Category Archives: Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Dick Groat

Claim to fame: Dick Groat and the question of his Hall of Fame worthiness has popped up twice on this website in recent months. First came a comment at my annual project on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Someone wrote:

Bobby Grich (6x-AS, .266 avg.)
Dick Groat (8x AS, 1960 MVP, .286 avg)

Groat played in a pitcher’s era and still hit .286. Groat was voted MVP in 1960. Grich never ranked higher than 8th in MVP voting during his career. I guess it helps to have played more recently.

Last month, I posted my personal Hall of Fame, which includes Maury Wills. Longtime reader Brendan Bingham posted a long comment, which included:

3) If Maury Wills, why not Dick Groat?
I have commented on this site about the similarity between Wills and Groat. Their careers were of similar length (8306 PA for Wills; 8179 for Groat). The biggest difference between them is that Wills stole more bases, 572 more (586, versus Groat’s 14). But Wills hit only 177 doubles, while Groat hit 352. That’s a difference of 175 bases that Groat did not need to steal, because he was already on second base. The down side of attempting to steal bases is getting caught stealing. Wills was caught 208 times, versus 27 for Groat. Wills had a few more walks; Groat had a few more home runs. Wills earned more WAR (39.8 to Groat’s 36.8), but is he really worthy of enshrinement? With all due respect to Groat, the multi-sport Duke graduate, can a compelling HOF case really include the phrase, “he was marginally better than Dick Groat”?

I found both comments thought-provoking. I’ll reply momentarily.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Groat last played in 1967 and appeared on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown six times from 1973 through 1978, peaking at 1.8 percent of the vote. Now eligible for enshrinement through the Veterans Committee and considered to have played in what the committee dubs the Golden Era between 1947 and 1973, Groat could theoretically next be voted in in two years.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? In a word, no. I’ve hesitated to write this column in part because Groat’s an easy “No” for me. While I respect that Groat was an integral member of two championship teams (the 1960 Pirates and ’64 Cardinals) and was a rare man to play both MLB and NBA ball, he simply doesn’t have the numbers for Cooperstown and trails behind legions of worthier candidates. But I don’t mind spotlighting older players, however briefly, and there are a couple of broader points I’d like to make here.

The first excerpted comment above, comparing Groat to Bobby Grich took me back. Before I got into sabermetrics, I treated batting average as the overall measure of a batter, and I believed that Grich’s era, the 1970s and ’80s was significantly more of a hitter’s era than the 1960s. I was wrong on both counts. There’s this misnomer that the lowering of the pitcher’s mound in 1969 and the adoption of the designated hitter rule in the American League in 1973 dramatically changed the offensive landscape. In reality, except for the occasional outlier such as 1987, run totals in games didn’t spike consistently until the 1990s. The sooner this is better understood, the easier it will be for players like Grich, Dwight Evans, and Dale Murphy to get enshrined. They simply played in a tougher offensive era than they’re being credited for.

For evaluating offensive production, I’ve come to prefer comprehensive stats that don’t just look at a hitter’s ability to make contact with the ball but also incorporate things like run production, on-base percentage and total bases. I also like stats that are weighted to adjust for ballpark and eras. For all of this, I find stats like wRC+ (weighted run creation) and OPS+ (weighted offensive production) much more useful than batting average. Grich trumps Groat 125 to 89 in OPS+ and 129 to 90 in wRC+. If we simply look at raw stats that aren’t adjusted for eras, such as wOBA or OPS, the differences are more pronounced. A 20 point advantage in batting average may be impressive at quick glance, but it doesn’t mean that much in context.

I take a different approach, however, comparing Groat and Maury Wills. When it comes to Wills, I value his contribution to baseball history more than his somewhat pedestrian career stats. My rationale is admittedly somewhat arbitrary and selective, but I think a certain degree of that is okay when it comes to the Hall of Fame. It’s not the Hall of Algorithmically-Determined Statistical Superiority, after all. (My friend Adam Darowski has a cool site for this.) I like Wills’ role in popularizing the stolen base in the 1960s (though he was arguably no more important than Luis Aparicio or Lou Brock.) I like that he shattered Ty Cobb’s 47-year-old season record for stolen bases in 1962. For me, that’s enough for a plaque.

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Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? has been a past regular feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsAndy PettitteBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBilly PierceBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon MattinglyDon Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJeff KentJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohan SantanaJohn SmoltzJohnny MurphyJose Canseco,J.R. RichardJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouOmar VizquelPete BrowningPhil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSammy SosaSean FormanSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince Coleman, Vlad GuerreroWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Vlad Guerrero

Claim to fame: From 1998 to 2007, playing for the Expos and Angels, Vladimir Guerrero posted a .327/.394/.586 slash line with a 149 OPS+ while averaging 151 games per season, making eight all-star games, winning seven silver slugger awards and receiving at least one MVP vote in all 10 seasons. Never during that stretch did Guerrero’s OPS fall below .930 or his OPS+ below 138. It was a decade of dominance, of a sustained status as one of Major League Baseball’s premier offensive players.

Since 2008, Guerrero’s production has declined steadily, an all-star berth in 2010 suggesting a renaissance before 2011 brought the worst full season of the rightfielder’s distinguished career. Coming off that replacement-level production (0.0 WAR on Baseball-Reference), Guerrero struggled to find work, eventually signing with the Blue Jays, theoretically foreshadowing a return to Canada to finish his career north of the border, where it began. He went 9-20 at Class-A Dunedin before a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, where Vlad continued to knock around minor league pitching, batting .303 over eight games before asking for, and being granted, his release two weeks ago. The former-MVP is now back on the job hunt, hoping to avoid retirement.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Released by the Blue Jays after failing to earn a Big League call-up, Guerrero’s career appears to be finished. If he does not again play in the majors, he will first be eligible for BBWAA Hall of Fame voting in 2016.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Vlad Guerrero seems like a Hall of Famer. Maybe it’s the all-star appearances; he was selected to nine Mid-Summer Classics. Maybe it’s the MVP votes; he won the award in 2004 and finished in the top five in voting three other times. Maybe it’s the admiration with which his peers describe him; in an excellent 2000 ESPN Magazine feature, Jose Mesa is quoted as saying:

Vladimir and A-Rod are the two most complete players in this game. You are obligated to put Vladimir in the top two. Obligated. But A-Rod at least has help. Vladimir is all by himself. You put Vladimir on the Yankees, and he’s hitting 50, 60 homers and driving in 200 runs.

Then later in the same conversation:

The devil himself would be afraid to pitch to that guy.

Or maybe Guerrero seems like a Hall of Famer because he practically knocked the laces out of baseballs for 16 eyeball-grabbing seasons, smashing line drives through ball parks across the continent and wowing on-lookers and colleagues alike with a throwing arm that made the proverbial “cannon for an arm” look like a Nerf gun.

When we look a little more closely, we note that Guerrero walked only 56 times per 162 games, for an on-base percentage only 61 points above his batting average. We note that, despite his ability to gun down base-runners from right, Guerrero’s range in the outfield was unexceptional, resulting in a negative career Ultimate Zone Rating (according to Fangraphs.com, which only started tracking the stat in 2002) and a negative career dWAR (according to Baseball-Reference). And we note that, while Guerrero twice stole 37 or more bases in a season, earning him a reputation as a valuable base-runner, he converted only 65.8% of his career stolen base attempts and grades out as a below-average base-runner according to formulas from both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs.

All this adds up to a 55.2 WAR, roughly equal to that of Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew and Willie Stargell but also non-Hall of Famers Bobby Bonds, Dick Allen, and Darrell Evans.

That quintet shows that seeming like a Hall of Famer is almost as important as actually playing like one. Using objective statistical analysis, it would be hard to deem any of those five players head and shoulders above the others, but reputation got two of them to Cooperstown and the others not even that close. Killebrew won five home runs titles and finished with 573 long balls while Stargell won two World Series titles as an outsized personality on a pair of memorable teams. More than Allen, Bonds, and Evans, Killebrew and Stargell put the “fame” in Hall of Fame.

