2014 Baseball HOF Class: A new system, a non-moral standard devised

Greg Maddux: Dealing from HOF Strength

 My Current 2014 HOF Class Selections and Reasons:

Greg Maddux – wins aside, he compiled a healthy WAR in his career. Won on great teams, and the Cubs. 1st ballot is a no brainer.
Tom Glavine – same token on wins (305-203). He benefited from a wider strike zone and used it to great advantage. Teammates should go in together – John Smoltz will join soon enough.

(Edit and Note: Baseball Reference has Tom at 74.0 WAR using Runs Allowed method; Fangraphs (based off FIP, which is weighted on underlying metrics such as Ks, BB, HRs) has him at 64.3 WAR. At Fangraphs, Tom had 12 seasons above 3 WAR, with low strikeouts per IP lifetime, and 3.95 FIP ERA, whereas his actual ERA was 3.54 and his lifetime BABIP was a very favorable .280. To me, if you can stick around to pitch 14 years of 200+ IP, that is Hall worthy in the teeth of the prevalent offensive boom. He was able to parlay all that from a pitching platform of not getting all those juicy Ks while keeping it in the ball in the park. Craftiness in this case, deserves such a reward.)

Roger Clemens – controversial now, but no doubt, the most dominating guy on the bump in either league for many seasons.
Mike Mussina – a very, very consistent guy. Pitched solely out of the AL East, and amassed both a substantial standard record (270-153) and quality sabermetrics record (82.7 WAR at Baseball Reference). 
Curt Shilling – as outspoken against guys like Clemens, he got it done when it mattered. A money pitcher, who now has, less money (due to a bad business investment.)
Barry Bonds – Best hitter of his generation. Not really even that close. (See below.) Never suspended for PEDs, even while he was playing under close monitoring. His legacy as a bad guy (and interview) pretty much relegates him to being on the outside looking in. Pete Rose is his much lighter-hitting companion.
Larry Walker – Colorado was the best thing for his numbers. That said, he was a damn good hitter. Very good RF for a number of seasons, and it is not his fault, anymore than it was Ott’s or Ruth’s, that he destroyed his home haven.
Mike Piazza – He compiled a .300+ BA as a catcher for a career. Slugging, check. He was no gold glover, but he put on the tools of ignorance, and proved you can survive there for a decade plus.
Craig Biggio – Assured inclusion this time. 3000 hits. Those counting stats, his overall production, at 2B and versatility is his ticket to Cooperstown.
Edgar Martinez – As mostly a DH, he still played over 500 games as a 3B. Wore out pitchers with .418 OBP, routinely 40 doubles, 20 jacks, and 90 walks. Team construction in Seattle was not his fault; he could have been a 1B for, at least, 500 games if the Mariners didn’t constantly add the David Seguis or John Oleruds of the world to the equation. But DH was available. And he was lethally suited for the role.

Edgar Martinez: A .418 OBP Machine.

From Fangraphs the Entire List Eligible for the Hall by Their WAR Calculation:

Name WAR
Barry Bonds* 164.1
Roger Clemens* 139.9
Greg Maddux* 114.3
Curt Schilling* 83.5
Mike Mussina* 82.3
Jeff Bagwell 80.3
Frank Thomas 72.4
Rafael Palmeiro 70.0
Larry Walker* 69.0
Tim Raines 66.3
Mark McGwire 66.3
Edgar Martinez* 65.6
Craig Biggio* 65.3
Tom Glavine* 63.9
Alan Trammell 63.7
Mike Piazza* 63.6
Sammy Sosa 60.4
Fred McGriff 57.2
Jeff Kent 56.6
Luis Gonzalez 55.3
Jack Morris 52.7
Moises Alou 48.2
Kenny Rogers 47.2
Don Mattingly 40.7
Ray Durham 30.3
Lee Smith 27.6
Hideo Nomo 24.0
Paul Lo Duca 17.8
Richie Sexson 17.2
Sean Casey 16.1
Jacque Jones 13.1
Mike Timlin 13.1
J.T. Snow 12.6
Eric Gagne 11.9
Todd Jones 11.2
Armando Benitez 9.0

Baseball writers with their precious votes will not agree with me. I’m right on these selections, this year.

You may notice I selected the top 5 WAR producers, specifically Bonds and Clemens outpaced their compatriots in the game by a wide margin. But neither will get in because of the turmoil of the PED scandal. The sportswriters, who are voting, are like women who just got cheated on, or dumped for a hotter woman, or divorced from their once well-loved husband after he cheated on her with a less attractive option (this happens in real life, unlike Hollywood.) They duly want revenge; want groveling; and a measure of superiority over these selfish louts called baseball players.

Meanwhile, Maddux is the ‘faithful’ one; and he’s the surest lock there is in this entire group.

After Mussina, there is gap. I jump down to Walker, Biggio, Martinez, Glavine, and Piazza. For good reasons: Walker is an lifetime RF, who distinguished himself enough with the glove and stuck at the position even in his twilight. Biggio played catcher, centerfield, left field and second base.  That’s versatility, especially going from a catcher, to speed positions, and deserves its due. Piazza – catcher, primarily – was a hitting machine. Martinez, again, played the hot corner and raked. Glavine as discussed above.

