Alex Rodriguez: The most disappointing great Yankee ever

12 08 2016

Alex Rodriguez plays his last game as a Yankee today.

I can think of few Yankees who have played so long so well that I cared so little about. Yes, he was a great player for the Yankees, but he was a colossal post-season disappointment (despite finally contributing to a championship in 2009). I wasn’t pleased when they acquired him. I wasn’t very often pleased with his play, and I don’t care that his run is finished. It’s probably appropriate that he didn’t walk away after last year’s pretty good season, but stuck around to disappoint once again this year.

Yes, he was a cheat, but baseball has had so many cheats that I don’t have great outrage over them. I don’t respect them, and I think they deserve whatever scorn is heaped upon them. I just don’t care enough any more to join often in the heaping.

I suspect at some point he and other cheats with worthy accomplishments will be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But I don’t care much about that. Don’t care much if they keep the cheats out and don’t care much if they let them in. From my standpoint, the shame of the cheaters is that they diminished how much we cared about baseball records and baseball greatness.

If I cared more about A-Rod’s two MVP’s as a Yankee or the times he led the league in homers, RBI, slugging and OPS, I’d have to care more about how much he cheated.

Beyond his cheating, his post-season chokes and all those stats he compiled, A-Rod is probably best remembered as a Yankee for two moments against the Red Sox: when Jason Varitek attacked him and when he slapped the ball away from Bronson Arroyo.

The Varitek incident illustrated both the media’s (and baseball’s) hatred of Rodriguez, even before we knew he cheated. Watch the video above. A-Rod was hit, clearly deliberately, by Arroyo, and wasn’t charging the mound. Some glaring and shouting there is a pretty mild response. And Varitek, without even taking off his mask, started the fight. That might be the single most cowardly act in the history of baseball fighting, for a catcher to start a fight with a batter who’s not charging the mound, without first tossing his mask aside (catchers know how to take off the mask quickly, you might have noticed). Yet because it was the Red Sox vs. the Yankees and because A-Rod was the guy Varitek punched, it was depicted as some sort of gritty act of leadership by Varitek.

The Arroyo incident was a silly illustration of baseball rules and culture. In more than a half-century of watching baseball on TV, that’s the only time I’ve seen that call. Kick a ball out of a fielder’s glove and you’re safe. Plow into the fielder and knock the ball loose and you’re safe. (That’s what A-Rod should have done.) But slap the ball out of the glove and you get called out. It made no sense, but it was A-Rod and I guess the rules say that you can’t do that.

Of course, if A-Rod had driven home a run or two in the last half of the 2004 American League Championship Series, no one remembers any of that. So I don’t care that people remember A-Rod for either of those plays.

I don’t have anything further to say about the end of his career (if this really is the end; I won’t be surprised if he resurfaces somewhere, trying to reach 700 homers). I’ll end by reviewing what I’ve said along the way:

Alex Rodriguez’s disappointing decade as a Yankee

Ibañez hitting for A-Rod: Strategy you never see in the National League

Pete Rose and A-Rod check in to the Fox Sports Image Rehab Clinic

Scoundrels Committee: A way to recognize shamed players in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Do we have a Yankees team with no future Hall of Famers?

Alex Rodriguez closing in on Gehrig’s grand-slam record

Because I didn’t take performance-enhancing drugs into account in ranking the best Yankees at various positions, I reluctantly ranked A-Rod above Graig Nettles as the best Yankee at third base. I also ranked him fourth at designated hitter.

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Do we have a Yankees team with no future Hall of Famers?

19 07 2016

I wonder whether the current edition of the Yankees might not have a single player who will make the Hall of Fame.

Let’s start with speculation on the players with the best shots at Cooperstown:

Alex Rodriguez


Of course, A-Rod would be automatic by any statistical measure used historically to measure Hall of Fame qualifications. He ranks third in career RBI, fourth in homers, eighth in runs and 20th in hits. Throw in three MVP awards, the major league record for grand slam homers, five home run titles, two RBI titles, a batting championship, 329 stolen bases, a 40-40 season. Even with his disappointing post-season record (but he finally won a championship ring in 2009), that’s an automatic Hall of Famer, easily one of the best 10 to 20 players in baseball history. Except …

Rodriguez is essentially in the same situation as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, though they are already on the Hall of Fame writers ballot and he’s still playing. Despite historically great careers on a par with (or even better than) Rodriguez’s, neither of them has reached 50 percent of the writers’ vote, and they need 75 percent to achieve election. What we don’t know is whether they (and presumably A-Rod, too) will be denied Hall of Fame admission forever, or have to wait some yet-unknown period in baseball purgatory.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they all get in someday through a Veterans Committee, rather than the writers’ vote. I doubt if the Hall of Fame will adopt my suggestion for a Scoundrels Committee to consider drug cheats and gamblers, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a committee decide some day that they’ve been punished long enough.

I feel confident, though, that A-Rod will wait longer than Bonds and Clemens, beyond the fact that he will be retiring about a decade after they did. Their offenses came before baseball had rules and testing, and each eventually was cleared in court (even if the baseball world remains doubtful). A-Rod, by cheating after his first admission of drug use, is a more certain drug offender and a more egregious one.

I’d guess that A-Rod makes the Hall of Fame someday, along with Bonds, Clemens and perhaps a few more drug cheats (David Ortiz might be the fourth most-likely, though his popularity could push him ahead of Bonds, Clemens and Rodriguez, all more accomplished but widely disliked). But I’d guess there’s a 25 percent chance, if not higher, that the players facing the strongest suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs never make it to Cooperstown. And A-Rod certainly is in that group.

Still, A-Rod probably has the best shot at the Hall of Fame of anyone on the current Yankees.

Carlos Beltrán


Beltrán has perhaps the second-best shot at Cooperstown among current Royals. At 39, he doesn’t have many years left, but he made the All-Star team this season and could pad his career totals a bit more and push himself from long shot to probable.

He’s a nine-time All-Star, which sounds like it makes him a likely Hall of Famer. But Elston Howard, Fred Lynn and Dave Concepcion also have nine All-Star selections, and they’re not in the Hall of Fame. Steve Garvey and Bill Freehan each have 10 All-Star selections but not yet a call from Cooperstown.

Beltrán’s career totals (411 hits, 1,501 RBI, 2,549 hits, 1,494 runs, 311 stolen bases) are certainly in the range where he should receive Hall of Fame consideration. And he’s a three-time Gold Glove winner. But at this point, he looks likely to fall short of Cooperstown, at least on the writers’ ballot and maybe forever.

He’s one of only eight members of the 300-300 club with that many career homers and steals. But that’s a meaningless achievement for Hall of Fame purposes. Willie Mays and Andre Dawson are the only club members with Cooperstown plaques. A-Rod is still playing and Bonds is being kept out of the Hall because of drug suspicion. But three other 300-300 members — Bonds’ father, Bobby, Steve Finley and Reggie Sanders — never even reached 11 percent of the writers’ Hall of Fame vote.

During the All-Star Game, I heard Joe Buck (or someone) reel off a list of a half-dozen or so stats (probably the ones above, maybe one or two more, perhaps his 1,000-plus walks and/or 500-plus doubles) and noted that only a handful of players, mostly Hall of Famers, had reached them all. But I think Beltrán probably comes up short. He never led his league in any important statistic.

Look at his neighbors on the career-leader lists and you see a few Hall of Famers, but also quite a few that didn’t make it to Cooperstown. He hasn’t caught Kenny Lofton yet in career runs, Steve Garvey in hits or Carlos Delgado in RBI or homers. He isn’t top-50 in any of those categories (though he’s approaching it). On the homer list, he trails a bunch of sluggers with little or no shot at Cooperstown: Jason Giambi, Dave Kingman, Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez or Andruw Jones.

Beltrán’s career averages — .281, .354, .492, .846 — are solid enough they don’t hurt his case, but they don’t help it either. He’s not top-100 in any of those categories.

If post-season performance counted for a whit in Hall of Fame voting (as it does in all other sports), Beltrán’s 16 post-season homers and his record-setting 2004 post-season might push him into the Hall of Fame, but as I’ve noted time and again here, post-season performance and championships simply don’t matter when choosing members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If Beltrán has another strong year or two, his Hall of Fame chances grow considerably, but I’d guess he’s a little less than a 50 percent shot right now.

Mark Teixeira


Teixeira‘s case for the Hall of Fame is similar to Beltrán’s: Each has over 400 homers, each has eight 100-RBI seasons, each has a 40-homer season (Tex has more 30-homer seasons). Each has won multiple Gold Gloves. Beltrán has more speed and a higher batting average, but Tex’s other career averages are higher (but, again, not so high as to ensure a spot in Cooperstown). Unlike Beltrán, he has led his league (once each in homers, runs and RBI, twice in total bases).

Teixeira is younger, 36, and he was an All-Star last year. But that was his only All-Star appearance in his 30s, and he hasn’t played 125 games in a season since 2011. He appears to be in a significant career decline, and he’s not likely to match Beltrán’s career totals in anything but walks.

CC Sabathia


When Sabathia won his 200th game during the 2013 season, I considered writing a post about his chances of winning 300 games. I’m glad I didn’t. At that point, he was about 33, and would have been able to reach 300 by around age 40 at about 14 or 15 wins a year (down from his pace of the previous seven years). Of course, Sabathia has slowed down way below that pace, winning just a total of 13 games since the start of 2014. With 219 wins at age 36, he has almost no chance of reaching 300 wins.

You can hardly argue that Sabathia is in the top 10 starting pitchers among his contemporaries. His early career overlapped with Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, all substantially better, as well as Curt Schilling and Roy Halladay, both of whom were also better but more comparable. Johan Santana was better, but not as durable, and Hall of Fame voters love longevity. More recently, Clayton Kershaw is absolutely better. And I’d expect that by the time Sabathia would be facing Hall of Fame consideration, some younger pitchers such as Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke will have eclipsed Sabathia as well. Some eras have sent more than 10 starting pitchers to the Hall of Fame, but I’m certainly not going to predict enshrinement for a guy who wasn’t in the top 10, or maybe even the best dozen, of his day.

Without a sustained return to his performance level of 2008-2012, Sabathia isn’t going to make the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to imagine any of the other Yankee starting pitchers getting as close to Cooperstown consideration as Sabathia, though.

Other players


Starlin Castro is a long way from Hall of Fame territory, but he might have a better chance than any Yankee but A-Rod. With three All-Star appearances and 1,000-plus hits at age 26, he has a solid start and a shot at Cooperstown if he can maintain this pace for another decade-plus.

Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances, both 28, are pitching dominantly, each with multiple All-Star selections. Both are a long way from Hall consideration, but off to starts that could take either one there. Andrew Miller saved 36 games last year and made his first All-Star team this season. At age 31, he’s a long way from Hall of Fame consideration. He waited too long to blossom, unless he spends the next decade as a dominant reliever.

Brian McCann is a seven-time All-Star at age 32, with nine seasons of 20 or more homers. His numbers don’t put him out of reach of the Hall of Fame for a catcher. But among his contemporaries behind the plate, at least Buster Posey, Joe Mauer and Salvador Pérez appear more likely Hall of Famers. And Yadier Molina has a comparable career to McCann at this point. It’s hard to imagine four of this era’s catchers making it to Cooperstown, and McCann might not even be fourth-best.

Jacoby EllsburyBrett Gardner and Chase Headley, all 32, have two All-Star appearances combined, and none has any shot at the Hall of Fame. Didi Gregorius is just 26 but not on the Cooperstown path.

I’d guess there’s a Hall of Famer somewhere on this team, but it’s far from certain, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the 2016 (and 2015) Yankees get shut out of Cooperstown.

Yankee teams without Hall of Famers

My Mantle autograph

My Mantle autograph

From the time Frank “Home Run” Baker joined the Yankees in 1916 through 1968, Mickey Mantle‘s final year, the Yankees always had at least one Hall of Famer, a string that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and more players bound for Cooperstown. Frankly, the string should have continued in 1969, Thurman Munson‘s rookie year, but Hall of Fame voters have denied Munson his due. Graig Nettles, who also belongs in the Hall of Fame, joined the Yankees in 1973, but the Yankees went until 1975, when Catfish Hunter joined the team, without any future Hall of Famers.

That launched another string of 16 seasons with always at least one Hall of Famer, including Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson. The 1991-92 Yankees had two players who belong in the Hall of Fame, Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams, but no one who’s made it yet. Wade Boggs joined the Yankees in 1993, and certain Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter joined in 1995.

But since Rivera and Jeter retired, the Yankees returned in 2015 to that rare spot in team history of perhaps not having a future Hall of Famer on the roster.

Source note: Unless noted otherwise, statistics and other facts cited here come from Baseball-Reference.com.





The 5 best designated hitters in Yankee history

13 04 2016

This continues a series on the best Yankees at different positionsToday: designated hitter.

The Yankees have never settled on a DH for a long stretch. A guy would hold the position for a year or two, or multiple players will share it during a year. Lots of great Yankees have played DH, but not for long.

1, Don Baylor

Don Baylor was a pretty easy choice to top this list. He won Silver Sluggers two of his three years at DH for the Yankees. His DH seasons for the Yankees weren’t great — no 30-homer seasons, no 100-RBI seasons, only one .300 season. But each year was solid: 21 HR, 85 RBI, .303 in 1983; 27, 89, .262 in ’84 and 23, 91, .231 in ’85. And he led the league in being hit by pitches with 23 in ’84 and 24 in ’85.

