Wednesday, January 6, 2010

There Are Too Many Hall of Famers

As the world awaits the final tally of this year's Hall of Fame vote, I figured what better time than now to weigh in and share a slightly different opinion than the ones Ive seen on other blogs.


This is not a knock on Alomar, The Hawk, Larkin or Blyleven. I feel that the "Hall of Fame" has been compromised. It's become the Hall of Pretty Good, the Hall of Above Average, and is no longer a place where ONLY the true greats of the game are enshrined. In my opinion there are already too many players enshrined in Cooperstown, and a large percentage of them may not deserve the honor which was bestowed upon them.

Given that the so-called "golden age" of baseball has all but disappeared in the rear-view, I think it's time for a criteria change. You should have a record-breaking career in order to be elected, or you should have had to have been one of the top 2-3 players at your respective position for the era in which you played. Using this criteria, I think everyone on this year's ballot is not worthy. Not that they all weren't good, or even great players, I just don't think they were the best.

Take Barry Larkin for example. He was not among the top 2-3 shortstops of his era (Ripken, Yount, The Wizard), nor did he put up particularly outstanding numbers. He did however have a very nice, solid, long career. Is that enough to make you a Hall of Famer? In my opinion, no. If there were a Hall of Very Good, Larkin is a first ballot inductee, no questions asked. I feel the same way about both Dawson and Blyleven.

About the only player on this year's ballot that I can make a case for is Alomar. I have him as the third best second baseman of his era, behind only Sandberg and Biggio (who isn't yet eligible) . Alomar was solid both defensively, and at the plate, but to me, his career numbers aren't mind blowing. What gets Alomar in to the Hall in my opinion is the fact that there weren't a whole lot of players better at the position than he was for his time. What I do not think however, is that Roberto Alomar is a first ballot Hall of Famer. He deserves to get in, and most likely will at some point, but this year, I think there shouldn't be anyone elected.

If you think I'm being too rash, and my criteria isn't detailed, or complicated enough, so be it. I would love to hear your reasons why I am wrong, and why you think I am an idiot. Peter Gammons said the best way to decide who is in and who is out is simply first impression, without having to look at numbers. If someone walked up to you and said "Do you think Andre Dawson should be in the Hall of Fame" I think most people's first instinct would be to say "No". I encourage you to do that with everyone on the ballot this year, and if there is anyone that immediately jumps out at you as an obvious "Yes", please state your case. I would love to hear it.


  1. I have to agree, no one on the list jumps out and makes you say "hell yeah". Any5thing short of that is not HOF material.

  2. Can't say I agree 100%, but very well done post... Perez, Rice and Sutter have weakened the quality in my opinion which makes you think "if they are in, why isn't he?". The thing is all of those guys will go in someday-I mean the veterans committee put in Nellie Fox and Bill Mazeroski-why make these guys wait till they're 80 years old or dead? Its a tough case. The All time hit king and homerun king aren't in there and probably wont, so that for me throws stats out the window. I think that Bert, Dawson, McGriff, Raines, Smith, etc were better players than alot of guys who already have plaques. Its a catch 22. Do you repeat the same mistakes to validate the original mistakes? I think they will.

  3. I agree there are too many but it becomes an issue of punishment. Why punish the players of the 1970s and 1980s because they put too many players from earlier years. There is also the issue of race. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when the veterns committee was voting in players left and right (Do you know Rick Farrell a catcher is a Hall of Famer. He is the equivalent of Brad Asmus today)95% white by they way no one complained. Now when more of the candidates are Black and Black Latin players no one wants to let them in.

  4. Can you name a shortstop in the National League who had a better decade than Barry Larkin in the 1990's? He was the premiere player at his position in the NL. Take away Ozzie's rep and you can add 3 more Gold Gloves to Larkin's total. From 1987 until 2000 there was no more complete and respected shortstop in the game. Only problem is he is caught in the middle of eras. Cal came along and changed the way people looked at SS by adding power to the position. Before then it was defense first. While Cal had more hits and therefore more RBI's, runs, etc. He did less on base. Less SB and a lower OBP which means he walked less and ran out more singles.
    Also, Cal had 30+ more errors than Barry at SS in just 100 more games. If I had a way to look it up I can guarantee Cal turned less double plays than Barry.
    Just because someone is not beloved by the media outside of their hometown team like Cal and Ozzie were does not make their career less than them. If you compare just numbers between Barry and Ozzie, Larkin had a better hitting career and almost the same fielding career.

