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  • What Separates a HOFer from the Pack?

    With Larkin and Santo going into the hall this summer, I've got to ask what everyone's definition of a hall of famer is. I personally feel that the hall's getting way too dilluted (not to say that undercredentialed players haven't been getting elected for years. Look at Red Ruffing)! Where do you draw the cutoff for election into the hall? I'll post my opinion below. It's an old blog post that I wrote when Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were enshrined:

    A trip to Cooperstown, New York is a pilgrimage that any die hard baseball fan must make, and I often fantasize about going there one day. In my dreams I walk into that room with the burnished plaques, the smiling faces of all-time greats looking back at me; some of their noses are rubbed into a golden polish by previous visitors. Unfortunately, my dream usually transitions to a jumbled invasion of unfamiliar faces.

    Babe Ruth’s round mug is suddenly shoved aside by a plaque featuring a face I don’t recognize. Aren’t I in Cooperstown? Shouldn’t every name be as recognizable as the back of my own hand? After some reading I discover that it’s Red Ruffing. In my dream I read on to discover that he posted twenty or more wins in four consecutive years. That sounds pretty good, but I never thought four great years was enough to be called an immortal. The nightmare worsens as I learn more. A career ERA of 3.80! A win percentage of only .542 while playing most of his career with the Yankees of the 30s and 40s! At that point I fall from my bed in a bundle of sheets and cold sweat. As I sit on the floor in my Spongebob pajamas, I ask myself “what happened to the giants?”

    I’m not talking about the boys from the bay; I’m talking about the Paul Bunyans of baseball, the guys who were so good that they wouldn’t even need the Hall of Fame to be remembered. I thought those were supposed to be the guys straddling the Mt. Olympus of baseball. Instead, it seems that these days it’s getting a little too crowded in Cooperstown. The 2011 election wasn’t as bad as recent years, but I can’t help but wonder when the Hall of Fame became the Hall of Above Average.

    Actually, it’s not recent history. The problem of giving stars the same treatment as all-time greats has been present in Cooperstown for a long time. There hasn’t been a year without an inductee since 1960. That seems like a lot of guys going into a hall that’s designated for “once in a generation” ballplayers. That trend should come as no surprise to us since it’s so easy to whip up some media mania around a player just before voting.

    In addition to the old game of letting in above average players, a new concept has wormed its way into the Hall of Fame dialogue: the ‘first ballot’ discussion. Is Tom Glavine a “first ballot” Hall of Famer? Cy Young wasn’t a first ballot hall of famer. Neither were Rube Waddell, Lefty Grove, and Rogers Hornsby. What does that say about them? Is there a difference between a third and a fourth ballot Hall of Famer? Where can we draw the line?

    We can draw the line at “their accomplishments will be discussed for generations.” Is the player someone whose accomplishments will be remembered for more than one generation? Thirty years from now, will a fan from a different town recognize their name (can anyone from California fill me in on Enos Slaughter’s enormous contributions to the game)? Did they perform so far above their peers that they can be talked about in the same conversations as “second ballot” inductees like Tris Speaker, or- gasp- third balloters like Eddie Collins?

    The fact is that a vote, regardless of what year it is cast, is a vote recognizing a particular player as one of the greatest to ever set foot on a baseball diamond. There shouldn’t have to be a distinction between first ballot hall of famers, all-time great hall of famers, and average hall of famers (hello, Joe Tinker). Greatness should be mandatory for induction at all, and whether a player is voted in on their first year of eligibility or their last is pointless.

    Before the backlash begins, I understand that there is room for discussion on what makes an all-time great, and I understand that a cut-off has to be established somewhere in every fan’s heart. That’s what makes it so fun to follow. But I also think that to be voted into the hall, a player’s credentials should speak loudly enough that there is little room for such debate. Is Burt Blyleven one of the greatest of all time? Since I have to ponder, discuss, analyze, and evaluate my answer for more than five minutes, I’d say the answer is no. Not this year, not next year, not ever. Stats don’t change from one year of eligibility to another, so unless some game-changing info is brought to light, I don’t understand why on-the-fence candidates are even considered.

