Monthly Archives: December 2011

Any player/Any era: Cesar Cedeño

What he did: Cedeño may rank as one of the great “What If?” players in baseball history. Not long after Cedeño debuted with the Houston Astros in 1970, Leo Durocher declared him the next Willie Mays. And while the centerfielder had power good for 199 homers and speed that netted him 550 steals to go with a .285 batting average, he didn’t come close to reaching his Hall of Fame potential. In fact, Cedeño received just two votes out of 430 ballots in 1992, the only year he was eligible for Cooperstown with the writers. Many things hurt his cause, including: 1) A reckless temper and style of play that led to injuries and legal problems; 2) Playing his best years in the cavernous Astrodome; 3) Having his career in the 1970s and ’80s, no great time for hitters.

Era he might have thrived in: With his speed and contact, Cedeño would have appealed to Branch Rickey. Cedeño might not have had the temperament to stand in for Jackie Robinson at Rickey’s behest and stoically break baseball’s color barrier in 1947. But assuming we suspend disbelief about Cedeño’s dark skin color keeping him from the majors prior to this, he might have been a hit with Rickey’s other dynasty, the Gashouse Gang-era St. Louis Cardinals of the 1930s. And considering he’d be playing with future Veterans Committee head Frankie Frisch, who famously enshrined several of his teammates, Cedeño’s place in Cooperstown would probably be assured.

Why: The projected numbers speak for themselves. In 1972, Cedeño hit .320 with 22 home runs, 82 RBI and 55 steals, his OPS at .921, among the best ever by a Houston starter in the Astrodome years. On the 1931 Cardinals, these numbers convert to a .349 batting average, 25 home runs, 100 RBI, 62 steals and a 1.001 OPS. Cedeño might need to play right field since Pepper Martin and Chick Hafey wouldn’t be going anywhere, but otherwise, nothing would prevent Cedeño from playing a vital role on a championship team. He’d also be a young player in an offensive golden age, playing for a general manager who might help his attitude, too. That or he’d be just another one of the boys on those Cards, a fun-loving, hard-drinking club.

Are the projected numbers infallible? I doubt it. While Rickey signed players in part for foot speed and the Cardinals stole a lot of bases for their era, 114 in 1931 alone, it seems unlikely Cedeño could go for 62 steals that year. Granted, Ben Chapman led the American League with 61 steals in 1931, but it was somewhat aberrational. From the dawn of the Live Ball Era around 1920 to Luis Aparicio and Maury Wills revolutionizing the base paths 40 years later, stolen bases were a largely forgotten art in the majors. Frisch led the National League in 1931 with 28, and that’s not even the lowest total for a leader in that generation. All the same, Cedeño could have a shot at 30 steals. A 40-40 season more than a half century before Jose Canseco doesn’t even seem out of the question.

There’s also a question of whether a 21-year-old Cedeño could find a spot in St. Louis’s batting lineup. Rickey famously developed his teams through his farm system and rarely brought up young starters or kept old players around. The ’31 Cardinals exemplify this: Aside from 25-year-old shortstop Charlie Gelbert and 36-year-old third baseman Sparky Adams, every starter was in his late 20s or early 30s. Still, there were occasional exceptions, like Johnny Mize who became the Cardinals’ starting first baseman as a 23-year-old rookie in 1936. Perhaps Cedeño could follow his lead. Regardless, Cedeño would shine whenever he got his moment with those Cardinals.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News RockiesBarry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob WatsonBobby VeachCarl MaysCharles Victory FaustChris von der AheDenny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleEddie Lopat, Elmer FlickFrank HowardFritz MaiselGavvy CravathGeorge CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro SuzukiJack ClarkJack MorrisJackie RobinsonJim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film)Matty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey HendersonRoberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam ThompsonSandy KoufaxSatchel PaigeShoeless Joe JacksonStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays

The 1947 PCL Beavers: If Only Vic Raschi Had Stayed in Portland All Year

About three weeks ago, thanks in large part to Baseball: Past and Present, I received an invitation to attend the annual Oldtimers and Active Baseball Players Association of Portland, Oregon dinner. One of the Oregon event organizers members who lived in Pittsburgh during the 1950s and had attended the game at the old Forbes Field read my blog about Vernon Law and his 18-inning masterpiece.  An exchange about the Pirates then and now ensued, an offer was extended, and before I knew it, I had booked an airline flight to Portland.

Having grown up in Los Angeles during the old Pacific Coast League’s heyday, I had a working knowledge of the Portland Beavers, one of the of the league’s original teams. But since I rooted exclusively for the Hollywood Stars and only followed their bitter cross-town rival Angels,  all I really could tell anyone about the Beavers from that era (1950-1957) is that the team consistently finished in the middle or at bottom of the pack with uninspiring records like 101-99 (1950), 92-88 (1952), 71-94 (1954) and, gasp, 60-108 (1957).

Thinking that my Portland welcome might be warmer if I had something more positive to say about the Beavers other than that they were perennial losers, I turned to my book shelf and pulled out “The Portland Beavers” by Kip Carlson and Paul Anderson.

Beavers’ history is rich indeed! Among the Beavers that would make their mark in the major leagues were such stalwarts as Luis Tiant, Lou Pinella, Satchel Paige, Rickey Henderson, Ray Fosse, Mike Shannon and Vic Raschi who, in 1947, was on loan from the New York Yankees.

Around Portland, there may still be lingering curiosity about what might have been had Raschi not been returned to the Yankees mid-season.

When Raschi reported to spring training in 1947, he was confident that based on his strong late 1946 performance he had made the Yankees’ starting rotation. But that year manager Bucky Harris inexplicably turned over the pitching coach duties to Charlie Dressen, a notoriously bad and unpopular handler of hurlers.

In Florida, Dressen limited Raschi to throwing batting practice. Just before the Yankees headed north, Raschi was ordered to report to the Beavers. Disgusted, Raschi instead went home to his wife Sally in Conesus, New York. After several calls from the Yankees threatening to banish him for life unless he went to Portland, Raschi reluctantly headed to the Northwest.

Once in Portland, Raschi met pitching mentor Jim Turner who would provide the keys to his years of pitching success with the Yankees and then the St. Louis Cardinals.

Tuner convinced Raschi that to win, he would need to pitch aggressively inside. As Raschi recalled in an interview late in his life, Turner told him:

“You have to crucify those sons of bitches, Vic. Murder them, crucify them, kill them.”

After a few weeks, Turner had so deeply instilled the mantra of “up and in” that Raschi dominated the PCL with his fearsome pitching and went 8-2 with a 2.75 ERA. By July, Turner knew that it was time for Raschi to return to the Yankees. After Turner placed a call to Yankees general manager George Weiss, Raschi was on his way back to New York. Although the Yankees were in the midst of a formidable winning streak, their pitchers’ arms were tired.

Raschi and Bobo Newsome, acquired in a trade, arrived in New York on the same day, started and won both ends of a double header against the White Sox in Chicago on the team’s way to 19 consecutive victories. Raschi ended the year with a 7-2 record, a 3.87 ERA and helped lead his team to a World Championship.

Meanwhile back in Portland, the Beavers finished 8-1/2 games behind the pennant winning Angels and 7-1/2 behind the second place Seals. Beavers’ fans, in one of those baseball questions that can never be answered, were left to wonder if Raschi would have made the difference between third and first.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Vince Coleman

Claim to fame: I saw Vince Coleman got a few votes in my recent project on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, six votes out of 86 ballots to be precise, and I noticed something interesting. I noticed this thing again in a forum discussion on Monday over at Baseball Think Factory. That thing I noticed goes something like this: A lot of people want to see Tim Raines in the Hall of Fame (including yours truly), and Raines has 808 stolen bases and is fifth on the all-time steals list. Coleman has 752 steals and is sixth. If Raines goes in the Hall of Fame, does Coleman need to also be enshrined? The short answer is no, but let’s explore that question further.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Coleman received 0.6 percent of the vote his only year on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown in 2003. Under the Veterans Committee’s new format of considering players depending on their era, Coleman will first be eligible with the committee in 2019.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? So Vince Coleman has 752 steals. He also led the National League his first six seasons and stole over 100 bases each of his first three years in the majors. He even had pretty good efficiency, being caught stealing just 177 times for an 81 percent success rate. Does this make Coleman a Hall of Famer? Eh, not really.

Coleman’s essentially a one-trick pony. Besides a lot of stolen bases, I’m not sure what else his Hall of Fame case consists of. Coleman hit .264 lifetime and had 1,425 hits in 13 seasons. His lifetime OPS+ of 83 would very nearly be the worst of any position player enshrined, just beating Rabbit Maranville’s 82. Without checking, Coleman’s career Wins Above Replacement of 9.4 would seemingly be the lowest by far of any player in Cooperstown, making Tommy McCarthy and his 19.0 WAR look epic. Cooperstown’s enshrined some lousy candidates before, but Coleman would vault almost instantly to the top of any list of the worst players in the Hall of Fame. There could be a dual ceremony while he was being inducted.

And then there are the extracurricular points against Coleman that my Twitter followers educated me on, such as:

  • As a rookie, Coleman professed to not know who Jackie Robinson was. (credit @lecroy24fan)
  • Coleman threw cherry bombs at kids in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. (credit @Joeneverleft)
  • While warming up on-field, he once got run over by an automatic tarp. Better, it happened in the postseason and knocked Coleman out for the duration while his St. Louis Cardinals went on to lose the World Series. You cannot make this up. (credit @lecroy24fan and @baseballtwit)
I have a hunch Raines will eventually be honored by the Veterans Committee. When that happens, it will be interesting to see if traditional baseball media makes any to-do about Coleman. Raines dwarfs Coleman for stats, with a far better OPS+ rating, about twice as many hits, and nearly seven times as much WAR, but Hall of Fame voters don’t always closely follow sabermetrics. In fact, they rarely do.


Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiLarry Walker,Manny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger Maris, Ron CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaWill Clark

The All-Japanese All-Star Team

Editor’s note: I’m pleased to present the latest piece from Alex Putterman, a regular contributor here.
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Four weeks ago, I unveiled my all-time all-Jewish all-star team. Now, in honor of the $51.7 million bid that won the Texas Rangers the rights to negotiate with Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish, I present the all-time all-Japanese all-star team (of players who played in the Major Leagues). The migration of Japan’s talent to the United States has been a relatively recent phenomenon, so this team lacks much of the depth the Jewish team boasted but, led by future Hall-of-Famer Ichiro Suzuki, claims some degree of star-power.

C Kenji Johjima - Johjima is actually the only Japanese-born catcher to appear in Major League Baseball (Kurt Suzuki is of Japanese descent but was born in Hawaii and is a fourth-generation American), giving him this spot on the list by default. Johjima broke into the Majors with a bang, batting .289 with 32 home runs in his first two seasons with the Seattle Mariners, before declining in productivity and returning to Japan in 2009, after a four-year career in American baseball.

1B N/A - There has never been a Japanese-born first baseman in the Major Leagues, but Nippon Professional Baseball legend Sadaharu Oh won 15 home run titles in his 22-year career playing first base for the Yomiuri Giants and owns Japan’s records for home runs in a single-season (55) and a career (868).

2B Tad Iguchi – Second base happens to be somewhat of a hotspot for Japanese players, with Iguchi, Akinori Iwamura, and Kaz Matsui all having played the majority of their MLB games there. Iguchi was the only of the trio to play exclusively at second, and so he gets this position, while Matsui and Iwamura find spots elsewhere.

3B Akinori Iwamura - Iwamura played four MLB seasons, three of them in Tampa Bay, and was the starting second baseman on the Rays’ pennant-winning 2008 team. But the infielder performed best during his rookie season, when he posted career highs in home runs, stolen bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS+ and WAR while playing third base.

SS Kaz Matsui – Matsui was, like Iwamura, primarily a second baseman but played shortstop as a Mets rookie (with a young Jose Reyes stationed at second). Matsui initially failed to live up to high expectations, struggling mightily during his time in New York, before reviving his career in Colorado following a 2006 trade.

LF Hideki Matsui - Probably the second most accomplished Japanese-born MLB player, Matsui has batted .285 and knocked 173 home runs in nine seasons with the Yankees, Angels and Athletics. A six-RBI performance in game six of the 2009 World Series earned him Series MVP honors, concluding a successful but somewhat injury-prone Yankee career.

RF Ichiro – The inarguable greatest Japanese Major Leaguer of all-time, Ichiro broke into the bigs with Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in his rookie season. And unlike other Japanese players who began their careers strong and then faded (see: Nomo, Matsuzaka, Fukudome, Iwamura, Johjima, Sasaki, Okajima) the Mariner outfielder built off his initial success and put together a career worthy of Cooperstown. Though his best days are behind him, Ichiro can already claim two batting titles, over 2,400 career hits, over 400 career stolen bases, and the MLB single-season hits record (262, set in 2004).

CF Kosuke Fukodome - A 3-run game-tying home run in Fukodome’s first MLB game and a .337 batting average in his first month in America made the outfielder a cult hero in Chicago, and while that level of success didn’t last long, Fukodome’s career has been a moderate success. He’s hit between .257 and .263 in each of his four MLB seasons and added above-average defense to a solid bat. Although primarily a rightfielder, Fukudome has played enough games in center (138) to warrant this position on this list.

With the dearth of Japanese position players already evident in the starting lineup, the all-time Japanese team’s bench is pathetically shallow. So Taguchi had his moments, contributing to the Cardinals’ 2006 World Series championship team. Beyond that, we don’t have much. There is no second catcher to bring off the bench, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka is the default utility infielder despite a disastrous rookie season in 2011. Outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo was the first Japanese-born player to play in the World Series, appearing in the 2000 Series for the Mets, but he didn’t amount to much thereafter. The only other Japanese Major League position player not yet mentioned here is Norihiro Nakamura, a third baseman, who lasted all of 17 games with the Dodgers in 2005, batting .128. On December 7, the Yankees won the rights to negotiate with infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima, who, if he signs, can round out this woefully unimpressive bench.

SP Hideo Nomo - If the Rangers come to terms with Darvish, they’ll be counting on him to surpass Nomo and assume the title of best Japanese pitcher to cross the Pacific. For now, the 1995 Rookie of the Year tops this rotation, having fooled the National League with an unconventional delivery and posted a 2.54 ERA (150 ERA+) in his first big league season, finishing 4th in Cy Young voting that year.

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka - Like Nomo, Dice-K began his career strong but has fizzled as the league has figured him out. Unlike Nomo, who peaked as a rookie, Dice-K’s sophomore season was his strongest. That year, 2008, the Red Sox righty went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA (160 ERA+) and, like Nomo 13 years earlier, finished 4th in Cy Young voting.

SP Hiroki Kuroda - Kuroda is currently a free agent, with the Red Sox and Yankees considered among the front-runners for his services. The 36-year old has proved a reliable MLB starter, posting an ERA under 4.00 and an ERA+ over 100 in each of his four seasons stateside.

SP Tomo Ohka – Ohka quietly compiled a solid, decade-long MLB career, highlighted by an impressive 2002 campaign in which he won 13 games and finished 7th in the National League with a 3.18 ERA.

SP Masato Yoshii - Yoshii is less remembered than his contemporary Hideki Irabu (who gained his notoriety mostly by pitching poorly and being called a “Fat Toad” by George Steinbrenner), but Yoshii has a better career ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and WAR than Irabu.

