Career MVP Shares

Bernie's counting stats are better in pretty much every category, mostly due to a longer career. Puckett has the higher BA. Kirby sailed in on the 1st ballot. Bernie will be lucky to get in via the VC (so it seems). It doesn't make a lot of sense, if you think about it.
   2. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 12, 2012 at 08:25 AM (#4034915)
I didn't see much of Puckett's D when he got older, but in the 80's he truly was a great CF.
   3. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: January 12, 2012 at 09:07 AM (#4034924)
"Career-wise, Williams looks a little worse overall, but that’s because his peak isn’t quite so high and his career is a little longer".

Actually, Bernie's peak and prime were both higher than Pucketts. Kirby's prime was longer and he was still in it when he was forced to retire which helped him among the voters.
   4. TomH Posted: January 12, 2012 at 09:07 AM (#4034925)
Puckett:Williams :: Gywnn:Raines

"we luv batting avg and hits"
   5. Danny Posted: January 12, 2012 at 09:11 AM (#4034926)
This may not mean anything, but in looking for a novel way to compare the two players in terms of peak value, I took the top 200 seasons by center fielders as rated by wins above replacement (WARP) since 1950 and sorted them into individual piles for each player.

He finds Bernie with 5 seasons on the list and Puckett with 3. Of course, if he had looked at only the top 85 seasons he'd find Puckett with 2 and Bernie with 0.
Due to glaucoma, Puckett’s career came to an abrupt end, depriving him of a decline phase, whereas Williams got to play until he was no longer useful. If you consider both through their age-35 seasons, it’s a virtual tie: Williams had hit .301/.388/.488 in 1804 games, while Puckett hit .318/.360/.477 in 1783 games.

Williams didn't have a decline phase so much as he fell off a cliff after age 33. Puckett appeared to still be in his prime (at least with the bat) when he retired at age 35, and voters likely gave him the benefit of the doubt by assuming a normal decline phase rather than a cliff dive.

But mostly, it's that Puckett's traditionalist resume is just better: higher BA (easily the best among post-war CFers), more black ink, more AS games, more GG, more SS, better postseason.
   6. Bitter Mouse Posted: January 12, 2012 at 09:56 AM (#4034954)
I better post season is part of the key. 1991 really helps Puckett, his game 6, followed by game 7 with Morris makes a difference (whether it shouldor not is a different question).
   7. Darren Posted: January 12, 2012 at 09:59 AM (#4034957)
Good piece and I think he makes a pretty good case that Bernie is in about the same class as Puckett, who is looking more and more like a personality pick.
   8. Poulanc Posted: January 12, 2012 at 10:03 AM (#4034961)
something Peter Gammons said as an aside in a discussion of Bernie Williams’ suitability for the Hall of Fame stuck with me: “He wasn’t as good as Kirby Puckett,” the Great Gammo almost muttered, as they cut to a commercial break.


Not that it means much, but I'm pretty sure it was Bob Costas, and not Peter Gammons who said this. And Costas is the guy who added 'Kirby' to his son's middle name.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 12, 2012 at 10:06 AM (#4034964)
Good piece and I think he makes a pretty good case that Bernie is in about the same class as Puckett, who is looking more and more like a personality pick.

Which is hilaripus given that Puckett turned out to be an ####### predator, instead of the "hale fellow well met" everyone thought.
   10. AROM Posted: January 12, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4034974)
I didn't see much of Puckett's D when he got older, but in the 80's he truly was a great CF.


Puckett's defense was inversely correlated with his girth, and his homerun totals.
   11. AROM Posted: January 12, 2012 at 10:26 AM (#4034980)
I don't think Puckett is an egregious mistake like Jim Rice, but he's certainly on of the lower tier HOFers to get in by the BBWAA. Bernie's got just as good a case. But so do these guys:

Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno, Dale Murphy, Fred Lynn.
   12. John DiFool2 Posted: January 12, 2012 at 11:06 AM (#4035013)
I better post season is part of the key. 1991 really helps Puckett, his game 6, followed by game 7 with Morris makes a difference (whether it shouldor not is a different question).


Bernie contributed significantly to 5 World Championships (tho he stunk it up in the World Series: .677 OPS), but for some inexplicably strange reason has gotten virtually no credit for it.
   13. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 12, 2012 at 11:21 AM (#4035022)
Bernie contributed significantly to 5 World Championships (tho he stunk it up in the World Series: .677 OPS), but for some inexplicably strange reason has gotten virtually no credit for it.


Four (which is meaningful. Bernie faded out and the Yankees kept churning out division winners/playoff berths).

I don't think it's terribly surprising. Kirby was viewed, in a general sense viewed correctly, as the best position player on two World Series winners. Bernie is seen as one cog, and not the most important one, in a WS machine.
   14. bartap74 Posted: January 12, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4035031)
Which is hilaripus given that Puckett turned out to be an ####### predator, instead of the "hale fellow well met" everyone thought.



