(All of our roundtables belong in the Hall of Fame, this one just happens to be about the Hall of Fame)
With Jose Quintana still not traded, and the Hall of Fame vote nearing, BP South Side writers Nick Schaefer, Mark Primiano and Ryan Schultz gathered together to discuss who would make their ballot. Editor-in-Chief James Fegan then came in later and added in a bunch of Devil’s advocate arguments because that is the type of person he is.
James: Let me get things started by saying I am once again submitting a single-named ballot with just Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt earned it.
Nick: I suspect that I will start with my Top 10 and then after we discuss I will change my mind.
I would vote for:
- I. Rodriguez
- Edgar Martinez
- Vlad Guerrero
Mark: I’ve got a lingering suspicion we’re all going to have very similar ballots.
Nick: Yep! Identical. I mean, I think if I didn’t have so many other great guys to vote for I’d vote for Schilling because I think he’s obviously a Hall of Famer and the Hall has omitted a number of SPs who should go in…But why vote for Schilling if I can fill my 10 with other worthy candidates?
I am also finding it hard to grasp the mentality of people who are willing to put in Hoffman ahead of, say, Sheffield or Kent. Other than the perception that they were potentially jerks.
Ryan: I’ve changed my mind about a few players in my ballot in the past week, but I think currently it would be:
- Vlad Guerrero
- Edgar Martinez
- Ivan Rodriguez
- Larry Walker
That 10th spot is kinda open for me and I’m not sure that I’d actually give Posada a vote. I don’t know how great the Hall of Fame cases are for Hoffman or Wagner, but I also think closers should be better represented in the hall. Also Schilling could fit in there, but I personally don’t want to vote for him. I feel really strongly about the first nine votes, though.
Nick: I know two wrongs don’t make a right, but the idea that there is so much pushback against DHs makes the idea of finding representation for specialty pitchers unpersuasive for me. Posada’s defense was poor, and 7,150 PAs is really not that much.
And, again, two wrongs don’t make a right, but if Posada gets in while Dick Allen still isn’t I will be very put out. Care to make the argument for Posada?
Ryan: I initially had that final spot given to Manny, but I have become more skeptical as time goes on. Then again, I gave a vote to Bonds and Clemens. What I’m saying here is that I am indecisive and easily persuaded.
Mark: I find myself waffling every few years about how closers should be represented in the HoF. Obviously Mariano Rivera will get in once eligible and is very deserving. And when you remember that Bruce Sutter is somehow already in the Hall, it gets a little easier to embrace the idea of Trevor Hoffman getting a plaque. But like Nick said, it’s kind of silly to enshrine so many guys who threw a whopping 1,000 innings and leave someone like Dick Allen out.
I’m curious as to where you guys draw the line for closers. After Rivera, I have a pretty hard time thinking anyone else if particularly deserving other than maybe Hoffman (obviously ignoring guys already enshrined). While going over this, I just learned that Huston Street has 324 career saves and hahahahahaha what a garbage statistic.
Nick: I suppose I am willing to evaluate them against their peers. You get into the weird counterfactual. Closers are typically failed starters. Look at the difference between Wade Davis: SP v. Wade Davis RP. Javier Vazquez is a Hall of Famer for no one, but what odds would you have given him to be a Hall of Fame closer? Or even if not him, how many solid-to-plus starting pitchers have missed out on Hall of Fame careers because they were good enough to face a batter more than once a game?
Mark: That opens you up to a counter argument against electing any designated hitters though. How many old timey mashers would have been around long enough to rack up the necessary numbers if they were allowed to not hurt their teams in the field?
Nick: I don’t think that analogy flies. DH is a position that has as much usage on offense as any other player, you’re just cutting out the defensive component, which isn’t that complicated to me. What I’m saying is, by being a reliever in the first place, barring weird circumstances, you’re pretty much worse than most starting pitchers, and it impacts how often you pitch and in what way. How much value are you really contributing?
Ryan: I agree with Nick, but the problem is in the relievers already enshrined. Because by Nick’s standards it would only be the really, really great closers. So Rivera would get elected, and after him who knows. But there are dudes in there simply because they had a truck load of saves. Maybe the “bad guys already in the hall of fame” argument isn’t a good one though.
