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Jack Morris falls short on my ballot
 By: Aidan Flynn          

          Yesterday, I unveiled my thoughts and hypothetical vote on this year's Hall of Fame class. Once again, I do not think there is necessarily a wrong way of going about this vote. However, I do think people need to realize that cheating is not some new trend in baseball, and has literally been going on for hundreds of years. I respect the decisions made by the hundreds of people who vote on this, but any explanation of being a moral gatekeeper is one I simply do not understand. Regardless, I have confidence in my selections and people can say what they will about them. Yet, while I think I selected deserving candidates,  there were many strong cases from players who did not make my top nine. Below are some of my snubs, per say, for this year's Hall class. Some decisions were easy, some were difficult, and if there is any player (Dale Murphy, Bernie Williams, etc) not listed below and you would like an explanation, I would be more than happy to justify my thinking. Once more, I will be using Jay Jaffe's excellent JAWS statistic that compares players to their already enshrined Hall of Fame peers. This was an excellent tool, which along with others, helped me formulate decisions on my Hall of Fame ballot. Below is a quick review on the JAWS statistic, followed by my Hall of Fame slights. 

            JAWS: The Jaffe WAR Score System was developed by Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe as a measure of a player's Hall of Fame worthiness. A JAWS score is calculated from taking the players' career WAR averaged out with their seven-year peak (seven best seasons, regardless if they were continuous or not). It serves as a good means to judge how a player stacks up to his Hall of Fame brethren and whether or not they are deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown. For additional JAWS information, click on the link above

So now, here are those that fell short of my HOF vote (from easiest decision to hardest):

        Jack Morris: Despite the mounting tidal wave of support in favor of Morris' candidacy, Jack Morris is not a Hall of Famer in my mind. To be honest, it is not even that tough of a decision. The 3.90 ERA, barely above-average ERA+ (105), the lack of a statistical peak, Morris just does not cut it. The best thing going for Morris is his longevity and innings eating capabilities (3824 innings) but there are plenty of other, more successful pitchers with nearly identical innings pitched. No one is clamoring for Jerry Koosman or Dennis Martinez's induction, despite both having thrown more innings and having better ERA+ (106 and 110, respectively) than  Morris. Also, Morris falls short in the traditional measures of 300 wins (254 career victories) and winning a Cy Young (best finish was 3rd), in which both puzzle me as to why he is getting as much support from the mainstream media as he is. In addition, for someone with the reputation of being a big game pitcher, Morris was very inconsistent during his postseason tenure. While he was lights out in 1984 and 1991 (sub 2.00 ERA in both postseasons), he had a couple of clunkers in 1987 and 1992 (6.75 ERA or greater in both series). All together, he finished his postseason career with a mediocre 3.80 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Morris falls 20 WAR short of the starting pitcher JAWS average, and after looking at the all of the evidence, he falls well short of my hypothetical HOF vote. 

        Sammy Sosa: First question obviously is, "If you voted for Bonds and Clemens, why not Sosa?" Although Sosa definitely had the peak of a Hall of Famer, Sosa fails to get my vote for several reasons. First, Sosa simply does not meet the Hall of Fame standards set by the JAWS statistic. Sosa falls 7 WAR short of the average Hall of Fame right fielder. Basically, Sosa would lower the standards of the Hall for right fielders if he were to get elected and essentially represents a borderline candidate. While I expressed that I would vote for certain players with steroid ties, Sosa's already borderline case definitely is not helped by being an alleged juicer. Furthermore, Sosa was essentially a one-dimensional slugger during his peak years. He hit a lot of home runs and struck out a ton. For much of his career he was Adam Dunn, just without the walks and with better power numbers. Nobody is confusing Adam Dunn for a Hall of Famer and while Sosa certainly is better than "The Donkey," he is not a Hall of Famer either.

        Mark McGwire/Rafael Palmeiro: I am lumping McGwire and Palmeiro together because there cases are fairly similar. Both offense first players with clear evidence linking them to steroid use; McGwire via personal confession and Palmeiro via a positive test in 2005, just two weeks after recording his 3,000 hit. They are also similar in that both fall short of the JAWS standard for first baseman. The average Hall of Fame first basemen has a JAWS of 51.5 with Palmeiro just below the standard at 51.3 and McGwire at 49.4. Once again, both of these players have borderline cases to being HOFers and with direct evidence linking them to steroids, that clinches them to being off my ballot

        Kenny Lofton: One of the more underrated players of his generation, Lofton stole bases at a high clip (80% success rate), was an excellent tablesetter (.372 OBP), and played strong defense at an up-the-middle position (four gold gloves, 115 runs above average). However, Lofton's lack of a true peak and his lackluster postseason showing (.247/.315/.352) both hurt his borderline case, causing him to fall short of my vote.

