Hall of Fame
It all began with Orel Hershiser. On the eve of the NLCS, he shared the information with Eddie Coleman. He was there and Steve Somers was here on our radios discussing it. In the pre-Twitter era, this was how you conveyed messages to Mets fans.
Mets fans would get that message loud and clear, and they would then deliver that message beginning with player introductions before Game 3 of the NLCS, and they delivered it every time he stood at the plate:
It was the only way Mets fans could try to torture Chipper Jones; the man who built a Hall of Fame resume by and large by his performance against the Mets.
Jones revealed in tweaking the Mets fans. He chided them one time saying, “Now all the Mets’ fans can go home and put their Yankees stuff on,” after he and the Braves had once again left the Mets for dead.
He named his first child Shea.
More than that, he hit .309/.406/.543 with 49 homers and 159 RBI against the Mets in his career.
In response, well, Mets fans had their beloved “LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!” chant. Whether or not, it worked didn’t matter. What mattered was the name got under Chipper’s skin.
Undoubtedly, Chipper got the best of the Mets in his playing days. The Braves knocked the Mets out of Wild Card position in 1998, and they won the 1999 NLCS. The Braves won the NL East from 1995 – 2005.
And now, he’s a Hall of Famer. Coincidentally, that may be where Mets fans win the war.
If you’ve ever seen a Hall of Fame plaque, it lists your given named with the nickname underneath in quotes.
It’s not Tom Seaver. It’s George Thomas Seaver.
It’s not Nolan Ryan. It’s Lynn Nolan Ryan.
It’s not Yogi Berra. It’s Lawrence Peter Berra.
It won’t be Chipper Jones. It will be Larry Wayne Jones.
That’s right. For all time, he will be Larry. It’s a warm reminder for Mets fans who loved to chide him with the name.
Hopefully, Chipper Jones gets a chuckle about that fact. Honestly, I hope it doesn’t detract from the moment from a great baseball player who was truly a worthy advisory.
Enjoy your moment Larry.
With Trevor Hoffman being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he now becomes just the sixth reliever ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Considering Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers were relievers of a far different mold, and Dennis Eckersley had a career as a starting pitcher before becoming a one inning closer, Hoffman becomes a unique Hall of Famer in that he is now the first ever pure closer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
With him being inducted, the question needs to be asked why it was him and not one of the other closers who proceeded him.
The first answer that will probably be injected as a reason is the fact Hoffman accumulated 601 saves. At the time of his retirement in 2010, it was the record for most saves by a relief pitcher. In reality, he had the record beginning in 2006. The question that naturally follows from this is why is this now relevant?
It would seem odd to put 600 saves into a category with 3,000 hits, 500 homers, or 300 wins as those marks evolved over time. The modern one inning reliever is something that arguably has only been around since the 1980s with Tony La Russa‘s use of Eckersley leading the charge. Yes, at the time of his retirement, he had the most all-time, and he was 123 ahead of the highest retired closer.
That closer was Lee Smith. What is interesting about Smith was he battled Jeff Reardon late in Reardon’s career for the most saves of all-time. The year after Reardon retired, Smith passed him and the lapped the field. At the time Smith retired in 1997, he had the all-time record with 478 saves, and he would hold the record for most saves in baseball history for 10 years. Like Reardon, Hoffman would lose the title the year after he retired.
Speaking of Lee Smith, he is an interesting parallel for Hoffman, especially with both pitchers pitching 18 years and making seven All Star teams.
In Smith’s career, he was 71-92 with a 3.03 ERA, 478 saves, 1,251 strikeouts, 1.256 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9. He led the league in saves four times, led the league in games finished three times, and won three Rolaids Relief Awards. From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 132 ERA+, 29.6 WAR, 21.1 WAR7, and a 25.4 JAWS.
In Hoffman’s career, he was 61-75 with a 2.87 ERA, 601 saves, 1,133 strikeouts, 1.058 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9. He led the league twice in saves, never led the league in games finished, and won two Rolaids Relief Awards. From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 141 ERA+, 28.4 WAR, 19.6 WAR7, and a 24.0 JAWS.
In some areas, Smith is better, including WAR, WAR7, JAWS, strikeouts, and relief awards. In others like ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and K/9, Hoffman is better. Generally speaking, Hoffman and Smith are about equally as valuable as one another. We only get to a true separator between the two relievers when we discuss saves.
Hoffman blows Smith out of the water there, but that’s not too dissimilar how Smith blew other contemporaries out of the water during his playing days. He was 1-2 with Reardon much like Hoffman was with Mariano Rivera.
It would seem from a pure value standpoint, if Hoffman is inducted, then so should Smith. However, we really know the end game was the amount of saves.
That’s why we won’t see Billy Wagner follow suit despite his having a much better ERA+ (187), more strikeouts (1,196), a higher K/9 (11.9), WAR7 (19.9), and having made the same JAWS and making the same number of All Star teams.
It’s also why we didn’t see John Franco get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sure, we can mock Franco all you like, but he has had the record for most saves by a left-handed pitcher since 1994, which is a record that has lasted for 23 years and does not appear of being eclipsed any time soon.
It should also be noted Franco led the league in saves three times, games finished two times, made four All Star teams, and won two Rolaids Relief awards. This means Franco led the league in saves and games finished more times than Hoffman, and he won just as many relief awards. His WAR (24.2), WAR7 (15.7), and JAWS (19.9) do trail Hoffman, but then again, we’ve learned this isn’t really about value.
It’s about total saves with the new bench mark apparently being 600 saves. It is good that it’s a high bench mark, but at the end of the day, it seems odd this isn’t about greatness, value, or dominance. Rather, it’s about an arbitrary number decided upon because Hoffman just felt like a Hall of Famer.
Last year, when contemplating who should be inducted into the Hall of Fame, I ultimately determined Edgar Martinez fell short. Ultimately, the crux of the argument was due to the scarcity of DHs even available for Hall of Fame voting, it was hard to create a standard. As a result, Frank Thomas, the only player in the Hall of Fame who spent more time at DH than in the field became the standard upon his election. As Edgar was not the DH Thomas was, he should fall short of election.
Since that time, the IBWAA had decided to induct Edgar in what amounts to their own straw poll, and we have seen a groundswell of support of voters to induct him into the Hall of Fame. Whether he does in fact get elected today remains to be seen, but at a minimum, it led to rethink how to approach Edgar’s Hall of Fame candidacy.
Ultimately, I decided that since a DH is just a hitter, Edgar should be looked upon as a hitter only first. After collecting all that information, we can then make the determination about whether he was a good enough hitter to be in the Hall of Fame based upon his hitting alone.
The Steroids Era has blurred this somewhat, but we do know that there are certain magic numbers that get you into the Hall of Fame. On the offensive side, those numbers are 3,000 hits and 500 homers. With respect to both, Edgar not only falls short, but he falls well short. In fact, he “only” had 2,247 hits and 309 homers.
Considering he averaged just 125 hits a year and 17 homers a year, he was going to need another six years to get to 3,000 hits and 11 years to get to 500 homers. So from the magic number standpoint, we know Edgar falls well short.
Lesser Known Magic Numbers
To be fair to Edgar, he was not a home run hitter, and you do not have to be a home run hitter to be a truly great offensive player. To that end, further examination is due to determine if he has the numbers in other categories that are worthy of Hall of Fame induction. For the sake of brevity in this section, the bars set are for all players eligible for the Hall of Fame who have not been implicated by PEDs.
Runs – Putting Johnny Damonaside for the moment as he is on the ballot, every player with more runs scored than Cal Ripken, Jr.‘s 1,647 runs scored has been inducted. Edgar only has 1,219 runs scored.