So all of these are more worthy than Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff, Jeff Bagwell, or Don Mattingly. Or even the sentimental choice in Jack Morris (who I really do like – but well…Veteran’s committee can do that).

Tim Raines looks the part until you realize he amassed more than half of his WAR in just 5 seasons (1983-1987). This is not problematic, per say, but look at his 1990s. Does that speak HOF? He might get in around 2017, or a bit later. He too has character issues from those white lines that nabbed guys like Lonnie Smith in the 1980s.

So, the remaining six I left out are all 1B/DH types. If you look up their numbers they have various ranges, but if I showed you a .298/.385/.520 lifetime statistical line, could you guess which one is above or below that? And by how much?

  • Would you punish Palmeiro for not being a peak guy – but a consistent 35-110 guy with good OBP, but burdened with the 1st HOF career tied to a steroids suspension? 

So, I was not going to split hairs over this huge grouping, this year. I think 3-4 first sackers are worthy of inclusion someday, maybe in 2015-16. But those above I selected, to me, had the virtual locks by the positions played and stats achieved.

1B, again, is not the hardest position to play. It is the easiest. It is why all of these guys got huge numbers there. A 1B with a .500 plus slugging and a .375OBP is about All-star level/HOF worthy if we turned back the clock to the 1960s and 1970s. And these guys aside from McGriff and Mattingly benefited from the juiced ball theory I feel people constantly leave out of their equations. (And yes, Walker had plenty of juice in his ballpark – Colorado set the humidor conditions wrong, initially. Furthering the point of a ‘juiced ball’ era.)

But I had 10 votes, and took my logical 10 based on performances, position criteria, and differentiation from the pack. I could not immediately see clear reasons why any first sackers should be in over the rest of my selections, this year. And that speaks to the problem of the HOF.

The Non-Moral Argument to the Baseball HOF

Meanwhile, I think it’s uniquely disturbing that people base their votes on baseball’s HOF, which, in theory, is about best performers while in the game – statistically speaking – and not at all about the best human beings.

If we want a HOF of good characters, high integrity, blah, blah blah, THEN we should start anew and have a separate, and new HOF. I only say “blah, blah, blah,” because what defines this quality is amorphic as to what era you judge it from.

  • Is late 19th century baseball operating morality code than disallowed minorities, improperly hued, the baseline?
  •  Is it the mid-1930s version of this code, upon creating this special grouping of HOF players, voted on by well-known sportswriters like Grantland Rice, who was fairly overt in his racism, the next hurdle?
  • Is it the mid-20th century, that still didn’t have too much problem with boozing, womanizing, or drugging, even if it were known (as media access often required a Gee Whiz Sports writing), our next leap?
  • Is subtle cheating (spitters, frozen balls, amphetamines popping) from the 1960s-1970s ok to do, if they were ‘good’ guys according the new media guys, who picked out their favorites?
  • Or is the 1990s tinkering with the ball, pumping iron, shrinking ballparks, growing paychecks and swelling, ‘roided muscles the creme brulee we should talk from, if sportswriters wrote more positive pieces, and trumpeted the stats we wanted to hear about?
  • Maybe we politically correct all discussions? Because we know what is right, now?
Roger: Dodger of PED suspensions

Whatever you do, it should be consistent and fair and simple. That is why the ONLY measure is what took place between the lines. Call me what you will, I am not going to parse out which guy is a better human being based on sportswriter’s vendettas, or dislikes, or run-ins with ballplayers that are human and flawed.

Trying to elaborately devise a methodology to test all ballplayers retroactively – is he a steroid witch or not – without a 100% fool proof PED test in the present, seems oddly hopeless to my way of thinking about it.

If you technically were never caught with PEDs in your bloodstream by MLB, as Bonds NEVER was suspended, even after the first PED suspensions on April 3, 2005 came out, then how can you logically dismiss him now? Because he’s an obstructionist of justice? Or a liar?

You can despise him all you like, but you should be consistent on your analysis, else you travel a slippery slope…it is the reason we have a messed up HOF, as it stands now. And those, that were overlooked until they died, i.e., Ron Santo (70.9 fWAR).

What happens on the field is one arena; and what happens in life outside the final out is quite another.

President Bill Clinton. most historians consider him a 1st-2nd tier president, if you look at that logically. But his womanizing does not make him as appealing as a human being, at least as he left the office, nearly impeached. Bill lied about his relationships… JFK. God rest, had the same issues with women, and is praised more out of respect more than accomplishment. FDR. Women issues to the very end, and still top 5-7 U.S. Presidents. And that list can go on, and on. Their accomplishments in their expert field should not be undermined by their flawed human relationships. Because, then, many of us need to reassess our very nature.

But this method is also how you can divorce one criteria from another. Because what a guy does to achieve success in one arena, should not be tied to what he does outside that arena, even if, it allegedly helps him to achieve undue results. Because until we know the direct amount of help, we are just surmising based on broad premises we barely understand the science and results behind.

