It’s about time! Blyleven, Alomar and Rage Over Roids

Posted: January 5, 2011 in MLB
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

See this article with photos on Bleacher Report

So the baseball Hall of Fame voting for this year is in, and there will be three new inductees.  Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick are all set to be enshrined later this year.  I can’t quibble with any of these choices.  Alomar really should have been in last year but I presume the infamous spitting incident led some voters to withhold support to keep the honor of first ballot induction from the best second baseman in recent history.   It’s a travesty that it took Blyleven until his next-to-last year of eligibility to finally get the honor, but at least they got it right for a change.  And Gillick was an excellent GM who built a two-time champion and consistent contender in Toronto, and another consistent contender later in Baltimore.  His induction by the Veteran’s Committee is well-deserved.

Now, with that out of the way, it’s on to my gripes, and there are a few.  Let’s start with John Franco.  It’s arguable to some whether or not Franco, the long-time closer for the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Mets, is deserving of the Hall, but what shouldn’t be is that he deserved more than the piddling 4.6% of the votes he received.  This performance in his first year of eligibility was so bad that he’ll be taken off of the ballot entirely.  One-and-done for one of the best relief pitchers of this era?  Meanwhile, Lee Smith, who had a very similar career, keeps chugging along with right around 50% of the vote year after year.

Franco had a career winning record with almost 20 more wins than Smith, who was 21 games under .500 for his career.  Franco had a career ERA under 3.00 at 2.89, while Smith checked in at 3.03.  Smith pitched in the post-season twice in his career, and notched an 0-2 record with an astronomical 8.44 ERA while his teams lost both series he played in.  Franco also pitched in the post-season twice, but his teams won three of the five series he took part in.  Franco’s playoff career?  He was 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in three times the number of innings Smith hurled.  That’s not to say Franco was a better overall player than Smith, just that the two are reasonably close.  Certainly close enough that Franco should have gotten more than 1/10th of the support Smith consistently garners.

Speaking of inconsistent voting, take the case of the shortstops Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell.  These guys were essentially the same player.  Their careers are eerily similar, right down to their stats being very, very comparable.  Both guys won a World Series, Larkin won an MVP award and Trammell was robbed of an MVP by George Bell in 1987.  Trammell won four gold gloves, Larkin won three.  Both guys had career post-season averages over .330, but while Larkin never hit a playoff home run and drove in only three runs in 17 games, Trammell had 3 homers and 11 RBI in 13 games.  Plus, they are both in the increasingly small club of players to spend their entire careers in the same city.

So, can someone explain to me how that translates into Larkin receiving almost three times the number of votes as Trammell.  At this rate, Trammell will have to hope for the Veterans Committee to give him his just due, while Larkin could be inducted as early as next year.  There is quite simply nowhere near the kind of gap between these two careers that the Hall voters are showing.

It’s sad to see guys like Dave Parker and Harold Baines fall off the ballot after this year.  Neither guy really had the obvious the overall career to merit enshrinement, although I think a stronger case can be made for Parker and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a Veteran’s Committee selection somewhere down the road.  I also don’t believe that Parker was considerably different overall than Jim Rice, who was inducted a few years ago, other than the fact that he played his prime years in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati where Rice played for the much-higher profile Boston Red Sox.

Baines is a guy that, to me, is a stronger case for the DH than Edgar Martinez.  For some reason, Martinez garners quite a bit of Hall support even though his career totals aren’t even close for Hall enshrinement, in my opinion.  Baines’ numbers are a little short, I believe, and were boosted by a much longer career, but why does Edgar get the benefit of the DH doubt but Baines doesn’t?  At least Baines played the first third of his career as a pretty good outfielder for the White Sox before ailing knees forced him into the DH role where he thrived from 1987 up until his retirement after the 2001 season.

Martinez only played over 100 games in the field in a season three times in his career, totaling less than four full seasons of defensive play.  Certainly, he was an exceptional hitter in his prime, much better than Baines, but in my opinion, if you’re going to use the DH to extend your career, you’d better have Hall caliber totals when all is said and done to get that bronze bust, and Martinez simply doesn’t, especially for a guy who didn’t even play the field.

And, finally, can we please move past the steroid garbage?  At this point, the media and voters are making more of a sham of the Hall than anything the players may or may not have done.  Even Jeff Bagwell was quoted saying something to the affect of he would rather not even be voted in because of the all the suspicion and demonizing.  It’s sad when a player who has never even been linked to PEDs would rather skip his sport’s Hall of Fame entirely than deal with this.  Bagwell, by the way, only received 44% of the votes with some suggestion that steroid suspicions may have led to the lower count.

Rafael Palmiero belongs in the Hall of Fame.  There is simply no debating the point to me.  His career was far too outstanding to keep him out, whatever the reasons.  He wasn’t simply a big power hitter, although he did hit his share of homers.  He was a great contact hitter, fantastic in the clutch, an excellent defensive first baseman and one of the best team leaders going in his prime.  So he failed a drug test, and may or may not have lied to Congress.  He served his suspension, and was never charged with lying which, to me, indicates they didn’t have any real proof he lied anyway.  Remember, his failed test was after his statements under oath.  Who really cares?  He’s a baseball player, not a world leader.  And every other word that comes out of our congressmen and women’s mouths are a lie, so what’s the big deal?  The entire exercise of the hearing in the first place was a photo-op sham designed to provide good press and distract from their failures as legislators.

I haven’t had as much of a problem with Mark McGwire being left out because I don’t think he has the total package to be in the Hall anyway, but I wouldn’t argue if he did make it.  Let’s be honest, there are already two of the best players in the history of the game blocked from the Hall in Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.  If guys like McGwire, Palmiero, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Andy Pettite, etc are also stone-walled, exactly how credible is the Hall going to continue to be?  And it’s not like baseball doesn’t have a long and celebrated history of cheating to get an edge, anyway, including some players like Gaylord Perry who willfully flaunted the rules during their playing days.  The difference being most of the things guys like Perry did were clearly outlawed by baseball; PEDs weren’t.

Palmiero received a miniscule 11% of the vote.  Even McGwire got almost 20%.  That, in and of itself, is inconsistent.  The only players in baseball history with careers similar to Palmiero are Eddie Murray, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.  All McGwire’s got are the home runs, and he only had 14 more that Raffy for his career.  Palmiero is a much more deserving candidate than McGwire under any criteria you want to look at.  Even if you’re penalizing for steroids, how does a less deserving candidate get twice the votes?

Enough with the rage over ‘roids.  Some people got caught, most didn’t and we’ll never know exactly who was using what and when.  Are we going to go back and throw out all of the players from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s who were amped up on speed?  Reports are that just about everyone was using those.  They were illegal.  That was cheating and it enhanced performance.  Why aren’t we demonizing that era’s best?  To me, it all comes down to play on the field.  Let the guys in who’s performance dictated such an honor.  To do any less demeans not only the Hall, but the game itself.  We’ve reached the point where those who seek to punish the PED users are inflicting more damage to the game’s legacy than the drugs ever did.

If you’re not going to vote for the game’s best, whatever your reasons, then do everyone a favor and give up your vote.  Just stop with the hypocrisy already.

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