Puckett was indeed accused of some unsavory behavior but he took the case to try and was acquitted.
   15. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 12, 2012 at 12:17 PM (#4035067)
Puckett was indeed accused of some unsavory behavior but he took the case to try and was acquitted.


Yea, it was just one isolated incident. It's not like it was different women accused him of threatening them over many incidents.

Laura Nygren, whom SI describes as Puckett's "mistress of many years," told the magazine that Puckett resumed an affair with her just seven weeks after he was married in 1986 -- then cheated on Nygren with numerous other women.

After the onset of glaucoma in his right eye forced him to retire in 1996, Puckett began committing lewd acts in public, such as urinating in mall parking lots, Nygren told SI. Her relationship with the ex-ballplayer ended last March after he allegedly threatened her and she obtained a temporary order of protection.

... a female employee of the Twins threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the team because of Puckett’s and other men’s behavior. The Twins allegedly made a financial settlement with her...

Puckett’s ex-wife, Tonya, divorced him in December, barely a year after she told police that he threatened to kill her during a telephone conversation. Over the years, she told SI, Puckett had also tried to strangle her with an electrical cord, locked her in the basement and used a power saw to cut through a door after she had locked herself in a room. Once, she said, he even put a cocked gun to her head while she was holding their young daughter.

Puckett’s upcoming trial stems from charges that he pulled a woman into the men’s room of a restaurant in Eden Prairie, Minn., on Sept. 5, 2002, and fondled her. The woman told police that Puckett released her only when her girlfriend opened the door to the men’s room and screamed.
...

“That’s great, you get to make that kid’s day,” Nygren told him. “That must make you feel good.” But she said Puckett just snapped back at her.

“I don’t give a s---,” he said. “It’s just another kid who’s sick.”


Yea, a real sweetheart of a guy.
   16. Wins Above Paul Westerberg Posted: January 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM (#4035092)
It took 15 whole posts to get to this point? Weird. Must be a slow day here at MoralThinkFactory.
   17. BDC Posted: January 12, 2012 at 12:47 PM (#4035098)
Bernie is seen as one cog, and not the most important one, in a WS machine

We thought of him as a monster here in Texas (in the positive sense, not as in "history's greatest" ...) He had 12 RBI in 10 playoff games against the Rangers in the '90s – and I had forgotten he went 0-for the 1998 series, so the '96 and '99 series were all the more impressive. But you're right, Bernie hit only .208 lifetime in the World Series, and his heroics cooled off after his first few years in the postseason.
   18. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: January 12, 2012 at 12:52 PM (#4035103)
I'd agree that Puckett's glove--before he got round--made him a better player at his peak than Bernie. Still, I don't think it would insult the HOF if Bernie Williams were elected and think he deserved more support this year from the voters.

As for the off field stuff, there is no player who disappointed me more when the curtain was lifted than Kirby Puckett.
   19. NJ in DC (Now with Wife!) Posted: January 12, 2012 at 12:54 PM (#4035110)
Bernie is seen as one cog, and not the most important one, in a WS machine

Which is funny because he was, IIRC, the best position player on the team most of those years.
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 12, 2012 at 12:55 PM (#4035111)
It took 15 whole posts to get to this point? Weird. Must be a slow day here at MoralThinkFactory.

I'm an decently strong anti-roider, but Puckett deserves exclusion from thr HoF based on the character clause far more than any of the PED cheaters.

Hell, he's probably the #1 character clause violater (among reasonable candidates) since Ty Cobb. Or am I missing a worse shitheel?
   21. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 12, 2012 at 01:03 PM (#4035120)
Which is funny because he was, IIRC, the best position player on the team most of those years.


It looks like he was in 1996, but not the other years. But my comment was more on the perception of him than the reality.

As for the off field stuff, there is no player who disappointed me more when the curtain was lifted than Kirby Puckett.


Same here. I loved watching him play baseball.
   22. Steve N Posted: January 12, 2012 at 01:34 PM (#4035161)
snapper, I have read that Enos Slaughter was pretty disgusting in a racist brutal sort of way. There are probably others.
   23. NJ in DC (Now with Wife!) Posted: January 12, 2012 at 01:34 PM (#4035162)
It looks like he was in 1996, but not the other years. But my comment was more on the perception of him than the reality.

I understood that, I was just making the point that the perception was very much wrong (though it appears I was wrong as well, did you look at raw totals or adjust for games missed?)
   24. Wins Above Paul Westerberg Posted: January 12, 2012 at 01:38 PM (#4035169)
Hell, he's probably the #1 character clause violater (among reasonable candidates) since Ty Cobb. Or am I missing a worse shitheel?

Here's my take on the Kirby situation. I'll admit that, as a child of the Kirby (and Barry Bonds) fanclub, I'm probably a little biased here, and the idea of nuance is fairly incompatible with your worldview, but I find it more interesting to rank ballplayers by their on-the-field accomplishments instead of their Shitheel Quotient.

