Friday, September 27, 2013

Personal Hall of Fame, Part 6: Modern Era

This is the sixth in a series of six posts where I'm revealing my personal Hall of Fame one era at a time.

I've determined era based on when each player's star shined the brightest—although in marginal cases, I've assigned some players based on where they fit best due to the all-era teams format—but their entire careers provide the basis for selection, rather than just time spent in a specific era.

My personal Hall consists exclusively of players (no managers, executives, pioneers or umpires) based on their careers in Major League Baseball only.

For a more complete explanation of this series, and for my 19th Century inductees, please see Part 1. For my Deadball era inductees, please see Part 2. For my Live Ball era inductees, check out Part 3. For my Post-Integration and Designated Hitter era inductees, respectively, see Part 4 and Part 5.

An * denotes an actual Hall of Famer.

Modern Era Personal Hall Inductees (1994- )

C - Mike Piazza (1992-2007)
1B - Jeff Bagwell (1991-2005)
1B - Mark McGwire (1986-2001)
1B - Rafael Palmeiro (1986-2005)
2B - Roberto Alomar* (1988-2004)
2B - Craig Biggio (1988-2007)
SS - Barry Larkin* (1986-2004)
LF - Barry Bonds (1986-2007)
CF - Kenny Lofton (1991-2007)
RF - Larry Walker (1989-2005)
RF - Sammy Sosa (1989-2005, 2007)
DH/1B - Frank Thomas* (1990-2008)
DH - Edgar Martinez (1987-2004)
SP - Roger Clemens (1984-2007)
SP - Greg Maddux* (1986-2008)
SP - Curt Schilling (1988-2007)
SP - Mike Mussina (1991-2008)
SP - Tom Glavine* (1987-2008)
SP - Kevin Brown (1986, 1988-2005)

Obviously, this era is far from complete. I haven't decided if I'll keep updating here as new players become eligible and are added to my personal Hall. As of right now, I'd say that's my intention. 

The non-Hall of Famers I'm inducting here essentially fall into three categories: those who will eventually be inducted into the real Hall of Fame (Piazza, Bagwell, Biggio, Schilling); those who would otherwise be Hall of Famers if not for steroid allegations (McGwire, Palmeiro, Bonds, Sosa, Clemens); and those who truly fall into the underrated category, at least in my opinion. 

There's some overlapPiazza and Bagwell are also kind of in the second categoryand some gray areathere are those who suggest McGwire, Palmeiro and Sosa are not slam-dunk Hall of Famers, but take a look at their numbers and ask yourself who those folks are kidding—but those three categories cover all the angles. 

I'm going to talk about the guys in the latter category. 

Kenny Lofton compares more favorably to Tim Raines than I bet a lot of people realize. He wasn't as good a hitter and doesn't quite have Raines' career base-stealing prowess, but his defensive advantage essentially elevates him to virtually Rock's equal. That makes him Hall of Fame worthy in my book. 

I'm not sure what Larry Walker needed to do to compensate for the fact he played a lot of games in the friendly confines of Coors Field to satisfy the voters. His 141 OPS+ and 73 WAR in 16 seasons (not including a cup of coffee as a 22-year old) shows his career was way more than a home-ballpark aided mirage. 

If Edgar Martinez had played the field for most of his career, it probably would've cost him a little career value, but no more than some of the Hall's most one-dimensional players, such as Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew and Willie Stargell. Like those guys, Martinez's offense more than made up for his lack of a defensive resume. It's ludicrous to say he was any less of a complete player because his team decided the role that best suited him was designated hitter. 

Kevin Brown wasn't very well-liked. He played for a bunch of different teams. His brief time on the big stage in New York didn't end well, especially in the ALCS (although his prior postseason performance was solid overall). He was named in the Mitchell Report. Perhaps that's why a guy who compares pretty favorably to Schilling (not that he's received overwhelming Hall support himself), except without the tremendous postseason resume, fell off the ballot after one year. 