Unlike the Jewish all-star team, the Japanese squad is very deep in the bullpen. Akinori OtsukaHideki OkajimaTakashi SaitoKoji UeharaShigetoshi Hasegawaand Kazuhiro Sasaki all enjoyed or continue to enjoy productive careers in the states. Honorable mention to Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese Major Leaguer, who pitched in 54 games during the 1964 and 1965 seasons before a resolution between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball which, for 30 years, kept Japan’s best away from America.

All I Want For Christmas Is…

The 2012 baseball season is approaching, if ever so slowly, and at this festive time of year there is something on everyone’s Christmas list.  This is especially true for the 30 general managers who run Major League Baseball. Some have long lists with not much money to spend, others have short lists with lots of money to spend and some have already finished their shopping. There are also three franchise problems which would be a nice Christmas gift for the respective fans this year. Here’s what should be on their lists.

Ownership situations need to be resolved. Franchise locations need to be resolved. It can’t be business as usual without a solution, a solution which, while it didn’t come in time for Christmas, might get done during the holidays or early in the New Year.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, a once storied franchise, need to find responsible ownership. It continues to be unresolved, and no doubt court cases might still be pending. Baseball needs to ensure that any new ownership is financially sound, morally focused and free from past restrictions. Commissioner Selig and former owner Frank McCourt need to step aside and let those not quite so emotionally involved find a solution which would be good for baseball and everyone involved. Los Angeles needs to be restored as a storied franchise. Let’s bury the hatchet but learn from past mistakes.

The New York Mets ownership needs to step aside finally.  Fred Wilpon doesn’t have the money or is unwilling to sell his various other financial interests to make the Mets a solid franchise again. Baseball needs to force his hand and not allow this situation to drag out any longer. While the dodgers have received most of the negative publicity while the Mets have been largely given a free ride by the press, push now has to come to shove. There must be more than qualified potential owners out there.  Let’s insist that one of them be allowed to take over this franchise. Baseball doesn’t need the distraction.

It seems that the Oakland A’s situation is moving closer to resolution. San Jose is ready and willing and some financial consideration for the San Francisco Giants to get them to drop their objections to territorial rights is likely all that is standing in the way.  GM Billy Beane has been tearing apart the A’s with his recent fire sale, (although he is getting a good return for his veterans), and not moving this franchise would negate all of his plans and further drive Oakland attendance downward. It is the obvious solution and one which would appear to have all the makings of a successful franchise. While I feel for those loyal A’s fans, they would still have a team. San Jose isn’t that far away.

Someone needs to find Prince Fielder nicely wrapped under the tree. Use the Christmas layaway plan if necessary but sign on the dotted line.  Max out those credit cards.  The Marlins, Nationals or Blue Jays have the money and have the need. Time is running out and there are not many star free agents left on the shelf. You know you’ve always wanted to own a high performance machine.  Think of how envious all your friends will be despite what they might be telling their friends. They will all be jealous, trust me.  There are approximately 24 other free agents out there, none in ultra premium category, but they all could fill a need somewhere.

The Los Angeles Angels have finished their Christmas shopping.  It appears that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have finished theirs. Tampa Bay needs a first baseman, The Chicago Cubs need everyone but a number one starting pitcher and teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres need a lot of everything can’t attract or perhaps afford the big ticket items.  Their Christmas lists go, for the most part, unfilled.  They can’t, or won’t shop in the big stores but keep scouring the local corner stores, hoping that something good is still on the shelf, it ever was.

Major League Baseball: My advice is to wrap up any remaining shopping and relax in front of the tree with a nice glass of wine and a warm fire. Merry Christmas everyone and have a great New Year. The countdown to Spring Training will begin tomorrow.

Any player/Any era: Elmer Flick

What he did: This week’s column was prompted by Cyril Morong, perhaps the best sabermetrician I know and an economics professor at San Antonio College. For anyone who hasn’t checked it out already, Cyril’s blog is well worth a read, a rare site that combines expert quantitative analysis with good writing. Cyril emailed me recently about Deadball Era great Flick, who factored into a post Cyril did two weeks ago about the 38 players in baseball history who had 150 OPS+ or better at least seven seasons apiece. Cyril suggested I do one of these columns on Flick, and in looking at Flick’s stats and SABR bio, a few things resonated.

Flick factored into one of the most famous trades ever that didn’t happen, right up there with the proposed 1947 deal of Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams or the 1916 trades the Yankees passed on that would’ve netted them Tris Speaker or Shoeless Joe Jackson for stolen base king Fritz Maisel. Before that in 1907, frustrated Detroit Tigers manager Hughie Jennings offered angry, young Ty Cobb to Cleveland for Elmer Flick. Cleveland countered with someone named Bunk Congalton, the deal died, and Detroit avoided major calamity: Flick developed a stomach ailment that ended his career in 1910 while Cobb played through 1926 with the Tigers. The two remained linked, with the Georgia Peach’s death in 1961 renewing interest in Flick and leading to his Hall of Fame induction in 1963.

Era he might have thrived in: With his slight build, 5’9″ and 168 pounds by generous estimate, it’s a wonder Flick fared as well as he did in the Deadball Era, hitting .313 lifetime with an OPS+ of 149. He also disliked Southern cooking and the heat on Eastern road trips and looks like a player who’d benefit being coddled in recent decades. Modern healthcare certainly might have prolonged Flick’s career. And his hard-hitting, fleet-footed style could go well in the 1980s with the Oakland A’s, an organization long appreciative of speed, power, and offensive production and willing to take risks on unconventional players. If not capable of 40 home runs and 40 steals in Oakland, Flick might at least be a 30-30 player.

Why: Never mind Flick’s 48 career home runs, a result of playing in the Deadball Era and its vast parks sometimes constructed to favor triples (Flick hit 164 lifetime.) Flick would have at least a couple hundred more homers in the Live Ball Era. I’d use the stat converter on Baseball-Reference.com to predict but one of the converter’s flaws is that it doesn’t realistically adjust Deadball Era offensive totals to modern day. Flick’s .445 lifetime slugging average hints at what might have been, though. Slugging percentage is calculated by dividing total bases by at-bats. Assuming we boost Flick’s total bases by 20 a year to account for a power boost, his slugging percentage would be .492 in the modern era. Looking at the 162-game averages of guys with similar slugging rates, I estimate Flick would hit 25-30 homers a season at his peak.

Granted, some things might be lost in the transition. Many players had gaudy stolen base totals before 1920, and it’d be interesting to see if Flick could still steal 30-40 bases a year and approach 330 lifetime. He’d be in the right place in Oakland though, as the A’s of the late ’80s stole 120-160 bases every year. Fielding looks less promising for Flick. In his own time, he struggled in the minors with an .821 fielding percentage one year, improving somewhat by the time he reached the majors. He racked up many assists thanks to the short right field dimensions of his first ballpark, the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia and the shallow positioning of outfielders back then. Today, Flick’s best lineup option might be as a designated hitter.

Whatever the case, Flick looks like an All Star at the plate alone. Whether playing most of his career at DH could get him in the Hall of Fame is another story, seeing as the best eligible DH in baseball history, Edgar Martinez is still waiting. But perhaps Flick could pave the way.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News RockiesBarry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob WatsonBobby VeachCarl MaysCharles Victory FaustChris von der AheDenny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleEddie LopatFrank HowardFritz MaiselGavvy CravathGeorge CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro SuzukiJack Clark, Jack MorrisJackie RobinsonJim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film)Matty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey HendersonRoberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam ThompsonSandy KoufaxSatchel PaigeShoeless Joe JacksonStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays

Merry Christmas to all and to Nellie Fox and Rickey Henderson, happy birthday

Two baseball Hall of Fame inductees, Nellie Fox and Rickey Henderson had the misfortune to have been born on Christmas Day. Unfortunately for them and others who suffered the same fate, that inevitably results in fewer presents no matter how well intended friends and family may be.

While I admire Henderson’s huge talents, I could never quite warm up to his personality. I’m put off by Henderson’s illeist attitude and his insistence on playing on long after he passed his peak.

Henderson on Henderson:

“If you talk about baseball, you can’t eliminate me because I’m all over baseball… It’s the truth. Telling the truth isn’t being cocky. What do you want me to say, that I didn’t put up the numbers? That my teams didn’t win a lot of games? People don’t want me to say anything about what I’ve done. Then why don’t you say it? Because if I don’t say it and you don’t say it, nobody says it.”

But make no mistake, Henderson was a superb player who, as Bill James once said, if you could split him in two, you would have two Hall of Famers.

Fox, one of the most recognizable players of the 1950s-1960s with his huge tobacco wad and bottle bat, is more to my liking. Undersized and with less natural talent than Henderson, Fox made the most out of what he had.

Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Athletics, Fox must have been disappointed when in 1949 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. The Sox, after all, had All Star second baseman Cass Michaels at the keystone corner.

But Fox didn’t have to wait long for his break. In 1950, the Sox traded Michaels to the Washington Senators and gave Fox his first real opportunity. Fox’s determination was the overriding factor in his long term success.

Said Billy Pierce, Fox’s longtime teammate as well as his roomy for 11 years:

“Nellie was the greatest competitor I ever played with. Baseball, gin rummy, bowling … whatever he played, he just loved to compete.”

What I recall most vividly about Fox was his uncanny ability to make contact. Fox struck out only once in every 48 plate appearances during his career and never more than 18 times in a season despite averaging about 700 PAs during the peak of his career. In 1959, the Go Go Sox American League championship season, Fox struck out only 13 times in 716 PAs.

If you believe as I do that what others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself, consider Whitey Ford’s remark about Fox:

“Nellie was the toughest out for me. In 12 years I struck him out once, and I think the umpire blew the call.”

Fox died in 1975. Only 47, he succumbed to a rare form of skin cancer.

This summer, Henderson was at the Oakland Coliseum teaching the young Athletics how to steal bases. Who better for that job than the man who stole a major league record number of them: 1,406.

Yu Darvish: Dice-Redux?

The Texas Rangers won the right to negotiate with Japanese sensation Yu Darvish, submitting a record $51.7 million bid. When will Major League Baseball learn?

Scouting reports attest that Darvish throws seven different pitches, all with extraordinary skill. The hype surrounding Darvish is reminiscent of Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox bust who never came close to living up to his reputation as the savior–in-waiting for the Boston staff.  Remember the Gyro ball which through its “double spin” mechanics was going to baffle even the most fearsome American League hitters? You could buy a Dice-K DVD that explained the Gyro ball’s mysteries.

As it turned out, Dice-K’s specialty was walking batters and putting his defense to sleep while he threw pitch after errant pitch. Early this summer, Dice-K announced that he will have Tommy John surgery which will sideline him for 2012. In all likelihood, the next time Matsuzaka pitches will be in Japan when he rejoins one of the national teams. [Surgery for Daisuke Matsuzaka, ESPN, June 6, 2011]

Given the opportunity, Red Sox owners would trip all over themselves to get their $100 million plus back.

Maybe Darvish will be cheap at whatever price he signs for. Maybe he will lead the Blue Jays back to the World Series. Nevertheless, I’m opposed to globalism in baseball (and, for that matter in everything else) and therefore against his signing.

My reasoning could fill a book but I’ll summarize briefly.

Baseball is an American thing, and I want to see Americans playing it. Darvish probably is better than any pitcher at Rice University or Fresno State. But I enjoy watching those young Americans more than I do foreign-born players. I propose to you that if you filled a major league roster with NCAA All Stars, you would get as much pleasure—if not more—out of rooting for them.

Here are some examples. If the World Baseball Class were played in my back yard, I wouldn’t get off my couch to watch them. On the other hand, if the local North Allegheny High School played rival Central Catholic Vikings, I might plan my weekend around it.

I delighted in David Freese’s 2011 World Series heroics and the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 celebration. Among the Giants’ piled on top of each other after the final out mob scene: Tim Lincecum (Washington), Buster Posey (New Hampshire), Matt Cain (Alabama), Madison Bumgarner (North Carolina), Nate Schierholtz (Nevada) and Cody Ross (New Mexico).

Compare that scene to the 2009 post-game interview with Most Valuable Player Hideki Matsui conducted through a Japanese translator which annoyed me then and the thought of which still irks me today.
Or, locally, Pittsburgh-born Pirates’ second baseman Neil Walker’s achievements have captured the town. Around here, Walker is known as “Mr. Pittsburgh.”

My opinions are certain to be interpreted as radically post-American by some and probably expose me as a fossilized fuddy-duddy tilting at windmills. I won’t argue.

But I won’t apologize either.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Ron Cey

What he did: Let’s be clear– I don’t consider Ron Cey a Hall of Famer. The point of this column isn’t to mount a hopeless case that Cey belongs in Cooperstown. The power-hitting third baseman didn’t come close to making the Top 50 in my recent project on the best players not in the Hall of Fame, receiving 13 votes out of 86, with just one voter saying he deserved a plaque. Don’t get me wrong, Cey was very good for much of his career, maybe even one of the best in the National League in the 1970s, hitting 316 home runs with a lifetime OPS+ of 121. His career WAR of 52.0 isn’t bad. But there may be dozens of other players who merit enshrinement before Cey.

I’m writing this column for different reasons. Specifically, I was inspired by a commenter here last week who argued that Steve Garvey deserved higher placement in the Top 50 because he batted before the .261-hitting Cey in the Dodger lineup. I looked on Baseball-Reference.com and found that Garvey and Cey had almost identical offensive production for their time in Los Angeles, posting OPS+ scores of 122 and 125, respectively. This being said, I doubt the commenter is alone in his misconceptions or that it was any help to Cey his only year on the ballot.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Cey was a one-and-done candidate, receiving 1.9 percent of the vote in 1993, his only year on the writers ballot. He became eligible with the Veterans Committee last year under its new format and can be considered again by the committee in two years.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Again, just so we’re clear, no, Ron Cey does not belong in the Hall of Fame. I’d appreciate if no one leaves a comment like, “Heck no! How can you even say Cey’s a Hall of Famer?” People see the titles here, don’t bother to read my posts, and treat the comment button like a trigger. It’s a little risky to feature players like Cey. But I think it makes for interesting copy.

I believe Cey and others suffer from the attitudes espoused by the commenter above. It’s easy to discount Cey for his .261 average, early decline, or relatively low career homer totals. Surface stats can sink a man’s shot at Cooperstown, even if a little more research suggests he might at least be worth more consideration. For Cey, the stakes aren’t as high, being that the research merely shows him to be as good or better than Garvey, one of the more overrated Hall of Fame candidates in recent years. I wouldn’t give either man a plaque.

Other more deserving men, though, may have suffered the same fate as Cey. Bert Blyleven was in this group for a long time, though last year he became perhaps the first player enshrined on the basis of sabermetrics. I doubt Cey will ever follow, and I don’t have any problem with this, but perhaps a few other underrated, misunderstood players like Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, and Rick Reuschel will eventually get their due.

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Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert Blyleven, Bill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiLarry Walker,Manny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaWill Clark

Hall of Fame project recap

A week has passed since I posted the results of my second annual project on the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame, and things are going well in these parts.

We have a new traffic record here with just north of 7,200 unique visitors for the month as of yesterday. More than 5,000 of these visitors came to read the Hall of Fame project, with it being linked to at the Sweet Spot blog on ESPN.com, Hardball Talk (the NBCSports.com baseball blog), Baseball Think Factory, and elsewhere. There’ve also been two cool original posts it’s inspired: an expanded case for Lip Pike and a list on the 10 best Yankees not in the Hall of Fame. It’s clear there’s an audience for our work and that it resonates with people, and I expect traffic numbers will continue to climb with next year’s project.

