Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jorge Posada and a Couple All-Time Yankees Lists

Jorge Posada's retirement last week got me thinking about where he ranks among players—similar in certain ways—who've also worn the Yankee pinstripes. Of course, this led to one of my favorite little exercises, the creation of a couple short lists, both of which I put together pretty quickly and shared on Twitter. With the benefit of a little further examination, neither of the lists changed. So, I thought I'd write a short post about them as my own way of commemorating the career of one of the Yankees' most important contributors over the past 1 1/2 decades.

The first is the obvious one. Top five all-time Yankees catchers:
  1. Yogi Berra
  2. Bill Dickey
  3. Thurman Munson
  4. Jorge Posada
  5. Elston Howard
I'm not going to spend much time elaborating on this list. Honestly, I don't see that there's much room for argument, particularly when I say both this and the next list are based on each player's time with the Yankees. That is, I didn't just take all players who have played a minimum number of years with the team and consider their entire careers. So, I don't want to hear any Wally Schang arguments from you old-timers, or any Mike Stanley mentions from those a little younger.

OK, so no one was really going to be clamoring for either of those guys, I realize.

I don't think anyone would debate those are clearly the top five catchers in Yankees history. In fact, I think the only thing that's arguable is the relative positioning of Munson and Posada. Since some are saying Posada may be a serious Hall of Fame candidate, and Munson peaked at 15.5% of the vote, it stands to reason many would rank Jorge #3. But, not me.

Maybe it's because I'm a child of the '70s, or because Munson's premature death was one of the two biggest sports heartbreaks of my lifetime. Or, possibly it's because he was the Captain who wouldn't truly be replaced until Jeter, or because I'll take 43 WAR in 10 years over 45 WAR in 15 years (excluding both players' first partial seasons), but to me, Thurman still ranks higher than Jorge.

But, that's all I'm going to say about that. It's the next list that I find a little more interesting. Top five all-time Yankees switch-hitters:
  1. Mickey Mantle
  2. Bernie Williams
  3. Jorge Posada
  4. Roy White
  5. Tom Tresh
There are a couple different ways I could have gone with the basis for this list. I suppose you might infer, since it's a switch-hitters list, that I might be looking only at each player's hitting or total offensive ability. But, I'm more interested in evaluating the player's complete performance, with the fact he's a switch-hitter simply being the only requisite criterion.

Mantle at #1 is even more obvious than #1 on the previous list. I suppose you might argue Posada over Williams, especially given the difficulty of Jorge's position. But, otherwise I think the only debatable point is whether or not to slide Mark Teixeira in at #5, and bump Tresh.

It's a little too early for that, in my opinion. I'm expecting Teixeira will eventually join the list, maybe even push White out of the #4 spot, but that's no sure thing. Right now, though, I'm ranking Tresh's 22.3 WAR in 7+ seasons ahead of Teixeira's 12 WAR in three seasons. Somewhat surprisingly, Nick Swisher's value (11 WAR) over that same time frame comes fairly close to Teixeira's, but given their respective contracts, it's fair to assume Tex will last longer in pinstripes.

So, Posada not only ranks as one of the Yankees' top players of the last 15 years, he also stacks up fairly well in all-time Bronx Bombers discussions. Hall of Famer? I'm not so sure, but he's certainly among the greatest to wear the pinstripes during my lifetime.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is Credit for Success vs. Blame for Failure in Sports a Zero-Sum Equation?

After the New York Football Giants defeated the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night to advance to a Super Bowl rematch with the New England Patriots, I spent quite a bit of time "celebrating" with friends on Facebook. Being a displaced New Yorker, that's pretty much all I have these days. Besides, with the game starting and ending on the late side, and with a two-month old in the picture, I doubt if I would have been attending any NFC championship parties anyway.

Incidentally, and this isn't the point of the post, I've recently decided, when your team is in a big game such as this one, it's much better to "hang out" on Facebook than it is Twitter. Otherwise, I definitely prefer the latter, but when the spotlight is on your team, Twitter is like hanging out in a neutral bar and having to ignore a lot of ridiculous and obviously jealous comments, while Facebook is more akin to watching the game in a hometown bar. At least that's the way it works for me.

