Sweet Lou and Cobra

December 1, 2019
Introduction
 
The main themes in this article are:
 
  1. Does possessing enough "good" translate into "great"?
  2. Seasons matter
 
The content is roughly two-thirds about Lou Whitaker and about one-third on the rest of the 2020 Modern Era ballot (and particularly Dave Parker).
 
Sweet Lou
 
For all the Lou Whitaker fans out there, I think you’re going to be really happy in the near future. Maybe not with my article….but (I believe) you’ll be happy with the results of the 2020 Modern Era ballot. 
 
I think this is the year that Whitaker gets in. 
 
The signs are there. He’s been a bit of a cause célèbre for several years now, and my impression is that his support has been growing. Nearly 20 years after his brief, one-year appearance on the BBWAA ballot, he is finally up for consideration again. And, probably most importantly, I think the induction of Alan Trammell a couple of years ago was a significant hurdle. Trammell and Whitaker are so closely linked in the public consciousness as a keystone duo and as very similar players that the thought of one in the Hall without the other seems wrong to so many. I think this year Whitaker will join his partner in Cooperstown.
 
And, if that occurs, I’ll be happy for Whitaker. And I’ll be glad that the topic will be behind us. However, I have to say Whitaker is not my idea of a Hall of Fame player.
 
A good player? For sure. 
A very good player? Yes. 
Underrated during his career? Yep.
But a Hall of Famer? In my opinion, no. 
 
At best, I would consider him a borderline candidate, along with dozens of others. I won’t be upset if (when?) he’s inducted. I just happen to think he is below the line. Let me put it another way….he’s below my line. 
 
What exactly are the arguments in favor of Whitaker? There are a few key ones that are commonly put forth:
 
  • A long career (one of the longest ever at second base)
  • Whitaker and Trammell combined to form the longest keystone partnership ever
  • A high career rWAR (75)
  • A high JAWS ranking (13th at second base)
  • A legitimate claim as the best AL second baseman of his era (and maybe the best in both leagues)
  • Good all-around/well-rounded skill set
 
I think that’s a pretty good starting point. And he has some decent bullet points on his Hall of Fame résumé. 
 
Walking through those one at a time…
 
Long Career at Second Base
 
Whitaker is 4th all-time in defensive games at 2B, behind Hall of Famers Eddie Collins, Joe Morgan, and Roberto Alomar. The rest of the top 10 is made up of 3 other Hall of Famers (Nellie Fox, Charlie Gehringer, Bid McPhee), a possible future Hall of Famer (Robinson Cano, although his PED violation puts a cloud over that), and 2 of Whitaker’s contemporaries from the ‘70’s-‘90’s (Willie Randolph and Frank White).

Of course, a long career at a key defensive position in and of itself isn’t enough. Omar Vizquel is #1 in career games played at shortstop, and Jimmy Rollins, Larry Bowa, and Dave Concepcion are all top 10. Steve Finley and Willie Davis are 3rd and 4th, respectively, in defensive games played in center field, while Doc Cramer and Brett Butler are 7th and 8th. Top 10 at catcher include Bob Boone, Jason Kendall, Tony Pena, Brad Ausmus, A.J. Pierzynski, and Jim Sundberg.
 
A long career at a key defensive position is a valid point, but it’s just one point. Still, it’s a start.
 
Lou and Alan

As to the long partnership and statistical similarity with Trammell, I’ll admit it’s a noteworthy thing, but I frankly don’t think it should count for all that much in the scheme of things. For one thing, the "if one then the other" logic is a position that we’ve certainly been warned about (by Bill James himself), because that position, by itself, is never-ending and tends to create a downward spiral effect. One person’s entry is not (or shouldn’t be) the primary gateway for another’s. Again, it can be a consideration, but I don’t see that it should carry much weight.
 
After all, Trammell’s entry was a bit of application of the same logic, as I recall that many people used the election of Barry Larkin a few years earlier as justification for including Trammell, citing the similarity in their careers. The argument was "how can you have Larkin in but not Trammell?", even though you can come up with good reasons to distinguish them. Even though Trammell didn’t get elected by the BBWAA, he did manage to grow his support over time from a low of 13% to almost 41% by the end of his time on the ballot, and I think it gave him a nice little springboard to be inducted by the Veterans Committee in 2018. 

