Cal Ripken, Jr.
This is the ballot that BBWAA members get to vote on for the upcoming Hall elections. Since I took the opportunity to criticize some of the members voting, I thought at least I'd go ahead and indicate who I would vote for if given the opportunity.
Bert was rarely the best pitcher in the league; in fact, the only year I think he deserved the Cy Young Award was 1973 with Minnesota, when he won 20 games with a 2.52 ERA and struck out 258 batters in a career-high 325 IP. His ERA+ in 1973 was the best in the league, and he finished 2nd in strikeouts and 4th in innings pitched. But his W-L record was 20-17, whereas Jim Palmer's was 22-9 on a division-winning team. So Palmer won the Cy Young.
What Bert had was amazing durability. And despite the fact that he was only the league's best pitcher once, he was always near the top. He was, in my opinion, the second-best pitcher in the league on three different occasions (1974, 1985, 1989), the third-best pitcher twice more (1978, 1984), and was among the top 5 no less than ten times in his career. Blyleven was an amazingly effective pitcher who just happened to be flying under the radar, missing recognition due to the fact that he never (after '73) had a real breakthrough year.
So we've established that Blyleven reached a level of excellence only attained by very few pitchers. I've charted pitcher performances through the year 1928. The only pitchers I've come across that were among the top 5 in their league at least 10 times are the following: Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, and Warren Spahn. That's an amazing, amazing record. Blyleven was, of course, not as excellent as the likes of Clemens and Grove. But comparing him to Spahn is actually pretty apt. Spahn was, at his peak, better and pitcher longer. But consider these numbers:
Once we establish that Blyleven was almost as effective as Warren Spahn, that makes our argument much easier. Combine that effectiveness with 4970 career innings (13th all-time, 7th post-war) and 3701 strikeouts (5th all-time) and it's hard to argue for this man as a true Hall-of-Famer.
But how does Blyleven stack up against other pitchers, especially those that aren't in Cooperstown? Let's take a look:
1. Cy Young (635)
2. Walter Johnson (564)
10. Greg Maddux* (380)
11. Phil Niekro (375)
18. Ferguson Jenkins (323)
Blyleven has more career WS than Nolan Ryan, Ferguson Jenkins, Red Ruffing, Bob Gibson, Don Sutton, Jim Palmer, Randy Johnson, Early Wynn, Carl Hubbell, Tom Glavine, Dennis Eckersley, Mordecai Brown, Bob Feller, Burleigh Grimes, and many others
Jack Morris, everyone's "favorite" to enter the Hall, has 225 career Win Shares, putting him behind Frank Tanana, Jerry Koosman, Charlie Hough, Dennis Martinez, Kevin Brown, and Eddie Cicotte. He's tied with Urban Shocker, Tommy Bridges, and Larry Jackson, good pitchers all, but none of them Hall material.
(I don't consider career ERA, because the top 100 is almost entirely 19th-century pitchers).
The career ERA+ leaderboard is mostly full of relief pitchers and guys with short, productive careers.
Would you believe that Frank Tanana, with his reputation for injuries and brittleness, threw more career innings than Jack Morris? Or that our friend Mr. Blyleven has him beat by over 1000 IP?!
Yet another category where Blyleven laps the field and has Morris licked by over 1,000.
I've spoken about this in many entries already, so I won't go into a long-winded repeat of why I refuse to pass moral judgment on players who did what any of the rest of us would have done. Steroids seem so much dirtier than any of the cheating ballplayers used to do, but I'd suggest that that's mainly an issue of perception rather than anything. Gaylord Perry's spitball was considered cute and charming, even though it was quite obviously cheating and also explicity against the rules (unlike steroid use). There's also a great deal more evidence about the benefits of foreign subtances on the ball than there is about steroid use. For all of the voters (and they will be in the majority) who vote against Mark McGwire, I DEFY you to justify Perry's easy induction into the Hall.
How much did steroids help Mark McGwire? If we can get past the bizarre, priggish temptation to ban him altogether, we simply have to question how much steroids enhanced McGwire's performance. How much power and productivity did steroids give Mark McGwire?
I don't have any damn clue and neither does anyone else.
And that's really the key. Trammell wasn't a great hitter (career 285/352/415), but he was well above-average. He was especially valuable at his position, shortstop. During his career (1977-1996), the average shortstop hit 256/311/354. Trammell was miles ahead of that, and he added on fine defense, earning (and deserving) 4 Gold Gloves.
