Wednesday’s Cooperstown results today

Yup, it’s that time of the year again. On Wednesday, January 5, 2011, Cooperstown will announce the results of this year’s annual BBWAA voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame. And then we’ll know who goes in and who stays out.

But why wait until then to find out?

As veteran readers know, every year I do an annual column predicting what the BBWAA vote will be. I don’t just say who will go in or not—I give estimated vote percentages for every returnee on the ballot and all newbies I think will be five percent. I’ve had good fortune in my previous editions: in each of the three columns I’ve done so far, I’ve had a smaller margin of error than the voter tally conducted by Repoz over at the Baseball Think Factory. (He collects the ballot results from every BBWAA voter he can find. Last year he got over one-fifth the entire electorate.)

While my margins of error have been good, last year I had my first major mistake. For the first time, I swung and missed at the big question: will someone go into Cooperstown or not? I said Roberto Alomar would go in, but the BBWAA disagreed. In my defense, it was really close: Alomar got 74 percent of the vote. Still, it was a miss.

This year I feel very confident I’ll get the in/out question right. The tricky part is nailing the percentages. To do that, I have my typical 10 guidelines I follow. I described them in much greater detail the first time I ever wrote this column, and rather than rewrite it all, I’ll just briefly note what the rules are, and then how they apply to current candidates. If you want, you can go back and read the original for the research/rationale behind my guidelines.

All right, here are the guidelines, most of which apply to returnees, as we’ll see:

Guideline No. 1: Consistency

Unless you have a good reason to think otherwise, assume a candidate will finish around where he did last year. Makes sense.

Guideline No. 2: Strength of ballot

When the overall strength of the ballot goes up, backloggers have their votes go down. When the ballot’s strength goes down, backloggers go up. The main factors changing ballot strength are, predictably, the first-year candidates.

An average crop of first-year candidates gains 1.6 votes per BBWAA writer. I don’t think that this year’s crop of first-timers—Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Kevin Brown, Larry Walker, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, and some lesser lights—are going to average 1.6 names per ballot. They probably would if it wasn’t for steroids and Palmeiro’s positive test, but if/shmiff. It happened. Bagwell is the only really strong candidate.

Then again, you don’t need 1.6 newbies appearing per ballot to make the field crowded. Last year, only one player, Andre Dawson, won election, and none fell off because their 15-election time limit was up. Dawson got 78 percent of the vote, so if the newbies get around there, the overall strength of the ballot is the same.

I’m not sure if the newbies will get that many votes, but they might. Either way, this looks like a year when some backloggers will go up, but not an across-the-board rising tide.

That said, last year had one of the fewest names/ballot of any BBWAA election ever (more on this later), so you could technically see all backloggers rise even if the newbies replace Dawson’s vote.

Guideline No. 3: Comparable candidates

Not all backloggers go up and down the same. If a bunch of comparable candidates hit the ballot at the same time, it can hurt. Call it the Tiant-Lolich rule. They were doing well for themselves in the midst of the BBWAA backlog through 1988. Then, in 1989, Gaylord Perry showed up on the ballot. And Fergie Jenkins. And Jim Kaat. Tiant and Lolich had their votes absolutely crater.

This year, the main new candidates are sluggers from offense-first positions: first baseman Jeff Bagwell and first baseman/designated hitter Rafael Palmeiro. That’s a mark against the most similar backloggers: Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, and Mark McGwire.

Guideline No. 4: The “over the top!” surge

The players most likely to pick up new voters are the ones with the most votes. I looked at this in depth in a column in September 2008, and the key point is 50 percent. The BBWAA vote works by consensus and once a majority of voters supports a guy, the logs start rolling in his direction.

Guys with a vote percentage in the 50s typically receive a boost of five percent in their votes. Those in the 60s get a six percent pick-me-up, and those between 70 and 74.9 percent get an eight percent boost on average. In fact, in the last half-century there’s only been one occasion a player got over 70 percent of the vote and failed to win enshrinement the following year. That was Jim Bunning, who won 74 percent of the vote in 1988. Then, in 1989, he got buried with Tiant and Lolich by the Perry-Jenkins-Kaat landslide.

There’s no similar landslide, but there are four players who broke 50 percent last year. Jack Morris, in his 11th year on the ballot, finally broke 50 percent, as did 2010 newbie Barry Larkin. Both should go up.