Ironically, so too does Guerrero, whom LeBatard once called “The most anonymous superstar in sports.” Everyone assuming you’re a Hall of Famer shouldn’t automatically make you one, but giving off that Hall of Fame vibe makes for a reasonable tie-breaker. Vladimir Guerrero seems and feels like a Hall of Famer, and for a borderline case, that’s not too bad of a reason to make him one.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsAndy PettitteBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBilly PierceBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon MattinglyDon Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJeff KentJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe Posnanski, Johan SantanaJohn SmoltzJohnny MurphyJose Canseco,J.R. RichardJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouOmar VizquelPete BrowningPhil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSammy SosaSean FormanSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Johan Santana

Claim to fame: Fresh off the first no-hitter in the 8,000+ game history of the New York Mets, Johan Santana appears fully recovered from the shoulder surgery that cost him the 2011 season. Santana’s historic performance and his strong output through 11 starts this season suggest that the lefty’s career is far from finished and that the dominant pitcher we saw in Minnesota and Queens during an incredible five-year stretch — when he never finished out of the top-five in Cy Young voting — is back and ready to continue his path to Cooperstown.

Through 12 whole or partial Major League seasons, Santana has accomplished much, earning three ERA titles, three strikeout titles, a pitching triple crown, and two Cy Young awards while posting an ERA+ that currently ranks tied for 11th all-time (min. 1,000 innings pitched) and a WHIP that stands 20th among modern era hurlers. His 50.0 WAR is certainly impressive for such a (so far) brief career by Hall of Fame standards but would place him among the lower tier of Hall of Famers in that category.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Santana will be eligible for the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot five years after he retires, which doesn’t look to be all that soon.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? There are two questions to be answered here: Would Santana be a Hall of Famer right now, and will he be one when he retires? The latter defends somewhat on his health. The lefty is borderline Hall-worthy as is, but a few more productive seasons would seal his induction. If Santana’s early-2012 success is no aberration and he’s back to vintage-Johan, he shouldn’t have a problem approaching 200 wins, 2,500 strikeouts, and 60 WAR, totals respectable enough to garner Hall of Fame support when paired with multiple Cy Young awards during a fantastic peak.

More interesting, to me at least, is the question of whether Santana is already Cooperstown-qualified. To those who instinctively reject the idea that after less than a decade as a starting pitcher Johan is already a Hall of Famer, consider these blind résumés:

Pitcher A: 12 seasons, 371 G, 275 GS, 1,981.2 IP, 3.10 ERA, 141 ERA+, 1.118 WHIP, 3.55 SO/BB, 50.0 WAR, four all-star games, two Cy Young awards, three ERA titles (three ERA+ titles).

Pitcher B: 12 seasons, 397 G, 314 GS, 2,324.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 131 ERA+, 1.106 WHIP, 2.93 K/BB, 50.3 WAR, six all-star games, three Cy Young awards, one MVP, five ERA titles (two ERA+ titles).

Pretty close, right? Almost identical really. Comparing raw numbers, Pitcher B might get the edge, but there’s good reason his ERA+ (which adjusts ERA according to league average ERA as well as a pitcher’s home ballpark; 100 is average, higher is better) is 10 points worse than Pitcher A’s despite Pitcher B’s lower ERA. Pitcher B, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, pitched in an extreme pitcher-friendly era and in a cavernous home park. Pitcher B boasts a slightly larger body of work, but Baseball-reference.com’s WAR formula asserts that this only cancels out Pitcher A’s superior production relative to his contemporaries.

If you haven’t yet guessed, Pitcher A is Johan Santana, and Pitcher B is Sandy Koufax, and, disregarding preconceptions, the two are extremely comparable. Both left-handers enjoyed relatively brief careers as starting pitchers but also substantial stints as the consensus best pitcher in the world, during which they each won multiple Cy Young awards and finished among the top votegetters for the award in several other seasons. Koufax’s legend is inflated by his strikingly low ERA numbers, which, again, are a product of when he pitched, the offense-starved 1960s, and where he pitched, deep-fenced Dodger Stadium. Santana’s first 12 seasons have been just as productive as Koufax’s dozen-year career with just as strong of a peak.

Johan is still three no-hitters short of Sandy’s career total, but by almost all other measures the two are near-equals. Santana may or may not already be deserving of a Hall of Fame plaque, but if you argue he’s not, you’re arguing against Koufax as well.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsAndy PettitteBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly Martin, Billy PierceBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon MattinglyDon Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJeff KentJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJohnny MurphyJose Canseco, J.R. RichardJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouOmar VizquelPete BrowningPhil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSammy SosaSean FormanSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Billy Pierce

Claim to fame: About a month ago I visited Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field for a White Sox game and throughout the game studied their ten retired numbers and corresponding faces decorating the left-centerfield wall. Six of the players honored on that fence are in the Hall of Fame (including Jackie Robinson, whose number is retired throughout baseball), and a seventh, Frank Thomas, will join them shortly. Of the three non-Hall of Famers, Minnie Minoso has come closest to Cooperstown, receiving nine of a possible 16 Veterans Committee votes last year when 12 were required for induction. Then there’s Harold Baines, who hung on the BBWAA ballot for several years before garnering only 4.8% of votes in 2011 and falling off subsequent ballots.

The tenth retired White Sox number: Billy Pierce. I was not entirely unfamiliar with Pierce. In December, while preparing by ballot for BPP’s Top 50 Players Not in the Hall of Fame, I had considered him for the final spot on my list, even checking his name off on the ballot before changing my mind last minute and granting my final vote to Robin Ventura. Still, as I sat at U.S. Cellular Field and stared at those faces, I felt uneducated on the career of this apparently-heralded lefty, knowing significantly less about him than I did about his retired number peers.

So I did my research. Pierce pitched in the Majors in 18 seasons, throwing 89% of his career 3,306.2 innings for the South Siders. He retired with a 119 ERA+ and 1.260 WHIP, having made seven all-star games, led the American League in complete games three times, in WAR for pitchers twice, and, in 1955, in ERA, ERA+, and WHIP.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Pierce never received more than 2% of votes on the BBWAA ballot in his five appearances there. He was eligible to be selected to the 2011 Golden Era Veterans committee ballot but was not chosen and will not again be eligible until 2014.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Historically, those who’ve thrown 3,000 innings with an ERA+ above 120 have done very well in Hall of Fame voting. Among those who meet that threshold and have appeared on a Hall ballot, only Kevin Brown, Will White, and Silver King have failed to garner induction.

Alas, with that 119 ERA+, Pierce falls just short of that admittedly arbitrary mark. This of course doesn’t mean he isn’t Hall-worthy, but it is somewhat representative of how I view his career in regards to Cooperstown. The lefty was often an all-star and award vote-getter, but rarely the dominant pitcher in his league. He had one excellent season but was otherwise merely above average. No statistic of his stands out as spectacular; his ERA, ERA+, WHIP, strikeouts, and even WAR are nice but nothing shiny enough to anchor a Hall of Fame candidacy. By any measure he was a very good pitcher, and by no measure was he a Hall of Famer.

