2013 Pre-Integration Committee Ballot @ SI.com

Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at SI.com for this site.

The 10 finalists up for discussion on the Pre-Integration Era ballot aren’t household names, but there are worthy candidates. Owners Sam Breadon (Cardinals) and Jacob Ruppert (Yankees), executive and equipment pioneer Al Reach and umpire Hank O’Day all have compelling cases. None of those spark the imagination or lend themselves to quantification the way the six former players — Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, Marty Marion, Tony Mullane, Bucky Walters and Deacon White — do, however. Some of those six played during a time when the game’s rules were still evolving, making their raw statistics harder to parse, but advanced metrics can help provide context.

Part 1: Bill Dahlen, Marty Marion, Deacon White

Part 2: Wes Ferrell, Tony Mullane, Bucky Walters

Results: O’Day, Ruppert, White elected

2014 Expansion Era Committee Ballot @ SI.com

Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at SI.com for this site.

Part 1: Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Ted Simmons, Joe Torre

Marvin Miller snubbed (managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre elected)

This was the rare year that I did not get to profile every candidate before the election. However, I did cover the trio of managers briefly for SI’s Hall of Fame Commemorative Issue, which was designed to capitalize primarily on the election of the Braves’ Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Cox. Since it never made it online, here’s the section on the managers:

Before moving to managing, Torre accumulated a near-Hall of Fame resume as a player, earning All-Star honors nine times with the Braves (1960-1968), Cardinals (1969-1974) and Mets (1975-1977). He won the NL batting title and MVP honors in 1971, and finished his career with a .297/.365/.452 line (129 OPS+), 2,342 hits and 252 homers. Retiring in June 1977, shortly after being anointed player-manager of the Mets, he didn’t find much success in parts of five seasons at the helm in Flushing, but led the Braves to an NL West flag in 1982, and to an 88-win near-miss the following year before the axe fell at the end of 1984. He took to the broadcast booth from 1985-1990 before returning to the dugout with the Cardinals, but the best he could do in parts of six seasons at the helm in St. Louis was a second-place finish.

Torre was a career 109 games below .500 when he was hired to manage the Yankees in November 1995; the New York Daily News hailed him as “Clueless Joe” when he took the job with a team that had only just returned to the postseason for the first time in 14 years. Overseeing a homegrown nucleus that had begun developing during George Steinbrenner’s suspension — Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada — and unafraid to stand up to a boss who had changed managers 17 times since their last title, he guided the Yankees to the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons in the Bronx via 10 AL East flags and two Wild Card appearances. In his first year, he led the team to their first championship since 1978 with a World Series victory over Cox’s Braves. The Yankees went on to win four straight pennants from 1998-2001, winning the first three of those World Series and coming three outs away from the fourth; they added another pennant in 2003. They won 100 games four times, topped by a record 114 wins in 19998. After Torre fell out of favor in the Broxn following the 2007 season, he took over the Dodgers, guiding them to to NL West flags and Championship Series appearances before finally retiring in 2010 with a 2326-1997 record and a .538 winning percentage. His win total ranks fifth all-time, while his 15 postseason appearances are second (thanks to the advent of the current format), his four titles tied for fourth, and his six pennants tied for sixth.

A fiery dugout leader who eventually set the major league record with 159 managerial ejections, Cox spent 25 years as the manager of the Braves plus another four (1982-1985) piloting the Blue Jays, who won 99 games and the AL East flag in his final season there. He led the Braves to 14 NL East flags and one Wild Card appearance, giving him a record 16 postseason appearances in all. The Braves notched at least 100 wins on his watch six times, and took pennants in 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1999, but despite their stellar core of starting pitching, they won just one Fall Classic. They did bring home plenty of hardware, with Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz combining for five Cy Youngs under Cox, Terry Pendleton and Chipper Jones both winning MVPs, and David Justice and Rafael Furcal claiming Rookie of the Year honors. Cox retired with a 2504-2001 record — the fourth-highest win total of all time — and a .556 winning percentage.

