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SnakePit Round Table: The Hall of Fame

The 2018 class of the Baseball Hall of Fame has been set. Let’s talk about Cooperstown...

2008 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction

Do you still consider the Hall of Fame relevant?

Makakilo: Yes. I love Baseball for three reasons: mental challenge is as important as physical challenge, traditions, and cheering for my home team - the Diamondbacks. The Hall of Fame touches on all three. It is a tradition, it is a chance to talk about which players were most successful in the challenges, and it is a chance to cheer for the heroes and boo for the villains.

Jim: It’s certainly the most relevant of any of the major pro-sports. I mean, I don’t even know where the NBA Hall of Fame is. I think it’s because baseball has the most history, and that history seems to occupy a special place in the culture of the game, and indeed the nation. The Hall of Fame commemorates and celebrates the greatness of baseball, and the very best who have played it. Visiting it is certainly on my bucket list.

Keegan: Did any of you feel that it was “irrelevant” when Randy Johnson was inducted and went in as a Diamondback? I didn’t think so. I hope to visit there someday, so I can take in the rich history of the game. Watching the induction speeches has been a delight as well.

Tanner: it’s still relevant. I think we just need to really think about who belongs in the HOF and who just goes to the “Hall of Very Good.”

Who would get your vote on this year’s ballot?

Makakilo: I screened the candidates down to 10 based on three criteria

  1. Did the player score at least 40 on Bill James HOF statistical standards (average HOF player is 50).
  2. Did I subjectively decide that the player was likely free of performance enhancing substances? (5 more players eliminated)
  3. Did I subjectively decide that the player would be a good role model? (2 more players eliminated)

Seven Solid votes

  • Jim Thome. Ranked eighth all-time in career home runs.
  • Vladamir Guerrero. Eight silver sluggers, one MVP.
  • Larry Walker. Balanced Offense & Defense - 3 silver sluggers, 7 gold gloves, one MVP.
  • Omar Vizquel. Eleven Gold Gloves.
  • Scott Rolen. Eight Gold Gloves. Ranked 51st all-time in Career doubles.
  • Mike Mussina. Seven Gold Gloves. Nine seasons voted into top 6 for Cy Young award.
  • Edgar Martinez. Five silver sluggers.

Three marginal votes

  • Chipper Jones. Two silver sluggers. MVP.
  • Fred McGriff. Three silver sluggers.
  • Johnny Damon. Two All-Star games.

Jim: I err firmly on the side of very stingy with regard to votes. To me there are no “fringe candidates” - if there are any doubts, I won’t vote for you: Cooperstown should only be for the all-time greats. On that basis, Chipper Jones, Curt Schilling and Jim Thome are the only ones I’d choose. The last-named does have the fact that he spent the last seven years playing Satan’s position i.e. designated hitter. But even discounting that time entirely, over the first 15 years, he had 430 HR, an OPS+ of 149 and 55 bWAR.

Keegan: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Curt Schilling, Vlad Guerrero, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Trevor Hoffman, and Larry Walker. Don’t really agree with Schilling’s post playing career, but that shouldn’t have any bearing on his HOF eligibility. Trevor Hoffman shouldn’t be punished for being a closer. He did his job better than most. Larry Walker was a great hitter even considering the fact that he played most of his career in Coors as evidenced by his 141 OPS+/140 wRC+ which accounts for the favorable hitting environment. Vlad Guerrero is still one of the best hitters I have ever seen.

Tanner: Well, not Hoffman. Both Jones Chipper and Andruw, Thome, and Vlad.

What’s your stance on PEDs and the Hall of Fame?

Makakilo: Section 5 of the rules states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity,sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Although the rule does not specify the weighting of each factor, when we are comparing awesome players who have no major weaknesses, likely use of PEDs reflects poorly on integrity, sportsmanship, and character, and easily outweighs other comparisons.

Also, the rule means that each player’s actions off the field and his involvement with his community are to be considered. I can imagine a situation where a player is wrongly perceived as using PEDs and his involvement with his community reflects integrity, sportsmanship, and character that outweigh the wrong perception.

Jim: If there is reasonable grounds to believe a player used PEDs, to me, that disqualifies him from all future consideration. I don’t require an explicit positive test by MLB, though of course that would be prima facie evidence. A documented connection to a proven supplier of PEDs, such as BALCO or Biogenesis, will do for me. That applies even if the pre-PED numbers were Hall of Fame worthy: it’s a bridge that cannot be uncrossed.

I don’t think much of the argument that previous generations allowed greenie-quaffing players in. We can only apply current standards, which will inevitably differ from those of previous eras. There are any number of players elected into the Hall of Fame [mostly by the various veterans’ committees] whose pure performance should not have merited consideration. The Hall reflects these changes in standards: we don’t need to apply older versions to current players.

Keegan: The times are changing, and these players, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, are inching closer each year to being inducted. My stance on this has changed over time, and although I will never consider them in the same caliber of a Randy Johnson or Ken Griffey Jr., they will always be part of the history of the game as dark as it was. Owners and the league didn’t do anything to discourage their behavior until the federal government decided to step in, so they are just as much to blame. We all consumed the product as it was happening.

Tanner: I mean, guys took greenies for advantages when they weren’t illegal and technically PEDs I guess weren’t illegal. But still, if you can pinpoint exactly when a guy (Like we know more or less when Bonds started) then maybe consider no vote. But Some guys you just can’t tell

Should Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose be allowed in?

