Sunday, January 08, 2006


This Year's HOF Ballot: The Almosts

Once again it's time for the Baseball Writers of America to attempt to rectify their many transgressions against the unrecognized greats of baseball and send in their annual ballot of worthies., that is, it's time to vote for the Hall of Fame again.

The great Bleed Cubbie Blue site was kind enough to post a list of this year's hopefuls and, in a completely coincidental turn of fate, that same list shows up on my site in the same order and format:

Rick Aguilera, Albert Belle, Bert Blyleven, Will Clark, Dave Concepcion, Andre Dawson, Gary DiSarcina, Alex Fernandez, Gary Gaetti, Steve Garvey, Dwight Gooden, Rich Gossage, Ozzie Guillen, Orel Hershiser, Gregg Jefferies, Tommy John, Doug Jones, Don Mattingly, Willie McGee, Hal Morris, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Jim Rice, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Alan Trammell, Walt Weiss and John Wetteland.

Basically, this is a list of any players with 10 years of playing time and have been retired at least 5 years. There are few names that leap out an scream HOF to the casual reader but, with a little work, we find that there are some unlikely names that deserve strong consideration. Today, I am going to look at everyone but those that make my ballot. Later, I will look at those that actually qualify.

First, the chaff:

Gary DiSarcina, Ozzie Guillen (sorry South Siders), Gregg Jefferies, Hal Morris (great batting style, tho), and Walt Weiss. These were all largely mediocre players who's only claim to fame is playing baseball for a long time.

Getting those guys out of the way, we can take a more in-depth look at the remaining hopefuls. I will list them (approximately) in the order in which I consider them worthy and the analysis increases with worthiness (again, approximately).
The Almost:

John Wetteland - Wetteland certainly had a dominant peak. For about 8 years, Wetteland was the definition of the dominant closer posting 330 saves with a 2.93 era. However, in this age of one inning closers, you need more than 8 good years to get in as a reliever. Pass.

Rick Aguilera - You could probably flip him with Wetteland. Aguilera hung on a bit longer but had a slightly worse peak. Plus, I hate him for his performance for the Cubs. Pass.

Willie McGee - Decent Batting average, few walks, no power. McGee managed a few really good seasons, but for the most part he was below a below average right fielder. And, of course, he loses points for being a Cardinal. Pass.

Gary Gaetti - For one quarter of a season Gary Gaetti was a god in Chicago. However, for the most part, he was just a pretty good player for a long time. 360 career homers is nice from a good fielding third baseman, but a .308 career OBP and .255 career Batting average just doesn't cut it. He had a good run in the majors, but I will Pass.

Dwight Gooden - I need to be sure I save this entry for when Darryl Strawberry comes around. Gooden was, as I'm sure everyone knows, a frighteningly talented player who ruined himself with drug. His career was 35% success story, 65% after-school special. His peak was about as peaky as can be, but his career was pretty short and he doesn't win too many extra character points. Sadly, his son appears to be just about as screwed up as he is.

Orel Hershiser - Had a long career as an above average pitcher with a few excellent seasons mixed in early on. Arm problems de-railed him, though, and he ended up being just another entry in the Hall of Very Good. However, he is certainly less than HOF caliber and, like all of us, will need to buy a ticket to get in.

Dave Parker - Parker was a very good player for a long time. While I never personally saw him play, I have heard the legends regarding his rocket arm. That being the case, he certainly deserves some credit on defense. He was also a very good hitter for about 15 seasons, although not a great hitter. Another entry in the Hall of Very Good.

Albert Belle - Plus: Unbelievably strong peak. When Albert was on, he was the best. He could hit for both average and power, putting up a 50 double/50 homer season as well as a season with a .350+ BA. He would give you RBI's and he would walk. In short, for a 5 year span, he was the most dominant hitter in the league (career OPS+ of 158). Minuses: He was also a zero on defense and, because of an arthritic condition, only managed 10 seasons. He was also a total prick, although I view that as a non-factor. Had he played another 5 or so years at this level, or had any defensive value, I think he would be a lock to get in. However, as it is, he remains just shy of induction and does not make my ballot.

Don Mattingly - His peak was tremendous and his glove was legendary, but his spectacular power drop-off means that he was only HOF worthy for about 6 years. That is far too short a peak to make it onto my ballot. 9 Gold Gloves is impressive, but first base defense is not on par with middle infield defense value-wise, and so he can't make it in on his glove alone. Sorry Don.

Will Clark - Will Clark will always be highly underrated due to the fact that he got off to a tremendous start in his career and then lost most of his player midway through. However, even after losing his pop, he still was a very valuable player due to his ability to get on base. Also, he was a very good gloveman. A six-time All-Star and one time MVP and gold glover, he was the league's top first-baseman for the early part of his career (or close to it, anyway). He also managed a career OPS 38% better than league average which compares favorably with many Hall of Famers. However, a mix of a short career and some durability issues leaves him on the outside looking in and he falls shy.

Steve Garvey - As far as I can tell, he was clearly overrated in his time. That is the only way I can explain the consistently high results in MVP voting and all the All-Star games. He was a very good player, no doubt. However, his stats are not so hot other than Batting Average. He didn't take very many walks and his power was only middling. He gets extra points for his defense but a first baseman needs to hit a bit better than Garvey ever did to make the hall. Either that, or he needs to maintain the consistency for a very long time, which Garvey didn't manage to do. Plus, I don't like him. He's out.

Lee Smith - He's the all-time leader in a made up stat! Wee! Of course, he's got about 3 more years of being the all-time leader and, of course, Jeff Reardon was also once the all-time leader. Lee was a very good reliever for a very long time. Giving the mercurial nature of closers/relievers, he gets extra points for this. However, his peak was never great enough to qualify as a truly great reliever. He was very, very good but never great and, with relievers, I think the peak has to be pretty transcendent. No Hall for you!

Jack Morris - ...speaking of overrated. Did you know he once pitched a 10 inning shutout in the playoffs! 10 innings! What a clutch performer. Never mind the fact that Morris's career ERA in the playoffs was barely better than his career regular season ERA. He had the most wins in the 80's, sure, but Mark Grace had the most hits in the 90's and I doubt he will make the Hall. Over his entire career, he was only 5% better than league average, which is just as unimpressive as it sounds. He was a good pitcher. He was a durable pitcher. And he was a lucky pitcher. What he was not is a great pitcher. Frankly, the whole Jack Morris for HOF thing baffles me.

Dale Murphy - Another big peak, big drop-off player. I think these guys are pretty hard to evaluate. Murphy was one of the top players in the NL for half his career, but for the other half he killed his team. He was a great defender and a few time MVP and I could probably be convinced to vote for him...but I'm not convinced. He's close, but I don't think he makes the cut.

Doug Jones - Did I really put Doug Jones is high on my list? The Doug Jones. The keeper of the 72 mph fastball? Yes, I did. Consider:

Doug Jones: 1128.3 innings, 909 K's, 7.25 K/9, 303 saves, 130 ERA+, 15 seasons
Bruce Sutter: 1042 innings, 861 K's, 7.43 K/9, 300 saves, 136 ERA+, 12 seasons (10 full)

Bruce Sutter's closest comp on No other than Doug Jones.

People have overlooked Doug Jones's greatness because of the fact that he didn't register on the radar guns. Jones combined excellent control with a devastating changup and was one of baseball's best relievers for several years...and few noticed. He will never sniff the Hall. Hell, he probably will drop off the ballot in his first year of eligibility. He doesn't make my cut only because of the fact that he was another 1 inning closer of the modern era and these fellas need to be pretty special to get my vote.

Coming later: those that actual make my ballot.

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