Making the Hall call is never easy (cont.)
Was Andre Dawson better than Dave Parker? It's an interesting question, since they are both on the ballot. I think Dawson probably WAS better. But look at them a little more closely.
Dawson: .279/.323/.482 119 OPS+
Advantages for Dawson: He played about one more full season -- scored about 100 more runs, hit 100 more homers, knocked in 100 more runs. He played six years in center field, and he won eight Gold Gloves to Parker's three, stole twice as many bases while getting caught less, and was one of the classiest players of his era.
Advantages for Parker: Two-time batting champ, he had a better peak, got on base about as many times in a shorter career while making 500 fewer outs, was a star player on a World Series champ, and had a 147 OPS+ over his five-year peak, while Dawson only once had that high an OPS+ for a single season. Parker had three 30-plus Win Shares seasons plus a 29. Dawson never had a 30-win share season -- he peaked at 29.
Truth is that even though Parker basically threw away four or five years of his mid-career -- drugs, mid-career malaise, got out of shape, whatever -- it's still hard for Dawson to separate himself from Parker. You may think that Dawson is better -- you may even KNOW that Dawson is better -- but Bill James in the New Historical Abstract ranked Parker ahead of Dawson, and Bill studies this stuff pretty hard.
I think Raines was the best player on this year's ballot. A couple of weeks ago I drew a few angry emails when I tried to show that, by the numbers, Raines was comparable to Roberto Clemente. This was simply outrageous to many people who saw Clemente play and remember him as one of the most complete talents in baseball history. They were not happy with the comparison -- it seemed almost sacrilegious.
Well, hey, I think Clemente WAS one of the most complete talents in baseball history. And he had a cultural effect on baseball that makes him one of the most important players, too. But my point was not to disrespect the Great Clemente but to make the simple point: Tim Raines was REALLY good.
Perhaps a comparison with Tony Gwynn would be even more apt. Here you have two corner outfielders from the same era. They played about the same number of games and got about the same number of plate appearances. Neither hit with great power -- Raines as a leadoff hitter actually hit more triples and home runs, Gwynn because of his average and doubles had a better slugging percentage.
Gwynn hit .338 for his career and won eight batting titles. Raines hit .294 for his career and won one batting title.
Gwynn won five Gold Gloves and played in 15 All-Star Games. Raines never won a Gold Glove and never had the reputation as a great outfielder. He played in seven All-Star Games.
So it's Gwynn all the way, right? Well, maybe not. Yes, Gwynn hit 44 points higher than Raines, but their on-base percentages are almost identical (Gwynn at .388, Raines at .385). Yes, Gwynn won all those batting titles, but Raines led the league in times on base three times, Gwynn only once. Yes, Gwynn drove in a few more runs with his sizable advantage in hits, but Raines scored almost 200 more runs in his career and scored 100 or more in six seasons (Gwynn scored 100-plus in two seasons). Yes, Gwynn had a defensive advantage, but Raines stole about 500 more bases and might be the best pure base stealer in baseball history.
They created exactly the same number of runs in their careers (1,636).
They had about the same number of Win Shares (Gwynn had 398, Raines 390).
By my count, Raines was the best player in baseball from 1983 through '87 and was in the discussion for best player throughout the 1980s. Gwynn was in the discussion as well, but in their primes, I think Raines was more valuable.
The point is not to diminish Gwynn -- who got about 98% of the Hall of Fame vote his year on the ballot and deserved to get 98% of the vote. The point is to get people to reconsider just how good Tim Raines really was.
He led the league in starts twice and won 19 games one year. He was generally a good strikeout pitcher with outstanding control.
Solid player who played almost 1,500 games and hit for average (hit .300 five times) and some power (twice slugged .500). He is the son of Diego Segui, a nice man who played in the big leagues and has -- no exaggeration -- the firmest handshake I have ever felt.
David Segui is one of the few players who has admitted to using steroids and has been fairly open in talking about it. I talked above about McGwire and I wonder if at some point, as part of his reentry into baseball, he will speak honestly about his career. Many people think he will. I'm not sure. It's a hard thing to do.
It's hard to know what to do with closers. People seem reluctant to put in a remarkable hitter like Edgar Martinez because he was a DH -- well, closers are much more specialized than designated hitters. Smith led the league in saves four times and he finished with 478 saves, which was the record at his retirement. He had a fabulous career. But as a specialist, he falls just short of the line for me -- he gave up his share of base runners, had a 71-92 won-loss record and bounced around quite a lot.
See comment on Barry Larkin. There have been so few complete players in baseball history. Trammell was a complete player.
In fact, Trammell at his best -- I'd say 1983-1988 or so -- was about as good as Cal Ripken at his best. He was not superhuman like Ripken, though, and missed a lot of games because of injuries. That hurt his numbers. I still think Trammell should have won the MVP in 1987, and I wonder if losing that MVP in some way hurt the perception some people have of him as a great player.
He was a very good defensive third baseman -- six Gold Gloves -- and he hit 20-plus homers nine times. The Hall of Fame could use more third basemen. Ken Boyer and Ron Santo have great cases, Dick Allen and Graig Nettles have cases, too. Ventura is probably just a cut below those guys, but he certainly was a good and underrated player.
Started out as a catcher and he actually pitched in two games -- one scoreless inning for Colorado and one disastrous five-run inning for the Mets. He was a solid player who hit double-digit home runs every year from 1993 through 2003 and who drove in between 90 and 99 runs four straight years in the late 1990s. He was also white hot in the 1996 ALCS against the Yankees -- he might have been MVP of the series if the Orioles had won.
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