ESPN.com Analyst Writes Well Thought Out Article

David Schoenfield's Article on Forty Current Players Bound for the Hall of Fame Impresses.

by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution

 

See the Article at http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=schoenfield/050728

 

For those of you who may have missed it (I had to have it pointed out to me because I don't make a habit out of reading ESPN.com), ESPN.com's David Schoenfield wrote a terrific column on 40 future Hall of Famers currently playing in the Majors.

 

I start by noting that it is terrific because when I was told that he had written it, I initially scoffed at the notion that there could possibly be 40 current future Hall of Famers. And, as of now, I don't necessarily agree that there are 40, but I very much enjoyed his column nonetheless, for several reasons. First, he makes much reference to OPS+, which is something I think is missing from baseball commentary these days (I wouldn't know what Rob Neyer makes reference to since you have to pay for the privilege of reading his column now). But more importantly, his assertions are well-reasoned, carefully considered, and argued rationally and coherently.

 

We should be getting a list of grievances from Joe Morgan any day.

 

Anyway, here is my take on his list. Let me start by showing you the list I put together (inside of 15 minutes, I'll add) when I found out about his column, so that I could compare mine with his. He started with the top twenty guys, then moved on to the guys who are more debatable. So I did the same, in no particular order within each list:

 

Top 20

 

Second 20

Roger Clemens

 

Andruw Jones

Craig Biggio

 

Juan Gonzalez

Barry Bonds

 

Mike Mussina

Jeff Bagwell

 

Miguel Tejada

Sammy Sosa

 

Carlos Delgado

Rafael Palmeiro

 

Trevor Hoffman

Randy Johnson

 

Albert Pujols

Greg Maddux

 

Jim Edmonds

Pedro Martinez

 

Scott Rolen

Mariano Rivera

 

Bernie Williams

Gary Sheffield

 

Tom Glavine

Mike Piazza

 

Curt Schilling

Chipper Jones

 

Vlad Guerrero

Jim Thome

 

Todd Helton

Alex Rodriguez

 

Jorge Posada

Ivan Rodriguez

 

Ichiro Suzuki

Frank Thomas

 

Alfonso Soriano

Manny Ramirez

 

Mark Buerhle

Ken Griffey, Jr.

 

John Smoltz

Derek Jeter

 

Jason Giambi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, David Schoenfield's list:

 

The First Half

 

1. Roger Clemens

2. Barry Bonds

3. Greg Maddux

 

No surprises here.

 

Schoenfield does ask whether Clemens is the greatest pitcher of all time, which at this point even I am beginning to wonder myself. If he keeps up his current performance, who knows.

 

4. Tom Glavine

WHOA!

 

Pick number four and already controversy. I personally do not think Tom Glavine has the Hall of Fame cred at this point, but Schoenfield confronts this and points out that not winning 300 games shouldn't automatically disqualify a pitcher, and

 

"Glavine has won 20 games five times and has two Cy Youngs, finishing in the top three in four other years. He has a 2.47 ERA in eight World Series starts, including a one-hitter in the clinching game in 1995."

 

These are interesting points. I guess he compares favorably to Jim Palmer in these respects, and Jim Palmer is in, so considering Tom Glavine a lock is not really that outlandish.

 

5. John Smoltz

WHOA!

 

Pick number five and Schoenfield has already put the core of the 1990's Braves rotation in the Hall of Fame. To back up Smoltz, he says that Smoltz had "four Hall of Fame seasons," buts include two of seasons as a closer. He compares him to Dennis Eckersley who was one of the best closers of all time for 9 years. Smoltz was a closer for three years. Personally, I think that any very good starting pitcher would be a dominant closer, and what Smoltz did as a closer does NOT improve his Hall of Fame resume.

 

As a caveat, he points to the fact that Smoltz has been a good player on a good team for almost his entire career. Whitey Ford? There are similar players to Smoltz in Hall of Fame, but I would prefer to wait on Smoltz, and I would certainly not consider him a lock by any stretch.

 

6. Randy Johnson

No surprise here.

 

Schoenfield does have a funny line here – "Mariners fans like me will remember Johnson as the man who saved baseball in Seattle -- literally. If Johnson doesn't beat the Angels in that one-game playoff for the division title in '95, the Mariners don't get their new ballpark and the team moves to Florida. Which, come to think of it, might have saved baseball in Tampa."

 

7. Mariano Rivera

Yeah, as much as I really don't care for Rivera, even I have come to appreciate his numbers – 336 saves and a 190 ERA+ after nine years, at the age of 34. Much too much is made of his post-season career, especially given the number of blown saves he's had (D'Backs, Red Sox). Schoenfield makes reference to this, but still trumps up his post-season record a little too much for my taste.

 

Still one of the all time greats though.

