Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Baseball Post

Christina Kahrl is, of course, completely right that MLB should do nothing to fictionalize their official records as a result of the Barry Bonds conviction, which means, I suppose I must admit, that Bud Selig is completely right. Of course Barry Bonds holds the single-season and career records for home runs. Heck, I can't stand Pete Rose, but he's obviously had more hits than anyone else, just as Bonds, whether anyone likes it or not, has hit more home runs than anyone else.

As far as the Hall of Fame is concerned...we've had this discussion before, but I think Tim Kurkjian is wrong that Bonds (and Clemens, and the rest of them) aren't going in.  I don't think Bonds will be a first ballot guy, and it wouldn't shock me at all if it takes a while, but as Kurkjian points out, if they wind up taking a strict line with (those they consider) the steroids guys, at best the Hall is going to wind up being irrelevant. And that's too risky for them to do it.

Remember: the Hall of Fame is only the Hall of Fame because everyone collectively treats it as the Hall of Fame. If it turns itself into a joke, then they'll be risking the possibility that someone else will set up their own shrine and start holding their own inductions -- and in a far more convenient place, too. The honorees themselves are critically important to all of this, but so are just plain ordinary fans, who treat Cooperstown as important.

And irrelevant is the best they can hope for. We know that lots of players in the current Hall used amphetamines (that is, illegal performance-enhancing drugs). I'm confident that the Hall has already let in at least one steroid user (no,  I'm not thinking of anyone in particular); sooner or later, someone already in will be exposed or will expose himself as a user. Most likely, more than one. Then what? The chances that they'll look like complete fools are high. Much better to just let 'em all in, and I'm confident that they will, sooner or later.


  1. Just to pile on about the hypocrisy of the anti-steroid users crowd: "lots of players in the current Hall used amphetamines" BECAUSE THE TEAMS GAVE THEM OUT LIKE CANDY FOR DECADES.

    Sorry, please excuse the shouting. Even though it feels like spitting into the wind to say so, Kurkjian, et al, end up effectively defending PEDs if issued by the team's trainer or doctor, but criticizing PEDS if issued by the player's own trainer or doctor.

    (I hate having to point out stuff like this.)

  2. Remember: the Hall of Fame is only the Hall of Fame because everyone collectively treats it as the Hall of Fame.

    Which makes the question of "All PED users in" vs. "Selective PED users in" a moot point. It depends on the mood of the baseball public, which drives the marketability of that decision.

    McGwire seems like the obvious test case here. By the modified version of Bill James' HOF monitor at, McGwire scores a 42 on a scale of 0-100, where the average HOF is a 50. Ding him for PED and his below-average candidacy falls off the radar.

    McGwire is 5 years into his 15-year window on the normal HOF ballot, and it isn't going well. This year he got less than 20% (needs 75%) of the vote, down 4% vs. last year. He definitely could make up that ground; and in fairness, the guy just behind him in the voting (McGriff) has a better HOF score.

    One of the challenges for guys like McGwire, whose candidacies exist due to enhanced stat years, is that the HOF rises in the general consciousness at relatively inopportune times. The induction is at the end of July, or around the time when 'chases' start, pennant chases (and historic stat chases), so there's the potential headwind of backlash against stats made unreachable by the PED generation. Then the voting is for a month after the season, where he runs the risk of a bad taste in writers' mouths when Jason Hayward's just-completed 62 home run season nevertheless left them with nothing to write about.

    I think its a tricky road ahead for Big Mac, separate from the larger issue of whether, or what kind of, PED screen the writers will use.

  3. CSH,

    You don't know that McGwire's "candidacy exists due to enhanced stat years." McGwire hit 49 HRs and SLGed a league-leading 618 his rookie year, when he certainly didn't look anything like he did later. His peak is totally consistent with that, plus an overall rise in offense levels (which may have been about steroids, but is far more likely to have been about other things -- or perhaps, it was the effect of having everyone using, in which case McGwire shouldn't be singled out).

    I agree, though, that part of his problem with the voters is that he (and Palmiero) are generally underrated by them, so that if they apply, say, a 10% steroids penalty some of them may honestly think that puts him below the line. If that's the case, then Bonds and Clemens should get in as is. OTOH, if they're just saying No Steroids, then Bonds and Clemens won't until they reverse themselves.

  4. That's a great point about McGwire's rookie season vis-a-vis the PED years. Just looked it up: his 49 homers in 1987 tied for the MLB lead with Andre Dawson, while Dale Murphy was ~10% down with 44, and then a big group started in the high 30s, or 20% down. In 1998, (after Sosa), Griffey was down 20% at 56, and then a big group started at 50...roughly similar, especially when you assume some improvement over his rookie output.