Since most of the people I follow on Twitter are baseball enthusiasts, I had to pause momentarily to realize Rangers fans are also probably Cowboys fans, and what they're going through is kind of like being a Yankees fan in the '80s, so I can relate. Some of the comments are still annoying, but I can relate.

Another fan base's ire that I got a charge out of—yeah, you know that was intentional—is that of the San Diego faithful, believe it or not. It's directed towards Eli Manning, of course, because he spurned their team back in 2004, forcing a trade to the Giants for Philip Rivers. At times, Rivers has looked like a better quarterback than Manning, but nobody seems to be saying that anymore.

The Chargers have had some bad luck with quarterbacks over the years—only some of it their own fault—so I can sympathize. I mean they came {this close} to getting Eli's older brother, Peyton, but ended up with Ryan Leaf. Then, they gave up on Drew Brees, paving the way for Rivers. Again, Rivers has been a solid signal-caller, but he's no Brees.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with what I set out to write about in this post. During the aforementioned Facebook celebration, a good friend from New York posted the following:

"I'd say all the pressure is on the Patriots, given how they choked last time."

I disagreed with this, contending the Patriots didn't choke in Super Bowl XLII, the Giants just out-schemed and outplayed them. Sure, there was considerable pressure on the Patriots to complete their perfect season, but it didn't just kick in when they reached the Super Bowl. And they were playing a team that was on a roll, and just happened to put it all together at the right time and rise to the occasion on the ultimate stage.

Which brings me, finally, to my point. When we emphasize the opposition's failures, does that detract from our team's successes?

Here's another example: many Red Sox fans love to refer to their team's comeback in the 2004 ALCS as the greatest choke-job in the history of sports—on the part of the Yankees—rather than the greatest comeback in history, by their team.

Can we have it both ways? I suppose to some extent we can, but I contend the more you assign blame for the other team's failure, the less credit you're giving to your team's success. When I had this conversation with a few Red Sox fans regarding 2004, they seemed to—for the most part—agree with me.

We know that winning vs. losing in sports is a zero-sum proposition. That is, in order for one team to win, another has to lose. So, does that make credit for success vs. blame for failure a zero-sum equation as well?

Let's consider the 2004 ALCS again. If the Yankees truly choked that one away, don't you think that even the Kansas City Royals could have taken them in four straight? Surely a team that was wilting under the pressure of just needing to win one game out of four would be ripe for the plucking by any other professional team. If this is true, is there really any credit to give to the Red Sox for their performance?

It's obviously not that simple, but as a Red Sox fan, wouldn't you rather celebrate your team's incredible accomplishment rather than another team's failure? I know there are other factors involved—sports fans love to mock their rivals, of course—but as a Giants fan, I know I'd much rather appreciate their tremendous performance in Super Bowl XLII than get a chuckle out of the fact they ruined the Patriots perfect season.

I choose to think of that Giants team as having pulled off perhaps the greatest upset in Super Bowl history. Sure, that has something to do with the fact the Patriots were working on a truly historic season. But, when I think of that game, it's in celebration of the Giants, rather than in desecration of the Patriots. I personally do feel the latter detracts from the former, so I prefer to glorify the positive rather than mock the negative.

But, that's probably just me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Beers Resolution

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions. In theory, they're a great idea, but in practice, they're just ridiculous. I mean, who among us hasn't resolved to give up drinking cold turkey starting January 1, only to find ourselves slurring our speech on January 15?

Not me, of course. I've never resolved to give up drinking, that is, although I'm sure I've slurred my words on a few January 15ths.

But, my point is New Year's resolutions are generally impossible to maintain. Hey, more power to you if you're one of the rare folks who've succeeded at this futile endeavor.

I actually did once keep a resolution, but it was a realistic one. In my late teens and early 20s, I had the horrible nervous habit of biting my fingernails. So, one year I resolved to kick the habit by the end of the year.

