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Ken Rosenthal's Hall of Fame ballot is A-OK

Dec 30, 2009, 9:05 AM EDT

Trammell.jpgKen Rosenthal says that he usually limits his Hall of Fame ballot to two or three elite candidates, but this year he votes for nine guys:
Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar
Martinez, Fred McGriff, Bert
Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, and Alan Trammell. 
Rosenthal is only one voter, but since he has so many guys in it I want
to talk about, let’s use his ballot as the jumping off point.

At the outset, let me say that the fact that he included Alan Trammell
– my first and truest baseball love — entitles him to absolution for
any of his past ballot sins. Seriously Ken, you could dedicate the rest
of your life to getting guys like Dave Parker and Bernie Williams
elected and I won’t go too hard on you in light of that Trammell vote.

But beyond my baseball crushes, there’s a lot to like here.  It’s a big
ballot, sure, but it makes sense. Larkin and Alomar seem like
no-brainers to me. You know my thoughts on Blyleven. As I said
yesterday, I won’t cry if Martinez doesn’t make it this year because
people still need to screw their DH-heads on straight, but I think he
belongs.  In my mind Raines is a sure Hall of Famer too, for all of the reasons Joe Posnanski outlined a couple of weeks ago.

Which brings us to McGriff, Dawson and Smith. I’m going to put off
talking about Smith for now because I’m not sure I have really come to
grips with what to do with one-inning closers who were anything short
of uber-elite like Eckersley, but I promise to devote some thoughts and
words to the subject soon. So, for the time being no on Smith.

That leaves Dawson and McGriff. I think they’re much closer calls than
the others and I’m not 100% sure what I’d do with them if the ballot
was staring me in the face today. Let’s talk through this.

I think I’d lean yes on McGriff. Given that he straddled the low-offense
80s and high-offense 90s, his statistical case flies under the radar,
with his best seasons coming in lower run-scoring environments. 1989
was his best full season (1994 may have been his absolute best but was
cut short). That year he hit .269/.399/.525 with 36 homers. That may
elicit a yawn by more recent standards but at that time those were MVP
numbers. If he had played in places outside of Toronto and San Diego
during those early years he probably would have actually won one.

Dawson: I loved the Hawk. Great man. Got royally screwed over by
collusion and should have made a hell of a lot more money in his career
than he did. Was under-appreciated for what he was in his time, but may
be a bit overrated now if that makes any sense.  Ultimately I don’t
think I could pull the lever for him due to his .323 on base percentage
which would be historically low for a Hall of Fame outfielder, and
lower than the average player of his day. And I’m not buying Dawson and
Rosenthal’s argument that he could have had a higher OBP if he had been
told it was important. Not making outs is pretty fundamental to the
game, and that’s what OBP is. I don’t think a player as smart as Dawson
needed anyone to tell him that.  Upshot: Dawson makes my Hall of Very,
Very Good, but he does not make my Hall of Fame.

The last slot on Rosenthal’s ballot was empty, and he says who it could
have been but wasn’t: Mark McGwire. Like I said, I’ll accept this in
light of the love for Trammell, Blyleven and his refusal to put Jack
Morris on his ballot, but I think McGwire belongs. I will point out,
though, that Rosenthal’s comment on the matter — “The more we
learn about the Steroid Era, the better we understand just how
deeply performance-enhancing drugs were entrenched in the
game’s culture” — suggests that he and maybe others will soften on
McGwire over time and realize that he was a man of his time. That,
though he probably cheated, he was doing it in a league full of
cheaters, and thus didn’t have some obscene advantage like is currently
portrayed.

So like I said: good ballot. Not perfect — none is — but one that I could almost see myself filling out.

