Hall of Fame
Time and again, we see feelings get in the way of what should largely be an objective Hall of Fame voting process. We see Kirby Puckett be a first ballot player while Kenny Lofton failing to garner the requisite 5% to stay on the ballot despite Lofton having a significantly higher WAR.
Much of the reason for that disparity in the voting was how voters felt about the players. Puckett felt like a Hall of Famer while apparently the vast majority felt Lofton didn’t.
That’s partially the hurdle Bobby Abreu is facing right now.
In Abreu’s 18 year career, he was an All-Star just two times. He was never in the top 10 in MVP voting, and he only received MVP votes in just seven seasons. He won just Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. Abreu had just two 30 home run seasons, and he batted over .300 six times.
Abreu was a player exposed in the expansion draft. He was obtained from the Tampa Bay Rays for Kevin Stocker. A rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies team basically just contract dumped his salary on the New York Yankees. Late in his career, he was released by the Los Angeles Angels in the midst of a contract most felt was a gross overpay at its inception.
Much of Abreu’s career was spent talking about what he wasn’t more than what he was. There was more talk about his purported fear of fielding balls by the wall than his range. There was talk of his not having the prototypical home run totals for a right fielder while ignoring his doubles and OBP. Fair or not, these were all factors which worked against Abreu in how he was perceived during his playing career. Fair or not, it is something which has seemingly worked against him in Hall of Fame voting.
We see that disparity in how he was perceived against a contemporary player in Vladimir Guerrero. Guerreo was a player who felt like a great player and a Hall of Famer. He had a cannon in right field. He could hit the ball no matter where it was pitched. He was an All-Star nine times, and he was an eight time Silver Slugger.
Guerrero was the 2002 AL MVP, and he had received MVP votes in 11 different seasons finishing in the top 10 five different times. He had eight 30 home run seasons and two 40 home run seasons. He hit over .300 in 13 different seasons. Overall, in his playing days, Guerrero not only felt like a great player, but he also had the aura of a future Hall of Famer. That came to fruition when he was inducted on the second ballot.
During their playing days and even know, Guerrero was seen as the better player. The interesting thing is when you actually break it down, Abreu might’ve been the better player.
Looking at the two players, Abreu’s 60.2 WAR is higher than Guerrero’s 59.5. Abreu has more runs, doubles, triples, walks, and stolen bases while having a higher OBP. Abreu was arguably a better defensive player and base runner than Guerrero. Looking at the expanded Hall of Fame stats, Abreu’s 41.6 WAR7 and 50.9 JAWS were better than Guerrero’s 41.2 and 50.3
So, again, when we are looking at contemporary players with a similar electorate far and away the disparity we are seeing between the two players is how we feel about each player. In the end, Guerrero did the things to reach his WAR totals which felt more comforting to the Hall of Fame voter. By and large more homers and a higher OPS+ or wRC+ were of more importance to get to a smaller WAR number than Abreu’s which was fueled by better on-base skills, base running, and defense.
Beyond this, there is an interesting debate to be had about Abreu’s Hall of Fame case. His WAR fells fairly well short of the 71.9 average for Hall of Fame right fielders. He didn’t crack 300 homers, but he did have 574 doubles which is fourth most all-time at the position. He’s in the top 20 in OBP at the position. He is very clearly one of the best right fielders in MLB history, but the question for him right now is whether he is truly in that upper echelon who belongs in the Hall of Fame.
For Guerrero, the answer was a resounding yes, but for Abreu, so far, that has been a fairly decided no. When you break it down, the real reason is more because of how people felt about his career while he played and not and not so much because of how he really stacks up against players of his generation and other Hall of Famers.
When it comes to Omar Vizquel‘s Hall of Fame case, it’s predicated more on opinion than anything substantive. Essentially, some people liked his defense, so they want to vote for him.
It took Vizquel 24 years to accumulate 45.6 WAR. That 45.6 number is well below the 67.5 which is the average from Hall of Famers at that position. When you realize he’s averaged less than 2.0 WAR per season, you really have to wonder where the love for him is deriving.