    Let’s make room for the folks who changed the game, the real once-in-a-generation ballplayers. If voters stay true to those standards, there will be no ‘inner circle’ Hall of Famers. The Hall itself would be the inner circle. Serious fans shouldn’t walk around and have to ask “is that my uncle Phil?” (The answer is no, it’s Andre Dawson). Let’s keep the Hall of Fame a place of enshrinement for the behemoths of baseball, because I’m tired of having my dreams invaded by Hall of Fame relief pitchers.
    Last edited by deadball-era-rules; 07-13-2012, 09:58 AM.

  • #2
    To me, for a player to be a hall of famer, he needs to have a really good peak and some good longevity. I'd make an exception for a guy like Koufax who was really, really dominant for 5 or 6 years years and had a case for being called the most important player in the game for a few years, but didn't have the longevity. But it would have to be a really exceptional, dominant, peak. I'm also not a huge fan of "compilers" making it into the HOF.

    Also, I know strong arguments can be made for guys like Blyleven if you look at his WAR or whatever, but while he was actually playing, I don't think Blyleven was ever regarded as one of the top 5 pitchers in the game. Not Hall of "Fame" material to me. I wouldn't put in Jack Morris either, because despite him being "famous" and highly regarded while he played, the stats just aren't impressive... I guess I like to see a balance of the two things - the great numbers plus the fame/reputation/legacy or whatever you want to call it....

    I agree that it's getting diluted too much.
    Last edited by GiambiJuice; 07-13-2012, 11:23 AM.
    My top 10 players:

    1. Babe Ruth
    2. Barry Bonds
    3. Ty Cobb
    4. Ted Williams
    5. Willie Mays
    6. Alex Rodriguez
    7. Hank Aaron
    8. Honus Wagner
    9. Lou Gehrig
    10. Mickey Mantle

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by deadball-era-rules View Post
      With Larkin and Santo going into the hall this summer, I've got to ask what everyone's definition of a hall of famer is. I personally feel that the hall's getting way too dilluted (not to say that undercredentialed players haven't been getting elected for years. Look at Red Ruffing)! Where do you draw the cutoff for election into the hall? I'll post my opinion below. It's an old blog post that I wrote when Robarto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were enshrined:
      Ok.

      A trip to Cooperstown, New York is a pilgrimage that any die hard baseball fan must make, and I often fantasize about going there one day. In my dreams I walk into that room with the burnished plaques, the smiling faces of all-time greats looking back at me; some of their noses are rubbed into a golden polish by previous visitors. Unfortunately, my dream usually transitions to a jumbled invasion of unfamiliar faces. Babe Ruth’s round mug is suddenly shoved aside by a plaque featuring a face I don’t recognize. Aren’t I in Cooperstown? Shouldn’t every name be as recognizable as the back of my own hand?
      You seriously never heard of Red Ruffing? He was a key pitcher on those legendary Yankee teams of the late 1930's.

      After some reading I discover that it’s Red Ruffing. In my dream I read on to discover that he posted twenty or more wins in four consecutive years. That sounds pretty good, but I never thought four great years was enough to be called an immortal. The nightmare worsens as I learn more. A career ERA of 3.80! A win percentage of only .542 while playing most of his career with the Yankees of the 30s and 40s! At that point I fall from my bed in a bundle of sheets and cold sweat. As I sit on the floor in my Spongebob pajamas, I ask myself “what happened to the giants?”
      Red Ruffing is somewhat of a unique case. Yes, he had a career 3.80 ERA ans .542 winning percentage. But you really need to go deeper than that understand why Ruffing was inducted. Ruffing really had two "careers".

