Nationals Baseball: Unanimous

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Color me surprised. (Is surprise a color? I see it as a bright yellow) I didn't think Mariano would get 100% but apparently the combination of

1) being the clear best at his position, like by leaps and bounds
2) having a heap of post-season success to point to

is enough to overcome the "closers aren't real players", "no one should be unanimous if Babe Ruth wasn't", "steroid protest vote" dumb voters. Good for Mariano

Of course this doesn't really matter in two ways. Getting voted in to the Hall of Fame doesn't mean you are better than some one else. It doesn't change - you know - the actual things that happened. Harold Baines isn't suddenly better than Fred McGriff. It's a popularity contest (as it should be - we're talking about opinions and feelings about players).  And how many votes you got to get in doesn't matter. Bert Blyleven is no less in than Mariano Rivera.  And if that bothers you I don't know what to say - the cut off has to be somewhere.

As for the players who got in

I always had a soft spot for Mussina. The consistently very good over a long period of time players tend to be underrated. Aging well is a skill too! I think Hallday and Mussina were obvious choices.

I've never been a fan of pure DHs getting in, and thrown in a limited time frame of success that was great but wasn't mindblowing, I never saw Edgar as a HOFers. But like I said before - whatever!  It's not important! I mean it's important to them so great! But there's no reason to get angry about it.

Even Baines, he's clearly not a HOF, but he's in. I'll joke about it. I'll talk about it. But get angry about it? Nah.

Who didn't get in? Bonds and Clemens - for reasons. As other people note there's more to this than steroids, or at least there should be. We are talking about a likely wife beater and a likely statutory rapist, respectively. But if you do the "don't care about character, we can't throw out Ty Cobb" thing they should both be in. Schilling as well. He's not a slam dunk case, because the way his career unfolded, but he's good enough. But then again - keep them out if you want! It's your vote! We're getting your opinions on who should be in and out! If not, a computer would just pick it.

Otherwise - In my mind - Walker is good enough. McGriff, Manny, and Scott Rolen who excelled at a position that apparently it's very hard to.  I'd listen to arguments about Kent or Sheffield . I think Berkman should have gotten a little more love but probably isn't a HOF.

Feel free to state your cases in the comments - this is the fun part. discussing without making it personal.  Unless one of you are one of these guys, in that case feel free to make your own very personal case.  


Chas R said...

I'm happy for all 4 and think they all deserve it for different reasons. Rivera was not only the best Closer ever but also a great guy and teammate and that no doubt helped his 100% vote. No doubt Halladay's unfortunate demise help him, although he probably deserves to be in the HOF on performance alone.

For sure Berkman dis not deserve to be discarded on his first ballot. That's ridiculous but that's part of not playing on a high profile team. If he played in Boston or NY, he likely would have gotten enough votes to stay on the ballot for a while.

Chas R said...

Also, I do agree Mussina was a consistently very good pitcher but his HOF case is weak. Again, I'm happy for him but as Harper notes, this is a popularity contest. He only finished top-three in Cy Young Award voting once. He only finished top-three in strikeouts three times. His postseason numbers (7-8, 3.42 ERA in 23 games) were just ok.

Harper said...

chas R - well "Top 3" is pretty arbitrary - if we go "Top 6" (sort of "got a vote") he got there 9 times. He got undersold because he kept falling just short of 20 (as if that means anything)

TwoGloves said...

Couldn't agree with Harper more in that the HOF is a popularity contest. Personally, I don't think anyone should get 100% of the vote, although I do think Rivera deserves to be enshrined. I am VERY old school and if Ruth, Seaver & Griffey Jr were not unanimous, then nobody should be.

As far as Bonds & Clemens are concerned, I hope they NEVER get in. Flat out they cheated, enough said.

I know Pete Rose broke the cardinal rule of baseball of betting on the game, but his transgressions did not give him any competitive advantage while playing. PED users gained an advantage ON THE FIELD - that is a BIG difference. I realize that Rose will never get in, at least while he is alive, but neither should Bonds or Clemens.

blovy8 said...

Pretty solid class. Every time I think of Edgar Martinez, I flash back to the 1995 series where the Yankees KEPT pitching to that guy. It drove me crazy. Of course, then he proceeded to do nothing against Cleveland. It may not seem relevant now that no one cares about batting average, and plenty of righites can hit for average, but I felt like he was also important because he was RH guy winning more than one batting title. In the AL, that category was dominated by Carew, Brett, Boggs, and Mattingly when I was growing up. I also feel like it wasn't his fault they stopped playing him at 3rd. It's like blaming a guy for playing for a particular team. It's not much different than what Milwaukee did to try to keep Molitor on the field, for instance. He probably wasn't worse than Thome over there.

Harper said...

two gloves - my take on steroids vs betting is I can be pretty sure Bonds and Clemens were trying to win as much as any other player does. I can't be sure Rose was as a player or a manager. More than anything that's what I expect - that you try to win.

blovy8 - yean I mean Edgar in the NL probably plays a lousy 1B and hits nearly the same. But at the same time I fell like 50% of his candidacy isn't "he's great" but is "He's the best DH hitter!"

