Sunday, January 11, 2004

With this past week's Baseball Hall of Fame elections announced, I found myself reviewing the voting results and noticing what I felt to be some serious discrepancies with respect to the level of support that some players received compared to others who are much less worthy. I put more than a little bit of thought into this, but fell way short of conducting a complete analysis of all eligible players, and came up with the following top 5 list of players underrated by the voting (with comments in parentheses):

1. Alan Trammell (I think this guy is a HOFer, but he scores a ridiculously low 13.8%)
2. Dale Murphy (as good as, if not better than Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, but Rice and Dawson get 50+% to Murphy's 8.5%)
3. Don Mattingly (borderline HOFer and only gets 12.8%, un-fucking-believable)
4. Keith Hernandez (almost as good as Mattingly and deserves way better than 4.3%)
5. Rich Gossage (better than Bruce Sutter, but receives 19% fewer votes)

While I'm not going to go to great lengths to analyze and defend all of my picks, I will say that I shared this list with a few friends and was questioned by one for not including Steve Garvey. My response was essentially that I rated Mattingly and Hernandez higher, and that since Garvey received greater support (24.3%), he didn't make the list. He countered by stating that Hernandez once said that you had to vote for Garvey before himself...certainly a strong argument. How could I possibly rate Hernandez higher than Garvey, when Hernandez himself rates Garvey higher? Well, my answer is, that I certainly value Hernandez's opinion with respect to how he rates compared to one of his peers, but no more than I value the opinion of the baseball writers who gave Garvey almost six times as many votes as Hernandez. Therefore, if I'm willing to question the opinions of the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, then I'm certainly willing to question Keith Hernandez's view.

Anyway, over the course of the next couple of weeks, I'm going to do some serious analysis, comparing the careers of four contemporary first-baseman: Steve Garvey and Keith Hernandez, for obvious reasons; Don Mattingly, because I'm also curious as to why he only gets half the support that Garvey does; and Tony Perez, because he is a contemporary of these players (well, at least of Garvey and Hernandez), and because he is a Hall of Famer who wasn't an obvious choice and, therefore, provides an excellent point of reference. I'm not including Eddie Murray in the comparison because he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and easily one of the top ten (if not top five) first-basemen of all time. None of these players would come close to stacking up to Murray.

Before I venture into this undertaking, I have two admissions to make. First, Don Mattingly is not exactly a contemporary of these players. He is, in fact, 19 years younger than Perez, and made his major league debut in 1982, while Perez retired in 1986. However, there is some overlap in his career with all of these players, and my analysis is going to take into consideration such contextual factors as seasons, teams, leagues, and parks.

My second admission is one related to my personal bias. Obviously, I have already tipped my hand by stating that I feel Mattingly and Hernandez are better than Garvey. This would seem to create a bias in their favor, at least in comparison to Garvey. Additionally, considering that I am a Yankees fan, a bias could exist in comparison of Mattingly to Perez, since I'd like to make a case for Mattingly's Hall of Fame candidacy. However, I will say that I am perfectly willing to prove myself wrong, since this would prove to be a learning experience for me, and because this would at least ensure that I would feel certain of my opinions should I enter into a similar debate in the future. Furthermore, since my analysis will be very statistically oriented, with reverence to the work of Bill James, I will certainly make a strong case for whatever my findings turn out to be.

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