Nick: Yeah, cherry-picking the worst guys in the Hall is unhelpful. Jim Rice wouldn’t be in the top what, 12-14 players on this ballot, but that doesn’t make Jeff Kent a better candidate. Jim Rice is what…Magglio Ordonez + 1,000 PAs?
I think I’ll have more patience for the reliever discussion when there aren’t 10+ other, more deserving players. If we want relievers in the Hall, fine, but the idea of sacrificing like, Larry Walker and Mike Mussina to get Hoffman in seems like lunacy.
James: I don’t have a definitive answer for relievers, but the last few years of the reliever boom and a bit more transparency and clarity in the scouting process of how elite relievers are born seems instructive. First, we’re seeing baseball swing in the direction of once again seeing elite, high-leverage relief arms as a rare commodity, and not a simple matter of plugging in a bunch of failed starter projects or live arms and getting the same results with a similar degree of certainty. Second, while Javier Vazquez would be a good example of a good-stuff, shaky command guy that the industry clearly valued more highly as a competent starter rather than an elite reliever, it is a particular type and skill set that makes for a better reliever. Not everyone’s stuff plays up in short bursts in the same way, or is strong enough to be effective with a pared down approach. Dane Dunning is a better prospect than Alec Hansen at this point, but if you forbid me to have either one to ever be a starter, I probably take Hansen, for another example of this non-linear process. Finally, the dynamic of under-talented guys getting shuttled out to relief roles is, as has been pointed out, not typically what we’re dealing with when it comes to Hall of Fame consideration. I would be genuinely surprised if Wade Davis is still an elite reliever in three years, because the Matt Thornton career-arc is far more typical for these mid-career conversions, even for guys as dominant as Davis. Health problems emerge, velocity fades and effectiveness wanes, and does so quickly. Careers like Rivera’s, and Hoffman’s–who essentially had a 16-year peak–are still total unicorns.
This could dovetail into a defense of DHs. That position is still typically a death cycle designation for aging bats that are losing athleticism. Martinez’s extremely long run as a elite bat out of that slot is still with few peers or comparables, though the current league climate is not one that suggests teams find bat-only skill sets as highly valuable as late-inning relievers.
Nick: I understand completely why Mariners fans have gone to war so heavily over Edgar Martinez’ candidacy. He’s probably deserving and they love him. Yet, part of me is still thinking that someone like Sheffield is more deserving than he is. Meanwhile, there are Martinez-Yes, Walker-No ballots, which is insaaaaaaane to me.
By JAWS, at the very least, Walker is the 10th best RF of all time. Would be only one in the Top 14 of all time who isn’t in the Hall for baseball reasons (Shoeless Joe being the other one not making it for very different reasons).
Ryan: Neither of those players’ HoF worthiness is in any question for me. I think the biggest two questions on this ballot, for me personally, are Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling. They’re both hall of famers based on their stats alone, but have things that make me want to keep them out. Do you consider Manny in the same boat as Bonds and Clemens? Because I really don’t.
Nick: It is a shame that he actually failed two tests when the rules were in place, as opposed to the more nebulous, say, A-Rod and David Ortiz tests. Ramirez isn’t an elite inner circle type player the way Bonds and Clemens were–you can argue they were the best hitter/pitcher of all time, respectively. But I think Manny is clearly better than a lot of guys who are going to get in.
James: For those who want to take a hard and fast stance on the principle of actual rule-breaking, barring Manny makes sense. As someone I watched throughout my life, I feel his talent, ability and production were so profoundly astute for his era that it dwarfs the knock I would give him for artificially extending and enhancing his career.
This might come off as holier than thou, but I have a particular feeling of disgust with my own profession, which needed to see Schilling–somewhat indirectly, I might add–encouraging the killing of journalists for their awakening that he was a morally abhorrent and intolerable individual to take place. He had already dedicated plenty of his time and energy and platform to pushing dehumanizing rhetoric onto Muslims and transgender people before he gave his approval to a menacing t-shirt, even one that suggested he secretly longed to bathe his hands in the blood of his former ESPN co-workers. We can crow all we want about how it uniquely represents an affront to the principle of freedom of the press, but if there’s any industry that is supposed to be able to perceive the impact of things outside the narrow concern of their own self-preservation, it is this one, and I think they are neglecting that responsibility.