I'm also making a few adjustments to my previous selections, adding Clark Griffith, Joe Tinker and Luis Aparicio (all actual Hall of Famers, although Griffith is in as an executive), bringing my personal Hall to 215 players. That's seven more than the actual institution, but it's still a much more select group, in my opinion.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Personal Hall of Fame, Part 5: Designated Hitter Era

This is the fifth in a series of six posts where I'm revealing my personal Hall of Fame one era at a time.

I've determined era based on when each player's star shined the brightest—although in marginal cases, I've assigned some players based on where they fit best due to the all-era teams format—but their entire careers provide the basis for selection, rather than just time spent in a  specific era.

My personal Hall consists exclusively of players (no managers, executives, pioneers or umpires) based on their careers in Major League Baseball only.

For a more complete explanation of this series, and for my 19th Century inductees, please see Part 1. For my Deadball era inductees, please see Part 2. For my Live Ball era inductees, check out Part 3. For my Post-Integration era inductees, Part 4.

An * denotes an actual Hall of Famer.

All-Designated Hitter Era Team/Personal Hall Inductees
 (1973-1993)


Starters

C - Johnny Bench* (1967-1983)
1B (2B) - Rod Carew* (1967-1985)
2B - Joe Morgan* (1963-1984)
SS - Cal Ripken* (1981-2001)
3B - Mike Schmidt* (1972-1989)
LF - Rickey Henderson* (1979-2003)
CF (RF) - Andre Dawson* (1976-1996)
RF - Reggie Jackson* (1967-1987)
DH (3B/2B) - Paul Molitor* (1978-1998)
SP - Tom Seaver* (1967-1986)
SP - Steve Carlton* (1965-1988)
SP - Phil Niekro* (1964-1987)
SP - Bert Blyleven* (1970-1990, 1992)
SP - Jim Palmer* (1965-1967, 1969-1984)

Reserves
C - Gary Carter* (1974-1992)
C - Carlton Fisk* (1969, 1971-1993)
C - Ted Simmons (1968-1988)
C - Thurman Munson (1969-1979)
1B - Eddie Murray* (1977-1997)
1B - Keith Hernandez (1974-1990)
2B - Ryne Sandberg* (1981-1994, 1996-1997)
2B - Bobby Grich (1970-1986)
2B - Lou Whitaker (1977-1995)
SS - Ozzie Smith* (1978-1996)
SS/CF - Robin Yount* (1974-1993)
SS - Alan Trammell (1977-1996)
3B - Wade Boggs* (1982-1999)
3B - George Brett* (1973-1993)
3B - Graig Nettles (1967-1988)
3B - Buddy Bell (1972-1989)
LF/1B - Willie Stargell* (1962-1982)
LF - Tim Raines (1979-1999, 2001-2002)
CF - Kirby Puckett* (1984-1995)
RF/CF - Reggie Smith (1966-1982)
RF - Tony Gwynn* (1982-2001)
RF - Dave Winfield* (1973-1995)
RF - Dwight Evans (1972-1991)
SP - Nolan Ryan* (1966, 1968-1993) 78/20
SP - Don Sutton* (1966-1998)
SP - Rick Reuschel (1972-1981, 1983-1991)
SP - David Cone (1986-2001, 2003)
SP - Luis Tiant (1964-1982)
SP - Bret Saberhagen (1984-1995, 1997-1999, 2001)
SP - Dave Stieb (1979-1993, 1998)
SP/RP - Dennis Eckersley* (1975-1998)
RP - Rich Gossage* (1972-1989, 1991-1994)

Continuing the trend that integrated eras are more highly represented, the 46 players here from a period spanning 21 years (2.19/year) is the highest concentration so far. 

Also of note, there are 15 non-Hall of Famers added to my personal Hall here, almost doubling the previous high for an era. My best guess as to why is voters have failed to properly adjust for the game's continuously evolving playing environment and continue to hold players to standards established in the game's so-called heyday. This is especially true with pitchers. 

Either that or I've chosen too many players. 