More to the point, the idea of the "character clause" is bullshit. After all, we all must cultivate our own garden. (If Voltaire isn't your things, how about Drive-By Truckers? "It seems to me you'd have to have a hole in your own to point a finger at somebody else's sheet") Kirby, as a player, was beloved by his teammates, by the media, by the community (which he did interact with.) I have met plenty of people who encountered Kirby (during his active career), and no one has ever said a poor thing about him. Yeah, he was probably an unfaithful husband. Truly, a rare sight in the world of professional athletes.

Then, it all came to a stop. Kirby retired. His teammates cried. The writers cried. The state cried. It is difficult to overstate how big Kirby was in Minnesota. If you went to a Little League baseball game in the 90s, 80% of the kids in the on-deck circle were working on their pre-swing leg-kicks. There was only one way to swing the bat: like Kirby Puckett.

The one person who didn't cry for Kirby was Kirby. Throughout the whole ordeal, he seemed scary well-adjusted to his situation. Everything was "even though it's cloudy in one eye, the sun is shining brightly in the other," and "God's plans for me something something." I honestly believe that he was trying to trick himself into thinking that he had things to do outside of baseball. And that he was wrong.

I have no problem conceding that, post-baseball, Kirby did some terrible things. I wish I knew more accurately what they were. But I don't see the story of Kirby Puckett being one of a man with a good smile who tricked the public into thinking he wasn't a scumbag. I see it as a man who lost his livelihood and couldn't cope. He got fat. He got angry. He got really, really fat. It's not like Kirby knew anything other than baseball. The Robert Taylor projects were, at least in reputation, one of the saddest places in the country. Baseball got Kirby out of that.

I think of Kirby in terms of that old F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, "show my a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." It's sad. I feel bad for Kirby's family. I feel bad for those he alienated at the end of his life. But I don't see how moral outrage is going to help anything.

Then again, as I said before, I'm biased. So when Kirby comes up on BBTF, I like to read what other people think about him. But I'm far more interested in opinions of his career as a player than who can harrumph the loudest at his moral failings. He's a controversial Hall of Fame pick. That's interesting. He played in an era that is oddly represented in the Hall. That's interesting. He was a great contact hitter who never took a walk and could play defense until he got fat. That's interesting.

He's out nation's greatest monster? Well, maybe, but that seems like interesting. And ultimately, not that true. In my mind, at least.
   25. Gotham Dave Posted: January 12, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4035172)
I'm an decently strong anti-roider, but Puckett deserves exclusion from thr HoF based on the character clause far more than any of the PED cheaters.
And even forgetting that, my mind turns to Puckett pretty quickly when Canseco claims a roider is already in the Hall. Played in the right era, big, big jump in power from the minors and his early career. Just because you're fat doesn't mean you're not on steroids.

And normally I think it's pretty cruddy to accuse a guy of using steroids without any real evidence but somehow I feel less bad about it when the guy is already a proven fraud/#######.

EDIT: K, Walt made me feel a bit more bad about it. Ain't redacting, though.
   26. kthejoker Posted: January 12, 2012 at 01:46 PM (#4035174)
#24: It is not a contradiction to say that Kirby Puckett is the #1 character clause violator, and to think there shouldn't be a character clause, or think he's in no way history's greatest monster.

If nothing else, it speaks to the overwhelmingly positive characters (or at least, those lacking newsworthy negative character traits) that MLB has put in the Hall of Fame over the past 70 years.
   27. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 12, 2012 at 01:50 PM (#4035180)
I understood that, I was just making the point that the perception was very much wrong (though it appears I was wrong as well, did you look at raw totals or adjust for games missed?)


I was just eyeballing WAR, just to see how he stacked up with his teammates. He had a slight edge in 1996, trailed Jeter by a little bit in 98 and wasn't that close in the other two.

He obviously was a key contributor on four championship teams, and would be a perfectly acceptable Hall of Famer (as would Posada, who might face the same fate). Perhaps some future Vet's Committee will usher both in. And since I happened to like both of them, I hope they do.

And, BTW, great post Wins Above PW.

   28. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 12, 2012 at 01:54 PM (#4035188)
#24 is a good post. Of course no one would suggest Kirby Puckett is history's greatest monster, not as long as Joe Posnanski walks the earth.
   29. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: January 12, 2012 at 01:57 PM (#4035190)
So I'm supposed to care if the guy is an ####### off the field too? Man, it's so much to keep up with, I just want to watch the game.

Puckett was a fine player (I don't hold Game 6 against him even though it broke my heart at the time. Liebrandt was going to blow that game one way or another, I'd have rather seen Kent Mercker) but I never really understood the ease with which he sailed into the HOF. I'd take him over Bernie but it's certainly close enough for a discussion.
   30.     Hey Gurl Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:00 PM (#4035193)
I think that far too many people care about career-compiled numbers that don't have any relevance.

