Hall of Fame

IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

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:

  1. Tim Raines
  2. Jeff Bagwell
  3. Jeff Kent
  4. Mike Mussina
  5. Curt Schilling
  6. Larry Walker
  7. Fred McGriff
  8. Vladimir Guerrero

Also, here is the reason I did not vote for Ivan Rodriguez.  In addition to Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Jason Varitek, Billy Wagner, and Trevor Hoffman ultimately fall short in my book.

Players Who Are Just Short of the Hall of Fame

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.

Jason Varitek, C

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.

 

Changing My Mind on Fred McGriff

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 MadduxTom GlavineJohn 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.

 

Bud Selig Does Not Belong in the Hall of Fame

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.

1980’s Collusion

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.

Selig’s Legacy

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.

Great Day to Be a Mets Fan

On a typical Sunday, I’ll catch the first few innings on the car radio. Not today. We got out of the house earlier than usual to ensure we’d be home in time for my son and I to watch not only the Mets game, but also Mike Piazza‘s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Everywhere we went, Mets were talking about how excited they were for both an important game against the Marlins, but also to see Piazza join Tom Seaver as the only Mets players in the Hall of Fame. My son got caught up in the excitement as well singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Meet the Mets.”  However, he was most excited when he got his lemonade. Check that, he took my peach jalapeño sticking me with the Strawberry one. 

  
It’s a big Mets day, I’ll call it my Darryl Strawberry one. 

Naturally, we started with the Mets game as Piazza wasn’t at the podium. By the way, God bless whoever created picture-in-picture. The Mets game got off to a great start with Michael Conforto showing that he just might be able to play well in center field:

Then, in the third, Jose Reyes would hit a two out RBI triple scoring Conforto, who was actually in scoring position. The Mets had a 1-0 lead, and soon it would be time to tune in to watch Piazza officially become a Hall of Famer:

  
His speech was perfect. 

He touched on everything you would want him to touch upon.  He spoke glowingly about his boyhood idol Mike Schmidt and how Johnny Bench was the standard bearer at the position.  He thanked everyone on the Dodgers including Tommy LaSordaEric Karros, and Tom Candiotti. He talks about how great it was growing up as a Dodger before talking poignantly about what it meant to him to be a Met. 

He talked about how John Franco welcomed him into his home and gave him his #31. He talked about his on and off the field relationship with Al Leiter. He spoke about how clutch Edgardo Alfonzo was making it easier for him to do what he did, which was hit big homers including the post 9/11 home run. 

But like the most of the speech, Piazza deflected the attention away from himself. Instead, he talked about the real heroes were those that gave their lives on 9/11. Much like the moment he hit that home run, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house – Cooperstown, yours, and mine. 

His acknowledgment of Mets fans was also touching. It’s something that’s not always seen in Hall of Fame speeches. It was touching to hear he loved us as we loved him.

All while this was happening, Steven Matz was back in form, and he was mowing down the Marlins. I barely noticed him pitching six innings allowing four runs, none earned, and two walks with six strikeouts. By the time, I was fully re-engaged in the game I mostly ignored in the picture-in-picture, Hansel Robles was on the mound. 

Robles did what he has done for most of the year and shut down the opposition. He seems to have been given the seventh inning job, and he has it locked down. 

In the top of the eighth, the Mets finally got some insurance. Yoenis Cespedes singled home Alejandro De Aza, who had reached base on a wild pitch by Kyle Barraclough after striking out. Seriously, how else would De Aza reach base?  James Loney singled home Curtis Granderson. The Mets seemed poised for more after a Kelly Johnson walk. However, Asdrubal Cabrera hit into a force out with Cespedes out at home (initially ruled safe, but it was overturned on replay) making him 0-32 in his last 32 at bats with runners in scoring position. Juan Lagares then lined out to end the rally. 

Lagares had come on for defense in place of Conforto in the seventh. Conforto has played well before the seventh showing he could be a viable option going forward. He also had a nice day at the plate going 2-2 with a run scored. 

After eight, it was 3-0 Mets which was a lot more support than Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia needed. Reed and Familia shut the door giving the Mets a 3-0 win putting them a half-game behind the Marlins. It was Familia’s 34th straight save this year and 51 straight dating back to last year. 

