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Monday, January 13, 2003

The Veterans Committee

With the ballots due this week, Marc checks to see which Veterans Committee possibilities are deserving.

A week or so ago, I offered an overview of the new Veterans Committee process along with some suggestions as to who the new committee might be likely to elect.  Here?s a different question:  Who should they elect?  Given the recent popularity here of Bill James? Keltner List, let?s see who rises to the top of the veteran?s ballot based on the Keltner List.  This will necessarily be a fairly superficial look at many of the 26 players on the ballot, but we?ll look a little closer at those who seem to stand out.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Thirteen of the 26 players on the veterans ballot can make some sort of case for being the best player in baseball, if only for a moment, by virtue of some type of award received.  For ten of them?Allen, Boyer, Gordon, Howard, Marion, Maris, Munson, Newcombe, Torre and Wills?it was an MVP award.  Only Maris won two.  For two of them, Bonds and Oliva, it was a Sporting News Player of the Year award.  Oliva won two of those.  All of the MVPs won this award, too?Maris, again, twice.  Then there?s the odd case of Allie Reynolds who won both the Sid Mercer player of the year award and the Hickok Belt as America?s best professional athlete in 1951. 

 

Two more players distinguished themselves by leading their league in Win Shares and Total Player Rating?Ferrell in 1935 and Santo in 1967 led in both, while Santo also led in TPR in 1966.  Allen also led in WS in 1964 and 1972, Oliva in 1965 and Torre in 1971. 

 

Trying to take a slightly longer view, I figured out what player had had the highest peak WS value over the previous three and five-year periods.  By this standard, only Bobby Bonds was ever "the best," based on his performance over the period from 1969-71. 

 

Maris in 1961 and Wills in 1962 swept all the major awards?MVP, Sporting News Player of the Year, Mercer award, AP and Hickok pro athletes of the year.  Neither led his league in WS, but no other player on the ballot ever dominated the awards scene to this extent. 

 

Only Allen, Maris, Oliva and Santo won any of these various awards in more than one season, Maris in 1960 and ?61, Allen in ?64 and ?72, Oliva in ?65 and ?71, Santo in ?66 and ?67.  These three probably have the strongest case as "the best player in baseball" at some time during their careers.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

A surprising number of the 15 players discussed above are not even rated as the best player on his own team in his award-winning season(s), at least by WS.  The only ones who are are Ferrell in 1935, Boyer in 1964, Allen in 1964 and 1972, Oliva in 1965, Santo in 1967, Torre in 1971 and Bonds in 1973. Maris and Wills, so dominant on the awards scene, are therefore the most conspicuous by their absence from this list. 

 

On the other side of the coin, Allen led his teams in WS on eight different occasions.  Next is Boyer at six.  A pair of new faces?Colavito and Minoso?enter our anaysis with five each.  Bonds,  Lolich, Kluszewski and Santo led their teams three times each, Ferrell, Oliva, Pinson, Torre and Williams led their teams twice each. 

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Bill James named six of the 26 players on the veteran?s ballot to one of his all-decade teams in the New Historical Abstract.  Those are Bonds, Flood, Gordon, Marion, Santo and Wills.  Flood and Marion were named to his Gold Glove teams, however, not his all-around All-Star team. 

 

Many if not most of the others were the best at their position for a time but not long enough to be remembered as such for the longer term.  Howard, Maris, Munson and Oliva played and/or peaked too briefly.  Others were overshadowed?Boyer by Santo, Minoso by Ted Williams, Pinson by Mays and Mantle, Colavito by Kaline, and so on.  Of these, Boyer was clearly regarded as the best 3B before Santo and Brooks.  Others?Allen and Torre?are not well enough identified with a specific position.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

The obvious leaders here are Yankees Howard, Gordon, Maris, Meusel and Reynolds and Dodger Hodges.  Howard played in ten World Series and was a key contributor to the Yankees? pennants of 1961-64.  The others all played in six or seven series.  Hodges was a key contributor to five of the seven Dodgers? pennants in question, Maris perhaps as few as three of his seven pennant-winners (two with the Cardinals).  Gordon was absolutely essential to six pennant-winning teams (one Indians team), Reynolds was a solid contributor six times and Meusel five of six times.

 

In sum, Howard and Gordon are the standouts on this dimension, but many, many others also are remembered for their play in dramatic pennant races and post-season games?Flood, Lolich, Marion, Mays, Munson, Newcombe and Wills. 

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

What makes many of these players Veterans Committee candidates is their failure to do exactly this.  Only Boyer, Hodges, Pinson, Santo and Torre played as many as 2000 games.  Yet Boyer?s performance declined precipitously after his MVP season, his tenth major league season at age 33, in 1964.  Hodges declined more gradually but was hardly a star after the move to LA at age 34.  Pinson?s decline began at age 30 though he was able to play semi-regularly through age 37.  Santo?s decline was gradual but irreversible from age 28 through 34.  Torre played effectively through age 34, then declined rapidly. 

 

So the answer is that none of these players had an all-star caliber season after about age34.  And these are the best of the position players.

