Archive

topic prompts

There are a few interesting newcomers to the ballot next year, headed by the best catcher I have ever seen play the game, Ivan Rodriguez and a dynamic hitter who never saw a pitch he didn’t like, Vladimir Guerrero.  These two men are the closest things to a shoo-in on the upcoming ballot, but neither one will challenge Ken Griffey’s 99.3% record mark set on Wednesday.

Here is a list of the possible names for next years ballot, annotated alphabetically:

(LF) Pat Burrell: who played for the Phillies and Giants, as well as other teams.  He supplied some power, but will not receive 5% of the vote.  (SS) Orlando Cabrera: a solid middle infielder and nothing more.  (CF) Mike Cameron: he had power, speed and a glove, but a woeful batting average and was suspended for PED use; he hasn’t a prayer.  (RF) J.D. Drew: the poster-child of the disabled list, Drew is more for the annals of “What-Could-Have-Been.”  (RF) Vladimir Guerrero: one of the strongest candidates for enshrinement next year.  His triple-slash exceeds Griffey’s; he was fun to watch and might just be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  (SS) Carlos Guillen: a solid hitter for a middle infielder, Carlos was a good player but won’t get any Hall support.  (1B) Derrek Lee: the Ron Guidry of first basemen, meaning he had a very solid career with one season, 2005, where he played in another galaxy.  He should get at least five percent but may not stay on the ballot long despite his credentials.  (3B) Melvin Mora: a decent hitter for average, but not Hall material.  (RF) Magglio Ordonez: a batting champion who never could seem to stay healthy.  His chances of remaining on the ballot are very slim.  (C) Jorge Posada: the catcher for a dynasty, Posada will see plenty support.  He won four consecutive Silver Slugger Awards.  I can see him on the ballot for a number of years, and he may make the Hall of Fame, but only after languishing on the ballot for awhile.  (LF) Manny Ramirez: suspended for PED use; don’t waste a vote on him.  (SS) Edgar Renteria: he had some Postseason heroics, but he isn’t Hall material.  (C) Ivan Rodriguez: the closest thing this ballot has for a slam-dunk induction.  Boy was he fun to watch behind the plate.  It’ll be interesting to see how his tenure in the Steroid Era effects his vote total.  If playing in the Steroid Era has hurt guys like Jeff Bagwell, it should hurt Ivan as well.  (CF) Aaron Rowand: he could ballhawk really well, but his career isn’t Hall-worthy.  (C) Jason Varitek: he’ll see some support, and might even stay on the ballot for awhile, but alas, players of his captain makeup with just solid numbers rarely make the Hall of Fame.  (P) Javier Vazquez: too inconsistent for consideration.  (P) Tim Wakefield: he won’t be the latest knuckleballer since Phil Niekro to make the Hall, rest assured.

The holdovers will be, with their percentage from the last vote in parentheses, are:

Jeff Bagwell (71.6), Tim Raines (69.8), Trevor Hoffman (67.3), Curt Schilling (52.3), Roger Clemens (45.2), Barry Bonds (44.3), Edgar Martinez (43.4), Mike Mussina (43.0), Lee Smith (34.1), Fred McGriff (20.9), Jeff Kent (16.6), Larry Walker (15.5), Mark McGwire (12.3), Gary Sheffield (11.6), Billy Wagner (10.5) and Sammy Sosa (7.0).

As of this moment, if I had a ballot to fill out for 2017, I’d pencil in: Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero,Trevor Hoffman, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, Curt Schilling and Billy Wagner.

I may eventually persuade myself to give Mike Mussina a vote by then, and maybe even the two “Problem Children” in Clemens and Bonds, with three spots left vacant on my ballot.  Time has a way of altering perception; we’ll just have to see.

Congratulations go out to Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza for their induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  The former Mariners/Reds center fielder netted 99.3% of the vote, setting an all-time record for vote percentage.  The ex-Dodgers/Mets receiver made the Hall with 83% of the vote.

