Category: Bonds

Final thoughts on the Hall of Fame and future projections

Today they announced that nobody will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and quite frankly, I’m okay with that.
I am a little perturbed by some of the numbers. I was hoping Jeff Bagwell would get a larger boost, but that is mainly for sentimental reasons for that he would get close enough that he would be able to get in next year when Biggio inevitably gets inducted. Mike Piazza should be put in the same group as McGwire, Sosa, and Palmeiro, not at the 58% he received, but somehow has managed to get a free pass. And lastly, I was expecting (and hoping) for Bonds and Clemens to get more than they did, somewhere in the 45-50% range, not the 35-40 which insures that it will take a lot longer for them to be inducted than originally anticipated.
And I do feel somewhat robbed. What would have been possibly the greatest Hall of Fame class since the inaugural class of 1936 is now empty.
But overall, I am satisfied with the results. While quite a few deserving guys were left off, it has become expected, and on top of that, it is more important that the guys who don’t deserve it are left off. Because of that, the most important thing is that Jack Morris doesn’t get inducted ( which I why explained in this post) and tarnish the Hall. Not only did he not reach the 75%, he didn’t even gain any ground, only receiving three more votes than last year.
Another thing is that this vote greatly helps the prestige of the Hall of Fame. The baseball hall of fame is so much more special than any other sport because it is much more difficult to get in. However over the last couple decades the voting has become increasingly more lenient. Half the first ballot players would have had to wait longer in previous generations, and many of the guys who got in later years would have been veterans committee inductees, if that. By today’s standards there would be many more first ballot inductees, more BBWAA inductees, and quite a few more players in the Hall of Fame in general. Thankfully, this vote will likely raise the bar back to what it was used to be, as not only will it be harder for players even slightly associated to get inducted, but the clutter of many credible candidates will make it harder for the rest.
As for next year and beyond, it will be interesting to see who gets in. There are five notable first years that will be eligible, so let’s look at them first:
(keep in mind that this is not who I think should get in, but who I think will get in and when, based on how the writers tend to vote)
Greg Maddux: Definite first ballot lock. In the last 32 Hall of Fame votes (including this year), only five starting pitchers have gotten inducted on the first ballot, but there will likely be five more over the next two seasons.  The cream of this crop is Maddux.  The five aforementioned pitchers are Nolan Ryan, who received 98.8% in 1999, Steve Carlton, who received 95.6% in 1994, Tom Seaver, who received 98.8% 1992, and Jim Palmer, who received 92.6% in 1990.  Considering Maddux is a far superior pitcher to any of these guys, he should at the very least match Ryan and Seaver’s voting numbers.  He won’t however, as there will be some voters who won’t vote for anyone from the steroid era on the first ballot, but he should still receive well above 90% of the votes.
(Side note: The last starting pitcher before these five to get inducted his first year was Bob Gibson, who got inducted with just 84% in 1981.  Juan Marichal, who was eligible for the first time that same year, didn’t get inducted until 1983.  This shows how much easier it would become, as both Gibson and Marichal were superior to those five guys).
Tom Glavine: While he won’t receive as many votes as his longtime teammate, he will definitely get in next year, probably getting somewhere in the 80 percent range.  It really is too bad Smoltz stuck around that extra year with Boston and St. Louis, because it would have been amazing to see the three of them inducted together.
Frank Thomas: He’s more of a question mark than Maddux and Glavine due to being the kind of player he was during the era he played in, but he still gets in. He’s the only player to hit 500 home runs during the steroid era without a shred of suspicion (not saying we know for sure he’s clean, but he’s one of the few guys who have provided no reason to believe otherwise).  I predict he barely gets above the 75% threshold.
Jeff Kent: Kent will definitely be a Hall of Famer at some point but won’t come close on the first ballot.  The best indicator is to look at the trajectories of his fellow middle infielders that have gotten inducted over the past decade.  Roberto Alomar just missed getting inducted with 73.7% in 2011 before getting 90% on his second try.  Craig Biggio will likely see the same thing happen to him.
Kent won’t have it as easy as Alomar or Biggio but should be able to follow the trajectories of Ryne Sandberg and Barry Larkin.   Sandberg received 49.2 in his first year eligible in 2003.  In following years he received 61.1% in 2004 before being inducted his third year with 76.1% in 2005.  Similarly, Larkin received 51.6% his first year in 2010, followed by 62.1% in 2011, finally getting inducted easily on his third try with 86.4% of the vote.  So if recent history is any precedent, Kent should receive about 50% of the vote next year and get inducted in 2016, his third year.  However, because he will be facing much more competition on the ballot, he’ll probably have to wait a year longer than Sandberg or Larkin.
Mike Mussina: Schilling and Mussina are pretty much equals for the most part.  Mussina has the better record, but Schilling has a slightly better ERA and more strikeouts.  Schilling was better at his peak, while Mussina was more consistent for a longer period of time.  Schilling was one of the greatest post-season pitchers ever, while Mussina was one of the greatest defensive pitchers ever.  Overall, they balance each other out (personally, I don’t believe either should be in the Hall of Fame, but that is irrelevant to this post).
So because of that, Mussina will receive a similar amount of votes next year as Schilling received this year, which is just south of 40%.  However, after that, their trajectories will be quite different and Mussina will have a much longer path (which I will go into detail when I get to Schilling later).  Mussina won’t gain ground for awhile, even probably drop in support as more and more higher candidates will crowd the ballots in years to come.  Once the influx of great players settles down, he will start to gain some momentum, especially when it’s just him and the steroid users.  It’s too early to predict if it will be enough, as there is somewhat of a queue when it comes to returnees gaining enough momentum to receive induction, and there is no telling where he’ll be on the queue and whether or not he’ll be high enough to get in.  But I would say he gets in in the 10th year or later

