Cooperstown Class of 2005
It's that time of year again. BBWAA members everywhere have debated, discussed, and drawn in their votes to determine who will take residence at the sacred shrine of Cooperstown.
Not that it amounts to anything, but you can place your vote at http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/sportsnation/ballot?event_id=1021. An interesting discussion over at Page 2 between guys whose votes actually DO matter can be found here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=halloffame/roundtable/041222
I'll post a few thoughts about the Page 2 discussion, and then move on to my ballot.
Page 2 writer himself, Michael Knisley, argues this point first:
I feel about relievers the same way I feel about designated hitters. If they're a part of the game, then the best of 'em ought to be in the Hall.I actually share these sentiments. Relievers are indeed a huge part of the modern game, and since the DH has been around for 30 years (and isn't likely to be going away anytime soon), it also should be considered a valid position. Considering, too, how both of these roles have changed the game, in the last 20 years especially, it makes more sense to start looking at the best of them and adding them to the Hall. This is my argument as to why I think Edgar should be a first-ballot HOF'er. Now that MLB and Bud Selig have shown their support by naming the DH award after Edgar, I have more fuel to that fire. Any player who singlehandedly defines a role that changes baseball, and becomes the best player to ever have played that position, should be enshrined in the Hall.
The ever-brilliant Jim Caple fires back with this response:
Backup catcher is part of the game, too, but we don't put them in the Hall of Fame.Thankfully, Knisely puts him in his place. He continues to further my thought that guys like Gossage, Sutter and Smith deserve at least consideration, merely by the impact they had on the game:
How can you pretend that Sutter or Lee Smith didn't have a major impact on the game? They were as dominant in their roles as Boggs was in his.Indeed (though I'm siding more with Caple on Lee Smith)! I was quite surprised that Caple didn't fire back that a pinch-hitter or a backup catcher does have a relative impact on a game, and the best of the best of them should be included in the Hall. I might be convinced by a pinch-hitter being elected, eventually, if one ever dominates the game.
However, later on in the argument, Knisely shoots himself in the foot with regards to Blyleven:
I hate to bring up the "magic number" thinking, but we're going to have to deal with it sooner or later here. So I'll say it: I'd like for Bert to have reached 300 wins.I'm so sick of hearing this! It's as though the Win column is the first thing that people look at to determine how good a pitcher is. Whether your a stathead sabermatrician or not, it's very easy to see (if you watch a lot of baseball, that is) that it's a stat so beyond a pitcher's control it really should be banished from the record books! Here's a couple of scenarios that happen quite often through no fault of the starting pitcher:
- After giving up 2 runs through 6 2/3 innings, the starting pitcher hands the ball to a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY) in spite of his team being ahead 6-2, and the bases loaded. The LOOGY proceeds to give up a grand slam home run and the game is now tied (with 3 of the 4 runs charged to the starting pitcher). A new reliever comes in and strikes the next batter out. The starting pitcher's team then rallies in the 8th, scoring two runs. The reliever who came in for the LOOGY stays in, gives up 1 run, and the closer comes on in the ninth to save it the game. Reliever 2, then, gets the win. The SP goes home ticked -- he didn't give up the bomb that tied the game, and nor did he benefit from the extra two runs that the offense generated in the 8th. After leaving in the 7th with the bases loaded, the scenario escaped his control. He's credited with a) a no-decision and b) an inflated ERA because of the three runs the LOOGY allowed to score. This whole scenario is one of the hugest flaws I see in all of baseball. Runners left on base by one pitcher allowed to score by another pitcher should be at the very least split in half. For this reason, the stat for the LOOGY and any other relief pitcher (outside of, maybe, the closer)
- Starting pitcher gives up a two-run HR with 2 outs in the top of the 8th. The runner on first had reached via throwing error from the SS on what should've been the third out. Their offense hasn't done much that day, just scoring 1 run early in the game. Same nothingness from the offense in bottom of the 8th. Starting pitcher returns in the 9th to pitch the complete game, striking out the side. Bottom of the ninth, down 2-1, the other team's closer comes in and does the same. Game over, SP is credited with the loss, 2-1. Okay maybe this is an extreme example, but it does illustrate my point. As much as I despise the guy, Ryan Franklin in 2003 and 2004 is another good example of how little the pitcher actually controls his win/loss totals. You could have an entire rotation of Pedro Martinez, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Walter Johnson, and Cy Young, and a defense (and therefore an offense) full of Ozzie Smith types, and still lose 100 ball games.