However, I’m not a big fan of that logic. I don’t particularly like basing the induction of one person simply because of a tight connection to another. Each candidate should be evaluated on his own individual merits.

And, for the record, I’m not a big supporter of Trammell’s induction either. I don’t think he’s a bad selection, but, like Whitaker, I think he was a borderline candidate at best.
 
Cumulative Quantitative Value

Perhaps the loudest argument you hear in favor of Whitaker is his impressive career rWAR. You don’t see many eligible players with rWAR’s of 70 or more who aren’t in the Hall, and a good chunk of those have other issues (such as a steroid cloud). Yet, this is probably also the biggest bone I have to pick. 

Now, to start with, anyone who has read my articles knows that I am definitely not a WAR-basher. I’m a fan of it, I like it very much, and I use the hell out of it in various things that I research, including several things in this article. I think it’s a terrific tool for summarizing both individual seasons and groups of seasons into a single number to help analyze various things.

However….I don’t let it dictate who I think should be in the Hall of Fame. That’s a different beast, and requires a different thought process. You can’t just say "Wow-look at that rWAR of 75! Impressive! You gotta put him in!" It doesn’t work that way, or at least it shouldn’t.

One of my favorite old movies is "Inherit the Wind" (based on the 1920’s Scopes "Monkey" trial), which I know I already referenced once in an article a couple of years ago. One of the famous quotes provided by Spencer Tracy’s character during the trial as various points and counterpoints are being made is that "The Bible is a book. It's a good book. But it is not the only book." 
 
Well, rWAR is just a number. It’s a good number. But it’s not the only number. It’s something to consider, but it doesn’t settle an argument or cement someone’s place in the Hall of Fame. Even though it does a good job of approximating value and summarizes it into a single, bite-sized figure, it can’t be the sole reason for inducting someone into the Hall of Fame. It’s one piece of information….especially when it’s expressed as a career number.

The real issue I have is that Whitaker’s career rWAR results from the accumulation of a lot of good years and, perhaps more importantly, the notable lack of bad ones. He really didn’t have any truly bad seasons. And that’s certainly valuable. However – did he really have any great ones? What was Whitaker’s signature season?   Does anything really stand out as memorable? 

See, a season is not just something in the abstract, and it’s not just a slice of a player’s career. Each season, in isolation, means something. The essence of sports is that each season starts anew with the pursuit of a championship. That’s why they’re out there, and that’s why they start from scratch each season. That’s what each team is striving for. What did Whitaker do towards those annual goals? He was good. He was solid. He was consistent. It’s nice to have those types of players around on your team. They’re dependable. They’re reliable. But, is many years of good, dependable play really a primary Hall of Fame characteristic? Are we looking for the reliable ones? Or are we looking for greatness?

One of the big strikes against Whitaker, in my opinion, is the lack of MVP support.   As you probably know, he only got one mention in his entire career (an 8th place finish in 1983). That’s it. And I think that’s pretty damning. Yes, you can point out that you think he should have gotten more support, that he was very underrated, and that the MVP voting is far from a perfect measure of recognizing a player’s contributions. Understood. But, I do think the collective information gleaned from the observations of writers who vote in the moment after each season is completed should carry a lot of weight in assessing a player’s career, and has to be given a great deal of consideration, even if you don’t always agree with it.

And, besides, I don’t know that the MVP voters had it all that wrong. Let’s look at it this way. Let’s say you’re a big fan of rWAR when it comes to Whitaker’s career, and let’s assume that you do think that it’s a good piece of information to leverage in support of his case.  OK. Let’s accept that. So, what does rWAR have to say about Whitaker’s individual seasons? How many American League top-10 rWAR seasons did he actually have? Two. That’s it. Two. He was 6th in 1983, and 9th in 1991. So, if you put any weight on rWAR for a career, then I think you also have to take a look at it in the context of individual seasons, and if you do, I think you’d have to say that the voters actually had him pegged pretty accurately. He didn’t impact individual seasons in a significant way. He provided good, consistent value, but he didn’t exactly stand out as a great player in any season. 
 