      Code:
      Team      G     IP    W   L   ERA   ERA+
      Yankees  426  3168.2 231 124  3.47  119   
      Red Sox  189  1122.1  39  96  4.61   92
      What is so strange about Ruffing is that his winning percentage in Boston was worse the the Boston's overall winning percentage. Yet, in New York ruffing's winning percentage was better than the Yankee's overall winning percentage. That makes no sense as Bill James stated in the OBJHBA:

      Probable the only pitcher I ranked whose career record was worse that that if the teams he pitched for. Notwithstanding that, he was a pretty good pitcher in the late thirties, winning 21 of 28 starts in 1939, and won two-thirds of his starts over a four year period (1936-39). (Even Sandy Koufax didn't win two-thirds of his starts from 1963-66). Another intriguing puzzle is the degree of Ruffing's improvement in moving from Boston to New York in 1930. Common sense tells you that if you're a .300 pitcher on a .400 team, which is what Ruffing was in Boston, you're not going to be a .650 pitcher on a .600 team, are you? If you drag down the level of a bad pitching staff, how can you possibly raise the level of a good pitching staff? If you were to find that a pitcher who pitches .400 baseball on a .400 team tends to pitch .600 on a .600 team then what would show is that the record of a pitcher was essentially merely an expression of the ability of the team---in other words that baseball is 0% pitching. I have yet to hear an explanation that would explain an even more extreme case, such as Ruffing.
      Does this make Ruffing a Hall of Famer? How much of hit does Ruffing's HoF argument take because of his bad pitching in Boston? I have no idea . Ruffing was inducted in 1967 by the Baseball Writers. I wonder how they viewed Ruffing back then? I suspect they focused on his 273 career wins, and being on seven World Series winners. In the World Series Ruffing was 7-2 W-L with a 2.63 ERA.

      I’m not talking about the boys from the bay; I’m talking about the Paul Bunyans of baseball, the guys who were so good that they wouldn’t even need the Hall of Fame to be remembered. I thought those were supposed to be the guys straddling the Mt. Olympus of baseball. Instead, it seems that these days it’s getting a little too crowded in Cooperstown. The 2011 election wasn’t as bad as recent years, but I can’t help but wonder when the Hall of Fame became the Hall of Above Average.
      That has never been the real Hall of Fame. The HoF was never meant to be just for the absolute greatest players (Ruth Cobb, Wagner, Mays, Mantle, etc). The very first HoF class obviously was amazing. But the reason it was amazing is because they were the first players to be inducted so the writers could select the very best. But players like Ruth, Cobb, Wagner, Johnson, etc. are very rare in baseball history so later voters could just cherry pick the legendary players simply because there are many of them.

      Actually, it’s not recent history. The problem of giving stars the same treatment as all-time greats has been present in Cooperstown for a long time. There hasn’t been a year without an inductee since 1960. That seems like a lot of guys going into a hall that’s designated for “once in a generation” ballplayers. That trend should come as no surprise to us since it’s so easy to whip up some media mania around a player just before voting.
      How does one define "once in a generation" ballplayer?

      In addition to the old game of letting in above average players, a new concept has wormed its way into the Hall of Fame dialogue: the ‘first ballot’ discussion. Is Tom Glavine a “first ballot” Hall of Famer? Cy Young wasn’t a first ballot hall of famer. Neither were Rube Waddell, Lefty Grove, and Rogers Hornsby. What does that say about them? Is there a difference between a third and a fourth ballot Hall of Famer? Where can we draw the line?
      The HoF voting systems has changed many times over the decades. Cy Young wasn't inducted with the first HoF class because his vote were actually split between two ballots, one for "modern" players (post 1900), and one for 19th century players. Since Young played in both era his votes were split. He finished 6th in the modern voting and 4th in the 19th century voting.

      We can draw the line at “their accomplishments will be discussed for generations.” Is the player someone whose accomplishments will be remembered for more than one generation? Thirty years from now, will a fan from a different town recognize their name (can anyone from California fill me in on Enos Slaughter’s enormous contributions to the game)? Did they perform so far above their peers that they can be talked about in the same conversations as “second ballot” inductees like Tris Speaker, or- gasp- third balloters like Eddie Collins?
      Remembered by whom? Fans? Writers? Players?

