Tim Raines finally makes the Hall of Fame; other Yankees fall short

18 01 2017

Ex-Yankee Tim Raines was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame Wednesday, as I predicted last year. He joined Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez as candidates elected this year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

He was elected primarily on his hitting and base-running prowess with the Montreal Expos and Chicago White Sox, though he was a part-time left fielder and designated hitter for the 1996-98 Yankees.

Other Yankees with strong cases for the Hall of Fame were rejected by the writers, including Jorge Posada, who lasted only a year on the ballot.

Raines should have been a lock for the Hall of Fame. It was ridiculous that he had to wait until his final year on the writers’ ballot to win their support. He was the second-best leadoff hitter and base stealer of his time, behind only Rickey Henderson, and one of the best of all-time. And he was clearly one of the best left fielders of his time as well.

I don’t think anti-Yankee bias played a big role in his long wait for induction. Perhaps his involvement in the cocaine scandals of the 1980s played a bigger role than it should have (he played clean for many years after admitting his drug use).

Thoughts on other ex-Yankees being denied admission to Cooperstown:

Roger Clemens

Clemens got 54 percent of the writers’ votes. Election requires 75 percent (Raines got 86 percent). Clearly Clemens and Barry Bonds (also 54 percent) are being punished by many writers for their alleged involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. It’s interesting, though, that they are still being denied admission while suspected PED abusers such as Bagwell and Rodriguez have been elected. Rodriguez, in fact, was elected in his first year of eligibility, despite having nowhere near the credentials of Bonds, a seven-time MVP, and Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

I wouldn’t predict what it will take for Clemens and Bonds to win election. I can’t justify excluding them from a Hall of Fame that includes Bagwell and Rodriguez.

Mike Mussina

With 52 percent of the vote, Mussina crept 9 percentage points closer to election in his fourth year on the ballot. I expect him to be voted in by the baseball writers someday (you get 10 years, provided you keep getting enough votes to remain on the ballot), though I can think of four ex-Yankee starting pitchers who belong there ahead of him: Tommy John, Ron Guidry, Allie Reynolds and Andy Pettitte.

Lee Smith

Smith got 34 percent of the vote in his last year on the ballot. He perhaps best illustrates the continuing racial bias in Hall of Fame voting. As I’ve noted before, four relief pitchers who were contemporaries of his are in Cooperstown with similar achievements: Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Dennis Eckersley. Except for Hall of Fame voting, you can’t think of a meaningful way to rank the career achievements of those five pitchers in which he would rank fifth.

I think Smith will be elected many years from now by a Veterans Committee. He was a Yankee only briefly, and Yankee bias appears not to be a factor in his exclusion.

Gary Sheffield

At 13 percent and tainted by PED suspicion, Sheffield appears unlikely to reach Cooperstown. He’ll get at least a fourth year on the writers’ ballot, though.

Jorge Posada

As I noted when Posada retired, he achieved more than most of the catchers already in the Hall of Fame. Still, I thought he’d have a tough time making it into Cooperstown.

Deadspin’s Tom Scocca expressed puzzlement that Posada was a one-year washout, especially given his championship contributions. Actually, the baseball writers have never valued championship contributions or post-season play. If they started doing that, they’d need to wipe away their anti-Yankee bias. And that will never happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The 5 best right fielders in Yankee history

12 04 2016

This continues a series on the best Yankees at different positionsToday: right field.

Right field is another position where the Yankees have been loaded with talent throughout their history. They didn’t have the string of long standout tenures that New York had in center field or catcher, but the excellence and depth has probably been stronger in right than any position other than those two.

1, Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth leads both my left field and right field lists. I was surprised by the left-field choice, but I knew from the time I started thinking about this series that he was the automatic and only choice in right field. He played 1,132 games for the Yankees in right field and it was his primary position every year for the Yankees except 1921, ’22 and ’26.

Ruth led the league in homers eight times as a right fielder, including the 60-homer season in 1927. Throw in five times of his seven times leading the league in runs scored, two of his four RBI titles and his only batting title, and Ruth’s right-field years far surpass everyone else who played the position for the Yankees. And I’m not done: He led the league nine times in walks, seven times in on-base percentage, seven times in slugging and eight times in OPS playing primarily in right field.

Ruth is arguably the best player in the history of the game still today. His single-season and career home run records finally fell, but he still holds the records for career slugging and OPS. He changed the game like no one else has, swinging for the fences and introducing the long ball to baseball.

Not only did he dominate his league in hitting like no one before or since, but he was a standout pitcher for the Red Sox before his dominant hitting moved him to the outfield. While some people have both pitched and played an every-day position in the majors, do one else has even been good at both roles, and Ruth was great. The likely second-best player to do that was Lefty O’Doul, who won only one game. Ruth had back-to-back 20-win seasons and led the American League in ERA and shutouts. Is there any other baseball niche, however small, with a more dramatic gulf between the best ever and the second-best?

The only reasons to diminish Ruth’s achievements are that he played before baseball integrated, so he didn’t play against the nation’s or world’s best players, and he hit long before relief specialists made late-inning at-bats more difficult.

Throw in that he was an extraordinary character, and that he actually played a fair amount in left field, and I feel completely comfortable listing Ruth at the top of my lists for both right field and left field. I’m making lists at each position, not making an all-time Yankee team. And Ruth tops the lists at each position.

2, Roger Maris

EPSON MFP image

My Roger Maris card

Roger Maris wins the second spot over two Hall of Famers who played right field for the Yankees in their prime. As I’ve noted again and again, Maris belongs in the Hall of Fame. But his placement here is based on performance, not bias. None of the right fielders below him on this list won a single MVP award, let alone back-to-back awards, as Maris did in 1960-61. None of them set a single major record, let alone held one for 37 years.

Maris led his league as a Yankee in homers, RBI (twice), slugging, runs and total bases. Neither of the Hall of Famers behind him on this list led his league in a major stat more than once for the Yankees.

No one else on this list had an HBO movie about his career highlight (Billy Crystal’s 61* is about Maris’ successful chase of Ruth’s single-season home run record).

The next two right fielders got the Cooperstown moments that Maris deserved and still has not received. But Maris was better than either as a right fielder for the Yankees. But he has to be second here to Ruth. While he broke one of The Babe’s cherished records, he didn’t match Ruth’s incredible career for the Yankees.

3, Reggie Jackson

Reggie Jackson gave the Yankees five strong years in right field, leading the league with 41 homers in 1980 and driving in 100 or more runs twice.

He was pretty even with the No. 4 right fielder in regular-season offensive production. But he wins the No. 3 slot based on his post-season play: 2 homers (three in the clinching game), 8 RBI, 9 hits, 10 runs and the MVP award in the 1977 World Series. He slacked off to 2 homers and 8 more RBI on 9-for-23 hitting in 1978. Jackson hit .300 or better for the Yankees in five post-season series and hit 12 homers. Jackson truly earned his “Mr. October” nickname, and I almost moved him past Maris based on post-season performance. But Maris had a sizable advantage in regular-season play as a Yankee.

4, Dave Winfield

Dave Winfield, like Reggie, played five years in right field for the Yankees (plus three in left). Winfield won three Gold Gloves and topped 100 runs four of his right-field years. He was an All-Star every year. His .340 batting average in 1984 was second to teammate Don Mattingly in the American League.

It wasn’t Winfield’s fault the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs after his disappointing World Series in 1981. I was glad to see him finally get a World Series ring (and drove in three runs) with the Blue Jays in 1992.

5, Paul O’Neill

Paul O’Neill played fewer games for the Yankees than Tommy Henrich and Hank Bauer: 1,406 for Bauer, 1,284 for Henrich, 1,254 for O’Neill. You could go with any of the three here. All three played the vast majority of their games in right field.

Henrich has the advantage in All-Star appearances: five (to four for O’Neill and three for Bauer). I give the nod to O’Neill because he was the best hitter: four straight seasons with 100 or more RBI (Henrich had one, Bauer none); a batting championship, .359 in 1994 (one of his six straight .300 seasons, more than Henrich and Bauer combined); 185 Yankee homers (to 183 for Henrich and 158 for Bauer), 1,426 Yankee hits (to 1,326 for Bauer and 1,297 for Henrich).