And seasons matter.

Whitaker simply didn’t have great seasons. He had A LOT of good ones. A boatload of them. If that says Hall of Famer to you, I can respect your opinion. But, I don’t agree with it. I think a Hall of Famer should have some years during his career when he elevates and makes his mark on a season in pursuit of a championship. Whitaker simply doesn’t have those, in my opinion.

And here’s another thought. The Tigers in Whitaker’s (and Trammell’s) career, spanning nearly 2 decades, made the playoffs only 2 times. That’s it. The Tigers had the great season in 1984 when it all came together, and they also made the playoffs in 1987. In those 2 years, Whitaker (if you, again, use seasonal rWAR as your guide), was no better than the 5th best player on the team in 1984 (behind Trammell, Lemon, Gibson, and Hernandez) and the 7th best in 1987 (behind Trammell, Morris, Evans, Alexander, Gibson, and Lemon). He was a valuable contributor, a solid part of the team, a cog in their success. But I don’t consider him a driving force.

In the 19 years that Whitaker and Trammell played together (’77-’95), the team finished in 3rd place or lower in the division 14 times. Outside of the 2 playoff years, the team won more than 90 games only once. Excluding the 2 strike-shortened seasons during their careers, the Tigers averaged 83 wins during this era. They had a .500+ record more often than not, but most of the time they really weren’t in the race. The years they didn’t make the playoffs, they averaged being 14 games out of first place. Now, that’s not entirely their fault, of course. But I think you’d have to say that, on the whole, the Tigers during those roughly 2 decades were actually kind of disappointing, despite quite a bit of talent on a lot of those teams.
 
Remember Bill’s "Keltner List" method for Hall of Fame evaluation? One of the questions on there was, "If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant"? I think the answer to that, in Whitaker’s case, is probably not.
 
Career & Peak

A player’s JAWS ranking is basically just another way to leverage rWAR, averaging a player’s career rWAR with his 7-year peak rWAR. But, even in Whitaker’s case, that is telling. 

Whitaker’s career rWAR (75.1) among second basemen is 7th all-time. Higher than Frankie Frisch, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, and 10 other Hall of Fame second basemen. That’s a valid point. But, again….it’s a cumulative measure, and Whitaker’s ability to play at a good level for a very long time served him well in accumulating his total.

However, when you flip to the other component of JAWS (WAR7, the top 7 years), he’s 20th.   Now he’s behind Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist, and Chuck Knoblauch. Which makes sense. He didn’t have great years. Now, 20th is nothing to be embarrassed about…..but it underlines that he didn’t really put up great seasons. 

So, when you average the career and the 7-year peak, you get a composite JAWS ranking of 13th. Which, is good, no doubt about it. But it basically just means that he had a long career of accumulating good seasons but didn’t put together a great peak. So, is that your idea of a Hall of Fame performance? For me, it’s not.
 
How about another way to leverage rWAR to put seasons into context? What if you took the greatest 100 seasons by second basemen (ranked by rWAR) and then summarized them by how many each player had? Basically this captures all seasons by second basemen of roughly 6.6 or above. Here’s what that leader board would look like:
 
