The annual Hall of Fame post

Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

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69 Responses

  1. Christopher Carr says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about banning players from the Hall of Fame for rule violations. Skinny Bonds would have gotten in, and so would pre-roid Clemens.

    I don’t think the Hall of Fame should be the moral police, but should rather serve to designate those who were especially skilled at the sport of baseball.

    Consider me Charles Barkley then on the question of whether professional athletes should be moral authorities. Also, Ty Cobb was an asshole.Report

    • I have no objection to banning players for rule violations, but it doesn’t follow that we should for all violations. Clearly we don’t: Gaylord Perry. I have no problem, on the other hand, with keeping Pete Rose out, at least during his lifetime. Gambling is an existential issue with any professional sport. This isn’t a moral police matter. It is a threat to the institution matter.

      PED’s? That is a different matter. My opinion is that this is a workplace safety issue. A worker is entitled to working conditions that are as safe as possible. If PEDs can be administered such that they don’t present a threat to the player’s health, then they should be a legitimate tool of the trade. If they necessarily present a threat to the player’s health, then they should be illegal. They should not be optional, as this would create a de facto requirement to use them to keep up with the competition.

      FWIW, I don’t claim the expertise to judge which is the case.Report

      • If PEDs can be administered such that they don’t present a threat to the player’s health, then they should be a legitimate tool of the trade. If they necessarily present a threat to the player’s health, then they should be illegal.

        Could you make an argument that my use of PEDs theoretically endangers the health of other players, if I hit them with my enhanced body or bean them with my enhanced fastball?Report

        • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

          I think that actually is a thing people have talked about with football, though not with respect to the use of PEDs, but also with all the other “natural” means by which players’ bodies are enhanced these days: better food, better supplements, better workout regimes, etc., produce deadlier bodies.Report

          • Christopher Carr in reply to Chris says:

            I do believe this is correct.

            The constant stopping and starting is also something that I would hypothesize could be changed without affecting the integrity of the sport that would also improve safety.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

          I agree with the first part of Richard’s quote there. I am iffy on the second. I do think the league can justify certain rules prohibiting harm the players do to themselves, but not all. We see the NFL wrestling with this right now. I think it would depend on the nature of the “threat”.

          To @glyph ‘s question, I’d rather see other things put in place to account for the potential safety issue than a difficult-to-enforce ban on PEDs.

          We’ve discussed before different changes that sports leagues — the NFL in particular — might need to adopt to remain viable given growing concern about player safety. We’ve had a similar conversation about the NBA but less about safety and more about quality of play in response to the heightened athleticism (and exploitation of “loop holes” via new strategies) dominating the game today. MLB has been largely absent from those conversations because A) it is probably the league most impacted by inertia and B) it is probably the ‘safest’ league.

          Line drives back at the pitcher are a concern. But they so pale in comparison to CTE in the NFL that even putting them in the same conversation seems laughable.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        I just remembered another problem in dealing with PEDs. The discussion always seems to focus on the drugs of the 90s and beyond – steroids, HGH, etc. For one example, the amphetamines that fueled postwar baseball right up through the 70s never seem to get brought up, and if they are, they’re laughed off as “boys will be boys” like Gaylord Perry’s vaseline tricks.

        I think this is a generational thing among writers, and will die off as Murray Chass’s generation (perhaps mercifully, they’re not aging well at all) does. I also suspect that steroids, once the immediacy of testimony and tell-all books and such is lost to history, will also not seem as much of a disqualification.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to El Muneco says:

          I disagree with this. Culturally, PEDs have been taboo since at least the 70s when East German Olympic athletes were widely viewed as having enhanced their performance via certain drugs. I don’t see that changing in the near future (or probably ever, but forever is a loooong time), and I think *that’s* the culture in which HOF voters are embedded.

          I also think the amphetamine analogy breaks down a bit since (again) culturally there was no norm regarding whether using those drugs did or didn’t positively effect performance, so the folks who took them (to the extent they did) weren’t violating any taboos or norms. PED use has always been looked upon as a form of cheating by the majority of folks in general, and by the gatekeepers as well.

