Is Cooperstown Worthy?

by on January 3, 2011 · 46 comments

It’s a double-edged sword of a question that needs asking.  Is Cooperstown really worthy?  Is it worthy of all the respect it is given, considering just how much the people charged with its hallowed gate-keeping have dropped the ball over the years?  Also, is it really worthy of all the hoopla, considering that it sits out in the middle of nowhere and requires a pilgrimage, a dependable guide, some sherpas, and a team of camels to get you there?   

First there is the issue of respect based on the voting process and the membership.  Ron Santo hasn’t made it in yet.  Bert Blyleven still isn’t a member.  There’s no Roberto Alomar or Lee Smith in there yet.  I’m not here to argue in favor of any of these men, but I’ll go on record as saying that much lesser players (aka Joe Morgan) have already made it past the gatekeepers.  There seems to be no clear standard.  Worse yet, there seems to be no accountability for voters who inevitably “pull a Robin Ventura“.  That’s when someone votes for someone who has absolutely no business getting into the HOF (Note: Ventura received precisely 7 votes in his first year of eligibility, so he did not receive the minimum required to appear on the ballot again.)  In his 5th year of eligibility, Harold Baines received votes on 6.1% of the ballot last year.  Really?  Harold Baines?  The guy had 2866 hits in 22 seasons, but he accumulated a total WAR of 37.0 in that time.  At least Ventura had a career WAR of 55.5 in just 16 seasons.  Sure, the voters get it right more than they get it wrong, but the omissions are often glaring and ridiculous.  The HOF shouldn’t need a “Veteran’s Committee” to right the wrongs that the BBWAA is guilty of committing.   

Did I mention something about a guide, some sherpas, and a few camels?   

Yes, it's really that little dot in the middle of the NY Triangle of Anguish (Courtesy of Mapquest, because only Mapquest and Google Earth could find it.)

I’ve been there.  It’s an awesome trip.  I highly recommend it to all hardcore baseball fans.  I’ll probably never go back again.  Our family was in the middle of a lengthy vacation to Maine, and my wife mentioned Cooperstown.  How awesome is that?  I protested on the basis that we really didn’t have the extra time for such a big detour.  Yep.  I really fought tooth and nail to not see the baseball Hall of Fame.  Sure did.  That battle lasted all of 10 seconds, and it ended when I said “You’re right, that’s a great idea.”  (Note: I find myself uttering those words a lot.  She’s accustomed to hearing those words.)  

Seriously, it’s really awesome to see the memorabilia, and the exhibits are amazing.  The HOF has so much stuff that you really don’t know what you’ll see when you go there (which makes it a lot like the Smithsonian in that regard).  The staff does a great job of changing the exhibits on a regular basis to keep it fresh and to reflect current baseball events, milestones, achievements, and honor baseball history at the same time.  That said, I went at quite possibly the best time for a Cardinals fan.  I was there the year after the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, so there were a lot of Cardinals-centric things to see.  Sure, there was already a great 6-foot-tall poster of Ozzie doing his backwards up-in-the-air-thingy.  There was also this little gem:  

Best Display Case Ever

Be jealous.  

As I started writing this post, I began thinking about whether any current Cardinals besides Albert Pujols has a “reasonable” chance to reach the HOF.  Carpenter has missed far too many games due to injury, and Adam Wainwright only has 66 wins at age 29, so I think that they are unlikely candidates.  Holliday would have to maintain his current pace for another 10 years to push into the 3000 hit / 400+ hr territory, although he could certainly make it without hitting those “magic numbers”.  After really thinking about it, I’d like to present for your consideration the case for Yadier Molina

He’s one of the best defensive catchers in the game (if not the best), and he’s an efficient, productive machine on the offensive side, and it’s about time to give him some respect for what he does when he’s not behind the plate.  The man plays the most demanding position in baseball, and he’s been pretty darn reliable in his 7 big league seasons (6 full seasons).  From 2004 through 2010, Yadi played in 114, 129, 111, 124, 140, and 136 games respectively.  Throw in the 51 games from his rookie year, and he’s played in 805 regular season games since the start of 2004.  What if he keeps doing what he’s doing for another 6 or 7 seasons?  Will the HOF chatter start then? 

