The Hall of Fame and PED’s

Look, this is an old, tired discussion.  It was old back in 2007 when Mark McGwire first appeared on the ballot, and it’s even older 10 years later.  But, it’s a necessary one because baseball is the only sport whose history is as valuable, as vital, as its future.  The steroid era helped and hurt the game like no other before it or probably no era will in the future.  But, the problem with thinking about the “steroid era” is that the term itself is too murky to really define.  The Dead Ball Era, for instance, is typically defined as the period around 1900 until 1919 (Babe Ruth’s first record HR season), and is a very sharp and definite point in time.  However, the beginning (and end) of the steroid era is much less defined.  Some will point to the late 1980’s, some to the beginning of the 90’s.  However, pitcher Tom House had admitted using steroids as early as the 1970’s, and amphetamine usage was common all the way back to the post-WWII years.

The sad fact of the matter is that cheating will exist in one form or another in all pro sports so long as there is a competitive advantage to be gained.  Whether it be for money, fame or notoriety, someone will try to get ahead of the curve anyway they can.  A famous baseball quote from Rogers Hornsby is that if a player isn’t cheating, he isn’t trying to win.  It’s a sad tale, but true.

The Hall of Fame is filled with imperfect people.  From recreational drug users to alcoholics to guys that cheat on their wives to many other sins.  It has not, nor has it ever been, a club for good people only, and it is meant to honor those who had an excellent baseball career on the diamond.  That’s where the separation is supposed to be.  Curt Schilling, for instance, is a loudmouth, filter-less idiot who has made questionable business choices in his life.  However, that shouldn’t take away from the great career that he had (even though many in the BBWAA feel he is more borderline than slam dunk) and doesn’t have an affect on whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Steroids should have an affect on who gets in the Hall of Fame.  However, it’s tough to say that players from the 1990’s that may (in the case of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro) or may not have (in the case of Frank Thomas) used steroids did so in a completely cheating way.  How effective is a rule if it isn’t enforced?  The players union fought against steroid testing for years, the owners knew it was bringing money into the game so didn’t care and Selig and Vincent weren’t willing to use their overreach powers and lose face with both groups, especially following the ’94 strike.  If the game allows it, then it’d be tough not to do.

That all changed, of course, with the Senate hearings in 2004 and 2005 and the subsequent publishing of the Mitchell Report.  Selig now had the power to enact tough penalties (which came with time) on the players.  And, since that’s when baseball drew the line, that’s where I draw my line.

I have sympathy for the players of the 1990’s that used steroids.  I say this also knowing the list of players that have used steroids and other PED’s include average players like Ryan Franklin, Andy Pettitte and Brian Roberts.  And, while homeruns and offense in general were on the rise, only 2 people ever hit 70 home runs while only 1 other ever topped 60.  My point is that they had to have the talent first.  Steroids won’t make me or most other people great baseball players.  They still needed to have the timing and pitch recognition in order to execute completely and be effective hitters.

So, where should we go from here?  Well, those who were juicers and played primarily before the Senate Hearings (which would include Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro, Bonds, Clemens and maybe Sheffield) should be looked at as the great hitters they truly were.  Guys that came mostly after the hearings (A-Rod and Manny, for instance) should be looked at like Rose and the Black Sox in that the rule was in effect and enforced and they broke it anyways.  We also need actual positive tests to keep players out.  Manny and A-Rod have both tested positive, and therefore get their exile.  Ortiz, who may have been positive in 03 but those results have never been fully published or confirmed, is still deserving of enshrinement since he doesn’t have any real positive test results.

Just my opinion, and I know it isn’t popular, but I felt the need to express it just the same.


Countdown to Opening Day #3- Comp these pitchers

I know it’s an exercise in futility, but sometimes an idea strikes me and I feel like writing about it.  Here are two pitchers.  One is a Hall of Famer, the other is currently on the ballot. See if you can tell the difference between them:


Pitcher A: 4413.1 IP, 682 starts, 2607 K/1500 BB.  ERA- of 86.  ERA of 3.54.  BAA of .252.  356 HR allowed.  WHIP of 1.31

Pitcher B: 3562.2 IP, 537 starts, 2813 K/785 BB.  ERA- of 82.  ERA of 3.68.  BAA of .252.  376 HR allowed.  WHIP of 1.19

Player A pitched on the one of the greatest collections of talent the NL has ever seen, and thus won over 300 games (in 150 more starts).  Player B only managed to win 270 games while being on some mediocre teams during the same time frame.  And, Player B did all of that in the AL East where some incredibly good hitters parks are located.