Source: Baseball Gauge
 
Player
(*=Hall of Fame)
Top 100 Seasons
Avg. rWAR in Those Top 100 Seasons
Rogers Hornsby*
9
9.9
Eddie Collins*
8
8.9
Nap Lajoie*
7
8.6
Joe Morgan*
5
9.6
Chase Utley
5
7.9
Robinson Cano
5
7.7
Charlie Gehringer*
5
7.6
Jackie Robinson*
4
8.8
Ryne Sandberg*
4
7.6
Joe Gordon*
4
7.2
Frankie Frisch*
3
7.9
Bobby Grich
3
7.6
Rod Carew*
3
7.5
Chuck Knoblauch
3
7.4
Roberto Alomar*
3
7.1
Snuffy Stirnweiss
2
8.6
Ben Zobrist
2
8.1
Jose Altuve
2
7.9
Dustin Pedroia
2
7.5
Jeff Kent
2
7.2
Billy Herman*
2
6.9
Lou Whitaker
2
6.8
Craig Biggio*
1
9.4
Bret Boone
1
8.8
Eddie Stanky
1
8.0
Marcus Giles
1
7.9
Nellie Fox*
1
7.9
Fred Dunlap
1
7.8
Tony Lazzeri*
1
7.8
Brian Roberts
1
7.3
Cupid Childs
1
7.1
Bobby Avila
1
7.0
Randy Velarde
1
7.0
Ian Kinsler
1
7.0
Don Buford
1
7.0
Julio Franco
1
6.8
Willie Randolph
1
6.6
 
Most of the ones you would expect to see are near the top, including Hornsby, Collins, Lajoie, Morgan, and Gehringer. 2 more recent ones (Cano and Utley) also have 5 each, and Robinson, Sandberg, and Gordon each have 4.
 
Whitaker’s in a group of 7 players with 2 seasons, and of those 7, he’s the lowest in terms of average rWAR per those seasons (granted, Stirnweiss’ seasons get a big asterisk since they occurred in war years). That puts him 22nd on this list.
 
And in fact, Whitaker almost didn’t make the list at all. Of the top 100 seasons by this approach, Whitaker’s ranked #93 and #97.
 
Don’t like rWAR? What about if we did it using Win Shares instead? Using data from Baseball Gauge for Win Shares, you’d get the following (cutoff of the top 100 was around 29.6 Win Shares and above):
 
Player
Top 100 Seasons
Avg. Win Shares in Those Seasons
Eddie Collins
10
37.5
Rogers Hornsby
7
40.3
Joe Morgan
7
36.6
Nap Lajoie
6
38.1
Robinson Cano
6
33.4
Ryne Sandberg
5
33.9
Roberto Alomar
5
32.4
Jackie Robinson
4
34.9
Charlie Gehringer
4
33.0
Craig Biggio
4
32.1
Jose Altuve
3
34.1
Snuffy Stirnweiss
2
35.5
Frankie Frisch
2
34.0
Jeff Kent
2
33.3
Bret Boone
2
33.3
Cupid Childs
2
32.0
Chase Utley
2
31.9
Bobby Grich
2
31.2
Nellie Fox
2
31.0
Billy Herman
2
30.8
Rod Carew
2
30.7
Fred Dunlap
1
42.7
Matt Carpenter
1
36.8
Bobby Avila
1
33.7
Mark Loretta
1
33.0
Buddy Myer
1
32.1
Edgardo Alfonzo
1
32.1
Larry Doyle
1
31.6
Chuck Knoblauch
1
31.5
Joe Gordon
1
30.9
Tony Lazzeri
1
30.4
Steve Sax
1
30.1
Alfonso Soriano
1
30.0
Duke Kenworthy
1
29.9
Don Buford
1
29.8
Marcus Giles
1
29.8
Tom Herr
1
29.8
Willie Randolph
1
29.8
Eddie Stanky
1
29.7
Daniel Murphy
1
29.6
 
A lot of the same names are at the top of this list as there were on the first list. Alomar and Biggio do better by this measure, with Gordon, Utley, and Knoblauch sliding down.
 
Whitaker? He didn’t make the cut of the top 100 seasons. Whitaker’s top Win Shares season was 28.4 in 1983. It’s #123 on the list. Again, all of this is just to underscore the fact that Whitaker didn’t really generate standout seasons.
 
Let’s try an analogy. What if there were WAR for rock stars? Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix would probably be pretty low on the career WAR scale, wouldn’t they? They each only put out (I believe) 3 albums when they were alive. 
 
But their peak was unbelievable. They had tremendous and long-lasting impact. They’re legends. They’re the ones I want to listen to, they’re the ones I enjoy remembering. They’re the epitome of Hall of Famers in their field. They’re also the epitome of recklessness and poor choices, but that’s another story. 
 