Yes, I gave myself 12 months to reach my goal. Not too ambitious, I realize. But, guess what? It worked, and in the 20 or so subsequent years, I've managed not to fall off the wagon...so to speak.

However, most people who make resolutions are just mocking themselves by doing so, and usually go so far as to admit they know they're going to fail.

So, that's what I'm going to do for 2012. I'm going to make a resolution that I know I'm going to break eventually. The real goal will be to see how long I can go before doing so.

For 2012, I resolve to go the entire year (or as long as I can, since I've already admitted I won't succeed) without drinking the same beer twice. Despite the name of the post, I'm not limiting myself to beers I've never tried before, just saying I can only drink each once this year.

Initially, it won't be that big a challenge. It might be a little more expensive, since I'll be buying mostly bombers rather than six-packs. But, since I don't drink that much as it is, this won't be a huge deal.

In fact, I really only drink about two beers per week, so we're talking about 100 beers or so to get me through the year. I suspect vacations will bump that total up a bit. But, it probably won't go much higher than 150, despite the fact my current pace is 183 (10 beers in 20 days, 366 days in this leap year).

OK, so maybe 100 is a slight underestimate. But, 150-180 unique beers in a year's time seems doable, right? I suppose the problem could occur during those rare occasions when I'm instigated to overdo it, such as at a Yankees game with Lee Mazzola.

Come to think of it, the real trick will be when Abe (I've given my brewing partner a new pseudonym) and I finally get around to home brewing. Am I going to brew an entire batch of my own beer and then drink only one of them? I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

But, another challenge, as I was explaining to El-Squared at the Scuds show last weekend, is the suicide pool nature of it all.

Let me explain. Although I've never participated in one, an NFL suicide (or survivor) pool is where each participant picks one winner per week. If you get it right, you survive to pick another week. If you get it wrong, you're out. The goal is to be the last entrant standing, but the catch is you can't pick the same team twice, so there's incentive not to pick the best teams too early.

And that's where the analogy comes in. It's not a pure analogy, because I'm not talking about the best beers, but rather the most widely available.

Take a look at my list of the beers I've consumed so far for an idea of what I'm talking about:

Jan. 1 - Wipeout IPA (Port Brewing Co.)
Jan. 1 - Bengali Tiger (Sixpoint Brewery)
Jan. 7 - Saratoga Lager (Olde Saratoga Brewing Co.)
Jan. 7 - Saratoga IPA (Olde Saratoga Brewing Co.)
Jan. 13 - Double-Wide IPA (Boulevard Brewing Co.)
Jan. 14 - Long Hammer IPA (Redhook Ale Brewery)
Jan. 14 - Harpoon IPA (Harpoon Brewery)
Jan. 14 - Pipeline Porter (Kona Brewing Co.)
Jan. 15 - Lost Sailor IPA (Berkshire Brewing Co.)
Jan. 20 - Slumbrew Flagraiser IPA (Somerville Brewing Co.)

I'll use Untappd to help me keep track.

There are definitely some unique choices there, right? Maybe you have to be from these parts to appreciate this, but in the analogy Harpoon IPA is like picking the Patriots in the early weeks of the suicide pool. Fortunately, there's still the Packers (Samuel Adams), Steelers (Guinness), and Saints (Smithwick's).

Of course, this analogy refers to the beers—commonly available in bars with weaker selections—that are passable to me. I don't even want to get into what teams I would associate with Bud Light (1972 Dolphins?) or Coors Light (2007 Pat—er, never mind).

Anyway, if you're still reading this nonsense, I can only assume you're mildly interested. So, I'm sure I'll be providing a few updates along the way.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Greatest (Eligible) Left Fielder Not in the Hall of Fame

When I named this blog Left Field, it wasn't because of some unusual fascination with that particular position on a baseball diamond. It was mainly because I thought it would be a cool name for a site with a heavy baseball emphasis, and it also would reflect the fact that sometimes my content, while not completely "out there," would seem like it was coming from out of left field.

