The ten worst MVP selections of all time

You hear a lot about this or that player getting robbed in MVP voting.  I decided to take a look at every single MVP race in history and decide for myself.  Yes, I had way too much time on my hands.  Here’s my list of the ten worst MVP selections of all time. 

1.  1925 AL Roger Peckinpaugh

               Peckinpaugh was a typical good field, no hit shortstop who was winding down his career in 1925.  He hit .294 with little power. His on base average was ok – .367, but he also missed 25 games.  Now in those days the voting rules precluded prior winners from being eligible, so Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson and George Sisler weren’t eligible. That still left a large number of candidates however. Among those who received votes but didn’t win:

Al Simmons .387/.419/.599 .. In a full season no less.  Simmons probably should have won the award.

Harry Heilman  .393/.457/.569, also in a full season. 

Mickey Cochrane.. had an OPS almost 100 points higher, and played in 8 more games. Cochrane finished 10th.

Particularly mystifying is the case of Joe Sewell.  Sewell finished 3rd despite the fact he:

              1.  Was also a shortstop, and an even better fielder than Peckinpaugh.

              2.  played 29 more games than Peckinpaugh.

              3.  Had an OPS 81 points higher. 

I suppose you could explain Peckinpaugh’s selction in part to the Senators winning the pennant, and Walter Johnson not being eligible as a prior winner.  But if that’s the case, why not Stan Covaleski, who actually had a slightly better year than Johnson,  or why not Goose Goslin?, easily the best hitter on the team that year. Sam Rice also had a good year, why not him?  Why not 2nd baseman Bucky Harris, who also played an important defensive position well, had pretty much the same offensive statistics, but played in 18 more games?  He also happened to manage the team to the world series.   Bucky Harris didn’t receive a single vote.  By my estimation Peckinpaugh should have finished around 20th, IF I were being generous.  No matter how you slice it the 1925 AL MVP award was the worst selection of all time.

2.  1944 NL Marty Marion

             Except maybe for this one.  Like the 1925 AL selection this one has been universally derided.  There were a boatload of people who were more deserving than Marion, second place Bill Nicholson of the Cubs for instance. But the winner SHOULD have been Stan Musial who finished 4th, and a comparison between the two is striking. 

           1.  Both were on the pennant winning Cardinals, so no advantage to either there.

           2.  Marion was an outstanding defensive shortstop, no question.  I’ll go ahead and state this is the sole reason for his award. Musial was a pretty good first baseman. But well, it is first base. 

           3.  Offensively it isn’t even remotely close.   

Marion hit way down in the order because, well, he stunk.  As a result he came to the plate 565 times compared to Musial’s 667, despite the fact he only played in two less games.  Marion hit .267 with a whopping 34 extra base hits.  Musial hit .347 with 77 extra base hits (Musial wasn’t even much of a home run hitter in those days).  Marion drew only 43 walks, Musial had 90.  Marion had 113 runs plus RBIs, Musial had 206.  I could go on but you get the idea.  I think you could easily state the case Musial was responsible for the Cardinals producing 80-90 runs more than Marion was.  Marion’s fielding just isn’t enough to fill that find of gap.

3.  1962 NL Maury Wills

           A truly abyssmal selection.  Wills won the award for the singular reason of breaking the 20th century steals record with 104.  Now the interesting thing about that to me is that second place went to Willie Davis wth 32 steals, an incredible difference of 72.  Why was Maury Wills able to steal so many more bases than everyone else, was he THAT fast?  Well I don’t know.  What I do know is that it didn’t really translate into being a more valuable player.  Wills won the gold glove, but he was maybe only a slightly better than average fielder.  He did score 130 runs, but mainly because he had Tommy Davis, who had a bizarro career year with a .346 average and 153 RBis and Frank Howard with 31 home runs and 119 RBis hitting behind him.  Wills had an OPS of .720  Among those who didn’t win:  Willie Mays, .999.  Frank Robinson, 1.045, Hank Aaron, 1.008.  His Teammates Howard and Davis had over .900.  Aging Stan Musial topped .900.  A difference of over 200 OPS is quite a lot to make up.  Even teammate and Cy Young winner Don Drysdale would have been a better delection. 