He’s far from being an offensive liability, and he’s extremely efficient at producing runs.  His career stat line shows a .268 average, .325 obp, .361 slugging %, and .688 ops.  He has 41 hr and 325 career rbi to go along with 718 hits.  His 2010 stat line of .268/.329/.342/.671 was in line with his career numbers, so he’s consistent as well as reliable.  While those numbers might not overwhelm anybody, I’d encourage people to look closely at what I call the “peripheral stats” that show Yadi’s true value to the team.  In 2010, Yadi hit .286 in 133 at-bats with runners in scoring position for 57 rbi.  With the bases loaded, Yadi hit a ridiculous .533 in 15 at-bats and had 2 grand slams.  Just how good are those numbers?  Pujols hit .343 in 144 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and he drove in only 18 more runs than Yadi did.  Holliday hit just .271 in 177 such at-bats for 67 rbi.  What about AP and Holliday with the bases loaded?  Well, Holliday hit only .250 in 16 opportunities, and AP struggled to a .111 average with the bases full.   

What about hitting when it really counts (like the playoffs)?  Yadi has only stepped up his game to the tune of .315/.351/.444/.795 in 8 postseason series.   

Keep in mind that he’s only 27.  If he plays for 12 more years and gets 10 seasons worth of games (accounting for some injury time), he would have a reasonable shot at 2000 career hits, a total WAR of 35.0+, and 10+ All-Star game appearances along with 8-10 Gold Gloves.  That’s a best-case scenario, but this is just an academic discussion, anyway.  If he finishes his career and is widely considered the best defensive catcher of his generation, will he have a shot at the HOF? 

TIDBIT:  Yadi primarily bats 5-8 spots in the lineup.  His batting average by batting order is interesting: 5th(49 at-bats) – .224, 6th(250 at-bats) – .316, 7th(159 at-bats) – .189, 8th(7 at-bats) – .286.

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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Jack January 4, 2011

I mostly agree, except: Joe Morgan is probabaly one of the best all-around second basemen of all time. I’d certainly call him a “lesser announcer,” but a “lesser player”? C’mon.

Dennis January 4, 2011

I’d say Joe Morgan was one of the better hitting 2B of all-time, but I’d say he was overrated for his defense. Actually, I’m more prone to saying that he was really good at producing runs while with Cincinnati and leave it at that, because he had 6 great years with the Reds and 2 really good years outside of that run. I think Rogers Hornsby was a better hitter, and he also finished with a positive dWAR for his career.

I’d argue that Morgan’s numbers with Cincy were greatly inflated by playing on some great Reds teams. Just look at some of his splits. In 1971, he hit .256 for Houston when hitting in the #2 spot. In 1972, he hit .289 in the #2 hole for the Reds. Amazing what a change of scenery will do for a guy….

Aton January 5, 2011

You mean, amazing what no longer playing in one of the worst hitters parks in baseball history will do for a guy.
Astros staff home/road era’s during Morgan’s career there (home on the left, away on the right

1963: 2.81- 4.10
1964: 2.98 – 3.86
1965: 3.24 – 4.49
1966: 3.18 – 4.38
1967: 3.31- 4.81
1968: 2.87 – 3.68
1969: 3.10 – 4.13
1970: 3.76 – 4.73
1971: 2.81 – 3.46

I’d argue that Joe Morgan’s number in Houston were greatly deflated for playing in one of the worst hitters parks in baseball history.

Now, please stop making me defend Joe Morgan. No one wants to half to do that.

Dennis January 5, 2011

Again, the whole “hitter’s park” thing affects different players to a different degree. For example, I have doubts that Albert Pujols or Matt Holliday would be inclined to hit a lot of home runs, if they played their home games at Fenway, but that park sets up just fine for other players. Then again, I actually watched quite a few games in the Astrodome, and I saw plenty of players who weren’t the least bit bothered by the dome, the background behind the pitcher, or seemingly anything else.

However, I’m open-minded to the possibility that everybody who played for Houston and left for other teams went on to enjoy similar upticks in their careers due to their respective escapes from the clutches of the dreaded Astrodome.

Atom January 5, 2011

I’m seriously baffled by your argument here. I feel it’s worth pointing out before I begin criticizing you that I often read and very much enjoy your blog….which in part makes your denial of park factors utterly bizarre. Especially when you claim that Joe Morgan’s hitting success came from being in a good lineup (he hit well because Johnny Bench hit well??)Did everyone who played for the Astros just forget how to hit there?
Even if you think all ballparks are created equal(which is absurd, FYI), how could you call Morgan a marginal hofer?

