Santo vs Rice and the Hall of Fame in Full Context

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This is a reply to the numerous comments on my prior posting about Jim Rice and Ron Santo.

Brooks Robinson, if he had the same defensive history as Santo, would not be in the Hall of Fame.

Ozzie Smith, without his glove, would not be in the Hall of Fame.

There is a place in the Hall of Fame for those who are the best at their position defensively and aren’t mediocre offensively. Smith became a good hitter; Robinson was a useful power hitter. Had Keith Hernandez hung on for a few more years and put up reasonable offensive stats, he would’ve been a Hall of Famer. Bill Mazeroski made it because he was brilliant defensively and had the “big moment” with his World Series winning homer.

The mistake you’re making is comparing transformative defensive figures with players who aren’t in based on their defense alone—they’re in based on other aspects of their games.

There’s not a bottom line rule for a player making or not making the Hall of Fame.

When you reference the “top 10” third basemen assertion for Santo, it’s not unimportant, but to say that’s why he should be in the Hall of Fame and Rice shouldn’t be because he’s not among the “top 25” left fielders it’s ignoring how hard it is to find a good third baseman. Third base is the most underrepresented position in the entire Hall of Fame, for whatever reason.

Santo’s defensive metrics are good (career Rtot—Total Zone Total Runs Above Fielding Average of +27), but not on a level with Robinson (a ridiculous +293); Graig Nettles (+134); Mike Schmidt (+129); or Adrian Beltre (+114). If you’d like some of Santo’s contemporaries, look at Ken Boyer (+70); Clete Boyer (+162); and Eddie Mathews (+40).

Then there are the players from latter eras who, based on Santo’s election, could say “what about me then?”

Ron Cey was putting up similar if not better offensive numbers while playing his home games at Dodger Stadium and was +21 at third base; Tim Wallach was a +61 for his career.

When you mention the number of left fielders to whom Rice is compared, there are greater—historic—ones to say Rice wasn’t on their level, but this is unfair.

If you look at Rice next to Barry Bonds or Rickey Henderson, he has no chance. Bonds could be called one of the best players ever and probably the best defensive left fielder we’ll ever see. Henderson was terrific out there too.

But Bonds and Henderson are first ballot Hall of Famers; Bonds probably won’t get in on the first ballot because of the off-field controversies, writer hatred and PED allegations.

Rice had to wait 15 years to gain election.

There’s a difference between the “just passing” player and the “oh, he’s in” player.

If you’d like to say that it’s the “Hall of Fame and not the Hall of Very Good”, then you’ll have to start kicking players out and make the criteria and process more stringent—you can do that—but under the current circumstances, Rice and Santo both belong in the Hall for different reasons with offensive stats that are nearly identical.

If Rice were actively seeking Hall of Fame induction, what was to stop him from looking forward to that end and asking to be shifted to third base and becoming an adequate or slightly below adequate third baseman—would that alter the discussion because of the position he played?

The position is irrelevant unless the player is the aforementioned transformative defensive figure who changed the way the position was played. Rice was dealing with a quirky wall and short field; Santo was a good, but not great, defensive player.

It’s a wash in one hand; an apples and oranges debate in the other.

I look at a player who played his position without concern as to his future Hall of Fame chances as an act in unselfishness. Knowing the writers’ feelings about voting DHs into the Hall based on them only being a DH, what was to stop Edgar Martinez or Frank Thomas—qualified candidates both—from demanding to play the field so they look like they’re playing the full game and aren’t a placekicker-style specialist?

They could’ve done that and gotten away with it.

So it’s better to have a player who’s thinking of his own status and hurting the team by playing the field when there are better defenders and he’s incapable of doing it serviceably? Or is it a team-centric decision to be the DH, know his limitations and do his job?

You can absolutely make the case that there are a great many players who should not be in the Hall of Fame for whatever reason; you can say “if this guy, why not that guy?”; or you can exclude anyone who isn’t an automatic mental click to the yes; but to say that because Santo was a pretty good third baseman defensively, is comparable to his contemporaries and was a good guy, he should be in; and that Rice was awful defensively (he wasn’t), wasn’t among the top left fielders in history, or was a jerk to reporters, is not a convincing argument.

I’m for a reasonably inclusive Hall of Fame with plenty of wiggle room for many reasons; you may not be. But to say, “oh he’s out because of <BLANK>” and digging for a reason is shifting the goal posts to suit yourselves. You can’t have it all ways when one blocking attempt fails. It’s either all-in or all-out.

Both should be in with the way the Hall is currently structured. And now, both of them are. Rightfully.

