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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Future (And Past) of the HOF

It’s all well and good to say that the next three baseball Hall of Fame ballots will be “unprecedented.” I’ve written that a few times, and it sounds good.

Next year’s ballot will include: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza and Kenny Lofton.

The 2014 ballot will include: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent.

The 2015 ballot will include: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield.

Yes, that flood of talent and controversy FEELS unprecedented—and in some ways that’s true. It certainly is a deep run of great players, and a few of them—especially Bonds and Clemens—are connected to PEDs in a way that unquestionably will affect the way the voters judge their careers. I have written before that in many ways the voters—and I am one of them—will be trying to determine the soul of the Hall of Fame.

But, I realize now I fell victim to one of the classic blunders. I overlooked history.

sptaylor Posted: January 03, 2012 at 03:47 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, steroids

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Paul D(uda) Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:16 PM (#4028105)

Phew. At least he didn't enter into a land war in Asia.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:22 PM (#4028110)
I may not agree with everything Bob says on the subject, but I think he has a sensible approach here -- he looks at the FEAT being inauthentic rather than the PLAYER being evil and unworthy. If we look at it that way, it's back in the realm of sports where sportswriters should probably try to stay. Some people have drawn the line here: If they believe the steroids made the difference between a player being a Hall of Famer and not being one, they do not vote for him. And if they believe the player would have been a Hall of Famer anyway, they would vote for him.

Well that's not a unique argument, I think most everyone that is against players being in the Hall for PED use are saying their feats are tainted, not so much that the players are evil human beings.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:23 PM (#4028112)
Really good piece, do yourself a favor and RTFA.
   4. Guapo Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:28 PM (#4028116)
Good article, but the cheap shot at Jim O'Rourke was really uncalled for.

(What can I say, I hold Poz to a higher standard)
   5. /muteself 57i66135 Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:30 PM (#4028119)
Phew. At least he didn't enter into a land war in Asia.
or go in against a sicilian when death is on the line.
   6. Rancischley Leweschquens (Tim Wallach was my Hero) Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:32 PM (#4028121)
Darn, here we go again. The other thread isn't even cool yet...

Really good piece, do yourself a favor and RTFA.

I agree.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:42 PM (#4028132)
How often already do you hear the, "Well, he doesn't have the career, but he did this without steroids," argument?

Not often really. Not for anybody that matters and it seems to rarely play much of a role. What I mean is that, yes, over the last few years almost every Mattingly or Murphy voter will say something like this but Mattingly and Murphy are stagnant in the voting and it seems the people saying this did or would have voted for Mattingly or Murphy 10 years ago. McGriff, as near as I can tell, has a "clean" reputation and he's not doing well in the voting.

Clearly a steroid link is working against some players but it's not at all clear to me that the lack of one is working in any player's benefit -- other than in the sense that somebody like Larkin looks like the best candidate on the ballot if you refuse to vote for McGwire, Palmeiro and Bagwell.

I think most everyone that is against players being in the Hall for PED use are saying their feats are tainted, not so much that the players are evil human beings.

Either I strongly disagree with you or we have quite different understandings of what Poz is saying. Poz is essentially talking about applying a "steroid adjustment" and going from there. He quotes Costas on McGwire with Costas arguing that, without steroids, McGwire would have been a less durable version of Killebrew (and apprently not worthy although Killebrew minus 2000 PA is still at least borderline). It implies that Costas would vote for Bonds and Clemens.

McGwire is at 25% because a large percentage of the voters believe he CHEATED. He acted immorally. They are not bothering with angels on the head of a pin arguments about what he would have done without steroids, he's being ruled out under the character clause with little consideration.

More importantly I believe, although you will find no writer who cops to this, is that McGwire betrayed them. Most sportswriters were acting like little kids in 98. They ate it up. Some people here claim that it's because he broke the record of one of the writers' childhood idol -- but I don't recall seeing anything at the time that expressed being upset with the record being broken. There were certainly articles reminding us how wonderful Maris was but nobody seemed upset that the torch was being passed -- they were more concerned with whether McGwire was enjoying himself. (This was not true by the time Bonds got to Aaron's record but there'd been a lot of steroid hoo-hah by that time.)