And to the commentor below me: during those years, Morgan posted an OBP of .370. We should have learned the folly of batting average a long time ago. He was still one of the best second baseman in baseball. And his .248 BA was better than the 719 ABs TOTAL Rogers Hornsby had in his last 7 seasons. You don’t compare a 2nd baseman to a right fielder because 2nd base is a much tougher position to fill. You accept less offense in turn for someone who can effectively play the position defensivly. That’s why so many member of the 500 home run club are first baseman and outfielders and none are second baseman!

WAR, measures(roughly) the number of wins a player will earn a team of the minimal acceptable replacement. Joe Morgan’s career WAR was 103.5, 19th ALL TIME and ahead of the following:
Cal Ripken,
Joe DiMaggio (Joe MIGHT have topped Morgan had it not been for the war years, key on MIGHT)
Eddie Mathews
Jimmie Foxx
Carl Yastrzemski
George Brett
Roberto Clemente (who at 37 at the time of his death, wouldn’t have had a chance to top Morgan)
Ken Griffey Jr
Pete Rose
Frank Thomas

ECT He ranks right behind Frank Robinson and Nap Lajoie. Yeah, that sounds like an all time great to me.

Tom January 6, 2011

Hey Atom, I was pinched for time when I made the 3 walks comment, I guess what I am trying to say is that I look more favorably on players who got it done with the stick rather than taking a lot of walks. I know Morgan could have done a lot more damage had the pitchers faced him instead of walking him – he was a dangerous hitter – especially in his prime years. As far as his last 6 years go – he was and everyday player and nothing really jumps off the page at me. I am old school and stats such as batting average do mean something to me as they did when the players were playing – I know that new ways to evaluate players are part of the mainstream now but I just don’t completely agree with some of them – too many what if’s for me- I think we do need to look at all numbers to consider players ability and standing. So I don’t use WAR and OPS+ as and end all for determining a players career. As far as Hornsby goes he was a 2nd string bench player his last 6 years – bad comparison – Morgan was a full timer. If you look at Hornsby’s prime you will see that he led the entire league in many,many categories – he must have been some kind of hitter. Morgan’s value to his team speaks for itself but I just can’t put him in the company of Ruth, Hornsby, Aaron, Mays, Pujols and Gwynn.

Dennis January 6, 2011

In simple terms, Hornsby played 23 seasons, and he great to spectacular in about 14 of them. Sure, Morgan ended with a total WAR of 103.5, but almost half of that came from 5 seasons (51.0 from 1972-76). The other 17 seasons accounted for 52.5 WAR. No matter who you choose to explain it or parse it, that’s no what I call “sustained excellence”.

Tom January 5, 2011

Morgan had a great career for sure but he also had his shortcomings, .248 batting average over his last 6 seasons is one of them and that is weak for a guy who you say is one of the top 5 -15 players of all time. Where else could he have played in the field by the way, I don’t see him doing too well at other positions. He was great for 6 years, other than that not too impressive for a Hall of Fame player.

Dennis January 5, 2011

Atom, I do appreciate your candid approach and the fact that this hasn’t deteriorated into something less than a good debate.

I’m not saying that all of Morgan’s success came from being in a good lineup. I’m just saying that he benefited at least somewhat from being in a good lineup and having really good hitters both ahead of him and behind him. Lineup protection is a really useful thing. One of my favorite historical examples is Eddie Mathews and Henry Aaron. I encourage you to check out some of the splits those two had as a function of batting order. Mathews benefited greatly from having Aaron hitting behind him, but Mathews didn’t provide nearly the same protection for Aaron.

The park factor discussion is probably a breakdown in semantics more than anything else. I believe in the qualitative usefulness of park factors, but I think that the mathematical element leaves a little to be desired. As for the Astros who played in the Astrodome and went elsewhere, I’d look at the ones who were with Houston in 1999 and 2000. Those were the guys who played in both the Astrodome and Enron (eventually renamed Minute Maid). Bagwell went from a 7.7 WAR to a 5.5. Caminiti went from a 1.4 to a 1.5 WAR. For Biggio it was a drop from 5.2 to 1.5, but he was injured for part of 2000. My point is that applying park factor to a player’s career is something that makes more sense to me as a relative thing than an absolute one. Trying to adjust to compensate within a player’s career for seasons played in various parks is just guesswork (not that I have a problem with guesswork). I just wouldn’t use guesswork to try and support my claim that someone is one of the top 15 players of all-time.

I do thank you for reading the blog, though. It’s my hope that regular readers enjoy at least 75% of what I write and have no issue with discarding the rest. The content that I generate is 100% original blather based on facts, and I try very diligently not to pass off opinion as fact or vice versa.