La Russa was just 34 years old when he took over as the manager of the White Sox in mid-1979, one year after he earned a law degree from Florida Sate University. During his 33 years at the helm of the White Sox (1979-1986), A’s (1986-1995) and Cardinals (1996-2011), he changed the game via his innovative bullpen management. Once his starter tired, he used a parade of left- and right-handed specialists, strikeout artists and groundball machines, to create favorable matchups. While he didn’t invent the closer role, he refined it via his attempt to turn the game over to relief ace Dennis Eckersley with a clean slate at the start of the ninth inning. He won an AL West title with the White Sox in 1983, and led the A’s to three straight pennants from 1988-1990 — winning it all in 1989 — plus an AL West flag in 1992. In St. Louis, he led the Cardinals to seven NL Central titles, two Wild Card appearances, three pennants and two World Series wins. The last of those came in 2011 over the Rangers; La Russa promptly retired, thus becoming the first manager ever to go out on top. In all he compiled a record of 2728-2365 and a .536 winning percentage. Only Connie Mack managed (and lost) more games, only Mack and John McGraw won more, and only Cox and Torre took more teams to the postseason.


2015 Golden Era Committee Ballot @ SI.com

Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at SI.com for this site.

The Golden Era is one of three periods defined by the Hall when it split the Veterans Committee into three subcommittees in 2010. It covers those candidates whose careers had their greatest impact between 1947 and 1972; the other periods are the Pre-Integration Era (up to 1946) and the Expansion Era (1973 onward). Candidates from each era are considered on a triennial cycle; the last Golden Era vote, conducted in December 2011, saw Ron Santo finally elected, albeit a year after he had passed away.

Part 1: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Jim Kaat

Part 2: Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant, Maury Wills

Results (another shutout)

Minnie Minoso obit (March 2015)

2017 Today’s Game Era Committee Ballot @ SI.com

Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at SI.com for this site.

Hall of Fame reorganizes era-based committees (July 2016)

This past July (during the Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend festivities), the institution announced what amounts to a redistricting. Instead of candidates being divided into three chronological eras—the Pre-Integration Era (1871–1946), Golden Era (’47–72), and Expansion Era (’73 onward)—to be voted upon in a triennial cycle, they’ve now been separated into four eras to be voted upon with differing frequencies within a ten-year cycle, because the earlier eras have been more thoroughly picked over by past committees, often to the Hall’s detriment. Besides the Today’s Game Era (for candidates whose greatest contribution came from 1988 onward), the other three eras are Early Baseball (1871–1949), Golden Days (’50–69) and Modern Baseball (’70–87).

..As I noted in July, while the focus on more recent eras is laudable, the years chosen as dividing lines create some questions with regards to classifying candidates, even when the stated goal is to do so by the era in which each player had the greatest impact. That’s less of an issue with this slate than the Modern Baseball one, though if you’re wondering why Jack Morris—whose 1991 World Series Game 7 shutout stands as his signature moment—isn’t on this ballot, it’s because the bulk of his career (’77–95) and major accomplishments came prior to ’88. From among the 10 candidates on the Today’s Game slate…

Part 1: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser

Part 2: Mark McGwire

Part 3: Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella (as managers)

Part 4: Bud Selig

Part 5: John Schuerholz, George Steinbrenner

Results: Schuerholz, Selig elected

2016 Pre-Integration Committee Ballot @ SI.com

Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at SI.com for this site.

Given the timing (which was more than three weeks ahead of last year’s post-World Series release), only the most charitable reading can counter the inference that the Hall isn’t exactly bursting with pride over this election. Not because there are glaring faults with its candidates, but because the era-based process means shining yet another spotlight on the game’s interminable all-white period, and because the process itself hardly looks like a winner, particularly with the institution having apparently closed the book on candidates from the Negro Leagues. At a time when Major League Baseball is justifiably coming under fire for its lack of diversity among managers and general managers, it’s difficult to miss the fact that the three-for-one split of the Veterans Committee starting with the 2012 induction year has produced a lack of color…

Part 1: Doc Adams, Sam Breadon, Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell,

Part 2: Garry Hermann, Marty Marion, Frank McCormick, Harry Stovey, Chris von der Ahe, Bucky Walters

Results (another shutout).

‘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!

The Indie Leagues

I didn’t know there was such a thing as the Indie Baseball Bestseller List, but there is, via the American Bookseller Association, and The Cooperstown Casebook is on it. It’s published “In celebration of the Major League Baseball postseason,… based on sales at independent bookstores nationwide for the eight-week period ending October 1, 2017.”