  5. Bay Rat- The book on Cal begins and ends with the consecutive games streak. That alone may make him a Hall of Famer. That is the one thing he will always have over Larkin. I'm not dis-respecting Barry in any way, shape, or form. but as someone who grew up in the 80's, and loved the hell out of 80's baseball, Larkin is not the first, second, or third name out of my mouth when the subject of Hall of Fame shortstops of the era comes up.

    The fact that he may have been the best NL shortstop of the 90s shouldn't matter. The NL was pretty weak at the position at the time. There are at least 2, if not 3 better than him in the AL, Ripken, Alex Rodriguez and maybe even Jeter.

  6. I'm going to gripe with you briefly, using Larkin as an example. Using the argument that 2-3 players per era (per position) should be able to get in, you cite three players of his era who were better: Ripken, Yount and Larkin. Ripken is an obvious one. However, Yount was a full-time outfielder by 1985 (a year before Larkin's debut) and Smith, defensive whiz as he was, was an inferior player all-around. I fear that using the "do they feel like a Hall of Famer" approach, recalls specific memories, media hype/coverage (backflips, anyone?), or even a favorite baseball card in lieu of actual performance. Larkin played in Cincy for God's Sake--when was the last time you thought of them?

    Everybody has his own approach, but I think that the "small hall" movement actually belies the intent that the Hall of Fame has always had--recognize players for a career of exceptional performance. That doesn't mean that they have to be the very best (singular), but rather among the very best in their era and throughout history.

    I think that Larkin, and others on this ballot, fit that bill.

  7. Alomar was just solid defensively? He won the most gold gloves of any second baseman (10) in the history of baseball. His highlight reel is right up there with Ozzie Smith.

    Peter Gammons himself states that Alomar is one of the four of five best second baseman ever(Offense/Defense).

    How is Alomar not better than Biggio at 2nd? Biggio won just four gold gloves. Biggio was no more productive at the plate. In fact, he was slightly less productive.

    But Biggio and Sandberg also rank in the top 10 of the best second baseman ever. I think the fact that all three played in the same era tends to hurt their standing. It suddenly makes their greatness more common. Sorta like when Arod, Nomar and Jeter were all at SS.

    The entire panel on the MLB channel just now was absolutely shocked and stunned that Alomar didn't make it (Gammons, Costas etc). They said it never even crossed their minds that Alomar wouldn't get in this year.

    Alomar's standing on the all-time list for second baseman:

    6th in hits
    7th in runs
    10th in rbis
    1st in gold gloves
    4th in stolen bases.

    I can agree with your premise about the Hall of Fame being watered down, to a degree. However that comes almost exclusively from the Veteran's Committee not the BBWAA.

    The VC spent decades slipping their pals into the Hall of Fame until finally it was acknowledged there was a big issue. In 2001 the people already IN the HOF took over the VC and the watering down stopped immediately.

    Unfortunately we have a disproportionate number of players from the 30's, 40's and 50's in the HOF because of the original VC configuration.

    The BBWAA itself is incredibly stingy. And in an effort to correct the mistakes of the VC, they have effectively punished greats of the modern era.

    Alomar is certainly a player that should have been an easy first ballot Hall of Famer.

    FYI...5 voters submitted completely blank ballots this year. Let's start by kicking them out of the voting pool.

    Another writer submitted a ballot with just Barry Larkin and Dave Parker. Let's make him explain why he chose those two but decided Alomar was not worthy.

    Let's have the voters write up their thoughts when they vote or don't vote (as CCC suggested). Their reasoning matters and needs to be evaluated.

    I'm guessing the voter for just Parker and Larkin just happens to loves Cincy. Who knows? It's often that simplistic and that's the problem.

