Jeter, Miller, Simmons, Walker

Just a few days ago, Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, and Larry Walker were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I’ve already written about Jeter; there’s no need to do it again.

With regards to Marvin Miller, one of the things that seems to be overlooked with his contributions is that he didn’t come across as a “union boss”. No cigars or three-piece suits for him. He was approachable; players felt they could talk with him and not get a lecture. His portrait at the National Portrait Gallery shows this.

But what of Ted Simmons and Larry Walker?

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Nobody

So the results of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame election have been announced, and we do not have a winner.

The leading candidates were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, each of whom has problems when it comes to the “Character Clause” that voters are asked to consider. They all fell short by a handful of votes; for obvious reasons.

I do not have a problem with the clause itself; what does irk me is how much people publicly agonize over their decision. “Oh, we can’t allow people who cheated in the Hall! What about players who, when they were active, were known to have or at least were widely suspected to have cheated and are already enshrined? What about the known racists in the Hall? What about the players who will appear on the next ballot?” I can understand why one might ask these questions, but do we really need to read about all your hair-pulling and kvetching?

Then there are those few who have said they aren’t going to vote in any future elections, because the Hall hasn’t given them any guidance on how to deal with this matter. Why are you telling us? If you have a problem, take it up with the BBWAA. You know, that organization of which you are a member and sends you a ballot every year? By the way, can you not trust your own judgment?

The “electorate” consists of nearly three hundred people. And an election does not have to be unanimous. One individual vote is rarely going to make a difference. We’re going for a consensus here.

So you can’t bring yourself to vote for someone who, on the basis of their record, clearly belongs, but has been a real schmuck off the field. OK, that’s fine. Don’t vote for them.

And by the way, it is also fine to change your mind about someone. Every year, once the results are announced, we read about players who increased or decreased their vote totals. You know what that means? People changed their minds! If no one ever did, no one would ever go “up” or “down” in the polling, and we’d only have to have people on the ballot once when they became eligible – instead of keeping them on for up to ten years.

I get that you want to treat the matter – and your vote – with seriousness. Good, you’re supposed to take it seriously (and not consult a Magic 8 Ball to help you decide). But this isn’t like partitioning India. Fill out your ballot, and don’t lose any sleep over it.

Cheating

The new Hall of Fame ballot is out, and it’s not very impressive. There are no new superstars on it; the best candidates are holdovers in their next to last year: Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens.

While all their numbers warrant inclusion, they all have problems.

Schilling is an unmitigated jerk, and hasn’t shown any signs of moderating his comments. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance enhancing drugs, and have yet to come clean about it.

Whenever their cases come up, Bonds and Clemens are always accused of being “cheaters”; and, according to their detractors, that should automatically disqualify them from Hall of Fame consideration.

But what is “cheating”, and should it be an automatic disqualifier?

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The 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot

It’s that time of year again. The 2021 Hall of Fame ballot has been announced.

With no obvious inductees this year, pretty much all of the discussion will be about Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens – for reasons that I don’t intend to go into here.

As seems to be a typical thing for me, I’d like to have a round of applause for the “new guys” on the ballot. You need to have been in the “bigs” for at least ten years; to last that long is a significant accomplishment. And even if they don’t make it to a second year on the ballot, they’ve all got something in their careers to be proud of.

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My 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot

Not that I have one, of course, but as a baseball fan (you can tell from how many posts I have here on the sport), I’m not going to let the chance go by to pretend I had a say in the matter.

Derek Jeter is obvious. Even if you believe he is overrated, you cannot deny that he belongs in the Hall. The only question here is if he’ll be a unanimous selection. He probably will be, but if a voter or three has someone else on the ballot that they’d prefer to give a vote to, that’s fine. Nowhere in the Hall (the gallery with the plaques) does it actually mention how the voting went for the honorees. It. Doesn’t. Matter. Jeter gets a vote from me.

This year is Larry Walker’s last time on the regular ballot. I do not believe that any supposed advantage he may have gotten from playing his home games in Denver should affect how we treat him. Before we even knew how to quantify “park effects”, did we penalize players for playing in quirky stadiums? No, of course not. So Walker gets a vote from me.

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Unanimous

There isn’t as much blather about Mariano Rivera being the first player unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as I honestly expected. Partly because, I suppose, that it’s been expected for a few years that he’d at least be a “first ballot” nominee, and partly because, I hope, that there’s also been a growing realization that it’s not that big of a deal.