Williams had 5 seasons with a 140+ OPS+ in CF. I don't know if he's a worthy HOFer, but that's pretty ####### great and more than Andre Dawson, for example, can claim.
   31. Wins Above Paul Westerberg Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:00 PM (#4035195)
If nothing else, it speaks to the overwhelmingly positive characters (or at least, those lacking newsworthy negative character traits) that MLB has put in the Hall of Fame over the past 70 years.

I just don't think that's true. The floodgates on the Kirby saga opened when he was charged with groping that woman in the bathroom. If that trial never happens*, there's a chance that maybe the rest of the story stays quiet. Then Kirby just looks like another happy ballplayer, despite the real, underlying "character" problem.

I would venture to guess that there are at least a few Hall of Famers with some serious skeletons still hung-up in their closets. That doesn't lessen Kirby's serious problems, but then again, Kirby's serious problems don't elevate anyone else.

*And there's a good argument for not trying that case. But don't tell prosecutor Senator Klobuchar that.
   32. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:08 PM (#4035206)
Williams had 5 seasons with a 140+ OPS+ in CF. I don't know if he's a worthy HOFer, but that's pretty ####### great and more than Andre Dawson, for example, can claim.

All these marginal guys have a few things like this to hang their hats on and they seem to either get trumpeted or ignored by the writers randomly. I'm already preparing myself to get worked up in eight years when Andruw Jones (one of my favorite players ever) hits the ballot with 15000 innings in CF, nine Gold Gloves, 450+ HR and drops off after one year. I mean, what an outrage!
   33. The District Attorney Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:12 PM (#4035214)
WAPW, I appreciate your thoughtful posts, but if it is in fact true that Puckett was elected in part because he was a good guy, then you can't try to shut down discussion over whether he actually was a good guy or not. It's not "moralizing"; it's an evaluation of the man's Hall of Fame case.

If you want to argue that his personality didn't have anything to do with his election, I'd disagree, but fine. If you want to argue that his personality shouldn't have had anything to do with his election, I'd agree with that principle, but I'd disagree that that's how they actually vote. If you want to argue that, if you were inclined to give "good-guy" points at all, Kirby Puckett in 2001 seemed for all the world like a guy to whom you'd give them... that's pretty obviously true. I would still think, though, that there's a place for examining how the character clause affects HOF candidates generally; how it affected Kirby specifically; whether Kirby's case makes us rethink how we should think about the character clause; and how things might have played out for Kirby in other hypothetical situations.
   34. Walt Davis Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4035234)
K, Walt made me feel a bit more bad about it.

Que? Not every post over 3 paragraphs is mine. :-)
   35. Bitter Mouse Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:28 PM (#4035240)
I think you can be a great teammate (I suspect Kirby was one), a terrible husband (ditto), and a trainwreck after your career all at once. Does the character clause (in people's opinion) refer to "on field" character or total life character?

I think the whole character thing is a bit of a red herring, because it is extremely unknowable, the metrics we have are really bad.

Also I think Kirby's election CAN be explained without referring to his character. He has a great narrative arc. Kid from Chicago projects makes it to the big leagues, brings MN its first (and second) ever major sports championship, carries teamon back for game six of one of the greatest world series of all time (1991 yo) which is followed by one of the greatest pitching performances (Yes this series will have helped two marginal candidates get to the HoF, assuming Morris makes it), and finally when still at his (percieved) peek he is struck down by a tragic injury/illness.

People have a hard time seeing how that narritive (and some legit HoF type numbers including the much loved BA) gets him an easy in to the HoF? Really? The fact he was a great guy (percieved) makes it that much easier.
   36. Wins Above Paul Westerberg Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4035241)
D.A.

That's all fair. I don't really want to make Kirby's Hall of Fame case. I'm really interested in how people do/don't make it. I just don't like how quickly people trot out the post-career allegations, and turn what could be an interesting thread on an interesting (in my mind) player into a game of "I'm Offended." Plus, the Starlin thread (last time I checked) seemed to be our catch all for sexual assult/odd moral statements this week.

I would agree that Kirby's relationship with the media and perception as a one-team, jovial star unfairly helped his Hall of Fame case. However, I feel like the abrupt ending to his career is ultimately what made his election so overwhelming. If Kirby follows a normal career path, I don't know if he goes first ballot, or if at all (although he still probably goes in, especially because he was a hit machine.)
   37. DL from MN Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:34 PM (#4035250)
> am I missing a worse shitheel?

There's always Steve Garvey
   38. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:37 PM (#4035253)
WAPW, I appreciate your thoughtful posts, but if it is in fact true that Puckett was elected in part because he was a good guy, then you can't try to shut down discussion over whether he actually was a good guy or not. It's not "moralizing"; it's an evaluation of the man's Hall of Fame case.

