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.

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Harold Baines

So the results are in. The relevant committee of experts  met, and made their collective decision. In addition to whoever makes the grade on the regular ballot, the Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome two new members this summer.

Relief pitcher Lee Smith, and…..

Harold Baines.

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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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The Hall of Fame and the Keltner List

It’s that time of year again – the Baseball Hall of Fame has released their annual ballot. Let the arguments begin!

The arguments typically involve analyzing a player’s statistics (which is NOT to be confused with statistical analysis!) and deciding who is better on some arcane and arbitrary scale.

There’s “Wins Above Replacement”, which exists in two versions. At Baseball Reference, you can look up Bill James’ “Black Ink”, “Gray Ink”, and “Hall of Fame Monitor”, which all assign points to various career accomplishments and compare them to players already in the Hall. Jay Jaffe has come up with his “JAWS” score, which is an attempt to combine everything into a single number by which one can easily judge a player’s Hall-worthiness.

(Note that JAWS and WAR are pretty much calculations in a multidimensional space – but more on that in a future post….)

These are all attempts to take something that is purely subjective – a player’s greatness – and treat it in an objective manner. But they still wind up being subjective in the way they assign weights and importance to their individual components. And what the heck is meant by a “half a win” above replacement, anyway?

I figure we should drop all the pretense of objectivity, and go with the Keltner List.

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On the 2017 Hall of Fame Ballot – Part 2

Okay, now that we’ve gotten the “one and dones” out of the way, who’s left among the thirty four players on the ballot?

We can pretty much divide the remaining twenty one into three groups:

The Hall of the Really, Really, Really Good:

Jeff Bagwell, Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, and Gary Sheffield are holdovers from last year. They are joined by Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez. There’s no one here that stands out as an obvious Hall of Famer like Ken Griffey Jr. did last year. You’ve got to dig into the numbers. They are all potentially worthy; it pretty much comes down to personal opinion. I think closers are overrated – so much for Hoffman. Mussina was never the best pitcher in his league, and really wasn’t that great – he was just very good for a long time. Sheffield never really stood out as a superstar, unlike Guerrero and Rodriguez….

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On the 2017 Hall of Fame Ballot

It’s that time again – the Hall of Fame ballot has been released. Fans and writers are already debating the worthiness of holdovers Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, newcomers Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero, and the usual arguments over Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.

But also on the ballot are a squadron of new names; many of which you’ve never heard of and will probably never hear again. But they have met the minimum requirements for nomination, and might get a vote or two from a friend. And when you’ve been in the Major Leagues for ten years (the required minimum for consideration), it’s kind of hard NOT to pick up a little fame along the way.

So let’s pause and tip our hats to these likely “one and done” candidates, because I’m sure we’d all wish we could at least get as close to Fame as they have.

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Ken Griffey, Mike Piazza, et al.

Earlier this week, the Baseball Hall of Fame officially announced the deification of Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza. In the days around the announcement, there was much discussion in social media as to whether or not Griffey would be chosen unanimously, and also as to whether or not allegations of performance-enhancing drug use had affected Piazza’s voting results.

Of course, I have a little to say on this. Let me take the case of Mike Piazza first.

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