More importantly, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven both broke 70 percent. The odds on both making it are now overwhelmingly strong. To deny either would fly in the face of all precedent.

image
The wait should be over for sabermetric darling Blyleven this week.

One final note: getting over 50 percent is an insanely good indicator that a player will get in eventually. Even if the BBWAA takes a pass on him, the VC (when it’s not voting in old friends and pals) ordinarily votes in the highest ranking guys the BBWAA passed on. In fact, aside from players currently on the ballot, the following is a complete list of those who ever got half the BBWAA vote—even just once—and haven’t since been enshrined in Cooperstown:

Gil Hodges.

That’s it. All the others went in. Upshot: not only are Alomar and Blyleven great bets to go in this year, but Larkin and Morris have history on their side in the long run.

Guideline No. 5: Primordial conversations

The BBWAA vote is often predictable because there’s enough of a history built up to help guide voters. Example: if you look at the New Bill James Historical Abstract, you’ll see that the 11 men he ranks as the best second basemen of all-time include: 1) the only nine second basemen the BBWAA ever voted in, 2) Alomar, who should go in this year, and 3) Craig Biggio, who isn’t yet eligible. This precedent for what is/is not a HoF second baseman is propelling Alomar in.

If it wasn’t for steroids, I’d put Palmeiro at 85 percent, which is right where Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, and Eddie Murray were.

image
Palmeiro should be on the outside looking in for the foreseeable future.

That said, some areas have shakier precedent. The Hall is still figuring its way out on relievers and steroid-ers. For 2011, relievers mainly means Lee Smith. He’s stuck in the mud. The all-time save leader used to propel his candidacy, but he no longer has it.

With steroids, the only candidate to date has been Mark McGwire, who has had some extremely similar vote totals over the years: 23 percent, 24 percent, 22 percent, 24 percent. That, folks, is a trend.

This year is different. Now McGwire’s publicly acknowledged using steroids. Also, the positive-testing Palmeiro appears. My hunch is that McGwire’s total will go down, but he’ll still be above Palmeiro.

Finally, some talk has surrounded Jeff Bagwell as a steroid taker. He’s never been named as one, never tested positive, and there’s no solid evidence or even evasive statements before Congress linking him to steroids. But he might be dinged by the power of gossip and innuendo.

Guideline No. 6: Last year on the ballot

These guys receive a bump, averaging three percent. Dave Parker is the only one in his last election.

image
One last time for Parker to face the BBWAA.

Guideline No. 7: Candidates per ballot

Until the late 1980s, the BBWAA never had fewer than seven names per ballot. Since then, they’ve never had that many. Last year, 5.67 names appeared per ballot, the seventh-lowest ever (but only the fifth-lowest since 2000).

The returning backlog accounts for 4.89 names/ballot. Technically, then, there’s room galore for newbies to appear without hurting the backlog. In reality, it doesn’t work that way. Many voters don’t like putting too many names on it.

Nowadays, the BBWAA rarely averages over six names per ballot unless there’s something especially strong. The 2007 election, when Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken made their debuts, was the only one of the last five to average over six candidates/ballot.

I can’t imagine this year averages more than six names per ballot.

Guideline No. 8: Repoz’s BBWAA tallying

Almost all the above rules apply to gauging how backloggers will do. For newbies, the best resource is Repoz’s vote tallying mentioned at the outset. I can also rely on my own estimations, but it’s nice to have some solid data.

Repoz’s tally isn’t perfect. For example, last year his sample had Alomar getting 87 percent of the vote. He got 73 percent. That said, you can put one eye on Repoz’s method and one eye on your own sense to get a hazy idea how the newbies will do.

One difficulty for me: when I write this article, he doesn’t have his tally anywhere near complete, so it’s a little extra-shaky for me. He’s got 83 ballots in as I submit this article, about two-thirds of last year’s full tally. As it stands, Bagwell sits at 39 percent, Larry Walker 16 percent, Palmeiro is just under 10 percent, Brown and Juan Gone both at 3.6 percent, and Johns Franco and Olerud each have one vote.

image
He has my vote. Damn shame for him it’s a non-existent vote.

Guideline No. 9: Beware five percent

If you go under five percent, you fall off the ballot. People who spend a lot of time down there are great bets to fall off eventually. Right now, Harold Baines is the only one way down there, but I’d expect him to survive until the next great deluge of candidates arrive in 2013.