Robot said...

Surprised that Rivera was unanimous when Ruth, Maddux, and Griffey all weren't, but hey, whatever. He was indisputably the best at his position.

I think McGriff deserves the nod, personally.

Regarding Ty Cobb, there is reason to believe that his character was been grossly exaggerated, if not completely mischaracterized. I'd recommend "Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty" by Charles Leerhsen for a different take on the man.

Rob said...

I agree, vote for who you want. My only nitpick is why limit it to 10? It's just adding a silly rule to an already mostly arbitrary process.

Ole PBN said...

Not mad about it, but it does lower the bar from "the greatest players to play to game" to "Hey remember that guy who used to bat cleanup for the [insert team]? Yeah, he had a nice swing" type of players.

On the topic of Bonds/Clemens, I read that Dan Shaughnessy suggested that Edgar getting in opened the door for Ortiz being a first ballot guy, making it "interesting" for Bonds and Clemens. How? Bonds, Clemens, and Ortiz never tested positive. Speculation of cheating? Sure. But it's just that: speculation. Makes me think that some of these guys will vote ARod, despite lying about it, just because he eventually came clean about his PED use. Telling the truth, even after lying, might be enough for some of them. Their vote I guess.

Kind of reminds me of why Rose isn't in. He broke the rules - albeit gambling on games he didn't factor in seems way less-severe than PEDs. But its not just that, as it seems way more about his apparent lack of remorse in the eyes of those dishing out the punishment. Not to get carried away, but its pretty similar to our polarizing/tribal view of political correctness nowadays. People digging up old tweets to defame someone, said person apologizes, then its up to the court of public opinion to decide their apology is acceptable enough (which it usually is not), and they are then exiled.

Like I said, I'm not mad about it :)

Josh Higham said...

I was here to defend Ty Cobb's honor too. The Leerhsen book is excellent. His main claim as it pertains to Cobb's character can be boiled down to "probably not up for sainthood but his reputation was ruined by hack biographers who ignored primary sources." I opened the book a firm believer in the narrative that Cobb was a violent racist and closed it a huge, huge Ty Cobb fan.

Harper said...

Robot - I mean - I think he was kind of an ass but yeah the poster boy for bad HOFer should be Cap "Capt. Racist" Anson

Rob - people tend to fill up what you give them. limiting the vote number is a decent check on that. I don't think 10 is too few. Especially if everyone got on the - vote them in as soon as you can bandwagon

Ole PBN -
yeah well - whatcha gonna do? Your line in the sand might be different then mine. We tend to be inclusionary here because we're all softies at heart (Well not me. I draw the line at DiMaggio)

Eh - people take the Mitchell Report and the NYT report as gospel. And for Clemens you have a half-dozen people saying "Oh yeah he did it". As for Bonds - he had a whole book written about it! So even though there isn't a smoking gun test these aren't rumors like "Doesn't Bagwell look big?" or Heyman's famous "A Mets teammate said Piazza had back acne!" I'm sure apologizing would hlep but I don't think that's why most aren't voting for them

blovy8 said...

I think that Ortiz was on the NY Times list or in the Mitchell Report obliquely. Probably hearsay and no failed test, but about as good evidence as there was against ARod before they caught him.

If the Hall is to survive as a thing, players have to be inducted. The ceremony makes them money and keeps the town going. You now have an established system where fans get to enjoy seeing plaques for players they saw in their lifetimes who maybe no longer fulfill the modern standard of great, but if you just judge players by what we think we know, you're bound to make mistakes - putting in PED users, for instance. I believe there are already users in the hall. You'll never know for sure unless no one goes in again. I don't think it cheapens things for there to be a few guys we'd never think twice about today. That teaches us something too. It's actually fun to disagree with it, and figure out why they're there. To me, it's pretty arbitrary after the top forty or fifty guys to pick anyone over anyone. I mean, why not keep Jeter out next year because he's not a top-five shortstop of all time? I still hear people call Rivera a failed starter.

billyhacker said...

I'm sure that if every voter could vote 95% for Rivera, they would have, but you either put him on the ballot or you don't - there's no way individually to say, yeah, he should get in but, you know, someone shouldn't vote for him.

It definitely hurts a player if they were consistently nasty during interviews to the people who would be voting on their HOF membership and vice versa. I love that this is true. And it definitely helped Rivera.

I didn't see Mussina in Baltimore, but from his Yankees years, I disliked his slow pace. It also didn't help that he had years with very low run support and that hurt his (meaningless but memorable) win totals. Bad luck maybe, but some guys seem to have consistent skill not getting run support. I would have had a hard time voting for him, again maybe because I mostly missed the Orioles years.

Anonymous said...

I love the outrage over PEDs. Are amphetamines PEDs? I think they are and most players in the 50's, 60's and 70's popped them like aspirin. This is a not what I think, it's what I saw as a member of media teams over the years. And most reporters saw it too and ignored it. Bonds primary sin was alienating the media by calling them out for stupid questions or misquotes. He did not play the smiling black man routine for the scribes. And they made sure he paid the price.