  8. Again you have to look at what it meant to be a SS before Cal redefined the position. Barry is one of the best ever in that old mold of good hitting, excellent fielding and commanding presence on the field.
    I also grew up on 80's baseball and loved me some Ozzie and Cal. But they had a certain on camera flair that Barry lacked. Take away the back flips and two throws in the 1982 WS and Ozzie is as avg as Larkin in perception even though nothing got by him. Like Larkin.
    "The fact that he may have been the best NL shortstop of the 90s shouldn't matter."
    That is just an wasted statement to me. How can not being the best in the NL for a decade not matter? That is one of the criteria for HOF entry. Being the top notch over an extended period. If not, Joey Belle would be a shoe in for his 5 year streak. Mattingly would be first ballot before his injury. As far as A. Rod and Jeter, they came into their own in the late 90's after Barry had 10 years under his belt and cemented their numbers in the 2000's. And they were in the Cal mold. Not classic field first, hit second SS mold. It's like who was a better player. Ruth or Cobb when Cobb never pitched. I feel Ruth was better but he got less votes than Cobb for induction.
    I am just trying to show how us Larkin fans see this. Not coming strong at ya. Tony Gwynn just said on MLB Homeplate radio that Alomar and Larkin are HOF members. Alomar was the best he played with and Larkin was the best SS he played against in the 90's. Just sayin'.

  9. I have total respect for Peter Gammons and believe he's one of the greatest baseball writers/minds/icons of our time. But I can't agree on his "first instinct" rule.

    That may work for him and for other writers who have great minds and think logically, but I shudder to think what others would come up with using the "first instinct" rule.

    Great players deserve more than that. They deserve people who vote based on the viewing of the player's entire career combined with statistical analysis. They deserve a smart, thorough examination of their career.

    I do think there is more sympathy for adding MORE players rather than FEWER. I'm not sure whether I agree with that. I just know there are a handful of folks that aren't in that should be, and there are a handful of folks who are in that probably shouldn't.

  10. Once again, I am NOT knocking Larkin, and I am NOT a Ripken homer. He was one of my least favorite Orioles growing up, and I always thought he was sort of overrated in the same way that Larkin is underrated. All I am saying is that when you ask me to name the 3 best shortstops of the 80's & 90's, Larkins is not on my list. This whole post was supposed to be about how the Hall of Fame lets about anyone in these days, and not just players who are truly special, and one of a kind. In my opinion, Larkin falls just short. It's not my fault that the NL was weak in the SS department during the era in which Larkin played, but that happens to be the case. Unfortunately, there are 2 leagues that make up MLB, and Larkin falls just outside my top 3 best shortstops of the 80's & 90's.

    He's going to get in next year anyway, so don't worry about it.

  11. Night Owl- You're absolutely right about there being some players in who shouldn't be, and some players who aren't in that should be. Doesn't that kind of taint the Hall of Fame for you? Is there any way to audit the current inductees? Do we get a do-over?

  12. Forgot to add:
    Great topic. Enjoy a good debate every once in a while. Brings out the best in baseball fans.

  13. Field of Cards- Excellent point about the greatness of a group of players at a certain position watering down the accomplishments of their peers. I think this logic applies not only to Alomar, but to Larkin as well.

  14. Thanks Bay Rat, and I agree. There's nothing like a spirited conversation, especially when everyone is respectful about it, like you have been.

    Actually, I am shocked no one has called me a dumbass or moron yet.

    The door is open..... :)

  15. Night owl,
    SCD about two years ago made a great suggestion. Make a room in the Hall of Fame. Call it Hall of Imomrtals. The top 5 at each position are put in the room. Every 5 years have an evaluation by Hall Members only to see if someone should go in and a player should come out. That way you don't have Don Sutton and Joe Gordon on the same level as Walter Johnson and Joe Morgan. THAT would be a true debate who got in that room. Aaron or Mays in 2 spot in centerfield? DiMaggio over them? That os the way to seperate the greats of the game from the guys who had Hall numbers.

  16. Didn't read all the comments, but I just gotta say...

    Larkin was WAY better than Ozzie.

    That said, I think differently of the Hall of Fame. Most see it as a place where the greats are enshrined, and I agree to an extent. But I also see it as a place of historical significance and believe that players like Murphy, Morris, and even Dave Parker should be recognized for their achievements.

    Basically, I don't think anyone should be excluded (except for the stinkin' cheaters) and will not begrudge anyone (except for the stinkin' cheaters) for induction into the Hall of Fame.

  17. Beardy ~ I don't know if I would use the word "taint." Mistakes were made in the past and we're supposed to learn from our mistakes and improve things. Unless it's discovered that there was corruption in the voting process -- bribes, etc., then I think it's best to assume the players were voted in by people who voted to the best of their abilities at the time, and leave it at that. Their votes are almost a reflection of history at the time. What was valued in a ballplayer then might be different than now.

