Showing posts with label Hall of Fame Debates. Show all posts
This post reflects my (OCP) views on the Hall of Fame candidacy of Larry Walker and specifically why I think that Walker belongs in the MLB Hall of Fame. I anticipate that some of my colleagues and our readers will disagree with my sentiment.

I think that Larry Walker is a player that is often mislabeled as a one dimensional player. His burly name (with a name like Larry Walker, you have to be tough) and the impression that he left behind in his later and slower years, coupled with his home run proficiency leads many casual fans to ascertain that he was a home run hitting outfielder. The truth is, Larry Walker was a rare breed five-tool player. He had a great eye at the dish, he hit for contact, he hit for power, he ran the bases well and he had great range. Oh yeah, and he had one of the strongest arms in right field that the game has ever seen. In order to convey why I think Walker is worthy of enshrinement, I am going to focus on his overall value. His value needs to be measured based on his total contributions to his team, not just his hitting.

If you are willing to measure Larry Walker based on his offensive numbers alone, he probably comes up short because of the Coors Factor but Walker was much more than a bat-smith and as much as Coors helped him at the plate, playing the outfield at Coors is no simple task (Coors Field boasts the largest outfield in Major League Baseball, meaning there is much more ground to cover). He was a seven-time Gold Glove winner, a prolific run scorer and a run producer. His 162 game averages are remarkable; he stole 19 bases, scored 110 runs and 107 RBI per 162. He ranks in the top 100 for his career in too many categories to list... runs scored, doubles, WAR, defensive WAR, total bases, hit by pitches, OPS, adjusted OPS (adjusted for player ballpark), putouts as a RF, assists as a RF, range factor, fielding percentage... the guy was an all-around stud. I always looked at Larry Walker as one of those guys that was supremely competitive. He was intense and confident but there was no doubt that he was willing to do whatever the team needed to win. He was often overshadowed by Bonds and company but the guy did his job every day and was almost always the best all-around player on the field. I liken him to Craig Biggio with pop. Biggio had the luxury of consistent health but Walker was right there with him in terms of overall value to his team. Had Walker been able to stay healthy, he would have been much closer to the 3,000 hit mark that so many casual fans associate with Hall of Fame enshrinement. To be fair, there are plenty of guys already in Cooperstown with fewer hits than Walker (Duke Snider, Bill Mazeroski and Johnny Mize, to name a few).

He also came up huge on the big stage, hitting 6 home runs in the 2004 postseason (2 in each of the NLDS, NLCS and WS rounds). He won a well deserved MVP in 2004, posting a triple slash line of .366/.452/.720. For his career, he hit .313/.400/.565, one of 17 players in baseball history in the 3-4-5 club (+.300 BA, +.400 OBP, +.500 SLG). Of those 17, only Walker, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Lefty O'Doul, Edgar Martinez and Manny Ramirez are not enshrined in Cooperstown.

The argument against Walker revolves around his home and away splits. I'm not saying that Walker is the greatest right fielder of all time (even though his cumulative body of works suggests that you could make an argument - 16th all-time OPS and multiple Gold Gloves); Walker benefited from Coors as much as anyone and I get that. He was able to hit more home runs and doubles than he would have elsewhere but consider this, in his MVP season (1997), Walker hit .346 on the road while smashing 29 home runs (compared to his .386 mark at home to go along with 20 HR). He was a great ball player in every park, not just Coors. I think that his full body of work suggests that he was better than some notable right fielders already enshrined; Jim Rice and Willie Stargell, come to mind. And given the fact that the voters were able to overlook the fact that Mel Ott hit 140 more home runs at home, on the Polo Grounds where the RF porch was only 258 feet, I think you can overlook the ballpark that Walker played in, at least to some extent and give him the respect he deserves.
Long-time Yankee catcher, Jorge Posada, announced his retirement from baseball yesterday.  A seventeen year veteran, the five-time all-star will hang them up widely regarded as one of the greatest players in Yankee history. It's safe to say that Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey are still the top two catchers in franchise history, however, Posada's intangibles makes him an important figure in Yankee lore.  He personified what the Yankees were about; a professional in every facet of the game.  He was a solid offensive catcher, winning five Silver Sluggers and his .848 career OPS is actually higher than Berra's.  Besides his offensive prowess, Posada was a great leader on and off the field.  He managed his staff well and was an integral part in a bevy of successful Yankee teams.  In all, Posada's teams made the postseason 15 out of his 17 professional seasons, winning four World Series rings in the process.  Posada was a good player for a long-time and I would be shocked if he didn't remain around the game for years to come as a manager or bench coach.

