Saturday, January 4, 2014

Friday Baseball Post

It's Hall of Fame time. Can't miss this one.

As we all know, this year's ballot for the real voters is unlike any normal one: instead of being about which marginal guys deserve to be in, it's about dealing with the strategy of what to do with far more deserving players than the rules allow. There was a bit of this last year, but now it's getting silly.

So. Some sorting is in order. Last year I had nine easy choices: Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, Piazza, Schilling, McGwire, Raines, Trammell, and Bagwell, all of whom are back this year. Then I had three bubble guys, and said I would have voted for Palmiero for strategic reasons.

That's not going to work this time, because the nine easy ones all return, joined by Maddux, Mussina, Thomas, and Glavine. So that's thirteen guys who, to me, are obvious HOFers. There's also Jeff Kent, who for now I'll say joins the bubbles, with Palmiero, Sosa, and Edgar Martinez (and McGriff, although last year I concluded that he was a stretch).

What do we do with it?

There's no good solution. One way to go after it would be to forget strategic issues and just pick the best ten. Another way, and I think the way to go, is to worry mostly about ballot strategy.

There are really, I think, three issues. One is to support guys who are in danger of falling off the ballot: that would be, I think, Palimiero, Sosa, McGwire, and Kent. I've said in the past that I think Palmiero and McGwire are over my line; I haven't really decided on Sosa or, now, Kent.

The second is to support the guys who are relatively undervalued by HOF votes. For me, that's McGwire, Trammell, Bonds, Clemens, Raines, and maybe Piazza and Schilling -- all (to me) clear, easy, HOFers, but all having trouble with the voters.

The third is to put guys over the top in order to help clear the gridlock. Who is going to be right around the line this year? Biggio, I think, is the only obvious one. I'm guessing that Maddux makes it easily, and that the other three new ones fall short, although maybe the Hurt comes close.

Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, strategies two and three conflict with each other.

Still, I think that organizes things enough. Drop Maddux, who gets in anyway. Drop Bagwell -- he's not going to make it this year, but he's in the safe zone. And then drop...I don't know, Mussina, I guess, on the theory that he's less likely to make it this year than Glavine.

And, reluctantly, drop the bubble guys. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had a real ballot...I'm awfully tempted to include Palmiero, Sosa, Kent, and maybe even Edgar just to make sure they all stay on the ballot, although I suspect that Kent and Martinez are relatively safe.

So that gets me: McGwire, Trammell, Bonds, Clemens, Raines, Piazza, Schilling, Glavine, Biggio, Thomas.

And one main point: if you think that McGwire (or Palmiero or Sosa) is a clear HOFer, then you really should find room for them on your ballot this year.

Note too that at least as far as leaving Maddux off is concerned, this would be strategic voting which depends on other voters following different logic. As far as I'm aware (and I've seen Hank Schulman's ballot, but otherwise I missed most of the debates while I've been on vacation), no one is thinking of leaving Maddux off for strategic reasons, but if I was a real voter I'd be paying closer attention and, if I thought Maddux was going to have a close call for induction this time, switch to him (over, I suppose, Glavine).

By the way, leaving Maddux off is not intended as a comment on his surgical enhancement.

Update (OK, not technically an update since I hadn't posted yet, but I don't feel like going back and editing): it seems that I was probably correct on Maddux, but that McGwire is probably safe.

Oh, also, might as well link to Joe Sheehan on the HOF electorate. I hadn't really thought about the demographic issues he general sense is that the HOF has been pretty happy using the BBWAA, and that they're unlikely to change -- instead, what they'll do, as they've always done, is resort to ad hoc rules changes and special committees (and both) to rectify problems that arise, which (as Bill James pointed out) for the BBWAA basically means any interruption of a steady flow of new inductions. But Sheehan makes some good points about why the current system may not prove stable over time.

Obviously, I'm skipping the part where I argue about why the 13 easy picks are actually clear HOFers, and why the bubble guys are bubble guys, and why the rest shouldn't be in. I've argued all of this in the past except for the new guys, so my apologies for skipping it (if you really want to know, click the link above to last year's post, and work back from there). Anyway, my basic view is that I prefer a fairly generous HOF size, and I really don't think any of these guys are close calls at all; better to focus on the more interesting stuff.


  1. I am perplexed about the lack of support for Walker. Going back through the previous posts, you say 'he never in the conversation for the best player in baseball.' But by that standard, what is the argument for Biggio? Or Trammell? Or several other guys you list as sure things?

    I mean, Walker DID win a (well deserved) MVP in 1997.

    His hitting numbers are comparable to Edgar's (who I agree is a deserving HOFer), but he was also an excellent defender.

    Yes, he missed 20 games a year. But even missing those games he accumulated as much value as Biggio could in a full season. Those two came up at the same time, and were roughly comparable up through 2001. Biggio played more games but Walker was better in the games he played. Then, Biggio stumbled over the line to some career marks while playing at a level marginally above replacement level. And Walker turned in a couple more EXCELLENT seasons.

    If you're seriously thinking about Jeff Kent, I cannot possibly imagine why Walker wouldn't count as a shoe-in. Take another look at the numbers - and seriously consider adding him back to your pretend ballot.

  2. So does the fact that several more candidates (rather than one) have reputed steroid issues help Bonds get in this time? I'm prejudiced having seen him play in Pittsburgh as well as SF but to me he's the most deserving of the bunch, excluding pitchers.

  3. Guess I think your standards are too low. Even if they weren't steroid users I'd be dubious about McGwire and Palmiero. Their career WARs are adequate for induction, (62 and 72 respectively, while the average HOF 1B is 66) but "cheaters" should clearly exceed the bar. (er, the "WAR bar"!). And Sosa falls well short in career WAR. So drop those three.

  4. For maybe a somewhat different reason, I agree with Morgan that Sosa, McGwire and (less so) Palmiero are the primary sources of the problems vexing the HOF voters. With Bonds and Clemens, we all pretty much "know" that they were both slam-dunk first ballot HOFers before they met the syringe. As Morgan notes, Sosa/McGwire/Palmeiro are still marginal even with all their (allegedly dirty) stats included.

    So if your HOF vote comes from your editing of PED Scold Monthly, you can easily cast a vote for Bonds or Clemens and justify it that you're only voting for "clean" Bonds or Clemens, either of which is undoubtedly deserving, pretty much wherever you make the "clean" cut. Sosa/McGwire/Palmeiro (and even Piazza) are quite a bit messier, which is what I think is paralyzing many voters.


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