EM January 4, 2011

You think Ron Santo, Bert Blyleven, Lee Smith and Robero Alomar are all better than JOE MORGAN?!

Dennis January 4, 2011

Actually, I think that they were all better individual players and contributed more individually to their respective teams than Morgan did to his. That’s my opinion. I’m also of the opinion that Morgan really wasn’t all that spectacular without guys like Rose, Tolan, Griffey, Bench, and Perez around him. Then again, maybe I missed a year in which he hit .300 with 25+ hr when not with the Reds.

Oddly enough, the 2 2nd basemen I’ve most often heard Morgan compared to are Sandberg and Alomar. I saw Morgan at the end of his prime, so I missed out on a bit. However, I don’t recall anything that distinguished him from either of those guys.

Tom January 5, 2011

I couldn’t agree more, Morgan gets way too much credit, along with Michael Kay he is also BRUTAL as a TV guy…BRUTAL!

Dennis January 5, 2011

Thanks for reading and for the feedback, Tom. I really try hard to separate my feelings about Morgan’s career as a player from his career as a broadcaster. Despite what I’ve written about Morgan, I do think he was darn good, and I never once said he wasn’t worthy of the HOF. I just think he’s overrated, because his career deserves to be placed in a certain context.

On the other hand, I find his broadcasting work to be absolutely horrendous. You can tell that he has vast knowledge of the game and understands situational baseball very well. He just fails to offer anything substantial or unique that viewers can’t get elsewhere, and his delivery lacks sophistication. I really think that he would benefit from taking a year away from the big stage and working something like a radio play-by-play booth to sharpen his skills.

Tom January 5, 2011

Sure Dennis, I enjoy these debates, I have a big problem with the Hall though. When it was first created I think their goal was to enshrine those that clearly were the VERY BEST, where none of us would debate their worthiness. If you look at Morgan’s first 6 full seasons you will see a .264 hitter. His first 6 years with the Reds you see a .301 hitter with outstanding credentials and his last 6 full seasons you get a .248 hitter. I realize batting average is only one statistic but it still has to carry some weight right? So six years as a .264 hitter is not very good in my opinion and .248 is kind of hanging on and not very Hall worthy. Does he belong in the Hall?, some think so – o.k. – fine.

Dennis January 5, 2011

Yeah, the HOF debate is always an interesting one. If you look at the original class, it’s obvious what the original standard was. Based on the first ballot, you can also get a sense of what the voters considered the qualities and attributes that defined a HOF player. The barrier of entry was really high, and the home run wasn’t the big stat, either.

If I were making Morgan’s HOF case, I’d point to his career .392 OBP which was high throughout his career. His job was almost always to get on base, and he did that extremely well. He also took a lot of pitches, hit for power, and he stole a lot of bases ahead of some big bats. He was overrated as a defender, but he covered an awful lot of ground.

Tom January 5, 2011

If you take a player like Morgan than why not look at a Don Mattingly? He totally dominated the game for 6 seasons. For his first 6 years he managed to be in the company of names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Tris Speaker to name a few. He did things in the game that had not been done for many, many years. Those players I mentioned are surely players that can not be debated as to their Hall worthiness. I am not saying Mattingly had an entire career equal to theirs but he was in their company and he was considered by his peers as the BEST in the game at that time. His last 6 seasons he was still a .286 hitter with a bad back to boot and a Gold Glove fielder.

Dennis January 5, 2011

He was in the company of those names, if you compare some basic raw stats to be sure. I’m assuming here that you’re talking about Mattingly from 1984-1989. During that 6 year stretch, he compiled a total WAR of 29.2. An equivalent stretch for Ruth was probably 1919-1924, and he managed a total WAR during that time of 70.3. Ruth later put together a different 6 year stretch of 66.1 (1926-1931). Let’s stick to Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Speaker.

I don’t usually compare players across eras unless there are clearly some comparable tools to utilize. If there are some rationale generalizations to be made within the eras, then I’ll make them. When I think of Tris Speaker, I think of an incredibly high average hitter with gap power and really good speed. When I think of Gehrig, I think of average, power, and rbi machine. When I think of DiMaggio, I think of a slightly less productive version of Gehrig, actually. I do think of all 3 of them as producing at a high level for a very long time.

The reason I wouldn’t vote for Mattingly is the same reason I would not have voted for Pujols a couple years ago. He simply didn’t do it for long enough. When AP had finished his 8th season, someone asked me if I thought his career was HOF worthy at that moment, I said “no”. Now I would say “yes”, but AP has had 10 great seasons.