It put the end to what was a great day to be a Mets fan. 

From Todd Hundley to Mike Piazza

The things we are willing to tell ourselves as fans can sometimes be quite outlandish.  Back in 1997, if you polled Mets fans, they would probably tell you they would rather have Todd Hundley than Mike Piazza.  Why not?

The two were the same age.  Both were All Stars in 1996 and 1997.  In those two years, Hundley had hit 71 homers to Piazza’s 76.  Hundley had 198 RBI to Piazza’s 229.  Hundley’s 53 doubles surpassed Piazza’s 48.  In fact, Hundley’s 127 extra base hits were actually two more than Piazza’s 125.  On top of that, Hundley was a switch hitter and a much better defensive catcher.  He was the homegrown Met that was afan favorite with his very own Todd Squad cheering section at Shea Stadium.  Hundley’s career was taking off, and he was seen by Mets fans as a newer version of Gay Carter.  When he returned from his elbow surgery in 1998, he was expected to once again be the slugging defensive minded catcher who was going to lead the Mets to the postseaon for this first time in a decade.  If you took a poll of Mets fans, they may begrudging admit Piazza was the better player, but overall, they would also state their belief that they would rather have Hundley as he was their guy.  It was all a moot point anyway because there was no way the Dodgers would ever get rid of Piazza.

Until they did.  There wasn’t a baseball fan alive in 1998 that was utterly shocked when Piazza was traded to the Florida Marlins along with future Met Todd Zeile for a package that included future Met Gary Sheffield and former/future Met Bobby Bonilla.  Once Piazza was a Marlin, the world over knew the team that sold everything except the copper wiring after winning the 1997 World Series was going to trade the impending free agent Piazza.  All of a sudden, the very same Mets fans who loved Hundley, desperately wanted Piazza.  Myself included.

It was certainly possible.  In that offseason, the Mets had acquired Al Leiter and Dennis Cook.  There was a reporte there.  Even with those trades, the Mets still had a good farm system headlined by Mookie Wilson‘s stepson, Preston Wilson, who could justifiable headline a Piazza trade.  Without Hundley, the team was languishing around .500, and they needed a shot in the arm if they were ever going to earn a postseason berth.  You could tell yourself that when Hundley got back he could either play left field in place of the struggling Bernard Gilkey or in right in place of another fan favorite, Butch Huskey.  At least, that is what you told yourself.

Amazing, it actually happened.  On May 22, 1998, the 24-20 Mets actually pulled off a trade to acquire Piazza.  Perhaps just as a amazing, when the Mets activated Hundley from the disabled list on July 22nd, they put him in left field.  Very rarely in life does things happen exactly as you imagined it would.  This did.

Except it didn’t.  While Piazza was originally greeted with a hero’s welcome, he would then become roundly booed by the very same fan base who was desperate to acquire him.  Hundley would be a disaster in left field.  As uncomfortable as he was in the field, he was equally uncomfortable at the plate hitting .162/.248/.252 with only one home run.  He eventually forced Bobby Valentine‘s hand, and he became the backup catcher to Piazza.  In retrospect, how could it have ever worked?  Piazza was a star in Los Angeles, which is nowhere near the hot bed New York was.  Hundley was a catcher out of the womb as he was taught the position by his father Randy Hundley.

But then on a September 16th game in the old Astrodome, it all worked according to plan.  In the top of the ninth, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Piazza, who had been 0-3 on the night, stepped in the box against Billy Wagner with two on and two out.  He would launch a go-ahead three run homer.  After Cook blew the save in the ninth, Hundley would be summoned to pinch hit in the top of the 11th.  He would hit a game winning home run.  It would be the first and only time Piazza and Hundley would homer in the same game.  In fact, it was Hundley’s last homer as a Met.  At that point, the Mets seemed to have control of the Wild Card, but they would eventually fall apart, thanks in LARGE part to Mel Rojas, and they would just miss out on the postseason.

Going into that offseason, the Mets had to make a choice.  Do you stick with your guy Hundley behind the plate, or do you bring back Piazza.  To everyone’s delight, the Mets made Piazza the highest paid player in the game giving him a seven year $91 million dollar contract.  When the Mets re-signed him, the Mets seemed assured of returning to the postseason.