We can also expect a few thousand more visitors for the 2011 project over the coming year. We’re leading the search engines for this area, and traffic spikes both when the Hall of Fame voting results for the Baseball Writers Association of America come out in early January and again when players are enshrined in mid-July. I expect comments will keep coming, both positive and negative. Heck, the shanty Top 10 list I did back in 2009 (don’t judge me, but it sucks) still draws the occasional comment.

So what’s to come? I alluded near the end of my project’s results post that I’m already looking forward to next year. I plan to keep the foundation of the project the same, though there should be a few new wrinkles. I want to expand Super Ballot, get BBWAA members and former players voting, and automate the vote counting. I’d also like, if possible, to offer a free Baseball: Past and Present t-shirt to everyone who votes. I’m looking into options on this and am open to suggestions. Maybe anyone who’s done a mass run of t-shirts for their site can steer me in the right direction.

In the meantime, I want to keep improving this website. I’ve reached out to a few more people I’d like to write here, and I’ve started kicking around ideas for new content. If anyone has any ideas for posts or would like to write, please feel free to email me at thewomack@gmail.com. I welcome all feedback, good or bad, laudatory or critical. On a side note, a small project is in the works for the spring. I’ll announce what it is around the beginning of the season.

I want to thank everyone who supports this site, be it by reading, writing, offering comments or emails, or doing anything else to help things run successfully around here. This site has life in part because it seems to connect with people. I hope this continues.

Why the Marlins Need Prince Fielder

The Miami Marlins began the offseason with four very big splashes.  The normally spend thrift  habits of owner Jeffrey Loria went out the window with a brand new ballpark and a wish to contend, not just now, but for the foreseeable future. The Marlins dove in and got not just their feet wet, but even splashed their neighbours in the process.

They need Prince Fielder to complete the transition.  They needed Albert Pujols but he’s in California now.  They need a big, strong, fearsome power hitter. It seems only the Chicago Cubs and perhaps the Washington Nationals have any practical and realistic interest in Fielder at this point.

The Milwaukee Brewers have stated that, with the signing of free agent Aramis Ramirez, their pockets are empty.  They have no interest in their former star, at least not at his asking price. Rumours were flying that the Toronto Blue Jays would take a run at Fielder. Fielder likely wouldn’t play in Canada. The Texas Rangers have been mentioned. The Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles might still be in the running but it is unlikely Prince would sign onto a team which is essentially going nowhere for the foreseeable future. It appears that those rumours were just that, rumors. No online sportsbook favorable odds for the O’s.  Click here to check out the odds.

With the relatively quick signings of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and the signing of Mark Buehrle and new manager Ozzie Guillen, the Marlins didn’t blink, until lately.  They seem to have abandoned their frugal ways but need to take one more giant step to complete the transformation. This winter’s signings are a big step towards improving their playoff hopes but are not enough to get the Marlins over the hump in the National League East.

Prince Fielder would be and here’s why.

Jose Reyes, while not a marked improvement over Hanley Ramirez, is a genuine star player when healthy and theoretically allows the Marlins to move incumbent Hanley Ramirez to third, filling a gaping hole which has existed at that position for some time now. I say theoretically because reports are that Ramirez is not interested in a position switch.  If Miami can convince their star player to take one for the team, the left side of their infield becomes one of the best in baseball.

The signing of Heath Bell instantly fixes a shaky closer position.  Without a star closer, no team can seriously contend or advance far into the playoffs. Many stat geeks will point out that closers are over rated and Miami paid too much for theirs.  Tell that to the New York Yankees.  Tell that to the teams who don’t have a lockdown ninth inning specialist.  Bell will make a big difference. Bell will allow the other bullpen pitchers to return to the setup or specialist roles they are more comfortable with. Bell will take all the pressure off the entire staff.  He’s a proven lock the game down pitcher.

Mark Buehrle, while not one of those starting pitchers who rack up the strikeouts and intimidates opposing hitters with a blazing fastball or his mound presence, is you’re much needed, innings eating, dependable game in and game out type of starter.  The Marlins need starting pitching.  The rotation they entered the winter with is solid, with a true ace as their number one, but Johnson is too fragile.  The number two and three starters are hot and cold.  They now have a solid anchor, probably a number two arm.

Now the Marlins need to sign a big, scary bat, someone to guide young star Mike Stanton to greatness and to carry the power weight for this team.  They need a hitter who can quickly turn a game around and who would allow them to slug it out toe to toe with the Philadelphia Phillies.  They need a face for the franchise at a time which might be a critical crossroad.  Prince Fielder is that player.  He’s coming into his prime.  Many scouts contend that in two or three years, Fielder will be slow and cumbersome and a better DH candidate than anything else. The history of baseball is full of big, slow moving, not that great in the field first basemen.  That’s why many of them played first base or moved there later in their careers. No one knows how the new Marlin ballpark is going to play but one thing seems a no brainer to me.  Sign Fielder for seven or eight seasons.

Do what it takes.  As my father used to say, come big or don’t come at all.

The Emperor Has No Clothes (Part Three ad naseum)

The awarding of another, (third time is the charm), franchise to Washington, steroids, the All Star game and November baseball.   Let’s continue where we left off last time.  Ad naseum, intellectual Latin for: It makes me sick to my stomach.  More or less.

I touched briefly on the subject of the rape of the Montreal Expos last week.  The story continues with the awarding of this franchise to Washington, D.C.  Once again we have a conflict of interest situation.  The owner of the Washington Nationals and the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig are close personal and business friends. Washington had previously been awarded two franchises, both of which eventually moved to other cities.  Both moves were precipitated by a lack of fan interest in the team.  This was the excuse given by baseball for the closing down of the Montreal Expos franchise.

The search began for a location which promised intense fan interest and a successful and vibrant new beginning.  Other potential markets were “discussed” and then dismissed as not viable.  The choice came down to, (the only one really considered), and the manipulation began. The usual press propaganda was released and suddenly, Washington, despite its previous failures, was chosen as the most likely site.  Money was quickly raised for the building of a new stadium and the search for a name to hide the past failures behind the senators was decided upon.  Somehow, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, a man known for stubbornly holding his ground and a fierce defender of his territorial rights, was persuaded to waive those concerns and sign on the dotted line.  Friends in high places indeed.

Steroids has once again raised its unwanted head with the release of a report that Ryan Braun has tested positive.  The tireless efforts of the commissioner’s office to ignore this cheating and the “oh, that was in the past, unfortunate but can’t we all just forget about it” propaganda is self serving and dishonest to say the least.  The so called standards which have been apparently put in place were quickly put aside with the news that Manny Ramirez will be allowed to reenter Major League Baseball and, despite having been caught twice, would serve only a 50-game suspension, the penalty for a first-time offender. Allowing Mark McGwire to be hired on by St. Louis as a coach sends the wrong message as well. A policy can’t be a policy when enforced depending on which way the wind is blowing on that particular day. It’s either wrong, or it isn’t. The current chest puffing on HGH testing is also unwarranted. I’m sorry that I got caught, not that I did something less than above board.

The All Star game was changed from a pleasant and fun mid-season exhibition to a game which could decide the World Series the next season. This almost relegated a back seat afterthought to the World Series by what used to be and should be a pleasant midsummer diversion.  This idea is quite simply, the wrong approach. This was done to divert attention from and to speed the end of memory of the Bud Selig-inspired tie game during the 2002 game. Of course, this solution and the 2002 game show the incompetence of the commissioner more than his corruption. This wasn’t the end of the All-Star fiasco either.  I’m in favor of fan voting, but allowing up to 25 votes per fan seems more akin to the elections in several third world countries.   It grossly inflates the actual numbers of fans who vote.  Instead of making glorified claims as to the popularity of the sport, it would be much better served to let actual numbers reflect as to the relative health of the game and get a much clearer and viable indication of what needs to be done.

In 2010, we were treated to November baseball. This could also be named, let’s ensure that the New York Yankees, TV’s biggest market, at the pleading of Fox Sports, make it to the World Series. Never before had I witnessed off day which were not travel days. But theses off days, non travel days, would help a team which had only two viable starting pitchers not have to dip into the rest of the rotation which was certainly not playoff worthy. Apparently, baseball feels that it needs the Yankees and/or RedSox in the finals every season.  TV money speaks far louder than the so called competitive equality which Selig boasts about each season. It was only his bad luck which has seen different champions for the past several seasons. November baseball is flirting with disaster, (see 2008 Tampa Bay-Philadelphia). Baseball shouldn’t be played in November. Check the history of weather patterns throughout the years.

The list goes on and on but enough already.  At least that’s what the commissioner’s office would prefer.

Any player/Any era: Jack Morris

What he did: I gave Jack Morris a vote for my recent project on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. I even said he belonged in Cooperstown. Felt a little sheepish after I started counting votes– Morris, one of the more polarizing figures in baseball today, fell big in our rankings. After finishing No. 36 in the 2010 edition of the project, Morris plummeted all the way to a tie for 52nd with Rick Reuschel  this year. It made sense in the respect that advanced research shows Morris to be somewhat overrated, and a lot of my voters this year were members of the Society for American Baseball Research.

Plenty of fans and old-school writers could care less about advanced research, though and bemoan Morris’s absence from Cooperstown. Needless to say, our voting wasn’t well-received by one person who commented:

Jack Morris not being included is a joke. 4 world series rings. WS MVP. Pitched the greatest game in WS history. If that was for the Yankees, he would have been in the hall years ago.

It’s a joke.

I don’t agree, particularly since Don Larsen isn’t in the Hall of Fame or our Top 50, and he pitched the actual greatest game in World Series history and did it for the Yankees to boot. Still, the comment made me think.

Morris sports a 254-190 lifetime record and 1991 World Series heroics that grow more mythical by the year. He also won the most games of any pitcher in the 1980s, maybe helped by the fact he was on winning Detroit Tiger teams nine of those years (Detroit finally went 59-103 in 1989 and an injury-plagued Morris staggered to 6-14.) Still, the biggest thing keeping Morris out of Cooperstown might be his 3.90 ERA, higher than any man enshrined. Morris didn’t need Yankee pinstripes for a Hall of Fame plaque. He needed an era where his ERA could have been lower.

Era he might have thrived in: With his durability, good for at least 240 innings ten times in his career, Morris might have been well-suited for the 1960s. The pitcher-friendly era might take somewhere close to one run off his ERA, and on the 1968 Tigers, Morris could stand in for Mickey Lolich who had postseason brilliance of his own that year, winning three games in the World Series. That all might be enough for Cooperstown.

Why: Hall of Fame voting doesn’t always deal in context. Morris could take his exact same abilities, his 105 ERA+ and 39.3 WAR which rank near the bottom for enshrined pitchers and have passable surface stats in the right era. Playing his best years in the 1960s, this could mean an ERA somewhere in the lower half of the 3.00s. If that didn’t satisfy the Baseball Writers Association of America in its Hall voting, Morris would at least probably be honored by the Veterans Committee.

There’s a tool on Baseball-Reference.com that converts stats between different eras based largely on average number of runs scored. Since earned run average directly relates to this, it’s a good tool to see how Morris’s ERA might fare with the ’68 Tigers. In short, he’d do well with them for any number of seasons from his career. Take 1986, where Morris went 21-8 with a 3.27 for Detroit; that’d be good for 16-13 with a 2.60 ERA in 1968. Or there’s the strike-shortened 1981 season where Morris led the American League with 14 wins against seven losses and a 3.05 ERA; in 1968, that would come to 20-14 with a 2.53 ERA.

Whatever the case, it’d be a huge benefit for a man who, in real life, never had a season with a sub-3.00 ERA. Then there’s the fact that playing prior to 1980 when four-man rotations were common, Morris might get enough additional starts over the course of his career for 300 wins. Heck, Morris wouldn’t need a fairytale ten-inning shutout in Game 7 of a World Series for his plaque. Fans would have to find another non-enshrined player to get angry about.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News Rockies,Barry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob Watson,Bobby VeachCarl MaysCharles Victory FaustChris von der Ahe,Denny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleEddie LopatFrank HowardFritz MaiselGavvy CravathGeorge CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro SuzukiJack ClarkJackie RobinsonJim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Matty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertOllie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey Henderson,Roberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam Thompson,Sandy KoufaxSatchel PaigeShoeless Joe JacksonStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays

Winter Shocker: Roberto Clemente Sold!

Editor’s note: This week’s edition of “Any player/Any era” will be published Thursday afternoon.

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Baseball fans are righteously shocked and disgusted at the ludicrous contract offered by the Anaheim Angels and accepted by Albert Pujols. But I recall another winter transaction even more stunning although it took place on a smaller stage.

During the 1956-1957 season, the Puerto Rican League Santurce Cangrejeros sold Roberto Clemente, the team’s superstar, local hero and the island’s most beloved figure to its rival Caguas Criollos.

Baseball, as owners constantly remind us, is a business. The Clemente sale is an outstanding example of how money can be the overriding factor in front office decisions.

Here’s how it happened. The Crabbers’ owner, Pedrin Zorrilla had sustained heavy losses in running his club and could no longer afford to to carry on. So although Zorrilla loved his Crabbers, he reluctantly sold the ball club to Ramon Cuevas, a business potentate. Cuevas’s first move was to liquidate the Crabbers debts by selling Clemente, Juan Pizarro and Ronnie Samford to Caguas for $30,000. The move, which Zorrilla would never have considered, horrified the former owner and shocked all of Puerto Rico.

The transaction so enraged Ruben Gomez that when he heard the news in the clubhouse, he tore off his uniform and swore he would never play another game.

But the deal backfired on Caguas. Even though Clemente was hitting a torrid .400 and was in the middle of an 18-game hitting streak, Caguas ended up tied for third place with the San Juan Senators. In a single elimination game for the final playoff spot against the Ralph Houk-led Senators, Caguas lost 4-1. Entering the game, Clemente needed to go 2-4 to secure .400 but fell one hit short and ended the year at .396 to win the batting crown with the decade’s highest average.

The Senators’ winning pitcher was Luis “Tite” Arroyo who won 111 games in his 19-year Caribbean League career, an astonishing total given that the seasons lasted a mere three months and games were played only on the weekend.

In an interesting footnote, when Clemente went to Caguas he took Sandy Koufax’s roster spot. Caguas was forced to release Koufax because of a new regulation that limited “imports” (American-born players) to three. In Koufax’s final appearance, he pitched a two-hit shut out against Santurce with Clemente getting both hits.

During his fifteen seasons with the Santurce, Caguas, and San Juan, Clemente compiled a .323 batting average. He competed in five championships: two with Santurce, two with San Juan and one with Caguas. Clemente played for Puerto Rican teams that twice won the Caribbean Series on two occasions, and as manager, he directed the San Juan team to two playoff appearances in two seasons.

Justice for Bill Dahlen, Bob Caruthers, and the Hall of Fame

Editor’s note: I’m pleased to present the latest post from regular contributor Alex Putterman. Alex is a high school senior and recently learned he was accepted early-decision to Northwestern. He will study journalism there.

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Last week the Veterans Committee announced the Hall of Fame will be enshrining Ron Santo, the sixth best player not in Cooperstown according to this Website’s second annual survey. But while the Santo family can rejoice in 2012, Jim Kaat, Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and the rest of the “Golden Era” ballot must wait three more years for consideration under the new Veterans Committee format instituted in 2010. An off-shoot of the Committee will next year consider candidates who played their most important years before the beginning of integration in 1947.