Anonymous said...

By the way, Bonds was a HOF'er long before he was accused of PED use. He is the best power bat I ever saw.

SM said...

Hey, Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter--walked 7, I think--on LSD. Is that a PED?

Incidentally, I agree with your assessment of Larry Walker's HOF credentials. Most of those yammering against his inclusion cite his hitter-friendly, Coors Field advantage. In that case, his six years in Montreal's hitter's graveyard should also be taken into account.

DezoPenguin said...

It bothers me on a visceral level that some voters/writers act like we're *supposed* to desperately care about anabolic steroids/HGH as the worst thing ever, but taking amphetamines is just fine, or for that matter any other form of cheating (I mean, I find it much easier to believe that Gaylord Perry was helped to 300 wins by his expressly illegal-to-use spitball than I do that David Ortiz was made a better hitter by the chemicals he may or may not have taken during periods when they may or may not have actually been against the rules of baseball to take, and the idea that I should have no problem with the former but be outraged by the latter is ridiculous). Either be morally outraged or don't be morally outraged, but don't come off like old men who are fine with the media from their own day but think the Internet is dangerous and scary because they can't remember where the power button is on their computer.

I really am amazed that Rivera didn't run into the crowd of people who refuse to vote for slam-dunk candidates just because nobody else had been unanimous. I have a feeling that future, equally slam-dunk candidates will be unanimous just as often in the future. (I mean, I never got this argument. It's basically saying, "somebody back in 1940-whatever was a bigoted asshat, and we must venerate his asshattery by never letting anyone else receive the accolades they deserve, either. It's giving the guy(s) who wouldn't vote for Ruth or Cobb or Aaron the right to turn in a blank ballot in this year's election, too.)

Rivera is the best closer in the history of baseball. Halladay and Mussina were great starting pitchers and we're well aware today that pitcher wins are near-meaningless. And Edgar Martinez was a hitting god. He racked up 65.5 fWAR over his career while spending most of it at a position where you get absolutely hosed for defensive value based on the not-always-true assumption that you can't play defense. He was actually a pretty good 3B early in his career, and his move to DH wasn't just because he had a good bat and an iron glove. And my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I realized that he was putting up six-win and even a seven-win season as a DH. (His CAREER OBP was .418. That would have been third in all of baseball last year, and that's just his *average* including his bad years. That amazes me.)

Larry Walker ought to be equally obvious. He was great for Montreal, he was great for St. Louis, and he was great for Colorado, and the only reason I can imagine he hasn't gotten in already is that a segment of voters think that playing for Colorado doesn't count at all, like he spent those years in the KBO or something. Any Hall that includes Halladay should include Schilling; the fact that he's a lousy human being shouldn't budge the needle on his incredible baseball performance.

sirc said...

@anon 10:07 AM

I hear that a lot about Barry Bonds. "He was a HOFer before the steroids."

I believe that best evidence suggests he started no later than 1998 when he hired BALCO founder Greg Anderson as his personal trainer. He might have started earlier, but it is very difficult to argue that he started later.

So would he be in the MLB Hall of Fame based solely on his age 21 through 32 seasons? Let's say he broke his leg on the final day of the 1997 season and retired. He was a top player during that time, certainly.

My feeling is that he would not be voted in. It is a worthy debate, but it is definitely not a certainty one way or the other.

And then he did cheat. There IS evidence. It is not simply guilt by association with Anderson and BALCO. There is other evidence from the raids on Bonds' home and testimony from many people.

Anonymous said...

That is nonsense. If Bonds suffers injury after the 1998 season he leaves as a 13 year three time MVP, an OPS of close to 1.000, an ops+ of about 160, OBP of over 420, over 400 stolen bases, 5 gold gloves and whatever other metric you want consider. Of course he was a hall of farmer. If he cheated, and you don't KNOW that he did, that are countless other cheats in the hall of fame. Book it. Dislike the guy all you want, but few in the history of baseball approached his output. Sandy Koufax pitched 12 years, won 165 games and ended broken at the age of 30 and he is in the hall because of his potential for further greatness.And if you don't think he was popping pills to be able to play you're misinformed. The writers kept it quiet. So please save me the selective outrage.

SM said...

. . . which brings us--as it inevitably does each year--to Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Jackson's acquittal by a Chicago jury mattered not a whit to Kenesaw Mountain Landis (a federal judge, no less). And glistening-girders-in-the-sky, gasbag belle lettrist Bart Giamatti refused to reinstate him.

Jackson' case, he reasoned, is "now best given to historical analysis and debate as opposed to a present-day review with an eye to reinstatement." That's what you get when a scholar of 16th-century poet Edmund Spenser becomes Commissioner of Baseball.

Robot said...

It always ends up being about Barry Bonds and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Ole PBN said...

@ sirc, in your scenario, I would argue that Bonds would be elected in. After breaking his leg at 32 and never playing again, we get a Bo Jackson type of aura about him. "What if he played another 5-8 years? He'd break so many records." I believe based on that narrative alone would get him first, then his actual on-field accomplishments, not the other way around. Kind of gives you an idea of what we're looking at, as Harper correctly points out, a popularity contest. Baseball reference all-time leader boards is where you find the greats, not in the Hall of Fame, unfortunately. Sad but true.