Coming up a little short this year was lifelong Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell who received 71.6% and longtime Montreal left fielder Tim Raines, who was named on 69.8% of the submitted ballots.  I’m certain, although it may not be next year, that both men will eventually make the Hall of Fame.  Raines may have to rely on the Veteran’s Committee in a number of years, since next year’s ballot will have some impressive newcomers with Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez.  Bagwell, like Piazza this year, will be the ballot’s lead holdover and hopefully will get the required 75% needed for enshrinement next year.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Trevor Hoffman receive 67.3% of the vote, as he stands a fair shot of getting enshrined next year.  The fireman has, historically, been undervalued by Hall of Fame voters, but with 601 career saves, Trevor is one of the game’s elite stoppers.  However, the poor showing for Billy Wagner, another elite fireman whose career saves total is far inferior to Hoffman’s, albeit with some better peripheral stats, still indicates that relief pitchers aren’t valued as other positions.

Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds saw modest upticks in their vote totals.  I fully understand the arguments both for and against these former players, and although they were the best pitcher and hitter of their time, I wouldn’t lose sleep if they never get inducted.  Be that as it may, neither man ever was suspended by Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs, which inclines me suggest that we should step down from our soapboxes and place them not in the same regard as Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Ryan Braun and Manny Ramirez.  Those four men, like Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte don’t deserve a single vote cast for their enshrinement.  Sure, they were surly, unlikable ball players, but what they accomplished in their careers, even before the Steroid Era, was worthy of the highest esteem.  But I understand and support the arguments against them as well, and hold the honest players, those who performed without the benefit of some injected substance, at a much higher level than those who took steroids.

Edgar Martinez shot up in the ranks, as did Fred McGriff, but both men still have a way to go for enshrinement.  Curt Schilling is beginning to garner the support he clearly deserves.  Sure, his supporters will tell you that he was one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time, but that’s only a piece of the story.  Schilling is perhaps the single most excellent pitcher the game has ever seen.  He was the perfect blend of power and control, which enabled him to set a record for strikeout-to-walk ratio that inspires awe every time I visit his stats.  The career wins aren’t as impressive as they could be, but neither was Pedro Martinez’s and he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  One must remember that Schilling toiled for an abysmal Phillies team before he caught on with Arizona and Boston and won championships.

The totals of the vote are listed below:

Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3), Mike Piazza (83.0), Jeff Bagwell (71.6), Rock Raines (69.8), Trevor Hoffman (67.3), Curt Schilling (52.3), Roger Clemens (45.2), Barry Bonds (44.3), Edgar Martinez (43.4), Mike Mussina (43.0), Alan Trammell (40.9), Lee Smith (34.1), Fred McGriff (20.9), Jeff Kent (16.6), Larry Walker (15.5), Mark McGwire (12.3), Gary Sheffield (11.6), Billy Wagner (10.5) and Sammy Sosa (7.0).  The other players on the ballot, to include Jim Edmonds (2.5%) and holdover from last year, Nomar Garciaparra (1.8%) failed to garner the necessary 5% of the vote for retention.

The Veteran’s Committee failed to elect anyone into the Hall of Fame this year, although they had plenty of worthy candidates. Whenever the Committee is handed a ballot, only ten former players/managers/executives are listed, and this year listed were:

Doc Adams, who, as someone that pours over baseball history, I, admittedly, know very little about. Clearly I wouldn’t have placed him on a ballot I drafted. (2) Sam Breadon, who was the Cardinals’ magnate when they were the cream of the National League during their Gashouse Gang days and World War II era dynasty. (3) Bad Bill Dahlen, the greatest shortstop, and perhaps infielder in general, not in the Hall of Fame. For you WAR buffs, his lifetime WAR exceeds the almighty Derek Jeter (4) Wes Ferrell, a surly starting pitcher with a terrific winning percentage in the high-offense 1930s. (5) Garry Herrmann, former Cincinnati magnate who owned the Reds when they beat the Black Sox in the 1919 World Series. (6) Marty Marion, a slick-fielding shortstop who won an MVP Award during the war years. (7) Frank McCormick, a hard-hitting first baseman for the Reds prior to World War II. (8) Harry Stovey, the five-tool superstar of the long forgotten American Association, who held the all-time homerun record for a spell. (9) Chris Von der Ahe, the colorful owner of the American Associations’ greatest team, the St. Louis Browns, who is widely regarded for introducing beer sales to the game and (10) Bucky Walters, a solid pitcher of the 1930s who was a converted third baseman.

