December 8, 2002
The Class of 2003
Every year, baseball comes out with a list of candidates to potentially receive the sport's greatest honor, induction into the Hall-of-Fame.
Let's take a look at this year's crop of nominess...
I broke the group down into 3 sections:
1) It's nice to be on the ballot.
2) Close, but no cigar.
3) Welcome to the Hall-of-Fame.
Keep in mind, this is how I see the players, not neccessarily how the real voters will see them or vote for them.
A few quick notes...
OPS+ and ERA+ are context adjusted stats for a batter's OPS (on-base%+slugging %) and a pitcher's ERA. The stat adjusts a player's performance according to the league and ballpark he played in and compares it to the rest of the league in a "rate" stat that is a percentage above or below the league average.
In other words, a 4.00 ERA in Coors Field during the 1990s is a lot different than a 4.00 ERA in Dodger Stadium during the 1970s and this stat puts them both in proper context.
100 is average. Anything below 100 is worse than the league average and anything above 100 is better than the league average.
Simply enough, right?
I'll take those groups, in order:
It's nice to be on the ballot...
Mickey Tettleton had one of the coolest stances in baseball history and the switch-hitter did some nice work with it during his 14 year career.
Tettleton broke in with the A's in 1984, but struggled with his hitting and a lack of playing time and was released after the 1987 season.
He signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in 1988, made the big league club and found himself in the lineup a lot more, finally producing good numbers, including a .509 slugging % and 26 homers in 411 ABs in 1989.
It was with the Tigers that Mickey Tettleton had the most success.
He joined Detroit in 1991 after being traded from Baltimore for Jeff Robinson and had 3 straight seasons with 100+ walks, 30+ homers and 80+ RBIs.
After leaving Detroit following the 1994 season, Tettleton became a Texas Ranger, where he had 2 solid seasons in 1995 and 1996, before finishing his career with 44 at bats and a .091 average in 1997.
Mickey Tettleton was walks and homers before walks and homers were cool.
He couldn't do much with the glove and he didn't hit for much of an average, but he was patient at the plate and when he got a pitch he liked, he could hit it out of the ballpark.
Tettleton finished with a career line of .241/.369/.449 with 245 homers, 210 doubles, 949 walks, 711 runs and 732 RBIs in 1485 games.
Brett Butler weighed about 150 pounds soaking wet with rolls of quarters in his pockets, he had absolutely zero power (54 HRs in 8180 ABs) and he didn't have much of a throwing arm, but he was a tremendously valuable player for most of his 17 season career.
Butler was the definition of "scrappy" ballplayer.
He wasn't particularly speedy, but he stole over 550 bases in his career and played a very good center field for many years.
He had no power, but he worked counts and got on-base in almost 38% of his career plate appearances.
Brett Butler began his career with the Braves in 1981 and after 2 stints with them in 1981 and 1982, he was given the starting left fielder job in 1983 (1982 NL MVP Dale Murphy was in center field).
Butler had a nice first full-season, hitting .281/.344/.393 with 39 steals.
After the 1983 season, Atlanta traded him, along with Brook Jacoby, to the Indians for Len Barker.
Butler spent the next 4 seasons as Cleveland's starting CF, before moving on to the Giants and then the Dodgers.
A free agent after the 1994 strike, Butler signed with the New York Mets, but the Dodgers got him back with a midseason trade in 1995.
In the middle of the 1996 season, a malignant lump was found in Butler's throat and only after months of radiation and several operations was it removed.
Amazingly, he returned to the Dodgers later in the 1996 season, but broke his hand on a bunt attempt a few days later.
He returned in 1997 for the final season of his career and, at the age of 40, put up a .363 OBP in 105 games for Los Angeles.
Brett Butler was a good leadoff man and center fielder for a very long time and his career hitting numbers were hurt by playing in some of the toughest hitting ballparks in baseball (Dodger Stadium, Candlestick).
Butler finished with a career line of .290/.377/.376 with 2375 hits, 277 doubles, 131 triples, 1129 walks, 558 steals and 1359 runs in 2213 games.
Vince Coleman was extraordinarily fast and that was about it.
Coleman was the leadoff man for Whitey Herzog's "Running Redbirds" in the mid-to-late 80s and used his speed to rack up record setting stolen bases totals in his first several seasons.
As a rookie in 1985, Coleman swiped 110 bases on his way to the Rookie-of-the-Year award and followed it up with 107 more steals in 1986 and 109 in 1987.
Coleman's stolen base totals from his first 3 seasons rank as the 3rd, 4th and 6th highest single season totals since 1900.
He led the NL in stolen bases in each of his first 7 seasons, all with St. Louis, and he did it despite never really getting on base at a high level.
His 107 steals in 1986 came despite of a woeful .301 OBP and his career best on-base % was .363 in 1987.
After the 1990 season, Coleman signed a free agent deal with the New York Mets, where injuries often kept him out of the lineup and playing on the grass at Shea Stadium and not the artificial turf of St. Louis kept him, according to Coleman, "Out of the Hall-of-Fame."
Besides his speed, Coleman is perhaps most famous for two incidents:
Prior to game 4 of the 1985 National League Championship Series in St. Louis, Coleman got stuck in the automatic tarp as it covered the field and had to be taken off the field in a stretcher. He would miss the remainder of the NLCS and the World Series.
8 years later, while with Mets, Coleman was approached by some fans while in his car in Los Angeles.
Vince responded by throwing a lit firecracker into the crowd and later received 3 years probation for his trouble.
After the firecracker indicident, Coleman's career in New York was over and he joined the Kansas City Royals and later the Mariners, Reds and Tigers, where he finished his career in 1997 with 14 at bats and a .071 average.
Vince Coleman never hit for enough of an average or drew enough walks to truly become a great player, although he was pretty damn good and a lot of fun to watch for his first few seasons.
