Modern Baseball Committee (1970 – 1987): The 2018 Election

Modern Baseball Committee (1970 – 1987): The 2018 Election
07 Dec
2017
Not in Hall of Fame

Index

With its second meeting under a revamped structure, the Baseball Hall of Fame veterans committee will convene to evaluate nine players and one executive whose impact was made primarily during the Modern Baseball era, defined as having occurred between 1970 and 1987, and perhaps elect someone to the Hall of Fame. Their ballot results will be announced on December 10 during the winter meetings.

The dates for "Modern Baseball" may be arbitrary, but they underscore the need to concentrate on candidates from the last half-century. Last year, the Today's Game Committee met to evaluate players and non-players from 1988 to the present; the 16-member committee elected executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz from a pool of candidates that included executive George Steinbrenner, managers Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella and players Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire.

Under the current structure, candidates from older periods will be evaluated much less frequently than in the past. The Golden Days Committee, evaluating the period between 1950 and 1969, will meet once every half-decade starting in 2020, while the Early Baseball Committee (1871 to 1949) will meet once a decade starting in 2020.

This year's Modern Baseball Committee will evaluate players Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant, and Alan Trammell, and executive Marvin Miller. Of the players, all spent the maximum of 15 years on the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) ballot (the "writers' ballot") with the curious exception of Ted Simmons, who was a one-and-done in 1994 when he garnered less than four percent of the vote.

The table below details BBWAA voting percentages for the nine players including their first year, final year, highest, and average percentages.

BBWAA Voting Percentages for Players on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Ballot

Player

Yrs. on Ballot

First Year

Last Year

Initial Pct.

Final Pct.

Highest Pct.

Ave. Pct.

Garvey, Steve

15

1993

2007

41.6

21.1

42.6

31.9

John, Tommy

15

1995

2009

21.3

31.7

31.7

24.9

Mattingly, Don

15

2001

2015

28.2

9.1

28.2

14.3

Morris, Jack

15

2000

2014

22.2

61.5

67.7

40.8

Murphy, Dale

15

1999

2013

19.3

18.6

23.2

13.9

Parker, Dave

15

1997

2011

17.5

15.3

24.5

15.3

Simmons, Ted

1

1994

1994

3.7

3.7

3.7

3.7

Tiant, Luis

15

1988

2002

30.9

18.0

30.9

13.3

Trammell, Alan

15

2002

2016

15.7

40.9

40.9

22.1


In addition to the BBWAA ballot, five of the nine players and Marvin Miller have appeared on a previous veterans committee ballot. Tiant has had more opportunities for the Hall than any of these candidates—along with 15 chances to be elected by the writers, he has been evaluated by some incarnation of the veterans committee seemingly every other year since 2005; this will be at least his sixth appearance on a post-writers' ballot. Both Garvey and John appeared on committee ballots in 2011 and 2014, while Parker and Simmons were also on that 2014 ballot. Meanwhile, Miller, who along with any other executive can gain a Hall pass solely from a veterans committee, has been up before one incarnation or another seven times since 2001; Miller died in 2012 at age 95 and is the only current candidate not still alive to learn of his fate—although by 2008 Miller, after the first three tries, had washed his hands of the process.

Marvin Miller Modern Baseball 01
Is Marvin Miller one of the most important men in baseball history? The Hall of Fame thinks not.


Of the nine players, Jack Morris, whose final years on the BBWAA ballot sparked heated debates between stat-heads and traditionalists, is the most likely candidate to get the nod from the committee. Morris broached the 50-percent mark in 2010 with 52.3 percent, and two years later he pushed north of 60 percent, notching his best showing of 67.7 percent in 2013, his penultimate year on the BBWAA ballot.

With all but one player candidate having appeared on 15 BBWAA ballots, it is tempting to state that they had their chances but could not convince voters of their Hall-worthiness over the course of 15 years. This was the sentiment expressed by the Hall of Fame itself when, in 2014, it shortened the number of years a player can remain on the BBWAA ballot from 15 years to 10 years, stating that the likelihood of a candidate being elected to the Hall of Fame after more than 10 years of trying was "incredibly minimal." Whether that reasoning is sound—Bert Blyleven is a strong argument against that; Jim Rice less so—it does put more pressure on current and future veterans committees (to use the generic term) to become the arbiters of legacy as more players pass through the BBWAA process unelected and into legacy limbo just waiting for a second chance with the veterans committee, as I noted at this time last year.

So, how has the veterans committee done in recent years? Credit them in 2012, when the now-defunct Golden Era Committee voted Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame. Considered to be one of the biggest Hall snubs for years (as I noted in my very first column for this site in 2011), Santo garnered 3.9 percent of the vote on his first BBWAA ballot in 1980, built that to 31.6 percent in 1992, and received a final-year push in 1998 to 43.1 percent, his best showing but well-short of election. A life-long diabetic, Santo died in 2010 at age 70, two years before he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame.

The next year, the now-defunct Pre-Integration Era Committee elected three candidates: owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day, and third baseman and catcher Deacon White, whose last year as a player coincided with the Benjamin Harrison administration. Those elections contrasted dramatically with the 2013 BBWAA ballot, overstuffed as it was including first-time eligibles Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, managing to yield no inductees.

Up next in 2014, the Expansion Era Committee elected three candidates: Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre. All were managers and not players (though Torre, the National League Most Valuable Player in 1971, had a considerable playing career and lasted 15 years on the BBWAA ballot). Among the players on that 2014 ballot were Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, and Ted Simmons; each received six or fewer votes.

The following year brought back the Golden Era Committee, but unlike its 2012 incarnation that elected Ron Santo, this version could not elect a single candidate, which included Luis Tiant. Next up in 2016 was the return of the Pre-Integration Era, which, like its predecessor, also tossed a shutout.

Last year, the revamped Today's Game Committee did elect executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz but no players. In my evaluation, I named Mark McGwire among players and Selig and George Steinbrenner among executives as being Hall-worthy, underestimating Schuerholz's impact on committee voters, who were more bullish on Schuerholz than I (though I have no objection to his being elected to the Hall of Fame).

As with the BBWAA ballots, a candidate on a veterans committee ballot must receive at least 75 percent of the vote to be elected to the Hall of Fame. And therein lies the rub regardless of how the veterans committee is configured: Both under the structure introduced in 2010 and the structure that replaced it in 2016, each committee comprises 16 members who have a limited number of votes they can cast.

Reports vary as to the number of votes each member receives, but even favoring the liberal count of five, that is still a tight margin: With a candidate needing a minimum of 12 votes for election, and with a maximum of 80 votes available (16 voters, each with a maximum of five votes), and with ten candidates eligible to receive votes—it's been far too long since I've taken a statistics course, but that is a hell of a lot of permutations, with the odds that three of every four voters will select the same candidates correspondingly slim.

It does happen, of course, as it did last year with the election of John Schuerholz and Bud Selig, and in 2014 with the election of Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre, and in 2013 with the election of Hank O'Day, Jacob Ruppert, and Deacon White. But recent results suggest that the odds are much better that a non-player candidate will be elected by a veterans committee than a player. In the 21st century, a veterans committee has elected only four Major League players—Joe Gordon, Bill Mazeroski, Ron Santo, and White—with only Mazeroski still living when the election occurred. (Negro Leagues pitcher Hilton Smith was elected in 2001; he never pitched in the Major Leagues.)

To put it bluntly: The Baseball Hall of Fame has reduced the number of years a player may remain on a BBWAA ballot from 15 years to ten years. With no other changes, such as a reduction in the minimum percentage of votes needed to be elected to the Hall, or an increase in the number of candidates a voter may select, the odds of a player being elected grow smaller. (In 2015, the BBWAA did ask the Hall for an increase in the number of selections allowed, from 10 to 12. The Hall refused the request.)

This leaves the fate of a player increasingly up to the veterans committee, which in the last 17 years has elected four MLB players to the Hall, two of whom began their final seasons when Richard Nixon was president, one of whom last played baseball when Harry Truman was president, and another of whom last played baseball when Benjamin Harrison was president. By contrast, the BBWAA elected four players to the Hall in one year, 2015, and 12 players in the last four years.

Do we expect the veterans committee to redress the ballot logjam, which the Hall of Fame seems to consider not an issue? True, it has revamped its committee structure to focus attention on players who have played in the last half-century—but does it think that either the Modern Baseball or Today's Game Committees will actually elect a player? The recent record militates against that. Do any of the 2018 candidates on the Modern Baseball ballot stand a chance of being elected?

To answer that, we must first determine whether any of the player candidates appear to have been overlooked in previous evaluations of their Hall of Fame worthiness.

The table below lists the Hall of Fame statistics for the six position players on the 2018 Modern Baseball ballot, with the statistics defined beneath the table. Please note that the JAWS rankings are for the player at his respective position and is not a ranking based on all positions.

2018 Modern Baseball Position Player Candidates, Hall of Fame Statistics

Player (Position)

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank*

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

Garvey, Steve (1B)

37.8

37.7

28.6

33.1

51

130

32

117

116

Mattingly, Don (1B)

40.7

42.2

35.6

38.9

38

134

34

127

124

Murphy, Dale (CF)

44.3

46.2

41.0

43.6

25

116

34

121

119

Parker, Dave (RF)

41.1

39.9

37.2

38.6

37

124

42

121

120

Simmons, Ted (C)

54.2

50.1

34.6

42.4

10

124

44

118

116

Trammell, Alan (SS)

63.7

70.4

44.6

57.5

11

118

40

110

111

fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
WAR7: The sum of a player's best seven seasons as defined by bWAR; they need not be consecutive seasons.
JAWS: Jaffe WAR Score system—an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak.
JAWS Rank: The player's ranking at that position by JAWS rating. (*) In this table, JAWS rank is for the player at his primary position only and is not a ranking of all position players.
Hall of Fame Monitor: An index of how likely a player is to be inducted to the Hall of Fame based on his entire playing record (offensive, defensive, awards, position played, postseason success), with an index score of 100 being a good possibility and 130 a "virtual cinch." Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
Hall of Fame Standards: An index of performance standards, indexed to 50 as being the score for an average Hall of Famer. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
OPS+: Career on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 OPS+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.
wRC+: Career weighted Runs Created, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 wRC+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

Looking at the six position players and their Hall of Fame statistics, you can see why they continue to come up for evaluation—they are truly "on the bubble," at the threshold of Hall of Fame caliber, not obvious enough to admit without question yet too substantial to dismiss without examination.

An example of the latter is the Hall of Fame Monitor, which assigns a point value based on the player's entire playing record and which establishes an index score of 100 as the baseline for serious consideration for the Hall. All six position players exceed the 100-point index, not surprisingly as all had outstanding careers—yet the Hall of Fame Standards rating, based on performance standards with an index score of 50 as the baseline, shows all six position players below that baseline by at least six points.

For both adjusted OPS+ (OPS+) and adjusted weighted runs created (wRC+), each with an index value of 100 indicating a league-average hitter, all six position players exceed the baseline, which is notable for both Ted Simmons and Alan Trammell as each played at a position (catcher and shortstop, respectively) that stressed defensive skills over offensive capabilities (at least in their eras), and because both metrics include all hitters at every position, it is not unusual to see players at either position below that baseline; for example, Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith holds a career 87 OPS+ yet was inducted on his first ballot.

The WAR and JAWS statistics for the six position players are examined in detail below as each player is evaluated by his contemporaries at his respective position. As a rule of thumb, though, all position players except catcher and all starting pitchers merit serious consideration for a WAR value of 60 or more (either bWAR or fWAR), catchers do so for a WAR score of 50 or more, and relief pitchers for a WAR score of 30 or more.

Turning to starting pitchers, the table below lists the Hall of Fame statistics for the three starting pitchers on the 2018 Modern Baseball ballot, with the statistics defined beneath the table. This table does include the baseline JAWS values derived from the aggregate averages of all starting pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame, and the JAWS ranking for the three pitchers indicates their ranking for all starting pitchers ranked by JAWS.

2018 Modern Baseball Starting Pitcher Candidates, Hall of Fame Statistics, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

ERA+

ERA–

ALL HoF SP (62)

NA

73.9

50.3

62.1

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Tiant, Luis

54.8

66.7

44.6

55.7

51

97

41

114

87

John, Tommy

79.4

62.0

34.7

48.4

83

112

44

111

90

Morris, Jack

55.8

44.1

32.8

38.4

164

122

39

105

95

fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
WAR7: The sum of a player's best seven seasons as defined by bWAR; they need not be consecutive seasons.
JAWS: Jaffe WAR Score system—an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak.
JAWS Rank: The player's ranking at that position by JAWS rating.
Hall of Fame Monitor: An index of how likely a player is to be inducted to the Hall of Fame based on his entire playing record (offensive, defensive, awards, position played, postseason success), with an index score of 100 being a good possibility and 130 a "virtual cinch." Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
Hall of Fame Standards: An index of performance standards, indexed to 50 as being the score for an average Hall of Famer. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
ERA+: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA+ indicating a league-average pitcher, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.
ERA–: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA– indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

As with the position players, each pitcher is at or above the baseline for the Hall of Fame Monitor (Luis Tiant is a shade below) and below the baseline for the Hall of Fame Standards. With respect to the adjusted earned run averages, either as calculated by Baseball Reference (ERA+) or FanGraphs (ERA–), each pitcher is better than league-average by at least a few points.

And as all three candidates were starting pitchers, the table above indicates their WAR and JAWS statistics with respect to all starting pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame. These will be explored in detail below as each pitcher is evaluated by their contemporaries, but as the at-a-glance view at the JAWS perspective above indicates why these three pitchers are on the bubble: All three fall below the JAWS threshold for Hall of Fame starting pitchers.

Clearly, all nine player candidates must be evaluated in the context of their positions and their eras, an examination to which we turn now.



First Base: Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly

Despite outstanding careers, both Steve Garvey and Don Mattingly have faced an uphill battle in their quest for the Hall of Fame—although both were high-average hitters with decent power, the prototypical Hall of Fame first baseman delivered 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in for a decade or more, finishing with around 500 home runs and 1500 RBI. This doesn't mean that first basemen not meeting these criteria have been excluded—George Sisler is a good example of an exception to this rule; George "High Pockets" Kelly decidedly is not—but it has been a challenge for first basemen not of the Lou Gehrig-to-Willie McCovey-to-Jeff Bagwell model to get into Cooperstown.

Steve Garvey

It took Steve Garvey a good half-decade to get rolling with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but once he did, he kept rolling almost up to his retirement following the 1987 season, his age-38 year, finishing his last five seasons with the San Diego Padres starting in 1983.

Up for a cup of coffee in 1969, Garvey filled in at third base and the outfield until veteran first baseman Wes Parker retired after the 1972 season, allowing Garvey to move to first. In 114 games and 366 plate appearances in 1973, he produced a .304/.328/.438/.766 slash line from 106 hits and drove in 50 runs.

But in 1974, in his age-25 season, Garvey played his first full year at first base and showed the National League his hitting prowess: Rapping out a .312/.342/.469/.811 slash line with 200 hits, the first of six seasons with 200 or more hits, Garvey hit 32 doubles, the first of seven years with 30 or more two-base hits, and 21 homers, the first of six years with 20 or more big flies. He also scored a career-high 95 runs while knocking in 111 runs, the first of five years with 100 or more RBI.

Garvey rolled on through the 1970s, collecting 200 hits and batting .300 every year as he remained a fixture in the Dodgers' infield: With second baseman Davey Lopes, shortstop Bill Russell, and third baseman Ron Cey, Garvey was part of an infield unit that played together for more than eight seasons. Garvey was also very durable—he played in 1207 consecutive games from 1975 to 1983, the longest streak in National League history and the fourth-longest in baseball history.

Off the field, Garvey cultivated a wholesome image—he became known as "Mr. Clean"—but as news of his series of overlapping relationships beginning in the 1980s became public, that image crumbled amidst embarrassing revelations of two children born out of wedlock, each to a different woman. Needless to say, those revelations scotched Garvey's political ambitions. A Republican, the man whose teammates had dubbed him "Senator" had considered running for public office until his personal life scuttled that idea, although the cynic may note that his situation would not necessarily be a handicap in today's fetid political environment.

Steve Garvey Modern Baseball 01
Steve Garvey still holds the National League record for consecutive games played.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Steve Garvey and his first base contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1969 and 1987, the span of Garvey's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Garvey's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Steve Garvey and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

+ McCovey, Willie

67.4

64.4

44.8

54.6

13

110

44

147

145

ALL HoF 1B (20)

NA

66.4

42.7

54.6

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

+ Murray, Eddie

72.0

68.3

39.0

53.6

15

154

56

129

127

Hernandez, Keith

59.4

60.0

41.0

50.5

19

86

32

128

131

+ Torre, Joe

62.3

57.6

37.3

47.4

24

96

40

129

129

+ Perez, Tony

58.9

53.9

36.4

45.2

29

81

41

122

121

Cash, Norm

54.6

52.0

33.7

42.9

32

50

29

139

139

+ Cepeda, Orlando

50.3

50.3

34.5

42.4

33

126

37

133

131

Powell, Boog

44.1

39.0

30.8

34.9

47

44

25

134

134

Scott, George

36.3

36.4

30.2

33.3

50

44

20

114

113

Garvey, Steve

37.8

37.7

28.6

33.1

51

130

32

117

116

Cooper, Cecil

33.8

35.8

29.9

32.8

53

96

28

121

119

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

During his career, Garvey faced some heavy competition at first base as five of the eleven players in this sample are in the Hall of Fame, although in fairness Willie McCovey, who retired after the 1980 season, was already in his decline phase by the time Garvey became a starter in 1974, and Joe Torre, who nonetheless had an excellent playing career and lasted all 15 years on a BBWAA ballot, was elected to the Hall as a manager.

Of the other Hall of Famers, Eddie Murray was a consummate compiler, joining Willie Mays and Hank Aaron as the third hitter in MLB history to collect at least 3000 hits and at least 500 home runs while falling just under the JAWS averages for a Hall of Fame first baseman. Both Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda are gratuitous Hall picks, with Perez another compiler although Cepeda had greater effectiveness even if his JAWS scores reflect a shorter career than Perez's.

Among Garvey's contemporaries not in the Hall, Keith Hernandez was a similar model to Garvey, a slick-fielding, high-average hitter with some pop, and if Garvey showed more power, Hernandez was genuinely a top-flight defender whose value has grown over the years, to the point that many are hollering "snub!" with respect to his Hall credentials as he doesn't fit the traditional hard-slugging model more typical of Norm Cash, Cecil Cooper, Boog Powell, and George Scott, although "Boomer" Scott also flashed impressive leather at first base.

