One and Done (Cont.)
Al Oliver: 19
He hit .303 for his career, cracked more than 2,700 hits, won a batting title and hit between 11 and 20 home runs every year from 1969 through 1980. Oliver hit the ball hard almost every time up, but he didn't walk and he couldn't run and he didn't offer much defensive value and he did not hit for quite enough power to make up the difference. Oliver used to say that he was every bit as good a hitter as George Brett and I suppose in the purest sense of hitting -- speaking only of his ability to hit a baseball squarely -- he was probably right. But there's more to it.*
*Oliver is one of five players in the exclusive non-Hall of Fame club with between 2,700-2,900 hits and an OPS+ around 120. Call it the Harold Baines club.
1. Harold Baines, 2,866 hits, 120 OPS+
Of this group, Dawson is considered the best defender and he stole the most bases, and I suspect he will get elected into the Hall. Parker was probably the best player in his prime, though Dawson was close. Parker is the one who got the least out of his talents. Parker should be a Hall of Famer.
Mark Belanger: 16
There is an argument to be made -- and there was probably an even better argument to be made in 1988 -- that Belanger was the best fielding shortstop in baseball history. There is also an argument to be made -- one I doubt many people would dispute -- that Belanger was the worst hitter to play 2,000 games in the big leagues. I suppose in many ways, they are the same argument. Only a brilliant fielding shortstop could play 2,000 games with a career 68 OPS+.
Manny Mota: 18
Of the 25 retired players since 1959 who played 1,000 games and had a better than .300 career batting average, Mota is one of the more stunning names on the list. He hit .304 for his career. Others you might not expect who hit better than .300 include Mike Greenwell (.303), Rusty Greer (.305) and Hal Morris (.304). Mota played 20 seasons and never once got enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title. That's too bad, because he hit well enough: In 1966 to finish second; in 1967 to finish seventh; in 1969 to finish fifth; in 1972 to finish third. From 1977 through 1980, he got 141 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter and hit .358. Lovable player. Still -- 18 Hall of Fame votes. That seems like a lot.
Tim McCarver: 16
A perfectly fine player who made a couple of All-Star teams and he is the only catcher since 1901 to lead a league outright in triples. Still, it seems that 16 votes is an awful lot. Writers in those days, I think, were more likely to vote for a likable player. Jim Sundberg was not quite as good a hitter as McCarver, but he had a much better defensive reputation and he got exactly one Hall of Fame vote.
And finally: Back to Dennis Martinez. He is an interesting case to me because he is the first big league player from Nicaragua, he spread out his success over a very long career and, yes, when you add it all up he has a very similar case to Jack Morris, who is gaining Hall of Fame momentum.
Morris: 254-186, 3.90 ERA, 2,478 Ks, 1,390 walks, 1.296 WHIP, 28 shutouts, 105 ERA+
Martinez: 245-193, 3.70 ERA, 2,149 Ks, 1,165 walks, 1.266 WHIP, 30 shutouts, 106 ERA+
Morris pitched one of the great World Series games ever.
Martinez is one of 16 players since 1900 to have thrown a perfect game.
Morris led the league in wins twice, complete games once.
Martinez led the league in wins once, complete games twice, innings pitched once, shutouts once and ERA once.
Morris won 20 games three times and was selected to five All-Star Games.
Martinez never won 20, but he had three good years shortened by strikes and he was selected to four All-Star Games. And from age 32 through 40, he had a 129 ERA+ -- Morris only once in his career managed a single season with an ERA+ of 129 or better.
Morris -- like Jim Rice -- is a Hall of Fame lightning rod. There are people who are ABSOLUTELY SURE he's a Hall of Famer, and there are people who are ABSOLUTELY SURE he is not. The truth is that as much as we like to compare this player to that player, that's not really how Hall of Fame voting works. People use such wildly different standards when choosing their Hall of Fame candidates, and each player triggers his own emotions. It often feels like "I like this color blue better than that color blue." One of my absolute favorite Baseball Think Factory comments of the year came from Pyrite, who was trying to decipher Keith Olbermann's Hall of Fame ballot.
Keith -- who is a smart baseball guy -- had some rather odd thoughts in his ballot. For instance, he has decided that Morris should be in the Hall of Fame, which is fine. Morris has a fine case. But Keith's reasoning confused me:
Jack Morris: Another beneficiary of a little perspective. I used to flinch at that 3.90 ERA. There seems very little doubt that Tom Glavine will go in on the first ballot at 3.54. I'm looking more at the 254 wins and the clutch performances. Aye.
Huh? I really don't understand this. Best I can tell:
1. Glavine's 3.54 ERA on its own is significantly better than Morris' 3.90 ERA. I mean, isn't this like saying: I used to flinch at Joe Carter's .259 batting average, but Cal Ripken Jr. went first ballot when he hit .276?
2. Glavine pitched in a much higher scoring environment -- which is why his ERA+ is 118 to Morris' 105.
3. Glavine won 50 more games than Morris -- I mean if you're quoting wins, then this isn't a small difference.
But my point is not to rip Keith's ballot -- quite the opposite, in fact. When it comes to Hall of Fame voting, smart people and passionate baseball fans have wildly different views about what defines greatness in baseball. The commenter Pyrite went to Sean Smith's page to find the Top 500 players in WAR -- Wins Above Replacement. And then he compared those numbers to Keith's ballot.
Rank 58: Barry Larkin, 68.8 WAR. Keith's vote: No.
As you can see, Olbermann's ballot is almost in direct opposition to what WAR would tell you makes a great player. That doesn't mean WAR is right and Keith's wrong or vice versa. I obviously have my own opinion, but the point is that Hall of Fame voting sparks remarkably different points of view.
Morris sparks emotions in many different kinds of voters, while Dennis Martinez does not. Over a career, I would say that Martinez was about as good as Jack Morris. But that's not really what the Hall of Fame is about. Or, anyway, it's not what Hall of Fame VOTING is about.
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