Maybe this year, paired with the election, really forced people to confront what Schilling is in ways they had not previously, and that would be a fine reason for now to be the time for a change in the collective opinion of him, but I fear a more simple reaction than that is taking place.
Mark: Nick, I think a large part of the Mariners’ fans going so hard for Edgar is that it’s a franchise with very few guys who will enter the HoF as a Mariner. They just got their first one in Ken Griffey Jr. They’ll get another one when Ichiro eventually retires. But other than that? The team has existed for 40 years now and only has one plaque to show for it.
I think Raines and Martinez are a nice parallel in what is and isn’t annoying about the internet campaigning hard for a player who obviously should be in the Hall but isn’t a guy like Griffey or Frank Thomas, someone that the average joe off the street recognizes as amazing. Both Raines and Martinez were absolute gods at what they did and finished with almost identical career bWAR (69.1 for Tim vs 68.3 for Edgar) despite going about it in completely different ways. But one fanbase is for a team that still exists and the other is for the ever-growing (and rightfully so) contingent of the internet that doesn’t want the Expos to fade into obscurity like the Seattle Pilots.
Nick: I didn’t realize Tim and Edgar were so close on that metric. Raines has him 70-63 by WARP, for what it’s worth. And with regard to Mariners fans, it does make sense–after all, they haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, and in terms of signature teams, ‘95 and ‘01 are kind of it for Seattle, and Edgar was a huge part of both.
Ryan: On the other hand, we as White Sox fans have seen Frank Thomas and White Sox legend Ken Griffey Jr. get elected in back to back years. Raines and then Manny could make it four in four, which I find a small pleasure in. Simply because it’s fun to remember that they had Griffey and Manny when they were well past their primes.
Nick: True, huge gains for the White Sox.
Mark: Big market for ironic shirseys.
Ryan: I wear my Griffey Jr. shirsey with pride, sir.
Nick: One vote I think I may have made for sentimental reasons is putting in Vlad over Sheffield. Sheffield has the edge in career WARP by about 13, however, he also has approximately 2,000 more PAs than Guerrero. Vlad was just so much more of a spectacle and I guess it’s easier to feel fond of a guy who mostly played for two franchises, as opposed to Sheffield who was portrayed in the media as a petulant mercenary.
I mean, Sheffield has Martinez beat on WARP as well. Sheffield was a pretty blah defender, but being able to play mediocre left field frees up DH for you, and that’s not nothing. If I recall correctly there were PED rumors about Sheffield but I don’t think it ever rose above rumor, no?
Mark: I think Sheff admitted to using the cream, but not knowing what it was? But yeah, I definitely chose Vlad over him solely because Vlad was more fun to watch (and an Expo).
Uh, add up the WAR, dudes.
Sheffield and Guerrero are on the borderline for me, and I could easily see myself voting for both, as I lean large hall, am overly sentimental, and a history buff, I just want to memorialize everything and everyone. From a strategic angle, I have no concern about Guerrero not getting his day soon.
Having already aired my doubts about the motivation behind the Schilling backlash being anything more an industry bristling at his contempt for them, rather than concern about anyone who really has their lives endangered by his rhetoric, his inclusion by me should not be a surprise. But in general, I think a suddenly aggressive deployment of the character clause would be ill-advised, both for its tardiness–the Hall is already full of bigots and domestic abusers, and I’m proposing we add a few more–and the lack of any clear vision of how it will be applied moving forward. The Hall is a baseball museum and has more than enough issues just trying to perform a correct accounting of what happened on the field, before attempting some clumsy effort to stake out a model for assessing character. Besides, a real examination into how many players are ignorant bigots who hate the journalists who cover them is not going to bring us any happiness.
Lead Image Credit: Gregory Fisher // USA Today Sports Images