But, in the past year or so, I've sort of developed an unusual fascination with the position of left field. Last year, around this time, I posted The All-Left Field Team and the Top 20 Left Fielders of All-Time. I also named one particular left fielder the most over-rated player in baseball history.

Which leads me to my point...well, sort of. I started thinking recently about who is the greatest left fielder not currently in the Hall of Fame. Of course, the first names to come to mind are Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, assuming you choose to classify Rose as a left fielder. Honestly, I've spent way too much time trying to decide that one.

But, both of those players are ineligible for the Hall of Fame, and I've got an ulterior motive I'll get to in a moment, so I really want to consider only eligible players for this distinction. That also leaves out players who haven't been retired for five years and, therefore, haven't even been voted on yet.

Of course, a year from now, if a certain player with a huge cloud hovering over his head is shunned by the BBWAA, he'll take over the mantle. But, we're not there yet, so we can still ignore him.

So, who is the greatest left fielder eligible for the Hall of Fame but not currently enshrined? I thought about doing a survey, but instead I'm going to take a look at a few projects that have an interest in determining the Hall-worthiness of Hall of Fame and non-Hall of Fame players alike, as well as my own top 20 list referenced above.

My first source is actually a survey performed by Graham Womack's excellent Baseball: Past and Present blog.

Close to 100 baseball bloggers (including myself) and readers of the site submitted their opinions on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, and Graham spent countless hours compiling and publishing the results.

Based on the number of votes received by each candidate, the top nine (you'll see why I chose that number in a minute) left fielders not in the Hall according to BPP's survey would be:
  1. Joe Jackson
  2. Tim Raines
  3. Pete Rose
  4. Minnie Minoso
  5. Albert Belle
  6. Sherry Magee
  7. Rocky Colavito
  8. Joe Carter
  9. Lefty O'Doul
As I said, I'm more interested in Hall-eligible players, so that leaves Raines, Minoso, Magee, Colavito, Carter and O'Doul.

My second source is the Hall of wWAR, a tremendous purely statistical project conceived by Adam Darowski of Beyond the Boxscore.

According to Adam, "Weighted Wins Above Replacement (wWAR) aims to identify the best candidates for the Hall of Fame not just by total value, but also by peak value, postseason value, and other adjustments."

Based on wWAR, the top left fielders not enshrined in Cooperstown are:
  1. Pete Rose
  2. Joe Jackson
  3. Tim Raines
  4. Sherry Magee
  5. Minnie Minoso
  6. Harry Stovey
  7. Jimmy Sheckard
  8. Bob Johnson
  9. Charlie Keller
Once again, ruling the ineligible Rose and Jackson out leaves Raines, Magee, Minoso, Stovey, Sheckard, Johnson and Keller.

Last, but certainly not least, I looked at Baseball Think Factory's Hall of Merit, an internet group of baseball enthusiasts who, almost a decade ago, created their own alternative to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Although players are not actually ranked in any particular order, there are nine left fielders in the Hall of Merit who are not in the Hall of Fame (in alphabetical order): Joe Jackson, Charley Jones, Charlie Keller, Sherry Magee, Minnie Minoso, Tim Raines, Pete Rose, Jimmy Sheckard and Harry Stovey.

Besides Rose and Jackson, the names that show up on all three lists are Raines, Minoso and Magee, so it's pretty clear they're the three greatest Hall-eligible left fielders on the outside looking in. My own list confirms this, as I ranked Raines #13, Magee #14 and Minoso #20 on my all-time list of left fielders.

Since Raines ranks ahead of Magee and Minoso on my list, as well as by wWAR, and the BPP voters ranked him behind only Jackson, I feel pretty confident making the claim that Tim Raines is the greatest eligible left fielder not in the Hall of Fame.

But, I've already written plenty on the subject of how I feel about Raines's Hall of Fame candidacy. So, if you've been reading here for any length of time, you're pretty well aware of that. All of which begs the question, where am I going with this, other than to repeat myself?