 

The pitchers did better.  Ferrell declined rapidly after age 29, and Newcombe declined rapidly after his MVP season at age 30 though he had one comeback season at 33.  But Lolich and Mays pitched effectively through about their 36th year.  Reynolds pitched well through age 39, largely because he even so pitched but 2500 innings in his career.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Probably not.  On TPR, Santo is third among the eligible but not elected behind Dahlen and Grich.  On career WS, Allen trails Mullane, Darrell Evans, Staub, Sherry Magee, Whitaker, Dwight Evans, Sandberg and Van Haltren.  On peak WS (adding the three and five year peaks together), however, Allen may be the highest rated player not in the Hall.  He leads every player on the BBWAA ballot at this time by a wide margin, at any rate.  On Black Ink, Gray Ink, HoF Monitor and HoF Standards, Rice and Blyleven lead everyone on the veteran?s ballot. 

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

The sad and embarrassing truth is that not one of these 26 players can possibly be justified by their comps.  Only Mays, Pinson and Wills have as many as three of their top ten comps in the HoF.  Mays? are all Veterans Committee choices, while Pinson?s include Clemente and Goslin, and Wills? incude Johnny Evers.  All things considered, Pinson is the big winner, if you can call it that, in this category, with two BBWAA HoF comps, one Veterans Committee comp, and two more BBWAA comps by age for a total of five; plus, his number one comp is Roberto Clemente.

 

The only other comps elected to the HoF by the BBWAA include two of Reynolds??Lefty Gomez and Bob Lemon?and one of Newcombe?s?Dizzy Dean.  Even if you include "back door" HoF comps, only Torre also has two. 

 

Fourteen of the 26 have no HoF comps at all?four have none even if you include their comps by age. 

8. Do the player?s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

As a shortcut, I like to just add Black Ink + Gray Ink + HoF Monitor + HoF Standards together.  An average HoFer scores 27 on Black Ink, 144 on Gray and 50 on HoF Standards.  The threshold for HoFers on the Monitor is 100.  Add them up and you get 321.  This would define a slightly below average HoFer or, I would suggest, a solid, above average Veterans Committee selection.

 

Only Oliva (330 points) and Allen (324) meet this standard of a slightly below average HoFer or an above average Veterans Committee selection.  Minoso is close at 320, but only Lolich also makes 300 (exactly, in his case).  Santo is next at 287. 

 

On this measure, none of these players is anywhere near the best player not in the HoF.  Jim Rice, for example, scores 429 and Bert Blyleven 415. 

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Many would argue that all of the foregoing measures shortchange defense, and I couldn?t dispute that.  So let?s look at defense.  In key defensive positions, Flood, Gordon, Howard, Marion and Pinson rank A- or better under WS.  No corner player earns an A- or better, but even if they did it would not add appreciably to their standing.

 

The only player for whom any other argument can be advanced against this question is Minnie Minoso who, as you know, was kept out of the major leagues as a younger man by the color line.  It is likely his statistical record would be improved, probably substantially, had that not been the case.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Among the catchers, even with Carter going in, Munson or Torre is probably the best but only until Ted Simmons becomes eligible again.  With Eddie Murray going in, Allen is almost surely the top first baseman though the pending candidacy of Bagwell, McGwire and perhaps Thomas dimishes Allen?s standing.

 

Gordon ranks behind Sandberg and Grich at second, and Wills and Marion are well down the list of shortstops.  Santo is the top third baseman until Boggs becomes eligible, and Boyer also ranks behind Molitor and Deacon White, who didn?t make the ballot of 200 much less of 26.

 

The best of the outfielders, Minoso and Oliva, rate below Dawson and Rice, and the rest also trail Sherry Magee, Pete Browning, Dave Parker and and Dale Murphy.

 

The pitchers trail Blyleven and Kaat, at a minimum, and probably 19th century rivals like Caruthers and Mullane.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Gordon, Minoso and Oliva each finished in the top ten of MVP voting on five occasions.  Gordon won in 1942, Oliva never and Minoso never though Tony O won the Sporting News Player of the Year award twice.

 

Boyer, Colavito, Santo and Wills each finished in the top ten MVP voting four times.  Boyer and Wills won MVP awards, Santo led the league in WS once but Colavito was never awarded any kind of Player of the Year recognition.

 

Allen, Hodges, Howard, Kluszewski, Marion and Munson were among the top ten three times each, and Bonds, Ferrell, Lolich, Maris, Marshall, Newcombe, Pinson, Reynolds and Torre twice.  Flood finished fourth in 1968.

 

Other than those who won MVP awards, of all of these only Ferrell, Kluszewski, Oliva and Reynolds finished second and none of them could be described as having come "close" to winning in that year.

 

On the other extreme, Mays, Meusel and K. Williams were never among the top ten. 

 

Allen, Bonds and Santo earned 30+ WS four times each, while Colavito, Ferrell, Maris, Oliva and Pinson did so twice each.  Boyer, Gordon, Howard, Kluszewski, Mays, Minoso, Torre, K. Williams and Wills did so once each.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Gordon, Howard, Santo and Torre were named to nine All-Star teams each, though Howard played in only five.  The other three played in eight. 