Now, onto the guys returning from this year’s ballot:
Craig Biggio: Getting close to 70% on the first year makes you a lock for the second year.  Might as well get the plaque ready now.
Jack Morris: What once was a seemingly sure thing has turned into a tossup for Morris.  After getting 66.6% with two years to go, Morris only received three more votes than the previous year.  For someone that has been on the ballot for as long as he has, and to be as close as he was after being at 53.5% in 2011, to gain nothing is completely unprecedented.
He has a decent possibility of a final year boost, but in 2009 Jim Rice received just 20 more votes in his final year compared to the previous year to get in.  Considering that Morris will need more than double that with around 42 votes (based on this year’s number of 569 voters, although this numbers slightly vary from year to year), everyone but Dale Murphy is returning along with the five main new guys, and certain players likely receiving sizable boosts to their totals, I predict Morris barely misses induction into the Hall of Fame.
Jeff Bagwell: How nice would it be to see Bagwell and Biggio go in together.  Unfortunately, Bagwell didn’t get enough momentum, going from 56% in 2012 to 59.6% in 2013.  He should see a pretty good increase, as I can see a decent number of writers voting for him for sentimental reasons because of Biggio’s obvious induction.  The problem is he needs about 87 more votes, and I don’t see nearly that many changing their no votes to a yes, at least with this cluttered ballot.  However, it will probably be a big enough jump to gain the momentum needed, leading to an induction by 2016.
Mike Piazza: His 57.8% in his first year insures that he will get inducted within a few years.  Probably not next year due to Biggio and all the first year guys, but by his third year in 2015, he’ll get in, unless something comes out that makes everyone realize he was a member of the PED club.
Tim Raines: The good news has gradually improved upon his 22.7% in his second year of eligibility in 2009 and has gotten above the 50% threshold.  The bad news is that his momentum has slowed as a result of the wave of big names on the ballot, and it will be a slow crawl to Cooperstown.  He will gradually get there, but it will likely take another four years or so, getting inducted in 2017, when none of the first years will get inducted.
Lee Smith: Give or take eight percentage points, Smith has pretty much remained stagnant since his 42.6% his first year of eligibility in 2003, currently standing at 47.8%, down from his high of 50.6% last year.  Considering he only has five years left on the ballot and there will be more and more big names on the ballot in coming years, it is very unlikely he gets in.
Curt Schilling: Normally, I would say the same thing about Schilling as I said about Mussina considering their equal status.  But as everyone knows, Schilling is an outspoken blowhard and will surely be one of those guys that incessantly campaigns for his inducted until he gets the nod.  And as Gary Carter and Bert Byleven have proven, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  Therefore, I see him getting inducted around 2019.
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds: We might as well combine these two, as their votes were almost identical (separated by just eight votes), and so will their Hall of Fame trajectories, and will most likely go in the Hall of Fame together at some point.  The only question is how long?
I had originally projected these two to get somewhere between 45-50% the first year, getting a huge boost to above 60% the second year, and the Hall by the fourth or fifth year of eligibility.  However, their lesser than expected vote totals (37.6% for Clemens, 36.2% for Bonds) indicates that the wait will be much, much longer.