Now they also presumably believe that he would not have been as good a hitter without steroids. And of course it's true that nobody really cares whether nothing players like Manny Alexander or Jason Grimsley did steroids.

But the anti-roid vote is mostly about writers on their high horses, expounding on their superior morality.
   8. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:45 PM (#4028136)
It's a very good article, even if I don't agree with its not-so-subtle implications. But for sanity's sake I'd suggest we not mention who wrote it.

(Whoops, I wrote that before Walt chimed in.)
   9. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:49 PM (#4028145)
But the anti-roid vote is mostly about writers on their high horses, expounding on their superior morality.

Or it might just be that you and others like you simply refuse to concede any merit at all to the anti-steroid argument. Which leaves us at the place we've always been and always will be: Counting the votes.

Which is fine by me, since nobody's changing anyone's position here at this late date.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: January 03, 2012 at 05:53 PM (#4028151)
On the article ... the first half is a good read; the second half repeats arguments we've seen expressed here for years.

And so that means I think he's wrong too on the HoF stepping in to change things, at least anytime soon. His historical examples are times when the writers stopped electing anybody. The writers are going to elect tons of people over the next few years -- Larkin, Biggio, Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Pedro, Randy, Griffey and eventually Smoltz and probably Schilling. Then you'll have Thome and Mo and Jeter and others possibly working their way through (Raines, Edger, etc.). And that's under a strict "steroid ban" and it only gets brighter if they extend to Bagwell and Piazza or reach "down" for Mussina and, as soon as he's eligible for a VC, probably Morris (2019?).

The only way those top guys don't get elected is if the Poz's of the BBWAA undertake a collective action to not vote for Maddux et al until Bonds and Clemens are "released" ... and that's not going to happen.

About the only voting change in the short-term that I could see would be expanding the number of possible votes to 15 per ballot -- that one might be up to the BBWAA on its own but, even if not, I'm sure the HoF would gladly make that change if the BBWAA asked. That would relieve the pressure on the Poz voter so they could still keep Walker, etc. on the ballot in the crowded years.
   11. JRVJ Posted: January 03, 2012 at 08:14 PM (#4028250)
I don't know if Poz would ever do so, but I'd love to read a long story from him about being on the HoF ledge, be it that you are Hall worthy (e.g. Raines) or probably not (e.g., Morris).

Mind you, Jack Morris seems like a nice enough guy, but it has to be baffling to him that the mainstream media basically built him up into this warrior of the 80s, and yet now he can't get into the HoF due that very mainstream media.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: January 03, 2012 at 08:22 PM (#4028258)

Yeah, the O'Rourke slam is weird.
Plus Bresnahan supposedly invented the "tools of ignorance" for catchers, so he had that theme, plus he was an excellent hitter in his 20s.

Bresnahan is on a very short list of worst players in the Hall of MERIT, not Hall of Fame - there are dozens of worse picks in the latter.
One minor issue mught be that Bresnahan's teams did not play 154-game skeds in 1902-03, early in his prime.
   13. Ron J Posted: January 03, 2012 at 09:12 PM (#4028304)
I'd go stronger than Howie on Bresnahan. Under what definition of "light hitting" does a career OPS+ of 126 qualify? His offensive numbers are pretty good for deadest ball. (That is a career .386 OBP by a fast catcher. As McGraw noted, how many catchers batted leadoff for a championship team? And yes, I'm confident that McGraw was a critical factor in Bresnahan's making the hall. And that I've given you the heart of his argument. And yes, he did lead off for the 1905 Giants)

There are other reasons he's a weak choice for the hall -- mostly the fact that he only caught 975 games, and a "catcher and" needs to be a better player than he was. Quibble but more than a bit jarring to read.
   14. The District Attorney Posted: January 03, 2012 at 10:02 PM (#4028335)
Maybe Poz confused Bresnahan with Ray Schalk? Or maybe he was going by James' ratings, which (not going to bother to look up the specific players) had a huge timeline that presumably would not have been kind to oldsters like McCarthy (whose James ranking of #88 RF is mentioned by Poz here), O'Rourke, and Bresnahan.

