Out of the Frying Pan
by Jessica Polko
Tomorrow the National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the Class of 2002. Today you can read Rotohelp's opinion of the candidates and view the ballot we would submit if eligible.
Before we begin our alphabetical review of the candidates, I want to give you an overview of our standards. The official rules for election state that "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." From that statement we have interpreted and extrapolated the following standards.
First and foremost a player must have acquired fame. It's in the name. These players are being elected to the Hall of Fame. Their achievements will be recorded and then taught to new generations of fans at Cooperstown. Some players have earned that immortilization, and as out of character as it might be for sabermetricians to hold this view, they deserve election regardless of their specific statistics.
Next we look to see if a player demonstrated a significant achievement. In many cases this will be part of why they are famous, but there are circumstances under which players have quietly made significant achievements. Examples include the old standbys of 300 wins, 500 homers, and 3,000 hits for pre-1980 players, as well as contributions to the game such as redefining the previous conception of a position, i.e: Ripken as a big, power-hitting shortstop and Rickey Henderson hitting for power as a leadoff man.
Moving on, we look to see if a player dominated at his position for a decade or more. A good indication of domination of a position today can be found in the All-Star records. If a player was an All-Star at least 5 times in his career than there is probably a case to be made for his induction.
After that, we look for players who just seem to belong vs. those who just don't fit the décor. Whenever I think of this standard I am always reminded of the Sesame Street segment where they play the game with the background music of "One of These Things is Not Like the Others". The best way to make this comparison is with the similarity scores readily available for every player at Baseball Reference.
Finally we look at how a player rates as a whole. They really only need to fit into one category, but a player who is only borderline in one area will probably be ignored, whereas a player who is borderline in several or all categories will probably have enough going for them to receive a vote. We will also consider a player's personality in order to assess how well they meet the "integrity, sportsmanship, character" criteria. Those that receive votes in a given year are the top ten most deserving; no special exceptions are made for borderline players in the last year of their eligibility.
Bert Blyleven ranks 4th on the career strikeout list and finished among the top ten in ERA in his league ten times during his career. He accomplished these feats while spending the majority of his career in hitters' parks. Given his significant strikeout achievement and his domination, we believe that Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame.
Gary Carter was probably either the second or third best catcher in baseball during the 70's and 80's. He was a leader on the field, is one of the best-known Montreal Expos, and anchored the '86 Mets. He had 11 All-Star appearances during his career and won 3 Gold Gloves. Carter probably has the fame, and he certainly dominated as an offensive catcher. We believe that Gary Carter belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Andre Dawson is very well known to fans of the Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs, but most other baseball fans also remember him in large part because of his 49 HR, MVP season in 1987. Dawson's significant achievement lies in his ability to combine both speed and power in his offensive career (432HR/314SB). His accomplishments were not limited to offense, as he also won 8 Gold Gloves during his career. Dawson was a Rookie of the Year and went to the All-Star game 8 times. Despite his relatively low OBP, his achievements, dominance, and fame lead us to believe that he should be in the Hall of Fame.
Lenny Dykstra is fairly well known, but his fame developed mostly from his gritty play and his habit of chewing tobacco. While Dykstra is a relatively interesting player, we do not believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Steve Garvey was a power-hitting first baseman with relatively good defensive skills in his time, but overall his numbers do not match up with those already in the Hall. He has the fame, but a good deal of his publicity over the years has been negative and related to his lack of discipline in his interactions with the fairer sex, making his personality a bit of an issue. While he probably deserves further consideration, we do not feel he deserves a vote this year.
Rich Gossage was a top reliever and one of the first true closers. Though he probably held on too long, he was one of the most feared pitchers in baseball during his peak. The fact that he finished in the top 6 players in MVP voting 4 times as a reliever, finished in the top 6 in Cy Young voting 5 times, and participated in 10 All-Star Games gives some indication of his dominance. Relievers are absolutely a class of player apart from other players, and as one of the top relievers in history, Gossage deserves a place in the Hall of Fame.
Mike Greenwell was the heir to the Boston LF legacy of Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice, but he represents the break in that line of superstars. While he had a few good seasons and a respectable career, we do not believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Ron Guidry does not make our ballot this season but probably deserves further consideration next year. Best known for his dominant 25 win season with the Yankees in 1978, Guidry was a very good pitcher for a brief period of time.