Perhaps most important (because, after all, it’s my blog), I got to see him hit grand slams live twice for the Yankees (against the White Sox in the 12th inning of a 1983 game and against the Royals in ’85).

I couldn’t find a YouTube video of Baylor as a Yankee, but I thought another grand slam would be appropriate here.

2, Hideki Matsui

Hideki Matsui was the Yankees’ primary DH for only 2008 and 2009. But he was the World Series MVP in ’09 as DH (he didn’t even play in the field in Philadelphia, pinch-hitting all three games there). No other Yankee DH has been a World Series MVP, so that was a pretty easy call.

3, Danny Tartabull

Danny Tartabull never topped 100 games at DH in a season. But he hit there 88 games in 1993 and 78 in ’94. And he was solid both years, hitting 20 of his 31 homers and driving in 70 of his 102 runs in ’93 as DH. The next year, he hit 13 of his 20 homers as DH. And he got a guest shot on Seinfeld.

I actually did find some Yankee videos of Tartabull, but decided to go with a game when he was a Royal that I saw with my son Tom.

4, Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez has played third base most of his career for the Yankees, but he was the DH in 2015 (and will be this year), hitting 33 homers and driving in 86 runs. He had one previous season with more than a dozen games at DH.

A-Rod, Matsui and Babe Ruth are the only Yankees on two of these lists. Babe is No. 1 in both left and right field. Matsui is No. 4 in left field. A-Rod is No. 1 at third base.

5, Raúl Ibañez

Given how no one sticks around as the Yankees’ DH, I’m giving the last slot to a guy who didn’t have a full single year at DH or even play a little DH for a few years (the best of the rest of the Yankee DH’s fall in one of those categories). I decided instead to go with a DH with a couple great post-season moments: Raúl Ibañez. He played for the Yankees only in 2012, and DH’ed in only 28 games. But in Game Three of the Division Series that year, Ibañez homered with one out in the ninth inning, tying the game, 2-2. He was pinch-hitting for Rodriguez, who was the DH, and Ibañez stayed in the game at DH. Then he homered again, leading off the bottom of the 12th, to win the game.

Without another DH who had a great year at DH, I’ll go with the one who provided the best post-season memories.

The rest

Jason Giambi never played more than 70 games a year at DH for the Yankees. But he played more than 60 games at DH in four years. He hit 21 homers as a DH in 2006, and probably belongs on the list ahead of Ibañez, but I dropped Giambi off the list because of the combination of Ibañez’s clutch homers, Giambi’s drug use and that DH was his primary position only in one season.

Jack Clark DH’d for the Yankees in 1988 at age 32, hitting 27 homers and driving in 93 runs. That one season nearly got him on this list. He was a rare Yankee to DH for more than 100 games in a season (112).

Chili Davis, one of the best DH’s ever, finished his career with the Yankees in 1998 and ’99, but he didn’t have much left, injured most of ’98 and hitting only 19 homers in ’99.

Rubén Sierra played parts of four seasons at DH for the Yankees, but his peak in DH homers for the Yankees was 13 in 2004.

Steve Balboni was the Yankees’ primary DH for 1989 and ’90 (a two-year run has been rare). With 17 homers each year, and because I was fond of Bonesy in his Royal years, I almost wanted to put him on the list, but he hit only .192 in ’90.

Cecil Fielder played less than two years as the Yankees’ DH, and was well past his prime.

I kind of wanted to include Ron Blomberg on the list, since he was the first DH in major-league history, but he played less than 150 games at DH for the Yankees and wasn’t that good.

Lots of great and good Yankee hitters played a handful of games at DH for a year or a few years, but I didn’t see any of them play long enough or well enough to move onto the list:

  • Reggie Jackson played 135 DH games spread over five seasons. His only season with double figures in homers as a DH was 1980, with 11 homers in 46 games.
  • Dave Winfield, a better fielder than Jackson, never reached even 10 games at DH in a season.
  • Derek Jeter had 73 career games at DH.
  • Don Mattingly played 75 career games at DH.
  • Bernie Williams played 129 career games at DH.
  • Darryl Strawberry played 143 games for the Yankees at DH, spread across five seasons.

Best DH tradition

The Yankees probably don’t rank even in the top half of American League teams in terms of a DH tradition. The White Sox may have the best, with Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, likely Hall of Famer Jim ThomeHarold Baines and Greg Luzinski all DH’ing well for at least a few seasons, many of them prime years.

The Red Sox have perhaps the best DH ever, David Ortiz, plus some pretty good ones: Hall of Famers Carl YastrzemskiJim Rice, Orlando Cepeda and Andre Dawson at the ends of their careers and one to three years each of Baylor, Clark, Manny Ramirez, Jose Canseco and Mike Easler. Without studying closely, I’d guess the White Sox had more prime years from top DH’s, but I wouldn’t argue with someone who thinks the Red Sox are stronger here, based on Big Papi’s longevity and the number of Hall of Famers (even if they were past their primes).

Other teams with DH standouts playing longer than any Yankee DH include at least the Mariners (Edgar Martinez), Royals (Hal McRae), and Indians (Travis Hafner). The Yankees probably aren’t higher than sixth here, and they might be lower.

Ranking criteria

I explained my criteria in the post on first basemen, so if this seems familiar, it’s because I cut and pasted that explanation here, then adapted it for DH’s.

If a player is in the Hall of Fame or belongs there, that carries considerable weight with me, but that’s not a factor with Yankee DH’s who played any substantial time.

I value both peak performance and longevity, but peak performance more. Baylor wins on both counts.

Few ballplayers actually matter in the broader culture beyond baseball, but Tartabull’s “Seinfeld” turn helped him out here.

I rank players primarily on their time with the team, but the Yankees didn’t have anyone play DH for a long stretch.

Time at the position is important, too. I can’t rank Jackson or Winfield high based on their overall greatness, because they didn’t play enough DH.

Post-season play and championship contributions matter a lot to me. Both factors were big for Matsui.

If two players were dead even at a position for the Yankees, I would have moved the one with the better overall career ahead. For instance, A-Rod’s overall career will probably move him ahead of Tartabull sometime this year, presuming he pulls even as a Yankee DH.

Special moments matter, too. They put Ibañez on this list.

Your turn

Rankings of Yankees by position

Starting pitchers

Catchers

First base

Second base

Shortstop

Third base

Left field

Center field

Right field

Relief pitcher

Manager

Source note

Unless noted otherwise, statistics cited here come from Baseball-Reference.com.





The 5 best third basemen in Yankee history

7 04 2016

This continues a series on the best Yankees at different positionsToday: third base.

1, Alex Rodriguez

When I ranked the Yankees’ best 50 starting pitchers, I decided that use of performance-enhancing drugs wouldn’t be a major factor. I would rank players based on their performance as Yankees, and if two players were even in that ranking, the player who wasn’t tainted by drug use would get the nod. But I wouldn’t totally discount a player based on PED use. So Roger Clemens ranked 16th among Yankee starters.

I’m taking the same approach with position players. I love Graig Nettles and I don’t like Alex Rodriguez. But I’m ranking them by performance as Yankees. Each has played 11 years for the Yankees (Nettles played more games at third base, but A-Rod has played over 1,000 games there). Rodriguez has better Yankee stats in virtually every offensive category. He won two MVP awards as a Yankee, both at third, and Nettles’ best showing in MVP voting was fifth place in 1977. A-Rod’s a seven-time All-Star as a Yankee, Nettles five.

As a Yankee, A-Rod led the league in homers twice, RBI once, runs scored twice, slugging three times and OPS once. Nettles led the league in homers once.

A-Rod’s post-season hitting has been awful most of the time, but Nettles wasn’t a great post-season hitter most of the time either. Nettles was a better fielder, but A-Rod has to rank first here.

2, Graig Nettles

Of course Nettles ranks second. I’ve noted before that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He would have a few more than his two Gold Gloves if he hadn’t had the misfortune to start playing when Brooks Robinson won that award every single year. Nettles’ Game Three defensive performance in the 1978 World Series was as good a post-season game as any fielder ever had.

Despite overall weak hitting in the post-season, Nettles sizzled in the 1981 American League Championship Series, going 6-for-12 with 9 RBI in just three games and being named MVP. He was a defensive, offensive and leadership anchor for the Yankees’ 1976-81 run that included two world championships, two more A.L. championships and a fifth division title. He’s an easy choice for No. 2 here.

And, if I were going to discount A-Rod’s achievements because he’s a drug cheat, I’d need to discount Nettles for loading his bat with Super Balls.

3, Red Rolfe

Red Rolfe baseball card image from Wikimedia

Red Rolfe was an All-Star four of his 10 seasons (all with the Yankees), winning five World Series. He led the league with 213 hits, 139 runs and 46 doubles in 1939, his best season and the Yankees’ fourth straight as champions.

He topped .300 four seasons as a Yankee and hit a solid .284 in six World Series, emerging as champions in five of them.

The Yankees have done alright with Ivy League players. Lou Gehrig went to Columbia, Rolfe to Dartmouth. Rolfe also coached at Dartmouth and in the professional Basketball Association of America. He managed the Tigers for parts of three seasons (including a second-place finish behind the Yankees in 1950) and part of a fourth.

4, Wade Boggs

Wade Boggs played his best years in Boston, but was an All-Star and .300 hitter the first four of his five seasons as a Yankee. The last of those four All-Star seasons, 1996, Boggs won his only world championship, celebrating on horseback.

5, Scott Brosius

Scott Brosius gets the fifth spot on this list, based on four seasons that all ended in the World Series, three of them with victories and one with a Game-Seven, ninth-inning loss. He won an All-Star selection and a Gold Glove for the Yankees, and in the post-season he hit eight homers and drove in 30 runs. His two homers in Game Three of the 1998 World Series, including a three-run eighth-inning blast with the Yankees trailing 3-2, helped him win the World Series MVP.

The rest

Gil McGougald's autograph (along with Hank Bauer's, Ed Lopat and Eddie Madjeski.

Gil McGougald’s autograph (along with Hank Bauer’s, Ed Lopat and Eddie Madjeski.

As I mentioned in my post on second basemen, Gil McDougald would rank ahead of some of these players on a list of all-time best Yankees. But he kept switching positions. He was Rookie of the Year (in 1951) and an All-Star (in 1952) playing primarily at third. But he played more games at second (599) than at third (508). That’s almost as many games as Brosius played at third for the Yankees, but Brosius was better in the World Series, hitting .314 to just .237 for McDougald.

Joe Sewell is actually in the Hall of Fame, but that’s primarily for his decade at shortstop for the Indians, not for his final three years, playing third base for the Yankees, 1931-33. The same is true of Wade Boggs (except that he stayed at third base), but he played longer for the Yankees and was stronger at that stage of his career than Sewell.

Hall of Famer Frank “Home Run” Baker finished his career for the Yankees, after earning his Dead-Ball-Era nickname for the Philadelphia A’s, leading the league four straight years in homers, without ever hitting more than a dozen. He started only four years for the Yankees and, in an age of inflated batting stats, topped .300 only once for the Yankees. And he never led the league in any batting category for the Yankees.

Robin Ventura played only one full season, 2002, with the Yankees, but he was an All-Star, hitting 27 homers and driving in 93 runs.

I really liked Clete Boyer when I was young, and he’d have won some Gold Gloves except that he played third base in the American League in the era of Brooks Robinson (he did win one after being traded to the Braves). He played longer for the Yankees (eight years, seven as a starter) than Brosius or Boggs, but they were better hitters by far.

Joe Dugan hit better than Boyer in his seven years with the 1920s Yankees, but I still rank Boggs and Brosius higher.

It does seem odd not to have any Yankees from the 1920s, ’50s or ’60s on this list, but I think I have the right top 5.

Aaron Boone had a better special moment than any Yankee third baseman, but didn’t even play a full season for the Yankees. And even in the post-season, he hit just .170. But one of those hits will live forever in Yankee fans’ memories.

Which team has been best at third?

We don’t have a clear winner for the team with the best tradition at third base.

The Red Sox (Boggs and Jimmy Collins) and Orioles (Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr., who played 675 games at third) are the only teams that were the primary teams for two Hall of Fame third basemen. The Pirates have Hall of Famer Pie Traynor and Bill Madlock, a four-time batting champ. The Cubs had Hall of Famer Ron Santo and Madlock. The Braves had Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, certain Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and MVPs Bob Elliott and Terry Pendleton.

Without researching the other third basemen on any of these teams, I’d guess the Braves probably have the strongest tradition. But the Yankees are a contender and probably no worse than third or fourth.

Ranking criteria

I explained my criteria in the post on first basemen, so if this seems familiar, it’s because I cut and pasted that explanation here, then adapted it for third basemen.

If a player is in the Hall of Fame (Boggs), belongs there (Nettles) or would be a Hall of Famer if not for scandal (A-Rod), that carries considerable weight with me.

Boggs, Sewell and Baker joined the Yankees late in their Hall of Fame careers, but only Boggs was still playing at a Hall of Fame level (if in a bit of decline). Sewell and Baker weren’t nearly as good in their Yankee years.