O’Neill was as solid in the post-season as Henrich and Bauer, though Bauer led the group in championship contributions, playing a role in seven World Series titles to four each for O’Neill and Henrich.

As good as Henrich and Bauer were, I think O’Neill is the clear choice here. And that’s not even counting his Seinfeld appearance.

The rest

Hank Bauer's autograph on a ball belonging to my son Tom.

Hank Bauer’s autograph on a ball belonging to my son Tom.

Henrich lost three prime years to military service during World War II. Bauer was a stalwart for the Yankees dynasty of the 1950s, but also contributed to the ’60s dynasty, going to the Kansas City A’s in December 1959 in a seven-player trade that brought Maris to the Yankees.

Hall of Famer Willie Keeler deserves mention here. But he was a Highlander, not a Yankee, and his best years were in the National League, before joining New York at age 31.

Gary Sheffield was an All-Star two years in right field, and finished second for the 2004 MVP, but he only played two full years for the Yankees.

Ichiro Suzuki, a certain Hall of Famer, was past his prime when he joined the Yankees in right field in 2012, but turned in two-plus solid seasons.

Nick Swisher gave the Yankees four strong years in right, including the 2009 championship season.

Lou Piniella played 277 games in right field, but it was never his primary position.

Other right-field traditions

The Yankees clearly have the strongest tradition in right field. The Tigers also have three Hall of Famers in right (Al Kaline, Sam Crawford and Harry Heilmann) and the Pirates have two (Roberto Clemente, Paul Waner) plus an MVP (Dave Parker). But no one can match the Yankees’ traditions of greatness here.

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 right fielders.

If a player is in the Hall of Fame (Ruth, Jackson, Winfield) or belongs there (Maris), that carries considerable weight with me.

I value both peak performance and longevity, but peak performance more. Measures of peak performance, such as MVP awards and leading leagues in important stats, will move a person up my list. Maris didn’t play right for the Yankees as long as O’Neill, Henrich or Bauer, but his back-to-back MVP seasons pushed him well ahead of them.

Few ballplayers actually matter in the broader culture beyond baseball, but Ruth, Maris and Jackson all did and that helped them seal the top three spots. And, if the performance measures among O’Neill, Henrich and Bauer had been dead even, the Seinfeld appearance might have broken the tie for O’Neill.

I rank players primarily on their time with the team, and no one on this list played exclusively for the Yankees (this list and DH will be the only teams without any Yankee lifers). Henrich played only for the Yankees, but the others played long enough or well enough that they all ranked ahead of him.

Time at the position is important, too. Winfield might have passed Jackson if he hadn’t played three seasons in left field.

Post-season play and championship contributions matter a lot to me. Those were important positive factors for everyone on this list except Winfield.

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, Jackson’s years with the A’s and Angels, Winfield’s years with the Padres and Blue Jays or O’Neill’s years with the Reds might have broken a tie.

Special moments matter, too. Ruth, Maris and Jackson all got credit for those.

Your turn

Rankings of Yankees by position

Starting pitchers

Catchers

First base

Second base

Shortstop

Third base

Left field

Center field

Designated hitter

Relief pitcher

Manager

Other rankings of Yankee right fielders

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.





World Series champs nearly always feature Hall of Famers

30 11 2015

As I pondered the Hall of Fame prospects of young members of the Kansas City Royals 2015 World Series champions, I wondered how rare it would be for a world champion to have no Hall of Famers.

While any young star faces long odds of reaching the Baseball Hall of Fame, quick research showed that a World Series winner without anyone making it to Cooperstown is also exceedingly rare.

I just went back to 1947 in answering my question, because, as I noted in an October post, Hall of Fame standards were much lower before baseball integrated.

So I will note year by year the starters and other important contributors of world champions who eventually became Hall of Famers. While I won’t speculate on whether players appeared bound for Cooperstown at the time (the point of yesterday’s post), I will note their ages at the time they won. If a player is in the Hall of Fame, but primarily for his play with another team, I will note that.

Joe DiMaggio autograph

My Joe DiMaggio autograph

1947

Champion: New York Yankees. Hall of Famers: Yogi Berra, 22; Phil Rizzuto, 29; Joe DiMaggio, 32.

1948

Champion: Cleveland Indians. Hall of Famers: Larry Doby, 24; Bob Lemon, 27; Bob Feller, 29; Lou Boudreau, 30; Joe Gordon, 33.

1949-53

Champions: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Mickey Mantle, ’51-3, 19-21; Whitey Ford, ’50 and ’53, 21 and 24; Berra, all years, 24-28; Rizzuto, all years, 31-5; DiMaggio, ’49-’51, 34-6. Johnny Mize, a member of all five Yankee teams, was not a full-time starter most of these seasons. He joined the Yankees at age 36 and is in the Hall of Fame primarily for his slugging for the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants.

1954

Champion: New York Giants. Hall of Famers: Willie Mays, 23; Hoyt Wilhelm, 31; Monte Irvin, 35.

1955

Champion: Brooklyn Dodgers. Hall of Famers: Duke Snider, 28; Roy Campanella, 31; Jackie Robinson, 36; Pee Wee Reese, 36.

A ball autographed by "Larry Berra," before he started signing "Yogi."

A ball autographed by “Larry Berra,” before he started signing “Yogi.”

1956

Champion: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Mantle, 24; Ford, 27; Berra, 31. Rizzuto, 38, was a part-time player, as was Enos Slaughter, 40, elected to the Hall of Fame primarily as a St. Louis Cardinal.

1957

Champion: Milwaukee Braves. Hall of Famers: Hank Aaron, 23; Eddie Mathews, 25; Red Schoendienst, 34; Warren Spahn, 36.

Whitey signed this ball "Ed. Ford" before his better-known nickname stuck.

Whitey signed this ball “Ed. Ford” before his better-known nickname stuck.

1958

Champion: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Mantle, 26; Ford, 29; Berra, 33; Slaughter, 42.

1959

Champion: Los Angeles Dodgers. Hall of Famers: Don Drysdale, 22; Sandy Koufax, 23; Snider, 32.

1960

Champion: Pittsburgh Pirates. Hall of Famers: Bill Mazeroski, 23; Roberto Clemente, 25.

My Mantle autograph

My Mantle autograph

1961-2

Champions: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Mantle, 29-30; Ford, 32-3; Berra, 36-7.

1963

Champions: Dodgers. Hall of Famers: Drysdale, 26, and Koufax, 27.

1964

Champions: St. Louis Cardinals. Hall of Famers: Lou Brock, 25; Bob Gibson, 28.

1965

Champions: Dodgers. Hall of Famers: Drysdale, 28, and Koufax, 29.

1966

Champions: Baltimore Orioles. Hall of Famers: Jim Palmer, 20; Brooks Robinson, 29; Frank Robinson, 30, and Luis Aparicio, 32.

Bob Gibson's autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Bob Gibson’s autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

1967

Champions: St. Louis Cardinals. Hall of Famers: Steve Carlton, 22; Brock, 28; Orlando Cepeda, 29; Gibson, 31.

1968

Champion: Detroit Tigers. Hall of Famers: Al Kaline, 32; and Mathews (a part-time player in his final year at age 36). Since yesterday’s post was about Hall of Fame projections, I should note here that 24-year-old Denny McLain, who won 31 games that year and won the Cy Young and MVP awards, looked like a lock for Cooperstown, but didn’t make it.

1969

Champion: New York Mets. Hall of Famers: Nolan Ryan, 22, and Tom Seaver, 24.

1970

Champion: Orioles. Hall of Famers: Palmer, 24, and the Robinsons, 33 and 34.

1971

Champion: Pirates. Hall of Famers: Willie Stargell, 31; Mazeroski (playing part-time at 34); Clemente, 36.