Despite all of that high (deserved) praise, I'm sort of shocked to hear all of the chatter supporting Posada's eventual Hall of Fame candidacy.  To be frank, I just don't see it.  Because he's a catcher and because he played in the steroid era, it would be safe to assume that he could receive a little extra consideration but the biggest gripe that I have with Jorge Posada is Javy Lopez.  

Javy Lopez was up for Hall of Fame consideration for the first time this year.  In his first year of eligibility, Lopez fell well shy of the 5% required to remain on the ballot and thus will no longer be on the ballot moving forward.  When you compare the numbers, Lopez had a higher career batting average, he averaged more HR per 162 than Jorge (and fell only 15 HR shy of Jorge's cumulative HR total despite playing 2 fewer seasons), he was more successful in the postseason (hit 10 HR in 15 postseason series compared to Jorge hitting 10 in 15; he also had a higher triple slash line in the postseason) and from what I saw, Javy was a better defensive catcher (had a higher career fielding percentage, better range and caught some of the greatest pitchers of this generation with the Braves).  To make my point clear, in no way am I insinuating that Javy Lopez belongs in Cooperstown but given the facts, I don't see how you make the leap from Javy Lopez earning 0.2% support to Jorge Posada being a Hall of Famer.  One might assume that the writers connected their own dots with Javy to explain his surprisingly low Hall of Fame support.  Although Lopez was never formally implicated as a PED-user, he did make some bizarre comments about a race car driver using "nitro" to help win races.  He subsequently hit 43 HR in a contract year, 2003 at the age of 32, besting his previous career high of 34, which came five years earlier.  I don't know if that is the case.  I just think that the writers looked at the body of work and said that Javy Lopez, the three-time all-star, was just not in the same class as the thirteen other catchers enshrined in Cooperstown, and I agree with that.  And if you agree with that, it's hard to not to come to the same conclusion regarding Jorge Posada.    
As you know, we are proud members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance; a member organization that seeks to enhance collaboration and communication among baseball bloggers. As members, we are required to vote for certain awards throughout the year. To that end, we recently submitted our Hall of Fame ballots to the BBA. In total, the BBA received 150 ballots from member blogs, like ours. The results were recently released and in accordance with the voting results, the BBA has recommended Barry Larkin and Jeff Bagwell for enshrinement. You can see the press release which includes the full results here.

Selecting Hall of Fame nominees was, by far, the most difficult voting task for us to complete to date. Among the three contributors here, there is very little consistency on where we stand when it comes to Hall of Fame worthiness. We stand opposite and firm on key issues like steroids and have differing opinions on what the Hall should represent. Because of that, we decided to give a "yes" vote to anyone that any of us felt was truly worthy of enshrinement. The truth is, in spite of our differences, we respect each other's opinion to the fullest; if Hersh believes that someone is worth of a vote, I think that it's better to give him that vote (than it is for me to try to convince him that he's wrong). Same goes for Mc. It would be different if we had three votes but our blog only gets one vote and since we only have one ballot, we felt that it was more appropriate to vote yes for all of the names that we liked (rather than begrudgingly vote no to someone because of our differing opinions).  Our full ballot included Larkin and Bagwell as well as Jack Morris, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker, Tim Raines and Edgar Martinez.  Seven names is a lot and we recognize that there is virtually no chance that all of those guys make the cut in 2012 but I think that you could find a legitimate argument for each player and that was the conclusion we arrived at.  Right or wrong, there is one member of our contributing staff that would be willing to go to bat for every name on this list.  We've already openly debated and discussed the Hall of Fame candidacies of Larkin, Bagwell, McGriff, Raines and Martinez (you can see all of them under the tab titled Hall of Fame Debates).  In the upcoming weeks, we will try to give you the arguments for and against Larry Walker and Jack Morris.  Thanks for stopping in.
In 1964 baseball was blessed with two rookies that were as talented as any other two players already in the league. Keep in mind, we're talking about the 1960's. Already tearing up the league were the likes of Aaron, Mays, Mantle and Clemente.