Mike Henneman was a good closer for the Tigers, but we do not believe he is Hall of Fame material.
Keith Hernandez has a solid claim to the title of "Best Defensive First Baseman in History", which is probably significant enough to earn him a home in the Hall of Fame, but we will have to consider him further next year as there is no room on our ballot this year. Hernandez earned 11 Gold Gloves during his career while putting up very respectable offensive numbers and is known as one of the more intelligent players of his era.
Tommy John has 288 career wins, a number obviously very close to 300 and was a very good pitcher, finishing in the top 8 in Cy Young voting 4 times. However, his ground-breaking recovery from the elbow ligament replacement surgery that now bears his name provides us with reason enough to vote him into the Hall of Fame. He paved the way for hundreds of pitchers to have surgery and then return to the majors to either finish, or in the case of some younger pitchers, begin careers.
Jim Kaat also has close to 300 career wins (283). However, the most impressive aspect of his career is likely his defense, as Greg Maddux is probably the only pitcher who even comes close to rivaling him for the title of "Best Defensive Pitcher Ever". Kaat earned 16 consecutive Gold Gloves. While some consider the span of his career as a factor that depreciates his statistics, his longevity was admirable. We believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Don Mattingly was probably the best player in baseball for a couple short years. However, his numbers do not really hold up over the whole of his career. While he likely deserved to have his number retired by the Yankees, he does not make our ballot this year, though he will likely receive further consideration next year.
Jack Morris is best known for his 10 inning shutout in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series. Overall he had a solid career as an acknowledged ace, which compares favorably to some very good Hall of Famers, and though he loses points for personality, we believe he deserves a spot in the Hall.
Dale Murphy would probably already be in the Hall if he had hit two more home runs, but he and his 398 dingers are still waiting. During his career, Murphy won two consecutive MVPs, 5 Gold Gloves, and was the anchor of the Atlanta Braves during some very bad years. He receives extra points for having one of the best personalities in baseball history, but we cannot put him on our ballot this year, so we will have to give him further consideration next year.
Jim Rice is another player that did not make our ballot this year. While Rice probably deserves a spot in the Hall for his continuation of the run of dominating Boston left fielders, we cannot currently justify voting for him over any of the other players on our ballot this year.
Jeff Russell was a good closer for Texas, but does not deserve a place in the Hall of Fame.
Scott Sanderson does not appear to have any characteristics or accomplishments that merit induction into the Hall of Fame.
Ozzie Smith is a player whose fame by itself should earn him a place in the Hall. What baseball fan alive in the 80's doesn't remember his back flips? If you need more than that, just look at his 13 consecutive Gold Gloves. He's certainly the best defensive shortstop in memory, and he's probably the best in history. He gets our vote.
Dave Stewart was considered an extremely menacing pitcher in his day, but the majority of his reputation was the result of pitching for teams with great offenses. We do not believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Bruce Sutter may have had a short career, but he certainly dominated during that time span. Sutter won one Cy Young and finished in the top 6 in votes 4 times. He also finished in the top 8 in MVP voting 5 times and made 6 trips to the All-Star game. However, these accomplishments are almost negligible compared to the contribution he made to the game with the development of the split-fingered fastball. Sutter deserves a place in the Hall.
Robby Thompson had a good run as the Giants second baseman, but does not in any way belong in the Hall of Fame.
Luis Tiant had some very good seasons with the Indians and the Red Sox, and likely deserves future consideration by the Veterans Committee, but he does not fit on our ballot this year. Many people may remember the Cuban player for his unusual pitching motion.
Alan Trammell was one of the best shortstops in the American League in the 80's. He and Lou Whitaker made up the Tigers' double play combination for over a decade. Trammell won 4 Gold Gloves, went to the All-Star Game 6 times, and finished in the top 9 in MVP votes 3 times. We believe he deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Frank Viola was one of the better lefties in the late 80's and early 90's, but he was not an extremely dominating pitcher during his career. We do not think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Tim Wallach appears to have had a quality career, though one without any outstanding accomplishments. We do not believe he belongs in the Hall.
1. Bert Blyleven
2. Gary Carter
3. Andre Dawson
4. Rich "Goose" Gossage
5. Tommy John
6. Jim Kaat
7. Jack Morris
8. Ozzie Smith
9. Bruce Sutter
10. Alan Trammell
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