Fernandez never got his due, mainly because his defense was so underrated, and his offense wasn't recognized for being so good for a shortstop. He made up for this by playing for a long time (19 seasons) and racking up 2,276 career hits. He was also hurt by his nomadic lifestyle; he changed teams 9 times during his career, including three tours of duty with the Blue Jays.
A lot of people think that Jim Rice should be in the Hall of Fame. Let's see . . .
Dave Parker: 19 seasons, career 290/339/471 hitter, 2,712 hits, 339 HR, .285 career EQA, 327 career WS
Had an obscenely long career despite the fact that he was never really that good. A career 289/356/465 hitter with no defensive value. Not bad for an All-Star team, but no HOFer.
If Albert's career hadn't ended at age 34, I think he would probably have earned his way into Cooperstown. But Albert's attitude and poor relations with his team made him an unlikely pick before the injury. As it is, there's no way he gets in, nor does he really deserve to.
The perception is that Bonilla was an amazing player in Pittsburgh whose career died after he left. I disagree:
Yeah, right. Truthfully, though, Canseco's career hit the skids when he went to Texas. He revived his fortunes with some good years as a DH in the late 90's, but then he was pumped on steroids by his own admission. Didn't deserve a plaque even before the book.
Dave Concepcion was a truly excellent defensive shortstop. That alone makes people want to put him in Cooperstown. But I'm of the opinion that we should elect the "total player," not just a part of him. So I'm left to point out Concepcion's career 267/322/357 batting line, safely below average. Ozzie Smith, who was a contemporary of Concepcion's, hit 262/337/328 in his career. But he also lasted longer and was more valuable defensively. Ozzie is Dave's best chance of getting into Cooperstown, but I'm not too crazy about Ozzie myself. Dave deserves more credit than he's gotten, but I don't think he deserves to get in ahead of Alan Trammell, or certainly not Barry Larkin, his successor.
Davis is a sad story, another one of the guys who would have sailed into Cooperst0wn if he had stayed healthy. He had some amazing seasons in Cincinnati (his best was probably a 293/399/593 performance in 1987 with great defense and 50/56 in steals). But after helping the Reds to the championship in 1990, Davis' career fell of the map. He was able to revive it shortly from 1996-1998, but it's just not enough to get him into Cooperstown. Davis is just the modern Cesar Cedeno, without the violence.
I've been over this before, but in short: no way. Dawson was a good defender, but he was also a right fielder, where good defense isn't quite so important. He's a career 279/323/482 hitter, which doesn't sound much like a Hall-of-Famer. At his peak, Dawson was very good but not great (his 1987 MVP is a joke), and his later years were mostly spent padding out his counting stats at the cost of killing his averages. If people didn't like him and remember him fondly, he'd be on the same bubble as Dave Parker. As it is, he could very well get inducted. But it's hard to compensate for a career .323 OBP, 8 points below the league average for his time.
Garvey illustrates the folly of basing your entire opinion of someone on their batting average. The idea back then (which persists today) is that a high batting average is a divine skill, which makes any other shortcomings unimportant.
But that's silly. Garvey was a career 294/329/446 hitter. Yes, he was playing in Dodger Stadium, but that's still quite dismal for a first baseman. Garvey did have some power, hitting 272 career home runs, but that doesn't disguise his .329 career OBP. Garvey was also a good case study on someone whose high batting average masked an inability to take a walk, resulting in a low OBP. If your batting line looks like Garvey's, you'd better be a Gold Glove shortstop if you want to make it to Cooperstown. Garvey was neither.
Hershiser was a Hall-of-Fame pitcher from 1984-1989 and was, in my opinion, the NL's best pitcher in 1987, 1988, and 1989. But 5 years does not a career make, or else Mort Cooper, Sam McDowell, Herb Score, and Fernando Valenzuela would be in the Hall. Hershiser did manage to come back and pitch a couple good years with Cleveland in '95 and '96, but that's hardly enough to make his Hall case.
John doesn't really get a lot of respect. He was considered to be a low-end pitcher who just happened to hang around for a long time. But if you survive 26 seasons and 4710.1 innings, you're probably not a low-end pitcher. John was, indeed, above-average, as measured by ERA+ and RSAA. But I don't think he was above-average enough to get into Cooperstown. Being a good pitcher for a long time is quite an achievement, but you also have to have a really excellent near now and again.