  1. DiamondDuq - Dec 30, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    Since it has been brough up again, the closers and DH issue, I’m only going to offer this as a final, though I will probably be defending it against some radicals on here, comments on the issues. If you’re going to be a specialized player, or one who does less than a “regular” player, whether pitcher or position player, then you had better be a standout at that specialization. If a HOF starter, generally, is considered to be a guy with a low ERA, low WHIP, high win %, etc. then a closer needs to blow those numbers out of the water with a lower ERA, lower WHIP, higher save %, etc. For instance, there’s probably no question as to whether Greg Maddux or Mariano Rivera are going to be HOFers and Rivera has an ERA nearly a full run lower, a lower WHIP, much higher save % than Maddux’s win %, etc., which should be the expected difference between HOF relievers vs. starters. If you’re going to be a specialist, you have to be special. The same can be said for a DH, if you’re going to be a DH in the HOF then you need to be a special hitter, you can’t just be a really good hitter who gets lost in the shuffle among all the great all-around players. This isn’t a shot at Edgar Martinez, I think he was a really good hitter, but do you even begin to put him in the same class as, let alone above, guys from his era like Ken Griffey Jr.? Barry Bonds? Juan Gonzalez? Jeff Bagwell? Frank Thomas? Tony Gwynn? Manny Ramirez? I don’t think you do and that’s why I don’t think he’s a HOFer. Not simply because he’s a DH but because if you’re going to be a DH then you need to be that much better a hitter than hitters who also play a position, even if it’s just 1B.

  2. John Pileggi - Dec 30, 2009 at 10:07 AM

    Alomar, Dawson and McGriff are “yes”. At certain points in their careers, they were dominant guys.
    Martinez is a future year, but he is not a “first year of eligibility” guy. Not even a second year. Blyleven, Raines, Trammell, Smith and Larkin, to me, fall into the “if you have to think too long about it, the answer is ‘no’” guys. All very, very good players and fine gentlemen. They make the “Class Act Hall”, and in some respects, that is a better place to be.

  3. WHAT WHAT - Dec 30, 2009 at 11:07 AM

    Tim Raines? What about Mark McGwire and Donnie Baseball???

  4. Bill@TDS - Dec 30, 2009 at 11:13 AM

    Edgar at his best was a better hitter than Griffey and Gwynn at their bests and absolutely destroyed Juan Gonzalez (Juan Gonzalez? Seriously??). He was exactly that kind of special hitter you’re talking about.

  5. DiamondDuq - Dec 30, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    Are you out of your mind?!?! You must be Edgar’s agent or PR guy because that’s the only way I can reason a comment like that would come up. Edgar’s best year was either in 1995 (.356 BA, 29 HR, 113 RBI) or 2000 (.324 BA, 37 HR, 145 RBI) which are very good years but to compare him to Gwynn, who is already in the HOF, is laughable. Gwynn has 900 more hits and his career batting average is 26 points higher than Edgar’s!!! He has 15 All-Star appearances compared to 7 for Martinez, 7 Silver Sluggers compared to 5 for Martinez, 8 batting titles compared to 2 for Martinez, had over 200 hits 5 times compared to 0 for Martinez and the list goes on, and just for another little jab Gwynn has 5 Gold Gloves. The Griffey comment was even more off the wall since they played together and no one would ever confuse who was the best hitter, player, anything on that team. Griffey not only has an MVP, 13 All-Star appearances, 7 Silver Sluggers and 10 Gold Gloves but he has more than twice as many home runs, 600 more RBI and 500 more hits! Juan Gonzalez, despite your clear ignorance, is better than Edgar as well. He’s got 2 MVP’s, hit over 30 HR’s in a season 7 times (1 for Martinez) including over 40 HR’s 5 times (0 for Edgar), 6 Silver Sluggers compared to Martinez’s 5 and had 100+ RBI 8 times compared to Edgar’s 6. Edgar Martinez was good but don’t make him into something more than he is just because he’s arguably the best DH to become eligible for the HOF to this point.

  6. U go Diamond Dug - Dec 30, 2009 at 11:44 AM

    Can we call Don Mattingly a DH???
    Maybe they will then put him in the hall where he belongs…..MUCH MUCH BETTER THEN EDGAR

  7. nfieldr - Dec 30, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    The HoF just isn’t what it used to be. *sigh* There is just NO way that McGriff should get votes while Murphy doesn’t.

  8. DiamondDuq - Dec 30, 2009 at 11:55 AM

    Haha, I love Donnie Baseball but I think his 9 Gold Gloves would disqualify him from being a DH! From ’84 to ’87 he was arguably the best player in baseball but back problems diminished his career too much, I think, to be elected to the HOF which is unfortunate. I could possibly see the veterans committee putting him in but the career numbers just aren’t there. I liken his career to Sandy Koufax’s in that for a short period of time he was dominant but injuries hurt their career numbers. The only difference between those two is that Koufax’s injuries ended his career allowing people to speculate what more he would have done while Mattingly continued to play at a diminished level leaving people with a less than stellar opinion of him.