    I tend to think that any PED adjustments made will occur at the perception level, as opposed to by diktat from the league office. So if you imagine a spectrum for "Great One-Tool (Power) Hitters", with, say, Harmon Killebrew on the one end and maybe Dave Kingman on the other, I think fans and pundits might come to perceive McGwire as being more Kingman-ish than Killebrew-ish, which will hurt his shot at the Hall, but wouldn't necessarily reflect a conscious PED adjustment. (And wouldn't be entirely fair).

  5. "when Jason Hayward's just-completed 62 home run season nevertheless left them with nothing to write about"

    Probably not somethign to really worry about. Howard and Fielder's recent 50-HR seasons got plenty of ink and gave those guys huge paydays (or will, in Fielder's case). Ortiz and Rodriguez were already big honkin' stars, but their 50 HR seasons weren't ignored, either (Bautista's was pretty quiet, but that's probably a factor of doing it in the great white north). So if 50 Home Run seasons aren't being ignored, a 60-HR season won't, either.

    Put another way: Jim Thome and Ken Griffey had no chance of breaking the career home run record, but when they reached their plateaus (500 and 600, respectively) it was still a big deal. A Rod reaching 600 was a big deal, too, even though it's not the record (though he might do it eventually).

    Bottom line is, big honkin' numbers are still big honkin' numbers- they don't get ignored just 'cause they're not records.

  6. I'd just like to add that I once heard Peter Gammons say that Bonds should be in because he was going to be the only 500 HR/500 SB guy ever before he was a steroid user. That alone should put him in the HOF.

  7. Here's an expansion of an insight arising from this thread. First of all, I've had a weak preference for Big Mac to be left out of the Hall. Not that I'd mind too much if he made it, but I am a big-time stats geek (misspent youth) and I admit to being a bit hostile toward McGwire, Sosa and Bonds.

    Because I am not happy for the (allegedly) PED-influenced home run chases, I perceive them negatively; I tend to see McGwire, Sosa and Bonds as having had "better juice" than the rest of the guys, and so I perceive McGwire as like Dave Kingman with a mega-turbo boost.

    And yet. In 1987, while essentially a rookie (and surely not a PED user), McGwire led the league in homeruns, and except for Andre Dawson and George Bell, he cleared the field by 11%. That must be unprecedented for a 23-year-old kid. Injuries and other problems followed, but 10 years later, he had a great 3-year run:

    1997: McGwire 58, Griffey 56, Walker 49. McGwire clears the field (ex-Griffey) by 18%.
    1998: McGwire 70, Sosa 66, Griffey 56. McGwire clears the field (ex-Sosa) by 25%.
    1999: McGwire 65, Sosa 63, Griffey 48. McGwire clears the field (ex-Sosa) by 35%.

    Injuries and age then overtook McGwire; he was out of the game 2 years later. If 'winning the home run race by a mile' is the standard of excellence for a one-tool power guy, surely no one can match McGwire's 3-year run from '97-'99. Killebrew, who is the gold standard of the one-tool power guy, only ran away from the field once (1964).

    Which leads to a paradox if a McGwire supporter like Colby is trying to convince a McGwire skeptic like me: point to the single-season record, and I will resist, that will trigger Dave Kingman-ish thoughts in me, and I will devalue McGwire. Talk in the context of clearing the field for single season home run totals, and I'm there, that's what makes the one-tool power guy, and in that respect McGwire is surely the best, and he feels like a Hall of Famer.

    But - how can you make a pitch for McGwire without emphasizing breaking Maris' record? Interesting.

  8. McGwire was hardly a one dimensional player; he reached base almost 40% of the time over his career. All told, bb-ref has him 12th all time in OPS+. Yes, it's a short career for a great player, and he certainly didn't add anything in the field, but still - we're talking about one of the very best offensive forces in baseball history.

    Many HOF voters may think he's marginal, and penalizing him, say, 10% would put him below the line, but if so they're clearly wrong about how good he was.

  9. I was referring to McGwire/Killebrew/Kingman as "one-tool" players in the context of the traditional five-tool model. Those guys were quite good at hitting for power, but forgettable at: hitting for average/speed/fielding/throwing.

    Though it does seem as if "hitting for average" is a poor second batting tool for the Moneyball era. Something like OPS would work better. I understand that the five tools have been criticized, has someone made a serious attempt to replace them? I don't follow it that closely these days.

    (P.S. I just discovered that McGwire was ROY in 1987 - that makes him league HR leader, and 10%+ above the field, as a rookie. I guess his 53 AB's in 1986 didn't disqualify him in 1987?)

  10. There is no doubt such that many sports person are taking help of these steroids and one day they will surely take wall of fame very soon. As the usage of steroids is not legal to use in the sports.


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