The Veterans Committee has considered an all-early century ballot once before, in 2009, under the short-lived former system (That ballot was comprised of anyone who played prior to 1943, whereas the 2012 version will consider those who made “their most important contribution” pre-’47). That election resulted in a plaque for former-Yankees and Indians second baseman Joe Gordon and a close call for Allie Reynolds (who was categorized as a Golden Era player under the current system and missed out on election this year.)

Next closest in ’09 was Wes Ferrell, who received six of a possible 12 votes to finish three short of the 75% threshold. Ferrell, whose less-deserving brother Rick is already enshrined in Cooperstown, was a pitcher and pinch-hitter for several teams in the 1930’s. Ferrell was a nice player and a bit of a novelty given his success on the mound and the impressive hitting ability that complemented it. He finished tied for 45th on the list of the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, but only 15 of the 86 voters felt he belonged in the Hall.

Mickey Vernon and Deacon White each received five votes on the ’09 pre-WWII ballot. Vernon was an unspectacular but long-tenured first baseman who played from 1939 to 1960 and is now considered a “Golden Era” player (he was therefore eligible for this year’s ballot but not selected to it). White is one of the best 19th century players yet to make it to Cooperstown and has much support from those who feel baseball’s early days are underrepresented in the Hall.

Given their prior success in Veterans Committee voting, Ferrell and White should get another chance next year, but it’s a pair of players who finished further down the 2009 ballot who deserve a long look from the 2012 Pre-Integration committee. Sherry Magee received only three votes in ’09, but statistics suggest he deserved more support. The outfielder won a batting title, finished among the National League’s top five home run hitters seven times, stole 441 career bases, and finished with an impressive 136 OPS+ and a WAR of 59.1.

Like Magee, Bill Dahlen was named to the 2009 pre-integration ballot and received little support, but the shortstop is viewed by many (including 31 voters in the aforementioned baseballpastandpresent poll) as Hall-worthy. WAR isn’t an end-all measure, but it must mean something that Dahlen ranks behind only Jeff Bagwell in WAR among non-Hall of Famers (yes, ahead of Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose). And a 109 OPS+ and terrific defense is usually more than enough for a shortstop to warrant enshrinement (just ask Ozzie Smith).

If there’s any justice in the world (or at least in the Veterans Committee), Bob Caruthers will find his way onto next year’s ballot for a deserved opportunity to be elected to Cooperstown. The 19th century star finished his 10-year with a better ERA+ than Bob Feller and a better OPS+ than Tony Gwynn. Ferrell nearly reached the Hall three years ago thanks to his uniquely well-rounded skill set, but Caruthers is almost unquestionably the best two-way player of all-time.

Yet, as the still-eligible player with the highest ’09 vote total, Ferrell appears to be the candidate most likely to reach the Hall next summer, although White has had success with the Committee before and could garner support. Or maybe voters will wake up to the credentials of Magee, Dahlen and Caruthers and put one or two of them in Cooperstown. But as there’s no stand-out candidate with a history of Veterans Committee support, it’s likely that any 2012 Hall of Fame inductee will have to come from the baseball writers ballot.

The 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame, Version 2.0

It is my pleasure, as founder and editor of this site, to present the second-annual list here of the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

I debuted the first version of this project in December 2010 and based it around a simple idea. Rather than have rankings be based on some all-powerful stat or my opinion, I sought votes from fellow baseball writers, researchers, and anyone else interested. Sixty-three of us voted in all including yours truly, thousands more read our work, and it was an easy decision to make this an annual thing. Truth be told, I’ve spent much of the year looking forward to this.

The results of the second year of this project follow momentarily. First, a few things. I kept the core foundation of this project the same, with every non-enshrined player who hasn’t played in five years eligible to make the Top 50 here and rankings still determined by total number of votes. There are a few new features for this year’s project. I asked voters to signify whether each of their 50 picks belonged in the Hall of Fame. I also asked for help from my fellow voters in writing some of the player bios and for providing a section near the bottom of our post detailing different methodologies for voting.

Eighty-six people in all voted this year, all but three by the original deadline of December 1, and I’m pleased with how everything came out. Without further adieu, here are the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame:

1. Joe Jackson, 76 votes out of 86 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 59 yes, 17 no): Shoeless Joe finishing first is the essence of this year’s project. A man may be considered the best baseball player not in the Hall of Fame even if close to a quarter of the people who consider him as such also noted that they don’t want him enshrined. Of course, on sheer talent alone, one can hardly argue with Jackson being a baseball legend. Even his nickname connotes mystique, and he had a swing good enough for a .356 lifetime batting average and to serve as inspiration for a young Babe Ruth. Had Jackson and seven other Chicago White Sox teammates not been banned in the wake of the 1919 World Series, one can only wonder what might have been.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

2. Barry Larkin, 75 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 64 yes, 10 no, 1 n/a): Last year, Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar finished first and tied for second, respectively in our project. Both were subsequently voted into Cooperstown by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and next summer, the other second-place finisher last year, Ron Santo, will be enshrined. Will Larkin be the next player to follow the trend here? With a weak ballot this year seemingly absent of any surefire, first-ballot honorees, the former Reds shortstop might be the one player the writers vote in for 2012. One of the voters for this project , former Hall of Fame senior research associate Bill Deane recently told the Cincinnati Enquirer he thinks Larkin will get 79 percent of the vote, which would be enough.

3. Jeff Bagwell, 74 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 62 yes, 11 no, 1 n/a): With scant competition on the writers ballot this year, Bagwell could see a big boost from the 41.7 percent of the vote he debuted with last year. Whether he makes it all the way to the required 75 percent is another story. Ryne Sandberg debuted at 49 percent of the vote in 2003 and was inducted two years later. On the other hand, Steve Garvey started off at 41 percent and never did much better. Helping Bagwell are his 449 home runs and the fact he retired just shy of a .300 batting average to go with a .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging clip, no common feat. His 79.9 WAR is tops for eligible players not in Cooperstown. It’s worth noting too that Bagwell accomplished much in the offensively-barren Astrodome. Had he not been a slugger during the Steroid Era, he’d have nothing to worry about.

4. Dick Allen, 73 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 46 yes, 26 no, 1 n/a): Some call Allen the best baseball player not in the Hall of Fame. He was definitely the best player not on this year’s Veterans Committee ballot. While it’s nice to see Ron Santo finally get honored, it’s a shame that consideration couldn’t also be given to another hitter whose numbers were affected playing in the pitcher-friendly 1960s. In fact, Allen might be the most underrated hitter of that era, with him closing the 1969 season with a career batting average, to that point, of .300 and an OPS+ of 163. And while injuries slowed him later on and shortened his career, he still retired in 1977 with a .292 clip and OPS+ of 156 to go with 351 home runs. A reputation, perhaps unfounded, as a clubhouse malcontent may have hurt his Cooperstown bid.

5. Tim Raines, 72 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 62 yes, 9 no, 1 n/a): Raines is a favorite son of the baseball research community, underrated in many ways. While his 808 career stolen bases are perhaps common knowledge, given that they rank fifth-best in baseball history, it’s Raines’ success rate that’s equally impressive: nearly 85 percent, with him being caught stealing just 146 times. His 1,571 runs and 64.6 WAR are also among the best for eligible players without a plaque. Three things, perhaps, hurt his candidacy: 1) Being part of baseball’s cocaine scandal in the 1980s; 2) Being relegated to journeyman status in the latter half of his career; 3) His role as stolen base specialist which, like being a relief pitcher, catcher, or first baseman, is no easy way to get to Cooperstown.

6-Tie. Pete Rose, 70 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 54 yes, 16 no): Like Jackson, Rose may have benefited from the addition of the “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” feature to the ballot this year. I wanted to make clear to voters that they could tab Rose as one of the best players not in Cooperstown even if they wouldn’t want him anywhere near the museum. I’ll admit that much as my new feature was meant as a quality control against 12-man ballots being emailed in from the small-Hall crowd, I’m glad it may have helped push Jackson up in the rankings from fifth to first and Rose from tenth to sixth. At least for playing ability and stats, all-time hits king Rose can’t be any worse than second out of all the men here.

6-Tie. Ron Santo, 70 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 60 yes, 10 no): Santo doesn’t have much longer in our group. The Hall of Fame announced on December 5 that the Veterans Committee had voted in the Chicago Cubs third baseman, and he’ll be enshrined on July 22, 2012. He was something of a cause célèbre for non-enshrined players, going the full 15 years on the writers ballot and then waiting another decade after exhausting his eligibility with them in 1998. His critics say Santo was a very good player, just not Hall of Fame-caliber, though his WAR of 66.3 is among the best for eligible players. Whatever the case, Santo was an easy choice for the Veterans Committee this year, being named on 15 of 16 ballots among its members. It’s too bad he didn’t live to see induction, dying in December 2010.

6-Tie. Alan Trammell, 70 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 54 yes, 15 no, 1 n/a): With Santo due to be enshrined next summer, I have a hunch that Trammell could be the new version of him for Cooperstown voters. The two men seem to be following similar trajectories. Like Santo, longtime Detroit Tigers shortstop Trammell was a very good, if not legendary player with a .285 lifetime batting average over 20 seasons. Like Santo, Trammell’s been on the BBWAA ballot for several years now, but with a peak of 24.3 percent of the vote after 10 years, he looks like a long shot to be inducted by the writers. Like Santo, the Veterans Committee could be Trammell’s ticket into the Hall of Fame.

9. Edgar Martinez, 69 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 52 yes, 17 no): I invited my voters to help write player bios this year. This one comes from Alex Putterman, a regular contributor to this blog. Alex writes:

The principle argument against Edgar Martinez’s Hall of Fame candidacy is his position and lack thereof; no player has ever been inducted into the Hall with more than half his career games played at DH, where Martinez was stationed in about 68% of his appearances. But the former-Mariner is 40th all-time with a career 147 OPS+, and his WAR of 67.2 puts him among Hall of Fame company. At the end of the day, Edgar’s offensive production makes up for the lack of defensive value and warrants a Cooperstown plaque.

10. Dwight Evans, 65 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 25 yes, 39 no, 1 n/a):  Fellow voter Josh Wilker included an entertaining chapter on Evans in his 2010 memoir, Cardboard Gods (this is the chapter where an 18-year-old Josh has a hopeless stint working for Greenpeace.) I asked Josh to contribute something here, and he obliged. Josh writes:

Dwight Evans snuck up on greatness so quietly that many people missed his arrival at that destination. After being overshadowed on the star-studded 1970s Red Sox, Evans bloomed in the 1980s, growing a magnificent Selleckian mustache and junking his upright batting stance for a devout and precarious-looking Lau/Hriniak prostration. The new approach worked wonders for Evans, whose hitting rose to the level of his sublime cannon-armed fielding. In all, he won eight Gold Gloves and authored career hitting numbers equal to those of many already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. When he was in his strange crouch with the game on the line I chanted his nickname, Dewey, and believed.

11. Joe Torre, 62 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 43 yes, 18 no, 1N/A): Torre may illustrate one of the flaws in the new “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” feature for this project. As a manager, there’s little doubt Torre will soon have a place in Cooperstown. His 2,326 wins are fifth-best all-time, and his four World Series titles are tied for fourth-best. I didn’t make it clear if voters here should take this into account or say if Torre belongs strictly for what he did as a player. But Torre wouldn’t be the worst choice on that front either, as the catcher and first baseman hit .297 over 18 seasons. In fact, his lifetime OPS+ of 128 is better than that of Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, or Roy Campanella.

12. Lou Whitaker, 61 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 44 yes, 16 no, 1 n/a): When people mention Trammell, they also mention his double play partner with the Detroit Tigers, Sweet Lou, saying they should be enshrined together and their plaques hung adjacent. Whitaker at least deserved more consideration than he got from the BBWAA. Despite hitting .276 over 19 seasons with 244 home runs, fine power for a second baseman, Whitaker was a one-and-done candidate for the Hall of Fame, an afterthought with just 2.9 percent of the vote in 2001.

13. Ted Simmons, 60 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 34 yes, 25 no, 1 n/a): Simmons’ bio comes from fellow voter Bill Deane, former senior research associate at Cooperstown. Bill writes:

Ted Simmons retired as the all-time leader in hits and doubles among catchers, and ranked second in RBI behind only Yogi Berra.  Only Ivan Rodriguez has surpassed him in those categories since.  Yet, Simmons was dropped from the BBWAA HOF ballot after one try, then waited 16 years to be snubbed by the Veterans Committee.

Simba was unjustly regarded as a poor defensive catcher, played mostly in media-Siberias, and was overshadowed by two contemporary HOF catchers, but consider their average HR-RBI-AVG stats from 1971-80: Johnny Bench (27-93-.263), Carlton Fisk (16-57-.285), Simmons (17-90-.301).

Simmons was one of the ten best catchers in baseball history. He deserves serious consideration for Cooperstown.

14-Tie. Will Clark, 59 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 43 no, 1 n/a): Were it up to me or fellow voter Jena Yamada, Will the Thrill would have his place in Cooperstown. Were it not for injuries and a career he chose to end early, perhaps other people might feel similarly about our all-time favorite player. In his prime in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the San Francisco Giants first baseman was one of the best players in the National League, finishing in the top five in MVP voting three times in four years. His career was just 15 seasons altogether, though his 57.6 WAR approaches an All Star average lifetime, and his .303 career batting average, 137 OPS+ and 284 home runs aren’t bad, either.

14-Tie. Mark McGwire, 59 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 38 yes, 21 no): I asked fellow voter John Perricone to contribute something on Big Mac, and John sent me a reworked, condensed version of something he’s blogged before. I don’t know if I agree, but John makes an interesting case worth sharing here, and I’ve heard others in the baseball research community echo similar sentiments. John writes:

Virtually every athlete strives to be the best. Some athletes will push the envelope only so far, while others would risk their lives if it made the difference between winning and losing. This is not only asked of athletes, it’s demanded. Coaches demand it, teammates demand it, fans demand it. Be the best, win at all costs, do whatever it takes.

In the five years prior to 1997, McGwire played 139, 27, 47, 104, and 130 games. Did steroids allow him to play 156, 155 and 153 over the next three years, hitting 58, 70, and 65 home runs? During those five injury-riddled seasons, he hit a home run every 9.44 AB’s. In the next three, he hit a home run every 8.17 at bats, not a tremendous difference. If steroids helped him stay healthy enough to break Roger Maris’ record, how was that wrong? Why shouldn’t McGwire do whatever he can to help his body heal itself and stay strong enough to endure the rigors of baseball, his chosen profession? If there are risks involved, why shouldn’t he be the one to decide if they are worth it?

I think Mark McGwire deserves somebody somewhere to stand up and say enough. He doesn’t deserve what he’s been put through. He deserves someone to say what he cannot.

16. Keith Hernandez, 58 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 27 yes, 31 no): Fellow voter Zubin Sumariwalla agreed to contribute Hernandez’s bio. Zubin writes:

With 11 Gold Glove awards, a record for first basemen, Keith Hernandez is among the best fielding first basemen ever. He had great range, good hands, and a strong accurate throwing arm. Baseball-Reference ranks his 13.2 defensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) 36th all time and the highest total among first basemen. While widely remembered for his defense, Hernandez was also a potent offensive player with two Silver Slugger awards and an MVP award which he shared with Willie Stargell in 1979.

While his on-field talents aren’t disputed, Hernandez’s reputation as a clubhouse leader and teammate is mixed. Because of his cocaine abuse, Cardinal’s manager Whitey Herzog labeled Hernandez a “clubhouse cancer” and traded him to Mets in 1983. However, in New York Hernandez recovered from his drug abuse and emerged as a leader and eventually captain in 1987. Injuries ended his career a few years later.

