Breaking down Hall of Fame ballot (cont.)
Tim Raines: He cracked 30 percent in his third try and should continue to ascend. Raines is underrated as one of the most dynamic offensive players of his era. From 1981 through 1993, Raines averaged .299/.388/.430 with an OPS+ of 129 and 93 runs and 57 steals -- while stealing those bases nearly at will with an 85 percent success rate.
Over those 13 seasons, only Rickey Henderson scored more runs and stole more bases and only Wade Boggs and Henderson reached base more times. In the company of such Hall of Famers, that gives Raines a dominant, extended peak to go along with robust career numbers.
Raines reached base more times in his career than Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock and Alomar. And this may best define his value as an elite table-setter: Only seven players in baseball history scored more runs than Raines without hitting 200 homers. All of them are in the Hall of Fame except the ineligible Pete Rose (Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Charlie Gehringer, Paul Waner and Brock).
Fred McGriff: He received only 21.5 percent last year in his first time on the ballot, and lacks drum-beating campaigners, which typifies his understated career.
McGriff never hit 40 home runs, but he hit at least 20 home runs more times than any first baseman, played the position more than all but two first basemen, posted more 30 homer seasons and better on-base and slugging percentages than Eddie Murray and put up a .917 OPS and .303 average in 50 career postseason games.
McGriff has impressive peak and career numbers, and he also defined the prototypical cleanup hitter for a long time. The Braves, for instance, even with their great pitching, don't make the 1993 playoffs without swinging the blockbuster July trade for him and don't win the 1995 world championship without him. McGriff batted fourth in 77 percent of his career starts.
Jeff Bagwell: He should eventually get in, but his first-year support will be interesting to watch. Bagwell's numbers look worthy of Cooperstown, but he has been tied to steroid speculation enough that he "defended" himself in an ESPN.com interview last month. His defense? "I have no problem" with a guy juicing up, he said. To take such a position today is wildly irresponsible. It also invites the very talk that Bagwell claimed to be "sick and tired of."
Bagwell was an admitted Andro user who hired a competitive bodybuilder to make him as big as he could be, who claimed, McGwire-like, that Andro "doesn't help you hit home runs," who went from a prospect with "no pop" to massively changing his body and outhomering all but six big leaguers in the 13 seasons before steroid penalties (Ken Griffey Jr. and five connected to steroids: Bonds, Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Juan Gonzalez), and who condones the use of steroids -- but said, "I never used."
Larry Walker: He was a terrific all-around player with numbers that compare to those of Snider -- who needed 11 ballots to get into the Hall of Fame. And like Snider, Walker might debut around 20 percent. He has two huge obstacles to overcome: 1) his numbers were inflated at Coors Field and, 2) while his rate numbers were terrific, he never had extended stretches of reliability and volume because of injuries.
Walker played 30 percent of his career games in Denver. He hit 98 points higher in Denver (.380) than elsewhere (.282) while hitting home runs 49 percent more frequently at altitude.
He played 17 seasons, but only once played 145 games, and only twice ranked among the top five hitters in his league in totals bases. (Snider ranked in the top five seven times.) Here are Walker's yo-yo RBI totals through his prime, starting with age 27: 86, 101, 58, 130, 67, 115, 51, 123, 104, 79.
Edgar Martinez: He was a fabulous hitter with one of the purest righthanded strokes of his time. (Go ahead, make a list of the prettiest swings you've seen. I bet almost all of them are lefthanded, i.e. Ted Williams, Griffey, Palmeiro, John Olerud, Ichiro Suzuki. Righthanders lack style points.)
But Martinez had no value for half of the game of baseball (the defensive half) and didn't attend to the hitting half nearly enough to compensate for his job as a specialist. (Please stop calling DH a "position." It's no similar to a position than punter is to quarterback in the NFL.) He was Walker without Walker's defense and baserunning: a guy who had good rate stats but not with elite volume. Martinez had only eight seasons in which he played 140 games with an OPS+ of 120 or better, the same as Greg Luzinski, Bobby Bonds, Ken Singleton, Dwight Evans, Norm Cash and Frank Howard.
Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Kevin Brown. See Dawson, Andre, under the topic "choosing your legacy."
Dave Parker: This is his 15th and final year on the ballot. The former outfielder never has received more than 24.5 percent of the vote. At age 29, after six huge seasons, Parker appeared to be on a Hall of Fame track, but injuries, weight problems and cocaine use derailed him as he became just another player. He hit .273 over his next 11 seasons with a 109 OPS+ and was thrown out stealing more times than the few times he actually did steal a bag.
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