Home > Uncategorized > Forecasting the Hall, Part One…

Forecasting the Hall, Part One…

A little over four years ago, on my old site, I broke down the Hall of Fame contenders currently playing in baseball. Since then, the Hall has unwittingly lowered the standard of admission with the inclusion of the feared Jim Rice and the almost automatic out Andre Dawson. Perhaps of greater interest, at least from a historical perspective, is that the Hall has made a very clear judgment call on the Steroid Generation. If he had been eligible for election when he retired after the 2001 season, Mark McGwire would have been an automatic first ballot HOFer. Now, four years into his eligibility, Big Mac has proven indigestible to voters. His first year on the ballot he received 128 votes or 23.8% of the vote. This is a mark he’s hit in three of his four years, it’s also a few ticks short of the necessary 75% needed for election. The electorate has spoken and until a younger generation – a generation that somehow has a better perspective about the steroid era – comes along, names like McGwire, Palmeiro, Clemens, and Bonds will be kept on the outside looking in.

Anyhow, I was thinking about that old column I wrote this morning, because of all the names I wrote about so long ago who were in the news this week. In that column I had Roger Clemens as a cold hard HOF lock, but as he spent his week zipping between Federal court and a golf course, we know that the most dominant pitcher of the postwar era is not going to the Hall, at least not yet. I also had Manny Ramirez as basically a lock. Sure, he was flakey and strange, but he could (almost) hit like Ted Williams and unlike Ted Williams, he’d led the Sox to a title. Of course, since then Manny “quit” on the Sox, tested positive for steroids, and was tossed out of his final at bat with the Dodgers arguing balls and strikes… on the first pitch. So, yeah.

During that piece, I questioned whether Derek Jeter, if he left the game on July 30th 2006 would be elected to the Hall, but stated what has become only more obvious over time, that the Yankee captain would be a Hall of Famer. Of course, Jeter’s in the news because he’s having a rough season and he’s looking for a pay raise. Finally, Albert Pujols is chasing (or at least he was until his 2-20 week) the triple crown and his 3rd MVP. It was as I was looking at Pujols’ career stats that I remembered that old post. What exactly had I written about the young man in 2006?

As it turns out, I listed him as the first name under the great start, talk to me in a decade part of the column; well it hasn’t been a decade, but since that day King Albert has added another couple of MVPs, hit 174 home runs, and – most importantly for my purposes – waltzed past the magic ten year marker that makes a player HOF eligible. Albert Pujols, whether he wins the triple crown or not, now resides calmly in the automatic “he could retire tomorrow and still be a future Cooperstown resident” category.

So, what of the other players I wrote of that day? Well, I wrote that nine guys were automatic first ballot locks: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, and Ivan Rodriguez.

Roger I already addressed. It will require a major shift in the electorate for the Rocket to stand a chance and even then he’ll have to overcome the startling amount of vitriolic dislike that he has engendered to himself.

Randy strikes me as the living embodiment of the capriciousness of what we know about the steroid era. He’s publicly stated that he took all kinds of things during his career and mostly didn’t pay attention to what was what, but he never played with Canseco and wasn’t in New York during the Kirk Radomski-Brian McNamee era, thus he has escaped that damning firm link to steroid use. He remains a lock.

Maddux, Pedro, and Glavine are all in that select group of players who are perceived to have been clean during the steroid era. I continue to caution that no player would surprise me, but perhaps Maddux might be the lone player who’d disappoint me. However, baring some shocking revelation (which seems unlikely at this point), the professor is the greatest hope for people like me who want someone, anyone, to break the stupid can’t receive 100% vote on your first year of eligibility (this remains the single biggest reason that the process needs to be overhauled. Put simply, if you didn’t vote for Ricky Henderson, then you shouldn’t be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame).

Piazza probably remains a lock, but the ‘roid rumors surrounding him are perhaps thicker than for any other player not specifically implicated. Rodriguez was specifically implicated but he seems to be one of those players who somehow skated straight through the controversy without any egg on his face. Assuming that he ever retires, he’s still a lock.

All of which leaves us with the final two locks: Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds. Lets be clear about two things:

1) Both are amongst the 15 greatest baseball players of all time.
2) Neither are ever getting elected to the Hall.

Ok, I don’t really mean ever. I do believe that a time will come when the perception of the steroid era changes and these players – all of them – are elected, but that time isn’t going to be 2013 when Bonds is eligible and it probably wont be 2022, or whenever ARod is eligible. Like Clemens, both of these guys are hurt by their persona, ARod for who he isn’t (Jeter) and Bonds for who he is (an aloof, ass)

I then listed a bunch of guys who weren’t quite the automatic first ballot locks, but really weren’t far behind. Ken Griffey Jr napped off into the sunset this year and while the 2000s weren’t kind to him, he really was the best or second best player of the 90s. The Kid will be enshrined.

Manny I touched on above, but lets look a little closer. You could make a pretty easy argument that of the players who played during Manny’s career, only Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols were better pure hitters. Sure he was always an adventure in the field and you can’t discount the damage done by Manny Being Manny, but the Red Sox don’t win a World Series in 2004 or 2007 without him. He will finish his career with over 600 home runs, more than 2,000 RBIs, and a reputation for quitting on his team. Manny being Manny. Like Bonds and ARod, I think that there can be no doubt that Manny is a Hall of Famer, but also like those guys, he’s going to have to wait for 300 odd voters to give up their vote before he stands a chance.

