Tag: Barry Larkin

Gates Brown, Bill Buckner and a Closer Look at Hall of Fame Balloting

The Baseball Hall of Fame—holy ground for America’s national pastime. Within Cooperstown’s pantheon are honored 296 of the diamond’s royalty. Some are gods; some many have never heard of. A few don’t truly belong; others, having received the sport’s ultimate reward, remain under-appreciated.

Each of them was immortalized by vote, a process vulnerable to an array of human foibles. Whereas most Hall of Famers fully deserve their honor, more than a few waited for enshrinement long after their achievements warranted such recognition (sometimes for decades), or, occasionally in the case of the Veterans Committee, wormed their way in via cronyism, inflated reputation or voter incompetence.

Because (since 1958) the ballot permits—but does not require—voting to the 10th place, some very mediocre players garner votes. Often, this safeguard prohibits too many candidates from making the cut—lest the Hall grow even more overpopulated than it already is— although it occasionally detracts votes from worthy players who should make it in but wait many unnecessary years, or never make it at all.

Why the electorate felt compelled to cast votes for the pedestrian likes of Mike Jorgensen, Terry Puhl, and Eddie Miksis is a wonder. Maybe those responsible also pulled the lever for Harold Stassen…

In 1981, Gates Brown received a vote. A talented batsman who, at his retirement, stood third all-time in pinch hits, Gates enjoyed a superlative year as a sub during the Detroit Tigers championship season of 1968.

Coming off the bench and delivering key hits time and again, Brown contributed mightily to Detroit’s pennant run. A career total of 582 hits, however, stands as far from the stuff of legend as the 119-loss Tigers of 2003 did from first place. Yet Brown shared 27th spot in the voting with five other nondescript players.

This means that some voter penciled Brown as a 10th-place selection over 17 far more Hall-worthy players. If the top nine vote-getters are excluded, which any sane person—including, presumably, the voter in question—would when making Gates his final pick on the ballot, then Brown received a vote instead of later inductees Luis Aparicio, Bill Mazeroski, Orlando Cepeda and Richie Ashburn, as well as Roger Maris and Maury Wills.

Remember, electors are chosen for their expert knowledge of the game.

Poor Bill Buckner. Never mind that he won a batting crown, seven times hit .300, and came within a season and a half of the elite 3,000-hit club—his outstanding career is forever lost in the glare of a single gaffe that didn’t send the Boston Red Sox to another cursed World Series defeat (it merely enabled the hard-luck Bosox to drop the Series the next evening).

Buckner isn’t Hall of Fame material, but his numbers—including, ironically, a solid fielding record (and the penultimate mark for assists in a season by a first baseman)—exceed that of many Hall of Famers. Yet he qualified for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) ballot only once, earning a paltry 10 votes, which permanently dropped him from eligibility.

Considering the ballot’s hangers-on who collect comparable numbers over multiple elections, it’s obvious that voters ignored Buckner’s 22 seasons because of one unfortunate occurrence.

Case-in-point: one-trick pony Don Larsen. Yes, that lone trick, a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, amounted to one of the most fantastic feats in baseball history. But the Hall isn’t permitted to enshrine players for a single event.

Yet Larsen received no fewer than 22 votes for 15 consecutive years. Not big numbers, but far more generous than his career totals: an 81-91 record (including a 3-21 season), a solitary 100-strikeout year, and an ERA often topping 4.00.

Even so, Larsen’s relatively hefty vote totals—entirely attributable to a spectacular moment in a lackluster 14-year career—left in the dust such terrific, if not Hall-caliber, hurlers as Jim Perry, Billy Pierce and Dave McNally.

A voter shows himself more misguided to reward a player for one triumphant effort than to punish a player for one catastrophic incident.

Such specious voting extends to Johnny Vander Meer, who was just as liable to walk a batter as strike him out. Vandy’s wildness culminated in a meer 119-121 career record—yet, thanks to his consecutive no-hitters, he polled twice as many votes in 1966 as Arky Vaughan, one of the best shortstops ever (not to mention further outdistancing Ernie Lombardi, Hal Newhouser, Billy Herman and Bob Lemon—each eminently more deserving than he).

