2008 HOF Candidates

In the 2007 Hall of Fame balloting by the BBWAA, there were two clear-cut, no-lose, first-ballot candidates in Cal Jr. and Tony Gwynn.  This year, the only addition to the roster of candidates who has a better than even-money chance of inclusion is one of the greatest base-swipers and most dangerous leadoff men of all time in the form of Tim "Rock" Raines, possessor of arguably the most telling and indictable nickname in recent memory.  Raines brings with him the juxtaposition of someone who has admitted to flagrantly flaunting the law while he played the game, in comparison to others on the list of candidates that have not admitted to disregarding the law while playing the game but over whose history hangs a dark cloud, the important and debatable points being how a player’s personal flavor of vodka may have impacted their performance and whether that issue or their mea culpa (or lack thereof) is relevant to their consideration.

Sticky pharmaceutical and ethical quandaries aside, the most deserving member of this ballot is Jim Rice, who has waited too long for his recognition in Cooperstown.  It’s his 14th time on the ballot; in the previous voting, he saw his percentage of the vote drop from 64.6 to 63.5 (75 percent is the threshold).  If Rice doesn’t get elected this year, next year will be his last chance unless at some point the veteran’s committee sees fit to eventually overturn what would be an egregious omission.  Blyleven should be in, as should Tommy John.  Goose will make it (if not this year, then soon; it’s his ninth turn) and I’m pretty comfortable with the thought of Lee Smith enshrined.  I used to waver on Andre Dawson, but now I’m sure he belongs.  The problem is people, myself included, really like Hawk, which is the most difficult thing for me to rectify when looking at Rice V. Hawk.  Rice belongs, and this year may serve as his best chance to see him placed considering his body of work compared to the other worthwhile candidates.  The writers do not have to elect anyone to the Hall, but that has not happened since 1960, and should it really come down to yet another snub of Rice in favor of another perhaps equally worthy, but certainly not more worthy, candidate than he based on the fact that Hawk was/is popular and accessible (arguably the most popular Cubbie in recent history along with Santo), whereas Rice had a tumultuous relationship with the press, his teammates and his fan base?

This year, a somber inclusion is the exceedingly popular Rod Beck, whose five-year waiting period was waived due to his passing.  Next year, the big name on the ballot will be Rickey, a sure-fire first ballot choice, unless Rickey chooses to put Rickey’s cleats back on, which is extremely unlikely, but hey, he’s Rickey.  The full list follows.

Returning candidates (2007 vote %):

Rich Gossage (64.6)
Jim Rice (63.5)
Andre Dawson (56.7)
Bert Blyleven (47.7)
Lee Smith (39.8)
Jack Morris (37.1)
Mark McGwire (23.5)
Tommy John (22.9)
Dave Concepcion (13.6)
Alan Trammell (13.4)
Dave Parker (11.4)
Don Mattingly (9.9)
Dale Murphy (9.2)
Harold Baines (5.3)

First-time candidates:

Brady Anderson
Rod Beck
Shawon Dunston
Chuck Finley
Travis Fryman
David Justice
Chuck Knoblauch
Robb Nen
Tim Raines
Jose Rijo
Todd Stottlemyre

27 comments… add one
  • “possessor of arguably the most telling and indictable nickname in recent memory.”
    great line.
    I disagree with the idea that Rice is the most deserving person on the list. To me, it’s Tim Raines whose overall game was better. But I haven’t looked too closely at the stats.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 1:13 pm
  • I think Goose is in this year, and deservedly. Not sure about any of the other candidates.
    In fairness to Raines, his drug-use was not of the performance-enhancing variety, and in his later career he became a sort of elder statesman and advisor to players who might otherwise have fallen into the pattern of abuse–or at least that was the way he was perceived as a much-beloved member of the “dynasty” Yankees. Writers like a redemption story; a HOF vote for Raines completes that narrative.

    YF November 27, 2007, 1:31 pm
  • I should have written Morris as worthy.

    attackgerbil November 27, 2007, 1:35 pm
  • YF: I guess that’s my conundrum. How far does the admission go to obviating the transgression?

    attackgerbil November 27, 2007, 1:37 pm
  • I’d avoid the question entirely, and keep the criteria to on-field performance.

    YF November 27, 2007, 1:49 pm
  • Can’t believe I left out Sandberg when talking about the Cubbies. I’m going to get punched for that later.

    attackgerbil November 27, 2007, 2:07 pm
  • While growing up I always remember Ryne Sandberg being an every year all-star. I was surprised when it seemed natural to people that he was not deserving of the HOF. Childhood definitely tends to distort perceptions though. I was also very surprised when I learned his name was spelled R-Y-N-E. Maybe he is being kept out just because of that. Maybe that is warranted too.

    DR November 27, 2007, 2:33 pm
  • My ballot (were I, you know, actually voting):
    I’m borderline on Morris, and Trammell I’ve always thought you could make a pretty good case for.

    Paul SF November 27, 2007, 2:35 pm
  • > Maybe he is being kept out just because of that
    Hmm? Ryno was elected in 2005.. or are you talking about something else?

    attackgerbil November 27, 2007, 2:38 pm
  • No. I just don’t know what the hell I am talking about. Thanks for the correction. I can crawl into my hole now.