 

Hodges, Marion and Oliva were named eight times, and played six, five and six times, respectively.  Allen, Boyer, Minoso and Munson were named seven times, Colavito six times, Reynolds and Wills five times.  Kluszewski, Maris and Newcombe were named four times, Bonds, Flood and Lolich three times, Ferrell, Marshall and Pinson twice.  Mays, Meusel and K. Williams played before there was an All-Star game.

 

James has suggested that 20 WS is the equivalent of an all-star season, so in fairness we should note that Mays had eight such seasons, Ferrell (part of whose career pre-dates the All-Star game) five, Williams four and Meusel three.

 

On this measure, Bonds and Minoso lead with ten such seasons each, though Bonds paradoxically was named to only three All-Star teams.  Allen and Hodges had nine such seasons; Boyer, Mays, Oliva, Pinson and Santo eight, though Pinson also was snubbed with just two actual All-Star game appearances.  Colavito, Flood, Gordon and Torre had seven such seasons.  Reynolds and Marion bring up the rear with just one and two such seasons, respectively, and yet they were named to five and eight All-Star teams.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

This is the one question among these 15 that is really impossible to answer.  In every case, yes, if he had the right teammates and no if he did not. 

 

Those who clearly were the best players on their teams were K. Williams in the 1920s, Ferrell in 1935, Klu and Minoso in the 1950s, Boyer, Colavito and Pinson in the early 1960s, Allen from 1964 to 1972, Oliva in the late 1960s, Santo on and off throughout the 1960s, Torre in 1971 and Bonds and Lolich in the early 1970s.

 

And the fact is that only Boyer?s team won a pennant when he was the best player on his team.  That, again, is why these are Veterans Committee candidates.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes?  Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Bonds remains a poster-child of a new, free-swinging era and Kluszewski the poster-child for biceps in baseball.  Maris was the first to break Ruth?s home run record, and Wills (along with Luis Aparicio) brought back the stolen base. 

 

But the real answer here is yes, Curt Flood changed the game in very substantial ways that I need not spell out for you here.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Allen, Marshall, Mays and Wills were not well liked for various reasons, the merits of which would be a whole different thread that I don?t want to start here.  A few, Hodges perhaps most notably, enjoyed reputations as fine gentlemen.  The rest are somewhere in the mushy middle.

Summary

It has been suggested that questions #1 and 6 are the only ones that really matter in HoF voting.  In the case of the veteran?s ballot, a clear "yes" cannot be said of any player in answer to these questions.  So the hair-splitting of the rest of the Keltner List becomes more helpful here than with the BBWAA ballot. 

 

So, taking all of the questions and answers into account, it seems clear that Santo, Allen, Minoso, Gordon, Boyer, Oliva, Pinson, Flood and Bonds are the best candidates on the veteran?s ballot.  Each of these players can appeal to eight or more of the above to make their case, with Santo able to appeal to the most areas of analysis?ten. 

 

On WS, Santo was arguably the best player in MLB in ?66 and ?67, at which time he was also the best player on his team and at his position.  He played more than 2000 games and may be the best eligible player not in the HoF, overall and at his position.  He had several MVP-type and many All-Star caliber seasons.  If he was the best player on his team, it could at least contend for a pennant.

 

No other player on the veteran?s ballot can put quite so many items on the plus side of his case, though if you set aside Allen?s demerits on the so-called character issue he might even rank ahead of Santo.  I don?t wish to debate the merits of the demerits, only to point out that they have surely hurt Allen?s historical ranking and may hurt him on this ballot.  But if you set that aside, he is probably the top-rated player on the ballot on questions #2, 6 and 10.

 

Minoso probably benefits even more than Allen from this analysis, in the sense that everybody knows about Allen?s positives and negatives and has made up his mind.  Minoso?s accomplishments have, in contrast, been somewhat forgotten.  His late start diminishes his career numbers and the shadow of Ted Williams diminishes his peak.  But he benefits the most from consideration of question #9, and scores highly on his MVP-type and All-Star type seasons and comps.

 

Gordon, having retired 50 years ago, also benefits from the close scrutiny of the Keltner List.  He scores highly among second basemen, for his pennant race and post-season performances, and for his MVP season.  Boyer scores well for his longtime leadership of the Cardinals team, including a team that won a World Championship.  Oliva has the best comps and a good record in MVP voting.

 

Pinson?s comps are better than most, Flood stands out on defense and for his stand against the reserve clause, and Bonds at his position and for his then unusual power/speed combo.

 

Torre, Wills, Colavito, Lolich and Reynolds can make claims against several of the categories but lack a real high point to hang their hat on.  Hodges ranks highly on certain elements but perhaps not enough of them.

 

On the other side of the coin, one could argue that the BBWAA has done its job correctly in determining that none of these 26 players is a HoFer.  It is shocking how few of them were ever even the best player on his own team, and how few of them led his team to a pennant.  Few of them could play beyond his prime, and their comps, as a whole, stink.

 

But I would hope that some combination of Santo, Allen, Minoso and Gordon is selected.

 

Marc Hugunin Posted: January 13, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Rob Wood Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:21 AM (#608302)
Great article, Marc. In my opinion, none of these candidates cries out for Cooperstown, though several would fit right in with previous selections. The only player who I would seriously consider is Ron Santo on whom I could go either way. I've said this before, but I grew up following the Cubs in the 1960's and nobody ever considered Santo a future Hall of Famer at the time (though this does not disqualify him).