    I think one way of improving things is for the Hall to revamp the voting rules -- don't give the writers such free reign, basically.

    BayRat ~ Wow. That REALLY would spark more debate. We might see some fistfights.

  18. Didn't read all of the comments yet, but I tend to agree with you overall. I think players in the Hall should be GREAT. That being said, I think Alomar, Blyleven, and especially Raines where all great. They all should be in. How Raines is getting only 30% is beyond me.

    BTW - thewritersjourney knows we are talking about baseball, right? Because I could have sworn he just wrote that Larkin was WAY better than Ozzie. (just funnin')

  19. Here are the Top SS of all time:
    Honus Wagner
    Cal Ripken
    Arky Vaughn
    Ozzie Smith
    Barry Larkin
    Lou Boudreau
    Alan Trammell
    You can throw Jeter and AROD in there were ever you like below #1
    that is the list all time....guys like Yount and ernie Banks spent so much time at other positions they cant compare to these guys.
    Beardy your watered down point is so true among OF and 1B types but we have top 10 all time great SS and 2B not getting in(Alomar, Larkin and Trammell) when guys who are not even or are barely in the top 100 OF's of all time are getting in(you all know who they are). Sure offensive numbers look good on OF compared to SS and 2B but why are those guys in the OF? Because they couldn't hack the defense to play in the infield that HAS to count for something......
    Then when you factor in the fact that OBP has been way undervalued when it comes to this process.....well I should stop because a few of you know I can really go off on this topic....
    sorry for the rant.

  20. Wow, I love the conversation this has started. This is clearly one topic that everyone has a well-formed opinion on.

    Duane- My point is most definitely watered-down, and for good reason. You pretty much nailed it by pointing out it's validity among other position players.

    Bay Rat- I think the "Hall of Immortals" should be what the Hall of Fame is to begin with.

  21. Beardy-- Let's head to the HOF and blow it up together.

    Then, we can retool it and mak it truly the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Above Average or the Hall of Merely Good (but, we will have seperate wings and floors for those players).

    I think Hawk should have been in many seasons before (his numbers compare very favorably to many, if not most, of all the OF's in the HOF) but I wouldn't say Robbie was a 1st balloter either (Biggio was better durign the same stretch and player a little catcher and outfield to boot).

    If you want, check out my latest blog post, as it is about the Hall of Fame as well.

  22. excepting that the BBWA then goes and over looks a guy like Tim Raines who is one of the all-time greats at LF...sure he doesn't match the top 5 there---heck no one does....but he is a Top 10 all time LF. But he didnt hit a bunch of HR and he was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson....who did everything he did only better. If there is no Rickey, Tim Raines would be viewed as An all time great lead off type hitter, so how is that his fault that he played at the same tim as the greatest ever at his niche---i guess.
    oh well he did coke so keep him out I guess.
    Oh Dawson only compares to the worst of the OFers in the hall not the best.
    Who hear wants to make the case that Dawson is in the top 10 all time among CF or even top 30 all time among OF? no one because he is no where close. I think it is very easy to make the cases for Alomar and Larkin for sure in the Top 10 all time at 2b and SS, heck they could even be in discussion for Top 5 at their positions. Oh and Trammell as a Top 10 SS as well. This is where the hall is getting watered down...too damn many OF who are no where near being great for the position they play.

  23. Dawson wasn't even close to the best player on the ballot. He is behind McGriff, Alomar, Blyleven, Raines...who else?...others I'm sure.

    In fact Dawson got on base less than an average major leaguer (with park adjustments included). A .323 OBP is deplorable.

    This whole game is about not making outs. OBP outranks Slugging substantially.

    If your life depended on winning baseball games and you selected Dawson over Tim Raines to fill out your roster, you'd lose your life.

    Raines was without question a better player.

    And look at the difference in the votes.

    The good news about all this is the spotlight on the voters has never been brighter. Evaluating statistics has taken huge leaps forward recently, and when voters do not attempt to educate themselves, they become more and more glaringly inexcusable.

    I'm not anti-Dawson. He was a blast to watch. I only use him as an example because many superior players have been ignored.