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Steve Garvey and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Steve Garvey and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

H

2B

HR

RBI

+ McCovey, Willie

.270/.374/.515

145

9692

2211

353

521

1555

Cash, Norm

.271/.374/.488

139

7914

1820

241

377

1104

Powell, Boog

.266/.361/.462

134

7809

1776

270

339

1187

+ Cepeda, Orlando

.297/.350/.499

131

8698

2351

417

379

1365

Hernandez, Keith

.296/.384/.436

131

8553

2182

426

162

1071

+ Torre, Joe

.297/.365/.452

129

8802

2342

344

252

1185

+ Murray, Eddie

.287/.359/.476

127

12,817

3255

560

504

1917

+ Perez, Tony

.279/.341/.463

121

10,861

2732

505

379

1652

Cooper, Cecil

.298/.337/.466

119

7349

2192

415

241

1125

Garvey, Steve

.294/.329/.446

116

9466

2599

440

272

1308

Scott, George

.268/.333/.435

113

8269

1992

306

271

1051

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

When examined for weighted effectiveness in creating runs, Garvey, despite an impressive slash line, slides to the bottom of this sample once again, three ticks below Cooper, whose slash line is better than Garvey's while compiling counting numbers that approach Garvey's despite having more than 2000 fewer plate appearances.

And while Garvey clearly out-homered Hernandez even with about 900 more plate appearances, Hernandez's slash line is about even with Garvey's, a little lighter in slugging percentage but, thanks to nearly 600 more walks than Garvey, flashing a more robust on-base percentage. With more opportunities, Garvey plated 237 more runs than did Hernandez, to be expected from a hitter who batted cleanup for a little less than half his career, although Hernandez, who was his team's Number Three hitter 75 percent of the time, scored just 19 fewer runs than did Garvey.

However, Garvey kept a high profile for most of his career, first with the Dodgers and then with the Padres, who retired his number (6) after his playing career was over. That profile resulted in awards and recognition throughout his career.

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Garvey and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Steve Garvey and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

+ McCovey, Willie

1

4

6

0

0

1

31

126

+ Cepeda, Orlando

1

2

7

NA

0

1

14

196

Hernandez, Keith

1

4

5

2

11

0

14

118

Garvey, Steve

1

5

10

0

4

0

12

142

Cooper, Cecil

0

4

5

3

2

0

12

112

+ Torre, Joe

1

2

9

NA

1

0

12

71

+ Murray, Eddie

0

8

8

3

3

1

11

181

Scott, George

0

2

3

NA

8

0

8

97

Cash, Norm

0

1

4

NA

0

0

7

104

Powell, Boog

1

3

4

NA

0

0

3

93

+ Perez, Tony

0

4

7

0

0

0

0

129

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

MVP: Most Valuable Player Award.
MVP Top 10: Number of times a player finished in the top 10 of his league's MVP voting. Includes an MVP win.
Silver Slugger Award: Awarded to the best offensive player at every position. Began in 1980. NA indicates that the player had retired before the award existed.
RoY: Rookie of the Year Award.
Black Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a player led his league in significant batting statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 27. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
Gray-Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a player appeared in the top ten of his league in significant batting statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 144. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

In1974, his first full season, fans were wowed by Garvey, who started his first All-Star game as a write-in candidate, one of only two players with that distinction (Rico Carty of the Atlanta Braves first earned that distinction in 1970).

At Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium for that All-Star game—one that Garvey played in despite having the mumps—he got two hits in four at-bats, scored the first run in the National League's eventual 7–2 victory over the American League, and drove in another run as he was named the game's Most Valuable Player. Garvey was also the MVP of the 1978 All-Star Game, with the only other two-time All-Star Game MVPs being Gary Carter, Willie Mays, and Cal Ripken, Jr.—all three of course in the Hall of Fame.

More significantly, Garvey was named the NL MVP for the 1974 season, the first of five seasons in which he finished within the top ten for MVP voting. Retrospective assessment puts Garvey's 1974 value at 4.4 wins above a replacement player, a decent although not remarkable rating and one that was topped by several position players.

And if you think using bWAR is a cheat because it did not exist in 1974, consider this: Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds, who finished fourth in voting, drove in a Major League-leading 129 runs that season while slamming 33 home runs and batting .280 (his bWAR was 7.8) while teammate Joe Morgan, who finished eighth in voting, hit 22 home runs, scored 107 runs, stole 58 bases, and batted .293 (his bWAR was 8.8). The Philadelphia Phillies' Mike Schmidt, sixth in voting, led the NL in home runs (36) while adding 116 RBI and batting .282 (9.7 bWAR). But from a historic perspective, the St. Louis Cardinals' Lou Brock, runner-up to Garvey, shattered Maury Wills's single-season stolen base record of 104 steals in the modern era (1901 and later) by swiping 118 bags while scoring 105 runs, collecting 194 hits, and batting .306 (3.5 bWAR).

Even Garvey's own teammates had their MVP cases. Jimmy Wynn, fifth in voting with a 7.7 bWAR, slugged 32 homers, drove in 108 runs while scoring 104 runs, and batted .271 while relief pitcher Mike Marshall, third in voting with a 3.2 bWAR, made an insane 106 appearances in 1974, all out of the bullpen, which makes his innings count of 208.1 even more mind-boggling—today's starting pitchers get congratulated for pitching 200 innings! (Marshal, who had made 92 relief appearances the previous season, did win the 1974 NL Cy Young Award in one of the most unusual campaigns ever.)

Garvey's 1974 MVP campaign was excellent but hardly spectacular, but he did help the Dodgers win their first National League pennant since 1966, the first of four pennants the team won while Garvey was aboard. In the 1974 World Series, the Dodgers fell in five games to the Oakland Athletics, the third of three consecutive world championships for the A's, with Garvey rapping out eight singles for a .381 batting average but driving in just one run while scoring two. The Dodgers' first baseman had torn up the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Championship Series with a .389/.421/.778/.1.199 line as he hit two homers, one double, scored four runs and drove in five.

In fact, Steve Garvey was an outstanding postseason hitter, as in 55 playoff games he collected 75 hits in 232 plate appearances including 8 doubles and 11 home runs and scored 32 runs while driving in 31 runs for a .338/.361/.550/.910 slash line. The Dodgers lost back-to-back World Series to the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978, but in 1981 they finally bested the Bronx Bombers in six games for their first world championship since 1965, with Garvey batting a torrid .417 although he notched only one extra-base hit, a double in Game Four, while scoring three runs for Garvey's only World Series ring.

He returned to the World Series in 1984 with the Padres, which lost to the Detroit Tigers in five games as Garvey, despite two doubles, was held to a .200/.200/.300/.500 slash line with a pair of runs scored and runs batted in. Garvey had been named as the NLCS MVP that year, against the Chicago Cubs, the second time he had been honored thusly since the Dodgers' 1978 campaign against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Although Garvey won four consecutive Gold Gloves at first base, defensive metrics do not show him to be a quality defender. His dWAR, wins above a replacement player for his defensive play, is –12.3, no surprise as Baseball Reference's version of WAR socks first basemen with a positional adjustment of –10.0. Garvey played 2059 games at first base, 15th all-time, and he ranks 14th in putouts (18,844) and 49th in assists (1026) with just 81 errors committed, 157th all-time in a category in which a high ranking is not a good sign. Indeed, Garvey's fielding percentage of .996 (.9959 before rounding) is 10th best all-time, and in 1984 Garvey committed no errors at first base in 159 games and 1319 total chances—the only infielder in Major League history to have made no miscues in 150 or more games.

Nevertheless, Garvey's range factor per 9 innings, or RF/9 (9 x [putouts + assists]/innings played), of 9.95 is a shade below the league average during his career of 9.99, while his range factor per game, RF/G ([putouts + assists]/games played), of 9.65 is well below the league average of 9.98. Meanwhile, Total Zone's total fielding runs above average puts Garvey at –6 for his play at first base, just a shade below average.

Steve Garvey had an outstanding career, and the "fame" component of that career looks impressive: He was a star attraction of a storied franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers, during a time when they won four NL pennants and one World Series, the cornerstone of an infield celebrated for its durability as Garvey himself, a ten-time All-Star and the 1974 NL MVP, became the National League's "Iron Man" with 1207 consecutive games played.

Yet among his first base contemporaries, both Hall of Famers and not, Garvey does not leap off the page. Over 19 seasons, he played 2332 games yet he did not roll up eye-popping counting numbers—his 2599 hits are 83rd all-time, nestled between Hall of Famers Tim Raines, Rabbit Maranville, and Ed Delahanty; his 1308 RBI are 108th all-time, between Paul Waner and Paul Molitor; and his 440 doubles are 121st all-time, tied with Hall of Famers Luke Appling and Roberto Clemente with Roger Connor and Barry Larkin above and Eddie Collins below. As with Garvey's fame component, he is impressive without being convincing. Among the 20th-century Hall of Famers just mentioned, Clemente, Collins, Molitor, and Waner all collected 3000 or more hits, Raines is fifth all-time in stolen bases, and Appling, Larkin, and Maranville, all shortstops, have positional scarcity working for them (although Maranville is one of the weakest candidates ever elected by the writers).

As for peak, Garvey ranks last among his contemporaries in WAR7, a player's top seven seasons as determined by his WAR rating for each season. (The seasons do not have to be consecutive.) Again, modern statistics used retrospectively do not tell the only story. Presumably using traditional stats and the old "eye test," BBWAA voters were lukewarm at best on Garvey: He broached the 40-percent mark three times in his first six years on the ballot before sliding down the scale, falling below the 30-percent mark in each of his last six years. Garvey fared similarly on two Expansion Era ballots, garnering less than 50 percent of the vote in 2011 and 2014. It is unlikely that the Modern Baseball Committee will effect a reversal, and for good reason: Steve Garvey is not a Hall of Fame-caliber player.

Don Mattingly

The same fate may await Don Mattingly, although this first baseman who played his entire 14-year career with another iconic franchise, the Yankees, was forced to retire because of recurrent back problems after his age-34 season in 1995, after 1785 games and 7722 plate appearances, a little light on the longevity scale to amass the weighty counting numbers that have been traditional Hall of Fame indicators. Did Mattingly have peak years impressive enough to counteract that?

Mattingly's first season in 1982 was a whistle-stop tour of the Majors late in the season, and he was a part-time player filling games in left- and right field as well as at first base the following year, collecting 305 plate appearances while posting a .283/.333/.409/.742 slash line.

But "Donnie Baseball" rocketed out of the gate once he became the Yankees' starting first baseman in 1984: Smacking a league-leading 207 hits in 662 plate appearances, the first of three consecutive years with 200 or more hits, Mattingly led the American League in hitting with a .343 batting average while also leading the league in doubles with 44, the first of four years with 40 or more two-baggers. Scoring 91 runs, he drove in 110 runs, the first of five years with 100 or more RBI as his 23 home runs marked the first of five seasons slugging 20 or more round-trippers; Mattingly finished fifth in AL Most Valuable Player voting.

His 1985 campaign was even better: Leading the Majors in doubles (48), runs batted in (a career-high 145), total bases (370), and sacrifice flies (15, another career high), Mattingly was named the AL MVP. And when he paced the Majors the following season in seven categories including career highs in hits (238), doubles (53), total bases (388), and slugging percentage (.573) while becoming runner-up for the AL batting title with a .352 average, five points behind Wade Boggs of the Boston Red Sox, Mattingly, runner-up to Boston's Roger Clemens for the AL MVP, seemed well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Don Mattingly and his first base contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1982 and 1995, the span of Mattingly's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Mattingly's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Don Mattingly and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

+ Bagwell, Jeff

80.2

79.6

48.2

63.9

6

150

59

149

149

+ Thomas, Frank

72.0

73.7

45.2

59.5

9

194

60

156

154

Thome, Jim

69.0

72.9

41.5

57.2

10

156

57

147

145

Palmeiro, Rafael

70.0

71.6

38.7

55.2

12

178

57

132

130

ALL HoF 1B (20)

NA

66.4

42.7

54.6

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

McGwire, Mark

66.3

62.0

41.9

51.9

17

170

42

163

157

Clark, Will

52.0

56.2

35.9

46.0

26

84

42

137

136

McGriff, Fred

56.9

52.4

35.8

44.1

31

100

48

134

134

Mattingly, Don

40.7

42.2

35.6

38.9

38

134

34

127

124

Grace, Mark

45.5

46.1

29.5

37.8

42

60

38

119

120

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

In many respects, Mattingly has a tougher row to hoe than does Steve Garvey as Mattingly's contemporaries include two Hall of Famers, Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas, ranked within the top ten of all first basemen by JAWS criteria, with Jim Thome sure to follow suit, if not on his first ballot in 2018 then soon afterwards. By the numbers, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro would have joined them if each didn't have the taint of performance-enhancing drugs sullying them. Meanwhile, Fred McGriff has toiled on the BBWAA ballot for eight years, alongside Mattingly until 2015, yet to garner one-quarter of the vote, while Will Clark and Mark Grace look like Don Mattingly without the high-profile exposure.

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Don Mattingly and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Don Mattingly and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

H

2B

HR

RBI

McGwire, Mark

.263/.394/.588

157

7660

1626

252

583

1414

+ Thomas, Frank

.301/.419/.555

154

10,075

2468

495

521

1704

+ Bagwell, Jeff

.297/.408/.540

149

9431

2314

488

449

1529

Thome, Jim

.276/.402/.554

145

10,313

2328

451

612

1699

Clark, Will

.303/.384/.497

136

8283

2176

440

284

1205

McGriff, Fred

.284/.377/.509

134

10,174

2490

441

493

1550

Palmeiro, Rafael

.288/.371/.515

130

12,046

3020

585

569

1835

Mattingly, Don

.307/.358/.471

124

7722

2153

442

222

1099

Grace, Mark

.303/.383/.442

120

9290

2445

511

173

1146

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Even if we strip away the inner-circle performances of Bagwell, McGwire, Palmeiro, Thomas, and Thome, Don Mattingly still gets lost among the rest both quantitatively and qualitatively. The purpose of the veterans committees is to ensure that players whom the BBWAA voters might have discounted or overlooked do not remain overlooked, but as with the comparisons for Steve Garvey, evaluating Mattingly against his contemporaries seems to highlight other players not on the 2018 Modern Baseball Committee ballot who seem to be the overlooked ones; in Mattingly's case, it's Clark, while Garvey's assessment only made Keith Hernandez look better.

But as with Garvey, Mattingly played in a high-visibility market, New York, while rolling up accolades for his playing. Could this be the "fame" component that might give Mattingly an edge?

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Mattingly and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Don Mattingly and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

McGwire, Mark

0

5

12

3

1

1

36

110

+ Bagwell, Jeff

1

6

4

3

1

1

24

157

Mattingly, Don

1

4

6

3

9

0

23

111

+ Thomas, Frank

2

9

5

4

0

0

21

200

Thome, Jim

0

4

5

1

0

0

13

118

Clark, Will

0

4

6

2

1

0

13

94

McGriff, Fred

0

6

5

3

0

0

9

105

Palmeiro, Rafael

0

3

4

2

3

0

8

183

Grace, Mark

0

0

3

0

4

0

3

86

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Mattingly did win nine Gold Gloves for his fielding at first base, second only to Keith Hernandez's 11, and his defensive metrics bear this out. His career dWAR, defensive wins above a replacement player, is –6.8, taking into account the –10.0 dWAR positional adjustment that is the baseline for first basemen, meaning that Mattingly is 3.2 wins better than the average replacement first baseman, which squares with his 33 career Total Zone fielding runs above average, which is 29th all-time (since 1953 only).

His 1634 games at first base 51st all-time, Mattingly ranks 23rd all-time in double plays turned (1500), 38th all-time in assists (1104), and 54th all-time in putouts (14,148). Committing just 64 errors in 15,316 total chances, Mattingly is just behind Steve Garvey with a .996 fielding average (.9958), in 11th place all-time, while his 9.71 range factor per nine innings tops the league's RF/9 of 9.65.

Although he played exclusively for the New York Yankees, a team synonymous with the postseason, Don Mattingly had the misfortune of starring for the team during a long fallow period for the franchise. He participated in only one postseason series, the 1995 American League Divisional Series against the Mariners best-known for Seattle's Edgar Martinez's series-winning double in the bottom of 11th inning. And although this was Mattingly's last appearance in Major League Baseball, he acquitted himself admirably, tearing off 10 hits in 24 at-bats during the five-game series for a scorching .417/.440/.708/.1.148 slash line with four doubles, one home run, three runs scored, and six runs driven in.

In his first three full seasons, from 1984 to 1986, Don Mattingly was sensational, posting a .340/.382/.560/.942 slash line with seasonal averages of 219 hits, 48 doubles, 30 home runs, 361 total bases, 105 runs scored, 123 runs batted in, a 158 OPS+, and a 6.6 bWAR. Inevitably, he cooled a bit in the next three years, but this six-year peak from 1984 to 1989 saw him deliver a .327/.372/.530/.902 slash line and seasonal averages of 203 hits, 43 doubles, 27 home runs, 330 total bases, 97 runs scored, 114 RBI, a 147 OPS+, and 5.3 bWAR. In 1987, six of his 30 home runs were grand slams, still the most grand slams in a single season—and by one of those beloved statistical quirks in baseball, they were the only six grand slams he ever hit.

But Mattingly's back problems returned to stay starting in 1990 as he went on the disabled list in July and played in only 102 games, with his .256/.308/.335/.643 slash line generating an 81 OPS+, well below league-average. He raised himself above the 100 index for OPS+ over the next four seasons, even turning in a decent showing in 1993, his age-32 season, with a .291/.364/.445/.809 line that yielded a 120 OPS+ as he hit 17 home runs and drove in 86 runs, but with 9.0 wins above a replacement player generated over his last six seasons from 1990 to 1995, an average of 1.5 bWAR per year, Mattingly was hardly at All-Star, let alone Hall of Fame, caliber. His 35.6 WAR7, his peak seven years by bWAR, bears this out as 32.8 of that comes from the 1984 to 1989 period.

Don Mattingly Modern Baseball 01
Don Mattingly roared out of the gate as a slick-fielding, hot-hitting first baseman--but does he have the right stuff for the Hall of Fame?

For the first three full seasons of his career, Don Mattingly looked like a no-doubt Hall of Fame player, and for the next three seasons, he still looked to be building a strong case as a consistent hitter with some power who delivered top-flight defense at first base, the American League's answer to Keith Hernandez. But health issues curtailed his career starting in 1990, and he never matched that superlative start.