Next I had Craig Biggio, Frank Thomas, and Mariano Rivera. There’s not really much to say here. Biggio remains underrated, but that wont stop him being elected (although, like Roberto Alomar he might have to wait a year). Thomas will go in with ease, and Rivera will become the first full time reliever to be elected in his first year (and really, how awesome is Rivera?).

Next came the group of guys that like Jeter were closing in on lock status, but probably weren’t quite there: Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones, Jim Thome, Jeter, and Ichiro. Of those, Jeter is the only one who has really improved his standing. Ichiro and Thome have tread water and probably will both make the Hall with ease (although Ichiro remains an interesting case, simply because he spent so much of his prime in Japan). Vald and Jones however fell off a cliff. Vlad was at least pushed off the cliff by his body, had more on his resume to begin with, and is having a nice season in Texas, but Jones? Ughhh… Here’s what I wrote at the time:

will be a unique player in the Hall; never developed the plate discipline which is expected of great players, but his combination of power and phenomenal defense will see him enshrined. Only 29, some projections have him topping 600 home runs.

Well, those projections, along with my proclamation that he will be enshrined now look stupid, which is fine. I often look stupid, but my god, who could have foreseen a collapse that saw Andruw would go from 51 HRs and a gold glove in ’05, to 41 and another in ’06, to 26 and an undeserving one in 2007, to 3 and a fat, broken body in 2008. By 2009 he was a part time DH with 17 dingers and the end in site (this year he’s still a DH and he probably breaks 20, but still). The destruction of his career was a massacre, like Rambo Part 8.

So, Vlad will probably meander his way in. It might not happen right away, but like Jim Rice, he has 15 years to improve his career, but Jones, yikes. He’s done.

On the fence I had: Chipper Jones, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, John Smoltz, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, and Trever Hoffman. Jones went from sitting on the fence to jumping way past it. He probably wasn’t really on the fence four years ago, but either way he’s a no brainer if this knee injury really is the end of his career. Helton, well, Helton quietly fell backwards off the fence. Despite being a power hitting first baseman in Colorado, Helton has hit 45 home runs in the four years since 2006. He wont get to 3000 hits or 400 home runs and thus, despite the increased knowledge of how important On Base Percentage is to winning baseball games, Helton’s career .424 OBP (good for 15th alltime) wont be enough to get him past the pearly gates.

As for the rest? Over time I think all of them get in. Kent was a late starter, but he also wrestled an MVP away from Bonds and hit more home runs than any other second baseman ever.

Smoltz and Schilling were great pitchers whose counting stats aren’t quite Hall material, but both get bonus points for postseason heroics, plus Smotlz has all those saves and Schilling has that bloody sock.

Mussina’s borderline, but all those old warhorses who love the “win” will give him bonus points for winning twenty in his final year and as was shown with Rice and Dawson, those old blowhards can still produce a mighty wind when they have the motivation. Hoffman probably wont be the all time save leader when he comes up for selection, but he will still have 600 saves, which is almost 125 more than anyone else who isn’t two-thirds cyborg.

Then I had a category for good, but not quite good enough: Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado, Jim Edmonds, Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams, David Wells, Andy Pettitte, and Jamie Moyer. The only notes here would be that Damon continues to chug along and while I doubt he ever seriously gets in the conversation, Joe Posnanski recently related how very Hall of Fame like Damon’s counting stats are becoming. Also, I wonder if, as the voting electorate becomes more sabermetrically inclined Jim Edmonds’ case becomes stronger. The fielding guides suggest he was perhaps the best fielding outfielder of his gneration other than Jones (yes, even better than Junior) and his career WAR of 68.1 is 63rd all time, just a tick behind Tony Gwynn’s and better than Hall of Famers like Duke Snider, Eddie Murray, and Dave Winfield (for the record, Jim Rice had a career WAR of 41.5, just a hair better than Devon White!). So, I think that time carves a bust for Edmonds, but the rest remain good, but not good enough.

Finally, there was the grouping that Albert resided in, the baby grouping if you will: Pujols, Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Zambrano, Adam Dunn, Michael Young and Miguel Tejada. Time is hard and of those guys (other than Pujols) only Doc still seems like a certain Cooperstown candidate. Zambrano blew up, Dunn “only” walks and hits home runs, and Young and Tejada, well, they’re good but not great players.

Santana and Oswalt are also candidates, but both seem to be ageing quickly and making the Hall of Fame is all about the tortoise like pursuit of the finish line. Oswalt may be rejuvenated by his move to the Phillies. His career has been remarkably similar to Halladay’s, except that he did most of his work in the NL Central instead of the AL East. Baring a rejuvenation that propels him into his early forties, Oswalt’s counting stats probably wont reach the HOF standard, so it will really depend on how many of the electorate are evaluating using modern stats.

Santana is actually still a very good pitcher, but somehow going to the Mets has made him something of an after-thought and his falling strikeout rate is a little concerning. Like Oswat, Santana seems like a long shot for the win totals that get voters wet, but he was the best pitcher in baseball from 2004 to 2007, which is more than anyone could ever have said about Jim Rice…

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