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‘Tis the Season for Hall Chatter

With the 2017 World Series — a thriller or a crusher, depending upon your point of view, won by the Astros in seven games over the Dodgers — in the books, I wrote a piece for SI.com checking in on the progress towards Cooperstown of nine players we saw in the postseason, many of whom I was asked about on Twitter or elsewhere during the October. By team: the Astros’ Justin Verlander, Carlos Beltran and Jose Altuve; the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw and Chase Utley; the Yankees’ CC Sabathia; the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia; the Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke; and the Twins’ Joe Mauer.

Here’s the Beltran one:

Carlos Beltran, Astros
69.8/44.3/57.1 (8th among CF)
Average HOF CF: 71.2/44.6/57.9

One of the top postseason players of his time (.307/.412/.609 with 16 homers in 256 PA), Beltran was reduced to an afterthought this October, going 3-for-20 in part-time duty overall and 0-for-3 in the World Series. That follows a sub-replacement level season in which he hit just 231/.283/.383 with 14 homers, 84 OPS+, and -0.6 WAR.

But even if the end of the line is near, Beltran did a fair bit in 2015–16 to shore up his Hall of Fame credentials after a dismal 2014 with the Yankees. With 2,725 career hits, 435 homers and 312 steals (with a record 86.4% success rate), not to mention nine All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves, he’s got a good case on the traditional merits alone. He’s one of 18 outfielders with at least 2,500 hits and 400 homers; 13 are enshrined, and Vladimir Guerrero will make it 14 either this year or next after receiving 71.7% of the vote last year. The other three besides Beltran are Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield, all kept out by PED connections, while Beltran’s record in that area is clean. Add to that his eighth-place ranking among centerfielders in JAWS, less than one point below the standard, and again, his excellent postseason line, and he looks to be in good shape among an electorate that grows more savvy towards advanced stats with every passing year.

Now that the 2017 season is over, I’ll have plenty on the Hall of Fame beat, starting with the 2018 Modern Era Committee ballot (out November 6), covering candidates whose primary contributions came in the 1870-87 period, and the 2018 BBWAA ballot (out November 20), which features newcomers Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Jim Thome and Scott Rolen, along with top holdovers Trevor Hoffman, Vlad Guerrero and Edgar Martinez. And of course, I’ll be touting The Cooperstown Casebook as an ideal holiday gift!

2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Ballot @ SI.com

Even for a process designed to reconsider long-retired players not elected via the writers’ ballot (managers, executives and umpires are included as well)— this feels like a particularly reheated slate. Six of the candidates have been considered via at least one Era Committee ballot before, namely Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Marvin Miller, the lone non-player. While Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy and Alan Trammell are all first-timers here, each spent the maximum 15 years on the BBWAA ballot, with Morris the only one coming anywhere close to the 75% needed for election by the end of his run:

Garvey, Mattingly and Tiant received their highest shares of the vote in their ballot debuts, with Parker and Murphy doing so in their second years. When the Hall announced the truncation of the 15-year eligibility window to 10 in the summer of 2014, Mattingly — who along with Trammell and Lee Smith was grandfathered in, as he was past the 10-year point — was down into single-digit percentages. In short, the candidacies of those players were arguments for a mercy rule.

Part 1: Tommy John, Luis Tiant, Ted Simmons

Part 2: Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker

Part 3: Alan Trammell

Part 4: Jack Morris

Part 5: Marvin Miller

As Seen in the Columbus Dispatch

Received a very positive (if brief) review from the Columbus, Ohio paper:

This is a book for those serious baseball fans who don’t know what to do with their post-World Series evenings. We all have opinions about our favorites making it to the Hall of Fame; Jaffe leads us around the bases, skillfully assessing the future roster of candidates. Don’t miss the Introduction, “Why Care About the Hall of Fame.”
— George Cowmeadow Bauman, Acorn Bookshop, Columbus

Ballots, Beer, Books, Brooklyn (or Maybe Manhattan)?

UPDATE: Thank you to those who have reached out. We now have a venue and a time: Foley’s (18 W. 33rd St in Manhattan) from 7-9 pm on Tuesday, December 12.

Revisiting an idea I broached during the World Series, I’m thinking of trying to put together a beer & book event at a Brooklyn bar, or perhaps a Manhattan one, during the late November/December Hall of Fame ballot season. I’d do a Q&A over drinks, sell and sign books ($25, which is less than list price or what you’d pay for a signed book via Greenlight Bookstore), and leave enough time for causal hanging out after. Something like 7-9 PM on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, with the exact date TBD.