Doubles– Again Ripken is the bottom line standard with his having hit 603 doubles. Edgar falls short of this mark with his having hit 514 doubles.
RBI– Every player with more RBI than Ernie Banks‘ 1,636 RBI is in the Hall of Fame. What’s interesting is Harold Baines, a career DH himself, was next on the all-time RBI list with 1,628. Edgar finished his career with 1,261 RBI.
Walks – Walks are not as forgiving a category as the others as the Hall of Fame voters have not really rewarded that as a skill, at least not to the extent of the balls in play categories. Thomas and his 1,667 walks is the floor, and Edgar again falls well short with 1,283 walks in his career.
BA -Like Walks, batting average is a bit unforgiving with Babe Ruth and his .342 setting the low water mark. Edgar again is well short with a .312 batting average.
OBP – This is where Edgar’s best case is. Everyone with a higher OBP than Dan Brouthers and his .423 OBP are in the Hall of Fame. However, if you remove Max Bishop, who played from 1924-1935 from the equation, that number drops to Stan Musial and his .417 OBP. With Edgar having a .418 OBP, he meets the criteria of this adjusted standard.
SLG – For this one, some allowances need to be made as Larry Walker, Jim Thome, and Vladimir Guerrero remain on the ballot. Another factor is Albert Belle and his .565 SLG is an outlier not being good enough for induction is an outlier. Otherwise, the bar would be Rogers Hornsby and his .577 SLG. Making those allowances, the new mark is Ralph Kiner and his .547 SLG. Edgar again falls short with a .515 SLG.
Looking at these numbers, Edgar misses the bottom line standard on all of them. In reality, he misses the mark by a big margin for most of them. If we tweak the numbers, his OBP is the only one that matches. It’s certainly impressive, but for a player whose sole job was to go out there and hit, it is really difficult to argue that one truly elite Hall of Fame level skill is enough to merit induction.
As time passes by, we get smarter, and we learn new and better ways to evaluate hitters other than just their traditional back of the baseball card stats. As we know, it is easier to hit in some parks than others, and as a result, we need statistics that adjust accordingly. For a number of factors, including their goal of synthesizing a number of park and league neutral factors to derive an overall hitter value, I decided to use OPS+ and wRC+ for an advanced statistical analysis.
OPS+ If you look at the players eligible for the Hall of Fame and not tainted by steroids, Ty Cobb and his 168 OPS+ was the lowest “magic number” mark. You could even push it down to 163 as Jimmie Foxx had that mark, but it should be noted he is tied with Pete Browning, who was not inducted into the Hall of Fame. Edgar falls short of this mark again with his 147 OPS+.
Now, if we were to focus solely on modern players and just focused on those players who played over the last 50 years, the OPS+ threshold doesn’t really move as Dick Allen with his 156 mark was not inducted into the Hall of Fame. However, Willie Mays and Thomas were. So, if we were to treat Allen like an exception, that mark would move to Willie McCovey and Mike Schmidt, whose career OPS+ is 147, which as we know is Edgar’s career mark.
If we are making a case here for Edgar, which is what we are searching to do, it should be noted by this metric alone, he is tied for 42nd on the list.
wRC+Again, Dick Allen is the major impediment here as his 155 wRC+ was not sufficient for Hall of Fame induction. That would make Tris Speaker and his 157 wRC+ the standard bearer. Edgar and his 147 wRC+ falls well short of that mark.
If we were to make the same allowances that were made for the OPS+ mark, the threshold would move to the 145 wRC+ posed by McCovey, Willie Stargell, and the presumed to be inducted Thome. Edgard has a higher mark than that.
Another factor in Edgar’s favor here is his 147 wRC+ ranks 33rd best in the history of baseball.
If we are going to discuss advanced metrics, we have to discuss WAR. In reality, the WAR required for Hall of Fame induction is a moving target. The high water mark is the 73.9 average for starting pitchers and the 40.6 average for relievers. Putting pitching aside, the high water mark is the 73.2 WAR average for right fielders and the 53.4 average WAR for catchers serving as the low water mark.
Certainly, Edgar falls within all of those parameters with a 68.3 career WAR. In fact, that mark puts him tied for 112th all time. That’s ahead of first ballot inductees like Ivan Rodriguez(68.4) and Ernie Banks (67.4). However, it also puts Edgar behind players never inducted into the Hall of Fame like Lou Whitaker (74.9) and Bobby Grich, both of whom were five percented in their first year of the ballot and were not inducted in the most recent Veteran’s Committee vote.
Overall, Edgar is 112th, which puts him well below some Hall of Famers, but it does put him ahead of many others. The same goes for people not in the Hall of Fame.
Revisiting The Frank Thomas Argument
As of today, the DH position has only been in existence for 44 years thereby making it the newest position in all of baseball. In the brief history of the DH, we have seen it used in a variety of ways. It has been used as a spot for an aging veteran, and we have seen it used for a rotating spot to give players a rest. Of course, with players like Edgar, we have seen it go to good hitters.
As of this moment, there is only one player in the Hall of Fame who spent more time at DH than in the field. That player was Frank Thomas. In his career, Thomas hit .301/.419/.555 with 495 doubles, 521 homers, and 1,704 RBI. He had a 73.7 WAR, 45.2 WAR7, and a 59.5 JAWS. If we are looking to create a standard to induct a DH, he’s it.
Edgar falls short having a lower OBP and SLG with significantly fewer homers and RBI. His 68.3/.43.6/56.0 all fall well short of the numbers Thomas put up.
If we are going to look at Edgar just among hitters, we also need to take other things into consideration. Despite being just a DH, which is effectively a part-time player, Edgar only played over 150 games in just three seasons. To be fair, we should make that four with him leading the league in games played in the shortened 1995 season. Still, he was a DH that could not stay on the field.
Despite the current narrative that Edgar is the best DH ever, he really wasn’t as Frank Thomas was. Moreover, Edgar wasn’t recognized as such in his playing days. During his career, Edgar only won five Silver Sluggers and made just seven All Star teams in 18 years. I know his name is on the American League award for DHs, but that doesn’t mean he was the best DH ever or even of his era.
One other argument I’ve seen is Edgar not playing the field helped his team. Sure, his being utilized the best possible way was a benefit to the Mariners. However, it’s hard to argue that is was also beneficial the Mariners had players like Mike Blowers, Russ Davis, David Bell, Jeff Cirillo, and Scott Spiezio at third base.
From this analysis, it is pretty clear that if you want to make a case for Edgar Martinez as a Hall of Famer, you certainly can. He was certainly a very good hitter in his career, and based upon what metric you chose to use, he was among the best hitters in any particular category. However, the question ultimately is whether he was a good enough hitter that we can overlook his never really playing in the field.
For me, the answer is no.
Right now, the standard for a DH is Frank Thomas, and Edgar falls well short of that. He also did not put up anywhere near 3,000 hits or 500 homers. You literally have to move the floors for any other statistical category for Edgar to be above the proverbial red line. Worse yet, he was a DH that was not able to play over 150 games a season. That’s a problem when you’re looking to induct a one-dimensional player.
No, it won’t be a travesty when and if Edgar is elected into the Hall of Fame. However, it will ultimately be the wrong decision.
With the Hall of Fame results to be released tomorrow, this is my official IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Unlike the BBWAA, the IBWAA has a 15 player limit, and the IBWAA will not continue voting on a player after they have reached the 75% threshold. That remains true even if the player remains on the BBWAA ballot. This year that applies to Vladimir Guerrero (who I voted for last year and would’ve again this year) and Edgar Martinez.