Sure, he won 11 Gold Gloves, but he was nowhere near the defender or player Mark Belanger was, and Belanger is still on the outside looking in for Hall of Fame voting. Also, considering Keith Hernandez is on the outside looking in, it’s not like winning 10+ Gold Gloves guarantees entry.
Then, we have the character clause issue.
In a report by Katie Strang and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Vizquel was accused of repeated acts of domestic violence by his wife Bianca during their divorce proceedings. There were also multiple police investigations.
It should be noted Vizquel denies the allegations. That said, many see that as a reason to not vote for Vizquel, which is quite understandable.
What is curious is this is seen by many as disqualifying for Vizquel but not Barry Bonds. Most likely, that’s because the accusations against Bonds is well over 25 years ago.
When Bonds was divorcing his first wife, she testified, “Barry was this big man who loved me one minute and the next minute was beating me up, and I didn’t know what to do.” (Ken Hoover, SF Gate).
In the divorce proceedings, she talked about being “habitually beaten” over the course of their six year marriage. Like with Vizquel, there were police reports. The incidents purportedly included getting “pushed to the ground and kicked while eight months pregnant.”
Like Vizquel, Bonds denied the allegations. However, as noted, unlike Vizquel, this isn’t an issue with Bonds’ candidacy.
This isn’t an isolated instance either for Bonds. During BALCO, it was discovered Bonds was verbally (but not physically) abusive and controlling of mistress Kimberely Bell. Voicemails included threats of mutilation and beheadings.
Overall, Bonds has more allegations and testimony against him than Vizquel. There are also voicemails. However, it’s not getting the same attention or publicity.
If you believe the accusations disqualify Vizquel, it should also disqualify Bonds. While Bonds’ 762 homers may have people overlook his PED usage, it shouldn’t also have voters look past his violence towards women. It’s the same with Vizquel and his 11 Gold Gloves.
Ultimately, if you don’t believe Vizquel should be inducted into the Hall of Fame due to the domestic violence allegations, you should also believe it serves as a barrier to Bonds’ induction.
The reason Schilling isn’t going to be inducted is Schilling. His post playing career has just been mired in controversy. In the end, it’s become too much for voters as evidenced by Sean Forman of Baseball Reference.
Last year, I didn't vote for Schilling. I've decided not to again this year. Given his past comments on Muslims & the LGTBQ community, I will not support giving him a broader platform. I see his statements as being over a line I can implicitly support.
— Sean Forman (@sean_forman) December 4, 2020
Voters who feel this way are well within their rights, and there is a specific clause in play which permits them to act upon their personal objections to Schilling’s behavior and statements
What’s curious is why Schilling faces the brunt of the character clause in a way others don’t.
Yes, that clause was been weaponized against PED users. That’s a large reason why Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and others haven’t been inducted. However, Bonds and Clemens haven’t been subjected to the character clause in the same way Schilling has.
Both Bonds and Clemens were charged with perjury related to their testimony regarding steroid use. While Clemens was initially cleared, it took Bonds two appeals to have his conviction overturned.
During his first marriage, Bonds was accused of abusing his wife, and there was “at least once during the marriage.”
Clemens has never been accused of abuse. However, he has had rumors of affairs. That includes an inappropriate relationship with a minor, which both sides attest did not grow to become physical until she was of age.
Moving in terms of Schilling territory, both Bonds and Clemens have their own issues.
Former MLB player Ron Kittle accused Bonds of saying, “I don’t sign for white people.” Bonds did categorically deny he said that. It must also be noted there have no been similar allegations against Bonds during his career.
On that note, Bonds was not popular with teammates or the media. Going back to college, Bonds was actually voted off his team. Given how many had an axe to grind against Bonds, and how unapologetically outspoken he’s been, if there was more, you’d imagine more people would’ve come forward.