17. Larry Walker, 56 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 38 yes, 18 no): When Albert Lang submitted his ballot for this project, he included blurbs on some of the players he voted for. I liked what he had to say on one of his past blog subjects, Walker, and Albert agreed to let me use it. Albert writes:

Larry Walker is one of the greatest left-handed hitters in the history of baseball. Walker is tied for the 38th best average by a left-handed batter in history at .313. He has the 46th-highest OBP in MLB history and the 15th-best slugging percentage all-time at .565 slugging percentage, which combines to give him the 17th-best OPS at .965. That number is higher than Alex Rodriguez, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, and on and on. Sure it was helpful to Walker to have played his home games at Coors Field during his relative prime, but kudos to him for taking full advantage.

18. Bobby Grich, 55 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 35 yes, 19 no, 1 n/a): Fellow voter Andrew Martin of The Baseball Historian included a plug for Grich with his ballot. I liked it enough that I asked Andrew if I could share it here, and he obliged. He writes:

Playing in an era when a good second baseman might hit .250 with 10 home runs, Grich was both an excellent hitter and a superb player. For those into advanced stats, Grich compiled a career WAR of 67.6, which places in the top 75 of all time among position players. Since retiring he has been criminally overlooked, but was as complete a player as you’ll find.

19-Tie. Rafael Palmeiro, 54 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 32 yes, 22 no): Fellow voter Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt agreed to contribute Palmeiro’s bio. Jonathan writes:

Rafael Palmeiro is one of only four player with at least 3000 hits and 500 homeruns, and while his Black Ink is below HOF means his Gray InkHOF Monitor, and HOF Standards are all well above HOF means. He ranks in the top 25 all-time in hits (25th), homeruns (12th), doubles (16th), Runs Created (18th), and extra-base hits (6th). The 73.4 fWAR looks good, too. The cloud of a career-ending, positive steroid test follows his every move but I find it hard to ignore his accomplishments when there is no proof of drugs aiding his performance. I believe he belongs.

19-Tie. Luis Tiant, 54 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 24 yes, 29 no, 1 n/a): With last year’s top finisher now enshrined, Tiant is the top-ranked pitcher this year. Is he the new Bert Blyleven? Some researchers I know would sooner bestow that honor on Rick Reuschel since his 66.3 lifetime WAR is now best for non-enshrined pitchers. Tiant was a fine pitcher regardless, going 229-172 with four 20-win seasons, the best arm the Red Sox had in the mid-1970s.

21. Minnie Minoso, 48 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 29 yes, 18 no, 1 n/a): Fellow voter Adam Darowski of Beyond the Box Score contributed the bio for Minoso, writing:

I read a lot about Minnie Minoso’s age when discussing his Hall of Fame case. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. Minoso could do it all. He had some power. He had some speed. He won three Gold Gloves. It is his OBP that sets him apart, though. Only ten elgible non-Hall of Famers have an OBP better than his .389. Four of them (McGwire, Bagwell, Martinez, Walker) happen to be deserving candidates on the ballot right now. Without considering Minoso’s age and his time lost to the Negro Leagues, he is a borderline Hall of Famer. Factor in the time he missed and his role in integrating the Major Leagues, and he belongs.

22-Tie. Bobby Bonds, 47 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 9 yes, 37 no, 1 n/a): Bonds made a dramatic rise in our rankings after missing the top 50 last year, benefits of a largely-new crop of voters, I suppose. I’m curious to see what happens next year when Bonds’ son joins him on the ballot. Even if Barry isn’t enshrined next year, the name Bonds should at least be before Hall of Fame voters for a long time to come, and I wonder if this will help the Veterans Committee case for Bobby. While alcohol abuse and injuries curtailed his career, the elder Bonds was a perennial threat for 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in his prime and retired with 332 homers and 461 steals lifetime.

22-Tie. Don Mattingly, 47 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 13 yes, 34 no): There’s a common theme for several of the first basemen in the top 50 this year. Like Will Clark, Mark McGwire, or Gil Hodges, Mattingly struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Early on, though, he was one of the best in baseball, winning American League Most Valuable player in 1985 when he had 35 home runs and 145 RBI and posting a .323 career batting average through age 28. Mattingly had just two seasons with at least 150 games after 1989, however and retired at 34, finishing with a .307 lifetime batting average and nine Gold Gloves.

22-Tie. Fred McGriff, 47 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 31 no, 1 n/a): Quietly, McGriff may have been one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball history, contributing at least 80 RBI in 15 of his 19 seasons. He never hit 40 home runs in a season, though he led his league twice in the early part of his career and was good enough, long enough to finish with 493 homers lifetime. For the course his career took and his affable, unassuming attitude, McGriff perhaps rates as a poor man’s Hank Aaron.

25. Gil Hodges, 46 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 26 yes, 20 no): Another famously overlooked candidate, Hodges didn’t fare as well as Ron Santo with the Veterans Committee this year, with the iconic Brooklyn Dodger getting nine votes, three less than what he needed for enshrinement. For the time being at least, Hodges simply has a legacy as one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball history as well as a great early power hitter, his 370 career home runs fourth-best when he retired in 1963. He also managed the New York Mets to their first World Series championship in 1969 and still had a playoff-caliber club when he died suddenly of a heart attack less than three years later.

26. Tommy John, 45 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 21 yes, 24 no): Fellow voter Jonathan Wagner contributed the bio on John, writing:

Thomas Edward John was a crafty sinker baller. In 1974, in the midst of a banner year (13-3, 2.59 ERA) John permanently damaged the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He underwent an experimental operation, designed by Dr. Frank Jobe, that replaced the ligament in the elbow of his pitching arm with a tendon from his right forearm. John came back in ’76 with a revamped delivery (courtesy of teammate Mike Marshall) and pitched for thirteen more seasons, winning 164 more games.

Overall, John was a three-time 20 game winner, two-time Cy Young runner-up, and pitched for three pennant winners in Los Angeles and New York. His 288 wins is the most by any eligible live-ball pitcher not in the Hall of Fame, and his 59 WAR is fourth, behind Rick Reuschel, Kevin Brown and Luis Tiant. The experimental ligament replacement surgery has now become common, and is simply known as ‘Tommy John surgery.’

27-Tie. Ken Boyer, 44 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 16 yes, 28 no): Fellow voter Adam Darowski of Beyond the Box Score also agreed to contribute something about Boyer. Adam writes:

With Ron Santo getting in the Hall of Fame, Ken Boyer suddenly is in the conversation for best third baseman not in the Hall of Fame. Boyer played in an offensively depressed era, so his .287/.349/.462 slash line (2143 hits and 282 home runs) doesn’t look at that impressive. But once that is park and era adjusted, he was worth 148 batting runs, good for 26th all time among third basemen. How many of the 25 players in front of him could match Boyer’s 74 fielding runs above average? Just three (Scott Rolen, Mike Schmidt, and Wade Boggs.)

27-Tie. Jim Kaat, 44 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 19 yes, 24 no, 1 n/a): As fellow voter Jonathan Wagner also wrote about John, it seemed only fair to recruit him to write about Kaat. Like John, Kaat was an ageless wonder with just less than 300 wins. Jonathan writes:

Jim Kaat started playing major league ball when Ike was in the White House, and continued until we all knew how to do The Safety Dance. He was a crafty control artist known for his shocking consistency, winning double digits in games for fifteen consecutive years. He was also known for being quick to the plate saying, “Because if the game goes over two hours, my fastball turns into a pumpkin.”

Altogether he won 283 games, winning 20 games three times, and garnered a record sixteen Gold Gloves at pitcher. He won a pennant with the Minnesota Twins in 1965 and a ring pitching in relief for the ’82 Cardinals. After briefly serving as pitching coach for Pete Rose in Cincy, he began a 22 year broadcasting career with the Yankees and the Twins, winning seven Emmys for excellence in sports broadcasting. Kaat placed second in this year’s Veteran’s Committee election, finishing two votes shy of induction.

27-Tie. Dale Murphy, 44 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 19 yes, 25 no): Through much of my childhood, I lived on a quiet street in Sacramento, and my Dad and I used to have these epic wiffle ball games in our front driveway. My Dad had this whole slew of players he impersonated, and one that sticks out in my memory almost 20 years later is his power hitter, Mail Murphy. That to me is the essence of the former Atlanta centerfielder’s charm. Sure, he has 398 lifetime home runs, back-to-back NL MVP awards from the early ’80s, and was respected enough with his defense to win five consecutive Gold Gloves. More than that, though, he was the kind of genial, All American player who could inspire fans. I doubt my Dad and I were the only ones.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

30. Tony Oliva, 42 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 20 yes, 21 no, 1 n/a): Oliva might have been the American League’s answer to Roberto Clemente during the 1960s, a superb bat in an era where there weren’t many. Or perhaps Oliva was another Dick Allen, a fellow bright, young player who got off to a quick start before injuries limited his playing time and ultimately ended his career prematurely. Whatever the case, Oliva hit .304 lifetime, winning three American League batting titles and leading the circuit in hits five times in seven years.

31. Albert Belle, 38 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 12 yes, 25 no, 1 n/a): Belle’s case for Cooperstown may have suffered with the BBWAA due to his famously hostile attitude, relative short career, and the fact that he played during the Steroid Era. But his robust offensive numbers hint that he may have been unfairly overlooked from his .933 OPS to his 143 OPS+ to his 162-game averages of 40 home runs and 130 RBI. Had he not retired at 33 or compiled more than 381 home runs lifetime, he’d surely have stayed on the Hall of Fame ballot longer than two years.

32-Tie. David Cone, 37 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 9 yes, 28 no): Cone played just 13 full seasons in the majors, though in his limited capacity he may have been among the best pitchers of his generation. Going 194-126 lifetime with a 3.46 ERA and 2,668 strikeouts, more than Bob Feller, Lefty Grove, or Juan Marichal, Cone was a steady, dominating force in his prime. He won 20 games twice and was on his way to doing so in 1994 as well when the strike ended his year at 16-5 with a 2.94 ERA. It wasn’t all for naught, however, as Cone earned that year’s American League Cy Young Award.

32-Tie. Bill Dahlen, 37 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 31 yes, 6 no): Fellow voter and Hall of Fame researcher Ev Cope was asked to prepare a list of pre-World War II candidates for the Veterans Committee to consider ahead of its 2009 election. Cope included Dahlen among his nominees, and though the committee essentially ignored them in favor of Joe Gordon (who might not have made our top 50 were he still a candidate), I know Cope isn’t Dahlen’s only supporter. I asked Cope to contribute something on the Deadball Era great, and he obliged. Cope writes for us:

How ironic it would have been had the Veterans Committee announced last Monday that it was honoring Bill Dahlen along with Ron Santo. Dahlen died exactly 61 years before on December 5, 1950. However, he continues to suffer the fate of several of his contemporaries seemingly forgotten by Cooperstown despite careers that compare favorably with various honorees. How unfair it is to the memory of those players, and to their surviving relatives, that their Hall of Fame bids are overlooked for want of research diligence.

Such effort (and it is easy today with the tools available) will show Dahlen’s worthiness. Ninety-eight years after his retirement, he still ranks in the top 100 all-time in: games, plate appearances, at-bats, runs, hits, singles, triples, times on-base, hit-by-pitch, walks and stolen bases. His work at shortstop places him 11th all-time in games at that position, second in putouts and fourth in assists. The new Range Factor statistic ranks Dahlen sixth all-time among shortstops.

I strongly advocate comparing players with their peers. In doing so, we are comparing performances that are accomplished under the same rules, equipment, field conditions, sports medicine (or lack thereof), and economic factors. It would seem that if we could return to 1911, when Dahlen finished his playing career, and bring our knowledge that a Hall of Fame was less than 30 years from launching, surely he wouldn’t again be forgotten.

32-Tie. Darrell Evans, 37 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 21 no, 1 n/a): When Rob Neyer linked to last year’s post on ESPN.com, he remarked, “I would move Bobby Grich up, and Darrell Evans way up.” I admit I still haven’t gotten on the bandwagon, Evans’ .248 career batting average and Keebler Elf visage nothing to call a special election for in my book, though I also know Neyer isn’t alone in his praise. Evans’ boosters like Bill James point out things like his lifetime WAR of 57.3 or his late career peak. It may or may not be enough for Cooperstown at some point, but Evans at least seems underrated. In fact, James called him the most underrated player of all-time.

35. Kevin Brown, 36 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 18 yes, 18 no): For the bio on one of the best pitchers of the late 1990s, I’ll share another blurb from Albert Lang’s ballot. Albert writes:

For his career, Brown amassed roughly 65 wins above your average replacement player. That is more than Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal, Jim Bunning, Dennis Eckersley, Mordecai Brown, Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Red Ruffing, Bob Lemon, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dizzy Dean, and a ton of other players who aren’t Hall of Famers like those gentlemen mentioned above. Compare Brown to Don Drysdale. Drysdale pitched just 200 more innings than Brown and struck out just 89 more batters. I think Drysdale was a better pitcher than Kevin Brown. I don’t think he was a much better pitcher– certainly not enough that Drysdale is a surefire HOFer and Brown was one and done.

36. Dave Parker, 35 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 11 yes, 23 no, 1 n/a): Parker may fall into the Albert Belle and Dick Allen category of having possible Hall of Fame talent but a polarizing reputation. Like others here, he got caught up in baseball’s cocaine scandal of the 1980s, though at his peak, he was well-thought of enough as a player to be named one of the 100 best all-time by writers Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig. Despite a pronounced decline over the second half of his career, Parker still finished with comparable offensive numbers to Hall of Famers from his era like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson.

37-Tie. Thurman Munson, 33 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 10 yes, 23 no): Had it not been for his death in a plane crash at 32 in August 1979, perhaps Munson would have done enough for Cooperstown. Or maybe playing in a decade without so many other iconic catchers would have helped his cause. At his best, though, Munson was the heart and captain of the Bronx Zoo Yankees, winning the 1976 MVP award and hitting .292 for his career.

37-Tie. Jim Wynn, 33 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 17 no, 1 n/a): It’s an esoteric feat, but Wynn might rank as the best player of all-time to appear on the writers ballot for Cooperstown and get zero votes. In 15 seasons, he was good for 291 home runs, hitting at least 30 home runs three times and nearly winning the 1967 crown for it. One can only wonder what might have been for Wynn’s offensive numbers had he played his best years sometime other than the 1960s or somewhere besides the Astrodome. That place wrecked more Hall of Fame careers than all the gambling scandals combined.

37-Tie. Bernie Williams,* 33 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 11 yes, 22 no): Out a weak crop of new additions to the writers ballot for the Hall of Fame, Williams might be the best of the bunch. The longtime Yankee centerfielder did a lot of things well with a .297 lifetime batting average, 287 home runs, and 147 stolen bases, among other things. He was also well-regarded winning five Gold Gloves despite the fact that contemporary research shows his lifetime defensive WAR was -12.0. This could all be helpful for eventually getting him into Cooperstown.

40. Graig Nettles, 32 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 13 yes, 18 no, 1 n/a): Like Darrell Evans, Nettles was a solid, longtime third baseman from the 1970s and ’80s who hit for power but not not much average. Like Evans and others on this list, Nettles doesn’t appear to have the traditional stats that would support him getting into Cooperstown, though he’s well-regarded by baseball researchers and other fans.