Yet Player A made the Hall of Fame on first ballot and Player B is languishing on the ballot as we speak.

I’m not saying that Mike Mussina is a definite Hall of Famer (and I detest arguments that say “This guy’s a Hall of Famer, so this other guy must be one!”), but I do think that we, as a baseball culture, have elevated a guy like Tom Glavine higher than he should be due to his win totals.  I ranked him in the low 170’s, and there was still part of my brain that was telling me that was wrong.  But, there is no doubt in my mind that Mussina was the better pitcher between the two.

The question essentially becomes, do Glavine’s ~900 more IP outweigh the 200 more K’s and 800 fewer walks that Mussina had (again, in much less time against a much tougher league) with basically the same ERA and better WHIP and without as much of a benefit of a wide strike zone like Glavine (and Maddux to a degree) was claimed to have gotten.

I can easily see Mussina being the next big cause a la Tim Raines and Bert Blyleven.  And that’s one I probably would get behind.

Countdown to Opening Day #2- Charlie Hustle

Recently, Joe Buck had an interview with Pete Rose on Buck’s new show.  Of course, the topic of Rose’s permanent ban from the game was brought up, and Rose basically said that he should be reinstated (big shock) because he was never told specifically to stop betting.

Now, a few facts:

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Countdown to Opening Day #1-Reflections and Moving On

Spring Training is the first really happy point of the year for us baseball nerds.  The Super Bowl is fun (even if it was a frustrating, agonizing game for those of us who don’t like the Pats), but nothing compares to the first cracks of the bat and pounding of the ball against the mitt.  Spring means rebirth, the start of something great.  Other than the holidays with the family, it’s my favorite point of the year.

Then I remember that I’m a Cardinals fan and, while the Cubs have completely changed the outlook of their franchise and the dynamics of the NL Central for years to come, the Cards still have had a lot of recent success.  Going back to 2000, they’ve had 4 trips to the World Series, two championships, three 100 win seasons, 11 seasons of the greatest right handed hitter of my lifetime, and several division championships.  In short, despite the Cubs seemingly unstoppable team, life ain’t that bad as a Cards fan.

However, the 2016 season can only be seen as an abysmal failure from any perspective.  The front office lost two key free agents to the Cubs in John Lackey and Jason Heyward.  Now, Heyward was awful last season at the plate (72 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR) and there are legit concerns that, since he isn’t an elite bat and his value is tied up in defense and base running, he won’t age well, but Lackey’s 188 innings of 92 ERA- would have looked better than Jaime Garcia’s 171 innings of 114 ERA- or Wacha’s 138 innings with an ERA- of 124.  Had the Lance Lynn injury (he had Tommy John Surgery in November of 2015) been known sooner, maybe they push harder for Lackey so it’s hard to fault them a ton (and a 2 year deal is not totally insane for a pitcher of Lackey’s age, especially since he seemed to do pretty well pitching in a pitcher’s park in the NL the previous season and a half).  Having to settle on Mike Leake (who’s fine but not an elite presence by any means) after losing on David Price (who signed a crazy deal with the Red Sox) and Heyward definitely meant a step down in the rotation, but not one that could have been disastrous.  And, Leake was relatively fine last year, at least as solid as he had been in the past, which is what the Cards needed after losing about 400 innings to injuries and free agency.