    DR November 27, 2007, 2:41 pm
  • Can’t see how you can vote for Rice or Raines or Dawson but not Parker or Murphy.
    Indeed, of that group, Murphy seems most deserving.

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 3:38 pm
  • Murphy was simply not the player Rice was. Lower OPS+, lower batting average, far fewer career hits, lower slugging, lower OBP, only 16 more homers in two more seasons. Over 100 fewer runs scored. Rice had five top-five MVP votes and one win to Murphy’s two MVPs and no other top-five finishes. Murphy admittedly did play the field for his entire career (while Rice finished as a DH) and Dale also stole 100 more bases. But those don’t trump Rice’s superiority in so many other categories.
    I am not certain that I believe Rice (or Raines, or Dawson, or Parker for that matter) is a Hall of Famer, but if Murphy is a HoFer than Rice is ABSOLUTELY a HoFer. Dave Parker is the tough comparison, in my book. He and Rice have similarities that are hard to rectify in choosing one over the other.

    SF November 27, 2007, 5:07 pm
  • I don’t get geeked about these arguments, and don’t care that much, but you’re downplaying Murphy to boost Rice’s case.
    Murphy’s back-to-back MVPs means much more than “two” and the top five bit is misleading – he got votes in seven years to eight for Rice. Same score for All-Star games. He was named a Silver slugger four times vs two for Rice. He didn’t just play the field – he won five gold gloves and that’s five more than Rice. And that’s huge when you consider that Rice was a DH for over one quarter of his games (500) whereas Murphy never had the benefit of resting his legs between at-bats. That makes the 7 point difference in OPS+ meaningless. Further, Murphy was doing that for some truly awful teams – that’s going to affect team dependent stats like Runs Scored and RBIs. Indeed, a lot of the time, Rice was driving in another HoFer in Boggs.
    I am not certain that I believe Murphy (or Rice, or Raines, or Dawson, or Parker for that matter) is a HoF, but if Rice is a HoFer then Murphy is ABSOLUTELY a HoFer.

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 6:28 pm
  • Burt Blyleven and Tim Raines are clearly the most deserving, with Goose coming in a close second.
    Rice is horribly overrated, really because he was the best player on some pretty mediocre Boston teams. Yeah, he had a good career, but I’d put him on the level of, say, Mike Mussina purely in terms of greatness in the game. He’s been on the ballot this long because he’s close, but not good enough. It’ll stay that way.

    Andrew November 27, 2007, 6:32 pm
  • I don’t agree that Rice was horribly over-rated. I think he was quite fairly rated; I understand he is borderline, it’s just that he’s got both feet on the side of the border that says he should be “in” in my mind. I will admit this bit of bias: as a young Yankee fan, I *loathed* him. Not because of his demeanor or reputation in the press. Not because his epic 1978 season cost Gator an MVP to go with his CY. It’s because he regularly *killed* the Yankees by my recollection. There was no other hitter I dreaded to see come up against the Yanks during his tenure. Reading the posts in this thread, it made me look back at his splits to see if I remembered wrongly, but I did not. He did kill Yankee pitching. Of course the logical side of me says that it shouldn’t matter just what he did against the Yanks (or any one franchise), but it turns out he murdered Baltimore as well. During his prime years in the latter 70s and early 80s, he brought a superlative game facing the two teams of consistent consequence that challenged the Sox.

    attackgerbil November 27, 2007, 7:49 pm
  • So now splits against direct competitors should count when considering HOF candidacy? I think that’s pretty incidental.

    Andrew November 27, 2007, 8:59 pm
  • I think this column by a SABR member sums up Rice’s case very well. The key paragraph:
    “From 1975 through 1986, Rice posted numbers that were simply unmatched by any other outfielder. The closest was Dave Winfield, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, who averaged 151 games, 634 plate appearances, 24 homers, 99 RBI, 91 runs scored and an OPS of .841. Rice tops all of those numbers, with 152 games, 655 plate appearances, 30 homers, 109 RBI, 94 runs scored and an OPS of .873. In fact, if we were to average the all-star and top-10 MVP seasons of every major league outfielder in this time period, we would find that they average – in their best years – just 146 games, 609 plate appearances, 22 homers, 85 RBI, 87 runs scored and an OPS of .844. (All of these numbers are extrapolated for the 1981 strike season.) In other words, Jim Rice spent twelve consecutive seasons posting numbers that were better than the average All-Star or MVP-caliber major league outfielder. No one else comes close – Rice was the best hitting outfielder of his day, and if not for Mike Schmidt would have been the best hitter period.”
    Rice’s No. 1 career comp is Orlando Cepeda, a Hall of Famer. His No. 2 was Andres Gallaraga, who hit at the non-humidor Coors Field in a much greater offensive era. Hall of Famer Duke Snider is tied with Ellis Burks, another Coors beneficiary as Rice’s third-best career comp.
    So, according to a straight numbers comparison, the four hitters with the same career numbers as Rice’s are either in the Hall of Fame or compiled their statistics in the best offensive environment of all time.

