Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hall Call: Maddux (duh!), but not Jacque Jones (double-duh!)

I thought I would struggle greatly when filling out my Hall of Fame ballot this year, but it turned out to be a lot easier than I thought.

First, I put check marks next to the four guys I voted for a year ago: 


Biggio is a no-brainer, a veritable stats machine during his playing days. He barely missed last year when he was done in by a combination of those who never vote for first-ballot guys and by anti-steroid protesters who refused to vote for anybody. I'm guessing he gets in fairly easily this time, as he should.

Morris is making his final ballot appearance and it'll be close -- he received 67.7% of the vote last year (75% is required). I know his ERA is a little too high for some and his victory total is a little too low. Still, his status as a workhorse during an era in which both baseballs and bodies were juiced, and his postseason performances (especially for the 1991 Twins), put him over the top for me.

Raines simply is one of the best leadoff men ever, a dynamic game-changer for most of his 23 seasons. Every eligible player with an OBP as high as Raines who reached base as often as he did is in the Hall. Plus, he's the second-most successful base thief ever.

Schilling, like Morris, is a borderline pick and I can understand why he didn't get more votes last year, his first on the ballot: low-ish win total, a less-than-spectacular ERA. Nevertheless, he did have fine regular-season numbers (3,116 K, the second-best K-to-BB ratio in history), and I can't deny his postseason numbers: 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA, including 4-0 and 1.37 in five elimination games. I love clutch.


Next, I voted for two guys I passed on last year (with the promise that I would revisit their candidacies in the future):


Bagwell, despite playing most of his career in the pitcher-friendly Astrodome, ranks in the top 40 all-time in slugging, HR, OBP and walks, and he teamed with Biggio to turn the once-horrible Astros into annual contenders. In giving Bagwell my vote this time, I have been influenced by proponents of JAWS, a wins-above-replacement metric that compares a player to others historically at his position. Bagwell's JAWS score ranks second only to that of Albert Pujols among post-World War II first basemen. Plus, he's now been on the ballot for four years and nobody has been able to amplify any of the steroid whispers. 

Piazza, arguably the best offensive catcher in history, belongs in the Hall of Fame. Because he made his debut on the ballot last year alongside so many infamous juicers, I wanted to give it another year to see if anything came of the long-stated rumors about Piazza's use. Nothing did, so it's an easy choice.


Then, I went with three first-year candidates, each of whom I consider a slam-dunk selection (though I'm sure others would disagree, as others always do!):


Glavine won 305 games, had five 20-win seasons, won two Cy Youngs and was a stalwart for the Braves teams that ruled the NL in the 1990s. He also was 1995 World Series MVP (2-0, 1.29). Despite all of that, he might not get in immediately because of Maddux's presence on the ballot, which would be ridiculous.

Maddux, well, you know ... I'm not even going to bother throwing any stats out there. If he doesn't get in, it's time to take the vote away from me and my peers.

Thomas had a .301 career average, 521 HR, 1,704 RBI, .419 OBP, .555 SLG, back-to-back MVPs, 11 seasons with 100+ RBI. Nevertheless, some say he's not a Hall of Famer. Please. Even if voters want to use his DH status against him, he had monster stats from 1992-97 as the White Sox's first baseman. How can there even be a debate? 


Finally, it got a little more difficult. Should I stop at nine? Or should I add one more to reach the maximum votes we can cast? I've been a Hall voter since the mid-'90s, and only once, when I was much younger and less selective, did I opt for the maximum. Would voting for 10 now somehow make me an easy mark?

If I did go with 10, would I check the box next to the name of "accidental" juicer Barry Bonds or longtime suspect Roger Clemens? How about squeaky-clean first-time candidate Mike Mussina?

One could argue quite convincingly that Bonds and Clemens already were Hall of Famers before their alleged cheating began. And while circumstantial evidence is strong in Clemens' case, he actually was exonerated in a court of law. I very well might vote for one or both as early as next year. But for now, I decided to hold off to see if any new information gets presented in the next 12 months. 

Mussina? Now there's an interesting one.

The very first thing I do when perusing my Hall ballot every year is the "feel test." Does this guy "feel" like a Hall of Famer? And I must admit that, at first blush, Mussina didn't. His numbers are very good (270-153, 3.68 ERA, 2,813 K), but not one of them screams: "I'm a Hall of Famer!" He had only one 20-win season (his last, at age 39), he never won a Cy Young and he never won a title. 

Then again ...

In many key sabermetrics, Mussina compares quite favorably to Glavine and comes out well ahead of Morris. He also had more wins, a lower ERA, more strikeouts and fewer walks than Morris. The more I delved into the numbers, the more I felt guilty about the prospect of voting for Morris but not for Mussina.

Then there's this: I didn't want to contribute to Mussina getting knocked off the ballot for good. If a candidate doesn't get 5% of the vote in any year, he no longer can be considered in the future. Given that it often takes years for voters to warm up to certain candidates -- Bert Blyleven was named on only 17.5% of the ballots his first year but finally made it in his 14th try -- I didn't want Mussina to go away forever. 

So, MIKE MUSSINA, welcome to my Hall of Fame "team."


Every year, there are a few guys on the ballot that make you say, "Really?" This time, that list includes Amando Benitez, Paul Lo Duca, Mike Timlin and ... wait for it ... Jacque Jones.

That's right: Jacque Jones, a real good guy with a real bad arm. 

In three decades covering baseball, I've never seen a worst outfield arm. More times than not, the poor guy would throw the ball almost straight down into the ground. It was the damnedest thing I ever saw. 

Although his offensive numbers weren't anywhere near Hall-worthy -- .270, 165 HR, 630 RBI -- they actually were better than I thought because I mostly remembered him striking out repeatedly.