Stats: 17 seasons, .254/.337/.486, 1933 H, 383 2B, 36 3B, 434 HR, 1289 RBI
Advanced: 62.8 WAR, 46.4 WAR7, 54.6 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star, 10x Gold Glove , Silver Slugger
With the average Hall of Fame center fielder having a 71.2 WAR/44.6 WAR7/57.9 JAWS, the one thing that stands out to you is Jones had about as good a seven year stretch of baseball than any center fielder in the history of the game. Really, it was a tremendous nine year stretch of his career where he completely dominated.
From 1998 – 2006, Jones average season was .270/.347/.513 with 35 homers and 104 RBI. In addition to being a middle of the lineup hitter during this stretch, he won nine consecutive Gold Gloves. It goes a long way towards explaining how he put up 54.5 WAR during that stretch. There are few center fielders who have dominated the sport on both sides of the ball for as long as a stretch as this.
There are some other finer points to consider with Jones. Every Hall of Fame eligible center fielder who has hit at least 400 homers is in the Hall of Fame. Every Hall of Fame eligible outfielder that has won at least 10 Gold Gloves has been elected to the Hall of Fame. With Jones joining Willie Mays and Ken Griffey, Jr. as the only center fielders to hit over 400 homers and win 10+ Gold Gloves, he should also join them in the Hall of Fame.
Stats: 19 years, .303/.401/.529, 2726 H, 549 2B, 38 3B, 468 HR, 1623 RBI
Advanced: 85.0 WAR, 46.6 WAR7, 65.8 JAWS
Awards: 1999 MVP, 2008 Batting Title, 8x All Star, 2x Silver Slugger
When it come to Chipper, the question isn’t whether he’s a Hall of Famer, but rather how high should he rank on the list of all time third baseman. With the exception of triples and stolen bases, he is in the top 10 in every offensive category at the position with him being ranked second in runs and RBI and third in homers. No matter what statistic or measurement you look at, Jones is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Stats: 17 years, .290/.356/.500, 2461 H, 560 2B, 47 3B, 377 HR, 1518 RBI
Advanced: 55.2 WAR, 35.6 WAR7, 45.4 JAWS
Awards: 2000 MVP, 5x All Star, 4x Silver Slugger
When looking at the newer parameters of WAR, WAR7, and JAWS, Kent falls well short of meeting Hall of Fame induction standards as the average Hall of Fame second baseman has posted a 69.4/44.5/56.9. Really, Kent only comes close on the JAWS, but it’s not really that close. Even with him falling short there, he still deserves induction into the Hall of Fame.
Looking at Kent’s career, you can make the argument this side of Rogers Hornsby, he is the best offensive second baseman in Major League history. Certainly, you can make the case he’s the top slugger with him being the all-time leader in homers for a second baseman and second all-time in slugging. In addition to that, he’s fourth all-time in doubles and third highest in RBI.
Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman who has at least 445 doubles is in the Hall of Fame. Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman with at least 252 homers is in the Hall of Fame. Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman with at least 1200 RBI is in the Hall of Fame. Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman who has slugged at least .470 is in the Hall of Fame. Well, that’s true for everyone except Kent, who is still awaiting induction.
One last note on Kent. He is just one of 10 second baseman to ever win the award. With the exception of Dustin Pedroia, who is still active, Kent is the only one of these players not in the Hall of Fame. That should change as Kent certainly has merited induction.
Stats: 10 years, .282/.360/.462, 1253 H, 249 2B, 12 3B, 175 HR, 760 RBI
Advanced: 21.3 WAR, 21.3 WAR7, 21.3 JAWS
Awards: 2x All Star, 2009 World Series MVP
A more detailed analysis of Matsui’s Hall of Fame case was previously published. To put it succinctly here, as a professional, Matsui hit .293/.387/.521 hitter with 2,655 hits, 496 doubles, 508 homers, and 1,654 RBI. If that all happened in the United States, he would be a no-doubt Hall of Famer. However, due to the collusion and gentleman’s agreements between MLB and NPB, Mastui was never going to get the chance to spend his entire career in the MLB. He should not be penalized for that.
Stats: 19 years, .284/.377/.509, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1550 RBI
Advanced: 52.4 WAR, 35.8 WAR7, 44.1 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star, 1994 All Star Game MVP, 3x Silver Slugger
If McGriff only hit seven more home runs in his career, we would likely not be having this conversation because before the Steroid Era, hitting 500 homers was an automatic ticket into the Hall of Fame. Perhaps knowing this, McGriff held on until he was 40 to try to get those homers. It is a testament to him he was a productive hitter before his age 40 season.
Looking at all the numbers, it is fair to say McGriff has fallen short of 500 homers because it is assumed he was a clean player in another wise dirty Steroid Era in baseball. He fell short because the players struck in 1994, which was when he was in his prime.
But looking at his advanced numbers, McGriff really falls short because of his defense. That seems odd at a time when voters are pushing to elect Edgar Martinezto the Hall of Fame. But that’s a debate for another day. What is up for debate is his -18.1 dWAR and how reliable the defense metrics are, especially at first base, and whether those numbers can reliably be used to keep someone out of the Hall of Fame. With the advent of DRS and UZR, it could be well argued dWAR is not reliable enough.
There’s some other considerations at play. With the exception of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, both of whom have taken PEDs, every Hall of Fame eligible first baseman with at least 490 homers is in the Hall of Fame. The same goes for first baseman with at least 1,520 RBI. Also, with the exception of players who are known to have used PEDs, every eligible first basman with at least 1,300 walks is in the Hall of Fame.
In addition to the regular season numbers, it should be noted McGriff was at his best when the stakes were at their highest. For proof of that look no further than the 1993 season when he helped the Braves overcome a nine game deficit in the NL West.
But it’s more than the tangential evidence there. As previously noted, McGriff bettered his career numbers with RISP, RISP with two outs, and high leverage situations. Combine that with McGriff being an excellent hitter in the postseason (.303/.385/.532) with him putting up extraordinary World Series numbers (.279/.385/.605), and there is more than enough to make up for the fact McGriff never got those last seven homers . . . that is unless you want to count his 10 postseason homers.
Stats: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 2813 K, 1.192 WHIP
Advanced: 83.0 WAR, 44.5 WAR 7, 63.8 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star, 7x Gold Glove
Given his being healthy throughout his entire career, and his coming off his only 20 win season, it does make you wonder why Mussina didn’t stick around long enough to get to 300 wins. Arguably, he was 2 – 3 years away, and it would have only taken him until his age 41 season to get there. Unfortunately, he didn’t stick around, so we have to have a more nuanced debate with his not reaching a magic number.
Now, the thing that really sticks out with Mussina is his career 3.68 ERA. If he was indeed inducted, that ERA would be the third worst ERA by a starting pitcher with only Red Ruffing and Jack Morris. Ruffing was only elected in a special runoff election after his time on the ballot expired, and Morris was inducted by the Veteran’s Committee.
However, lost in that ERA is the circumstances surrounding it. Mussina not only pitched in the Steroids Era, but he also pitched the majority of his career in a hitter’s park like Camden Yards. That’s where Mussina’s 123 ERA+ comes into account. That mark matches Juan Marichal and puts him just ahead of Hall of Famers Eddie Plank, Bob Feller, and Don Drysdale.
There are some more considerations as well. Aside from Roger Clemens and his complicated case, Mussina and Mickey Lolich are the only eligible pitcher with at least 2800 strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame. Mussina and Tommy John are the only pitchers with 270 wins and over 2,000 strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame. Mussina is the only pitcher with 270 wins and at least 2,300 strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame.