4.  1959 AL Nellie Fox

           The problem with this selection is not so much that Nellie Fox was way worse than everyone else, it’s that there were so many other players who were at least somewhat better.  Fox was the gold glove second baseman on the pennant winning White Sox.  He was good, but he was only 2 or 3 errors better than average over the course of a season. He also had one of his better offensive seasons, hitting .306 with 71 walks.  But like I said he wasn’t THAT great of a fielder, and there were plenty of other selections that would have been better but played on teams that finished less than first.  I probably would have given it to Al Kaline. 

5.  1913 NL Johnny Evers

                 In these days it was called the Chalmers award, and Evers of course was best known as part of the Tinkers to Evers to Chance poem.  All in all it was a typical year for Evers.  he hit .279 with a single home run, and had an OPS of .728. He did draw a lot of walks but people didn’t care much about that back then. He had a much worse year than 1911 when he hit .341 against the same level of competition but finished 20th in the voting.  But again, he was a good fielder on a pennant winning team.  I might have given the award to pitcher Bill James. 

6. 2007 NL Jimmy Rollins

            The most recent MVP award clunker and proof even modern voters have their view skewed by misleading statistics.  Rollins won the award by a small margin over Colorado’s Matt Holliday, who almost certainly would have won the award had he posted his statistics anywhere but Colorado.  Rollins set a major league record with 716 at bats, led the league with 139 runs, and had a 30-30 season (31 home runs, 41 SBs).  Impressive until you realize most of those stats are mesleading.  716 at bats simply means he didn’t draw many walks. Despite being second in the league with 212 hits he only had a .344 OBP.  his OPS was a mediocre .875.  Rollins did win the gold glove at shortstop for a pennant winning team however.  Notice a running theme throughout history with these selections?  There were a buttload of better hitters in the league including his teammates Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Aaron Rowand.  Chipper Jones was probably the best hitter in the league that year, and he finished 7th.  Prince Fielder also had an OPS over 1.000.  Sure Rollins had a 30-30 season, but so did David Wright, who was a  better hitter and won the gold glove at third base. So did Brandon Phillips of Cincinnati who finished 22nd and didn’t win a gold glove at 2nd but probably could have. 

7.  1950 NL  Jim Konstanty

          Stan Musial gets screwed out of yet another MVP award.  I suppose you couldn’t give it to him every year.  Konstanty did have a pretty good year, going 16-7 with a 2.66 ERA and 22 saves for the pennant winning Phillies.  Now this brings up a good question as to how to handle relievers in MVP and CY Young award voting.  The other relievers to win the MVP award have been Dennis Eckersly in 1992, Willie Hernandez in 1984, and Rollie Fingers in 1981.  All in the American league.  In addition Cy Young winning relievers have included Eric Gagne, Mark Davis, Sparky Lyle, and so on.  Now I’m of the opinion the value of relievers is a bit overstated.  Regardless of how perfect a reliever pitches, he’s only doing it in a third of the innings a starter does.  It’s the batting equivalent of hitting .400 in only 200 at bats.  Great but so what?  Now obviously relievers come into the game at crucial juctures, but usually later when the hitters are more fatigued and they can give it 100 percent.  John Smoltz was a very good starter who towards the end of his career, after major injury, became easily the best reliever in the National league.  So one wonders, how hard is it really to be a great reliever?  Mariano Rivera has certainly been the best over the last 10 years, but has yet to win a single Cy Young or MVP.  In any case the other three MVP relievers won it more recently, when a reliever’s role was better defined and in each case they were far and away the best relievers in years where there was no single dominant hitter. 