I liked Jacque as a person, though, and maybe enough members of the Hall ballot selection committee did, too.

That's the only explanation I can come up with for him being listed at all.

If he gets even one Hall vote, it's time to drug-test BBWAA members!


  1. TBT always with the info!

    I stopped following baseball closely once i went off to college/started to lose faith in honest play, but I love this article because it speaks on my favorite players growing up.

    Aside from your other insightful picks I truly support Craig Biggio, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina! MM seemed to be able to last so long in the league and throw a great variety of ways to stay competitive in addition to his quietly legitimate stats.

    Love the Tom Glavine choice, do you think that that John Smoltz will have a hard time given the power in his class? would be great to see the Trinity go in consecutive years...

    had no idea about the 5% rule. Is there an actual unsaid rule that you "don't waste a players chances this year" because of it?

    TBT always with the insight to keep a dwindling jaded sports fan like me interested!


  2. Thanks, Troy.

    Smoltz will get my vote and I think he has a real good chance to get in. There are quite a few voters who don't give "first-ballot" status to any but the all-time superstars and they might not vote for Smoltz. Otherwise, who wouldn't?

    I know of no unwritten rule pertaining to the 5% vote situation. I just saw last year that Kenny Lofton (whom I did not vote for) fell off the ballot after one year and I felt bad about that because, while I don't think he's an HoFer, I could see others making an argument down the line. So, personally, I didn't want that to happen to Mussina.


  3. Morris pitched primarily in the 80s. By the time home runs were really taking off in 1994-1995 due to muscle bound sluggers, Morris was pretty much done. Are you saying you think guys were juiced in the 80s?

  4. On Morris: "... his postseason performances (especially for the 1991 Twins)..."

    What other postseason performances? Take out that memorable Game 7, and his career postseason ERA is 4.26. In the World Series the *very next year*, he gave up 10 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings pitched in two starts. If you're going to put the guy in the Hall of Fame based on just one start, at least be honest enough to say so. But if you're going to be intellectually consistent, you have to weigh the stinkers along with the gems, and Morris had plenty of both.

    And echoing what the last commenter said: Morris retired after 1994. The height of the Steroid Era didn't come until 1998 and beyond. You're giving Morris credit for something that didn't exist. When he had a 3.94 ERA in 1988, it wasn't an inflated offensive era that boosted his ERA -- Jose Canseco or no. That 3.94 ERA ranked 26th in the American League that year. The league average ERA was 3.98. Dave Stieb, who actually probably should be considered the best pitcher of the 1980s, had a 3.04 ERA, and he still finished only seventh. Morris wasn't a victim of his era. He was an average pitcher.

  5. Absolutely, guys juiced in the '80s, especially the second half of the decade. And the ball was totally juiced in that same period. Look up some of the HR totals in 1987, for instance. Wade Boggs had 24 that year, for cripe's sake!

    I will admit that Morris' performance in Game 7 in '91 probably tips it for me. I was there covering the greatest game in the greatest World Series ever. Yes, he also had some clunkers. But I also talked to several managers in the early '90s and repeatedly was told that if they could choose one pitcher to start one game, it would be Morris. The game already was becoming specialized, and Morris was an absolute workhorse bulldog. Even when he didn't have his best stuff, he wanted to stay in the game.

    Yes, some of that is subjective. That's why we have humans voting instead of just statistical analyses. If each of these anonymous gentlemen (or ladies) have other opinions, that is great. This is part of what makes sports fun.

    Thanks for reading.


    1. Sure, one can claim players juiced in the 80's. Heck, a player or two probably juiced decades earlier. However, when one takes the time to look for an affect you have to acknowledge that even if a few were juicing in the 80's it did not impact scoring and that is the rub for Morris. He had a pretty high ERA and it was mostly for a fairly low scoring period. Adjusting for time frame, Morris 3.90 ERA is not much different from Jamie Moyer's 4.25.

      Appreciate you taking time to explain your ballot. Even more so appreciate your voting for a full slate of ten players. I could name eight others who should take Morris' place, but at least you used all your slots and nine out of the ten are clearly in line with Hall of Fame standards.
      Merry Christmas,

  6. Jack Morris's ERA from 1981-90 was 3.70. That's tied for FORTY-SIXTH among pitchers in that decade.

    American League teams averaged 4.67 runs per game in 1979. 1987 was the ONLY year of the 1980s that they exceed that that number.

  7. Bill: You are welcome.

    Anonymous: This debate has been fun and all, but I've said my piece and you've said yours. I suggest you become a sportswriter, keep that standing as a professional baseball writer for more than a decade, become a Hall of Fame voter and choose whomever you'd like. Merry Christmas.

  8. I enjoyed reading your article, Mr Nadel. All too often I think of the BBWAA voters as old and stodgy and out of touch with society. Glad to see that it's not true in your case.
    There's one player that I think is getting left out - Lee Smith. It seems that the only relievers that have a chance at the HOF nowadays are those that get a lot of one-inning saves. Prior to Hoffman breaking his record, Smith had the most career saves, in spite of the fact that he was asked to pitch two and sometimes three innings at a time.
    There are some positions in baseball (RP and DH) that are part-time, so maybe not considered not as deserving of the full-time positions for HOF considerations. But, I have to believe that the No.3 RP in saves is special enough to be included. He's running out of time.
    Does it hurt him that he played for eight different teams in eighteen years?

  9. Tadpoles:

    I think Smith was hurt by the fact that he bounced around, that he never played for a pennant-winner, that the two times he was in the postseason he got lit up pretty good and, mostly, that despite the save total he wasn't viewed as dominant as Fingers, Sutter and Gossage.

    Thanks for the nice words.