Like many people on this list, Joyner got off to a hot start, cooled off, and then experienced a mild career resurgence at the end of his career. But Joyner was never anything like an MVP, and his career was so short and relatively unproductive that he doesn't really merit more than a passing glance.
I hate to break it to Yankee fans, but Mattingly just wasn't quite as good as people think. He was good, certainly; I have him as one of the 10 best players in the AL on 4 different occasions. But he was never really the best (his MVP notwithstanding). Mattingly was actually quite similar to his contemporary Keith Hernandez. Both men were reliable hitters who could provide a high average and great defense. But neither man had a well-rounded offensive game; Mattingly rarely took a walk (career .358 OBP) and Hernandez didn't have much power (career .436 slugger, 162 HR). If they had stuck around long enough to compile 3,000 hits and prove their great durability, then they likely would have earned a place in Cooperstown. But both men suffered a sudden end to their careers that doomed them to being just below the Cooperstown cut. (Mattingly at age 34, after 14 seasons; Hernandez at age 36, after 17 seasons).
Murphy was well on his way to the Hall of Fame as a slugging center fielder with a well-rounded offensive game before he suddenly and inexplicably became ineffective. At age 31, Murphy was coming off a 1987 that saw him tear through the National League, hitting 295/417/580. Granted, he was hitting in a hitter's park in the Year of the Hitter, but it was still a fine performance. After '87, Murphy had a career 279/362/500 batting line and, as an athletic center fielder with good defense, looked like he was going to remain productive for years to come. And if he had, he would have slid right into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
O'Neill was a career 288/363/470 hitter, which is certainly good, but is by no means excellent for a right fielder in the 1990s. From 1993-2001, O'Neill hit 303/377/492 with the Yankees. Manny Ramirez, however, hit 312/406/594 with Cleveland and Boston. Hell, Rusty Greer of the Rangers hit 305/388/484 over the same period.
Bret Saberhagen spent parts of 16 seasons in the major leagues and finished his career with a 3.34 ERA and a .588 career winning percentage. Sounds like a Hall-of-Famer, right?
Wrong. Saberhagen has, according to one source, spent more days on the DL than any other player in baseball history. This means that while those 17 years sound like a long time, it was actually a very spotty record. Sabes topped 200 IP in four of his first six major league seasons, and he certainly looked like a future HOFer at the time. But due (most likely) to this heavy workload, he never threw 200 innings again. In fact, for the next ten seasons, he only qualified for the ERA title (min. 162 IP) three times.
So there's little evidence that Smith was significantly better than his contemporaries or that he was significantly more durable. It's possible that he provided a good combination of the two, but I just haven't seen any good evidence to put him in the Hall ahead of Gossage or Quisenberry.
Uhh . . . okay. White was an excellent defensive center fielder, yes, but he also hit 263/319/419 in his career, despite spending the bulk of it in the hitting-happy 90's. He ranks 67th among all center fielders in career Win Shares, with 207. He's not significantly better than Willie McGee, and neither man should really get serious consideration for the Hall.
And it may be vaguely irrelevant, but I will never forget the story of when Griffith got drunk at a Minnesota party and remarked that the reason he moved the team from Washington to Minneapolis was because there were so few black people in Minnesota. Except he didn't say "black people." I know that if he kick the racists out of the Hall, it will get mighty empty, but I'll always associate that story with Calvin Griffith.
It was pretty traditional for a former commissioner to be elected to Cooperstown upon retirement. Judge Landis was. Happy Chandler was. And Ford Frick was. But then Gen. Spike Eckert (the "unknown soldier") came along and shot that theory to hell. His successor, Bowie Kuhn, lasted a lot longer, but really wasn't able to get much backing from the players (naturally), or even the owners. Kuhn was a compromise choice for the position and constantly seemed to be seated in his ivory tower ready to pass judgment on the moral state of baseball while the game's business was in crisis and the very nature of the player-owner relationship was turning explosive. Kuhn's actions were largely ineffective and patronizing, meaning that he got nowhere with either Marvin Miller, who knew that Kuhn had no real power, and the owners themselves, who weren't willing to give Kuhn that power.