Guideline No. 10: Guidelines ain’t rules

I call them guidelines for a reason: none are hard’n’fast and fixed. It’s the interplay of the guidelines that determine the election.

PREDICTION TIME

I’m extremely confident I got the in/out calls right for this election. Getting the order right is very tricky, let alone the percentages each candidate will get.

No sense beating around the bush; here’s what I think the BBWAA will do (which is not the same thing as ought to do, please note) later this week. For perspective, I’ll include the 2009 results:

Player	      2011    2010
Robert Alomar	87	74
Bert Blyleven	80	74
Barry Larkin	61	52
Jack Morris	59	52
Lee Smith	45	47
Tim Raines	36	30
Jeff Bagwell	35	XX
Edgar Martinez	32	36
Alan Trammell	26	22
Fred McGriff	20	22
Dave Parker	18	15
Don Mattingly	16	16
Mark McGwire	15	24
Larry Walker	14	XX
Dale Murphy	13	12
Rafael Palmeiro	10	XX
Harold Baines	 6	 6
Kevin Brown	 5	XX
Others, combined 7	XX

That’s 5.85 names per ballot, which sounds about right. It might be a little high.

Alomar and Blyleven are going in. All precedent points in their direction.

For Alomar, the question isn’t will he go in, but will he set a record in doing so. Many players have topped 90 percent, but they’ve all been first-year guys. The highest vote total for a return candidate was Joe DiMaggio, who received 88.8 percent in 1955. Alomar isn’t likely to top that though.

Actually, DiMaggio’s record non-newbie vote total is entirely a product of era. When he was a candidate, you became eligible after one full year retired, despite the fact that many writers clearly wanted to wait longer than one year to vote on a guy. It wasn’t until right after DiMaggio got elected (still only four years after his retirement, before he’d even be eligible now) that the five-year wait and six-year voting period began. Thus there were no first-years elected at all in the 1940s or 1950s, but two in 1962 alone (Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson).

In the modern era of BBWAA voting (since 1962), the best showing by Robin Roberts, who received 86.9 percent of the vote in 1976. Alomar could top that. It helps that he’s starting so very close to 75 percent going in.

image
The question isn’t will Alomar go in, but by how much.

In many ways the key for this election is what happens to Barry Larkin and Jack Morris. Whoever ends up on top will lead Hall of Fame discussion next year, in which a very weak crop of newbies emerges. That person will also be in the best position to enter Cooperstown in 2012. That’s really key because in 2013 and then again in 2014 an unprecedented deluge of strong candidates arrives. It will be a long, long time until any of the current backloggers gets in once that happens. Next year is Morris’ only chance for BBWAA election.

Bagwell’s the best candidate of the new crowd, but he has no chance to go in this year. Forget steroid gossip. It’s just hard to go in the first year period. It’s the nature of the process: over 500 people tallying their ballots individually and then mailing them in. The guys who make it in their first year need a special hook. It could be a big, glossy number: 3,000 hits, 300 wins, 500 homers. It could be a special distinction: best defensive shortstop ever, the ultimate closer, but they need some special hook to separate them from the “average” great candidate. You need something so that you could look at the guy for three seconds and decide he belongs.

Bagwell lacks that hook. He’s the modern-day Johnny Mize: he could hit, slug, and draw walks, but he missed all the magic markers, and his career was too short. Bagwell’s numbers were better because there was no WWII, and so he’ll do better than Mize (who got into Cooperstown via the VC), but he lacks that hook.

Bagwell’s candidacy reminds me a bit of Ryne Sandberg and Barry Larkin. They’re not similar players, but both were clear Hall of Famers who got nowhere near 75 percent in their first go-around. Instead, they each finished at around 50 percent. If it wasn’t for steroids, I’d put the over/under for Bagwell this year at 50 percent. Maybe a little higher, but around there. Toss in evidence-free steroid suspicion, and I have to mark him down a bit.

The good news for Bagwell fans: only twice has anyone debuted as well as I’m predicting for Bagwell and not subsequently made it into Cooperstown. One was Lee Smith, who is not only still on the ballot, but as a reliever the BBWAA doesn’t know as much how to handle him. The other is Steve Garvey. They are the only ones to debut higher than 31 percent of the vote and not get in. (Next highest is Luis Tiant at 30.9 percent, then Maury Wills at 30.3 percent, and both of them could be eventual VC picks.)