1972-4

Champions: Oakland A’s. Hall of Famers: Rollie Fingers, 25-7; Catfish Hunter, 26-8; Reggie Jackson, 26-8. I don’t count Cepeda, who had just three at-bats for the ’72 A’s and didn’t play in the post-season.

1975-6

Champions: Cincinnati Reds. Johnny Bench, 27-8; Joe Morgan, 31-2; Tony Pérez, 33-4. Pete Rose, 34-5, would be in the Hall of Fame, but he accepted a lifetime ban from baseball for betting on games.

1977-8

Champions: Yankees. Hall of Famers: Jackson and Hunter, both 31-2; and Goose Gossage, 26 (’78 only).

1979

Champions: Pirates. Hall of Famers: Bert Blyleven, 28, and Stargell, 39. Dave Parker of this team probably deserves mention with Denny McLain as a player who appeared on his way to the Hall of Fame. Cocaine use sidetracked Parker’s career.

My Steve Carlton autograph

My Steve Carlton autograph

1980

Champions: Philadelphia Phillies. Hall of Famers: Mike Schmidt, 30; Carlton, 35. Rose, 39, was also on this team.

1981

Champions: Dodgers. No Hall of Famers yet. Steve Garvey probably has the best shot of making it someday.

1982

Champions: Cardinals. Hall of Famers: Ozzie Smith, 27, and Bruce Sutter, 29.

1983

My Ripken autograph

My Ripken autograph

Champions: Orioles. Hall of Famers: Cal Ripken Jr., 22; Eddie Murray, 27; Palmer, pitching part-time at age 37.

1984

Champion: Tigers. No Hall of Famers yet. Jack Morris, 29, probably has the best shot.

1985

Champion: Kansas City Royals. Hall of Famer: George Brett, 32.

1986

Champion: Mets. Hall of Famer: Gary Carter, 32. As noted in yesterday’s post, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, 24, of this team appeared headed for the Hall of Fame before drug use stalled their careers.

1987

Champion: Minnesota Twins. Hall of Famer: Kirby Puckett, 27, and Blyleven, 36. Carlton, 42, pitched nine games for the Twins that year, but not in the post-season.

1988

Champion: Dodgers. Hall of Famer: Don Sutton, 43, was in his last year. He pitched only 16 games, none in the post-season. Of major contributors on this team, Orel Hershiser, 29, and Kirk Gibson, 31, may have the best shots at reaching Cooperstown someday.

1989

Champion: Oakland A’s. Hall of Famer: Rickey Henderson, 30, and Dennis Eckersley, 34. This is the first champion where performance-enhancing drugs are keeping a player out of the Hall of Fame (Mark McGwire, 25, for sure, possibly Jose Canseco, 24).

1990

Champion: Reds. Hall of Famer: Barry Larkin, 26.

1991

Champion: Twins. Hall of Famer: Puckett, 31.

1992-3

Champions: Toronto Blue Jays. Hall of Famers: Roberto Alomar, 24-5; Henderson, 34 (just on ’93 Jays); Paul Molitor, 36 (also just in ’93); Dave Winfield, 40 (only in ’92).

1995

Remember, baseball had no champion in ’94 because of a strike. Champions: Atlanta Braves. Hall of Famers: John Smoltz, 28; Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, both 29. Chipper Jones, 24, appears to be a certain Hall of Famer, but retired in 2012, so he won’t be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration until the 2018 election.

My Derek Jeter rookie card

My Derek Jeter rookie card

1996

Champions: Yankees. Hall of Famer: Wade Boggs, 38. Derek Jeter, 22, and Mariano Rivera, 26, appear certain to reach Cooperstown when they become eligible for election: 2019 for Rivera and 2020 for Jeter. Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada are less likely to make the Hall of Fame, and will be on the ballot in 2019 (Pettitte) and next year (Posada).

1997

Champion: Florida Marlins. No Hall of Famers. Gary Sheffield is another player whose Hall of Fame chances are hurt by PED use.

1998-2000

Champions: Yankees. Again, Jeter, 24-6, and Rivera, 28-30, are certain Hall of Famers. Roger Clemens, 36-7, pitched for the ’99-2000 Yankees, but suspicion of PED use is keeping him out of Cooperstown. Tim Raines, 38, a ’98 Yankee, got 55 percent of the baseball writers’ vote last year and almost certainly will make the Hall of Fame someday, but mostly for his play for the Montreal Expos.

2001

Champion: Arizona Diamondbacks. Hall of Famer: Randy Johnson. Curt Schilling will certainly join him. He got 39 percent of the writers’ vote last year, his third year on the ballot.

2002

Champion: Anaheim Angels. No Hall of Famers and no likely prospects.

2003

Champion: Florida Marlins. Miguel Cabrera, 20, is a Triple-Crown winner and two-time MVP. He’s still playing and only 32 years old but certain to make the Hall of Fame if he stays free of scandal. Iván Rodríguez would be a certain Hall of Famer if not for allegations that he used PEDs.

2004

Champion: Boston Red Sox. Hall of Famer: Pedro Martínez, and Schilling will follow. David Ortiz, who’s still playing, would be an automatic selection if not for his failed drug test. Manny Ramírez won’t be on the Hall of Fame ballot until 2017, but drug issues are likely to keep him out of the Hall of Fame, too.

2005

Champion: Chicago White Sox. Hall of Famer: Frank Thomas, a part-time DH at 37.

2006

Champion: Cardinals. No Hall of Famers yet, but Albert Pujols, a three-time MVP, is a lock if he can avoid scandal.

2007

Champion: Red Sox. This seems a good place to stop this exercise. No star of the ’07 Red Sox, or any subsequent champion, is already in the Hall of Fame, and most aren’t even eligible yet. I’ve already addressed Schilling, Ortiz and Ramírez. While I projected the Hall of Fame chances of the 2015 Royals, I’m not interested in doing that for the young stars of other recent teams.

What does this mean?

Obviously, the numbers or Hall of Famers on some of these teams, especially the more recent ones, will grow, as Morris, Raines, Schilling and others eventually get elected.

But already the vast world-champion teams have multiple Hall of Famers. In a 60-year stretch, only five teams don’t have Hall of Famers yet. From 1947 to 1980, the 1960 Pirates and ’68 Tigers were the only World Series champions without at least two Hall of Famers elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

All of the champions with no Hall of Famers or even just one played since 1980, so many of their best players aren’t even eligible for Hall of Fame consideration yet (or are being kept out of Cooperstown because of drug suspicions). Few of the contenders who aren’t automatic Hall of Famers have had second chances yet through the Expansion Era Committee.

As I noted in yesterday’s post, I expect at least two players from the 2015 Royals to join the Hall of Fame. If I’m wrong, they will be one of few exceptions among World Series champions.

Source note: Players’ ages are taken from the Baseball-Reference.com team rosters for the championship years.





A team of the best players for both the Yankees and Mets

18 09 2015

As we head into another Subway Series tonight, with both teams in contention for the post-season, I present the all-time team of players who have been both Yankees and Mets.

I discuss criteria for choosing players at the bottom of the piece, but read it first if you prefer. To qualify for the team, you had to play in games for both the Yankees and the Mets. You only had to play the position you’re assigned for one team, but playing it for both is preferred, and everyone but the designated hitter did play the position in question for both teams.

Catcher: Yogi Berra


This is as easy a call as you have on this team. Yogi didn’t give the Mets much as a player: four games, nine a-bats and two hits in the 1965 season, and only two games behind the plate. But he was a Yankee stalwart from 1947 through 1963, hitting 358 homers, winning three MVP awards and setting World Series records for games played, at-bats, hits and doubles. Most important, he has the all-time record for most World Series championships by a player, 10.

He made a bigger contribution to the Mets as a manager than as a catcher, leading the Mets to the 1973 World Series.

First base, Marv Throneberry


If Dave Kingman had played more first base for either team, he would be the choice here. Kong was a mighty homerun hitter for the Mets, leading the National League in 1982 with 37 homers (he also led the league with 156 strikeouts that year) and getting 37 more homers for the Mets in 1976 and 36 in 1975. But he played only eight games (and hit four homers) for the Yankees. He was only a DH for the Yankees and that 1982 season was the only year he played primarily first base for the Mets. Even so, if this were decided on quality of (offensive) play, Kingman would still win.