Coleman finished with a career line of .264/.324/.345 with 1425 hits, 28 homers, 176 doubles, 78 triples, 752 steals and 849 runs in 1371 games.
"Wild Thing" is best remembered for serving up the World Series winning homer to Joe Carter in 1993 and also blowing several saves during that same post-season, but he was actually a pretty effective closer for several years.
Despite awful control and a freakish pitching motion, Williams saved 192 career games, including 43 for that 1993 Philadelphia Phillies club.
Williams began his career with Texas Rangers and after 3 years was dealt to the Chicago Cubs, where he first became a closer, saving 52 games over 2 seasons in Chicago.
He was traded to Philadelphia in 1991 and responded with the best season of his career - 12-5 with a 2.34 ERA and 30 saves in 88 innings.
Williams saved 29 more games for the Phillies in 1992 and then the 43 in 1993, before his post-season failures basically ended his career after a 43 save season.
He pitched briefly for Houston in 1994 and the Angels in 1995, didn't play at all in 1996 and returned in 1997 for a final, 7 game/10.80 ERA stint with the Royals.
Williams finished with a 3.65 career ERA in 691 innings with a 45-58 record, 192 saves, 660 strike outs and 554 walks in 619 games.
When the most similar player to you in the entire history of Major League Baseball in Ron Kline, you probably don't deserve to be in the Hall-of-Fame.
And Rick Honeycutt doesn't.
Honeycutt basically had two careers - one as a starting pitcher (1977-1987) and one as a reliever (1988-1997).
As a starter, Honeycutt hovered around "league average," posting ERA+s of 108, 105, 105, 102 and 104 in various years.
He had several very good seasons, such as 1983 (16-11 with a 3.03 ERA) and 1984 (10-9 with a 2.84 ERA), but basically he was a good bet to be slightly above average every year.
As a reliever, Honeycutt was quite a bit better.
He posted better than league average adjusted ERAs in 8 out of his 9 full seasons as a reliever.
Very nice pitcher, had some very good seasons and lasted a long time.
Honeycutt finished with a 3.72 career ERA in 2160 innings with a 109-143 record, 38 saves, 1038 strike outs and 657 walks in 797 games.
Mark Davis got perhaps more out of being slapped with the "closer" tag than any player in the history of the world.
After 7 completely forgettable seasons with the Phillies, Giants and Padres to start his career, Mark Davis became the Padres closer in 1988.
He saved 28 games that year and 44 the next, earning a completely undeserved Cy Young award in 1989.
During the off-season of 1989, he worked his "career year" and closer status into a 4 year/$13 million dollar contract with the Royals and left San Diego.
Then, his magical closer dust suddenly disappeared and his deal with the devil expired.
Davis would never save more than 6 games in a season again and ended up getting released by Kansas City in the middle of the 1992 season after putting up a 5.31 ERA in his 2+ seasons with the Royals.
His playing days were far from over though, as many teams apparently still remembered 1989.
Davis spent time with Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, returned to San Diego and even signed with a team that wasn't even in existance (yet), the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In about a 700 day period in 1988 and 1989, Mark Davis was one of the best relievers in baseball.
Before and after that, he didn't do a whole lot, but when you get that "closer" label, you really don't have to.
And now, years after he is done pitching, he is still cashing in on being an "official closer" by becoming one of the least qualified players ever to be nominated for the HoF.
Davis finished with a 4.17 career ERA in 1145 innings with a 51-84 record, 96 saves, 1007 strike outs, 534 walks and 1 "official closer" tag in 624 games.
I don't think Darryl Kile needs to be on the ballot this year, but it isn't really up to me and I don't feel that strongly about it, so I'll let it go without working up a sweat about it.
Darryl Kile broke in with the Astros in 1991 and had a very nice rookie year as a 22 year old.
He played a total of 7 seasons with Houston and had a ERA significantly worse than the league average in 5 of them.
Kile had an ERA+ of 111 in 1993 and then had his "career year" in 1997, pitching 255 innings with a 2.57 ERA and an ERA+ of 155.
He used his great year to get a big free agent deal with the Colorado Rockies and apparently decided he wanted to make himself into a pitching guinea pig.
The experiment was a collassal failure, as most Coors Field related ones are, and Kile posted a decent ERA in his first Colorado season (5.20 ERA / 2% worse than the league), but saw his ERA balloon up to 6.61 in his second season in Colorado.
The Rockies mercifully ended the Kile in Coors experiment, sending him to St. Louis where he pitched very well for the final 3 seasons of his career - his best Cardinal season coming in 2001.
Even if you give him some credit for years he would have had, Darryl Kile still falls well short of a decent HoF candidacy.
He'll probably get quite a few votes for all the wrong reasons, but he really shouldn't.
Kile finished with a 4.12 ERA in 2165 innings with a 133-119 record, 1668 strike outs and 918 walks in 359 games.
To quote Joe Sheehan from his awesome baseball newsletter:
"In a world with no saturated fats, Sid Fernandez is a Hall of Famer."
"El Sid" liked to eat and it probably shortened the length of his career and caused him to miss a lot of time with injuries, particularly late in his career.
Sid Fernandez was originally a Dodger farmhand and made his big league debut with Los Angeles in 1983.
The Mets acquired him, along with Ross Jones, for Carlos Diaz and Bob Bailer in a trade prior to the 1983 season and they had themselves a pretty good pitcher for the next decade or so.
Fernandez pitched in 255 games for New York, going 98-78 with a 3.14 ERA.
His best season came in 1992, a year after injuries limited him to only 44 innings, when he went 14-11 with a 2.73 ERA in 215 innings pitched.
He had an ERA league average of better in every one of his 10 seasons with the Mets.
After a solid, but injury plagued season with the Mets in 1993, Fernandez left for Baltimore as a free agent.
In his first year with the Orioles he was injured and, when healthy, pitched poorly, going 6-6 with a 5.15 ERA in 115 innings.
It got even worse in 1994, as Fernandez was released after pitching in 8 games with a 7.39 ERA.