Among the group offered, I would cast a vote for Bad Bill Dahlen without any hesitation; how he keeps getting left out of the Hall of Fame is a great mystery. Sam Breadon would also get my vote. His Cardinals teams were always in the thick of things and they brought home many pennants during his tenure. Harry Stovey would also get my final vote. There may never have been a better five-tool star in the game’s history than Stovey. He could steal 100 bases a season and lead the league in homeruns.

When I first saw the Veteran’s Committee ballot I was a little taken aback. For one, I never expected to see a name foreign to me on any baseball Hall of Fame ballot, but Doc Adams hearkens back to pre-organized days. He came before Spalding, McVey, Anson and Deacon White. He came before Dickey Pearce, Nate Berkenstock, Dick McBride and Davy Force. I was very much pleased seeing his name on the ballot—it gave license to researching, and I adore research about as much as anything.

Three names were rather shocking to see on this ballot: Garry Herrmann, Frank McCormick and Chris Von der Ahe. There was a rather heavy Cincinnati Reds bias on this veteran’s ballot, with Walters joining Herrmann and McCormick as men whose ties are primarily to the Reds. Herrmann hasn’t much business on the ballot, in my opinion. He owned the Reds from 1902 to 1927. They won one NL pennant in that span, under Miracle Man Pat Moran, with far more second division finishes. In 16 of those seasons, the Reds finished fourth or worse in the standings—there were only eight teams in each league then. There are many, many more deserving candidates than Herrmann that could have been placed on this ballot. Sam Breadon, by contrast, won nine pennants with the Cardinals—he’s on this ballot legitimately. Frank McCormick is another head-scratcher: he was a fine ballplayer, but he played first base in the era of Foxx, Gehrig, Greenberg and Mize, and was nowhere near as good as them. He wasn’t much better, if any better, than Hal Trosky and Dolph Camilli, who also played first base in his time. McCormick had three real good years with the Reds when they were contenders prior to World War II. If Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy’s windows of excellence were too narrow for HOF voters, than McCormick hasn’t much business on a ballot such as this.

Chris Von der Ahe is one of the most interesting characters in the history of baseball, and I’m actually inclined to vote for him, but having done quite a bit of research on the former Browns owner, I’m still not certain if he was the game’s preeminent dunce, or a shrewd businessman. He loved his Browns, even if most people connected to the game thought he didn’t know a baseball bat from an officer’s cudgel. He was boisterous, a show-boat unrivaled and made headlines more for the things he said and did than for anything smacking of baseball acumen. About his entrance into baseball, J.B. Sheridan wrote, “Von der Ahe knew nothing of baseball. He knew a lot about beer. He found out that the sun and heat and hollering at baseball games made spectators thirsty. So he thought that baseball was, like pretzels, salt crackers and politics, an excellent stimulant of thirst. He became interested in baseball as a side issue. It was akin to the lunch counter at his saloon. It made people buy beer” (Ogden Standard Dec 30, 1916).

If I were delegated to create a list of ten pre-integration baseball figures for the Veteran’s Committee, Bill Dahlen would assuredly be on it, as would Sam Breadon and Harry Stovey, but I’d probably leave off the rest. I’d much rather see someone like Al Reach, whose contributions to the game of baseball are more known, and hence greater appreciated than Doc Adams. Early manager Jim Mutrie might make my list, or his Giants owner John B. Day. Reach’s business crony and former Athletics magnate Ben Shibe seems to me more deserving of consideration than Herrmann, as does Charles Stoneham and John Brush, who owned the Giants during the heyday of John McGraw. Pitcher Jim McCormick would have been a much wiser McCormick to have placed on this list than former Reds first baseman Frank. Where’s Buddy Myer, the old Senators’ second baseman, who if it weren’t for Charlie Gehringer, would be regarded as the best second baseman of his time. And while we’re on second basemen, how about Cupid Childs, Laughing Larry Doyle and Fred Dunlap? Pete Browning would be another ideal selection; the old batting champion of the now defunct Louisville Colonels.

There were some terrific players who had their careers cut short by World War II, unlike Marty Marion and Frank McCormick, who played through the fighting. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it is seeing Frank McCormick on this ballot. Cecil Travis and Dominic DiMaggio were stellar players who missed sizable portions of their careers, prime years, mind you, to service during WWII, and lesser lights like Marion and McCormick are on this ballot. Where’s curveball wizard Tommy Bridges, the former ace of the Detroit Tigers teams of the 1930s, who was a superior hurler to Wes Ferrell? A couple shortstops from the 1800s, Ed McKean and Jack Glasscock might make my list, as would some pre-World War I first basemen like Jake Daubert and Stuffy McInnis; maybe even Fred Tenney. Where’s George Van Haltren? Has time done away with John T. Brush, a magnate during the AL/NL wars? Nick Young presided over the National League for many years as president and was a charter member of the game’s organization. Few men loved the game like Uncle Nick.