That’s not the case with Konstanty.  First of all there was a viable pitching alternative on his own team: Robin Roberts.  Roberts might not have been the best pitcher in the National league that year but he was mighty close, and he pitched twice as many innings as Konstanty.  But like I said the real winner should have been Musial.  Musial in 1950 led the National league in batting average,  Slugging Average, was 2nd in OBP,  5th in runs and RBIs, 8th in home runs, 6th in walks, and did all this while A) having for him pretty much an off-year and B) playing for a terrible team with little pitching or hitting support. 

8.  2001 AL  Ichiro Suzuki

           One of my pet peeves is when a rookie of the year winner isn’t really a rookie.  Satchell Paige in 1948 won the rookie of the year award.  I’m sorry but he was no rookie.  Hideo Nomo in 1996 wasn’t a rookie, and Suzuki, who was an established star in Japan was no rookie.  In any case he burst onto the Major League scene in 2001 leading the league in hits, stolen bases, and batting average while winning the Gold Glove with exactly one error all season.  That’s dammed impressive.  But not as impressive as people thought at the time.  He edged out Jason Giambi who hit .342 with a .477 OBP and .660 SLG, both easily tops in the league.  Of course we now know about the Steroids, and perhaps you can discount Giambi, but how about Bret Boone who hit .331/37/141 in 3rd place?  or Alex Rodriguez who went .318/52/135 and finished only 6th? Of course Arod has since been linked to Steroids and maybe that’s the point:  even then we knew something was fishy and didn’t trust these eye popping statistics.  Suzui brought something new and exciting and nonartificial to the game.  As a side note of the top 20 MVP vote getters in the AL in 2001 eight have been directly linked to steroids and another 2 or 3 have been highly suspect.  A sad case indeed.

9.  2002 AL  Miguel Tejada

          Speaking of steroids.  Miguel Tejada won the 2002 award with a slightly better OPS than Ichiro the previous year.  Unlike Ichiro, Tejada was a mediocre fielder at best however, and 2nd place Rodriguez also played shortstop, won the gold glove,  hit 57 home runs, had an OPS over 150 points better, and by and large should have been the slam dunk selection.  Of course A) there was still backlash over the massive contract Rodriguez has signed with Texas and B) people were likely already suspicious about Arod and steroids (Tejada wasn’t suspected at the time). But from a purely objective standpoint it shouldn’t have been close. Jim Thome also would have been a far better choice.

10.  1996 AL  Juan Gonzalez

            Although I can’t argue too terribly much with the 1998 NL selection of Sammy Sosa over Mark McGwire, McGwire’s snub in 1996 is far more puzzling.  Juan Gonzalez always did well in MVP voting because he hit for a pretty decent average, hit lots of home runs, and lots and lots and lots of RBI’s.  All things MVP voters love.  Now both Gonzalez and McGwire were both roid users so that’s a wash, and really in 96 the public wasn’t thinking about the issue that much anyway.  In any case no less than 9 players had over 1.000 OPS in 1996.  Of those Gonzalez was the 8th highest.  He also had the lowest on base percentage of any of them and scored the fewest runs.  McGwire had an OPS over 100 points higher than any of these guys and finished 7th in the voting,  Frank Thomas was 2nd to McGwire in OPS and finished 8th in the voting.   Just looking at the top 20 names or so I just can’t for the life of me figure out what make Gonzalez the MVP.

dishonorable mentions.

