Hall of Fame
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While considered an out of date stat, Kent’s 1,518 RBI are the third most at the position.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.
Over the past few years, we have seen some players who deserved longer looks and deeper analysis fall off the Hall of Fame ballot for their failure to receive five percent of the vote. This puts sometimes deserving and borderline players in a limbo hoping and waiting they receive eventual consideration from the Veteran’s Committee.
Carlos Delgado fell off the ballot after receiving just 3.8% of the vote. That happened despite his having more homers than Jeff Bagwell and Tony Perez. He had a better OBP than Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey. He also had a higher slugging than Eddie Murray. Overall, his 138 OPS+ was higher than Bill Terry and Frank Chance.
Now, you could also argue he wasn’t up to Hall of Fame standards, but that debate never really could develop as he fell off the ballot.
Lofton had a higher WAR than Andre Dawson, who was inducted in 2010. He also has a higher WAR than Andruw Jones, who is appearing on the ballot for a third time this year. On that point, he is teetering himself with his just receiving 7.5% last year.
Edmonds is just a hair behind Dawson in career WAR, but he is also well ahead of Kirby Puckett. Notably, Edmonds trails just Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Torii Hunter in Gold Gloves won by a center fielder. Notably, his eight are the same amount as Dawson. Given how comparable he is to Dawson, you’d think he would get a longer look. He didn’t.
The same could be made about any number of candidates. Hideki Matsui had over 500 professional homers. Johan Santana had a higher WAR and ERA+ than Sandy Koufax. John Franco has more saves than any left-handed closer, and he has a higher ERA+ than Hall of Fame closers Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley. Finally, David Cone presents his own interesting case. All of these players were one and one on the ballot.
We will likely see the same happen to Bobby Abreu this year despite his having a better WAR, WAR7, and JAWS than recently inducted Vladimir Guerrero. He also has more doubles, triples, stolen bases, walks, and a higher OBP. Keep in mind, Guerrero was inducted just last year making the votes on the two players quite disparate despite having the same electorate.
All of these players hope to one day have the same chance Lou Whitaker now has.
Back in 2001, Whitaker only received 2.1% of the vote, which to this day, is plain wrong. Looking at WAR, Whitaker is the seventh best second baseman of all-time, and the third best at the position to debut after World War II.
He accumulated more hits than Tony Lazzeri and Johnny Evers. He scored more runs than Red Schoendienst and Jackie Robinson. He has more doubles than Ryne Sandberg and Nellie Fox. He has more triples than Craig Biggio and Bill Mazeroski. He has more stolen bases than Rogers Hornsby and Billy Herman. Overall, his OPS+ is higher than Roberto Alomar‘s and Bobby Doerr‘s
By any measure, Whitaker should be in the Hall of Fame, and yet because of the five percent rule, he has not yet been inducted. Looking at Whitaker and other cases, it is probably time the rule gets changed.
Conceptually, the five percent rule makes sense. A player does not come to vote until five years after his career is over. Ideally, this means voters have had an opportunity to assess a career in full and make a determination. However, in practice, it does not quite turn out that way.
Really, when there are fringe and overlooked candidates, there is usually someone championing them leading to them getting more attention, and eventually, induction. Bert Blyleven received 17.6% of the vote in his first year of eligibility, and he was inducted on his final year on the ballot. Tim Raines received 24.3% in his first year and was inducted on his last year. Hopefully, we will see something similar happen with Larry Walker.
The point is for every Mariano Rivera and Tom Seaver there are a number of Hall of Famers who have needed years of analysis and debate. By taking players off the ballot after one year, we are all losing the opportunity to have deeper analysis and debate about players who may well belong in the Hall of Fame.
There has to be a better way especially when we see a top 10 second baseman like Whitaker fall off the ballot. Perhaps, that rule could be relaxed for a year and moved to a player’s second year of eligibility. Perhaps, the Hall of Fame could tier the percent of the vote needed to keep a player on the ballot.
