Fifteen out of the 39 8000/140 players, including Cabrera and Berkman, began their careers in the last 26 years, while only 24 began their careers between 1890 and 1985. This cannot all be attributed to steroids particularly given how widespread steroid use was and that OPS+ measures offensive production in a comparative context based way. Two other factors need to be considered. The first is simply expansion. With more teams, games and players, more players are going to reach more or less any threshold. Second, the game has changed, and not just due to steroid use. Power and patience, the two attributes which OPS captures so well have more recently begun to be recognized as among the most important skills, so players work on these skills more, get promoted for them more quickly and can continue to play once their other skills have declined, if they can still hit home runs and walk. This was less true a generation ago, and even less relevant half a century ago.
The combinations of expansion, prioritizing power and patience and, yes steroids, creates problems for how sluggers are compared across eras and, of course, for the Hall of Fame as well, but this problems is exacerbated by a voting system that is unwieldy and flawed. This year no players were elected to the Hall of Fame. The merits of that decision can be debated, but the impact it will have on future elections will be clear. In short, by 2014, there will be so many deserving players on the ballot that it is likely that a player with numbers that were good enough for the Hall of Fame a generation ago, and perhaps no demonstrated link to steroids, will be dropped from the ballot after one or two appearances after next year. Next year there will be five 8000/140 players on the ballot as well as a number of other standouts like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Tim Raines.
This problem has been compounded because the last two sluggers to be elected to the Hall of Fame, Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, were clearly several cuts below people like Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell and others who despite no documented connection to steroids, are in danger of being overlooked, or overlooked again, in future ballots. Keeping people out of the Hall of Fame because of suspected or real connections to steroids may or may not be wise, but keeping people out because the voting rules have not changed to fully recognize expansion is not.
Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:07 PM | 20 comment(s)
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