Combining that with his having a higher WAR, WAR7, and JAWS than the average Hall of Fame pitcher (73.9/50.3/62.1), and Mussina is well worthy of induction.
Stats: 17 years, .281/.364/.490, 2077 H, 517 2B, 43 3B, 316 HR, 1287 RBI
Advanced: 70.0 WAR, 43.5 WAR7, 56.8 JAWS
Awards: 1997 Rookie of the Year, 7x All Star, 8x Gold Glove, Silver Slugger
If we were basing it just off the WAR, WAR7, and JAWS, then Rolen would be an easy Hall of Famer as his marks surpass those of the average Hall of Fame third baseman (67.5/42.8/55.2). However, judging from the voting on Rolen, many aren’t. Instead, we hear many knock Rolen for not being that great, for being a complier, etc.
Looking at the criticism of Rolen, you begin to really understand why there are fewer third baseman in the Hall of Fame than at any other position.
Lost in any criticism was Rolen was a truly great defensive third baseman. That’s evidenced by his three Gold Gloves that only trail Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt at the position. He wasn’t Robinson with the glove, no one is, but he was a better hitter (122 OPS+ to 104 OPS+). He wasn’t Schmidt with the bat, no other third baseman was, but Rolen was a better fielder than Schmidt (20.6 dWAR to 17.6 dWAR). And you can certainly argue Rolen deserved more Gold Gloves with his being a better defender than players like Ken Caminiti and Mike Lowellwho won the award during Rolen’s prime.
Ultimately, Rolen did not have the bat that screams Hall of Famer, but he still had a 122 OPS+, which would rank him tied for eight amount the 16 third baseman already inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Overall, Rolen had a long and great defensive career, and he was better at the plate than how he is viewed upon by current writers. With his defense and advanced stats, Rolen merits induction into the Hall of Fame.
Stats: 20 years, 216-146; 3.46 ERA, 3116 K, 1.137 WHIP
Advanced: 79.9 WAR, 49.0 WAR7, 64.5 JAWS
Awards: 6x All Star, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 World Series MVP
As we all know Schilling is not doing himself any favors with his being a lightning rod in an post playing days, which includes his tweets about lynching the media. However, even with all that he does to shoot himself in the foot, it is still a matter of when and not if he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame.
When compiling the list of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time, Schilling is on that short list with pitchers like Bob Gibson. In the postseason, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP. There are many things you can take away from Schilling’s postseason career – striking out the first five Braves he faced in the 1993 NLCS, pitching three games in the 2001 World Series, the bloody sock, and breaking the Curse of the Bambino.
All of those were great, but consider that in Schilling’s postseason career, he pitched in four elimination games. His team won all four of those games with Schilling going 3-0 with a 0.34 ERA. Schilling allowed no more than two earned in any game, pitched at least seven innings in each start, had two complete games, and one five hit shutout. Basically speaking, if your life was on the, you wanted Schilling on the mound.
But Schilling was more than postseason greatness. He has the best strikeout to walk ratio of anyone ever eligible for the Hall of Fame. He is 15th all-time in strikeouts, and everyone not named Clemens, who has 3,000 strikeouts is in the Hall of Fame.
He has the advanced stats to be inducted as well with his WAR and JAWS being higher than the average Hall of Fame pitcher (73.9/50.3/62.1). His 127 ERA+ ties him with Tom Seaver and Gibson and puts him ahead of pitchers like contemporary and fellow big money pitcher John Smoltz.
Simply put, Schilling was a great pitcher well deserving of induction into the Hall of Fame regardless of whatever trouble he has created in his post playing career.
Stats: 22 years, .276/.402/.554, 451 2B, 26 3B, 612 HR, 1699 RBI
Advanced: 72.9 WAR, 41.5 WAR7, 57.2 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star
With the Steroids Era, the fascination with 500 homers has certainly gone by the wayside. In fact, of the 27 sluggers in the 500 Home Run Club, 12 of those players played during a time tainted by the steroids era. Many will point out how McGwire, Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Gary Sheffield have not been inducted as proof positive of 500 homers not meaning the same thing anymore.
However, it could also be argued that doing it clean means all the more. In fact, hitting 600 clean is even more astounding. Given Thome never being implicated, he would certainly fall in that astounding category.
Really, you would be hard pressed to find a reason not to put him in. His advanced stats are those of a Hall of Fame first baseman. Even if you were to argue he played a lot of time at DH, it was really only 32% of the time. Moreover, Thome hit 407 homers when he wasn’t a DH. That alone would put him in the Top 20 among all-time first baseman. As it stands, with the extra 205 homers, he’s second best all-time among players whose primary position was first base.
Overall, Thome was the epitome of a slugger, and he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Stats: 17 years, .313/.400/.565, 471 2B, 62 3B, 383 HR, 1311 RBI
Advanced: 72.6 WAR, 44.6 WAR7, 58.6 JAWS
Awards: 1997 NL MVP, 5x All Star, 7x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, 3x Batting Title
One of the main reasons Walker is not in the Hall of Fame already is because there remains a double standard regarding his candidacy. Many a writer is willing to look the other way on steroids use, but will hold playing in Coors Field against Walker despite his legally playing there. It’s also despite the fact his numbers are good enough regardless of his years at Coors Field.
For example, Walker has a 141 OPS+ and a 140 wRC+. Both OPS+ and wRC+ stabilize offensive statistics for the park and league a player plays his games. For every number above 100, that player is that much better than the league. Using Walker as an example, he was 40% better than the average player during his playing time.Those numbers put him ahead of Hall of Fame right fielders like Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline, Tony Gwynn, Roberto Clemente, Dave Winfield, etc.
The Reggie Jackson parallel is an interesting one. If you were to buy into Walker being a Coors Field creation, consider he hit .282/.372/.501 away from Coors Field (h/t CBS Sports). Reggie Jackson, who was a no-doubt first ballot Hall of Famer, hit .262/.356/.490, and Reggie didn’t win any Gold Glove Awards. Walker’s non-Coors slash line would compare favorably to a number of other Hall of Fame right fielders as well.
The point being is Walker wasn’t Coors Field creation. Rather, he was a great hitter who played great no matter what ballpark he played. Ultimately, Walker was a great hitter, fielder, and he was a great base runner. He could do it all, and players that can do it all belong in the Hall of Fame.
Baseball can be cruel. For proof of that you need look no further than Johan Santana.
If two or three things reasonably happened, he’s a Hall of Famer instead of his teetering around the 5% thereby forever falling off the ballot.
The biggest issue is his shoulder injury that ended his career.
In 2012, it seemed like he was back. Through 11 starts, he was 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.029 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, and a no-hitter under his belt.
After that no-hitter, his effectiveness waned, and his shoulder issues reemerged. Although he’s tried to comeback, it hasn’t happened.
Now, he’s on the Hall of Fame ballot with the hopes that people will look at him as his generation’s Sandy Koufax.
For the uninitiated, Koufax was elected into the Hall of Fame largely because voters completely disregarded the first seven years if his career and instead focused on the five brilliant years to end his career.
During that five year stretch, Koufax’s average season was 22-7, 1.95 ERA, 0.926 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9. He’d win three Cy Youngs with a 167 ERA+ and 2.00 FIP. To put it succinctly, he was great.
So great, that he amassed 46.6 of his 53.2 WAR. Again, the first seven years of his career weren’t great.
Like Koufax, Santana got off to a slow start to his career. This was partially due to his being a 21 year old Rule 5 pick who went straight from Single-A to the majors.