41-Tie. Ron Guidry, 30 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 9 yes, 21 no): Count me as one of the nine people who would enshrine Guidry if possible. While he only played 14 seasons, all for the Yankees, Guidry made the most of those years, posting 162-game averages of a 17-9 record, 3.29 ERA and 175 strikeouts. His 1978 season where he went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA and helped New York to the World Series ranks among the best seasons by a pitcher in recent decades and he also topped 20 wins in 1985. Overall, Guidry was 170-91 with a 3.29 ERA.

41-Tie. Steve Garvey, 30 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 12 yes, 18 no): There’s essentially a subgroup here of players who looked like Hall of Famers the first half of their careers before falling off, in some cases more dramatically than others. Garvey may be the prime example of this. Through the 1980 season, Garvey had a .304 lifetime batting average with 185 home runs and an OPS+ of 125. But he hit just 87 home runs his remaining seven seasons and his batting average dropped to .294, his OPS+ to 116. Even his defense declined, with Garvey going from being a Gold Glove first baseman in the early part of his career to an afterthought in the voting for that award.

43-Tie. Orel Hershiser, 29 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 6 yes, 23 no): When people tout Jack Morris’s candidacy, a central point often revolves around his heroics in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. It’s interesting similar cases aren’t made for Guidry or Hershiser, who were both superb in the postseason as well. Hershiser may have had as much to do as Kirk Gibson with the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the 1988 World Series, going 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA between that and the National League Championship Series. It was part of a storybook season, the best of his career, where Hershiser went 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA, eight shutouts, and a unanimous Cy Young Award. While injuries later got the best of him, Hershiser lasted another 12 seasons, finishing 204-150 with a 3.48 ERA.

43-Tie. Reggie Smith 29 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 7 yes, 22 no): Smith is a new addition to the Top 50 this year though his stats have long painted him as an under-appreciated player. A 17-year vet who made All Star teams with the Red Sox, Cardinals, and Dodgers, Smith racked up 63.4 WAR to go with an OPS+ of 137, 314 home runs, and a .287 lifetime batting average. Like many of the other modern players on this list, he’s a long shot to make the Hall of Fame, but in the Hall of Very Good, he’s pretty much a charter member.

45-Tie. Harold Baines, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 5 yes, 26 no): Guys like Baines illustrated an interesting point for this year’s project, earning far more votes by and large than many of the 19th century greats on the ballot, but with a much lower percentage of their voters saying they belonged in the Hall of Fame. Certainly, I doubt too many people will cry foul about this over Baines, a very good designated hitter for much of his career but no immortal. His 2,886 hits, 384 home runs, and .289 batting average are all respectful but they don’t demand a plaque.

45-Tie. Bob Caruthers, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 23 yes, 5 no): Caruthers joins Bill Dahlen this year as the only other 19th century player in the top 50. For his bio, I’m pleased to present another blurb from Albert Lang’s ballot. Albert writes:

If you don’t know Parisian Bob, you don’t know jack! Before there was Deion Sanders or Brian Jordan, there was Caruthers, a star pitcher and right fielder for the St. Louis Browns and Brooklyn Bridegrooms from 1884-1892. While he only played in nine seasons, he ended up with the 160th most innings in MLB history. Twice winning 40 games in a season, Parisian Bob finished with a 218-99 record. His 123 ERA+, 1.15 WHIP and 2.83 ERA all sparkle. He was by no means a one-trick pony. Caruthers had 2,906 plate appearances and a .282/.391/.400 line. In 1886, he won 30 games and led the league in OBP, OPS and OPS+.

45-Tie. Dave Concepcion, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 8 yes, 19 no, 1 n/a): Once again, Concepcion slipped into the top 50, and I’ll admit I was bummed last year when he and David Cone knocked out Billy Pierce and Pete Browning in a tiebreaker. Sure, Concepcion controlled shortstop for the Big Red Machine, won five Gold Gloves, and made eight straight All Star teams. It’s just hard to get excited about a man with a .267 batting average, lifetime OPS+ of 88, or 33.6 WAR. There’s another side of this, though, one that could help Concepcion’s case for Cooperstown. Proponents of Pee Wee Reese and Phil Rizzuto, two honorees by the Veterans Committee in recent decades, say they were the glue for dynasties in Brooklyn and New York, respectively, leaders of their teams. With 19 seasons in Cincinnati, perhaps Concepcion was that for the Reds.

45-Tie. Wes Ferrell, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 13 no): Ferrell might be among the most underrated players in baseball history. Since his brother Rick was controversially elected by the Veterans Committee in 1987, the critical refrain has been that Rick wasn’t even the best player in his family. And my voters and I forgot Wes Ferrell too last year, neglecting to put him in the top 50. I’m pleased to see him making an appearance this year, and while I don’t actively campaign for players, I wrote in November about how Ferrell was a dual threat, winning 193 games lifetime and hitting 37 home runs as a pitcher, the most in baseball history.

45-Tie. Roger Maris, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 11 yes, 17 no): It’s been 50 years now since Roger Maris hit 61 home runs, and there are those who still consider him the single-season champion. This and his back-to-back MVPs for his 1960 and star-crossed 1961 seasons are the main things he has going for his Hall of Fame candidacy. Given that the museum rarely enshrines players on the strength of short-lived brilliance from Smoky Joe Wood to Lefty O’Doul to Denny McLain and many others, Maris’s chances don’t look great, though he’ll surely live on in the hearts of fans regardless if he ever has a plaque.

45-Tie. John Olerud, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 5 yes, 23 no): Olerud might be Keith Hernandez minus the mustache and the cocaine and with a batting helmet that he wore in the field. Both men were slick fielders and good contact hitters in their prime, and Olerud even got the attention of Ted Williams. “Olerud hits more straightaway than I ever did,” Williams wrote in his 1995 book with Jim Prime, Ted Williams’ Hit List. “He gets the bat on the ball very well. He has a great attitude and always waits for a good ball to hit. But he may lack one key ingredient to make a legitimate run at .400: speed.” Williams was right.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

New to the Top 50 this year: Bobby Bonds, Bob Caruthers, Wes Ferrell, John Olerud, Reggie Smith, Bernie Williams.

Players who were in the Top 50 last year, but aren’t this year: Bert Blyleven (No. 1 in our 2010 project, now in the HOF); Roberto Alomar (tied for No. 2 with Ron Santo in 2010, now in the HOF); Jack Morris (tied for No. 36 in 2010); Dan Quisenberry (tied for No. 38 in 2010); Buck O’Neil (tied for No. 44 in 2010); Bill Freehan (No. 48 in 2010.)

Players who received at least 20 votes this year, in alphabetical order with “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” totals in parentheses: Sal Bando, 20 (DHB: 8Y, 11N, 1N/A); Eddie Cicotte, 23 (DHB: 7Y, 16N); Rocky Colavito, 21 (DHB: 1Y, 20N); Dom DiMaggio, 20 (DHB: 5Y, 15N); Curt Flood, 25 (DHB: 13Y, 12N); Bill Freehan, 22 (DHB: 9Y, 11N, 2N/A); Jack Glasscock, 25 (DHB: 14Y, 11N); Dwight Gooden, 22 (DHB: 2Y, 19N, 1N/A); Stan Hack, 20 (DHB: 9Y, 10N, 1N/A); Fred Lynn, 22 (DHB: 2Y, 19N, 1N/A); Sherry Magee, 25 (DHB: 15Y, 10N); Jack Morris, 26 (DHB: 13Y, 13N); Tony Mullane, 22 (DHB: 15Y, 7N); Buck O’Neil, 22 (DHB: 19Y, 2N, 1N/A); Billy Pierce, 21 (DHB: 5Y, 15N, 1N/A); Dan Quisenberry, 24 (DHB: 7Y, 16N, 1N/A); Willie Randolph, 26 (DHB: 10Y, 15N, 1N/A); Rick Reuschel, 26 (DHB: 7Y, 19N); Bret Saberhagen, 24 (DHB: 5Y, 18N, 1N/A); Lee Smith, 27 (DHB: 16Y, 11N); Deacon White, 20 (DHB: 17Y, 3N); Smoky Joe Wood, 20 (DHB: 10Y, 10N)

Players who received 10-19 votes: Ross Barnes, 13 (DHB: 11Y, 2N);  John Beckwith, 13 (DHB: 10Y, 3N); Buddy Bell, 15 (DHB: 5Y, 10N), Vida Blue, 15 (DHB: 3Y, 12N); Pete Browning, 16 (DHB: 12Y, 4N); Bill Buckner, 10 (DHB: 1Y, 9N); Jose Canseco, 12 (DHB: 1Y, 11N); Joe Carter, 18 (DHB: 6Y, 12N); Norm Cash, 15 (DHB: 3Y, 11N, 1N/A); Ron Cey, 13 (DHB: 1Y, 11N, 1N/A); Jack Clark, 15 (DHB: 5Y, 10N); Eric Davis,* 12 (DHB: 0Y, 12N); John Franco, 10 (DHB: 3Y, 7N); Andres Galarraga, 15 (DHB: 2Y, 13N); Kirk Gibson, 10 (DHB: 2Y, 8N); Juan Gonzalez, 17 (DHB: 0Y, 17N); George Gore, 10 (DHB: 6Y, 4N); Mark Grace, 13 (DHB: 0Y, 13N); Babe Herman, 13 (DHB: 3Y, 10N); Frank Howard, 16 (DHB: 1Y, 14N, 1N/A); Elston Howard, 12 (DHB: 4Y, 8N); Indian Bob Johnson,* 15 (DHB: 6Y, 9N); Charlie Keller, 10 (DHB: 4Y, 6N); Ted Kluszewski, 12 (DHB: 0Y, 12N); Jerry Koosman, 11 (DHB: 5Y, 6N); Mickey Lolich, 16 (DHB: 1Y, 15N); Sparky Lyle, 14 (DHB: 3Y, 11N); Bill Madlock, 15 (DHB: 2Y, 13N); Carl Mays, 17 (DHB: 9Y, 8N); Jim McCormick, 13 (DHB: 8Y, 5N); Don Newcombe, 15 (DHB: 4Y, 11N); Lefty O’Doul, 17 (DHB: 6Y, 11N); Al Oliver, 18 (DHB: 6Y, 12N); Vada Pinson, 17 (DHB: 3Y, 14N); Allie Reynolds, 15 (DHB: 5Y, 10N); Al Rosen, 11 (DHB: 2Y, 8N, 1N/A); Urban Shocker, 11 (DHB: 2Y, 9N); Rusty Staub, 13 (DHB: 2Y, 11N); Vern Stephens, 13 (DHB: 4Y, 8N, 1N/A); Dave Stieb, 19 (DHB: 7Y, 12N); Harry Stovey, 15 (DHB: 11Y, 4N); Darryl Strawberry, 16 (DHB: 1Y, 15N); Fernando Valenzuela, 13 (DHB: 4Y, 9N); George Van Haltren, 10 (DHB: 8Y, 2N); Robin Ventura, 16 (DHB: 4Y, 12N); Maury Wills, 17 (DHB: 6Y, 11N);

Players who received 5-9 votes: Babe Adams, 9 (DHB: 3Y, 6N); Kevin Appier, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Dusty Baker, 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N); Don Baylor, 7 (DHB: 0Y, 7N); Charlie Bennett, 6 (DHB: 6Y, 0N); Wally Berger, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 4N, 1N/A); Bob Boone, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 4N, 1NA); Larry Bowa, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Charlie Buffington, 7 (DHB: 3Y, 4N); Brett Butler, 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N); Cesar Cedeno, 9 (DHB: 1Y, 7N, 1N/A); Cupid Childs, 6 (DHB: 4Y, 2N); Vince Coleman, 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N); Gavvy Cravath, 7 (DHB: 4Y, 3N); Willie Davis,* 9 (DHB: 3Y, 6N); Mike Donlin, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Larry Doyle,* 5 (DHB: 1Y, 3N, 1N/A); Cecil Fielder, 7 (DHB: 2Y, 5N); George Foster, 9 (DHB: 0Y, 9N); Carl Furillo, 8 (DHB: 0Y, 8N); Ken Griffey Sr., 8 (DHB: 0Y, 8N); Dick Groat,* 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N); Heinie Groh, 7 (DHB: 3Y, 4N); Pedro Guerrero, 7 (DHB: 1Y, 6N); Ozzie Guillen, 5 (DHB: 2Y, 3N); Mel Harder, 7 (DHB: 1Y, 6N); Tommy Henrich, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Paul Hines, 7 (DHB: 5Y, 2N); Dummy Hoy, 5 (DHB: 4Y, 1N); Bo Jackson, 5 (DHB: 2Y, 3N); Home Run Johnson, 8 (DHB: 8Y, 0N); David Justice, 7 (DHB: 0Y, 7N); Dave Kingman, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N); Harvey Kuenn, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N); Sam Leever, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N); Dick Lundy, 6 (DHB: 6Y, 0N); Pepper Martin, 6 (DHB: 4Y, 2N); Dennis Martinez, 8 (DHB: 1Y, 7N); Tino Martinez, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Willie McGee, 7 (DHB: 3Y, 4N); Tug McGraw, 7 (DHB: 1Y, 6N); Denny McLain, 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N); Cal McVey, 5 (DHB: 4Y, 1N); Kevin Mitchell,* 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Bobby Murcer, 8 (DHB: 0Y, 8N); Alejandro Oms, 6 (DHB: 5Y, 1N); Deacon Phillippe, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N); Spottswood Poles, 5 (DHB: 3Y, 2N); Boog Powell, 8 (DHB: 0Y, 8N); Ted Radcliffe,* 7 (DHB: 5Y, 2N); Jeff Reardon, 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N); Jimmy Ryan, 7 (DHB: 4Y, 3N); Wally Schang,* 5 (DHB: 3Y, 2N); Jimmy Sheckard, 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N); Ken Singleton, 8 (DHB: 1Y, 6N, 1N/A); Joe Start, 6 (DHB: 4Y, 2N); Ezra Sutton, 8 (DHB: 6Y, 2N); Frank Tanana, 9 (DHB: 2Y, 7N); Gene Tenace,** 5 (DHB: 3Y, 2N); Frank White, 9 (DHB: 1Y, 8N); Matt Williams, 9 (DHB: 0Y, 9N); Wilbur Wood, 7 (DHB: 1Y, 6N)

