Time for Spring Training and I'm looking forward to it. This will be the third and final post on this subject. I've done quite a bit of research on past, present and future candidates and find it quite interesting. There's even a forum to debate on the subject.
First, I want to address the previous posts in which I declared that I was "on the fence" about a few candidates. I've come to a decision and here it is:
Jeff Bagwell- YES. Short of 500 HRs but looks very strong on OPS. Innocent until proven guilty on the steroid charges but suspicion remains. I cannot vote for McGriff and against Bagwell.
Mike Piazza- NO. Admitted using Andro, which I believe to be a cover for harder drugs as was the case with McGwire. Fell of sharply after testing began.
Alex Rodriguez- NO. Been implicated in another scandal after admitting to doping for 3 years. I don't care if he breaks Bonds' record, my mind is made up.
Here's a typical profile of a player who falls just short (significant support but below the 75% threshold) Also known as the Hall of Very Good:
-comes up to the bigs at 23 and is good immediately.
-7 year peak from 26-32 in which he is superstar caliber.
-drops off a bit from 33-37 but remains an above average player.
-falls off at 38 and at best is ordinary and is sometimes released because he can barely hit .200. He may hang on for another year or 2 as a platoon player but it's sad to see that from a star player. Retire before that happens.
How do you get over top? I've addressed that a bit before but I want to expand on it.
1. Longevity. In rare cases, a player does not fall off at 38 and can remain productive until age 41. By productive, I mean that a player can still hit .270ish with 15-20 HRs. He plays 3 years longer and is able to compile another 400 hits and 50 home runs, putting him over the magic milestones. They should be given credit for that. That's why Dave Winfield made it and Dave Parker did not. Same with pitchers. If you can still help your team as a #3-4 starter at 40+, stick around. I believe Tommy John belongs and possibly Jim Kaat. Jamie Moyer? NO. If you stick around for 3 extra years as a fringe 5th starter or a platoon player hitting .250 with little power, that does not impress me. Those guys need 3,000 hits or other milestones. Chipper Jones will likely get in despite falling short but he was still good even in his last year.
2. Longer peak year period. Let's say that you can have a 10 year peak (25-34) in which you are among the best in the game. Hit 360 homers in 10 years, then you only need to average 20 for the other 7 to get to 500. By contrast, if you can only sustain excellence for 6-7 years, you need 25 HRs per year to make 500, which is tough to do at 37 or 38.
3. Extreme dominance in a short career. Hit 50 homers per year for a 6 year period and do it clean. You're probably in even if you are only average for another 6-8 years. Those cases are rare and when they do drop off 33-36, they're still better than the peak of a borderline HOFer and go down as among the best to ever play.
Now, I'd like to evaluate a few others that I neglected before.
1. Jeff Kent- close YES. His power number are under par for 1B or OF but for a 2nd baseman, he's one of the best offensively and compares favorably to Ryne Sandberg. I predict that he gets in but not on the first ballot.
2. Alan Trammell- Tough NO. Trammell was a class act and I like that he only played for one team. Some people compare him to Barry Larkin, who got in on the 3rd ballot. Trammell is usually around 30%. I also would have voted for Larkin and against Trammell. Larkin has a slight edge in HR and BA and nearly a 50 point edge in OPS. Larkin is clearly superior. Trammell needed 2,500 hits and/or 200 homers. If only he had stayed healthy near the end, he's in. There's a fine line between HOF careers and close but no cigar. I agree that the bar must be kept high. Students who score 88% are short of an "A" by only 1 question per 50 point test but there must be a cut off that separates good from great.
3.Vladamir Guerrero- YES. Shorter but excellent career. Short of 500 HRs and only 2,590 hits but his .318 BA and .553 slugging is very impressive. Slightly better than Bagwell. I predict that he too will get in but not on the first ballot.
4. Icharo- YES. Late start to career so he may not get to 3,000 hits. He's 38 and needs 3 more decent years to hit 3,000. With a .322 BA, great defense and speed, he's in and will likely make it on the first ballot.
5. Omar Vizquel- Tough NO. Compiler who has played until 45 and has been a platoon player for the past 5 years. He's a career .272 hitter with no power. Ozzie Smith got in based on defense and Vizquel was very strong in that area as well but Smith was arguably the best fielder ever at any position. Vizquel is not in that class. He needed 3,000 hits and came up just short.
I think all of these player fell a little bit short but deserved a longer look than they got.
1. Harold Baines- Stayed on the ballot for 4 years but never got to 10%. He finished with 2,866 hits and 389 home runs. Here's how close he was: He was robbed of about 100 hits and 20 home runs by 2 player strikes during his career. With 3,000 hits and 400 homers, you've got to put him in. I'd put him in with 2,950+ hits but as it is, he's just short. A knock on him is that he was primarily a DH. He didn't help his team with good fielding but did not hurt it by poor fielding. It is only a mild impediment in my book.
2. Al Oliver- 2,743 hits and a .303 BA yet he was one and done at less than 5%. Also hurt by the strike in '81, which prevented him from 2,800. All he needed was 2 more years as a .270 hitter and he still finishes at .300 with 3,000 hits. Again, you've got to put him then but as it is, he's just short.
3. Lou Whitaker- Comparable to HOFers Joe Morgan yet he too was one and done. Morgan made it on the first ballot with a slash line of .271/.392/.427 with 2517 hits and 268 HRs. Whitaker's line was .276/.363/.426 with 2,369 hits and 244 HRs. Morgan did have a superior career but certainly not so much that it's 1st ballot vs one and done. I'm not sure Whitaker deserves induction but I hope he gets a good look from the Veteran's Committee.
4. Julio Franco- Another one and done player with impressive and unique credentials. .298 BA, 2,586 hits and he could still hit .270 at the age of 47. With a .300 BA and 3,000 hits, you've got to put him in even as a compiler without a ton of power. He lost 1 year playing in Japan and 2 more playing in Korea and should get at least some credit for that. If he had spent those years in MLB instead, I believe he may have hit .300 and would certainly have made 3,000 hits. He's over 4,000 if you include all of his time in professional baseball. I may even go as far as a YES on this one.