 

One of the things Schoenfield did was to throw in the occasional "OUT" pick – comparable players who are no longer really considerations for the Hall. His first came in the Rivera section:

 

OUT: Mike Mussina

WHOA!

 

Smoltz and Glavine are in, but not Mussina? Let's have a look:

 

 

AGE

G

WIN%

W

L

SV

IP

BB

K

K/BB

ERA

ERA+

WHIP

BAA

Glavine

39

592

0.599

269

180

0

3868

1323

2301

1.74

3.47

121

1.31

0.26

Mussina

36

435

0.639

221

125

0

2973

672

2360

3.51

3.6

127

1.18

0.25

Smoltz

38

624

0.58

174

126

154

2854

868

2512

2.89

3.24

125

1.17

0.23

 

It would appear as though Mussina has had the better career, and has more game left in him, right? But then Schoenfield compares Mussina to Bert Blyleven and makes the point that Mussina "lacks the final exclamation points voters love: the 20-win seasons, a Cy Young Award."

 

He then proceeds to make a very compelling case that Mussina should be in, but laments that Mussina just won't garner the votes with the sportswriters.


So at least Schoenfield gets that.

 

8. Derek Jeter

I don't agree with Jeter, but Schoenfield makes the right point here:

 

"He's nowhere near as great as Tim McCarver thinks he is, and nowhere near as overrated as Yankee-haters want you to believe. But he's a clear Hall of Famer, on his way to 3,000 hits and 2,000 runs scored, and you know, he plays the game the right way."

 

Well done, with the obvious McCarver dig at the end.

 

9. Alex Rodriguez

No surprises here.

 

10. Albert Pujols

Yeah, it might be early, but you can't argue with Pujols. So far, that is.

 

I personally would never make a case for ANYONE who had not yet been in the league for five full seasons.

 

Remember Dale Murphy? Don Mattingly? They both looked very good for quite a while, and didn't make the Hall of Fame cut. WAY too early for Pujols.

 

11. Vladimir Guerrero

Hard to argue. Still too early.

 

12. Miguel Cabrera

When I saw his name, I thought this was completely ridiculous. Then I read Schoenfield's comment:

 

"Yes, it's completely ridiculous to project somebody who has just two years in the big leagues as a Hall of Famer, but that's the fun part of this exercise. Next to Pujols in the 25-and-younger set, Cabrera has clearly established the most high-end potential. Of course, in 1975, that list would have included Jeff Burroughs and Claudell Washington."

 

Okay. Well done.

 

13. Ken Griffey Jr.

Schoenfield compared KGJ to Mantle and Koufax and said he was a lock. I agree.

 

Though he is no Mantle.

 

14. Manny Ramirez

No surprise.

 

15. Sammy Sosa

I expected Schoenfield to say something like "Don't let the steroid rumors and corked bat and recent decline let you forget about 1998-2002." But he came through big:

 

"Sosa will be an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer . . . That said, Sosa's greatness is exaggerated . . . prior to '98, he didn't get on base enough . . . and even though he's only 36, he's looking like he may be done by 37."

 

He nailed it.

 

Schoenfield's second group of "OUT" players came next, and it was for the first time that I got the feeling that he was letting recent performances get in the way of his overall judgment:

 

OUT: Bernie Williams, Juan Gonzalez, Larry Walker

He said the following about these three:

-         Bernie has a lot of positive checkmarks on his ledger and has delivered as many clutch October hits as Jeter, but he didn't really get his career going until he was 27. And once he decided to become a recording artist, he stopped hitting.

-         Gonzalez enters the Dale Murphy "How does a guy win two MVP awards and not get in the Hall of Fame?" debate. (OK, here's how: You never have another good year past the age of 31.)

-         Walker hit .366, .363, .379, .309, .350 and .338 from 1997 to 2002. How does he not make it? Because he missed approximately 1,748 games through the years with various ailments.

 

After reading that, it finally sunk in that the analysis here really is who will make the Hall, not who should make the Hall. And Schoenfield was pretty much right about these three.

 

Though Walker and Gonzalez should be in, in my opinion.

 

And Murphy for that matter, though that is another topic for another time.

 

16. Miguel Tejada

A little too early for Tejada, obviously, but:

 

"Sportswriters drool over power-hitting, RBI-machine shortstops like they do when a woman wears a skirt in the press box. Miggy is on his way to his sixth season of 100 or more RBI. Only Joe Cronin (eight) and Alex Rodriguez (seven) have had more as a shortstop."

 

Yeah, he's right.

 

OUT: Nomar Garciaparra

No surprise.

 

17. Mike Piazza

18. Ivan Rodriguez

No surprise – "But both are clear Famers and join the Bench/ Berra/ Cochrane/ Campanella debate over the best catcher ever."

