Sour Grapes

Lots of stuff to blog about today that deserves longer treatment, but I just have to say that while Ron Santo strikes me as a deserving Hall of Famer (not overwhelmingly so, but he clearly meets the standard for third basemen after you finish adjusting his numbers for the huge boost he got from Wrigley Field – career .296/.383/.522 at home, .257/.342/.406 on the road – as offset by the terrible era for hitters he played in), his complaining about the Veterans Committee balloting system can’t help but come off as sour grapes. Frankly, the Veterans Commitee exists for one reason: to correct injustices, whether to guys the writers never saw play (i.e., Negro Leaguers, pre-1930s players) or that the writers for whatever reason failed to appreciate or had a grudge against. If the commitee rarely elects anybody, that’s fine.

16 thoughts on “Sour Grapes”

  1. Crank,
    I’m OK with Santo NOT being in the Hall.
    As you correctly pointed out, his home/road splits are revealing. This man was supremely average on the road, even adjusting for era. Reminds me of Dale Murphy’s splits…
    When you look at third basemen from 1960-1974 (Santo’s career) with at least 3500 plate appearances, there are some surprises. At least going by Runs Created Above Position and Offensive Winning Percentage, guys like Ken Boyer, Dick Allen, Sal Bando, and even Jimmy Ray Hart are either AHEAD or very close to Santo.
    As far as fielding goes, Santo is comfortably ahead of the aforementioned players at least according to range.
    Dick Allen played quite a bit of 1B and OF in addition to 3B, but his batting numbers are way better than Santo’s. And a 2.77 vs. 3.07 range isn’t THAT much difference, is it? I’d put Dick Allen in the Hall well before Santo…

  2. It’s unfair to compare Santo to Dick Allen, who was a monster hitter. The tougher question with guys like Santo and Jim Rice is, if they were unusually well-suited to their home parks, do you penalize them above and beyond the extent to which you are adjusting for how much the typical hitter benefits from playing in that park in that time period?

  3. I think it would make sense that Wrigley in the day-games-only era might have created unusually large home-road splits – punishing visitors who are mostly used to night games , and exacting a reverse toll on Cubs players when they went on the road. Similar to the effect of pre-humidor Colorado, where the Rockies players weren’t really as bad as their road splits indicated.

  4. When Santo criticizes the selection process it is unseemly and appears like sour grapes, but it doesnt mean he’s wrong on the merits. The entire HOF selection process , vets committee included , is deeply flawed and will only become more so as the righteous journalist prigs start dinging Bonds and McGwire et al when they come up for vote. Players and sabermetricians should have a much bigger role in the voting, say 1/3 each to the writer’s 3rd. Even including some fan input would be better on this country club monopoly that’s about to induct Rice and snub the likes of Santo and Blyleven and Raines.

  5. When you compare Santo’s numbers to HOF’ers from his era (Mays, Aaron, Brock, McCovey, Banks, etc…) you see the extent that his numbers pale. He was a fine player, much like Boog Powell, Torre, and others, but not a HOF’er.

  6. I could give a crap whether Santo is in the Hall of Fame, but using his home/road splits is about as useless a stat as there is for determining whether he belongs in the Hall.
    If you want to use an offensive stat that’s relevant for determining whether Santo belongs in the Hall, why not use one that actually allows for relevant comparison. I think the best stat for those purposes is OPS+. And by that number, Santo is better than half of the MLB third baseman in the Hall of Fame.

  7. To me the most potentially perilous aspect of this year’s Vet vote was comments made by Jane Clark, the current head of the HofF, after the vote (and I know I got the name technically wrong, and would welcome a correction, but she’s the latest scion of the Clark family to run the HofF in any case). She made comments to the effect that well, we’ll just have to go back and change the composition and voting procedures of the Vet. Committee AGAIN. You know how these days when political elections come down to a couple of hundred votes, the losing side tries to keep going back to the well until they get the outcome they want? That’s how her remarks struck me: they’re going to keep changing the process until FINALLY these people come to their senses and elect Gil Hodges, Ron Santo, Shamrock O’Leary, Captain Kangaroo, and who knows who else whoever in the world wants in.
    Following on Crank’s statement that the Vet. Committee exists to correct true injustices, it seems to stand to reason that what really needs to change is the way so many people view the Committee, and to realize that they’re probably doing their job correctly when they DON’T elect someone more than once every three years or so. Honestly, how many true injustices are there? How many clear-cut, little-doubt-in-the-matter hall of famers do the writers really fail to elect? And if we agree that the number is very few, then if we expect that the committee select someone every year, or that they select our sentimental favorites, aren’t we really implicitly defining the committee’s job as one primarily designed to select marginal-at-best hall of famers, and thus to define the bottom of the barrel of the hall of Fame?
    That is not why the Veterans Committee exists, and I hope people will, at some point, finally get the idea that the Veterans Committee is in fact doing its job superbly by not electing guys who’ve been on the ballot for thirty or more years, and for whom the argument simply has not, and cannot, change. These guys know Santo’s record, and Hodges’ record, and the majority of them played against either one or both of them. Nothing about their records, or the records of anyone else up for selection, has changed since they retired.
    I would not be in the least bit upset if either or both of those men were elected, but by the same token, neither is a clear-cut Hall of Famer either. The Hall of Fame will not be diminished by its failure to include Ron Santo in its ranks, and neither should it feel compelled to somehow get Gil Hodges in simply because of how much he means to a lot of old Brooklyn Dodger fans. They were fine players. So were Bert Blylevyn, Jim Kaat, Tommy John, and so on and so forth. And the writers had fifteen years to consider their candidacies, and the Vets have had even longer. That the Veterans Committee has still declined to elect them, marginal Hall of Famers all, is not a commentary on the Committee, but rather on the careers of those players, and what will diminish the Hall of Fame in the long run is extraordinary efforts to get them in. They don’t need to keep changing the rules to get the result they want.