It took two years for Santana to figure things out and five before he would find his dominant form. Like Koufax, when he found it, he was probably the best pitcher in the game.
In his own five year stretch (2004 – 2008), Santana’s average season was 17-8, 2.82 ERA, 1.022 WHIP, and a 9.3 K/9. He’d win two Cy Young Awards while amassing a 157 ERA+ and a 3.21 FIP.
Santana would amass 35.4 out of his 51.4 career WAR during that stretch.
Now, Santana did accumulate more career WAR, but his period of domination did fall well short of Koufax.
It’s noteworthy that Koufax and Santana fell short of typical Hall of Fame standards.
As published on Baseball Reference, the average Hall of Fame pitcher amassed a 73.9 WAR, 50.3 WAR7, and a 62.1 JAWS. Again, Koufax and Santana fall short of this:
- Koufax 49.0/46.1/47.5
- Santana 51.4/44.8/48.1
Looking at these numbers, Koufax and Santana are close, really close. Still, there are two major distinctions between the two.
The first has already been discussed at length with Koufax’s five year peak being better than Santana’s.
The next is the postseason. In Koufax’s postseason career, he won two World Series MVP Awards. Overall, he made seven starts and one relief appearance going 4-3 with a 0.95 ERA, 0.825 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9.
Conversely, Santana struggled in his 11 postseason appearances (five starts). Overall, he was 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA, 1.324 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9.
No, Santana should’ve be punished for relatively poor postseasons. However, when your numbers fall short, you need something else, like great postseasons, to put you over the top.
Is that what put Koufax in? Partially.
Koufax always had narrative working for him. He didn’t start Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it conflicted with Yom Kippur. Koufax would still pitch three games in that series going 2-1 with a 0.38 ERA winning Game 7 with a complete game three hit shutout. He did that on just two days rest.
Koufax was also brilliant in 1966, winning a Cy Young in his final season. He’d go out on top with voters remembering him at his best.
Santana left us broken. In his final five starts, he was 0-5 with a 15.63 ERA. He’s spent the past few years trying to get back into baseball. Overall, we remember him broken and a shadow of what he was.
In the end, Santana was great, and if things broke right, he’d be a Hall of Famer. Sadly, it didn’t happen, and with his peak not being what Koufax’s was, it’s difficult to argue he truly belongs in the Hall of Fame.
One of the discussion points during the championship game of the World Baseball Classic was whether Jim Leyland‘s Hall of Fame case should be boosted by winning the event.
Now, it will be interesting to see in the future whether the World Baseball Classic will have any impact on anyone’s Hall of Fame case. It is doubtful as you are putting weight on a 8 – 10 game sample size. It’s also doubtful because in reality the real prize in baseball is the World Series. With that said, maybe it’ll have some impact with managers as USA keeps selecting retired managers to man their squad. The selection of these managers brings them back to the limelight, and the attention usually serves as an opportunity to wax poetic about a person’s career.
With that caveat, it is possible Leyland may prove to be a test case for the WBC’s impact on bolstering a person’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Then again, it seems strange that’s the case when Leyland is about the only person with any knowledge of baseball that thinks Eric Hosmer is a better player than Paul Goldschmidt. For that matter, Leyland also thinks Hosmer is a better hitter than Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey, and Daniel Murphy.
Still, this does seem an opportune time to discuss Leyland’s Hall of Fame case. In a 22 year Hall of Fame career, Leyland amassed a 1,769 – 1,728 record (.506 winning percentage). He won the World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997, and he won American League Pennants with the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and 2012. He won six division titles (Pirates 1990 – 1992; Tigers 2011 – 2013), and his teams captured two Wild Cards (1997 & 2006). Leyland is one of 17 managers all-time to bring two different teams to the World Series.
Leyland has also won three Manager of the Year Awards. The first two were with the 1990 and 1992 Pirates, and the last one came in 2006 with the Tigers. With the award starting in 1983, he is one of seven managers to win in both leagues. He is one of seven managers to win at least three Manager of the Year Awards with Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa having the most awards with four.
Looking at the above information, it is fair to say he was a respected and well decorated manager during his career. The question is whether he has done enough to merit Hall of Fame induction. He hasn’t.
According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, there have been 23 managers inducted into the Hall of Fame. With Rube Foster being inducted as a Negro League manager, there have been 22 Major League managers inducted in the Hall of Fame. Considering the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, suited up to play 148 years ago, the bar has been set extraordinarily high to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a manager.
The average Major League Hall of Fame Manager has 1,916 wins with a .540 winning percentage. Again, on average, these managers have won five pennants and two World Series titles. Now, Frank Selee and Ned Hanlon managed a majority of their careeers prior to the inception of the World Series possibly making their stats too remote in time to judge the average Hall of Famer. It should be noted, that their having won no World Series titles are incorporated in the average World Series titles won so that number is inaccurate as well.
Taking Selee and Hanlon out of the equation, the average Hall of Famer has won 1,978 games with a .539 winning percentage. Additionally, these managers have won six pennants and three World Series titles.
Now, if you want to consider Connie Mack an outlier as well because he was an owner who was never going to be fired, the numbers change again. Without Selee, Hanlon, or Mack, the average Hall of Famer won 1,886 games with a .545 winning percentage. These managers have won five pennants and two World Series titles.
Looking at that, Leyland falls well short of the averages again no matter how much you try to manipulate it lower the standards to make him appear to be a Hall of Famer.
Now, it is true that there are managers in the Hall of Fame already who fall short of each of these averages. Still, Leyland would fall short of each of these “lesser” managers as well.
Let’s start with the managers, like Leyland, who have only won one World Series title. There have been four such managers in the proverbial World Series era. They are Bobby Cox, Leo Durocher, Whitey Herzog, and Earl Weaver. Each one of these managers have a winning percentage of .532 and higher. This group has averaged 1,818 wins. Moreover, this group has averaged a .552 winning percentage. Looking at it from that perspective, Leyland falls short.
Now, with 1,769 wins, Leyland does have more wins than 10Hall of Fame managers, eight if you once again eliminate Selee and Hanlon. Eliminating Selee and Hanlon, these managers have an average winning percentage of .546 and, on average, have won four pennants and one World Series. That puts Leyland well short in terms of winning percentage and just short in terms of pennants.
In reality, the only thing you can look at to justify Leyland’s Hall of Fame case is the induction of Wilbert Robinson. Robinson was 1,399 – 1,398 with no pennants or World Series titles. It should be noted Robinson was also a catcher who won three straight titles with the Baltimore Orioles in the dead ball era, and he was the catcher recognized as revolutionizing the position by being the first to play directly behind the batter for an entire at-bat. When he retired from managing, he had the third most wins all-time, and in his day, he was widely respected as manager and pitching coach who could get the most out of his pitching staffs.
Overall, Leyland doesn’t have the numbers for the Hall of Fame. And that is before you consider Leyland quit on his team on three different occasions.
He quit on the Pirates after they lost Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla so he could take the Marlins job and get a chance to win the World Series. After he got his World Series and the subsequent Marlins firesale, Leyland quit on them to join the Rockies. When the Rockies weren’t as good as he expected they would be, he quit on them.
It’s one thing to make a case for a manager who doesn’t have the numbers, it’s a whole other thing to support the candidacy of a manager who quit on three different teams.
Certainly, when you have a managers with a low winning percentage that quits on his teams, it begs the question why anyone would think he was Hall of Fame worthy?