In the end, Billy Pierce just missed earning a spot on my ballot for the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, just missed earning a spot on the list of 3,000 IP/120 ERA+ hurlers, and falls just short of deserving a spot in the real-life Hall. He seemed just qualified enough to write about here but turned out not interesting enough to say much about; no one will comment here claiming Billy Pierce’s lack of induction a travesty, and no one will comment here claiming me crazy for considering his worthiness. Long-tenured guys who last with one team and post impressive but unspectacular numbers get their faces displayed on their team’s outfield wall, but they don’t always get (or deserve) their faces carved into a Hall of Fame plaque.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? J.R. Richard

Claim to fame: Richard may rank as another of baseball’s great What Ifs?, an ace pitcher for the Houston Astros whose career ended at 30 due to a stroke. He went 107-71 with a 3.15 ERA, winning at least 18 games four times, and it’s conceivable he might have gotten to 300 wins if not for his July 30, 1980 collapse during pre-game warm-ups. He’s set an admirable example, both as a player and as a survivor, someone who tried for years after his stroke without success to return to the majors, someone who wound up homeless and living under a highway overpass in 1994 and has since rebuilt his life.

The question for our purposes is if Richard did enough for a Hall of Fame plaque. Cooperstown has enshrined pitchers with truncated careers before, from Addie Joss to Dizzy Dean to Sandy Koufax, and Richard would have the fewest career wins of any of them. With a deeper look at his numbers, other factors come into play as well.

Current of Hall of Fame eligibility: Richard’s a candidate for the Veterans Committee, having made his sole appearance on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot in 1986. Pitchers glutted the voting that year, and to some extent, they may have cancelled one another out. Catfish Hunter, Jim Bunning, and Lew Burdette, among others, fared better than Richard though no pitchers were enshrined in 1986. Richard’s 1.6 percent showing was better only than Ken Holtzman, Andy Messersmith, Jim Lonborg, and Jack Billingham for former front-end hurlers.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? I like Richard, and I’ll celebrate Richard as the very good player he was, but the flaws of his Cooperstown candidacy aren’t difficult to expose. Even if we set aside his underwhelming lifetime numbers, such as his 22.4 WAR as the byproduct of a shortened career, his 108 ERA+ and 1.243 WHIP don’t place him among the upper echelon of Hall of Fame pitchers. Richard’s an example of something else, too: Pitchers whose stats were bolstered by pitching in the offensive void that was the Houston Astrodome.

I’ve written here before how the cavernous dimensions and low run environment hurt the likes of Cesar Cedeno, Bob Watson, and Jim Wynn. The inverse may have been true for pitchers (and on a side note, if there’s a ballpark that’s confused more Hall of Fame cases, I’d love to know of it.) Richard wasn’t the most egregiously different pitcher between the Astros’ landmark former home and elsewhere, though his difference in splits is noticeable. Consider the following:

Player W-L ERA IP H ER BB SO SO/9 WHIP
J.R. Richard at the Astrodome 56-36 2.58 831 582 238 370 754 8.2 1.146
J.R. Richard, elsewhere 51-35 3.76 774.2 645 324 400 739 8.6 1.349
Larry Dierker at the Astrodome 87-49 2.71 1272 1100 383 361 882 6.2 1.149
Larry Dierker, elsewhere 52-74 4.02 1061.1 1029 474 350 611 5.2 1.299
Mike Hampton at the Astrodome 38-16 2.91 531.2 489 172 170 407 6.9 1.239
Mike Hampton, elsewhere 110-99 4.42 1736.2 1881 852 731 980 5.1 1.504
Darryl Kile at the Astrodome 35-35 3.51 630.1 565 246 282 534 7.6 1.344
Darryl Kile, elsewhere 98-84 4.37 1535 1570 746 918 1134 6.6 1.621
Nolan Ryan at the Astrodome 59-44 2.77 989.2 714 305 413 1004 9.1 1.139
Nolan Ryan, elsewhere 265-248 3.29 4396.2 3209 1606 2382 4710 9.6 1.272
Mike Scott at the Astrodome 65-40 2.70 937.1 741 281 244 729 7.0 1.051
Mike Scott, elsewhere 59-68 4.23 1131.1 1117 532 383 740 5.9 1.326
Don Wilson at the Astrodome 57-45 3.00 951 807 317 320 671 6.4 1.185
Don Wilson, elsewhere 47-47 3.33 797 672 295 320 612 6.9 1.245

If anything, Richard and others here are a bit overrated. Playing in a pitcher’s park and having tragic career-ending circumstances will do that for a man.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsAndy PettitteBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon MattinglyDon Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJeff KentJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJohnny MurphyJose CansecoJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises Alou, Omar VizquelPete BrowningPhil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSammy SosaSean FormanSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Sean Forman

Claim to fame: I’ll preface this by saying I was planning to write a column on Sean Forman before he bailed me out of a jam this morning. I signed up about a month ago for a free 30-day trial of the Play Index, a nifty tool on Forman’s website Baseball-Reference.com that allows for the kind of searches that used to take me hours. Want to know how many players in baseball history have at least 500 home runs and an OPS+ of 140? A quick Play Index search shows there to be 19.

My free trial expired on Sunday, and I put up $36 that evening for a year-long subscription. By some glitch in the Baseball-Reference.com system, though, perhaps a quirk of PayPal, my order was delayed for a few days during which time I couldn’t see the results of my P-I searches. I already don’t want to fathom writing regularly about baseball history without the index, so I sent an email to Baseball-Reference.com this morning, and they fixed the glitch within an hour or so.

Such is the power of the most important baseball website ever. I’ll go a step further and say that I think Forman’s the most influential person in baseball research today. He’s a modern version of Henry Chadwick, a 19th century statistician who invented the box score, batting average, and earned run average among other things. If Chadwick can have a place in the Hall of Fame, I’d augur for an eventual spot for Forman as well.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Chadwick has had a plaque in the Executives & Pioneers section of Cooperstown since 1938. At quick glance, he might be the only statistician enshrined, even if modern godfather of statistics Bill James is sorely overdue. That’s a story for another time, though James’ case and Forman’s as well could reasonably come before the Veterans Committee in the next decade or so.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Some may sooner call James the most important baseball researcher today. But James has slowed in recent years, and while I respect his scholarship, he remains a highly polarizing figure. Some people zealously defend his work. Others have little use for it. Forman, meanwhile, continues to refine a website that appeals to analysts and traditionalists alike and draws several hundred thousand people a month. Just past his 40th birthday, Forman’s hopefully just getting started.

Consider how far baseball research online has come since Forman launched Baseball-Reference.com in 2000. A former college mathematics professor, he created his site after being unable to find stats for the likes of Ty Cobb on the Internet. By 2007, B-R was up to pages for all 17,000 players in MLB history, as well as 40,000 pages of Wikipedia-style content and 98,000 pages of box scores. Forman told SI.com that year:

I haven’t necessarily found all the data. The people at Retrosheet and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), they just do incredible work. I often say that I’m just putting a friendly face on the things that they’re doing. I certainly can’t take credit for getting the data in the raw format. But one of the things that I think the site does well is make this data easy to find. That’s always been a goal of mine, is to make things as quick and easy as possible.

I love that attitude, and at a time where people who’ve devised metrics like Wins Above Replacement are taking heat for a lack of transparency, I respect what Forman’s doing. More than that, I try to follow his example here.

End of day, I can only speak for myself, a blogger with no idea how much worse my work would be without Forman’s influence. Giving his organization $36 was the least I could do, and truth is, Forman’s done more for me than I’ve ever done for him. $36? Heck, I joke that I spend so much time on Baseball-Reference.com I may as well be paying the site rent.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie Reynolds, Andy PettitteBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon MattinglyDon Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff Bagwell, Jeff KentJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJohnny MurphyJose CansecoJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete BrowningPhil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSammy SosaSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Jeff Kent

Claim to Fame: Kent played for six teams over 17 seasons in the Major Leagues, bringing a big bat and a bad attitude with him on every stop. With the Mets, Kent was criticized for his refusal of hazing rituals and short-temper. In San Francisco he repeatedly butted heads with Barry Bonds (although Barry would almost certainly win any head-butting competition), famously exchanging shoves with the leftfielder in 2002. This after Kent had broken his wrist popping wheelies on a motorcycle and lied about it, much to the displeasure of the Giants organization. Years later, with the Dodgers, Kent’s criticisms of LA’s young players caused James Loney to announce that “Jeff Kent is not our leader,” before, in a separate incident, the second baseman opined that legendary Dodgers play-by-play man Vin Scully “talks too much.” Milton Bradley would accuse Kent of not knowing “how to deal with African-American people,” and a $15,000 donation to backers of California’s ban on gay marriage suggests that in addition to being an alleged racist, Kent wasn’t too fond of gay people.