Here’s the biggest reason why I don’t think Mattingly has much of a chance, though. Andre Dawson. Dawson’s career covered all of Mattingly’s career and then some. Dawson’s HOF stock wasn’t much different from Mattingly’s in my opinion.

Tom January 5, 2011

Good points for sure, as much as I like Mattingly and what he accomplished I hate to say he does seem to fall short. He was at that time mentioned the best in the game though and I do like players who were the best at one time over players who were good or very good over their careers. That being said Puckett makes it with just about the same numbers and gets credit for post season years as well. It bothers me that Puckett and Koufax, who also dominated for 6 years get sympathy for arm and eye damage and Mattingly does not get the same for a damaged back. Also, I like to stick with hard facts and when you start mentioning WAR and OPS+ and studies such as those you are playing a game of what if. Lets debate the cold hard facts and not get into fantasies. I can deal with the reality of the numbers but some of the stats that are coming out now are speculation – not fast facts.

Dennis January 5, 2011

I’ve looked at the Mattingly/Puckett thing before, and I understand what you are saying. The issue there is that the numbers are similar, but Pucket compressed his production into 2 fewer seasons. He also benefited greatly from the 10 consecutive All-Star selections. I don’t weight those selections heavily, because there are far too many selections based on reputation and not on performance.

As for stats like WAR and OPS+, I’m a firm believer that most are useful in the right context, but they should always be combined with something else. That “something else” for me is usually the “eyeball test’. In Puckett’s case, I always considered him a subpar defender. In Mattingly’s case, I always thought his biggest fault was simply that he was a lot like Mark Grace in a world where a lot of people wanted Dave Kingman at 1B.

Tom January 5, 2011

Great point on All-Star selections,many,many players did not receive those when they easily could have. Sticking with the pure numbers is in my opinion the best way to determine a players ability. How well he did compared to others at his position as well as compared to the other players in the league. What I like to see in a baseball player is someone who excels on both sides of the ball. They are out there every day on the field performing at a high level both offensively AND defensively. That is what makes a player great to me. If you are going to be one dimensional than you better have AMAZING stats on that one end – such as Ozzie Smith on defense. His offense is nothing to brag about. I truly appreciate players such as Santo, Mattingly, Grace and Dwight Evans to name a few – real solid on both sides of the ball – could beat you in so many ways and exciting to watch both at the plate and in the field. Pujols is fantastic without question.

Dennis January 5, 2011

I definitely agree about playing both offense and defense. The funny thing about Ozzie is that he actually finished with a .337 OBP and 2460 hits which isn’t bad for someone who was always considered a weak bat. If he hadn’t turned himself into a tough out and been a basestealer, I don’t think he would have been nearly as popular in St. Louis.

Atom January 5, 2011

Wow, Joe Morgan is one of the 15 greatest players of all time and was in fact MUCH better than Roberto Alomar, Lee Smith, Ron Santo and Bert Blyleven. He spent the first part of his career in the second deadball era in the friggin Astrodom(one of the worst hitters parks in baseball history) and still managed a .376 OBP during that period (use BR stat neutralizer and shows an average OBP of well over .400).
He then went to the Reds, lead the league in OBP 4 times, posted back to back seasons which rank as the greatest seasons ever by a second baseman not named Rogers Hornsby (and among the 15 greatest individual seasons of all time). He posted a career 132 OPS+, equal to that Jim Edmonds, Jose Canseco, David Ortiz, Rafael Palmeiro, Tony Gwynn. He stole a 689 bases with a success rate of over 80%, posted a career 103.5 WAR and was probably the 2nd greatest 2nd baseman who ever played the game. Oh, and his 103.5 WAR accounts for the negative 5.6 as a fielder.
Joe Morgan would have been a first ballot hall of famer as a friggin’ DH.

Referring to Joe Morgan as a lesser hall of famer is absolutely insane. Especially for someone who quotes various players WAR totals in their post. Again, Joe Morgan, 103.5 career WAR, with 5 straight seasons with a WAR over 9. To put that in perspective, Pujols has done that four times…total.

Dennis January 5, 2011

I’m all for using stat neutralizers in debates, but I’m all in favor of using them within a certain context. The context is based on the hitter, because a park that is a “hitter’s park” for one type of hitter may not be a consideration at all for another type of hitter. It’s true that the Astrodome wasn’t a hitter’s park for a number of reasons, but it didn’t affect everyone the same way. Look at Morgan’s home/away splits for a year like 1965. He went .288/.414/.421/.835 at home and .256/.333/.415/.748 away. Fast forward to 1976 and look at his away split – .315/.443/.556/.999 and his home split – .325/.445/.597/1.043. Getting out of the Astrodome “might” explain the difference in the home split, but it certainly doesn’t explain the change in the away split.

