1987 – Bob’s take on a wide open field

In a lot of ways, this is my favorite type of election. There is no clear and obvious frontrunner. And if they don’t get in this year, it is unlikely that they will get in at all. Willie Stargell comes on the ballot in ’88, who I’d have to think is a prohibitive favorite to get in, plus Luis Tiant and Reggie Smith, who likely will do well. So there is an “open slot” available in ’88 as well. But then….all hell breaks loose. Between ’89 and ’98, I count 19 HOFers, plus guys like Nettles, Grich, John, Hernandez, both Evans, Rose, and probably another 20 guys that’ll receive somebody’s vote. It’s going to be very crowded for the next 20 years or so, and then it thins out a bit until 2013, when it gets super-duper crazy.

I thought I’d take a look at the 10 guys on this ballot who had at least 30 points in the ’86 election (Cash, who came in 12th had 30 points; Lolich who came in 13th had 14, a clear separation) and the two new guys who might garner some votes. I’ll list them in the order they finished in the last election, with their points after their rank, how many voted for them, how many had them in their Top 4 and how many left them off entirely. After their names I’m going to put some numbers. The four numbers are All-Star years, Gold Gloves, MVP share and HOF vote percentage in their highest year. And then a few random comments of my own.

3rd – 67 12 6 0 Bill Freehan 11 5 1.28 0.5%
I could be convinced that I should have ranked him a little higher, above Pinson and Davis. All of these guys have positives and negatives, and he may have the fewest negatives. The problem for me with ranking these guys is I’m old enough to remember them all, and I just don’t remember watching him at the time and thinking to myself “Wow! I’m watching a HOFer!” I like sabermetric analysis. I just don’t let it overshadow what was thought about the players in their on time and place. He is a frontrunner for ’87 and deservedly so.

4th – 9 5 5 Roger Maris 4 1 1.40 43.1%
Stats-wise, he’s obviously not worthy. I’m not going to campaign too much for him; I’ve done enough of that already. But (there’s always a but) right or wrong, he is the most famous person on this list. And since this is a Gallery Of Renown and not a Gallery Of Stat Analysis (in my opinion), I can’t have anyone but him #1 on my ballot. And for me it’s not just fame. Since WWII, not too many have IMPACTED the history of the game more than Maris. Jackie Robinson is #1 (IMO), and I have to think that Maris would likely be somewhere in the Top 5.

5th – 11 4 3 Jim Wynn 3 0 0.53 0%
I don’t think I’ve voted for him yet. Nor am I likely to. Watching him play, I don’t think I ever thought of using the word HOFer. One of those guys who does really well with Great Stats, like Tenace and Reuschel. I won’t be voting for them either. Sabermetrically over rated.

6th – 9 5 5 Luis Aparicio 10 9 0.72 84.6%
For all we talk about how important fielding is, we sure don’t vote like it. Only four of us voted for Mazeroski last year. But we sure do like slugging first basemen and corner outfielders who walk a lot.

7th – 9 3 5 Jim Hunter 8 0 0.72 76.3%
The sabermetric Anti-Christ? Probably Hunter or Jim Rice. I know of no sabermetric metric that rates/ranks Hunter very high. But for half a decade or more, he was what Jack Morris aspired to be. After Gibson’s slowdown, Hunter was THE guy pundits talked about as the one pitcher you wanted for that one crucial game. Hunter versus Lolich? All-Star games? Hunter leads 8 to 3. HOF vote? Hunter leads 76.3 to 25.5. Cy Young Award share? Hunter leads 2.02 to 0.94. No one at the time saw them as equals.

8th – 9 1 5 Willie Davis 2 3 0.10 0%
Not much to say. Egotism, very few walks and a crappy ballpark probably hurt his HOF chances.

9th – 6 4 8 Thurman Munson 7 3 1.50 15.5%
I didn’t vote for him again this year (I have him 12th). His untimely death probably didn’t cost him a lot on his career numbers; he was pretty close to being done. The guys who finished 8-12 on my ballot are all pretty interchangeable.

10th – 10 1 4 Vada Pinson 2 1 0.64 15.7%
Pinson and Davis go hand-in-hand with me. I have no idea who was better. Some guys get in the Hall because of their peak; some guys get in for their career. Davis and Pinson are obviously career guys, and both seem to me to fall short. But just barely.

11th – 8 1 6 Tony Oliva 8 1 1.90 47.3%
I have him 11th on my ballot. He, Freehan and Munson I could be convinced I have too low.

12th – 4 3 10 Norm Cash 4 0 0.70 1.6%
Slugging first baseman who walked a lot but couldn’t hit lefties (.227/.307/.384 slash numbers). I’ll continue to pass on him.

New – Sal Bando 4 0 1.37 0.7%
I probably couldashoulda put Oliva or Munson in his slot. I basically gave him some bonus points for being a third baseman. Not really likely to move up much in my future ballots, and in all likelihood will not make it most years.

New – Bobby Bonds 3 3 1.01 10.6%
One of my favorites as a teenager. The combination of speed and power year after year blew me away. He was a really good player until 1979 and just lost it at age 34. Too bad he didn’t know about deer antler juice instead of the juice made from hops.

We all value different things differently. Take a look at this year’s ballot. After 12 ballots, we have 12 different players with a 1st or 2nd place vote, and yet none of them are on all 12 ballots. The twelve, with 1st and second place vote and number of blanks:
2 2 Freehan
6 3 Maris
2 5 Wynn
4 3 Aparicio
2 4 Hunter
1 3 Davis
1 8 Munson
1 4 Pinson
1 6 Oliva
2 9 Cash
1 4 Bando
1 1 Bonds

I take this to mean that 12 very knowledgeable men about baseball can have wildly different definitions of value, fame, greatness, and yes transcendence. It’s what makes the GOR both fun and frustrating.

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