But, as Yahoo! Sports’s David Brown wrote upon Kent’s retirement in January 2009, “The consensus on Jeff Kent seems to be, ‘That jerk sure could hit!’ ” Arguably the best offensive second baseman since Rogers Hornsby, Kent hit more career home runs than anyone ever at that position. And among second basemen with at least 9,000 plate appearances there, he’s second all-time in slugging percentage, third in OPS, eighth in wOBA, and sixth in wRC+ (frustratingly, I can’t find a way on baseball-reference.com to organize by position, so these are fangraphs.com stats; wRC+ is essentially equivalent to OPS+).

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Kent last played in 2008, meaning he will be eligible for BBWAA Hall of Fame voting in 2013.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Kent’s career WAR of 59.4 puts him right along the Hall of Fame fault line. Many players below that figure have been inducted, but a handful above it still wait for a call. Lou Whitaker, Willie Randolph, and Bobby Grich are the only non-Hall of Fame second basemen to have contributed more WAR than Kent, while Bobby Doerr, Johnny Evers, Nellie Fox, Billy Herman, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Mazeroski, Bid McPhee, Joe Gordon, and Red Schoendienst are all in Cooperstown with fewer WAR.

Yet Kent’s body of work might be better than all 12 of those fellow-second basemen. His 2000 National League MVP award is one of only nine BBWAA MVPs ever awarded to a second basemen, and of those listed above, either in the Hall or out of it, only Fox owns one (although Evers won the Chalmers Award in 1914, the equivalent of an MVP). Offensively, Kent has few peers among the borderline HOF group; of the aforemention dozen, only Grich tops Kent in OPS+, and only Grich and Lazzeri lead Kent in wRC+. And for those who look to peak performance to gauge Hall of Fame-worthiness, behold Kent’s five-year stretch between 1998 and 2002, when he averaged 29 home runs and 5.7 WAR while posting a .307/.378/.548 slash line and a 142 OPS+.

Because voters too often cast their votes based on counting stats, expect many to note Kent’s 377 home runs from a second baseman and induct him on the second or third ballot. Just know that when they do, he’ll deserve it, curmudgeon or not.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Andy Pettitte

Claim to Fame: Andy Pettitte was an anchor of the Yankees 1990s dynasty, rarely their best pitcher but always a reliable arm. He pitched much of the next decade with the Bombers, a three-year stint with his hometown Houston breaking up 13 seasons in New York. Pettitte has won 240 regular season games, made three all-star teams, and finished in the top six in Cy Young voting five times, but his legacy has been forged in October, where has won an MLB record 19 postseason games and more World Series games (five) than anyone who’s pitched in the last 30 years. Now, he’s emerging from retirement after a one-year hiatus, returning to the Bronx to add to those totals and help the Yankees back to the Fall Classic.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: If Pettitte plays for the Yankees this year he will have to wait five years before becoming eligible on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot. But if this un-retirement experiment crashes before it gets off the ground and Pettitte fails to appear in a Major League game, he’ll appear on the ballot in 2015.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Pettitte supporters like to point out that every pitcher who’s more than 100 games above .500 for his career is enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Guys like Pettitte, however, are exactly the reason wins and winning percentage are becoming less and less valued in player evaluation. That Pettitte won a higher percentage of his decisions than Greg Maddux doesn’t make the longtime Yankee a better pitcher than Maddux; it just means he played for more great teams. In fact, Pettitte has never pitched for a sub-.500 club in his 16-year career, while Maddux made over 200 starts for teams that ended up losing more often than they won.

More telling than Pettitte’s impressive winning percentage is his only-respectable 117 career ERA+ over 16 seasons of relative durability. That ERA+ is better than those of four of the past five Major League pitchers inducted into the Hall of Fame, although each in that quartet threw drastically more career innings than did Pettitte. Of the eight Hall of Famers within 150 innings of Pettitte’s total, only the undeniably under-qualified Chief Bender owns a worse ERA+. The other seven are all at least ten points higher in the category.

With Cooperstown seemingly getting more selective with their admission of pitchers, Pettitte’s fate might be similar to that of Orel Hershiser, whose career numbers were similar to Pettitte’s but not good enough to preserve his spot on the Hall of Fame ballot for more than two years. After a long drought of Hall of Fame pitchers (no current HOFer pitched after 1993), a wave of worthy hurlers confronts the BBWAA next year. Roger Clemens may not make it to Cooperstown any time soon due to alleged steroid use, but Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez are locks, and Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz all have strong cases as well. Pettitte’s candidacy looks less convincing than all of the above, and voters may be hesitant to vote for a marginally-qualified starter immediately after supporting a mass induction of well-qualified starters.

Pettitte could potentially be helped by two of the same effects that are enabling Jack Morris’s absurd Hall of Fame candidacy. Like Morris, Pettitte won more games than any other pitcher in a given decade (148 from 2000-2009), and like Morris, Pettitte made a name for himself in the playoffs. Pettitte’s stats are more impressive than Morris’s, and I would support Pettitte’s Hall of Fame bid long before I would consider supporting Morris’s, but I’m not sold on the arguments on which their candidacies hinge. As discussed earlier, wins are a product of the team as much as the pitcher, and a decade is nothing but a random period of time and shouldn’t be used to judge a career any more than a random 13-year stretch should. Postseason stats are even more dependent of team success, as in order to compile such numbers a player’s teammates need to be good enough to take him to the playoffs. No one should make the Hall of Fame because he got to the postseason more than his peers and pitched adequately once there.

So, with stats that seem short of the Cooperstown threshold and a case based on arguments I don’t buy, Andy Pettitte doesn’t get my hypothetical Hall of Fame vote, although I wouldn’t be too upset were he to be elected. The BBWAA’s treatment of starting pitchers is difficult to predict (as I’ve covered before, Jack Morris’s near induction contrasted with Kevin Brown’s immediate dismissal from the ballot is some sort of travesty), but I imagine the above “qualifications” will garner Pettitte some degree of support. Then again, irrationally vindictive writers might withhold their votes due to Pettitte’s admission of HGH use. Assuming the Yankees deem him a capable Major League starter, however, the lefty’s career appears not to be over. A successful comeback and a good season in 2012 and beyond could alter the Hall of Fame discussion. For now, Pettitte’s worthiness and likelihood of induction remain unclear.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn Smoltz, Johnny MurphyJose CansecoJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSammy SosaSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Johnny Murphy

Claim to fame: I’ll start by thanking broadcaster Len Berman for including a link to the BPP All-Time Dream Project in a recent mass email. The link led to votes from about 50 people, including the son of former New York Yankees pitcher Johnny Murphy who emailed and suggested I add a relief pitcher category. I’ve chosen not to do this for the same reason I don’t have a designated hitter or bench players in the project– I don’t want a way for people to jam extra players into their lineups, like sticking Willie Mays in center field and Mickey Mantle at DH. I want people having to make tough decisions. It’s a nine-player dream team for a reason.