I'm talking about Tony Oliva and Dick Allen, two of the most natural baseball talents to ever play the game. Both were rookie of the year for their league that year, and a case could be made for them winning the MVP as well.

Oliva won the batting title his rookie year, a feat he would repeat in his second season. Who does that? Plus he led the league in hits his first 3 years. A natural hitter who came over from Cuba to play baseball, he was called the AL version of Roberto Clemente during his playing years. Oliva would go on to win another batting title and lead the league in hits 2 more times.  Why didn't he have a HOF career? Knees. He had two bad knees that by 1972 had basically decimated his ability to run anymore. He tried being a DH for 3 years, but the results were less than flattering as he could barely run the bases when he did get hits. He finished with a .304 lifetime average. We can only wonder what might have been. I think 3000 hits and couple of more batting titles would have been certainly possible.

Next is Dick Allen, who is close to my heart because of growing up a Phillies fan. Allen was known for not taking batting practice and also for slugging monstrous home runs at old Connie Mack stadium. People still talk about his rockets out of the park. My first game ever he hit one that sailed clear out of the stadium. In Allen's rookie year, he almost led the Phils to the pennant. He hit .318, scored 125 runs, 38 doubles, 13 triples and 29 HR. Two years later he would hit 40 HR and hit .317.  He was one of the most feared sluggers in baseball by this time. What went wrong?

It was nothing physical with Dick, all mental. According to Dick himself in his interview with Bob Costas on the MLB channel, it started with his time in Arkansas in the minor leagues. Allen, being from Pennsylvania, had not known the kind of deep racism the South was known for at the time. He found out fast in Arkansas where he was called every racist term you could think of and he also wasn't allowed to sleep or eat with the white players. Then he was brought up up Philadelphia which was not known as a black friendly town. In fact, they were the last NL team to sign a black player. He and the town developed an attitude with each other which forced the team to trade him after the 1969 season.

Allen would be traded 2 more times in the next 2 seasons, mostly for being difficult to get along with. In 1972 he came very close to winning a triple crown, just missing the batting title after leading the league in HR and RBI. Even after that, he was traded 2 seasons later back to the Phillies. He would never be the same and so a HOF career was missed. When you hear Dick Allen talk now, even he wishes he could do it over and see how good he could have been.

This is a good debate full of caveats to explore and analyze. Martinez broke into the league a little late, not playing his first full season until age 27. He did prove to have some longevity by playing 18 years into his early forties. Somewhat of a rarity these days, Martinez played his entire career with the one team, the Mariners. Before we begin, here are some selected career stats for Edgar Martinez.

2055 G, 7213 AB, 1219 R, 2247 H, 514 2B, 309 HR, 1261 RBI, .312/.418/.515

Mc - There's no question that for a handful of years, Edgar Martinez was a very feared hitter in the American League. He was also very consistent, proving to be a doubles machine and displaying homerun power and strong run production capabilities. There are a couple of facets to Edgar Martinez's career that make his Hall of Fame argument hard to make.
Today's debate for Hall of Fame worthiness centers on Barry Larkin. Playing his entire 19 year career for the Cincinnati Reds, there's no denying from anyone at FBJ that Larkin was a great player, outstanding shortstop, and great ambassador of the game. The question looms does he break down the HOF wall based on talent, numbers, and impact to deserve enshrinement in Cooperstown? This debate has pit Hersh and I on opposite sides of the fence. We both agree he was a great player, but HOF candidacy is where the line in the sand has been drawn. It would seem baseball writers are equally split on this issue, although Larkin's stock is rising. In 2010, Larkin received 51.6% and in 2011, he received 62.1%.

Rock was one of my favorite baseball player growing up. I can remember looking at his baseball cards, seeing that physique and thinking 'Man, the guy looks like one hell of an athlete.' Unfortunately, I'm not sure if he's Hall of Fame worthy. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest leadoff hitters in his prime; great speed and on base numbers but unfortunately it's very hard to get into Cooperstown being a good stealer. Leadoff batters get no love unless you've got the hardware to go with it; MVP's, Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves. Tim didn't earn the hardware; just one Silver Slugger to his name (no MVP's or Gold Gloves). Raines, in my opinion, hit his prime years too early and wasn't able to amass the cumulative magic numbers- only 2,600 hits. He was truly great for five of his first eight years and then 'good' or 'serviceable' for the next twelve, never leading the league in anything and missing the all star game every year after age 27. Unfortunately, and I hope that I'm wrong because I really do like Raines, Cooperstown wasn't made for players like Rock- it was made for great players that transcend the game. Tim was a very good player for a long time but he only had a short period of great. He was very respected by his peers but the fact that he was a journeyman indicates the replaceable nature of his tools. He was a bit overshadowed by Rickey and I think that hurts his case (although if Rickey was the greatest, there should be room for the second greatest of his era).