If you want to argue that his personality didn't have anything to do with his election, I'd disagree, but fine. If you want to argue that his personality shouldn't have had anything to do with his election, I'd agree with that principle, but I'd disagree that that's how they actually vote. If you want to argue that, if you were inclined to give "good-guy" points at all, Kirby Puckett in 2001 seemed for all the world like a guy to whom you'd give them... that's pretty obviously true. I would still think, though, that there's a place for examining how the character clause affects HOF candidates generally; how it affected Kirby specifically; whether Kirby's case makes us rethink how we should think about the character clause; and how things might have played out for Kirby in other hypothetical situations.


I agree with this completely.

Puckett's character is relevant b/c he was elected in large part because of it.

The fact that Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth was a drunken womanizer isn't relevant to their HoF cases b/c everyone knew that, and they were elected for pure on field dominance.

What Puckett is alleged to have done (see post 15) is a damned sight worse than anything they did (and I seriously doubt he only started beating and threatening women after retiring), and he was elected in large part b/c he was (thought to be) a good guy.
   39. Gotham Dave Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:39 PM (#4035256)
Que? Not every post over 3 paragraphs is mine. :-)
Haha, I saw the length and the "W" and stopped looking. Of course I mean Wins Above Paul Westerberg, who made a great post.
   40. Bitter Mouse Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:42 PM (#4035260)
Puckett's character is relevant b/c he was elected in large part because of it.


Strongly disagree (for all the reasons in my post above). He got in quicker and easier than he would have because of his "character" (really the joy with which he seemed to play, being liked by teammates, and having good PR outside the game), but even with "normal" character he would have made the Hall.
   41. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4035262)
Of course I mean Wins Above Paul Westerberg, who made a great post.


And really, that should have been your first clue it wasn't Walt. (-:
   42. Walt Davis Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:54 PM (#4035279)
On Puckett:

1. He's an excellent example of the accuracy of (some of) the voters' moral compasses which are now being employed heavily of course.

2. He's an excellent example of the problems with having a "character clause". The character clause assumes the voters know what the player's character is. That's nonsense. And given the threshold nature of the HOF (once you're in, you're in), the character clause is really the "publicly known, or rumored or suspected, character at the time of this vote." Inevitably scumbags get elected, it's unavoidable and having the character clause makes the voters look like fools. The only way to avoid that (and it's not guaranteed) is to not make them eligible until, say, 5 years after they're dead by which time all the good dirt should be out ... unless they were really, really famous like Mick or Joe D. Or, of course, get rid of the character clause.

On #24:

A thoughtful post. But ... make sure you're not still being a bit of a fanboy. Who they are/were as players and who they are/were as human beings are simply not strongly connected. If anything, the sort of obsession/single-mindedness, the level of self-confidence/arrogance required to be an elite athlete is likely to produce folks who aren't that well-balanced in other parts of life. Enjoy his career for sure, but make sure you're not defending/excusing the behavior because you don't want to let go of what you thought you were admiring.

Which isn't to say we're not all guilty of that at times. Or something similar. I suppose my long-time cynicism has helped inoculate me from both idol worship and the disappointment that follows -- I'm not immune, there are certainly some I'd be hurt to find had done something horrible. Anyway, the example I'm trying to get to is a musical one.

I'm a jazz fan. Miles Davis, in many ways, was an #######, including spousal abuse ... but I knew Miles' music (at least a good chunk of it) before I knew about any of that.* Thus, it was and is easy for me to separate Miles the musician from Miles the #######. Stan Getz was ... well, maybe not an #######, maybe it was the drugs and booze or maybe he was mentally ill ... but he also abused his spouse. But I didn't get into Getz's music before learning this and so I've never had any motivation to try.

* That long-time cynicism also tends to make me un-curious about the personal lives of those whose professional lives I enjoy or respect. The further you dig, the more disappointed you're likely to be. :-) Even if their behavior wasn't at the extremes of Puckett, Davis or Getz, you'll find political or social views you find distasteful or, worst of all, that song that means so much to you or you think has some deep social/philosophical meaning means nothing to them. It's a lot easier to enjoy somebody's professional work if you don't go poking your nose into their personal life. :-)

Like when I found out about Shooty's secret shrine to Marge Schott.
   43. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 12, 2012 at 02:54 PM (#4035280)

There's always Steve Garvey


Thankfully he's not in the Hall.
   44. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: January 12, 2012 at 03:23 PM (#4035324)
Like when I found out about Shooty's secret shrine to Marge Schott.

So you're saying I shouldn't have put all my advertising money into print media?
   45. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM (#4035354)
So you're saying I shouldn't have put all my advertising money into print media?

No, they don't have TV and internet in North Korea, so print's the place for your campaign to be.
   46. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 12, 2012 at 03:44 PM (#4035365)
Not to excuse his behavior, but I really think it would be a bad idea to hold Puckett's relationships with women against him in regards to the Hall of Fame. All the positive stuff about him - his status as a great teammate and ambassador for the game - relates directly to the game, and certainly should be considered.