I've decided to launch a grassroots campaign with the goal of trying to improve Tim Raines's chances of eventually being elected to the Hall of Fame. In his five years on the ballot, his vote total has doubled, from 24.3% in 2008 to 48.7% in 2012. If he continues to gain support at that pace, it should take about six more years for him to make it, so he may not actually need my help.

But, there are no guarantees, and considering the glut of new candidates who are about to reach the ballot in the next few years, he could probably use all the help he can get.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear, though. I have virtually no idea how to embark on a grassroots campaign, but I'm going to give it a shot, and I'm pretty certain I'll have fun trying.

So, if you agree with me that Tim "Rock" Raines is worthy of the Hall of Fame, you can begin to help me out by following @RockInTheHall on Twitter. Hopefully, I can reach at least several hundred followers, some of whom may be willing to help me spread the word, by the end of baseball season.

In the meantime, I'll be trying to collect the names of writers who've failed to vote for Raines. At that point, I can begin the campaign in earnest by reaching out to those folks and appealing to whatever side of them has caused their complete swing-and-miss on this one.

Or, something like that. I'm probably completely out of my mind, but I welcome any and all advice and assistance regarding how to proceed with my efforts.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Scud Mountain Boys @ Brighton Music Hall

In the summer of 1997, my second oldest friend—in terms of how long we've been friends, not his actual age—El-Squared and I drove to Albany—where I had lived until a year prior—to see our first Wilco concert. It was at a now burnt-down venue called Saratoga Winners, where I had previously seen my only Jayhawks show featuring their original lineup, until recently.

Wilco was fantastic, of course, but my lasting image of that show was the impact the opening act—none other than western Massachusetts' Scud Mountain Boys—had on me. Or, on us, for that matter. We both purchased their recent Sub Pop release, Massachusetts, and El-Squared even recalls a brief conversation he had with members of the band in which they told him that, unfortunately, the Scuds were soon to be no more.

From what I've read elsewhere on the internet, the band was broken up by July of 1997. The Saratoga Winners show was in June, so we know we saw one of—if not the—last show(s) in Scud Mountain Boys history. That is, prior to this week.

The band might have gone on to become one of my favorites had they stayed together, but it was not to be. Instead, the show in question turned out to be the catalyst for what has become my long history as a huge fan of all things Joe Pernice.

Pernice was the leader of the Scuds, and it was his departure that was, for all intents and purposes, the end of their existence. He would go on to found the Pernice Brothers, who still hold the distinction as the only act to top my year-end list twice. Because of this, I've often referred to myself as, quite possibly, their #1 fan, but I'm not going to ramble on about my Pernice Brothers reverence right now. If you care to read more on that subject, it's discussed in detail here.

The breakup of the Scud Mountain Boys led to a rift in the friendship between Pernice and his former bandmates, most notably Stephen Desaulniers and Bruce Tull. Recently, though, the death of a close friend was the unfortunate motivation for getting the band back together for a reunion tour.

That tour brought Pernice, Desaulniers, Tull and Tom Shea to Boston's Brighton Music Hall Saturday night for just their second show in 15 years. At one point during the performance, Pernice briefly explained the story, and in the same breath, dedicated the show to the memory of Ray Neades.

Fittingly, El-Squared joined me for Saturday night's show as well. A few days prior, in an email I told him it was going to feel like 15 years ago. That seemed like an exaggeration at the time, but it came pretty close. That is, it was a club show at an uncrowded small venue, which allowed us to stand right up in front of the stage.

Despite my proximity to the stage, I have to admit I didn't get any good photos. I'm not sure if I should blame my camera phone's inability to deal with the combination of dimly lit venue and bright lights onstage, that damn lamp they placed on the table they're all sitting around, or my abilities as a photographer, but this was honestly the best I could do:

L to R: Pernice, Shea, Desaulniers, Tull

OK, I'm quite certain it's a combination of all those factors, but I'm sure I could use some iPhone photography pointers as well.

Speaking of the aforementioned table, the story goes that back in their formative days, the band evolved from a rock outfit to one more inclined towards country music—and added Mountain Boys to their original name, the Scuds—when they realized they most enjoyed their sessions sitting around Tull's kitchen table. In fact, that's exactly where their first two albums, Pine Box and Dance the Night Away, were recorded.