 

Little disappointed that Schoenfield didn't include my own favorite, Bill Dickey, in the list.

 

19. Craig Biggio

20. Jeff Bagwell

 

Schoenfield said that Biggo doesn't need to get to 3,000 hits to get into the Hall, and that Bagwell is the best first baseman of the post-WWII era (better than McGwire).

 

He was dead-on about Biggio, and almost dead on about Bagwell.

 

Schoenfield included Willie Stargell, a left-fielder for the majority of his career, in the list of post-WWII first basemen. No real argument here – Bagwell was still better. He did not, however, include Frank Thomas in the list of post-WWII first basemen, which may be a mistake, or may just be a result of the opinion that Big Frank now counts as a DH. Nevertheless, I think the comparison between the two is close, and I have Frank 45th of all time, ahead of Jeff Bagwell at 49th.

 

Still, Bagwell is a Hall of Famer, no doubt, as is Biggio.

 

The Second Half

 

21. Pedro Martinez

My main issue with the first list was that Pedro was not on it.

 

Schoenfield addressed this capably when he lists Pedro first on his second list. And he said something that few other people have been willing to acknowledge without caveats or hedges:

 

"The numbers overwhelm. But let's put it in terms even people who only watch 'Around the Horn' can understand: From 1997 to 2002, Pedro was the most dominating pitcher in the game's history."

 

Well done.

 

22. Curt Schilling

I totally disagree with this, but again, Schoenfield handles Schilling perfectly:

 

"Schilling has all the extra intangibles -- the fame, the postseason heroics, the Dunkin' Donuts commercials -- that I think will put him in the Drysdale class as opposed to the Blyleven class."

 

Perfect.

 

I don't think Drysdale should be in, either.

 

OUT: Kevin Brown

"A good pitcher, more valuable than many Hall of Fame hurlers, but he lacks the gold stars that Martinez or Schilling have. And he's not exactly a favorite of the scribes, so he won't get within spittin' distance of Cooperstown."

 

True. True. True. True.

 

23. Mark Prior

24. Roy Oswalt

Too early for Oswalt, WAY too early for Prior

 

But Schoenfield knows this.

 

25. Gary Sheffield

I agree with the selection, but necessarily the comment:

 

"But Sheffield, with his ability to hit for average and power (and have more walks than strikeouts), is one of the best 30 hitters who has ever lived."

 

Hmm. Let's see – can I think of 30 hitters better than Gary Sheffield:

 

Babe Ruth

RF

 

Eddie Collins

2B

 

George Brett

3B

Ty  Cobb

CF

 

Hank Aaron

RF

 

Harry Heilman

RF

Barry Bonds

LF

 

Mike Schmidt

3B

 

Sam Crawford

RF

Ted Williams

LF

 

Mel Ott

RF

 

Frank Thomas

1B

Rogers  Hornsby

2B

 

Frank Robinson

RF

 

Jeff Bagwell

1B

Lou Gehrig

1B

 

Hank Greenberg

1B

 

Home Run Baker

3B

Honus Wagner

SS

 

Nap Lajoie

2B

 

Reggie Jackson

RF

Willie Mays

CF

 

Joe Jackson

LF

 

Alex Rodriguez

SS

Tris Speaker

CF

 

Joe DiMaggio

CF

 

Tony Gwynn

RF

Stan Musial

LF

 

Johnny Mize

1B

 

Manny Ramirez

LF

Mickey Mantle

CF

 

Eddie Mathews

3B

 

 

 

Jimmie Foxx

1B

 

Charlie Gerhinger

2B

 

 

 

 

 

I guess a few of those are argumentative. He's probably top 30 or so.

 

26. Frank Thomas

I think that Schoenfield addresses Frank Thomas way too late, but again, this is whether they will, not should, make it into the Hall.

 

And, he pretty much gets it right on Thomas:

"Thomas (along with Sheffield) is going to be a litmus test as to how much voters have learned from the Sabermetric Revolution: Do they understand that this guy was baseball's best hitter during the 1990s? Before Bonds became Bonds, there was no more feared hitter in the game (excepting maybe the late '90s blips of Mac and Sammy). He won two MVPs (and finished in the top three in three other years), led the AL four times in OPS and on-base percentage, hit above .340 three times and generally scared the hell out of opposing pitchers."

 

27. Rafael Palmeiro

"the facts are that the Hall is about the numbers."

 

Exactly.

 

OUT: Jim Thome and Carlos Delgado

There are guys on this list who it is way too early to include. I think it is too early to disqualify Jim Thome:

 

At 33, Thome has over 400 home runs, a .410 on-base percentage, and a 151 OPS+; I know he is hurt this year, but he could have 5 good years left.