Everyone else who received at least one vote: Joe Adcock, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Edgardo Alfonzo,* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Matty Alou, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Buzz Arlett,* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Dick Bartell, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Hank Bauer, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Mark Belanger, 2 0Y, 2N); William Bell Sr., ** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Joe Black, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Tommy Bond, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bret Boone, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Lyman Bostock,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Tommy Bridges,** 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Lew Burdette, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Ellis Burks, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); George J Burns, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jeff Burroughs, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Dolph Camilli, 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Vinny Castilla,* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Phil Cavarretta, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Ben Chapman, 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Hal Chase, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Harlond Clift, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N. Editor’s note: Clift appeared on the ballot as “Harold Clift”); Cecil Cooper, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Wilbur Cooper, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Walker Cooper, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Jim Creighton, 4 (DHB: 3Y, 1N); Lave Cross, 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N); Jose Cruz Sr., 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Mike Cuellar, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Al Dark, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jake Daubert, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Bingo DeMoss,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); John Donaldson, 4 (DHB: 3Y, 1N); Patsy Donovan, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Brian Downing, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Luke Easter,* 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Bob Elliott, 4 (DHB: 3Y, 1N. Editor’s note: Elliott appeared on  the ballot as “Bob Elliot”); Del Ennis, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Carl Everett,* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Ferris Fain,* 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Chuck Finley, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Freddie Fitzsimmons, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Jack Fournier,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Dave Foutz,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Bud Fowler,* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Ned Garver,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Mike Griffin,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Charlie Grimm, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Marquis Grissom, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Guy Hecker, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Ken Henderson,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Tom Henke, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); John Hiller,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Tommy Holmes,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Ken Holtzman, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Willie Horton,* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Larry Jackson, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Charley Jones, 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N); Sad Sam Jones, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Brian Jordan,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Wally Joyner, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Terry Kennedy,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jimmy Key, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Darryl Kile,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Silver King,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Johnny Kling, 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N); Mark Langston,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Don Larsen, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Vern Law** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Tommy Leach, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Bill Lee,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Al Leiter, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Duffy Lewis, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jose Lima,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Herman Long, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Davey Lopes, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 2N, 1N/A); Javy Lopez,* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Dolf Luque,* 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Greg Luzinski, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Sal Maglie, 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N); Firpo Marberry,* 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N); Oliver Marcelle,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Marty Marion, 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N); Mike Matheny,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bobby Mathews, 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Dick McBride,* 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Frank McCormick, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Gil McDougald,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Sam McDowell,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Stuffy McInnis, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Ed McKean, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Dave McNally, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Hal McRae, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Bob Meusel, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Clyde Milan, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Bill Monroe,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Dobie Moore, 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Terry Mulholland,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Buddy Myer, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Robb Nen, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Bill Nicholson, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Joe Niekro, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Tip O’Neill, 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N); Paul O’Neill,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jesse Orosco,* 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Dave Orr, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Amos Otis, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Joe Page,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Lance Parrish,* 4 (DHB: 0Y, 3N, 1N/A); Dickey Pearce, 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N); Jim Perry, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bruce Petway,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Lip Pike, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Johnny Podres,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jack Powell, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Vic Power,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jack Quinn, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Dick Redding,** 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); J.R. Richard,* 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Hardy Richardson, 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N); Dave Righetti, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Red Rolfe, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Schoolboy Rowe, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Joe Rudi, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Pete Runnels,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Johnny Sain, 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Tim Salmon,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Manny Sanguillen, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Herb Score, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Mike Scott, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Cy Seymour, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Roy Sievers, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Germany Smith, (DHB: 1 0Y, 1N); Chino Smith,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Al Spalding,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N. Editor’s note: Spalding is in the Hall of Fame as a pioneer/executive, though my voter suggested he should also be there as a player); Riggs Stephenson, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Jack Stivetts,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jesse Tannehill,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Kent Tekulve,* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Frank Thomas (’62 Mets),* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Roy Thomas,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Robby Thompson,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bobby Thomson, 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Luis Tiant Sr.,* 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Cecil Travis, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 1N, 1N/A); Hal Trosky, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Quincy Trouppe, 4 (DHB: 4Y, 0N); Jose Uribe,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Johnny Vander Meer, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Mo Vaughn, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Hippo Vaughn,* 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Bobby Veach, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Mickey Vernon, 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N); Fleet Walker, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Dixie Walker, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bucky Walters, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Lon Warneke, 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Ed Wesley, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Gus Weyhing, 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N. Editor’s note: Weyhing appeared on the ballot as Guy Weyhing); Roy White, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Ken Williams, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Cy Williams, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Ned Williamson,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Willie Wilson,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Nip Winters,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Todd Worrell, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Rudy York, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Eric Young,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N)

Appeared on the ballot, didn’t receive any votes: Dale Alexander, Bobby Avila*, Jeromy Burnitz*, George H Burns, Ollie Carnegie*, Jack Coombs, Roy Cullenbine*, Jim Davenport, Paul Derringer, Kelly Downs*, Mark Eichhorn*, Scott Erickson*, Carl Erskine, Jeff Fassero*, Bob Friend, Scott Garrelts*, Jim Gentile, Hank Gowdy, Danny Graves*, Rick Helling*, Pete Hughes*, Sam Jackson*, Sam Jethroe, Smead Jolley*, Davy Jones*, Doug Jones*, Bill Joyce, Joe Judge, Benny Kauff*, Ken Keltner, Mike LaCoss*, Carney Lansford, Matt Lawton*, Bob Locker*, Elliot Maddox, Candy Maldonado*, Sadie McMahon*, Irish Meusel, Wally Moon, Wally Moses, Bill Mueller*, Jeff Nelson*, Phil Nevin*, Mel Parnell, Larry Parrish*, Camilo Pascual*, Brad Radke, Joe Randa, Mike Remlinger*, Ernie Riles*, Don Robinson*, Felix Rodriguez*, Ruben Sierra*, George Stone, Dizzy Trout, Vic Wertz, Will White, Tony Womack*, Tim Worrell*

* is used to denote who was new to my ballot this year

** is used to denote who was a write-in

Editor’s note: I hand counted all ballots and made a few judgment calls as editor. First, I corrected for misspellings on some ballots. Also, some voters put Y’s for the “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” feature or made clear who they wanted to vote for it but neglected to put N’s. I inferred they meant to have N’s in those cases. I also allowed a couple of 49-player ballots, since I didn’t want to disallow hard work by voters simply due to a minor mistake.

People who voted

  1. Myself. Founder and editor of this site, delivery driver, content writer for San Francisco SEO company KickStartSearch.com. Member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA.) Second-year voter.
  2. Bobby Aguilera of Baseball Reality Tour. Director of group sales and marketing for The Tribune Company. Second-year voter.
  3. Tom Andersen of Sphere. Communications and fundraising consultant for non-profits in New York.
  4. Triston Aprill, reader.
  5. Matthew Aschaffenburg, graduate student, University of Delaware.
  6. Brendan Bingham, contributor to this Website, SABR member. Second-year voter.
  7. Charles Beatley of Hawk 4 The Hall. Second-year voter.
  8. Bob Brichetto, member of Baseball Think Factory, voter for the Most Meritorious Player Award for its Hall of Merit. Second-year voter.
  9. Chip Buck of Fire Brand of the American League and It’s About the Money.
  10. Eric Chalek, member of Baseball Think Factory, past Hall of Merit voter.
  11. Justin Ciccotelli, reader.
  12. Michael Clair of Old Time Family Baseball, BBA member. Second-year voter.
  13. Michael Cook, Cleveland-based community organizer.
  14. Ev Cope, SABR member since 1979. Hall of Fame researcher who, at the behest of Cooperstown, put together a list of names for the Veterans Committee to consider in 2008. Second-year voter.
  15. Dennis Corcoran, SABR member, author of the 2010 book, Induction Day at Cooperstown: A History of the Baseball Hall of Fame Ceremony.
  16. Craig Cornell, reader. Second-year voter.
  17. Victor Dadras, reader. Second-year voter.
  18. Adam Darowski, contributor to Beyond the Box Score and this Website; curator of the Hall of wWAR.
  19. Bill Deane, former senior research associate at the Hall of Fame.
  20. Mike Denton, member of the Pacific Coast League Historical Society.
  21. Nick Diunte of Baseball Happenings and Examiner.com, SABR member. Won a free t-shirt here for being the first to note I included every starter from the 1989 San Francisco Giants on Super Ballot.
  22. Lee Domingue, reader.
  23. Paul Dylan of One For Five. Second-year voter.
  24. Ryan Frates, reader.
  25. Theo Gerome of Hot Corner Harbor.
  26. Bill Gilbert, reader.
  27. Daniel Greenia, wrote a “Fixing the Hall of Fame” series for Dugout Central and authored a bi-monthly column for Bill James in the 1980s. Second-year voter.
  28. Joe Guzzardi, SABR member, longtime contributor here. Second-year voter.
  29. Graham H., reader.
  30. George Haloulakos, has contributed papers on Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and Sal Maglie to this Website.
  31. Joel Hammerman, reader.
  32. Rob Harris of BlueBattingHelmet, BBA member.
  33. Paul Hirsch, SABR member and part of its board of directors.
  34. Wayne Horiuchi, avid sports card collector who has one of the most extensive game-used/autograph Hall of Fame collections in America. Second-year voter.
  35. Brad Howerter, reader.
  36. Jason Hunt of MLB Daily Dish and Fake Teams. Second-year voter.
  37. Chris Jensen, SABR member, Seamheads author.
  38. Kevin Johnson, Seamheads author.
  39. George Kurtz, reader, member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
  40. Albert Lang of h2h Corner.
  41. Domenic Lanza of Sliding Into Home and Row Three, law student.
  42. Jimmy Leiderman, SABR member, 19th century photography researcher. Second-year voter.
  43. Patrick Mackin, reader, Cleveland-based attorney.
  44. Ken Marcum of The Baseball Hall of Shame, BBA member.
  45. Andrew Martin of The Baseball Historian.
  46. Michael Martin, reader.
  47. Chris Mascaro, Seamheads author.
  48. Dan McCloskey of Left Field, SABR and BBA member. Second-year voter.
  49. Robert McConnell, reader. Second-year voter.
  50. Ryan McCrystal of Wahoo’s Warriors, SABR member. Second-year voter.
  51. Keith Menges, reader.
  52. Stefano Micolitti of Milan, Italy. Briefly wrote for Italian baseball publication, Tuttobaseball e softball in the 1980s.
  53. Bill Miller of The On Deck Circle. Second-year voter.
  54. Andrew Milner, member of SABR and Baseball Think Factory. Second-year voter.
  55. Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt, BBA member.
  56. Dave Mowers, reader.
  57. Brian Moynahan of Bus Leagues Baseball.
  58. Tim Newey, reader.
  59. Dan O’Connor, past SABR member.
  60. John Perricone of Only Baseball Matters.
  61. Jeff Polman of braggingleague.wordpress.comfunkyball.wordpress.com, and 1924andyouarethere.blogspot.com. SABR and BBA member.
  62. Kevin Porter, reader.
  63. Alex Putterman, contributor to this Website, just admitted early decision as a journalism student at Northwestern.
  64. John Quemere, reader.
  65. Dave Rattigan, reader.
  66. Josh Robbins, set a world record in 2008 by seeing a game in all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in 26 days by car. Contributes to Seamheads and 60ft6in.
  67. Mike Robinson, member of Baseball Think Factory.
  68. Dave Rook, reader.
  69. Marcus Ruiz, reader.
  70. Bob Sawyer, reader. Second-year voter.
  71. Peter Schiller of Baseball Reflections, SABR and BBA member. Second-year voter.
  72. Gabriel Schechter of Never Too Much Baseball. SABR member and contributed an outstanding piece on the eccentric, doomed Charles “Victory” Faust for the Baseball Biography Project.
  73. Bart Silberman, founder and president at Moonlight Graham Records.
  74. Mark Simon, ESPN.com researcher and contributor. Second-year voter.
  75. Louis Smith, family friend of Smoky Joe Wood.
  76. Zubin Sumariwalla, reader.
  77. Tom Thrash of He Knew He Was Right.
  78. Vinnie, heavyweight champion of readers. Second-year voter.
  79. Gregg Volz, working on a screenplay about Smoky Joe Wood.
  80. Jonathan Wagner, reader. Self-described “Strat-O-Matic freak with too much free time.” Once sponsored Terry Mulholland’s Baseball-Reference.com page under a pseudonym. Somehow wasn’t responsible for Mulholland’s one vote here.
  81. Ed White, former sportswriter.
  82. Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods and the 2010 book of the same name (I highly recommend it.) Second-year voter.
  83. Joe Williams, chair of the Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project, Nineteenth Century Committee, SABR. Second-year voter.
  84. David Wood, grandson of Smoky Joe Wood.
  85. Jena Yamada, reader. Second-year voter, sole female to participate this year.
  86. Tom Zocco of  The Stats of Zoc, SABR member since 1971.

How people voted

I launched this project last year in part because I was unsatisfied that posts on the best players not in the Hall of Fame often rely on the opinion of whoever wrote them or some all-powerful stat like Wins Above Replacement. Neither approach is infallible, though that’s not always apparent from reading the posts or forum discussions they spawn. I wanted something more inclusive that would yield fresh results. What resulted here last year was a project that offered a hybrid of the opinion and WAR-based approaches, with some healthy doses of irrationality thrown in.

We had a range of different voters in the first iteration of the project, and this year was more of the same. To my knowledge, our oldest voter is 73, while our youngest is a senior in high school. We have voters who relied on metrics like WAR or Career Win Shares, others who favored overlooked 19th century players, and still plenty more voters who went in their own directions with picks (Vida Blue, yes, Jeff Bagwell, no, that sort of thing.)  Me, I used a little of all three approaches, and I have no problem with people voting however they like. I think it’s more engaging to feature a range of opinions, and I believe that so long as enough people vote and do so independently, stuff gets evened out in the end.

To show our diversity, I asked a few of my voters to share how they voted. I’ll let them take it from here:

Adam Darowski: “I’ve always been interested in combining my love of the Hall of Fame and my love of statistics, so over the last year or so I’ve been building a formula that attempts to rank players by how good their Hall of Fame cases are. It is based on the version of WAR available on Baseball-Reference.com. I call it Weighted WAR, or wWAR. It takes a player’s career WAR and adjusts it for season length (which aids 19th century players), peak performance (which aids a player like Sandy Koufax while hurting someone like Tommy John), and postseason performance (based on a weighted version of Win Probability Added). I’ve created a site for the Hall of wWAR where you can see who gets in, see who gets bumped from the Hall, or read more about the methodology.”

George Haloulakos: “Regarding the process I used for my selection of great players in your survey/poll, here were the criteria: (1) Positive role model for how the game should be played, (2) Helping the team win, (3) Playing well in ‘big’ games and/or having impact on pennant races, (4) Dominating presence in the era in which played. Essentially, it was a blend of qualitative and quantitative thought.”

Mike Robinson: “A couple of things. I tend to look for a combination of career + peak but if it comes down to it, I favor career. I also tend to favor positions generally underrepresented in the real Hall. It is easier for a catcher to get on my ballot than a first baseman. The standards, particularly with the bat, are just higher at first and the OF positions. Also, I did not pick any of the Negro League players. Obviously some of them would be in the top 50 but I simply don’t know much at all about them. If I picked any, I would just be guessing. So, unfortunately, I choose not to consider them.”

Ed White: “This was not an easy task, as I tried to use not only statistical analysis but also subjective analysis of players’ skills from watching them live or on TV. In some cases, there were probably some players with better statistics whom I did not include because I thought others were better overall players and had a bigger impact on the game at the time they played than others who might have had better statistics. The best example of this is probably Jim Rice, who was probably the most feared hitter in the AL for many years, but who did not get in to the HOF for many years because of his ill-advised comments that he deserved to be in.”

“There are a few players whom I absouletely loved to watch play and who were very good but sadly were not HOF players when you consider others. My favorite player as a kid was Roy White, the only major leaguer with the same last name as mine at the time and a very good player for my favorite team, the New York Yankees. But although he was a solid player, he is not a Hall of Famer when you consider the other players whose statistics and skills were better than his. While I would love to see Roy and my other favorite players make the Hall, I reserve my votes for the absolute best of the game, no matter what kind of people they were.”

Daniel Greenia, second-year voter: “My big difference with the consensus last year was in my support of 19th century players. In my opinion, the ‘National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’ needs to start taking that last word seriously. They have never made a serious attempt to identify and enshrine all of the greats from the first generation of professional ball players, 1865-89.  Along with four inaugural HoMers (Hall of Merit members), players I voted for from this era are Charlie Bennett, Pete Browning, Bob Caruthers, Jack Glasscock, Cal McVey, Hardy Richardson, Joe Start, Harry Stovey and Ezra Sutton.”

