1953 – Bob’s thoughts on several subjects

Reflecting on the GOR voting to date:

I went back 30 to 50 years and looked at the results from the GOR elections to see where and how the 1953 candidates stack up. I realized pretty quickly that we’ve done a pretty good job of getting the right guys. There’s really no one that stands out to me as a gross mistake. There are no Candy Cummings, no Tommy McCarthys, no Travis Jacksons, no Rube Marquands for us to be embarrassed about. Still, there are some honorees that are not first tier HOFers. In weaker years, some were selected for their peak, like Doyle, Duffy, Jennings, Coveleski, Joss and Griffith. And some were selected for their career stats, like Wallace, Van Haltren, Ryan, Galvin, Welch and Willis. Looking at my Top 40 ballot (it needs Casey Kasem to read it out loud, with obscure little “fun facts” about each player), it seems to me that somewhere around the #30 spot, everybody above that line would be a passable GOR selection. Was Doyle really better than Lazzeri? Was Coveleski really better than Bridges?

3600 games

There are three players who I think had a shot at playing 3600 games, Pete Rose, Cap Anson and Cool Papa Bell. Pure speculation on my part, I understand. But all three started young, played at a high level well into their 40s and were rarely injured. Playing 150 games a year in a 162-game schedule for 24 years is 3600 games.

It is hard to know for sure what these NeLers would have done in an integrated league. It really is just guesswork. But Bell had more hits than any other NeLer, with the 12th best batting average. I can envision, as the upper end, Bell having career numbers very similar to Rose. Or Lou Brock with an additional 900 games. I see Bell as a very similar type hitter to Brock, with maybe two-thirds the home run power, but similar OBAs. But also with a heck of a lot more defense.

I probably overstate the 3600 games for Bell (which means he would have had over 4000 hits). Say instead he only played 20 years and 133 games per year, that would give him over 2600 games, the same as Brock. I think this is the lower end for what Bell’s numbers indicate.

I have no idea if my analysis is even close to being correct. But I think I can show, at least to my own satisfaction, that Bell was at least the equal of Brock, and might have had a Pete Rose caliber career. I see no evidence of a Ralph Garr career. I’m all for discounting the NeLers, but if one discounts so much that Cool Papa Bell is Ralph Garr, then you have to discount Josh Gibson down to Joe Ferguson as well.

Dizzy Dean and peak value

I admit that I am not a “peak” guy, at least not in comparison to most of you guys. I too like great peak players; I just prefer really good long career players more. This is one of the reasons I haven’t as yet rated Dean very high on my ballots. I would assume that if he hasn’t gotten in by 1959’s election, and the super-duper-superstars have been chosen, he should be near the top of my ballot. He did, after all, have a monumental 5 year streak.

My question is this: was Dean’s five-year run extra-, extra-, extraordinary? Just looking at Win Shares, from 1932-1936, Dean had 145. Hack Wilson, who’s dropped off the ballot for lack of support, had a 5-year run of 152. Wally Berger, who no one really is clammering for, also had 152. Earl Averill’s run was 143, and Klein’s was 140, and they are struggling to stay on the ballot. Ott’s 177 dwarfs them all.

I have Dean #13 on my ballot this year, but a lot of that is adding in a Subjective Element component, based mostly on “fame”. His stats don’t really scream HOF without that fame adjustment.

From 1920 to 1960, when pitcher usage was generally the same, Dean ranks 6th in Win Shares over a 5-year period, behind
167 Grove
157 Newhouser
153 Hubbell
153 Roberts
151 Feller
The thing I noticed, when looking at some great pitchers, it’s really rare putting 5 good/great seasons together. Gibson’s best spurt of 20+ WS was three. Clemens had three different strings of three. Randy Johnson had a four year stretch. Marichal and Koufax had four. Carlton’s best was 2, and he only did that once. Maddux had a 7 year stretch; Seaver 6. Spahn had a 6-, 4- and a 3 year run. Pedro Martinez had a 4-year period as well, as did Whitey Ford.

I guess, as another question, I’m asking: is there something magical about a 5-year run, as opposed to a 4- or 6-year run?

Judy Johnson and some inside information

Let me start out by saying that this is not an anti-Judy post. He was a very good player. And a very good man. But he wasn’t a great player. As best as I can figure it, he was a slightly below average hitter, a tremendous fielder and played many, many years, The best comp I can come up with is Ozzie Smith as a hitter (maybe a little better), Brooks Robinson as a fielder, in about 2200 games. This would put his Win Shares in the 275 range.

A huge factor in Judy’s favor: being one of the first NeLers elected to the Hall. But there is a small “yeah, but” associated with this. The VetCom included a few NeLers to add their input into these first few selections. The only problem, and it is a minor one, is that they were all Eastern League players. Not a single player from the Western League was inducted in the first go-rounds. While not exactly Frischian, there was an obvious Eastern League bias. Another bias that has always seemed to be there is that “nice” blacks did better in the voting than….I don’t know what to call them. Militant? Ornery? Black men who would have scared white men of my father’s generation? Guys that weren’t a “credit to their race”, a phrase heard until, what, the ’60s?