Loverboy (remember "Working for the Weekend"?) is still playing and drawing crowds after 40 years….does that make them Hall of Famers? OK, you caught me….Loverboy is actually in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, which I’ll concede. And, I’d be perfectly fine honoring Whitaker in the Tigers Hall of Fame, if they even have one. That would seem fair.
 
Or, another example: Golden Earring. Remember them? "Radar Love"? "Twilight Zone"? They’re still playing together with essentially the same members after 50 years. Anyone want to put them in the Rock Hall of Fame based on extreme longevity? Although, I have to admit, "Radar Love" does have a pretty cool drum solo…..
 
Career rWAR is a nice thing, but it’s only one thing to consider. Rick Reuschel has a 69.5 rWAR. Sandy Koufax only has 48.6. Koufax is a slam dunk Hall of Famer. Rick Reuschel is not. As it should be. 
 
Accumulation of career rWAR doesn’t tell the whole story. 
 
Seasons matter.
 
Best of His Era?

Whitaker is probably the best AL second baseman of his era, regardless of exactly which years you use to define it. If you were to do an all-decade team of the 1980’s, it would pretty much come down to Whitaker and Willie Randolph, with Frank White likely taking the bronze. Among the three, Whitaker had the most power, Randolph was the best at getting on base and the best base stealer, while White was the best defender, although Randolph and Whitaker were both pretty good too (I think White would likely be the consensus #2 defensive 2nd baseman of all time, behind Bill Mazeroski). Whitaker had the best all-around game. I think you’d have to go with Whitaker, but I would put Randolph fairly close behind.
 
If you broadened it to include both leagues, it would probably come down to Whitaker and Ryne Sandberg.  And I’d go with Sandberg. If you compare careers using rWAR , Whitaker certainly has the edge over Sandberg in total rWAR, but Sandberg has 4 seasons that were better than Whitaker’s best. Whitaker had more good seasons, but Sandberg’s best seasons were better, including an MVP (not to mention a boatload of honors including 10 All Star games and 9 Gold Gloves). And that’s why he’s in the Hall already – he made a bigger impact, and people remember him for that.
 
So, I would consider Whitaker the best AL second baseman of his general era, and the 2nd best overall. Again, a nice feather in his cap, and a point in his favor.
 
I alluded to the Keltner List a while back. Another relevant question from that list would be, is Whitaker the best second baseman not in the Hall of Fame? Quite possibly, yes, but I don’t think that’s a slam dunk either. Probably the other two best retired candidates who are no longer on the ballot are Bobby Grich and Willie Randolph, and I think their cases are every bit as good as Whitaker’s. Jeff Kent is still on the ballot and annually drawing 15-20% of the vote. He’s got a good case as well.
 
Chase Utley is retired but not yet eligible, but he will be a viable candidate. Active players who will likely have solid cases are Robinson Cano (although he’s got a cloud hovering over him), Dustin Pedroia, and Jose Altuve. I personally think Altuve has one foot in already, and the other foot is drawing near. I may be overrating him because he’s still active and he does have a ways to go, but Altuve, to me, is shaping up as the essence of a Hall of Famer. I think he’ll be a slam dunk.
 
All Around Skill Set
 
I think as a general rule of thumb, it’s true that players who are good at several things but not great at any one thing tend to be underrated. That certainly hurt Whitaker’s perception while he was playing. His skills were more subtle. He had a good but not great batting average, made 5 All Star teams, which is a decent total but nothing spectacular, and managed to win 3 Gold Gloves after Frank White started to age and they got tired of giving him the award every year. 
 
Whitaker had a good OBP, a good OPS+. Everything about him was "good", and none of it was "great". 
 
So we have to ask….if there’s enough cumulative "good", does that make you "great"? Or is it just a whole bunch of good?
 
Shifting gears now….
 