With Bonds, you have unconfirmed accusations. To overlook those is certainly understandable. If a writer wants something more tangible or substantial before acting upon it, it’s understandable.
Clemens doesn’t face hearsay allegations like Bonds. We have statements made by Clemens. Specifically, Clemens made a crack the dry cleaners were all closed in Japan and South Korea during the World Baseball Classic. While some may want to equate that to a misunderstanding, there are other allegations.
Clemens is also a notorious head hunter who injured many players arguably intentionally. It’s something his future Yankees teammates griped about before Clemens joined their team. We know Clemens went so far as to throw a bat at Mike Piazza during the World Series.
There’s more with Clemens as well including his throwing food at a reporter over a story he didn’t appreciate. All in all, on and off the field, Clemens has done things which should invite writers to invoke the character clause against him.
Ultimately, writers are withholding votes from Schilling due to his actions and statements. However, they’re not doing the same with Clemens.
Remember, Clemens has injured players on the field, made racially charged remarks, and has had inappropriate relationships outside of his marriage. For those writers voting for him and not Schilling, they do need to offer an explanation how they find Clemens behavior acceptable and where exactly their line is.
Mark Buehrle is one of those Hall of Fame candidates some immediate dismiss only to keep returning to the name. One of the reasons why is he had a long career where he was at least a good pitcher for 15 years.
It’s amazing to think he had a 15 year career with just two of those years being under a 100 ERA+. One of those years was a 95 and the other a 99. In both of those seasons, he surpassed 200 innings.
For 14 straight years, Buehrle surpassed 200 innings, and he fell just 1.1 innings of hitting that mark in his final season. That 14 year stretch was one short of tying the all-time record jointly held by Cy Young, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, and Warren Spahn.
There’s some more impressive feats and company. Buehrle is tied for third all-time with 15 consecutive 30 start seasons. He’s tied with Perry and behind just Spahn and Young. Notably, in all 15 of those seasons Buehrle won 10+ games.
Buehrle was thrown two hitters with one of those two being a perfect game. That is a feat which has been accomplished only by NUMBER of other pitchers – Sandy Koufax, Young, Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson, Jim Bunning, and Addie Joss. Those are all Hall of Famers.
When you see that group, it gives you some pause and makes you realize Buehrle does merit a closer look. In that closer look, you see he’s been better than some Hall of Fame pitchers.
Both Buehrle and Whitey Ford pitched 16 years with Buehrle having the higher WAR. However, it should be noted Ford had lost two years to military service and had postseason success.
Bunning pitched one more year than Buehrle. Buehrle had a higher ERA+ than Bunning. In fact, Buehrle also had a higher ERA+ than several Hall of Famers. That includes Niekro and Sutton.
That also includes Jack Morris who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee. Looking at these two, Buehrle had the better WAR, ERA, ERA*, and K/BB among other stats.
That’s what so interesting about Buehrle. When you dig deep into the numbers you see a pitcher who compares quite well to pitchers inducted into the Hall of Fame. That includes those inducted fairly recently.
Yes, Buehrle does fall short in a number of areas. For example, the average Hall of Fame starter has a 73.3 WAR, 50.0 WAR7, and a 61.6 JAWS. Buehrle is at a 59.1/35.8/47.4.
Still, Buehrle accomplished things in his career only Hall of Famers have accomplished. He’s consistently in Hall of Fame company when you examine his career.
Ultimately, what this should tell us is Buehrle has a career which merits further consideration. Hopefully, he passes the five percent mark to permit us to do that instead of letting the Veterans Committee take an ad hoc look at him in the future.
Take out Robinson Cano‘s PED suspensions, and he was going to be a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer. Really, when you break it down, the conversation around Cano wasn’t going to be whether he was inducted, but rather, where he ranked all-time among second basemen. That’s how good Cano has been in his career.