But his post-career marital relationships have nothing to do with baseball. And if we start considering that kind of stuff for Kirby Puckett, we start putting the Hall in a position where it needs to dig into other players' backgrounds, to make sure Jeff Bagwell didn't have a horribly ugly divorce or Tim Raines didn't swindle his partners in a post-career business deal. I really don't want Billy Williams' Cooperstown credentials to hinge on how well or how horribly he treated his wife.
   47. Wins Above Paul Westerberg Posted: January 12, 2012 at 03:46 PM (#4035367)
A thoughtful post. But ... make sure you're not still being a bit of a fanboy. Who they are/were as players and who they are/were as human beings are simply not strongly connected. If anything, the sort of obsession/single-mindedness, the level of self-confidence/arrogance required to be an elite athlete is likely to produce folks who aren't that well-balanced in other parts of life. Enjoy his career for sure, but make sure you're not defending/excusing the behavior because you don't want to let go of what you thought you were admiring.

I don't think I'm a terrible fanboy, but I readily acknowledge that I am not the best person to assess things like Kirby's career value. I'm sure, if forced to make a serious argument, I'd eventually turn into a Heyman-esque "you had to be there" loon. I also understand that he's not was not a happy or good person. And that sucks. But it's reality. Just like I have to acknowledge that Norm MacDonald is a Republican and the church I was raised in hates gay people. But I don't think Kirby's Hall of Fame case rests so heavily on "character." From what I can remember:

1. .318 lifetime batting average. At the time (and it's in the opening paragraph of his Wiki), people made a big deal about Kirby's BA being the highest for any RH-hitter since DiMaggio. That's silly. But it's the sort of thing people looked at.

2. 6 Gold Gloves/6 Silver Sluggers/10 All-Star Games. The guy does have a 160 on the HOF Monitor. He was a high-visibility player.

3. Postseason heroics. Two huge moments in Game 6 and a lifetime .309/361/536 postseason line (not huge, but not a choker)

4. Kirby was, for something like three weeks, the highest paid athlete in the game. I don't know why this matters, but it apparently does.

5. He was made into an honorary 3000 hit member the day he retired. So many career retrospectives claimed that, had he not gotten hurt, he probably would have reached 3000. He had 2304 in 12 years, and I don't believe had ever gone on the Disabled List.

6. He played for the Twins his entire career. Every feature on Puckett, Gwynn or Ripken mentioned the death of the one-team athlete. Sportswriters love that stuff.

None of these are "he smiled a lot and gave me good quotes." I do think that his character unfairly helped him get elected so quickly, but I don't think it was the largest contributor. And I do not think the writers deserve a character clause to hide behind/moralize with when it comes to Hall of Fame voting.

Finally, although I've been here a while, this is my first serious contribution to the Factory, so thanks for not stoning me to death. I swear I have other interests outside of Puckett, including (but not limited to) the Montreal Expos, Barry Bonds, that one time Bud Selig called my phone and yelled at me, Pablo Sandoval, the Mountain Goats and tort reform.
   48. X-Roid User Posted: January 12, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4035391)
It gets overlooked because he turned into a fat slob (although Bill James touches on it), but Kirby was also a longtime juicer.
   49. Bitter Mouse Posted: January 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM (#4035427)
It gets overlooked because he turned into a fat slob (although Bill James touches on it), but Kirby was also a longtime juicer.


I generally don't care about steroids (In a baseball morality context), but really? You know this how?
   50. spike Posted: January 12, 2012 at 04:25 PM (#4035438)
But I didn't get into Getz's music before learning this and so I've never had any motivation to try.

Wow. Depriving yourself of Getz' music is a real shame. The Brazilian stuff aside, any of the Roost recordings are gorgeous - An exquisite "Moonlight In Vermont" with Johnny Smith.
   51. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 12, 2012 at 04:25 PM (#4035439)
I generally don't care about steroids (In a baseball morality context), but really? You know this how?


PEDar?
   52. Bitter Mouse Posted: January 12, 2012 at 04:26 PM (#4035441)
#51, it took me a second, but when I got it I laughed. Well done.
   53. sunnyday2 Posted: January 12, 2012 at 04:35 PM (#4035458)
Kirby had affairs! Let's purge the HoF of all MLB players who cheated on their wives!

Through the heart of Kirby's career, there were few days when he wasn't the most broadly and deeply skilled baseball player on the field. I would agree that Fred Lynn is in that sort of a category. Not sure about Bernie.

And the idea that he is the worst of the worst is every bit as biased/over-stated as PW's fanboy stuff, don'tchathink? Has Wade Boggs alienated more or fewer people in his personal life? Dunno. Don't care.
   54. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 12, 2012 at 04:43 PM (#4035469)
Kirby had affairs! Let's purge the HoF of all MLB players who cheated on their wives!

Did you read post 16?

We're not talking affairs here, we're talking physical and sexual assault and death threats (including holding a gun to a woman's head).