Fernandez quickly found a new home with the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched very well for the rest of the year, going 6-1 with a 3.34 ERA with Philadelphia.
He returned to Philadelphia in 1996 and pitched well again, although injuries limited him to only 11 starts.
Sid signed with the Houston Astros in 1997, but pitched in only 1 game (he won) before calling it a career.
Fernandez finished with a 3.36 ERA in 1867 innings with a 114-96 record, 1743 strike outs and 715 walks in 307 games.
Except for 52 games with the Marlins in 1997, Darren Daulton was a lifetime Philadelphia Phillie.
Daulton came up with the Phillies for 3 at bats in 1983, at the age of 21.
His "real" Major League debut came in 1985, when he got 103 ABs and hit .204/.311/.369.
From 1985-1988, Daulton struggled at the plate and with knee injuries and never had more than 150 at bats or hit higher than .225 in any of his first 4 seasons.
Daulton was finally healthy in 1989 and managed to play in 131 games, but continued to struggle at the plate, hitting only .201/.303/.310.
Something finally clicked for him in 1992, when he had the best season of his entire career and made his first all-star game appearance.
Daulton hit .270/.385/.524 in 145 games in 1992 and drove in 109 runs.
He continued to stay healthy and hit well in 1993, helping lead the Phillies to the World Series.
Injuries limited his playing time in 1994, but he hit well when healthy.
Then, in 1995, Daulton tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and he missed the remainder of the 1995 season.
After numerous operations on both knees, Daulton's days behind the plate were through.
Daulton came back in 1996 as a left fielder, but played in only 5 games before the knees became too much trouble again.
After missing almost the entire 1996 season, Daulton came back in 1997, as a right fielder.
He hit very well (.264/.381/.480) for Philadelphia and was traded at mid-season to the Florida Marlins to help with their stetch drive.
Daulton finished his career with 126 at bats with the Marlins, playing mostly first base and hitting .262/.371/.429 and then won his only World Series ring as the Marlins defeated the Indians in 7 games.
Darren Daulton had a very strange but good career.
He played in a total of 14 seasons, but was essentially useless in about 7 of them.
He had 3 mediocre seasons (1986, 1990, 1995), 4 truly good seasons (1992, 1993, 1994, 1997) and that was it.
Daulton finished with a career line of .245/.357/.427 with 891 hits, 137 homers, 197 doubles, 629 walks, 511 runs and 588 RBIs in 1161 games.
In one of the most mind boggling happenings in baseball history, Danny Tartabull came to the Major Leagues as a shortstop in 1984.
Tartabull quickly developed into a fairly awful defensive outfielder, although his hitting made up for it.
In his first full season in the Majors, Tartabull hit 25 homers and drove in 96 runs with the Mariners.
He was then traded to Kansas City, where he played for the next 5 seasons, hitting 25+ HRs and 100+ RBIs 3 times.
Tartabull had his best season in 1991, hitting a career high .319 with 31 homers and a .593 slugging %.
In the off-season, Tartabull bolted for a big free agent contract with the Yankees and never got his batting average above .270 ever again.
He had 3 good seasons in New York before struggling badly in 1995 and was traded to the A's at midseason.
Danny joined the White Sox for 1996 and had a comeback season, hitting 27 homers and driving in 101 runs.
The Phillies signed Tartabull to a free agent deal prior to the 1997 season, but a foot injury ended his career after just 7 more at bats.
Danny Tartabull is the kind of player people are thinking about when they say someone is "on the wrong side of 30." He had good, productive seasons from age 23 to age 31 and then completely fell of a cliff at age 32, had a nice year at age 33 and then was done playing Major League Baseball at 34.
Tartabull finished with a career line of .273/.368/.496 with 1366 hits, 262 homers, 289 doubles, 768 walks, 756 runs and 925 RBIs in 1406.
When I was little, I used to try to copy Tony Pena's catching style - a sort of half splits/ half normal position - it was impossible, but I loved it.
Anyway, Tony Pena was a very good defensive catcher who had some good offensive years in his prime.
He didn't walk much, but for the first 4 or 5 years of his career he was usually good for a .285-.300 average, 10-15 homers and 25 doubles.
And he was incredibly durable behind the plate, playing in 125+ games in 10 out of his first 11 full seasons.
Tony Pena came up with the Pirates in 1980 and became their everyday catcher in 1982.
From 1982-1986 he made 4 trips to the all-star game, won 3 Gold Glove awards and played in 145 games a year - an amazing number for a catcher.
The Pirates traded him to St. Louis in a deal that got them Andy Van Slyke and Pena served as the Cardinals' full-time backstop for the next 3 seasons.
He continued to play almost everyday, but his offensive performance was in a definite decline and he hit only .248/.303/.342 during his 3 years in St. Louis.
The next stop for Pena was Boston, where he signed a free agent deal with the Red Sox.
Already 33 years old at that point, Pena never hit very well again, but he continued to be incredibly durable and a quality defender, winning the Gold Glove again in 1991.
Pena signed with Cleveland in 1994 and served as Sandy Alomar Jr.'s backup for 3 seasons before finishing his career with the White Sox and Astros in 1997.
Short of having Mike Piazza or Johnny Bench or Yogi Berra behind the plate, Tony Pena was a pretty nice catcher to have on a team for a lot of years.
At the beginning of his career he was one of the better catchers in the league and at the end he was a quality defender and very durable.
Pena finished with a career line of .260/.309/.364 with 1687 hits, 107 homers, 298 doubles, 80 stolen bases, 455 walks, 667 runs and 708 RBIs in 1988 games.
Todd Worrell was Francisco Rodriguez before Francisco Rodriguez was out of diapers (if you believe his "age").
Worrell came up to the Majors in 1985 and pitched 21 innings for the Cardinals down the stretch and was a big reason for their trip to the World Series, pitching 6 2/3 innings against the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Worrell became the Cardinals closer in 1986, in that old 90-100 innings closer type of way, and won the Rookie-of-the-Year award.