I have boxes of books already on hand. The event would be open to the public — many of you have already bought The Cooperstown Casebook, for which I thank you profusely — but I would need some kind of critical mass of direct pre-sales to pull this event off (via PayPal, most likely), as I’m not going to try to reserve space for an event that won’t generate turnout and I’m not schlepping books I can’t sell. If you have already bought (again, thank you!), perhaps you’ve got a friend or relative who needs a holiday or birthday gift? Just a thought, but if you do go that route, you’re free to bring your own copy for me to sign and personalize.

So, if this interests you, I need a virtual show of hands. Please fill out a contact form indicating your interest in pre-purchasing a book for such an event — using a valid email address which I swear on a stack of Edgar Martinez votes won’t be used for any other purpose — and whether you have a position on Manhattan vs. Brooklyn as a venue. I have bar options in mind for both, relatively convenient via subways.

Failing this, I may explore one other event idea during election season, but that will take more effort to put together.

2006 BBWAA Ballot @ BP

Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at Baseball Prospectus for this site. A recent design change at BP may result in formatting issues. 

This was the first BBWAA ballot for which I defined the peak component of JAWS as a player’s seven best seasons at large rather than his five best consecutive seasons (with allowances for injuries or military service), though it still relied upon Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement Player metric, which used a significantly lower replacement level than today’s WAR

Hitters 
Albert Belle, Will Clark, Dave Concepcion, Andre Dawson, Gary DiSarcina, Gary Gaetti, Steve Garvey, Ozzie Guillen, Gregg Jefferies, Don Mattingly, Willie McGee, Hal Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Jim Rice, Alan Trammell, Walt Weiss

Starters
Bert Blyleven, Alex Fernandez, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser, Tommy John, Jack Morris

Relievers
Rick Aguilera, Rich Gossage, Doug Jones, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, John Wettteland

2005 Veterans Committee Ballot @ BP

Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at Baseball Prospectus for this site. A recent design change at BP may result in formatting issues. 

This was the first ballot for which the JAWS acronym was used — I introduced the new designation in a piece about Barry Bonds’ lack of Hall of Fame teammates in October 2004 — though it still relied upon Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement Player metric, which used a significantly lower replacement level than today’s WAR, and a definition of peak based on a player’s best five-year run, with allowances made for injuries or military service. With so many candidates having such slim chances, I did not delve into every single case.

Hitters
Dick Allen, Bobby Bonds, Ken Boyer, Rocky Colavito, Curt Flood, Joe Gordon, Gil Hodges, Elston Howard, Marty Marion, Roger Maris, Minnie Minoso, Thurman Munson, Tony Oliva, Vada Pinson, Ron Santo, Joe Torre, Maury Wills

Pitchers (same article)
Wes Ferrell, Jim Kaat, Mickey Lolich, Sparky Lyle, Carl Mays, Don Newcombe, Luis Tiant, Smokey Joe Wood

2005 BBWAA Ballot @ BP

Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at Baseball Prospectus for this site. A recent design change at BP may result in formatting issues. 

This was the first BBWAA ballot for which the JAWS acronym was used — I introduced the new designation in a piece about Barry Bonds’ lack of Hall of Fame teammates in October 2004 — though it still relied upon Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement Player metric, which used a significantly lower replacement level than today’s WAR, and a definition of peak based on a player’s best five-year run, with allowances made for injuries or military service.

Hitters 
Wade Boggs, Dave Concepcion, Chili Davis, Andre Dawson, Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Willie McGee, Dale Murphy, Otis Nixon, Dave Parker, Tony Phillips, Jim Rice, Ryne Sandberg, Terry Steinbach, Darryl Strawberry, Alan Trammell

Pitchers
Jim Abbott, Bert Blyleven, Tom Candiotti, Rich Gossage, Tommy John, Mark Langston, Jack McDowell, Jeff Montgomery, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter

2004 BBWAA Ballot @ BP

Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at Baseball Prospectus for this site. A recent design change at BP may result in formatting issues. 

In November or December 2004, Baseball Prospectus invited me to contribute an article or articles analyzing the BBWAA ballot, drawing upon the work I had done at FutilityInfielder.com during the previous two winters. The result, which was not yet called JAWS, used Baseball Prospectus’ still-new Wins Above Replacement Player metric (created by Clay Davenport), which used a significantly lower replacement level than today’s WAR, and a definition of peak based on a player’s best five-year run, with allowances made for injuries or military service.