I have my Hall of Fame vote scattered through a few posts detailing why I voted for those still on the ballot, who I reconsidered, and who among the the first time candidates I voted. I also explained why I would vote for players already inducted by the IBWAA. Pulling those lists together, here is my ballot:
- Tim Raines
- Jeff Bagwell
- Jeff Kent
- Mike Mussina
- Curt Schilling
- Larry Walker
- Fred McGriff
- Vladimir Guerrero
In year two of Hall of Fame voting, I was more forgiving, and I found room to vote for players like Fred McGriff and Vladimir Guerrero when I would not have voted for them last year. Even with my finding more reasons to vote for different players, there were still some players who just fell short. Here is a quick synopsis on each:
Jorge Posada, C
Stats: 17 seasons, .273/.374/.474, 1,664 H, 379 2B, 10 3B, 275 HR, 1,065 RBI, 20 SB
Advanced: 42.7 WAR, 32.7 WAR7, 37.7 JAWS
Awards: 5X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star
When you are an important member of the Yankees famed Core Four that won five World Series, you are going to get a long look for the Hall of Fame even if you won only four rings with the group.
While Posada had a good career, it is hard to make a Hall of Fame case for him. With the average catcher having a 52.7 WAR, 34.2 WAR7, and a 43.4 JAWS, Posada doesn’t quite measure up. Posada was a good hitter, but was rarely a great hitter averaging just 19 homers and 74 RBI in the 14 seasons he was a regular player. Behind the plate, he was slightly below average throwing out base runners, but his pitching staff did seem to tout his ability to catch a game.
While he does get some extra credit for all the World Series titles, Posada was rarely great in the postseason. In 29 series, Posada only had two series you would consider great. While he doesn’t get penalized for largely uninspired postseason play, he also doesn’t get extra credit for it.
Ultimately, Posada was a good to very good player for most of his career. Unfortunately, he didn’t compile big counting stats, nor was he an advanced statistic darling. With that, he falls just short.
Stats: 15 seasons, .256/.341/.435, 1,307 H, 306 2B, 14 3B, 193 HR, 757 RBI, 25 SB
Advanced: 24.3 WAR, 18.7 WAR7, 21.5 JAWS
Awards: Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, 3X All Star
When you get down to it, the best case for Varitek was he was a member of that 2004 Red Sox team that broke the Curse of the Bambino. Another factor was he was widely regarded as a leader on that team. However, it is really difficult to make a case for a player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame based upon intangibles when he falls so short with the traditional and advanced statistics.
Billy Wagner, RP
Stats: 16 seasons, 47-40, 2.31 ERA, 422 SV, 0.998 WHIP, 11.9 K/9
Advanced: 28.1 WAR, 19.9 WAR7, 24.0 JAWS
Awards: 7X All Star
While there are relief pitchers and closers in the Hall of Fame, we have yet to see the person who spent their career as a modern closer enter the Hall of Fame. For the most part, the closers in the Hall of Fame were multiple inning fireman (Rich Gossage) or pitchers who split time between starting and relieving (Dennis Eckersley).
Looking up and down the list of the closers that have been inducted, it is hard to make a case that any of them were as dominant as Wagner was. He was a guy that came into the game with a high 90s fastball and struck out the side. It’s why his ERA+ is higher than any reliever in or eligible for the Hall of Fame. He amassed 422 saves which is sixth all-time and second among left-handed relievers. No matter how you analyze it, Wagner was a truly dominant and great closer.
But he’s still short of being a Hall of Famer. The average closer in the Hall of Fame right now has a 40.6 WAR, 28.2 WAR7, and a 34.4 JAWS. Wagner falls short of those numbers. Keep in mind once Mariano Rivera is inducted into the Hall of Fame, those numbers are going to go higher. Wagner is a classic case where you could overlook the numbers if there was some postseason dominance. Unfortunately, Wagner was not a good postseason pitcher with him pitching to a 10.03 ERA and a 1.971 WHIP in 14 postseason games.
If you were building a Hall of Fame for closers and other specialists, Wagner is on the first ballot. However, for the Baseball Hall of Fame, he is unfortunately just short.
Trevor Hoffman, RP
Stats: 18 seasons, 61-75, 2.87 ERA, 601 SV, 1.058 WHIP, 9.4 K/9
Advanced: 28.4 WAR, 19.6 WAR7, 24.0 JAWS
Awards: 7X All Star
Basically, Wagner and Hoffman have the same Hall of Fame resume. However, there are two stark differences. In his career, Hoffman saved over 600 games, and at one point was the all-time saves leader. Despite the save totals, Hoffman was nowhere near as good a pitcher as Wagner was. Certainly, if Wagner is not a Hall of Famer, Hoffman isn’t either.
Overall, I have decided to vote for Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker on my IBWAA ballot. If they were up for IBWAA vote, I would have also voted for Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell while not voting for Edgar Martinez. In looking at Kent, Mussina, and Walker, I went back over their careers, and I re-assessed whether or not I should vote for them. Ultimately, I did. I did the same with players I did not vote for, and as a result, I added one to my ballot:
Fred McGriff, 1B
Stats: 19 seasons, .284/.377/.509, 2,490 H, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, 38 SB
Advanced: 52.4 WAR, 35.8 WAR7, 44.1 JAWS
Awards: 3X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star
During Hall of Fame voting, many times you will hear about a player being a compiler. There are two ways you can define compiler: (1) someone who put up a number of counting stats over a very good but not great long career; or (2) Fred McGriff.
Arguably, McGriff was never a truly great player. In fact, from a WAR perspective, he only had three seasons that you would rate him at superstar or MVP level. If you take out the partial seasons he played in his first and last year, McGriff averaged a 3.1 WAR. Basically, this means for most of McGriff’s career, he was a very good, but not quite All Star caliber player. In that sense, his five All Star appearances seem right on the money.
Like Guerrero. McGriff’s advanced statistics were held down by his perceived poor base running and defense. Certainly, McGriff was no Keith Hernandez out there. In fact, despite his appearance on the Tom Emanski videos, McGriff was not a particularly good first baseman. Certainly, his .992 fielding percentage was nothing special as far as first baseman go. It goes a long way in explaining why McGriff had a -18.1 dWAR in his career. With that said, I am not sure how reliable that -18.1 figure is.
One of McGriff’s contemporaries at first base was the man who replaced him at first base in Toronto – John Olerud. In Olerud’s playing days, he was considered a very good first baseman who won four Gold Gloves, and in reality, probably should have won more. That notion has been reinforced by some advanced metrics. For his career, Olerud’s dWAR was -2.
When reputation and advanced metrics agree a players is a good defensive player at his position, and dWAR completely disagrees, it gives you pause as to whether the calculation is entirely correct. Assuming McGriff was only half as bad as dWAR suggested, his career WAR would increase to 61.5, which would leave him only 4.4 WAR short of what the average Hall of Famer was. In fact, you could conclude McGriff was a poor first baseman that merited a negative dWAR and still have him reach the average WAR for a first baseman.
Despite all this hand wringing, the fact remains McGriff probably falls short of being a Hall of Famer due to his defense, and yes, defense matters. With that said, there are two other factors which give McGriff the benefit of the doubt.
First, McGriff was a money player that was typically at his best when there was a lot at stake. Using the baseline of his .284/.377/.509 career slash line, here are McGriff’s stats in big situations:
- RISP: .277/.403/.479
- RISP, two outs: .241/.399/.421
- High Leverage: .290/.385/.500
Typically speaking, McGriff was at a minimum slightly better in pressure situations.
Another example of how good McGriff was in pressure situations was the 1993 season. At the time the Braves acquired McGriff, the Braves trailed the San Francisco Giants by nine games in the National League West Standings. Over the final 68 games of the season, McGriff would hit an astounding .310/.392/.612 with 19 homers and 55 RBI. Essentially, McGriff was Yoenis Cespedes before Cespedes was Cespedes. The Braves needed each and every single one of those homers as they finished one game ahead of the Giants in the standings.