1987 NL Andre Dawson over Jack Clark. 

1926 NL Bob O’Farrell over Hack Wilson

1960 NL Dick Groat over Willie Mays

1979 AL Don Baylor over Fred Lynn

1995 AL Mo Vaughn over Albert Belle

2006 AL Justin Morneau over Travis Hafner


The Curious Case of Dale Murphy

If I were to ask 100 people who the best player not in the hall of fame is, or rather who has come the closest to being in the hall of fame without being a member, I might not get 100 different answers, but I’d probably get 20-30 at least.  And many of those guys might be types stat heads drool over (Ron Santo, Bert Blyleven).  Some would be hometown heroes (Alan Trammell, Will Clark).  Some would simply be indignant that the Hall of Fame could overlook their “Obvious” choice…say Tim Raines.  Still others think we haven’t honored enough minorities and select Minnie Minoso or Elston Howard.  And a few would even defend the steroid casualties like Mark McGwire. 

But the actual answer to the question of the closest to the hallowed halls… so close he could smell the laquer drying on his plaque was Dale Murphy.. and I’ll illustrate why. 

Murphy started out as a catcher in 1976.  Had he stayed a catcher and posted the same stats there would not be a discussion; he would have gone in first ballot.  Nonetheless he moved to first base and played his first full season in 1978.

1978:  .228/.284/.394  OPS+ 80

Not real impressive to say the least.  He was a horrible first baseman. But the Braves were also terrible and while the Yankees or Dodgers might have axed him the Braves stuck with him and were rewarded the following year.

1979:  .276/.340/.469 OPS+ 113 

He was injured a third of the season but the Braves also had another promising young player in Bob Horner and hoped for a better future.

In 1980 He moved to center field and at the age of 24 his career really started. 

1980:  .281/.349/.510  OPS+ 135.

He hit 33 Home runs, knocked in 89, and scored 98 runs.  This is actually outstanding for those days. He was selected for his first All Star game.  He also ran into one of the first things I think has kept him out of the hall of fame. That issue is his unremarkable showing in MVP voting.  While it may seen strange to say that about a guy who won back to back awards, the truth is that in other years he did far worse than he should have.  In 1980 he finished 12th.  Some of the guys who finished ahead with worse years:

Bake McBride (10th): Hit .309 with little power.

Bob Horner (9th):  Horner was considered the more promising player at this point.. he hit two more home runs than murphy but otherwise his stats weren’t quite as good.

George Hendrick (8th):  Hendrick hit .302 with 25 home runs.. but the main reason is he hit 109 Rbis, which MVP voters always reward.

Andre Dawson (7th):  Dawson and Murphy would have many MVP “battles”

Steve Garvey (6th):  200 Hits, .304 Average, 106 RBIs.. nice big numbers but with an OPS of only .808

Dusty Baker (4th):  Hit 29 home runs with a .294 average.. slightly worse OPS

Jose Cruz (3rd):  Proof that MVP voting isn’t everything.  Cruz hit .302 with decent speed but no power.  Playing a full season as a leadoff hitter he scored 19 less runs than Murphy.  That’s sad.

Gary Carter (2nd):  Carter didn’t hit as well, but he at least is a catcher.

By my estimation in 1980 Murphy should have finished no worse than 5th or 6th behind Mike Schmidt (who won), Steve Carlton, Keith Hernandez (who also got hosed), and maybe Dawson or Baker. 

In the strike season Murphy didn’t have that great of a year, posting a completely average 101 OPS+.

In 1982/1983 of course Murphy rocketed to the stop of the baseball heap. The Braves also finished 1st and 2nd these years, the best in quite a while.  First the numbers:

1982      36/109/.281   23SB  142OPS+

1983      36/121/.302    30SB 149OPS+

He appeared in both All Star Games, won the Gold Glove both years, Back to Back MVP awards, and two silver sluggers. The stats don’t look fantastic  today but to give an example in 1983 Murphy finished: 6th in BA, 3rd in OBP, 1st in SLG, 2nd in Runs, 1st in RBIs, 4th in Walks, while having a rare (at that time) 30/30 season with a gold glove for defense.  In 1983 Andre Dawson finished 2nd to Murphy.