If two players were dead even at a position for the Yankees, I would have moved the one with the better overall career ahead. I think Boggs was a bit ahead of Brosius as a Yankee, but his total career made that decision easier.

I value both peak performance and longevity, but peak performance more. A-Rod’s MVP’s and league crowns helped secure the top spot on the list.

I rank players primarily on their time with the team, but Rolfe is the only career Yankee on this list. Except if I needed a tie-breaker, I don’t count Boggs’ years with the Red Sox, Nettles’ with the Indians and Padres or A-Rod’s with the Mariners and Rangers.

Post-season play and championship contributions matter a lot to me. All the contenders for the fifth spot contributed to multiple champions, but Brosius played the best in the World Series. A-Rod’s poor post-season play might have dropped him to second place if Nettles had been closer in regular-season offensive performance.

Special moments matter, too. Nettles’ stellar defensive plays in the ’78 World Series and Brosius’ memorable 1998 homer helped seal their rankings. If Boone had played a few good years for the Yankees, his special moment would have pushed him onto the list.

Who was the best?

Rankings of Yankees by position

Starting pitchers

Catchers

First base

Second base

Shortstop

Left field

Center field

Right field

Designated hitter

Relief pitcher

Manager

Other rankings of top Yankee third basemen

Uncle Mike’s Musings

Bleacher Report’s Harold Friend

ChristopherJ

Source note

Unless noted otherwise, statistics cited here come from Baseball-Reference.com.





The 5 best first basemen in Yankee history

4 04 2016

Last year I wrote a series about Yankee starting pitchers that included a ranking of the top 50 starting pitchers.

That series was interrupted by the death of Yogi Berra, which prompted a post on the Yankees having a far greater tradition at catcher than any other team (I didn’t actually rank the top Yankee catchers initially, but I’ve added a ranking to make the post fit into this series).

So I thought then I should open this baseball season (Yankees open this afternoon against the Astros) by going around the diamond, reviewing the Yankees’ tradition at each position and ranking the top five Yankees. I’ll review the top five, then review where Yankees rank among other teams in our tradition at that position (catcher’s not the only one where the Yankees are the best). Then I’ll explain my ranking criteria. Today: first base.

1, Lou Gehrig

The best first baseman in Yankee history is an easy call: Lou Gehrig, probably the best first baseman in baseball history.

Gehrig leads all Yankee first basemen in career homers, RBI, hits, runs, batting, slugging and nearly every important statistical category, and has the best single-season totals in several categories, too. He’s the only first baseman in the Hall of Fame who was primarily a Yankee. He’s the only Yankee first baseman to win a Triple Crown. And then there’s the consecutive-game streak. He led his league more times in homers (three times) and RBI (five) than all the other Yankee first basemen combined. And on and on. This is an easy call.

2, Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly is clear choice for No. 2 on this list. With 13 years as the Yankees’ starting first baseman, he’s second only to Gehrig and second in most career or single-season offensive categories, too. He’s the only Yankee first baseman other than Gehrig to win an MVP award or lead the league in batting, RBI or hits. In baseball history, only Keith Hernandez has more Gold Gloves at first base than Mattingly’s nine. Though not primarily a home run hitter, Mattingly holds or shares the records for most grand slams in a season and most consecutive games with a homer.

As I’ve noted before, Mattingly was superior to most of his contemporaries who are in the Hall of Fame. Only the Hall of Fame voters’ biases in favor of longevity and against Yankees are keeping him out of Cooperstown.

3, Tino Martinez

Here’s where the choices get a little murkier. Tino Martinez, Chris Chambliss, Jason Giambi and Mark Teixeira each played the position for the Yankees for seven years, and Moose Skowron played it for nine. Skowron has the most All-Star selections for the Yankees (5), Giambi the most homers (209), Teixeira the most Gold Gloves (three) and Chambliss hit the walk-off homer that made the Yankees American League champions in 1976 after a post-season absence of 12 years.

But I go here with Martinez, who led the group with Yankee RBI (739) and stacks up well with the rest in most other hitting numbers. Only Skowron could match Tino’s four world championships with the Yankees. Only Teixeira, with league-leading totals of 39 homers and 122 RBI in 2009, almost matched Martinez’s best season (44 homers and 141 RBI in 1997). Both Teixeira and Martinez finished second in MVP voting their best Yankee years.

And Martinez had some pretty special post-season homers, too.

4, Moose Skowron

Skowron’s regular-season stats don’t stand out among the other competitors here. But damn, he hit eight World Series homers (tied for seventh all-time) and drove in 29 RBI (sixth). Championship performance means a lot to me.

5, Mark Teixeira

I give Teixeira the nod here, based on that 2009 season (and his role in returning the Yankees to championship status that year). Chambliss won two world championships with the Yankees and Giambi had a nice run without any World Series titles. But Tex is a little better than either of them in my view. Plus he’s still playing, with plenty of opportunity to move up to third or fourth on this list.

The rest

My autographed Joe Pepitone card

My autographed Joe Pepitone card

Joe Pepitone, who played eight years at first for the Yankees and was a three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, and Wally Pipp, who played 11 years before losing his job to Gehrig, are the best Yankee first basemen I haven’t mentioned yet.

Joe Collins started at first base for the Yankees of the 1950s, but was never an All-Star, never hit 20 homers or drove in 100 runs (or even 60) and never hit .300. He contributed to five Yankee championships, but hit only .163 in World Series play. I’m not sure I’d include him on a list of 10 best Yankee first basemen.

Several Yankee first basemen had their best years with other teams: Hall of Famer Johnny Mize, Felipe Alou, Bob Watson and Giambi. Center fielder Mickey Mantle spent his final two years at first base.

Hal Chase’s SABR biography by Martin Kohout calls him the “most notoriously corrupt player in baseball history,” so I’m not going to dwell on him here. He was also a New York Highlander (before they became the Yankees), and I’m ranking the best Yankees.

Grand slams

You don’t want to face a Yankee first baseman with the bases loaded.

Gehrig held the career record for grand slams with 23, until he was finally passed by Alex Rodriguez (who, I should note, has played first base for the Yankees in two games). Giambi, with 14 grand slams, makes the top 20 all-time. Martinez, with 11, and Teixeira, with 10, are also on the all-time leaders list.

As noted before, Mattingly shares the record of six grand slams in a season with Travis Hafner (an Indian most of his career, including when he set the record, but he finished as a Yankee, exclusively as a DH).

Martinez, Pepitone and Skowron all hit World Series grand slams.

Who has the best first-base tradition?

While the Yankees likely have the best first baseman ever, I don’t think I can claim they have the best tradition of any team at first base. The best tradition would probably be the Giants or Cardinals.

Johnny Mize's autograph on a ball belonging to my son Mike.

Johnny Mize’s autograph on a ball belonging to my son Mike.

The Giants have had six Hall of Fame first basemen: Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Bill Terry, Johnny Mize, George Kelly and Roger Connor. The Cardinals have had four Hall of Fame first basemen: Cepeda, Mize, Jim Bottomley and Stan Musial (who mostly played outfield, but played more than 1,000 games at first, more than at any outfield position, and he played primarily at first in his 1946 MVP season). Add certain Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire, who had Hall of Fame numbers but is being kept out of Cooperstown because he used performance-enhancing drugs. Each team also had some pretty good first basemen in the Skowron-Martinez range who won’t make the Hall of Fame: Hernandez, Bill White and Jack Clark for the Cardinals (Clark played longer for the Giants, but was an outfielder then), Will Clark and J.T. Snow for the Giants, to name a few.

Even if you concede my point that Mattingly belongs in the Hall of Fame, and count Bottomley and Kelly as among those marginal players from the 20s who don’t belong in the Hall, both the Giants and Cardinals were the clear leaders here. I’d probably give the edge to the Cardinals, but I could go either way here. The Yankees are contending for third place with the A’s, Tigers and Cubs.

Ranking criteria

If a player is in the Hall of Fame (Gehrig) or should be (Mattingly), that carries considerable weight with me.

I rank players primarily on their time with the team, so Gehrig and Mattingly stand out not just for their great careers, but because all their time was spent with the Yankees.

Cepeda and Mize both made it to Cooperstown and had Hall of Fame seasons for both the Giants and Cardinals, so they count heavily for both teams, but not as heavily as Gehrig and Mattingly, who spent their whole careers for one team, or McCovey, who had all his great seasons as a Giant, though he didn’t finish up in San Francisco. Mize doesn’t get as much credit in Yankee rankings for being in the Hall of Fame, because he didn’t play like a Hall of Famer for the Yankees.

I value both peak performance and longevity, but peak performance more. If Martinez, Skowron and Teixeira had played as long at first base for the Yankees as Mattingly, his MVP award and league titles in batting, RBI, hits and doubles still would have given him the second spot on this list.

Few ballplayers actually matter in the broader culture beyond baseball, but Gehrig did and that counted for him, too. C’mon, Gary Cooper played him in a classic movie, “Pride of the Yankees,” and the disease that killed him is known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Time at the position is important, too. Musial played great years at first base. Mantle didn’t. A-Rod doesn’t get consideration based on just two games at first.

Post-season play and championship contributions matter a lot to me. I should add that I don’t consider those to be the same thing. Martinez and Skowron both contributed to four Yankee World Series championships, so they’re dead even in the first level of championship contributions. But Skowron also contributed to three American League champions who didn’t win the World Series and Martinez played on one, so Moose gets a bit of an advantage there. Skowron also hit eight homers in the World Series, to just three for Martinez. But I still credit Martinez for his nine total post-season homers. I give Skowron the edge in post-season play, since he didn’t have the opportunity to play extra rounds. If Martinez didn’t have a sizable advantage in regular-season play (five 100-RBI season to none for Moose), Skowron would have moved ahead of him based on championship contributions and post-season play. But championship contributions and post-season play were sizable advantages that pushed Moose ahead of Teixeira, Giambi and Chambliss.

This factor didn’t play into any of these decisions, but if two players were dead even at a position for the Yankees, I would have moved the one with the better overall career ahead. For instance, Teixeira’s great seasons with the Rangers (or Giambi’s with the A’s) would be a tie-breaker if either had been tied with another player based on Yankee years.

Scandals are a secondary factor here. I didn’t eliminate Giambi from consideration because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs. But if I were ranking a top 10, the combination of Giambi’s drug use and Chambliss’ clutch homer would have offset Giambi’s stronger regular-season performance, so Chambliss would be sixth.

Special moments matter, too. If Chambliss were dead-even with someone based on other criteria, that 1976 pennant-winning homer would push him ahead. Look for Bucky Dent to rank a notch or two higher than he otherwise might when I rank the shortstops.

How would you rank them?

The free version of Polldaddy doesn’t let me ask you to rank them. I’ll be surprised if anyone seriously disagrees with me on the first pick. But I thought I’d do a poll with each post in this series, so tell me whether you agree with the Gehrig poll or prefer someone else:

Rankings of Yankees by position

Starting pitchers

Catchers

Second base

Shortstop

Third base

Left field

Center field

Right field

Designated hitter

Other rankings of Yankee first basemen

Steve Goldman of Bleacher Report

Uncle Mike’s Musings

Source note

Unless noted otherwise, statistics cited here come from Baseball-Reference.com.

 





Yankees have more borderline Hall of Fame contenders than any other team

10 01 2016

Each year when the Baseball Hall of Fame votes come out, I applaud for the new Hall of Famers (Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza this year). But then I quickly turn to the players who didn’t make it.

Who came tantalizingly close (Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines this year)? Who fell short in his final year on the writers’ ballot (Alan Trammell this year)? How close is someone with just one more year left on the ballot (Raines close, Lee Smith too far from the 75-percent threshold for election)? Who moved closer to election, likely to make it in a few years (Curt Schilling)?

I’ve always been fascinated by the bizarre and inconsistent (or consistently biased) decisions about borderline contenders made by Hall of Fame voters — the Baseball Writers Association of America and the various Veterans Committees that have decided on players not chosen by the writers.

My most frequent topic on this blog is Yankees who belong in the Hall of Fame. But I’m going to roll around baseball in this post to recognize Cooperstown contenders from other teams.

Of course, I’m more convinced by the arguments for the Yankees. And, if a guy’s not in the Hall of Fame, the arguments aren’t persuasive yet to the voters. The best players discussed here are less than automatic. No Griffey, Derek Jeter or Greg Maddux in the group.

In addition, I won’t deal with the all-time greats who are being kept out of Cooperstown because of gambling or drug scandals: Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens. I dealt with them in last week’s post suggesting a Scoundrels Committee to decide how to deal with the great players who are tainted by scandal. I will, though, address the borderline players tainted by drug suspicions: Those whose numbers once would have made them certain Hall of Famers, but they became borderline either because of inflation of power figures during their careers or because of speculation about how much drugs inflated their own numbers.

This look at borderline players around the league will show that the anti-Yankee bias in selection is huge. I will go team by team and mention all the borderline contenders. I doubt I’ll leave out anyone with a real shot at Cooperstown, but your round-up of borderline contenders certainly won’t be identical to mine.

With a few exceptions, I won’t dwell much on the case for a particular candidate, but will look for articles or blog posts where other writers have made the case and link to them. I won’t bother linking to articles about suspicions of performance-enhancing drugs. I presume you remember the accusations, whispers, etc. in those cases.

