Learning yesterday afternoon that Randy Johnson (97.3 percent), Pedro Martinez (91.1), John Smoltz (82.9), and Craig Biggio (82.7) crossed the 75 percent threshold needed to get voted into the Hall of Fame constitutes very good news for the National Pastime, as these four players were most deserving of entry.
That’s not to say that Smoltz was obviously more deserving than either Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, as Ben Lindbergh of Grantland pointed out the other day.
The less cheerful news is that the game’s greatest hitting catcher of all time, Dodger and Met great Mike Piazza, fell short by a tick over five percent.
- While the game’s most successful base stealer among players with at least 600 attempts, Tim Raines, received considerably more votes than last year, he’s still 20 percent away from Nirvana with two years of eligibility remaining;
- The first baseman with the 21st-best OPS of all time, Jeff Bagwell, is less than one percentage point ahead of Raines;
- Two lights-out pitchers, Mussina and Schilling, who respectively sport bWAR over 16 and 14 wins higher than Smoltz (82.7 and 80.7 vs. 66.5), received only 24.6 and 39.2 percent;
- Arguably the greatest designated hitter ever, Edgar Martinez, who’s mired at 27 percent;
- A shortstop, Alan Trammell, whose play during an offense-neutral era is still comparable to Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter, and Barry Larkin, is fading with barely a quarter of the votes necessary.
- Three perfectly cromulent candidates, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, and Larry Walker, received 14, 12.9, and 11.8 percent respectively.
- Two of the best to have played the game, regardless of any PED use, Barry Bonds (36.8) Roger Clemens (37.5), saw little change from last year’s balloting.
As a diehard fan of the Amazins, the snub of Piazza irritates me most of all. Okay, the Hall’s pathetic insistence on a ten-name limit has resulted in an abundance of worthy names for too few spots has hurt some of the borderline candidates, but why isn’t a catcher who posted a .308/.377/.545 slash line over a 16-year career feeling the love?
As the kool kidz on Twitter like to say: #smh.
Will Leitch of Sports on Earth cuts right to the chase:
Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell are left out simply because . . . well, because they used to stand next to people who confessed to using PEDs, or happen to be people who were unliked.
In essence, one curmudgeonly sportswriter-turned-blogger’s obsession over “backne” and an otherwise forgettable book’s quote from a player who never shared a clubhouse with Piazza have taken their toll.
Newsday’s David Lennon explains why it’s silly to punish Piazza:
We’re not saying he wasn’t because we don’t know for sure. After covering the sport for almost 20 years, I can’t tell you with 100 percent certainty who did PEDs unless they actually failed a drug test or copped to it. Even then, would we be able to determine when they began using and for how long?
Short of a player mapping out the timeline for us, and showing us a syringe, the answer is no. But we’re not trying to be Piazza’s defense lawyer — nor should he need one. It’s not like he was ever suspended or disciplined for PEDs, and his name didn’t appear in the Mitchell Report.
Piazza, however, is being punished anyway by a few dozen BBWAA members who don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer — or at least not yet, like he still has a toll to pay for access to Cooperstown. I respect those differing opinions, and again, we’re not proclaiming innocence or guilt here.
But if you’re keeping Piazza out because of the specter of steroids, what’s going to change in the next year or two?
But if you’re still suspicious how a 62nd-round draft choice of the Dodgers, whose selection was supposedly effectuated as a favor to his godfather, Tommy Lasorda, Amazin’ Avenue’s Dan Lewis provides a perfectly lucid explanation:
First, look at [a veteran member of the Major League Scouting Bureau's] physical description [from the spring of 1986]. “Large arms and forearms. Big hands. Broad shoulders. Solid long legs. Very young. Still possible growth left.” He’s 6′3″ tall — and only seventeen years old. He’s going to be big.
Then, pay attention to the abilities — “above [average] power potential.” If you look at the numerical ratings, he’s given a 4-6 in the power department—below average now (he’s 17!) but with potential to be above average in the future. The summary specifically states that Piazza has “potential above average long ball pop” and is “worth [a] selection on bat and power.”
So why wasn’t he selected? Because he was a right-handed hitting first baseman who couldn’t do anything else. . . .
The idea that Mike Piazza’s power came from nowhere is a farce, one based on spurious claims and amateur dermatology amounting to exactly nothing in the way of actual evidence. If you want to know what changed, it wasn’t his ability to hit homers. Learning to cut down on the strikeouts and take a few more walks certainly helped, but above all else it was his transformation from an inadequate first baseman, where offense is a requirement, to an adequate catcher, where offense is at a premium.
I hope to see you in upstate New York in the summer of 2016, Big Mike.
More here, here, and here.