Although I'm generally very much against electing players because they were "a good story", I love the Orator Jim O'Rourke stories so much that I'm tempted to make an exception.
When O’Rourke learned that Louis Sockalexis, an Indian who played for Cleveland, had a clause in his contract that prohibited him from drinking alcohol, O'Rourke remarked, “I see that Sockalexis must forego frescoing his tonsils with the cardinal brush; it is so nominated in the contract of the aborigine.”
Amazing, and the letter to Mrs. Gilligan congratulating her for fending off a lion is probably even better.

I was just looking at Herb Pennock a few hours ago due to the wWAR thread (he was the first player elected by the BBWAA who is not in the Hall of Merit.) I suppose he and Rabbit Maranville are the two BBWAA electees who are generally credited with getting in due to post-mortem "sympathy votes". Looking them over, both cases seem a little more complex. Maranville's path to 75% was pretty normal. He went more or less steadily upward, and was up to 62.1% in 1953, the year before he died. That's already pretty close, and the top three players who missed the cut in 1953 were the three guys who got elected in 1954, albeit in a different order. Perhaps Rabbit would have gotten in anyway.

Pennock, on the other hand, did take a sudden leap in the voting... the year before he died. He went from 6.1% in 1946, to 53.4% in 1947, to 77.7% and in after his death in 1948. My first reaction was that he must have been on his deathbed in '47, but considering that he was the Phillies GM up until dying on the job of a sudden stroke, that's clearly not it at all. Really odd; I wonder what the heck happened.

Oh, umm, the current Hall of Fame. Honestly, this article didn't give me much to think about. I do agree with #7 that "he did it without steroids" is something people say for effect, but pretty clearly is not actually driving the vote for any given player.

Given that Poz mentions that "visitors to the Hall of Fame dropped dramatically" after the first attempt to limit new inductions in 1940, I'm surprised he didn't cite today's news that attendance is down in recent years as well.
Museum attendance has slid from 352,000 in 2007 to 301,755 in 2008, 289,000 in 2009, 281,000 in 2010, and a projected figure of between 265,000 and 270,000 for 2011. Annual attendance topped 400,000 in peak years of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
   15. Ron J Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:37 AM (#4028423)
#14 I do know that Babe Ruth started to actively campaign for Pennock before he died -- citing him as one of the four best pitchers he ever saw.

I don't know how much it helped, but given that sportswriters had to be talking Ruth all of the time in 1948 (what with him dying that year) it sure couldn't hurt and may have partially driven the boost in 1947.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: January 04, 2012 at 04:10 AM (#4028436)
Yeah, I kept wondering if Poz was confusing some players. I mean Hughie Jennings was no slouch. Weird career but 41 WAR over 5 years (in about a 130-140 game schedule) is one hell of a peak for any SS. He led the league in WAR in 4 of those 5 years. He had nothing outside of that but it's the 12th best age 25-29 WAR of all-time (not adjusting for team games) just ahead of Musial and Banks and just behind Speaker and Cobb. I can see how the VC of the day might think he was a special player.

He did get plunked a bit though -- 202 HBP over those 5 years. :-)

What an era. One year he had a 472 OBP ... that was good for 2nd in the league. A couple years later he put up a 463 which was good for 4th.

These 1897 O's:

McGraw 471
Keeler 464
Jennings 463
Kelley 447
Stenzel 404

A 394 team OBP. 964 runs in 130 games.

Good enough for 2nd in scoring. :-)

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