Tuesday, January 04, 2005


In the wake of today's HoF announcements (sorry, Rich), there's a ridiculous article at MLB.com about which currently active players would be enshired if they retired today. Here's their list:

Barry Bonds
Sammy Sosa
Roger Clemens
Rafael Palmeiro
Mariano Rivera
Ivan Rogriguez
Manny Ramirez
Mike Piazza
Ken Griffey Jr
Greg Maddux
Randy Johnson

Why am I so cranky? Don't get me wrong. Well, aside from the fact that I only count 11 names despite the article's subtitle, "If these 12 retired today, Cooperstown would follow", it's actually a solid list--provided it isn't meant to be in order of preference. (That and predictions that Torii Hunter should be considered alongside Albert Pujols as a potential future candidate because apparently every beloved Minnesota CF should be in the Hall regardless of their qualifications.)

Bonds, Clemens, Maddux are all inner-circle pantheon players, and Johnson, I-Rod and Piazza aren't too far behind. It says a hell of a lot about how good Griffey was in the 90s that despite falling off a cliff since moving to the NL that he too is still a first round HoFer.

Aside from his monster 2001 season, Sosa's never been quite as good as his rep (and the greater BALCO scandal has clearly diminished the accomplishment of being the only player to hit 60 HR three times), but he still deserves a plaque. I'm not going to argue with Palmeiro, either, who is arguably more qualified than Sosa anyways. Rivera's sub-par performance against the Red Sox this year has certainly tarnished his once immaculate reputation as Mr. October Automatic, but the best reliever of the past ten years deserves some kind of nod.

It's at this point, having foolishly limited itself to only 12 names, that the list breaks down.

Manny Ramirez is a great hitter, but I'm not sure you could convince me if he retired tomorrow he'd deserve a trip to Cooperstown. Aside from having youth on his side there's nothing in his resume to suggest he's currently more deserving than Gary Sheffield... and I'm not sure Sheffield deserves yet either. Assuming he's able to pad his stats with another four years of adequate baseball, I think Manny should probably sneak in. But the case of Don Mattingly should always be a reminder of those we think of as "automatics".

Frankly, I can think of three better picks.

At the young age of 28, however, Alex Rodriguez is already a more qualified candidate than Alan Trammell--who by some metrics deserves to be in the Hall. (For the record, Rodriguez already scores a damn good 87 on Jay Jaffe's JAWS HoF monitor. Adapted from Baseball Prospectus' Wins Above Replacement Player, JAWS has the advantage of factoring in a player's peak and career values. The average HoF shortstop scores 15 points lower. That gap could easily grow by an additional 20-40 points by the time A-Rod finally hangs up his spikes.) Like his former Seattle teammate, Rodriguez accomplished so much so fast at such an early age that anything he does from this point on is gravy.

Before Barry Bonds met Stan Conte, Frank Thomas was the greatest pure hitter many of us had ever seen. He may not have Sosa's gaudy home run totals, but anyone who's averaged a .344 EqA over 15 years of baseball is a Hall of Famer. (Manny Ramirez is four years younger but his career EqA is 11 points lower.) Thomas' 85.6 JAWS is nothing to sneeze at either.

Finally, where the hell is Pedro Martinez? Regardless of what he does with the Mets, Pedro will be going to Cooperstown. Consider:


(WARP is a player's career total of Wins Above Replacement Player, and PEAK is the sum of the players' five best seasons.)

And that's just considering Pedro through his age 30 season, the same age Koufax retired (and coincidentally, when arm troubles were threatening to cut Pedro's career short).

Pedro has since gone on to pitch another two seasons, and currently has a JAWS of 79.6. In addition to having had much longer careers, Clemens, Johnson, and Maddux all posted higher peak values than Sandy:


Mr. Jaffe reminds us that an average HoF pitcher scores a 69.4 JAWS, to which we we can only say... yowza. Man, that Roger Clemens is good. (Blyleven currently sits a notch above R-J at 92.5.)

Rather than denigrate the esteemed Mr. Koufax, let us instead give thanks that four of the greatest pitchers of all time were still toeing the mound in 2004.

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