          As I see it, Clemens and Bonds are a unique problem from a cultural pov in that they both were quite likely HOFers prior to their turn to PEDs. And on that score, Tim Kurkjian (sp?) said something interesting about Griffey the other day: if he’da used PEDs he’da hit roughly 200 HRs more than his final tally. Seems to me that comment gives some insight into how many of the voters view this issue and the steroids era ballplayers in particular.Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Stillwater says:

            You are absolutely correct that we are dealing with cultural norms, which may or may not correspond with formal rules. I disagree about the operative norm for amphetamines. They were widespread in baseball since WWII. This is not coincidental. They were the pep pills that soldiers took to stay alert: not dirty drugs that the Wrong Sort of People used. Then once the counterculture hit, greenies were positively wholesome in comparison. Then they were a venerable part of baseball culture. It wasn’t until the combination of the whole War on Drugs vibe and steroids that greenies became too embarrassing to tolerate.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Richard Hershberger says:


              I’m not sure we’re disagreeing here, actually. What I was getting at is that when amphetamines were rampant they weren’t simultaneously frowned upon by baseball cultcha. That is, there was, in effect, no contemporaneous taboo regarding their use. What we conventionally refer to by the term “PEDs”, on the other hand, pretty universally are and have been taboo in every sport they’re suspected of being used to provide an edge over the competition. Well, ever since the East German women’s swim squad kicked everyone’s ass, anyway.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Stillwater says:

                I don’t think you guys are disagreeing with each other, I think you’re both disagreeing with me but phrasing it differently…

                I don’t disagree that pep pills were not only not looked down on, they were an unremarkable part of the culture. And I think RH has the right of why disco-era cocaine was a scandal while amphetamines weren’t.

                However, they were also unambiguously performance-enhancing substances. I just don’t think that ignoring that fact while pointing both moral and statistical opprobrium at the cheaters of the 90s reflects well on HOF voters.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to El Muneco says:

                El Menuco,

                We’re veering into some different terrain here, but I’d suspect that chronic use of speed over a longish time frame would actually be negatively correlated with performance since the effects of that drug would tend towards disregarding nutrition, tax adrenals, disrupt sleep cycles and recovery, and so on. Sporadic use might boost performance, tho. Like in a single trial sorta way. (I’d be interested in knowing more about the long term effects of speed on athletic performance, actually. Same with cocaine: I can’t imagine it actually boosts athletic performance when chronically used.)Report

              • Glyph in reply to Stillwater says:

                Anecdotally, a moderate speed habit (assuming, as you say, adequate attention paid to sleep and nutritional needs and perhaps periodic tapered-down or non-use periods) might be OK. Mathematician Paul Erdos was a lifelong speed user – granted, not an athlete, but the same things that tax your body often tax your brain, and he was one of the most productive mathematicians ever.

                Lemmy from Motorhead was a lifelong speed user – again, not an athlete per se, but a hard-playing musician (and player) and road dog who performed night after night after night for years, which requires stamina. He made it to 70, and it was an “aggressive” cancer that got him (well, it would be, wouldn’t it; a non-aggressive cancer would have looked at Lemmy and turned tail).

                I can almost guarantee that there have to be some athletes using Adderall for ADHD (at least nominally), and Adderall is…you guessed it…speed.

                All that said, I agree on balance it’d probably be better to only use it sporadically or not at all for an athlete. The dehydration alone would be tough to manage.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

                The dehydration alone would be tough to manage.