Among the 15, I'll add Ted Simmons and Thurman Munson to the list of catchers underrated by Hall voters. 

Simmons' defensive skills were never highly rated, so I suppose his status as one of his era's best offensive catchers wasn't considered enough. It is for me, though, not to mention his rank as the 11th best catcher of all-time according to Hall Rating. 

Munson's career ended prematurely and tragically, of course. I've always assumed talk of his skills declining at a young age is the reason he never received the Kirby Puckett treatment. Just as we can't project his would-have-been statistics in a positive way, we can't be certain a brief downward trend would have continued. Despite the shortened career, only six catchers produced more 4-WAR seasons than Munson did (min. 75% games caught per season): Johnny Bench, Mickey Cochrane, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, Yogi Berra.

With apologies to Don Mattingly, Keith Hernandez was the greatest defensive first baseman of all-time. Although it's a position where defense is relatively unimportant, rating as the best certainly helps Hernandez's case. His offense was also tremendously underrated since he didn't hit a lot of homers and fell short of the magic .300 lifetime batting average. However, thanks to a .384 career OBP and a lot of doubles, Hernandez's 128 OPS+ is better than I suspect most folks realize, and is comparable to Jim Rice, a player from this era who's in the Hall entirely for his offensive ability. 

A lot has been written about the voting travesty that allowed Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker to fall off the ballot after only one year. They're perhaps two of the most underrated players of all-time. They should be Hall of Famers. It's just that simple. 

Ditto for Alan Trammell, who's still on the ballot but stands little chance of getting inducted in his remaining three years. 

My dad would argue Clete Boyer just as I'm going to say Graig Nettles is maybe the second best defensive third baseman in history. I know there's some personal bias there, but so be it. Nettles also hit 390 home runs and is ranked 9th all-time at the position based on Hall Rating, but didn't get much consideration because of a .248 career batting average. 

As evidence not supporting one of my previous statements, Buddy Bell actually won several Gold Gloves at third over Nettles. Accepting that Bell is arguably in Nettles' class as a third basemen, their offensive resumes are comparable as well, although Bell didn't have Nettles' power. Both are deserving of the Hall at one of its most under-represented positions. 

It should be no secret how I feel about Tim Raines, so I'll just add this:

Only eight players in history
have reached base 4000 times, scored 1500 runs, stolen 500 bases and were worth more than 60 wins above replacement for their careers. Five of them (Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner) are first-ballot Hall of Famers; one (Eddie Collins), while not being elected on the first ballot, was among the first 16 player inductees in the Hall's history; and the remaining two are Barry Bonds and Tim Raines.

Rice came of age during my childhood, and he definitely falls into the category of a player I thought of as a future Hall of Famer back then. But his offensive peak wasn't as impressive as I thought as a kid, and it didn't last long enough to overcome his deficiencies. I'll always remember his flashes of greatness, but he falls short to me.

However, two other former Red Sox outfielders step in in his place: Reggie Smith, who left the team before Rice arrived and who frightened the hell out of me while playing for the Dodgers in the 1977 and 1978 World Series against the Yankees; and Rice's unsung teammate Dwight Evans, whose 127 OPS+ was nearly identical to Rice's 128 while playing Gold Glove defense in right field over a career that lasted four years and 1500 plate appearances longer. 

I really think modernish starting pitchers have been short-changed by Hall voters who simply don't realize how rare consistency and longevity has become at the position. Sure, there's a new wave of pitchers about to descend on the Hall who measure up to the Lefty Groves, Warren Spahns and Tom Seavers. But, of the last 28 MLB players elected to the Hall, only two of them were starting pitchers, and one of those is Dennis Eckersley. 

I'm making up for that unattainable standard by extending the list of this era's greatest starters to include Rick Reuschel, Luis Tiant, David Cone, Dave Stieb and Bret Saberhagen.