Good point about WAR, though. We can all just ignore the 4.70 WAR season average. It’s pretty good compared to the 8.38 WAR average that Pujols has. It’s practically right there with the 7.82 average of Babe Ruth. As with most stats, you can frame them and the discussion any way you like. I’ll respectfully disagree with you that Morgan was one of the 15 greatest players of all time. As I previously mention, it’s not like I don’t think he’s hall worthy. I just think that his stats were inflated by playing on such a great team. To a certain degree, I think the same of some of the old Yankees’ and some of the Cardinals from the 20’s. Compared to modern players and their stats, they look awesome, but it’s difficult to make that distinction based on numbers alone.

Atom January 5, 2011

Your arguement is utter nonsense. Since Joe Morgan hit well at home, his home field had no negative effect? Larry Walker hit well on the road in 1997…so his home numbers must not have been affected by Coors that year?

2nd: Yes, Pujols averages 8 war, Morgan 4.7 The different is, you are comparing the average of 10 years of Pujols to 22 seasons of Joe Morgan. By your logic, Pujols was better than Ruth since Ruth averaged 7.5 WAR per season in his career. And my point was not that he was one of the 15 greatest ever (I believe he very well may be), my point is that you referred to him as a lesser play than Lee [ED NOTE: Language removed, keep it clean.] Smith, which is absurd!

Absolutely what proof do you have aside from a foolhardy assumption that a players statistics greatly improve because they are on a good team? For every one case you can show me that that happens, I can show you twenty where it doesn’t. His numbers are his numbers, and those numbers are the best of any 2nd baseman not named Rogers Hornsby. Calling him a lesser player Lee Smith, Robbie Alomar, Ron Santo and Bert Blyleven is complete lunacy and should not go without serious ridicule.

Dennis January 5, 2011

I didn’t say that his home field had no negative effect. I’m implying that it may not have been as significant as you are indicating, and I’m definitely saying that it’s impossible to know and/or calculate.

The average WAR thing was just a toss-in. I don’t actually use that for anything at all. I use an adjusted calculation for my own purposes, but my calculation is based on plate appearances, and I toss out “junk” years and make an era adjustment. For Morgan (as an example), I tossed out 1963, 1964, and 1984. That left him with an adjusted WAR of 102.1 in 19 “real” seasons. I then throw that into a few other equations that I doubt you actually care to read about. In the end, Morgan comes out looking pretty good.

After your use of the f-word, I’m done debating this with you. No matter how ridiculous you feel I’ve been, there is no need to bring that kind of language to this site. Go ahead. You win. Joe Morgan is the greatest player in the world. Happy now? I know that I am.

Tom January 5, 2011

Morgan was great without question from 1972 – 1978, outside of those 6 seasons, which surely define his career please point out – without using fantasy stats like WAR and OPS+ – the other great Hall of Fame worthy seasons that he had – how many people go to the ballpark hoping their hero walks 3 times today – not too many I would presume. The man hit .248 over his last 6 seasons – that stinks!

Atom January 5, 2011

Holy god Tom, really? Who cares what they hope their hero’s do. I hope Albert Pujols hits a home run every at bat, it doesn’t mean I’m mad or think he’s a bad player when he hits a double. These comments are absurd.
(Hey, just checked something and Bill James ranks Morgan as the 15th greatest player of all time! And that’s on a list that includes Oscar Charleston and Josh Gibson ahead of him)

Tom January 5, 2011

Ron Santo was rock solid every year for 10 years straight, in the field and at the plate – hey that rhymed – Santo got so badly overlooked by the Hall and they will never live that down – terrible, just terrible. What a great baseball player he was.

Dennis January 5, 2011

If you go back a few pages, you’ll find a post named “Ron Santo and the HOF”. I compared Santo to both Dale Murphy and Ken Boyer in making Santo’s case for induction. If you can set aside your “love” of WAR and its companions dWAR/oWAR for a moment, you’ll see that I tried to make the case that Santo is actually comparable to Brooks Robinson, except Santo had a much shorter career.