@ Harper, you draw the line a Joe DiMaggio? How do you mean? Do you mean that 2 of his MVP's are highway robbery (talk about big market media bias in '41 and '47), that he only played 13 seasons (I know about his military service, as well as Ted's), and racked up only 2,200 hits? He's still a Hall of Famer in my opinion, but his strongest cases are backed by 9 WS rings in 13 years, the hit streak, the fact that he did win at least one MVP, and 78 WAR in 13 years while missing his prime.

TwoGloves said...

Yes, we do KNOW that Bonds used PED's. Bonds told a U.S. grand jury that he used undetectable steroids known as "the cream" and "the clear," which he received from personal trainer Greg Anderson during the 2003 season. According to Bonds, the trainer told him the substances were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a pain-relieving balm for the player's arthritis. And we ALL know that players have no idea what they are ingesting - laughable!!!

blovy8 said...

TwoGloves, have you ever had a meal without knowing all the ingredients? You think Barry Bonds has to have a degree in organic chemistry to play left field for the Giants?

I still think most of the voters working that period are pissed off that they kept writing stories about how expansion, smaller ballparks, a juiced baseball, squished strike zone, maple bats, and god knows what else cause the spike in power before, miraculously, STEROIDS caused it and they are exposed as missing the real story. As if the extra 20 pounds of muscle every player added were because of that.

blovy8 said...

as in everyone was bigger while the ballparks got smaller.

Harper said...

Ole PBN - I was saying that had it my way the line for HOF would be about at Joe Dimaggio. Better in, worse out. Looking at it more closely I'd actually set my line a little below that - Tony Gwynn territory. Maybe positionally you get in elsewhere.

BxJaycobb said...

Re Mussina, he also pitched 60% of games in his career in Camden Yards (yeesh, who are the good Os pitchers since him?!), Fenway, and Yankee Stadium. He had 270 wins and RETIRED after a season in which he won 20 games (easily could have had 300). For those who like WAR, his is well beyond HOF level (21st best ever I believe).

BxJaycobb said...

@billyhacker. Again, Mussina won 270 games and retired after winning 20 for the first time. Pitching in bandboxes. I honest to god don’t think we will see another Hall of Fame starter to play half his career at Camden Yards. Place is a joke. We’re talking about very possibly the last guy to approach 300 going strong. He won 18-19 literally every year. It was comical. Also one year he deserved the Cy but was robbed by Clemens who got better run support but clearly had a worse year. Anyway, if there’s a case against Mussina, maybe it’s RAW ERA or Cy Youngs or something. It’s certainly not WAR 80-something or Wins.

BxJaycobb said...

sirc: oh I don’t think there’s any question he would’ve been voted in. Over that period he was the best player in baseball easily. The highest WAR. 3 MVPs. Basically Willie Mays in LF. Imagine if Trout played a couple more years then retired. That would be pretty much what Bonds was before he started using. This is a guy who had 40-40 years. I don’t think there’s any question. It’s roughly like asking would Ken Griffey Jr have been voted in if he left baseball instead of going to the Reds.

BxJaycobb said...

Ole PBN. Oh man. Don’t compare Bonds and Bo Jackson as baseball players. One was the best player in the game and the other was a guy who was meh at baseball and barely made one All-Star team. (Look at Jackson’s baseball numbers. They’re not that good. He was a football star who was capable of playing in the major leagues, kind of like Deion.)

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper: I think you mean somebody else by your “maybe below Joe DiMaggio” comment, not Tony Gwynn. If he didn’t play entirely in SD, he’d likely be one of these guys who makes it in on his last ballot...or wouldn’t make the HOF if he were up for it today... Really. He had only 4 years of 5+ WAR. Career OPS of like .850. The sabermetric crowd would probably say No. He was a gleaming superstar basically because singly-Joe AVG kings were the order of the day and nobody cared about OBP. (Kind of Rod Carew-like). Anyway, Gwynn’s career value IS ALREADY about the bottom threshold for outfielders. Maybe I’m wrong and his “so hard to strike out!” and AVG would carry him as best ever tools. It’s just that he’s an outfielder trying to get in on his offense who, again, has Bryce’s career OBP and very little power. So I would suggest....maybe go for the HOF size where (from recent years)....for SP, only Pedro, Randy, and Maddux (not Smoltz, Mussina, or Glavine, who are all roughly the same), at 2B, only Alomar (no Kent or Biggio), in OF, only Griffey (not Vlad Guerrero), for RP, only Rivera (not Hoffman), only Chipper Jones for 3B, etc. I like to think of it as the “why is Barry Larkin in the HOF?” club. I.e. if you’re not the best at your position on diamond (Ripken among SS) you need a very very specific reason.

BxJaycobb said...

Also worth noting (and something u forget): Edgar Martinez amassed all that value after playing his first full season at age 27!!! And i had forgotten that in 1995, Griffey was hurt most of the year and Edgar carried the team with an INSANE batting line.