Naturally, Cano’s PED suspensions changed that. Instead of looking at him as a Hall of Famer, the discussion has shifted. Now, it is seen as a fait accompli Cano will not be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. At this point, there are even some who are at least inferring Cano will be five percented off the ballot when his candidacy arises:
Hall of Fame ballots are arriving. Robinson Cano will likely be on one of those someday. Hard to see him getting any support now.
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) November 18, 2020
While you can excuse the rush to judgment hot takes, in reality, it is bizarre people would hold that position at all. Certainly, Hall of Fame voting has given no indication whatsoever Cano will be a one-and-done when he hits the Hall of Fame ballot.
For that, we have to look no further than Manny Ramirez. Ramirez was the first player to fail two different PED tests. Despite that, he has lasted four years on the ballot. In fact, he has gone from 23.8% of the vote in his first year to 28.2% last year. No, those four gained votes doesn’t truly propel him towards the Hall of Fame, but he is still hanging on the ballot as the continued referendum on other PED users nears its conclusion.
This year is going to be the penultimate year on the ballot for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. At a 61.0% and 60.7% respectively, both players have been at least trending towards induction. Remember, both players debuted on the ballot with relatively low vote totals. In fact, in 2013, Bonds only received 36.2% of the vote, and Clemens received 37.6%.
Both players have steadily climbed, and there have been more than a few voters whose early positions have changed due to Bud Selig and Tony La Russa being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post said when opting to begin voting for PED users, “Selig getting in was a game changer for me.”
Certainly, Bonds and/or Clemens getting in could be game changers for other voters. On that point, no one can be quite sure whether they get in via the BBWAA vote over the course of the next two votes. If they are not inducted by that point, it’s well within the realm of possibility a Veteran’s Committee electorate who not only inducted people like Selig, LaRussa, and Joe Torre, each of whom were propelled into the Hall of Fame due to PED user, but may also may be very sympathetic to PED users will induct Bonds and Clemens on their own volition.
If that were to occur, testing positive will no longer be seen as a bar to induction into the Hall of Fame. If that is the case, we should see players like Ramirez get an uptick in voting. By natural extension, Cano’s chances would then be bolstered as well.
At this point, it is was too early to predict whether Cano will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Really, the only thing we do know is there are a number of test cases ahead of him, and very likely, there is going to be eight more years before this is even up for a debate. When we get to that point, lets see what has happened with Bonds, Clemens, and Ramirez before addressing the topic of what Cano’s second PED test has on his Hall of Fame chances.
Last night on ESPN, there was a documentary about how Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased down Roger Maris and each other to set the single season home run records. During this documentary and the ensuing hours, there was a renewed push and debate about inducting steroid users into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The arguments in favor of their induction remain as flawed today as they did when they were first made.
The first argument is this is a museum which cannot just blot out history completely misses the mark. The Baseball Hall of Fame recognizes these records and events. There is no editing these seasons from their record books. No, all that has happened is it was deemed they did not deserve the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Remember, not inducting someone does not mean failing to recognize a period in baseball history or that it makes the Hall of Fame incomplete. For that, just ask Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and the 1919 Black Sox.
The other argument is Bud Selig, the commissioner who purposefully turned a blind eye, was inducted into the Hall of Fame. What was funny about that is Tony La Russa, who really benefited from steroids with players like Jose Canseco and McGwire, was on the Veteran’s Committee which let Selig into the Hall of Fame.
Make no mistake, Selig’s induction was a complete and utter farce. He doesn’t belong there, but then again, for completely different reasons, neither does Harold Baines, who was also inducted by the Veteran’s Committee. Are we now going to argue since Baines was inducted anyone with a 38.7 WAR or better should be in the Hall of Fame?
No, of course not. With Baines, people are willing to admit it was a mistake which should not be repeated. For some reason, people can’t separate that out in their furtherance of their arguments for steroid users.
The other argument brings us to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Specifically, people try to find a point of demarcation to say when they did and did not start using PEDs, and they then try to say they should or should not be inducted into the Hall of Fame based upon that. Of course, with Rose, the Hall of Fame doesn’t try to parse out when you did or did not cheat because that’s just an absurd exercise to try to push an agenda forward.