I don't think anyone will make it this year, though one or two "consensus selections" may emerge in two years (next time) after the voters see how everybody voted this first time around.
   2. Flynn Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:21 AM (#608303)
There is no way Ron Santo was the best player in MLB in 1967...maybe if he caught, but not at 3rd base. Someone else was the best in 1967, and if you know me, you'll know the answer.

He's still a clear HOFer, though.
   3. Eric Enders Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:21 AM (#608308)
I agree with Flynn -- there is no way in hell that Ron Santo was the best player in MLB in 1967. He had the 10th best OPS+ in baseball, behind guys like Frank Robinson, Al Kaline, Dick Allen, Aaron, Clemente... none of those guys played as important a position as Santo, but they were all better hitters.

The best player in baseball in 1967 - and nobody else is really close - was Carl Michael Yastrzemski. In addition to posting a 195 OPS+ (20 points better than the next-best player in baseball), Yastrzemski singlehandedly won the pennant for his team by batting .523 (23 for 44) over the last 12 games with five homers, 14 runs scored, and 16 RBI.

Otherwise, an outstanding analysis.
   4. GregD Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:21 AM (#608309)
Santo is a strong case, I think, and will have a good shot to be the first one elected.

Minnie is (along with Dick Allen) the most interesting case. His stats, on their own, don't demand entry. But he answers yes to all kinds of questions--high peak, played consistently until age 38 (635 PA) and sporadically until age 40 (330+ PA), not counting his publicity stunts later on. Led the league various times in doubles, triples, hits, total bases, times on base, hit by pitch (many times), stolen bases, power/speed number. A Gold Glover and a crowd favorite.

The reason he's not comparable to anybody is that up to age 28 he had 20 PA. The question that's unanswerable--but the key question for the HOF--is whether that fact was caused by his color or whether Minoso was one of those guys with an oddball development pattern. After all, his team had other black players in 1950 when he was languishing. Was Minoso punished by baseball's color line, an offense that can be remediated, or by the stupidity of some baseball execs--which can't--or by an unusual pattern of development?

That question is unanswerable, but given his longevity and his beloved status, I think it's worth leaning to the side of the color line and putting him in.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:21 AM (#608313)
Bonds remains a poster-child of a new, free-swinging era

Better than that, Bonds was a poster-child of the speed/power combo that had rarely been seen before. I think he was just the second 30/30 player and I believe is still the career leader with 5 such seasons (and numerous others that were close). Maybe it's my fuzzy memory, but even in that age when batters weren't supposed to strike out, all I remember folks talking about was Bonds' unique combo of power and speed -- a combo only matched by that of his son ... and HoJo of course. :-)

I don't know that it really helps qualify him for the Hall, but he was the precursor of a new age when guys like Barry, Morgan, Canseco, AROD, Griffey, etc. were "common" and I'd say that's far more persuasive than his high K rates.
   6. Eric Enders Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608315)
Minoso was already a star in Cuba and the Negro Leagues during the waning years of World War II. If segregation had not existed, he probably would have been able to establish himself as a regular in 1945 or 46 and therefore would not have had to struggle for a job as he did between '48 and '51.
   7. jeff angus Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608320)
Not that this should affect his vote, but it should go on the record that Vada Pinson was one of the great gentlemen of the game. I talked with him a few dozen times when he was coaching for the Mariners, and no matter what was going on, he was always a class act, not just to reporters (yeah, who cares) but to his peers and the players, too, it appeared to me.
   8. Zagg Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608323)
The best candidates on the Veteran's Committee ballot are the non-players. I would be ecstatic if the players voted Marvin Miller in. I think he's got a decent shot since many of the living Hall of Famers were active around the time that Miller did his work.
   9. john Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608325)
Curt Flood is one of the few guys who makes question #14 interesting. His stats are pretty much a sideshow to his famous showdown over the reserve clause. Among living players his off-field actions probably had more effect on the game than anyone. Just think about how you sat watching Baseball Tonight's countdown to a possible strike this past summer and think about how free agency changed the game. Should a player's off-field activities overshadow his non-Hall stats? For this special case I'm inclined to say Yes.
   10. Marc Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608327)
I am sure I overstated Santo's case. He was not the best player in baseball in '67 nor was he the best player in the NL in '66. He had the most WS in the NL in '67 and he was the best player on his team in '66. But even so, his case is a good one.

And I said in one place that Bonds was a free-swinger, in another place I mentioned his unusual (for then) power/speed combo. The latter is certainly a more fair assessment of his ability. He remains borderline.

As for Oliva, I said in my conclusion that his comps are good. Wrong. I meant to say that he does well on Black Ink + Gray Ink + HoF Standards + HoF Monitor. He meets three of the four standards and does especially well on Black Ink.

