Episode 66: The Hall of Fame and Other Nonsense

Episode 66 is out for your listening enjoyment. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

Tom Glavin is nonplussed receiving his Hall of Fame phone call.

Tom Glavin is nonplussed receiving his Hall of Fame phone call.

We snuck in some hall of fame talk towards the end of the podcast, but for the most part we stayed away from the hall (Just like Jack Morris – ZING!). This week we feature Stuart Turner, the Twins 2013 3rd round draft pick, we talk about what Eddie Rosario‘s 50 game suspension and Miguel Sano‘s possible Tommy John surgery could mean for their development and Twins debuts and argue over whether the Twins should sign a couple of the free agents who are still out on the market, most notably Johan Santana and Stephen Drew.

We are also joined this week by special guest Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present (@grahamdude) to talk about the 50 best players not in the HOF.

Enjoy the podcast.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, probably.

The Hall of Fame Ballot Gets Crowded

It’s time. There are only a couple days left before Hall of Fame ballots are due in. Yes, those holy guardians of all that is right and just in baseball (voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America) must soon stop writing about how hard it is to perform their duties as HoF voters and just vote, already.

As I’ve written several times, I don’t believe the writers have any business sitting in judgment of anyone else’s morality. If they would just vote based on players’ achievements, fine. But as arbiters of others’ morality, they have no business being judges and jury.

I’ve also been clear that my own criteria for voting would go beyond just statistical evaluation (though obviously, stats are a big part of the equation). As I’ve written before, it’s the Hall of FAME. So tell me what these players accomplished during their careers that stood out, that was remarkable, that made an impression on baseball in their era, that made memories, that fans of that era and beyond still talk about and recognize, that made the player famous or added to the general level of fame bestowed upon the game of baseball itself.

Baseball-Hall-Of-FameWith no player garnering the necessary 75% support a year ago and a sizable number of excellent players being added to the ballot for the first time this year, a number of writers with voting privileges have continued to complain about being limited to only listing 10 players on their ballots. To which I say, “Shut up. If you and your fellow writer friends would quit being so damn holier-than-thou, or if MLB would show some balls and act as the morality police for the game instead of expecting writers, of all people, to do so, you wouldn’t be having this problem. On top of that, you get all sanctimonious over who should even be allowed to get in to your little writers association club and then you whine about how hard it is to do the one mildly important thing that membership entitles you to do.”

I feel better getting that off my chest.

Don’t get me wrong. I love baseball writers. OK, not really love, but I like them a lot. Enough that I pretend to be one sometimes.

I think, by and large, baseball writers do a great job in every respect during the year EXCEPT when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. In this one area, the hand-wringing, judgmental crap that many (not all) writers shove down our throats just drives me nuts to read.

So, yes, it’s a tough job to come up with just 10 players to vote for this year, but the BBWAA has done it to themselves.

With that, here’s what my ballot would look like if I were doing the voting.

A year ago, I said there were five players that should either be in the Hall or you shouldn’t have a Hall. Now that list is at six. In addition to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, I would add first-timer Greg Maddux.

Yes, that list includes five PED users. When we are told that their sins, like those of Pete Rose’s, make them ineligible for enshrinement, I’ll stop including them on my ballot. But if they are on the ballot, they get my vote. I’m the last person you want to have casting judgment over someone else’s morality. Unlike most of the real voters, at least I’m willing to admit it.

Andrew Walter, over at his Twins Fan From Afar blog wondered whether he would have taken PEDs if it would have made it possible for him to succeed as a professional baseball player. I think that’s something most BBWAA voters should ponder honestly, if that’s possible. I have no problem answering that question. I absolutely would have if I knew I could afford it, that it wouldn’t kill me immediately to do so, and if I’d have been relatively certain I could do it without penalty.

I know I would have, because I did, to a degree.

In Iowa, the high school baseball season is a summer season, which means most of the season takes place after school is out. For a senior, that means after you’ve already graduated. The summer after my senior year of high school, I worked construction 10 hours a day, five days a week, to make money for college. I took off work early on game days, but I certainly wasn’t well-rested for games. I took speed to get through those games. I know most BBWAA voters don’t count amphetamines as PEDs (or most of the 1960s and 1970s stars enshrined wouldn’t be there), but trust me, I was taking those pills to enhance my performance.

