Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Trying to understand Jon Heyman's stance on Bagwell

Jon Heyman published his HOF ballot this morning. Good for him. I actually respect the guys who publish their ballots, even when (almost invariably "when") I don't agree with them, because they'll at least stand up and get page views own their opinion.

So Heyman used all ten spots, including one on Craig Biggio, and then it seems as though he ranks the rest of the candidates. Where does Jeff Bagwell fall? All the way down to 17th, behind Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Jeff Kent, Lee Smith, Larry Walker, and Mike Piazza - all of whom were left off his ballot.

Heyman says that Piazza, Bagwell, and Sammy Sosa were "three of the hardest cases." Heyman:
But sorry, withholding a vote, which is being done here in these three cases, isn't the same as convicting someone without evidence. And it certainly isn't McCarthyism, as a couple overwrought bloggers would have you believe. In these three cases, I look at it as simply deferring a vote (a bit easier to do here where I believe there are at least 10 surely clean players who are also deserving based on merit).

Of Bagwell he writes:
It isn't fair to go over the reasons for suspicions here in either case. Going from a prospect with questionable power to posting a single-season slugging percentage higher than anyone in history besides Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby isn't proof, nor is the Andro admission a disqualifier. But again, this isn't a court of law. And like Piazza, he will be considered again in a year.

1. This is an asinine paragraph, because Heyman presents his suspicions about Bagwell by framing his suspicions as Not Proof.
2. Bagwell did not have Questionable Power. As a 23-year old rookie in 1991, Bagwell hit 15 homers. He hit 18 as a 24-year old in 1992, and 20 as a 25-year old in 1993.
3. Not only is the paragraph asinine, it's incorrect. The single season to which Heyman is referring is 1994, when Bagwell won his MVP, hitting .368/.451/.750 in 110 games before the strike shortened his - and everyone else's - season. As far as SLG goes, it's the 11th-best season of all time. But Barry Bonds posted the highest SLG in a single season when he had an .863 SLG in 2001. Mark McGwire's SLG was .753 in 1998.

Here's my point. In April 2011, Heyman wrote:
Barry Bonds doesn't belong in jail. He belongs in the Hall of Fame...It's probably easier just to promise not to vote any steroid users into the Hall. But I am not ready to wipe out an entire era. I can't prove that a majority of baseball players used steroids in that era, but the evidence suggests that many of the best players did...I'm not here to sit in moral judgment of another human being.

Oh that's weird, because today he wrote:
Assuming they were great without the steroids just tells me they didn't need to cheat in the first place.It actually could be argued that Bonds and Clemens are the very two guys who most spoiled an era, hogging hardware they likely didn't deserve.

More, you say?

There was one easy solution to winnowing down the ballot to 10: to fill out a clean ballot by eliminating all players who benefited, likely benefited or may have benefited from steroids or other enhancers. In other words, to anoint the clearly clean, and honor the obviously honorable.

It's simple, really. The steroid-taking players took an unfair advantage over the honest players when they all played. So why reward them now at the expense of the guys who played it straight? By disregarding, deferring or just plain saying "no" to the steroid guys, it isn't too hard to get the ballot down to 10 worthy players. It says something sad that the steroid test eliminates so many, but practically speaking, it makes the task much more manageable.

But what do I know? I'm just an overwrought blogger.