As you may have already noticed, I'm being lazy and linking to articles supporting the Hall of Fame cases of some of these players (most provided by friends of the blog). Here's a good one that covers Cone, Saberhagen and Stieb. I'll use another familiar source to present Reuschel's case, but I'll handle Tiant myself.

There was some inconsistency to Tiant's career, just as with the other guys. But, I've already made the point that we've long since reached an era where that's simply the nature of starting pitchers. A few mediocre seasons over the course of a career should not disqualify a player from the Hall of Fame. At least, not in my book. El Tiante's rough stretch was from 1969-1971, although 1969 wasn't nearly as bad a year as his 9-20 W-L record would indicate. But, from 1964-1968 and 1972-1979, he was 200-126 with a 122 ERA+ and 62 WAR over just 13 seasons. If we leave those three seasons in, we're talking 66 WAR in 16 years, which easily passes my personal Hall of Fame litmus test.

The list of actual Hall of Famers who didn't make my personal Hall (in descending order by Hall Rating) is a short one: Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers.

Next Up: Part 6 - Modern Era

Monday, September 16, 2013

Happy Tim Raines Day

Today is Tim Raines' 54th birthday. To mark the occasion, I'll link to an interview I did with Justin McGuire, MLB editor for The Sporting News for an article he did about Twitter accounts advocating on behalf of players' Hall of Fame candidacies.

As is often the case with these things, not all of my responses to his questions were included in the article. So, here's the entire Q&A, in case you're interested:

  1. Briefly describe who you are and why you are a fan of Tim Raines.

    My name is Dan McCloskey, and I’m an amateur baseball writer who has written for various sites, including my personal blog Left Field. I don’t really have a conventional reason for being a huge supporter of Raines. I was a fan of his during his playing days because I’m a fan of the game first and he was a great player, but my admiration of is not due to being a fan of the teams he played for. I simply came to realize he’s one of the best players outside the Hall of Fame who still has a legitimate chance at induction.

  2. When did you start the Twitter account? How did you get the idea?

    I started @RockInTheHall in early 2012, just after that year's Hall of Fame voting announcement. At least part of the inspiration for the idea came from Bert Blyleven's recent election and the grassroots nature of the campaign that helped get him elected.

  3. What are you hoping to accomplish with the account?

    Originally, I wasn't expecting much except to have some fun doing it, but in the back of my mind my goal was, and still is, that I somehow could play a small role in helping Raines get his Hall of Fame due. Perhaps some additional motivation comes from a desire to draw some attention to my baseball writing aspirations.

  4. What kind of response have you received so far?

    The response has been pretty good. The account has over 500 followers, including quite a few who are really devoted to Raines' cause. In fact, rarely do I tweet some factual information about Raines that doesn't get retweeted at least a couple times. That's more than I can say for my primary Twitter account (@_LeftField), which has more followers, but nowhere near as dedicated the following.

  5. What other efforts are you making (online or otherwise) to make the case for Raines?
    I’ve written about Raines various times for my blog, including identifying him as the greatest eligible left fielder not in the Hall of Fame and showing that he compares more than favorably to first-ballot Hall of Famer Lou Brock. I also recently made a two-minute argument for Raines on the High Heat Stats podcast, but otherwise most of my efforts of late are via the Twitter account.

  6. Give me your best argument of Raines in one paragraph.

    Only eight players in history have reached base 4000 times, scored 1500 runs, stolen 500 bases and were worth more than 60 wins above replacement for their careers. Five of them (Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner) are first-ballot Hall of Famers; one (Eddie Collins), while not being elected on the first ballot, was among the first 16 player inductees in the Hall's history; and the remaining two are Barry Bonds and Tim Raines. If you prefer an approach that's not based entirely on statistics, I give you the fact that ESPN's Hall of 100 named Raines the 96th greatest player of all-time, which would rank him among the top 50% of a Hall of Fame that consists of 208 members inducted as players. Tim Raines clearly belongs in this exclusive club.

  7. Anything else I should know?

    I just want to say thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about my efforts on behalf of the Hall of Fame candidacy of Tim Raines.