 

He assessment of Delgado is accurate: "Delgado's problem is he'll likely have to line up behind Jeff Bagwell, Thomas, Palmeiro and Thome for honors."

 

Even if he didn't, I don't think he makes it.

 

28. Ichiro Suzuki

Schoenfield asks the important question:

 

"Shouldn't Ichiro get credit for what he did in Japan?"

 

I say yes, and so does he.

 

29. Andruw Jones

OUT: Jim Edmonds

 

I probably agree on both. Though I like Edmonds a lot, and if Jones makes it in, it will be because of career totals, not because of individual seasons. Still unfulfilled potential.

 

30. David Wright

31. Hank Blalock

OUT: Scott Rolen and Chipper Jones

 

This makes no sense whatsoever. Too early for Rolen in or out, Chipper should already be in. Wright and Blalock are simply absurd.

 

32. Jeff Kent

Schoenfield gave words to thoughts of Kent which I didn’t even know I was having:

 

"No player has hit more home runs as a second baseman. Only four other second basemen since World War II have won an MVP Award – Jackie Robinson, Nellie Fox, Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg – and all are in the Hall. Still, Kent just doesn't feel like a Hall of Famer."

 

33. Trevor Hoffman

34. Francisco Rodriguez

T-Hoff – no argument.

KRod – Absurd.

 

OUT: John Franco, Eric Gagne, Braden Looper

I thought this was hilarious. I emailed a friend of mine in response to this:

 

"Hilarious. That's like saying:

 

'Out: Alonzo Mourning, Vlade Divac, Erick Dampier'

 

I almost put Greg Ostertag instead of Dampier, but Greg Ostertag is too good to compare to Braden Looper. No one has ever, ever, said 'Braden Looper' and 'Hall of Fame' in the same breath."

 

35. Adam Dunn

My only response to this is – where do you have Rob Deer on your list?

 

OUT: Bobby Abreu

Schoenfield made a good comment on Abreu – "But he'll make the Sabermetric Hall of Fame and the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame."

 

36. Johnny Damon

Damon turned out to be a very good call, and I didn't see it coming. A couple of years ago, after Damon's big year in KC, I picked Damon to be the MVP of the league the following year. It didn't pan out that well. After that, I kind of let myself loose sight of how good he was, and is. But Schoenfield didn't overlook JD:

"The long-locked one has over 1,720 hits and should finish the season with around 1,800. He's 31. If he averages a conservative 160 hits per season (he's had more than that every year since 1998) through age 36, he's sitting at 2,600 and thinking Cooperstown. He's also coming up on his eighth season of 100 runs scored -- only 27 others have that many. And only 11 have done it 10 times (Alex Rodriguez would make it 12 this year). He's better than we realize."

 

OUT: David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn

I think this was more of a Johnny Damon-Red Sox point-maker than a real point.

 

OUT: Garret Anderson

Included because of an outside shot at 3,000 hits. Not a big deal.

 

37. Johan Santana

38. Joe Mauer

Considering that Santana has been dominant for one stretch of one season – too early.

Considering that Mauer has yet to play a full season – absurdly early.

 

OUT: Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira

This was kind of an irrational statement, and I think he was just looking for something to say about the Rangers here.

 

I mean, Hank Blalock is in but Teixeira's out? Jeff Kent is in but Soriano's out? That doesn't really make much sense.

 

The Teixeira thing is truly odd, considering his youth and the other players that Schoenfield considers "in". He only offers one explanation for Teixeira's exclusion: "Teixeira certainly has enormous long-term power potential -- if he stays with the Rangers. Eighteen of his 27 home runs this season have come at home."

 

Too early to go one way or another on that one.

 

39. Omar Vizquel

Schoenfield spends a LONG time comparing Vizquel to Ozzie Smith. Unnecessary. Vizquel is a very good defensive shortstop, but Ozzie played in the 1980s, and Omar played in the 1990s. Ozzie was a symbol of an era, while Omar has been a useful two tool player.

 

OUT: Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Rich Harden

I agree with him both in substance and principle.

 

Everyone made a big deal out of The Big Three, and now it looks like they may all be solid but not come close to Hall of Fame potential. Good call.

 

No reason to include Harden.

 

40. Todd Helton

Schoenfield offers a one line explanation which can't be argued with:

                                                                                                                              "Hitters with .330 career averages usually find their way into the hallowed Hall."

 

Schoenfield ends with a perfect note, demonstrating that he is aware of how silly his exercise is, and just predictable the Hall of Fame is:

 

"So there you go. Print this out, save it and pull it out of your wallet in 35 years. We'll see then if this forecast was more accurate than the one I would have written in 1985. That one would have had Darryl Strawberry, Pedro Guerrero, Bret Saberhagen and Willie McGee as sure things."

 

Joe Morgan could learn something from that.