You should know that I too am a Twins fan. I am writing this from my home in Minnesota. As a kid growing up here, Tony O (not Killebrew, not Carew) was the guy kids really adored and I would argue now that he was the best baseball player of the three at his peak. But he was brittle. I remember he went through a period of two-three years where he had a sore hand and he was constantly throwing his bat around. That injury at least didn't seem to diminish his hitting, it just made it interesting for fans in the first row. What killed his career in the end was a knee injury that seemed to defy any kind of surgical repair. Carew roomed with Tony and says he cried himself to sleep at night because he knees hurt so bad. The guy had incredible talent but it is hard to argue for him going into the HoF ahead of Parker, Rice or Minoso, for that matter.

In re. to the managers, in my previous article I noted that there is nothing in the rules that the voters cannot consider the managerial record of a candidate on the players ballot. If they do, and I think they will, consider the managerial record, then Torre especially and maybe Hodges could do very well. But their playing records alone do not justify it. If they do well, it will be because of the extra credit.

And yes, I will not be surprised if Flood and Miller go in as a team. I'm not sure I agree, but I will not be surprised.
   11. Marc Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608331)
Bill James rates Gordon #6 among players whose career was most blemished by the war. He does not say Gordon would have made the HoF but for the war, but he says "he had a career that was very near to HoF standards despite missing two full seasons."

On the other hand, those two seasons would have given him a total of 13, still a short career. He was 23 when he came up and he replaced Lazzeri. Was he held back in the minors longer than he might have because he happened to be with the Yankees organization? Might his career reasonably have started earlier under different circumstances? I don't know.

James also says that the two year layoff "perhaps" diminished his skills somewhat, and so maybe he could have played past 35 otherwise?

All speculation. What we know is he was a valuable player who only played for two franchises his entire career. And it cannot be a coincidence that the Indians won their only pennant across 60 years while he was there. Many thought (think) he was better than Doerr.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608332)
And I said in one place that Bonds was a free-swinger, in another place I mentioned his unusual (for then) power/speed combo. The latter is certainly a more fair assessment of his ability.

I wasn't real clear. What I mean is that, in answer to Q 14, I think this is a more pertinent point. Did _he_ change the way the game is played? Maybe not, but he was the poster child of a new era which combined power with speed (or more broadly athleticism).
   13. Marc Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608337)
Speaking as a Twins fan, I think it's great that this is turning into a Twins thread.

So, random factoid and trivia quiz: Who is Roger Maris' number one comp? He is one of the great forgotten players of his era, a man who like Maris also unfortunately died very young (about 51-52 if I recall and I can't recall for sure but it might have been Lou Gehrig's disease). He actually led the AL in OPS+ (and runs scored) one year (triples another year). His career OPS+ of 126 is just two points short of Maris.' He's also a pretty good comp for Rocky Colavito.

Who is he?
   14. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: January 14, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608344)
Since no one has brought it up yet, there was a quote from Minoso some time in the past several years that implies he's actually younger than his stated age by 2 years. (I don't have a citation for it, but there are a couple of threads in Clutch Hits about the Veterans Committee selections, and it's on one of those if you want to look for it.) This obviously takes away a large portion of Minoso's argument, because his career was less artificially shortened if that's true. I don't know if it's true, but it's something that should be straightened out.

I'm a firm proponent of Minoso (for now), Santo and Dick Allen. Don Malcolm can say this better than I (and probably will), but Allen had an amazing peak, although a shortened career. It's pretty likely that he would already be in the Hall if it wasn't for all of the controversies he was involved in. If you believe he created so many problems that it kept his clubs from winning, then maybe you should vote to keep him out. I tend to think those things are overrated. I'd also vote for Carl Mays, although that's iffier. Oliva, Boyer and Gordon are close but not all the way there.
   15. Marc Posted: January 14, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608353)
As an aside, I emailed a question to the Hall of Fame yesterday and received a reply today. They are reasonably responsive to questions through their email portal.

I asked about the process for 2004-05. The rules state that the entire process will be repeated, apparently meaning the Elias bureau makes a list of all eligible players, a couple of committees appointed mostly by the BBWAA pare the list to 200 and then 26, and then the vote takes place.

I asked if there would be any new requirements in 2004-05, as in, specifically, a 5% rule. Would the committees be required to keep a player who received 5% of the vote on the ballot? Would they be required to bounce a player who failed to get 5% of the vote? etc. The answer is, "no requirements" of any kind and "all players are eligible in perpetuity."

So you could have a player who got 50-60-70% of the vote this year who could be eliminated from the ballot in 2004-05 if the committee (maybe it's a bunch of different people) decides. Or a player who gets less than 5% could nevertheless be included on the ballot.

It will be interesting to see how a 5% rule might work (or might have worked). I think almost all of the 26 players, with the likely exception of Meusel and Williams and maybe one or two pitchers, will get 5% or more, so it might not result in a lot of turnover. But I think it would be good for the HoF to get some fresh faces on the ballot each time, in place of those lacking significant support (however you want to define significant) and see which if any old-timers generate some support.

If you pushed me, I'd say Meusel, Williams and Mike Marshall will fail to get 5%. Everybody else will get it.
   16. Rob Wood Posted: January 15, 2003 at 02:22 AM (#608373)
They may say they'll start from scratch in two years, but that will only be what they say publicly. There is no way in the world that anyone who receives even moderate support this time around will be dropped from the final ballot next time. In fact, the continuity is one of the merits of this system.