  8. Mike, to me Allen and Santo are in no way comparable. Allen, before his other issues set in, was on his way to becoming the best player in the league since Mays and Aaron. I saw him play, and he was an incredible ballplayer, simply astounding. A lot like Manny; the game was simply too easy for him.
    Also, the Veterans Committee was not created to get in the Negro Leaguers; there was a separate committee for that one. ANd unlike the Vets, they did a great job. The Vets exist to get pals in. These clucks cling to the belief that baseball in the 30’s was the greatest ever, just (harumph) look at the numbers. So Bottomely, Lloyd Waner and others gets in. Doerr got in because Ted (who couldn’t evaluate a non frozen player if he tried) pushed for it. So let’s just get rid of that useless Committee.

  9. There really shouldn’t even be a veteran’s committee for players anymore – just the bi-annual election for managers, umpires, and executives. For the Santo and Hodges type players, just have a screening committee chose the half dozen most qualified guys whose fifteen years have passed, and put them back on the main ballot. The VC was created to deal with the backlog of old players when voting started in the late thirties, but that purpose has long since outlived it’s usefulness. With modern statistics widely available, it’s not like the current BBWA guys aren’t capable of evaluating somebody who’s been retired for decades.

  10. “With modern statistics widely available, it’s not like the current BBWA guys aren’t capable of evaluating somebody who’s been retired for decades.” – Jerry
    A look at the BBWAA’s MVP and Cy Young Award votes suggests that they pay no attention to any statistics more modern than RBI and Wins.

  11. Steve, I don’t disagree, but they could do that if they wanted to. And they are probably more likely to do so than a bunch of 70-year-old ex ballplayers are.

  12. Allen would have been in long ago if stats were the only issue–both the writers and the veterans remember all too well the clubhouse cancer who was “Crash” Allen. While Bill James may have been guilty of hyperbole when he suggested that Allen did more to keep his teams from winning (in terms of non-stat factors) than any player in history (remember Hal Chase, Mr. James?), Allen was certainly in the top ten in that dubious category.
    I’m with Jerry: the BBWAA annoys me greatly at times (most recently with the HOF vote on Tim Raines), but they’re better qualified to rectify the remaining injustices among the pre-1990 players than the Hall of Famers are.

  13. One thing I thought was interesting about Dick Allen, since there’s a (partially correct) impression that he suffered from racism in his time, and that may have hurt his Hall chances, is that he didn’t even get 75% of the vote among fellow African-Americans (and one African-Canadian) who played against him, of which there are 10 in the Hall, and he only got 7 votes.

  14. While I agree that it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem just because the VC came up empty, that doesn’t mean the VC should be abolished. The reason it exists will never completely go away. The flaws in the normal process are the main reason a second look has to be available. The biggest flaw in the current first look is the inability to correct the potential 75% mistakes. If a candidate gets less than 5% they are dropped regardless of how good a play may have been. Conversely 75% equals enshrinement regardless or how average a player may have been. The nightmare scenario going both directions concern Sean Casey and Barry Bonds. Some voters give a tip of their cap to a player they were friendly with (ie: Jim Deschaise sic). Well, everybody likes Casey. What if lots of voters tip their cap to Sean and he is accidentally elected? A lot of people don’t much like Barry Bonds. He may actually be convicted for perjury before he is up for election. It is possible that his first time on the ballot he fails to get 5%. We already saw a similar case with Albert Belle. Belle may not have had a HoF career, but he merited more than one look. Compare him to guys like Rice who got 15 turns on the ballot. Heck, compare Belle to Puckett who was elected on his first ballot.

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