  9. dmart - Dec 30, 2009 at 1:05 PM

    It would be interesting to see how the voting would change if a player was only eligible for 1 year. If the numbers are not good enough in year 1, why are they good enough in year 15? As John Pileggi said above, if you have to think about it too long, the answer is no. While I believe Blyleven should be in the HoF, what has changed over the last 14 years that should sway a voter in his favor? Forget about the status of 1st ballot HoFer. After induction, who knows how many votes it took to get a player into the hall and who really cares since he is still a HoFer? If voters look back at Blyleven’s stats and compare them to today’s elite pitchers, maybe he looks better maybe he doesn’t. The problem is that he needs to be compared to the players of his era. If he wasn’t dominant during his time, he does not belong and unfortunately too many voters seem to be of this opinion.

  10. Tom - Dec 30, 2009 at 1:46 PM

    What I always find odd when people bring up steroids and the Hall of Fame is the fact that they just seem to limit it to McGwire (and Bonds and Palmeiro when they become eligible). If you look at their respective statistical profiles, Edgar Martinez looks more like a player who would have used steroids than McGwire, yet since he wasn’t as good as McGwire everyone pretty much ignores him. We can’t know for certain whether McGriff used steroids, or for Larkin, yet would anyone be seriously surprised if they did? I’m sure the use of steroids was much more widespread than we think and it just seems kind of wrong to hold only McGwire accountable for their use.

  11. John - Dec 30, 2009 at 2:04 PM

    Shannon Drayers chat with SABR member Tony Blengino, “When you match up the best hitters of all time Edgar is on a very short list not just in his quality but in quantity of value he added above the league average. His career was a lot shorter than a lot of people who are in the Hall of Fame but there are players who played five and six more years that he has more offensive value added over the course of the career. It is the on base component he added, as much on base value over his career in twelve qualifying seasons as Pete Rose did in twenty-two and Pete Rose is an all time on base guy, and Edgar had the power to go along with it!”
    In twelve years Edgar Martinez had as much on base value as Pete Rose did playing ten more years. Make no mistake, Edgar was an impact offensive player. He was not beating out infield singles. This production Blengino is talking about is not a yearly average, it is not adjusted for career length. It is cumulative. Edgar simply was able to do more, dramatically more, in a shorter amount of time than others in the Hall of Fame.
    http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=374&sid=259782
    Feel free to also read David Shoenfield’s (of ESPN.com) article on Edgar and the HOF, look specifically at four primary arguments against Edgar’s Hall of Fame case:
    1. He was only a designated hitter.
    2. His career was too short.
    3. His statistics aren’t good enough.
    4. He wasn’t famous enough.:
    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4755544

  12. DiamondDuq - Dec 30, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    John, it’s easy to make up stats to fit your argument. It’s like they say, you can make statistics say anything you want them to. All these sabermetrics are, while somewhat useful, overblown. It’s just a manipulation of raw data to fit someone’s personal belief on importance. What exactly is “base value” and who exactly made up how to calculate its “value”? If OBP and “base value” are so important and Edgar is apparently an all time great based on it then why did he only score 100 runs 5 times and only drove in 100 runs 6 times? Comparitively, Bernie Williams scored 100 runs 8 times and drove in 100 runs 5 times, while winning 4 Gold Gloves and I’d be surprised if he even sniffed the HOF. You win by scoring and driving in runs. Being on base and not scoring is worthless.

  13. NYY fan - Dec 30, 2009 at 3:17 PM

    Schoenfield’s article seems to lay out a good argument for Martinez’s election. I have no problems with Martinez elected into the Hall.
    DiamondDuq, the Hall of Fame has not established rules to guide the election process measured solely by traditional-, sabermetric-, counting statistics, or otherwise. You cannot discount one set of statistics in lieu others.
    Martinez’s career, reviewed in totality, compares favorable to the best hitters in the history of the game. He is the best DH MLB has seen. Should we wait until the end of time to see if other DHs measure as well?