But Marvelous Marv Throneberry, gets a spot on this team based on his cultural niches in both teams. For the Yankees, he hit only 15 homers in three part-time seasons. He was barely better for the Mets, hitting 16 homers and 49 RBI, with a .244 batting average in his only full season as a Met. And he led NL first basemen with 17 errors that year (in just 97 games at first).

So why does he merit a spot on both teams? Well, he went from the Yankees to Kansas City in the Roger Maris trade, and that worked out pretty well. And “Marvelous Marv” came to symbolize the dreadful 1962 Mets. This great passage from his 1994 New York Times obituary explained:

In a game against the Chicago Cubs, he hit what appeared to be a game-winning triple with the bases loaded and two outs. The problem was that everybody in the dugout noticed that he missed touching first base. When the Cubs’ pitcher tossed the ball to the first baseman, the umpire called Throneberry out. The inning ended and the runs didn’t count. Casey Stengel, the grizzled manager of the Mets, couldn’t believe it and began arguing with the first-base umpire. As they exchanged words, another umpire walked over and said, “Casey, I hate to tell you this, but he also missed second.”

Not surprisingly, whenever Stengel lamented, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” the target of his plea often was Throneberry.

You gotta have that guy on this team. And Kong’s strikeouts, batting average, fielding and attitude make it easy to leave him off the team.

Second base, Willie Randolph


Randolph gave the Mets more than Yogi, but his spot on this team is similar: a long and outstanding career for the Yankees, ending with a brief stint with the Mets, whom he later managed.

Randolph anchored the infield for the Yankees when they played in four World Series (and won two) from 1976 to 1981. He played 13 seasons for the Yankees, getting five of his six All-Star appearances for them. He hit .275 for the Yankees and stole 251 bases for them in 1,694 games. He played only 90 games for the Mets in 1992, getting only 72 hits.

Shortstop, Phil Linz


Tony Fernandez was a better shortstop than Linz, but not in New York. He played his best seasons for the Blue Jays and played less than a full season for each of the New York teams late in his career.

Linz played in 70 or more games four straight years for the Yankees, 1962-65. Tony Kubek was the starter, but Linz saw plenty of action. His best season was 1964, when he played 112 games and hit .250 with 92 hits and 63 runs scored. Plus, his harmonica incident in 1964 is a fun part of Yankee lore. He also managed two homers in the 1964 World Series, one of them off Bob Gibson, after hitting just five all season (and 11 for his career).

Like Berra and Randolph, Linz wrapped up with the Mets, playing part-time in 1967 and ’68.

Third base, Robin Ventura

Ventura is the first player on this team to give quality seasons to both teams. He had the best year of his career for the Mets in 1999, hitting .301 with 32 homers and 120 RBI. He finished sixth in the MVP voting that year and won the last of his six Gold Gloves.

After giving the Mets two solid seasons, Ventura moved across town and had an All-Star season for the Yankees, with 27 homers and 93 RBI in 2002. He was traded to the Dodgers during the 2003 season.

Ventura is tied with Willie McCovey for fifth in career grand slams. His most famous grand slam, though, was his 15th-inning “grand slam single” to beat the Braves in the 1999 National League Championship Series. Because he was mobbed by hit teammates between first and second bases, and never touched home plate, the official scorer credited Ventura with a single.

Left field, Rickey Henderson


Rickey played four-plus seasons for the Yankees in his prime, leading the American League in steals in 1985, ’86 and ’88 and in runs in ’86 and ’85 (a career-best 146, setting the table for RBI king Don Mattingly). The Yankees traded Henderson to the A’s during the 1989 season and his combined totals led the league in stolen bases, runs and walks.

Rickey was 40 when he reached the Mets in 1999, but still he managed to hit .315, with a .423 on-base percentage, 37 steals and 89 runs scored. It was one of the best age-40 seasons ever. And he added 10 hits, seven runs and seven stolen bases in the post-season.

He did more for the A’s than either New York team (thus the A’s video above), but his Yankee contributions were huge and his Met performance was respectable. I could make a case for Darryl Strawberry over Henderson in left field, based on his play for the two teams. But I chose Henderson.

Update: Jeff Edelstein reminds me that Strawberry played right field for the Mets (he played some left for the Yankees). More on that in my right field section.

Kingman got brief consideration in left, but not much.

Center field, Carlos Beltrán


This might be the closest call of any position. Beltrán and Curtis Granderson have nearly mirror-image careers. Each started his career and became a star with another American League team. Beltrán reached New York (with the Mets) the year he turned 28, just a year younger than Granderson when he joined the Yankees. Both continued starring for their first New York team and neither was quite as good in his second Big Apple stint.

Beltrán didn’t have any year with the Mets greater than Granderson’s 2011 season for the Yankees (leading the league with 119 RBI and 136 runs, plus 41 homers and 25 steals). But Beltrán was close in 2006, with 41 homers, 116 RBI, 127 runs and 18 steals. His averages were all better than Granderson’s in those best seasons, and both finished fourth in MVP voting.

But even if you give Granderson the edge for best year, Beltrán topped 100 RBI twice more for the Mets and Granderson only did it once. Beltrán had three great seasons for the Mets and Granderson had only two for the Yankees.

Both were disappointing last season, their first seasons for their second New York teams. Granderson had 20 homers and 66 RBI for the Mets and Beltrán had 15 and 49 for the Yankees. Both have improved, but not returned to star form, this year.

You could argue that their New York tenures were pretty equal. While I give Beltrán a slight edge for New York performance, I give him a bigger edge for performance with other teams: He topped 100 RBI and 100 runs each four times for the Royals and a fifth time (for both runs and RBI) in a season split between the Royals and Astros. He topped 30 homers once each for the Royals and Cardinals and topped 30 steals four straight seasons for the Royals.

Granderson’s tenure with the Tigers was impressive, but he topped 100 runs only twice and never reached 100 RBI or 30 steals. He reached 30 homers once before coming to New York. All of Beltrán’s career averages are higher than Granderson’s.

And when you add post-season performance outside New York, Beltrán blows almost anyone away: After that incredible eight-homer post-season for the Astros in 2004, he hit three more for the Mets and another five for the Cardinals. His 16 career post-season homers are tied for ninth all-time, and he holds the records for homers and runs scored in a single post-season. Granderson was mostly a post-season disappointment for the Yankees.

Granderson is four years younger and could end up doing enough more for the Mets that he pushes Beltrán from this spot.

Right field, Gary Sheffield


Sheffield had back-to-back great seasons for the Yankees, topping .290, 30 homers, 120 RBI and 100 runs in both 2004 and 2005.  He finished his career with a mediocre 2009 season for the Mets.

Sheff and Henderson have to be near the top of the list of great players who played for the most teams (and who had great seasons for the most teams). Sheffield played for eight teams and had 100-RBI and/or 100-run seasons for six of them. He didn’t get 100 RBI for the Brewers (he left at age 22), but he stole a career-high 25 bases for Milwaukee in 1990. He was an All-Star for the Padres, Marlins, Dodgers, Braves and Yankees. The Mets were the only team he didn’t play well for.

Henderson played for the A’s (four separate times), Yankees, Blue Jays, Padres (twice), Angels, Mets, Mariners, Red Sox and Dodgers. That’s more teams than Sheffield, even if you don’t count separate tenures with the same team. He led the league in stolen bases for the Yankees and in three of his four Oakland stops. He also managed 30-steal seasons for the Padres, Mariners and Mets. He spent only 44 games with Toronto, but stole 22 bases (and three more in the post-season).

Bobby Abreu and Ron Swoboda got brief consideration in right field. Having already included Throneberry as an early Met-fan favorite, I couldn’t choose Swoboda over Sheffield. The gap in quality is much bigger in Sheffield’s favor than it was at first base for Kingman (plus Sheffield actually played right field primarily, and Kingman didn’t play much at first base in New York).

