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Wednesday, January 08, 2003

The Class of 2003

The Baseball Writers Association of America voted in Eddie Murray and Gary Carter into the Hall of Fame. Results can be found here. As one might expect there's a lot of discussion of the results on Baseball Primer.

Random observations:

Eddie Murray got selected. Steady Eddie was a no-brainer, although looking at his career, it's almost weird how he didn't really put up gaudy season totals often. But 500 homers and 3000 hits have each been automatic selection criteria by themselves, and Murray is one of the very few players with both.

Gary Carter made it in. I'd guess the issue was Carlton Fisk. Fisk deserved to get in first, and when he did, there was no reason left to leave Carter out. I give the BBWAA credit on this one. (Carter of course didn't miss the 75% threshold by much last year at 73%.)

No one else came especially close.It wasn't as if Murray or Carter took that many votes from everyone else that I'd expect there not be some near-misses. Bruce Sutter at 54% and Jim Rice at 52% were as close as anyone else came to reaching the 75% threshold for induction.

Ryne Sandberg failed to get 50% of the vote. I'm sure some of this has to be the "first ballot" factor, where enough people decided Sandberg was not worthy of being a "first ballot" Hall of Famer. Unlike a lot of sabermetrics-literate baseball fans, I don't necessarily have a problem with the distinction. Given how many questionable selections - some of them clear-cut mistakes - have been made for Cooperstown (admittedly, most of them did not come in the main BBWAA vote) I understand the desire of some to create an "inner circle" of selections. Much has been made of the fact that Gary Carter is the first BBWAA selection since Billy Williams to get in after having a year on the ballot where he fell below 50% support. I still support Sandberg's induction and I think he will eventually get in, since the next few years (2004-06) do not have many especially strong first-time candidates. 2B is among the most underrepresented positions in the Hall, and Sandberg's a good place to start. (In a related story, things are not looking good for Alan Trammell.)

Relief pitchers continue to be by and large snubbed by the voters. I figured the other shoe would drop with all-time saves leader Lee Smith. It still has not. Dennis Eckersley will be on the ballot in a couple years, but he's also got 197 wins to his name, which sets him apart from guys like Smith and Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage who were relievers most or all of their career. I'm also curious as to the thought process behind why Sutter got more support than Smith or Gossage. I'm afraid that if the BBWAA is too stingy on relievers, the Veterans Committee will step in and start picking them by the truckload.

I can't believe how many people got votes. It happens every year for a variety of reasons, but I still never cease be amazed by some of the people who got votes. I suppose the 7 sympathy votes for Darryl Kile shouldn't be a surprise. But who were the two voters who picked Rick Honeycutt? Or the lone Danny Tartabull voter? Or the Mark Davis voter? (BTW, you were right, Anthony, Vince Coleman did get more voters than Brett Butler, 3 to 2.) And Fernando Valenzuela actually got enough support (just over the 5% threshold) to clog up the ballot another year with 31 votes, one more than the (marginally) more deserving Keith Hernandez.

Bert Blyleven is gaining support. Thanks in part to sabermetrics buffs, Blyleven seems to be gaining steam, picking up 22 votes. He's still a ways away, but if he can get a majority by his last year on the ballot he has a chance to make it in through the Veterans' Committee back door. Jim Kaat not being on the ballot will help a bit.

Don Mattingly lost support. My fear is that we're going to see a Yankee Nation all-out Rizzuto-style propaganda blitz once his nomination is kicked to the Veterans Committee. And I think his support will rebound a bit next year with Murray off the ballot. (Although Steve Garvey won four new converts this time around, even with Murray on the ballot.)

Dale Murphy and Dave Parker are going nowhere, while Jim Rice and Andre Dawson have strong support. I already said (partially as a partisan Red Sox fan) that I'd vote Rice in first, but the differences between these four is not big enough to justify the huge differences in voter support between Rice and Dawson on the one hand and Parker and Murphy on the other hand.

Here is a list of probable future candidates by year.It's entirely possible 2004 may not have any inductees, since Molitor and Eck may run into the dreaded "first ballot" syndrome. I'm almost perversely looking forward to the anti-Joe Carter screeds on stathead web sites - and my annual Hall of Fame analysis will obligate to add to the din in this blog. (I don't think he's getting in either, though in part for the wrong reason, the same one dogging the Rice/Dawson/Parker/Murphy group - his numbers just don't look good when so many active players, the beneficiaries of a better era for offense, are blowing his numbers out of the water. The correct reason to keep Carter out is that, well, to put it bluntly, he wasn't very good.) Molitor and Eckersley will join Sandberg and Lee Smith (both now free of the "first ballot" syndrome) along with Sutter, Dawson, and Rice as the only viable candidates for 2004.

Yeah, as Primer/Prospectus fans go, I'm in the "Big Hall" camp. I expressed support for nine people this year. In my mind, it's too late, for better or for worse, for a "small hall." New generations of baseball fans are growing up, and we should consider (albeit with more accuracy and precision) the stars of yesterday, today, and tomorrow in equal measure. Tightening things significantly I think would increase the "wax museum" factor of the Hall and detracts from its ability to appeal to baseball fans of all ages.

Well, that's all from here. Good night, or rather, good morning.


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