Check back in two days to see how far off the mark I am.

References & Resources
The results to previous Cooperstown elections are at the Hall of Fame’s website. I put them in Excel a few years ago, and have just updated it every year since then.

Plus Repoz’s annual tally at BTF is a great help. Plus a lot of fun to follow.

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Comments

  1. Travis Bickle said...

    You can lift weights 8 hrs a day and never have the size arms Bagwell developed. There is only one answer. Vote NO.

  2. Bobbythegreat said...

    You can lift weights 8 hrs a day and never have the size arms Bagwell developed. There is only one answer. Vote NO.

    ======================================

    What a great way to “prove” PED use, just look at people’s arms. In that case you must really think that Albert Pujols is a steroid user as well because he has bigger arms than even Bagwell. Come with a stronger and more compelling case than that or just keep your mouth shut.

  3. Ross Hansen said...

    Actually, I do think Pujols uses something…Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard too.  The bottom line is when you see people doing things no one has ever done before their are two choices…they are cheating or God gifted them more than anyone else who ever played the game.

    Look at Bagwell as a young man…then 10 years later…then tell me he didn’t use and try to keep a straight face while you do it.  Ramierez and Big Papi are both in the same boat.  One more thing…have you noticed that Big Papi and Mark Texiera both are slow starters every year…then they get their first random test…then they seem to explode for the remainder of the year.  Coincidence?  Maybe…I surely do not know…but I ain’t stupid either smile

    BTW…Real class move telling someone to keep their mouth shut.  I’m pretty sure this is America and while you might disagree with someone…telling them to shut up because you have a differing idea is inappropriate.

    Should I shut up too? smile

  4. Largebill said...

    Travis,

        Have you done any lifting or push ups? Arm muscles are not that hard to build up.  If anything, I’d say most people’s arms are underdeveloped.  Bagwell’s arms were big, but not ridiculously, circus character big.

  5. bobbythegreat said...

    My point was that making allegations with no factual basis is not fair or appropriate, if someone has any real proof of wrongdoing then fine. “He developed muscles” is not proof of steroid use, neither is “he was awesome”. I never have a problem with any legitimate argument, especially if it disagrees with my thinking on a subject, but it has to be legitimate

  6. Graham said...

    Reading this article, I was a little saddened that Chris felt the need to dock Bagwell 15% solely on the basis of completely unfounded steroid-use speculation.  I wondered: “Could it really be true that purely speculative, factually unfounded recklessness could account for such a dramatic drop-off?”

    Apparently, yes.  Bobby and Taxi Driver, I’m grateful to you for exposing this subcurrent in such a dramatic way, if for nothing else. 

    And particularly in response to Bobby—this appeal to “America, the land where you can say anything” is getting extremely tired.  Freedom of Speech may entitle you to say something, but it doesn’t entitle you to the respect of your peers.  If you’re making an argument from a misguided and uninformed perspective, then it’s perfectly reasonable for others to discount your opinion as less-qualified than theirs.  Indeed, “America” itself is based on the presumption of EDUCATED opinions—that’s how the whole concept of democracy is supposed to work. 

    And it’s also based, at least judicially, on the concept that its citizens are innocent until proven guilty.  No tests have proven Bagwell a steroid user.  No credible reports have even mentioned his name as a possible user.  Circumstantial evidence and guilt-by-association is the sum total of the case against him to this point, and until something reliable comes along, I fail to see why he should be barred from fair consideration by the BBWAA.

  7. Graham said...

    Bobby—my sincerest apologies!  I attributed the regrettable comments of @Ross Hansen to you by mistake.  Got a little carried away, I’m afraid!

  8. Chris J. said...

    Graham,

    Repoz’s tally tracker is usually high on McGwire and had Bagwell around 40%, so I put him at 35%.  He’s one guy I could be way off on.

  9. matt w said...

    “Should I shut up too?”

    Yes. You *can* say whatever you want, but you *shouldn’t* fling around evidence-free accusations.

  10. schmenkman said...

    Chris, great write up, very thorough.

    Ross, I suspect you’re not being serious, but if you are, please let us know what you think Ichiro is using.

  11. JayT said...

    @Travis Bickle: look up pictures of Jack LaLanne from back in the 1940’s and you will see that you can get that ripped without steroids.