      The fact is that a vote, regardless of what year it is cast, is a vote recognizing a particular player as one of the greatest to ever set foot on a baseball diamond. There shouldn’t have to be a distinction between first ballot hall of famers, all-time great hall of famers, and average hall of famers (hello, Joe Tinker). Greatness should be mandatory for induction at all, and whether a player is voted in on their first year of eligibility or their last is pointless.
      I agree.

      Before the backlash begins, I understand that there is room for discussion on what makes an all-time great, and I understand that a cut-off has to be established somewhere in every fan’s heart. That’s what makes it so fun to follow. But I also think that to be voted into the hall, a player’s credentials should speak loudly enough that there is little room for such debate. Is Burt Blyleven one of the greatest of all time? Since I have to ponder, discuss, analyze, and evaluate my answer for more than five minutes, I’d say the answer is no. Not this year, not next year, not ever. Stats don’t change from one year of eligibility to another, so unless some game-changing info is brought to light, I don’t understand why on-the-fence candidates are even considered.
      The problem is that often times the voters have very strong biases against certain types of players or lack a historical background and do not know much about baseball history. To this day I do not understand why it took so long for Johnny Mize to get inducted to the HoF. And many derided the election of Hank Greenberg into the HoF as well.

      Let’s make room for the folks who changed the game, the real once-in-a-generation ballplayers. If voters stay true to those standards, there will be no ‘inner circle’ Hall of Famers. The Hall itself would be the inner circle. Serious fans shouldn’t walk around and have to ask “is that my uncle Phil?” (The answer is no, it’s Andre Dawson). Let’s keep the Hall of Fame a place of enshrinement for the behemoths of baseball, because I’m tired of having my dreams invaded by Hall of Fame relief pitchers.
      I will say that he vast majority of borderline selections were by the Veteran's committee especially when Frankie Frisch was in charge.
      Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

      Comment


      • #4
        I've seen this subject come up every few years. And while you make a solid point vs the "Hall of Very Good", much depends on what is considered HOF material.

        I make a trip to Cooperstown every 5 years since '95 and enjoy it each time I go. In all honesty, since then who are the real "generational" players who have been inducted? Maybe Ryan and Henderson? Boggs & Gwynn were very good hitters but hit for average and no power while playing positions in which power is often a prerequisite.

        Like it or not, but for the HOF to stay in the condition it's in along with the quality and quantity of material, there needs to be more than simply the elite of the elite. If that were the case, I'd have no reason to go. Go once, see the plaques and I'm done. I respect guys like Ruth, Cobb, etc for what they did on the field, but really... how much more can be added we haven't already seen without the influx of new inductees? Cooperstown needs people thru the gate to operate, and without fresh material, that doesn't happen.

        What I wouldn't mind seeing is maybe something like a wing dedicated to simply those regarded as the true elites of the game. This would separate the Mathewsons, Wagners & Hornsbys from the Blylevens, Reeses & Gordons of the baseball world. Have a committee based on writers, players, historians or whomever every 5 years or so vote who they believe the best (using an arbitrary number here) greatest 50 players of all time and have a wing just for them.

        The more interesting thing to me is how players coming up over the next 10+ years are looked at by the voters as so far as gaining entry. Since so many of the "greats" since the late '90s are considered tainted, some will be passed over for secondary talent.

        Speaking of Blyleven, there's a blog that I used to visit quite often run by a guy named Rich Lederer called Baseball Analysts. If you scroll down the left side of the main page, you'll see a Bert Blyleven series. Lederer led a movement to get Blyleven in and many of his statistical analysis makes some pretty sound arguments for Bert when compared with his contemporaries. I recommend checking it out simply for the information and facts he provides. It's not that I necessarily think Blyleven's a true HOFer, but based upon who we've seen inducted (especially when it comes to the vet committee), his arguments are fairly sound IMO.
        "Chuckie doesn't take on 2-0. Chuckie's hackin'." - Chuck Carr two days prior to being released by the Milwaukee Brewers

        Comment


        • #5
          I dislike the argument regarding all-star selections...its nothing more than a popularity contest...many players are chosen by fans or managers when they shouldnt be there

          Comment


          • #6
            At any point were you considered among the very best(meaning a top 5 player or pitcher in baseball). Longevity and milestone do very little for me.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Cap78 View Post
              I dislike the argument regarding all-star selections...its nothing more than a popularity contest...many players are chosen by fans or managers when they shouldnt be there
              But with few exceptions the players with extensive selections are HOF worthy. Everything has to be taken with context.