He pitched 90+ innings in 1986, 1987 and 1988, saving between 32-36 games each of the 3 seasons.
Then, in the middle of the 1989 season, Worrell was injured and ended up needing multiple elbow and shoulder surgeries.
He didn't pitch again until 1992 and, when he returned, he served not as closer, but setup man for the Cards new closer, Lee Smith (more on him in a minute).
After the 1992 season Worrell signed with the Dodgers as a free agent and eventually worked his way back into the closer role in 1995-1997, saving 32, 44 and 35 games in those 3 years.
Worrell's 35 saves in 1997 also came with a 5.28 ERA (the worst ERA ever for someone with 35+ saves) and Worrell choose to retire rather than sign with another team.
Todd Worrell was a very good reliever for quite a few years and might be looking at 350+ saves if it weren't for injuries - then again, with closers, who knows what would have happened.
Worrell finished with 3.09 ERA in 694 innings with a 50-52 record, 256 saves, 628 strike outs and 247 walks in 617 games.
Danny Jackson had his "career year" in 1988, going 23-8 with a 2.73 ERA with the Reds.
It was about that time that I started collecting baseball cards and I remember I had a Danny Jackson "rookie card" that I thought was the most valuable piece of cardboard ever made.
Jackson went 6-11 with a 5.60 ERA the next year and I was able to take his rookie of the safety deposit box and put it into the trash.
Other than that one breakout year, Danny Jackson was basically a league average starting pitcher for his entire career.
The league ERA during his career (adjusting for the parks and leagues he pitched in) was 4.02.
Jackson's career ERA was 4.01.
He had a career record of 112-131 and never won more than 14 games in a season before or after 1988.
He gave up about a hit per inning, struck out about 5 batters per game and walked about 3.
Putting Jackson on the Hall-of-Fame ballot makes about as much sense as letting me try out for the Twins - neither of us have any shot of making it and it is really just a waste of time.
But, Jackson is on the ballot, while I am still waiting for the call from Terry Ryan.
Jackson finished with a 4.01 ERA in 2073 innings with a 112-131 record, 1225 strike outs and 816 walks in 353 games.
Close, but no cigar...
I think there is a good chance that someday, when Joe Morgan is basically running the Hall-of-Fame, Dave Concepcion will get inducted.
Barring that though, Concepcion will have to settle for having a very good and very long NON-HoF career.
I couldn't decide whether to include Concepcion in the "It's nice to be on the ballot" section or this section, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, mostly because I am a nice guy.
Concepcion was the Cincinnati shortstop for almost 2 entire decades, debuting in 1970 and retiring in 1988, while playing 2488 games, all for the Reds.
During that time he won 5 Gold Gloves, appeared in 9 all-star games and was a consistent and very durable player.
Concepcion played in at least 140 games in a season 11 times, including 7 seasons in a row, from 1974 to 1980.
He was a consistent .275-.290 hitter with decent doubles power and good speed on the basepaths.
Concepcion was a nice player for a lot of years and was a member of some very good teams (with Joe Morgan), but he just is not a Hall-of-Famer by any stretch of the imagination.
Concepcion finished with a career line of .267/.322/.357 with 2326 hits, 101 homers, 389 doubles, 48 triples, 321 stolen bases, 993 runs and 950 RBIs in 2488 games.
Good old "Donnie Baseball."
If you are looking for a nice Hall-of-Fame argument, Mattingly is usually a safe place to start one.
My take on the issue?
In a nutshell: Don Mattingly had several Hall-of-Fame seasons, but he did not have a HoF career.
From 1984-1987 Mattingly was one of the best players in baseball.
He hit .343, .324, .352 and .327 in those 4 seasons and drove in 110+ runs each year, including 145 in 1985.
Mattingly didn't walk much, but he hit for huge batting averages, smacked 30 homers and hit tons of doubles.
That is all in his prime, of course.
Mattingly's reign over AL pitchers ended prematurely mostly because of back injuries.
He played in 8 seasons after 1987 and often had a very good batting average, but his power declined to the point that he struggled to keep his slugging % above .400 and often didn't.
In the field, Mattingly was a superior first baseman who won 9 Gold Glove awards.
At the plate, Mattingly just wasn't great for a long enough period and his decline was too rapid to be a Hall-of-Famer.
His career adjusted OPS (OPS+) is 127, meaning he was 27% above league average for his career.
That is a very good total, but not a HoF one.
127 ranks up there with guys like Cecil Cooper (121), Hal McRae (122) and John Kruk (133), while not up to the standards of most Hall-of-Famers, like Hank Greenberg (158) or Willie McCovey (148) or even guys like Norm Cash (139) or Jack Clark (137).
If Don Mattingly's 4 year run at the top was a 6 or 7 year run or if his decline wasn't so harsh, he would be a Hall-of-Famer.
But, he isn't.
See what I mean? It's a sure way to start a "discussion."
Mattingly finished with a career line of .307/.358/.471 with 2153 hits, 222 homers, 442 doubles, 588 walks, 1007 runs and 1099 RBIs in 1785 games.
Dale Murphy's career was similar to Don Mattingly's.
Murphy's "peak" was a little longer and his decline was even sharper, but overall, very similar.
If Murphy had been hit by a pitch (or a bus) in about 1987 and ended his career, his HoF case would be a lot better than it is now, which is significant considering he played 4 full seasons and parts of 2 others after 1987.
Murphy's decline is one of the sharpest in baseball history.
He went from a consistent 35+ homer, .300/.380/.540 hitter to a .225/.315/.420 hitter in the span of one season.
Dale Murphy hit .295/.417/.580 with 44 homers in 1987, his best year but not one that was far from the rest of his career up to that point.
He would never hit above .250 again and never slug over .425.
It is really quite amazing and I am not sure that anyone has a real reason for it.