And they did with the help of both Piazza and Hundley.  With Piazza back in the fold, the Mets had to move Hundley.  That spurned two shrewd moves by Steve Phillips that helped build a supporting cast around their superstar.  Hundley was traded for Roger Cedeno and Charles Johnson, the same Johnson who was traded by the Marlins to acquire Piazza.  Cedeno would spend 1999 being tutored by Rickey Henderson, and he would set the then Mets single season record for stolen bases while manning right field.  Phillips would then flip Johnson for Armando Benitez, who would become a dominant closer out of the bullpen.

Piazza was dominant that year.  He hit .301/.361/.575 with 40 homers, a Mets right-handed batter single season record, and 124 RBI, which is the Mets single season record.  He led the Mets throught the play-in game and into the NLCS.  His seventh inning opposite field home run off John Smoltz in Game Six of the NLCS tied the game at 7-7.  In a game they once trailed 5-0 and 7-3 and a series they had trailed three games to none, it seemed like the Mets were on the verge of pulling off the impossible.  With a Kenny Rogers walk, they didn’t.  The Mets came so close to making the World Series, but they fell short.  Even with as much as Piazza gave them, they would need more in order to make it to their first World Series since 1986 and to play in consecutive postseasons in team history.

Amazingly, Piazza had another gear.  He would hit .324/.398/.614 with 38 homers and 113 RBI.  It remains the highest slugging percentage in team history.  The 78 homers and 237 RBI over two years stands as the team records over a two year stretch.  He would tie the Mets single season record with three grand slams.  In 2000, the Mets would go to the World Series, and they would fall agonizingly close as his shot to center field fell just short of tying the game.

It was a start to an amazing Mets career and part of a Hall of Fame career.  Before Piazza left the Mets after the 2005 season, he would hold many records.  He would have the most home runs by any right-handed Mets batter and second most all time to Darryl Strawberry.  He would also be second to Strawberry in team RBI.  He would be passed by David Wright in those catergories.  However, Wright wouldn’t pass Piazza in some other catergories.  Piazza has the third highest team batting average, and he has the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.  He would also hit the most home runs all time by a catcher surpassing Johnny Bench.  It was one of many memorable home runs in Piazza’s time with the Mets, which included the June 30, 2000 home run capping a 10 run eighth inning rally that saw the Mets overcome an 8-1 deficit against the Braves, and the most important home run he would ever hit:

Now, Piazza is going to be a Hall of Famer.  He is going to be a Hall of Famer in a Mets uniform.  It never seemed possible.

Years ago, Mets fans would’ve picked Hundley over Piazza.  Almost twenty years later, Piazza chose us when he chose to enter the Hall of Fame as a New York Met joining Tom Seaver as the only Mets in the Hall of Fame.  It was an incredible ride that has seen Piazza become perhaps the most beloved Met to ever wear the uniform.  He deserves that love and much more.  He deserves every congratulation and accolade the Mets, Mets fans, and all of baseball can throw his way.

Thank you Mike Piazza.

 

You Can’t Watch Both Piazza and the Mets

On Sunday, the Mets have an important game against the Miami Marlins.  Entering this three game set, the Marlins led the Mets by 1.5 games for the Wild Card Spot. Friday night’s win shrunk that lead to 0.5 Depending on the results of today’s game, the Mets could be leaving Miami having surpassed the Marlins for the second Wild Card spot. 

Overall, no matter how much is at stake in what will be the most important game of the season to date, not one Mets fan will be watching that game. 

Instead, they will be watching Mike Piazza join Tom Seaver as the second Met to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. We want to hear the improbable story of just not how a 62nd round draft pick persevered and became not just a major leaguer, but also the greatest hitting catcher. We want to re-live every home run including his post 9/11 home run which means more to New York and Mets fans than anyone could possibly know. We want to remember those 1999 and 2000 years that were among the best in Mets history. And yes, we will enjoy some schadenfreude that it’s Piazza getting inducted and not Roger Clemens

We will all watch Piazza and not the Mets game because they are both on at the same time. The Mets game starts at 1:10 and the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony begins at 1:30. In essence, baseball is making fans choose between watching their favorite team and watching their favorite player be forever immortalized.  You can’t even pray for rain as Marlins Park has the retractable roof. You have to choose between one or the other.  It makes no sense, and it’s something that is an easy fix. 