The question is, how many of these voters voted against them just to make them wait, and how many will simply not vote for these two, no matter what?  The fact that over 60% of the voters voted against them makes me think that there are at least 25% of the voters, or 40% of those that didn’t vote for them this year, will never vote for them.
After next year, and seeing what kind of increase they get, it will be far easier to predict how long it will take for them to get in, or if they will ever.  However, I see them topping 50% in 2014, and coming within 10% by 2016.  After that, it will be very hard for them to gain ground and it will take a long time for them to reach that elusive 75%.  What will ultimately be on their side is the new generation of baseball writers who seem to be much more lenient on the steroid users getting into the Hall, as it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of those who have less than the ten years needed to vote are in support of these two going into hall, and  eventually enough of them will have the voting power, and there will be enough writers who feel they have waited long enough, to get them in.  After that, it will open the floodgates to all the other users, as the voters will begin to loosen up at that point.
Edgar Martinez: After four years on the ballot, Martinez has consistently remained in the mid 30’s in percentage points every year.  Expect him to be one of the victims of next year’s great class, seeing a big dropoff.  He may eventually rise up over the years, but it won’t be enough to get him in.
Alan Trammell: He’s in the low 30’s, following a slight dropoff, with only three years left on the ballot with a huge class coming in.  Yeah, he’s not getting in.  Perhaps if he retired three-five years earlier (and he was injured most of the time while playing poorly the rest during his later years so it wouldn’t have hurt him at all), he could have gained enough momentum during the crop of weaker first years in previous years to eventually get in, but he stuck around too long and as a result will have to rely on the veteran’s committee to get in.
Larry Walker: He’s one of those guys that will likely float around on the ballot until his time is up.  He’ll never get the momentum needed for induction.
Fred McGriff: Here’s a guy far away but still has 11 more years on the ballot, where a lot can happen.  He’ll probably stay at a low level and it will be awhile before momentum starts to grow, but he’ll be one of the guys that will be a recipient of a huge surge in his later years.  Will it be enough to get in or will it be too little too late?  I see him getting his final year on the BBWAA ballot, or pretty close.
Mark McGwire: Isn’t it ironic?  He left the game after the 2001 season because he knew the steroid storm was coming, and because of that it’s going to cost him whatever shot he had at the Hall of Fame.  Bonds and Clemens will eventually get in, and as a result the voters will start being more lenient to other users.  Unfortunately for McGwire, it will likely come too late, as his last year of eligibility will be 2021, likely around the same time those guys get inducted.
Sammy Sosa: Here’s the difference between Sosa and McGwire: Sosa will still have time to get in.  He’ll need to stay on the ballot however.  He had 12.5% this year, and there’s a strong possibility, especially looking at the dwindling number of votes for McGwire and Palmeiro, that his may fall as well.
If he’s still on the ballot when Bonds and Clemens get inducted, he’ll probably gain some momentum.  It probably won’t be nearly enough, but we don’t know what everyone’s attitude will be by then.
Rafael Palmeiro: Forget trying to get into the Hall of Fame, just worry about staying on the ballot.  Having one of the largest drop-offs, going from 12.6% in 2012 to 8.8% in 2013, Palmeiro lost 22 votes this year.  If he loses another 22 votes, he will fall under the five percent needed.  If he doesn’t fall off the ballot after next year, he will sometime after that.