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41 thoughts on “Santo vs Rice and the Hall of Fame in Full Context

  1. Re: the positional argument. No, you still don’t get it. The argument is not about who provided the best FIELDING. It’s about the fact that anyone who could play the third base position AT ALL and deliver good to great offense deserves a boost over someone who only played left field. That when their offensive stats are largely similar, the third baseman is probably more worthy than the left fielder because one of them played a position where there are fewer great hitters, and thus provided more VALUE to his team.

    The fact that Rice is compared to Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson is COMPLETELY FAIR, because those guys helped set the standard for how a Hall of Fame left fielder should hit. As did Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Stan Musial, and so forth. That’s the group that Rice is competing with. Meanwhile, Santo should be compared with other HOF 3B like Schmidt, Mathews, Brett, Boggs, and Robinson. Santo compares favorably with the latter group (specifically the last 3 names), while Rice compares unfavorably with the former group.

    Now, I think you can still make a good argument that Rice should be in the Hall (his peak years were pretty great), but it’s pretty obvious to me why his selection is more questionable.

    1. Also, the notion that Rice could have tried playing third base in order to boost his own Hall of Fame credentials is laughable. If he could have played third base, you can bet the Red Sox would have put him there; his offense would have been far more valuable if he’d been a third baseman. He didn’t play 3B because he couldn’t. Meanwhile, Ron Santo could. That’s why he gets a boost.

      1. Oh no, players never think about themselves and their own future including a possible Hall of Fame career. It never happens. Ever.

      2. Oh no, I’m sure Rice would have loved to play a more premium defensive position. It would have meant more All-Star games, more recognition, more money, and (as you say) a better chance at the Hall. Him playing left field wasn’t because he was unselfish; it was because he wasn’t GOOD ENOUGH to play third base, so he had to play the outfield. That’s why Santo is more qualified; he WAS good enough to play a tougher infield position.

      3. Or it could be that he was stuck there in little league. This conjecture is pointless. And you’re ignoring my legit responses because you don’t have an answer for them.

      4. Seems to me that I’ve addressed every response you’ve given. It’s just that you don’t understand how a player’s position can change his value.

        Major League teams want to maximize their value. That means that if a good hitter can play a tougher position (even if he’s mediocre at it), they will play him there to maximize his value. If a player wasn’t used at a more premium defensive position, it’s a near certainty that it was because he couldn’t play it. Only in certain rare circumstances (like A-Rod being moved to 3B because of Jeter being on the Yankees) is a player moved off of a tough defensive position while he could still play it well. Your suggestion that maybe Rice could have tried playing 3B is far more of a conjecture than my suggestion that he probably couldn’t. If he could have played 3B, why didn’t the Red Sox organization ever try him there?

      5. No you haven’t. You never addressed Santo’s statistical above-averagishness defensively in comparison to Nettles, Robinson and Beltre; his comparison to other players like Cey and Wallach; my assertion about defensive transformative figures like Ozzie Smith; the DH absence of selfishness—none of it.
        The shifting Rice to third was only an example to make him more palatable to your caviar Hall of Fame tastes; obviously it’s rare that a player is made to change positions that way and you’re putting a stat guy sensibility and the idiotic concept of moving players on a chess board without them complaining (see Ramirez, Hanley or Young, Michael) is going to work, especially with a star player who has his position and won’t want to give it up.
        The statistical argument above all else is turning into a factional war rather than a discussion and it’s heading in the same direction of not listening to the other side as the “I know a Hall of Famer when I see one” silliness.

      6. “No you haven’t. You never addressed Santo’s statistical above-averagishness defensively in comparison to Nettles, Robinson and Beltre; his comparison to other players like Cey and Wallach; my assertion about defensive transformative figures like Ozzie Smith”

        Okay, I will try again to address. Your argument seems to be that since Santo was not a BRILLIANT defender at third base (merely a good one), he should not be given additional credit over Rice because of his position. I think this is the wrong way to look at it. To my mind, it’s really a question of how much VALUE Santo brought to his teams as a third baseman vs. how much value Rice brought to his teams as a left fielder.

        I think we can all agree that, over the course of baseball history, and also in nearly any given season, left fielders as a group generally hit better than third basemen. We can speculate as to the reason (I think by far the biggest reason is that third base is a tougher defensive position to play than left field), but I don’t think the central point is arguable: the average LF is a better hitter than the average 3B.

        What does that mean? It means that if a team has a LF and a 3B who provide the same (above-average) batting line, the 3B is MORE VALUABLE as a hitter. Why? Because if that team had to replace their 3B with some other average 3B, they’d be worse off than if they had to replace their LF with an average LF; they’d be losing more offense.

        Therefore, Ron Santo brought more value to his teams as a 3B than Rice did as a LF, and he is more worthy of being a Hall of Famer. When you also add in the fact that Santo put up the same raw numbers as Rice and did it in a more pitching-friendly era, the difference is even clearer: Ron Santo, relative to his era and others at his position, was a more valuable player than Jim Rice.

