Tuesday, January 08, 2008



There's nothing like taking time out of my day to skewer a bunch of writers who get paid to responsibly analyze the best players in the history of baseball and determine, using facts and good reasoning, whether or not they deserve enshrinement into Cooperstown, and then fail miserably at it. Case in point, the ESPN contributers who have Hall of Fame votes. Here is the list of who each ESPN guru voted for, and it looks like crap.

Everybody voted in Goose Gossage, which I guess makes sense, because if you have Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers in the Hall, you have to have the Goose, who mops the floor with both of them. Andre Dawson and Jim Rice are the only other two who would theoretically be elected by this group (you need 75% of the vote to make it). Dawson's .323 career OBP is pretty bad, but he was a very good player for a long time, and I guess he wouldn't be the worst pick for Cooperstown.

The real idiocy starts, though, when these writers start voting for Jim Rice instead of Tim Raines, and Jack Morris instead of Bert Blyleven. Seven voters voted for Rice over Raines. I detailed yesterday how I don't really see how Rice has the credentials, but if you want to vote for him, fine. However, I just don't see how anybody with a brain can vote for Rice and not Raines, who was a better player over a longer period of time, had a career OBP more than 30 points higher, and has the highest stolen base percentage of any player in history with as many attempts. Raines had five seasons where he was arguably the best player in the National League. Rice had one season where he was the best in the AL, and even that's up for debate.

They're different types of players, obviously, but Raines created more runs per game than Rice (6.6 to 6.0) and when you add the defensive value and the fact that Raines wasn't helped susbstantially by his home ballpark, like Rice was, it seems like it should be a no-brainer. I think the fact that Raines had his best years toiling in Canada and that he was overshadowed by Ricky Henderson is going to kill his Hall chances.

As for Blyleven v. Morris, only Buster Olney voted for Jack and not Bert, which I guess makes it less of an outrage. Still, I can't see how the two are even comparable. Blyleven's win-loss percentage suffers because he played for a lot of bad teams, but his ERA+ (118) is better than Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan (111), Don Sutton (108), Phil Neikro (115), Steve Carlton (115), and it absolutely kicks Morris's (105) butt all over the place. What's the difference between Blyleven and those four I mentioned there? He didn't reach the magical 300 win mark, except that he would have if he hadn't spent most of his career pitching for awful teams.

I think what really hurts Blyleven is that he didn't have any kind of famous feat or some kind of feature that would make him especially memorable for HOF voters. Nolan Ryan, of course, had the strikeouts and the no-hitters. Sutton was on good teams all of his career and thus was always on TV in October. Carlton was also on good teams for most of his career, and he also had one of the greatest pitching seasons of all time, in 1972, when he won 27 games for a Phillies team that won 59. Neikro had that lovable knuckleball. Morris was also on good teams basically forever and his ten-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series was one of the greatest single-game pitching performances ever, so a lot of voters think he's qualified simply from memory of that one game (conveniently forgetting that he got shat on in two starts in the very next World Series by those very same Braves).

Blyleven, however, didn't really have any kind of feat or gimmick that really stuck out, and thus I think he was kind of overlooked. He was just consistently great for his entire career, but his greatness came in the shadows. It didn't help that he was rarely in the playoffs (he did pitch in two World Series, in 1979 and 1987), and that his crappy teams always dragged down his win totals, thus killing his Cy Young chances. When Carlton was racking up Cys for the Phillies and facing Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers every postseason, Blyleven was quietly dominating hitters in the then-baseball hell that was Cleveland.

The support for Blyleven these days is so strong that I think it's inevitable that he'll get voted in in the next few years. The sad thing is, I think Morris will get voted in as well, maybe before Bert, and that's a crying shame.

--Side note: How the hell did Pedro Gomez get a Hall vote? Isn't this the guy who was basically assigned by ESPN to sift through Barry Bonds's leavings for like three years? The fact that this guy has a vote (he voted for Lee Smith over Raines and Blyleven, for fuck's sake!), and the fact that the BBWAA felt it necessary to deny Rob Neyer (only one of the best in the biz) and Keith Law (not too far behind, but he's kind of a jerk) HOF votes just indicates how seriously you should really be taking the Hall of Fame these days.


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