Bob Brichetto: “My list is heavily Hall of Merit influenced. I am not a voter for the Hall of Merit but I’ve been following it for several years now and think it’s pretty damn awesome… I have left off players who are in the Hall of Merit in favor of some that I think should be in the Hall of Merit… but not very many!”

“As for the yes or no to whether I think they should be in the Hall of Fame, I’m going to have to say yes to all 50. For real. I presume that is an extreme stance for your project so I feel like I should briefly explain. Again, this is largely due to my following the Hall of Merit functioning on the assumption that the size of the Hall of Fame is a given and therefore trying to fill it with the best “X” players there are. So I’m not presuming that the worst player at each position is the baseline (if I did that I don’t even want to think how big it would be). What I want would be for the Hall of Fame to be broken up into tiers of greatness… and not permanently. Meaning that someone could move between 2nd and 3rd tier depending on whatever source of the tiers votes in whatever year.”

Paul Dylan: “I’m a super-big hall guy, and I believe the BBWAA should be willing to elect players to the HoF who contributed to the game uniquely but weren’t necessarily one of the greatest baseball players – kind of like the Baseball Reliquary, only not so gimmicky.  Curt Flood, Dummy Hoy, and Buck O’Neill deserve plaques for their contributions as trailblazers and ambassadors for the game.  Bo Jackson, I believe, deserves a plaque in the Hall of Fame for athletic prowess second to none (outside of Jim Thorpe, maybe), and, as for Don Larsen, I think that if you throw a perfect game in the World Series you should get a free pass into Cooperstown.  What greater achievement could there be?  Maybe to throw 2 perfect games in the World Series, I guess.”

“The point is, I don’t think one should have to be one of the ‘best players’ per se to be elected into the Hall of Fame.  I think whether or not someone is one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame is a very different question than should this player be in the Hall of Fame.”

Looking ahead

As the second year of this annual project draws to a close, I’m already looking ahead to next year. Certain core things in place with our setup seem to work, and I doubt they’ll change as long as I’m running things. I like the project being about 50 players. I think it’s important all votes keep counting equally, with no ranking system ever that could allow a few people to game it and push a player up the list. I want to stick to my policy of not lobbying for people to vote for anyone. And I always want my project to be free and easy to participate in and online.

All this being said, I’m looking at a few tweaks for next year. First and foremost, I’d like to automate as much of the voting process as possible, since I estimate it took about 45 hours to count ballots this year. I’d like to be able to focus more on writing and have a quicker turnaround time once voting closes. To that end, I’m considering a couple of online survey sites, and if anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I don’t know if all voting would be done strictly via the Web. I’d like to get Major League Baseball vets and BBWAA members involved and am considering offering paper ballots for them or anyone with a disability.

Otherwise though, I’m pleased with how things came out and want to thank everyone who voted or even just offered interest or support. This project wouldn’t be half as fun or interesting or have a life of its own if I was flying solo. Having other people involved makes this thing what it is. I hope everyone returns next year, and if anyone reading would like to vote as well, please, join us. I already see two big reasons to vote next year: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be on the ballot.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

Uh, Oh: The Pirates 20th Consecutive Losing Season Looms

In a few weeks, Pittsburgh Pirates fans will have to face a chilling reality: the baseball season, and thus the Pirates 20th consecutive losing year, will be right around the corner.

For now, the Pirates are as the old saying goes, “out of sight and out of mind.” Pittsburgh’s sports fans are caught up in the Steelers and Penguins both play off bound, the perennially powerful University of Pittsburgh Panthers’ basketball team and the local North Allegheny Tigers, rolling toward its second consecutive state high school championship. Even the Pitt Panthers, a poor football team by any measure, is “going bowling,” as the talking heads are so nauseatingly fond of saying.

When the Pirates have popped up in the news, it’s been to announce that Paul Maholm, Ronnie Cedeno, Ryan Doumit and Chris Synder, respectively the team’s number one starter, its shortstop and two catchers will not return. Of course, you’re not impressed by those names—and why should you be? They’re lower tier players who, with the exception of Doumit, have not yet signed with other teams.

Ryan Ludwick, a marginal late season addition, has also been let go. And Derrek Lee, who performed well after coming over from Atlanta, is unlikely to return. Rumor has it that he prefers retirement to a full year with the Pirates.

The Pirates do have a new shortstop and catcher, 32-year-old Clint Barmes (.252 career) and 36-year-old Rod Barajas (.232). While the baseball world wonders where Albert Pujols and Price Fielder will be next year, the Pirates content themselves with Barmes and Barajas—not that Pujols or Fielder would come to Pittsburgh for any amount of money.
Pirates’ management promises more signings, cold comfort in light of additions made over the last two years: Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church, Matt Diaz, Lyle Overbay to name a few.

With Maholm, a reliable innings-eater and occasionally effective starter, gone and the numbers two and three starters, Kevin Correia, Ross Ohlendorf and Charlie Morton coming off the disabled list (an in Morton’s case, post-season hip surgery), the rotation is at best uncertain and at worst a mess.

Fans may be testier this year. The Pirates for a few fleeting mid-season moments were in first place. Then the wheels fell off spectacularly and the team played worse than it had during the 2010, 105-game losses season. We tasted the joy of rooting for a winner. The Pirates were the talk of Pittsburgh, games sold out, half the city dressed in Pirates’ gear. To have the rug pulled out so abruptly and so totally hurt. As for 2012, I’m reminded of the World War I song: “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm After They’ve Seen Paree?” Watch Nora Bayes sing the classic here. The lyrics are suggestive of how challenging it will be for fans to return to watch mediocre baseball when we’ve at least briefly experienced the euphoria of “Paree,” that is, being in a pennant race.

I’m sure I speak for all long suffering Pirates fans when I say that effective immediately I’ll only judge the team on the field. I can’t be persuaded into pinning my hopes on Pedro Alvarez staging a heroic comeback or that the long-term answers are first round draft choice Gerrit Cole or the 16-year-old Mexican pitcher Luis Heredia. Please, to call a 16-year-old a “sensation” is a bit much for me.

As always, I’ll be a PNC Park regular and listen to the games when I’m not there, rooting as hard as I have more than 50 years. But 20 straight losing years is tough. I’ve earned the right to be skeptical.

The Emperor Has No clothes (Part Two)

Last week I finished off my column with the words, “I’m just getting started”.  The more I think about the Bud Selig illegacy, the more I am realizing that this topic could indeed turn into a novel of epic length, something akin to The Decline and fall of The Roman Empire.   There is so much to reveal and discuss concerning the man who has tried everything in his power to destroy this wonderful game of baseball.  And the hits just keep on coming.

Selig has long had a very shady relationship with current Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.  Loria is a name which is still reviled in the city of Montreal .  The dubious financial transactions between Loria and the now owner of the Boston Red Sox; bribery and the contraction scheme of a few years past to the present day investigation by the securities; and exchange commission concerning the Miami Marlins stadium deal– all hint at the possible involvement of Selig.   The baseball world should be gathering outside of Miller Park to, as was done in ancient Roman times, unceremoniously tear down the statues of their corrupt and former Caesars.

Selig, as owner of the Brewers, is thought of fondly in many parts of Milwaukee as the man who brought baseball back to that wonderful city.  This is all despite the fact that he ran this franchise into the ground, left the fans with a team in which little money was ever invested in and then as owner was at the same time, the commissioner of baseball.  The term conflict of interest began to rear its ugly head.  After being exposed for this conflict of interest, Selig defended himself by switching the day to day operations of the Brewers to his daughter.  He claimed that this would satisfy any conflict of interest charges as he had little or no influence…on his own daughter.

The Montreal Expos were allowed to wither and die on the vine.  Star players were allowed to be traded for what amounted to little more than Triple A players and plans for a new and modern baseball park in downtown Montreal were scuttled by Loria and I suspect his good friend Bud Selig.  Almost any other franchise you could name would not be allowed to hurt the city and destroy a franchise whose fans showed they were very supportive of a team which, through good times and bad, did support the team.  Loria wanted to buy the then Florida Marlins, owned by current Boston owner John Henry, and Selig was just the man to do it.  At one point, Henry owned both the Marlins and RedSox, illegal by any business laws.  The evoking of the best interest of baseball remained securely locked in the top drawer in the commissioner’s office.  Baseball purchased the Expos from Loria allowing him to buy the Florida Marlins.  There were also interest free loans involved.

There’s more. The owner of the Minnesota Twins was offered hundreds of millions of dollars by Selig to contract the team a few seasons ago.  This money was much more than Carl Pohlad could have received had he sold the team on the open market. There was no logical reason to contract the Twins.  Attendance was good and they had been successful.  Pohlad and Selig were very good friends and financial buddies. After the media became aware of this situation, the flood of negative press saw Selig suddenly abandon these contraction plans.  But Loria got the Marlins and Henry got the RedSox.

All of the above, brief as this discussion is, point to obvious and very dubious and probably illegal, financial wheeling and dealings encouraged if not tacitly sanctioned by the one man who is supposed to be looking after major league baseball.   All of this by the man who boasts that revenues have quadrupled over the last few years.  So have ticket prices, concession prices and team souvenirs.

I’ll be going on to part three next week.  The awarding of another, (third time is the charm), franchise to Washington, steroids, the All Star game, November baseball and other topics-if I have the stomach for it.  Right now I’m suddenly not feeling that well.

Who Is Bob Kuzava and Why Should We Care?

In his recent guest post on Hardball Times, my friend and fellow baseball historian Graham Womack mentioned in passing that he had never heard of pitcher Bob Kuzava.Read Graham’s post “Getting One Vote for the Hall of Fame” here.

Let’s be clear from the outset. There’s not a reason in the world that anyone outside of diehard New York Yankee fans from the mid-1950s should recognize Kuzava’s name. The journeyman left hander who pitched for eight teams in 10 years (Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators, Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals) and compiled a 49-44 record with a 4.05 ERA is completely forgettable.

But as was so often the case with the Yankees during their run of five consecutive World Championships, a player—usually a pitcher—would rise out of obscurity to perform spectacularly at a critical moment to help deliver a key game to the Yankees.

So it was with Kuzava in 1951, his best season. After posting an 8-4 record with a 2.40 ERA Kuzava, who had started eight games, took a seat in the Yankees’ bull pen for the World Series against the crosstown rival New York Giants. With Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat winning 21 games and Allie Reynolds 17, manager Casey Stengel’s starting rotation was set.

In the sixth game, the Yankees were coasting with a 4-1 lead in the top of the ninth. But Johnny Sain, pitching in relief of starter Reynolds, faltered, gave up two runs and left the bases full when Stengel summoned Kuzava.  Press box reporters thought Stengel was crazy since the next two batters were right handed, Monte Irvin and Bobby Thompson. But Stengel’s gamble paid off. Irvin and Thompson hit back-to-back sacrifice flies that scored two runs but left Kuzava with only one out to collect.

With the score now 4-3, it was Giants’ manager Leo Durocher’s turn to play a hunch. Durocher chose right handed, back up catcher Sal Yvars to hit for the lefty Hank Thompson. Yvars, understudy to Wes Westrum, had made a mere 41 regular season plate appearances.

That set the stage for one of the World Series’ most thrilling finishes. With Whitey Lockman in scoring position and representing the tying run, Yvars lifted a weak fly ball to right field that, in the late afternoon sun and with the shifting winds, seemed sure to drop in. But Hank Bauer, playing right in place of the injured Mickey Mantle, made a lunging dive and came up with the ball. The game and the series were over.

Kuzava earned the save, an achievement he repeated in 1952 in the seventh gameagainst the Brooklyn Dodgers. Although the Dodgers slugging right handed line up feasted on lefties, especially in Ebbets Field where the game was played, Kuzava set down the last eight batters: Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson (on another famous lunging catch, this one by Billy Martin falling on his knees near the pitcher’s mound), Roy Campanella, Andy Pafko, Carl Furillo, Bobby Morgan, Billy Cox and Pee Wee Reese. Once again, Stengel’s faith in Kuzava paid off.

Now 88 and living in Michigan, Kuzava’s friends call him “Sarge,” his rank during World War II where he served from 1943 to 1945.

Any player/Any era: Babe Ruth (as manager)

What he did: In 1934, Babe Ruth was nearing the end of his storied career. With Ruth’s production having once again slipped and his 40th birthday looming, the New York Yankees chose to release their legend after he returned from a goodwill trip to Japan. The Sultan of Swat’s fondest wish was to manage in the majors, though the best the Yankees could offer was for him to run their top farm club. As owner Jacob Ruppert famously remarked of Ruth, “How can he manage a team when he can’t even manage himself?”

Ruth rejected New York’s offer, listening to his wife who told him he was strictly a big league person. Instead, Ruth went to the Boston Braves for one more bleak, bloated season, looking grotesque in the outfield and serving in an empty role as vice president. He lasted a few months, and save for a role as hitting coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers two seasons later was done in baseball. The apocrephyal story, told by Ruth’s wife after his death in 1948, was that he sat by the phone the rest of his life waiting for a call to manage that never came.

Era he might have thrived in: It’s interesting to wonder what might have been if pride hadn’t gotten the best of the Bambino. The minor league team he refused to run, the Newark Bears went on in 1937 to have one of the greatest seasons ever for a farm club, going 109-43 and winning the International League by 25-1/2 games. A number of future big leaguers starred for those Bears including Charlie Keller, who hit a circuit-best .353.  Once, after a player got promoted to the Yankees, a fellow Bear remarked it was “because he couldn’t crack the lineup here.” It seems if Ruth had sat on the Newark bench, he’d have gotten some credit for their success and earned his shot managing in the majors.

Why: First of all, this tact worked for the Newark manager in ’37, Ossie Vitt, who parlayed his team’s brilliance into a stint the following three seasons managing the Cleveland Indians (interestingly, Vitt went 262-198 those years, never finishing worse than third, though he was unpopular with his players and didn’t last as manager beyond 1940.) While I don’t know if the Bambino could have unseated Joe McCarthy in pinstripes, as the Yankees were on an unprecedented run of their own in the late ’30s, an impressive showing in Newark might have gotten Ruth the job in Cleveland or elsewhere.

I’ll add that I think Ruth was unfairly judged. No doubt he drank and caroused, but I can’t see character resolutely determining a manager’s odds for success. There have simply been too many exceptions to this throughout baseball history, the Boston Red Sox new hire Bobby Valentine only the latest example. In earlier years, John McGraw was a wild young manager with the New York Giants, Leo Durocher returned from a gambling-related ban to lead New York to multiple World Series, and Billy Martin won and drank everywhere he went. Even Casey Stengel told his players not to drink at the hotel bar “because that’s where I do my drinking.”

I don’t know if Ruth was terribly worse as a person than any of these men, and he’d have also brought a wealth of baseball experience. I doubt it’s on talent alone that he swatted 714 home runs, hit .342 lifetime, or won 94 games as a pitcher. It’s a shame he couldn’t have passed more of his knowledge on.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Al SimmonsAlbert PujolsBabe RuthBad News Rockies,Barry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob Watson,Bobby VeachCarl MaysCharles Victory FaustChris von der Ahe,Denny McLainDom DiMaggioDon DrysdaleEddie LopatFrank HowardFritz MaiselGavvy CravathGeorge CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro SuzukiJack ClarkJackie RobinsonJim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Matty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate Colbert, Ollie CarnegiePaul DerringerPedro MartinezPee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey Henderson,Roberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam Thompson,Sandy KoufaxSatchel PaigeShoeless Joe JacksonStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWes FerrellWill ClarkWillie Mays