That being said, I’m glad the email alerted me to Murphy, who pitched 13 years in the majors between 1932 and 1946, might have been baseball’s first great relief pitcher, and later was general manager of the New York Mets from 1964 until his death in 1970. I sent an email to Frank Graham Jr., whose father covered Murphy as a player. Graham has stories about being around those Bronx Bombers as a kid, and I asked if he’d crossed paths with Murphy. Graham replied:

No, I had no interaction with Fordham Johnny Murphy, though I do remember some of my dad’s ‘dugout’ columns where Lefty Gomez would make some wisecrack about how Murphy pulled him out of a jam so often that their names were being coupled like ham and eggs. That kind of connection was rare in those days, when relievers were often characterized as second-rate pitchers not good enough to make the starting rotation. Branch Rickey was one who thought the value of relief pitchers was overrated– in other words, good pitchers started a game and saved it as well.

Murphy tallied 107 saves in his playing career, similar to an early stolen base champ or Deadball Era home run leader in that he played in a time before his marquee stat was favored, and the more that saves aggregators like Lee Smith, Mariano Rivera, and Trevor Hoffman come to glut the Hall of Fame ballot, the more pioneering relievers like Murphy may be forgotten. That’s a shame, and there ought to be a way for Cooperstown to remedy this.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Under new voting rules that took effect prior to the 2011 election, Murphy can be considered for Cooperstown by the Pre-Integration Era section of the Veterans Committee. It meets once every three years and will convene at the Winter Meetings in December.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Lest there be any confusion, let me be clear: The point of this column isn’t too mount a case that Murphy needs to be enshrined. I’m a big Hall person, though to me, there are simply too many other players to be honored first, and that includes a couple early relievers. In general, I think Cooperstown has made incomplete note of pioneer closers, relying too much on career saves totals. It gives short shrift to greats like Sparky Lyle and Dan Quisenberry, both men who dominated in their day and would get my vote sooner than Smith.

I don’t feel as strongly about Murphy. Maybe it’s that he played in pinstripes, and plenty of very good Yankees are already enshrined from Waite Hoyt to Joe Gordon to Phil Rizzuto and others. Murphy’s stats also simply don’t beg a plaque, from a 3.50 lifetime ERA and 118 ERA+ to 14.7 career WAR and 1.367 WHIP. Lyle, Quisenberry, and a number of other closers trump those numbers. And I don’t know if Murphy was an executive long enough for it to matter for the Veterans Committee, which considers a man’s total contribution to baseball. I could be wrong here, and if there’s something I’m missing, I encourage comments from anyone reading, including anyone from Murphy’s family.

Do I mean to knock Murphy? Certainly not. Just getting to play an important role on the Yankees of the ’30s and ’40s is awesome. And while I wouldn’t necessarily enshrine pioneer relievers like Murphy, they belong somewhere in the museum, just as I’d highlight early stolen base kings like Maury Wills or Deadball home run hitters like Gavvy Cravath. They all figure notably in baseball’s history. Maybe there’s a relief pitchers exhibit that can include Murphy, if one doesn’t exist already.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn Smoltz, Jose CansecoJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSammy SosaSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Jose Canseco

Claim to Fame: Not long ago, Jose Canseco, a Major League outfielder for 17 seasons, was suspended from the independent AAA Mexican League for refusing a drug test, the latest in a sequence of wacky exploits of a controversial ex-superstar whom no one respects but by whom everyone is intrigued.

Since his last at-bat in Major League Baseball in 2001, Canseco has written two tell-all books, one a New York Times best-seller and the other barely successful enough for a Wikipedia page. He has appeared in reality television next to everyone from Donald Trump to Jenna Jameson. He has fought several E-list celebrities and sent his brother to fight another for him. And he has toiled in baseball’s independent leagues, hitting, pitching and even managing for teams like the San Diego Surf Dawgs, Long Beach Armada, Laredo Broncos, and Yuma Scorpions.

But before all that Canseco was a pretty good major leaguer, a six-time all-star and American League MVP in 1988, when he became the first player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases. His posted a career OPS+ of 132 and belted 462 career long balls, twice leading the league in dingers. That his totals were admittedly chemically-enhanced diminishes their luster, but Canseco’s accomplishments on the diamond should not be overlooked.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Canseco received six votes on the 2006 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, good for 1.1 percent and below the 5 percent threshold necessary to remain on the ballot. With superior players like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro punished by voters for steroid use, it was no surprise that the already marginally-qualified Canseco, who has pronounced himself “godfather of steroids,” fell off the ballot immediately. He will one day be eligible on the Veterans Committee ballot, but given his lack of popularity in all baseball circles, shouldn’t be holding his breath for induction.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Well, no he doesn’t, but statistically it’s closer than you might think.

In fact, Bill James’s Hall of Fame Monitor has him slightly above the level of a likely Hall of Famer, and his career WAR of 41.7 is better than a cast of Cooperstown inductees, two tenths of a win ahead of Jim Rice. Canseco also leads Rice in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS+, which accounts for the offensive climate in which Canseco played. Considering Canseco’s base-stealing ability and the fact that neither he nor Rice was known for defense, a statistical argument can easily be made that the Bash Brother was a better player than the Red Sox outfielder.

This example does more to reinforce the absurdity of Jim Rice’s Hall of Fame candidacy than to add credence to Canseco’s, but the fact that Canseco has better career numbers across the board than someone inducted only a few years ago at a similar position at least demonstrates that, if not for the steroid baggage, Canseco’s resume is not too far from Cooperstown-worthy. Canseco may be amusing off the field, but between the white lines he was nothing to laugh at.

Well, except for when that ball hit off his head and bounced over the fence for a home run. That was worth laughing at.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon Santo, Sammy SosaSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Sammy Sosa

Claim to fame: I seem to be repeating variations of the following phrase ad nauseam, but here goes again. In about nine months, the Baseball Writers Association of America will begin voting on the most controversial Hall of Fame ballot in recent memory. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will inspire volumes of copy as writers publicly rationalize why they are or are not voting for them or anyone else thought to have used steroids. Holdovers like Jack Morris and Tim Raines will have impassioned cases made on their behalves by supporters, and Craig Biggio might be the only player enshrined by acclimation thanks to his 3,000 hits. It’s a bad year to be anyone besides Biggio on the upcoming ballot, something of a dog pile. It’s a bad year to be Sammy Sosa.

With all the noise surrounding Bonds, Clemens, and everyone else who will appear on this ballot, I suspect Sosa may get the quietest consideration from the writers a 600-home-run hitter has ever received. Revelations in 2009 by the New York Times that Sosa flunked a steroid test in 2003 wouldn’t help him even with a weaker ballot. On this one, though, I’m guessing he’ll get 10 or 20 percent of the vote his first time out. It wouldn’t stun me if Sosa fails to receive 5 percent of the vote and falls off the ballot. While I’m guessing the same 20 percent of the electorate that’s steadfastly voted for Mark McGwire his six years on the ballot might also be willing to support his partner in the 1998 chase for the home run record, all bets could be off with the upcoming vote.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Reports out of Oakland say soon-to-be-40-year-old Manny Ramirez has inked a minor league deal, and I’ll admit I wonder what the effect would have been for Sosa if he’d done likewise in 2008 or ’09. Certainly, he didn’t look terrible at the plate his last year in the show, 2007, hitting 21 home runs and driving in 92 runs with an OPS+ of 101 (though his WAR was admittedly lousy, 0.4.) If Sosa had found work thereafter, it’d be another year at least until he was eligible for the writers ballot, and he might debut to more favorable circumstances; I suspect the landscape will change drastically the longer worthy candidates get the shaft from the BBWAA over steroids. As it stands, Sosa has a maximum of 15 years on the ballot and needs 75 percent of the vote for a plaque.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? I’ve undergone a huge shift in my thinking. Maybe even a year ago, I was staunchly against the Hall of Fame honoring anyone connected to steroids. In general, I used to be more of a small Hall person, wanting the museum to be reserved for only the most stellar of candidates. But the more I’ve written about Cooperstown, the more inclusive I’ve become about the place, the more I’ve wanted it to be something that captures all of baseball’s history. And the more I’ve thought and talked with others about steroids, the more I’ve come to think they were simply a part of baseball, no different than all-white play in the 1940s and before, amphetamines in the 1960s, cocaine in the 1980s. Every generation of baseball has its sordid details, and to deny them is to deny a part of the game.