Harper said...

BX - you are a lot stricter than I am. Tony Gwynn makes it because as you hint at - his batting average is among best ever in the history of the game. Since Ted Williams - he's the best for-average hitter a good 10 pts higher than Carew and Boggs who themselves are over 10 pts higher than the "natural high" players. Carew and Boggs were outliers, Gwynn is an outlier from them. If being arguably the best "batsman" of the past 60 years doesn't get you in the hall - I'm not sure I'm visiting that empty cavern.

W. Patterson said...

@Harper - Thank you for your Gwynn response. I don't know all the numbers but, as a Dodger fan who grew up disliking the Padres, Tony Gwynn is one of few players that I truly looked forward to see come to the plate.

Rob said...

Wow, if Gwynn is a marginal HOFer, I don't know who is in. He has All Star games, SS, MVP votes, GG votes coming out his demon hole. Over 3000 hits...dude got 220 hits during his age 37 season. He was a killer at the plate. Just a pure hitter. Not to mention an outstanding person which, right or wrong, does seem to matter at least to some voters.

Zimmerman11 said...

The HOF speculating will be a lot more fun once Bonds/Clemens/etc aren't clogging things up. It's infinitely more fun to discuss Rolen vs Helton vs Abreu... McGriff Vs Vizquel BB/RC are such huge outliers it means there simply is no room for discussion about those guys, or Andruw Jones, etc. I say vote the cheaters in and put the asterisk on their plaques... mention their steroid/other controversies right on the bronze. Then move on!

Guys like Damon and Posada deserved more than one year on the ballot, even if I don't think they were HOFers.

My imaginary ballot this year:

Man Ram

2020 - Ballot finally clears some. But still full of upper eschelon players.

Guys like SOSA and Abreu are borderline cases to me. Sosa actually got caught cheating ON the field as well as almost surely cheating off it... and is also a unique case cause even though 600HRs is impressive, his WAR totals are borderline and if you're a borderline HOF by results, but were cheating, THEN you're a NO for me :) If you're the best ever but were cheating, then you're a YES for me. I think the benefits of steroids (especially since pitchers were using 'em too) were small...


Man Ram

TwoGloves said...

@blovy8 - There is NO way you can honestly say that athletes don't know what they're using. Bonds started juicing because he was pissed about all the attention McGwire & Sosa were getting and he wasn't - even though he was the better player. Go back and look at build his last few years with the Pirates and then look at the monster body builder he became with the Giants. Hell look at him now, there is no comparison to his steroid years in terms of body build and shape.

Zimmerman11 said...

So in 2020 the ballot really DOES get clearer... I only listed 8... I'd need to look closer at Crime Dog, Helton, Abreu, Kent, Sheffield, and Sosa to pick the last two spots... I'll probably wind up w/ 10 on my imaginary ballot :)

blovy8 said...

TwoGloves, of course he used PEDs, at least half the players did in that era. But if Bonds says, I'll have what Mac's having, and then later someone asks him what he took, it's not really fair to excoriate him for deferring to the guy who mixed the drink.

blovy8 said...

TwoGloves, do you think Stephen Strasburg memorized the ingredients list and possible side effects of Ben Gay before he put on so much of it that he had to leave a start?

blovy8 said...

Zim11, I think the Rolen battle to move up the ballot is probably a tough one, though I would have had him on this year's ballot too. Maybe he'll benefit from the defensive focus Vizquel is bringing to the ballot. Helton's numbers are always going to be Coors-tainted and there are a ton of 1B in the hall to measure him against. Abreu is an interesting case, is his defense really bad enough to knock him out of consideration? The combination of skills was hall-worthy, but why doesn't it add up?

Ole PBN said...

Bx - come on man, that's a silly conclusion to draw from my point. Mentioning Bonds and Bo in the same sentence doesn't mean they are the same, unless there is a comparison, which was never made. Sirc presented the scenario of Bonds breaking his leg at 32 and never playing again. The point I was making (read it again), was that - just like Bo - we would be left with a lot of "what could have been" revelations about Bonds. Similar to Barry Sanders leaving the game at 30, similar to Jordan retiring twice, similar to Ted Williams leaving to serve (twice!), etc. Granted Bonds had already accomplished quite a lot by the time he was 32, but with so much baseball left, it would have been a shame to see it disappear because of an injury... wait for it... just like Bo. I don't see how that is so hard to follow, if you indeed read both Sirc's point and mine? Or maybe you just "Bonds" and "Bo Jackson" too close together and thought something else?

TwoGloves said...

@blovy8 - Ben Gay and the "clear" and "cream" are a little bit different, don't ya think?? Also, whatever Anderson told Bonds is was, flaxseed oil or the like is something that you would certainly inquire about. You can be a Bonds apologist all you like, but it still doesn't change the fact that he cheated.

Josh Higham said...

@TwoGloves There are legitimate reasons not to want Bonds in the HOF. That's fine.