                Honestly, it’s like you’ve never heard of beer.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Lager does indeed appear to be how Mark E. Smith of the Fall, another notorious longtime speed user, deals with his. But he’s English, so he might just drink that much anyway.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

                I’m thinking Ball Four in particular (which is a great book; you don’t need to love baseball to appreciate it any more than you have to love high school football to love Friday Night Lights), I don’t recall the players ingesting anything but greenies and beer.Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I don’t recall the players ingesting anything but greenies and beer


                Not from Ball Four, but there is Doc Ellis and his no-hitter.Report

              • Cocaine is incredibly bad for you. If we treated drugs logically, we’re give Raines’s numbers a boost because he earned them under the handicap of performance decreasers.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Stillwater says:

                You’re right – “unambiguously” might have been a bit strong. We don’t really know the long-term tradeoffs of hitting the bowl in the clubhouse on a daily basis, so we can’t count the real cost of being fully awake for the day game after a night game or still being on your toes when the dude is still nibbling at the corners down 5-3 in the seventh (when I played, there was nothing I hated more as a fielder than a pitcher who ran up a count on every batter). [Cocaine, as you note, isn’t the easiest drug to use as a performance enhancer]

                Then there’s the (possibly apocryphal, I can’t find it on google and don’t remember which book it was in) story about the Scottish national soccer team who, as usual, lost in the first round of a major tournament (it might have been the one they surprisingly knocked England out of in the qualifiers, back when England was good). They then had insult added to injury when some players failed a drugs test for speed. Their shocked fans’ response was “Amphetamines? They looked like they were on tranquilizers!”

                On the gripping hand, steroids aren’t a magic bullet. You do still have to do the gym work, and it’s arguable how much functional strength is added and how decisive it is. I’ve even seen it argued that the biggest advantage a steroid user has isn’t the muscles, it’s the speedup in recovery time and how that reduces wear and tear over the course of a season.

                Basically, it’s fraught.Report

          • if [Griffey] used PEDs he’da hit roughly 200 HRs more than his final tally.

            Hell, if he’d exercised and eaten less he might have hit 300 more. Step one for cleaning up baseball is to get rid of those healthy lifestyle cheaters.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Would eating less help with home runs? Generally when losing fat, you’ll also lose some muscle and strength. Training tends to minimize the muscle loss, and if you’re starting from an untrained state you can simultaneously gain muscle and lose fat, but for a trained athlete there’s a trade-off.

              This is why the very strongest weightlifters tend to be a bit fat. And in baseball, you’re not even lifting your own weight, like you are in the weightlifting. I can see how weight loss would help with fielding and running the bases, but I suspect that it would reduce power output at the plate.Report

              • Unlike a weightlifter, a centerfielder spends a lot of time running around. Staying in better shape reduces wear and tear on the body, which would have reduced the injuries that kept him off the field. For example, during his age 32-34 years, which should have been close to his prime, he had barely over one year’s worth of plate appearance.Report

    • Ty Cobb was somewhat less of an asshole than you probably think. He was cursed with a biographer who was a lying sack of shit.

      What we know about Cobb that’s documented fact includes his being an early supporter of Jackie Robinson and his using his considerable fortune to establish a college scholarship fund for the children of his naive Georgia.Report

      • Christopher Carr in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        What of the story of Cobb beating a handicapped man in the stands for heckling that Cobb’s mother was of African descent?Report

        • Cobb was definitely a hotheaded jerk as a young man, and he considered that a deadly insult, as would pretty much every white person born in Georgia in the 1880s. But he did grow up.

          And a lot of the other stories about Cobb are just crap, like how none of the people he met in 20 years of baseball came to his funeral. It was a private service, with only family and a few close friends attending, but they received so many cards and flowers sent that his family had to hire people to deal with them.Report

    • Ted Williams, back in the day, commissioned a legal brief arguing for the reinstatement of Joe Jackson. The substance of the argument is that Joe Jackson was banned from baseball for life. Joe Jackson is now dead. So what’s the problem? MLB didn’t buy the argument, but I find it persuasive. The clear subtext to MLB’s rejection of the case was that this would dredge up the Pete Rose case, and they didn’t want to have that discussion. I think, however, that it provides resolution all around. Rose will be eligible when he is dead. If we is that eager to get in the Hall of Fame sooner rather than later, the necessary course of action is clear. (I might just possibly be influenced by my additional opinion that Rose is a piece of shit: a great player, but a terrible person.)Report

      • I am not really a baseball fan beyond checking the box scores occasionally in the odd year that the Rockies are doing well in the second half of the season… that said, the politics of the game are endlessly fascinating to me.