        “The shifting Rice to third was only an example to make him more palatable to your caviar Hall of Fame tastes”

        I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that I have “caviar” Hall of Fame tastes. I was not even arguing that Rice is an undeserving Hall of Famer, only that Santo was a better choice. If you really want to know, I think Rice was a borderline Hall of Famer, one that I probably would not have voted for, but I could also see the argument for him. He certainly had a reputation as a feared power hitter, won an MVP, and was selected for eight All-Star teams. That all certainly counts for something.

        I’m not a “Small Hall” kind of guy. I’d say that maybe the bottom 5-10% of Hall of Famers should be removed, and that’s it.

        “obviously it’s rare that a player is made to change positions that way and you’re putting a stat guy sensibility and the idiotic concept of moving players on a chess board without them complaining (see Ramirez, Hanley or Young, Michael) is going to work, especially with a star player who has his position and won’t want to give it up.”

        That is certainly fair enough, however it’s worth noting that I was not the one who began the line of argument that involved players changing positions. And anyway, I’m also referring to how these players were assigned positions before they were stars. If major-league scouts who watched Jim Rice in high school thought he might be able to handle an infield position, they would have tried him at it. If any of his minor-league managers thought that they could get more out of him at a tougher defensive position, they would have tried it. And all of this would have happened before Jim Rice became a Major League star. Instead, he played the outfield the entire time.

        I suppose there is a remote possibility that Rice would have been a competent third baseman if he’d ever tried it at the professional level. However, it’s much more likely that he was an outfielder because he didn’t have the necessary skills to play third base. Meanwhile, Santo clearly did have the skills to play 3B at the Major League level, so he did. And that enhanced his value.

        “The statistical argument above all else is turning into a factional war rather than a discussion”

        I’m certainly not trying to take it in that direction. Hopefully these most recent responses have helped to clarify my argument here.

  2. The issue with Santo vs. the other third basemen you cite is pretty obvious: no matter how comparatively brilliant they were defensively, they did not save enough runs to offset Santo’s ability to generate runs.

    Robinson is the only player who was close, but he spent more of his career when runs came more freely. Everyone else was at least 100 runs back (generally a couple hundred back) despite playing more of their time in either the offense-favorable 50s or when the mound was lowered in the early 70s. The offense of Santo’s era was repressed by maybe 10 to 15%. This is what kills Cey’s argument (even taking into consideration park effects). He was a notch below Santo offensively even though the era effects during Santo’s career had a bigger negative impact on production than the Dodger Stadium effect.

    1. I think everyone’s missing what I was initially trying to say: both players were very similar offensively and had vastly different wait times and paths to the Hall of Fame when, in the end, it’s either both in or both out. Rice to me was a more deadly hitter—hitter—Santo walked more and was more valuable defensively.
      The whole point is the application of statistics in hindsight is taking players like these and putting them in greater context; but there’s no way—none—to fully quantify what either/or meant to his team because the value of on base/defense and other factors including the misapplied WAR cannot be transferred to adjust the mentality of the players and what they were asked to do.
      If Rice were playing for the Red Sox today, they’d want him to walk more and they’d stick him at DH to account for his defensive deficiencies. Would he benefit from the smaller parks, expansion and rotten pitching? Did Santo benefit from the absence of relief pitching? Was Rice hurt by facing the Goose Gossages of the world? Would Santo be seen as a David Wright or Evan Longoria-type and be perceived accurately as “better” than Rice? Can these questions be answered without the ultimate macro-dissection of every at bat, every pitch?
      Like the adjustments of the mound that Santo had to deal with and Rice’s mandate to swing the bat, it’s a question of accuracy and context. All we have is the numbers, comparisons and negligible debate that degenerates into “I saw him play”. Some may have value, some may not; but there’s no common denominator to end the case once and for all.

      1. Do you understand, however, the argument that despite the two players having similar raw stats, Santo’s were more valuable because they came from the 3B position rather than LF? Do you understand why that argument is valid? And that it doesn’t really depend on how good Santo was as a fielder?

      2. Of course it depends on how good he was as a fielder! If he was a horrible fielder than the point of him being there is non-existent!
        You’re not comprehending what I’m saying and I’ve said it perfectly clearly.

      3. Okay, to some extent you’re right that it does depend on how good he was as a fielder. However, it doesn’t matter to the extent that you say. It would only truly make a difference if Rice were an OUTSTANDING defensive left fielder (he wasn’t) or if Santo were a BAD defensive third baseman (he wasn’t). Then you could maybe say their defensive contributions were a wash. Since both players were at least reasonably competent at their positions, that means Santo’s defensive contribution was greater because his defensive position was tougher. It also means that Santo’s offensive contribution is worth more because it came from a position that generally provides less offense.