Now most people know those were his two MVP years but fail to realize the next two years were even better

1984     36/100/.290   19SB  149 OPS+

1985     37/111/.300   10SB   152 OPS+

Ok not a lot better but at least as good

He led the league in Home Runs both years, and in 85 also led in Runs and Walks.  But curiously enough he only finished 9th and 7th in MVP voting, despite also having two more Gold Gloves. 

In 1984 either he or Mike Schmidt was the best hitter in the league (It was always Schmidt and somebody else).  But he finished 9th mainly because voters often have a “what have you don’t for me lately” attitude.  Ryne Sandberg suddenly posted the best offensive season by a second baseman in 10 years to win it.  Maybe you could argue for Sandberg, but Jose Cruz (again!), Gary Mathews, Keith Henandez,  Rick Sutcliffe in half a season? 

In 1985  Pedro Guerrero finished 3rd in the MVP voting.  He should have been first. Him or Dwight Gooden. But there’s Dale in 7th place.  Nobody else in the league was more valuable than Murphy however except maybe Mike Schmidt again (who inexplicably got zero MVP votes that year).  He finished behind Tom Herr for pete’s sake. So who did Guerrero lose out to?  Willie Mcgee.. followed by 125 RBI Dave Parker.  To illustrate the absurdity of the vote McGee had basically the same offensive season as Ryne Sandberg.  even having about the same number of stolen bases.  But McGee was an ok center fielder while Sandberg was a perennial gold glove second baseman.  Yet in a real case of MVP-what -have-you-done-for-me-lately? Sandberg finished 13th in the voting. 

In 1986 Murphy appeared in his fifth straight all star game, won his 4th straight gold glove, and had a more than respectable OPS+ of 121.  His stats were down, but he was still one of the top ten hitters in the league that year.

In 1987 Murphy had his best year of all.  He set a career high with 44 home runs, stole 16 bases, hit .295, drew 115 walks, and posted an OPS of 157. Only Jack Clark had a higher OPS.  So the voters naturally awarded the MVP to… Andre Dawson of the last place Cubs. The National League in  1987 is one of the worst MVP voting travesties of all time.  Dawson went out of his mind and thumped a career (and decade high) 49 home runs.  The real reason he won the award though was an eye popping 137 RBIs.  And for MVP voters RBIs always trump everything else.  Murphy “only” had 105 RBIs despite outperforming Dawson in just about every other way.  The other thing that helps is being a shortstop who hits over .300 which second place Ozzie Smith did. Never mind Ozzie Smith hit zero that’s ZERO home runs and had an OPS+ over two hundred points lower than Murphy.  I know he was a great fielder, but that’s a LOT of offensive ground to make up.     Murphy interestingly failed to get the Gold Glove this year, although he essentially had the same fielding stats (just one or two errors more than normal). So where did Murphy finish in the MVP voting?  11th.  freaking 11th.  Jack Clark had a better offensive season, but he missed 30 games and was a mediocre fielding first baseman.  Eric Davis might have had a better season, but he also missed around 30 games.  Darryl Strawberry was almost as good.. I think a bit worse.  Nobody else was really close.  Howard Johnson and Tim Wallach finished higher?  Seriously?

So by this time Murphy was 31 years old, still in his baseball prime.  He had two MVP awards, and really 5 out of the last 6 seasons were MVP caliber, he led the league in Home Runs and RBIs twice and was always among the league leaders in most statistical categories.  He had also appeared in seven all star games and won 5 gold gloves.  And to boot he was handsome, well liked, admired by everyone as a nice guy.  If you had asked someone about his hall of fame chances after the 1987 season they would have said the only question is whether his plaque should be plated in gold or platinum.  In fact by this point he had already met the minimum number of seasons and likely would have been elected in due course had he been forced to retire after the 87 season.  So it seemed the sky was still the limit. 

Then a funny thing happened. 

He stopped being good. 

I don’t mean to say he started suffering through injuries; he played 150 plus games the next four years.  He didn’t have any personal tragedies, no issue with teammates or management.  No drug habits, financial trouble. 