Let me be clear: I don’t like steroids, and I hope they never return to the game. I don’t like that a generation of players was faced with the decision of using to keep up. I think it’s reprehensible Major League Baseball allowed this to happen, and it will be tragic the first time an ex-big leaguer dies before his time because he used. Still, though, for 10, maybe 15 years, steroids and gargantuan power numbers were a fundamental part of the game. And for better or worse, Sosa was at the core of this. He slugged as well as very few other members of his generation did, averaging better than 60 home runs a season from 1998 through 2001, and for better or worse, he highlighted his era. I’m guessing Sosa will be a largely forgotten man on the Hall of Fame ballot this year. It will be a pity the longer this remains.

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 JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don Newcombe, Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Craig Biggio

Claim to fame: This fall, the Hall of Fame will get its deepest and most troubled class of eligible players in recent memory, with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa among others new to the writers ballot. With the Baseball Writers Association of America continuing to argue amongst itself over enshrining players who were connected to steroids, perhaps the only honoree next year will be former Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio. With 3,060 hits and no taint of performance enhancing drugs for his candidacy, Biggio’s induction looks like a safe bet for the first ballot, a slam dunk. Should it be?

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Having played his last game in 2007, Biggio will appear for the first time on the BBWAA ballot this fall and needs 75 percent of the vote for a plaque. He has a maximum of 15 tries with the writers.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? It used to be that 3,000 hits meant Cooperstown. Even now, 24 of 28 players who’ve reached the milestone are enshrined, with Biggio, Derek Jeter, Rafael Palmeiro, and Pete Rose the only ones left out. But something may have changed with Palmeiro, the first eligible player with north of 3,000 hits who’s fallen short with the writers, well short in fact. Just 12.6 percent of the BBWAA voted for Palmeiro this year, courtesy of his 2005 positive steroid test I’m guessing, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Biggio. If he comes up short in votes, it’ll be a sign 3,000 hits is no longer sacred.

Granted, even without 3,000 hits, Biggio would probably still be worthy. A lifetime .281 hitter with 291 home runs, he ranks as one of the best-slugging second basemen of all-time. His 66.2 WAR is about the baseline for enshrined players (though many have less), he ranks near or above for the Hall monitors on Baseball-Reference.com, and he compares favorably with other enshrined infielders. Biggio also had his best years in the pitcher-friendly Astrodome which makes him a little underrated to me, same as I’d say with Jeff Bagwell, Cesar Cedeno, or Jim Wynn. I even like the small things with Biggio, like the fact he started his career as a catcher and transitioned to other positions or that he once co-owned a ranch with Ken Caminiti, being a supportive teammate to a troubled man. Biggio sounds like a Hall of Famer in every sense.

That being said, it’ll be a shame if 3,000 hits is the main thing that gets Biggio in ultimately and is most remembered. I don’t think it’s the best thing about him, and he staggered his way to the achievement. His 20th and final season in 2007 where he attained the mark hitting .251 with an OPS+ of 71 and -1.5 WAR may be the worst work any everyday player has done in reaching an offensive milestone. Certainly, Biggio ranked among the most anemic hitters in the National League his last year, seeing as OPS+ is a measure of how a player’s offensive production compares to the rest of baseball and 100 a roughly average score. It’s also a hat tip to the other members of 3,000 Hit Club, 20 of 28 of whom had OPS+ of at least 100 the year they cleared the mark.

Considering the following list, which Biggio ranks dead last on:

Player OPS+ year they reached 3,000 hits Year
Ty Cobb 166  1921
Tris Speaker 166  1925
Hank Aaron 148  1970
Stan Musial 146  1958
Willie Mays 139  1970
Roberto Clemente 137  1972
Eddie Collins 135  1925
Cap Anson 134  1894
Eddie Murray 129  1995
Tony Gwynn 124  1999
Pete Rose 119  1978
Paul Molitor 116  1996
Paul Waner 109  1942
Rafael Palmeiro 108  2005
Carl Yastrzemski 108  1979
Al Kaline 107  1974
Dave Winfield 105  1993
George Brett 102  1992
Robin Yount 101  1992
Lou Brock 100  1979
Rod Carew 99  1985
Derek Jeter 97  2011
Rickey Henderson 95  2001
Cal Ripken 95  2000
Wade Boggs 94  1999
Honus Wagner 92  1914
Nap Lajoie 83  1914
Craig Biggio 71  2007


It’s not to take anything away from Biggio, who at the very least was well-thought of enough to keep getting trotted out in 2007 on his quest for 3,000. Whether it was intentional or not, the Astros did Biggio and his Hall of Fame candidacy a favor.

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 MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen Caminiti, Kevin BrownLarry Walker,Manny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Kevin Brown

Editor’s note: Please welcome the latest from Alex Putterman.
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Claim to Fame: Brown pitched for six Major League teams in his 19-year career, and while our lasting memory of the righty might be of him floundering in the Bronx, his pre-Yankee days were filled with high innings counts and low ERAs. By the time Brown retired in 2005, he was 53rd all-time with a 127 ERA+ and 34th all-time in pitching WAR with 64.8 wins above replacement on the mound. He was also a six-time all-star and five times finished among the league’s top six in Cy Young voting.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Despite qualifications that should render him at least a borderline Hall candidate, Brown received only 2.1% of votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America in 2011 and, having fallen below the 5% threshold necessary to remain in consideration, is no longer on the ballot. He cannot be considered by the Veterans Committee until he has been retired for 20 years, and if the voting procedure does not change between now and then, Brown will next be eligible for the 2026 Expansion Era ballot.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Brown finished 35th on BPP’s December list of the 50 best players not in the Hall, with 18 of the 83 voters considering him Cooperstown-worthy. I personally voted him deserving of induction and would happily do it again.

Among non-HOF pitchers, only Tony Mullane and Rick Reuschel were worth more WAR in their careers than Brown was in his, and Brown was much more effective in run prevention than many Hall of Famers, with an impressive ERA+ in a fairly lengthy career. Brown does not deserve mention alongside Martinez, Clemens, Maddux and Johnson on the list of elite pitchers of the ’90s and 2000s, but his numbers match up well with those in the next tier: Glavine, Smoltz, Mussina, and Schilling, none of whom are yet eligible for the Hall but all of whom are expected to garner significantly more support than Brown did.

So why didn’t Brown receive backing from the BBWAA? His aforementioned end-of-career struggles perhaps left a negative taste in voters’ mouths, with many remembering his 6.50 ERA in 2005 more than his 1.89 ERA in 1996.

Brown also lacks the round career totals that have gotten many inferior players into the Hall. He retired well short of the 300 win and 3,000 strikeout milestones, which would have likely assured his place in Cooperstown. His candidacy could also have benefited from a Cy Young award or two (for the record, I think he was robbed in ’96 and ’98) or a defining postseason performance. Without any transcendent achievements on his resume, Kevin Brown was largely forgettable.

Joe Posnanski posed another interesting theory about Brown’s poor showing in Hall of Fame voting in a blog post about his “Hall of Not Famous Enough. Joe wrote:

There was a little bit of outrage in select circles about Brown getting knocked off the ballot after one year. Mostly, though, people didn’t care because nobody really liked Kevin Brown. He actually might be in the Hall of Not Likable Enough.

Well Joe, I’m among those “select circles,” because, as Ty Cobb learned, being likeable is no prerequisite for Hall entry.

So, because of some combination of a poor finish, a lack of memorable moments and accomplishments, and an attitude that endeared him to nobody, Kevin Brown is no longer on the Hall of Fame ballot, while Jack Morris– whom Brown leads substantially in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, SO/BB, HR/9, winning percentage, and WAR– continues to receive moderate support. This is immensely frustrating to me, but there’s nothing to do. Life’s not fair; I’ll have to get used to it.