Update: As noted earlier, I should have considered Strawberry in right field instead of left, because his best years were for the Mets, where he played right. But I’m not going to change the picks here, because Strawberry played more DH for the Yankees than Sheffield, who excelled for the Yankees. Strawberry might have been the better New York right fielder, though, so I’m not going to argue if you want to put him in the field and play Sheffield at DH.

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Designated hitter, Darryl Strawberry


Strawberry actually might have been a better leftfielder, considering just their New York tenures, than Henderson. But Strawberry played more DH for the Yankees than either Henderson or Kingman, the most notable hitter left off this team. Strawberry hit 29 homers and drove in 77 runs in 143 games as a DH.

And his non-DH career was both more notable than Kingman’s and more in New York. Except for three seasons with the Dodgers and one with the Giants, Strawberry played his whole career for the Yankees and Mets. The Mets definitely got his best years, including 1988, when he led the league in homers (39), slugging (.545) and OPS (.911).

He’s the only hitter on this team to win World Series rings for both New York teams.

Starting pitcher, Dwight Gooden


Gooden is the only pitcher on this team to win World Series with both teams. He and Strawberry had parallel careers: Rookies of the Year who starred for the Mets in the 1980s, won World Series rings in 1986, ruined their careers with cocaine addiction, came back as role players for the Yankees of the 1990s and went to prison following their baseball careers. They both had Hall of Fame talent but pissed away their greatness and will never make it to Cooperstown.

Gooden’s Cy Young performance for the Mets in 1985 was one of the best seasons ever, 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts and 16 complete games, all figures (except losses) leading the league.

Gooden’s Yankee highlight was his no-hitter May 14, 1996.

Starting pitcher, David Cone


Cone and Gooden both won 194 games and both pitched no-hitters for the Yankees (Cone’s was perfect). Gooden is the first pitcher here because he had the greatest season, but Cone spread his greatness better across both New York teams, winning 20 for the Mets in 1988 and 10 years later for the Yankees.

Cone won his Cy Young Award for the Royals in 1994 and won his first World Series ring for the Blue Jays in 1992. But he pitched five full seasons for each New York team, plus part of a sixth, then returned to the Mets in 2003 at age 40, without much left. He went 81-51 for the Mets and 64-40 for the Yankees.

Cone excelled in the post-season, going 6-1 for the Yankees, 1-1 for the Mets and 8-3 overall.

Starting pitcher Al Leiter


Better pitchers such as Kenny Rogers and John Candelaria pitched for both New York teams, but they didn’t pitch as well or as long in New York as Leiter. He split time between the Yankees and the minor leagues in 1987, ’88 and ’89, showing promise but not nailing down a starting spot. Then he returned in 2005 at age 39. His 11-13 career for the Yankees, spread over four seasons, just qualifies him for this team. It’s his 95-67 record in seven seasons with the Mets that wins him a spot in this rotation.

Leiter was probably the Mets’ best pitcher, with strong seasons, in 1998 (17-6, 2.47, 147 strikeouts), 2000 (16-8, 3.20, 200) and 2003 (15-9, 3.99, 139). He was also the best pitcher for the last-place Mets in 2002 (13-13, 3.38, 172). He never won fewer than 10 games in a season for the Mets and never had a losing record.

He pitched in the 2000 Subway Series, getting no decision in the 12-inning Game 1 win by the Yankees and taking a tough loss in Game 5. Matched up with Andy Pettitte, he took a 2-2 tie into the ninth inning. After two strikeouts to open the ninth, he walked Jorge Posada and gave up a single to Scott Brosius. Luis Sojo‘s groundball up the middle put the Yankees ahead and Brosius scored on an error on the throw home. John Franco came in to get the last out, but the Yankees handed Mariano Rivera a 4-2 lead and he wrapped up the series.

Starting pitcher Orlando Hernandez


“El Duque” probably pitched his best in Cuba, before joining the Yankees at age 32. But he pitched respectably for both New York teams. He broke onto the scene with the Yankees in 1998, going 12-4, with a 3.13 ERA, and giving up only one run in two post-season wins.

He followed that with a 17-9 showing in 1999 and three more post-season wins.

After that, he was never as dominant, and missed the full 2003 season (when he was an Expo) due to rotator-cuff surgery. But El Duque re-signed with the Yankees and finished 2004 strong, going 8-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 15 starts.

He was the starter in Game Four against the Red Sox, with the Yankees leading the American League Championship Series three games to none. El Duque left in the sixth inning leading 4-3, in position to return to another World Series. But nothing good happened for the Yankees after that.

El Duque’s post-season record for the Yankees was an impressive 9-3. He won a fourth World Series ring with the White Sox and returned to New York as a Met at age 40. He was 9-7 in 20 starts and 9-5 in 24 in 2006-7 to finish his career respectably.

Starting pitcher Mike Torrez


I could argue that Candelaria or Rogers or Ralph Terry or Dock Ellis or Doc Medich could make this team ahead of Torrez. (Actually, it would be kind of cool to have a rotation that was 60 percent “Docs” — Medich, Ellis and Gooden). But none of them was a clear choice, pitching well for both teams.

Torrez wins the fifth starting spot on the basis of five factors:

  1. A solid 14-12 season for the 1977 Yankees.
  2. Two World Series wins over the Dodgers that same year, his only season as a Yankee.
  3. He did pitch a lot for the Mets in 1983, going 10-17 for the last-place team and leading the league in losses, earned runs (108) and walks (113). Not a great season, but he pitched a lot of innings for a really bad team.
  4. He does hold a special place in Yankee lore, though not for his pitching as a Yankee. The year after he pitched for the Yankees, he signed with the Red Sox and served up the Bucky Dent home run.
  5. He’s the only guy who’s on both my all-Yankees-Red Sox team and my all Yankees-Mets team.

Medich and Terry each had a few strong seasons for the Yankees, (Medich topping out at 19 wins in 1974 and Terry at 23 in 1962), but neither managed even a single win in brief stints with the Mets. I have to go with Torrez as the No. 5 starter.

Closer, Jesse Orosco


Again, we have a close call, this time between two closers who were standouts for the Mets and made only brief appearances with the Yankees. The Yankee fan in me hoped that Sparky Lyle or Goose Gossage made a brief appearance in Shea, but this decision came down to Orosco and Armando Benítez.

Based on their pitching with the Yankees, Benítez has the advantage, with a 1.93 ERA, compared to 10.38 for Orosco. But they only had 14 innings combined for the Yankees. This choice has to be based on pitching for the Mets.

Orosco pitched in eight seasons for the Mets, 1979 and 1981-87. He became the closer in 1983, his first of two All-Star years. He shared closer duties with Roger McDowell from 1985 to ’87. Benítez shared closer duties with John Franco in 1999, then took over the closer role in 2000 and held it until being traded to the Yankees in July 2003. The Yankees traded him less than a month later to the Mariners.

So they both had roughly five seasons as a closer for the Mets. If you based it solely on saves, Benítez would win, with 160 of his 288 career saves for the Mets. Orosco had 107 of his 144 career saves for the Mets. Benítez saved 41 games in 2000, 43 in 2001 and 33 in 2002. Orosco’s best save totals were 31 in ’84 and 21 in ’86.

But you have to evaluate relief pitchers especially in context of their times. When Benítez saved 41 in 2000, he was third in the league in saves, same ranking at Orosco when he saved 31 in 1984. Benítez pitched in a time when managers gave nearly all of their saves to a single pitcher, mostly in one-inning outings. He appeared in 76 games in 2000 and pitched 76 innings, with a 4-4 record. On the other hand, Orosco’s 1984 performance included 84 innings over 60 games, with a 10-6 record.

From 1981 to 1986, Orosco’s ERA didn’t go above 2.73, and he had two seasons under 2.00. Benitez had two seasons as a closer with an ERA over 3.00. But again context mattered: Benítez pitched at the peak of performance-enhancing drugs, reaching his career peak for saves the same year Barry Bonds set the tainted record of 73 homers in a season.