        Pete Rose being denied entry into the Hall of Fame for gambling (and worse than that, betting on his own team… though not to lose, I understand)? That’s fascinating. I don’t understand how it’s an existential issue, though.

        I understand that the sport has an image of itself and gambling challenges that particular image… but much like the point shaving scandals that college basketball sees occasionally, I don’t understand how the disintegration of the self-image will necessarily lead to an existential issue.

        But I watch pro wrestling, so…Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Jaybird says:

          I’m not suggesting that Rose could singlehandedly bring down Baseball, but rather that toleration of professional gamblers within the sport can. Public confidence that the games are honest is a fundamental underpinning to any sport. You raise professional wrestling. This is exactly on point. Professional wrestling clearly is a thing, and presumably a profitable thing, but it isn’t competition, it is spectacle. It is hardly the only example. I don’t think anyone would be shocked to learn that the fix is in when the Harlem Globetrotters play the Washington Generals. But what they do is something different from what the NBA does.

          If you can’t give the public honest competition, you have to give them spectacle. Frankly, and this is coming from a lifelong fan, baseball isn’t suited to this. It occasionally achieves spectacle, but these moments are interspaced with long periods of not-spectacle. And really, the spectacle bits rely on their rarity. The Home Run Derby is amusing, but it would get boring fast if it were every day.

          The danger of gambling isn’t a single event, but a steady drip drip drip eroding the public confidence. The cautionary tales are boxing and horse racing. A hundred years ago, these and baseball were the big three American sports. Now horse racing and boxing are marginal niche sports. They were widely (and almost certainly correctly) perceived as being corrupt, and the public gradually lost interest. This is why Baseball went all Kennesaw Mountain on the Black Sox (and had done the same thing on the Louisville Four forty years earlier).

          A lot of people are vaguely mystified what the big deal is with the Rose thing. This mystification is a Good Thing. They would have understood it perfectly, some eighty or ninety years ago. The goal is to keep it so that game fixing is a topic restricted to history geeks.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          I agree that gambling is not a threat to the integrity of professional wrestling.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        It’s arguable that Joe Jackson staying out the Hall of Fame at least until Kevin Costner’s movie career took off has made him a more beloved and well known mainstream figure than he’d otherwise be, and puting him in the hall of fame now would damage that niche.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Another thing is that, as a player, Rose isn’t a slam dunk Hall of Famer.

      Yes, he holds the hits record, but that is more a function of longevity than anything else. And while health and durability and endurance are indeed skills, Rose racked up a decent portion of his numbers while being a detriment to his team.

      From 1980-1986, Rose recorded 884 hits, 386 BBs, and 301 RBI. Over that time, he accrued -1.4 bWAR. During four of those seasons he was in the negative and his “best” season yielded just 1.7 bWAR over 107 games… barely justifying him being in a starting role.

      Now, take those seasons away and Rose ends his season with over 80 WAR. But he also loses his greatest claim to fame. He likely still gets in because 3400 hits naps him the old timers vote and 80 WAR gets him the young’n vote.

      But his exclusion from Cooperstown is far from the most egregious one out there. His mythos has grown as a function of his exclusion.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’ve often said Pete Rose was the greatest utility player of all time.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        80 WAR makes Rose a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. It’s hard to know how to categorize him, since he played all over the field, but more at LF than anywhere else and that would put him fifth after Barry, Ted, Rickey, and Yaz, well ahead of the rest.