For example, to stay on the ballot after one year you only need just one vote. After the first year, you need five percent of the vote with the threshold rising roughly two percent each year so you need 18% of the vote to make it onto the final year on the ballot.
Structuring the vote this way allows for more debate about players while also presenting an opportunity to remove players who have not swayed the vote in a particular direction. Certainly, this type of system would be better than just disregarding players after one year, lamenting it, and then hoping someone corrects the error a decade or so later.
This year, Derek Jeter is finally Hall of Fame eligible, and after spending two decades referring to him as a future Hall of Famer, he will be one in short order. Really, when looking at him, the only question is whether he will join Mariano Rivera as the only players to be unanimous selected.
By any measure Jeter is a Hall of Famer. He clears the (once) automatic 3,000 hits threshold. In fact, his 3,465 hits are the sixth most all-time and the most at his position. He has five World Series rings with a World Series MVP to his resume. In addition to that, he has a Rookie of the Year, five Silver Sluggers, and five Gold Gloves. Additionally, he is a 14 time All-Star with an All-Star Game MVP.
Throw in his iconic plays like nailing Jeremy Giambi at the plate, robbing Trot Nixon of a base hit (needlessly running into the stands), and his homer off of Byung-Hyun Kim, and you have someone who is iconic enough to be a Hall of Famer.
When you dig deeper, you see a player whose 72.4 WAR and 57.4 JAWS are better than the 67.0 WAR and 55.0 JAWS an average Hall of Fame shortstop has accumulated. Really, when you dig down, we all know Jeter is a Hall of Famer, and each and every voter should give him a vote. For those who don’t vote for him, you really have to question whose career they watched, what exactly they are looking at in their analysis, and finally, their integrity.
So yes, Jeter is absolutely a Hall of Famer who deserves everyone’s vote. However, that does not for one second mean he wasn’t completely overrated.
For starters, by WAR, Jeter was only slightly better than Alan Trammell and Barry Larkin. For some reason, Trammel had to wait until the Veteran’s Committee (or whatever it’s called now), and Larkin had to wait until the third ballot.
While Jeter has the WAR and JAWS to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, he doesn’t have the WAR7. His 42.4 falls short of the 43.0 average. On that note, Nomar Garciaparra‘s 43.1 cleared the hurdle, and he was five percented in his only year on the ballot.
When looking at Jeter and Garciaparra, they along with Alex Rodriguez were part of what was dubbed as the Holy Trinity of Shortstops. To a certain extent, they’d be soon joined by Miguel Tejada. During this era, Jeter was looked upon as the best of the group. Of course, with A-Rod, this was never true.
Speaking of things that were never true, as noted above, Jeter won five separate Gold Gloves. Honestly, he deserved none of them.
In a stretch from 2004 – 2006, he won three straight. Over that time, he had a combined -56 DRS. Not only was he not the best shortstop, but over that time frame, he was the second worst defensive shortstop in the American League. Despite that, he won the awards and two others over more deserving candidates like Omar Vizquel, Juan Uribe, Bobby Crosby, and Elvis Andrus.
In fact, when you look at it, since they started tracking DRS in 2002, Jeter’s -152 DRS makes him the worst defensive shortstop of all-time. To be fair, this does not include his younger years when he was likely better, and it overlooks shortstops of previous eras who were not adjudged by advanced stats.
To be fair, he deserved his Silver Sluggers, and you could make the argument he merited one or two more. Again, the point here is Jeter was great, but not as great as he was and continues to be made out to be.
Ultimately, Jeter is talked about one of the 2-5 best shortstops of all-time. It’s difficult to make that case when he ranks “just” 10th all-time in WAR at the position. Looking at it deeper, he is far behind Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken Jr. He’s also behind lesser known Hall of Famers like George Davis and Arky Vaughan. In fact, he’s behind Bill Dahlen, who to this date, hasn’t been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In the end, with Jeter, we see a great player. Soon, we may see someone who is going to be unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame. Looking at his career, Jeter should become the first position player to receive that honor. When and if that happens, make no mistake. Jeter is an all-time great player who was a terrible defender and who is just simply overrated.