In fact, Vander Meer, who consistently finished higher than at least half a dozen future Hall of Famers during his years of eligibility, outpaced Newhouser all eight years that they appeared together on the ballot.

Whether or not one views Newhouser as a bona fide Hall of Famer, he did win back-to-back MVPs—and nearly a third—whereas Vander Meer never finished higher than 18th in MVP polling (incidentally, the very season he tossed his no-nos—so how could writers rank Vander Meer so highly for his career when they didn’t even rank him highly for his season of glory?).

Averaging 72 votes a year, Vander Meer’s claim to fame was taken too literally by some writers.

Whether the BBWAA has always known what’s it’s doing when it comes to casting Hall of Fame ballots is debatable (it’s done a largely admirable job in recent decades). However, one can peruse the vote totals of virtually any year and drop a jaw at who scored higher than whom.

As in 1949, for example, when Pepper Martin—a scrappy hitter and, for the time, terror on the base paths—parlayed a pair of heroic World Series performances that made him a legend of the Depressed Midwest into more votes than 25 future Hall of Famers. And even though quite a few of those eventual entrants likely didn’t merit enshrinement, they undoubtedly enjoyed more laudable careers than Pepper. (Certainly Goose Goslin, Sam Rice and Zack Wheat—absolutely deserving—should have scored higher than Martin.)

But that’s the human element of the Hall of Fame, and it’s still preferable to some statistically based program like the college BCS—heaven forbid, some egghead ever devises something similar for Cooperstown…

The 2012 election likely will usher into Cooperstown several great players from among 27 candidates. And if Barry Larkin and Jack Morris, the two favorites, ascend to Baseball Heaven—or even Tim Raines and several borderline candidates—then the BBWAA surely will have done its job.

But I’ll be scanning the bottom of the ballot to see how many wayward votes went to Terry Mulholland, Brad Radke and Tony Womack

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Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto’s MVP and the 10 Greatest Seasons in Team History

When the Reds reached the postseason in 2010, it was as if a 15-year siege had come to an end in Cincinnati. At long last, an organization stuck in the trenches of the National League had crossed over the breach.   

 Joey Votto’s 2010 season will resonate in Reds lore as the end of an era of losing in Cincinnati, and potentially a signal of things to come for a young and talented core.

 However, it also begs the question: in a Cincinnati Reds organization with such a storied history, where does Votto’s impressive third season rank?

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2011 Baseball Hall of Fame Voting: Jeff Bagwell and Top 1st Year Candidates

Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were voted into the Hall of Fame today, while Jeff Bagwell fell just short with only 41.7 percent of the vote.

Players rarely make it into the Hall of Fame their first time on the ballot, some needing up to all 15 years of eligibility to get in (like Jim Rice). But that doesn’t mean they are any less deserving of the honor.

A total of 19 players made their first appearances on the Hall of Fame ballot this year, including such former stars as Raul Mondesi, Bret Boone, and B.J. Surhoff. But only four of them got enough votes (at least five percent) to be back on the ballot next year.

Here’s a look at those players. 

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MLB Hall of Fame Class of 2011: Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven

Robert Alomar and Bert Byleven have been elected to Cooperstown this year. Both men narrowly missed out on being elected last season.

Alomar spent time with seven different teams during his Hall of Fame career. It is amazing to that a player of his caliber bounced around so often and never spent more than five seasons with one team. Alomar was a 12-time All-Star and won 10 Gold Gloves as a second baseman. In addition, he also won four Silver Sluggers and was the 1992 ALCS MVP, as well as the 1998 All-Star Game MVP.

Alomar received 90 percent of the writer’s votes this year. It should also be interesting to see what cap he will be wearing on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Byleven will also be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this year. Byleven had a lengthy 22 year career in which he played for five teams. He did spent half of his career with the Minnesota Twins. Byleven won 287 games in his career and also ranks fifth on the all-time strikeouts list with 3,701. He was selected for two All-Star Games during his career.