        Does any of that make sense? It’s pretty elementary statistical theory, and very much consistent with how Hall of Famers have been chosen in the past.

      4. I’m not sure why you’re sprinkling in “does that make sense?” like I’m a small dimwitted child; I know what you’re saying, I just happen to disagree as to the importance of the difference in positions in terms of comparing the players.
        I’m not convinced that 3rd basemen provide less offense than left fielders; that’s something that would have to be quantified. See last year’s Braves, Mets, Yankees, Rays—and that’s off the top of my head.
        And do NOT tell me that Brett Gardner had a higher WAR than A-Rod. Please.

      5. “I’m not sure why you’re sprinkling in “does that make sense?” like I’m a small dimwitted child”

        Because I honestly wasn’t sure whether or not you had understood the concept of relative value based on fielding position; you had not seemed to acknowledge it before now.

        “I’m not convinced that 3rd basemen provide less offense than left fielders; that’s something that would have to be quantified.”

        It has been quantified, see the reply from Anonymous below. This doesn’t mean that every team has a LF who hits better than their 3B, but on average left fielders definitely hit better than third basemen. The numbers throughout baseball history also back this up, which is why Santo ranks within the Top 10 all-time among 3B but Jim Rice barely scrapes the Top 20 all time among LF, despite the fact that the two have similar offensive stats.

        “See last year’s Braves, Mets, Yankees, Rays—and that’s off the top of my head.
        And do NOT tell me that Brett Gardner had a higher WAR than A-Rod. Please.”

        Certainly I would not tell you that. But look at the teams you chose — these are the teams that have All-Star and/or future Hall of Fame third basemen. They are the outliers, the exceptions, not the general rule. The averages tell us that LF are usually better hitters than 3B.

      6. Um…okay.
        A) I don’t put much stock in anonymous, snide comments.
        B) Let’s go team-by-team then since you disbelieve my “off the top of my head” statement as if I have reason to twist things as stat guys do when they’re losing an argument.
        Teams who had a better 3b than LF in addition to the ones I mentioned: Red Sox; Blue Jays (um, why isn’t Jose Bautista their regular 3rd baseman?); Orioles; Indians; Twins; Rangers; Angels; Nats; Reds; Cubs; Diamondacks; Giants; and Padres.
        Oh, and the Brewers LF is better than their 3b—and their LF, Ryan Braun…used to be a 3rd baseman!!! but was so terrible that they sent him to the outfield.
        Now, some have a truly awful LF (Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano for example) and a pretty bad 3B or both equally as rancid (the Mariners; Reds; Dodgers), but that’s beside the point.
        That’s almost every team in baseball that had a better 3b than LF or had players who could play the position well enough to stand there and be the 3rd baseman as you suggest, but were moved for whatever reason.
        I think we’re done here.

      7. Good gravy. The fact that we may be in an unusually good time for 3B and bad for LF right now doesn’t mean that 3B have historically hit better than LF. The argument was about how Santo and Rice stack up against the all-time players, right? Well, the all-time records show that LF have better hitting stats than 3B.

        If you’re unwilling to acknowledge that fact, then we certainly are done here.

        Also, there is no good reason to ignore the “Anonymous” comment below. It provides exactly the stats you’re looking for.

      8. If someone is willing to comment on my site, they should leave a name.
        And you’re shifting the goalposts after ridiculing my accurate statement that the 3rd basemen of today—for whatever reason—are better than left fielders.

      9. Shifting goalposts? I thought this whole discussion was about who is the better Hall of Fame candidate? If we’re discussing who is most worthy of being in the Hall of Fame, then wouldn’t you agree that all-time records are more relevant than just records from the 2010 MLB season?

      10. I never said anything about “better”. I said there wasn’t that much of a difference and you started in with the positional arguments in a historical context. I replied in kind with the positional argument and you moved it again to “left fielders in general”.

      11. Honestly, I don’t follow it that way at all, but if that’s how my argument reads I apologize, and will try to clarify:

        I think the most relevant way to decide whether or not Ron Santo or Jim Rice belong in the Hall of Fame is to compare them to one or both of two groups:

        1. The best players of all time (to see how they stack up against the greats).
        2. The best players of their respective eras (to see how valuable they were in their time).

        Comparing them to modern players in 2010 doesn’t work very well, since neither Santo nor Rice are still playing ball today. By comparison to both other 3B of his time and the great historical 3B, I think Santo compares very well. By comparison to the other LF of his time and to the great historical LF, I don’t think Rice compares as well. He still compares okay, but not in “obvious HOF” territory.