  12. Devon & His 1982 Topps blog said...

    I really hope you’re wrong about Bagwell & 35%-ish. Although, if Blyleven gets in and Bagwell doesn’t—I fully expect all the sabremetric writers to start digging up Bagwell stats for the next year (hopefully not longer than THAT).

  13. Devon & His 1982 Topps blog said...

    Travis… I’ve known people with bigger muscles than Jeff Bagwell who couldn’t even afford steroids ‘cause they were spending too much on alcohol.

    Ross… a person can get a lot of muscle growth in a ten year span, so there’s no steroids CORRELATION between two photos ten seasons apart.

  14. Rico Foy said...

    I’m in the anti-Bagwell camp and will be until someone can answer this question. Name one other player with as little power as Bagwell had in the minors (500+ at bats) and then went on to become a MLB slugger like he did (200+ homers). Just one player. You can’t do it because there isn’t another one.
    That plus the fact that he understands why “other” players would use steroids and HGH, tells me all I need to know.

  15. John C said...

    The Travis and Ross emotional argument is ridiculous and tiring as is comparing pictures of a late teenager’s body to his body in his middle 30’s; adding physical bulk during this period is normal. My forearms are as big as Bagwell’s in his prime—big whoop—I still couldn’t hit an MLB pitcher.

    Personally, I’d like to see some research that shows strong, direct correlation between steroid use and enhanced baseball performance. My guess is the benefits are secondary and manifested through an improved mental approach—something like a placebo effect.

    If the concern is to eliminate players who gain an edge from something other than hard work, maybe the focus should turn to various performance enhancing surgeries such as laser eye surgery, Tommy John surgery or rotator-cuff tightening similar to what Curt Schilling had performed in the 90’s. Schilling even credited the surgery with a 3 or so mph increase in FB velocity.

    Almost all pitchers are expected to receive Tommy John surgery and many even have a preemptive type of TJ surgery where the new tendon is grafted over the existing tendon. Mariano Rivera received this type of surgery.

    To change the topic slightly, does anybody have any idea why Robin Roberts is in the HoF? His numbers are decent, but definitely not great. Actually, except for career length, Andy Pettitte’s numbers are very similar.

  16. Pat D said...

    @Ross:

    So not only do you thing Teix takes PED’s, but you also know when players get their random tests?

    Wow, what other awesome inside info can you share with us?  Like do you already know the actual results of Wednesday’s voting?

  17. schmenkman said...

    Agreed on Bagwell.  I for one would be more suspicious if he claimed to not understand why anyone would use PEDs.

    Regarding Robin Roberts, in addition to 286 wins, he had a very high peak. From 1950 to 1955, these were his MVP (not CY) finishes: 7th, 13th, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 5th.

    His WAR in those years: 7.0, 6.9, 7.9, 9.6, 8.8, 4.1.  Petitte’s been over 6.0 only once.

    Robert’s 6-year WAR in 1950-55: 44.3
    Koufax’s 6-year WAR in 1961-66: 47.6

  18. JamesDaBear said...

    I’m not accusing Bagwell of anything. I just want more time to make sure. On numbers alone, Palmeiro and Bagwell get in without looking at their names or bodies or whatever.

    Neither of these guys spoke out during their career. Nobody in the 90s did enough to convince that generation or this generation that taking steroids was wrong. Their unions fought against testing and used it as a bargaining chip. In returns for making 100s of millions of dollars, their credibility is nil. They all stink for what they let Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, etc. get away with.

    In fact, they’ve had 5 years now to build up their image in this regard and still haven’t. Palmeiro has tried to save his own ass with cheap denials, while Bagwell has said absolutely nothing. To me, both don’t look good.

    I’m not going to be disappointed if or when either get in, but I’m ok with taking the time to be sure.

  19. Geoff Young said...

    @Rico: Try Rogers Hornsby.

    Hornsby: 857 AB, 8 HR in minors; 8173 AB, 301 HR in majors
    Bagwell: 731 AB, 6 HR in minors; 7797 AB, 449 HR in majors

  20. Jeremy said...

    @Ross

    So, you’re able to infer the *cause* of a player’s improvement from the *magnitude* of that improvement? Why can’t Bagwell simply have improved by, say, lifting weights?

