Thursday, December 16, 2010


If there is one topic that induces mouth foam more than post-season awards, it is the dear old Hall of Fame, with its pre-digital (but all-too-rarely post-coital) set of "initiation rituals." (Virgins, ban yourselves to Sleepy Hollow at once!)

So if you see a lot of lather around at the moment, it's not that your can of shaving cream is "going into business for itself", it's just that eligible BBWAA voters are popping up out of the ground like stunted stalks of corn and making pronouncements (and there's nothing more consternating than a talking stunted stalk of corn, lemme tell ya!).

They say the silliest things, and the boys in the back room ("chat" room, that is, even though it's not a room, and the "chatting" is often, well, more dread-inducing than the bantering exchanges between Martin Balsam and Anthony Perkins in Psycho: as with that "chat," you just know that all hell is going to break loose, and likely sooner than later) are gearing up for another post-holiday season of quail, carp, and (in Bill James's best-ever phrase) bone-eating.

One of these erstwhile BBWAA guys posted a blog entry that eliminated a series of currently eligible candidates (including several who are "stathead" favorites, including Bert Blyleven, who's primed to be inducted thanks in part to the indefatigable efforts of head Baseball Analyst Rich Lederer) because they were merely "compilers."

In other words, these players didn't dominate the game (in the way that, say, Lloyd Waner did), but merely compiled statistics (the way Paul Molitor did, amassing 3000+ hits).

It's an odd argument, and it won't really wind up being of much import--but it is an excuse for me to provide a brief clap of thunder in keeping with the third and last subtitle of this here blogg.

For goodness sakes, Mr. Leume, all Hall of Famers--all ballplayers, for that matter--are "compilers." Their numbers pile up--some a good bit more than others. If one wants to exclude Rafael Palmeiro because he is in the cross-hairs about steroids, let's simply get down to that point, and not look for ways to discredit his statistics (which in any other context would give him a front-door entrance to Cooperstown).

As noted in a previous post, a large Hall is the only way to ensure that all of the deserving players are enshrined. A large Hall does have the potential drawback of putting in a few folks who really don't belong, but it really is a minor problem and not one to get all knicker-twisty about.

"No, no, Bill, I promise this time I won't eat the bone!"
Consquently, I'm going to suggest here--no, actually, in keeping with the carping, quailing, and outright bone-eating that will raise the earth's decibel level faster than the lethal increase in global temperature--I'm going to demand that Hall of Fame ballots be expanded to 15 potential slots per year and that any BBWAA voter who doesn't include at least five players have their votes set aside.

(As my old boss in Las Vegas said when I told him that they'd finally gotten the massive bureaucracy out of my way and that I was actually getting something accomplished: "We'll put a stop to that shit.")

Now, as it so happens, there are 13 players listed on the 2011 ballot who belong in the Hall of Fame once the effete elite who see HoF voting as an excuse for increasingly tendentious ranking schemes are either put into adjoining rubber rooms or launched into tandem asynchronous orbits. Here they are, kiddies, in alpha-heretical order.

Roberto Alomar

Forget that he's not the spittin' image of Rogers Hornsby, he was a brilliant player. Nearly 3/4ths of the BBWAA is in agreement, which is a bit surprising but not something to worry about when one is sending their ideologically-pure tweed jacket out to the cleaners.

Jeff Bagwell

I suspect he won't go in until the other, smaller "Killer B"--Craig Biggio--appears on the ballot in 2013. That's OK--sentiment (but not crying!) is accepted in baseball, especially on the dais in Cooperstown. Bagwell was a great player, and besides, if he doesn't get enshrined, there's a danger that the carping about the trade that sent him to Houston for Larry Andersen will actually die off. (And wouldn't that be a pity!!)

Bert Blyleven

I think Bert should be put in simply for having worn this shirt.

All of the rest of the arguments are what the late, thought-he-was-great Paul Piccone used to call "overdetermined hoo-hah."

Kevin Brown

It's vital that Kevin get into the Hall, because the Lords of Baseball have to find a way to justify paying him so much money. Without it, the top-end monopolists will have no convenient raison d'etre to point to for handing all-too-well-told millions to otherwise barely worthy folk (sorry, folks, still in a Carl Crawford kind of mood here...) and the causal link (granted, it's a bogus causal link, but when has that ever stopped the Grand Whizziers of High Finance?) will fall-down-go-boom like Uncle Lincoln's chain-link fence in N'Awlins during Katrina Time.

And besides, we need more surly guys in the Hall. All this glad-handing is heading at high speed toward the County of Retch.

And I simply want to hear someone on the Cooperstown dais intone these words when Kevin is inducted: "Good job, Brownie."

