Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 27, 2008

Bill Madden is right: it's been a remarkably quiet offseason, at least the last 4-6 weeks of it. I know I've been tied up with work, with blogging the 20028 elections and with doing the data entry that underlies my annual preseason Established Win Shares Levels roundups, but even on top of that there really have been remarkably few developments that really called out to me to write about, at least unless one has a much greater appetite for steroid stories than I can bring myself to have.

For the regulars, consider this a baseball open thread. And yes, even as quiet as I've been and as painful as the end of last season was, I am still very much looking forward to getting this season rolling.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

I've had the baseball Hall of Fame on my mind lately, especially after Goose Gossage was the only player selected to be inducted this year. What if no one had been selected, would they have cancelled the ceremony for 2008?

What is the baseball hall of fame going to be like in 100 years from now? Are people really going to look back and recall Gary Carter as a Hall of Famer? Not picking on Carter, but using him as an example.

I can look at HOF Cathers - Bench, Fisk, Campanella, Josh Gibson, Mickey Cochrane, Dickey...I just don't see Gary Carter in this group and once guys like Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez get in, he seems even less worthy. I think Carter had the lowest batting average of the group, and sure BA isn't everything, he had a lot of hits and over 300 HR.

I think all of the halls of fame are selecting players that were decent, but not the best of the best. I keep hearing people talk about Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell being sure bets when their time comes. I don't think either is worthy, sure Frank hit 500 HR, but he did it in this era of power hitters, he's always injured, he was/is mostly a DH, I just don't see him being worthy of being in the same shrine as the Babe, Joe D, and Ted Williams.

Will Cooperstown eventually add a 3rd floor or another wing to make room for some of these jokers that are sure to be voted in?

Posted by: Dodger Steve at January 27, 2008 5:21 PM

It's certainly valid to suspect Frank Thomas of using steroids, in spite of a lack of any concrete evidence that I'm aware of. But barring that, it's ludicrous to suggest he doesn't belong in the Hall. He was, at his peak, a better hitter than Joe DiMaggio. He's in the top 20 all time in both OBP and SLG. Granted, he had zero (or less than zero) defensive value, but if you hit like that, it doesn't matter.

Posted by: Jerry at January 27, 2008 7:58 PM

Jerry, I guess my contention with Thomas is that he was a DH for so many years. Thomas aside, what are the limits now for the HOF? I don't think 3,000 hits, 300 wins, 500 HR are the automatic numbers anymore. Will Biggio be a sure bet now that he is over 3,000? Look at the ballpark he played in for the last 7 seasons.

Again, I'm saying when our grandkids and/or great grandkids go to the HOF in 2108 what will it look like? Will there be stories told about the great Gary Carter, or will people be talking about Josh Gibson or Johnny Bench? Bruce Sutter and Kirby Puckett made it into the HOF, are they the best of the best or were the voted in those years because of a poor slate to choose from?

Posted by: Dodger Steve at January 27, 2008 10:04 PM

Steve, Kirby Puckett made it into the HOF for the same reason that Gary Carter got in. Because they are among the 10 best in their positions ever. Are you trying to hold Carter to the Bench standard? Does that mean that Puckett (or Duke Snider or Ken Griffey Jr.?) can only go in if they are up to the Willie Mays standard?

I could argue numbers, but why bother? The numbers are all relative. Few people, when Thomas was at his peak, thought he wasn't the second coming of Ted Williams. Does that mean Manny Ramirez doesn't get in either?

BTW, using Biggio and Bagwell as examples of "slipping" standards is a poor argument: Great players, dominant in their positions for many years, yes they are HOFers; same as Piazza. You want to look for marginal players, then maybe you hold up the human out machine, Jim Rice, not Jeff Bagwell or Craig Biggio, who spent years in Astrodome Purgatory.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at January 28, 2008 9:55 AM

There shouldn't be a pure number standard to get into the HOF. I like the "great player in their era" standard. Yes, some can be considered all time greats, but they are few and far between. If you only want Ripken and Gwynn, and then wait for Ricky, then longer for Piazza and Griffey Jr. to retire, you are missing some truly great players inbetween.

Biggio is a great player. Gold glove catcher who became a gold glove 2b, and even moved to OF. Always, always a well above average player, and for several years one of the best in baseball at his position. And, if you want to rail against the steroid era and its overinflated numbers (as I do), then you have to let some little guys in, and recognize there is more to baseball then hitting home runs. And Biggio did all those other things great.

Posted by: CT Ron at January 28, 2008 9:59 AM

Daryl, I wasn't trying to hold Carter to the Bench standard. My argument is, (using your Puckett/Griffey/Snider/Mays example) in 100 years, will Puckett really still be one of the best of all time in the OF?

I'm not arguing against Biggio either, I was just looking at someone up for induction in 5 years and seeing how he might be viewed in 100 years.

How about this angle to help make my point, I'm in my early 30's, so my baseball memories began in the early 80's, I was a teen in the 90's. When I'm telling my grandkids in say 30 years about the greats I saw, I will talk about Maddux, Glavine, Griffey Jr, Piazza, I-Rod, A-Rod, Pujols, Schilling, Nolan, Brett, just to name a few that came to mind quickly. Puckett, Carter, and Sutter (just to name 3 HOF's) won't be in my conversations.

I'll only mention Bonds in the sense that he played for the enemy and he broke records with the aid of "the juice". Time will tell if I mention Clemens.