I see Orosco and Benítez as a standoff for best regular-season closer for the Mets. Here’s why I give Orosco the edge: Each was his team’s closer in a World Series. Benítez blew a save in Game One of the 2000 World Series, giving up the tying run in the ninth inning of a game the Mets eventually lost in 12 innings. He did get a save in Game Three, but that should have put the Mets ahead, rather than keeping them from going down 3-0. Orosco pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox in 1986, saving Game Four and Game Seven. When a franchise has only celebrated two championships in its history, you have to give some credit to the pitcher who got the final out that triggered one of those celebrations.

Benítez pitched well in the playoffs, but didn’t match Orosco’s 1986 National League Championship Series performance of three wins in four relief appearances. In Game Three, he entered in the eighth inning, trailing 5-4 and kept the game close, winning on Len Dykstra‘s ninth-inning walk-off two-run homer. In Game Five, Orosco entered in the 11th, retired six straight Astros and got the win on Gary Carter‘s 12th-inning RBI single. In Game Six, he entered in the 14th inning. This time he blew the save, giving up a tying homer to Billy Hatcher. But Orosco kept battling. He got out of that inning without further damage and retired the Astros in order in the 15th. After the Mets took a 7-4 lead in the top of the 16th, Orosco gave up a walk and three singles to make the game 7-6. But Davey Johnson stayed with him, and Orosco struck out Kevin Bass to nail down his third win. Though he gave up those three runs, Orosco gave up only five hits and two walks in eight innings against the Astros and struck out 10. He’s the only pitcher ever to win three games in an NLCS.

Also, I gave Orosco a slight edge for career outside New York. Benítez led the National League with 47 saves for the Marlins in 2004, but otherwise he was nothing special except in his stint with the Mets. Orosco holds the all-time record for most games pitched, with 1,252. While Benítez pitched a respectable 15 years in the majors, Orosco pitched 24, pitching in four decades and making the transition from set-up man to closer to that left-hander who comes in to retire one or two left-handed batters.

Manager: Casey Stengel


This is closer than you might think. Yogi Berra was the only manager to be successful with both teams, leading the Yankees to the 1964 World Series and the Mets to the 1973 World Series and losing both times. But he only managed three years for the Yankees (in two hitches) and four for the Mets, and never finished first again.

Stengel and Joe Torre both managed awful Mets teams. Casey never got out of last place in four Met years. And Torre never had a Met winner in five years and finished last three times.

But Stengel and Torre had splendid, similar 12-year runs with the Yankees. Both men finished first 10 of their 12 years, but Stengel was winning the eight-team American League and Torre was winning the five-team Eastern Division. Torre also won an incredible six American League pennants, but that’s four less than Stengel. Casey also won more World Series than Torre, seven to four, including five in a row from 1949-53.

Stengel was also an awful manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Bees and Braves, never finishing higher than fifth. I don’t know how he got the Yankee job. But he did, and he won seven World Series and 10 pennants. That simply trumps what anyone else who ever managed did. So he could have sucked 10 more years for the Mets and he’d still be the manager here.

And he gave the greatest congressional testimony ever, though Mickey Mantle might have topped him:

How I chose this team

My primary criteria in choosing players for this team was how they played for the two New York teams. In close calls, these were deciding criteria (in order):

  1. Was he an all-time great (Hall of Famer or someone who should or will be in the Hall of Fame)? So Yogi Berra would make it over a catcher who had multiple good years for both teams. This helped Rickey Henderson beat out Darryl Strawberry in left field.
  2. Playing well and long for both teams. David Cone, with five-plus strong seasons for both teams, is the best example.
  3. Does he hold a special place in Yankee or Met lore? This helped Marv Throneberry, Phil Linz and Mike Torrez win spots on the team.
  4. How much did he actually play this position for either team? If Dave Kingman had actually played first base much in New York, his quality of play might have pushed him ahead of Throneberry, but he didn’t.
  5. Can either player play another position? If Strawberry hadn’t DH’d significantly for the Yankees, I might have had to give him the edge in left field, based on more time played for the New York teams than Henderson. But given Rickey’s excellence with both teams, including four-plus prime seasons with the Yankees, and his overall career, plus the fact that Strawberry would also be best at DH, I was able to get both players on the team.
  6. Post-season play always matters to me. Hernandez, Torrez and Orosco nailed down their positions here partly based on their post-season play.
  7. Overall career. This was decided mostly on the basis of performance for the Yankees and Mets. But Henderson’s career greatness came into play in the left field decision, and Beltrán’s overall career helped break a close tie with Granderson in center. But I wouldn’t place a player with a great career here based mostly on play for other teams. Tony Fernandez had a far superior career at shortstop to Phil Linz. But his New York years weren’t as good as Linz’s. If he were Ozzie Smith or Cal Ripken Jr., his overall career might tip the balance over a role player like Linz. But Linz won on better New York play and the harmonica incident.

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

Correction invitation: I wrote this blog post a few months ago late at night, unable to sleep while undergoing medical treatment. I believe I have fact-checked and corrected any errors, but I welcome you to point out any I missed: stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com. Or, if you just want to argue about my selections, that’s fine, too.





Yankees on the ballot: Who makes the Hall of Fame? Who gets screwed again?

5 12 2014

Ten former Yankees are on two different Hall of Fame ballots for consideration for enshrinement in Cooperstown next summer.

Nine Yankees are among the 34 players on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for election by sports writers and one former Yankee is on the Golden Era ballot for election by a special committee considering players whose primary contributions came between 1947 and 1972.

You won’t think of most of these players as primarily Yankees. All but one played most of their careers for other teams. Here are my thoughts on those players and their chances to make the Hall of Fame (this year or ever):

Sure bet

Randy Johnson

Easy, automatic selection. He’d be in as either a 300-game winner or a five-time Cy Young Award winner (four in a row) or as No. 2 all time on the strikeout list with 4,875. As all three, Johnson is a first-ballot slam-dunk. I think Pedro Martinez was a little better pitcher, and he’s probably a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer (a stupid distinction) this year, too. But the voters love longevity and Johnson put up bigger career numbers. He’s the more certain first-ballot guy.

It’s hard to overstate how good Johnson was. He led the league in strikeouts nine times, winning percentage, ERA and complete games four times each and innings pitched, shutouts and hit batters twice (and each of those hit batters felt it).

I’ve noted before that pitchers’ wins are a more useful stat than the hypothetical stat of WAR (wins above replacement). But I acknowledged then that wins are a flawed statistic (every stat is flawed). Johnson certainly illustrates the flaws. He won 20 games only three times and only twice in his Cy Young years. But 18-2, 17-9 and 19-7 are damn good won-loss records and that’s what he had the three years he won the Cy Young without winning 20. He led his league in strikeouts each of those years and in ERA two of those years and shutouts the other year.

Johnson’s two years with the Yankees were unremarkable: 17-8 with a 3.79 ERA and 211 strikeouts and 17-11, 5.00 and 172. The Yankees faced him at his best in the 2001 World Series (three wins, one of them in relief, two runs given up in 17 innings, a shutout and 19 strikeouts). But he was on the decline when the Yankees traded for him four years later. At that point, he was just trying to make it to 300 wins. He did that in 2009 as a Giant.

Tainted by PED scandal

Roger Clemens


When and if the Hall of Fame voters ever decide to elect players tainted by suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs, Clemens should go in first. He and Barry Bonds are far and away the greatest players being kept out of Cooperstown because of PED suspicions. Clemens also was actually acquitted of perjury (allegedly lying to Congress when he denied using PED’s), so the jury that heard the case against him didn’t find it convincing. But I doubt this is the year he gets in.

And I don’t much care. I might vote for him if I had a vote, because I believe you’re innocent until proven guilty, and he wasn’t. But I don’t think Andy Pettitte misunderstood Clemens. I think he probably juiced and I will save the outrage of this blog for players I think are more deserving.