      12. Everyone has their own separate criteria for the Hall of Fame and the voters do some absurd things. Someone gave a vote to Carl Everett. Why? Who knows?
        Statistically, you can make any argument and frame it in a way to make some kind of sense—that doesn’t make it right or wrong in theory. Practically, it may be right; it may be wrong. I think Tommy John should be in the Hall of Fame because the surgery that bears his name has saved countless careers; others don’t think it should be a factor.
        People are going crazy that Tim McCarver is being elected into the broadcaster’s wing; as much as he’s become repetitive, hypocritical and irritating, he was a great broadcaster for an extended period and fulfills the named criteria “fame”; I have no issue with his election.
        We can go on like this forever and it’s going to continue with the likes of Larry Walker, Curt Schilling and the PED players Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.
        There are the no-brainers upon whom we’ll all agree like Ken Griffey Jr and Greg Maddux, but if you tear apart their numbers I’m sure you can find a reason to keep them out as well.
        It’s a circular and endless debate.

      13. Without a doubt, there are often additional factors that can affect a player’s candidacy beyond their performance on the field. Steroids, gambling, off-field contributions, and so forth. And yes, sometimes the voters have weird biases (I think Santo was an unfortunate victim of this).

        If you take those factors out (not saying they’re not important, but we can separate them), however, I do think there’s a good way to measure a player’s contribution on the field, or at least come close to it. And that based on those measures, Ron Santo was clearly a more valuable player than Jim Rice. That’s not to say that Rice was a bad player or anything, but Santo was a better candidate.

      14. You have to look at the situations from a human standpoint as I do. Andre Dawson is often referred to as a poor choice for the Hall of Fame because of his low on base percentage; but who was Dawson’s manager when he got to the big leagues? Dick Williams. Old-school, don’t show me stats, swing the bat, etc. So if Dawson, at age 21 and in the big leagues is there because he swung the bat and hit home runs; that’s what Williams wanted him to do and, if you’re a young player arriving in the big leagues with a three-time pennant winner, two-time World Series winner who happens to be crotchety, grouchy and an “I’m the boss, do what I say and shut up” type, then Dawson is going to willingly swing the bat and shun waiting for a pitch to hit.
        The Red Sox were the same organization in Moneyball that was said to have given Wade Boggs a hard time because he was so patient. Is it a stretch to think they encouraged Rice to swing the bat?
        In another situation, look at the Braves of 2011. I don’t know if you read Capitol Avenue Club, the Braves blog, but they spent the entire season roasting hitting coach Larry Parrish and manager Fredi Gonzalez for encouraging the aggressive approach. (Say the word through clenched teeth like you’re gnawing on a piece of meat and you get the gist of what they were trying to say.) The Braves had a talented lineup with a few black spots and were 14th in the NL in OBP and 10th in runs. There’s no excuse for a team with Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla and Chipper Jones in their lineup to be 14th in OBP.
        They were encouraged to swing the bat and that’s what they did. The players don’t need to be told over and over to swing because for many of them, on the way up, that’s their natural instinct—to hit.
        Now look at the Mets of 2011.
        Limited talent, rampant injuries and 2nd in the NL in OBP and 6th in runs scored. Why? Because that’s what the front office, the manager and hitting coach wanted them to do and they did it.
        It’s not simply about going up to the plate and being patient; it’s about having everyone coming to terms with a strategy that’s implemented based on what a player can and can’t do. I’ve never given a player a hard time for being what he is. If he’s not capable of walking 80 times a year and he contributes in other ways—defensively as Santo and Brooks Robinson did; with home runs; speed or something—then I accept the player without much complaint as long as I don’t have someone better.
        It’s not just about numbers.

  3. Santo and Rice had very similar offensive numbers but;

    avg. 3rd baseman in Santo’s career had a .715 OPS
    avg. left fielder in Rice’s career had a .790 OPS

    The issue is that Santo was MUCH more valuable than an average third baseman than Rice was relative to left fielders.

  4. Trying to add something to the discussion. It seems relevant given your comment above “I’m not convinced that 3rd basemen provide less offense than left fielders; that’s something that would have to be quantified.”

  5. I don’t see anything in my comment that was “snarky.” At least I’m no longer “anonymous.”

    And you’re wrong about 3rd basemen being better than left fielders today;

    3B – .707 OPS
    LF – .728 (obviously the gap has closed)

    1. So now it’s shifted again to an overall number with everyone lumped into one group of third basemen (with the ones who put up huge/poor numbers) against left fielders (with the ones who put up huge or poor numbers)?
      I name individuals, you reference the faceless, general LEFT FIELDER vs the THIRD BASEMAN.
      We’re speaking two different languages.

      1. I name individuals, you reference the faceless, general LEFT FIELDER vs the THIRD BASEMAN.

        It’s called an average. Taking the average is more accurate than just trying to name individual players, if we’re trying to determine how much better a player is than the average.