The path to the Hall of Fame is like how Tom Wolfe described the climb to the top of the professional pyramid for test pilots and astronauts in his book The Right Stuff: You may have the right stuff, but it can blow at any seam, at any time. And while Don Mattingly (or any baseball player) didn't have a one-in-four chance of being killed while playing baseball, as did pilots test-flying an experimental airplane, that sums up his chances for the Hall of Fame.



Outfield: Dale Murphy, Dave Parker

First basemen Steve Garvey and Don Mattingly proved to be just under the threshold for the Baseball Hall of Fame—are outfielders Dale Murphy and Dave Parker in the same boat?

Dale Murphy

Like Garvey, Dale Murphy projected a squeaky-clean image both on and off the field, but unlike Garvey, whose wholesomeness provided a façade that disguised his unseemly extramarital affairs, Murphy, a Mormon, seemed to be genuine—so much so that in his final year on the BBWAA ballot, his son Chad's eleventh-hour online "integrity" campaign attempted to convince voters that if a player's decision to use performance-enhancing drugs reflects "negative" integrity, then a player's "positive" integrity, such as in Dale Murphy's case with its celebrated good-fellowship and charitable commitment, should be an incentive to vote for his dad.

Whether that had any impact is untested although unlikely as Murphy's final appearance, on the admittedly overstuffed and controversial 2013 ballot, netted him less than 19 percent of the vote. This is Murphy's first post-BBWAA re-assessment, and as we have done for the two first basemen, we will evaluate the outfielders on the Modern Baseball ballot against their contemporaries.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Dale Murphy and his center field contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1976 and 1993, the span of Murphy's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Murphy's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Dale Murphy and His Center Field Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

All HoF CF (19)

NA

71.2

44.6

57.9

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

+ Dawson, Andre

59.5

64.5

42.5

53.5

13

118

44

119

117

Cedeno, Cesar

49.8

52.7

41.3

47.0

19

42

28

123

122

Lemon, Chet

52.0

55.5

37.1

46.3

20

23

20

121

122

+ Puckett, Kirby

44.9

50.9

37.5

44.2

23

160

39

124

122

Lynn, Fred

49.2

50.0

38.2

44.1

24

85

33

129

129

Murphy, Dale

44.3

46.2

41.0

43.6

25

116

34

121

119

Butler, Brett

42.2

49.4

35.2

42.3

29

54

36

110

115

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

None of the center fielders in Murphy's era are at or above the JAWS threshold, with Andre Dawson, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010 with 77.9 percent of the vote, regarded as a borderline pick while Kirby Puckett, forced to retire at age 36 after 12 seasons because of glaucoma that blinded his right eye, was elected to the Hall in his first ballot appearance in 2001 with 82.1 percent of the vote in what a cynic might consider the Lou Gehrig Effect, although Puckett had to wait the five-year eligibility period to appear on his first ballot. (He died in 2006 following a massive stroke.)

Murphy, at about half a win above a replacement player behind Puckett, is closely matched to him although Murphy played 18 seasons even if his first two and last two seasons were negligible. Dawson played 21 years in the Major Leagues although he was a part-timer in his last three seasons; nevertheless, Dawson managed to roll up his counting stats as the table below illustrates.

Of Murphy's other contemporaries, Fred Lynn had roared out of the gate, becoming in 1975 the first player ever to win the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards in the same year, before injuries hampered what seemed to be a Hall of Fame career. (Ichiro Suzuki, destined for the Hall of Fame once MLB jobs dry up for him, repeated Lynn's feat in 2001 while Aaron Judge offered the strong possibility of a third occurrence in 2017.) With about 200 fewer games played and about 1000 fewer plate appearances, Lynn generated numbers comparable to Murphy's although his effectiveness as measured by qualitative statistics is arguably greater.

Toiling for the middling Houston Astros for much of the 1970s, Cesar Cedeno supplied some power (436 doubles and 199 home runs) and a good deal of speed (550 stolen bases; 27th all-time) to provide surprising value, while Chet Lemon was a solid if unspectacular fixture and Brett Butler was a reliable top-of-the-order hitter (1359 runs scored) who stole 558 bases (25th all-time) and legged out 131 triples (78th all-time). None are serious candidates for the Hall of Fame.

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Dale Murphy and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Dale Murphy and His Center Field Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

H

2B

HR

RBI

Lynn, Fred

.283/.360/.484

129

7923

1960

388

306

1111

+ Puckett, Kirby

.318/.360/.477

122

7831

2304

414

207

1085

Cedeno, Cesar

.285/.347/.443

122

8133

2087

436

199

976

Lemon, Chet

.273/.355/.442

122

7874

1875

396

215

884

Murphy, Dale

.265/.346/.469

119

9041

2111

350

398

1266

+ Dawson, Andre

.279/.323/.482

117

9927

2774

503

438

1591

Butler, Brett

.290/.377/.376

115

9545

2375

277

54

578


Based on adjusted weighted runs created, only Lynn stands out as a top performer in this sample, with Murphy in the middle of the pack. Puckett's .318 batting average is 53rd all-time and sixth among hitters in the post-segregation era while Butler stands out in terms of on-base percentage. And although Dawson hit the most home runs, Murphy is just 40 round-trippers shy of him while having nearly 900 fewer plate appearances but whether he could have closed the more than 400 RBI between him and Dawson given those opportunities is an open question.

But in his prime, Dale Murphy attracted esteemed recognition for his accomplishments—he is one of only 28 players to have been named his league's Most Valuable Player more than once, when he won back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983.

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Murphy and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Dale Murphy and His Center Field Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

Murphy, Dale

2

4

7

4

5

0

31

147

+ Puckett, Kirby

0

7

10

6

6

0

22

122

Butler, Brett

0

1

0

0

0

0

16

117

Lynn, Fred

1

2

9

0

4

1

15

69

+ Dawson, Andre

1

5

8

4

8

1

11

164

Cedeno, Cesar

0

1

4

0

5

0

4

70

Lemon, Chet

0

0

3

0

0

0

2

19

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

In black ink, Murphy tops the field as he led the National League four times in games played, twice each in home runs, runs batted in, and slugging percentage, and once each in runs scored and bases on balls. Moreover, Murphy won back-to-back Most Valuable Player Awards in 1982 and 1983, when he paced in the NL in RBI in each year, and is one of only four players eligible for the Hall of Fame who has won two or more MVPs but has yet to be elected to the Hall.

Two of those players, Barry Bonds and Juan Gonzalez, both have the albatross of performance-enhancing drugs hanging from their necks. The third, Roger Maris, who coincidentally also won his MVP awards back-to-back, in 1960 and 1961, also lasted 15 years on the writers' ballot, getting just over 43 percent of the vote, his best showing, in his final year in 1988.

Maris of course was the first to break Babe Ruth's single-season home run record when he hit 61 homers during the 1961 season, a watershed event in MLB history that some still insist is enough to merit his inclusion in the Hall of Fame. In both seasons, Maris led the American League in runs batted in, with RBI production having long been a dominant factor in past MVP voting.

Ironically, Maris's historic season might not have made him the most valuable player in 1961 when assessed retrospectively using bWAR, although bWAR shows Maris to have been one of the most valuable players in the previous year. Maris's bWAR in 1960 was 7.5, the best among the 28 AL players who received votes on that ballot. But although Maris generated a healthy 6.9 bWAR in 1961, that was matched or bested by five players including Maris's teammate Mickey Mantle (10.5) and teammates Norm Cash (9.2) and Al Kaline (8.4) of the Detroit Tigers.

Similarly, Dale Murphy's consecutive MVP awards, with his RBI leadership also a likely deciding factor, find him among heavy competition when assessed retrospectively by bWAR. In 1982, when Murphy posted a .281/.378/.507/.885 slash line that generated a 6.1 bWAR and 6.0 fWAR, a 142 OPS+ and a 144 wRC+ while yielding 36 home runs, 109 RBI (tied with the Montreal Expos' Al Oliver), and 113 runs scored, he found himself bested by Oliver's Expos teammates Gary Carter (8.6 bWAR, 8.4 fWAR) and Andre Dawson (7.9 bWAR, 7.3 fWAR), Philadelphia Phillies teammates Mike Schmidt (7.4 bWAR, 7.2 fWAR) and Steve Carlton (6.2 bWAR, 8.2 fWAR), and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Pedro Guerrero (6.8 bWAR, 6.2 fWAR).

Murphy did have a much more solid case the following year. Hitting 36 home runs once more, he again paced the NL in RBI (121) while also leading in slugging percentage (.540), part of his .302/.393/.540/.933 slash line as he generated a 149 OPS+, a 151 wRC+, a 7.1 bWAR, and a 7.0 fWAR. Houston Astros shortstop Dickie Thon was the only position player to best Murphy (7.4 bWAR, 7.2 fWAR) while Phillies pitcher John Denny had the best bWAR (7.6) among MVP candidates receiving a vote.

And although Murphy finished 11th in voting for the 1987 MVP award, his 7.7 bWAR (7.1 fWAR) was better than winner Dawson's 4.0 bWAR (3.5 fWAR) even as Dawson, now with the Chicago Cubs, paced the NL with 49 home runs and 137 RBI. Murphy posted a .295/.417/.580/.997 slash line as he drove in 105 runs, scored 115 runs, and established career highs in home runs (44), walks (115, including a Major League-leading 29 intentional walks), and slugging percentage (.580).

Dale Murphy Modern Baseball 01
One of the few players with two MVP awards who are not in the Hall of Fame--could Dale Murphy be elected this year?

Alas, 1987 was Murphy's final season as a top-flight hitter. The following year he plummeted to a .226/.313/.421/.734 slash line, generating a 3.1 bWAR with a 106 OPS+ that was just a few ticks above league-average, as his only league-leading statistic was grounding into double plays (24). For the last six years of his 18-year career, Murphy's aggregate slash line was .234/.307/.396/.702, yielding a below-league-average OPS+ of 96 as he averaged, per season, 18 doubles, 15 home runs, 45 runs scored, and 56 RBI.

Dale Murphy's halcyon period was a six-season stretch between 1982 and 1987 that saw him fire off a .289/.382/.531/.913 slash line that generated a per-season bWAR of 5.7 and a 145 OPS+ as he averaged, per season, 28 doubles, 36 home runs, 110 runs scored, and 105 runs batted in. In this stretch he amassed a 34.0 bWAR as he won a pair of MVP awards, which is even more impressive as he toiled for Braves teams that reached the postseason only once during Murphy's tenure in Atlanta, in 1982, when they were swept by the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, who went on to win the World Series in seven games against the then-American League Milwaukee Brewers.

Winning two MVP awards gives Murphy cachet with Modern Baseball Committee voters, particularly for the Hall of Fame players on the committee who might have won an MVP award themselves, and even if Murphy was a dubious pick in 1982 his 1987 season was better than his contemporary Andre Dawson's, who won the NL MVP and was later elected to the Hall of Fame.

But while Murphy's pair of MVPs epitomizes his peak period, that period was not a dominant one, and his non-peak years were middling ones that added to his decent though unspectacular statistical record. Among his center-field contemporaries, Dawson and Kirby Puckett were elected to the Hall of Fame, and both are considered bubble candidates. Dale Murphy falls below that bubble. He is not a Hall of Fame-caliber player.

Dave Parker

By contrast, right fielder Dave Parker compiled an impressive offensive record, a lifetime .290 hitter who won back-to-back batting titles in 1977 and 1978 as he hit .300 or better six times in his 19-year career, amassing 2712 hits, 66th all-time and one hit better than Hall of Famer Billy Williams. With the Pittsburgh Pirates, Parker was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1978 as he reeled off a sparkling .334/.394/.585/.979 slash line, leading the NL in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS+ (166; not yet a statistic in 1978), and total bases (340) while hitting 32 doubles, 30 home runs, scoring 102 runs, and driving in 117 runs.

Parker had missed becoming the NL MVP in the previous year, when he led the league in batting average (.338), hits (215, his career-high), and doubles (44, also his career-high); he came in third in voting to the Philadelphia Phillies' Greg Luzinski, who posted impressive Triple Crown stats of a .309 batting average, 39 home runs, and 130 runs batted in, and to MVP winner George Foster of the Cincinnati Reds, whose 149 RBI topped the NL, and whose Major League-leading 52 home runs marked the only time in the 1970s that a Major League hitter slugged 50 or more round-trippers.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Dave Parker and his right field contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1973 and 1991, the span of Parker's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Parker's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Dave Parker and His Right Field Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

+ Jackson, Reggie

72.7

73.8

46.8

60.3

8

170

54

139

139

All HoF RF (24)

NA

73.2

43.0

58.1

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

+ Gwynn, Tony

65.0

68.8

41.1

54.9

14

279

54

132

132

Evans, Dwight

65.1

66.9

37.1

52.0

15

70

44

127

129

Smith, Reggie

64.6

64.5

38.6

51.6

17

65

35

137

137

+ Winfield, Dave

59.9

63.8

37.7

50.8

19

148

56

130

128

Bonds, Bobby

57.2

57.7

41.0

49.4

22

66

36

129

130

Clark, Jack

50.6

52.8

31.3

42.1

28

28

35

137

138

Parker, Dave

41.1

39.9

37.2

38.6

37

124

42

121

120

Singleton, Ken

44.4

41.6

33.6

37.6

43

39

30

132

134

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

In terms of value among his contemporaries, Dave Parker fades in comparison to the three Hall of Famers in this sample as Reggie Jackson slugged 563 home runs while driving in 1702 runs in a career that saw "Mr. October" attain postseason glory both with the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees, earning five World Series rings, three with Oakland (although an injury sustained in the 1972 American League Championship Series prevented Jackson from playing in the World Series) and two with New York. Meanwhile, both Tony Gwynn and Dave Winfield racked up more than 3000 hits each during their long careers, with Winfield becoming a World Series victor at age 40 when the Toronto Blue Jays became the first (and so far only) non-United States team to win a World Series in 1992.

Parker, too, flashes World Series gold, first with Hall of Famer Willie Stargell's "We Are Family" Pirates of 1979, which overcame a 3–1 deficit against the Baltimore Orioles to win the Series in seven games, and then with the 1989 Athletics in their sweep of the San Francisco Giants during the "Earthquake Series."

But Parker also pales in comparison to overlooked and underrated contemporaries Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith, both of whom generated more than 20 wins above a replacement player over Parker in their careers even if Parker's WAR7, his best seven seasons, is comparable to theirs. Even Bobby Bonds and Jack Clark, two more right fielders who saw the limelight directed at players other than them, sneak above the 50-win threshold for both bWAR and fWAR while Parker hovers at the 40-win mark.

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Dave Parker and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Dave Parker and His Right Field Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

H

2B

HR

RBI

+ Jackson, Reggie

.262/.356/.490

139

11,418

2584

463

563

1702

Clark, Jack

.267/.379/.476

138

8230

1826

332

340

1180

Smith, Reggie

.287/.366/.489

137

8051

2020

363

314

1092

Singleton, Ken

.282/.388/.436

134

8559

2029

317

246

1065

+ Gwynn, Tony

.338/.388/.459

132

10,232

3141

543

135

1138

Bonds, Bobby

.268/.353/.471

130

8090

1886

302

332

1024

Evans, Dwight

.272/.370/.470

129

10,569

2446

483

385

1384

+ Winfield, Dave

.283/.353/.475

128

12,358

3110

540

465

1833

Parker, Dave

.290/.339/.471

120

10,184

2712

526

339

1493


Despite an impressive slash line informed by more than 2700 hits, 500 doubles, and 300 home runs, and nearly 1500 runs batted in, Parker ranks last not only among elite run-creators such as Jackson but also among less-celebrated hitters such as Bonds and Evans.

It is tempting to indict an advanced statistic such as wRC+, which is a league- and park-adjusted index of all hitters from a player's career span, as being an assessment that judges older players after the fact, once they have retired, when it was not available during their careers, or even during their tenure on a BBWAA ballot. That is true enough, and it warns us not to commit the historical mistake of "presentism," or the tendency to evaluate past events using only current perceptions and assumptions.

But why then, even though Dave Parker spent 15 years on a BBWAA ballot, did he average 15.3 percent of the vote during that time, with his final year in 2011 yielding that same 15.3 percent on a ballot that was not yet the logjam that it would soon become? Granted, that 2011 ballot was hardly bereft of serious candidates: Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven—the latter arguably the first of the "SABR candidates"—were elected on that ballot, with Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, and Tim Raines (another SABR darling) elected subsequently. Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, and Larry Walker are grimly hanging on for the 2018 BBWAA ballot; Juan Gonzalez, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Lee Smith eventually fell off subsequent ballots; and Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, and Alan Trammell join Parker on this Modern Baseball ballot. And Parker did have 14 previous chances on ballots that were not as crowded with potential Hall of Famers, but he broke above the 20-percent threshold only twice—and that is still a long way for the vaunted 75 percent needed for inclusion.

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Parker and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Dave Parker and His Right Field Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

+ Gwynn, Tony

0

7

15

6

5

0

57

155

+ Jackson, Reggie

1

7

14

2

0

0

35

175

Parker, Dave

1

6

7

3

3

0

26

145

Evans, Dwight

0

3

3

2

8

0

15

113

Clark, Jack

0

4

4

2

0

0

9

87

Bonds, Bobby

0

2

3

0

3

0

6

132

+ Winfield, Dave

0

7

12

6

7

0

4

152

Smith, Reggie

0

2

7

0

1

0

4

124

Singleton, Ken

0

4

3

0

0

0

1

69

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Parker's presence on significant leaderboards is apparent here as he ranks with both Gwynn and Jackson for both black ink and gray ink—the two-time batting champion also led the league in total bases three times, in both doubles and slugging percentage twice each, and in both games played and RBI once each.

He also won three Gold Gloves as the right fielder nicknamed "the Cobra" had a suitably deadly arm famously on display in the 1979 All-Star Game when he gunned down both Jim Rice and Brian Downing while driving in a run on a sacrifice fly to become the game's Most Valuable Player. In addition to being named the NL MVP in 1978, Parker finished in the top ten of MVP voting five more times although he did not receive a snub in any of those years.

But in the 1980s, Dave Parker's career took a nosedive (excuse the pun) as his cocaine addiction hampered his playing career. By 1985 Parker, along with several other MLB players including Vida Blue, Keith Hernandez, and Hall of Famer Tim Raines, were called to testify before a Pittsburgh grand jury in a drug scandal that rocked baseball although it is now overshadowed by the PED controversy.

Dave Parker Modern Baseball 01
He hit for power and average, but will Dave Parker's early-1980s swoon cost him his chance for the Hall of Fame?

Hernandez and Parker were among seven players suspended for a full season because of their prolonged drug use; however, the suspension was itself suspended on the condition that each player submit to random drug testing, contribute ten percent of his base salary to drug-abuse programs, and participate in 100 hours of drug-related community service.