  24. The game isn't about "not making outs" it's about scoring the most runs. At the end of the game, whoever leads in the R column, wins.

    How did five writers not even submit a ballot?

    You're right, this isn't the best ballot of all time. It will be nothing compared to some of the ones 5-15 years from now with Randy Johnson, Maddux-Smoltz-Glavine era guys, and of course "the short stops" (though only Jeter will make it as a SS, ARod is a 3B and Nomar, I hate to say it, will not be a HOFer.)

    In respect to Alomar, he was top 10 in every category for 2B, but he spit at an umpire, and more than likely that kept him out of the Hall on this ballot.

    After recent years, with Rice and all those guys getting in, yeah, Cooperstown is getting watered down.

    All I can really say is, at least no one voted David Segui.

  25. Roy-Z,

    The teams that get on base most often (make the fewest outs per at bat) score the most runs.

    Yes, this game (offensively) is all about not making outs. There is zero room to debate that.

    Yes, this game is all about scoring the most runs. There is zero room to debate that as well.

    If players do not reach base safely they will not score runs.

    Your statement of runs scored and mine of not making outs, are mutually intertwined.

    If you take a lineup and order it from highest OBP to lowest, that is the lineup that will score the most runs over the course of a season. That is also the lineup that lists people who make the fewest outs per plate appearance.

  26. I'm with FOCs on this one. Sorry Roy-Z, if you are arguing that the game is about scoring runs then you are arguing semantics. The absolute single most important thing you can do as a hitter is not make an out.

    Of course, the team that scores the most wins, but you sure can't do that from the dugout.

  27. BTW Roy - wherever that is that you are standing in your profile picture...I wish I'd been there.

  28. No, you guys are right. You can only score runs if you get on base.

    However, there are so many intangibles in baseball that the HOF cannot be simply placed in stats. I'm saying this, even though I am a SABRmetric guy myself, frequent reader of FanGraphs, etc.

    [And the picture was taken at the Bering Glacier in Alaska.]

  29. Dear lord you weren't kidding about people jumping on this topic.

    I'm the opposite of you, I want to immortalize as many great players as possible and if they aren't as good as Babe Ruth or Walter Johnson or Joe D or Hammerin' Hank or Cal Ripken, well, who the hell WAS? There were literally 12 people on my ballot I thought would be in the hall and that's not counting a couple people who will make it in anyway. So the elitist voter crap pisses me off which is why I'm being cranky today.

    There is a light at the end of the tunnel however... The BBWAA is being so stingy with their votes, the backlog of worthy players is piling up pretty fierce. In 2013 there is going to be an absolute MONSTER first year hall class. Like 5 or 6 shoo-in hall of famers. THIS IS MY PREDICTION:

    The BBWAA continues to be bitchy about their votes. Only one of Blyleven and Alomar get in next year and only one more is inducted the year after that. That leaves a huge backlog of players sitting there for Monster Class. You can only vote for 10 players on that ballot, and half the writers only want to vote for a couple of players so you can see what happens next... A whole bunch of guys like Murphy and Trammell and Parker get booted off the ballot for dipping under 5%. Only a couple of the sure fire Hall of Famers get elected . A guy like Glavine who should be a no-Brainer doesn't even get 50% of the vote. one of the monster first years drops off completely! Wait till Raines gets dropped off the ballot, the statheads will revolt. That's when you see the backlash.

    Remember when everyone got their panties in a twist when Maz was elected by the Vet's committee and then noone got inducted for years? People will see legitimate Hall candidates getting bounced by stingy voters who let people hang around too long and will get pissed. Once they realize that most of the big stars from the '80s aren't even on the ballot anymore there will be an outcry, the BBWAA will barely avoid losing the vote and the Vet's committee will be revamped to open the floodgates.

    The Alomar thing is the start. Respected Baseball guys like Gammons are wondering aloud what the fuck is going on with the voters now. You watch... 2013-2014 Armageddon hits and I'll laugh and laugh.

  30. And yes, I'm also one of those people who firmly believes that Pluto and Charon and Eris are planets. FUCK YOU ASTRONOMERS!

  31. Pluto is totally a planet. I should know. I'm a scientist.

  32. I'm a bit surprised Alomar was left out this year... not sure what'll change about his case in the next couple years that kept off the list on his first go around. Blylevin would have an easier time if his name wasn't so weird.