Some players will show up under multiple teams. I won’t try to name contenders in all the teams where they played, but will mention some on teams where they made notable contributions.

Here’s what I consider a borderline candidate: anyone who doesn’t make the Hall of Fame in his first five years on the writers’ ballot, but whose career achievements resemble at least some Hall of Famers. The time on the writers’ ballot was shortened in 2014 from 15 years to 10 (though three players approaching 15 years were grandfathered in, giving Trammell, Smith and a few others another year or two).

The second path to the Hall of Fame, if the writers didn’t vote you in, used to be called the Old-Timers’ Committee, then the Veterans Committee. Now committees in rotating years consider retired players (and managers and other contributors) from three eras, pre-integration (before 1947), the “Golden Era” (1947-72) and the Expansion Era (post-1972, which is an odd cut-off point, given that baseball expanded in 1961, ’62, ’69 and ’76, but not in ’72. I presume after a while the Expansion Era will be broken into two eras, though I doubt they will call the second one the Steroid Era. I don’t expect the era committees to last long. I anticipate yet another overhaul in the Veterans Committee structure.

For purposes of this post, I consider a player a borderline candidate if he’s likely to have sports writers (or bloggers such as me) making a case someday that he should get consideration by a Veterans Committee.

I give no consideration here to Pre-Integration Era candidates. As I explained in my series on continued racial discrimination in the Baseball Hall of Fame, that era already has too many borderline candidates already in the Hall of Fame. Maybe some who didn’t make it are better than some who did, but those who didn’t aren’t as deserving as dozens of post-integration players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame.

Baseball closed the door in 2006 on further selections from the Negro Leagues. Unless a Scoundrels Committee opens the door for players banned for gambling, which shouldn’t allow much, if anyone, beyond Shoeless Joe Jackson, we should be done with Hall of Fame selections of white guys from the Segregation Era.

I’ll address contenders from the Golden Era (doesn’t the choice of that name say a lot about the people filling the Hall of Fame?) and Expansion Era, both of which have strong contenders for consideration in the coming years. But don’t expect the committees to let many players in. The 2014 Golden Era Committee whiffed on naming any of its 10 finalists to the Hall as did last year’s Pre-Integration Era Committee (rightly).

The 2014 Expansion Era Committee’s 12 ballot choices in 2014 included only six players. The committee elected only three managers: Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre (though Torre’s achievements as manager and player could be weighed together, and he was a worthy candidate as a player, lasting 15 years on the writers’ ballot, but didn’t get in, a perfect example of a borderline contender).

I won’t deal with managers here, but that might be a topic for a future post.

American League East

Boston Red Sox

Hall of Fame voters love the Red Sox, so Schilling will make it to Cooperstown eventually, but I’ll address him more as a Diamondback.

Luis Tiant (who gave the Yankees a couple decent years toward the end of his career) was one of the candidates rejected in 2014 by the Golden Era Committee.

Some Red Sox fans contend that Dwight Evans should be in the Hall of Fame (a point I discussed last year with Jim Brady), and I really liked Evans. But there are several Yankees (and players from other teams) with stronger cases for Cooperstown. He blossomed unusually late in his career. I think he has a better shot, though, than Reggie Smith, an earlier Boston outfielder who’s definitely in the borderline category.

Red Sox fans won’t think of Bill Buckner as a borderline Hall of Famer, and he just lasted one year on the ballot. More on him in the Dodgers section.

Fred Lynn appeared bound for the Hall of Fame, starting his career with nine straight All-Star seasons. But he flamed out and Hall of Fame voters place an inordinate value on longevity. He has no chance.

Baltimore Orioles

Rafael Palmeiro is remembered better for his defiant assurance to Congress that he never used performance-enhancing drugs, and then failing a drug test, than for his play on the field. It’s interesting that Clemens was prosecuted for lying to Congress, based on the testimony of an admitted drug dealer, but Palmeiro wasn’t prosecuted based on physical evidence. Did the prosecutors think he thought after his testimony that maybe it was time to try performance-enhancing drugs?

Palmeiro is one of those players who moves from automatic to barely borderline, based on drug suspicions. Along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez, Palmeiro’s one of only four players to pass 500 homers and 3,000 hits, but he played in an era of such performance enhancement that he made only four All-Star teams. Whatever stats he achieved, he was just one of the juicers.

Fun fact about Palmeiro: He won a Gold Glove in 1999 after playing only 28 games at first base and DH’ing 128 times. He’ll have to settle for that as the biggest honor he won but didn’t deserve.

Even after voters start allowing a few drug users in, if they ever do, I doubt Palmeiro will make it. If voters start allowing juicers into Cooperstown, it will be based on speculation of how great they were before they juiced or would have been without juicing. Palmeiro might be the easiest guy to dismiss his Hall of Fame numbers as completely a result of drugs.

For clean players, the Orioles have several pitchers who came up just short of normal Hall of Fame standards, most notably Mike Mussina (also a Yankee), Dennis MartinezDave McNally and Mike Cuellar.

Hall of Fame voters love longevity, so Moose definitely has a shot (he polled in the low 20 percents his first two years on the ballot and was up to 43 percent this year). I’d be surprised if either McNally or Cuellar makes it, but not outraged. They were great pitchers, but played in an era of many greater pitchers, and neither achieved the longevity that Hall voters demand (that’s an even stronger bias than the voters’ anti-Yankee bent).

Bobby Grich had a nice career, but was only on the Hall of Fame ballot for a year. He has no shot. Boog Powell won an MVP, but didn’t hit enough homers (339) to make the Hall of Fame as a one-dimensional slugger.

Toronto Blue Jays

Joe Carter probably won’t make the Hall of Fame but probably should. A guy with ten 100-RBI seasons and a World Series-winning homer has a shot at winning support someday from a Veterans Committee. I watched him play in the minors with the Iowa Cubs (he went to the Indians in the Rick Sutcliffe trade), and was a fan his whole career.

Fred McGriff ended seven homers short of 500, which at one time was a sure ticket to Cooperstown. I don’t recall that anyone ever suggested the Crime Dog was a juicer, but he played in an era when homers were devalued. It definitely hurts him that he didn’t quite make it to 500. He hasn’t reached even 25 percent of the writers’ vote yet (21 percent this year). Carlos Delgado finished 20 homers behind McGriff in an era of inflated slugging numbers. He was off the ballot in a year. John Olerud is even a longer-shot Blue Jay first baseman, who didn’t get even 1 percent of the vote his only year on the ballot. But the Blue Jays have had an impressive list of borderline candidates at first base.

This is one of three teams where Jack Morris should get a mention, but his Hall of Fame pitch is based mostly on his years with the Tigers and Twins, so I’ll address it more there.

I don’t see David Wells or David Cone making the Hall of Fame, but both had years with the Blue Jays and Yankees that push them into the borderline territory.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have hardly been playing long enough to have any players awaiting the call from Cooperstown, but Jose Canseco had his last All-Star season in St. Petersburg. And Palmeiro might get the call before Canseco, whose great play was too short-lived. And he gets no credit for admitting his drug use, because he snitched on so many other players.

A.L. Central

Kansas City Royals

Bret Saberhagen's autograph on a ball belonging to my son Mike.

Bret Saberhagen’s autograph on a ball belonging to my son Mike.

I love Bret Saberhagen, and few multiple Cy Young winners don’t make the Hall of Fame, but he really had only one other great year. You need a tragic end to your career to get in the Hall of Fame with just 167 wins. (Dizzy Dean won 150, Sandy Koufax 165.) Sabes became just an average pitcher, or worse, most of the final decade of his career.

Cone, won his Cy Young in Kansas City, probably has a bit better shot at the Hall of Fame, but he’s not likely to get there, even with a 20-win season and a perfect game for the Yankees.

Frank White was a great fielder, but substantially less a hitter than two other contemporaries at second base: Willie Randolph (a Yankee for whom I don’t make a Hall of Fame case) and Lou Whitaker (more on him later). White will have to settle for his eight Gold Gloves and the Royals Hall of Fame.

Dan Quisenberry is a long shot for selection by an Expansion Era Committee someday. He made the 2014 ballot, but didn’t win election. He was baseball’s best reliever for a six-year stretch (when Hall of Fame relievers Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage were in their primes). But voters normally demand a longer career than Quiz had.

Minnesota Twins

Morris absolutely belongs in the Hall of Fame, and he’ll get there someday. He peaked at two-thirds of the writers’ votes (75 percent are required), and players who get that close with the writers always get in eventually. I bet he gets in on his first chance under the Expansion Era Committee.

He maybe pitched the best World Series game ever, a 10-inning shutout duel over John Smoltz that looms bigger in a way than Don Larsen’s perfect game because it was in Game Seven.

Morris is the easiest eventual Hall of Famer to project among those who were passed over by the writers.

Jim Kaat actually might as strong a case for the Hall of Fame as Morris. With 283 wins, he has a record of longevity that normally gets pitchers into Cooperstown.

Bert Blyleven was a contemporary of Kaat’s with just four more wins (Kaat’s wins slowed down when he moved to the bullpen for his final five seasons, robbing him of the chance to reach 300 wins). Blyleven was a borderline candidate who made the Hall of Fame on his 14th year on the ballot. But Kaat had more 20-win seasons and Blyleven never won a Gold Glove. Kaat won 16 Gold Gloves, which was a record until Greg Maddux broke it.

The Golden Era Committee rejected Kaat in 2014, but two of his 20-win seasons came in the Expansion Era, so he might get a shot with another committee.

Tony Oliva, a three-time batting champion and eight-time All-Star, didn’t play long enough to reach the career totals Hall of Fame voters like. He was one of the 10 candidates rejected by the Golden Era Committee in 2014. I showed last year how much better he was than several white outfielders in the Hall of Fame.

Frank Viola and Kent Hrbek had some great seasons with the Twins, but neither played long enough or played at his peak long enough to have a valid case for Cooperstown.

Cleveland Indians

I mentioned Tiant in the Red Sox section, but he pitched well for the Indians, too, including winning the 1968 ERA title.

Kenny Lofton‘s primary claim to the Hall of Fame is as a base stealer. He ranks 15th all-time with 622 steals. But steals rarely get a player into the Hall of Fame. Six of the players ahead of Lofton on the list aren’t in Cooperstown yet. Raines, fifth on the list, will probably make it, but gets his last shot on the writers’ ballot next year. Bert Campaneris, just ahead of Lofton on the list with 649 steals, led the league seven times (to five for Lofton) and Willie Wilson and Vince Coleman, outfielders whose careers overlapped with Lofton, had more steals and neither lasted a year on the writers’ ballot. Same as Lofton. None of them will be honored at Cooperstown.

Carter probably has a stronger shot than fellow Cleveland outfielders Albert Belle or Rocky Colavito. I’ll discuss Julio Franco with the Rangers. But I don’t see any Indians likely to move across the Hall of Fame border.

Chicago White Sox

Three White Sox, Minnie MiñosoBilly Pierce and Dick Allen, were among the 10 players by the 2014 Golden Era Committee. Miñoso belongs in the Hall of Fame, and I think he’ll make it someday.

Allen had some great years, including an MVP season for the White Sox, but his career numbers didn’t reach automatic Hall of Fame standards. I think some African American and Latino players of his time perhaps got unfair reputations as malcontents, but Allen got one, and that holds you back when you’re a borderline contender. Allen had a similar career to Ron Santo (a White Sox teammate in 1974), and Sant0’s in the Hall of Fame. In my series on racial discrimination in Hall of Fame selections, I showed how Allen was easily as good as or better than white first and third basemen who made the Hall of Fame as borderline candidates.

Harold Baines came up 134 hits short of 3,000, which would have ensured him Hall of Fame selection. Instead, the anti-DH bias was too powerful to overcome. He lasted just four years on the ballot. If Edgar Martinez can’t get into Cooperstown, Baines doesn’t have a shot.

Kaat had two of his 20-win seasons for the White Sox.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have one of the biggest fields of valid Hall of Fame contenders.

Of course, Morris had more of his great years for the Tigers than any other team.

Frank Tanana won almost as many games as Morris, but has no shot at the Hall of Fame. More on him in the Angels section.

Trammell and Lou Whitaker were the absolute best offense/defense shortstop/second base combo of their time.

My Cal Ripken autograph

My Cal Ripken autograph

Barry Larkin, who overlapped careers with Trammell for 11 years, made it into the Hall of Fame his third year on the ballot. Neither was the best shortstop of their time; that was Cal Ripken Jr. But Trammell and Larkin had highly similar careers (Trammell had more hits, RBI and Gold Gloves, and other numbers were very close). Larkin was probably better, but you simply can’t explain why the writers elected Larkin in his third year on the ballot and never gave Trammell even 50 percent of the vote in 15 years on the ballot.

Whitaker was the best second baseman of his time in the American League. Ryne Sandberg was better in the National League. But you simply can’t defend the fact that neither of the Tiger infielders is in the Hall of Fame. I expect some Expansion Era Committee to admit them together one day.

Mickey Lolich, Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Harvey Kuenn and Colavito are Tigers of the 1960s worthy of Hall of Fame consideration but unlikely to make it.