Gary Sheffield


I think even if his era and he himself had not been tainted by PED scandals, Sheffield might have taken several years to make it to the Hall of Fame. He hit 509 homers and topping 500 used to ensure enshrinement. Beyond the homers, looking at his career statistically by itself, he belongs in Cooperstown:

  • With 1,636 runs, he was 38th all-time, and most of those around him on the leaders list are in Cooperstown or sure to be: He ranks just ahead of Hall of Famers Robin Yount, Eddie Murray, Paul Waner and Al Kaline. He had seven seasons over 100 runs.
  • With 1,676 RBI, he’s in similar company, 26th all-time, just ahead of Hall of Famers Tony Perez and Ernie Banks. He had eight seasons over 100 RBI.
  • With 2,689, he’s not in as elite company, 66th all-time, but still just ahead of Hall of Famers Luis Aparicio, Max Carey and Nellie Fox, none of whom had Sheffield’s power.
  • With 1,475 walks, he’s 21st all-time, just ahead of Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx and Eddie Mathews. He had four seasons over 100 walks.
  • Sheffield hit .292, well within Hall of Fame range, and led the National League in batting at .300 with the Padres in 1992. He also led the league in on-base percentage and OPS with the Marlins in 1996.
  • He was a nine-time All-Star.

Statistically, you can’t make a case that Sheffield wasn’t a Hall of Famer. But he was a long way from the best power hitter of his time, and I think he’d have waited on the ballot for several years, even if it wasn’t for his implication in the PED scandals. Among his contemporaries, Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Albert Pujols, Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were more feared sluggers. And he doesn’t particularly stand out from some others: Jim Thome, Rafael Palmeiro, Chipper Jones and Fred McGriff. The guy who was the 10th to 12th-best slugger of his time doesn’t necessarily make the Hall of Fame, and if he does, he waits a while. Sheffield played in a time of great offense, and he might have had to wait a while for Cooperstown even without being tainted by the drug scandals.

He’ll have to wait a while even when/if the Hall starts admitting the juicers. And, if the standard is whether voters think he’d have been a Hall of Famer without cheating, Sheffield might not make it.

Getting screwed (still)

Don Mattingly

Mattingly illustrates better than anyone (with the possible exception of Ron Guidry) the Hall of Fame’s two strongest biases (after the bias against those suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs): against Yankees and in favor of longevity.

I have already made the case for Mattingly twice here: Showing that his career was almost identical to first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett and that by most measures he outperformed the Hall-of-Famers of his era. He should be in the Hall of Fame already, but this is his only year on the baseball writers’ ballot and he got only 8 percent of the vote last year. He has no chance this year. I think he could be a strong candidate for Expansion Era Committee selection eventually, but perhaps not as long as the baseball writers control the selection of candidates for those committees’ ballots.

Lee Smith

Here are the career achievements of four relief pitchers whose careers overlapped by six years: 1980-85:

Pitcher A: 341 career saves in 17 seasons, three years leading his league in saves, two seasons over 30 saves, 6.9 strikeouts/9 innings, seven All-Star games, 1 Cy Young, 1 MVP.

Pitcher B: 478 career saves in 18 seasons, four seasons leading his league in saves, 11 seasons over 30 saves, 8.7 strikeouts/9 innings, seven All-Star games.

Pitcher C: 310 career saves in 22 seasons, three seasons leading his league in saves, two seasons over 30 saves, 7.5 strikeouts/9 innings, nine All-Star games.

Pitcher D: 300 career saves in 12 seasons, five seasons leading his league in saves, four seasons over 30 saves, 7.9 strikeouts/9 innings, six All-Star games.

Perhaps you can identify the four pitchers. What you cannot do is say why one of them isn’t in the Hall of Fame. You especially can’t say why the one with the most saves, most 30-save seasons and most strikeouts per 9 innings isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

Smith, of course, is Pitcher B, the only one of the four not in the Hall of Fame. A is Rollie Fingers, B is Goose Gossage and C is Bruce Sutter. The only other reliever of their time in the Hall of Fame is Dennis Eckersley, who defies comparison with his career as a starter (with a 20-win season), then a reliever. (If there’s a comparison, it’s John Smoltz, also likely to get in on the first-ballot this year.) For the record, though, Smith bested Eck in career saves, 30-save seasons, strikeouts per nine innings, seasons leading the league in saves and All-Star selections.

You can make a case that Smith was better than any of those pitchers, but you also could make the case that they were better than him. That’s the point: He was their peer in every respect. If they’re in the Hall of Fame, Smith should be.

I probably can’t claim it’s anti-Yankee bias that keeps Smith out of Cooperstown, because few people remember him as a Yankee. With only eight games for New York (in 1993; he saved three games), he probably has the lowest percentage of his career in pinstripes of any great player who played for the Yankees.

Clearly Smith should be in the Hall of Fame. With only 29 percent of the vote last year and only three years left on the writers’ ballot, his best shot will be through the Expansion Era Committee.

Tim Raines

Can you name a comparable player to Raines who’s not in the Hall of Fame? Who else in the top five in any major career statistical is waiting to get into Cooperstown without a gambling ban or suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs?

Throw in four seasons leading the league in steals, a batting championship and two years leading the league in runs. Raines absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame (and mostly for achievements before reaching the Yankees; he gave them three part-time years but contributed to their 1996 and ’98 championships). In baseball discussions during their primes, he was always paired with Rickey Henderson. How did one of them become a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and the other one can’t get in?

Raines does have a possible added factor in his consideration: his use of cocaine. He testified during the Pittsburgh drug trials that he used to slide headfirst to avoid breaking the cocaine vials in his back pocket.

But cocaine is not a performance-enhancing drug, and I can’t think of another person blocked from the Hall of Fame because of cocaine use. Lots of players — Vida Blue, Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry — appeared to be on the path to the Hall of Fame, but derailed their careers with cocaine abuse. None of those players reached a level of career achievement where everyone makes it to the Hall of Fame. And Hall voters have honored multiple players tainted by stories of recreational drug use: Orlando Cepeda, Ferguson Jenkins, Paul Molitor, Willie Stargell.

The only players who have more stolen bases than Raines’ 808 are Henderson, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton and Ty Cobb, all in the Hall of Fame.

Next on the stolen-base list behind Raines is Vince Coleman at 752. But stealing bases was virtually Coleman’s only skill. He hit .264, was only an All-Star twice and only scored 100 runs twice (and never led his league in runs scored).

Raines is much more like the four players ahead of him than like Coleman. Let’s set aside Hamilton, who played in the 1800’s, when baseball was much different, including counting as a stolen base when you went from first to third on a single. And let’s set aside Cobb, who was one of the greatest hitters of all time and still has the career record for batting average.

Comparing Raines as a hitter to Brock, he had better career averages at batting, on-base percentage (a leadoff hitter’s job) and slugging (and, of course, OPS): .294, .385, .425, .810 for Raines, .293, .343, .410, .753. Brock never led the league in a single batting category. Raines led the league in batting (.334) and on-base percentage (.413) in 1986 and doubles (38) in 1984. Brock was more durable, though, playing full-time long enough to reach 3,000 hits (Raines was a part-time player after 1992 and retired with 2,605 hits).

Runs combine hitting and running, and Brock had a slight advantage there. Each led his league twice. Brock topped 100 runs seven times and Raines had six 100-run seasons. Brock had slightly more career runs (in 100 more career games), 1,610 to 1,571.

Brock stole more bases, 938, and led his league in steals more times, eight, but Brock was largely a volume base-stealer. Raines was really a more successful base stealer, safe on 85 percent of his steals, compared to 75 percent for Brock. Even with all his stolen bases, Raines never led his league in times caught stealing. Brock led his league seven times. Raines’ worst season, he was caught 16 times. Brock topped that 10 times, getting caught 33 times in 1974, when he set the single-season record with 118 steals. In fact, Brock’s lead of Raines by 130 stolen bases is actually smaller than his caught-stealing lead, 307-146.

Defensively Raines was way better: He had a higher fielding percentage, .988 to .957. Brock had slightly more putouts, assists and double plays, but he played almost 400 more outfield games. But Raines committed only 54 errors. Brock made 196.

Raines was the player in baseball history most similar to Brock. And you can argue that he was a better hitter, base stealer and fielder. How is one guy in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and the other isn’t there yet?