Parker did rebound by the 1985 season with a .312/.365/.551/.916 slash-line performance for the Cincinnati Reds, good for 4.1 bWAR and a 149 OPS+, with 34 home runs and a league-leading 42 doubles and 125 RBI that got him named the NL MVP runner-up. However, in the previous five years, from 1980 to 1984, his age-29 to age-33 seasons, Parker averaged 116 games and 463 plate appearances with a .281/.319/.431/.750 slash line that generated, per season, a 0.7 bWAR, just above a replacement player, and a 106 OPS+, just above league-average.

Again pardon the wordplay, but Parker was flying from 1975, when he became a full-time player in his age-24 season, to 1979, when he banged out 193 hits including 45 doubles and 25 home runs amidst a .310/.380/.526/.906 slash line with 109 runs scored, the last of three consecutive years with 100 or more runs scored, and 94 RBI. Parker's 1980 campaign was hardly a disaster, although his .295 batting average was a dip below .300 for the first time since he became a full-time player in 1975. However, the next four years saw him struggle to be a league-average hitter while in the latter half of his prime, and although he turned in a fine performance in 1985, his age-34 season, Dave Parker was on the decline until his final year in 1991, his age-40 season.

Had Dave Parker not had that half-decade swoon in the early 1980s, he might have reached 3000 hits and 400 home runs to put him into Dave Winfield territory, not an inner-circle Hall of Famer but a solid one with a balance of MVP-caliber seasons—his peak—and high placement among career leaders in both counting numbers and rate stats—his longevity—which have been the traditional yardsticks for Hall of Fame consideration.

It is a long, hard road to Cooperstown, and it is very easy to stumble on the way for whatever reason. The writers had 15 years to evaluate Dave Parker for the Hall and couldn't put him within shouting distance. The veterans committee had looked at Parker once before with a similar result. Given the nine-player ballot the Modern Baseball Committee has this year, Dave Parker will find himself with marginal support once more and probably in the future.



Shortstop: Alan Trammell

Fresh from his 15-year sojourn on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, Alan Trammell had a one-year respite before he landed on the Modern Baseball ballot. And while a brief transitional period from one evaluation to another might not have worked for Mark McGwire when he appeared on the Today's Game ballot last year, it might work for Trammell, who had been building support on the BBWAA ballot despite the mid-decade logjam before his time ran out.

Because Trammell's career has been fresh in the memory over the last few years, and because I have written about Trammell's case for this site a number of times, most recently in relation to Omar Vizquel's Hall of Fame chances as Vizquel debuts on the BBWAA ballot for 2018, I won't go into depth regarding his 20-year career, all of it with the Detroit Tigers, most of it as a shortstop with a handful of appearances at third base, and much of it spent working in tandem with second baseman Lou Whitaker as one of the longest-serving—and finest—keystone combinations in MLB history. (And Whitaker's Hall of Fame one-and-done injustice merits separate discussion.)

Alan Trammell Modern Baseball 02
Out of the frying pan--into the fire? Alan Trammell faces his first veterans committee evaluation soon after his stint with the writers.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Alan Trammell and his shortstop contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1977 and 1996, the span of Trammell's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Trammell's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Alan Trammell and His Shortstop Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

+ Yount, Robin

66.5

77.0

47.2

62.1

5

132

52

115

113

+ Smith, Ozzie

67.6

76.5

42.3

59.4

8

142

35

87

90

Trammell, Alan

63.7

70.4

44.6

57.5

11

118

40

110

111

+ Larkin, Barry

67.0

70.2

43.1

56.7

13

120

47

116

118

All HoF SS (21)

NA

66.7

42.8

54.8

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Fernandez, Tony

43.5

45.1

30.3

37.7

34

75

32

101

102

Concepcion, Dave

39.7

39.8

29.7

34.8

45

106

29

88

88

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Purely by bWAR and JAWS ratings, Trammell is above the line for the JAWS averages for all shortstops in the Hall of Fame, nudging ahead of Barry Larkin, who weathered three tries on the BBWAA ballot before gaining entrance to Cooperstown in 2012, just ahead of both the full-blown logjam and the full-blown PED backlash. (Please note that Barry Larkin has never been associated with PED.) At number 12 (and not shown above) is Derek Jeter, not only certain to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in 2020, but also an odds-on favorite to become the first unanimously-elected candidate in Hall of Fame history.

The two below-the-line contemporaries, Tony Fernandez and Dave Concepcion, are truly on a lower tier from the other four, three of whom are in the Hall, with Robin Yount, who did split his career between shortstop and center field although the majority of his games were at short, and Ozzie Smith (who never played anywhere except at short) elected in their first year of eligibility.

Why is Alan Trammell the anomaly, then?

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Alan Trammell and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Alan Trammell and His Shortstop Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

R

H

2B

SB

+ Larkin, Barry

.295/.371/.444

118

9057

1329

2340

441

379

+ Yount, Robin

.285/.342/.430

113

11,008

1632

3142

583

271

Trammell, Alan

.285/.352/.415

111

9376

1231

2365

412

236

Fernandez, Tony

.288/.347/.399

102

8793

1057

2276

414

246

+ Smith, Ozzie

.262/.337/.328

90

10,778

1257

2460

402

580

Concepcion, Dave

.267/.322/.357

88

9641

993

2326

389

321

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Quantitatively, Yount is the outlier in the table above as he collected more than 3100 hits and nearly 600 doubles while all the other contemporaries compiled similar numbers, though Smith stole about twice as many bases as most of the others. Trammell is squarely within the norm for his contemporaries, neither auspicious nor deficient.

Qualitatively, Trammell is a match with Yount as both hit for the same average, and if Yount slugged a bit better than Trammell, then the latter got on base at a bit better clip than the former while Trammell is just below Yount in terms of adjusted weighted runs created; both offer more in that department than Fernandez, who is about league-average there despite a similar slash line.

Why is Alan Trammell the anomaly, then?

Defensive prowess at shortstop does factor into Hall of Fame consideration, more so than for other positions besides catcher, as flashy offensive statistics are usually the prime criteria examined. The table below details quantitative and qualitative defensive statistics for Alan Trammell and his contemporaries, ranked by defensive wins above replacement (dWAR), and including Total Zone total fielding runs above average, fielding percentage, range factor per nine innings (RF/9: 9 x [putouts + assists]/innings played), and aggregate league RF/9.

Fielding Statistics for Alan Trammell and His Shortstop Contemporaries, Ranked by dWAR

Player

Games

Putouts

Assists

Double Plays Turned

Total Zone

dWAR

Fld. Pct.

RF/9

League RF/9

+ Smith, Ozzie

2511

4249

8375

1590

239

43.4

.978

5.22

4.78

Trammell, Alan

2139

3391

6172

1307

81

22.0

.977

4.71

4.77

Concepcion, Dave

2178

3670

6594

1290

48

20.9

.964

5.03

4.97

Fernandez, Tony

1573

2708

4511

943

42

14.2

.980

4.83

4.66

+ Larkin, Barry

2085

3150

5858

1092

28

13.8

.975

4.62

4.57

+ Yount, Robin

1479

2588

4794

941

25

5.8

.964

4.99

4.90

+ Indicates a Hall of Fame member.

Among his contemporaries, Trammell ranks behind only Smith in dWAR, who is the all-time leader in that category among all position players; Trammell ranks 34th. Not surprisingly, Smith is also tops in Total Zone fielding runs above average (for shortstops since 1953); Trammell ranks 13th. Additionally, Trammell ranks 7th in double plays turned, 17th in assists, and 28th in putouts. And if Trammell is below the league average for range factor per nine innings, he is just a tick below Smith in fielding percentage.

Alan Trammell was one of the great two-way shortstops of his era, able to get it done both in the field and at the plate; moreover, he was one of the great two-way shortstops of any era, as were his contemporaries Barry Larkin, Robin Yount, and even Ozzie Smith, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

Why is Alan Trammell the anomaly, then?

That answer may lie in the "fame" portion of the Hall of Fame. The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Trammell and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Alan Trammell and His Shortstop Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

+ Yount, Robin

2

2

3

3

1

0

14

120

Fernandez, Tony

0

1

5

0

4

0

3

51

+ Smith, Ozzie

0

1

15

1

13

0

2

51

+ Larkin, Barry

1

2

12

9

3

0

0

66

Trammell, Alan

0

3

6

3

4

0

0

48

Concepcion, Dave

0

2

9

2

5

0

0

25

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Here is the Achilles heel in the Trammell case: Getting recognition and making an impression on the leaderboards. Simply put, Trammell lacks the Gaudy Stat or the Standout Season that would impress the traditionalists and their "eye test" of recognizing a Hall of Fame player.

Trammell's is a similar situation to a pair of recent Hall of Fame inductees, Bert Blyleven, elected in 2011, and Tim Raines, elected in 2017. Blyleven, who may lay claim to being the first "SABR darling" (Society for American Baseball Research), spent 14 years on a BBWAA ballot, not even cracking the 40-percent mark until his eighth year in 2005. He seemed destined to linger in the ballot hinterlands until his time ran out before researchers began to make the statistical case for a pitcher who may have pitched for two World Series-winning teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979 and the Minnesota Twins in 1987, but who also toiled in obscurity for much of his career and won just 37 more games than he lost as he fell 13 wins shy of the vaunted 300-win plateau, a guarantee for the Hall of Fame unless your name is Roger Clemens and you are a poster child for performance-enhancing drugs.

Similarly, Tim Raines toiled in the obscure far reaches of Montreal as an Expo for the first 13 years of his career, the poor man's Rickey Henderson who won a batting title in 1986 and led the National League in stolen bases, including a career-high 90 bags in 1983, in four consecutive seasons. Like Blyleven, Raines seemed stuck in the middle rungs of the BBWAA ballot for his first five years, not broaching 50 percent until 2013, his sixth year, and perhaps as a result of Blyleven's 2011 election. However, Raines was affected by the 2014 decision by the Hall of Fame to reduce the amount of time a candidate may remain on the BBWAA ballot, from 15 years to 10 years; Raines, whose 69.5 percent showing in 2016, his penultimate year of eligibility, could not be guaranteed election on a still-overstuffed ballot the following year. However, Raines did slide head-first into the Hall with 86 percent of the vote in 2017.

But both Blyleven and Raines, while not flashing obvious Standout Seasons at any time during their careers—Blyleven never won a Cy Young Award and Raines was never a Most Valuable Player—each owns at least one Gaudy Stat. In fact, Blyleven owns two: He is fifth lifetime in strikeouts with 3701 and ninth lifetime in shutouts with 60. Given the current employment of starting pitching and barring any changes in scoring rules, it is highly unlikely that any pitcher is going to reach either of those marks in the foreseeable future. Raines also owns a Gaudy Stat: He is fifth lifetime in stolen bases with 808, one of only five players with 800 or more steals in Major League history, and that includes base-stealers from the 19th century, when the game and the quality of play was markedly different from the modern game established circa 1901.

Alan Trammell has neither a Gaudy Stat nor a Standout Season in his Hall of Fame arsenal. This is not to say that he did not have any outstanding seasons, as he did finish in the top ten for American League MVP voting three times. Moreover, he was the runner-up to the Toronto Blue Jays' George Bell in 1987, when Bell hit 47 home runs and drove in 134, leading the AL in that category while falling just two home runs behind the Oakland Athletics' Mark McGwire and his league-leading 49 big flies. (McGwire's 49 homers also established the single-season record for rookies until Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees passed McGwire with 52 home runs in 2017.)

Yet Trammell, whose .343 batting average was third in the AL behind Wade Boggs and Paul Molitor, did have a standout season in 1987 as he laid out a slash line of .343/.402/.551/.953, generating an OPS+ of 155, fifth-best in the league among all those big boppers, while smacking 34 doubles and 28 home runs, scoring 109 runs, sixth-best in the AL and only five runs fewer than league-leader Molitor, and driving in 105 runs, tenth-best in the league. Trammell's bWAR of 8.2 easily bested Bell's 5.0 (again, a retrospective assessment), and only Boggs's 8.3 bWAR was comparable to Trammell's among position players.

Furthermore, Trammell had a standout postseason in 1984 as the Tigers won their fourth World Series, their first in 16 years, and their last despite appearances in 2006 and 2012. Having lashed out four hits, including a triple and a home run, in 11 at-bats during the Tigers' three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series, scoring two runs and driving in three, Trammell upped the wattage in the World Series against the San Diego Padres. He hit safely in the first four games, with a double and a pair of home runs, as he scored five runs, knocked in six more, and produced a scorching .450/.500/.800/1.300 slash line to earn Most Valuable Player honors for the Series. (And as we will see below, starting pitcher Jack Morris had a pretty fair World Series outing too.)

Still, the lack of a Gaudy Stat or Standout Season in terms of traditional evaluation will hurt Alan Trammell as the Modern Baseball Committee ponders his legacy. Veterans committees have typically been behind the curve with respect to evaluation, in part because recent committee compositions have included former players elected to the Hall of Fame who naturally see the playing field from when they last stood upon it.

Alan Trammell Modern Baseball 01
Does Trammell have enough fame for the Hall of Fame?

Already this year we have seen Joe Morgan imploring BBWAA voters not to vote for players who used performance-enhancing drugs, this in the wake of recent BBWAA elections of Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and Ivan Rodriguez, all three of whom have had at least suspicions cast upon them, and the uptick in support for PED-identified candidates including Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

And although Trammell's career was over by the time PED usage was even being suspected (Trammell last qualified for a batting title in 1990; he retired following the 1996 season, having been a part-time player in his last three seasons), Morgan's old-line attitude is indicative of the committees' traditionalist thinking—and Morgan, who has been active in the Hall since his own first-ballot election in 1990, no doubt helped by his back-to-back MVPs in 1975 and 1976, projects a large influence on his fellow members.

All of which will continue to make Alan Trammell an anomaly, one of the best shortstops not only of his own era but in all of baseball history, an excellent hitter and a top-tier defender at one of the most challenging positions on the diamond who deserves to sit with Joe Morgan and other Hall of Fame players in future years as they decide the legacy of their fellow players whom the writers did not elect during their first shot at the Hall.

Alan Trammell should not be an anomaly. He is a Hall of Famer. The Modern Baseball Committee needs to heed its name and recognize Trammell as an exemplar of modern baseball.

Catcher: Ted Simmons

Alone among the nine players on the Modern Baseball ballot, Ted Simmons did not experience a lengthy stay on the BBWAA ballot—indeed, Simmons did not even survive his first appearance on the ballot in 1994, collecting just 3.7 percent of the vote to fade into obscurity. Neither did Simmons attract much attention after his whirlwind encounter with the BBWAA as he got a substantive look from a veterans committee only in 2014.

First reaching the Majors in 1968 with the St. Louis Cardinals for barely a sip from that cliché cup of coffee—four plate appearances in two games, albeit with a single and a walk—Simmons became the Cardinals' starting catcher by 1971, and although he was never considered primarily a power hitter as many catchers typically are, he was consistently a high-average hitter, batting .300 or better seven times in seasons in which he was qualified for a batting title. This included 1971 as he rattled off a .304/.347/.424/.771 slash line with 32 doubles, the first of nine years in which he hit 30 or more two-baggers including six consecutively starting in 1971.

And although he toiled under the shadow of the Cincinnati Reds' Johnny Bench, Simmons was a hitting star for the Cardinals throughout the 1970s as for a ten-year stretch, from 1971 to 1980, he posted a .301/.367/.466/.834 slash line, generating a 4.5 bWAR and a 131 OPS+, with seasonal averages of 163 hits, 32 doubles, 17 home runs, 71 runs scored, 90 runs batted in, and 58 walks against only 41 strikeouts; in fact, Simmons over his career walked 855 times while striking out just 694 times.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Ted Simmons and his catcher contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1968 and 1988, the span of Simmons's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Simmons's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Ted Simmons and His Catcher Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

+ Bench, Johnny

74.8

75.0

47.1

61.0

1

214

45

126

125

+ Carter, Gary

69.4

69.9

48.3

59.1

2

135

41

115

116

+ Fisk, Carlton

68.3

68.3

37.5

52.9

4

120

49

117

117

All HoF C (15)

NA

53.4

34.4

43.9

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Simmons, Ted

54.2

50.1

34.6

42.4

10

124

44

118

116

Munson, Thurman

40.9

45.9

37.0

41.5

12

90

29

116

116

Tenace, Gene

45.0

46.8

34.9

40.9

13

7

30

136

140

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Along with Hall of Famer Bench, Simmons also had to contend with Bench's Cooperstown cronies Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk among his contemporaries, with Thurman Munson, whose 1979 death in a small-plane crash ended his 11-year career during his age-32 season, likely to have compiled a serious Hall of Fame case had he lived.

Yet Simmons, whose JAWS statistics place him just under the line for the 15 catchers currently in the Hall of Fame—although his WAR7, his bWAR for his best seven seasons, nudges just above that line—is still ranked as the 10th-best catcher all-time, ahead of Hall of Famers Gabby Hartnett and Ernie Lombardi, let alone questionable veterans committee choices Rick Ferrell and Ray Schalk. And of the nine catchers ranked ahead of Simmons by JAWS, only Joe Mauer, still an active player, does not already have a plaque in Cooperstown.

Ted Simmons Modern Baseball 01
The writers dismissed Ted Simmons quickly--will the veterans committe embrace him?

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Ted Simmons and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Ted Simmons and His Catcher Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

H

2B

HR

RBI

Tenace, Gene

.241/.388/.429

140

5527

1060

179

201

674

+ Bench, Johnny

.267/.342/.476

125

8674

2048

381

389

1376

+ Fisk, Carlton

.269/.341/.457

117

9853

2356

421

376

1330

+ Carter, Gary

.262/.335/.439

116

9019

2092

371

324

1225

Simmons, Ted

.285/.348/.437

116

9685

2472

483

248

1389

Munson, Thurman

.292/.346/.410

116

5905

1558

229

113

701

Apart from Gene Tenace and the ubiquitous Johnny Bench who lead this sample, Simmons is comparable to his other contemporaries by adjusted weighted runs created. Simmons has the highest batting average and the second-highest on-base percentage, while quantitatively, with the second-most plate appearances, he tops the field in hits, doubles, and runs batted in.

Over his career, Simmons had nine seasons with 150 or more hits, seven of them consecutively from 1971 to 1977; nine seasons with 30 or more doubles, six of them consecutively from 1971 to 1976—and after dropping to "just" 25 doubles in 1977, he rebounded to hit 40, his career-high, the following year; six seasons with 20 or more home runs, four of them consecutively from 1977 to 1980 including a career-high 26 in 1979; and eight seasons with 90 or more runs batted in, four of them consecutively from 1972 to 1975 while he notched his career-high of 108 in 1983, his age-33 season.