- A starter goes 4, the game is paused for a 3-hour rain delay, and a reliever inherits that 5-0 lead, and the game is called after 5 for more rain (an official game is credited). For a quarter of the work, the reliever gets the win. This sounds like a gift of Biblical proportions (see Matthew 20:1-16)...
If you haven't read it yet, go read Michael Wolverton's explanation of support-neutral stats for pitchers. For that matter, go read all of the Baseball Prospectus' Basics articles. They're well-worth the money (in spite of being free). I'm in no way shape or form a sabermatrician, but I really appreciate that perspective and am very much interested in learning more about sabermetrics and the statistical analysis approach. I've got an article brewing for the Morsels here that will probably be my first critical delve into the statistical arena.
So, with the above stated, here's the boxes I'm checking:
1) Bert Blyleven. Rich Lederer has won me over. I didn't watch him a whole lot, as I really wasn't into baseball that seriously when he pitched. Still, you can't argue against his stats. If guys like Sutton, Bunning, Jenkins and Phil Neikro can get in, then no doubt BB deserves to be there.
2) Wade Boggs. Duh. First ballot'er for sure. My favorite player of the 80's.
3) Rich "Goose" Gossage. Guys like Goose and Eck, and arguably Sutter and Smith, really defined the closer's role, and helped baseball change from the 4-man rotation, 300+ innings pitched to today's model of SP/RP/Closer. The traditionalist Catholic in me is highly resistant to change, but having grown up Lutheran respects and demands change. It's a thin tightrope that can be very crazy to walk, but baseball does change and will continue to change. It's a shame that members of the BBWAA (and others, for that matter) cling to the cobwebs and loathe the current closer's role and the DH. Personally, I were going to really loathe a particular change in baseball, I'd vote to spend my energy on loathing Free Agency or the Anti-Trust exemption.
4) Tommy John. There are guys voted in merely for inventing things. Of course, more credit should go to the doctor (Frank Jobe), but for a guy to come back and pitch the way TJ did and have the surgery eventually being named after him (even if unoffically), it could be argued that he changed the game of baseball. After all, he had to do the work to rehab (even if it was Jobe who invented and performed the surgery) and he pitched for a long, long time afterward. Give some points to being the guinea pig. Ignoring this, though, you could vote him in on the stats. Again, if guys like Sutton, Bunning, Jenkins and Phil Neikro can get in, then no doubt TJ deserves to be there.
5) Don Mattingly. What?!? That's right. I'm giving him the nod. The dude was one of, if not the, most feared hitter in baseball in the last half of the '80s. His career numbers fall short, possibly, of hall status. But if Koufax can get in for his short dominance, Mattingly deserves equally so. Compare Don's stats to Puckett's, and you'll find a lot of similarities. The 9 Gold Gloves don't hurt either. Mattingly has to be the best Yankee ever to never have won a World Series game (only postseason play was in 1995, when he destroyed M's pitching for a .417/.440/.708 line & 6 RBIs).
6) Ryne Sandberg. I'm actually quite ticked he hasn't already been elected. Ryno has to be one of the top-5 all-time greatest 2B ever, both offensively and defensively, and has the stats and the longevity to prove it. I don't understand at all why he wasn't a first-ballot HOF'er. Third time's the charm, I suppose.
7) Alan Trammell. Overshadowed defensively by The Wizard, and offensively, perhaps, by Cal Ripken. Still, the AL's best defensive shortstop for several years in the early '80s. Much better than Aparicio offensively, too. Paul White wrote an interesting piece a couple of years ago arguing that Trammell, when all things are considered, was a better shortstop overall than Ozzie Smith. Considering that I value offensive production much more highly than defensive production, I agree. Defense is important -- vital -- don't get me wrong, but I do believe that a player can contribute more to wins through offense. I'd take Manny Ramirez in the OF 8 days a week, if I can have his level of offensive production. Here's another interesting nomination for Trammell for the Hall. The duo of Ripkena and Trammell should be added to the HOF registers as the two guys who helped keep the SS position warm, offensively, for guys like Pay-Rod, Nomar, Jeter, and Tejada.
On the bubble (in this order): Jack Morris, Andre Dawson, Bruce Sutter, Jim Rice.
I guess we'll find out what the BBWAA thinks on January 4th. Thank goodness there's the Veteran's committee to cover up the messes the BBWAA can make (though they should be given the power to remove players who shouldn't be there).