    Paul SF November 27, 2007, 9:13 pm
  • Of course, any mention of Rice and Hall of Fame deserves a mention of this:
    Rice – Career
    Home: .320 .374 .546
    Away: .277 .330 .459
    Is there any wonder why his numbers are similar to Burks and Gallaraga?

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 10:20 pm
  • Thanks Paul, that’s a great pull.

    attackgerbil November 27, 2007, 10:42 pm
  • Coors pre-humidor = Fenway is a bogus equivalency.

    SF November 28, 2007, 8:53 am
  • Who said they are equivalent?
    Care to explain:
    1) That 130 point difference in OPS for Rice?
    2) Why Fenway was the #1 hitter’s park last year, ahead of Coors? http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor
    3) Why it’s disingenuous to talk about Rice as comparable to hitters who “compiled their statistics in the best offensive environment of all time” but leave out Rice’s splits?

    Mike YF November 28, 2007, 2:17 pm
  • In 1978, Fenway’s park factor was 112, hevaily favoring hitters.
    In 1995, Coors Field’s park factor was 126.
    From 1976-1986, only three outfielders in baseball had an OPS+ over 130: Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson and Jim Rice. Rice was the only one with a slugging percentage over .500. He had more games played, more hits, more triples, more home runs, more RBI, the highest batting average, the highest on-base percentage, and the highest OPS.
    Since OPS+ takes park factors into account, it ranks him tied with Jackson at 133 over that 12-year period, behind Winfield at 136.

    Paul SF November 28, 2007, 2:44 pm
  • OPS+ corrects only for rate stats. So there’s no point to cite counting stats. There he did benefit from Fenway. Worse, things like games played are completely misleading in comparing these OFs because Rice was DHing in his prime. Winfield and Jackson became DHs after age 35.
    And I never said Coors and Fenway are equivalent, just that it shouldn’t be a shock that Rice looks so much like hitters who benefited from Coors. Rice is a career .789 OPS outside of Fenway and .920 OPS inside of it.
    I honestly don’t care one way or the other. But you’re gaming your argument to make Rice look good.

    Mike YF November 28, 2007, 4:17 pm
  • Except that Hall voters look at counting stats, and Rice led every outfielder in baseball in those stats for a 12-year period — a period that was the worst offensive period for baseball since the lowering of the mound.
    Also, in 1986, the last year of that period, Rice played one game at DH, and 155 in the field. Care to guess how many of his 16 seasons Rice played a majority of his games at DH? Four. 1974, 16 of his 19 games; 1977, 116 of 160 games; and the last two of his career — 1988 (112 of 131) and 1989 (55 of 55). That’s exactly one season during the key 1975-86 period.
    It seems voters want to punish Rice for not lingering an extra four or five years, picking up 10 or 15 home runs a season as a DH (Jackson was below league average in three of the five years he played after his 16th season). That makes no sense to me. During the 12 years of his prime, no outfielder in baseball was as feared a hitter as Rice, and for that he should be in the Hall.
    It’s not gaming the argument. The numbers over those years all point to it, and I’ve always considered Hall induction to largely be based on whether a player was considered among the best in baseball at his position over a 10-year or longer stretch. Again, Rice was THE premier offensive force among outfielders in baseball for 12 years.

    Paul SF November 28, 2007, 4:40 pm
  • I nominate Coco Crisp for an unprecedented mid-career HoF induction.

    IronHorse (yf) November 28, 2007, 4:49 pm
  • You’re still gaming the argument. Come on – the *majority* of games at DH? That’s a silly test. They were using him significantly in the position early in his career.
    Let’s see:
    1975 – 54/144
    1976 – 54/153
    1977 – 116/160
    1978 – 49/163
    1979 – 33/158
    1980 – 15/124
    1981 – 0/108
    1982 – 0/145
    1983 – 4/155
    1984 – 2/159
    1985 – 7/140
    1986 – 1/157
    1987 – 12/108
    1988 – 112/135
    1989 – 55/55
    And you’re still ignoring the basic point: He was a feared hitter because he played half his games at Fenway. Outside Fenway, he wasn’t. “Rice was THE premier offensive force among outfielders in baseball for 12 years” for 81 games or so each year.
    You can say the counting stats are what voters look at. But I expect a more honest argument here, especially cause it’s obvious you’re well read on the matter.

    Mike YF November 28, 2007, 5:02 pm
  • It’s also hard to say Rice could have hung on longer:
    age 34 – .277 .357 .408
    age 35 – .264 .330 .406
    age 36 – .234 .276 .344
    Don’t see a team that would have signed a DH with those numbers (and at league average the preceding two years).
    Jackson – by contrast:
    age 34 – .300 .398 .597
    age 35 – .237 .330 .428
    age 36 – .275 .375 .532
    then has two down years and comes back with:
    age 39 – .252 .360 .487
    age 40 – .241 .379 .408
    Hard to say he hung on. He was still producing.

    Mike YF November 28, 2007, 5:15 pm

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