  14. DiamondDuq - Dec 30, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    “compares favorable to the best hitters in the history of the game” in what context? Certainly not in a traditional sense. If you go back to my “statistics can say whatever you want them to say” then maybe but based on the pure raw numbers he does not stack up. I’m sure there’s some concoction of numbers that would say John Kruk belongs in the HOF if someone really wanted to come up with something, the guy does have a career BA of .300 so he must be a HOFer. The “best hitters in the history of the game” have 3000 hits or 500 homeruns or MVPs or multiple homerun and/or RBI crowns or 200 hit seasons, at some point in their careers they were considered “the best” if only for one season and among the best for an extended period of time. Compare him in his best season (2000 he hit .324 with 37 homeruns and 145 RBI) against every other hitter that year. He was 23rd in BA, 20th in homeruns, 28th in hits and 2nd in RBI 2 behind Todd Helton and 1 ahead of Mike Sweeney, great company! There were 1 or 2 seasons Edgar Martinez was among the best hitters in a season, never the best, but he’s certainly not one of the “best hitters in the history of the game”. Again, I’m not bashing the guy but there has to be a level of excellence that is maintained in HOF inductees, otherwise the value of being a HOFer is diminished. Being very good and great are not the same, which doesn’t devalue very good, it just maintains the value of great.

  15. bandit - Dec 30, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    I’ve made this argument before – Blyleven pitched 22 yrs and led the league in any of the big 4 pitching categories (W, WPCT, K’s, ERA) once when he had 204 K’s. He gets even marginal Cy Young consideration in 2 or maybe 3 seasons. Posts barely a better than .500 record while playing on 2 WS champs. I saw him pitch his entire career – a good but not dominating pitcher. Certainly is not a dominant pitcher for 10 years. Does not statistically or in any other way match up to the top pitchers (Seaver, Palmer, Ryan, Hunter) of his era. To me he defines the guys who don’t deserve induction at the cutoff line – Not for the very good, only for the very best.

  16. NYY fan - Dec 30, 2009 at 4:22 PM

    Martinez’s career should be compared to others who played the position (DH), and in the historic context. Michael Weddell of Baseball Analysts does a great job reviewing Martinez’s relatively short career to other notable short-career HOFers as well as to other DHs.
    http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2009/12/edgar_martinez.php
    Interestingly, Martinez’s best season isn’t necessarily 2000 if you look at OPS+:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/martied01.shtml

  17. NYY fan - Dec 30, 2009 at 4:24 PM

    Martinez’s career should be compared to others who played the position (DH), and in the historic context. Michael Weddell of Baseball Analysts does a great job reviewing Martinez’s relatively short career to other notable short-career HOFers as well as to other DHs.
    http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2009/12/edgar_martinez.php
    Interestingly, Martinez’s best season isn’t necessarily 2000 if you look at OPS+:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/martied01.shtml

  18. NYY fan - Dec 30, 2009 at 4:49 PM

    Sorry for the double post. Rob Neyer has a similar take to DiamondDuq, but came to a different conclusion:
    “What I’m not fine with is this argument: “Designated hitter is a position just like any other position. Further, just as the best first baseman and the best shortstop belong in the Hall of Fame, so the best designated hitter belongs in the Hall of Fame.”
    That’s nonsense. The best players belong in the Hall of Fame, with “best” measured by runs and (by extension) wins. The best DH doesn’t automatically belong in the Hall of Fame any more than the best pinch runner or left-handed setup man belongs in the Hall of Fame.
    With that out of the way, let’s talk about Edgar Martinez.
    He was of course a devastating hitter. Since 1900, there are 47 players with at least 7,500 plate appearances — Edgar finished with 8,672 — and at least 50 percent of their time at first base or DH. Among those 47, Martinez ranks sixth in OPS+ and ninth in runs created.
    The names around Martinez in both categories do give one pause, though. Some Hall of Famers, sure. But also Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, Fred McGriff, Harold Baines, and Carlos Delgado. Martinez was a better hitter than all of those fellows…
    I’ve been going back and forth on Edgar Martinez for years. Today, though, I’m convinced. He belongs. He wasn’t nearly as valuable during his career as Frank Thomas or Jeff Bagwell, both of whom richly deserve enshrinement. But he was valuable enough.”
    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/1636/should-edgar-be-halls-first-dh

  19. DiamondDuq - Dec 30, 2009 at 5:13 PM

    “The names around Martinez in both categories do give one pause, though. Some Hall of Famers, sure. But also Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, Fred McGriff, Harold Baines, and Carlos Delgado.”
    This quote exemplifies what I said about making statistics say whatever you want them to. Someone formulated OPS+ and runs created to fit some ideology they had about what’s important in baseball, however, as evident by some of the other names you have listed, the numbers are hollow and have no true bearing on a player’s greatness, the key word being GREATness, not “verygoodness” and I agree with your assessments of both Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell being better than Martinez. I do however disagree with your statement that he should be judged against other DH’s. That philosophy works for SS’s and C’s because they are tasked with so much more than just hitting that sometimes their offensive numbers must be weighted by their defensive responsibilities and thus comparing them to others who play the same position is not only valid but necessary. However, for a DH, they are only tasked with hitting and thus should excel at hitting and it’s perfectly conceivable that they would be and should be compared to anyone who hits, whether those hitters play 1B or OF or any other position is irrelevant. If you’re just going to hit, which is all a DH does, then that DH had better be one of the best hitters of all time to be included in the HOF since that’s all he does and while Edgar Martinez was a very good hitter, it takes a lot of statistical manipulation to put him in that company.