The flip side may or may not also be valid. People on this year's ballot who do very poorly (and I am not sure 5% is the right cutoff) could well be dropped from the final ballot next time. This would make sense and allow other quasi-worthy players who were not on this year's final ballot to make the final VC ballot in the future. Plus, of course, won't there be a bunch of new-vintage players eligible for the next VC ballot -- retired in 1982 or 1983? Some players will have to be bumped in favor of these new guys.

Marc raises an interesting point. If the same panel chooses the final ballot next time as did this year's ballot, why wouldn't they just choose the same guys since their opinions wouldn't have changed. Hopefully, they will be willing to set aside their personal opinions for the greater good.
   17. fracas' hope springs eternal Posted: January 15, 2003 at 02:23 AM (#608378)
Presumably the balloting on the final 26 (and perhaps on the Composite Ballot, too) will be made public. If so, the 60 writers on the "pare-down" committee will be gently guided to keep candidates who fared well around for the next cycle. And if votes received this year are actually printed on the next 200-man ballot, the pressure would be substantial to keep anybody with a good showing.
   18. Marc Posted: January 16, 2003 at 02:23 AM (#608415)
BTW, I also asked the HoF if they would identify the players selected by the five HoFers. You will recall that the list of 26 came from the writers committee (25 names) and the HoFers (up to 5 names). Since there are 26 on the ballot we know that five names submitted by the HoFers included just one player not also selected by the writers.

The HoF declined to id. the five players selected by the HoFers or the one player who became the 26th player on the ballot, because they did not want to create any particular attention to any one player.

I think the four choices who were on both lists would be your favorites, but nobody knows who they are.
   19. Paul Wendt Posted: January 16, 2003 at 02:23 AM (#608427)
Marc,
Vada Pinson wasn't *clearly* the best player on the Cincinnati Reds in the early 60s, and I doubt that he was the best. Further, age 25-29 was *clearly* part of his decline phase.

Someone asked:
>>Does anyone know of any studies of the impact on metrics like OPS+/ERA+ of players that played in years in which their were unbalanced schedules and tried to adjust for that.
<<

Several months ago, I asked Pete Palmer, by the way. He has estimated some effects of imbalance in team schedules within a league (as at present and in NL1969-93, AL1969-78) and personal schedules within a team (as when Glavine pitches two road games against Colorado and Maddux pitches two against Los Angeles). As I recall, he said that those two factors can easily make 3% difference where the present Park Factor can easily make 15% difference. I guess that adoption in TB adjustments is more distant than publication of TB8.

>>I seem to recall that when I was much younger teams would play many more games in their divisions
<<

The ratio was 90 (5x18) to 72 (6x12) in NL1969-93 and AL1969-76; similar in AL1977-78 with 14 teams.

The team-by-team ratio is now greater than 18:12, at least for teams in AL East and AL Central, but 19 games against each division rival provides only 76 games within-division.

--Paul

   20. Marc Posted: January 16, 2003 at 02:23 AM (#608429)
Paul, what I said initially was that Pinson led his team in WS twice. 1959--Pinson 27, F. Robinson 25; he then trailed F. Robby by just two WS each in '60 and '61; and in '63--Pinson 31 F. Robby 23. (From 1959 to 1965, F. Robby earned 205 WS and Pinson 186. Other than '62 the difference was 164-161.)

I did then extrapolate that to say he was the best on his team in the early '60s--that was a reference back to the specific statement above, so no he was not consistently the best throughout the early '60s, he was the best twice in five years and not both in the early '60s, so my summation was misleading. But he led a very stout group twice and stayed close to F. Robby, no mean feat.

You are also correct, his decline began at the very early age of 25, just as his career generally began at a very early age of 19.67, and just as he died at an early age of 57. His OPS+ at 25 (eg. in the season during which he turned 25) was 141 (that was '63 when he led the Reds in WS the second time). That was followed by 109, 125, 103, 106, 102 (the latter at age 30). I pegged his "real" decline or his more pronounced decline as beginning with an OPS+ of 92, 113, 82 the next three years though he also had a 114 at age 34. So I think it would be accurate to say he had two decline "events" (as opposed to decline "periods") and those were at 25 and 30.

I said that there would be a number of generalizations in an article covering 26 players and that was one of them. Your correction is accurate but it does not alter the conclusion that Pinson, while below the top 4-6 candidates, is not entirely unqualified but would be a better choice than many already enshrined. His comps, in fact, are the best of any on the 26 man ballot.

But thanks to your post, Paul, I realized that Pinson is dead. I had forgotten. A real shame.
   21. DanG Posted: January 18, 2003 at 02:24 AM (#608438)
Rob Wood asked:

"Plus, of course, won't there be a bunch of new-vintage players eligible for the next VC ballot -- retired in 1982 or 1983? Some players will have to be bumped in favor of these new guys."


The best new candidate will be Jim Kaat. Luis Tiant is the only other new viable candidate. Bert Campaneris and Reggie Smith head the next tier of longshots. So it won't be hard to add the new candidates to the mix.
   22. Don Malcolm Posted: January 18, 2003 at 02:24 AM (#608444)
OK, Devin, since you (sort of) asked...