Saturday night's set list drew heavily from their swan song, Massachusetts, but considering they only released three albums during their short-lived existence, they had little difficulty adding a handful of tunes from each of the earlier records.

Highlights for me were a show-opening stretch of four older songs, from "Peter Graves' Anatomy" to "Freight of Fire" on the set list below, Desaulnier's plaintive lead vocal on "Liquor Store," and a predictably rousing version of my favorite Scuds song, Pernice's ode to drunken stupor, "Lift Me Up."

Peter Graves' Anatomy
Sangre de Cristo
Freight of Fire
Grudge F***
In a Ditch
Lift Me Up
Penthouse in the Woods
Liquor Store (Desaulniers on lead vocals)
Cigarette Sandwich
Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell cover, Tull on lead vocals)
One Hand
: Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves (Cher cover)

The biggest highlight of the night, though, was the feeling we were witnessing a reunion of good friends who had—and still have—tremendous musical chemistry, and who could take another 15 years off from playing together and still pick up exactly where they left off.

That, of course, underscored a personally nostalgic feeling that my pal and I were going back in time to experience something that was fairly commonplace 15 years ago, but which was made all the more special by its rarity in the present day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Baseball Fans Among My Best Music of 2011 Honorees

As I attempted to cover the countdown of my favorite albums of 2011 from a baseball angle, a common refrain was to identify which artists are fans of what teams. Some of this was based on my prior knowledge, but I also did a lot of internet searching to make these determinations.

So, just for giggles, I thought I'd list all the artists with a baseball affinity here and associate them with the teams to which they pledge their loyalties, at least to the extent I was able to figure out. In doing so, I've unofficially determined what are the most popular teams among my top bands and solo artists of last year. Honestly, I thought the Braves would distinguish themselves, but as you'll see below, this extremely unscientific survey resulted in a three-way tie.

One detail that's worth noting: a couple of these folks don't necessarily have one particular team they consider their favorite, particularly those I determined by listening to The Baseball Project's "Fair Weather Fans." In these cases, I counted them as fans of the teams whose loyalties they appear to have maintained the longest.

In doing my research here, I also found this MLB.com interview with Wilco where they talk about being baseball fans, but don't really express any devotion to a particular team. Glenn Kotche is sorta "we prefer the Cubs but we also like the Sox," and Jeff Tweedy mentions liking the Red Sox as a kid. But, he also references being from St. Louis and, despite his current status as a Chicago resident, having a difficult time considering himself a Cubs fan. So, he's a little too all-over-the-place for me to count as anything but a fan of the game itself. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anyway, for what it's worth, here's what I came up with:

Atlanta Braves

Mike Mills (R.E.M.)
Jason Isbell

Los Angeles Dodgers
Steve Wynn (The Baseball Project)
Stephen Malkmus

Minnesota Twins
Linda Pitmon (The Baseball Project)
Gary Louris (The Jayhawks)

New York Yankees
Steve Earle

St. Louis Cardinals
Will Johnson (Centro-Matic)

San Francisco Giants
Scott McCaughey (The Baseball Project)

Seattle Mariners
Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie)

Washington Senators
Peter Buck (R.E.M., The Baseball Project)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Cooperstown Class of 2012

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) recently announced—for what it's worth to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA)—its recommendations for the Hall of Fame Class of 2012.

With 84.25% and 78.77% of the vote, respectively, of the 148 member blogs—including this one—that participated, Barry Larkin and Jeff Bagwell received the BBA's endorsement.

I voted for Larkin, Bagwell, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker. Walker is the only one of the six who I did not vote for last year, although I admitted then I needed to take a closer look at him. I since have come to the realization he is worthy of becoming the first member of the Colorado Rockies in the Hall of Fame.

Despite the anti-Coors Field bias working against him, his park-adjusted offensive numbers (140 OPS+, 142 wRC+)* are comparable to deserving Hall of Famers such as Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, and Duke Snider. Admittedly, he did so over fewer plate appearances than Jackson and Killebrew, but the value-based metrics—mainly WAR*—rate him comparable to Snider, a notch below Jackson, but a notch above Killebrew.