  6. As long as you keep using the attitude that – “if Player A has some set of career stats that compare favorably with Player B, who is already in the HOF, then A belongs in the HOF – then you will keep gradually reducing the quality overall of the Hall – as you yourself said, if Santo then Ron Cey has an arguement

    Look at the last ten years or so – of over 50 inductees into the Hall of Fame, there arent a dozen that are in the 50th percentile of guys at Cooperstown

    Let’s try the opposite tack.

    Take the best guys not in the HOF – and then when a new candidate comes up, if their production doesnt compare to those guys, then deny them

    In my opinion, the two position player and pitcher not in the HOF are Dick Allen and Ron Guidry – My take on it would be, if you didnt outproduce Allen or Guidry, then get out of here

    Bottom line – NEITHER Santo nor Jim Rice belong in the HOF – (nor Dawson, nor Puckett, nor Sandberg, nor Carter) – All of them belong one or more franchise’s HOF, but Cooperstown would be just fine without any of them

    Santo is a particularly pathetic choice – Not because he is the worst player ever inducted (far from it actually) – but becauise of how it happened. Denied again and again by two seperate mechanisms , and then suddenly, almost a year to the day after he dies, he makes it almost unaniomously – It’s pretty obvious this was a pity vote

    I dont say we should go back and de-induct guys. But one mistake doesnt rationalize subsequent mistakes, and the bar should be inching ever HIGHER, not ever lower

    1. Puckett’s an interesting case.
      He was inducted because some writers seemed to be implying he “would’ve” done if he hadn’t gotten glaucoma. I make the case that you could say the same thing about Don Mattingly or many other players whose careers were shortened by injury.
      You can make the case for a smaller Hall of Fame, but the box is open, they’re not kicking people out and it’s gonna continue to be if this one, then that one.
      The only thing I can suggest is an alternate HOF with the numbers that those who have such strong opinions feel make them worthy. It’ll take awhile, but eventually people listened to Bill James and that’s being taken to its logical conclusion—for better and worse.

    2. Robert, what percentage of players do you think should make the Hall of Fame? The general historical standard has been approximately the top 10%, excepting certain periods where the Veterans’ Committee has gone nuts and let in way too many people (mostly during the Frankie Frisch era). Most of the time it’s been about 10% of the total players.

      I’d argue that Santo is clearly within the Top 10% (certainly among all-time third basemen) and therefore is worthy. Rice is less obviously in the Top 10%, though by some measures you could say he was.

  7. Career adjusted OPS may be the best starting point to dteermine HOF candidacy – but it can be affected if a player hung on for a long time past his prime – a great example is Wade Boggs. Aside from getting his 3000th hit, nothing Boggs did after 1991 helped him get to the HOF.

    Anyway, cut to the chase. The qualifier is 10 seasons in the big leagues. Fine. Take your candidate and show me 6000 plate appearances with an adjusted OPS of 140. For pitchers, show me your best 2000 innings.

    Every so often you will come across a true defensive specialist or a reliever. And I’d make a 120 adjusted OPS more the line for pithcers.

    And any of these guys who decide for themselves that they deserve it – screqw that/ It is NEVER a snub to be denied by the HOF, it is ONLY an honor to be selected.

    I’d say open the voting to the fans. The vets committee has made more truly bad selections than the writers. The smaller the group, the easier it is for 75% to do something foolish.

    Let all the fans vote – and then the Atlanta contingent who hollers for Murphy and the Yankee contingent that hollers for Mattingly would see just how differently the rest of the world views their local heroes .

    If 75% of 50 million baseball fans had to agree on a guy’s candidacy, then there might be some great players not in Cooperstown, but any who did get in you could bet your bippy they truly belong

    1. Bill James has suggested that there should be separate votes: one for the fans, one for the players and coaches, one for the front-office people, one for the journalists, and one for the historians. A player would have to be ratified by 4 of the 5 groups to get in. That would certainly be a more democratic solution, and one where everyone would feel like they got their say.

  8. I’ve never referenced anything other than a general group. I don’t know why you would want to go through a specific, cherry-picked list. To me the logical way to look at something is look at the whole.

    It is unclear to me why the fact that Alex Rodriguez is better than Brett Gardner has any relevance to Jim Rice or Ron Santo.

    Think of it this way you can have Rice and an average 3rd baseman or Santo and an average left fielder;

    .852 OPS + .715 OPS (Rice option)
    .852 OPS + .790 OPS (Santo option)

    Is it not clear that the Santo option in that scenario is much better?

    1. If you’re discussing individuals, then the individuals should be compared to the group in a very general way. To say, “Rice wasn’t among the top 15 left fielders” is arbitrary unless you start discussing the individual left fielders and how many good or great ones there were. If you’re going to generalize third baseman as being “X” and left fielders as being “Y”, then Gardner and A-Rod are absolutely relevant in that type of debate, which was not what I had in mind at any point. I couldn’t care less about the middling left fielder or third baseman to whom Rice or Santo are compared.