The problems in 2016 were simple: defense and base running.  According to Fangraphs, the Cards ranked 17th in the Majors in defense, at only +2.3 defensive runs above average.  The Cubs, meanwhile, ranked first with a crazy, seems to be unrepeatable +115.5.  How can that be fixed?  Well, the loss in the offseason of Matt Holliday (-8.7) and Brandon Moss (-4.0) will help.  Replacing them will be Randall Grichuk (playing left field, which plays more to his strengths) and newcomer Dexter Fowler in center field (who will be OK but not great).  Matt Carpenter, as of this moment, is sliding across the diamond to play first base where his not-so-great defense won’t be as much of a hindrance  so that helps to a degree.  Aledmys Diaz and Kolten Wong are slotted in to be the double play tandem.  Wong is an excellent defensive second baseman, and hopefully he is able to keep his position this year (he was abysmal at the plate).  Diaz is not a great shortstop, but short of trading for Andrelton Simmons, I don’t see how the Cards could improve there.  Plus, his bat was incredible and made up a lot of value for him.  He could be a light version of a healthy Jhonny Peralta, which I would be fine with.  Yadi is Yadi, but older and maybe not quite as good behind the plate.

But, the main thing that hurt the team was base running.  The Cards were second to last in the Majors in base running runs with -19.8 runs above average.  That means that the base running cost them nearly 2 wins, which was the difference between making the playoffs and missing out entirely.  Part of what will fix the problem is the more regular time for Wong and the addition of Fowler.  Another part is the third base coaching.  Longtime third base coach Jose Oquendo missed last season with a knee issue, and wants to shift towards working in FL with the Minor Leaguers.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, and I certainly hope he is happy and healthy.  But, his replacement was bad.  I remember one time, against either the Pirates or Reds, Peralta was coming from second to third on a hit into the left field corner.  All of a sudden, the third base coach starts to wave him home.  The catcher had enough time to field the throw, go into the stands and get a beer, bring it back onto the field and drink it while sitting in a lounge chair, and still beat him by like 50 feet.  The coaching needs to know the limitations of the players; they can’t ask big guys like Peralta or Matt Adams to try to take the extra base anymore than they should expect Wong to become the home run leader of the club.  If the coaching improves, the base running will be much better.  Not great, but better.

I’m excited to start the 2017 season and I hope you all are as well.  Wait, just got a text alert on my phone.  Hang on one second.

–checks phone, sees Alex Reyes out for the year with Tommy John Surgery.  Cries in the corner for an hour.  Comes back to blog–

Well that burst the bubble.  But, it hopefully won’t be too damaging.  If they can either snag someone like Doug Fister or Jered Weaver on a one-year deal, that would be super helpful.

See you tomorrow.

Well, that happened

The 2017 BBWAA ballots for induction into the Baseball Hall of Famer were announced back on January 18th.  The results were interesting.  Gaining induction were Tim Raines (on his 10th and final ballot), Jeff Bagwell (on his 7th ballot) and Ivan Rodriguez (on his first ballot).  Just barely missing the cut were Trevor Hoffman (on his second try) and Vlad Guerrero (on his first ballot).  Both got above 70%, so they will get in within two years time (and probably next year).  Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez all took strong steps forward, while Curt Schilling went backwards and other players stalled.  There’s a lot of good and bad to look at on this year’s results, so let’s start with the good.

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Hall of Fame Hopefuls- Starting Pitchers

Pitching has changed a lot over the years, hasn’t it?  So, it makes sense that pitching has had the most ebbs and flows in terms of standards for induction over the years.  Until the 1970’s, there were a total of 12 starters inducted by the writers, including two on the first ballot.  In the 1970’s and 1980’s, they inducted another 10 starters, and since the 1990’s they inducted 14 pitchers.  However, from 1999 (Nolan Ryan) until 2011 (Bert Blyleven), no starters were inducted (three closers were, however).  Pitching seems to be one of the tougher positions for induction, but there still are plenty on the outside looking in that should be corrected for.  No median score, this time.  Just going to compare them to current starters.

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Hall of Fame Hopefuls- Right Field

Yes, this post is a couple of days late.  After reworking the center field post to up the median, it made sense to do it in right field as well, since the Veterans Committee has really watered down each position.  There were 10 center fielders voted in by the Veterans Committee, compared to eight by the BBWAA.  Out of the 24 right fielders inducted into the Hall of Fame, 11 were inducted by the Veterans Committee, and with very few exceptions are some of the lowest ranking players in Cooperstown.  As such, instead of the typical median score, a modified one using the lowest ranking BBWAA-inductee (Wee Willie Keeler) as the base score will be used.  That gives a median score of 29056, between Roberto Clemente and Paul Waner.

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