        Anyway, for the old-timers he was a lifetime .300 hitter.Report

  2. Michael Cain says:

    As near as I can tell, the HoF rails against performance-enhancing drugs, but doesn’t have any problems with an aging ball player using contact lenses or Lasik surgery to enhance their declining vision. What’s the difference between using HGH to add 15 pounds of muscle and using Lasik to take your vision from 20/25 to 20/15?Report

    • William White (brother of Jim “Deacon” White) was the first professional player to wear glasses while playing. There was at one point a suggestion that this should be banned. It wasn’t a serious proposal, but rather commentary on actual rule changes banning club managers from the field and forbidding the pitcher from beginning his delivery with his back to the batter. The former was openly directed at Harry Wright, while the was widely taken as being aimed at John Montgomery Ward. If, the argument went, we are making rules aimed at handicapping specific players, why not forbid Will White from wearing glasses?

      More generally, I have written before about how there are rules where we wink at violations (e.g. spit balls) and rules where we are outraged by violations, with no obvious rhyme or reason to it, at least not if we look just at baseball. If we look at the broader culture, PEDs line up with the War on Drugs, while Lasik is something middle class white people get all the time.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    Jayson Stark had a thoughtful takedown of the “Rule of 10”, explaining the players he had to leave off his ballot as a result. Unfortunately, he then shat the bed by including Wagner and Hoffman among those he did vote for. Ugh. However, his point still stands.

    I’d unabashedly vote for Bonds, Clemens, Griffey, Piazza, Bagwell, Raines, and Trammel. Walker, Schilling, and Mussina would be the bubble for me. Edgar and Jimmy Edmonds would be the first two out. I’d have liked to have given Lofton more thought.

    I have no qualms with most of the PED guys (proven or alleged) because they did not, in fact, break rules.

    Did Bonds, Clemens, et al. violate the spirit of the rules? I don’t know. Hard to say, really. But most did not violate the letter of the rules. To hold them accountable for that feels wrong.

    I think there will be more questions about those who did break rules. Guys like Manny and ARod… proven rule breakers who faced consequences for their actions.

    But most of this is just sanctimonious moralizing from old farts.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

      To hold them accountable for that feels wrong. … But most of this is just sanctimonious moralizing from old farts.

      Well, you don’t see Bonds holding a presser where he admits he took roids, points to the lack of clarity in the rules upon which his behavior ostensibly constitutes a violation, and then proceeds to accuse his detractors for being sanctimonious old farts.

      If he didn’t do anything wrong, even in his own eyes, then why isn’t he coming clean about the cream?Report

      • nevermoor in reply to Stillwater says:

        Oooo. This argument again.

        Because when athletes come clean and apologize they are immediately forgiven. Which is why McGwire is long-since inducted.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

        Well, at this point, there are probably legal reasons why he can’t come clean. I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of his trial, but he said things under oath that probably aren’t true and coming out and acknowledging as such would land him in legal hot water.

        As for why he didn’t take that tack at the time, I’d suspect a few things:
        1. Bonds himself might not have known the rules. I venture to guess he would have done what he did regardless of the rules. In a way, he was lucky that the system was so lax at the time.
        2. Bonds saw how things turned on McGwire and Sosa (and others) and was hoping to avoid that.

        Honestly, when ARod got pinched, I was really hoping he would have turned heal, held a presser, and said, “For years, you all have questioned my dedication and work ethic. Well guess what? You wanted me to be the best so I did everything I could to be the best… including breaking rules. If that makes me a monster, so be it. But I was paid an exorbitant sum of money to be the best player in baseball and I did what I had to do to be that.”

        Finally, saying Bonds didn’t break any rules is not the same as saying he didn’t do anything wrong. But the idea that Bonds should be kept out for breaking the rules is a falsehood: he broke no rules.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

          Bonds saw how things turned on McGwire and Sosa (and others) and was hoping to avoid that.

          By cheating better than they did?Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

            By staying silent.

            By the time McGwire et al. got raked over the coals, Bonds had already done what he did. You were asking why he didn’t cop to it.

            You keep referring to him as having cheated. How did he cheat?Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

              I’m not sure what we’re talking about anymore. Are you saying he didn’t use roids? If that’s the case, then of course he wouldn’t cop to it since there’s nothing to cop to.