Tom January 5, 2011

Yeah Santo was great, I never had a chance to actually check it out until recently, the past few years really. He was so steady for a full decade

Tom January 5, 2011

Ozzie is all class and had the best leather at short – maybe ever – but a .337 OBP for a player with his speed is weak – lets be honest – and using phrases such as – he was a tough out – means nothing to me. Part of the problem with this whole Hall of Fame thing is voters using accolades for some of these guys.

Dennis January 5, 2011

Interesting stance, Tom. Mattingly’s OBP was .358, and his case was based primarily on being an offensive player. Being a “tough out” during Ozzie’s era was high praise in my opinion, because his teams placed a high premium on advancing baserunners. Consider 10778 plate appearances and only a 5.5% strikeout rate. He grounded into 191 double plays in his entire career, even though he had a 1.11 ground ball to fly ball ratio. It was often Ozzie who enabled guys like Vince Coleman to steal bases and move themselves into scoring position for “cheap” runs.

Tom January 5, 2011

Good job with stats to back Ozzie up – Mattingly won 9 Gold Gloves by the way – 2nd all time to Keith Hernandez and his fielding percentage ranks him 8th all time for first baseman – both sides of the ball – gotta love Donnie Baseball.

Dennis January 5, 2011

Thanks. I tried to stick with some of the raw stats instead of the SABR ones. Mattingly wasn’t an easy out by any means, and his strikeout rate wasn’t much higher than Ozzie’s (5.8% for Don), but his ground ball to fly ball ratio was 0.66 which isn’t surprising.

Tom January 5, 2011

It seems that you are a Cardinals fan, I am a Yankee fan but truly love the game itself and the history of the game. I think you will agree that Ted Simmons belongs in the Hall, another travesty in my opinion and he gets knocked too much for his defense. Others that were great and deserving in my opinion are Thurman Munson, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey and Dave Parker. Also Keith Hernandez.

Dennis January 5, 2011

I’m definitely a Cardinals fan, but I’ve learned over time to appreciate both the history and the players from all teams. That said, I wouldn’t try to make a HOF case for Parker or Garvey. I feel like Parker had 5 geniunely good-to-great season out of 19, and Garvey had 6 really good offensive seasons out of 19 to package with 8 seasons as a really good glove. My issue with Dwight Evans is lack of consistency, and I primarily look for “sustained excellence”. For someone who played 20 years, he doesn’t have any single stat that overwhelms me. Even when I go into his WAR numbers, he only averages 3.09, and his best season was 6.8.

To be fair, though, I applied the same reasoning to Ted Simmons who averages a 2.40. He doesn’t make the cut in my book, even though he was really solid for about 10 straight years. “Solid” isn’t the same as “great” or “excellent”.

The Thurman Munson case is difficult for me. He had 8 really good years and 3 great years in his nearly 11 seasons. If you go ahead and credit him with finishing 1979 with his extrapolated stats, he ends up with a WAR average per season of about 4. For me, that puts him on the edge of getting there, but it’s not quite enough. He was cheated of many things, and the HOF is just another one of those things.

Interesting that you name Hernandez. I used to think that he really, really deserved serious consideration and was getting robbed every year somehow. Now I’m convinced otherwise. When I look at his career line – .296/.383/.436/.821 with 1071 rbi and 162 rbi, I think of an ideal #2 hitter who is probably a middle infielder. I don’t think of a corner infielder. Sure, he brought really, really good defense to the table, but he didn’t bring any pop with the bat. In my mind, that made him a really good player on both offense and defense, but it didn’t make him great.

Tom January 5, 2011

Thanks for your insight on these players, I watched the entire careers of all of them and I can surely say that Parker and Evans were the epitome of what a right fielder should be. They both had cannons for throwing arms and Evans was superior – just something special to watch in the field- and I don’t like Boston- for me he had a long and great career. Garvey gets me with his 6 seasons of 200+ hits and excellent post season resume – not to mention his iron man streak for the N.L. Hernandez was simply amazing at first base – excellent with the stick also. As far as Munson and Simmons are concerned they both had a very, very heavy workload and playing the position they did still managed to accomplish outstanding offensive seasons throughout their careers.

Dennis January 6, 2011

Tom, I’m not sure that I have any “insight”, but I have gone back and looked closely at a lot of players who I saw in the late 70’s and 80’s. I grew up as a Cardinals fan watching Hernandez, so it takes some restraint for me to say he doesn’t deserve inclusion. As for Parker and Evans, I think it’s interesting that Parker’s highest vote mark was 24.5%, and Evans only reached 10.4%. I considered Evans the much superior player, but he only stayed on the ballot for 3 years.