  20. NYY Fan - Dec 30, 2009 at 7:02 PM

    The AL adopted the DH position in 1973. If you argue that the task of the DH is only to hit and thus should excel at hitting, then we should see in the record books. Yet, the only DH to ever win a batting title is Martinez (he won it once as a 3B in 1992 and another time as a DH in 1995). And how do you make the argument that a player can hit a baseball better as a DH than as a positional player?

  21. Josh - Dec 30, 2009 at 7:13 PM

    The only argument I’ll accept for why Dawson doesn’t belong in the HoF is that injuries prevented him from being a shoo-in (please note, everyone: it really IS “shoo-in” not “shoe-in” — I keep seeing the latter here). Besides being an awesome power hitter, he played a great RF and doesn’t receive credit from most people who write about HoF voting. Arm like a cannon, I tells ya! No, seriously, he was good. Better than Sosa, if that means anything. BUT, having said that…as much as I really, really, REALLY want him in the Hall, Dawson simply did not play long enough or produce enough to be in. Damn. I don’t believe in giving “credit” for guys who had bad knees, or a bad back, or whatever, because it’s antithetical to the spirit of the game of baseball itself — you can’t assume anything. It’s right there in the rules. Andre Dawson is eliminated from true HoF contention not because of the numbers he put up, but those he didn’t. All those days off to drain fluid from his knees probably did him in as far as this goes. “Hall of Very Good” is asinine; Dawson is simply the best case I’ve ever seen of “what coulda been.”

  22. Josh - Dec 30, 2009 at 7:19 PM

    Blyleven:
    Give me a break – the guy is 13 wins from 300, where we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. If he had played one season for the Yankees (or a good team, not Cleveland) for a couple years, he would have been a first-ballot choice.
    This whole “but, but…he didn’t do ____!” crap is just that: crap. One more win per year and he is in. Arguing he should be excluded despite compiling numbers better than all but a handful of the thousands of men to play this game is the definition of arbitrary.

  23. diamondduq - Dec 30, 2009 at 9:25 PM

    I didn’t say that a player can hit better as a DH than as a position player, I said their only responsibility is to hit and therefore they should excel at hitting. It’s similar to saying that if someone is a left-handed specialist then they should be better against left-handed hitters than non-left-handed specialists. A DH, since as the name suggests is a designated hitter, they’re essentially a hitting specialist and should therefore hit better than non-designated hitters. Regardless, my main point was that comparing the hitting statistics of a DH only to other DH’s isn’t valid, as it is with positions that are historically defensive in nature, such as SS and C, and that they should be compared to any hitters regardless of position. Edgar Martinez has no major milestones (3000 hits, 500 homeruns, MVP’s) and has fewer career RBI than Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Moises Alou, Ruben Sierra, Gary Gaetti, the list goes on, hardly HOF caliber players. There is nothing, aside from manipulated, empty statistics to point to him being anything other than a very good player but very good is not great and not great means not HOF.

  24. Joe M 2 - Dec 31, 2009 at 12:09 AM

    The argument that Martinez belongs in the Hall because he’s the best DH makes me ask “Who was the best DH before Martinez and why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?”

  25. J Nuts - Dec 31, 2009 at 2:08 AM

    Its amazing how voters excuse defense altogether (i.e. gold glove winners like Dale Murphy), but when it comes to a batting, a Full-Time DH gets votes. If Martinez had to deal with the grueling duties of fielding everyday, theirs a big question mark on how his health (and stats) would hold up. Dawson’s career would have lasted longer (and been better) if he didn’t have to play on Montreal’s concreate-like astroturf.
    Its also important to note how Martinez’ HR and RBI’s ballooned in the late 90′s/early 2000′s when everyone else’s was too. He hit 37 homers one season during that time. Doesn’t anyone else notice this too?

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