Major League Baseball and the Baseball Hall of Fame could coordinate this to permit fans to watch both the induction and the games. The induction ceremony could be moved up an hour or so, and/or the games could be pushed back to permit fans to see both without conflict. It makes sense, and by the way, isn’t this what baseball wants?  Don’t they want fans to watch both the induction ceremony and the games?  

To answer the rhetorical question, of course they do. The fans want to watch both as well. With that in mind, baseball needs to fix this situation as soon as possible. It’s too late this year. Hopefully, it won’t be when Carlos Beltran joins Seaver and Piazza in the Hall of Fame. 

Wright’s Most Important Season

When David Wright came up in 2004, we thought every year was going to be like last year. Much like this year, we anticipated that each and every year Wright manned third base, the Mets would contend for a World Series. 

As we know, it didn’t happen that way. A lot went wrong. The Mets came ever so close in 2006. They collapsed in 2007 and 2008. A poorly designed outfield, poor personnel decisions, and financial crisis ensued. Then, as things began to turn around, Wright injured his hamstring. Then he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Last year was his first trip to the World Series. This year may be his last year as a key contributor on a World Series team. 

It could also be Wright’s last year to build his Hall of Fame credentials. 

Third base is the least represented position in the Hall of Fame. Accordingly, standards are high to enter the Hall of Fame as a third baseman.  The average of 13 Hall of Famers at the position had a career WAR of 67.5, a WAR7 (best seven years combined) of 42.7, and a JAWS of 55.1. Looking at the stats, Wright falls short. His career WAR is 50.1. His WAR7 is 40.0. His JAWS is 45.1. For a player that Mets fans believed would be a Hall of Famer, he now has an uphill climb. 

WAR7

Looking at theses factors, it’s presumably easiest for Wright to increase his WAR7. To do so, he would need to have one year where he accumulates 2.7 more WAR that his seventh best season. Here are his seven best WAR seasons:

  1. 2007 – 8.3
  2. 2012 – 7.0
  3. 2008 – 6.8
  4. 2013 – 5.9
  5. 2005 – 4.8
  6. 2006 – 4.1
  7. 2009 – 3.2

For Wright to put his WAR7 within range, he would need to have one more season that is 5.9 or better. Wright last did that in 2013. That year Wright only played on 112 games. He hit .307/.390/.514 with 18 homers and 58 RBI. His 156 OPS+ was the best of his career. In that season, Wright missed a significant amount of time with a strained hamstring. Sounds just like his April 2015 hamstring injury that wouldn’t heal. 

The Mets are hopeful that Wright can play 130 games in 2016. Judging from Wright’s 2013 season, it is certainly possible that Wright can have a 5.9 season again. A better and much stronger Mets lineup will assist him in that task. 

Cumulative WAR

Going into the 2016 season, Wright has a career WAR of 55.1, which is presumably 12.4 behind the 67.5 career WAR he would need to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. 

This is where things may get a little tricky for Wright’s chances. Don Mattingly had back problems, and his once promising Hall of Fame career was over at 34. Lenny Dykstra had spinal stenosis, and his career was over at 33. David Wright is entering his age 33 season. Based on other player’s careers, he’s near the end of his career. If Wright plays past his age 34 season, he will be in uncharted territory. 

Naturally, it is safe to assume Wright will not have a 12.4 WAR season thereby cementing his Hall of Fame case. To do that, Wright would have to match Babe Ruth‘s 1927 season when he hit 60 homeruns. No, if Wright is going to accumulate the needed 12.4 WAR, he’s going to have to remain healthy and effective. He’s going to have to manage his spinal stenosis. 

Wright is currently signed until 2020. There are $90 million reasons why Wright will do all he can to finish that contract. 

Presuming Wright does do that, he has five more years left in his career. In order to attain the necessary 12.4 additional WAR, Wright will have to average a 2.5 WAR a year for those five seasons. 

In 2014, Wright played 134 games, and he was a 2.7 WAR player. In that season, he hit .269/.324/.374 with eight homers and 63 RBI. If Wright manages his back, and his treatments are effective, seasons like this over the next five years are certainly attainable. 