In fact, Simmons had a renaissance year in 1983, now in his third season with the Milwaukee Brewers: In 153 games and 650 plate appearances, he banged out 185 hits including 39 doubles and 13 homers for a .308/.351/.448/.799 line that generated a 126 OPS+ as he scored 76 runs to go with those 108 RBI. Simmons even stole four bases in six attempts, his career-high for a notoriously slow-footed catcher who stole just 21 bases in his career while getting caught 33 times. And even though he was the Brewers' designated hitter for 66 games (Milwaukee was still in the American League in 1983), he still caught 86 games, starting 83 of those.

But along with shortstop, catcher is one position at which defensive prowess is considered seriously while evaluating a catcher for the Hall of Fame. The table below details quantitative and qualitative defensive statistics for Ted Simmons and his contemporaries, ranked by defensive wins above replacement (dWAR), and including Total Zone total fielding runs above average, fielding percentage, number of times baserunners were caught stealing, caught-stealing percentage, and the number of baserunners picked off by the catcher.

Fielding Statistics for Ted Simmons and His Catcher Contemporaries, Ranked by dWAR

Player

Games

Putouts

Assists

Total Zone

dWAR

Fld. Pct.

CS

CS Pct.

PO

+ Carter, Gary

2056

11,785

1203

106

25.5

.991

810

32%

51

+ Bench, Johnny

1742

9249

850

97

19.3

.990

469

43%

62

+ Fisk, Carlton

2226

11,369

1048

30

16.4

.988

665

34%

20

Munson, Thurman

1278

6253

742

34

11.6

.982

427

38%

39

Simmons, Ted

1771

8906

915

–8

4.7

.987

611

34%

33

Tenace, Gene

892

3945

441

–6

1.6

.986

290

36%

13

+ Indicates a Hall of Fame member.

As the old saying goes, as a defensive catcher, Ted Simmons was one hell of a hitter. His 4.7 dWAR reflects the positional adjustment of 10.0 bWAR given to catchers, and only Gene Tenace, with half as many games at catcher than Simmons, ranks lower. Nevertheless, Simmons holds his own with his contemporaries in a number of categories, even picking off 13 more runners than Carlton Fisk, who logged 455 more games behind the plate than did Simmons.

Nevertheless, great-hitting catchers with marginal defensive skills have not been excluded from the Hall of Fame, to which Ernie Lombardi and Mike Piazza can attest. But Lombardi and especially Piazza were both more auspicious in their offensive skills even though Simmons was always regarded as a great-hitting catcher.

Ted Simmons Modern Baseball 02
Delivering from both sides of the plate, Simmons is one of baseball's best-hitting catchers ever.

And strictly as a catcher, Simmons looks to be an even more impressive hitter. In 1733 games with 7279 plate appearances, he stroked 1908 hits including 364 doubles and 195 home runs for a .294/.358/.451/.809 line while scoring 851 runs and knocking in 1062 runs. His batting average on balls in play (BAbip) of .291, which can favor hitters with high strikeout totals since those strikeouts are removed from the number of total at-bats, looks even more impressive considering that Simmons struck out just 498 times in 6498 at-bats, or just once every 13.1 at-bats. And of his 666 walks, 160 of those were intentional as a catcher while his total number of 188 intentional walks ranks 20th all-time (tied with Chili Davis) as he is the only catcher within the top fifty; Mike Piazza is 53rd with 146 intentional passes.

Furthermore, Ted Simmons was also a great switch-hitting catcher, able to deliver from both sides of the plate. I had profiled Simmons previously while evaluating another switch-hitting catcher, Jorge Posada, as a borderline candidate on the 2017 BBWAA ballot. By a curious coincidence, Posada garnered just 3.8 percent of the vote and was a one-and-done just as Simmons was in 1994 with 3.7 percent of the vote. Now we have to wonder whether we will be having this conversation next year, when the Today's Game Committee might get a chance to evaluate Posada—and, if so, whether Simmons's outcome on the 2018 Modern Baseball ballot would have any effect.

The following table summarizes Ted Simmons's batting statistics as a left-handed- and right-handed batter.

Ted Simmons: Career Batting Statistics as a Left-handed Batter

Slash Line

BAbip

PA

Hits

2B

HR

BB

TB

Runs

RBI

.287/.350/.437/.787

.285

6204

1594

327

146

552

2427

722

873

Ted Simmons: Career Batting Statistics as a Right-handed Batter

Slash Line

BAbip

PA

Hits

2B

HR

BB

TB

Runs

RBI

.281/.345/.437/.782

.282

3481

878

156

102

303

1366

352

516


Simmons was a remarkably consistent hitter from either side of the plate, posting very similar slash lines as a left-handed and a right-handed hitter as the scaling of his counting numbers—he hit left-handed 64.1 percent of the time—aligns fairly closely. This made Simmons always a threat regardless who was pitching, left- or right-handed.

Jorge Posada slugged better and got on base better than did Simmons, and Posada, regarded as one of the "Core Four" of the New York Yankees' late-1990s and early 2000s dynasty along with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, owns four World Series rings. Simmons made the postseason in only two years, 1981 and 1982, both times with the Brewers including the 1982 World Series against, ironically, his former team the Cardinals, who won the Series in seven games. Simmons hit poorly in that series and in two previous ones although he did hit two home runs against the Cardinals.

But how do Simmons's abilities, both offensively and defensively, translate into that more interpretive assessment of "fame"?

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Simmons and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Ted Simmons and His Catcher Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

+ Bench, Johnny

2

5

14

0

10

1

20

93

+ Carter, Gary

0

4

11

5

3

0

4

75

+ Fisk, Carlton

0

4

11

3

1

1

1

54

Simmons, Ted

0

3

8

1

0

0

0

95

Munson, Thurman

1

3

7

NA

3

1

0

46

Tenace, Gene

0

0

1

0

0

0

4

38

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

If Simmons was not an obvious standout—understandable as he spend several seasons in Johnny Bench's shadow—neither was he unheralded, either, as he made eight All-Star appearances as well as finishing in the top ten for Most Valuable Player three times.

His highest showing was in 1975, when he finished sixth in a year that saw National League MVP winner Joe Morgan lash out a .327/.466/.508/.974 line with 27 doubles, 6 triples, and 17 home runs while scoring 107 runs, driving in 94, and stealing 67 bases (and caught only 10 times for an 87-percent success rate) while leading the Majors in walks (132) and on-base percentage (.466). Simmons was no slouch: his .332/.396/.491/.887 line generated a 142 OPS+ as he established career highs in hits (193) and batting average (.332) with 32 doubles, 18 home runs, 80 runs scored, and 100 RBI.

And if Simmons was never a league-leader in any significant statistical category, as shown by the black-ink column, he was a consistent presence in the gray-ink column for top-ten finishes as his 95 rating nudges past Bench's 93. Simmons did lead the Majors in intentional walks in back-to-back years, 1976 and 1977, although he also paced the Majors in grounding into double plays (29) in 1973, one of eight years in which he banged into 20 or more twin kills; he ranks 14th all-time in that category with 287, tied with Derek Jeter.

Alone among the nine players on the Modern Baseball ballot, Ted Simmons did not have but one chance to be evaluated by BBWAA voters, who dismissed him on his first ballot in 1994. Similarly, the Expansion Era Committee dismissed him 20 years later.

Ted Simmons does not deserve to be dismissed. Whether by counting numbers or qualitative analysis, he ranks among the best-hitting catchers in baseball history, and if he was never regarded as a good defensive catcher, neither was he an outright liability. A Most Valuable Player Award or even a World Series ring would have given him more prestige and visibility, but Ted Simmons has been overlooked for far too long. He belongs in the Hall of Fame.



Pitcher: Tommy John, Jack Morris, Luis Tiant

No question about it, the three pitchers on the Modern Baseball ballot form one hell of a bubble—all three have inspired heated debate practically since they became eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Tommy John's name has been ubiquitous in baseball thanks to Doctor Frank Jobe's surgical graft procedure, ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, now universally known by the less unwieldy term "Tommy John surgery" as John was the first baseball player to undergo the procedure in 1974, which cost him a season in rehabilitation—but prolonged a career that would have been cut short by his damaged left arm; John pitched until 1989, his age-46 season.

Jack Morris earned a reputation as a battler, similar to Gus Wynn, who "pitched to the score" and cared only about ensuring that his teams won the game. Morris rolled up 254 wins against only 186 losses for an impressive .577 win-loss percentage as he helped lead three different teams to World Series championships, the Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, and Toronto Blue Jays. It was in the 1991 World Series, in which Morris's Twins beat the Atlanta Braves in seven games, that Morris, pitching Game Seven against future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, emerged victorious in one of the great Game Sevens in baseball history.

And while Luis Tiant appeared in just one World Series, with the Boston Red Sox in 1975 as they battled the Cincinnati Reds, it too was one of the classic Fall Classics of all time, capped by Carlton Fisk's iconic home run in the bottom of the 12th inning of Game Six that enabled the Red Sox to take the Series to the limit, with Tiant winning two of the three games for Boston including a five-hit Game One shutout.

Tommy John and Luis Tiant

Both Tommy John and Luis Tiant were contemporaries—in fact, Tiant's first season, in 1964, was just one year after John debuted—and so they are discussed immediately below while Jack Morris, whose rookie year was 1977, is discussed below them.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Tommy John and Luis Tiant and their starting pitcher contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1963 and 1989, the span of both John's career (1963 to 1989) and Tiant's career (1964 to 1982). Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; John's and Tiant's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Tommy John and Luis Tiant and Their Starting Pitcher Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

ERA+

ERA–

+ Seaver, Tom

92.4

110.5

59.5

85.0

6

244

66

127

79

+ Gibson, Bob

82.3

89.9

61.6

75.8

14

222

54

127

78

+ Niekro, Phil

78.1

96.6

54.5

75.6

15

157

52

115

86

+ Blyleven, Bert

102.9

95.3

50.7

73.0

16

120

50

118

85

+ Carlton, Steve

96.5

90.4

54.3

72.4

17

266

58

115

87

+ Perry, Gaylord

100.1

91.0

52.8

71.9

20

177

57

117

85

+ Jenkins, Ferguson

80.1

84.9

51.8

68.3

24

132

53

115

87

+ Ryan, Nolan

106.7

81.8

43.3

62.6

31

256

56

112

90

ALL HoF PITCHERS

NA

73.9

50.3

62.1

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

+ Palmer, Jim

56.6

69.4

48.0

58.7

37

192

56

125

79

+ Marichal, Juan

61.2

63.1

51.9

57.5

43

159

57

123

81

Tiant, Luis

54.8

66.7

44.6

55.6

51

97

41

114

87

+ Sutton, Don

85.5

67.4

34.0

50.7

71

149

58

108

92

John, Tommy

79.4

62.0

34.7

48.4

83

112

44

111

90

Wood, Wilbur

36.9

50.2

45.8

48.0

86

63

21

114

88

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Based on the table above, it is not surprising that both John and Tiant have faced a tough time getting Hall of Fame recognition—of the 12 pitchers used in the comparison with John and Tiant, only Wilbur Wood, the knuckleballing southpaw who found success as both a starter and reliever while toiling primarily for the Chicago White Sox, is not in the Hall of Fame.

Moreover, both John and Tiant fall below the JAWS thresholds established by the aggregate numbers of all starting pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame, Tiant by 6.5 wins and John by 13.7 wins, although FanGraphs has significant differences in WAR compared to Baseball Reference, upon which Jay Jaffe's JAWS model is based: Tiant loses nearly 12 wins while John gains 17.4 wins, which puts John in the range of Bob Gibson, Fergie Jenkins, and Phil Niekro, all three of whom, either by peak (Gibson) or longevity (Niekro), rise above the JAWS threshold.

Another interesting variance is Don Sutton, who by JAWS falls between Tiant and John although FanGraphs too is bullish on Sutton as it is with John, valuing Sutton at a shade more than 18 fWAR wins better that his bWAR. Sutton does tend to be more of a compiler—his peak seven years are just below John's—who passed the plateaus of 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts, traditional milestones that in most cases have landed a pitcher in the Hall. By runs-allowed ratings, Sutton is closer to league-average than any of his Hall brethren, about comparable to John.

The table below details selected quantitative and qualitative statistics, ranked by earned run average, for Tommy John and Luis Tiant and their starting pitcher contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1963 and 1989, the span of both John's career (1963 to 1989) and Tiant's career (1964 to 1982). John's and Tiant's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Quantitative and Some Qualitative Pitching Statistics for Tommy John and Luis Tiant and Their Starting Pitching Contemporaries, Ranked by Earned Run Average

 

W–L (Pct.)

ERA

IP

GS

BB

SO

WHIP

+ Palmer, Jim

268–152 (.638)

2.86

3948

521

1311

2212

1.180

+ Seaver, Tom

311–205 (.603)

2.86

4783

647

1390

3640

1.121

+ Marichal, Juan

243–142 (.631)

2.89

3507

457

1126

2303

1.101

+ Gibson, Bob

251–174 (.591)

2.91

3884.1

482

1336

3117

1.188

+ Perry, Gaylord

314–265 (.542)

3.11

5350

690

1379

3534

1.181

+ Ryan, Nolan

324–292 (.526)

3.19

5386

773

2795

5714

1.247

+ Carlton, Steve

329–244 (.574)

3.22

5217.2

709

1833

4136

1.247

Wood, Wilbur

164–156 (.513)

3.24

2684

297

724

1411

1.232

+ Sutton, Don

324–256 (.559)

3.26

5282.1

756

1343

3574

1.142

Tiant, Luis

229–172 (.571)

3.30

3486.1

484

1104

2416

1.199

+ Blyleven, Bert

287–250 (.534)

3.31

4970

685

1322

3701

1.198

+ Jenkins, Fergie

284–226 (.557)

3.34

4500.2

594

997

3192

1.142

John, Tommy

288–231 (.555)

3.34

4710.1

700

1259

2245

1.283

+ Niekro, Phil

318–274 (.537)

3.35

5404

716

1809

3342

1.268

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Again, John and Tiant find themselves outclassed: Of the 11 Hall of Famers, six are in the 300-win club and nine are in the 3000-strikeout club. In fact, Tiant has the fewest wins of any pitcher in the sample other than Wood. John came within 12 wins of 300, and that has been the main argument for John's inclusion by the traditionalists, who point to Bert Blyleven as an example. In fact, Blyleven and John are near-identical in wins and ERA.

The table below details qualitative statistics for Tommy John and Luis Tiant and their starting pitcher contemporaries, ranked by adjusted earned run average plus.

Qualitative Pitching Statistics for Tommy John and Luis Tiant and Their Starting Pitching Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Earned Run Average Plus

 

ERA+

ERA–

FIP

FIP–

SO/9

SO/BB

bWAR

fWAR

+ Gibson, Bob

127

78

2.89

81

7.2

2.33

81.9

82.3

+ Seaver, Tom

127

79

3.04

85

6.8

2.62

106.3

92.4

+ Palmer, Jim

125

79

3.50

95

5.0

1.69

68.1

56.6

+ Marichal, Juan

123

81

3.04

89

5.9

3.25

61.9

61.2

+ Blyleven, Bert

118

85

3.19

82

6.7

2.80

96.5

102.9

+ Perry, Gaylord

117

85

3.06

85

5.9

2.56

93.7

100.1

+ Carlton, Steve

115

87

3.15

87

7.1

2.26

84.1

96.5

+ Jenkins, Fergie

115

87

3.28

88

6.4

3.20

82.8

80.1

+ Niekro, Phil

115

86

3.62

95

5.6

1.85

97.4

78.1

Tiant, Luis

114

87

3.47

92

6.2

2.19

66.1

54.8

Wood, Wilbur

114

88

3.37

92

4.7

1.95

52.2

36.9

+ Ryan, Nolan

112

90

2.97

83

9.5

2.04

83.9

106.7

John, Tommy

111

90

3.38

89

4.3

1.78

62.3

79.4

+ Sutton, Don

108

92

3.24

91

6.1

2.66

68.7

85.5

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Not surprisingly, John and Tiant rank below most of their Hall of Fame contemporaries in qualitative ratings although Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan fall to the bottom of the sample in ERA+ as they measure closer to league-average than many of their fellow Hall of Famers. And here the gap between Blyleven and John widens in terms of FIP and FIP–, calculations of ERA that factor only those outcomes over which a pitcher has total control: home runs, strikeouts, and walks. Tiant, too, takes a run-prevention hit with FIP and FIP–.

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for John and Tiant and their contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant pitching statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (wins, earned run average, strikeouts) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Tommy John and Luis Tiant and Their Starting Pitcher Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

CYA

CYA Top 5

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

+ Ryan, Nolan

0

6

0

8

0

0

84

254

+ Carlton, Steve

4

6

5

10

1

0

69

285

+ Seaver, Tom

3

8

5

12

0

1

57

292

+ Palmer, Jim

3

8

2

6

4

0

44

209

+ Niekro, Phil

0

3

1

5

5

0

43

194

+ Marichal, Juan

0

0

3

9

0

0

37

197

+ Jenkins, Fergie

1

5

2

3

0

0

36

206

+ Perry, Gaylord

2

4

2

5

0

0

29

252

Wood, Wilbur

0

3

2

3

0

0

21

86

+ Gibson, Bob

2

3

2*

8

9

0

20

207

+ Blyleven, Bert

0

3

0

2

0

0

16

237

Tiant, Luis

0

2

2

3

0

0

13

112

John, Tommy

0

3

0

4

0

0

11

134

+ Sutton, Don

0

5

0

4

0

0

8

243

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

CYA: Cy Young Award.
CYA Top 5: Number of times a player finished in the top 5 of his league's Cy Young Award voting. Includes a Cy Young Award MVP win.
MVP Top 10: Number of times a player finished in the top 10 of his league's MVP voting. Includes an MVP win. (*) Indicates that the pitcher won at least one MVP Award.
Black Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a pitcher led his league in significant pitching statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 40. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
Gray-Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a pitcher appeared in the top ten of his league in significant pitching statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 185. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

No prizes for having guessed that John and Tiant again fall to the bottom of the sample—neither won a Cy Young Award, with Tiant having finished in Cy Young top-five voting twice and John three times, the same as Blyleven. However, Tiant did have two top-ten finishes for the American League's Most Valuable Player Award, first in 1968, when he won 21 games against only nine losses for a sterling .700 win-loss percentage and led the AL with a 1.60 ERA while pitching for the Cleveland Indians—although Denny McLain's 31-win season for the Detroit Tigers notched him the AL Cy Young—and again in 1972, when Tiant led the Majors with a 1.91 ERA while pitching for the Boston Red Sox, the team with which he is associated.

