This is what we’ve learned after the annual round of Hall of Fame discussion leading into Tuesday’s afternoon big announcement: it is an unbelievably flawed process.
The uncertainty and fragility that goes into deciding who will be next to enter into the MLB Hall of Fame is what makes the dead-of-winter baseball conversation so spicy. There are a lot of good solutions surfaced, yet none have offered any definition as to how these guys should be elected going forward.
Different eras and performance-enhancing-drug suspensions have clouded a world that is almost always driven by statistics. That’s why I prefer to start — that’s just start, not finish — any conversations with a simple (and probably somewhat flawed) mechanism:
– For hitters, how many times did they finish in the Top 10 in MVP voting.
– For pitchers, how many times did they receive Cy Young votes.
Here is the reason for this approach: it shows a dominance in a player’s era, no matter what the era is. The stats will go up and down (the MLB average OPS this past season dipped to .700 from .782 in 2000), but perceived elite status during that particular time span is what it was.
(Yes, I am one who is mostly in favor of voting in those formally and informally tied to PEDs.)
To me, the dominance in the era argument was a key talking point when looking at Jim Rice‘s candidacy. Six times Rice finished in the Top 5 in MVP voting. Six! Craig Biggio? Twice. Frank Thomas? Six. Barry Larkin? Once.
Let’s stop for a second and remind everybody: this is just to start the debate, not to punctuate it.
Pitchers? Randy Johnson received Cy Young votes 10 times, winning the award five times. Pedro Martinez got votes seven times, claiming the Cy on three occasions. Curt Schilling got votes four times, the same as Hall of Famer Burt Blyleven. Schilling finished second for the award three times, with Blyleven’s highest finish maxing out at third during a career that ran 22 seasons.
I do believe longevity with consistent performance puts somewhat of a dent in this philosophy, but shouldn’t wash away the theory.
Carl Yastrzemski belongs in the Hall of Fame, but he also finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting the same number of times as Dwight Evans (4), who deserves a closer look.
Of the candidates on the current ballot, perhaps one of the most interesting when looking at Nomar Garciaparra. Five times Garciaparra finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting, with one 11th-place finish. He only managed one Top 5 showing, placing second in 1998.
Garciaparra, however, just wasn’t quite dominant enough for a long enough stretch. Realistically, he played about the same amount of seasons as a regular as Rice did while totaling a higher OPS (.882-.854). But, using the aforementioned formula, Garciappara wasn’t nearly as dominant during his era.
Don Mattingly has been compared to Garciaparra when surfacing the former Red Sox shortstop, although Mattingly, while also playing for 14 seasons, had three Top 5 MVP finishes (winning once), and four Top 10’s. The former Yankees first baseman has been voted on since 2001, totaling 28.2 percent in that first year of eligibility. In ’14, he received 8.2 percent of the vote.
Some other on-the-bubble candidates: Mike Piazza finished Top 10 seven times, with four Top 5 showings; Tim Raines had three Top 10’s and one Top 5; Jeff Bagwell notched five Top 10 finishes, with two Top 5’s.
Flawed? Yes. As good a conversation springboard as anything else we’ve dug up? Absolutely.