              The truly great of the greats are going to be represented throughout the museum far more than the borderline HOF'er. That distinction is made. Babe Ruth used to have a whole room. There are special displays for Cobb, Williams, Wagner, etc. Just by walking around the HOF you would get the feel of who truly is special even if you didn't know the least thing about baseball or the men (and woman) honored. Look beyond the plaques, and there should be no problem distinguising who really was whom.
              Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
              Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
              Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
              Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
              Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Captain Cold Nose View Post
                But with few exceptions the players with extensive selections are HOF worthy. Everything has to be taken with context.

                The truly great of the greats are going to be represented throughout the museum far more than the borderline HOF'er. That distinction is made. Babe Ruth used to have a whole room. There are special displays for Cobb, Williams, Wagner, etc. Just by walking around the HOF you would get the feel of who truly is special even if you didn't know the least thing about baseball or the men (and woman) honored. Look beyond the plaques, and there should be no problem distinguising who really was whom.
                Sure, rub it in that you have been to the hof

                Comment


                • #9
                  Ruffing was also one of the top 4-5 hitting pitchers in baseball history. He helped his teams win a LOT more than what his ERA indicates.
                  1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                  1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                  1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


                  The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
                  The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Captain Cold Nose View Post
                    The truly great of the greats are going to be represented throughout the museum far more than the borderline HOF'er. That distinction is made. Babe Ruth used to have a whole room.
                    Still does, I was just in it last Saturday with about 250 of my closest friends.
                    They call me Mr. Baseball. Not because of my love for the game; because of all the stitches in my head.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Matthew C. View Post
                      Ruffing was also one of the top 4-5 hitting pitchers in baseball history. He helped his teams win a LOT more than what his ERA indicates.
                      I wonder if the HoF voters knew this in 1967 and if so did they take it into account when voting?
                      Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cap78 View Post
                        Sure, rub it in that you have been to the hof
                        When I was younger, I went to Cooperstown with my dad. Next month, I am going again with my dad, only this time I am also taking my son with me.
                        "I can see how he won twenty-five games. What I don't understand is how he lost five." - Yogi Berra on Sandy Koufax's 1963 season.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
                          I wonder if the HoF voters knew this in 1967 and if so did they take it into account when voting?
                          I don't know. I know they weren't trying to quantify it, but everybody knew he was a relatively awesome hitter.
                          His relative OPS was the same as Omar Vizquel's.
                          1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                          1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                          1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


                          The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
                          The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

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                          • #14
                            This is a perfectly valid (but incorrect, in my opinion) argument but it was never exactly the clearly stated mission of the place, so the idea that we've somehow wandered from the original intent is not especially compelling.

                            If you actually think that enshrining a guy who retired at #3 on the career strikeout list is dilluting the talent pool in the HOF, I really have no basis for discussion.
                            3 6 10 21 29 31 35 41 42 44 47

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                            • #15
                              I see your point, but no matter where you draw the line for induction, it will inevitably become watered down. This is because there is no clear cut distinction between what is an 'immortal' and what is not. I'm sure that when the HOF was designed, it was designed with the very purpose that you put forth. And that works for a while. Put in Cobb. Put in Wager. Ruth? Check. Johnson? Of course. Collins? hmmmm I guess so. Lajoie? Well...we let Collins in, and Lajoie was nearly as good!! Sisler? Didn't play that long..but what a peak! Keeler? Well he had more good seasons than Sisler did...

                              See where this is going? Is Lajoie an 'immortal'? Is Sisler? Crawford? Greenberg? Dean? There will be 'borderline' cases no matter where you draw the line, and as soon as you let one of the borderline guys in, you need to let in other borderline guys, so on and so forth, until dilution occurs.
                              Last edited by willshad; 07-13-2012, 10:42 PM.

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