Murphy is the youngest back-to-back MVP winner in the Major League history and won 5 Gold Gloves in center field after making the switch from catcher early in his career.
Murphy finished with a career line of .265/.346/.469 with 2111 hits, 398 homers, 350 doubles, 986 walks, 1197 runs and 1266 RBIs in 2180 games.
Bruce Sutter is the Dale Murphy of pitching.
He had an amazing but short peak, which spanned from 1976-1982 and then 1984.
Now, that's still 8 years, which isn't really all that short, but keep in mind that is 8 years of only 80-100 innings per year.
Sutter is the original closer, which is a good thing, I suppose.
Unlike today's brand of closer, he usually pitched about 100 innings a year, which makes him more valuable than the Trevor Hoffmans and Troy Percivals of the world.
Bruce Sutter's career basically breaks down like this:
1 amazing year (1977)
2 great years (1979 and 1984)
5 very good years (1976, 1978, 1980, 1981 and 1982)
4 below average years (1983, 1985, 1988)
He only pitched 18 innings in 1986, so I won't count that one.
So, you've got a guy with a short career of pitching less than 150 innings a season and he has almost as many "bad" years as "good" ones and only 3 great/amazing ones.
I just don't think that is a description of a HoF player.
"Come on I won the MVP in 79. I can do whatever I want to do. I'm Keith Hernandez." - Keith Hernandez talking to himself, Seinfeld episode 35.
If Keith Hernandez needed a tie-breaker for his Hall-of-Fame case, I would give it to him by virtue of his epic appearance on Seinfeld.
But, sadly, Keith Hernandez's Hall-of-Fame credentials aren't quite up to the level of needing a tie-breaker.
Hernandez was very likely the greatest defensive first baseman in the history of baseball and won 11 straight Gold Gloves from 1978-1988, which is a nice accomplishment, but not as nice as being, say, the 20th best defensive shortstop ever or something like that.
Anyway, Hernandez didn't have typical first baseman power, but he hit for a good average, smacked some doubles and walked a lot.
All that, along with the great defense, made him a very valuable player for many years.
Hernandez's HoF case might be a little closer to needing that tie-breaker if he hadn't completely stopped hitting after 1987.
Hernandez hit .290/.377/.436 in 1987, at the age of 33, but instead of having a typical, gradual decline, Hernandez dropped to .276/.333/.417 in 1988 and then .233/.324/.326 in 1989 and .200/.283/.238 in his final season.
Hernandez finished with a career line of .296/.384/.436 with 2182 hits, 162 homers, 426 doubles, 60 triples, 1070 walks, 1124 runs, 1071 RBIs and 1 sitcom appearance in 2088 games.
While Jim Rice was with the Red Sox, Fenway Park was one of the best places for hitters in all of baseball and, for that reason, his "raw stats" are incredibly inflated.
That said, Rice was still a very good hitter for many years and a great one during his peak - 1977-1979.
In those 3 years, Rice hit .320, .315 and .325, had OBPs of .376, .370 and .381 and SLGs of .593, .600 and .596.
He also hit 39, 46 and 39 homers and drove in 114, 139 and 130 runs.
Very impressive, no matter how good Fenway was for hitters.
But, beyond those 3 great seasons, Rice only slugged over .500 in 2 other seasons and only had an OPS+ of over 130 in 3.
Jim Rice was a good hitter for a long time and a great one for a little while and he was even a pretty good defensive left fielder, but he isn't up to the standards of the HoF.
Rice finished with a career line of .298/.352/.502 with 2452 hits, 382 homers, 373 doubles, 1249 runs and 1451 RBIs in 2089 games.
Before I say anything, I want to mention that I think Lee Smith will be inducted into the Hall-of-Fame.
I don't think he should be, but he will be.
The voters will see that "478" under the "SV" column, their eyes will light up and they won't be able to help themselves.
Lee Smith came up with the Cubs when he was 22 and spent 8 years in Chicago, saving 180 games.
Smith then moved on to (in order) Boston, St. Louis, the Yankees, Baltimore, the Angels, Cincinnati and Montreal, before calling it quits.
Smith was well traveled, but he was also a very good pitcher for a lot of years.
The only time his ERA was worse than league average was in his final season, at age 39, with Montreal.
He saved 30+ games in a season 10 times and 40+ 3 times.
For his career, his ERA was 32% better than league average.
Yes, he is the all-time leader in saves.
But "saves" is a relatively new thing in the baseball world, so its not like he beat out guys from the first 3/4 of the century like the all-time leaders in most other stats had to.
I am almost sure that Lee Smith will get into the HoF and I am almost as sure that he doesn't deserve it.
Smith finished with a 3.03 ERA in 1289 innings with a 71-92 record, 478 saves, 1251 strike outs and 486 walks in 1022 games.
Goose Gossage has 168 fewer saves than Lee Smith, but he has a much better case for the HoF.
Gossage pitched longer and he pitched more innings.
His adjusted ERA is a little worse than Smith's but the innings more than make up for that, not to mention the fact that during Gossage's "peak" years he was more dominant than Lee Smith could ever dream of being.
Gossage's 3 best ERA+ seasons were: 465(!!!!), 246 and 212.
Yeah, that's right, 465! Gossage had a 0.77 ERA in 1981 and the adjusted league ERA was 3.59.
That 0.77 came in only 47 innings of work, but the 246 was for 133 innings and the 212 was in 142 innings, and those 2 seasons were 2 of the best years ever by a reliever.
In addition to those 3 great years, Gossage also had ERA+ seasons of 180, 156, 172, 180, 173 and 194, and several of those seasons were ones in which pitched well over 100 innings.
As a relievers go, Goose Gossage has a pretty good HoF case, but I just don't think it is enough.
Gossage was tried as a starting pitcher for one season of his career, 1976 with the White Sox.
He pitched 224 innings and had an ERA about 10% below the league's.