I’d like to see an old catcher like Jack Clements or Deacon McGuire get some exposure to the Veteran’s Committee, and truth be told, third base is lacking representatives in the Hall of Fame, although the Veteran’s Committee has a handful of worthy men to analyze: Bill Bradley, Harlond Clift, Lave Cross, Larry Gardner, Heinie Groh, Willie Kamm, Ned Williamson, and one of my personal favorites, Smiling Stan Hack. Cy Williams was a terrific outfielder in the days of Babe Ruth, as was Ken Williams. Sherry Magee had his name on this ballot a few years ago, and Indian Bob Johnson would be a worthy selection as well. Babe Herman and Riggs Stephenson, two hit machines, used to get their names bandied about a lot among Hall of Fame enthusiasts. And pitchers like Bob Shawkey, Hippo Vaughn, Will White, Urban Shocker, and others could have made this list also, perhaps more deserving than the two hurlers they selected: Ferrell and Walters. Let’s not forget the Negro League stars like Dick Lundy, Spot Poles, Buck O’Neil and Newt Allen; it would also be nice to see on this ballot old umpires like Tim Hurst, Beans Reardon and Honest John Kelly.

As you can see, the task of compiling a list of ten is an endeavor of immense difficulty, and I pity the men that had the task. I really don’t like the Veteran’s Committee system; choosing ten individuals for selection, but that’s the method the Hall of Fame has adopted, and until something better is presented, that’s just the way it is.

Congratulations go out to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas for their Hall of Fame inductions.  Both Maddux and Glavine received over 90% of the vote while The Big Hurt came in a little behind the hurlers with 83.7%.  Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio missed by the scantest of margins with 74.8% of the vote.  Mike Piazza saw a slight raise in his percentage while everyone else on the ballot, all the holdovers, went the other direction.  Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, both deserving candidates, each dropped a bit in the vote with former closer Lee Smith’s support falling off a cliff.

Jack Morris, his last try on the writer’s ballot, came up short with 61.5% while the two hot topic performers, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, each saw their limited support from last year slip a bit as well.  Rafael Palmeiro, a member of the 3,000 hit club and one of the top homerun hitters of all-time, fell short of the five percent needed to be retained for 2015’s ballot.

Earlier I made predictions for this year’s HOF class and, I must admit, they were off by quite a bit.  I viewed this class as a rather weak class with Greg Maddux as the only lock among the new-comers.  Tom Glavine received a lot more support than I imagined.  With new-comers to the ballot, I do the eyeball test first: I ask myself whether they looked like Hall of Famers when they played.  When I watched Greg Maddux pitch, I thought I was watching a Hall of Famer operate on the mound.  When I watched Frank Thomas hit, I thought I was watching a Hall of Fame slugger in the batter’s box.  When I watched Craig Biggio play, I thought I was watching a Hall of Famer perform.  I felt this way about Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, as well, but never perceived Tom Glavine in such a way.  With Glavine, while he pitched, I felt he needed a home plate umpire with a liberal strike zone to succeed, and that he wasn’t in the upper echelon of performers, where peers like Maddux, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez were stationed.

The 300 win benchmark pushed Glavine into the Hall of Fame, although, in this era, the concept of Hall of Fame benchmarks is now obsolete.  You can point to homerun kings like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as proof that benchmarks are meaningless nowadays, but a better representation of this concept is Craig Biggio.  Craig is a member of the 3,000 hit club and no right-handed hitter in the game’s history has more doubles than Mr. Biggio.  McGwire, Palmeiro and Sosa all have PED issues, which makes them poor subjects of the exit in benchmarks argument, but Craig Biggio was a man of class with an impeccable character.  After the ballot’s results were made public, Mr. Biggio again exuded class by congratulating the three men newly enshrined without taking shots at the 25% of writers who foolishly did not vote for him.