Granted, that was just one season. However, McGriff’s clutch hitting was also evident in the postseason. In 50 postseason games, McGriff was a .303/.385/.532 hitter with 10 homers and 37 RBI. His clutch postseason hitting helped the Braves win their only World Series with the vaunted Greg Maddux–Tom Glavine–John Smoltz rotation. In the 1995 postseason, McGriff hit .333/.415/.649 with four homers and nine RBI.
Overall, his postseason play combined with the question marks surrounding the defensive statistics that push his WAR outside Hall of Fame averages is enough for him to get my vote even if it is my the narrowest or margins.
There is one other small factor at play. Anyone who saw McGriff towards the end of his career knew he was sticking around to try to get to 500 homers. At the time, 500 homers was a golden benchmark which led to almost automatic Hall of Fame induction. Well, McGriff didn’t get there as he fell seven home runs short. He fell seven home runs short because he began his career in a de facto platoon with Cecil Fielder. He fell seven home runs short because of the 1994 strike. He fell seven home runs short because there were pitchers juicing while he wasn’t. He fell seven home runs short because he was washed up at age 40. Ultimately, he fell seven home runs short because he just wasn’t good enough to get those seven home runs.
Do you know where he would rank on the all-time home run list with those seven extra home runs? 11th. Do you know where he currently stands on the list? 11th. Ultimately, seven home runs over the course of a 19 year career is about one-third of a home run per season. One-third of a home run per season doesn’t amount to much. If that is the case, seven home runs should not be the line of demarcation between him being a Hall of Famer and him not garnering much support.
With or without the seven home runs, you can justify voting for McGriff who had a good career for almost all of his 19 seasons. He has certainly done enough to justify being inducted into Cooperstown.
The Veteran’s Committee, which has been re-branded as the Today’s Game Era Committee, somehow elected former commissioner Bud Selig into the Baseball Hall of Fame. With that, Selig becomes one of the worst choices for the Hall of Fame in baseball history.
Sure, his proponents will point to his achievements. Under Selig, we got the Wild Card and Interleague play, which arguably helped baseball achieve higher ratings and revenues. Furthermore, Selig was in charge when MLB Advanced Media (MLB AM) was established. The establishment of the internet media company was visionary and has provided a huge boost to MLB. Under Selig’s stewardship, we have seen labor peace for the first time and incrementally improving steroid testing. These are all achievements to be sure, but they overshadow what has been a largely negative tenure in baseball for Selig.
Selig first became an owner in 1970 when he purchased the Seattle Pilots, and he moved them to Milwaukee after the Pilots inaugural season. Selig was then one of the owners who colluded in the 1980s to suppress players salary and movement between teams. At this time, future Hall of Famers like Carlton Fisk, Phil Niekro, and Andre Dawson were having a difficult time just getting a free agent offer. This was a pattern that continued throughout the decade, and eventually, it led to union filing grievances against the owners. Eventually, this led to owners having to agree to a $280 million settlement to the MLBPA.
It has been alleged Selig was one of the leaders of the owner’s collusion to improperly restrict player movement and to suppress player salaries. It just so happens that a small market team like the Brewers were beneficiaries of the policy with the team being able to hold onto future Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount for much longer than they probably would have had the system not been improperly rigged. This collusion set the stage for the disastrous 1994 player strike.
Ascension to Power
As Commissioner, Fay Vincent would make two “mistakes” that would lead to the end of his tenure. The first was he treated players like an equal part in the business of baseball. The second was he chastised the owners for collusion saying, “The single biggest reality you guys have to face up to is collusion. You stole $280 million from the players, and the players are unified to a man around that issue, because you got caught and many of you are still involved.” (metsmerizedonline.com).
This along with many other reasons designed to help his franchise, the Milwaukee Brewers, was a catalyst for Selig organizing the owners to remove Vincent from power. Ultimately, the owners made an 18-9 no confidence vote, and a humiliated Vincent would resign from his office. This led to Selig’s rise to power.
Cancellation of the 1994 World Series
One of the singular owners responsible for collusion and the deep distrust between the players and owners was now in charge of baseball. With his newfound power, he wanted to usher in a complete change in economics and relationship with the players. In effect, he wanted to normalize the collusion practices of the 1980s by trying to impose a hard cap on the players. He and the owners tried this despite having full knowledge this was a non-starter for a union the owners never broke in negotiations.
The method Selig sought to try to break the union was to wrongfully withhold a payment to the players’ pension and benefits plan. This singular action was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and it all but forced the union to set a strike date. After the strike was in effect, and after mediation proved ineffective, Selig, as acting commissioner, set forth a deadline of September 9th. If there was no deal in place, the baseball season would be over.
On September 8th, the players set forth a deal with some concessions. However it should be noted those concessions fell far short of all the demands of the owners, including but not limited to a salary cap. The owners never presented a counter-offer. Rather, on September 14th, the World Series was officially cancelled despite there presumably being sufficient time left on the calendar to get a deal done and have a postseason.
Unfair Labor Practices
With the strike dragging on and there being no hopes of new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the owners, led by their acting commissioner, Selig, enacted the salary cap they wanted in the first place. Undaunted, the owners announced a plan to go forward with the 1995 season using replacement players if the major league players on strike could not capitulate to the new labor rules the owners were trying to force upon them. Like with owner’s collusion attempts, this would have near disastrous consequences.
First, the issue of the owners colluding once again went before an arbitrator. The arbitrator found in favor of the players to the tune of $10 million. Next, Congress nearly revoked baseball’s anti-trust exemption. Lastly, the owners were found to have committed unfair labor practices. As a result, future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction against the owner’s improper salary cap, and ordered that the players could return to work under the guise of the recently expired collective bargaining agreement.
In effect, the owner’s action, under the guidance of Acting Commissioner Bud Selig, led to the loss of the World Series and $10 million dollars. Moreover, it led to fan anger, and it deeply hurt some franchises. For all of that, the owners accomplished nothing.
Death of Baseball in Montreal and Municipally Funded Ballparks
At the time of the strike, the Expos were the best team in baseball with a 74-40 record. It looked like the beginning of a promising run for the Expos because not only did they have the lowest payroll in the majors, they had some exciting young stars in Cliff Floyd, Moises Alou, Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, and John Wetteland. For a Canadian franchise that just saw its fellow Canadian franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays, win back-to-back World Series, it appeared as if it was finally the Expos turn.
It would never happen.
After the costly strike, the Expos were forced to trade away almost all of its players. As the Expos owners at the time put it, they could not afford to keep the team together, especially without the revenues that could’ve been generated by a long postseason run. Between the anger with the strike and with the Expos getting rid of all their best players, there simply was no reason for fans to come to the ballpark anymore. Ultimately, the Expos attendance figures would continuously decline until they actually drew under one million people in 1998.
The declining attendance figures helped Selig come up with his next ploy that would not only help the Brewers, but would also anger fans in other cities – contraction. In the 2001 offseason, the owners voted to have the ability to contract as many as two major league franchises. The teams cited for contraction were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos, and Minnesota Twins. Effectively, this created a game of musical chairs and the ability to help coerce cities to fund ballparks.
First, the Marlins owners were part of a group of owners that purchased the Boston Red Sox. With the Marlins needing ownership, the Jeffrey Loria, a man who had claimed almost full ownership of the Expos, was then approved as the purchaser of the Florida Marlins. With an ownership void, baseball took the unprecedented act of purchasing the Expos.