              Look, if you think roid use shouldn’t be a disqualifier, then just say it. And then we can get passed all the speculation about why Bonds didn’t cop to things don’t matter anyway.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think Bonds used PEDs that were legal in the game at the time of his use. Ergo, I don’t think he cheated.

                I think he didn’t cop to it because he didn’t know — and didn’t care — whether it was cheating or not. He was going to do it regardless and cross his fingers that he didn’t get caught.

                I think players who played within the rules should be judged accordingly. That includes Bonds and Clemens.

                Manny? ARod? They break rules and were disciplined for it. I’m not sure what to make of that. But we have time to figure it out.Report

  4. Jesse Ewiak says:

    Even if you think Barry Bonds took every drug on the market before the 1999 or 2000 season, he was still one of the best 5 players in baseball from 1990 on.Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      This. Bonds had 100 WAR through 1998. Clemens was over 90. Each of them would have been a decent HOF pick if they’d crashed in a small plane with Ricky Martin in 1996, years before any hint of PEDs.

      I also wonder if part of the animus against Raines is the old farts who still remember the cocaine rumors from when he first came up.Report

  5. nevermoor says:

    I’m just blown away by how hard a time anyone is having getting elected when so many candidates meet any reasonable standard for on-field HOF-worthiness.

    Bonds is a top-5 all-time player. And was great pre-roids.
    Clemens is a top-10 all-time pitcher. And was great pre-roids.
    Edgar is the best to ever be a DH (which is both an honest-to-god position that half the league needs to fill, and one that tends to SUPPRESS offensive performance, making his achievements look more impressive)
    Schilling has every argument Jack Morris ever had and then a lot (LOT) more. He may be a jerk, but he’s a jerk with HOF achievements.
    Raines is a top-3 all-time stolen base artist (by FAR the best success rate, though of course less volume than Rickey) who was also good at lots of other things.
    Bagwell and Trammell were both so good at their positions that I’ve never understood why they were even close questions.

    These aren’t bubble guys, these are guys who would raise the average HOF talent level. Blows my mind no one can get in (and that everyone is still being sanctimonious about the PED use they applauded at the time).Report

    • Kazzy in reply to nevermoor says:

      I disagree with you about Edgar and your argument for Raines (though I agree about his inclusion ultimately). Excelling at a specialist role isn’t necessarily validating. Being the best closer or pinch hitter or middle reliever or pinch runner or super sub doesn’t mean much when your ability to contribute to the team is limited by your role’s playing time. And while we can make all sorts of guesses about coulda-shoulda-woulda, we can only judge what actually happened.

      Edgar’s role as a DH limited his ability to contribute to his team’s chances of winning. We can conjecture about what would have happened if he hadn’t been blocked from coming up earlier or if his knees held up or if they just stuck him at 1B… but none of those things happened. Say Edgar was the best DH doesn’t mean much.Report

      • nevermoor in reply to Kazzy says:

        We seem pretty comfortable saying the BEST closer should be in (and I bet Mariano’s a first-ballot guy). Edgar is in that category. There’s no comparison between either of them and pinch hitters or your other categories.

        Being a good DH wouldn’t mean much, but being the BEST at a starting position simply has to qualify (particularly when he hit extremely well by any standard).Report

      • nevermoor in reply to Kazzy says:

        Also, on Raines, I endorse essentially all of this. He’s not a borderline guy at all, and should have been inducted long ago.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to nevermoor says:

      I’m not sure I follow the counter-intuitive claim that the DH rule suppresses offensive performance. Isn’t it at least as likely that AL pitchers are simply better? The last time I visited any more-than-trivial thought in this arena yielded a study indicating that a statistically baseline DH produces a net 5 wins per year above replacement (+22.5 for offense and -17.5 for defense). We don’t notice it so much because when a game is in an AL stadium, there’s a DH on both teams, so we don’t ever see a DH team play a team that bats its pitcher. After all, that wouldn’t be fair.