I couldn’t afford the kind of PEDs Bonds and others took and wouldn’t have known what they were in 1974. But I took what I could afford, in amounts I felt were safe and knowing there was almost no chance of being caught. In other words, I did exactly what the 1990s-era juicers did.

Anyway, those guys are on my list and will stay there until they aren’t eligible any more or until players I deem better at playing baseball push them off. That leaves just four spots on my ballot to fill.

The next tier for me a year ago was Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza. I still think they are a cut above guys like Craig Biggio, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell. I think Frank Thomas joins them on their level, however. So the next three names on my ballot are Bagwell, Piazza and Thomas.

That leaves one spot left and I’m going to skip over several guys that I admittedly feel are more worthy for enshrinement and write Jack Morris’ name down.

I understand if you disagree. If your criteria is all about numbers, Morris’ career arguably doesn’t measure up to Biggio, Raines, Trammell, Glavine, and maybe even Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez. I’m sure a few other guys could make a better case statistically than Morris, too.

In most years, I would probably pick one of those guys over Morris, too; but not this year.

This is Morris’ final year on the ballot and given the criteria for consideration that I have shared in the third paragraph of this article, I would vote for Morris with an absolutely clear conscience. He wasn’t the best pitcher in baseball over any period, long or short. But on a few very big stages, he was magnificent. He gave baseball fans moments that will live for as long as anyone who witnessed them remains alive. There should be a place for a pitcher like that in the Hall of Fame and there would be a place for him on my ballot in this, his final (and likely unsuccessful) year of eligibility.

When all of the ballots are finally counted, I think two first-timers, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas, will be elected.

Maddux is a shoe-in. He’s one of those guys who should be unanimous, but won’t be because some voting members of the BBWAA actually died a few years ago and nobody noticed or they just really suck at this HoF voting thing.

Thomas will be a closer call because there will be more voters who won’t list him on their ballots either because they don’t feel his career warrants a “first ballot” HoF election or because they discount him due to primarily being a designated hitter and, for whatever reason, some writers seem to think that means he wasn’t a “real ballplayer.” But I think enough writers will feel awkward enough about not voting for half a dozen of the best players ever due to their PED ties that they’ll be unable to resist voting for perhaps the best supposedly clean slugger on the ballot.

It’s a huge ballot this year, filled with a lot of very good ballplayers. If you’ve got a favorite or two that you want to speak up for, feel free to make a case in the comment section.

– JC

P.S Something like 5-10 minutes after I posted this article, the writer I probably have the most respect for in the entire business, Joe Posnanski, Tweeted a link to his post entitled “Time For a Hall of Fame Stand,” where he suggests that the HoF itself should take a firm stand on the PED issue. Click here and go read it.

Getting to Cooperstown

Now that the whole Michael Cuddyer/Josh Willingham drama is resolved, we wish Cuddyer well in Colorado and move on to other things. Today, for me, the “other things” include a discussion of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I’ve never been to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I guess you’d say it’s on my “bucket list”, but I can’t honestly say it’s high on the list. It seems like it’s one of those things you should do with your dad, especially when your dad is primarily responsible for having instilled in you a love for baseball. Anyway, my dad’s been gone for over 20 years now, so I guess that ship has sailed. I’d like to visit the HoF with my son someday, though.

There has been no shortage of Hall of Fame chatter around Twinsville this offseason, with former players Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant being considered for, but ultimately falling short of, selection by the Veterans Committee. Going forward, we will continue to discuss the likelihood of Jack Morris getting the votes necessary to be selected for enshrinement.

One of the things that makes discussions regarding HoF credentials fun is that there’s very limited formal criteria established. There’s a pre-screening process for players to be placed on the BBWAA ballot, but once a player is on the ballot, the voters get just the following guidance with regard to how they should evaluate candidates: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

That leaves an awful lot of room for debate with regard to whether this player or that player “deserves” enshrinement.

There was a lot of discussion about Bert Blyleven’s credentials over the past decade-plus. A number of writers have held up Blyleven as an example of the dilution of the Hall of Fame resulting from election of players who were very good, but didn’t measure up to the level of excellence that some felt the standard should be. How many times have we heard, “it’s not the Hall of Very Good”?