This is Elijah Dukes level stuff.
   55. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 12, 2012 at 04:54 PM (#4035486)
None of these are "he smiled a lot and gave me good quotes." I do think that his character unfairly helped him get elected so quickly, but I don't think it was the largest contributor. And I do not think the writers deserve a character clause to hide behind/moralize with when it comes to Hall of Fame voting.


I don't think anything you say is wrong but I think you are understating the importance of his personality/character. I think people gave more credence to the bullet points you listed and gave him "post-eye injury credit" if you will BECAUSE he was a good guy.

Just to give an example of a fellow Hall of Famer and BBTF punching bag Jim Rice. Rice suffered an elbow injury early in 1987 when he was hit by a pitch that was generally perceived as being a big reason he aged as badly as he did. He had had an excellent 1986 season and then went over the cliff the following year. Rice of course was notoriously surly with, well with everyone and no one really seemed eager to give him credit for a more conventional aging curve.

I'm not saying they should have and the two situations are not perfectly aligned. I hope you see my point though. Puckett did get credit for a more conventional aging curve that Rice did not.

Or, take Rice out of it. Puckett's top ten list of comps on BBRef is a 9 non-Hall of Famers (some not yet eligible) and a Frisch-era VC selection (Cuyler). Mattingly and Oliva to name two are not getting any sort of additional credit or attention to their cases. Without his personality I don't think Puckett gets in anywhere near as easily, if at all.
   56. Bitter Mouse Posted: January 12, 2012 at 04:56 PM (#4035490)
Or, take Rice out of it. Puckett's top ten list of comps on BBRef is a 9 non-Hall of Famers (some not yet eligible) and a Frisch-era VC selection (Cuyler). Mattingly and Oliva to name two are not getting any sort of additional credit or attention to their cases. Without his personality I don't think Puckett gets in anywhere near as easily, if at all.


I still think you are minimizing the power of narative, but that's ok. And again I am not saying narative should drive Hall induction, just that it does.
   57. Bitter Mouse Posted: January 12, 2012 at 04:57 PM (#4035491)
BTW: Williams wins, since Puckett is dead he's not going to be able to defend himself in the ring.
   58. Jittery McFrog Posted: January 12, 2012 at 05:00 PM (#4035495)
I don't think Puckett is an egregious mistake like Jim Rice, but he's certainly on of the lower tier HOFers to get in by the BBWAA. Bernie's got just as good a case. But so do these guys:

Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno, Dale Murphy, Fred Lynn.


I think this undersells Jimmy Wynn, he's solidly above the others mentioned.

EDIT: And I say this as someone who'd vote for Murphy
   59. BDC Posted: January 12, 2012 at 05:17 PM (#4035505)
This is Elijah Dukes level stuff

Well, except that Dukes's behavior has contributed greatly to his not being able to hold a pro-baseball job. That was completely not the case with Puckett.

I'm sympathetic to Westerberg's point here, and to Walt's more general thoughts. Abusive behavior is bad. Baseball is baseball. If a player distinguishes himself at the sport, it seems odd to deny them a baseball honor because they did bad things outside of baseball.

One of my current favorite ballplayers, Josh Hamilton, evidently did some very bad things in between bouts of being a great baseball player. I hope he's not fixing to do more bad things later in his life – God knows he's at risk, and conscious of that risk – but he's the 2010 American League MVP for fairly good baseball-related reasons. That award is his forever, and it's both an honor and a limited honor: it is about being good at baseball, no more.
   60. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: January 12, 2012 at 05:21 PM (#4035510)
that one time Bud Selig called my phone and yelled at me


Say what?
   61. The District Attorney Posted: January 12, 2012 at 05:30 PM (#4035520)
Kirby had affairs! Let's purge the HoF of all MLB players who cheated on their wives!
If a player distinguishes himself at the sport, it seems odd to deny them a baseball honor because they did bad things outside of baseball.
Okay, but you realize that the argument has become totally twisted now. The contention is that a) Puckett was elected in large part because he was a good guy, but b) he wasn't really a good guy. That is not the same as an argument that he should be out due to bad behavior. Right? It's an argument that he shouldn't have gotten extra credit, as it were.
   62. BDC Posted: January 12, 2012 at 05:34 PM (#4035525)
I see your distinction, DA, but it's one that some people blur in practice.
   63. X-Roid User Posted: January 12, 2012 at 10:07 PM (#4035761)
I generally don't care about steroids (In a baseball morality context), but really? You know this how?


I'm close to someone who knew him well. So to be fair, being that it's second hand info from someone I trust but certainly wouldn't hold up in a court of law, I'll add "in my opinion". And I'm with you, I don't care either. This person also claims he was as big a degenerate as the bad stories would have you believe.

No, they don't have TV and internet in North Korea, so print's the place for your campaign to be


Wrong! chosuntv
   64. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 12, 2012 at 10:38 PM (#4035785)
I have no problem conceding that, post-baseball, Kirby did some terrible things.