But it is reductive and disingenuous to use "he cheated and therefore does not belong" to argue that every other take is stupid. PEDs are an incredibly murky thing. If a team doctor prescribes adderall for ADHD it's fine, even though it provides a chemical edge. Under other circumstances stimulants are good for a half season suspension or worse. There's such a spectrum of chemical performance enhancement that it's a fool's errand to demarcate cheaters from non-cheaters retroactively. Breaking an unenforced rule (like obscuring the back of the batter's box to get a few more inches from the pitcher) is part of baseball. Most people will agree with you that anabolic steroids are at least somewhat unsportsmanlike but a hard line like you're suggesting has minimal basis in the historical narrative.

We know that Mickey Mantle lost the 1961 HR chase in part because of an infection/abscess from badly administered amphetamine injection. Get that cheater out of the HOF if Bonds doesn't belong.

Anonymous said...

Poor Bryce, his #1 choice the Dodgers just signed Pollock, which is them saying “We’re tired of waiting for you and Boras to lower your insane demands. See ya, we’re out.”

His realistic choices still left are getting very limited, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

As I alluded to earlier...the guys we like we excuse...which is a silly reason for selection or non-selection. Without PEDs, in whatever form you want to call them, Koufax doesn't pitch his way into the hall. Amphetamines were omnipresent in major league trading rooms for years and were used liberally. The Bonds cheated excuse doesn't wash, a lot of HOF'ers cheated and are in the hall. Bonds made enemies of the press and that's the main reason for his non selection.

John C. said...

However one slices it, to me the "there are certainly PED cheaters in the HoF, so we have to let them all in" trope makes no sense. Just because someone else made a mistake in the past doesn't mean that I am honor bound to ratify that mistake with my own. If one think that PEDs disqualifies one from being enshrined in the HoF, that is not an incoherent position.

Similarly, I've seen some complaints that Rivera was the first unanimous HoF inductee, complaining "why HIM?" We should be rejoicing that a DUMB tradition has gone out the window. Given the threshold, there isn't anyone that would have passed the "if Ruth/Aaron/Johnson/Cobb/Griffey weren't good enough, who is? test. So let's just be happy the unanimity barrier has been broken so we can stop worrying about it.

Josh Higham said...

@ John C. if people were claiming that, it would be nonsensical for sure. But no one is saying all PED cheaters belong in the HOF. Sammy Sosa hit 609 home runs, which if he'd retired in the 70s or 80s would have made him a first ballot guy. As it is, even people who think steroid users belong in the Hall are fine with him missing out. I get the impression that we're pretty lukewarm on ARod and his multiple failed tests, all things considered. We're a circumspect group, recognizing that great feats from the 90s and early 2000s are not as great as they seemed. HOwever, if the Hall of Fame doesn't have room for the two guys who dominated the steroid era more completely than anyone else, it seems like a farce to me. Humans are flawed--we cheat, we lie, we hurt other people.

Our claim is that, allowing for context, the greatest players from every era belong in the Hall.

Anonymous said...

Brach on a 1yr/$3M deal to the Cubs... wonder if we were in on this? Pretty low price

Jay said...

I know this is off topic, but Boswell just wrote an article in the Post stating Machado was going to the White Sox and that Harper was going to sign with the Phillies for something like 8 years for $250 or 7 years for less. I know that is expensive, but please don't let Harper sign with the Phils for some ridiculous cheaper contract. I would rather keep Harper than let him go to the Philly unless Philly is a whole lot closer to $40 million per year. We'll see. I'm hopeful the Nats are going to resign him. They usually like to run silent until close to finalizing the deal.

Also, baseball is definitely headed for a strike. This is the second year in a row that good free agents remain unsigned as Spring Training is starting.

Zimmerman11 said...

@Blovy8 - Yes... see?!?! Aren't those conversations so much more fun than the one that's dominated this thread? :)

I agree on Rolen having a rough time getting traction even if BB/RC weren't clogging up the works...

I agree that most voters put a huge taint on COL... but won't treat ARZ or PHI the same way... and in part that COL taint is why Walker isn't already in MLBHOF

I think I like Abreu for the HOF more than the voters will, but we'll see when he's eligible next year.

I'm the most worried about the voters who keep their ballots private, might not flock to Walker in his final year of eligiblity partly cause they'll want Jetes to have the stage to himself. Maybe this isn't gonna happen... but we'll see.

Using Bill James' HOF Monitor, Jaffe's WAR system, and the raw numbers... I put the people below Rolen, on my list in this order:

McGriff - 94 strike cost him his 500th HR... I might have to move him up some...

Though I reserve the right to change my mind, esp since my vote doesn't count for anything :)

Zimmerman11 said...

And there's a school of thought that ALL of those guys are HOF worthy. I think these guys are borderline cases, and debating and comparing them should be fun. Litigating the friggin 90s steroid issue over and over again is NOT fun. At. All.

Johnny Callison said...

Lefty RPs Wilson and Perez just signed. Nats still need one. Why are they passing on everyone? Prices on guys like this are coming down. Don't quite get the plan, here. I think the SP is pretty good now, but I would really like one more shutdown reliever (two, if you're asking me, though). Or another decent SP. Or both. Are all the GMs figuring there will be Hellicksons and Edwin Jacksons galore to pick from for next to nothing in a few weeks?