Hall of Fame voting can be very inconsistent at times. For example, we have seen Lou Whitaker (75.1 WAR) and Willie Randolph (65.9 WAR) both get five percented from the ballot on their first appearance while we have seen Ryne Sandberg (68.0 WAR) inducted on his third ballot, and Roberto Alomar (67.1 WAR) inducted on his second ballot. Those same inconsistencies apply to other positions as well as we saw with this most recent Hall of Fame induction.
This past weekend, Roy Halladay was inducted on his first year on the ballot. In 16 Major League seasons, Halladay was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, and a 6.9 K/9. He would have a stretch of his career where he was as dominant as any pitcher in the game wining two Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top five seven times. From an advanced statistics perspective, he had a 64.3 WAR, 131 ERA+, and a 3.39 FIP.
Behind the numbers, there are a number of great starts and stories with him. Perhaps there is no bigger start than his first ever postseason start where he threw a no-hitter for the Phillies in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. You could also argue for his perfect game against the Marlins. Between the moments, the numbers, and the awards, it was determined Halladay was a first ballot Hall of Famer.
When you look at David Cone‘s career, he was not far off from Halladay.
Cone would pitch 17 seasons with the 17th season being a five game stint with the 2003 Mets. In his career, he was 194-126 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and an 8.3 K/9. While never seen as quite the dominating starter Halladay was over his career, Cone would win the 1994 American League Cy Young, and he would have five top five finishes in his career. From an advanced statistics perspective, Cone had a 62.3 WAR, 121 ERA+, and a 3.57 FIP.
Looking at Halladay and Cone, the numbers would indicate Halladay was the better pitcher. However, the separation is not as great as the Hall of Fame voting indicates. Whereas Halladay was a first ballot Hall of Famer, Cone would only receive 3.9 percent of the vote in his first and only year on the ballot. This would certainly suggest a lack of appreciation for what Cone accomplished in his career.
Cone is only one of 21 pitchers to throw a perfect game. He was as big a big game pitcher as there ever was. In the World Series, Cone has a 2-1 record with a 2.12 ERA. When his teams faced elimination, Cone made two starts. The first was a complete game gem against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1988 NLCS. The second was against the Mariners where he departed the game with the teams tied in the eighth. In those elimination games, he was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA.
In his postseason career, Cone would make five starts with his team behind in the series. In those five starts, Cone was 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA. This includes his aforementioned complete game gem in the 1988 NLCS as well as his out-dueling Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in the 1996 World Series to get the Yankees back into that series and eventually win it. On that front, Cone has five World Series rings in his career. That’s one for each All Star appearance.
Considering the Hall of Fame is about honoring the best of the best, you can make the argument there is room for a pitcher like Cone who as at his best on the biggest stages. Looking at his numbers when the chips were down, there is maybe a handful of pitchers you would want over him. If Cone faced any of them, he would give them all he had.
With the understanding it’s not just postseason moments and World Series rings, going back into the numbers, Cone fares well against Hall of Famers. His 62.3 WAR ranks ahead of Hall of Famers like Juan Marichal, Early Wynn, Jim Bunning, and Whitey Ford. Looking at his peak, his 43.4 WAR7 ranks him ahead of Hall of Famers like Mordecai Brown, Don Sutton, and Jack Morris, and his 52.8 JAWS rates him ahead of Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Lemon.
His 121 ERA+ ties him with Don Drysdale, and it has him ahead of Warren Spahn, Bert Blyleven, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan and Glavine. His 2,773 strike outs is 24th best all-time, and it has him ahead of Hall of Famers like Christy Mathewson, Koufax, Halladay, and Catfish Hunter.