But some of those allegations weren't "post-baseball" and it's hard to imagine that he changed from being a nice guy who wouldn't harm a soul to a bully threatening and beating women just because his part time job went away. There had to be a far darker Kirby than you want to admit hiding been that smile all along.

Strongly disagree (for all the reasons in my post above). He got in quicker and easier than he would have because of his "character" (really the joy with which he seemed to play, being liked by teammates, and having good PR outside the game), but even with "normal" character he would have made the Hall.


Really? He's not even in the top 100 among outfielders in WAR (49), and not even close to the top 200 most valuable position players.

And he still played almost as many games as McGwire, but McGwire was far more valuable than Kirby (71 WAR), and there are many on this board who don't think McGwire was HOF worthy even without the PEDs issue.

Kirby is the purest example of a ballplayer over-rated because of circumstances and a wonderful public image.
   65. cardsfanboy Posted: January 12, 2012 at 10:48 PM (#4035796)
it's hard to imagine that he changed from being a nice guy who wouldn't harm a soul to a bully threatening and beating women just because his part time job went away


I agree with your whole post except this excerpt. It really isn't that hard to imagine that Kiby's condition could have eventually led to him being a threatening bully as he tries to hold onto his memories. But of course as your post pointed out the allegations stem from well before his final days as a player.
   66. Something Other Posted: January 12, 2012 at 11:37 PM (#4035828)
I think of Kirby in terms of that old F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, "show my a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." It's sad. I feel bad for Kirby's family. I feel bad for those he alienated at the end of his life. But I don't see how moral outrage is going to help anything.
I'm fine with moral outrage, but I like getting outraged at the right things.

Puckett was indeed accused of some unsavory behavior but he took the case to try and was acquitted.
Was that the alleged incident in the restaurant bathroom?

In addition to the bathroom, the SI article has claims by a woman claiming to be Puckett's mistress. While cheating with Puckett on his wife, or so she says, he also messed around with other women. And we believe this because...? She also claims he got pissy once on his way to visiting a sick kid, and that he peed in a parking lot. Puckett's ex-wife also says bad things about him. It's not a very nice picture, but where are the facts, the objective testimony we all crave around here? Where are the people without an ax to grind in the Puckett story, and what do they have to say? I've known attorneys who advise their clients in Massachusetts, where they hand out orders of protection the way strip joints pass out handbills, to get orders of protection as bargaining chips in divorce and custody proceedings. I've heard completely nutty things said about people (and said in complete earnestness), and in matters of the heart I'm awfully skeptical when it comes to what people have to say about each other.

edit: "There had to be a far darker Kirby than you want to admit hiding been that smile all along." If he did, that's not necessarily true. I've known pretty nice folks who suffered severe trauma (physical or emotional) and turned into pricks. I knew a woman who was bumbling sorta harmlessly through life, a pleasant woman, whose kids decided to buy into their dad's brainwashing and move in with him. She started drinking and turned in a nasty, vicious shrew. She's never been the same. I know a guy who was feeling a little down for the first time in his life and started taking an antidepressant. It had the opposite of the intended effect and he became paranoid, and did a few things he'd never done before, including attacking people and losing a job. The downward spiral continues to this day. I knew a guy whose drinking was in control, for twenty years, until his wife left him. He became a raging alcoholic, complete with prison time, job losses, bankruptcy. People change, drastically sometimes. I hate to say it, but maybe he was juicing, and went off the stuff when his career ended. That can change personality too.
   67. Bitter Mouse Posted: January 12, 2012 at 11:53 PM (#4035836)
I'm close to someone who knew him well. So to be fair, being that it's second hand info from someone I trust but certainly wouldn't hold up in a court of law, I'll add "in my opinion". And I'm with you, I don't care either. This person also claims he was as big a degenerate as the bad stories would have you believe.


Hey since I don't care about baseball steroid morality I would LOVE to have him outed as a Steroid user in the HoF. Then we could get all the gnashing out of the way. And I say this is a big twins fan who loved Kirby (the player).

Really? He's not even in the top 100 among outfielders in WAR (49), and not even close to the top 200 most valuable position players.

And he still played almost as many games as McGwire, but McGwire was far more valuable than Kirby (71 WAR), and there are many on this board who don't think McGwire was HOF worthy even without the PEDs issue.


Oh great a WAR argument, because that really does determine everything. Seriously I am NOT saying he deserved to sail in, but the narrative of his career arc says he WAS going to sail in. Talk about WAR all you like, but he was going in, it was just easier because of PR.
   68. Biscuit_pants Posted: January 13, 2012 at 05:22 PM (#4036466)
I know a guy who was feeling a little down for the first time in his life and started taking an antidepressant. It had the opposite of the intended effect and he became paranoid
For some reason this got me thinking. I have worked for a pharmaceutical company on their clinical trials. With a lot of drugs there are a small percentage of people that react opposite to the targeted outcome. Now I know steroids are different but I got a laugh at thinking about Clemens turning to steroids only to look like Juan Cruz.

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