Johnny Callison said...

As for the HOF, I have heard the "it's not the Hall of the Very Good" argument before. But I think another dividing line is first ballot vs. sixth/seventh/eighth...tenth. And I like that dividing line. That makes it a Hall of First Tier long term superstars and second tier greats. So, Willie Mays and Babe Ruth are first tier. Alan Trammell and Mike Mussina are second tier, testimonies to discipline that led to greatness more than sheer explosive blinding talent like Mays and Ruth.

Harold Baines? No, no, no. Lee Smith? Hmmm...maybe...better than Baines, for sure.

To me the big deficit in the hall comes with its emphasis on offense leading to lots of first basemen and outfielders making it. Second base, third base, SS, Catcher are underrepresented. Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker and Scott Rolen all belong.

ssln said...


I saw the headline Unanimous and thought you were talking Manny and Bryce. At this point it seems unanimous that no one wants these guys at the asking price but agents like sellers of real estate cling to hope until reality hits home, which should be in ten days or so.
Manny to the Sox where he never will be heard from again and Bryce will get to kid around with the Phanatic. You do know Bryce's favorite color is green so you should have seen it coming.
The question is whether Nats fans will burn his jersey like they did when Lebron left. Probably not because who really cares? Let's hope that Rizzo has blocked Boras' number so he can't reach the Learners and erected No Trespassing signs at the entrance to the Stadium. One can only hope.

sirc said...

I just read that as of today the Pittsburgh Pirates will enter the 2019 season with a total payroll of $75 million. Or, to put it another way, with a total payroll of $8 million less than the AAV of the Nationals' top 3 starting pitchers.

The game has serious competitive balance issues. It needs a salary floor to go with its luxury tax ceiling. Those numbers should be close, within ~$50 million.

Ole PBN said...

Sirc, I disagree. Yes, it has always been a league of “haves and have-nots” but you act like the $75 million is all Pittsburgh can affford. They were over $100M in 2017. It’s a planned rebuild. For example, Houston was at $44M total payroll in 2014 (lowest in MLB), only to rise to $160M last year in 2018 (11th highest in MLB). Some teams can’t afford to pay as much as others but the numbers you throw out there are largely due to an ownership that recognizes the lack of talent to field a competitive team and refuses to pay $100M in band-aids for this season. It’s a choice to go that low.

sirc said...

@ Ole PBN

"...but you act like the $75 million is all Pittsburgh can affford."

I am specifically stating that it is not all they can afford. I'm saying that they can afford a LOT more.

ssln said...


If I understand your argument, then someone should force Amazon and Walmart to pay their suppliers more because they can afford to pay more. Salaries are generally set through a negotiation process and not based on what the owner may earn.
Baseball is a complex game. We had Bryce for six years including his MVP year and have no playoff series wins to show for it. He thought he was worth 40M a year but apparently no one saw him being the missing piece to a World Series victory. For years now, teams in all sports have spent mega millions to find the missing piece. The Vikings thought they had it with Cousins, the Rangers thought they had it with A Rod. The Eagles won the Super Bowl with a back up quarterback last year.
No one has the magic formula and forcing teams to spend money they don't want to spend is certainly not the answer.

sirc said...

@ ssln

Professional sports teams are an essential public trust.

Amazon and Walmart are public trusts in the sense that we live in a democracy and all aspects of corporate capitalism are.

But in order for professional sports teams to remain a public trust, their community must believe that the sports team is doing everything legal within their power to succeed.

To use you example:

Vikings fans might hate the Cousins signing but it enforces the idea that the team was trying to win. Whether it was smart or not, it is unassailable that it was done with the intention of winning.

If Pirates fans believe that their team is doing everything they can in order to win, fine. But part of that belief has to be measured by spending. It's one of the ways in which we measure "trying" in baseball.

You said:

"No one has the magic formula and forcing teams to spend money they don't want to spend is certainly not the answer."

These are separate issues. I agree with the first, no one has the magic formula. Certainly not in baseball.

But the point I'm trying to make in this and my previous posts is that forcing teams to spend money IS an answer. That they don't want to is symptomatic of the larger problem. They don't have to be revenue neutral but they must do everything they can to win. If they are more concerned with making money from sports ownership they should be made to sell the team to someone who will do whatever it takes to win. Otherwise why would fans support the team?

Maybe if the Pirates spent another $35 million, bringing then to league average payroll, they could win 90 games.

They aren't in the same situation as Detroit or KC who are attempting to correct poor decisions from a time when they attempted to win. In those cases the fans might believe that by not spending, they are doing the right thing in order to win.

The Pirates have a solid rotation, a good bullpen and some pretty good young hitters. Free agents are accepting 1 and 2 year deals. They could have added a half dozen for $35 million. They still can. They don't have any bad contracts on their books. They're simply NOT trying to win.

Why wouldn't they?

They can afford to spend. They've gone over a $100 million payroll before. It would increase their fan enthusiasm. And most importantly they wouldn't be accused of betraying their responsibility to their fans of trying to win.