He has more complete games than more recent Hall of Famers like John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez. He has more shutouts than Halladay, Pedro, and Smoltz. In terms of WPA (wins probability added), Cone is 52nd all-time among pitchers. His 25.42 mark rates him ahead of Hall of Famers like Lefty Gomez, Dean, and Phil Niekro.
Looking back, it is very likely Cone’s failure to reach 200 wins hurt him. After all, the average Hall of Fame pitcher has 246 wins, and there are just 11 Hall of Fame starters with fewer than 200 wins. It should also be noted a decade later there is fundamentally different emphasis put on the importance of the win, and with that newer perspective it may be time to reevaluate David Cone’s career.
Upon further review, it may be reasonable to determine Cone still falls short. In all honesty, his career may be the ultimate borderline case. However, it is also a much stronger case than a player who had received just five percent of the vote. Certainly, his all-time rankings in the aforementioned categories, his postseason performances, and his perfect game does deserve a fresher look. Hopefully, sometime in the ensuing years we see the Veteran’s Committee (or whatever it is called now) take another look at Cone, and upon a further examination, we may see him get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Come this July, the Baseball Hall of Fame will see the largest Hall of Fame class we have seen in over 50 years. In this class, there will be six new Hall of Famers, none of whom even wore a Mets cap during his career. As we know, Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza are the only two players inducted as the Mets in the Hall of Fame.
Looking further, there are questions as to where the next Mets Hall of Famer will come.
Seeing how the Veterans Committee, or rather the Today’s Game Era Committed, elected Harold Baines and Lee Smith into the Hall of Fame, there is a chance for previously overlooked candidates who played in the 1980s to bet inducted into the Hall of Fame. Foremost in most Mets fans minds is Keith Hernandez.
With his being the best defensive first baseman of all-time, his 1979 NL MVP, five All-Stars, and two World Series titles, Hernandez has a strong case. When you look further, you see how every player who has led his position in Gold Gloves is in the Hall of Fame. Breaking it down further, Hernandez and Andruw Jones, who is still eligible, are the only two players with 10 Gold Gloves or more who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Put another way, Hernandez is a worthy candidate who may very well be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the near future. The problem when it comes to Hernandez is he will likely be wearing a Cardinals or blank cap. With his playing seven years in St. Louis along with his obvious love of the organization, it’s possible the Hall will push him to wear a Cardinals or a blank cap similar to how they chose an Expos cap for the late Gary Carter. Admittedly, the case for Hernandez wearing a Mets cap is stronger than Carter’s was.
Past Hernandez, the next best case is Carlos Beltran. Judging from WAR, Beltran is the eighth best center fielder of all-time. That puts him ahead of of Hall of Famers like Duke Snider, Andre Dawson, and Kirby Puckett. Combine that with his ranks among all-time switch hitters, being a nine time All-Star, and his postseason exploits, and we can all reasonably assume Beltran will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
However, like Hernandez, the cap may be an issue. In his career, Beltran played 44 games more with the Mets than the Royals giving him a reasonable option for either team. He may also feel a pull towards the Astros due to his postseason exploits and World Series ring, but he does not have nearly the time with them to wear an Astros cap.
When you consider how the Mets have consistently reissued Beltran’s number 15, the acrimony of Beltran receiving career saving knee surgery, and Fred Wilpon’s negative comments about Beltran in the infamous New Yorker article, it’s hard to imagine Beltran feeling a pull to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
After that, there’s an issue. While David Wright is a beloved player, he likely falls far short of meriting induction. Just look at Scott Rolen. Rolen had a better career than Wright, and he has only been able to muster 17.2 percent in his second year on the ballot.
After Wright, you are looking towards current Mets players. Among the group, Jacob deGrom probably has the best shot. So far in his five year career, he has a Rookie of the Year Award and a Cy Young along with his epic 2015 postseason. His career 143 ERA+ currently ranks 10th all-time putting him ahead of Hall of Famers like Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and even Seaver.