That’s a good point. Then again, it’s also not the “Hall of Statistical Excellence” either. In fact, a player’s “record” is just one of the listed criteria for voters to consider. Yes, “playing ability” can arguably be measured statistically, but such “ability” can extend beyond the numbers, whether certain statistic-bound segments of the baseball community want to admit it or not.

My criteria for judging whether a player should be in the HoF is as much art as science. It’s not just an “eyeball test”. It’s more of a memory test. Certainly, statistical excellence over a period of a player’s career should be a consideration, but not the sole consideration.

It’s the Hall of FAME. So tell me what these players accomplished during their careers that stood out, that was remarkable, that made an impression on baseball in their era, that made memories, that fans of that era and beyond still talk about and recognize, that made the player famous or added to the general level of fame bestowed upon the game of baseball itself.

My personal memories of Big League baseball go back just over 50 years, to 1961, and when I think about players from that era who stood out for remarkable careers, I think of Killebrew and Mantle and Aaron and Mays. They and many of their peers have been rightfully elected to the HoF.

But the specific memories that leap to mind include Roger Maris and his “61 in ’61”. I think of Denny McLain and his 31 wins. I think of Carlton Fisk waving that ball fair in 1975, followed by Reggie Jackson’s three home runs in the World Series a year later. I think of Kirk Gibson’s pinch hit home run in the ’88 Series one year after the 1987 Twins’ World Series heroics. I think of the night Cal Ripken moved past Gehrig.

And I think of Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

It bothers me that so many of the players that made my greatest baseball memories are not recognized for what they did. You could certainly argue that a guy like McLain fails the “integrity” and “character” tests, but baseball’s FAME has been built just as much on the unforgettable performances of Maris and Gibson and Morris as it has on Fisk, Jackson and Ripken.

Why shouldn’t players that found something in themselves that allowed them to rise above their otherwise good-but-not-excellent career performance levels to give the baseball world something remarkable to remember for a lifetime be recognized for their contributions to baseball’s fame?

I’m happy for the family of Ron Santo and for Cubs fans everywhere that Santo was chosen by the new “Golden Era” Veterans Committee to be honored with HoF enshrinement. It’s sad that it didn’t happen while he was alive to enjoy the honor. I hope some day Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat will live to realize the same honor. I think they deserve it.

But what I can not understand is why Roger Maris wasn’t even on that ballot. With all due respect to Santo, Oliva, Kaat and the others, there was NOBODY on that ballot more worthy of recognition… more famous… than Roger Maris. Yet he wasn’t even on the ballot?

And then there’s Jack Morris. This may indeed be his last best chance to be voted in to the HoF by the writers, as pointed out in North Dakota Twins Fan’s excellent blog post this week. It’s his 12th year of eligibility and there aren’t many truly statistically exceptional players on the ballot this year, so maybe writers who feel they want to vote for at least one player will choose Morris. But it’s not likely he’s going to gain enough votes to make the grade and in the remaining years of his eligibility, we’ll see several more famous players qualifying for consideration for the first time, meaning Morris could actually see his vote total slip after this year.

But I don’t care what anyone says, what Morris accomplished makes him Hall of Fame material in my book. On baseball’s biggest stage, with fans around the world tuned in, he gave the most remarkable pitching performance I’ve ever witnessed and, in the process, delivered a World Series Championship to the Minnesota Twins. It’s not like it was a fluke. Morris was not a mediocre pitcher who got lucky one night. He was an accomplished starting pitcher who had produced in big moments before… and would do so again after… that night.

But that performance made him famous. It added to the greatness of Major League Baseball… to its lore. And it should make Jack Morris a Hall of Famer.

If there isn’t room for Jack Morris in Cooperstown, then I propose they rename the museum the “Hall of Statistical Accomplishment over the Course of Many Years of Playing Baseball” and see how many fathers and sons bother to visit the place.

– JC

Twins History Lesson: May 3-9

There’s no off-day this week, but there have been a few notable games and events in Twins history during this week and since I didn’t have anything better to do after Sunday’s game, I thought I would share a few of the more noteworthy items with you.