As for Simmons, his only chance is probably for there to be a change to the way the Veteran’s Committee is structured. His numbers are similar to Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and Yogi Berra, although he didn’t have quite the same power, and he wasn’t quite the defender, either. It might be the defensive reputation that kept him from getting in more than anything else.

Tom January 6, 2011

Simmons was a great hitter, is it true that he ranks 18th all time for intentional walks? The thing I love about him was that he was a switch hitter doing damage from both sides of the plate which is a bonus for me. Add in the fact that he was a catcher with a success rate of 34% for his career throwing out runners while doing some heavy hitting and you have a Hall of Famer in my opinion. I think Bill James uses a measure of 125 for OPS+ as a great year for a player. Would it be fair to lower that to 120 for catchers and that gives Simmons quite a career. What are your thoughts?

Dennis January 6, 2011

Yes, he is currently 18th all-time with 188. 11 of the players ahead of him on the list are in the HOF. I respect the work of Bill James, but I’m not completely in agreement with what I consider the arbitrary part of his work. The “125” bit seems a bit arbitrary to me. Why not 124? Why not 126? Why not try to define “great” as being the top 5% or top 6.25% or some other arbitrary number, and then convert that to an OPS+ value? Seriously, the point of something like OPS+ is to provide a measuring stick, so you can attach whatever adjective you want to the values provided by that measuring stick.

If you want to qualify 120 as “great” for catchers, then that’s what works for you. If you were writing a blog, you’d probably have to be prepared to defend that decision. If you are simply using it as a tool to determine who you think should get into the HOF, then that’s different. It’s just cool that you have an approach of some kind, because a lot of people don’t. If you can stick with that approach in spite of your personal feelings about a particular player, then you are probably onto something.

Tom January 6, 2011

Yeah, I think Bill James does some good work but I also like the traditional stats as a way to measure a players ability – I think it’s good to consider both when trying to determine a players value. I am a big Munson supporter and it led me to look at other catchers from the last 50 years. Simmons had a very strong career and outside of the catchers in the Hall such as Bench,Carter and Fisk both him and Munson stand out above the rest. Freehan was outstanding as was Lance Parrish. Piazza and Rodriguez are another story and we will see how they get remembered real soon. I just have a real appreciation for guys who get back there behind the plate day in and day out and can still manage to contribute so strongly on the offensive side of the game. Munson did not get too many days off and the record shows it. He also had a better percentage throwing out runners in his career than Bench – that is saying a lot in my opinion. He also hit .302 for his career with runners in scoring position.

Dennis January 6, 2011

Tom, it sounds like you are starting to get pretty passionate about the the issue of catchers and the HOF. In my book, that’s a good enough reason to start a blog about something. After all, I got started here after writing an entry in my personal blog about why I wasn’t a baseball blogger. Within a few days of writing that entry, I had become a baseball blogger and published several pieces here.

I’ll honestly say that I do hold catchers to a slightly different standard, because they play such a physically demanding position and have such a challenging task in understanding and working with an entire staff of pitchers. As for the percentages of runners thrown out, I don’t compare catchers across eras, and I am hesitant to compare across leagues. I look at a catcher’s percentage versus average for all catcher’s in his league for that season. I then do that for all seasons of interest. If he tends to be significantly higher than the league average, then I suspect that he was pretty good at throwing out runners. However, I also allow for the possibility that his pitching staff was good at holding runners on base as well, thus making his job a bit easier. If I’m really interested into delving deeper, I use a crude calculation that includes standard deviation to try and quantify this. I don’t recommend that kind of geekery, though.

Tom January 7, 2011

Hey Dennis, yes I am passionate about catchers and their place in the game. As I have stated I like players who play at a high level on both sides of the ball which must be even more difficult for a catcher. I have been and will continue to dig deeper. I definately agree with you on not comparing from one era to the next. It’s even difficult to do across leagues. Good discussion and I appreciate your interest in the game and it’s history. The more I learn about WAR the less I seem to like it. It can be somewhat useful though. I like ribbies much better!

Dennis January 7, 2011

I completely understand. Not everbody likes all the stats like WAR, UZR, and the like. I try to use all the tools at my disposal, but it takes some time to understand how they are calculated. For some, it’s adequate simply to know what the stats account for or attempt to do. Adjustments for position are made at times, and that’s important to note. Good luck with your attempt to dig deeper and thanks for reading.

Saundra Ausherman May 27, 2011

I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

Dennis May 27, 2011

I don’t know how you ended up here, either, but I’m glad you did. Cheers to you as well.

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