Will Craig Biggio make the Hall of Fame next year?  It wouldn’t shock me to see him fall below 70%, to be honest.  Next year he’ll have to contend with newcomers like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz—all strong HOF candidates.  In 2016, he, Piazza and Bagwell will have a better shot, with Ken Griffey Jr. the main standout—other first-timers in 2016 are Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner.  In the upcoming years, 2017 looks to be the weakest group of first-timers with a pair of catchers, Jorge Posada and Ivan Rodriguez, leading the new-comers.  Vladimir Guerrero will see plenty support, and Manny Ramirez will also be on that ballot.  The names for 2018 look fairly impressive, with Chipper Jones and Jim Thome as locks, and Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel also on that year’s ballot.

The results for this year’s ballot are as follows, with 571 ballots cast: Greg Maddux (97.2), Tom Glavine (91.9) Frank Thomas (83.7), Craig Biggio (74.8), Mike Piazza (62.2), Jack Morris (61.5), Jeff Bagwell (54.3), Tim Raines (46.1), Roger Clemens (35.4), Barry Bonds (34.7), Lee Smith (29.9), Curt Schilling (29.2), Edgar Martinez (25.2), Alan Trammell (20.8), Mike Mussina (20.3), Jeff Kent (15.2), Fred McGriff (11.7), Mark McGwire (11), Larry Walker (10.2), Don Mattingly (8.2), Sammy Sosa (7.2), Rafael Palmeiro (4.4), Moises Alou (1.1), Hideo Nomo (1.1), Luis Gonzalez (0.9), Eric Gagne (0.4), J.T. Snow (0.4), Armando Benitez (0.2), Jacque Jones (0.2), Kenny Rogers (0.2), Mike Timlin, Richie Sexson, Paul LoDuca, Todd Jones, Ray Durham and Sean Casey (0%)

Next year, don’t be terribly surprised if big names like Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff and Jeff Kent fail to receive the five percent needed to be retained for 2016’s ballot.  It’s almost a guarantee that one, if not more, of these fellows will fall off the ballot in the upcoming years.  As of right now, if I had to cast a ballot for 2015, I’d vote for newcomers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz, while rounding out my ballot with holdovers Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell.  Voting for ten men seems excessive to me, but I have been swayed to Raines, Schilling and Trammell’s camps due to the Cooperstown comparisons.  Tim Raines was a poor man’s Rickey Henderson, Curt Schilling has the greatest strikeout-to-walk ratio in modern baseball history and Trammell is very comparable to recently enshrined Barry Larkin.

 

 

The result of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Hall of Fame vote will be announced on January 8th.  In order to gain enshrinement in Cooperstown, the former player listed on the ballot must receive 75% of the votes cast.  To be held over for next year’s vote, players must receive at least five percent of the vote.

Among the first-timers on the ballot, Greg Maddux is clearly the standout and should receive over 90% on his initial Hall of Fame try.  Longtime Maddux teammate Tom Glavine will certainly see some support, but the southpaw isn’t an obvious selection like his Atlanta chum.  Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent stand the best chance among first-time position players.  Holdovers from last year, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris netted over 60% of the vote while stars Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza were named on over 55% of the votes.

What follows are my predictions for the vote, with last year’s percentage listed in parentheses.

Greg Maddux 89.2% (first time), Craig Biggio 79.3 (68.2%), Jack Morris 74.0% (67.7%), Mike Piazza 68.8% (57.8%), Jeff Bagwell 64.4% (59.6%), Tim Raines 54.5% (52.2%), Frank Thomas 53.4% (first time), Lee Smith 48.8% (47.8%), Curt Schilling 44.6% (38.8%), Tom Glavine 41.8% (first time), Roger Clemens 40.6% (37.6), Edgar Martinez 39.8% (35.9%), Barry Bonds 36.6% (36.2%), Alan Trammell 35.5% (33.6%), Jeff Kent 30.4% (first time), Larry Walker 23.2% (21.6%), Mike Mussina 20.4% (first time), Fred McGriff 18.8% (20.7%), Mark McGwire 17.1% (16.9%), Don Mattingly 14.2% (13.2%), Sammy Sosa 12.5% (12.5%), Luis Gonzalez 8.6% (first time), Rafael Palmeiro 7.7% (8.8%), Moises Alou 4.0% (first time), Eric Gagne 2.2% (first time), Kenny Rogers 1.4% (first time), Ray Durham 1.2% (first time), Hideo Nomo 0.8% (first time), Armando Benitez 0.2% (first time), Sean Casey 0.2% (first time), Jacque Jones 0.0% (first time), Todd Jones 0.0% (first time), Paul LoDuca 0.0% (first time), J.T. Snow 0.0% (first time), Richie Sexson 0.0% (first time), Mike Timlin 0.0% (first time)