First, let me admit that in all of my Keltner List bashing of late, there is one question on the list that I clearly shortchanged (and I note that Marc here, in his very sound and even-handed summarization, did so as well--although in a different way).

That question would be #9 (any reason to believe a player is better/worse that what his statistics show). My argument over at the Blog was that we should be able to use league-relative measures (OPS+ being the easiest and most reasonable of the non-technical options...) to evaluate offensive performance. It's clear to me now that this argument assumes that the people actually making the decision will be aware (or made aware) of such concepts.

Not an especially good assumption.

That's why I think question #9 needs to be focused on and amplified in any "future" set of questions. It should be made a lot more specific, so that it can cover era adjustment, defense, and other data that will emerge as the fruits of Retrosheet become more readily available--such as park effects and home/away performance.

That kind of data is already part of arguments about players of more recent vintage (cf. Bill James on Jim Rice, just to name one). However, Retrosheet's efforts (as always, a tip of the cap to Dave Smith and his indefatigable crew for their amazing achievements...) are now turning up stat split data for players in Allen and Santo's generation. The results are quite interesting, and are clearly pertinent to the HoF discussions.

Here are Dick Allen's home/away splits for his career:

Home: .293/.385/.548/.933 OPS
Away: .291/.374/.519/.893 OPS

Not a great deal of difference there, as you can see.

Now here are Ron Santo's home/away splits for 1960-73 (his years as a Cub):

Home: .299/.387/.528/.915 OPS
Away: .260/.347/.415/.762 OPS

Well, now. That's a home park advantage. Wrigley Field was clearly a hitter's park in those days, and Santo's stats there sure make him look like a Hall of Famer.

Those road stats, however, make him look more like Buddy Bell--adjusted for era, of course, and with the stipulation that Santo walked a good bit more often.

In other words, a very good player, but even further on the fringes of HoF discussion.

Interestingly, the park factors show that Wrigley became a better hitter's park as the 60s progressed--because the cookie-cutter parks took over in this time frame. Santo's later seasons were probably given an additional boost due to this ongoing effect.

Data like this should at least cause us to pause a bit before suggesting that Santo's omission is the most "egregious" of all (after all, it wasn't Pete Browning's fault that they played short seasons back in the 1880s--his peak is even better than Dick Allen's, and there's hardly anyone clamoring for his induction).

I'd personally be ecstatic if the four players Marc recommends were to be elected this year. Many of the other players he discusses (Hodges, Oliva, Gordon) will eventually make it as well, and that won't bother me at all, so long as all four players on Marc's list get their plaques as well.
   23. Marc Posted: January 19, 2003 at 02:24 AM (#608450)
Cliff wrote:

Actually, you do have to spell out how Curt Flood changed the game, since I'm not aware of him doing so
in any way. I'm don't know of any way he even changed the business of Major League Baseball, although
there is a perception among people who like their history simple that he did.

Marc wrote:

I'm willing to accept your comment that there is a perception that he did, and leave it at that. I don't claim to know all the details. So whatever role he had, I can't claim it as a normative criterion (ie. that he SHOULD get elected) but perhaps as a predictive one (ie. he MIGHT get elected).

Anyone of the thousand people on this site who can give a better answer, please do!
   24. fracas' hope springs eternal Posted: January 20, 2003 at 02:24 AM (#608453)
I'd personally be ecstatic if the four players Marc recommends were to be elected this year.

I'd be nauseated if the VC elects any four players in one year, especially the first year of this new VC. Every guy on the ballot is borderline at best, and many of them are downright ludicrous. I know that many VC candidates have their die hard supporters, but try and do right by the Hall, people. If the VC lets in four every other year, why bother to have a Hall?

The first year's balloting will probably create momentum for the best candidates. If the new VC elects anyone the first year, they will probably elect them by the boatload each election thereafter. Thanks but no thanks.
   25. Marc Posted: January 20, 2003 at 02:24 AM (#608454)
fracas, I agree with you. I don't think I said nor did I intend to say that four players should be elected, just that four stand out. I have said elsewhere that it is likely that none will be elected because the votes will be scattered around among a dozen or so players. Or maybe one will be elected, but then either way the results will set up a pecking order for the future (actually Dan Greenia gave me that thought, thanks Dan).

I think the BBWAA's habit of picking one, or two, or none, or sometimes three, but preferably no more than one or two, is a good model for the VC. I don't think picking any faster than that is appropriate, though the VC will only pick every other year. That would mean they would be picking half as many players and, again, that's enough for the VC.

The big question, however, is whether an electorate made up 2/3 of players, who have never had this opportunity before, will be content to go slow. BBWAA voters typically vote for about 6 to 6.5 players per ballot. The question, along with who will they pick, is whether they will be somewhere around 6 to 6.5 or whether they might go all out and pick 10 each. I don't think they'll pick less per ballot.