He also got bad run support and ended up with a 9-17 record, which ended his days as a starter.
I have always wondered if Gossage could have been a successful starter and whether or not his HoF candidacy would be a stronger one if he had done it for more than that one season.
Jack Morris will always have a special place in my heart and the hearts of all Twins fans for what he did on October 27, 1991.
Jack Morris is also exhibit #1 for not using a pitcher's won-loss record to completely evaluate his career.
Over the course of his long career, Morris' ERA was 5% better than league average.
At the same time, his career winning % was .577.
Those two things just don't exactly match up and that is because Morris got incredible run support in many of his seasons because he played on very good and great offensive teams.
That said, it isn't as if Jack Morris wasn't a good pitcher too - he was.
He is the definition of a "workhorse," a guy that was good for about 250 innings a year in his prime.
Morris also had 6 seasons with at least 190 innings and an ERA over 20% better than the league.
But, most of the time, Morris was pitching a lot of innings and preventing runs at a slightly better rate than the rest of the league and that isn't exactly HoF material.
Morris finished with a 3.90 ERA in 3824 innings with a 254-186 record, 175 complete games, 2478 strike outs and 1390 walks in 549 games.
"FernandoMania!" swept through California in this early 80s, as a then "20 year old" Fernando Valenzuela looked skyward with every pitch and won the Rookie-of-the-Year and the Cy Young award in 1981, going 13-7 with a 2.48 ERA.
He won his first 8 starts with an 0.50 ERA, including 36 straight scoreless innings, and the legend was born.
Fernando continued to pitch well the next season too, going 19-13 and pitching 285 innings with a 2.87.
First of all, I am not sure that anyone believes that Valenzuela was really 20 years old in 1981 or 21 in 1982.
But, if he actually was, can you imagine what would happen if a 21 year old pitched 285 innings in today's game?
I can picture a "stathead" revolt and it isn't a pretty sight.
What with Rob Neyer holding a pitchfork, Joe Sheehan armed with a trash can lid and yours truly brandishing a Louisville Slugger.
Anyway, Valenzuela was a good pitcher, but his stats look a lot better than his actual performance because he played in a severe pitcher's park (Dodger Stadium) and played in an era of low offense (the early 80s).
For example, while Valenzuela's ERA in 1982 was very good (2.82), when you adjust for his home park, the entire league's ERA was only 3.46.
Fernando's best adjusted ERAs (minimum 100 IP):
143 - 1985
134 - 1981
121 - 1982
116 - 1984
111 - 1996
110 - 1986
100 - 1987
100 - 1989
After those 8 years, you have years of 96, 79, 80, 90, etc.
Basically, Fernando had 3 really great years, 3 very good years and a few average seasons.
Valenzuela finished with a 3.54 ERA in 2930 innings with a 173-153 record, 113 complete games, 2074 strike outs and 1151 walks in 453 games.
Steve Garvey had an "interesting" off the field story and he walked about once a week.
Because of those two things, I think a lot of people (myself included) tend to overlook what a solid, consistently good player Garvey was.
A couple of additonal things hurt his cause also:
1) He played in a relatively low offensive era.
2) He played in a tough park for hitters.
For most of his career, Garvey hit .300 like clockwork - 7 times in an 8 year span from 1973-1980, with the one non-.300 year being .297.
Like I said, he didn't walk at all, but he hit 20 homers a year and drove in 100+ runs, which was a significant accomplishment for someone hitting in Dodger Stadium in the 70s.
Garvey was also a good defensive first baseman - he was originally a 3B, but went across the diamond because of his lack of arm strength.
Garvey was a very good and consistent player for many years, but even playing in Dodger Stadium, a first baseman has got to end up with an on-base % well over .330 and a slugging % over .450 if he wants to be a Hall-of-Famer.
Garvey's career totals? .329 OBP, .446 SLG.
Garvey finished with a career line of .294/.329/.446 with 2599 hits, 272 homers, 440 doubles, 1143 runs and 1308 RBIs in 2332 games.
"King Cobra" came up with the Pirates in 1973 and became their everyday right fielder in 1975.
From 1975-1979, Parker was one of the best hitters in baseball, putting up OPS+ numbers of 148, 132, 144, 166 and 141 in those 5 seasons.
He was able to hit for a tremendous batting average, good home run power, good doubles power and even good triples power (and speed).
And he was a very good defensive right fielder with a cannon for an arm.
Then it all started to go down hill for Dave Parker.
He had drug problems and knee problems and his performance on the field starting to decline.
Parker only managed to play in 140 games in 1981 and 1982 combined and when he was playing, his batting average was below .270, although the power was still solid.
In 1983 Parker managed to play in 144 games, but he hit only .279/.311/.411 and the Pirates allowed him to become a free agent in the off-season.
Parker signed with the Reds and had a disappointing first season with Cincinnati, hitting only .285/.328/.410 in 607 at bats.
He had a comeback year in 1985, hitting .312/.365/.551 with 34 homers, 42 doubles and 125 RBIs.
The RBI and doubles led the league and he finished 2nd in the MVP balloting to Willie McGee.
Parker followed that up with another good season in 1986, the last time he would drive in 100 runs or hit 30 homers.
Dave Parker's career is a very good one, but it doesn't warrant induction into the HoF.
If he hadn't had the drug problems or even the injury problems? Who knows.
Parker finished with a career line of .290/.339/.471 with 2712 hits, 339 homers, 526 doubles, 1272 runs and 1493 RBIs in 2466 games.
Andre Dawson won the National League MVP award in 1987, which is very interesting for any number of reasons.
1) Dawson was completely undeserving of the award.
He led the NL in homers with 49, but did not place in the top 10 in batting average, was not anywhere near the top 10 (or top 30) in on-base % and finished only 10th in OPS.
All that came while hitting in Wrigley Field, which at the time was a very good place for hitters - particularly power hitters.
2) He won the award while playing for a last place team.