    Does your “big improvement=started juicing” principle work in reverse? That is, does “big decline=stopped juicing”? After all, if minor league performance is such a precise predictor of major league performance that any big improvement indicates juicing, then presumably players who rake in the minors but fail in the majors must’ve stopped juicing?

    Also, precisely how big an improvement over one’s minor league performance proves juicing? Rickey Henderson his 0.011 HR/PA before being called up, but in the majors hit 0.022 HR/PA—twice his minor league rate. That’s a pretty dramatic improvement. Does that mean he started juicing?

    Presumably, you think other unusually large improvements over previous performance also indicate juicing. So the fact that Hank Aaron had his best 5-year period of HR hitting from ages 35-39 shows that he started juicing? It’s *very* unusual for a player to have his best 5-year period at that age, probably more unusual than for a player to dramatically improve on his minor league performance. So presumably you think Hammerin’ Hank was juicing?

    Well, at least one thing your “big improvement=started juicing” principle has going for it is that it correctly identifies known juicers. ARod hit 0.050 HR/PA in the minors (719 PA) and jumped all the way up to…0.060 in the majors. Oh, wait…

    Maybe it would be better to just admit that outstanding players like Bagwell are (by definition!) unusual.

  21. Mike E said...

    You’re right, if you lifted eight hours a day you’d ruin all your muscle and end up looking like a heroin addict.

  22. Paul Rudolph said...

    Rico: as you know, Bagwell was in the minrors for 1.5 years.  When Bagwell was 21, he hit 2 homers in 240 at bats in single A. When Bagwell was 22, he hit 4 homers in AA in 481 plate appearances. I am guessing Bagwell’s total extra base hits went from 17 to 45 during that time. At 23, Bagwell was in the majors

    I was curious about Edgar Martinez (at random).  When Edgar was 22, Edgar had 3 HR in 357 at bats in AA and AAA. At 23, Edgar had 6 HR in 451 AB in AA. 

    Edgar Martinez exceeds your “MLB slugger” definition with over 300 HR.  I guess you can differentiate between Edgar’s 9 in 2 seasons vs. Bagwell’s 6 in 1.5 seasons, but I think Edgar is close enough.

  23. Pat D said...

    @JamesDaBear:

    Bagwell gave a bunch of comments to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick last week.  I don’t the link, but I’m sure it’s still there to be found.  It’s…interesting.  Because he denies using, but praises guys like Bonds, McGwire and Pettitte.

  24. JamesDaBear said...

    Thanks, Pat… I’ll look for it… but it’s 5 years too late, and then another 15 years too late. I’m an “inclusionist”, and I’m saying I really don’t want Bagwell to get in for at least 5 more years. If nobody has dug up anything by then, then I won’t care. I say the same about Edgar Martinez, and he doesn’t have a stauncher supporter. It’s less about concern that they took them, than having any sympathy for players who did very little to decry their use and make their millions with either their heads in the sand or hiding knowledge of PED use in the game while cashing inflated paychecks.

    I’m less concerned with the question of whether they took them (I assume everyone took something legal or illegal)… than whether they knew others had taken something illegal and said nothing. Given the current climate, both to me are unforgivable.

  25. Rico Foy said...

    Edgar did hit 15 HRs in A ball at the age of 21. He certainly has a very interesting career arc as well when you consider he accumulated the majority of his stats after the age of 32.
    I guess Hornsby fits although his minor league career was in the dead ball era.
    In any case, I think Bagwell would have been better served by issuing a strong rebuke to steroid use rather than condoning it.

  26. Jeremy said...

    @Rico

    “Edgar…certainly has a very interesting career arc as well when you consider he accumulated the majority of his stats after the age of 32.”

    By parity of argument, you really *do* think Hank Aaron was a ‘roider, don’t you?

  27. Geoff Young said...

    @Rico:

    “I guess Hornsby fits although his minor league career was in the dead ball era.”

    From 1915 Western Association:

    Rogers Hornsby: 429 AB, 4 HR
    Otto Besse: 430 AB, 34 HR
    Pete Kilduff: 485 AB, 17 HR

    Besse never played in the majors, but Kilduff did, hitting 4 HR in 1384 AB. Some guys develop power later than others.

  28. Jeremy said...

    @Geoff

    Clearly Besse and Kilduff later stopped juicing, to the detriment of their careers. That’s to their credit, but it would’ve been better if they’d spoken up, and called out that cheater Hornsby when he started using.