If you don’t remember the 1960s, you probably think Freehan is a stretch, but he and Yankee Elston Howard were the best American League catchers of their time. And best catchers of an era usually make it.  I don’t think any catchers between Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench will make it to Cooperstown (not counting Joe Torre, who was enshrined as a manager and the only N.L. catcher comparable to Freehan and Howard). But you can make a case for Freehan. He wasn’t much of an offensive player, but he was about as good as Rick Ferrell, a Hall of Fame catcher elected mostly for his defense. I could find only one eligible person with more All-Star selections than Freehan (11) who’s not in the Hall of Fame, except those being kept out for gambling or drugs.

Gary Sheffield played for eight teams, including two years with the Tigers. I discuss his Hall of Fame chances under the Marlins.

Darrell Evans got 414 homers. You used to be automatic if you made it to 500, but you needed other qualifications if you were in the 400s and Evans didn’t have strong enough other qualifications. He lasted just one year on the writers’ ballot.

Cecil Fielder, who later played for the Yankees, had a four-year stretch for the Tigers where he appeared Cooperstown bound. But he ended well short of Hall of Fame career standards and didn’t get even 1 percent of the vote his only year on the ballot.

Kirk Gibson doesn’t have Hall of Fame stats, but he has Hall of Fame fame. Though often injured (the reason his stats fell short), he was one of the most feared hitters of his time. And damn, he hit two of the most famous World Series homers, off Hall of Fame relievers Goose Gossage and Dennis Eckersley.

They should rename the place the Hall of Stats if they’re not going to admit a player of Gibson’s actual fame (and I don’t think they ever will).

A.L. West

Oakland A’s

JuicedDave Stewart was a dominant pitcher, winning 20 games four years in a row, and pitching in three straight World Series (he was 10-6 in post-season play). But he lacked the longevity that Hall of Fame voters demand, winning only 168 games.

Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco are being kept out of the Hall because of PED’s. Vida Blue fell short of usual Hall of Fame standards because his cocaine addiction curtailed his career.

If the Baseball Hall of Fame rewarded cornerstone players on championship dynasties the way that the basketball and football halls do, Bert Campaneris, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi and Ken Holtzman might get into Cooperstown, but they mostly didn’t play long enough to compile the career stats the Baseball Hall demands. Campy might have the best shot to get in someday.

California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels

Angels Hall of Famers tend to have long careers that include several great seasons in Anaheim but long stretches with other teams as well: Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew (and someday Albert Pujols).

Their best borderline Hall of Fame contender, Don Baylor, would fit that mold, too. He falls a little short of Hall of Fame standards as a player (even not accounting for the anti-DH bias and the anti-Yankee bias he faces for three solid years in New York). And he’s well short of Hall of Fame standards for a manager, despite a Manager of the Year award in 1995. But Expansion Era Committee rules allow consideration of both careers together. With his managing career added to his playing career, and with admiration for the eight times he led his league in being hit by pitches, I could see Baylor finally making it to Cooperstown, though I don’t expect it.

He hit an 11th-inning grand-slam homer for the Yankees in old Comiskey Park (that I called as he came to the plate) to beat the White Sox, 12-6, in 1983 in one of the best games I ever saw live.

Bobby Grich, as I mentioned in the Orioles section, has no chance. Same with Frank Tanana, though he won 240 games. He never won 20 games and didn’t get a vote his only year on the ballot. Chuck Finley made it to 200 wins on the nose, but had no other notable qualifications and didn’t even get 1 percent of the vote his only year on the ballot.

Oddly, I don’t see anyone from the 2002 Angels championship team with a shot at the Hall of Fame. World champions without Hall of Famers, as I noted last year, are rare.

Texas Rangers

I think Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Canseco have no chance at the Hall of Fame unless drug-tainted players start getting consideration, and they might not even make it then. Several juicers will be ahead of them in line. Ivan Rodriguez, also a steroid user from that team, was clearly the best defensive catcher of his generation and a good offensive player, and gets his first shot on the writers’ ballot next year. If voters start letting PED users into Cooperstown, or if a Scoundrels Committee brings some order to consideration of players tainted by scandal, he would probably be in the second or third wave of players accepted. He definitely has the best chance of the drug-tainted Rangers (other than Alex Rodriguez, who’s still playing, but will go into the Bonds-Clemens category of all-time greats who may get a break someday because they were so great before they were thought to start juicing).

As much as the Hall of Fame loves longevity, it does take more than that to get into Cooperstown. Franco played until he was 48 and played 23 seasons. But only three of those were All-Star years, all with the Rangers, including a batting championship in 1991. But he still didn’t get any votes his only year on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Kevin Brown, Kenny RogersBuddy Bell and Al Oliver had respectable careers, but I don’t see any of them making the Hall of Fame.

Seattle Mariners

Edgar Martinez is the most obvious borderline Hall of Fame candidate from Seattle. But he faces a strong bias of Hall of Fame voters: their disdain for the designated hitter.

Martinez’s .312 batting average is Hall of Fame quality, with 2,247 hits and 309 homers. He got 43 percent of the vote from the writers this year, far short of the 75 percent he needs for election. He has just three years left on the writers’ ballot, and I expect his best shot will be with a Veterans Committee. I expect after years of bias, a committee someday will want to recognize one of the best DH’s ever.

Houston Astros

I think Bagwell will make the Hall of Fame, probably next year (he was tantalizingly close this year, his sixth eligible year, with 71.6 percent). He never was actually accused of using steroids, but suspicion that he might have has kept his Hall of Fame vote totals down. Bagwell was hurt by having his best year cut short by the 1994 strike. He had a shot to catch Roger Maris‘ record of 61 homers before McGwire did four years later.

Rusty Staub has no chance. He was on the writers’ ballot six years without reaching 10 percent of the vote. At 2,716 hits, you might think initially that he could have hung on another 2-3 years to make it to 3,000 hits and punch his Cooperstown ticket. But he topped 100 hits only once in his last seven years and got only 12 hits in 1985, his last year. Staub wrung every hit out of his career that he could, and it wasn’t enough.

Jim Wynn, Jose Cruz and Joe Niekro had nice careers, but didn’t reach Hall of Fame standards.

National League East

New York Mets

Two of the Mets’ best borderline Hall of Famers started their careers appearing to be locks for Cooperstown. The difference between baseball’s drug users of the 1980s and those of the 1990s and 21st Century was that cocaine and other recreational drugs eventually ruined performance, rather than enhancing it.

Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry ended their careers as borderline Hall of Fame contenders (Gooden closer to the border), based on their stats. But based on their wasted potential, they really have no shot at ever getting in. A borderline candidate needs some voters to give him a break, and players who wasted this much potential will not get breaks. (Of course, Gooden and Strawberry count as borderline contenders for both the Yankees and the Mets, but their Yankee years were toward the end, when they were trying to salvage their careers.)

Keith Hernandez is kind of in the same category, though he didn’t soar as high or fall as far. His appearance on Seinfeld is a favorable post-career contrast to Gooden’s and Strawberry’s prison terms. But Hernandez doesn’t have as strong a Hall of Fame case as Don Mattingly, who’s not in the Hall, so I don’t ever expect to see him in Cooperstown.

Jerry Koosman won 222 games, so that makes him a borderline Hall of Fame contender. But he had none of the other qualifications that a pitcher in the low 200s needs, and lasted just a year on the ballot.

Thankfully, Dave Kingman (a Yankee for eight games in 1977) hit only 442 homers. If he had made it to 500 before the PED era, he might have made the Hall of Fame, and such a one-dimensional player really doesn’t belong there. He didn’t get even 1 percent of the writers’ votes his only year on the ballot.

Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves

With the 1950s underrepresented in the Hall of Fame and today’s old-timer selection structured by eras, Lew Burdette is a top contender to receive the Golden Era Committee’s nod someday. He’d be another Yankee in the Hall of Fame, too, having pitched two games for the 1950 Yankees before being traded to the Boston Braves for Johnny Sain.

Dale Murphy never reached 25 percent of the writers’ vote, but he’s a prime candidate for the Expansion Era Committee. Three of the best hitters of the 1980s — Murphy, Gibson and Mattingly — aren’t in the Hall of Fame. I think Mike Schmidt was the only hitter of the 1980s who was more feared by pitchers and managers than these three. George Brett and Eddie Murray were similarly feared. Murphy, with back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and ’83, five Gold Gloves, two titles each in homers and RBI, might have a better shot than Gibson or Mattingly to make the Hall of Fame.

Sheffield is unlikely to make the Hall of Fame, but the Braves were one of several teams he starred for. I discussed Darrell Evans with the Tigers, but he contributed to the Braves, too. Bob Elliott lasted three years on the ballot. I don’t think he’ll get Golden Era Committee consideration. David Justice and Terry Pendleton had some good years for the 1990s Braves, but barely reached the borderline area. Neither got a second year on the writers’ ballot.

Philadelphia Phillies

My Steve Carlton autograph

My Steve Carlton autograph

The Phillies’ almost-dynasty that won five division titles and a World Series from 1976 to 1983 included three first-ballot Hall of Famers, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Joe Morgan (though Morgan was a Phillie only in 1983 and was elected mostly for his achievements on the Reds). Pete Rose would have been a fourth certain Hall of Famer from those Phillie champs if he hadn’t gambled.

Those Phillies don’t have a strong cast of borderline Hall of Fame contenders, though. Kaat, as I noted earlier, will probably make Cooperstown someday. He pitched for the ’76-’79 Phillies, but never won more than 12 games (and that was a losing season for a division champion). If Kaat is elected, it will be for longevity and for his excellence with the Twins and White Sox.

I discussed Dick Allen, a Phillies star from the 1960s, in the White Sox section. If he makes the Hall of Fame, it will be for his White Sox years and his contributions to the 1960s Phillies. But he returned for mediocre 1975-76 seasons toward the end of his career.

Greg Luzinski was a one-dimensional slugger who had four straight All-Star seasons for the Phillies in the ’70s. But he fell well short of Hall of Fame career standards and lasted only one year on the ballot.

Tug McGraw was a closer for two World Series teams, the 1973 Mets and the 1980 Phillies, but he didn’t last a year on the Hall of Fame ballot. His son may make the Country Music Hall of Fame someday, but Daddy’s not making it to Cooperstown.

That Phillies team had four multiple Gold Glove winners (in addition to Schmidt and Kaat and not counting Morgan, who won his with the Reds). Bob BooneLarry Bowa, Garry Maddox and Manny Trillo combined for 20 Gold Gloves, but only Boone lasted more than one year on the ballot, and he fell off after five, without ever getting 10 percent of the vote.

Maybe Boone is a long shot for Cooperstown, with a similar career to Rick Ferrell, a weak-hitting defensive standout who played a long time and made it to the Hall of Fame. Boone can’t get much extra credit for his mediocre managing career, and you don’t get extra credit for sons who were good players (but also not Hall of Famers).

Boone was, at best, the fifth-best catcher of his time. Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter are all in the Hall of Fame. Thurman Munson was a better catcher and belongs in the Hall of Fame, but won’t make it. Ted Simmons wasn’t as good defensively as Boone and caught almost 500 fewer games (he eventually moved to first base and DH). But Simmons was a much better hitter than Boone and played longer (21 seasons vs. 19).

It’s hard to make a case that a guy who was the fifth or sixth best catcher of his time belongs in the Hall of Fame, especially if players ahead of him aren’t there yet. But Hall voters love longevity, and since Ferrell made it, you can’t say Boone won’t. I’d be surprised, though.

Schilling is the only star from the 1993 World Series team with a shot at the Hall of Fame, but I’ll deal with him under the Diamondbacks.

The stars of the 2008-9 Phillies haven’t reached Hall of Fame consideration yet.

Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos

Raines, as I discussed yesterday, might be poised to make the Hall of Fame next year. If not, he’ll be an easy call for an Expansion Era Committee.

Dennis Martinez pitched long enough to rack up 245 wins without ever topping 16 in a season. He lasted just one year on the writers’ ballot.

Florida/Miami Marlins

Sheffield and Kevin Brown of the 1997 Marlins championship team (both also were Yankees) have little shot at the Hall of Fame.

Sheffield passed 500 homers, which used to mean automatic enshrinement. But Sheffield is seventh on the list of known PED users (and likely to be passed in April by David Ortiz) in career homers. He’s not going to see Cooperstown, except as a tourist.

Brown, who pitched for six teams, including the Yankees, didn’t have a great enough prime or pitch long enough to make it to the Hall of Fame.

None of the stars from the 2003 champs are eligible yet for Hall of Fame consideration.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are a pretty good team on which to be a borderline Hall of Famer (understanding that just being borderline means most of the candidates from any team don’t get in, or wait a long time).

Roger Maris' autograph, with some St. Louis Cardinals teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Roger Maris’ autograph, with some St. Louis Cardinals teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Both the Cubs and Yankees had an outfielder who had an incredible season in which he set an all-time power record that stood for decades. Each led his league in RBI twice. The Cub led his league in homers more times, but the Yankee had more career homers. The Yankee won two MVP awards; the Cub never did. Both had shortened careers and didn’t reach the career totals that normally get you into the Hall of Fame. Hack Wilson, the Cub, was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee 45 years after his career ended. Roger Maris, the Yankee, is still not in the Hall of Fame 48 years after his career ended.