It should be noted smaller market clubs like the Pirates and the Brewers were not among those mentioned in contraction talks despite their claims of their operating in the red. The main reason is those cities had already agreed to build those teams a new ballpark. Eventually, the cities of Minneapolis and Miami would agree to financially support owners to build a new ballpark. With the hopes of building a new ballpark in Montreal dashed, baseball eventually moved the Expos to Washington, D.C. who had agreed to take on the funding of a new ballpark for the team.
Between the strike and contraction threats, Selig helped kill baseball in Montreal. He did it as part of his mission to get municipalities to fund and build ballparks for teams. Overall, he has been largely successful on that front, but there are still issues in Tampa (lease) and Oakland.
As an aside, it should be noted that the Expos were one of the few teams to lose a superstar during the collusion practices of the 1980s. Basically, the practices Selig either led or helped promote had an enduring effect of harming baseball in Montreal.
The Oakland Athletics Limbo
O.co Coliseum is largely seen as an antiquated ballpark. Moreover, it is widely assumed the Athletics need to build a new ballpark to help create new revenue streams in order to be able to compete financially. Many assume the Athletics need to move out of Oakland in order to get the type of ballpark and market needed to compete. On both fronts, the Athletics found a willing partner with the City of San Jose.
There is just on problem – the San Francisco Giants have the rights to that city. Under somewhat antiquated rules, the San Francisco Giants have the rights to San Jose meaning only the Giants have the right to move there. This decision was in place despite the cities of San Francisco and Oakland being part of the larger metropolitan area known as the Bay Area. Notably, San Jose is also part of that area.
To put things in perspective, the distance between the two ballparks is 15.3 miles. Citi Field and Yankee Stadium are similarly apart in that the two ballparks are 9.7 miles apart. Similar to Oakland and San Francisco, you need either use public transportation or cross a bridge to get to the other ballpark. Keeping those distances in mind, the Giants having control over San Jose would be like the Yankees having control over Northern New Jersey, thereby preventing the Mets from building a ballpark in the Meadowlands next to Metropolitan Stadium even though the team is moving within the same metropolitan area.
Note, this could never happen because the Mets and Yankees do not have separate territorial rights. Yet, somehow the Giants and Athletics do, and with baseball’s anti-trust exemption, the Athletics franchise has been in limbo.
Despite the limbo, the declining revenues, and attendance, Selig refused to help address the issue despite San Jose’s pleas. Selig had an opportunity to show leadership, and help all of the major league franchises. Instead, he demurred while bemoaning how the Athletics current situation is irreconcilable. With Selig’s retirement, he has left the mess for the new commissioner, Bob Manfred.
The Steroids Era
To say baseball didn’t benefit from the Steroids Era would be a lie. Back in 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing down Roger Maris‘ single season home run record, and fans angered at the strike were coming back to the game. At the time, Selig would say, “This is a renaissance.” (Howard Bryant, ESPN.com).
However, to hear Selig tell it now, he tried to get to the bottom of what was happening. As he recently told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, “They gave me a whole bunch of reasons. And I kept asking about steroids.” Selig would go on to say in the interview, “You know, I’ve thought about it a hundred times, because I’m pretty tough on myself. And I honestly don’t know what else I could have done. That’s my answer.”
Now, to be fair to Selig, as the commissioner, he could not unilaterally impose sanctions on players who used steroids. Additionally, he could not impose testing. It should also be noted Selig did have broad discretion to do this with the minor leagues, and he did in fact do it. To that end, he does deserve some credit.
With that said, it is noticeable Selig did not use his pulpit as commissioner to try to impose steroids testing or suspensions. As seen above, when it came to the financial aspect of baseball, Selig tried to obtain unprecedented power. In the wake of the costly collusion lawsuit, he helped oust a sitting commissioner to become an acting commissioner. During the 1994 strike, he led the owners in the implementation of a salary cap. When it came to helping owners and getting new ballparks, he got the approval from the owners to contract two major league franchises. However, suddenly, with steroids, Selig was not only silent, he has also acted as someone who had little power to address the issue.
Fact is Selig didn’t address the issue because there were growing attendance and revenues stemming from the Steroids Era. It helped heal some of the wounds of the strike, and it led to larger and larger television contracts. At best, Selig turned a blind eye to steroids use because it was helping the game. At worst, he was a willing participant who cared not for the sanctity of baseball’s sacred records.
Whatever you believe, the Steroids Era is an indelible part of his history. And yet, with his induction into the Hall of Fame, he now appears to be the only person untainted by the era.
Yes, it is a different panel of voters that voted for Selig than had the opportunity to vote for players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. However, it should be noted that this same panel had the opportunity to elect McGwire into the Hall of Fame as the same time as Selig, and yet, McGwire fell far short of the votes needed for induction to the Hall of Fame. This seems odd, especially when you consider the Mitchell Report, which was commissioned by Selig, found Selig partially culpable for the Steroids Era:
Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades – Commissioners, club officials, the Players
Association, and players – shares to some extent in the responsibility for the steroids era. There
was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on. As a
result, an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread.
Mitchell Report, p. SR-36.
Despite the Mitchell Report, the Hall of Fame has decided to take two very separate and distinct stances on McGwire. With respect to the steroids usage, the Hall of Fame is now asserting that any player who benefited from the use of steroids should be barred from the Hall of Fame. However, any executive or owner who not only shared the benefits of McGwire’s steroids use, but also helped promote a culture of steroids use across baseball could reap the benefits thereof. Overall, the Hall of Fame has decided that Selig can benefit from the wrong actions of players he did little to nothing to stop. It is really difficult to make sense of two very different positions.
No matter how you look at it, Selig’s enduring legacy is going to be: (1) he was the commissioner who cancelled a World Series; (2) he was the commissioner that presided over the Steroids Era; and (3) he is the commissioner that introduce Interleague Play and the Wild Card.
As seen above, Selig’s is a complicated legacy, and that is before you get into relatively minor decisions like not letting the New York Mets wear the first responder’s caps on 9/11 to honor those people who died during the most devastating terror attack on U.S. soil, forcing the McCourts to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers, or his empowering the Wilpons to continue ownership of the Mets despite their financial difficulties resulting from the Madoff Scandal.
Maybe it is too soon to judge Selig’s overall legacy. On the positive, he has grown the sport financially, and he has introduced some aspects to the game that are currently seen as positives. No one should overlook those accomplishments.
However, Selig was an owner who helped build distrust between the owners and players than helped create the 1994 strike and the cancellation of the World Series. His actions and inactions as commissioner caused him to be called before a Congress who continuously threatened to revoke baseball’s antitrust exemption. Selig presided over the end of baseball in Montreal, and he also has helped put the Athletics in limbo. He has twice been a part of the sport being embarrassed with the owners twice being found to have committed unfair labor practices. The actions cost the owners nearly $300 million not including whatever revenues were lost during the 1994 season.
Overall, it is fair to say Selig’s has damaged baseball as both an owner and a commissioner. At a minimum, his negatives should have called for more time to judge his legacy. Instead, we now have someone in the Hall of Fame who:
- Helped collude to restrict player movement and salaries;
- Helped facilitate the 1994 strike;
- Cancelled the World Series;
- Was part of a collection of owners twice found to have committed unfair labor practices;
- Oversaw the end of baseball in Montreal; and
- Was partially culpable for the Steroids Era.
It is hard to find a person in baseball who has had as negative an effect upon the game of baseball. However, all of this was overlooked, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame presumably because he made a lot of decision makers a lot of money.