These are not meant as knocks on Judy Johnson. Just something to be aware of. And why I’ll have Beckwith and Wilson and Lundy always ranked over Johnson.

Another difference between the GOR and the real-life Hall of Fame

The purposes of the GOR and the HOF are different. There is no stated purpose of the Hall, but it has morphed into a museum to honor players. The GOR has a stated purpose to honor baseball and to honor eras equally. I have no idea how many people will be in the Hall in 2100, but I know exactly how many will be in the GOR in 2100.

While I agree that there are some really good players not getting into the GOR right now, if we had gone to electing three per year in 1950, eventually we’d have had to go back to two a year at some point, or else we’d end up electing players like Cavaretta, Sain, Kell, Wills, Maris (I’m still hoping we do), Kuenn, Burdette and Face.

There are basically twice as many teams as there were 60 years ago. Do we have twice as many yearly MVPs? I know of no groundswell support for having MVPs or CYAs for each division. That’s because these awards are clearly defined. As is the GOR. As the HOF is not.

Should the GOR expand to three per year?

Just like the GOR started getting really crowded in 1945 or so, it’ll get crowded again around 1990 and really crowded in 2000. But the thing is, I am not convinced that, like the ’40s and ’50s elections, it’s not just a glitch in the space-time continuum.

Take a look at players born between 1966 and 1975. Their careers are either over, or if still playing, they have more or less made their HOF-worthy or not mark (Okay, Bob Dickey, with his knuckleball, might just now be hitting his prime). Leaving steroids aside, there are a number of “automatic” HOFers, to name just a few there’s ARod, Jeter, Guerrero, Ichiro, Manny, Chipper, IRod, Rivera, Griffey, Hoffman, birthday boys Thomas and Bagwell, Piazza, Maddux, Glavine and at least a dozen more strong candidates. I understand that looking at them in 2002, only half of these were “automatics”, but by 2002, most were making strong progress towards the HOF.

Now take a look at players born between 1976 and 1985. Granted some of these players are just now hitting their prime, but still there seems to be a dearth of “automatics”. I only see one, Albert Pujols, who I can say is an automatic. Well, maybe Cabrerra as well, after this Triple Crown season. Maybe comparing 1966-1975 to 1976-1985 isn’t exactly fair, because we really don’t know how most of these guys are going to end up. But let me just shave it down a little bit, and just look at guys born between 1976 and 1980. All of these guys are in their 30s now. Only Pujols stands out. There are a number of guys who, if they have 2 or three more good years, might cross the “automatic” threshold, guys like Sabathia, Beltre, Halladay, Beltran, but it looks awfully thin. Looking only at BJames newest version of his Hall of Fame Monitor in his 2012 Handbook, 22 men have crossed the 75 point threshold, and that doesn’t include retirees like Maddux and Glavine. Men born between 1976-1985? One (altho I assume Cabrerra did this year, but he’s probably the only one who did this year). Are we still going to want to elect three per year after, say, 2025? It doesn’t look like it.

The biggest difference between the HOF and GOR to me is thisL the Hall of Fame (more or less) asks “Was he one of the historically greatest players?” And no doubt, there are times when there are more great players. There should be more players in the Hall who played in the 1990s since there were a lot of historically great players. The GOR asks instead “Was he one of the greatest players in his own time?” Totally different mind-set in grading/ranking/rating greatness.

My original concept of the GOR (which I first write about here a couple years ago that I called “Bob’s Hall Of Fame”) came from my frustration with the Hall. I go the Cooperstown often. I’ve been there at least 20 times, But back in April of 2011, I took my then 88-year old father, who is at most a casual baseball fan, there for his very first time. He spent the entire morning reading all the plaques (while I was in the library). And I realized that by 2100, there would be so many plaques, electing 3 or 4 a year, that no one would be able to read them all. There are currently 297 HOF members; electing 3 a year will nearly double the size by 2100. It was then that I became a semi-exclusivist. A second complaint about the Hall is Frankie Frisch. We all know that story, so I’ll keep it brief. By electing Hafey and Marquand and Kelly and, well, almost all of them, anybody who is better than they are, has a HOF contingent of backers. If Kelly is historically great, then why aren’t Keith Hernandez and Edgar Martinez and Tony Oliva and 2 or 3 hundred other guys not in? And of course the third reason is the historical aspect of the Hall. I know that I can go overboard when talking about the 19th century, but still….if there GOR has pointed out anything, that period is practically ignored. To a fan in 1875 or 1900, baseball was just as important to them as it is now to a fan. Isn’t it arrogance to think “our” time, whether it was Frisch in the ’70s or what the VetCom may do in the 2020s with 1990s/2000s players, and just overload the system? Each era should honor their own stars, with an eye on how the selections will/should look in 2100.

As I said, I am not wedded to two per year. Let’s just say that I am currently engaged to be married to the idea.

 

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