Tuesday, January 8, 2013

If Studious Metsimus Had A 2013 Hall of Fame Vote...

On Wednesday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will release the names of its newest inductees.  It will most certainly be the most scrutinized class of all time, considering all the new nominees that have been linked to steroids.  Players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa have all had their names liked with performance-enhancing drugs.  Although their numbers scream out for inclusion in Cooperstown, how they achieved those numbers is up for discussion.

In addition to Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, other first-time nominees include former Mets Mike Piazza, Julio Franco and Shawn Green.  Also nominated for the first time are Curt Schilling, Kenny Lofton, Craig Biggio, David Wells, Steve Finley, Reggie Sanders, Jeff Cirillo, Woody Williams, Rondell White and Ryan Klesko.

Players who received at least five percent of the vote in previous years are allowed to reappear on this year's ballot.  Those players include Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro and Bernie Williams.  For Dale Murphy, it will be his 15th and final time on the ballot.  Should he not be elected to the Hall of Fame, he would be removed from next year's ballot.

This is the third consecutive year that Studious Metsimus was not allowed to formally cast a vote for players we deemed worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement, but we ain't mad at'cha.  In fact, if it pleases the BBWAA, we'd like to send them a gift to let them know that there are no hard feelings because of our omission from their swanky club.  Please let us know when you receive the 1979 Mets highlight video (on Beta, of course), which is autographed by the one and only Richie Hebner.

Now, on to our votes!

Mike Piazza

Well, duh.  Who didn't see this pick coming?  There's no doubt Piazza belongs in the Hall of Fame as the best hitting catcher of all time.  But those who have a predisposed aversion to back acne would beg to differ.

Piazza spent the majority of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.  He also had a one-week tour of duty with the Florida Marlins and rode off into the sunset after one-year stints with the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics.  In 16 seasons in the major leagues, Piazza was a 12-time All-Star and 10-time recipient of the Silver Slugger Award.  Since the inception of the award in 1980, no other catcher has won it more than seven times and only Barry Bonds won more (12) at any position.  In addition, no catcher hit more home runs than Piazza (396 HR as a catcher, 427 HR overall) and no backstop has a higher career slugging percentage than Piazza (.545).

But power wasn't all Piazza was known for at the plate.  He was also an outstanding contact hitter.  In an era where striking out 150 times in a season is commonplace, Piazza never struck out more than 100 times in a season.  In fact, Piazza had almost twice as many hits (2,127) as strikeouts (1,113) in almost 7,000 career at-bats.

Piazza led his teams to the postseason five times.  He reached the playoffs as a Dodger in 1995 and 1996, as a Met in 1999 and 2000, and as a Padre in 2006.  In 2000, when Piazza reached his only World Series, he had an outstanding post-season, hitting .302 with six doubles, four homers and eight RBI in 14 games for the Mets.  Piazza also walked nine times in the 14 games to register a .403 on-base percentage.  His ten extra-base hits gave him a spectacular .642 slugging percentage.

Mike Piazza will reach the Hall of Fame.  His numbers say he should be a first ballot Hall of Famer.  The writers might say otherwise.

Craig Biggio

In the past, 3,000 hits was a surefire way to make it to the Hall of Fame.  Of course, in this questionable era of inflated offensive statistics, that may no longer be the case.  But Craig Biggio should not be bunched in with the Bondses and Palmeiros of this era.  Biggio belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Craig Biggio scored 1,844 runs in his 20-year career.  That's good for 12th in MLB history.  He reached the 100-run plateau eight times in his career and led the league twice.  He also collected 668 doubles, a number surpassed by only four players (Tris Speaker, Pete Rose, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb).  Of the top 13 players on the all-time doubles chart, 11 are already in the Hall of Fame.  The other two are Pete Rose (who is not eligible for enshrinement) and Craig Biggio.  Biggio led the NL in doubles three times and had seven 40-double seasons.

Biggio began his career as a catcher before moving to second base and center field.  He won five Silver Slugger Awards, earning his first as a catcher in 1989.  His other four came as a second baseman for the Astros in 1990s.  Second base was also where Biggio won all four of his Gold Glove Awards.

Biggio was also an outstanding base stealer, swiping 414 bags over his career, including a league-leading 39 steals in the strike-shortened 1994 season.  In 1998, at the age of 33, Biggio stole a career-high 50 bases, just one year after stealing 47.

Finally, Biggio finished his career with 1,014 extra-base hits, hitting 291 homers and 55 triples in addition to his 668 doubles.  He is one of only 34 players to reach 1,000 extra-base hits.  Of those 34 players, 21 are in the Hall of Fame.  12 of the other 13 are either still active, not yet eligible or wagging their fingers at Congress (even Redd Foxx thinks Rafael Palmeiro was a big dummy).  The other is Craig Biggio.

One more thing.  He also had 3,060 hits.  He's good enough for me.  He should be good enough for the Hall of Fame voters.  And if anyone thinks he used PEDs to help his power rise from a single-digit home run hitter in four of his first five seasons to a player who hit 20+ HR in eight of last 15 seasons, just look at Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski's home run numbers, especially what he did during the seventh to tenth seasons of his career.  Those same people probably wouldn't have voted him in either.

Holdovers Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker

I could go on and on about why I feel they should be getting themselves plane tickets for Cooperstown in late July, but I'll just direct you to what I wrote about them last year when I felt they had a strong case for candidacy.

Jeff Bagwell, despite many people's beliefs concerning his connection to PEDs, received a nearly 15% increase in votes from his first time on the ballot in 2011 (41.7%) to his 2012 level (56.0%).  Meanwhile, Larry Walker had a more modest increase from his first time (20.3% in 2011) to his second (22.9% in 2012) and will probably use up much of the 15-year eligibility period if he is ever to make it to Cooperstown.  Bagwell will make it to the Hall someday, if not this year.  Walker might need to sway the voters with some of his patented Canadian charm, a big ol' helping of poutine and his slogan "at least I'm not Jason Bay, eh?"

This is how a Hall of Famer should always hit.

Just like every other year, several players will fall short of enshrinement.  Jack Morris, who was on two-thirds of the voter's ballots last year, might fall short again this year.  However, because the writers will intentionally leave off those players who are allegedly linked to steroids, Morris might get an extra vote or twelve.

The same thing applies to Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell.  All four were among the greatest players at their positions in the era in which they played.  But none of the four are all-time greats in my opinion (except maybe Martinez, although he might always be overlooked because he was primarily a designated hitter).

In Trammell's case, his longevity contributed to his overall offensive numbers.  Yes, he was a six-time All-Star who won four Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers, but it took him until his 20th season to record his 1,000th RBI and he never quite made it to 200 HR, finishing with 185.  In two decades, Trammell only reached 70 RBI in a season three times.  Meanwhile, his double play partner in Detroit, Lou Whitaker, had six 70-RBI campaigns in 19 seasons, was a five-time All-Star, won three Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers.  It should also be noted that Whitaker was off the Hall of Fame ballot after his first year of eligibility, receiving only 2.9% of the vote.

The players listed above might make it someday, if not this year, as might most of the players suspected of using PEDs.  But I think only Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio will be elected this year, with Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker deserving spots but perhaps having to wait longer.  Jack Morris was an all-time '80s great and terrific post-season pitcher, but might be shut out until his 15th and final year on the ballot in 2014.

Regardless of who gets in, it will be an historic Hall of Fame class, to say the least.

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