The 1960s Cubs never won anything. They finished tenth once, ninth once, eighth twice and seventh three times before having their second winning record in 1967 (one of the seventh-place teams finished 82-80). The Cubs finished third in 1967 and ’68. The first year of division play, they had an epic collapse and finished second to the New York Mets. It wasn’t the worst decade a team ever had, and they certainly improved toward the end, but it was an awful decade.

That team had four Hall of Famers playing in their primes, all for four or more years of that decade: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins.

That total doesn’t count Lou Brock, whom the Cubs stupidly traded to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio in one of baseball’s worst trades ever, before he blossomed into a star (but everyone saw him as a great prospect). And it doesn’t count Robin Roberts, who made his last nine starts for the 1966 Cubs at age 39. And it doesn’t count Richie Ashburn, who had a decent 1960 season for the Cubs at age 33 in 1960 but was pretty bad in 1961 before spending his last year with the hapless 1962 Mets.

Four Hall of Famers played some of their best years with the Cubs of the 1960s. Banks was an automatic Hall of Famer, elected his first year on the ballot. Williams, elected in his sixth year on the ballot, and Jenkins, elected in his third year, were certain Hall of Famers, but Santo was clearly borderline.

And let me be clear: I loved the Cubs in the 1960s. They were my second-favorite team behind the Yankees. My mother grew up in Chicago and we visited my grandmother there several summers, always taking in a Cubs game. Wrigley Field was the first ballpark I visited, and I saw 6-8 games there before I visited my second park. I will weep tears of joy for Mom if the Cubs ever win a World Series.

But I’m talking facts here, not emotion. In that same decade, the Yankees played in five consecutive World Series, winning two of them and taking two more to seven games. That Yankees team had three Hall of Famers: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford.

The next decade (and the first couple years of the 1980s), the Yankees had a similar stretch, playing in four World Series in six years and winning two, plus winning a fifth division title. That Yankees team had three Hall of Famers, too: Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter, both of whom were elected to Cooperstown more for their achievements with the Oakland A’s, and Goose Gossage, who played seven of his 22 years in New York. I don’t count Gaylord Perry, who made eight starts for the 1980 Yankees.

I was glad to see Santo elected to the Hall of Fame. I liked his consistency as a player and loved his goofy enthusiasm as a broadcaster. I admired his courage in living with severe diabetes. But Santo was the definition of a borderline Hall of Fame candidate.

From those Yankees teams of the 1960s and ’70s, Maris, Elston HowardRon Guidry, Munson, Tommy John, Sparky Lyle and Graig Nettles were either comparable or clearly better Hall of Fame candidates than Santo. Nettles, in fact, was also a multiple-Gold-Glove third baseman with more homers than Santo in overlapping careers, and a home run title, which Santo never won.

I don’t count Kaat and Tiant, who were borderline Hall of Fame contenders on those Yankee teams, because their Hall of Fame credentials were achieved with other teams.

Santo had the good fortune of playing on a team whose borderline candidates have a better shot at making the Hall of Fame. Everyone loves the Cubbies.

Bruce Sutter and teammate Willie Hernandez were among the Cubs who signed this ball, which my father gave my mother in the 1970s. Hernandez matched Sutter with a Cy Young Award and also was an MVP.

My Bruce Sutter autograph.

This makes it mysterious that Lee Smith, who played eight of his 18 years with the Cubs, has topped 50 percent only once in his 13 years on the writers’ ballot. Writers don’t know what to do with great relievers. Bruce Sutter (Cub on the right side of the Hall of Fame borderline) was elected in his 13th year on the ballot, Goose Gossage (also a Cub, but not for prime years, as Sutter and Smith were) in his ninth year, Rollie Fingers in his second, Dennis Eckersley in his first. (Eck also was a Cub, but as a starter; and his bullpen career was nowhere near borderline.)

All were contemporaries of Smith, and maybe it will be tough to get five relievers from the same era into Cooperstown. But it was the era when closers became dominant and valuable, and, as I documented in yesterday’s post, Smith was as good as any of them, maybe better than some already in Cooperstown.

Smith is unlikely to get elected next year in his final year on the writers’ ballot. But he should be an easy call for a Veterans Committee. He’ll eventually illustrate my point about Cubs having a good shot as borderline Hall of Fame candidates, but he’s already taken longer than he should.

Sammy Sosa is the only other ex-Cub of note I can think of with a shot at the Hall of Fame, and he’s in the PED group. He’s so closely linked with McGwire that I think they might go in together if either of them ever gets a Cooperstown moment.

My Rick Reuschel autograph.

My Rick Reuschel autograph

I address Buckner under the Dodgers, though he spend eight years each with the Dodgers and Cubs. Mark Grace has no chance and didn’t get a second year on the ballot. Rick Reuschel (a Yankee briefly in 1981) won 214 games but doesn’t have enough other Hall of Fame credentials. He didn’t get even 1 percent of the writers’ vote his only year on the ballot.

St. Louis Cardinals

McGwire‘s shot at the Hall of Fame depends on two things:

  1. Whether Hall of Fame voters ever forgive any PED users at all. Unless they do, he has no shot.
  2. If voters speculate about the careers players would have had without juicing, McGwire probably loses out. Clemens and Barry Bonds appeared headed to sure Hall of Fame induction before juicing, so they could make it someday. But McGwire had leveled off after a couple strong early years, so he’s not going to Cooperstown unless voters eventually forgive drug use entirely and just honor the careers that players had.

Curt FloodCurt Flood should be a Hall of Famer. He had seven straight Gold Gloves, two 200-hit seasons and six seasons hitting better than .300 when he refused to accept a trade to the Phillies. That’s an unfinished Hall of Fame career, but a worthy start. His courage in challenging baseball’s control of players’ careers started baseball down the path to free agency. He should be in Cooperstown for the combination of what he did on the field and what he tried to do in the courtroom. Flood is another example (like Maris and Gibson) of the Hall of Fame voters’ stubborn refusal to consider a player’s actual fame at all.

Flood was a better centerfielder than Jim Edmonds, who did play a full career without topping 2,000 hits or 400 homers. He was on the ballot for the first time this year, not even reaching the 5 percent level needed to stay on the ballot. Willie McGee, another Cardinal centerfielder, lasted two years on the ballot and won’t make the Hall of Fame.

Ken Boyer is the very definition of a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. He played only 15 years, not long enough to cross the performance thresholds than ensure enshrinement. But he was one of the best third basemen of his day, not quite Brooks Robinson or Eddie Mathews, but comparable to Santo, who eventually made it. Boyer was an MVP (for a World Series champ), an RBI champ, a five-time Gold Glove winner and six-time All-Star. But he was rejected in 2014 by the Golden Era Committee. Santo and Boyer both played 15-year careers, with closely similar career numbers across the board. Santo’s career totals are a little better, Boyer’s peak a little better, with post-season success Santo never had a shot at. But Hall of Fame voters value career totals more than peak and don’t value post-season at all. Still, I see Boyer getting in someday.

Ted Simmons wasn’t a good enough catcher or batter to make the Hall of Fame. Longevity might have given him a long shot, but he got only one year on the writers’ ballot. As an indication of how Hall of Fame voters love Cardinals, he actually made the 2014 Expansion Era ballot over several more worthy candidates, but he didn’t get elected.

Tim McCarver is a more famous Cardinals catcher, who won the Hall of Fame’s Ford Frick Award in 2012, despite being perhaps the most annoying, inane broadcaster in baseball history. Despite some longevity as a catcher (a 21-year career spanning four decades), McCarver has no shot at making the Hall of Fame as a player. But the Frick Award reflects the Hall of Fame’s consistent preference for longevity over quality. Simmons had eight All-Star seasons to only two for McCarver, and Simmons’ batting achievements far surpassed McCarver.

I dealt with Hernandez under the Mets, Lee Smith under the Cubs and Reggie Smith under the Dodgers.

Cincinnati Reds

Among borderline Reds contenders, Davey Concepcion may have the best shot, as the greatest shortstop of his era, but he fell short on the 2013 Expansion Era ballot. Ted Kluszewski, Vada Pinson, Ken Griffey Sr. (who spent a few years as a Yankee), George Foster, Randy Myers and perhaps a few more, if they were even borderline, clearly fell on the wrong side of the border.

Lou Piniella had a respectable career as a player (playing his best years for the Yankees) and an even better career as a manager (winning a World Series with the Reds). I’d call him not even a borderline contender for the Hall of Fame as a player, but definitely borderline as a manager. Given the Expansion Era Committee’s ability to consider combined careers, he has a shot.

Pittsburgh Pirates

I wouldn’t complain if Dick Groat someday is a Golden Era Committee selection to the Hall of Fame, but I don’t expect him to get in.

Roy Face lasted 15 years on the writers’ ballot, so I suppose he might make it one day, if the Golden Era Committee starts considering relievers of that time. His 18-1 season in 1959 is his best credential and probably not enough to get him in.

As I noted last year, Oliver and Matty Aloe compare well to white outfielders of the 1920s in the Hall of Fame, but neither has a shot at the Hall of Fame now.

The Pirates’ best two other borderline candidates may be kept out because of recreational drug use:

  • Bill Madlock won four batting titles and hit .305 for his career, which would put him in Cooperstown for sure, even though he fell short of the long-career totals normally required. But he was involved in the Pirates’ drug scandal of the 1980s. I compared him to white borderline Hall of Famers in October. He was better than them, but I doubt he’ll ever get his Cooperstown moment.
  • Dave Parker is more in the category of Gooden and Strawberry, a player who appeared Cooperstown-bound early in his career, but declined as he became addicted to cocaine and fell short of the usual statistical standards. He ended up closer to Hall of Fame standards than Strawberry and about as close as Gooden. But in all cases, their deliberate waste of potential will keep them from ever getting the good-will bump that sometimes pushes a player like Santo onto the Cooperstown side of the border. I was surprised that Parker even made the 2013 Expansion Era Committee ballot, but he didn’t come close to election.

And, if you think a player who receives less than 10 percent of the writers’ vote isn’t really a borderline Hall of Fame contender, consider the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski. He didn’t top 10 percent until his sixth year on the ballot and peaked at 42 percent his final year on the writers’ ballot. But he was elected in 2001 by the Veterans Committee.

Milwaukee Brewers

I discuss Sheffield elsewhere, but the Brewers were the first of his many teams.

I mentioned Simmons in the Cardinals section.

Cecil Cooper is the only other Brewer I can think of with a shot at Cooperstown. But it’s a long shot. He received no votes his only year on the ballot.

N.L. West

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers contend with the Tigers for second place behind the Yankees among Hall of Fame contenders.

From their 1950s champions, Gil Hodges got Golden Era Committee consideration in 2014, but was rejected. Especially given the explicit instructions that a managerial career can be considered along with the playing career, the manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets and a slugging and fielding star of the 1950s Dodgers who was an eight-time All-Star might finally make it into the Hall of Fame.

The Gold Glove started in 1957, a decade into his career, or Hodges might have won 10-12 in a row, rather than just the first three. But first-base Gold Gloves mean nothing for Hall of Fame selection. Hernandez won 11 and Mattingly nine, and neither is in Cooperstown. In fact, Eddie Murray (with three) is the only first-base Gold Glover in the Hall of Fame.

From the 1960s Dodgers champions, Maury Wills never got the credit he deserved from Cooperstown for transforming the game by the way he stole bases (I compared him last year to white borderline shortstops in the Hall of Fame, and he belongs). Luis Aparicio and Lou Brock are in the Hall of Fame heavily for their base-stealing, but Wills had a more profound effect on how the game was played. He’s one of the most outrageous non-Yankee examples of the Hall of Fame voters’ adamant bias against players who didn’t achieve some elusive standard of longevity and the voters’ stubborn ignoring of actual fame and impact on the game over dry and selective analysis of numbers. He was on the 2014 Golden Era Committee ballot, so he’s getting consideration. But the committee rejected all 10 candidates.

I doubt that Tommy Davis, a two-time RBI champ and offensive star of the Dodgers’ 1960s dynasty, makes it to Cooperstown. He wouldn’t be an awful Veterans Committee choice someday, but Wills and the others turned down in 2014 were better.

Tommy John deserves his place in Cooperstown as much for his Dodger play as for the great seasons he gave the Yankees. And his comeback from Tommy John surgery was as a Dodger. But he was snubbed by the Expansion Era Committee in 2014. He’s gracious enough, though, to visit the Hall of Fame as a guest.

In the same era, it’s kind of surprising, considering the hype they received when they played, that no one from the Dodgers’ fabled infield that stayed together through the 1970s has made it to Cooperstown, and most aren’t even borderline contenders. Bill Russell (three times an All-Star) wasn’t even close to a borderline Hall of Famer. Ron Cey (six straight All-Star selections) and Davey Lopes (four straight) were perhaps within sight of the borderline, but neither has a reasonable case for Cooperstown. Steve Garvey (10 All-Star selections, including eight in a row) appears likely to be a choice someday, but he fell short on the 2014 Expansion Era Committee ballot.

With 2,715 hits, Buckner, a Dodger outfielder in the 1970s, came tantalizingly close to the magical 3,000-hit mark that assures election for players without drug or gambling issues. But he really had no shot at 3,000. Buckner retired at age 40 after the 1990 season, but had only eight hits that year. He hadn’t topped 100 hits since 1987, so he really wasn’t within reach.