The main reason he compares so favorably to these and other existing Hall of Famers: defensive value. Walker ranks just shy of the top 20 all-time in defensive WAR, among players whose primary position was outfield, a fact which is reinforced by his seven Gold Gloves. Now, many folks—including myself—are a little skeptical about defensive metrics, as well as Gold Glove awards, but when one backs up the other, it's pretty safe to say they're a true indicator of a player's defensive ability.

The thing about great all-around players like Walker—who also was a good base runner—is, since he didn't have that one exceptional skill—i.e. he wasn't as good a hitter as Killebrew and Jackson, but he surely was better at every other phase of the game—people tend to write them off as not quite Hall of Fame worthy. The same applies to guys like Raines, Larkin and Trammell as well. But, in my opinion, those people are wrong.

As I did last year, I declined to vote for Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro based on my still-evolving philosophy regarding PEDs and the Hall of Fame. Although, admittedly, not without its flaws, I wrote about my thoughts on that subject here two years ago. I've actually begun to re-think my position, though, and I may be writing about this in the weeks to come. If you want to criticize me for taking six years to make up my mind, or for being indecisive, so be it. Besides, mine is just a make-believe vote anyway.

For now, though, I'm going to focus on taking a look at whether or not the BBA's vote is a predictor of next week's announcement of the official BBWAA results.

It seems everyone is under the assumption Larkin will be the only player elected by the writers this year. Last year, he received 70.78% of the BBA vote. This year, his support jumped to 84.25%, a 19% increase. If his 62.1% 2011 BBWAA vote total increases at the same rate, that will leave him at 73.9%, just shy of the 75% needed for induction. Unfortunately, I have a sneaky suspicion that's just what's going to happen. He'll fall somewhere in the 72-74% range and have to wait until the crowded 2013 ballot to see if he can get over the hump.

Bagwell's BBA total is up, from 62.34% in 2011, to 78.77% in 2012, a 26.4% increase. I'm not sure if there are BBA voters with the same ridiculous first-year ballot bias as some of those in the BBWAA, but this could explain such a big jump. Even at that rate, this would only get him to 52.9% in the official balloting, compared to last year's 41.7%. So, I don't think Bagwell's going to get in this year either.

Jack Morris and Lee Smith received 53.5% and 45.3%, respectively, of the official vote last year. Since the BBA is more SABRmetrically inclined than the BBWAA, I don't think the BBA's voting provides much of a indicator of these guys' chances.

Smith has been stagnating in the mid-40s for four years now, and I don't see his candidacy receiving a boost in support. Personally, I think—and hope—Morris's candidacy has plateaued as well. Last year's total was only slightly higher than the year before. I see him getting to 55% this year, and holding off Bagwell for the distinction of second highest vote-getter, but I predict he'll become one of the rare candidates to reach the 50% voting mark, but never make the Hall of Fame.

Bernie Williams is the only first-ballot candidate worthy of consideration. But, despite a very good career that ended a little prematurely, Bernie falls short of Cooperstown-worthy, in my eyes and likely in the eyes of the voters. He'll get the requisite 5% of the vote to stick around for at least another year, though, but with all the candidates being added to the ballot in the next few years, he'll end up nothing but an afterthought.

So, there you have it. My prediction that the only speech we'll be hearing at the Clark Sports Center this summer will be that of Ron Santo's wife.

* Since I don't use the advanced metrics on a regular basis here, I figured I should explain:
  • OPS+ is park and league-adjusted on-base plus slugging percentage. 100 is average. Greater than 100 is above average, less than 100 below average.
  • wRC+ is park and league-adjusted weighted runs created, an improved version of Bill James's runs created statistic. It's comparable to OPS+ in terms of scale (i.e. 100 is average).
  • WAR, of course, is Wins Above Replacement, the SABRmetric community's attempt to establish an all-encompassing statistic that measure a player's overall value to his team.