The comparison to Henderson is not as favorable for Raines. Henderson never won a batting or doubles title, but he led his league in hits in 1981 and on-base percentage and slugging percentage in 1990 (his MVP year, an achievement Raines never matched).

For career averages, Raines had the advantage in batting (.294 to .279) and slugging (.425 to .419), but Henderson led in on-base percentage (.401 to .385) and OPS (.820 to .810). Henderson was a better homerun hitter (297 to 170) and drove in more runs (1,115 to 980).

One of a leadoff hitter’s most important jobs is getting on base, and Henderson led his league in walks four times, topped 100 walks seven times and set the record with 2,190 career walks (he’s second now to Barry Bonds). Raines had a respectable 1,330 career walks but never led his league and never topped 100 in a season.

In runs, Henderson blew Raines (and everyone in baseball history) away, setting the career record (still) with 2,295, leading his league five times and topping 100 runs 13 times.

Henderson stole 1,406 career bases, a record that’s safe for at least 15 years. He stole a record (still) 130 in 1982, one of three years that he topped 100, and he led his league in steals 12 times. He was the greatest base-stealer of all time. Raines was a better percentage stealer, 85 to 81.

So Henderson was the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time and significantly better than Raines. But Raines was the most similar player in baseball history to two first-ballot Hall of Famers. He should be in.

Maybe someday

Mike Mussina

USA Today’s Ted Berg predicts Mussina will make the Hall of Fame eventually. He’s been on the ballot two years and got 20 percent of the vote last year.

With 270 wins, he’s in Hall of Fame territory, four wins or fewer ahead of Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Bob Feller and Eppa Rixey. But Mussina also is one win ahead of Jamie Moyer, who has no shot at Cooperstown. Moose is way better than Moyer and his winning percentage was more than 100 points higher than Rixey’s. But he’s nowhere near Palmer’s or Feller’s league.

Berg says, “Time and context will smile on Mussina’s counting numbers and reward his consistency.” He may be right. I’m skeptical, but I’m horrible at predicting Hall of Fame elections. Just considering Yankee pitchers not in the Hall of Fame, I’d say Tommy John, Ron Guidry and Allie Reynolds all belong there before Mussina. He’s about even with David Cone, Cone having soared to greater heights but Moose being more consistent. The Hall of Fame rewards longevity and consistency, so he could get in.

I don’t think he’ll ever make it to Cooperstown, but he probably could have. For the first 17 years of his career, he was a model of consistency, never winning 20 games in a season but winning 19 twice, 18 three times and 17 twice. He never won fewer than 11 games.

Moose won 20 for the only time in his 18th and final year, 2008, at age 39. It’s hard to believe he didn’t have another 30 wins in him if he’d wanted to pitch another three years (possibly two). If he had made it to 300 wins, he’d be automatic. But you have to admire a guy who goes out on top, and that might help him in Hall of Fame voting.

Two things we don’t know yet about Hall of Fame could affect Moose’s chances of election:

  1. We don’t know how long the baseball writers will keep the PED-era stars out of the Hall of Fame. Will they have to wait a few years to get in, or will the writers just never vote any of them in?
  2. If they don’t vote the drug-tainted players in, will they just vote in fewer players from that era, or will some of the marginal players from that era, who used to wait for veterans committee votes, get voted in by the writers. It’s hard to imagine Moose making the Hall of Fame with all the players tainted by PED’s on the ballot. But if those guys aren’t getting in, Moose could be an attractive candidate in some year when the crop of first-time candidates is a little thin. I suspect he’ll be an Expansion Era Committee selection someday.

Luis Tiant

El Tiante is the only ex-Yankee on the Golden Era ballot (the writers keep Roger Maris out of the Hall of Fame by controlling access to the era ballots). His 229 wins don’t carry him into automatic territory (or the writers would have voted him in), but they certainly are Cooperstown-worthy. He ranks a few wins ahead of Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and Catfish Hunter, but tied with Sad Sam Jones, who never made the Hall of Fame and never topped 1 percent in the writers’ vote. He’s also 10 wins behind David Wells and 11 behind Frank Tanana, neither of whom is likely to get a Cooperstown plaque.

The Tiant case is strong: four 20-win seasons, two ERA championships (under 2.00 both times), led his league in shutouts three times. If post-season performance counted for anything (it doesn’t, or they’d have to let more Yankees in), his 3-0 record in his only post-season, including two complete-game 1975 World Series wins (one of them a shutout) over the Big Red Machine would push him over the top.

His Yankee years were insignificant, a 13-8 showing at age 38 and 8-9 the next year in 1979-80.

Comparing Tiant to Hunter shows why he has fallen short of the Hall of Fame so far. Catfish won his 224 games in 15 years, while Tiant played 19. Catfish won 20 games five years in a row and won a Cy Young Award (Tiant’s highest finish was fourth).

Tiant was more comparable to Bunning, who won 20 games only once (he had four 19-win seasons) and had a career winning percentage 22 points lower than Tiant. Bunning never led his league in ERA, but led twice in shutouts and three times in strikeouts.

All-Star selections aren’t a strong part of Tiant’s case: He was selected three times and Catfish had eight selections and Bunning seven.

Tiant was a fierce competitor who probably was regarded as a Hall of Famer by the batters he faced in a career that stretched from 1964 to 1982. He played in an era of great pitchers: Hunter and Bunning are among 17 pitchers who were Tiant contemporaries who are already in Cooperstown. Guidry’s another who belongs there, ahead of Tiant.

It’s clear that Tiant was more comparable to Hunter and Bunning than to Jones, Wells and Tanana. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, but I’m not outraged if he doesn’t make it.

If the Golden Era Committee just picks one or two players, I would expect Tony Oliva and/or Maury Wills to go ahead of Tiant. But maybe, like the Expansion Era Committee went with three managers (Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox) last year, the Golden Era Committee will choose three Cubans this year: Oliva, Tiant and Minnie Minoso. I tend to think Tiant will continue to wait.

No chance

Aaron Boone

Boone has no shot at the Hall of Fame. This will be his only year on the ballot. He gave Yankee fans a great memory in 2003, but he has no Hall of Fame qualifications: barely 1,000 career hits, never hit .300 or 30 homers or 100 RBI, never won a Gold Glove. He had a respectable 12-year career and made an All-Star team for the Reds in 2003 (before being traded to the Yankees.

Boone was actually only the third-best baseball player in his family. Brother Bret has no Hall of Fame chance either, but he had three 100-RBI seasons for the Mariners. He was third in the MVP race in 2001, hitting .331 with 206 hits, 37 homers and a league-leading 141 RBI. He was a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover. But he also was named as a PED user in Jose Canseco’s book (he denied the allegation). Bret Boone didn’t approach Hall of Fame consideration, but had a better career than Aaron.

Their father, Bob, a four-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove catcher who’s third all-time in games caught, might catch the fancy of an era committee someday and make it to the Hall of Fame.

Bob’s father, Ray Boone, was also an All-Star (twice) and led the American League with 116 RBI in 1955. But he also was far short of Hall of Fame levels.

They are one of baseball’s best families ever (does any other family have four All-Stars?). But I doubt they’ll have any Hall of Famers, certainly not Aaron.

Tom Gordon


As I noted last month, Flash was one of the best pitchers ever at relieving and starting. But only Eck and Smoltz of that group will make the Hall of Fame (Allie Reynolds should, but he’s unique because he started and relieved in the same season for a few years, never becoming a full-time reliever). Gordon is back in the pack with Wilbur Wood, Dave Righetti and Derek Lowe, probably a bit behind them.

Gordon has a better case than Aaron Boone, with three All-Star selections and one season leading the American League in saves (1998 with 46). He delivered on a then-record 54 consecutive save opportunities. But neither 138 career wins nor 158 career saves is anywhere near Hall of Fame territory, so he doesn’t get enough benefit from having pitched well in both roles to have a shot at Cooperstown.

Source note: Unless noted otherwise, facts in this post come from Baseball-Reference.com or the Baseball Hall of Fame website.