Posted by: Dodger Steve at January 28, 2008 10:35 AM

Fifty years from now, people will still think Biggio was better than Mazeroski, Schoendienst, Nellie Fox, Bobby Doerr, and probably a number of other current HOF second basemen. I don't think anyone would see him as watering down the field at that position.

As far as automatic numbers, I think the only one that has really fallen by the wayside is 500 homers, because it really doesn't mean what it used to mean. 3000 hits is a bit easier to attain than it once was, but only a bit, and 300 wins is a good deal tougher.

Posted by: Jerry at January 28, 2008 1:24 PM

Steve, that is an argument I agree with. However, that will always be true. It's also unfair, but then everything is. Nobody can compare to the Babe (which really is true), but then, how can anyone else ever be best? Was Cobb really among the greatest? He and Wagner actually had an unfair advantage. They were very smart and wealthy enough to work out in the off season (as did the Babe-for real)-the rest had to go to work.

Was Lawrence Taylor really the greatest OLB or was he simply the first prototype-so different that only Joe Jacoby could defend against him?

Joe Morgan will always be talked about, Eddie Collings is, Craig Biggio was not as good, but he fits in the years gone by discussion that someone like, say Gehringer or Sandberg will be involved with. Bruce Sutter may not be as great as Mariano Rivera, or Goose Gossage, in my opinion, but he came along earlier and had the advantage of being a prototype.

And automatic numbers can't ever work in baseball. The longevity of the game has changed too much. Also, the numbers game is based too much on what stadium the game is played in to not include either into the equations.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at January 28, 2008 1:58 PM

Daryl, I started my comments with the fact that Gossage had been the only player selected this year. He had been overlooked for so many years, why now? Was he a choice because there was no one else overwhelming in the pool of players? So with that, I go on to suggest that if there is not a "worthy" player, then we wait until next year and see what happens then.

The reason I don't buy the generational argument is because I think the HOF is for the best of the best, not just the best of right now. Think about the OF discussion earlier. Let's say Manny Ramirez gets in, along with Griffey Jr, Bonds might get in, doesn't someone like Puckett look even more miniscule among this group? Won't he look even less worthy down the road when a guy in AAA this year makes the HOF in 30 years?

Is Jim Thome a shoe-in now that he is over 500 HR? I don't think so.

Posted by: Dodger Steve at January 28, 2008 2:35 PM

No, Thome doesn't belong, but he was never the player Kirby Puckett was. Remember, Kirby got in really quickly by the voters who saw him play lots. And those same voters remember Rice as a creep and NOT as dominant a player. You think they love Manny Ramirez? Hell no, but he's a first ballot one dimensional player. If you have only one dimension, it better be as an all time great.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at January 28, 2008 3:20 PM

I just went back and looked at Puckett's numbers. He only played for 12 seasons, which I found interesting. Aside from a some seasons with really nice batting averages, I didn't see any numbers that made me think he was hall worthy. I wonder if his jovial attitude and those few playoff moments had too much influence.

Posted by: Dodger Steve at January 28, 2008 3:58 PM

I think the voters sort of projected a normal decline phase for Puckett after the abrupt end of his career, which is sort of unfair since they don't do that for guys whose careers are ended by more common injuries, like Tony Oliva and Don Mattingly. Puckett would almost certainly have gotten 3000 hits, and if he had, would look like a clear HOFer. However, he didn't. He was a great player in his prime, but I think that he slipped into the Hall without a lot of careful analysis.

Posted by: Jerry at January 28, 2008 4:37 PM

I think that "the few playoff moments" are part of the picture that defines HOF status. If Kirby doesn't hit the Game 6 dinger or make that incredible catch, etc. he probably would still get in but the allure would not be as strong. The reason I think stats aren't the only thing that makes a guy an HOFer is that there are certain moments in the course of a great career that put those stats into context. I think someone like David Ortiz would not necessarily have to have the cumlative career stats as Jim Thome to get in because if he puts together about 5 more years similar to that past 5 he has moments (3 straight walk-off hits in 2004 play-offs, etc.) and Thome really does not.

I hear the Mets may turn out to win the Santana series. Any insight into this turn of events? What are y'all putting on the table?

Posted by: jim at January 28, 2008 5:03 PM

Puckett is a marginal HOF at best. Just to reiterate some things that have been said, the standards are never Ruth, Cobb, Mays, or Wagner. Now I'm not saying the standards should be the worse HOFers. The standard should not be Lloyd Wagner, Rich Ferrell, and Phil Rizzuto. Somewhere in the middle. I dunno, Earl Averill, Bill Dickey, and Duke Snider.
I think you had to put Gary Carter in the HOF. He's a top 10 catcher of all time, and when you consider there are 200 major leaguers in the HOF, he has to be in.

Posted by: alex at January 28, 2008 5:09 PM

Alex, your defense of Carter is my same argument against. Carter is one of the 200 greatest players the HOF has seen? I would go half way and say he is a top 10 catcher in 2008, but what about when Piazza and I-Rod go in? Where is he then? No one else in the game right now is likely to get in as a catcher.

Posted by: Dodger Steve at January 28, 2008 5:39 PM

Whooohooo!! We finally got Santana!! I feel like this trade took 2 seasons to complete... now we just have to pray they come to an extension agreement.

Posted by: Rory at January 29, 2008 4:57 PM
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