Of Cooperstown, Catfish and the Politics of Glory

They are announcing the results of the Hall of Fame voting today. This, of course, is the single greatest debate among baseball people including players, executives, statistical analysts, writers and fans.

The only opinion that really counts though are those members of the Baseball Writers Association of America with at least ten years of seniority – approximately 500 or so – who have the honor of voting.

This honor was accorded to them 75 years ago when the Hall of Fame first opened as a Cooperstown tourist attraction. The BBWAA reigned supreme back then with no television, no internet and no sabremetrics. Now the number of people who can write, analyze and speak intelligently on baseball has multiplied greatly because of the electronic mediums but it is still the BBWAA that holds the monopoly on who initially gets into Cooperstown and who doesn’t…or has to wait until the Veteran’s Committee elects them.

Which was thankfully the overdue case of Ron Santo this winter.

The BBWAA has the monopoly on the vote but not on opinion. The internet allows anybody and everybody to have their own blog and advance their own opinions on this or any other subject.

That allows many to point out the vast stupidity that permeates the BBWAA, both at Hall of Fame time and in November when the organization passes foolish judgment on their annual MVP, Cy Young and other awards.

There seems to be two significant reasons why the BBWAA’s judgment is routinely called into severe question: 1.) Not enough players are elected; 2.) Writers refuse to use advanced statistical analysis in deciding who is worthy of immortality.

As in the case of Santo and possibly others, the BBWAA’s biggest sin is who they omit rather than who is elected. As far as the second point, there is no doubt that advanced statistical analysis has cast many players in a different light than otherwise perceived by others.

Bert Blyleven is in the Hall of Fame for that reason, and now there are many outstanding analysts who offer irrefutable evidence that Blyleven was a better pitcher than Jim “Catfish” Hunter.

That may be the case but when they were contemporaries in the 1970’s, I don’t remember anybody believing that Blyleven was the better pitcher and there might be others as delusional as myself in being completely convinced that Hunter was one of the best pitchers in baseball history

But they are both in Cooperstown, which is not the case with Jack Morris. He was one of the best pitchers in the 1980’s but is not getting the groundswell of support that carried Blyleven to Cooperstown. Instead it is the opposite. Morris appears to be looked unfavorably upon by the statistical analysts who have examined his resume beyond the roundup of usual numbers: wins, strikeouts, ERA and are convinced that the mathematics support their conclusions.

The biggest division of debate, of course, centers around those from the “steroids era” and the cacophony will only grow louder next year when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others go on the ballot.

So far the writers have been quite unforgivable in their treatment of Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Bagwell. Getting 75 percent of the vote needed for election is difficult under normal circumstances but having the stain of steroids on the resume has completely crushed any chance of McGwire and Palmeiro getting elected.

McGwire admitted to using steroids and Palmeiro was suspended in his last season when he tested positive. He was also “outed” by Jose Canseco.

Bagwell has never tested positive and never been accused by anybody. But enough voters have come to believe that he must have been using and refuse to vote for him.

I have voted for all three because I don’t feel worthy of passing judgment on the steroids era. That simply means we don’t know for absolute certainty who was using and who wasn’t, therefore it is not right to pass selective judgment against those dumb enough – Palmeiro being the poster child – to get caught. No matter, they aren’t going to Cooperstown unless the landscape changes drastically in the coming years.

But perhaps it is wrong that the tremendous offensive numbers of the steroid numbers have unfairly eclipsed the accomplishments of those who came before: Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, Fred McGriff, Dave Parker and others. Rice got in under the wire in his last year of eligibility while McGriff, Murphy, Parker and maybe others are nowhere near Cooperstown.

Whether it is because of “what they saw” or statistical analysis, everybody has an opinion with the common denominator being, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

But there are other things written on the internet far more insulting and delusional on the internet than the Cooperstown debate, especially one so infuriating by a highly-respected member of the press that I wanted to throttle the …

But he might agree with me about Hunter, which would make us idiots in arms.

 

10 Comments

It seems that championships are undervalued in HOF voting. The three WS winners that Morris contributed heavily to in his career ought to weigh heavily in his favor (if not game 7 in the 1991 Series on its own). The man was a winner — and winning is what the game is all about, seems to me.

Good Stuff TR!!!

I always enjoy this annual debate. I’ve never understood how Hunter gets elected in his third year of eligibility while Luis Tiant never got more than 31% of the vote. You’d think just based on those facts alone that there was a much bigger disparity in the quality of their careers. In the 6 year period from 1971-’76 Hunter was most certainly a great pitcher. He dropped off quickly after that. In the seasons prior to his period of dominance he was durable yet mediocre. He somehow makes 3 All-Star games during this time, despite an ERA near or over league average in 2 of those All-Star campaigns. Must’ve been the cool nickname. If a short period of dominance and a lot of mediocrity warrant HOF consideration, it’s puzzling why Dwight Gooden gets virtually no hall recognition. His 5 year period of dominance was certainly better than Hunter’s and he had a pretty cool nickname. Tiant’s period of dominance was almost twice as long as Hunter’s. Maybe his mediocrity wasn’t long enough or maybe he was lacking the awesome nickname.
Santo was worthy of induction and it’s long overdue. It’s a shame he won’t be there to see it.