Barry Larkin

A princely ballplayer, a great shortstop, and the type of player who should be adored by traditionalists (he played for one team, and one team only, during his 19-year-career). Numerologists of a different sort will need to get over the fact that his career oWAR total amounts to 66.6.

But have you noticed that Barry has a very intense stare? (Maybe it's just the company...)

Edgar Martinez

In a time frame where most if not all of the great uber-hitters were swatting 40-50-60+ homers, Edgar is the antidote: the high-average, high-OBP slasher with moderate power. You can't shun such a magnificent throwback to the former dominant style of the game, such a terrific specimen of a sadly dying breed. Did you know that Edgar has the fifth highest number of doubles for players aged 32 or older? (Of course you don't: that's why I asked. And you don't know who the four players ahead of him are either. But since you didn't ask, here's the list: names in bold are players in the Hall. Yes, God damn it, they put Sam Rice in the Hall!)

Fred McGriff

Let's face it. Fred is probably the most marginal of the candidates here, given the position he played. But he's a Large Hall inductee for sure, and how can anyone with even a soupcon of an aberrant mind not want to see Chris Berman introduce McGriff on the Cooperstown dais as the "Crime Dog" and then have Fred stand up with a pair of handcuffs and lead Chris away to that dark little secret room in the bowels of the Hall of Fame Library, never to be seen again?

Mark McGwire

He'll have to go in through the side door, I'm afraid, but perhaps a reconstituted version of the Vets Committee will get inspired and enshrine him in the same year that they finally induct Ron Santo and Dick Allen. Somehow that seems strangely appropriate...

Rafael Palmeiro

As noted, the "compiler" argument is nothing more than a way to lock the doors to the most flagrant of the steroids folks. We will never know how much PEDs actually PE'd anyone, but we sure know how much it PO'd a lot of folks who couldn't have hit a single home run even with PEDs.

Along with McGwire, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, Raffy will bear the brunt of the steroids scandal and will have to watch a lot of others pass through the front door before he'll hear a "Pssst..." from a guy wearing a burlap suit. I don't think he'll have to wait as long as Pete Rose or Joe Jackson (hey, look sharp!!), but he might be old enough to need an ear horn to hear the whisper from the servant's entrance.

Tim Raines

Rickey Henderson lite, yes, but 70% of Rickey is still a Hall of Famer. This one might be tight in terms of the front door--mostly due to the glut of candidates coming in the next decade.

Somehow, the "Queen of Hearts"
is not exactly how one remembers
Lee Smith...
Lee Smith

Big Lee is probably #12 in terms of overall quality ("career value", etc.) and might actually be a kind of example of what Leume really meant in terms of a "compiler." But y'know, it ain't closers' fault that the game shifted (was gonna say "evolved," but that's highly arguable...) toward what we have today, where a different set of counting stats became overexposed. Denigrate the save stat as much as you want, but the fact is that Lee is #3 on the list and it's not likely that anyone is going to pass him in anything remotely like the forseeable future. You can close the door on closers after Lee, Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner if you want, but a large Hall should at least have the closers who had extended careers of consistent excellence. Lee's not at the top of that group, for sure, but he's in it.

Alan Trammell

Along with his great Tiger sidekick Lou Whitaker, Alan is going to have to go into the Hall via the side door. According to the career measurement methods based on "replacement-level modeling," he's not all that far behind Larkin, but there are enough subtle differences (extra-base power, stolen base/stolen base percentage, offensive consistency and aging patterns) to have kept the BBWAA (an oddly intuitive organization when it comes to such comparisons) from getting on his bandwagon. He belongs in the Hall, however; hopefully a future Vets Committee freed of its political paralysis will vote him along with Whitaker. It's a natural idea, ambient since some of the first non-Baseball Abstract books penned by Bill James.

Larry Walker

Yes, my stare is a lot more intense than
Barry Larkin's, and I'm not anywhere
near GWB!!!
A fabulous nine-year peak from 1994-2002 in which he did everything that a multi-dimensionally all-time great ballplayer is supposed to do: hit, walk, run, and field in a consummately excellent way. No one's really sure how the BBWAA is going to take to Larry--some may discount his hitting due to his years in Coors Field. At worst, however, he'll go in the side door, where he can take a look at his ancestral peak-years doppelganger: Chuck Klein.

If Mr. Leume doesn't vote for at least six of these folk when he casts his BBWAA ballot, he needs to be put out to pasture. We shouldn't ask for the same penalty if he votes for six and happens to add Jack Morris or Dale Murphy or Dave Parker on to the ballot, however. We just need him to get half of the questions right. It's the new grading curve in America, a land that still thinks it's "dominating" when, in fact, it's merely "compiling."

I'm serious about adding more voting slots to the ballot, however. There is a logjam a-comin', and these chimps need some leeway to make the right choices.