The Rest of the Ballot, and a Few Words in Support of "Cobra"
 
This year’s Modern Era ballot contains (alphabetically):
 
Dwight Evans
Steve Garvey
Tommy John
Don Mattingly
Marvin Miller
Thurman Munson
Dale Murphy
Dave Parker
Ted Simmons
Lou Whitaker
 
Leaving Miller aside, you’re probably already well versed in the general stats associated with the players above, so in order to publish something of a little different nature, here is a summary of the players’ key figures from the "Hall of Fame Statistics" section from the player pages on baseball-reference.com (remembering that the Hall of Fame Monitor does not reflect who "deserves" to get in, only that it was designed to indicate how well players are tracking to Hall of Fame status based on historical standards, and also remembering that Bill has subsequently updated it in recent years).
 
Name
Primary Position
HOF Std
HOF Monitor
Black Ink
Gray Ink
rWAR
JAWS Rank at Position
Dwight Evans
RF
44
70
15
113
66.9
15
Steve Garvey
1B
32
130
12
142
37.7
51
Tommy John
SP
44
112
11
134
61.5
85
Don Mattingly
1B
34
134
23
111
42.2
39
Thurman Munson
C
29
90
0
46
45.9
12
Dale Murphy
CF
34
116
31
147
46.2
25
Dave Parker
RF
42
125
26
145
40.1
39
Ted Simmons
C
44
125
0
95
50.1
10
Lou Whitaker
2B
43
93
0
31
74.9
13
 
Note - John’s JAWS ranking is a little misleading on the surface because there are so many more starting pitchers to contend with.
 
  • If you’re a JAWS fan, you’re likely to be partial to Simmons, Whitaker, Munson and Evans.  
 
  • If you’re the type who likes a more "traditional" approach that the Hall of Fame Monitor tries to reflect (honors, accomplishments, milestones, etc.) , you’re more likely to be partial to Mattingly, Garvey, Parker, and Simmons (and probably Murphy too). 
 
  • If you like big, league-leading (or near-league leading) category performances captured by black and gray ink measures, you’re likely to be partial to Murphy and Parker. 
 
  • And, if you like straight-up rWAR, then it’s Whitaker, Evans, and John. 
 
In other words, this group of candidates offers a little something for everyone.
 
Most of these individuals have been on previous Veterans’ Committee type ballots (if we can still use the term "Veterans Committee"), in many cases multiple times, and most of these were on the ballot just a couple of short years ago (when Trammell and Jack Morris were elected). I believe this is roughly Miler’s 58th time on a ballot (I may not have that exactly right).
 
Munson is making his first appearance on a ballot in over a decade. Evans and Whitaker are each returning to a ballot for the first time since their brief times on the BBWAA ballot many years ago (Whitaker had just the one appearance in 2001, while Evans was on 3 ballots from 1997-1999). 
 
As mentioned at the outset, I do think that Whitaker gets in this year, joining his keystone partner Trammell. I also think Ted Simmons, who only missed by a single vote last time around, gets in as well. And, I think that will be it. 
 
If I had a vote, the very first player I’d vote for is Dave Parker. Which, I’m sure will seem nuts to some of you. After all, his career rWAR of just over 40 is barely more than half of Whitaker’s. How can he possibly be a better candidate?
 
The things I like most about Parker’s case are:
 
1)      He has a legitimate argument that he was the best player in baseball for a specific period of time.

2)      He has a terrific record of MVP support
 
The first point focuses on Parker’s peak, which is pretty clearly the time frame of 1975-1979. You may not think Parker was the best player in baseball during that time frame, but he’s certainly in the discussion, and he was definitely in the thick of the discussion at the time. His record salary at the time (first professional athlete to earn an average of $1 million per year) certainly helped reinforce that notion that he was an elite player.
 
