Sunday, December 15, 2013

2014 Hall of Fame 

Above is a link to the Hall of Fame ballot for 2014.

Here are my choices:

1. Greg Maddux. This should need no explanation.
2. Edgar Martinez. Just look at the swing. But, if we need to, the key to evaluating players from Martinez' time should be to look at the whole player, as always, but a useful stat would be OPS+. I think a whole view of Martinez shows him to be one of the top 5 or 6 hitters of his time. His weakness is in being a DH, but that is a position on a baseball field for 40 years, so its not really an issue. Martinez was a good enough 3rd baseman. I also offer one more argument: Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki will all probably end up in the HOF, Arod will probably have to wait, but still, I would argue that Edgar Martinez was a better hitter than 3 teammates who benefitted greatly from having Martinez in the lineup.
3. Tim Raines. Tim Raines is the second greatest leadoff hitter of modern times, Ichiro Suzuki is third, Charlie Hustle and Lou Brock tied in fourth, Paul Molitor is fifth, Craig Biggio is sixth, Kenny Lofton is seventh. After that you get your variations who shouldn't be in the HOF: Johnny Damon, Brett Butler, Willie Wilson. Then guys who aren't even quite to that edge, but have their own unique, and excellent, just not HOF level, time in at leadoff: Alphonso Soriano (I know, I know), Tony Phillips, Bert Campaneris, Jimmy Rollins. But, c'mon, Tim Raines. The fact is Rickey probably could have been more helpful as a 3 hitter. After all, if you have both Tony Phillips and Rickey Henderson, its not an argument that Rickey is a better leadoff hitter, but what is the best way to arrange the available bats you've got. But, that's kind of stupid of me, because if you've got Rickey Henderson, arguably to me the greatest baseball player ever, you just put him up front and let him play. Anyway, Tim Raines.
4. Alan Trammell. Are the greatest baseball players really all at first base and right field? Of course not.
5. Tom Glavine. Nuff Said.
6. Lee Smith. I think durability is something valuable when we consider the Hall of Fame. The idea to me that Kirby Puckett is a HOFer and Ferris Fain isn't is, well, just wrong.  I think talent is only part of the HOF. A HOF player should have luck, resistance to injury, any number of things, as well as a transcendent level of talent that they use to achieve at a level higher than their contemporaries. Things must be measured in context. Lee Smith is one of the best closers in baseball history. He is also the model that we now have, and one of the reasons for that is Lee Smith. His talent changed the way a game was managed, and that approach, effective because of Smith's talent and willingness to actuate that talent, is now the model across all of baseball.
7. Jack Morris. Here's the rub: who should be in the Hall of Fame: Jack Morris or Curt Schilling? Jack Morris, for now, then Curt Schilling, then Pedro Martinez...., back to the point: pitched one of the great games in baseball history. I have a hard time differentiating that from the rest of his career, that impression colors the entire picture for me. Same with Edgar Martinez. I saw Edgar hit, he was a Hall of Famer. He did that at the conclusion of being, in my opinion, the best pitcher consistently for a decade. This is why my next one is
8. Roger Clemens. Who knows about the drugs. Roger, probably. He was already on the edge, and then BBWAA gives him 4 more Cy Youngs instead of being reporters. If they want to keep him out of the HOF now, I think its a bunch of hypocrisy on their part.
9. Barry Bonds. See Clemens, but the point is 4 MVPs. Lets say Canseco was right, and 80% of the players were using. What you got to see with Bonds was what happens when one of the all time greats, already, decides to use the same tools as a Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero. You could not pitch in the strike zone against Bonds anyway, and for a couple of years, it was really must-see-tv. It was the true spectacle of the game.
10. Craig Biggio. Judgment call. Let Bagwell wait another year. I think Biggio was a fantastic player, even with the taint on the clubhouse. My favorite part of Biggio's game was his immense talent at the game itself, put him anywhere on the field, he was a ball player. Also, his way of crowding the plate.

On the cusp: Frank Thomas. He has no steroids taint that I know of, but I say make em all wait a year. Besides, there's a backlog to sort through. But, I can see Thomas going in anyone's place except Maddux. Mike Piazza. I think Piazza and Thomas may get in, but they are just lower on my priority list. Palmiero. Overall, his career is an odd one, just under league leaders during times of specialization, and he didn't do himself any favors in Congress. But, I think one of the stupidest things ever is the idea that players need to be put in on the first ballot. Ridiculous. In fact, what we have developing here is a unique situation not seen since the early ballots, but also it may look like the 1960s. Look at the ballots in the 1960s: Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Joe Medwick, Stan Musial, Roy Campanella. Now that is a Hall of Fame.

Who among the batch of players measures up to that decade of elected? Well, Greg Maddux. If I could get the steroids issue out of my head, Barry Bonds. Lets face it, if Bert Blyleven can be in the HOF, then so can Jack Morris, but if Feller is the measurement?

What I would suggest is that the HOF needs several areas of improvement. For one thing, there needs to be greater parity among the defensive positions. There also needs to be a greater respect for the overall number of games a player plays in. Durability is, I think, the corrective. There have been many players who had an exceptional level of talent, and one thing or another prevents the sustained performance. I also don't think 10 years is a reasonable cut off. See Ferris Fain. Playing  3 games in another year, is that serious consideration for HOF? Yet, it would be. Also, I think "Fame" should be a consideration. There needs to be a certain amount of starpower for players we are considering for contemporary baseball.

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