Social Media & Personal Responsibility

I think too, ALL of us today, have tended to blend our lives into this social media petri dish for all to see online. It leads us to sometimes believe that our sports stars, even when they are eagerly willing (in tweeting), are really just like us, only richer, and therefore, available for our personal chidings. That their failings are fun, consumable pieces of information and thus require our witty commentaries. And so, these typically labeled ‘special people’ behave accordingly, lying, lashing out, and fighting back against being this pinata of social critique, often as not, without the entire story behind their lives as a sports icon/athlete. And their failings, very public in nature, as any athletes or entertainer will undoubtedly succumb to, someday, will outstrip or trump their glories. So they MUST super achieve constantly. No room for actual humanity in that equation. “We don’t pay you for that,” a fan now very aware of the billion dollar nature of the beast – often to the nickel – responds with derision.

This is wrong. 100% dead wrong.

Or, more recently, such athletes are held to some very high/higher moral standards because of their public nature. (Thank marketing for that – and those advertising revenues generated.) Again, this is totally wrong. That type of social norm (depending on where you live in this world applies differently, as not people see things like alike) applies really to an athlete’s basic privilege of playing the game. They are not paid for moral decisions or likeability, or should not be. You don’t pay a neurologist for tax advice. You don’t pay a plumber for his translation skills if he was at the United Nations. And you don’t pay athletes for their personal life choices – aside for those to which they agree to. (And even that was once heavily weighted to the ownership class, and their agents (GMs), in baseball’s case. Instead of a fair contract, they got a lopsided deal until 1976. Since then, the owners have been looking to circumvent gains made; were guilty of collusion in the 1980s; and waited, patiently, to spring to action on the recent steroids scandal. Don’t be fooled, they knew.)  

But to want to affect change or to stop this problem, those ownerships could have suspended these athletes “1-and-done” AND paid off their remaining contracts, foregoing any future playing benefits. (If the MLBPA would have collectively bargained away such rights. Player reps would have to convince their cohorts it is best for the game.) That measure would have rid any acquisition of “cheaters” – as we saw with recent healthy contracts for Marlon Byrd, Jhonny Peralta, and likely now, Nelson Cruz. Or you, the rabid fan, can stop going to all games involving any and all unethical louts that set a bad examples – and tell your kids all about the right way to be in the game. Until those examples are set, we should corral our MORAL HIGH HORSE. Because we are not making a very strong case to stop such behaviors by our own ethical hypocrisy. If anything, we undermine the premise “cheating is bad” by rewarding it later with high contracts (which too have their risks, but until you stop the practice, it does not show any ethical commitment.)

But I don’t think that’s the answer to the problem. It’s draconian and arbitrary and even, the appeals will be lengthy, and the evidence has to reach the level of beyond a reasonable doubt. No, the question to answer rightly is HOF performance, solely.  It side steps the issue of enhancements. Because it is only about what it takes on the field…

The NEW Hall of Fame: A Trial by Stats

As suggested, the Hall of Fame is a different matter. Because moral judgments are inherently flawed, and biased by a personal value system. So we need a set criteria based on a thorough system.

You see, you will have selection bias, and select only information that matters to you, and discard the rest. I acknowledge I am guilty of it (see my choices), and even if you say you are not, then you are, actually. (You are human and flawed. And therefore, at some moment you have been biased solely by your limited amount of time to gather complete understanding of a person/or situation/or object. We make generalities to survive, else we would drive ourselves nuts. Therefore, you are biased.)

I suggest a new system based solely on numerical analysis. Adjusted to the standards of the offensive eras created within that system. Does not overvalue one era, or group, over any another. It will be sabermetric-based; detailed in its analysis; and ties directly to statistics and inflicts as little personal bias as any system can designed by such flawed humans. Therefore, if set correctly, only the highest level of achievement will be praised.

Of course, the current HOF has prestige. But old institutions outlast their usefulness, and new ones come along. This will happen in baseball like OBP replaced BA; xFIP has replaced ERA; WAR replaced any statistical variant that incorporated a hodge-podging of RBI, HR, SB, W, ERA, IP, or Runs. It inevitably comes. It will again.

We love asterisks, it seems. So, we will include a review of all that achieve the level of HOF, but is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a panel of baseball experts of enhancement by strictly artificial means, doping, cheating in baseball, amphetamines, if any of these or obviously artificial methods seems most prevalent to their statistical accumulation, outside the ways we know existed in all eras. (Read: not sportswriters, but historians and analysts that take each reported case up as if they were the U.S. Supreme Court. I’d personally say a rotating group of 9 fellows at this new HOF. Two-year review cycle – and therefore, an appeal by said HOF candidate, to present evidence to overturn a “guilty” opinion. In essence, a fair review where a player (or his legal representative) can produce contrary/mitigating evidence that refutes or colors a “guilty by enhancement” ruling.)

Even then, those of guilt will just be included with the dreaded asterisk. We don’t apply this without logic to new HOF. New system, analyzing a far different game across seven scores of time (140 years) means I am not allowing the current/ongoing scandal to ruin this HALL at the start.

Managers and other worthy candidates will be under a different methodology, yet to be determined here.

That’s my baseball HOF rant.

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