Trying to win is the most important things sports teams do. It's all we can require them to do. We should require nothing less than doing everything they can, within the rules, to win.

Mr. T said...

"If I understand your argument, then someone should force Amazon and Walmart to pay their suppliers more because they can afford to pay more."

Uh, yes. Correct. Although you seem to be implying this would somehow be a bad thing?

"Salaries are generally set through a negotiation process and not based on what the owner may earn."

But that's exactly what the negotiation process is about. That's the whole point of collective bargaining. Major League Baseball, like Amazon and Walmart, is a machine for sucking money out of our pockets and into the owners'. Enormous profits are generated via publicly-funded stadiums, offensive prices on food and beer at the stadium, and stupid TV revenue. The players are asking for their fair share of the profits they are generating. That negotiation absolutely takes into account all the revenue the owners are making/stealing. Just as it should in negotiations with Amazon and Walmart and anyone else.

blovy8 said...

Tanking clubs that just take the shared revenue of their industry and don't put it into their team in some fashion are worse than steroid users. At least those players were getting better while gaming the system, which helped their team win. Eight players threw a World Series a hundred years ago, but the Marlins currently throw whole seasons. Do they field a legitimate major league team? It might as well be spring training all year long.

Ole PBN said...

It's an ebb and flow. Teams tank for a few years in the hopes that acquiring picks and talent via trading pricey veterans will vault them back into contention. It works sometimes (KC, Houston), and other times it doesn't (Baltimore, SD - although I would say that these franchises has no idea what they're doing. It's more incompetence than missed opportunities/bad luck). I would say Oakland is similar to the Nats, but with less cash to spend. Always aiming to compete every year, smart money, etc.

I think demanding that teams fork over a certain number of payroll infringes on the very rights of owners. I'm not a fan of these guys either, but requiring owners to pay a random FA top dollar, a guy who wouldn't help them in the short or long run, just to raise the overall payroll to what some people deem "acceptable" is a little much for me. I think some people forget that teams that choose to tank, do so at the risk of losing their fan base. Sure, they'll get it back when they start winning again, but the team would be committing itself to this cyclical nature of sucking and competing, sucking and competing, etc. It's a risk that some team take, up to them to see if its a good move or not, and they (ownership) will ultimately bear the consequences of a failed franchise if it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Harper, help! It's unanimous: you should write a new blog. We're stewing in our own juices!

Besides, (non) developments in the FA market implicate the triumph of soulless automatons (you should be proud). Might this be good if it (sigh) it helps keeps ticket prices in check?

Anonymous said...

Is Harper dead?

W. Patterson said...

@Anonymous - Uh, the Super Bowl is on Sunday. No baseball news until Monday, February 4. Them's the rules - and you'll find out on Tuesday morning where Brychado is going to be playing baseball in 2019.

ssln said...


Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Let's take a look at your premise. A baseball team is a public trust. Really? Who legislated that theory? Is there some legal case or law that states what you assume to be fact.
Unfortunately, there is legal precedent that states exactly the opposite. When the Tams moved to St. Louis and Oakland announced a move to Vegas the cities sued the clubs and the NFL claiming among other things the public trust theory that you espoused. The courts told the Plaintiffs (the cities trying to block the moves) that was an interesting theory. But we hate to tell you that ownership of a team is a business and like any other business, it can be moved by the business owner at any time. LA countered by saying the Rams have a lease so we can prevent them from moving. The judge said, the lease gives you the right to collect rent, but it doesn't give you the right to prevent the team from moving.
You have a quaint idea that owning a team entails some sort of public trust on the part of the owner. Unfortunately, that is just some myth that you have conjured up in your own mind. It has no basis in law or fact.
If you think I am wrong, then give me some basis for your opinion.

sirc said...

Public trust is a core tenet of capitalism. I didn't invent it, the Romans did. It isn't a law, it's as real as air and gravity.

But fraud laws exist to legislate public trust. It is the only reason that fraud is a crime; public trust.

I'm not sure if that answers your question about who legislated public trust, but it is an odd question.

Sports ownership is a public trust by definition. It can't exist without the public. Therefore it's a public trust.

You make points but they aren't in opposition to mine. I'm not really sure that we're disagreeing.

Josh Higham said...

@Ole PBN I agree with you that forcing teams to pay larger salaries to free agents won't fix the problem, but you can go a long way to correct the problem if you force teams to pay more to young players. I get why teams don't pay market value to guys pre-arb or even in arbitration, but you can pay them more and still not approach what they're worth. Forcing up pre-arb and arb salaries through the next CBA will automatically make paying 32 year old players a little more palatable, and when guys who are in the minors today are hitting free agency the first time, they'll have had greater career earnings and won't mind as much setting for a 2/$8m deal.

And because of taxes and the front-loading of pro athlete salaries, these guys really do need to make a few million early on. Micah Bowie, former Nat, didn't play in the majors long enough to qualify for MLB disability insurance, and didn't make enough money to pay for his medical care on his own. Bryce has made enough to retire now and be fine, but most MLB players don't, and it's the successful major leaguers who have drawn attention to the way owners are hosing the players right now.