Greg Maddux should receive over 90% but voters are more fickle now than they have ever been.  Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza should have made the Hall of Fame last year but were snubbed.  The consensus seems that many writers have impugned every player from the Steroid Era, regardless their character, which forces me to speculate that Maddux—who should be a lock for enshrinement—might not receive 90% of the vote.  My ballot would have Greg Maddux, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Curt Schilling.

 

The Veteran’s Committee, this year, will focus on players that debuted before World War II.  Their latest of countless alterations mandates that the Veteran’s Committee will only focus on ten individuals from the pre and post WWII era, with the eras under scrutiny flip-flopping ever year.  Next year, they will analyze the merits of players who debuted after World War II.  That being said, this year’s ballot lists a number of names modern fans have never heard of, but some who have legitimate cases for enshrinement.  The list is as follows:

Sam Breadon: St. Louis Cardinals owner during famous Gashouse Gang days.

Bad Bill  Dahlen: legendary shortstop of the Deadball Era

Wes Ferrell: pitcher during the rock ’em sock ’em prewar days.

Marty Marion: Cardinals shortstop noted more for defense.

Tony Mullane: forgotten pitching star of the late 1800s.

Hank O’Day: well-respected umpire who worked for 30 years.

Al Reach: early baseball pioneer best known for producing the famous “Reach Guide.”

Jacob Ruppert: Yankees owner from 1915 to 1945–responsible for bringing Ruth to New York

Bucky Walters: Reds ace during their heyday prior to WWII.

Deacon White: early baseball ironman who caught and played third base.

Of this group, had I a vote (there are 16 former players, executive and historians that have a vote on the Veteran’s ballot), I would certainly cast one for Dahlen, whose exclusion from Cooperstown is absurd.  He is the only person on this ballot that I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for.  However, given Ruppert’s ten championships at the helm of the Yankees, he most certainly should be in the Hall of Fame with the likes of Tom Yawkey.  Deacon White deserves serious consideration and the more I analyze the old star, the more I support his enshrinement.  Tony Mullane and Sam Breadon I am iffy on, as well as Hank O’Day–there aren’t many umpires in the Hall, so O’Day would be a good fit.  Tim Hurst was an early umpire worth looking at too.

Albert Reach might be the most interesting person on this ballot.  A former outfielder/second baseman, Reach hit .353 the first year baseball was organized, but his numbers fell off drastically after that.  Reach isn’t on the ballot for his playing, however, for the man is best known as a baseball pioneer, much in the fashion of Al Spalding.  Reach opened a sporting goods store in 1874, which was the largest such company in the States until he merged with Spalding.  He nevertheless continued to published his famous “Reach Guide,” an indispensable booklet for the baseball fanatic.  Reach and chum Ben Shibe, another baseball pioneer worthy of serious Hall of Fame discussion, created the figure eight pattern used on baseballs since the covering originally employed failed to protect the ball.  About designing the figure eight pattern, Reach said, ““There were two manufacturers of reputation when I began to play ball in the fifties—Harvey Ross, of Brooklyn, and John Van Horn of New York.  The cover they made was of horsehide, but a different design was used.  Their design, a sort of clover leaf, left a weak spot where the ends of the cover were stitched together.  It was usually there that the cover ripped off during a hard game, for we had heavy hitters in those days.  After the ball with the new design appeared the ‘figure eight’ soon became the standard recognized all over the country” (Sioux City Journal, 8-09-1925).

Reach deserves serious consideration for what he meant to the game during its infancy.  Of the remaining group, Bucky Walters was a very good pitcher, and pitched in a hitter’s era, as was Ferrell, but there are better pitchers from that era, such as Tommy Bridges and Charlie Root, who should have made this ballot instead of them.  Ferrell has his supporters, but his peripheral stats are atrocious.  For a man who never pitched on a pennant winner, he certainly has a very good record, with a winning percentage slightly over .600, but Ferrell’s WHIP is abysmal; he never once finished in the Top Ten in his league in that important category.  Ferrell chewed innings (but who didn’t during that time?), but the fact that he coughed up more hits than innings worked while also issuing more walks that strikeouts he racked up, means Ferrell has little business on a Hall of Fame ballot.  He was usually among the league leaders in hits allowed and walks issued–two stats you don’t want your name mentioned in.  Ferrell led the league in hits allowed three consecutive seasons–he is not a Hall of Famer.