Looking at Bonds and Clemens, you do wonder if these same arguments will be rekindled with Carlos Beltran and Justin Verlander, who before the Houston Astros cheating scandal were surefire Hall of Famers. On that note, you do wonder how the same people who vociferously argue for Bonds’ Hall of Fame induction could be so up in arms about the Astros cheating scandal.
If you want Bonds inducted into the Hall of Fame, you are admitting you have no problem whatsoever to ill gotten gains. That is well within your right. You are entitled to try to make arguments in favor of Bonds’ induction including but not limited to the classic arguments of everyone in that era was doing it (overstated), and that even players like Hank Aaron used PEDs (greenies) to achieve their results.
However, if you are going to make that argument, there should not be any arguments made in protest of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal. None.
Sign stealing is as old a problem in baseball as PEDs. Likely, it has been around much longer. When we go back to Bobby Thompson and the Shot Heard Round the World, the Giants were using their own sophisticated sign stealing operation using the scoreboard lights to indicate to the batter which pitch was coming. In many ways, this is really no different than what the Houston Astros did by banging trash cans.
Another note here is we are learning the Astros were not the only ones stealing signs. In 2017, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were fined for using bullpen phones and smart watches in their own sign stealing efforts. We’d find out when Alex Cora went to the Red Sox, the team took their existing program to the next level. There have been more rumors about the sign stealing process being far more reaching than just these three teams.
Really, when you break it down the Astros sign stealing it is no different than Bonds’ steroid use. The Astros did what others were doing at a higher level to win a World Series. Bonds did what everyone else was doing at a higher level to break the home run record.
If you want one rewarded for his efforts by inducting him into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it is hypocritical to take any issue with what the Astros did. Either you think cheating should be rewarded, or you don’t. If you want Bonds inducted, you don’t have an issue with cheating at all.
In 2011, John Franco had his first and only year on the Hall of Fame ballot. After garnering just 4.6% of the vote, he was five percented off of the Hall of Fame ballot. Had he received just three more votes, he could have stayed on the ballot one more year, and we could have seen what, if any, momentum could have been made towards getting him inducted into the Hall of Fame.
At the time, you could understand why Franco did not last long on the ballot. After all, Lee Smith, who retired as the all-time saves leader, had only received 45.3% of the vote in his ninth year on the ballot. At the same time, any and all things relievers had done over the 70s, 80s, and 90s were being completely dwarfed by Mariano Rivera. For an electorate still widely holding onto a feel approach, you could see why Franco didn’t feel like a Hall of Famer.
However, times change. Since Franco fell off of the ballot, we have begun to see a standard emerge for the induction of relievers into the Hall of Fame. When you start to break some of them down, you see Franco belongs in the Hall of Fame.
To start, we should denote the relievers who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame are Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, and Mariano Rivera. Looking at the group, Eckersley was the first pure one inning closer inducted, and we have to move forward to Hoffman’s induction for the one inning closer who did not have a stint as a starting pitcher.
To determine how Franco matches up with these relievers, we should first look to Franco’s career stats. In parenthesis is where Franco stacks up against the eight relievers already inducted into the Hall of Fame:
- Saves 424 (4)
- Games Finished (4)
- ERA 2.89 (6)
- ERA+ 138 (4)
- WAR 23.4 (9)
- WAR7 15.3 (9)
- JAWS 19.4 (9)
Starting with the clear negative, Franco does not have the advanced WAR stats to make a clear and distinct case why he should belong with the eight members already inducted. On that note, relievers as a group fall well short of the already established Hall of Fame WAR standards.
Looking at position players and starting pitchers, catchers have the lowest average WAR among Hall of Famers. That WAR is 53.6 which is significantly higher than the 39.1 WAR for the average Hall of Fame closer. If we were to hold tight and fast with the WAR standard, with the exception of Eckersley and Rivera, all closers would fall short. To a certain extent that makes a WAR predicated arguments on closers somewhat flawed.