Buckner finished in the territory where some players make the Hall of Fame, but others don’t. Lou Gehrig had only six more hits than Buckner, but he had the record for grand slams and that consecutive game streak. And a Triple Crown. Just four hits behind Buckner in all-time hits is Billy Williams, who, like Buckner, won a batting championship for the Cubs. Williams and Gehrig both hit more than 400 homers, more than twice as many as Buckner.

Rusty Staub, just one hit ahead of Buckner, and Dave Parker, three hits behind, are more comparable to Buckner, and neither is in the Hall of Fame.

Buckner hit .289, drove in 100 runs three times, topped 200 hits twice, won a batting championship, all credentials that push him solidly into the borderline area, but not across the line. He was an All-Star only once. It’s not the World Series groundball that’s keeping Buckner out of the Hall of Fame.

Reggie Smith is another borderline contender from the 1970s Dodgers, but didn’t get even 1 percent of the vote his only year on the ballot.

More recently, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser were two of the best pitchers of the 1980s, but haven’t come close in Hall of Fame voting.

Even with six All-Star selections and a Cy Young Award, Valenzuela won only 173 games, not enough to meet the Hall’s longevity standard, unless tragedy cuts your career short. He lasted only two years on the ballot. But he was incredibly good for several years and Fernandomania was a level of fame that I could see an Expansion Era Committee rewarding someday. But, as I’ve noted in the cases of Roger Maris, Tommy John and Kirk Gibson, Hall of Fame voters rarely care about actual fame.

Hershiser also won a Cy Young and also spent only two years on the Hall of Fame ballot. But he won 204 games and broke Don Drysdale’s scoreless-innings streak. I think Hershiser has a better shot than Fernando of winning an Expansion Era Committee nod someday.

I discussed Kirk Gibson under the Tigers, but his most famous moment, and his MVP trophy, came as a Dodger.

The Dodgers are yet another team where Sheffield merits a mention.

San Francisco Giants

Hall of Fame voters have been kind to Giants through the years. The most notable Giant contenders are both named Bonds.

Barry Bonds, like Clemens and Rose, doesn’t belong in this discussion of borderline contenders. Read about him in the Scoundrels Committee post.

Bobby Bonds is absolutely a borderline contender, though. He played only 14 seasons (one as a Yankee) and never reached Hall of Fame standards for career stats. But he was the best (until his son came along) at combining power with speed.

His five seasons combining 30 steals with 30 homers were three more than the centerfielder he succeeded and could otherwise never measure up to, Willie Mays. And those don’t include two seasons when Bonds hit 26 homers and stole more than 40 bases. Barry Bonds is the only player who has matched his father’s five 30-30 seasons.

With 461 career steals, Bobby Bonds is only 51st all-time, which won’t get you into Cooperstown. But no one in the top 50 in stolen bases had over 300 homers (except Barry). Bobby Bonds had 332.

I would not be surprised if a Veterans Committee someday recognized Bobby Bonds’ combination of speed and power, matched only by his son.

Other borderline Giants have little shot at the Hall of Fame. I’d be surprised if Jeff KentKuenn, Chili Davis or Darrell Evans ever get elected. Will Clark and Jack Clark didn’t really approach Hall of Fame standards for first basemen. In their own era, Mattingly and Hernandez were clearly better, and neither of them is in Cooperstown yet. Bobby Murcer, the Yankee centerfielder traded for Bobby Bonds in 1974, was an All-Star for the Giants and reached borderline territory, but lasted only a year on the writers’ ballot.

San Diego Padres

For an expansion team that’s played in only two World Series, the Padres have an amazing number of no-doubt Hall of Famers. Only Tony Gwynn played his whole career in San Diego, but a slew of Hall of Famers played significant years for the Padres: Ozzie Smith, Dave Winfield, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Gaylord PerryRickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar, Willie McCovey. There wasn’t a cameo in the bunch. Perry won a Cy Young for the Padres. All but Henderson and McCovey were All-Stars as Padres. Henderson stole 66 bases in less than two full seasons and McCovey had two 20-homer seasons, both past their primes, but still contributing.

By contrast, the Royals were an expansion team the same year, have had a more successful history (winning two World Series, playing in four and winning more division titles). But the Royals have only George Brett in the Hall of Fame, plus end-of-career bows from Perry (four wins for KC), Harmon Killebrew (14 homers) and Orlando Cepeda (one homer).

Despite all their certain Hall of Famers, the Padres have few borderline contenders. Randy Jones won a Cy Young in 1976 and finished second the year before, but he pitched only 10 years and finished with a record of 100-123. He got no votes and won’t get future consideration.

Ken Caminiti won an MVP (even Gwynn never did that; Caminiti is the only Padre MVP), but his career fell far short of Cooperstown standards (didn’t reach 2,000 hits, 300 homers or 1,000 RBI). And if he were close, his drug use would keep him from getting in.

As noted earlier, Kevin Brown and Sheffield have little or no Hall of Fame shot.

Nettles should be in the Hall, but mostly for his Yankee play, and I doubt he’ll ever make it. Garvey, a member of that 1984 Padres World Series team along with Nettles and Gossage, is probably the borderline Padre with the best shot at eventual enshrinement.

Trevor Hoffman was on the ballot for the first time this year and got 67.3 percent of the writers’ vote. He’s not borderline. In another year or two, he’ll add to the ranks of sure-thing Hall of Famers from the Padres.

Colorado Rockies

Despite (or perhaps because of) Coors Field’s friendly effects on batting statistics, no Rockies are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And I don’t think that’s likely to change for a while. Larry Walker had a similar career to Orlando Cepeda, a Veterans Committee selection. But Walker hasn’t reached 25 percent in the writers’ vote in his five years on the ballot (15.5 percent this year). I don’t think his stats will ever have the value for Hall of Fame voters that Cepeda’s did. I don’t think Walker was ever suspected as a steroid user, but he played in that era, and offensive stats from the 1990s simply don’t carry as much weight as similar stats from other eras. Add a second discount for the Coors Field effect, and I don’t think Walker will make it. But a three-time batting champ who also had a homer crown, seven Gold Gloves and an MVP could be attractive someday to an Veterans Committee.

Andres Galarraga actually surpassed Walker in career homers, hits and RBI (though he had lower batting, on-base and slugging averages). Galarraga led the league once in batting and homers and twice in RBI and won two Gold Gloves. And he returned from cancer treatment to become an All-Star again. I could argue that he should have as good a shot at the Hall of Fame as Walker, but his achievements also received the Coors Field discount, and he lasted only one year on the ballot.

Todd Helton might be the first Rockie to make the Hall of Fame. But he’ll be a borderline contender at best, and I don’t see him overcoming the Coors Field discount on borderline stats.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Luis Gonzalez racked up some good numbers, but they didn’t stand out in an era of inflated power numbers. He didn’t reach 1 percent of the writers’ vote his only year on the ballot.

Schilling whined that his conservative political views were keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. That’s ridiculous, of course. Baseball writers don’t tend to care a lot about politics, and I bet many who do are conservative (as are many of the ballplayers they elect to the Hall of Fame). Steve Carlton was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a loony conspiracy theorist political extremist. Also a much better pitcher than Schilling.

Schilling is the classic profile of a pitcher who’s certain to make the Hall of Fame but has to spend a few years on the ballot. His 216 wins are low for a Hall of Famer, just seven wins more than Don Drysdale, who was elected in his 10th year on the ballot.

Schilling won 20 games three times and Drysdale did it twice. But Drysdale won a Cy Young Award and Schilling never did. Schilling finished second three times, twice to teammate Randy Johnson. Drysdale also pitched in tandem with a much greater teammate.

Schilling has been on the ballot only four years, reaching his highest level, 52.3 percent this year. Someday, he will make the Hall of Fame. His post-season prowess (11-2, co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, plus the “bloody sock” game) will count in his selection more than post-season performance will ever count for a Yankee.

But he’ll have to wait. And here’s why:

  • Pitchers with careers like his always have to wait.
  • Politics aside, Schilling is widely regarded as a jerk, so no one’s going to vote for him earlier than they would have for Drysdale or a similar pitcher.
  • As non-baseball negative matters go, his government-funded business failure, bordering on a scam and certainly countering his political bombast, is a way bigger deal than his conservative politics, but probably a tiny factor, if at all.
  • Schilling’s work as an ESPN commentator doesn’t help him one bit. Every time he opens his mouth or tweets, he reminds you of his arrogance, without impressing you one whit with his knowledge. That shouldn’t keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but it’s not going to hurry things up.
  • And, let’s be honest, Schilling isn’t just conservative, he’s a bigot and an extremist.

On the other hand, people of all political beliefs, certainly every father, cheered how Schilling stood up for his daughter. His outspoken nature is part of the package with Schilling and it’s not all working against him, if that counts at all, in Hall of Fame voting.

Yes, Schilling will certainly have his day at Cooperstown. But you have to be a Diamondbacks, Phillies or Red Sox fan to be bothered that he’ll have to wait a few years.

Yankees’ borderline candidates

The Tigers have 13 borderline candidates who haven’t made the Hall of Fame: Sheffield, Morris, Fielder, Gibson, Trammell, Whitaker, Evans, Tanana, Lolich, Cash, Freehan, Kuenn and Colavito.

The Dodgers are one behind with a dozen: Sheffield, Gibson, Kevin Brown, Hershiser, Valenzuela, Tommy John, Garvey, Buckner, Reggie Smith, Tommy Davis, Wills and Hodges. If you think Lopes or Cey are borderline, the Dodgers might be tied or ahead, but I don’t count them.

I’m not saying those 23 borderline contenders (Gibson and Sheffield played for both) will make it. I’d be surprised if more than seven make it. (I’d guess Morris, Trammell, Whitaker, John, Garvey, Wills and Hodges. Maybe Hershiser.) Borderline contenders don’t make it more often than they do, and take a long time to get there.

My Thurman Munson card

My Thurman Munson card

We can argue whether this is an illustration of the fact that the Yankees have produced (or acquired) more great players than other teams, or whether it’s evidence of anti-Yankee bias. It’s probably both. But the Yankees have more valid borderline Hall of Fame contenders than the Tigers and Dodgers combined:

  • Bernie Williams, Mattingly, John, Ron Guidry, MunsonNettlesMaris, Elston Howard and Allie Reynolds all have solid Hall of Fame cases. They were among the best of their eras at their positions, match up well with contemporaries in the Hall of Fame and/or others at their positions in the Hall of Fame. And at least John, Maris and Reynolds have unique achievements that add to their fame. All but Mattingly have championship credentials and extensive post-season play (and Donnie Baseball excelled in his only post-season series). These nine Yankees absolutely belong in Cooperstown (and at least two or three will make it eventually).
  • My Dodger and Tiger lists included players like Sheffield, Brown, Gibson, Morris and Evans whose Hall of Fame credentials included achievements with other teams. So the Yankee list needs to include at least Sheffield, Brown, Mussina, Wells, ConeRaines, Gooden, Strawberry, Baylor, Tiant and Bobby Bonds. This group is more borderline than those above, but I expect two or three will make it to Cooperstown eventually. Raines looks almost certain. Mussina probably has the next-best shot.

That brings us to 20 borderline Yankee Hall of Fame candidates, but we’re not done yet.

We need to count Yankees who clearly fell short of Hall of Fame standards, but had careers comparable to the borderline contenders I named from other teams: Fielder, Ken Griffey Sr., Lyle, RogersRandolphMurcer, Mel Stottlemyre.

If Piniella ever makes Cooperstown on his combined managing and playing careers, both included important years as a Yankee. He would go in more as a manager than a player, so I’m not counting him here, but he deserves mention.

Even if you dispute a few of these choices (and if you do that, the Dodger and Tiger totals could start dropping, too, as we’d eliminate their most marginal contenders), the Yankees have about 25 or more borderline candidates.

I don’t count Lee Smith, Kaat or Burdette, whose Yankee appearances were just cameos.

If the Yankees had way more Hall of Famers than any other team, this huge lead in borderline contenders might just reflect their huge lead in world championships, the fact that they’ve been the best team in history by far and have had more great players than anyone else.

But you know what? The Yankees don’t even have the most Hall of Famers. Only 19 Hall of Fame players were primarily Yankees, fewer than their 27 world championships (more than double any other team’s total). The list of Hall of Famers linked above will also include seven Yankee managers and executives. The Giants, with eight world championships (three of them too recent to have any players in the Hall of Fame) have 19 Hall of Fame players from their time in New York and another five from San Francisco. And several other teams are in the teens, much closer to the Yankees in Hall of Fame players than in world championships.

Few things are more predictable than which borderline Hall of Fame contenders will finally get their calls from Cooperstown, but I feel confident saying this: Contenders who didn’t play home games in Yankee Stadium will continue to fare better than those who did.

Source note: Unless noted otherwise, statistics cited here come from Baseball-Reference.com.

Who’d I miss? Borderline Hall of Fame candidates are about as subjective as anything you can discuss in baseball. Whom did I miss here?