Byleven received 79.7 percent of the votes this year after narrowly missing out and receiving 74.2 percent last year.  It has been argued that the advent of sabermetrics greatly helped Byleven’s Hall of Fame chances. This certainly makes sense as he lacks some of the awards and milestones (such as 300 wins), that many Hall of Fame pitchers have. Byleven actually has the 13th highest WAR for pitchers in MLB history, which certainly helped his case.

There were only two other players who received more than 50 percent of the writers’ votes. Barry Larkin received 62.1 percent of the votes and is someone to keep an eye on in next year’s voting. Jack Morris received 53.5 percent of the votes, which is only slightly more than the 52.3 percent he received last year.

The other story of the voting is tied to players who have been involved with steroids.

Mark McGwire, despite his outstanding career and the fact that he at one point held the single season home run record, was only able to garner 19.1 percent of the votes. Additionally, McGwire’s 583 home runs rank as 10th all-time and he was a 12-time All-Star. McGwire publicly admitted this year that he took steroids.

Rafael Palmeiro was only able to get 11.0 percent of the writers’ votes. Palmeiro is 12th on the all-time home run list with 569 homers. He is also a four-time All-Star. Palmeiro went in front of a congressional committee and testified that he had never used steroids. Just months later, Palmeiro was suspended for violating the MLB’s steroid policy.

Jeff Bagwell was able to get 41.7 percent of the writers’ votes. There is a lot of speculation going around that Bagwell took steroids, but it has never been proven. Bagwell is a four-time All-Star and is also one of the few players with at least 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases.

It is clear that the baseball writers have taken a strong stance on steroid users. McGwire and Palmeiro, both who have been proven to have used steroids, struggled to get votes. Bagwell, who was never physically linked to steroids, was able to get a good percentage of votes for his first year on the ballot. It should be interested to see if this trend continues in the future and how it affects the voting on players such as Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. 

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MLB Hall Of Fame 2011: Do Alomar, Blyleven Deserve Spots in Cooperstown?

On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2011. There’s no telling how the results will shake out, but after seeing how the voters have gone the last few years, one thing’s for sure: they’ll get it wrong.

Roberto Alomar missed induction by eight votes last year, and Bert Blyleven fell just five ballots short. In 2009, Jim Rice earned enshrinement while Tim Raines is still waiting for his turn. And some of the best players of our generation will never reach immortality because of PEDs. Whether or not you agree with the BBWAA, it’s easy to understand why others don’t.

With voters like Dan Graziano and Terence Moore already saying preposterous things like that they didn’t vote for Jeff Bagwell because they have unfounded hunches that he took steroids, it looks like this year’s election has the potential to again exude massive amounts of stupidity.

So Bleacher Report’s Featured Columnists decided to take it upon ourselves to decide who gets into the Hall of Fame. Forty-two writers checked off their ballots for a mock Hall of Fame vote, the results of which are in this slideshow.

We played by the same rules as the real BBWAA. Each voter could name up to 10 of the 33 eligible players. Candidates needed at least 75 percent (32 votes) to make it into Cooperstown, while five percent (three votes) was necessary to remain on the ballot for 2012.

In addition to the full results (listed at the end), we’ve featured the 17 players who received at least three votes with arguments from both people who supported them and those who didn’t explain their votes. The result, we hope, is a thorough analysis of each candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, and chances for induction.

So read on and be sure to tell us what we got wrong!

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2011 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: Why Barry Larkin and 3 Others Will Be…

The Baseball Writers Association of America will soon decide who will be elected into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Among those who are trying to make it to Cooperstown, I believe only five will receive the necessary 75 percent needed to make it to the Hall.

First-timers include three MVPs in Jeff Bagwell (1994), Larry Walker (1997), and Juan Gonzalez (1996 and 1998). Another first-timer is Rafael Palmeiro, who probably would’ve been a shoe-in his first try, but it was revealed in 2005 that he used steroids.

Beyond first-timers there are many other intriguing players, such as Barry Larkin and Roberto Alomar, both in their second year of eligibility.