Really, when you break it down, closers appear to be the ultimate in compilers getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hoffman was the classic example of that. Despite his not being as good as a closer as Smith in terms of ERA+, Hoffman was inducted by the writers, and Smith had to wait for the Veteran’s Committee.
One interesting thing about Hoffman was he only led the league in saves twice, and he never led the league in games finished. Notably, Franco led the league in saves three times, and he led the league in games finished twice. Like Smith, Franco falls short of Hoffman’s save totals. However, no left-handed reliever has accumulated more saves than Franco.
Since 1994, Franco has led all left-handed pitchers in saves. That’s two more saves than Billy Wagner, who is getting increasing support for the Hall of Fame. It is also 66 saves more than Randy Myers who has the third most saves among left-handed relievers.
Looking at the overall saves picture, Franco is fifth all-time in saves. Looking at the active closers, the soon to be 32 year old Craig Kimbrel has 346 saves putting him 78 saves behind Franco. At a minimum, that means Franco will remain in the top five for at least a few more years. If Kimbrel’s knee and elbow problems from the 2019 persist, he may never get there.
When we look across the history of baseball, putting aside the steroids caveat which impacts players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, any player in the top five in a major statistical category is in the Hall of Fame. In fact, it goes much deeper than that. Taking out the steroid players and the ineligible ones like Pete Rose, it is really players in the top 10 to 20 in significant statistical categories are in the Hall of Fame.
Then, there is Franco. He has been in the top five all-time in saves for well over 30 years now. It appears he will remain there for another 10 years. He will likely remain there much longer than that, and he will likely be atop the left-handed reliever all-time saves list for nearly a century.
Like Harold Baines, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee, Franco did not seem like a Hall of Famer in 2011. Nearly a decade later, he still may not feel like a Hall of Famer. However, with each passing year his left-handed saves record stands and each year he remains in the top five all-time in saves, we may soon feel like someone who has more saves than literally tens of thousands of relievers belongs in the Hall of Fame.
With yesterday being International Women’s Day, Sabr released a bio of Joan Payson, the woman who was the original owner of the New York Mets. The article written by Joan M. Thomas was quite enlightening about just how important a figure Payson is not just in Mets but also Major League history.
As noted in the article, Payson was a pioneer who was the first woman to ever purchase a baseball team. This opportunity presented itself when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to California. For her part, Payson was a minority owner in the Giants, and she was one of the people who sought to bring National League Baseball back to New York with her being the owner of the New York team of the Continental League.
Payson loved baseball listening to games wherever she went. As we know, she unofficially retired 24 in honor of Willie Mays, her favorite player. She was involved with the Mets top to bottom including the team getting its name in her apartment.
Under her stewardship, the Mets not only obtained Tom Seaver, but they would become the first ever expansion team to win a World Series. That would make her the first ever woman to own a team to win the World Series. Through and through, Payson was a true baseball pioneer.
In that way, she has a profile similar to Hall of Famer Effa Manley. Manley was inducted into the Hall of Fame because of her ownership of the Newark Eagles, a team who would win the Negro League World Series in 1946. More than that, she emerged as an important owner who helped legitimize the league. In fact, when Larry Doby was signed by the Cleveland Indians, her team received compensation much in the same way we have seen NPL teams receive compensation when players like Ichiro Suzuki came to the Major Leagues.
With Manley’s induction, there was a precedent set. The Hall of Fame inducted Manley because she was a pioneer who was a winner. Manley was inducted because she was an important owner in the Negro Leagues. Ultimately, she was inducted because of her impact on the game.
No, Payson did not face the same societal problems Manley did. Far from it. However, Payson is an important figure in Major League history.
It was her involvement in the Continental League which helped drive expansion. She became the first woman to purchase a Major League team. She was the first ever woman to own a team which won the World Series. The effects of what she did as an owner are still present today.