There’s always been some griping about the Hall’s voting procedures; and the Hall has tweaked them seemingly every five years or so. Not just recently, but throughout its history (the Hall’s own website covers the many changes in the voting rules for the BBWAA, and there’s a GREAT article on the various veterans committees here). In recent years, as the Hall has become more open in its election process, attention has been drawn to the fact that no one has ever been chosen unanimously in the standard ballot process. It’s been rightly believed that given all the popular pressure in the media that someone would eventually get the Magic 100%. The only question was who.

Now that it’s happened, Mariano Rivera will become the answer to another trivia question. Because it makes no difference how you get in to the Hall of Fame.

Rivera is just as much a Hall of Famer as Ralph Kiner (made it in by two votes in his last year of regular eligibility) and Ron Santo (selected by one of the Veteran’s Committees) and Roberto Clemente (special election) and Harold Baines (wtf?). There’s nothing on the plaques that indicates the player’s voting percentage; no special alcove for the “first ballot” selections. I suppose Rivera could add a little “100%” thing to the “HoF” that he now gets to put on his signature, but no one should care. It doesn’t make him any better or greater a player than any other Hall of Famer.

And we shouldn’t forget that three other players were chosen alongside him. Edgar Martinez, whose Double saved baseball in Seattle, Mike Mussina, whose excellence often went unacknowledged until we got to see the totality of his career; and Roy Halladay who threw a perfect game in 2010, and then no-hit the Reds in the NLDS that year on his way to his second Cy Young Award.

Rivera is still responsible for the Biggest Blown Save of All Time, though.

On the 2019 Hall of Fame Ballot

It’s nice to know that Major League Baseball has arranged its annual calendar so that we never go more than a week or two without something to talk about. Less than two weeks after the last awards are given out, the Hall of Fame ballot is announced.

This year, we’ve got a couple of no-brainers in the first-timers (Mariano Rivera and Roy Halliday), some likely to make it in this time (Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina). the usual problematic holdovers (e.g. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds), and a whole bunch of other very good players who may or may not get in, but deserve some respect and honor.

Just an aside: Some of the criticism of Edgar Martinez is that he was a designated hitter, and as technically a ‘part-time’ player, he shouldn’t be included among The Greats. But Mariano Rivera, who was also a ‘part-time’ player, is nonetheless one of the All-Time Best? I don’t get it….

Then there are the “one and done” guys, who probably won’t last more than one year on the ballot. They made it to the ballot by being good enough to last ten or more years in the major leagues.

There’s really not much to say about some of them, but let’s give them a salute anyway.

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The Hall of Fame Class of 2018

The Baseball Writers Association of America has announced their choices for induction into the Hall of Fame. Add their four choices to the two selected by the Veterans Committee, and there’s a total of six players going in this year. That’s a huge crowd! You can easily look up their stats, and the Hall itself produces and publishes “highlight” films for each of them.

Rather than reiterate all that, I thought I’d post a Fun Fact about each.

Note that I’m not going to make a distinction between those voted in by the writers and those chosen by the committee. The plaques in the actual room don’t care; neither should you.

VLADIMIR GUERRERO

His older brother Wilton had an eight-year MLB career; the two played together on the Expos for three and a half years.

TREVOR HOFFMAN

When he was six weeks old, he had a kidney removed because of an arterial blockage.

CHIPPER JONES

Finished his career with more walks (1512) than strikeouts (1409). On a per-season basis, he did that in 12 of his 19 seasons. Only about 30 players have more seasons doing that over their entire career.

JACK MORRIS

Was on the winning side in three World Series, for three different teams. Only four other players can make that claim (John Lackey, Stuffy McInnis, Wally Schang, and Lonnie Smith).

JIM THOME

His aunt, Carolyn Thome Hart, is in the National Softball Hall of Fame.

ALAN TRAMMEL

Inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Managed the Arizona Diamondbacks for three games in 2014; went 1-2.

The Other Hall of Famers

With the announcement of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame inductees less than two weeks away, the discussion in the various media has switched from “Who should get inducted” to “Who will (probably) get inducted”. So we’re not seeing much more in the way of JAWS scores or career Wins Above Replacement anymore.

But there are entire groups of people who don’t have any of those numbers who still deserve to belong in any Baseball Hall of Fame you could create. Just because they never played the game shouldn’t disqualify them. There are plenty of non-players who are already enshrined.

So, as an exercise to my handful of readers, if you were starting with a clean slate, which people who never wore a uniform would you have in your Hall of Fame?

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