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 Morris, Jeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiLarry Walker,Manny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Jeff Bagwell

Claim to fame: This isn’t the first Hall of Fame column about Bagwell, far from it, though I’ve noticed something in reading the other pieces. They generally fall into two camps. The first dismiss Bagwell as a possible steroid user. There is no evidence for this. Bagwell never failed a PED test, never showed up in a government report or steroid dealer’s deposition, never got mentioned in a book by Jose Canseco. Still, there are some who say the hulking frame of the Houston Astros first baseman and the fact he starred during the Steroid Era are enough to merit suspicion and keep him out of the Hall of Fame. I loathe these articles, but I’m not big on their counterparts, pieces by fellow baseball bloggers and others that essentially augur for automatic enshrinement. Today’s column is about taking a different tact.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Bagwell received 56 percent of the vote this year in his second try with the Baseball Writers Association of America. It’s a promising showing. Bagwell has 13 more years of eligibility with the writers, and aside from Gil Hodges, Jack Morris, and Lee Smith, no player who’s ever received more than 50 percent of the vote isn’t in Cooperstown now. But the glut of steroid-connected players who will arrive on the ballot over the next several years could be a game changer for Bagwell and others. And at this point, the potential for voting-related chaos looks great.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? I have a confession, a reason for why I’m writing this column late. I haven’t wanted to write it. Don’t get me wrong, on numbers alone, Bagwell is a Hall of Famer, easily. Besides hitting 449 home runs, Bagwell very nearly pulled off a .300/.400/.500 lifetime split for batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, a rare feat. His lifetime Wins Above Replacement of 79.9 is among the best for non-enshrined, eligible players, and it was better than any player on the writers ballot this year. He was even a fairly likable guy and thrived in the Astrodome, which helped sabotage the Hall of Fame bids of Jim Wynn, Cesar Cedeno, and most every other position player who spent a good chunk of his career there.

My problem is I have this gnawing feeling Bagwell might have used. Do I have any evidence whatsoever? Of course not, and I admit I have this suspicion about most players from the past 20 years. Should steroids keep Bagwell or any other man out of the Hall of Fame? Probably not. Perhaps the majority of the players in Bagwell’s era were on some kind of performance enhancer, and there was nothing in the rules for the majority of Bagwell’s career saying he couldn’t. But I wish both sides in the Bagwell debate could work more constructively besides firing off slam dunk yes or no columns. Stuff’s about to get crazy with voting in the next year, as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and others become eligible, and we can’t seem to do much besides stick on our respective moral high horses. This needs to change.

I’d like to see some kind of consensus reached about what to do with the glut of steroid users (both confirmed and rumored) who will become eligible for Cooperstown. It isn’t fair to judge players on differing standards. It also isn’t fair to simply leave the decision to the writers to fumble for individually or pass off to the Veterans Committee. The task facing voters isn’t an easy one, and what transpires over the next few years could shape Cooperstown for decades to come. It’d be a shame if this decision is made flippantly or not at all. Bagwell’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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 MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony Oliva, Vince ColemanWill Clark

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

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

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Bill King

Claim to fame: King was a fixture on sports broadcasts in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond for four decades. The voice of the Oakland A’s from 1981 until his death in 2005, King did a bit of everything well, also calling Warriors games from 1962 until 1983 and Raider games from 1966 until 1992. Former San Francisco Giants announcer Hank Greenwald worked Warriors games with King in the ’60s and ’70s and praised his former partner and closest friend in broadcasting. In a phone interview with this Website on Tuesday evening, Greenwald said of King, “He always had excitement in his voice. He always had that ability to create that word picture that’s vital to radio listeners.”

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Since he was a broadcaster, King can not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. There is no writers or broadcasters wing of the museum, so to speak. What there is at Cooperstown is a permanent exhibit that honors the best media to cover the game, commemorating writers who win the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and broadcasters who receive the Ford Frick Award. Along with nine other broadcasters including Tim McCarver, King is a finalist for this year’s Frick award.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Disclaimer aside that King wouldn’t be enshrined in Cooperstown, he’d make an interesting addition to the media exhibit. His catchphrase “Holy Toledo” seems worthy of inclusion regardless. King will face tough competition from McCarver who looks like the favorite and perhaps Graham McNamee who’d make an interesting historical choice seeing as he was the first person to broadcast a baseball game back in 1922. But even if King doesn’t get into Cooperstown this year or ever, he may belong in a Hall of Fame somewhere.

Greenwald’s son Doug, the announcer for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies said King was like an uncle to him, “my American League dad” and that if there simply were a general sports broadcasting Hall of Fame, King would deserve to be in. Greenwald echoed his son’s sentiments and didn’t hesitate when asked if King had been honored by the NBA Hall of Fame. “I know for a fact that he has not,” Greenwald said. “That’s something that has bothered many of us.”

Greenwald said that perhaps the issue for King was that he did well in a number of sports but didn’t stick out in any of them. It’s the same sort of problem that keeps certain directors from winning Oscars, certain writers relegated to Pulitzer Prizes for something called General Excellence. Life isn’t always good about rewarding steady consistency rather than ephemeral brilliance, though the Hall of Fame makes a fairly decent point of honoring that. The question, I suppose, is if King did enough in his baseball broadcasting career to merit its equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. We’ll find out on December 7 when the voting results are announced.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert Belle, Albert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBilly 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

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Albert Pujols

Claim to fame: Let’s be clear. This isn’t a column about whether Albert Pujols will eventually have a plaque in Cooperstown. This much is almost certain already. At 31, 11 seasons into a storied career, and currently the hottest thing on the free agent market, Pujols looks on track to one day rank as a legend. Heck, even today, he wouldn’t look too out of place at first base in an all-time dream lineup. I might take him over Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, or Hank Greenberg, and Foxx and Rogers Hornsby look like Pujols’ main competition for the title of best right handed hitter in baseball history.

If he stays healthy and plays until he’s 40, Pujols has a chance at some ridiculous numbers: 800 home runs, 4,000 hits, and Babe Ruth’s lifetime WAR record of 190. This week’s post, however, is about if Pujols doesn’t play until that point. Unlikely as the following scenario is, I’ll ask: What if Pujols were to retire today? Would his accomplishments thus far be enough for Cooperstown?

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Pujols is an active player and won’t be eligible for consideration for Cooperstown from the Baseball Writers Association of America until five years after his retirement. Thus, the soonest he could be voted on as a Hall of Fame candidate is the fall of 2016. More likely if Pujols plays a full career, he’ll appear on his first and probably only Cooperstown ballot sometime around 2025.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Yes, Pujols belongs if he plays a full career. And yes, even at this point, he’s probably done more than enough to merit a plaque. He could pull a Sandy Koufax and retire tomorrow, and as it was with the Dodger legend in 1972, Pujols would probably still be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Whether it’s his three National League Most Valuable Player awards, his 88.7 lifetime WAR that ranks second-best among active players, or the fact that he shatters every Hall of Fame metric listed on Baseball-Reference.com, Pujols boasts an impressive resume for Cooperstown. He’s precocious as the 14-year-old who finds their way into attending Harvard.

As I noted when I did one of these columns on Smoky Joe Wood awhile back, players have definitely been enshrined before with truncated careers. Ross Youngs and Addie Joss each earned plaques decades after dying not long past their 30th birthdays. Kirby Puckett retired at 35 in 1995 due to glaucoma but easily made Cooperstown as a first ballot selection with the writers in 2001. And besides Koufax, fellow virtuoso hurlers Dizzy Dean, Rube Waddell, and Don Drysdale, among others, were all done early and got their plaques. Pujols ranks as at least a peer with everyone of the men listed above. Really, he probably ranks as the best of that bunch.