Hitters
Joe Carter, Dave Concepcion, Andre Dawson, Jim Eisenreich, Cecil Fielder, Steve Garvey, Keith Hernandez, Don Mattingly, Kevin Mitchell, Paul Molitor, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Terry Pendleton, Jim Rice,  Juan Samuel, Ryne Sandberg, Alan Trammell

Pitchers
Bert Blyleven, Doug Drabek, Dennis Eckersley, Rich Gossage, Tommy John, Jimmy Key, Dennis Martinez, Jack Morris, Randy Myers, Lee Smith, Dave Stieb, Bruce Sutter, Bob Tewksbury, Fernando Valenzuela

 

The Athletic Detroit Q&A

In the wake of the Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot announcement earlier this week — a ballot I’ll cover soon enough at SI.com — I spoke to Katie Strang, managing editor and senior writer for the Detroit outpost of The Athletic. With Alan Trammell and Jack Morris both among the 10 candidates on the ballot, our conversation centered around the omission of their longtime teammate Lou Whitaker, who like Trammell is one of the Case Studies in the Casebook.

[Bobby] Grich and [Lou] Whitaker, both hailing from the same time period more or less… have both gotten particularly screwed by the voters, and essentially for the same reasons. They both fell short of the minimum five percent in their lone BBWAA ballot appearance and that has been held against them when the historical overview committees have built the Veterans Committee ballots, the Era Committee ballots. It’s a really unfortunate way of reinforcing a judgment that I don’t think was intended to be as final as it has become.

I do think it’s alarming though, the way that has become reinforced. The prevailing notion of the day was some voters just refused to ever vote for anyone on the first ballot unless they were Hank Aaron, you know — a slam dunk. But they assumed they’d have a chance to vote for these guys at a future date.

It was just one of those things, like ‘You didn’t vote for him, either? Oh no,’ and then he’s off the ballot. I think that was part of how [Whitaker] slipped through the cracks. I don’t think that was entirely [the reason] though

…Whitaker had a reputation with being relatively aloof as far as the media was concerned. I don’t think that helped him, either. I think it’s entirely possible that race played into it as well. I know that sportswriters now still tend to be white middle-aged men that aren’t maybe the most culturally-sensitive. And back then, it was whiter to an even greater degree. Reading some of the coverage, it’s clear that Whitaker would not have been alone in terms of a disconnect with the middle-aged white writers of the day.

(The Athletic is behind a paywall, but I’ve found that the quality of the content and the contributors justifies the cost of the subscription.)

Also on the topic of Whitaker, The Detroit News’ Lynn Henning (to whom I spoke for the Casebook) cited my work in railing against his omission from the ballot.

Rick Reuschel • RHP

45th in JAWS (70.0 career/43.8 peak/56.9 JAWS)

Teams: Cubs 1972-81, ’83-84 • Yankees 1981 • Pirates 1985-87 •Giants 1987-91
Stats: 214-191 • 3.37 ERA • 114 ERA+ • 3,548.1 IP • 2,015 SO
Rankings: 6x top 5 WAR • 6x top 10 IP • 5x top 10 K • 3x All-Star • 3x top 3 BB/9 • 3x top 10 ERA
Voting: BBWAA 1997 (1st, 0.4%)

In his time, almost nobody thought of “Big Daddy” in a Cooperstown context, but the portly 6´3˝ righty showed impressive staying power during his 19-year career and stacks up well in light of WAR. He spent most of his first dozen seasons with the Cubs, his strong run prevention under heavy workloads often going unnoticed amid mediocre won-loss records — he was 135-127 during his Chicago years — though a 20-10 1977 season did get some attention; he led the NL with 9.4 WAR and finished third in the Cy Young voting. A brief foray to the Yankees resulted in a trip to the 1981 World Series and a torn rotator cuff that cost him all of 1982 and most of ’83-84, but he resurfaced as a strong starter in Pittsburgh and then San Francisco, helping the Giants to two playoff appearances and the 1989 World Series in his age-40 season. BBWAA voters almost completely ignored him, and he’s unlikely to break through via committee, but he’s 32nd in career WAR, ahead of many no-doubt Hall of Famers.

The Dan Patrick Show appearance

In the wake of my SI.com article on the Hall of Fame chances for Justin Verlander, Carlos Beltran and other players we saw in the postseason, I spoke to the great Dan Patrick on his radio show. We touched on Verlander, CC Sabathia and current candidates as well such as Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, and he gave the book a plug.