      If you could choose whether you want to put a pitcher or a DH in your batting order, wouldn’t you pick the DH every time?Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I think that what he’s getting at is that there is evidence that an individual player will put up worse numbers as a DH than he does when playing a field position. I’m not sure how reliable a result that would be, since there are obvious problems with a matched set study within a particular player-season, and adjusting for all the variables across seasons is daunting.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to El Muneco says:

          And isn’t it also frequently the case that a player with physical challenges — weight, age, injury — will get put at DH because the physical challenges of that position are smaller in number and therefore easier to overcome? Take a guy like, say, this year’s hall of famer Mike Piazza. Not a coincidence, IMHO, that he got listed as DH whenever one of his teams did interleague play, nor that in the last year of his career, the A’s put him at DH. The man was 38, after all — his knees couldn’t take the catcher’s crouch any more!Report

          • El Muneco in reply to Burt Likko says:

            Yep. So you’d kind of expect that when a player gets shunted to DH full time, he’d be a lesser hitter because the physical challenges that prevent playing the field also affect bat speed, etc. That’s what I was getting at – it’s really hard to correct for that kind of thing and isolate an “otherwise healthy dude hits worse when not involved in fielding”. Even if the numbers do say a relationship exists, for it to be causal rather than correlational, you need to be able to remove injury, aging, changes in routine, and even just plain being jerked around by the manager as possible confounding effects.

            That’s why Edgar is such an interesting case, in that he didn’t get moved to DH because of the effects of the injuries he suffered – when he did make a rare post-move fielding appearance he actually had better numbers than before (and he never had any real foot speed to begin with) – but because it wasn’t worth the risk of losing his bat again.

            Of course, Edgar’s HOF case wouldn’t even be an issue if not for the fact that the ridiculously incompetent Mariner brass of the mid-80s didn’t even bring him up until age 24, then gave him 280 PA total the next three years. So that Jim Presley could put up an average of 1 WAR over that time (Presley’s Seattle career total was 3.3 WAR – Edgar had ten seasons with at least that much, including his age-40 season). While Edgar kept hitting .350 in Calgary (admittedly in the rocket-powered PCL of the era). He wouldn’t get 500 AB in a ML season until age 28 (the average ML peak season is 27).Report

            • Harmon Killebrew would have been a natural DH, a liability anywhere you tried to put hm in the field. Martinez, on the other hand, was an excellent infielder.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Oh yes, and it surprised a lot of people. Similarly with the tastefully named Craig Biggio, after he moved out from behind the plate. Edgar’s problem was that he was made from spun glass, not that he couldn’t actually do things you asked of him.Report

        • nevermoor in reply to El Muneco says:

          This. Nearly all players hit worse as DHs than they do when playing a position.

          Burt is certainly right that DHs hit better than pitchers.Report

  6. Another interesting thing is that Griffey got the highest voting percentage ever: higher than Mays, Maddux, Aaron, (pick your favorite superstar.) I would attribute this to a few things:

    1. The HoF cleared out a lot of deadwood among voters this year, so the lunatic fringe that would, say, send in blank ballots or never vote for anyone the first time are gone. Among people who actually follow the game, Griffey was a no-brainer.
    2. There’s never been a whisper of steroids about Griffey, so he’s the anti-Bonds.
    3. He’s remembered as being Willie Mays a five-tool CF who hit a shit-ton of HRs. (His actual numbers aren’t quite that impressive. Compare his first 11 years, which are all of his good ones, to Bonds’s: Bonds was better at everything besides hitting home runs, including being better defensively. May’s first 11 years are comparable to Griffey’s if you include 1952 and 1953, when due to military service Mays played about 30 games total. If you take Mays’s first 11 complete seasons, he blows Griffey away )
    4, There’s an assumption that if Griffey has stayed healthy, he would have been a superstar through his thirties (rather than having one good year at 35, and otherwise mostly being sub-par), so he gets credit for being better than he was.Report