Makakilo: No. The game of baseball has an inviolate principal that players on both teams play to win. If that stopped, the game would no longer be baseball. Instead it might be similar to professional wrestling. “As in other professional wrestling promotions, WWE shows are not legitimate contests, but purely entertainment-based, featuring storyline-driven, scripted, and choreographed matches,...” Wikipedia

Jim: Not that there’s anything wrong with pro wrestling, an entertainment I have enjoyed enormously for over 20 years [Wrestlemania 26 at the University of Phoenix Stadium is still the biggest sporting spectacle I’ve ever attended] But I digress! Jackson is the bigger problem: he may not have directly benefited from the Black Sox collusion, but he certainly knew about it. It’s one of those cases where I’d err on the side of caution. With Rose, it’s the way he has repeatedly lied about what he did that gives me cause for concern. He didn’t bet on baseball. He didn’t bet while a player. He didn’t bet on Cincinnati. He’s a no for me too.

Keegan: Pete Rose is difficult for me because he was one of the all time greats, and I have a childhood connection with him as a player because the Reds were my Dad’s favorite team. He dug his own grave with his persistent lies. The Freedom of Information Act reveal of his personal notebooks is even more damning. I think it would be silly for me to comment on Joe Jackson’s eligibility seeing as it was nearly 100 years ago.

Tanner: Joe yes, Rose no.

Which current players do you think will make the Hall of Fame?

Makakilo: Before making my top choices, I looked at Albert Pujols. After he retires, he looks like a worthy player for the HOF . All-time career rankings: 7th in home runs, 9th in WPA, 10th in RBIs, and 15th in slugging. 3 times MVP, NLCS MVP, 2 gold gloves, 3 silver sluggers, and 10 times All-Star. However, I read about an accusation that he used PEDs. Pujols sued and won a public retraction. Although my intuition tells me Pujols was/is clean, it may happen that the retracted accusation will impact the HOF voting.

Top 3 Non-Diamondbacks. Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, and Giancarlo Stanton.

Top 3 Diamondbacks. A somber look at Greinke and Goldschmidt showed their chances are slightly below average. In June of 2017, Cody Swartz estimated Greinke’s odds at 35%. I picked three relatively young players who have not yet played at HOF level, but might in the future. Archie Bradley (relief pitcher), Jon Duplantier (starting pitcher), and Daulton Varsho (catcher).

Jim: Pujols is very interesting. At the end of his time with the Cardinals, he was a lock: 170 OPS+ and 86.4 bWAR. But he has been much more mediocre (115 OPS+) as an Angel, to the point that he’s now, if not in question, perhaps not even guaranteed of a first-ballot selection. I’m not sure I can think of a player whose production evaporated so quickly.

Kershaw and Mike Trout would be the other two currently playing who would seem to have the best shot. Trout is still relatively early in his career, but it has been so utterly historic to date, it would probably take something worse than Pujols for him to miss out. Beyond them, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano… and what about Ichiro? If you look at his career as a whole. Include his time in NPB, it certainly merits consideration.

Keegan: Pujols, Ichiro, Trout, Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, and Adrian Beltre should be pretty sure bets. I think Zack Greinke has a real chance if he ages well into his 30’s. It’s too early to tell on players like Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, and Anthony Rizzo. Joey Votto can be tossed in the mix should his performance continue.

Tanner: Pujols, Ichiro, Kershaw.

What are Paul Goldschmidt’s Hall of Fame chances?

Makakilo: At this point in time, Goldschmidt has below average chances. Nevertheless, it is possible.

  • Positives: Five-time All-Star, 3 silver sluggers, and 3 gold gloves. He ranks 48th all-time in career adjusted OPS+, 49th all-time in career slugging, and 60th all-time in OBP. After he has played another 8 years (and reaches age 38), he will likely be in the top 100 all-time for home runs and RBIs.
  • Negatives: His Bill James HOF statistical standard score is 29, when the average HOF player is 50. The bottom of Goldschmidt’s page for Baseball Reference shows 4 additional HOF statistics - he falls significantly below the average HOF player in all four stats. No MVP awards.
  • Optimistic View: Jeff Wiser’s article , written in January 2016, states Goldschmidt is on track, and needs 5-6 more strong peak years, as well as stating, “He’ll have to remain healthy throughout his career and probably play until at [age] 40.” He was on track in 2017!

Jim: Goldschmidt has been the best player in the National League, by bWAR, over the last five years. That has got to merit consideration. But he probably has to keep at or near his current level of production for another five years or so. An MVP victory would certainly be very helpful, as would anchoring a D-backs team which wins a pennant, or better yet, a World Series. I tend to view Jeff Bagwell as a good template which Goldschmidt can follow to Cooperstown. Let’s just hope, if he makes it, he goes in as a Diamondback.

Keegan: As Jim said, Jeff Bagwell is his closest comp, so that bodes well. Watching Goldy play his entire career here as special as he has been it’s incredible to take a step back and realize that he will need to continue that production consistently to even have a chance. I’m more than ok watching him chase that goal in a Diamondbacks uniform.

Tanner: 50/50 shot. Needs seasons like his last few for a few more. Also, again, could be “Hall of Very Good” which isn’t a bad thing