He just stopped…being…good

In 1988 he hit .226, with 24 home runs and a 106 OPS.  Basically the same as his 1978 season except he walked more. 

people might have thought it was an abberation but in 1989 he was worse,  hitting .228 with only 20 home runs and an 89+ OPS.  Now keep in mind these are in FULL seasons.  It would be like Ted Williams overnight turning into a .290 hitter with 15-20 home run power for no discernable reason.  In 1990 the pain continued with a .248 average and 24 home runs.  Although it was obvious something was really wrong neither Murphy or the Braves could figure anything out.  He just stopped hitting.  Now it turns out his fielding totals were actually BETTER than usual in these years, but when a player is suffering a decline like Murphy was they weren’t going to reward him with gold gloves.  In 1991 the Braves were virtually forced to trade him after he started out hitting .232 in 97 games.  Traded to the Phillies, he did marginally better the rest of the year, but not much.  The Phillies in ’92, and Rockies in ’93 had Murphy mostly sit the bench due to lack of production.  He retired in the middle of the ’93 season at the age of 37.  I’m not aware of any other player of his talent to retire that young while still perfectly healthy. 

So Murphy due to early retirement and his late career slide “only”  posted career stats of 398 Home Runs, 1266 RBIs, a lifetime .265 average, and an OPS+ of 121.  Despite that he still might have squeeked into the Hall had an unfortunate coincidence not delivered a double-whammy.  In 1993 and 1994 as Murphy retired the league started an offensive explosion that continues to this day.  Suddenly 398 Home Runs is only six or seven seasons for Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds.  a .265 Average now gets you sent to the minors.  People lose the context of his accomplishments and he misses out.  To add insult to injury the year after Murphy left the Braves they suddenly turned into the greatest franchise juggernaut since the Yankees of the mid 50s, reeling off 1st place finishes in 14 of the next 15 years.  Murphy should have spent the beginning of this run as the Brave’s admired and respected elder statesman, teaching young players like Chipper Jones and Ryan Klesko as he prepared to enter the pantheon of baseball gods. But instead he wasn’t even good enough to ride the bench for an expansion team by that point.

As far as I know he doesn’t worry too much about his candidacy for the hall, never wringing his hands over the failure to get in, or lobbying incessantly for his own election unlike certain ex-pitchers born in the Netherlands. Nor does he have the support of people who think it a “crime” he’s not in or his election is “overdue” like the recently selected Andre Dawson.  He’s a nice guy, I don’t think he minds all that much. 

Plus his lifetime OPS+ is still 2 points higher than Dawson’s.   Take that Andre. 


This is what’s wrong with the Baseball Hall of Fame…

Bill James wrote a superb book a while back called Politics of Glory.  When it was re-released later on he changed the name to Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? After reading the above column on by Jon Heyman on his Ballot selections I think I might have a clearer understanding.  The problem is not with the players, for talent is often subjective anyway.  One man’s Don Mattingly is another man’s Stan Musial.  Nor is the problem solely with the Hall of Fame Beauracracy or voting structure as James believes, though Lord knows that is an issue. 

No, after reading Heyman’s column it seems the main issue is that the people doing the voting don’t know what the bloody hell they’re talking about. 

Let’s look at Heyman’s 6 selections:

1. Roberto Alomar

2. Barry Larkin

3. Andre Dawson

4. Jack Morris

5. Dave Parker

6. Don Mattingly

Now I don’t neccesarily have any problems with these picks per se but more with the naive, illogical, and sometimes plain stupid arguments used to support them.  This isn’t even a personal attack on Mr. Heyman, but more those people responsible for electing Hall of Fame members who think the same way he does.

He seems to generally think Alomar and Larkin deserve inclusion based solely on their performance with no real debate neccesary.  Alomar’s spitting incident aside I’d basically agree.