Piggy-backing off of the Schilling debate, today we will look at Mike Mussina and debate whether Moose is worthy of enshrinement.

Pro - OCP

Knee-jerk, Mike Mussina was a very good pitcher but Hall worthy?  His name was the answer to a trivia question that made my head spin, which is why this debate came up here.  It took a lot for me to convince myself that he belongs but there are some statistical anomales that exist which say that he does. 

Consider this, if Moose does not make it into the Hall of Fame, he will be the first pitcher with 100 more wins than losses not enshrined.  There are only six pitchers in the history of baseball with 17 or more seasons of 10 wins or more: Greg Maddux, Warren Spahn, Cy Young, Don Sutton, Steve Carlton and Mike Mussina.  There are only five pitchers in the history of baseball with at least 270 wins and a winning percentage greater than .638 and four out of the five are already enshrined.  The other is, of course, Mike Mussina. 

Time for another HOF Debate battle with Curt Schilling our subject. Apart from being somewhat controversial with opinions and statements, Schilling is best known for being a gutty, power pitcher that showed flashes of dominance. This is especially true when looking at his post season numbers.
One of our serial topics involves Hall of Fame legitimacy among players that are not highly regarded as automatic bids. Starting with McGriff, we're going to offer a pro and con perspective to the player's Hall worthiness. The best debates occur when the opposing sides are truly opposite opinions in thought. Such is the case with Fred McGriff. I'll present the "pro" side of McGriff's candidacy and my colleague will provide the "con" side.

Pro McGriff HOF (Mc)

Fred McGriff was a picture of consistency during his MLB career. He spent 10 seasons in both the American League and National League while hitting exactly .284 in each league. He had a quiet dominance about him, always helping his team, but not having jump out numbers. Although they played different positions, he reminds me of Dave Winfield with respect to consistency and year after year production. He topped 30 homers in 10 seasons and 100 RBI in 8 seasons (90 RBI in an additional 4 seasons).
This past week, Andy Pettitte announced his retirement ending a long, consistent, and winning career. He played 16 seasons mostly with the Yankees as well as three years with the Houston Astros. Pettitte is among the pitchers that began their careers as the four man rotation was transitioning to a five man rotation. With that in mind, his 240 wins adjusted to the transition, means he must at least be considered among Hall of Fame chatter. Throughout his career, Pettitte probably wouldn't be considered a dominating pitcher like some of his contemporaries. He wasn't a power pitcher that compiled lots of strikeouts (although he placed in the top 10 a few seasons). He also doesn't possess a multitude of Cy Young Awards. Perhaps that's why he doesn't typically pass the sniff test when considering HOF legitimacy. However, he did offer consistency, cool under fire, and a winning spirit. He was in double digit wins in every season except one, and 8 times he had 15 or more. He has the obligatory multiple twenty win seasons as well. Further, his .635 winning percentage is much higher than several pitchers already in the Hall of Fame. Finally, he was a horse for the Yankees and Astos, amassing 10 seasons of more than 200 innings pitched.

This week results will be announced for the Hall Of Fame. Jeff Bagwell is on the ballot for the first time. Does he get in? There has been speculation of steroids but nothing documented. In fact, he's failed no tests (I know they didn't test when he played) and he's made no lists of steroids users. I didn't read Canseco's books, but I haven't heard him accuse Bagwell either. I say that because Jose's been pretty accurate.

With that in mind, I put Bagwell in....On the first ballot. He has the stats. 449 HR's, 1529 RBI,1517 runs,.540 slugging %, .948 OPS. In only 15 years of playing! He also had a .297 lifetime ave. His career was cut short by arthiritis, in fact he couldn't hardly play his last year, appearing in only 39 games. He DH in the series that year, his only WS, going 1 for 8.

So my guess is he goes in first ballot. I also want to add that Roberto Alomar should get in this year also. Writers made him wait a year for spitting on an umpire and rightfully so.
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