Fact is, Payson is an important figure in Major League history, and her impact on the game should be recognized with her being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, when the Veteran’s Committee or Modern Baseball Committee convene later this year, Payson will not only be on the ballot, but she will also be elected.
Based upon his receiving just 18.1% of the vote last year, it does not seem like Jeff Kent will get anywhere close to the 75% threshold for Hall of Fame induction. Unfortunately, it does not appear as if he is going to get the push he needs to get anywhere close to that 75% in any of the subsequent three years meaning he will one day need to have his case reassessed by the Veteran’s Committee.
Now, there are viable reasons to overlook Kent’s candidacy. After all, his 55.4 WAR puts him below the 69.4 WAR of the average second baseman. The same can be said of his 35.7 WAR7 and 45.6 JAWS. Assessing just those numbers, you could say Kent belongs just in that proverbial Hall of Very Good, but not the Hall of Fame.
However, there is more to his case, and it merits a deeper look.
First and foremost, there are the homers. In his career, Kent hit 377 homers with 351 of them coming as a second baseman. That mark is the best among second baseman in Major League history. In terms of Hall of Fame eligible players, that puts him ahead of Rogers Hornsby, Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, and Joe Gordon, each of whom are Hall of Famers.
There’s more to it. Mike Piazza is the all-time leader in homers at the catcher position. Cal Ripken Jr. is the all-time leader in homers by a shortstop. Mike Schmidt is the all-time leader in homers at third. They are all in the Hall of Fame. Right now, looking across every position, the all-time home run leader at a position was inducted into the Hall of Fame when there was no PED issues.
There’s more to Kent’s offense than just homers. His 562 doubles were also the fifth most at the second base position putting him behind Hall of Famers like Biggio and Charlie Gehringer but ahead of Hornsby, Roberto Alomar, Billy Herman, Frankie Frisch, and Morgan. Breaking it down, Kent is the only Hall of Fame eligible player in the top ten in doubles at the second base position who has not been inducted.
Going deeper, Todd Helton and Kent are the only Hall of Fame eligible players at their position to be in the top five all-time in doubles (not implicated with PEDs) not inducted into the Hall of Fame. That was cemented with Ted Simmons recent election by the Veterans’ Committee.
While considered an out of date stat, Kent’s 1,518 RBI are the third most at the position. All of the Hall of Fame eligible second baseman in the top 10 are in the Hall of Fame except Kent. Again, barring PEDs, the top three Hall of Fame eligible players in RBI have been inducted. All except Kent.
In terms of RBI, there is more to it. Right now, the only non-PED implicated Hall of Fame eligible players who have at least 1,500 RBI not inducted into the Hall of Fame are Fred McGriff and Carlos Delgado. Essentially, if you are a non-1B with 1,500 RBI, you were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Kent is also second all-time in slugging at the position. Again, every clean Hall of Famer in the top two in slugging at their position has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. He’s also fourth in OPS. As you can assume, every clean Hall of Fame eligible player in the top five in OPS at their position have been inducted.
It’s this type of production which arguably makes Kent the second best offensive second baseman all-time to Hornsby. That would also make Kent the best at his position in the post World War II Era. It is one of the reasons why he was the 2000 National League MVP.
A second baseman winning the MVP is a rare feat indeed. In fact, there have been only 10 second baseman in Major League history who have done that. With the exception of Dustin Pedroia, who is not yet Hall of Fame eligible, everyone second baseman who has won the award is in the Hall of Fame. That’s everyone except Kent.
Really, the only reason Kent is not in the Hall of Fame is his abrasive personality and his defense. Honestly, there is not much to defend his defense, which was admittedly subpar. However, we should take into consideration Kent has turned the 11th most double plays among second baseman in Hall of Fame history. That is more than Sandberg and Biggio.
Also, for what it is worth his total zone rating is higher than Alomar’s. That’s not insignificant when Alomar is considered a very good defensive second baseman.
