I love the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are a lot of reasons, but it's mainly because it's perhaps the only HOF that is totally relevant. And the deadline for voting is right in the middle of the off-season, when there's screw-all going on (see this morning's post on Garrett Bullock helping out with a youth camp). So, in the tradition of many a national columnist, let's waste some time filling out a Hall of Fame ballot.
And we may as well follow the BBHOF's rules, so that means that no more than 10 players can receive votes, and that voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
With that, here are the ten players who would get Astros County's vote, in alphabetical order:
12-time All-Star. 5-time Top-10 in MVP voting. Lifetime .984 Fld%. 10 Gold Gloves (if that award means anything to you.) Four-time Silver Slugger. Career .300/.371/.443; top-10 in batting average five times. Stole 30 bases eight times. Alomar was a complete player.
There is one constant throughout baseball's history: batters swing as hard as they can. ERAs change, as do home run totals, but strikeouts still mean something, because it tells you how pitchers were able to fool hitters. Blyleven's 3701 strikeouts are still the 5th-best of all-time. His K:BB ratio (2.80) is 50th-best of all-time. His ten closest Similarity Scores link him to eight Hall of Famers, and two who have a case (Kaat and Tommy John). He consistently played on what we would now consider small-market teams, and if he had played in New York or Boston, there would already be a movie about him.
The thing about Blyleven, as my cousin (who will remained unnamed. I'm no Bill Simmons.) pointed out, is his complaining about not getting in has kept him out. In one of the great paradoxes of life, to get something, you can't appear as if you really want it. Blyleven really wants it.
Another paradox I want to bring up: if you play in a small market, then you won't get a whole lot of national exposure. If you played in a small market in the 70s and 80s, you did not get a lot of exposure. But if you eschew the small market for a large market, the media crucifies you for selling out. Blyleven has two World Series rings, a career 3.31 ERA/1.20 WHIP. And only four pitchers have more strikeouts. Ever.
I looked through his game logs, and found that he lost/NDed 177 games in which he threw a quality start (and 9 games where he threw 7IP+, allowed 0 runs, and NDed)
So obviously you don’t win every game that you throw a quality start, but if we just give Blyleven a third of those games as a win (a third to win, a third to lose, and a third to get no decision), that’s adding 59 wins to his total, which puts him at 346 wins. Blyleven also had nine seasons in which his ERA was under 2.90 – and he lost a total of 113 games in those seasons.
And let’s not forget that he pitched his entire career (save three seasons with the Pirates) in the American League, with the DH. So he was facing nine hitters. It’s not like he was playing the Astros and Giants. He did have to play against the Yankees, Red Sox, and A’s.
I'm an Astros fan and even I loved The Hawk. You know a lot of the story: 1977 Rookie of the Year. MVP on a last-place team (1987). Two-time MVP runner-up. A power-hitter who didn't strike out all that often (in only three seasons did Dawson strike out 100+ times, and two of those were in his 2nd and 3rd seasons). Eight-time All-Star. Top-ten in SLG eight times. 1,039 extra-base hits. While he didn't enjoy a whole lot of team success - he only went to the playoffs twice in 21 seasons - Dawson was the face of the Cubs, and was a great player.
This is the first test of the DH the HOF has had to deal with. Paul Molitor spent 1174 of his 2683 games as a DH, and he is quite obviously a Hall of Famer. But Edgar Martinez only played 591 of his 2055 career games in the field. How do the voters deal with that? But Martinez, according to the (inferior) DH rule, is as valuable as the next guy. So with his career 147 OPS+, with 13 seasons with an OPS+ over 125, that's incredible. This also coincided with a 7-season run, from 1995-2002, in which Martinez had an OPS+ over 150. This also coincided with the most successful seasons in the Mariners' history. It should also be noted that Martinez ranks in the top 100 in all of the slash line numbers: .312 (91st)/.418 (22nd)/.515 (69th).
He never won a Cy Young award, but he did finish in the Top 10 four times. Oh yeah, and there's the 478 saves. Smith could almost go in to the HOF as a pioneer, paving the way for the Trevor Hoffmans and Mariano Riveras. Smith struck out almost a batter an inning, and he also threw 100+ IP three times, and posted a career 1.04 WHIP.
I feel for Mattingly and Murphy, because for all intents and purposes, if I'm including Dawson, then a case can be made for Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy. But those two were excellent players for a shorter amount of time. But there's one guy I would not vote for, and it might not be for the reason you think.
I get it. He saved baseball with Sammy Sosa, and he's got an awkward press conference coming when he's unveiled as the new hitting coach for the Cardinals. He hit a lot of home runs. His OPS was over 1.000 seven times. That's amazing. But let's look at this further, because he only had 1626 hits. 583 of those hits were home runs (35.9%). 252 were doubles (15.5%) and 6 were triples. So 841 of his 1626 hits were for extra-bases (51.7%). Again, this is amazing. But if you look at the five tools, McGwire only had one - power. He got on base because he would hit the ball really hard, and pitchers wouldn't just pipe one down the plate. He wasn't particularly fast, he didn't play great defense, and he sure didn't hit for average. In only three seasons that McGwire played 100+ games did he hit over .280. And let's talk about strikeouts. McGwire struck out 1596 times. If your head doesn't hurt from statistics yet, then you might notice that he struck out almost as many times as he got a hit.
Now, McGwire's OPS+ is 12th-best of all-time. That's hard to overlook, especially considering that OPS+ was a major part of why I would elect Edgar Martinez to the Hall of Fame. But it's the strikeouts that kill me. 1596 in 7660 PAs. Dave Winfield struck out more, but in 12,358 PAs. Harmon Killebrew struck out more than McGwire, but in 9831 PAs. Mickey Mantle struck out more, but did so in 9909 PAs (and also hit .300 in nine seasons of over 100 games). Same with Tony Perez, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, and Reggie Jackson (although Jackson, the all-time strikeout king, struck out 22.7% of his PAs - McGwire's K/PA rate was 20.8%). But Reggie Jackson also had almost 1000 more hits than McGwire. So McGwire would swing really hard, and connect a lot, and miss almost as much as he hit. He was a one-tool player in a time when that one tool was valued higher than any other tool. So what say you?