John had a four-year run of consecutive top-ten finishes for the Cy Young Award from 1977 to 1980, a period in which he won 20 or more games three times—a period following his ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery and rehabilitation from same—including his 1977 campaign that saw him win 20 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers while losing just seven games for a terrific .741 win-loss percentage. In fact, 1978 was the only year of the four with fewer than 20 wins (17) a win-loss percentage south of .700 (.630).

In term of black ink, or league-leading finishes in significant categories, both John and Tiant fall well short of the standard for typical Hall of Famers, although even among the Hall of Famers in this sample, several of them, including Blyleven, also fall short. However, in gray ink, or top-ten finishes in significant categories, both pitchers again remain well below the bar while Blyleven and Don Sutton, John's teammate in the mid-1970s, do exceed the mark expected of the typical Hall of Famer.

Moreover, both Blyleven and Sutton did reach the traditional milestones of 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts, with Blyleven, as we noted above, posting two Gaudy Stats in strikeouts and shutouts, with Sutton just two shutouts shy of Blyleven's 60. Yet both John and Tiant also compiled a healthy number of shutouts too: Tiant's 49 blanks rank 21st (tied with Don Drysdale, Fergie Jenkins, and Early Wynn) while John's 46 rank 26th (tied with Roger Clemens and Jack Powell). In fact, of pitchers with 45 or more shutouts all-time, only Clemens, Powell, and Doc White are not in the Hall of Fame along with Tommy John and Luis Tiant.

Both John and Tiant help define the bubble, the threshold between appearing on the stage in Cooperstown and watching from the audience, Tiant more so qualitatively, John more so quantitatively. Tiant, in addition to 15 years on a BBWAA ballot, has been evaluated by a good half-dozen different veterans committees, making him the Susan Lucci of recent Hall of Fame candidates. Television soap-opera legend Lucci finally did win a Daytime Emmy Award in 1999, her 19th try since 1978. Can Tiant break the bubble and get into the Hall of Fame this year?

Luis Tiant

While pitching for the Cleveland Indians, Luis Tiant experienced a curious reversal between his 1968 season and his 1969 season: In 1968, the last year of the 15-inch-high pitching mound, and a year that saw St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson set the live-ball-era record with a 1.12 ERA while Detroit Tigers hurler Denny McLain become the last pitcher to win 30 or more games in a single season (he won 31), Tiant posted an outstanding 21–9 (.700) record with an American League-leading 1.60 ERA (he also led the league, retrospectively, with his 186 ERA+). He also led the AL in shutouts with 9, with 4 of those consecutive shutouts, for an Indians team that won 86 games.

However, in 1969, as the pitching mound fell to 10 inches and the Indians fell to 62 wins, he effectively reversed his record from the previous year: Tiant won just 9 games while leading the AL in losses with 20 as his ERA rose to 3.71 and he led the AL in home runs allowed (37) and walks (129). Injuries might have plagued him during the season—although he pitched in and started more games than in the previous season—but he eventually found his way to Boston in 1971 and a new lease of life.

During his eight seasons with the Red Sox, Tiant in 274 games (238 of those starts) and 1774.2 innings pitched amassed a 122–81 win-loss record (a .601 winning percentage) while reaching the 20-win plateau three times; during that period, his ERA was 3.36 as he notched 113 complete games including 26 shutouts and compiled 1075 strikeouts, a 118 ERA+, and a bWAR of 36.4, all quite impressive for a pitcher between his age-30 and age-37 seasons. With Boston, the right-hander with the distinctive, deceptive delivery did win another ERA crown with his 1.91 ERA in 1972 (his 169 ERA+ also led the AL).

Luis Tiant Modern Baseball 01
Luis Tiant delivers. Still a legend in Boston, can Tiant break the bubble this year and deliver himself to Cooperstown?

Of the three pitchers the Modern Baseball Committee is evaluating this year, Luis Tiant is the strongest candidate for the Hall of Fame. He is 6.5 wins below the JAWS average for all starting pitchers in the Hall, but although Tiant had a few strong seasons—he had six seasons in which his bWAR was 5.0 or better, indicating an All-Star-level pitcher—he never had a dominant peak (his WAR7, or best seven season by bWAR, of 44.6 falls nearly six wins below the Hall average of 50.3), and in 19 seasons he never compiled counting numbers significant enough to demand attention.

And although he kept the Red Sox alive with two of three wins during that legendary 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, and had pitched a Game One gem in the preceding American League Championship Series against the defending champion Oakland Athletics, a complete-game victory in which he allowed just three hits and one earned run, Tiant does not have postseason immortality to tip the balance there, either.

Luis Tiant is destined to be baseball's Susan Lucci again this year, an excellent pitcher who showed flashes of brilliance at times but whose overall career falls short of Cooperstown.

Tommy John

Because of the surgery named for him, Tommy John wound up pitching until his age-46 season in 1989, after he began his career in 1963, and by a seemingly irrelevant coincidence, the original version of the British science-fiction series Doctor Who also ran from 1963 to 1989.

However, Doctor Who might have ended in 1966: Actor William Hartnell, who first played the titular Time Lord, had to leave the show because of failing health, putting the future of this time-travel series in jeopardy. But then the series hit upon the idea of "regeneration," or reincarnation of the Doctor into another form, that explained why a new actor was now playing the same character. (Maybe not so) similarly, Tommy John's career might have ended were it not for the "regeneration" of his pitching arm through Dr. Frank Jobe's surgery.

Not only did Jobe's surgery enable John to continue pitching, but it may have prolonged his career until age 46, although being a soft-tossing lefty can also be an advantage in the Major Leagues, to which Jamie Moyer and Jesse Orosco can attest. John's longevity did enable him to compile the highest number of wins of all pitchers in the modern era who did not reach the 300-win plateau. And like Moyer, John established impressive marks in categories based on longevity: games started (700), eighth all-time; hits allowed (4783), 10th all-time; earned runs allowed (1749), 16th all-time; losses (231), 19th all-time; innings pitched (4710.1), 20th all-time; wins (288) and shutouts (46), both 26th all-time; home runs allowed (302), 55th all-time; strikeouts (2245), 56th all-time; and appearances (760), 66th all-time.

On the other hand, those categories are a mixed bag of positive and negative—was the surgery to repair his arm, and thus allow him to prolong his career to age 46, also a mixed bag? In other words, did Tommy John, given a new lease of life to pitch again, pitch for too long—and thus affect his chances for the Hall of Fame?

Tommy John Modern Baseball 01
The surgery named for him prolonged Tommy John's career--but did it also allow him to pitch too long for Hall of Fame acceptance?

The following table lists John's performance in the 12 years before his 1974 surgery, the first seven years following his surgery, and the final seven years of his career. The Totals rows reflect John's first 20 years in the Major Leagues (19 seasons—he did not play in 1975), John's seasons following his surgery, and his entire career.

Tommy John's Pitching Performance by Period

Period

W-L (Pct.)

GS

ERA

ERA+

ERA–

bWAR

fWAR

1963–1974

124–106 (.539)

318

2.97

116

85

31.0

34.2

1976–1982

113–65 (.635)

217

3.15

120

83

24.7

28.6

Totals, 1963–1982

237–171 (.581)

535

3.05

118

84

55.7

66.8

               
1983–1989

51–60 (.459)

165

4.43

92

112

6.6

12.4

Totals, 1976–1989

164–125 (.567)

382

3.66

107

98

31.3

41.0

Totals, Entire Career

288–231 (.555)

700

3.34

111

90

62.3

75.2

John's surgery undoubtedly prolonged his career, and for the first seven years following his return from surgery, he pitched at the same level—if not at a higher level—than he had done prior to his surgery. The surgery was a success, and the patient thrived.

But although hindsight is a luxury, it also shows that John prolonged his career to the detriment of his overall effectiveness. From 1983 to 1989, his age-40 to age-46 seasons, John was a below-league-average pitcher, scratching to add to his win totals as the quality of his pitching plummeted. Had Tommy John retired following the 1982 season, or even the 1983 season as he realized that, at age 40, he was no longer a top-flight pitcher, reconstructed arm or not, he might have appeared to be a more promising Hall of Fame candidate.

Retiring after 1983, his age-40 season, would have had John post a 248–184 win-loss record, a .574 winning percentage, with a 3.12 ERA, a 3.24 FIP, and a 116 ERA+. He would have compiled 569 games started, 154 complete games, 44 shutouts, 3944.1 innings pitched, 1983 strikeouts, and 1045 walks. His bWAR would have been 57.8.

By adding just one season, in 1983, to his career, John might have added 11 wins to his career total—but he also added 13 losses to his career total. His ERA rose and his ERA+ fell while adding 2.1 wins above a replacement player to his career bWAR. And although John had a winter renaissance of sorts in 1987, his age-44 season with the New York Yankees, as he won 13 games and lost only six in 33 starts and 187.2 innings pitched, it was his last gasp as a pitcher. (And at least his 4.03 ERA was offset by a 3.88 FIP and a 110 ERA+.)

Would an earlier retirement have helped Tommy John? Perhaps it would have made a stronger qualitative case for him, but John was ultimately a compiler at any stage of his career. His JAWS statistics are well below the aggregates for pitchers already in the Hall of Fame, and unlike Bert Blyleven, whose record bears many similarities to John's, John does not have the Gaudy Stat or Standout Season that Blyleven has to buttress his case. Tommy John is not a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher.

Jack Morris

So, if Tommy John and Luis Tiant don't reach the bar for Hall of Fame pitchers, does Jack Morris stand a chance?

In one sense, yes. Of Jack Morris's starting pitcher contemporaries, whose playing careers had a significant intersection with the span of Morris's career from 1977 to 1994, only four of them are currently in the Hall of Fame—Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz—while Curt Schilling, still on the BBWAA ballot, should have joined them already. So, unlike John and Tiant, whose careers are buried behind the 11 Hall of Famers who are their contemporaries, Morris does not have that many legendary lights with whom to contend.

And in another sense, yes. By winning four world championships with three different teams, Morris established himself as a money pitcher, particularly in 1991 with the Minnesota Twins when he was named the World Series MVP, culminating with his Game Seven win against future Hall of Famer Smoltz and his Atlanta Braves. Morris also proved his worth over the long haul, both in-season and during his career, as he led the American League in wins twice, had twelve years with 15 or more wins and three years with 20 or more wins, and won 254 games all told. (And had 1981 not been a strike-shortened season, Morris, with 14 wins already, would likely have won at least one more game, giving him ten consecutive years with 15 or more wins.)

But despite a late push for Morris's Hall of Fame candidacy in the 2010s, he fell 7.3 percent short of the 75-percent threshold in 2013, his best showing on a BBWAA ballot, before drawing 61.5 percent of the vote the following year, his last chance on the writers' ballot. This is Morris's first time on a post-BBWAA ballot.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Jack Morris and his starting pitcher contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1977 and 1994, the span of Morris's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Morris's statistics are marked in bold italic. Also included are Hall of Fame statistics for Hall of Famer Jim "Catfish" Hunter, whose playing career falls into the era of John and Tiant but whose JAWS rankings are very similar to Morris's.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Jack Morris and His Starting Pitcher Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

ERA+

ERA–

+ Johnson, Randy

110.6

102.1

62.0

82.0

9

331

65

135

75

+ Maddux, Greg

116.7

106.9

56.3

81.6

10

254

70

132

76

= Schilling, Curt

79.8

79.9

49.0

64.5

27

171

46

127

80

+ Glavine, Tom

66.9

81.5

44.3

62.9

30

176

52

118

86

ALL HoF PITCHERS

NA

73.9

50.3

62.1

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Reuschel, Rick

68.2

70.0

43.8

56.9

45

48

31

114

88

Brown, Kevin

76.5

68.3

45.4

56.9

46

93

41

127

78

+ Smoltz. John

79.6

69.5

38.8

54.2

58

162

44

125

81

Cone, David

56.0

62.5

43.5

53.0

62

103

39

121

84

Saberhagen, Bret

55.3

59.2

43.3

51.3

67

70

32

126

80

Stieb, Dave

43.8

57.2

44.8

51.0

69

56

27

122

82

Finley, Chuck

56.9

58.4

39.8

49.1

77

54

27

115

87

Hershiser, Orel

48.0

56.8

40.4

48.6

80

90

34

112

89

Tanana, Frank

58.5

57.9

38.5

48.2

84

55

35

106

94

Langston, Mark

49.2

50.7

41.8

46.2

94

64

23

107

93

Gooden, Dwight

56.7

53.2

39.1

46.1

97

88

40

111

90

Key, Jimmy

45.0

49.6

36.9

43.3

120

66

33

122

82

Guidry, Ron

49.3

48.1

38.1

43.1

121

106

38

119

83

Wells, David

58.3

53.6

31.4

42.5

124

87

40

108

93

= Moyer, Jamie

48.2

50.4

33.2

41.8

132

56

39

103

97

Martinez, Dennis

49.1

49.3

33.5

41.4

134

67

37

106

94

Rogers, Steve

49.8

45.1

37.1

41.1

137

48

23

116

87

Matlack, Jon

44.9

39.7

37.2

38.4

163

35

19

114

87

Morris, Jack

55.8

44.1

32.8

38.4

164

122

39

105

95

+ # Hunter, Jim

37.2

41.4

35.1

38.3

166

134

42

104

94

Valenzuela, Fernando

40.9

42.1

33.9

38.0

168

66

25

104

96

Candiotti, Tom

38.9

41.5

34.1

37.8

169

12

17

108

92

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

= On 2018 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.

# Not a contemporary of Jack Morris but with very similar Hall of Fame statistics.

In fairness, using the JAWS system to rank Morris against his contemporaries can create a skewed impression—Morris's rank of 164th all-time by JAWS generates a lot of contemporaries, many of whom had nowhere near the notability Morris had during their careers.

This makes Morris the poster boy for the traditionalists' opposition to the stat-heads, whose JAWS system devised by Jay Jaffe does not take into account the traditionalists' argument—that Morris "pitched to the score" with little regard to his own stats, and as a result, he won a lot of games for his teams, which is the point of the game.

The table below details selected quantitative and qualitative statistics, ranked by earned run average, for Jack Morris and his starting pitcher contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1977 and 1994, the span of Morris's career. Morris's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Quantitative and Some Qualitative Pitching Statistics for Jack Morris and His Starting Pitching Contemporaries, Ranked by Earned Run Average

 

W–L (Pct.)

ERA

IP

GS

BB

SO

WHIP

+ Maddux, Greg

355–227 (.610)

3.16

5008.1

740

999

3371

1.143

Rogers, Steve

158–152 (.510)

3.17

2837.2

393

876

1621

1.232

Matlack, Jon

125–126 (.498)

3.18

2363

318

638

1516

1.233

+ # Hunter, Catfish

224–166 (.574)

3.26

3449.1

476

954

2012

1.134

Brown, Kevin

211–144 (.594)

3.28

3256.1

476

901

2397

1.222

Guidry, Ron

190–91 (.651)

3.29

2392

323

633

1778

1.184

+ Johnson, Randy

303–166 (.646)

3.29

4135.1

603

1497

4875

1.171

+ Smoltz. John

213–155 (.579)

3.33

3473

481

1010

3084

1.176

Saberhagen, Bret

167–117 (.588)

3.34

2562.2

371

471

1715

1.141

Reuschel, Rick

214–191 (.528)

3.37

3548.1

529

935

2015

1.275

Stieb, Dave

176–137 (.562)

3.44

2895.1

412

1034

1669

1.245

Cone, David

194–126 (.606)

3.46

2898.2

419

1137

2668

1.256

= Schilling, Curt

216–146 (.597)

3.46

3261

436

711

3116

1.137

Hershiser, Orel

204–150 (.576)

3.48

3130.1

466

1007

2014

1.261

Gooden, Dwight

194–112 (.634)

3.51

2800.2

410

954

2293

1.256

Key, Jimmy

186–117 (.614)

3.51

2591.2

389

668

1538

1.229

+ Glavine, Tom

305–203 (.600)

3.54

4413.1

682

1500

2607

1.314

Valenzuela, Fernando

173–153 (.531)

3.54

2930

424

1151

2074

1.320

Tanana, Frank

240–236 (.504)

3.66

4188.1

616

1255

2773

1.270

Martinez, Dennis

245–193 (.559)

3.70

3999.2

562

1165

2149

1.266

Candiotti, Tom

151–164 (.479)

3.73

2725

410

883

1735

1.301

Finley, Chuck

200–173 (.536)

3.85

3197.1

467

1332

2610

1.376

Morris, Jack

254–186 (.577)

3.90

3824

527

1390

2478

1.296

Langston, Mark

179–158 (.531)

3.97

2962.2

428

1289

2464

1.354

Wells, David

239–157 (.604)

4.13

3439

489

719

2201

1.266

= Moyer, Jamie

269–209 (.563)

4.25

4074

638

1155

2441

1.322

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

= On 2018 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.

# Not a contemporary of Jack Morris but with very similar Hall of Fame statistics.

Even by a traditionalists' statistic, earned run average, Morris still falls to the bottom of the sample. If elected to the Hall of Fame, Morris's career 3.90 ERA would be the highest by any pitcher in the Hall, besting Red Ruffing's 3.80 ERA—and as Morris's career ended in 1994, before the Steroids Era began, his is not a case of inflated ERAs incurred during that period.

The table below details qualitative statistics for Jack Morris and his starting pitcher contemporaries, ranked by adjusted earned run average plus.