There’s one other factor to consider with Kent’s Hall of Fame case. He was an excellent postseason player. In 49 postseason games, he hit .276/.340/.500 with 11 doubles, nine homers, and 23 RBI. Prorated over a 162 game season, those numbers would equate to 36 doubles, 30 homers, and 76 RBI.
That is high end production in games which matter most. Speaking of which, in his only World Series appearance in 2002, he would hit three homers.
Overall, in his 17 year career, Jeff Kent established himself as the second best offensive second baseman, and really, he was the premier slugger at the position. For those efforts, he put up stats which would have been otherwise Hall of Fame worthy, and he would win an MVP award. While he may not be a proverbial first ballot Hall of Famerr, he is someone who has put together a career worthy of induction.
When it comes to Hall of Fame voting, there is rarely agreement. That’s why Mariano Rivera is the only player unanimously elected. It’s what makes the 75% hurdle a difficult one to overcome.
Some of the debate we’re currently having is very interesting. Should Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens be inducted into the Hall of Fame despite their steroid use? Does their having potentially Hall of Fame careers prior to the assumed time they started doping move the needle in either direction?
While we are on the subject of the character clause to what extent should it apply to Curt Schilling and his actions from his post playing career?
These are all good and worthwhile debates. These lead to different opinions and ballots.
When we see these ballots the debates should be interesting a fun. That said, there needs to be serious homework done as we are discussing the legacies of real human beings.
As long as that is done, we should respect the process no matter how much we disagree with the underlying premise. There should be room for people to look at things completely differently and rely on different information. We can disagree, and seeing the year-to-year results, we do.
That said, everyone should agree what Anthony Rieber of Newsday did was flat out wrong, and his vote should be discarded.
In 2018, he voted for Bonds, Clemens, Ramirez, Schilling, Andy Pettitte, and Omar Vizquel, who remained on the ballot, in addition to Rivera, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina, all three of whom were inducted.
This year it was just Derek Jeter.
If you think it was an absurd reason, you’re completely right. Effectively, Rieber said the other players on the ballot don’t deserve to share the day with Jeter:
I don’t have a vote on that 16-person committee, which is different from the BBWAA setup. So if someone is voted in from that group and joins Jeter on the stage, so be it.
For me, I could only consider the 32 names on the BBWAA ballot. Last year, I voted for nine players. This year, my ballot says No. 2 is the one and only.
As absurd as that was, he actually thinks Jeter belongs on a Mt. Rushmore with Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan.
Going back to the ballot, Rieber admits he thinks six returning players were worthy Hall of Famers, but he didn’t vote for them as they aren’t Jeter level Hall of Famers.
There are players like Bobby Abreu, who actually had a better career WAR than Vladimir Guerreo, in danger of getting five percented. Abreu lost one vote partially because Rieber couldn’t be bothered to do the necessary work as in his estimation, Abreu wasn’t worthy of Jeter status, and as such, not worthy of a vote this year.
There’s also Larry Walker who is in his last year on the ballot. Despite his having a higher WAR than Jeter, he’s not up to Rieber’s arbitrarily set Jeterian standards.
Remember, this isn’t someone looking at a ballot and saying Jeter was the only worthy candidate. We can disagree about that, but its also a plausible determination. However, this isn’t that.
No, Rieber decided Jeter shouldn’t have to demean himself by sharing the stage.
If you think about it, the BBWAA has the vote because they cover the teams and are supposedly more capable of being objective. This latter premise fails when we see fanboy ballots like this.
More than that, there’s no separate wings of inducted players. You’re only grouped with those players you’re inducted. That’s next to the previous and subsequently inducted players. There’s no separate wings for first ballot, percentage, or amount of time players inducted with you.
No, there’s just one Hall of Fame. That’s something everyone but Rieber seems to know.
In the end, the players left off his ballot deserve better. Those players purposefully overlooked deserve better. The players in the Hall deserve better. Finally, Jeter deserves better.
After all, when he is inducted, the focus should be on him and his great career instead of a gimmick ballot which was submitted.