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 #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.

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.

Continue reading

Split-stats: Teams in the Hall of Fame

While looking over each player, it’s easy to wonder which teams have the most Hall of Famers, or which teams have the best Hall of Famers.  According to the categories on the right-hand side of the screen, the top 10 teams in terms of numbers of Hall of Famers are:

1- NY/SF Giants (24)

2- NY Yankees (19)

3- Chicago Cubs (15)

3t- St Louis Cardinals (15)

5- Cleveland Indians (14)

6- Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves (13)

7- Pittsburgh Pirates (12)

7t- Philadelphia Phillies (12)

9- Boston Red Sox (11)

10-Baltimore Orioles (St Louis Browns) (10)

10t- Chicago White Sox (10)

10t- Brooklyn/LA Dodgers (10)

10t- Philly/KC/Oakland Athletics (10)

Most of these should be pretty straight forward.  All 13 teams here were part of the original 16 teams (Senators, Reds and Tigers on the outside looking in).  The Giants get a big boost from the Frisch/Terry coalition of the Veterans Committee, and the Yankees have been arguably the best baseball team of all-time.  The Indians are interesting, as are the White Sox, since neither team has a long history of success.  The Dodgers feel like they should be higher, but most of their great players came in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

What would be more interesting would be to see which teams actually had the best quality of Hall of Famers inducted.  Here’s how the teams above average Hall of Fame player scored:

  1. Giants- 20995
  2. Yankees- 26289
  3. Cubs- 19690
  4. Cardinals- 23750
  5. Indians- 23974
  6. Braves- 23025
  7. Pirates- 21544
  8. Red Sox- 32662
  9. Phillies- 24441
  10. Orioles- 26055
  11. White Sox- 24151
  12. Dodgers- 23065
  13. Athletics- 27356

The Red Sox pretty much blow everyone else there away.  Why is that?  Well the Sox have only two players ranking below 150 (Jimmy Collins and Harry Hooper), while the Yankees have seven that far down (Phil Rizzuto, Earle Combs, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri, Red Ruffing and Jack Chesbro) which will hurt their average score.  The Cubs rank so low because they have four players below 200 in the Hall of Fame (Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Hack Wilson and King Kelly) and their best players (Cap Anson and Ernie Banks) rank only 41st and 44th respectively.

An aggregate ranking would be difficult, but based on the number of players in each of the top 25 marks (25, 50, 75, etc.) would yield this:

  1. Yankees
  2. Giants
  3. Red Sox
  4. Cardinals
  5. Indians
  6. Athletics
  7. Tigers
  8. Cubs
  9. Phillies
  10. Orioles
  11. White Sox
  12. Braves
  13. Pirates
  14. Dodgers

That list looks fairly accurate, with another surprise at just how good the Indians have been over the years.  Another interesting surprise is the appearance of the Tigers, who had 9 Hall of Famers so far.  However, the Tigers did manage to get three players in the top-50 (Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer and Al Kaline) and only one player ranked below the top-150 (George Kell).

What teams have done the worst in the Hall of Fame?  Several teams have only one or two players inducted, and only four teams have yet to have an inductee (Angels, Rockies, Rays and Marlins).  Of the original franchises, the Senators/Twins and Reds have both seen the fewest inductees with only 8.

Believe it or not, I will still have a double update today.  The next one will go up at 7:00 am EDT.