After that his arguments for and against start getting a little dicey.  With Andre Dawson he claims having 400 steals and 300 home runs as one of only three players (along with Barry Bonds and Willie Mays) to accomplish the feat merits inclusion.  The problem is that that statement isn’t true.  There have actually only been two players to accomplish this, they are Barry Bonds.. and amazingly enough his father Bobby.  I’m sure he meant to say 300 steals and 400 home runs but even so it already illustrates a problem with this line of reasoning.  Why is Dawson deserving with 400+hr/300+sb when Bobby Bonds isn’t with 300+hr/400+sb, an even more exclusive  accomplishment? He also mentions Dawson was a “five tool” guy with bad knees.  I hate the term five tool.  It’s a term used to shut off argument and gloss over flaws.  Dawson also had an atrocious OBP, striking out over 900 more times than he walked.. and his lifetime average was .279  Not terrible especially for the 80’s.  But not exactly on the level of a “five tool” skill. Again.. it’s not that he doesn’t perhaps deserve to be in.. but at least make sensible arguments.

Jack Morris –  Just as Bert Blyleven has become the patron saint of statheads everywhere, Morris has become a pariah.  Heyman’s arguments..

1.  Dominant Bulldog.  What the heck does that mean?  I suppose that he pitched a lot of innings.  True.  But so did Wilbur Wood.  So did Mickey Lolich.  So did Luis Tiant.  All three were much better pitchers than Morris.

2.  Received Cy Young votes 7 times.    This hardly dignifies a response.  I suppose it’s a counter argument to Blyleven who only received votes in 4 different years.  But most pitchers only received votes in 4 or 5 different years. Morris though played for generally very good teams.  He could lead the league in wins while having an absurdly high ERA.  Blyleven pitched for generally bad teams and could lead the league in losses while he posted very low ERAs. 

3. Won more games in the 80’s than anyone. The problem with this argument is twofold.  A) the 80’s were a generally bad decade for pitching. guys like Seaver, Niekro, and Carlton were retiring.  Others like Gooden, Clemens, and Randy Johnson were just beginning.  and B)  1980-89 is a completely arbitrary span of time.  Make it 1977-1986 and you get Ron Guidry. 1984-1993 and it’s Dwight Gooden ( I could be slightly wrong on this, but I think the point is still valid). Again keep in mind Morris played for much better teams than most during this time.

His next vote is for Dave Parker.  Parker started out in the 70’s as a Willie Mays wunderkind who could do it all.  And he did.. for a brief time.  By the age of 28 he had won an MVP, finished 3rd two other times, appeared in two all star games, won two batting titles, three gold gloves, and led the Pirates to a 1979 World Series victory.  Then it all started to fall apart.  He started in with drugs (Cocaine) and was never the same player after 1979.  Heyman even takes the absurd step of defending (to a point) his drug use by noting at least Cocaine wasn’t a performance enhancer. Parker actually made a bit of a comeback in the mid 80’s and  made 5 more all star teams after 1979.  But they were more a recognition of what he was.  He had an ecellent 1985 season but otherwise posted rather average statistics. Hanging on until 1991 helped boost his career totals. Much like Dawson he was a free swinger, striking out over 800 times more than he walked. Notice a pattern?  A lot of people throw their hands up in the air at sabermetrics, decide newfangled stats like OBP and OPS+ are to complicated and revert to the old standbys of average and Rbi’s. Two things both Parker and Dawson did pretty well.

His last Controversial choice is Don Mattingly. The only argument he offers is that Mattingly was one of the greatest players in baseball for 6 years and one of the 2 or 3 greatest defensive first basemen of all time.  Now I think Mattingly probably is slightly above my personal cut off line for the Hall of Fame, but his arguments are silly.  as for defense saying Mattingly is one of the 2 or 3 greatest ever First Basemen is like saying Tony Stewart can bench press more than any other Nascar driver.  Maybe true, maybe not.  But regardless it means nothing and has little to do with the argument about why he’s great.  As for being one of the greatest for 6 years, while that’s true there are lots of people who were among the best for 6 years or so and don’t measure up.  Dick Allen,  Tony Oliva, Charlie Keller,  Dwight Gooden…

The ones he then claimed were close..