    /snark

  29. JamesDaBear said...

    @ Paul

    Don’t bring up Edgar in this manner. Edgar had one “spike” season and it was a whopping 37. It was the only time in his career he cracked 30.

    He was a different kind of hitter. He had an upward curve in his power, including his first few full years in the majors, that got to a point and stayed there.

    The two years you picked were two down years for him. You conveniently left out that the year before he hit 15 homers in A ball and the year after he hit 10 in less games. It wasn’t until then that he started piling up impressive numbers while the Mariners famously held him back.

  30. brianS said...

    @Rico

    Kirby Puckett: 13 HR in 989 Minor League PA (compared to Bagwell’s 6 in 831, not counting his two rehab assignments in ‘95 and ‘05).

    Puckett hit zero his rookie year, 4 his second year, and a career-high 31 in his third (and 207 for his glaucoma-truncated career). ‘Roider???

  31. jabalong said...

    Thanks Chris, this has got to be the most interesting and well articulated dissection of the nuts and bolts of baseball’s Hall of Fame ballot of anything I’ve read over the years!

  32. Steve Treder said...

    Bob Allison:

    Minors 28 HR, 1710 AB
    Majors 256 HR, 5032 AB

    Ralph Kiner:

    Minors 27 HR, 1136 AB
    Majors 369 HR, 5205 AB

  33. Kent said...

    PEDs?  Come on folks!  Prove to me what PEDs do and how they affect baseball players and we’ll have a basis for our discussion.  Greenies kept guys in games for decades (!) and Cortisone PEDed Shilling to glory, but they weren’t really PEDs.  Then what?  These evil players came around and started to lift weights and took HGH—no proven affect for ballplayers btw—and they made all this money and were so arrogant and many were from Latin America and they challenged OUR record and…bah humbug…

    I love the implicit baseball-was-so-great-when-my team-played-in-the-1960s.  You know what?  Baseball’s better than ever and the professionalization of the players, their diet, their strength training, their focus, and yes their fear of being cut make the game more competitive than ever.  Are we really so immature that we (and we’re adults here) think a player in any professional sport is worth more to our team than a guy who’s hurt all the time and who doesn’t keep developing his body to stay in the game?  Seriously?  I don’t buy that baseball or any other sport or, hell, much of life, is so simple.

    This PED crap and pasting blame on every player who is (or recently was) good is ridiculous.  Even the anti-Bonds stuff has jumped the shark.  His case isn’t cut and dry either.  It’s not and you the reader know it…you want it to be cut and dry and wrapped up, but it isn’t that simple.

    Is the argument really that this guy and that guy did, but that this guy and that guy didn’t based on our eyes!?!?  That’s a slippery slope folks.  I love it what my friends claim to hate baseball, but then tell me how angry they are at Barry Bonds while professing manlove for a guy like Griffey Jr.  When—and I’ve had this argument a number of times—I ask how they “know” that Griffey Jr. didn’t take PEDs they have no answer.  Their answer is usually something like “he got hurt” or “because he didn’t.” 

    Get over yourselves.  PEDs aren’t magic pills. We’re baseball fans here, baseball nuts if you will.  Don’t we realize that the further professionalization of the game + a smaller strike zone + expansion (net zero overall for MLB, net plus for elite players) + some smaller parks + better fit players + tighter (allegedly) baseballs + a greater player pool + 365 training regimens + 365 trainers and cooks for players + decline in cigarette abuse + modern (legit) medical (e.g. Lasik, Tommy John, etc) + lighter bats + video technology for a training tool + kids playing younger + you get the idea are all factors in players number over the last X number of years.

    Give Bagwell a break.

  34. Paul E said...

    How old was Hornsby in 1915 in the Western Association? 18? He certainly benefited from the juiced baseball of the twenties that was employed in an effort to overcome the Black Sox scandal-as did Wheat, Fournier, and dozens of others.

    Bagwell went from 15/15 to 30/30 in the National League so his speed also picked up with his strength as he “matured”. His training regimen couldn’t overcome the shoulder injury and his 449 HR’s are dwarfed by Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Ramirez amongst others. But, he was a five-tool player

  35. dave said...

    You have to blame baseball 110%. They new about it and it was good for baseball. Everyone made money. Then it got out of hand. The players are to blame also but MLB new about it and allow it. YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER ITS ALL ABOUT PUTTING FANS IN THE SEATS. IT ALWAYS ABOUT MONEY AND WILL ALWAYS BE!