 When it comes long-term candidates, Bert Blyleven is the cream of the crop. He is on his 14th ballot (out of 15 chances) and will have a controversial decision whether he gets in or not.

I hope you enjoy the following and I would love some feedback.

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My 2011 Baseball Hall Of Fame Ballot (If I Had One)

As we rapidly approach January, members the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) are filling out their ballots for the 2011 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  With the Winter Meetings over, January’s HOF announcement is the biggest story until pitchers and catchers report in about six weeks.

For those of you who don’t know how the balloting works, here is a brief summary.  All candidates that received greater than five-percent of votes in the previous year remain on the ballot.  Players that have spent 15 years on the ballot without getting elected are dropped. 

The holdovers from the previous season are joined new candidates selected form a pool of players that have been retired for five years (or deceased for six months) and played a minimum of 10 MLB seasons.

Voters can choose to put up to 10 players on their ballot.  Any players appearing on over 75-percent of submitted ballots are inducted the following summer.  With that in mind, here is my ballot.

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Are the Cincinnati Reds Kings of Ohio With LeBron James Gone?

Last Thursday, LeBron James decided to leave the Midwest for the sunshine in Miami, and with that, changed the entire landscape of professional sports in Ohio.

The Cavaliers, or more importantly James, had become the heart of the professional state. They had reached the 2007 Finals, had the best regular season record two straight seasons and the best player in the respective sport.

For Cincinnati, basketball has not been as relevant since the days of Oscar Robertson and the Cincinnati Royals. Therefore, I write this view not from a basketball perspective, but a whole “sport-state” perspective.

The state currently has seven professional sports teams that include:

Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavaliers, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Columbus Crew (MLS).

With LeBron now gone from the picture, there are truly only two franchises that can currently take claim at this time to being the Kings of Ohio: the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Browns.

An argument could be made for the Cincinnati Bengals, but their past season of success, a divisional title is not enough force to make up for their lean history of success.

Now, for those of you who want to argue for Ohio State, this is only an argument at the professional level, so Ohio State Football is not valid within these walls of argument. That is for a collegiate debate.

In this article, I will speak on the strength of reason the Cincinnati Reds should be considered the Kings of Ohio.

Right now as we lay at the All-Star break, the Reds lead the Central Division (49-41) by a game over the perennial division champ St. Loius Cardinals. The trio of Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips, and National League home run leader (22) Joey Votto have all helped in creating the division lead. The Reds look as strong as they have since the 1995 Playoff season where they battled the Braves. That is just a jumping point to start off the discussion.

The Reds are the last team in the state of Ohio to win a pro championship. Cleveland has been high and dry, but the Reds were able to take home the title in a suprise at the time by dismantling the Oakland Athletics in the 1990 World Series.

If I mention the name Chris Sabo, I’m sure it will put a smile on a few faces who have forgotten him. There is always Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, the mean bullpen trio which included Norm Charlton and the dominant Jose Rijo. They brought luster to a team which had not seen it in the 80’s. However, the 70’s were not so bad for the Red Stockings either.

These were times when the roster included players such as: Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, George Foster, Dave Concepcion, Gary Nolan and the original Ken Griffey—a finely tuned bunch who won back-to-back titles in 1975 and 1976.

The titles are what people remember, and unfortunately, it has been two decades since they last took home the title, but the history remains. The fact that they have been around since 1882 (or 1869 depending on which Red Stockings team you recognize), shows the immense amount of time they have been able to hold a place in professional sports.

They have the Hall of Fame players such as Pete Rose, and the moments such as his all-time hits mark set in Cincinnati. You could make an all-time Reds roster that could compete with any other one in the league. They might not beat the Yankees all-time or Dodgers all-time team, but they would sure give them one tough game or tough series.

The Reds have an illustrious past to go from and a bright future ahead of them as we watch this season unfold and those to come. If the young men can continue to develop and the minor league players can continue to grow into productive players at the professional ranks, this could be a championship caliber team. 

Just the thing worth noting in a team to be considered the Kings of Ohio.


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