It should also be noted deGrom is 30 years old, and he has only played five seasons. He is going to have to pitch at his 2018 level for a few more seasons to truly enter the discussion. While it may be an uphill battle, we have seen pitchers take off after turning 30. For an example, we need not look any further than Max Scherzer, who is making his own Hall of Fame case.
As for Noah Syndergaard and even Michael Conforto, both have age on their sides. They have shown periods of dominance, but they have had health issues, which have also prevented them from putting up big years early on in their careers from building a more solid foundation to their Hall of Fame chances.
Breaking it down, in an odd sense, the Mets player with perhaps the best chance of induction is John Franco – seriously.
The Today’s Era Comittee just opted to induct Lee Smith, and they opted to elect Baines from seemingly out of nowhere. When you stack Franco up against Smith, Franco has a better ERA+. Franco also has a higher ERA+ than Hall of Fame closers Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley. Moreover, Franco is just one of six closers in baseball history with over 400 saves, and he is the all-time leader in saves for left-handed pitchers.
For those who don’t believe in Franco ever being able to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, the doubt is understood. After all, Franco, like Baines, fell off the ballot in his first year after he garnered just 4.6 percent of the vote.
The dubiousness underlying Franco’s chances underlies just how long it may be before we ever see another Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. That should surprise no one as the organization did not see its first Hall of Famer until the franchise was 30 years old. It then had to wait another 24 years for its next Hall of Famer.
Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Harold Baines – that is the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame class. It is the largest Hall of Fame class this century, and it is the largest Hall of Fame class since 1964 when there were seven players inducted into the Hall of Fame.
It is quite the interesting class made all the more interesting by the surprise choices of the Veterans’ Committe (or whatever they call themselves now) and because of the fact Rivera became the first ever player unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame. It should be noted there were rumors about Lou Gehrig who was inducted in a special election after his ALS diagnosis and retirement.
Another reason why this Hall of Fame class is so interesting is because it has lowered the bar for future Hall of Fame elections.
When looking at starting pitchers, the average Hall of Famer had a 73.4 WAR, 50.1 WAR7, and 61.8 JAWS. Put another way, your average Hall of Fame pitcher had a strong and prolonged peak surrounded by seasons where he was a good starting pitcher.
Of course, those numbers are derived almost by accident. Before modern voting, voters would elect anyone who hit the magic number of 300 wins. Other factors like Cy Young awards, 20 win seasons, ERA, strikeouts, and other standards would apply. That said, as we have moved into this current era of voting, more advanced statistics are used to adjudge candidates.
In fact, it was the justification to push for the election of Bert Blyleven. For his part, Blyleven amassed a 95.0 WAR in his career putting him well above the threshold. His induction also paved the way for someone like Mussina to get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In his career, Mussina only had 20 wins once, and that was in the final year of his career. Mussina never won a Cy Young award and was never in the top three. He was just a five time All-Star. Belying those numbers was greatness. Mussina had an 83.0 WAR and a 130 ERA+. Simply put, he was great, and it was due to modern numbers we have been able to recognize that greatness and see a push for his induction.
The questionable candidate is Halladay, who actually garnered a higher percent of the vote than Mussina. Behind Halladay’s two Cy Young Awards and no-hitter in the 2010 NLDS was a pitcher who fell short of the Hall of Fame standards. His 64.3 WAR and 57.5 JAWS was close but below standards. It should be noted his 50.6 WAR7 did crack the list making him a more than justifiable, albeit borderline candidate.
The Hall of Fame isn’t harmed inducting a player of Halladay’s caliber, especially with his peak years meeting the standard. What is curious is how someone who should’ve been a borderline candidate was inducted on the first ballot with 85.4 percent of the vote while Mussina, a better pitcher over his career, barely cleared the 75 percent threshold in his sixth year on the ballot.
With respect to Rivera, there was no doubt he was a Hall of Famer. He’s the All-Time leader in saves, and he has all the postseason exploits to bolster his case. He also leads all relievers in baseball history in WAR, WAR7, JAWS, and entrance music. He was clearly the greatest at what he did, and there was no debate. Literally, there is no debate as he received 100 percent of the vote.