Great stuff hefe

Very interesting.

I like something TR said a few years ago about the case for a hall of fame player only needing to be a couple of sentences long because if you have to give a pamphlet full of stats on the player, you’re having to work too hard to make your case. I’m paraphrasing, of course (for all I remember TR was paraphrasing someone else), but I think I captured the gist. I absolutely believe Barry Larkin is a hall of famer and I can make the case in only 3 words: 12 time All-Star.

I think it only takes 2 words to describe any Hall of Famer…..Game Changer! ….of course, that needs to be defined because the steroids era included lots of “game changers”. The HOF is what makes baseball a talkin’ sport! I love it! T.R., as a baseball writer entrusted with the great responsibility that comes with your vote, you really have to make a judgement on the steroids era don’t you? The problem with the steroids era is that no one will stand up and take a stand one way or the other. That has hurt the game more than any other issue and that starts in the commissioner’s office and trickles down to the baseball writers. I believe that a majority of the fans have spoken on this. I would be more accepting of the “roids” players if they would just come out with an honest narrative about what the culture of the game was in thir time and why they made the choices they made.

oops….their time.

I continue to enjoy this article…my third year of the controversey so to speak…It’s alway nice to see what TR, Rodney and Hefe have to say on any subject. I continue to be against the steroid era players…I know I’m a little unreasonable about it…hard to find better hitters at any time during the games history better than Rafael Palmiero. I’m consistent though…I gave away to a kid my autographed ball. Somehow it always gets me thinking of Pete Rose and Joe Jackson. Guess it’s my love of the underdog. Somehow I always want to say “what’s right is right.”

So nice to get back to this boardtather than the crazy , disfunctional other board. My hope this year is that we won’t have to put up with D’god and that he’ll respect the MLB banishment. You never know though…do you?

As a kid, one thing that drew me to the game of baseball was that there seemed to be a position for many types of players. In that “kid” world, the squatty, maybe a little pudgy, guy could play catcher(Yogi Berra). The tall skinny kid could play first base (Hank Greenberg). The short speedy guy could play center field (Mickey Rivers) or second base (Ian Kinsler). Third base could be manned by a guy with quick reflexes but not much range and a good bat (Ron Cey). The left fielder had average speed, but could hit (Al Oliver). The right fielder was typically a guy that could not play much defense or hit much (Me?). And, shortstop was reserved for the stud athlete of the group who would also do some pitching. And pitchers came in all shapes and sizes. In short, baseball to me was a game for everybody. Teams were constructed around the best players regardless of position and the other positions were filled by “the rest of us”. I think that exagerated stereotype helped the game to become the national pastime. You didn’t have to be the best athlete to play the game. If you were not big enough for football or tall enough for basketball, there was always baseball. You just had to love the game, work hard on your ability, and find a team where you fit it. In the steroids era, would Fred Patek, Bud Harrelson or Mark Belanger have ever set foot on the field? What about Steve Foucalt or Rick and Paul Reuschel? I know they weren’t stars, but the great thing about baseball is that it is a team sport and every player doesn’t have to be a star. In the steroids era, we saw an attempt for everyone to become a superstar at the expense of the purity of the game. Jim Sundberg’s career batting average is in the .250′s, but his defense was game changing. Everyone loves the superstars, but pre-steroids, everyone loved the role players or the “team” guys. Even Pete Rose the player, Rod Carew, or Tony Gwynn, singles hitters, had their place in the game. Who is a singles hitting guy now? I know we still have a little of that but it is no longer the culture of baseball and I believe that is the part the steroids era affected. That is why most people are against the steroids era players because they destroyed part of the fabric of the game that many grew up with. Do you ever wonder why so many kids played baseball decades ago but they don’t now? The home run used to mean more because it was a high achievement of hitting that not everyone could do. Now, you really can’t play this sport if you can’t hit home runs. As good as Elvis Andrus is and can become, I saw him trying to hit home runs many times last year. Why? Because the home run is sexy and being a slick fielding .300 hitting shortstop is not enough for some. So, that’s my take on what steroids/performance enhancers have done to the “fabric” of the game. It is why I believe T.R. should not sit on the fence and should take a stand. Either be against the steroids era or stand up and say it really doesn’t matter and keep voting for guys who, in my opinion, changed the game for their own personal gain. Sitting on the fence to be “non-judgemental” is taking the easy way out. Until the players of the era come out and honestly admit what was done and who did it, that era deserves nothing.

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