This is incredibly interesting in light of what happened in the AL MVP voting this year.
A player, let's call him A. Rodriguez...no, wait, let's call him Alex R...yeah, that's better.
Anyway, Alex R. had one of the best seasons of all-time while playing for a last place team and he didn't win the MVP.
Meanwhile, only 15 years ago Andre Dawson didn't even have one of the best seasons in the league while playing for last place team and won the MVP.
3) 1987 wasn't even Dawson's best season.
It was his best HR and RBI performance, but Dawson had several seasons that could be considered superior ones, including 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983 and the season directly after his MVP year, 1988.
What does this all mean for Dawson's HoF candidacy? Not much really, but I thought it was interesting.
Andre Dawson's career had two dinstinct parts: center fielder for the Expos and right fielder for the Cubs.
Dawson's days in Montreal were actually quite a bit better than his days in Chicago, but since Wrigley was a nice place to hit and Chicago is a big city, he got a lot more attention there.
Andre Dawson played well for a lot of years, hit a lot of homers, drove in a lot of runs and even stole a lot of bases.
But a .323 OBP for a guy that played right field for half his career is pretty awful and, although his HR total is good, his career slugging % isn't even that great.
Dawson has a borderline good case for the HoF, but so do about a million other outfielders.
Dawson finished with a career line of .279/.323/.482 with 2774 hits, 438 homers, 503 doubles, 314 stolen bases, 1373 runs and 1591 RBIs in 2627 games.
Welcome to the Hall-of-Fame...
I think Gary Carter's HoF case is quite simple...
In his prime he was the best catcher in baseball.
For his career, he ranks among the top 8-10 catchers in baseball history.
Any player that can say they were the best at their position for the better part of a decade AND that they rank among the top 10 guys at their position ever is a slam dunk Hall-of-Famer in my book.
Carter was a great defensive catcher that won 3 Gold Glove awards and probably should have won a couple more than that.
He was very durable and fairly consistent.
As a hitter, Carter had good power, hit for a decent average and took some walks.
He drove in 100+ runs 4 times, hit 25+ homers 5 times and was a better than league average (at least) hitter for 12 out of his first 13 years.
For a quick and dirty comparison...
Jorge Posada has an adjusted OPS that is 17% better than the league for his career and that is without including his "decline" which will almostly certainly drop that number down at least a couple of notches.
Basically, Gary Carter was about as good a hitter as Jorge Posada has been thus far AND he was a Gold Glove caliber catcher AND he did it for almost 20 seasons.
Carter finished with a career line of .262/.335/.439 with 2092 hits, 324 homers, 371 doubles, 848 walks, 1025 runs and 1225 RBIs in 2296 games.
Ryne Sandberg's case is very similar to Gary Carter's.
Like Carter, Sandberg was the best player at his position during his peak years.
And, like Carter, Sandberg is comfortably within the top 10 players all-time at his position.
Sandberg was a Phillies farmhand and was behind Mike Schmidt on the third base depth chart, so they sent him to Chicago, along with Larry Bowa, for Ivan DeJesus, in what is one of the worst trades in MLB history.
Bowa and DeJesus were pretty much a "wash" after the trade as neither of them hit at all and they both played shortstop for a few more years.
Sandberg went on to play 15 seasons with the Cubs, as a second baseman.
Ryne Sandberg posted an adjusted OPS at least 30% better than the league 6 different times and won the NL MVP in 1984.
And 1984 probably wasn't even his best season - he hit .306/.354/.559 with 40 homers in 1990, but finished 4th in the MVP balloting.
Sandberg was even good on the basepaths, stealing a total of 344 bases in his career including 20+ 9 times and 54 in 1985.
Oh, and "Ryno" was a pretty great fielder too, winning 9 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1983-1991.
Sandberg has an MVP, 9 Gold Gloves, a career adjusted OPS 14% better than the league, almost 2400 hits and almost 300 homers...
He's a Hall-of-Famer.
And his case might be even a little bit better if he hadn't "retired" in 1994 and missed about a year and a half, because he would have crossed the 300 HR mark and probably the 2500 hit mark too.
Sandberg finished with a career line of .285/.344/.452 with 2386 hits, 282 homers, 403 doubles, 76 triples, 344 stolen bases, 1318 runs and 1061 RBIs in 2164 games.
Trammell came up with the Tigers as a 19 year old in 1977 and became their starting shortstop the next year.
From 1978-1982 Trammell played almost everyday and hit fairly well, but without a lot of power.
Then, in 1983, something clicked and Trammell had his first truly great season at the age of 25, hitting .319/.385/.471.
Trammell followed that up with an almost identical .314/.382/.468 season in 1984.
His best year came in 1987, when he hit .343/.402/.551 with 28 homers, 34 doubles and 105 RBIs for the division winning Tigers.
He played good defense at shortstop and even added in 21 steals while only being caught twice, but Trammell still only finished second in the MVP vote to George Bell.
Alan Trammell had a long career and throughout most of it he was a Gold Glove caliber shortstop with a great bat and a tremendously underrated player.
Trammell's top 8 OPS+ seasons: Derek Jeter's OPS+ seasons, thus far:
As you can see, "The Yankee Flipper" still has a long way to go before he equals Alan Trammell as far as top notch offensive seasons go.
Trammell finished with a career line of .285/.352/.415 with 2365 hits, 185 homers, 412 doubles, 236 stolen bases, 1231 runs and 1003 RBIs in 2293 games.
I suppose that having a surgical procedure named after you is a good thing.
I think it ranks slightly behind having a stadium named after you ("The House that Ruth Built"), but way ahead of having a disease named after you ("Lou Gehrig's disease").
Besides being the name of a really important surgery, Tommy John is also a classification for a "type" of pitcher.
You know, "He's a Tommy John type"? Think Kirk Rueter if you don't know what I'm talking about.