Marty Marion is another suspect selection since there are dozens of players who played before WWII that were quite better than him.  A tall, slender shortstop, Marion wasn’t the hitter that shortstop peers like Appling, Boudreau, Johnny Pesky and Cecil Travis were, but his glove kept him around.  His claim to fame is winning the MVP in 1944 while a member of the World Champion Cardinals, but Musial, who won the honor the year prior, was clearly the heart and soul of that club.  A career .263 hitter, Marion once led the league in doubles and was a good man for a sacrifice, but his worth was with the leather.  An elite defensive shortstop, Marion, offensively speaking, doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the four aforementioned players.  The Hall of Fame has always placed a premium on offense, which is why Marion’s inclusion on the ballot is a tad strange.  However, there are much better all-round players from the prewar era not on the ballot who should be there instead of Marion.  Buddy Myer comes to mind, as does Lave Cross and George Van Haltren.  Cy Williams, Jake Daubert, Ed McKean, Jack Glasscock, Heine Groh… I could go on and on, would make for better selections than Marion.  Marty Marion was a good ballplayer, one of the best defensive shortstops off all-time, but to place him on a list of the the best ten former players and executives of the prewar era is asinine.

That’s my two cents, feel free to cast two copper pieces of your own.

The rank of baseball purists seems to be dwindling with each passing year as every institution seems to be adopting the plea used by AT&T, I believe, as their motto: “Rethink Possible.”  The postseason used to be about the best clubs each league had to offer squaring off against each other, but now it is merely a contest of teams hot at the right time.  This postseason, like the last few, is not populated with the best teams of each league as the St. Louis Cardinals, who backed their way into the World Series last year as the Wild Card team in the National League have done it again–only this time they needed a second doggone Wild Card to secure a place in postseason play.  As a baseball purist I feel the postseason has lost much credibility with the advent of wild cards, but as a human possessing the capacity for reason, I fully understand that once change is adopted, it is damn difficult returning to previous days.  What I propose, which will be detailed in the following paragraphs, is a realignment of baseball (let us not forget that realignment is taking place next year regardless) which, although not a return to the game’s elder days, hearkens back to a time when teams were judged on sustained excellence and not pockets thereof.

My realignment proposal begins with a return to the two division standpoint.  Gone are the central divisions, thus negating a postseason wild card.  The divisions would be as follows:

AL East: Blue Jays, Indians, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, White Sox and Yankees

AL West: Angels, Astros, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers, Royals and Twins

* The Houston Astros are moving to the AL West this coming season

NL East: Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Pirates and Reds

NL West: Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Rockies

With the two division platform for each league, the Division Series will be abolished under this proposal, which leaves the League Championship Series, engaged between the leaders of each division and the World Series, participated by the winner of the LCS, as the main aspect of postseason play.  The reason I wrote main aspect is because the final proposal I have will shy away from my baseball purist mentality and massage the needs of those who require change.  In order to appease those gluttons for change who enjoy the March Madness mindset of college basketball, my final proposal is a winner-take-all tournament that will employ every team that failed to reach the four-team postseason.  This way, every baseball fan, regardless if his team stinks or not, will have something to root for in October.  The tournament will take place during the regular postseason play but will not be aired prime time, because the LCS and World Series will be allotted that time slot.  The tournament could be a one-loss-and-you’re-out affair or a lengthy tournament that spans the range of the LCS and World Series–which could be best of seven or best of nine series.  Either way, the integrity of the postseason isn’t compromised, since the best teams of each division will be engaged in the traditional postseason while the teams that failed to cop a flag will join the tournament.

I’d like to hear your views on this change–whether it’s too radical for baseball or not–and the changes you would propose to make the postseason a more legitimate affair.  Certainly I am not the only person tired of teams with inferior records participating late in the postseason while the team’s that accumulated more wins are pushed out of the postseason because Lady Luck cares not for their team’s colors.