  9. I never said Rice wasn’t among the top 15 left fielders but that’s neither here nor there. Are you saying you want me to rank the left fielders and third basemen in baseball history and then figure out where Rice and Santo rank? To be honest I’ve never done that but I’m confident based on the data I’ve seen (and I grew up watching Rice and love him to this day) that Santo is higher on the list of third basemen than Rice is on the list of left fielders.

    But no, I’ve never sat down and ranked them out.

    If you don’t care about the middling player, who do you care about? What comp are you giving? If you’re only comparison is Rice vs. Santo that’s somewhat non-sensical in my opinion but I’d still take Santo. He’s a similar hitter providing value at a position where offense (during his day) was less and he was also a superior defender, again, relative to his position.

  10. The tenor of the debate has taken a turn for the worse here. At the risk of rehashing everything, relative value based upon position is hugely important. Look at it this way: if you and I both have entirely average teams made up of average players at batting, fielding, and pitching at all positions, then we both have 81 win teams, assuming average luck too.

    You getting a Rice in his good years in LF will undoubtedly make your team better, just as me getting Santo for 3B will for my team. WAR (and a bunch of other metrics) suggest my team would be better than yours by a couple of games through. It comes down to the fact that my left fielder gives me production that comes a bit closer to Rice than your 3B will do compared to Santo…and winning is what it’s about.

    To borrow an example from another sport, a tight end getting 800 yards receiving in a season is more valuable than a wide receiver doing the same. The TE has more difficult responsibilities outside of simply producing yardage (or HRs, OPS, RBI, OBP, insert your choice metrics in baseball here).

    So no, I don’t hold the view that because both Santo and Rice got into the hall through a lengthy route, that this means they are both somehow equally deserving or that both are deserving at all.

    If you were to look strictly at the stats on the back of his baseball card, Rice has got a lot of black and grey ink on it, and based upon traditional black and grey ink standards tests, he is a HOFer. That doesn’t tell you the entire story though. To illustrate, if you were to take the top (based upon WAR) 90 or so OFers from the post integration era through age 33–Rice’s final “good year”, Cut out the actives and known/highly suspected juicers, and you’re left with 71 OFers whose WAR>31. Keep in mind we’re custom tailoring this for Rice’s best years, which may not be the best years of the other players in the pool. Rice was more likely to ground into a DP than any of the others per plate appearance. His SO/BB ratio was tenth worst. He struck out more than roughly 70% of that player pool. He also was tenth worst in terms of stolen base production and he played below average defense at LF, which be default would make him one of the worst fielders of a pool containing LF, CF, and RF players. He did finish 16th in OPS (adjusted for era, he slipped a bit to abt 28th of 71), but this needs to be weighed against a lot of the things I mentioned that are ignored or not fully captured by OPS.

    Rice’s problem was that the blank ink wasn’t quite enough compared to other OFers and by the time his time might have been called, people were beginning to understand more of the nuances and the baseball globe was no longer flat, but round. I think he began to look a bit better as the steroid issue blew up because the known/highly suspected offenders were largely OFers and 1Bmen. The big numbers put up by guys after Rice retired were called into question and he began to look a bit more special.

    Which brings us to where Rice rates among LFers and another problem: outfielders are generally grouped together. No one says, “there goes the third best LFer who ever lived” because the defensive skills translate reasonably well across all 3 positions (with LF generally the easiest) and there are a ton of good RF and CFers from a purely offensive standpoint who were better than Rice who could have easily played left. Using WAR (it’s not perfect, but it picks up almost everything) among all outfielders and cherry picking for Rice’s ten year prime, he posted the 37th best WAR. Divide by 3 to account for three positions out there and he’s probably top 12 or 13. He beats only three out of roughly 20 HOF OFers when you apply his peak years to them: Stargell, Puckett, and Brock. The first two best him on total WAR due to longevity issues+Puckett had the what if thing working for him and Brock was a novelty selection as a base stealer (and probable top 5 leadoff man of the post-integration era). Strictly from peak WAR, there are a good 15 to 20 eligibles with higher scores than Rice who are not in Cooperstown. Looking at his entire body of work, Rice is a “maybe, but probably not” kind of guy.

    Cherry pick the same for Santo’s 10 year prime and he’s is # 3 on the list for 3B, behind Schmidt and Mathews. Even looking at career WAR, every eligible in front of Santo is in the Hall and he has a decent cushion between himself and the best of the rest.