May 3 has been relatively uneventful but in 1986, leadoff hitter Kirby Puckett homers off of Walt Terrell’s first pitch of the game. Not a big deal, I know, especially since the Twins lose the game to the Tigers 7-4. But it’s the second night in a row that Puck hit a HR on the game’s first pitch, having done so the game before off of future Twin Jack Morris.

May 4 has been a bit more eventful for the Twins:

1975: The Twins retire Harmon Killebrew’s #3 in a ceremony before Killer takes the field as a Kansas City Royal against the Twins. Killebrew expresses his appreciation by hitting a home run off of Vic Albury in the first inning.

1982: The Twins’ most famous sufferer of Tourette’s Syndrome, Jim Eisenreich, removes himself from a game in Boston due to taunts from the Sox fans in the cheap seats.

1984: What goes up must come down… eventually. Dave Kingman of the A’s launches a ball up through one of the drainage holes in the Metrodome roof and is awarded a ground rule double. The ball is found by a Metrodome worker the next day, who drops it down to the field where the Twins OF Mickey Hatcher is waiting for it. Hatcher drops it.

1999: The Twins’ victory number 3,000 is recorded in an 8-4 win over the Evil Empire.

May 5, 2005 (aka 05/05/05) brings Twins fans (and especially Batlings) the Best. Cupcake Day. Ever as the Twins score 5 runs in the 5th inning to beat the Tribe, 9-0.

(I could have also listed Luis Tiant’s remarkable 2 hit, 9 walk, 5.2 inning effort in 1970, but on the off chance any current Twin pitcher might read this, we don’t want them to get the idea that’s how they’re supposed to pitch, even though El Tiante won the game to go 5-0 for the season.)

On May 6, 1978, the Twins entered the day having lost 14 of their previous 16 games and Roger Erickson had given up a 5-run third inning to the Orioles, resulting in a 5-1 deficit entering the 9th inning in Baltimore. The Twins, led by Rod Carew’s bases-loaded triple (yes, this was back when the Twins actually got hits with bases loaded), scored 7 runs in the top of the 9th to take an 8-5 lead. Tom Johnson coughed back up 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th before getting a double play ball out of Lee May to end the game in an 8-7 win for the Twins.

May 7 has seen a couple of interesting events in Twins history:

1995: The Twins and Indians play for 6 hours and 36 minutes before the Tribe finally wins 10-9 in 17 innings.

2000: Tom Kelly becomes the first Twins manager to reach 1,000 wins.

2008: Carlos Gomez leads off the game with a HR and then hits for the cycle in a 13-1 win over Ozzie’s BitchSox.

May 8 was a meaningful date for a trio of Hall of Famers:

1967: Rod Carew collects five hits for the Twins… the first Twin to accomplish the feat.

1968: Catfish Hunter beats the Twins 4-0. Technically, his Oakland A’s team beat the Twins, but since Hunter not only pitched a perfect game against Minnesota, but also drove in 3 of the A’s 4 runs, it’s safe to say he pretty much beat the Twins by himself. Less than 6,300 fans were in attendance at the game in Oakland.

1984: Kirby Puckett collects four hits in his Major League debut as the Twins beat the Angels 5-0 (something that wouldn’t be accomplished by another Twin until today’s debut by Wilson Ramos).

Wrapping up the week, there are only a couple of noteworthy games on May 9:

1961: The Orioles’ Jim Gentile hits a grand slam home run in the first inning against the Twins. Then, just to prove it was no fluke, he hit another grand slam in his next at bat, in the second inning. Only 3 players in MLB history had hit grand slams in back-to-back ABs prior to Gentile. He also added a SAC fly to set a single game RBI mark with 9 RBI for the game.

2003: Rick Reed was injured so Ron Gardenhire turns to lefty Johan Santana as his sacrificial lamb to face off against Pedro Martinez (who had struck out 12 Twins in their previous meeting) and the Red Sox. The result is a 5-0 shutout… for the Twins. Santana went just 5 innings and was aided by LaTroy Hawkins, J.C. Romero and Eddie Guardado, to complete the shutout. Not one who’s easily impressed, Gardenhire sends Santana back to the bullpen and uses Johan only as a spot starter vs. a couple of NL teams during interleague play until he’s given a spot in the rotation in July. He performed pretty well after that.