Marc
   26. Paul Wendt Posted: January 20, 2003 at 02:24 AM (#608457)
1. Curt Flood

I agree with Cliff Blau and Dick Thompson. I do think Marvin Miller can be cited as someone who "changed the game" --at least for a few baseball generations, and we are still within that time. But Curt Flood? He was only a few years ahead of whoever would have next challenged the reserve clause if he did not. If he should be honored, it is for sacrificing some talent and income in the struggle to change the game (no small thing, unless he felt that it was time to go anyway), not for changing it. If he was needy, I think the MLBPA should have offered some financial support.

2. Wrigley Field in Ron Santo's day

Don Malcolm wrote:
>>Interestingly, the park factors show that Wrigley became a better hitter's park as the 60s progressed--because the cookie-cutter parks took over in this time frame. Santo's later seasons were probably given an additional boost due to this ongoing effect.
<<
Were New York and Atlanta the first cookie-cutters? (In Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, during the 1970s, we thought of SL, Cin, Pit, Phi as the cookie-cutters.) Anyway, new ballparks in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston all caused increases in the park factor for Wrigley Field.

--Paul

   27. Paul Wendt Posted: January 20, 2003 at 02:24 AM (#608458)
Before the Flood?

Is there good reason to expect that new System for Veterans will elect a flood of postwar players? Maybe not.

First, in the early stages, the System has narrowed the field to few but postwar players! If anything, that will dilute support for each.

Second, perhaps 50 of 80 voters are HOF players. (I beleve 53 of 58 living HOFers were Players, at some unknown moment after the System was announced. When? And when did Boudreau, Stargell, Williams, and Wilhelm die? I don't know.)

Third, each vote cast by one of those 50-odd players is a vote to place someone else on his pedestal. How many will cast that vote ten times? The NBHOFM catered to one constituency when it designed the new system: living members of the HOF. Someone (Marc H himself?) told me last year that the living members had complained that too many Rizzutos and Mazeroskis have been honored.

Fourth, what do we know about past floods? For example, did the old VC elect numerous *players* because *players* such as Frank Frisch and Bill Terry were influential members? Or did it elect numerous *Giants and Cardinals* because old Cubs, Pirates, and Reds were not represented? The old VC inevitably overrepresented one league and some teams, because it was so small. Now every one of the living HOFers has one vote and one vote only.

--Paul


   28. Marc Posted: January 21, 2003 at 02:24 AM (#608459)
I think the big unknown in all of this is how many players each voter will vote for. In the BBWAA the average has been pretty steady at 6 to 6.5 to maybe 7. Distribute those out among the 33 or 34 players on that ballot and they elect 0 to 3 players a year, an average over the past decade of precisely 1.6.

Here we can assume that the votes will be more widely and equally distributed because there are no Dave Winfields or Eddie Murray or Ozzie Smiths on the ballot. So if the voters vote for the same 6 to 6.5 to 7 they will elect slightly fewer players. If they vote for FEWER than 6 to 6.5 to 7 each, they will elect significantly fewer. If they vote for MORE than 6 to 6.5 to 7 each, they may elect about 1.6 per year. But of course they only vote every other year.

So I agree with Paul (and I said a month ago in my first article on the VC) that they may not elect anybody this year and in any case probably will not elect a flood unless it is Curt.

I don't know if anybody has actually advocated for Curt, BTW, but he certainly has been the focus of a lot of speculation, as has Marvin Miller. Some see them as a daily double.
   29. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: January 22, 2003 at 02:24 AM (#608469)
Regarding the Wrigley Field spike in hitterliness: it can be primarily traced, I think, to the fact that the centerfield bleachers were closed off to fans, making it easier for batters to pick up the ball.

Regarding Rick Ferrell as a comp for Curt Flood, I think there is little to compare. Ferrell was working within the system; Flood was challenging the system itself. This is a critical difference in fact and perception.

Whether Flood deserves credit for trying is, of course, another question. IMO, he perhaps rates a mention somewhere in Cooperstown, but not a plaque, since as many have pointed out, he didn't do anything that someone else wouldn't have done sooner or later, and further did not even succeed on his own terms, except insofar as he never played for the Phillies.

And I don't hear any nominations for Dave McNally (may both he and Curt rest in peace) or Andy Messersmith, both players probably superior in their way to Flood (Messersmith actually had HOF-quality rate stats).
   30. fracas' hope springs eternal Posted: January 28, 2003 at 02:27 AM (#608599)
My condolences to the fans and family of Thurman Munson, but Carter's offense was at the same level as Munson, and he did it for more than 50% longer than Munson. Fisk hit a little better for a little longer still. Now, before you object that Munson would've matched their numbers had he lived, Munson actually gets the "benefit" of avoiding most of his decline phase. The last two years of his career were at 16 and 21 points of OPS+ below his career average. As a catcher in his early 30's, Munson was only going to get worse.

Jimmy Wynn, on the other hand, is an underrated if very much borderline candidate. A guy who's stats were just totally smothered by playing in the Astrodome in the 60's. A good centerfielder who'd be a HOFer if he'd played long enough. I don't know the story of his final seasons, but check out this line from his second to last: .207/.377/.367/.744 for a 108 OPS+.
   31. Marc Posted: January 30, 2003 at 02:28 AM (#608672)
Re. Jim Wynn:

Black Ink: Batting - 4 (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 94 (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 30.0 (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 34.0 (Likely HOFer > 100)

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