Other Criteria

As Wright’s peak is over, there really isn’t anything he can do to improve his JAWS. With that in mind, we need to look at other areas that would improve Wright’s Hall of Fame case. 

Unfortunately, he will be unable to surpass Mike Schmidt‘s 548 homeruns or even reach the once magic number 500 homeruns. He won’t catch Chipper Jones‘ 1,623 RBI. He won’t catch Brooks Robinson‘s 16 Gold Gloves at third base. It does not appear Wright will reach 3,000 hits as he would need to average 250 hits over the next five years to reach that number. No, it seems like the only thing that will help Wright is the narrative. 

The best thing going for Wright is the fact that he will most likely play his entire career as a Met. Aside from Tom Seaver, Wright is making a case as the best player to ever play for the Mets. Here are his Mets rankings:

  • Games Played – Second (307 behind Ed Kranepool)
  • Runs – First
  • Hits – First 
  • Doubles – First
  • Homeruns – Second (17 behind Darryl Strawberry)
  • RBI – First

In addition, Wright’s 50.1 WAR with the Mets is the second most any player has accumulated with the Mets; the most accumulated by any Mets position player. Even with Mike Piazza‘s recent election to the Hall of Fame, it appears that Wright is the team’s best position player. 

So overall, Wright still has a legitimate shot at the Hall of Fame. His name will be atop all the major offensive catergories. His WAR and other catergories will put him on the cusp of election. A strong 2016 will get him a lot closer to those goals. 

Winning a World Series in 2016 can’t hurt either. 

Editor’s Note: this article also appeared on metsmerizedonline.com

Beltran Could Be the Next Mets Hall of Famer

There was a long 23 year wait between the induction of Tom Seaver and the induction of Mike Piazza to the Hall of Fame.  While I’m still overjoyed at Piazza entering the Hall of Fame as a Met, I’m curious if the Mets will have to wait another 23 years for another one of their players to go in as a Met. 

Looking over the future years’ ballots, there are some former Met players like Jason Isringhausen eligible. However, it’s not likely any of them will be elected. Furthermore, if they are elected, they will most likely not be inducted as a Met. Therefore, if we don’t want to wait another 23 years, we’re going to have to look at current players; preferably those towards the end of their careers. As it so happens, it has been rumored Carlos Beltran may retire at the end of the year. That would mean he could be inducted anywhere between 2022 – 2032. That would mean the next possible Mets Hall of Famer would be within the next six to 16 years. 

However, I’m getting ahead of myself here. The first question is whether or not Beltran is a Hall of Famer. I’d argue he is. 

For his career, Beltran has hit .280/.355/.490 with 392 homers while playing the majority of his career at a premium defensive position. In an average season, he hits 28 homers and 101 RBI. He’s part of the 300/300 club. He’s won the Rookie of the Year, been an eight time All Star, and won three Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. All of this is indicative of a Hall of Fame career. 

The advanced stats also suggest he has a good case. On average, a Hall of Field centerfielder has a 70.4 WAR, 44.0 WAR7 (best seven seasons WAR combined), and a 57.2 JAWS score. Beltran right now is at 68.4/44.3/56.4. Essentially, his peak years were Hall of Fame worthy, and he’s right on the cusp of playing his entire career at a Hall of Fame level. 

Even if he falls short in a few areas, he’s bound to get credit for being an incredible postseason player. He has hit .332/.441/.674 in the postseason. Strikeout or not, he’s amongst the greatest postseason performers in major league history. If he retires without playing a game this season, he’s a Hall of Famer. 

The next question is what hat will he wear. That’s not as clear cut. Essentially, Beltran will have three options: (1) Royals; (2) Mets; or (3) no affiliation. It’s a tough decision. He played eight years each for the Royals and Mets, playing only 44 games more with the Mets. Overall, he was a better player with the Mets. 

He hit .280/.369/.500 with 149 homers as a Met as opposed to .287/.352/.483 with 123 homers as a Royal. He won all of his Gold Gloves as a Met, and he appeared in five of his eight All Star Games as a Met. He accumulated 31.3 WAR with the Mets and 24.7 WAR with the Royals. However, you can’t discount the potential emotional tug he may feel towards the team that drafted him. A place he won his Rookie of the Year Award. 