  36. petey said...

    I’m not sure if I’m adding to the conversation, but let me say that 1) weightlifting can certainly enhance physique and make you hit a ball a little bit harder and a little bit farther. 2) steroid use will not accomplish any of that. 3) steroid use will allow a ballplayer to come back just as strong – day after day after day, even after working out. It enhances your recuperative powers. You won’t be as tired and will feel just as fresh/strong as ever. That’s the edge that steroids provides. Those other pills that were recently banned, did pretty much the same thing, but to a much lesser degree. The toll on the body by playing a 162 game season is rather severe. Throw in the odd “yip” and even if you’re playing 7,8,9 or more days in a row, you’re not going to be feeling as strong.

    You’ll notice lots of manager comments about giving players a day off nowadays; in the steroid era, not so much.

  37. lisa gray said...

    we all know that anyone who lifts weights has to have used steroids because no male is capable of adding muscle by lifting weights unless he uses steroids.

    right – even guys in their 40s and 50s can put on a lot of muscle in their arms and shoulders just by doing pushups and pullups.

    what is ridiculous is that almost NO baseball player weighs the exact same at age 40 as he did at age 21 and even non-athletes usually put on more muscle mass after age 21.

    i can’t understand why it is that so many players in the steroid age (93-04) are declared to be steroid free – say, Robbie Alomar, who dropped off a cliff the year after steroid testing was instituted.

    shrug

    prejudice happens…

  38. JamesDaBear said...

    It’s less for me about what they’ve taken than how they took them and the way they handled it. I assume everyone took something, but some of them are legal and some of them aren’t… but it’s the liars that get me. Bonds should go to jail for the lies he told… to the people he told them to. The lies ruined the integrity of the game much more than anything they did or didn’t put in their body. McGwire and Bonds lied in ways that made this game much more expensive for fans. Their “sins” earned their “non-enshrinement”. I’m not saying that’s permanent, but I’m ok with it for now. The HOF is forever, so there’s nothing with letting some extra diligence be in order.

  39. ncexnyc said...

    Bagwell has indeed admited to using ANDRO, which is in fact listed as an anabolic steroid. He claims to have stopped using it after it was banned. Now you can say to yourself here’s a guy who got results from steroid use and then completely quit or you could say he moved on to something else.

    Given his comments about steroid users and the culture of steriod use on the Astros I’ll let you make you make the call.

  40. Kent said...

    Lisa:  Players in every sport (and literally millions of adults) take all kids of stuff to improve their performance or, better still, all kinds of stuff that keep them in games (hello anti-inflammatories and pain killers…but they’re “okay” not “illegal” not “what cheaters do”).  Much of it is placebo #### and much of the real #### isn’t even proven to affect a players hitting or pitching abilities (speaking of baseball).  That said, if you think that humans are so uniform that some can’t reach a peak later in life or improve their abilities past general age figures, you don’t know very much about strength training (or biology).  Laugh if you want, but I weighed 125 lbs in high school.  I couldn’t gain weight for years through strength training.  Around 30, I began to run and lift weights regularly.  At 40, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. And, no, I don’t take anything aside for an occasional Advil after long runs. 

    James:  What lies did Bonds tell that should land him in jail?  If you’re referring to the perjury charges before him, you may want to read a bit more into the case.  What’s more, you should wonder why seven years of a a federal investigation led to just a perjury charge; oh wait, it also led to 9th Circuit rulings against Novitsky for overstepping investigative boundaries.

    I understand the villain role is often attached to Bonds and—statement against self-interest here—following him and the Giants as a fan, I absolutely understand why he is not liked.  But disliking someone is one thing.  Blaming him for the aggregate “sins” of baseball is another.  (Oh so ironic that the chummy “writers” not voting on HOF candidates never seemed to uncover PEDs.) 

    I don’t think we’ll ever come to a rightful conclusion to these issues.  For me?  I’m with The Sporting News and in favor of voting in the players with the number that merit enshrinement.  One can * them later, like one should do for everyone pre-1947.  Hell, every era has its issues.  Higher mounds in the late 60s, steroids from the 70s on, greenies since WWII, segregation, gamblers the whole time, etc. 

    It’s a fantastic game, the best in my opinion, warts and all.

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