Where things became dubious was the election of Smith. During his time, Smith was a feared closer who had the most saves in baseball history until he was surpassed by Trevor Hoffman, who was another dubious selection.
When it came to Smith and Hoffman, the cases were basically made on the amount of saves and superlatives like dominating. However, in the grand scheme of things, they didn’t measure up to other great relievers. Respectively, each fell far short of the 38.1 WAR, 26.5 WAR7, and 32.3 JAWS the average Hall of Fame reliever had amassed.
Inducting both Hoffman and Smith has lowered the bar to the point where we cannot be sure where it is going. Is it going to be a 475 career saves standard asking to 300 wins or 3,000 hits? Who knows? But at a certain point, someone is going to have to figure out the line because with recent inductions, Billy Wagner‘s case is all the more justified as are cases for players overlooked in voting like John Franco and Jeff Reardon. Coincidentally, at one time Reardon battled back-and-forth with Smith to claim that all-time saves record.
As troubling as that may be, the election of the designated hitters into the Hall of Fame may be the most troubling.
Looking at the proverbial magic numbers, neither Martinez nor Baines clears the mark despite both of their job duties being JUST hitting. Previous Hall of Famers who spent more time at DH than as a fielder, Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor, did clear each of those marks with Thomas having over 500 homers and Molitor having over 3,000 hits.
For both hitters, there have been cases spelled out, but at their core, they were just hitters, which should thereby negate any argument over whether defense should count against someone like Jeff Kent.
It should be noted Kent had more games played, hits, doubles, triples, homers, RBI, stolen bases, and sacrifice flies than Martinez despite playing one fewer year. He had more doubles and stolen bases with having a better batting average and slugging percentage than Baines while having the same OBP. Yet, somehow voters are not enticed to vote for Kent because he had poor defense, and he was cranky with the media.
Ponder that for a moment, Kent put up all-time great numbers at second base including being the all-time leader in homers as a second baseman, but he’s not going into the Hall of Fame now because he was a poor defender. Meanwhile, Martinez and Baines are being rewarded for just hitting and never having to field.
As bad as that may seem for Kent, who cannot find a way to crack 18.1 percent in his sixth year on the ballot, imagine how Fred McGriff feels. Like Kent, he was dinged for defense and even base running, and yet, he’s not a Hall of Famer despite hitting nearly 500 homers and being one of the most clutch hitters all-time.
While they’re overlooked, Larry Walker and his seven Gold Gloves and an OPS+ just behind Martinez’s is being penalized for playing in Coors Field. Of course, Martinez is not facing the same penalty for playing in the Kingdome. Same thing can be said for Andruw Jones and his 1o Gold Gloves and 434 homers. Really, we have discovered defense does not matter whatsoever even if Walker has a higher WAR than Martinez.
The point is the Hall of Fame standards have been driven down. You no longer have to be among the greatest relievers of all-time. You just have to be good in your era. You don’t have to be a complete ballplayer. You just have to hit. That’s a lowering of standards, and if those standards are now universally applied, there should be a bevy of previously borderline or overlooked candidates who should now be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Last year, Mariners DH Edgar Martinez narrowly missed out on induction to the Hall of Fame. It was a narrow margin with him falling just 20 votes short. With him falling that short, people who support his induction into the Hall of Fame are going to find any argument they can to push him over the hump.
With him now appearing on the same ballot as Mariano Rivera, you will be naturally inclined to look at their head-to-head stats. In fact, it is popping up all over the place already:
You're going to see this stat a lot, but here goes: Edgar Martinez vs. first-time HOF candidate Mariano Rivera: 11-for-19, 3 doubles, 2 HR, .579/.652/1.053
— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) November 19, 2018
#Mariners Edgar Martinez faced Mariano Rivera 23 times in his career. He batted .579/.652/1.053.