    I get the feeling that Rice’s induction was due more to contemporaneous issues in the game at the point of his induction while Santo’s was more of a massive oversight that a more nuanced look at production illuminated. Power hitting outfielders were in good supply through Mays/Aaron/Mantle era and the offense supressed era that immediately followed through the early 70s made guys look even worse compared to their predecessors. Reggie got inducted in 93 and then there was a huge delay until Winfield in 2001. Everything blew up in the interim. Roughly a dozen very good to mortal HOF locks were implicated in the PED usage and then we looked back in hindsight, and said, “WTH, we need to find ourselves some clean power hitters.” They needed to be clean and in our recent memory: Rice and Dawson. For either of these two to get in, a lot of things had to break their way. Had the mound been dropped ten years earlier or had certain guys playing in Dodger Stadium or the Astrodome played elsewhere, and I don’t think they’re in. Had the roids issue never heated up, Raines might be in instead. Or Bonds and the next tier like a Sheffield likely would have produced enough in a “clean” era to legitimize their candidacy, keeping Rice and Dawson both out.

    Santo doesn’t have this issue. His place in the pecking order doesn’t change if Cey moves elsewhere. If the mound is dropped earlier, he actually benefits. If we’re not putting a premium on the long ball during the roids era, then his all around game is more probably valued more highly and he’s in earlier. He is at worst the 6th best third basemen despite all of these things.

    So yeah, their delayed induction circumstances are similar, Santo’s case is much, much better. It’s pretty obvious why Rice’s induction was questioned while Santo’s was overwhelmingly accepted to be a good thing.

    1. Your tight end example also leaves room for context. Is he a pure receiving tight end who couldn’t block an 8-year-old child like Todd Christensen? Or is he a hard core tough guy like Mark Bavaro who loves to block?
      I’m not sure how you interpret “turn for the worse”. Is it that others are seeing my point-of-view that you dislike? That’s really not the way to look at things in any context: “If you disagree with me, I don’t like it.”

      1. When I say tenor I’m talking about the snarkiness. You even brought it up earlier. I think snide was your word of choice. But if you’re assuming my feelings are hurt, because, “If you disagree with me, I don’t like it.”…well, you’re wrong. In real life I’ve got a couple daughters and work with attorneys all day–my whole life is one big disagreement.

        Couldn’t agree with you more re: context in the TE/WR example. I guess in baseball terms, you would need to replace blocking with defense. Santo = above average defense at a more difficult to fill defensive position. Rice = below average defense at an easier to fill defensive position. So you’re getting a TE with the other abilities and then some vs. a WR missing some of the other abilities (route running, downfield blocking, take your pick) on equal production.

        The OPS threshold of 140+ proposed by Robert is a good illustration point as well. If you go hunting for guys who can post 140+ over 6000 plate appearances, the guys achieving this probably have at least a season or two at 150+ to get to that 140+ average. There are varying degrees of rarity for that based upon position. Number of seasons at 150+, 600PA by position since integration:
        C-8
        2B-10
        SS-14
        3B-55
        CF-abt 60
        RF-abt 75 to 80
        LF-abt 75 to 80
        1B-115

        Even with a defensive adjustment, you’ll end up with a Hall full of corner outfielders, first basemen, and designated hitters using this guideline.

        To get a more normal distribution, you’d need to use the following (extended OPS+ avg and peak OPS+):

        1B: 150 and 160
        LF/RF: 145 and 155
        CF: 140 and 150
        3B:: 135 and 145
        2B: 120 and 130
        SS: 115 and 125
        C: 105 and 115

        Then you make the defensive adjustments. All time great fielders might get a 20 pt bump. Very good, maybe 10 pts. Avg = no adjustment. Slightly below avg, maybe a 5 pt dock. Very bad, maybe a 10 pt deduction. There won’t be a 20 pt dock for all time bad because the distribution is curtailed here–all time bad fielders at a given position generally don’t see the field…they move to easier defensive positions, DH if their bat is good enough, or they retire…unless they are NL first basemen with awesome bats.

        Rice is an extended 138 avg guy with a couple of seasons in the 154 to 157 range. He’s right at the minimum on peak, 7 pts below on extended best seasons and he falls out with even average defense. More likekly than not, you’d need to dock his numbers at least 5 pts on account of his glove, so he’s out on both peak (by 5 pts)and extended (by 12).

        Santo has 4 seasons at 146 to 164 and an extended average of 141. He’s there on peak and extended best seasons by a comfortable margin + he brings at least an above avg glove.

        Ozzie Smith’s best three seasons are in the 105 to 112 range, roughly 15-20 pts adrift of where they need to be. His extended average is 100, abt 15 pts behind, but he is an all-time great fielder, so he’s he’ll get the 15 to 20 pt bump to put him in.

        If we just use a generic OPS cutoff and give him 20 pts for his glove, then Ozzie Smith is not in the Hall of Fame. Equal offensive production across different positions isn’t really equal.

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