Also, in addition to the surgery and type of pitcher being named after him, Tommy John was a very good pitcher for an incredibly long period of time.
John pitched in 26 seasons in the Majors and in only one of them, his rookie year, did he pitch fewer than 60 innings.
From 1965-1982, a period of 18 seasons, Tommy John pitched at least 140 innings and had an ERA that was better than the league average.
Overall, for this career, he pitched 200+ innings 12 times and had an adjusted ERA that was at least 25% better than the league 6 times.
Tommy John was never really a a superstar pitcher and he never had a huge year (his best ERA+ is 154), but he was consistently very good and he pitched for an extraordinary length of time.
His career adjusted ERA looks a little worse than it should because he had some years at the end when he was in his mid-40s and pitching under 100 innings a year with bad ERAs.
On the other hand, he got some extra wins out of the deal, so I guess those years should count too.
17 straight seasons with an ERA+ of 100 or better, including years of 120, 125, 154, 119, 119, 116, 132, 138, 138 and 137, gets my nod as a Hall-of-Fame career, but just barely.
John finished with a 3.34 ERA in 4710 innings with a 288-231 record, 162 complete games, 46 shutouts, 2245 strike outs and 1259 walks in 760 games.
You may have noticed that Tommy John's most similar pitcher is Jim Kaat and Jim Kaat's most similar pitcher is Tommy John.
So, if one should go in the Hall (like I said John should) shouldn't the other one go to?
Tommy John pitched 26 seasons, Jim Kaat pitched 25.
John logged 4710 innings, Kaat finished with 4530.
John's adjusted ERA was 11% better than the league, Kaat's was 7% better.
I suppose Kaat gets some bonus points for winning about a billion Gold Gloves in a row, but being the best fielding pitcher is just slightly better than being the tallest midget.
So, for their entire careers, Tommy John pitched about 200 more innings and prevented runs at a better rate.
What about their top few seasons, how do those compare?
Well, since I happen to have my trusty "Win Shares" book right here...
John's top 3 seasons = 23, 19, 19
Kaat's top 3 seasons = 26, 22, 22
John's top 5 seasons (total) = 86
Kaat's top 5 seasons (total) = 88
Kaat's very best years were better than John's, but if you look at their top 5 years combined, the gap narrows to almost nothing.
So, if Kaat can't beat him on "peak" and he doesn't beat him on "career total"...
I think I would still give Jim Kaat my vote for the HoF, but he would be about as close as it comes to not getting a vote as a person can get and still receive one.
There has to be a cutoff somewhere and I could probably be convinced that it should be at Jim Kaat, but 4500 innings and 283 wins is still pretty damn good and if you add in the Gold Gloves, you push my vote over the top.
Kaat finished with a 3.45 ERA in 4530 innings with a 283-257 record, 180 complete games, 2461 strike outs and 1083 walks in 898 games.
Quietly and consistently excellent for almost 2 decades, Eddie Murray is a definite Hall-of-Famer.
His "rate" numbers (average, OBP, SLG) aren't mind blowing, but that is in large part because of the pitcher's parks (Dodger, Memorial and Shea Stadiums) that he played many years in.
From about 1977 to 1993, Eddie Murray was pretty much good for a .290-.300 batting average, 30 homers, 30 doubles, 100 RBIs and a .500 slugging %.
Murray also played very good defense at first base and won 3 Gold Glove awards.
Never spectacular, but always pretty damn good, Eddie Murray reached the two big "magic numbers" for hitters, 500 homers and 3000 hits.
He also added in 560 doubles, 1300 walks, almost 2000 RBIs and 1600 runs scored.
Murray finished with a career line of .287/.359/.476 with 3255 hits, 504 homers, 560 doubles, 1333 walks, 110 stolen bases, 1627 runs and 1917 RBIs in 3026 games.
In a way, Eddie Murray was to hitting what this next guy was to pitching...
First things first, I am a big fan of Bert Blyleven.
He pitched very well for many years on my hometown team (the Twins) and I have listened to him broadcast Twins games about 130 times a year for the last several seasons.
All that has absolutely nothing to do with my feeling that Bert Blyleven absolutely, without a doubt in my mind, deserves a place in the Hall-of-Fame.
Let's go over his credentials...
Blyleven played 22 seasons in the Major Leagues.
He pitched 130+ innings in 21 of them, 200+ innings in 16 of them and 250+ innings in 9 of them.
For his career, he ranks 13th all-time in innings pitched with 4970.
He only won 20 games 1 time, but won 14+ games 12 times.
For his career, he ranks 24th all-time in wins with 287.
He had 10 seasons with an ERA at least 25% better than the league average and finished with a career ERA of 3.31, which was 18% better than the leagues he pitched in.
Blyleven struck out 200+ batters in a season 8 times.
For his career, he ranks 5th all-time in strike outs with 3701.
Blyleven also ranks 9th all-time in career shutouts with 60.
22 Major League seasons.
13th all-time in innings.
24th all-time in wins.
5th all-time in strike outs.
9th all-time in shutouts.
I believe the only reason he isn't already in the HoF is the fact that he is 13 wins shy of the "magic" 300 win barrier.
Bert Blyleven pitched on some truely awful teams and received very bad run support in many of his seasons, which more than accounts for the lack of 13 extra wins in his career.
Bert Blyleven couldn't change how his teammates hit while he was on the mound, all he could do was pitch as well as he could.
And he did, for 22 seasons.
There are guys that won more games.
There are guys that had lower ERAs.
But, there aren't many pitchers in the history of baseball that combined the longevity and excellence that Bert Blyleven did and for that he deserves a place in the Hall-of-Fame.
Blyleven finished with a 3.31 ERA in 4970 innings with a 287-250 record, 3701 strike outs, 1322 walks, 242 complete games and 60 shutouts in 692 games.
To recap my choices:
It's nice to be on the ballot...
Close, but no cigar...
Welcome to the Hall-of-Fame...
See how easy that was?
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****