Overall, here are my predictions for the next decade:

Greg Maddux (1st ballot), Craig Biggio (2nd ballot), Tom Glavine (1st ballot), Frank Thomas (1st ballot)
John Smoltz (1st ballot), Pedro Martinez (1st ballot), Randy Johnson  (1st ballot), Mike Piazza (3rd ballot)
Ken Griffey Jr. (1st ballot), Trevor Hoffman (1st ballot), Jeff Bagwell (6th ballot)
Jeff Kent (4th ballot), Tim Raines (10th ballot)
Vladimir Guerrero (2nd ballot), Chipper Jones (1st ballot)
Mariano Rivera (1st ballot), Curt Schilling (7th ballot)
Omar Vizquel (3rd ballot), Ivan Rodriguez (I predict he gets a pass) (4th ballot)
Derek Jeter (1st ballot), Jim Thome (4th ballot)
Barry Bonds (10th ballot), Roger Clemens (10th ballot), Ichiro Suzuki (2nd ballot)
After 2022 (these are guys that already have Hall of Fame credentials, not guys who will eventually be hall of famers):
Alex Rodriguez- first eligible in 2021-2022.  Because of Bonds and Clemens getting in around the same time he’s first eligible, A Rod won’t have to wait nearly as long, possibly the year after those two.
Mike Mussina- first eligible in 2014.
Fred McGriff- first eligible in 2010. 
Manny Ramirez- first eligible in 2017.  A Rod, Bonds, and Clemens getting with plenty of time for Manny to get in will result in election, but it will take him awhile.
Todd Helton- first eligible 2020-2021.  Likely Hall of Famer but Coors Field will keep him out for awhile.
Roy Halladay, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera- Will likely still be playing in 2017 so they won’t be eligible during the timeframe.

End note: What’s really striking to me, while doing the last part, is the realization of how few active players are Hall of Famers if they retired today.  Assuming Jim Thome doesn’t catch on with a team for 2013, that will leave Mariano Rivera, Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter as the only surefire Hall of Famers.  Roy Halladay is probably a Hall of Famer but not a guarantee.  Ichiro as well, but will need the 3000 hit plateau to insure it.  Miguel Cabrera would probably get into the hall but having played only 10 seasons would hurt his chances a lot.  A Rod is one of the game’s greats like Bonds and Clemens but has the PED cloud.  Andy Pettitte is on the Curt Schilling/ Mike Mussina level but with the PED cloud so he won’t get in.  David Ortiz has the DH stigma, steroids, and no HOF milestones so it’s a long shot.  Todd Helton is a likely Hall of Famer but the Coors Field stigma may keep him out.  That leaves those three, and the four others I named that are probably Hall of Famers.  That’s about all I can think of, if anyone can come up with any other names, please, let me know.


Bonds, steroids, and the Hall of Fame

A follow up to my previous post: The Hall of Fame Ballot: returnees

This will be my first and only post about Barry Bonds and/ or steroids issue, barring any new news that happens to come out in the futre.  I’m over this whole decade long discussion that always ends up running around in circles.  However, with the Hall of Fame ballots mailed out earlier this month, and with Bonds being among the names, I have to post on this.
Unlike my last article, where I broke down each candidate on their Hall of Fame merits, this one I will spend more time discussing all the first years as a whole, as with most of them, the debate centers on the steroid issue.  Despite that, each of them have varying stories regarding their career accomplishments and their steroid involvement that obviously could get some in and others out, so let’s look at that:
First of all, the following names are obviously not Hall of Famers and won’t even get the 5% needed to remain on the ballot in 2014, so let’s just get them out of the discussion right away: Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Aaron Sele, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, David Wells, Rondell White, and Woody Williams.
That leaves six names: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio.  Everyone has their own opinions based on how much steroids affected their performances.
Barry Bonds: Widely believed to have started using in the late 90’s.  At that point, he was already a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, the player of the decade, and one of the all time greats.  Following that, his accomplishments make him arguably the best player ever if you take away the dark cloud.
Roger Clemens: Believed to have been clean during his Red Sox years, only believed to have started using when he went to the Blue Jays and had a career resurgence.  While whether or not he was a Hall of Famer at that point is more debatable than Bonds, in my eyes he was still a Hall of Famer at that point.  His “tarnished” years puts him among the best pitchers ever.
Sammy Sosa: The only guy on this list to have actually tested positive, he’ll have the hardest time getting in.  While a solid 30/30 player, he never would have come close to being a Hall of Famer prior to hitting 332 home runs over six seasons from 1998-2003.
Mike Piazza: The greatest offensive catcher of all time, Piazza’s case may be the most complicated.  He denied using steroid, but has admitted to using androstenedione at the time it was a legal over the counter dietary supplement, although if taken a certain way has the same effect as steroids and is now looked at by the FDA and pretty much all sports organizations (including MLB) and doping agencies as an illegal steroid.  And while there have been no actual evidence compiled on him, circumstantial or otherwise, he has been implicated by others on multiple occasions, included an off the record admission and other players and writers have said that he was an obvious user.
Craig Biggio: One of the greatest second basemen of all time and not having any implications (although it is suspicious that his power numbers peaked at 38/39), he has the best shot of any of these guys.  
Curt Schilling: Schilling shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer, with or without the steroid discussion.  His vocal bashing of anyone involved in steroid use has enabled him to dodge suspicion, despite the fact that he didn’t become a top pitcher until 2001 at the age of 34 and a growth of about 30 pounds during the peak of the steroid era.