Qualitative Pitching Statistics for Jack Morris Tiant and His Starting Pitching Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Earned Run Average Plus

 

ERA+

ERA–

FIP

FIP–

SO/9

SO/BB

bWAR

fWAR

+ Johnson, Randy

135

75

3.19

73

10.6

3.26

104.3

110.6

+ Maddux, Greg

132

76

3.26

78

6.1

3.37

104.6

116.7

Brown, Kevin

127

78

3.33

78

6.6

2.66

68.5

76.5

= Schilling, Curt

127

80

3.23

76

8.6

4.38

80.7

79.8

Saberhagen, Bret

126

80

3.27

81

6.0

3.64

59.1

55.3

+ Smoltz. John

125

81

3.24

78

8.0

3.05

66.5

79.6

Key, Jimmy

122

82

3.80

89

5.3

2.30

49.4

45.0

Stieb, Dave

122

82

3.82

93

5.2

1.59

57.0

43.8

Cone, David

121

84

3.57

85

8.3

2.35

61.7

56.0

Guidry, Ron

119

83

3.27

82

6.7

2.81

47.9

49.3

+ Glavine, Tom

118

86

3.95

94

5.3

1.74

74.0

66.9

Rogers, Steve

116

87

3.20

88

5.1

1.85

45.3

49.8

Finley, Chuck

115

87

3.91

88

7.3

1.96

58.5

56.9

Matlack, Jon

114

87

3.06

84

5.8

2.38

39.1

44.9

Reuschel, Rick

114

88

3.22

85

5.1

2.16

68.2

68.2

Hershiser, Orel

112

89

3.69

93

5.8

2.00

51.7

48.0

Gooden, Dwight

111

90

3.33

83

7.4

2.40

48.2

56.7

Candiotti, Tom

108

92

3.91

95

5.7

1.96

42.5

38.9

Wells, David

108

93

3.99

90

5.8

3.06

53.5

58.3

Langston, Mark

107

93

3.94

91

7.5

1.91

50.3

49.2

Martinez, Dennis

106

94

3.91

99

4.8

1.84

49.5

49.1

Tanana, Frank

106

94

3.79

96

6.0

2.21

57.5

58.3

Morris, Jack

105

95

3.94

95

5.8

1.78

43.8

55.8

+ # Hunter, Catfish

104

94

3.66

103

5.2

2.11

36.6

37.2

Valenzuela, Fernando

104

96

3.61

96

6.4

1.80

37.4

40.9

= Moyer, Jamie

103

97

4.47

102

5.4

2.11

50.2

48.2

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

= On 2018 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.

# Not a contemporary of Jack Morris but with very similar Hall of Fame statistics.

Even when ERAs are park- and league-adjusted, Morris emerges as little better than a league-average pitcher in terms of run prevention among his contemporaries, either by ERA+ or ERA–, while FIP doesn't help him, either—measured by those factors that Morris could control, he was slightly worse.

Traditionalists would argue that this is part of Morris's "pitching to the score," that what mattered is that Morris helped win the game for his teams. Yet the best way a pitcher can help his team win is through run prevention—not letting the other team score runs. Isn't that the point of the game?

The counter is that the point is who wins and who loses. In his career, Jack Morris had 61 tough losses, defined as a loss in which the pitcher had a quality start, defined as pitching six or more innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs, but his team could not score enough runs to win the game for him. Of his 527 starts, Morris had 297 quality starts, or 56 percent of his total starts, with the Major League average during his career being 52 percent. If Morris's teams could have converted three-quarters of those tough losses into wins, we could be looking at a 300-game winner. Alternatively, Morris left 30 games in which he had the lead, but the relievers who followed him allowed the other team to tie or take the lead.

On the other hand, Morris left 38 games in which he was in line to take the loss, but his team rebounded to at least tie the score, thus getting him off the hook. Furthermore, Morris, with a career 3.90 ERA, won 53 games in which he had a non-quality start, pitching fewer than six innings or surrendering more than three earned runs. Throughout his career, Morris's teams averaged 4.9 runs scored in games in which he pitched, and 4.7 runs scored during innings in which he pitched in those games; MLB averages during this time were 4.4 runs scored and 4.1 runs scored, respectively.

Perhaps Morris did indeed "pitch to the score," with his teams, by and large, able to score more runs than their opponents even if those opponents enjoyed the 3.90 earned runs Morris allowed them, on average, throughout his career. Batters posted a career slash line of .247/.313/.380/.693 against Morris, which is still better than the .260/.326/.390/.716 slash line across the MLB during this time—but how many of the pitchers who surrendered those hits and walks are being considered for the Hall of Fame?

Jack Morris Modern Baseball 01
Jack Morris's performance in the 1991 World Series is legendary--but how critical to his success were his teammates?

Furthermore, Morris's career BAbip, or batting average on balls in play, of .272, 14 points better (lower) than the MLB's .286, is a reflection of the defenses playing behind Morris, who spent the first 14 years of his 18-year career, from 1977 to 1990, with the Detroit Tigers. In this article, we have already seen one defender who played behind Morris—Alan Trammell, who is one of the best shortstops in Major League history. Trammell's long-time keystone partner was Lou Whitaker, whom JAWS ranks as 13th all-time among second basemen.

In 1991, Morris pitched for the Minnesota Twins, with shortstop Greg Gagne, second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, and center fielder Kirby Puckett playing up the middle. The next two seasons found Morris with the Toronto Blue Jays, whose defenders included Roberto Alomar, Tony Fernandez, John Olerud, and Devon White, with Alomar one of the best second basemen in MLB history.

Jack Morris may have been a battler who "pitched to the score," but to win 254 games, he was dependent upon his fielders to make plays behind him, and on his team's hitters to score more runs than the 3.90 earned runs he allowed on average in every start. (And as an exclusively American League pitcher before interleague play commenced in 1998, he couldn't even help his cause at the plate as the designated hitter batted for him.)

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Morris and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant pitching statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (wins, earned run average, strikeouts) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Jack Morris and His Starting Pitcher Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

CYA

CYA Top 5

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

+ Johnson, Randy

5

9

2

10

0

0

99

280

+ Maddux, Greg

4

9

2

8

18

0

87

336

= Schilling, Curt

0

4

2

6

0

0

42

205

+ Smoltz. John

1

3

1

8

0

0

34

199

+ Glavine, Tom

2

6

1

10

0

0

29

202

Guidry, Ron

1

5

1

4

5

0

29

140

+ # Hunter, Catfish

1

4

2

8

0

0

26

151

Wells, David

0

2

0

3

0

0

24

123

Gooden, Dwight

1

4

1

4

0

1

23

139

Morris, Jack

0

5

0

5

0

0

20

193

Hershiser, Orel

1

4

1

3

1

0

20

129

Saberhagen, Bret

2

3

2

3

1

0

20

127

Cone, David

1

4

2

5

0

0

19

168

Brown, Kevin

0

4

0

6

0

0

19

166

Valenzuela, Fernando

1

4

1

6

1

1

19

140

Stieb, Dave

0

2

0

7

0

0

17

142

Martinez, Dennis

0

2

0

4

0

0

17

134

Key, Jimmy

0

3

1

4

0

0

15

99

Langston, Mark

0

1

0

4

7

0

12

134

Tanana, Frank

0

2

0

3

0

0

9

85

Rogers, Steve

0

3

0

5

0

0

8

134

Reuschel, Rick

0

2

0

3

2

0

7

111

Finley, Chuck

0

0

0

5

0

0

6

156

Matlack, Jon

0

0

0

3

0

1

4

94

= Moyer, Jamie

0

3

0

1

0

0

3

106

Candiotti, Tom

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

62

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

= On 2018 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.

# Not a contemporary of Jack Morris but with very similar Hall of Fame statistics.

Here Jack Morris rises above the majority of his contemporaries. Morris did have five seasons in which he finished in the top five of American League Cy Young Award voting. He finished third in 1981, a year in which Milwaukee Brewers reliever Rollie Fingers won, a vote that has long been criticized, with the runner-up, the Oakland Athletics' Steve McCatty, a better choice than either one. Morris did not get robbed in any of his other high Cy Young finishes. Morris also scores highly in gray ink, with many top-ten finishes in several significant categories.

In 13 postseason starts, Jack Morris won seven games, lost four, and posted a 3.80 ERA, although a closer look gives a different picture—one that begins to justify his reputation as money picture. He did pitch much better overall in World Series games than in American League Championship Series games, in which he had a 3–2 win-loss record in six starts with a 4.87 ERA; by contrast, his World Series record is 4–2 in seven starts with a 2.96 ERA. (Morris did not play in the Blue Jays' 1993 postseason due to injuries.)

But in 1992, despite an outstanding regular-season campaign that saw him win 21 games, Morris collapsed in the postseason, losing one game in two starts against Oakland in the ALCS with a disastrous 6.57 ERA and two games in both his starts against the Atlanta Braves in the World Series with an even worse 8.44 ERA. Factoring out those series, Morris is 3–1 in the ALCS with a 4.16 ERA, an improvement but hardly sterling.

For the World Series, however, he is a perfect 4–0 with a 1.54 ERA including three complete games in five starts and one shutout. That shutout was with the Twins in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series against the Braves, a 1–0 victory in ten innings as Morris outdueled Smoltz. In three starts altogether, Morris won one other game, in Game One, while posting a 1.17 ERA; he was named the World Series MVP, although arguably he was better with the Tigers in the 1984 World Series as they beat the San Diego Padres in five games. Morris won two of those, both complete-game victories, as he allowed just four earned runs in 18 innings for a 2.00 ERA, striking out 13 batters and walking just three. (Alan Trammell was named the 1984 World Series MVP.)

Jack Morris's postseason heroics recall those of Catfish Hunter, who won five World Series rings between 1972 and 1978, three with the A's from 1972 to 1974, and two with the New York Yankees in back-to-back years, 1977 and 1978. Hunter did win a Cy Young in 1974 (although there were other worthy candidates including Luis Tiant), and Hunter was elected to the Hall of Fame on his third try in 1987.

Hunter nudged past the bar with 76.3 percent of the vote, suggesting that BBWAA voters were not convinced of the right-hander's qualifications, and subsequent analysis has shown that to be the case. Hunter's profile looks very similar to Morris's. Their JAWS scores are virtually identical, and while Morris has a higher bWAR by dint of a longer career, Hunter had a marginally better seven-year peak.

Hunter's BAbip of .246 against the MLB's .279 suggests good defensive play behind Hunter, particularly as his FIP of 3.66 is four-tenths of a run higher than his 3.26 ERA. Hunter too enjoyed run support that was higher than MLB averages, although the margins are narrower for him than they are for Morris. Catfish Hunter's 104 ERA+ and marginally better 94 ERA– mark him as a starting pitcher a little better than a league-average starter, not an insult but neither a ringing endorsement for the Hall of Fame.

Jack Morris fares the same. In fact, Morris is his era's Catfish Hunter—a big-game pitcher who shone when the spotlight was on him at center stage, but one whose overall career, while impressive, does not rise to greatness. Hunter was elected to the Hall of Fame, and it is likely that Morris will get the nod from the Modern Baseball Committee, if not in 2018 then in a subsequent year. But that would be a mistake. Jack Morris is not a Hall of Famer.




Executive: Marvin Miller

Last year, the Today's Game Committee wasted no time in electing Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball from 1998 to 2015 (although he had been the Acting Commissioner since 1992), to the Hall of Fame in his first opportunity.

Marvin Miller, the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), known informally as the players' union, from 1966 to 1982, has been before a veterans committee seven times since 2001 and has yet to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

This discrepancy underscores the fundamental friction in the business of baseball between management, or the baseball owners, who had included Selig prior to his becoming baseball commissioner, and labor, the baseball players—and with Selig gaining election immediately while Miller, who died in 2012, has yet to be elected, it is not hard to see where the power continues to reside in Major League Baseball.

It is with the owners, who continue to see Marvin Miller as the skunk at their garden party, and through the only mechanism by which non-players can be elected to the Hall of Fame, the veterans committee, they want to keep that stink out of Cooperstown—even if the by-products of that stink, the players who benefited from the revolutionary economic changes Miller helped to enact, continue to be elected to the Hall.

To be fair, Bud Selig himself has stated publicly in 2007 that Miller belongs in the Hall of Fame, even while acknowledging that his predecessors, such as former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, would hardly agree with his stance. Indeed, Miller was instrumental in dismantling baseball's Reserve Clause and militating for players' rights as equal partners in the business of baseball by negotiating the MLBPA's first collective bargaining agreement with team owners in 1968, which formalized owner-player relations including arbitration, and by encouraging free agency, which enabled players to offer their services to any interested team as a participant in a labor market and not simply remain the property of a team that, along with all other teams, composed a monopoly, or a trust, that dictated the fates of its employees without redress.

Marvin Miller Modern Baseball 02
An executive who worked with and for the players, Marvin Miller has proved to be an anathema to Major League Baseball's oligarchy.

This is a powerful concept that typically gets glossed over during any discussion of the business of baseball, instead becoming reduced to the most apparent outcome of this concept, which is the dramatic increase in players' salaries resulting from collective bargaining; this very site, in its summary description of Miller, simply notes that "salaries skyrocketed under his tenure" without stating why that is significant. Baseball is, and always has been, an inherently conservative institution run by the owners for their enrichment.

A hidden aspect of "the national pastime" is that it is a microcosm of the socio-economic imbalance in American society that has been a constant throughout its history and remains so today—just look at the Republicans' current tax bill that will disproportionately benefit the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else.

If this is beginning to sound like a political screed, that is precisely the point: Marvin Miller challenged the prevailing politics and economics in baseball simply by representing its labor force as the head of its union, and the very word "union" has been a dirty word throughout the history of American business. Yet Miller is in a sense simply the culmination of baseball's labor-management struggle, and to understand why that is crucial enough to merit Marvin Miller's inclusion into the Baseball Hall of Fame—and why it has not happened yet despite several attempts—we need to understand the history of the Reserve Clause.

The History of the Reserve Clause

The roots of the Reserve Clause, which in essence is part of a player contract that states that the team retains the rights to the player even after the contract expires—the player becomes the team's property in perpetuity—go all the way back to the National League owners' meeting in 1879, when Arthur Soden, owner of the Boston Braves, proposed that clubs "reserve" five players' contracts in an attempt to stunt salary growth and augment profits. By 1890, the Reserve Clause was extended to all players' contracts.

Opposition arose almost immediately, both in the form of rival leagues that offered free contracting to players, and in the form of the first players' union, the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players launched in 1885 and spearheaded by New York Giants superstar Monte Ward. Ward combined the two initiatives by forming a new league, the Players' League, in 1889, although it lasted just one season, with most players returning to the NL. As a pitcher and infielder, Ward is the only Major League player ever to win 100 games and collect 2000 hits (giving Shohei Ohtani something to aspire to), and he is a member of the Hall of Fame—although his induction did not come until 1984, which may be a harbinger of what Miller can expect.

As the Reserve Clause persevered into the 20th century, it was challenged periodically and without success. In fact, it received periodic reinforcement: In 1922, the United States Supreme Court ruled that baseball was not involved in interstate commerce and thus it was not in violation of federal antitrust laws that could challenge the legality of the Reserve Clause. The Supreme Court upheld subsequent challenges in 1953 and in 1972, reaffirming that baseball was a monopoly exempt from antitrust laws (such as the Sherman Antitrust Act, passed by Congress in 1890) in what is known as the "baseball anomaly" or the "baseball exemption."

And in case you're wondering whether in 1922 all teams were located in the same state and thus did not participate in interstate commerce, the court ruled that while the players moved between states, they were not the game, which remained local, in a majority decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a former amateur baseball player, for a court presided over by Chief Justice William Howard Taft, a former baseball player at Yale University and such a baseball fan that, as President of the United States, Taft in 1910 threw out the first pitch at a Washington Senators game to start the baseball season, a tradition that remains to this day.

Opposition to the Reserve Clause Continues

Still, challenges continued, and were opposed by team owners at every step. When baseball under Commissioner Happy Chandler instituted in 1946 a five-year ban on players who had jumped to a rival league, outfielder Danny Gardella, who had played in the Mexican League but then found himself blacklisted upon his attempt to rejoin MLB, sued MLB for $300,000. Gardella lost his case, but in 1948 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision, largely by ruling that the advent of television and radio broadcasts of baseball games was clear proof that baseball was now involved in interstate commerce.

Moreover, in its decision the Second Circuit Court castigated the Reserve Clause, which it called "shockingly repugnant to moral principles that . . . have been basic in America . . . [since] the Thirteenth Amendment" (which abolished slavery in 1865), and likened the Reserve Clause to involuntary servitude that "results in something resembling peonage of the baseball player."

Not surprisingly, baseball owners feared the end of the baseball exemption and the Reserve Clause, with Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1949, invoking the budding Cold War hysteria by declaring "that the Reserve Clause was opposed by people with avowed Communist tendencies."

Yes, this is the same Branch Rickey who, just two years previously with the Brooklyn Dodgers, had integrated Major League Baseball by bringing Jackie Robinson onto the team and thus becoming the first African-American baseball player in the 20th century. It is a monumental event not just in the civil rights movement but in American history, and baseball has fed off its legacy ever since, with Robinson's uniform number, 42, now universally retired.

Baseball's integration is both historic and admirable, and it is a direct repudiation of both the literal slavery experienced by all African-Americans prior to the Thirteenth Amendment and the "separate but equal" segregation that followed its ratification, segregation maintained by MLB until 1947. But at the same time baseball maintained its economic slavery, which the Second Circuit Court condemned as "involuntary servitude" and "peonage of the baseball player," and as Branch Rickey the integrationist proclaimed, any opposition to the Reserve Clause that enabled that peonage was tantamount to communism.

Curt Flood Challenges the Reserve Clause

So, while Curt Flood, a star center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals (another team for whom Rickey had worked, by the way), could as an African-American now play baseball, he discovered like all baseball players that that freedom did not extend to their financial and economic status in baseball.

During the 1969 season, Flood had feuded with the Cardinals' front office over a $10,000 raise to his $90,000 salary. Once the season was over, Flood was curtly informed that he had been traded to the last-place Philadelphia Phillies, with Philadelphia such a hotbed of racial tensions, which were carried into the Phillies' dilapidated Shibe Park, that the player for whom he had been traded, African-American Dick Allen, wore a batting helmet even when he played the field.

Curt Flood Modern Baseball 01
Curt Flood might have lost his battle, but he helped to win the war for free agency.

Believing that he was being punished by the Cardinals for his salary demands, Flood wrote to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, instructing him to notify all MLB teams that he would field their financial offers to play for them in 1970 while stating that he, Flood, did not consider himself to be "property"—and for an African-American, that term has deep and painful historical resonance, as Flood articulated in his letter: "I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes."

When Kuhn ignored Flood's demands, Flood sued Kuhn and Major League Baseball in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972. It was an action that Flood did not take on lightly, and for advice and consultation he turned to Marvin Miller.

Marvin Miller Enters Major League Baseball

Miller had become the Executive Director of the MLBPA in 1966 following his tenure at the United Steel Workers of America, where he had been the union's principal economic adviser, assistant to its president, and its leading contract negotiator. A 1938 New York University graduate with an economics degree, Miller cut his teeth at the National War Labor Board during World War Two before working for the International Association of Machinists, the United Auto Workers, and United Steel Workers, which he joined in 1950.

In 1966, after having been encouraged by future Hall of Fame pitchers Jim Bunning and Robin Roberts, Miller canvassed MLB's spring training camps for the MLBPA's executive director position, which had been offered to the union's legal counsel, Robert Cannon. Cannon was certainly the choice of the owners—Cannon actually aspired to be baseball's next commissioner as he supported the Reserve Clause and thought that the players' pension plan was the finest in the world. Indeed, he told Congress in 1964 that, with respect to players' economic status, "we have it so good we don't know what to ask for next." Perhaps not surprisingly, Cannon declined the executive director offer, and Miller accepted it.