        Larry Walker: Unlike the previously mentioned borderline candidates, Walker is actually above the standard for Hall of Famers at his position. Walker certainly had the peak (43.1 WAR, three batting titles, 1997 MVP), but the era and ballpark in which he played (steroid era and pre-humidor Coors Field) absolutely supported some of the insane numbers he put up in the late '90s. I understand there was more to Walker's game than just hitting (7 Gold Gloves, 230 SBs) and he had some very productive seasons in Montreal, but I really question how much of his monster seasons were as a result of playing in Coors. He's close but for now, Walker does not get my vote.


 


Comments

12/29/2012 11:17pm

I'm right on track with you at my blog. Especially on Morris. It's like an anti-Blyleven ... we have two more years of fighting to keep him out.

On Lofton, the fact that he played for so many different teams will hurt him. I'm borderline against him, but, he's not that far off of Raines, OTOH.

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12/29/2012 11:52pm

Socratic Gadfly, thank you for commenting. Morris' case...just completely baffles me. Even his incredible Game 7 performance in '91 could have been erased if not for a Lonnie Smith baserunning blunder. He basically was a slightly above average innings eater that pitched for a long time. In reality, he was a #3 starter that nowadays is poorly miscast as an ace. I like your anti-Blyleven analogy and completely agree. Compare the two statistically, and Morris doesn't hold a candle to Bert. But since Morris had one (one game!) sexy postseason performance and played on some good teams, he's suddenly a Hall-worthy. As for Lofton, I agree with you that he's right there as he had some excellent seasons in his own right. While I would not put him in Raines' class, I think he is much closer than most people think with his solid defense, speed, on-base skills. Once again, thank you for commenting and I want to say I enjoyed your piece on Morris as well. If we lower the standards, we might as well put in Saberhagen, Cone, Stieb and the rest of his superiors and I don't think anyone wants to do that.

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chuckie
12/31/2012 10:59am

As with Bonds, Roger Clemens, minus the PED cloud, is among the greats at his position. How then can you say...and I quote "Once again, both of these players (McGwire and Palmeiro) have borderline cases to being HOFers and with direct evidence linking them to steroids, that clinches them to being off my ballot!" I don't understand your double edge sword and believe that if Bonds and Clemens...who where both excellent ball players, why not Raffy and McGwire! Who ONLY fall .2 and 2.1 points respectfully short of your JAWS criteria! Gonna hold out a player for .2 points!!! Surely 3,000 hits qualifies you....who isn't in, other than Pete Rose! And why wouldn't he be in, if the other " baseball criminals" are allowed in! Hmmmm! Look forward to your response

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12/31/2012 11:19am

Chuckie, thank you for commenting. First, as mentioned in my HOF ballot piece, I said that PEDs and cheating have been a part of the game since its inception. It makes no sense now for voters to punish these guys when the issue itself (steroids) was not controlled by baseball's highest powers at the time and the game itself has been riddled with cheating HOFers in the past. With McGwire and Palmeiro, they are borderline guys and all I was looking for was for some way to break that tie. When looking at these candidates, I was just looking for some way to break the tie. I definitely should have mentioned that both were poor defenders and had lackluster postseason showings, both of which were factored in to leaving them off my ballot. I'll admit I used a poor choice of words there but after combining all the secondary traits of their candidacy, they fall short in my eyes. I would not have a problem with anyone who voted for both of those players. As for 3,000 hits, a Hall of Fame case should not rest on some arbitrary round number. If I decided to make the even more special club with players having 3,021 or more hits, Palmeiro would fall short. It's just an arbitrary number that really doesn't mean anything. Pete Roses' case can only be decided by the commissioner; I'm only seeking plaques for the guys whose fate we can still control. Thanks

Reply
Randy Knott
01/03/2013 3:32pm

While I understand keeping Sosa out for PED, your "first he doesn't meet JAWS" argument falls flat. There are currently 24 RF in the HOF, 14 of whom (including Tony Gwynn) "lowered" the average statistics of right fielders. In fact, by this logic, since Babe Ruth was the first RF in, EVERY RF since has "lowered" the average he set. The sample size is entirely too small to rely on some new JAWS stat. 609 HR's. Only player to hit 60+ in 3 seasons. You want the PED argument at that point, fine. The JAWS argument just doesn't hold water. The reason that averages even exist is because there are people on the "under" side of them.

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01/03/2013 5:14pm

Randy, thank you for commenting. You are 100% right in regards to the positional average thing and I absolutely worded that poorly. What I was trying to point out is that Sosa is not the slam-dunk people might think without the steroid cloud, and in my mind would still fall short of the Hall of Fame even with his current numbers. He had a mediocre .344 OBP, 2,306 Ks (3rd all-time), and was a horrible defender. Also, he has less oWAR than Willie Randolph, Bobby Abreu, and Reggie Smith, all fine players in their own right, but would not normally be compared in the same breadth as Sosa offensively. There is a legitimate case that Sosa is not a HOFer even without considering the PEDs. However, you are comment is dead-on and I really appreciate your comment.

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