It all got me thinking. Piazza chose the Mets, in part, due to his relationship with the fans. Like Piazza, Beltran initially had a rocky relationship with Mets fans getting booed in 2005. However, even with the strikeout, I believe things got better. He received cheers and standing ovations in his last home game as a Met. He noticed them too. He Was cheered loudly at the 2013 All Star Game during introductions, and that was while wearing a Cardinals uniform. Lastly, but more importantly, Beltran said he could see himself entering the Hall of Fame as a Met

Like Piazza, Beltran was a great Met. Like Piazza, Beltran deserves induction into the Hall of Fame. When that day comes, I hope Beltran is like Piazza, and he enters the Hall of Fame as a Met. 

Editor’s Note: this article first appeared on metsmerizedonline.com

Did Piazza Use Steroids?

There have been some irresponsible opinions that Mike Piazza‘s election to the Hall of Fame means it will pave the way for  known steroid users to be elected to the Hall of Fame. This premise contains one potential logic fallacy. It presupposes Piazza used steroids. Did he?

Let’s start with the case against him. There are no reports, investigations, or tests linking him to steroids. The case against him boils down to rumor, innuendo, and skin problems. We have no statements from teammates, clubhouse workers, or anyone else who may have any link to Piazza establishing he used steroids. So that makes me question how do you counteract rumors and innuendo?  Facts don’t work. Piazza’s denials haven’t worked.  Overall, the only way to combat rumors and inneundo is to present what people will actually say in public about a person. 

Cliff Floyd was a teammate of Piazza from 2003 – 2005. Floyd is an analyst all over the place from MLB Radio, MLB Network, and SNY.  Here’s his opinion on steroid users and the Hall of Fame:

https://mobile.twitter.com/mlbnetworkradio/status/684848408364998656

Floyd doesn’t want steroid users in the Hall of Fame. Here’s how he reacted when Mike Piazza was elected:

Floyd didn’t choose to ignore Piazza’s election. He didn’t condemn the choice. He celebrated Piazza’s induction. Floyd shared a clubhouse with Piazza for three years. If anyone would know he used steroids, it was Floyd. However, there were no accusations from him. Just congratulations. From this it is apparent that Cliff Floyd does not believe his former teammate used steroids. 

I already know the rebuttal. Steroid testing  in baseball began in 2003. Of course Floyd saw nothing. This rebuttal doesn’t take into account that no teammate has ever spoken about Piazza using steroids. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been good enough thus far. To that, my next example is Al Leiter

Like Floyd, Leiter is all over the place covering baseball. Leiter was Piazza’s teammate from 1998 – 2004. They played together a long time, and Leiter threw to Piazza more than any other catcher. Here was Leiter’s ballot on MLB Network:

  
It should first be noted Leiter doesn’t actually have a ballot. The above photo from MLB Network shows how he would have voted if he had a vote. 

Note, there’s no Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens on the ballot. Leiter didn’t vote for two people who have been linked to steroids use during their careers.  These are two people who would’ve been elected but for their steroid use.  Leiter didn’t vote for people who we know from various sources that used steroids. Yet, Leiter voted for Piazza. Other than Piazza himself, who would know better than Leiter if Piazza used steroids? 

If teammates like Leiter and Floyd don’t link Piazza to steroid use, how can anyone else?  If we’re going by word of mouth or rumor, shouldn’t we at least take into account the opinions of Piazza’s teammates?  These are people who have put their name out there and have separated Piazza from the group of known steroid users. They now are now members of the media and are staking their reputations if it ever came out that Piazza used steroids.  I find it hard to believe there is a massive Mets cover up afoot; a coverup which includes each and every player and former player. 

Isn’t this substantive proof that Piazza DID NOT use steroids?  Isn’t this more than what has been presented by anyone as a factual basis to prove Piazza used steroids?  Why doesn’t anyone ever discuss this aspect of whether or not someone used steroids?  It seems the people saying Piazza used steroids are the ones that didn’t play the game. They weren’t the ones in the Mets locker room. Somehow, we’re supposed to believe they know more about Piazza than people who were with him every day from February to early October. It doesn’t add up. 

Therefore, using the same “standard of proof” others have used, it is conclusive Piazza didn’t use steroids.  

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on metsmerizedonline.com