The list goes 25 deep, and my book is at number seven among familiar names like Michael Lewis, Tom Verducci, Jeff Passan, Keith Law, Ben Lindbergh, Roger Angell (!), Marty Appel, and, via as-told-tos, ex-players such as David Ortiz, David Ross, Rick Ankiel and Chipper Jones. No doubt having Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore to fulfill requests for signed, personalized copies is part of that, as is the IndieBound system. Thanks to everyone who chose to support their local independent bookstore in buying the Casebook.

The Hall of Miller and Eric Q&A

I’d stumbled across The Hall of Miller and Eric a few times over the years, a blog in which two self-described “baseball obsessives” have built their own alternative shrine based on their analysis and methodology, mirroring the size of the actual Hall but doing their level-headed best to get it right. So of course I was down for a Q&A about The Cooperstown Casebook with HOME’s Eric Chalek. A taste:

Eric: Something cool about The Cooperstown Casebook was how many different perspectives you personally brought to the writing: Fan, critic, BBWAA member, researcher, analyst. Over the years, how have these experiences changed how you think about the Hall?

Jay: I’m not sure I’ve thought about it in quite those terms before, but I’d say that the different perspectives reflect my own growth and the expansion of my horizons. When I started writing about the Hall voting at Futility Infielder in the winter of 2001-2002, I was a moonlighting graphic designer, just a fan who wanted to share some of my knowledge and perspective while connecting with others.

Pretty quickly, once I brought the project to Baseball Prospectus in late 2003, I developed a more critical edge, and the backbone of this book is a few of the major beefs that I had with the Hall as it stood, namely the omissions of Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo and the mess that the Veterans Committee had made that had permanently compromised the Hall. Each of those topics has a chapter devoted to it in the first half of the book.

Eventually, I was able to devote myself to writing about baseball full time. Not only did I get to  sharpen my analytical and researching skills, I was given a platform to produce what might be the largest annual volume of Hall-related writing at SI.com — my editor, Ted Keith, let me run wild with the topic in December, basically. I was admitted into the BBWAA (for 2011) and was eventually able to participate in a committee that examined the case for changing the voting process; I was involved in drafting the final proposal that was submitted to the Hall of Fame board of directors. The proposal was tabled, but BBWAA voters do read my work and sometimes cite it when explaining how they filled out their ballots.

I’ve gone from being a total outsider to something of an insider, even if I don’t yet get to vote.

The Trip to Texas

There is no shortage of highlights or documentary evidence from my unforgettable August 25 adventure at the El Paso Chihuahuas game. My deepest thanks  to the Chihuahuas, who rolled out the red carpet for me: VP/GM Brad Taylor and his staff, including Angela Olivas, Andy Imfeld, Alex O’Connor and play-by-play man Tim Hagerty, who let me hang out in the booth; sponsor Loren Hodges and Longhorn Distributing, who underwrote this adventure; Scott Lewis of Townsquare Media, who documented it; and Steve Kaplowitz of ESPN El Paso, who conceived it and hosted me. You’re Hall of Famers in my book!

Out in the West Texas Town of El Paso

For nearly 10 years, I’ve been doing weekly radio spots — covering not just baseball but craft beer — with Steve Kaplowitz of ESPN El Paso. In early 2015, he was able to bring me down to his fair town for a craft beer fest. This time around, he’s arranged to bring me to the August 24 Chihuahuas game to promote The Cooperstown Casebook:

Jay’s second appearance in the Sun City is sponsored by Longhorn Distributing.

The book is Jay’s first and takes a sabermetric look at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Over the years, Jaffe has developed his own metric for analyzing a player’s Hall of Fame resume. His JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system) has been adopted by Baseball Reference and other websites as well as individuals who take a closer look at a baseball player’s Hall of Fame resume. The Cooperstown Casebook is a must for any baseball fan and Jay will also be throwing out the first pitch tomorrow night as well as spend an inning in the radio booth with Tim Hagerty.

First pitch! Color commentary in the broadcast booth! This should be a lot of fun. Now, who wants to hear some Marty Robbins?