Have their been exceptions? Certainly. Besides Wood, Denny McLain, and Roger Maris, there’s hard-drinking Deadball Era great Mike Donlin who hit .333 lifetime with a 144 OPS+ but walked away from baseball in 1907 at 28 to perform vaudeville with his new wife. He returned after a season, but was never the same player and later peaked at about three percent of the writers vote for Cooperstown. Statistically, though, Pujols ranks far beyond Donlin already, and even if he spurns the St. Louis Cardinals next year in favor of vaudeville or whatever its modern equivalent is, a Hall of Fame plaque is Pujols’ to lose.

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

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van Haltren, Gus 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

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Harry Dalton

Editor’s Note: Please welcome Jon Daly to the site. Jon puts in long hours down at BaseballThinkFactory.org and is no relation to anyone who has golfed professionally.

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Claim to fame: After graduating from Amherst College and spending a stint in the Air Force, Dalton took a front-office job with the Baltimore Orioles. Jim McLaughlin, the iconoclastic scouting director, hired him. Eventually, McLaughlin left after a power struggle with Paul Richards over the signing of pitcher Dave McNally, and Dalton took over for him. Lee
MacPhail was the Baltimore general manager in the early Sixties. When Spike Eckert was elected Commissioner, he needed someone who actually knew about baseball in his office and he tabbed MacPhail. Thus was while Baltimore was trading Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson. Dalton’s first task as GM was to finish up the deal and he tried to get another player for the Orioles.

Dalton became the auteur for three teams; Baltimore (‘66-‘71), California (‘72-‘77, and Milwaukee (’78-’91.) His teams won five American League titles and two World Series, and Milwaukee had the best record in the AL East during the shortened 1981 season. All told his teams had a W-L record of 2175-1965, good for a .519 winning percentage. Dalton was the Sporting New Executive of the Year twice. Only George Weiss and Walt Jocketty have won the award more often. More information about Dalton can be found in Daniel Okrent’s excellent Nine Innings, which I bought as a high schooler with money from my job at Roy Rogers’ and still own and will occasionally flip through to this day. It looks at baseball through the prism of a getaway day game at County Stadium between Baltimore and Milwaukee in 1982.

Eligibility: Veterans Committee or Golden Era Committee. Dalton last appeared on the VC ballot in 2007 and received eight votes. It is hard to keep track of eligibility rules of the VC, but Dalton may be eligible this year by the Golden Era Committee. I had not heard of this latter committee before researching this. According to the Hall’s website: “The Golden Era Committee (“The Committee”) shall refer to the electorate that considers retired Major League Baseball players no longer eligible for election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), along with managers, umpires and executives, whose greatest contributions to the game were realized from the 1947-1972 era.” I would consider Dalton’s best years to be those he spent with Baltimore.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Baseball is a general manager’s game and has been for some time. Right now, Moneyball is in the theaters. Yet, there are only a handful of general managers enshrined in Cooperstown; Branch Rickey, Ed Barrow, George Weiss, and this year’s inductee Pat Gillick.

A lot of credit for the Nixon-era success of the Orioles goes to Earl Weaver, and rightly so. When Weaver and Dalton worked in the Oriole farm system, they collaborated on what was to become the Oriole Way; playing baseball the right way, and not in some clichéd sense. If you go strictly by who coached for him, Earl Weaver is the only prominent guy from those days who leaves much of a legacy of future managers. George Bamberger, Frank Robinson, Ray Miller, and Billy Hunter all coached under him. Davey Johnson played for him. Tommy Lasorda’s managerial tree has Mike Scioscia and Joe Maddon. But Lasorda and Anderson seemed to staff their coaching ranks with loyal lifers.

But it wasn’t just Weaver and his coaches. The front office had some long-lasting influence. Dalton had John Schuerholz and Lou Gorman work under him in Baltimore. He worked under Frank Cashen who was the president of the club. A baseball outsider, he was Jerry Hoffberger’s right hand man in his other ventures then Hoffberger bought the team. When Dalton left for California to pursue Gene Autry’s dollars, Cashen assumed the GM role. I’m guessing he learned a lot from Dalton. He eventually went to New York and turned the Mets around.

I couldn’t find anyone who worked for the Angels that later became a GM, but his Brewer employees included two future GMs in Sal Bando and Dan Duquette. Some of Schuerholz’s underlings in KC and Atlanta (like Drayton Moore) have become GMs, but it looks like Cashen’s branch has been fruitful. Billy Beane admired Dalton’s work and Beane spawned Ed Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta. Cashen’s successor GM’s in Queens worked under him: McIlvaine, Harazin, and Hunsicker. Theo Epstein, Omar Minaya, Jim Hendry, and Tim Purpura can trace their lineage to these Mets execs.

With men like McLaughlin (who tried to systematize scouting), Weaver, Paul Richards, and Dalton, it was like a regular Manhattan Project or Algonquin Roundtable of baseball whose effects reverberated well beyond the Charm City. Dalton had a great track record, but I think what makes him historically great is the widespread influence that he and his acolytes
have had on baseball.

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Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? will relaunch on a weekly basis the first Tuesday after the postseason ends.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosers, Curt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenHarold BainesJack 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

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Curt Flood

Editor’s note: Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? was a past regular feature here. It will resume on a weekly basis the first Tuesday after the postseason ends.

Claim to fame: Flood hit .293 over 15 seasons and was one of the best outfielders of his generation, winning seven straight Gold Gloves from 1963 to 1969. But he’s known more for what he did after all this when he protested a December 1969 trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies, informing the commissioner at the time, Bowie Kuhn that he wanted to consider other offers before signing a contract. Kuhn feigned ignorance, hiding behind baseball’s Reserve Clause, and Flood filed suit to challenge. Though Flood lost in the Supreme Court in 1972, his playing career by then done, his effort almost certainly helped bring about the demise of the Reserve Clause a few years later.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Flood exhausted his 15 years of eligibility with the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1996 when he peaked at 15.1 percent of the vote. He died the following year at 59, which leaves him now as a posthumous candidate for the Veterans Committee.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Short answer, yes, though labor pioneers are woefully under-represented in Cooperstown. Flood or former player’s association head Marvin Miller might be the most egregious snubs, though many other players may deserve more recognition as well. There’s 19th century great Lip Pike who signed baseball’s first professional contract, $20 to play for Philadelphia in 1866. And much as credit is due to Flood for combating the Reserve Clause, it might still be in effect had Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally not played the 1975 season without contracts so they could become free agents. Don’t forget arbitrator Peter Seitz who struck down the clause in a historic ruling after that season and who was fired within minutes by the owners for his handiwork.

All this being said, Flood might be the Jackie Robinson of the labor movement, and he’s long overdue for his Cooperstown plaque. True, his statistics don’t suggest automatic enshrinement, what with him having less than 2,000 hits, a career WAR of 35.9, and an OPS+ of 100. Still, the Hall of Fame has never been entirely about numbers, and for contributions above stats, Flood looks like an easy choice. His spirit, courage, and willingness to take a stand represent what makes baseball great, at least to me. I view Flood in the same way as Robinson or Detroit Tigers great and Jewish hero Hank Greenberg, who incidentally testified for the embattled player in court. It’s a spirit baseball should be looking to commemorate, not forget. If the Hall of Fame isn’t the place for this, I don’t know what is.

The question is if the traditionally conservative Veterans Committee will honor Flood or any of the other men here. That’s no sure thing. The committee passed on Miller yet again in December, and at 94, there’s an increasing chance he’ll die before he gets a plaque. That’s too bad. After Flood, I only wish baseball would learn.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? was formerly a Tuesday feature here. It will relaunch following the postseason.

Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Alan Trammell, Albert Belle, Allie Reynolds, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Bobby Grich, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker, Manny Ramirez, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Tony Oliva, Will Clark