"He had more than my number. He had my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He got everything from me." – Mariano Rivera (2003)
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) November 22, 2017
Do you know what Martinez’s stats against Rivera tell us? It tells us he hit Rivera really well. That’s it. Trying to garner any more information from that is just plain wrong. Really, hitting well against Rivera is not a barometer for Hall of Fame induction.
If it was, this means the Hall of Fame is going to have to really open it’s doors to include far more players.
Andruw Jones, who is also on this year’s ballot is 3-for-5 with a homer off Rivera. Since we are now looking at stats against Rivera, shouldn’t he now get enough votes to push him over the 75%? Shouldn’t the Veterans’ Committee also revisit the cases of Sandy Alomar (.462/.462/.846) and Aubrey Huff (.400/.429/.800)?
Looking forward, 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist is 3-for-4 against Rivera with two doubles and a triple. Curtis Granderson is 2-for-5 with a homer off Rivera. Are these both now automatic inductions when they reach the ballot?
Let’s look at things from a different perspective. Martinez was 2-for-36 against Alex Fernandez. This is the same Fernandez who did not receive one Hall of Fame vote. Considering Fernandez did not garner even one Hall of Fame vote, and Martinez did not perform well against him, does this now mean Martinez should not receive any Hall of Fame votes?
Of course not because that is a vapid argument.
The success or failures against any particular pitcher does not define a career. What defines a career is what was done on the field for at least 10 years, or in Martinez’s case 18 years.
Personally, I do not see him as a Hall of Famer. He did not hit any of the proverbial magic marks like fellow DHs Frank Thomas (500 homers) or Paul Molitor (3,000 hits) reached. If you look at it, Frank Thomas is the standard bearer for inducting DHs into the Hall of Fame.
If you look at Thomas as the standard, Martinez falls short. Others feel differently, and they raise some valid arguments. That is what makes Edgar Martinez’s candidacy such an interesting debate. That debate gets less interesting when you raise his stats against one pitcher or another. That’s just raising interesting factoids which does not move the needle at all.
Because if it did, you wouldn’t give him one vote due to his numbers against Fernandez.
It all began with Orel Hershiser. On the eve of the NLCS, he shared the information with Eddie Coleman. He was there and Steve Somers was here on our radios discussing it. In the pre-Twitter era, this was how you conveyed messages to Mets fans.
Mets fans would get that message loud and clear, and they would then deliver that message beginning with player introductions before Game 3 of the NLCS, and they delivered it every time he stood at the plate:
It was the only way Mets fans could try to torture Chipper Jones; the man who built a Hall of Fame resume by and large by his performance against the Mets.
Jones revealed in tweaking the Mets fans. He chided them one time saying, “Now all the Mets’ fans can go home and put their Yankees stuff on,” after he and the Braves had once again left the Mets for dead.
He named his first child Shea.
More than that, he hit .309/.406/.543 with 49 homers and 159 RBI against the Mets in his career.
In response, well, Mets fans had their beloved “LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!” chant. Whether or not, it worked didn’t matter. What mattered was the name got under Chipper’s skin.
Undoubtedly, Chipper got the best of the Mets in his playing days. The Braves knocked the Mets out of Wild Card position in 1998, and they won the 1999 NLCS. The Braves won the NL East from 1995 – 2005.
And now, he’s a Hall of Famer. Coincidentally, that may be where Mets fans win the war.
If you’ve ever seen a Hall of Fame plaque, it lists your given named with the nickname underneath in quotes.
It’s not Tom Seaver. It’s George Thomas Seaver.
It’s not Nolan Ryan. It’s Lynn Nolan Ryan.
It’s not Yogi Berra. It’s Lawrence Peter Berra.
It won’t be Chipper Jones. It will be Larry Wayne Jones.
That’s right. For all time, he will be Larry. It’s a warm reminder for Mets fans who loved to chide him with the name.