I’m not going to get into details about breaking down which years these guys were supposedly clean, which years they were using, or trying to figure out what their accomplishments would be without steroids.  I’m simply going to look at the steroids issue and the Hall of Fame as a whole.

Knowing what we know and what we don’t know, there are only two rational stances to take on the steroid issue regarding the Hall of Fame voting:
1. Ignore the steroids issue and take all the statistics at face value
2. Omit the entire era.

What is completely hypocritical, is to vote no to some players because they are known/ implicated users while to vote yes on others.  What we do know is that steroid use was widespread during the era, and even accepted within baseballs inner circles, both in the clubhouses and front offices, until the public and media became more aware of it’s use.  It’s pretty obvious that there are many stones that have been unturned, and that there are many of these players that haven’t been implicated that were also users.
In the upcoming ballots, there are over a dozen players that have never been implicated, busted, or accused that are likely or definitely headed to Cooperstown.  You’d be downright stupid to believe that many, if not most of them, were using.  The problem is, we don’t know which ones were and won’t.  So if you vote all of them in, while leaving out those that are known/ implicated, you will obviously be voting in some steroid users while leaving others out.
Don’t forget that, at one point, everyone believed guys like Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, David Ortiz, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and many other now-known users were clean.  So how many other users out there do most people still were clean?  I already mentioned my suspicions with Biggio and Schilling, but what about others?  Ken Griffey had a series of injuries known to be caused by steroid use.  Pedro Martinez’ career dwindled after they started testing when he was at an age many players reach their prime.  Is it too farfetched that Albert Pujols suddenly went from being a non-prospect in the minor leagues to one of baseball’s elite players in a little over a year because of steroids?  And who knows, maybe steroids helped Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig’s record.
The thing that really irks me are those that concede (as anybody else that isn’t completely blinded by their biases) that Bonds would be a definite Hall of Famer without steroids, but aren’t voting for him because of the character clause.  This is the same Hall of Fame that has included Ty Cobb, the biggest scumbag in baseball history, known racists who caused the blacklisting of black players in the 19th century and those that were openly against integration in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  It includes Mickey Mantle and Jimmie Foxx, whose performance at times was hampered because they were too drunk or hungover to play.  It includes Babe Ruth, who took illegal drugs and drank during prohibition.  It includes pitchers such as Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Whitey Ford, and others who have doctored baseballs in various ways (which is more cheating than steroids since it actually was against the rules).  The character clause is basically an excuse for the writers to say “I didn’t like this player, so I’m not going to vote for them, regardless of whether or not they deserve it”.
And if you want to get into the hypocrisy, what about all the known amphetamine users, including Willie Mays, Willie Stargell, and Hank Aaron, who took them in an attempt to enhance their performance, even after they were banned by the FDA in 1965?  Can someone explain to me how they are any different from steroids?  Both are illegal, potentially harmful substances that players took to make them play better on the field.  Another example of the hypocrisy.
Where do you draw the line?  Do you only leave out those that tested positive and/ or have admitted to steroid use?  Under that criteria, all these guys, except for Sosa get in.  Do you vote based on circumstantial evidences?  Well the truth is, that is subjective, and no matter how damning it may be, who are you to play judge, jury, and executioner?  Do you leave off anyone where there is anything about them, being their body mass over the years, their career trajectory, or any other factor?  Well in that case, I could make an argument about anyone that would make them look suspicious, so let’s just leave them all out.
Perhaps you can leave a borderline Hall of Famer off the ballot because of steroid suspicion.  Perhaps you can single out Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez because they were actually suspended after testing positive.  But as a whole, you have to lump the entire era together.  Yeah, it may not be fair to the few guys who were clean to be punished for the sins of others.  But it’s not as unfair as leaving some users off when others get in.  But considering how it was such an integral part of baseball culture at the time, the best thing to do is to take everything at face value and ignore the steroid issue altogether.
Which is why Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Biggio, and Sosa all belong in the Hall of Fame.  Schilling isn’t a Hall of Famer just because his numbers aren’t good enough.  This should be one of the greatest Hall of Fame classes of all time.  Instead, there is a good chance that none of these guys will be inducted.
That is the greatest injustice of all.