Style note: The Hall of Fame has had various committees and rules through the years to elect players who were passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America as well as umpires, managers, executives and other baseball pioneers. I am referring to them all in this series as the Veterans Committee unless the specific context demands reference to specific committee such as the current era committees. Baseball-Reference.com has a detailed history of the various committees.





Scoundrels Committee: A way to recognize shamed players in the Baseball Hall of Fame

7 01 2016


Ken Griffey Jr., of course, was an automatic Hall of Famer, elected Wednesday by the Baseball Writers Association of America in his first year of eligibility. (Mike Piazza also was elected; more on him later).

But two players who had even greater careers, Barry Bonds (44 percent of the vote) and Roger Clemens (45 percent) got nowhere near the 75-percent election threshold. Neither of them got even half of Griffey’s record 99.3  percent of the writers’ votes (three idiots left him off their ballots).

Bonds’ and Clemens’ fourth year being rejected by the baseball writers comes a few weeks after Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred upheld the suspension from baseball (and Hall of Fame consideration) of the all-time hit king, Pete Rose.

A fourth all-time great, who’s still playing but bound to face a similar unofficial ban from the Hall of Fame, Alex Rodriguez, paired with Rose in the Fox outfield studio during the World Series, a bizarre illustration of how tainted many of baseball’s greatest players have become.

Rather than tolerating this continuing failure to deal with disgraced players, I think the Baseball Hall of Fame needs to formally address the discouraging but growing number of great players known as much for shame as for glory.

Sure, Rose, Bonds and Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame and A-Rod will someday, too, based on achievements. But their disgrace was as profound, or nearly so, as their outstanding play. And they have plenty of company in Cooperstown’s official and de facto Hall of Shame: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Rafael Palmeiro …

Rose and Jackson are barred officially from Cooperstown for gambling offenses. Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro are unofficially barred because of suspicion that they used performance-enhancing drugs. A-Rod certainly will join them once he retires and waits the five years everyone has to wait before getting on the Hall of Fame ballot.

The Baseball Hall of Fame needs a Scoundrels Committee to decide how to handle great players who have brought shame to themselves and the game.

Manfred hinted at such a need in his statement affirming Rose’s ban from baseball:

It is not part of my authority or responsibility here to make any determination concerning Mr. Rose’s eligibility as a candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame …In my view, the considerations that should drive a decision on whether an individual should be allowed to work in Baseball are not the same as those that should drive a decision on Hall of Fame eligibility. … Any debate over Mr. Rose’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame is one that must take place in a different forum.

As various Veterans Committees have given second chances to players passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and a Negro Leagues Committee gave Cooperstown honors to stars kept out of the “major” leagues by segregation, a special committee should consider how to handle shamed players.

How a Scoundrels Committee would work

I will address the players barred (officially or un) from the Hall of Fame shortly, but first some thoughts on how the committee might work:

I envision a committee that would decide which players had shamed the game, how long they would be barred from the Hall of Fame, whether they eventually would be honored and how their combination of achievement and misconduct would be noted in the Cooperstown museum.

I don’t know whether the committee would function as one unit or would have separate subcommittees to handle investigations, punishments and eventual elections.

The committee could decide matters case by case or could set up a framework that would be strictly enforced (or from which exceptions could be granted when situations warrant). For instance, if the committee decided that involvement in gambling brought a lifetime ban from the Hall of Fame, Jackson would be eligible for consideration now, but Rose would not be eligible until after his death. Or, if the committee decided gambling merited a 25-year wait after banishment, both would be eligible now.

Or maybe the committee would give varying levels of punishment for gambling offenses, perhaps something like this:

  • An eternal ban for throwing a game (which some of Jackson’s Black Sox teammates did) or betting against your own team.
  • A lifetime ban for accepting gamblers’ money but still playing hard, as every “Field of Dreams” fan knows Jackson did.
  • A 25-year ban for giving inside information to gamblers or betting for your own team (which tells the bookies when you have confidence and when you don’t, unless you bet every day, and might influence managing decisions or risks you’d take in a game).
  • A 15-year ban on betting only on games involving other teams.

The committee might also extend a ban for a player, such as Rose, who continues gambling, or reduce a ban for a player who does some sort of service to the game or community, such as speaking to players at spring training about how he became involved in gambling and how it hurts the game.

Keep in mind that Paul Hornung and Alex Karras both were suspended for a full year for gambling during their NFL playing careers, but weren’t barred from the Hall of Fame. (Hornung is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I was surprised to see that Karras never made it.)

I can also see a range of penalties for use of performance-enhancing drugs:

  • Maybe the committee would impose a 10-year wait after retirement (as opposed to the normal five-year wait) for players judged to be minimal offenders: perhaps David Ortiz, who failed a single drug test, or Andy Pettitte, who readily admitted use of PED’s once when recovering from an injury. Maybe everyone named in the Mitchell Report gets at least the minimum sentence, with longer sentences for multiple offenses, failed drug tests and so on.
  • Maybe egregious cases such as A-Rod, Ryan Braun or Rafael Palmeiro would get a maximum sentence, such as 20 or 25 years. (At age 31, Braun is well short of Hall of Fame standards, but certainly could have a shot at reaching them. Palmeiro and A-Rod would be automatic selections based on performance alone.) A-Rod’s double offenses, Braun’s defamation of the person who collected his urine specimen and Palmeiro’s finger-pointing denial to Congress (shortly before failing a drug test) elevate them, at least in the public mind, beyond the average drug cheat.
  • I see gambling as a worse offense than cheating, and wouldn’t favor a lifetime ban for using drugs. But I wouldn’t argue if the committee applied one in extreme cases, perhaps if a player was convicted of drug-related crimes.

The committee might decide to respect court decisions, freeing Clemens and Bonds from punishment because they were cleared of drug-related perjury charges in court. Or it might enforce a lower standard of proof than the reasonable-doubt standard of criminal courts. The committee could decide to believe its eyes about the phenomenal physical growth of Bonds or decide to believe Pettitte’s initial testimony that Clemens told him about using PED’s, rather than his later testimony that he might have misunderstood. I could argue minimal penalty, no penalty or heavy penalty for either Bonds or Clemens, but I’d like to see a more formal baseball investigation and decision than the current unofficial ban based on suspicion.

Once a player has served his ban from Hall of Fame consideration, the Scoundrels Committee would decide whether he’s worthy of induction. Jason Giambi and Brady Anderson clearly fell short of Hall of Fame standards. Soon after becoming eligible, they would be dismissed as unworthy, simply on their merits. Pettitte would clearly be borderline, which might mean he never makes it or might mean he makes it after several years of consideration.

Perhaps the Scoundrels Committee would investigate players such as Jeff Bagwell or Mike Piazza, who faced some level of suspicion because their power numbers were achieved during the steroid era, though neither was named in the Mitchell Report. Piazza joined Griffey in winning election this year, his fourth year on the ballot. Bagwell, if his sixth year on the ballot, crept almost to the election threshold at 72 percent.

Maybe if an investigation officially cleared such players of drug use, they would get earlier fair consideration by the writers. But I wouldn’t count on it; as this blog has noted again and again, the writers’ choices are consistently inconsistent.

Other offenses

While gambling and drug cheats have been baseball’s biggest scandals, I suppose the Scoundrels Committee could address other matters of misconduct. I don’t favor any of these suggestions below, but the committee could consider:

  • Doctoring balls, corking bats or other types of cheating seen as less sinister than drugs, might carry shorter sentences. Maybe Sosa would get a couple more years added to his sentence for corking his bat.
  • Recreational drug use. Great players, primarily from the 1980s, who pissed away their talent on cocaine and other drugs, generally ended their careers falling short of Hall of Fame standards, despite their amazing talent. I see Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Dave Parker, Vida Blue, Willie Wilson and Keith Hernandez all falling short based on accomplishments, or borderline at best, but I wouldn’t object if a Scoundrels Committee wanted to formally address their cases and other players whose reputations are harmed but past or future use of recreational drugs.

Here are my thoughts on some of baseball’s scoundrels and whether they belong in the Hall of Fame.

Pete Rose


Ah, Pete Rose. A friend recently included an aside in a newspaper column that was mostly about journalism, noting that Rose belonged in the Hall of Fame. I differed with him good-naturedly on the Rose point, while mostly praising the column, on Facebook. I was interested by how many journalist friends sided with him on the question of Rose. I’m quite confident that these same journalists would be comfortable with — and probably enforce, if they are in a position to hire — journalism’s unofficial but mostly consistent lifetime ban for journalists who are publicly caught plagiarizing, fabricating or doctoring photo content. Some offenses are so grave and so directly related to integrity that the professional sentence is and should be a lifetime ban.

I’m completely comfortable with that, in journalism and in baseball. Pete Rose accepted that penalty, rather than formally fighting the position of the Dowd Report. He did informally fight it for years before admitting that its central conclusion — that he bet on baseball — was true.

Hey, a 26-year ban is pretty harsh, too, but Manfred detailed how shameful Rose’s behavior was and is, and why his ban must continue. Whether the Hall of Fame decides to do something different, he doesn’t belong in baseball. Hell, he bailed on that embarrassing Fox outfield studio gig because he needed to go sign autographs at a casino.

I think that integrity is worth a lifetime ban, and I don’t think Rose has done anything to deserve an exception. His records are legit, even if he was overrated. (He has the most hits ever, but he’s not really the greatest anything: lead-off hitter, switch hitter, contact hitter. He just played a long time, with a lot of great players, and swung the bat a lot and got a lot of hits.) But he dishonored the game, and I see no reason for the game to honor him. At least not during his life.

Ron Santo was a borderline Hall of Famer. I wouldn’t have been outraged if he had never made it to Cooperstown, and I can think of easily half a dozen Yankees with better cases for enshrinement. But I was outraged that Santo was kept out of the Hall of Fame for decades, then admitted to Cooperstown the year after he died. If he was a Hall of Famer, he belonged in the Hall of Fame, and they should have voted him in while he was alive to enjoy it. He was an exuberant man. No one would have enjoyed it more.

I view Rose differently. He accepted and deserved a lifetime ban. He knew that was the punishment every time he placed a bet. If Manfred or some other commissioner or a Hall of Fame Scoundrels Committee wants to cave to the fans who still love Pete Rose and disagree about how important integrity is to baseball, I think they should cave the year after Rose dies. Santo deserved his moment on the green in Cooperstown. Rose doesn’t.

Shoeless Joe Jackson


I loved Field of Dreams. But let’s be honest: Jackson shamed the game even more profoundly and deliberately than Rose. Colluding with gamblers endangers the very integrity of the game, and I don’t minimize his offense. I’m fine with Jackson getting to play ball in an Iowa cornfield (I’ve played there myself), but I think Jackson probably doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

But he’s been dead 64 years. If a Scoundrels Committee decided to allow posthumous election of players with great careers who were involved with gamblers, I would not complain. Jackson’s offense was not as grave as his teammates who actually threw games.

Bonds and Clemens


On performance alone, setting aside enhancement suspicions, Clemens and Bonds would be automatic Hall of Famers.

They are among the best ever for their full careers (Bonds the only seven-time MVP and Clemens the only seven-time Cy Young winner). And both were multiple winners playing at a Hall of Fame level before they appeared to start enhancing their performance. Once they served their sentences, the Scoundrels Committee probably would and should elect them.

A-Rod probably falls in the same category, whenever he becomes eligible.

Did drugs make the difference?

The Scoundrels Committee might need to decide whether players such as McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield might face a second layer of punishment: After they serve a punishment and become eligible, are they elected based on their achievements? Or does the committee speculate whether they would have reached Hall of Fame achievements without chemical enhancement? These players would be automatic choices based just on their stats, but you could argue in all cases that they wouldn’t have reached Hall of Fame level, or would have just been borderline, without enhancement. I’d be OK with speculative choices if the committee is consistent in its speculation.

McGwire got 12 percent of the vote this year, his 10th on the ballot, and will no longer be considered by the writers (the term on the writers’ ballot has been reduced from 15 years to 10). Sheffield also got 12 percent of the vote his second year on the ballot and Sosa got 7 percent in his fourth year. Palmeiro was on the ballot four years, dropping below the 5 percent threshold to stay on the ballot in 2014. Ramirez will be on the ballot for the first time next year.

Ivan Rodriguez, who also will be on the ballot next year for the first time, might make the Hall of Fame based on his longevity and defense, even if the speculative approach heavily discounted his offensive achievements (which would be fair).

Minor cases

Is there such a thing as a minor case of drug-cheating? Should players such as Ortiz or Pettitte, both of whom were much admired before and after their drug use became known, get a lesser punishment? I could see a Scoundrels Committee deciding various levels of punishment depending on the details of the offense. I think Ortiz would have a better chance of election than Pettitte, but both face second levels of prejudice: the Hall of Fame voters’ demonstrated and consistent biases against designated hitters and Yankees.

Plaques should note shame

Anyway, the Scoundrels Committee would decide penalties and who gets banned from the normal Hall of Fame ballot. Then, after you’ve served your term, the Scoundrels Committee decides whether your on-the-field achievements merited Hall of Fame selection.

And the plaque in Cooperstown should note both the player’s achievements and how he shamed the game.

Personal note

My year-end post on my journalism blog, The Buttry Diary, discussed how medical treatment the past year affected all of my blogs, including Hated Yankees.