Hopefully, Chipper Jones gets a chuckle about that fact. Honestly, I hope it doesn’t detract from the moment from a great baseball player who was truly a worthy advisory.
Enjoy your moment Larry.
With Trevor Hoffman being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he now becomes just the sixth reliever ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Considering Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers were relievers of a far different mold, and Dennis Eckersley had a career as a starting pitcher before becoming a one inning closer, Hoffman becomes a unique Hall of Famer in that he is now the first ever pure closer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
With him being inducted, the question needs to be asked why it was him and not one of the other closers who proceeded him.
The first answer that will probably be injected as a reason is the fact Hoffman accumulated 601 saves. At the time of his retirement in 2010, it was the record for most saves by a relief pitcher. In reality, he had the record beginning in 2006. The question that naturally follows from this is why is this now relevant?
It would seem odd to put 600 saves into a category with 3,000 hits, 500 homers, or 300 wins as those marks evolved over time. The modern one inning reliever is something that arguably has only been around since the 1980s with Tony La Russa‘s use of Eckersley leading the charge. Yes, at the time of his retirement, he had the most all-time, and he was 123 ahead of the highest retired closer.
That closer was Lee Smith. What is interesting about Smith was he battled Jeff Reardon late in Reardon’s career for the most saves of all-time. The year after Reardon retired, Smith passed him and the lapped the field. At the time Smith retired in 1997, he had the all-time record with 478 saves, and he would hold the record for most saves in baseball history for 10 years. Like Reardon, Hoffman would lose the title the year after he retired.
Speaking of Lee Smith, he is an interesting parallel for Hoffman, especially with both pitchers pitching 18 years and making seven All Star teams.
In Smith’s career, he was 71-92 with a 3.03 ERA, 478 saves, 1,251 strikeouts, 1.256 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9. He led the league in saves four times, led the league in games finished three times, and won three Rolaids Relief Awards. From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 132 ERA+, 29.6 WAR, 21.1 WAR7, and a 25.4 JAWS.
In Hoffman’s career, he was 61-75 with a 2.87 ERA, 601 saves, 1,133 strikeouts, 1.058 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9. He led the league twice in saves, never led the league in games finished, and won two Rolaids Relief Awards. From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 141 ERA+, 28.4 WAR, 19.6 WAR7, and a 24.0 JAWS.
In some areas, Smith is better, including WAR, WAR7, JAWS, strikeouts, and relief awards. In others like ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and K/9, Hoffman is better. Generally speaking, Hoffman and Smith are about equally as valuable as one another. We only get to a true separator between the two relievers when we discuss saves.
Hoffman blows Smith out of the water there, but that’s not too dissimilar how Smith blew other contemporaries out of the water during his playing days. He was 1-2 with Reardon much like Hoffman was with Mariano Rivera.
It would seem from a pure value standpoint, if Hoffman is inducted, then so should Smith. However, we really know the end game was the amount of saves.
That’s why we won’t see Billy Wagner follow suit despite his having a much better ERA+ (187), more strikeouts (1,196), a higher K/9 (11.9), WAR7 (19.9), and having made the same JAWS and making the same number of All Star teams.
It’s also why we didn’t see John Franco get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sure, we can mock Franco all you like, but he has had the record for most saves by a left-handed pitcher since 1994, which is a record that has lasted for 23 years and does not appear of being eclipsed any time soon.
It should also be noted Franco led the league in saves three times, games finished two times, made four All Star teams, and won two Rolaids Relief awards. This means Franco led the league in saves and games finished more times than Hoffman, and he won just as many relief awards. His WAR (24.2), WAR7 (15.7), and JAWS (19.9) do trail Hoffman, but then again, we’ve learned this isn’t really about value.
It’s about total saves with the new bench mark apparently being 600 saves. It is good that it’s a high bench mark, but at the end of the day, it seems odd this isn’t about greatness, value, or dominance. Rather, it’s about an arbitrary number decided upon because Hoffman just felt like a Hall of Famer.