Jan 09, 2014
kosmo - See all 760 of my articles
On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA) announced the 2014 Hall of Fame class.
The inductees are:
- Greg Maddux – Maddux is the winningest living pitcher, with 355 wins. He won four straight Cy Young awards, was almost always in the conversation as one of the top five pitchers in any given year, mentored younger players, and was a good guy. For one reason or another (mostly to “make a point”), sixteen voters left Maddux off their ballot – he received “only” 97.2% of the voter. There’s even a stat named after him. A Maddux is a complete game shutout where the pitcher throws fewer than 100 pitches. Maddux also won eighteen gold gloves – most of any player at any position.
- Tom Glavine – Glavine was also an elite pitcher, albeit a tick below Maddux. He won 305 games in his career. He also won two Cy Young awards and was in the top five in Cy Young voting on four other occasions. He eventually left the Braves to sign with the Mets. When he became a free agent again, the Braves surrendered type A compensation (giving their first round pick to the rival Mets and allowing the Mets to gain a compensation round pick) for a 42 year old in obvious decline. Such was the respect Glavine commanded. (Although, logically, the move made littler sense, and I panned it at the time. At best, the Braves were going to get a couple of good years out of Glavine. Most likely, they were going to get mediocre performance.)
- Frank Thomas – During the seven year stretch from 1991 to 1997, Thomas won two MVP awards and finished in the top eight in MVP voting every year. He had an OPS+ of at least 174 every year (OPS+ is a league and park adjusted stat – 100 is average). The Big Hurt was the most feared hitter in the game. You could argue that Griffey was the better all-around player, but Thomas was the best with the bat. At the age of 30, Thomas’s productivity dropped considerably. He wouldn’t win any more MVP awards and would finish in the top five “only” twice more. He would only have two more seasons with an OPS+ above 150. He was still a well above average hitter, but it was a very noticeable decline. I had concerns that the dramatic decline might make people forget how dominant he was, but Thomas picked up 83.7% of the vote.
Craig Biggio narrowly missed being elected, falling two votes short. A couple of things conspired against Biggio. The first was a handful of writers using their ballots to make statements. One example of this was Ken Gurnick’s ballot. He voted only for Jack Morris. His logic was that he refused to vote for anyone from the steroid era. He has said he will abstain from future votes. Interestingly, a chunk of Morris’s career fell within the steroid era.
The second issue was a limit on the number of players a writer can vote for. There is a strict limit of ten. This year featured a stacked ballot due to PED-tainted players remaining on the ballot (if clean, they’d have been elected already) and a very good class of new players. Several writers said that they’d have voted for Biggio if there were eleven spots. Why even have the ten player limit? Why not just have a yes/no for each player on the ballot. They’d still need 75% of the vote to be elected, but a writer would be making a conscious decision about every player on the ballot.
Jack Morris was in his fifteenth, and final, year on the ballot. Not only did he not get the final year bump that most players do, he actually received less support. Again, likely due to crowded ballot and limit of ten players. Morris has become a lightning rod, with many old school writers insisted he was a true ace, while proponents of advanced stats portray him as a slightly above average pitcher with a good narrative. I do feel bad for Morris, even though I don’t think he should be in the Hall of Fame. He has been dragged through the mud during the process, and there’s no need for that. At the very least, he was a very good pitcher for a long time.
Where do I stand on PED-tainted players? If a player tested positive or there is substantial evidence that he took PEDs (such as an indictment), I don’t believe he should be in the Hall of Fame. However, I refuse to paint all the players with a broad brush. If there are just whispers of use and no formal accusation by a reliable source, I wouldn’t bar that player. Rafael Palmeiro holds a special spot on my list. Palmeiro was playing out the string in his career, at an age where he easily could have been retired. Had he simply retired a year earlier, he’d be in the Hall of Fame. With 3000+ hits and 500+ homers, he’d have been a lock. As a result of PEDs, he dropped brlow 5% support this year and will fall off the ballot.
I also give the BBWAA a D- for their web site. It’s not a great site to begin with – very simply design with poor navigation – but the site crashed immediately following the announcement. It would be nice if they would hire a web master who was tech savvy enough to realize that you can rent servers and bandwidth to accommodate predictable traffic spikes.
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