Tim Raines, Alan Trammel, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Edgar Martinez, Bert Blyleven, Andres Galarraga, Harold Baines, Lee Smith. 

His argument against Raines is that “while he was a star in Montreal, he was merely a good player for the bulk of the rest his career, spent mainly with the White Sox and Yankees”.  Of course never mind he was a superstar, not a star in Montreal, and he spent 12 years there. Afterwards he was still talented enough that I would say “very good” rather than just “good”.  I would argue that Raines in his early years was better than Dave Parker, for instance, and in his later years was much better than Parker was in his.  Oh but wait I forgot Raines wasn’t a “five tool” player since he didn’t hit for power.

With Martinez, Heyman hints that his main beef is that Martinez didn’t do well in MVP voting despite having impressive offensive numbers.  And furthermore:

          “That suggests something less than dominance. And even on his career totals, he comes up short. His final power figures (309 home runs, 1,261 RBIs) are underwhelming for someone whose whole candidacy is based on offense”

Now A) The reason he didn’t do that well in MVP voting is the same reason he won’t do well in HOF voting… he was primarily a DH for his career.  It’s fine if you want to penalize or exclude him for that. I don’t even disagree to some extent.  But say what you mean.. he was less valuable because he wasn’t a fielder. And B) I gotta bring up that his beef about his career totals is disingenous when they were basically the same as Parker’s, and in far fewer at-bats.. while being much better than Mattingly’s, while having batter stats across the board than Mattingly.

And then there was Blyleven.  His argument against Blyleven essentially boils down to:  He wasn’t a star. He wasn’t famous enough for the hall of fame. If every team in every season played equally well and finished at .500 every year he might have a point.  But they don’t and Blyleven pitched for some really bad teams in small markets.  So did Rick Reuschel and Frank Tanana.  So did Dave Stieb and Dennis Leonard.  As did Sam McDowell and Bob Friend.  All these guys were at least as good as Jack Morris.  None were really in Blyleven’s league. Blyleven never really had a chance to become famous. He did pitch for the Pirates in 79, and the Twins in the late 80’s but inexplicably had some of the worst seasons of his career these years (though still better than the league average usually).  The problem with this whole line of reasoning is that it basically limits the hall of fame to two classes of players.. those who post Ruthian Stats, and those who played for Babe Ruth’s teams (Yankees, Red Sox, etc.)  guys like Norm Cash never get a chance.  Lastly he compares Blyleven to Sutton saying they both are the same type of pitcher, and have basically the same type of stats, yet Sutton won 37 more games.  Well again Sutton pitched for much better teams. Blyleven was a far better pitcher than Sutton in reality, and Sutton also started 71 more games than Blyleven.. of course he has more wins than Blyleven. 

He also mentions Trammell, McGriff, Murphy, Galarraga, Baines, and Smith.  I’ll just say I think Trammell and McGriff and maybe possibly Murphy belong in eventually.. but the others aren’t in my mind even really debatable.

To sum up the generaly consensus of people like Heyman:

1.  Five tool player – definitely Hall of Fame player. 

2.  Three times as many strikeouts as walks – No problem as long as player meets qualification number 1. 

3.  High Average with Lots of Rbi’s  –  Automatic Hall of Famer… unless you’re Edgar Martinez

4.  Dominant Bulldog –  Hall of Famer as long as you played on good teams and got enough years with Cy Young Votes

5.  Great fielding 1st Baseman with short career with Yankees – Hall of Famer

6.  Great fielding outfielder with, high average, long career and greatest base stealer (percentage wise) of all time but played in Montreal – dog poo.