The MLBPA had been formed in 1953, and its first president was the Cleveland Indians' ace and future Hall of Famer Bob Feller. Although the MLBPA did get additional pension-plan funding from All-Star Game and World Series revenues, and it did negotiate a salary increase to $6000 (after asking for $7200), it was not an active force until Miller joined in 1966.

Miller's first order of business was to negotiate MLBPA's first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with team owners, which covered the 1968 and 1969 seasons, raising the minimum salary to $10,000 and increasing expense allowances. However, its primary importance was to establish a formal player-owner bargaining structure including arbitration procedures for grievances, a foundation for the three-year CBA agreed-to in 1970 that introduced a three-member arbitration panel with a neutral, jointly-agreed-upon chairman. Miller's 1968 CBA was the first in American professional sports and set the precedent for other sports.

Despite these quick successes, Miller was pragmatic, even blunt, in his advice for Curt Flood as Flood prepared to sue Commissioner Kuhn and Major League Baseball over his trade grievance. Aware of the judicial system's historical bias toward MLB owners and their monopoly, Miller flatly told Flood that he would not win, and even if he did manage to win, he would be effectively blacklisted from baseball.

Curt Flood Versus the U.S. Supreme Court

Miller was proved correct: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Flood in a five-to-three decision, with the majority opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun, who penned a prologue to the opinion that is such a hosanna to bygone baseball that it would make Ken Burns or George Will, let alone the granddaddy of purple sports prose Grantland Rice, blush with adoration. (Blackmun's prologue cites no fewer than 83 players going up to the mid-20th century—yet it snubs Mel Ott.)

Dissenting opinions from Justices William O. Douglas, joined by William Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, were considerably more clear-eyed, as Douglas agreed with Flood that the Reserve Clause unlawfully benefited owners at the players' expense, while Marshall faulted the judicial system for allowing baseball's peculiar antitrust exemption to persevere. And as a riposte to Blackmun's flowery defense of baseball history, Douglas wrote, "This is not a romantic history baseball enjoys as a business. It is a sordid history."

Furthermore, Curt Flood never played baseball after the 1969 season save for 13 games in 1971 with the Washington Senators, which lost 96 games that season. Throughout 1970, Flood was deluged with hate mail claiming that he was trying to destroy baseball while Flood's Cardinals teammate Bob Gibson estimated that Flood received four or five death threats a day. Curt Flood died, age 59, of throat cancer in 1997.

But although he might have lost the battle, Flood's courageous stance enabled a later victory in the war against the Reserve Clause, and Miller was again a key advisor. When Flood asked Miller if his lawsuit would benefit other players, he replied that it would benefit both then-current and future players.

Curt Flood Modern Baseball 02
Flood's courage and Miller's perseverence helped to reshape the course of Major League Baseball.

Marvin Miller Gets to Work

Meanwhile, Miller organized a two-week players' strike in April 1972 that enabled him to negotiate a half-million-dollar increase in pension fund payments. Although it cost the players $600,000 in aggregate lost salary—they didn't get paid for being on strike—the cost to the owners in terms of lost revenue from games not played was much bigger as Miller, a labor-union veteran who brought three decades of experience to the MLBPA, taught players, essentially young workers with no practical experience in the business world, the power of collective bargaining.

Flood's case also put challenges to the Reserve Clause, namely the option of free agency, into the players' minds, and when Miller and the MLBPA negotiated their next CBA in 1972, they might not have negotiated the end of the Reserve Clause, but they did get a concession for salary arbitration, which ultimately led to the end of the Reserve Clause.

In his book Baseball and Billions, economist Andrew Zimbalist notes that, "Today all observers recognize salary arbitration as a powerful weapon in the players' arsenal, and the owners have been trying to vitiate the arbitration system for several years." Moreover, the CBA that would take effect in 1973 also included the "10-and-5 Rule," also known as the Flood Rule, which gives a player with 10 years' MLB service, the last five of which with the same team, the right to veto any trade. "With this rule," Zimbalist writes, "some players were granted control over where they played for the first time since 1879"—when Boston Braves owner Arthur Soden first introduced the Reserve Clause.

In 1974, Oakland Athletics pitcher Catfish Hunter filed a grievance against owner Charlie Finley concerning an annuity payment stipulated in his contract that Finley did not make. A three-person arbitration panel—instituted as a result of Marvin Miller and the MLBPA's collective bargaining agreement—ruled that Finley had violated Hunter's contract, which was no longer binding on Hunter, who was free to then negotiate with another team—in essence, Hunter became a free agent. He went on to sign a multi-year contract with the Yankees.

The following year, pitchers Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Montreal Expos were both dissatisfied with their current-year contracts and, encouraged by Miller, refused to sign them although they continued to play for their respective clubs. At the end of the season, a three-person arbitration panel ruled that both pitchers had fulfilled their contractual obligations and that neither team had any further control over them.

Goodbye, Reserve Clause; Hello, Free Agency—and Owners' Backlash

This was the true birth of free agency in Major League Baseball, which for the first time gave players the right to negotiate their services with teams interested in those services. It effectively ended the Reserve Clause and eliminated the "indentured servitude" and "peonage" that the Second Circuit Court had condemned in the appeal of the Gardella case in 1948.

Under the direction and tutelage of Marvin Miller, the Major League Baseball Players' Association, representing the interests of the players without whose labor there would be no "national pastime," nor a Hall of Fame, attained parity with the team owners as it became one of the strongest unions in the United States—and altered the landscape of baseball just as surely as Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson. Indeed, legendary sportscaster Red Barber stated as much: "Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history."

Now for the inevitable backlash. Along with free agency came the corresponding increase in players' salaries. Following the arbitration ruling in the cases of McNally and Messersmith—which so outraged the owners that they immediately fired arbitration panel chairman Dave Seitz, who had also ruled in the Hunter case, and tried in vain to appeal Seitz's decision at two federal levels—free agency swept through baseball as by 1977, 281 players had signed multi-year contracts, and average salaries nearly tripled between 1976 and 1980; as this site describes it, "salaries skyrocketed under [Marvin Miller's] tenure" without explaining the reasons why that was so.

In truth, this is the salient feature of the death of the Reserve Clause and the rise of free agency that the great majority of baseball fans know and understand: You can make a lot of money playing baseball at the Major League level. Even the 2018 minimum salary will be $545,000 annually, but that is dwarfed, both financially and in media coverage, by the superstar salaries and the speculation about what blockbuster multi-year packages will be offered to Bryce Harper and Mike Trout when they enter the free agent market, with estimates of $40 million annually not uncommon. In fact, players' salary considerations are parsed and analyzed as closely as their playing statistics.

Like WAR or FIP, or perhaps even like ERA and slugging percentage, those are numbers that the average fan tries to grapple with in the abstract as they have meaning only in the hermetic bubble of Major League Baseball. A salary of a half-million dollars a year is something most of us can only dream of, and yet the recipient of that salary—again, the minimum salary a player can make, which at best we can equate to a minimum wage—is concrete, real, and, thanks to decades of media saturation, intimate. We know the players (at least we think we do) and how they are doing both on the field and off the field. As has been the case since baseball's inception, they are the game to us, much more so than the owners and the executives whose work off the field produces what we see on the field.

So, when a disruption occurs in baseball, our attention—even our ire—is directed at the players, who are the conduits between the "national pastime" of a children's game played at its highest level and the business of baseball. This is true whether the disruption is a strike, or a walkout, which is initiated by labor (that is, the players), or a lockout, initiated by management (i.e., the owners); all we know is that baseball has stopped—which was something that rarely happened before Marvin Miller became the Executive Director of the MLBPA.

Strikes, Disruption, and Anger

In 1981, a players' strike from June 12 to August 10 (the All-Star Game, an exhibition game with no impact on the regular season, had been played on August 9) forced the cancelation of 38 percent of regular-season games. It was the fourth work stoppage since 1972, although the first to disrupt significantly the schedule of games.

Even though it had been the players who walked out, the major share of the blame was put on the owners, who were demanding compensation for players they lost through free agency, with the players' union contending that any form of compensation would undermine free agency's value.

The two sides reached a compromise with owners receiving compensation for a "Type A," or "premium," free agent (determined by various performance criteria) while free agency was granted only to players with at least six years' MLB service, a position Miller had advocated; indeed, Miller understood that too many free agents could drive player salaries down, and that limiting the pool of available free agents—good old supply and demand—could drive up salaries. Reputedly, the negotiations were so acrimonious that Miller and owners' negotiator Ray Grebey refused to pose together for any post-settlement photographs.

But when another work stoppage, another strike, halted baseball in 1994, not only was the season fundamentally disrupted—the consequences were serious. Fittingly, the issues were serious too, and complex, but as the 1994 strike occurred after Marvin Miller had officially stepped down in 1982 as the MLBPA's executive director, with Donald Fehr eventually becoming his official replacement, we will not detail it here except to note that it is part of the legacy Marvin Miller left on Major League Baseball—and its impact provoked a fan backlash that took years to heal.

Again, the players were inevitably the very visible target of the fans' wrath, which was summarized, simply but cogently, as "the millionaires [the players] arguing with the billionaires [the owners] over money—with the fans ultimately having to pay the cost." Indeed, the 1994 strike, begun on August 12, 1994, and not suspended until April 2, 1995, forced the cancelation of the 1994 postseason including the World Series, canceled for the first time since 1904 after having been inaugurated the year before—and which had been played every year for decades despite gamblers' interference, the Great Depression, and two world wars.

The Legacy of Marvin Miller

This is the legacy that Marvin Miller has bequeathed on baseball. The casual fan knows only the "skyrocketing" salaries of baseball players, and it is true that MLB is alone among the Big Four team sports in the United States and Canada in not having a salary cap—at the core of the 1994 work stoppage—although it does have a revenue-sharing arrangement to try to enforce parity.

Would baseball have been better off without Marvin Miller? Leaving aside the presumed denials of just about every player who has played Major League baseball since the mid-1970s, another, perhaps better, question is, would baseball have pursued the same kind of objectives and goals as did Miller even if he were not on the scene?

In 1966, star Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax confronted owner Walter O'Malley with a joint salary demand: They wanted one million dollars to be split between them over the next three seasons—or else they would "retire" and go into television acting careers. (And who could forget Drysdale schooling Greg on the realities of big-league baseball on The Brady Bunch? Or Koufax serving up a gopher ball to a slugging Mister Ed?) Moreover, they wanted to be represented by a lawyer-agent during negotiations and not by the usual "stop by my office and we'll tell you what your contract will be next year" that former pitcher Jim Bouton relates vividly in his celebrated baseball chronicle Ball Four.

Ultimately, their demand went unmet although each got one-year contracts north of $100,000 for the 1966 season (over $760,000 in 2017 dollars)—having been integral to the Dodgers' world championships in 1963 and 1965, the Dodgers knew that they couldn't afford to lose either one. Granted, players had been trying to negotiate for better deals in the Reserve Clause Era for decades (remember Monte Ward, his union, and the Players' League from the 19th century?), and a demand like theirs would have been greeted by derision—or worse—from a non-superstar player. Remember Curt Flood?

But what is fascinating is the language that Koufax used in recalling the incident years later, which may have been cribbed from Marvin Miller but which sounds prescient nevertheless: "The goal was to convince [the owners] that they would have to approach us, not as indentured servants but as coequal parties to a contract, with as much dignity and bargaining power as themselves." (Emphasis added.)

Marvin Miller would have happened in some form or another, and while it is fun to play "what-if," let's deal with the reality of what-is: Marvin Miller helped to change the course of baseball, as surely as Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson did with integration. And just as Rickey and Robinson's act had larger social and political implications, so too did Miller's direction of one of the strongest unions in the United States have economic and social implications. Is that not a Hall of Fame-worthy case?

The Veterans Committees and the Control of Baseball Legacy

Upon Miller's 2012 death, former Commissioner Fay Vincent remarked, "I think he's the most important baseball figure of the last fifty years. He changed not just the sport but the business of the sport permanently, and he truly emancipated the baseball player—and in the process all professional athletes. Prior to his time, they had few rights. At the moment, they control the games."

Admirable, and admiring, remarks from someone who would be considered his adversary—although his actual adversary, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, was hardly as salutary: "I began to realize we had before us an old-fashioned 19th-century trade unionist who hated management generally and the management of baseball specifically."

Bingo! Could Kuhn have summed up the attitude of the owners any more succinctly? Well, he could have called Miller a communist, as Branch Rickey had done in reference to anyone opposed to the Reserve Clause, but Kuhn's choice of "trade unionist," 19th-century or otherwise, is effectively a dog whistle of same.

This is the challenge Marvin Miller faces, and has faced for nearly two decades: The veterans committee, known this year as the Modern Baseball Committee, is weighted toward management. Yes, the committee, which has had 16 members in recent years, counts Hall of Fame members including players among its complement. But recent committee compositions have included non-player Hall of Famers, and they are typically executives. This is over and above the separate coterie of current and former executives not in the Hall of Fame, with historians and media representatives rounding out the committee.

As we noted previously, the veterans committee in the 21st century has elected just four players into the Hall, but it has elected seven executives including two MLB commissioners. Granted, the veterans committee is the only mechanism by which non-players can be elected to the Hall of Fame, while many players under consideration had appeared on a BBWAA ballot previously. (Eight of the nine players on this year's ballot spent all 15 of their eligible years on a BBWAA ballot.) So, there may be an understandable—if not justifiable—bias toward non-players.

The table below details executives elected by the veterans committee since 1982, which was the year that Marvin Miller officially stepped down from the MLBPA.

Executives Elected by the Veterans Committee Since 1982

Executive

Year Elected

Notable Baseball Office(s)

Happy Chandler

1982

Baseball Commissioner (1945–1951)

Bill Veeck

1991

Owner: Browns, Indians, White Sox

William Hulbert

1995

National League co-founder

Executive: White Stockings (later Cubs)

Lee MacPhail

1998

Executive: Orioles, Yankees

American League President

Barney Dreyfuss

2008

Owner: Pirates

Bowie Kuhn

2008

Baseball Commissioner (1969–1984)

Legal counsel to MLB owners

Walter O'Malley

2008

Owner: Dodgers

Pat Gillick

2011

Executive: Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Phillies

Jacob Ruppert

2013

Owner: Yankees

John Schuerholz

2017

Executive: Braves, Royals

Bud Selig

2017

Baseball Commissioner (1998–2015)

Acting Baseball Commissioner (1992–1998)

Owner: Brewers


Of the eleven men elected, three were baseball commissioners, five were team owners (this double-counts Bud Selig, who owned the Milwaukee Brewers before he became Commissioner of Baseball), and four were executives. Not counted here are any persons elected as on-the-field managers whose careers may have also included offices related to executives, such as Joe Torre, who is currently MLB's Chief Baseball Officer and a liaison to the commissioner.

Has the Baseball Hall of Fame inherited the "Reserve Clause" that Marvin Miller helped to eliminate from Major League Baseball?

The Baseball Hall of Fame enshrines players for their on-the-field accomplishments, and it enshrines executives who, as the prevailing narrative has it, had the capital and the business acumen to make the players' accomplishments possible. It has not enshrined anyone like Marvin Miller, who made manifest the fact that players, as the labor force in the enterprise, are a crucial factor in the equation that is the business of baseball—and baseball has always been a business from its inception.

This is not only incomplete. It is dishonest. It is another attempt to whitewash the history of baseball into an anodyne fable of mythical Americana, much like the attempt to suppress, if not efface, the consequences of performance-enhancing drugs by simply blaming it on the players while ignoring the context in which it occurred—which is the business of baseball. (That topic falls outside the scope of this article, but I plan to explore it in my upcoming article on the 2018 BBWAA ballot.)

By not acknowledging that the players are not just simply performers but also stakeholders in the business of baseball, the Baseball Hall of Fame is reducing them to property of the owners—returning them to 1879, when the Reserve Clause was first proposed before it went on to govern the business of baseball for nearly a century.

Hell, baseball established racial justice thirty years before it yielded to economic justice, and that was not without a fight. That economic justice is symbolized by Marvin Miller, whose greatest accomplishment may be in making players, through their union, the Major League Baseball Players' Association, understand that their human capital is a commodity they can use to negotiate with owners for the best price possible while emphasizing how to maximize that power through collective bargaining.

Baseball players understand this, even those enshrined in the Hall of Fame:

Hank Aaron: "Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame if the players have to break down the doors to get him in."

Joe Morgan: "They should vote him in and then apologize for making him wait so long."

Tom Seaver: "Marvin's exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a national disgrace."

But the most cogent observation may come from a player who will never see the inside of the Baseball Hall of Fame without a ticket, Jim Bouton, whose tell-all book Ball Four was the first baseball expose to remove the whitewashing of baseball:

"Essentially, the decision for putting a union leader in the Hall of Fame was handed over to a bunch of executives and former executives. Marvin Miller kicked their butts and took power away from the baseball establishment—do you really think those people are going to vote him in? It's a joke . . . I blame the players. It's their Hall of Fame; it's their balls and bats that make the Hall what it is. Where are the public outcries from Joe Morgan or Reggie Jackson, who was a player rep? Why don't these guys see that some of their own get on these committees? That's the least they owe Marvin Miller. Do they think they became millionaires because of the owners' generosity?" (Emphasis added.)

Marvin Miller himself, speaking in 2008, summed up his chances at the hands of the veterans committee structure:

"I find myself unwilling to contemplate one more rigged Veterans Committee whose members are handpicked to reach a particular outcome while offering a pretense of a democratic vote. It is an insult to baseball fans, historians, sportswriters, and especially to those baseball players who sacrificed and brought the game into the 21st century. At the age of 91, I can do without farce."

Whether Bouton's or Miller's comments may be overblown is up to the reader to decide. What is without dispute is this: It is a farce that Marvin Miller is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

More so than Ted Simmons and Alan Trammell, both of whom are overdue for the Hall of Fame, the Modern Baseball Committee must elect Marvin Miller. He helped to shape the modern baseball for which this committee is named. Not doing so perpetuates the farce.
Last modified on Saturday, 09 December 2017 17:15

Comments   

0 #2 Darryl Tahirali 2017-12-10 20:19
Thank you, Committee Chairman, although I had hoped that it was credible stuff I was posting so it would be convincing . . . guess we'll see how the committee voted tonight.
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0 #1 Committee Chairman 2017-12-10 04:13
As always this is incredible stuff. The Committee should have your work be mandated reading!

Funny also how the longer i do this the more i have issues with Garvey and the HOF!
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