Moving further into our discussion of the Hall of Fame ballot from earlier today…
We split down the middle about voting for Mark McGwire. Kevin and I rather nonchalantly left him off, without a specific agenda. I simply had other cases I was more interested in:
James: I feel like I’m reaching for Lofton, Trammel, and Biggio, while shafting McGwire, which should be the dead giveaway to my line of thinking, I’m a sucker for defensive utility. 11 consecutive years of above-average offensive production at an up the middle positon make Biggio’s case for me. Kenny Lofton was an otherworldly centerfielder and base thief for a decade, then was pretty effective running on fumes for another five seasons. Alan Trammel…well…there’s the defensive metrics on his side, there’s the offense that was apparently very remarkable for shortstops of his era, and there’s the torrid defense of his candidacy from writers that saw his prime in person, which I am probably relying on the most.
Nick and Matt, however, launched spirited defenses of Big Red’s candidacy
Nick: I think that McGwire should be in the Hall – he doesn’t get enough credit for just how good of a hitter he was. Andro was technically allowed McGwire used it, for one thing, but the biggest knocks on McGwire should be his longevity. But frankly, I think Ralph Kiner is a pretty good comparison as far as what kind of player they were. In fact, I think you can argue pretty easily that McGwire was a better hitter than Kiner, and his career was a good 1,000 PAs longer.
Matt: McGwire basically dominated nearly every season he participated in. He wasn’t much of a defensive player and I think that probably knocks down his JAWS performance and still he comes within a couple wins. I don’t think that hitting certain milestones should make a player “automatic”, especially with the ever changing degree of difficulty in hitting those numbers, but the old fashioned fella within does cause me to give some sort of credit for it, and 583 HR sitting next to that 163 OPS+ is enough for me to push McGwire in.
Nick: I think Trammell is close, and that he should be in the Hall – however, if you can only pick 10 guys on this list I’m just not sure he makes the cut. I think Larry Walker is a slam dunk candidate that people will write off due to Coors. Larry Walker was basically Edgar Martinez with the bat (adjusted for park), who also was a tremendous defensive outfielder and baserunner.
Lofton & Trammell was the big conflict for me, and Lofton’s OBP, defense, and base stealing seemed more valuable to me.
What sucks is that because voters were so dumb about Trammell and even more egregiously with Bagwell, we’re going to have to make some hard decisions with some guys who are probably deserving. It’s only going to get worse next year when Maddux, Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, etc. etc. start crowding up the ballot.
Matt: Edgar Martinez doesn’t have a position, which people have trouble with. If you’re out there doing what you’re supposed to be doing exceptionally well I don’t see the issue. As Nick alluded, when there are players playing positions terribly, why are they put on a higher level then a player who didn’t handicap his team in that department? His offensive numbers say Hall of Fame to me, so I say he is Hall of Fame.
Tim Raines isn’t the slam dunk that he gets credit for being in some circles, I think. He is a Hall of Famer though and far more people undervalue his career than overvalue it. He put together solid offensive season year after year finishing with a .385 on-base percentage. Once he was on base he heightened his value. According to the FanGraphs baserunning measure only 2 players since WWII have eclipsed 100 runs. Rickey Henderson (142.7) and Tim Raines (100.2). Rickey Henderson is probably presenting a large hurdle to his entry as he’s primarily seen as a lead-off man and he played at the same time as the best lead-off man of all time. That doesn’t diminish what he accomplished. While he didn’t steal as prodigiously as Henderson he did manage a more efficient rate. Caught stealing is an out and Raines managed to avoid outs with the best of them.
Offensive consistency wasn’t really Alan Trammell‘s thing. But like James mentioned, he played most of his career at a time where middle infielders typically provided next to nothing with the bat. Trammell always contributed something offensively with some years standing out as downright ridiculous (looking at you, league-wide HR spike 1987). On the defensive end he was amazing. It’s hard to quantify, obviously. Defensive metrics kind of suck. Lacking too much hard evidence, we have to start believing everybody that watched him for all those years and insist he was among the greatest.
Larry Walker gets his numbers discounted because of the fact that he played in heavy offensive era and did so in Coors Field. That’s fair. His splits clearly show out of control numbers at home with still respectably productive but much more human numbers on the road. Even when adjusting for home park he still comes out as one of the top offensive players, not to mention in the 4 years following his rookie campaign he posted OPS’ over .800 including a .981 in 1994. This while Montreal’s Olympic Stadium was his home park, so he’s no Coors creation. What I’m getting at is, go ahead and penalize Larry Walker for playing in Coors Field, he’ll still come out a Hall of Famer.
Mike Piazza isn’t really a question, right? His numbers were impressive and achieved while primarily playing as a catcher. Hall of Fame.
Kevin: Mike Piazza is a .300 career hitter, .377 OBP for a guy that caught for almost his whole career. He is probably the best hitting catcher of all time.
We’ll finish up and post the last part of this discussion tonight…