So Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are bound for the Hall of Fame! Four very well deserved choices and I loved watching the four of them interviewed by Ron Darling and Greg Amsinger of the MLB Network. I never tire of seeing the men who reach the apex of their profession gushing like kids when they arrive.
Left to right, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and Pedro Martinez are all smiles as they meet the media this week following their election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
However an elephant remains in the room and it has been sitting for quite awhile leaving a stink that simply can’t be ignored. We all know what the stink is and it has caused a paradigm shift in criterion for consideration for baseball’s highest honor. The elephant’s name is steroids, aka performance enhancing drugs or simply PED’S.
I hate having to talk about this, HATE IT! But it is never going to go away and thus cannot be ignored. I say steroids you think……
Or this guy,
Or maybe it’s this guy,
Some think this guy,
Others suggest this guy,
And then there is, of course, this guy;
You remember him right? Rafael Palmeiro. He’s the one who wagged his finger at Congress and stated emphatically, “I have never used steroids, period!” Congress was later informed that Palmeiro had tested positive for use of anabolic steroids. YIKES!
How has this effected the paradigm shift? Well, for starters, there had never been a player to reach the career plateau of 3000 hits who was not enshrined in Cooperstown. Add to that this trivia question which was bantered about in the mid 90s. Who are the only two eligible players with 400 or more career home runs who are NOT in the Hall of Fame? The answer, Dave Kingman (442) and Darrell Evans (414).
In 2014,his fourth year on the ballot, Rafael Palmeiro received 25 votes for induction which was a total of 4.40% of the vote. This caused him to be removed from the ballot and thus from any future consideration by the BBWAA. His name can not be considered again until 2027 by the Eras Committee.
Rafael Palmeiro retired in 2005 after a 20 year career in which he hit .288 with 569 home runs, (12th on the all time list) and 3020 career hits, good enough for 25th on the all time list. He also knocked in 1835 runs, only 15 players in history have done more!
He now becomes the answer to this trivia question, who is the only player in major league history to have exceeded 3000 hits, 500 home runs and 1800 RBI and is not in the Hall of Fame? Courtesy of anabolic steroids.
The day will come when Alex Rodriquez will become part of this question and answer but that day is a minimum of six years away.
Now let’s look at some these other fellas. Bonds, Bagwell, Piazza, McGwire, Sosa
Let’s begin with Messrs.’ McGwire and Sosa. We all remember that action packed, emotion filled quest to break Roger Maris’ record in 1998. The battle to see who’d get there first! All that excitement, all that drama melted into the two of them before Congress; with McGwire not wanting to “talk about the past” and Sammy inexplicably forgetting how to speak English. He weighed in with a big, “No Hable”, remarkable.
On Tuesday we learned that McGwire dropped from 11% of the vote in 2013 to 10 and Sosa went from 7.2% to 6.6. I had thought he’d drop below 5% and be gone but he hung on for another year. McGwire was on the ballot for the 8th time and has dropped from a high of 23.7% in 2010 to this years low of 11%. He has two years to go on the BBWAA ballot. Sosa received 12.5% in his first year of 2013 and barely hung on this year with 6.6%. He has seven years left on the BBWAA ballot but in all likelihood will at some point suffer the fate of Palmeiro before him.
If 20 years ago I told you that there would be two players, one with 609 career homers and 8th on the list (Sosa) and the other with 583 and 10th on the list would not even get a sniff at the Hall of Fame you’d tell me I was crazy! But it’s happened and not only that; in the immortal words of Miss Vito in My Cousin Vinny, “there’s moah”.
There’s the two real biggies, him
Now these two blokes happen to be the all time home run leader, Mr. Barry Bonds and a man with 354 career wins on the mound (9th all time), 4672 career strikeouts (3rd all time) and a pitchers WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 139.4 (3rd all time). Let’s take a closer look.
Barry Bonds sits atop the home run list with 762, he’s 4th all time in RBI’s with 1996, he is 6th all time on on base percentage 5th all time in slugging percentage and in OPS (the combination of the two) he ranks 4th. He is a 7 time league MVP including four in a row and his career WAR of 162.4 trails only Babe Ruth’s 163! WOW!
Roger Clemens adds seven CY Young Awards to his impressive resume and is one of a handful of pitchers to garner an MVP and Cy Young Award in the same season. He was the first pitcher to strikeout 20 in a nine inning game and of the four times it’s been done, he’s done it twice!
At their peaks there were those who touted them as “the greatest player” and the “greatest pitcher of all time.” IMAGINE THAT!
These two men on their numbers are clear cut, stone cold locks, first ballot Hall of Famers who actually could challenge Tom Seaver for the highest percentage vote total in history! However this year marked their third on the ballot and their vote total’s have been just about the same; Bonds, 36.2% in 2013, 34.7% in 2014 and 36.8% this year. Clemens has captured only 37.6%, 35.4% and this year 37.5%.
The reason is simple and clear, the stink in the room.
The stink has kept the voters ability to determine what is real and what is stink driven and thus they hedge, they withhold and they due so in a remarkably consistent manner.
That brings us finally to these two.
Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell
Both men have put up the numbers in their careers which warrant Hall of Fame induction. They, for a lack of a better term, are shall we say, second tier Hall of Famers. Seems silly to say, but neither one of these guys were ever talked about in terms of first time locks as the three pitchers who were elected this week. So they have been effected by the men with whom they’ve shared the ballot.
But more than that has been, the stink. Now mind you, they are not in the room with the stink, so it does not sit as strong upon them. However, the hint of it has effected their numbers as many in the BBWAA are simply not 100% sure about the reality of their career numbers.
Pizza has three years of votes in and he has gone from 57.8% to 62.2% to 69.9% this year, a gradual, significant increase. Bagwell in his five years has gone from 41.7%, to 56%, to 59.6% to 54.3% and then to 55.7% this year.
Next year’s ballot adds first timers Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman, both who should get in. Neither of these two are anywhere near the stink.
Thus Piazza may crack through next year and Bagwell may draw closer but in the end for the two of them it will be decided by the strength of the stink at election time.
Good Lord I HATE IT!
And so it is on this date in Fenway Park history, January 9, 2015. A Happy Anniversary to Remo and Mary who married 71 years ago today!