If you isolate that 5-year time frame and use rWAR to identify the top 5 position players, the top contenders are Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Rod Carew, Joe Morgan. Here are some basic categories for those 5 over that time span:
 
1975-1979 top 5 rWAR:
Player
rWAR
G
PA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
SB
CS
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS+
Mike Schmidt
38.7
777
3,337
521
708
144
24
180
495
86
40
.258
.377
.525
144
George Brett
35.0
739
3,288
481
948
188
68
72
414
88
50
.316
.365
.496
137
Rod Carew
32.0
716
3,142
477
949
132
45
45
384
152
59
.348
.419
.479
151
Dave Parker
31.1
751
3,230
475
942
184
47
114
490
84
43
.321
.377
.532
147
Joe Morgan
30.8
699
2,954
471
677
131
18
88
390
223
40
.286
.414
.468
142
 
As anyone who has worked with oWAR and dWAR knows, you can’t simply add them together to get total rWAR, because both metrics contain a positional adjustment. The Baseball Gauge has a handy display that shows how rWAR figures break down into offensive, fielding and positional adjustment components, so you get a better view of what’s going below the surface, with Parker receiving a pretty hefty negative position adjustment:
 
Name
WAR
Off
Fld
Adj
Mike Schmidt
38.7
29.3
7.4
2.0
George Brett
35.0
27.1
5.3
2.6
Rod Carew
32.0
32.7
1.6
(2.3)
Dave Parker
31.1
29.8
4.8
(3.5)
Joe Morgan
30.8
30.2
(1.4)
2.0
 
The interesting thing about the top 2 (Schmidt and Brett) is that this time frame actually pre-dates their MVP years, which were all in the 80’s. Morgan won 2 MVP’s during this time frame (1975 & 1976) and Carew and Parker each won one. Morgan was spectacular in ’75 & ’76, and ’77 was still pretty decent, but he fell off pretty dramatically after that in ’78 & ’79, so some of this is certainly attributable to the exact "slice" of time.
 
It looks to me like Schmidt and Brett lift a little above the others due to defensive WAR and position adjustments. Parker had a higher batting average, slugging, and OPS+ than both of them over this time frame, and his OBP was better that Brett’s (tied with Schmidt). And, Parker rates as a pretty good defensive player himself during this part of his career.
 
How did these 5 do in MVP award voting during this time frame? Here are their MVP finishes:
 
Player
1975
1976
1977
1978
1979
Mike Schmidt
16
3
10
-
13
George Brett
11
2
13
9
3
Rod Carew
9
5
1
11
-
Dave Parker
3
20
3
1
10
Joe Morgan
1
1
-
-
-
 
Morgan’s the one with 2 wins, but I think Parker’s is the most impressive overall of this group if you look at the entire time span. And, if you’ll excuse a quick sidebar, my opinion is that Parker deserved much better fate than a 10th place finish in 1979.
 
At the risk of contradicting my statement earlier in the article that you have to give a lot of respect to how voters see each season in the moment, I think the 1979 NL MVP vote is not one of the voters’ brighter moments. The Pirates had the best record in the NL that season and Dave Parker, by all rights, should have finished much higher than 10th.
 
You may recall that 1979 was the year that Keith Hernandez and Parker’s teammate (Willie Stargell) tied for the NL MVP. Hernandez did have a really good year – he won the batting title, led the league in runs and doubles, won a Gold Glove, posted a 7.6 rWAR – but Stargell (a mere 2.5 rWAR) won the award in large part on the basis of being "Pops" on the "We are Family" Pirates squad. He did hit a lot of home runs (especially per at bat), and he received a ton of credit for being the leader on the league’s best team. He also had an amazing postseason, which, of course, would not have factored into the regular season MVP voting.
 
Bear with me as we take a fresh look at the top 10 NL MVP finishers that year. Below are some key stats - hitters first, then pitchers, with overall MVP finish in the first column:
 
MVP
Finish
Name
Tm
Pts
1st
Share
rWAR
G
AB
R
H
HR
RBI
SB
BA
OBP
SLG
1
Willie Stargell
PIT
216
10
64%
2.5
126
424
60
119
32
82
0
.281
.352
.552
1
Keith Hernandez
STL
216
4
64%
7.6
161
610
116
210
11
105
11
.344
.417
.513
3
Dave Winfield
SDP
155
4
46%
8.3
159
597
97
184
34
118
15
.308
.395
.558
4
Larry Parrish
MON
128
0
38%
4.6
153
544
83
167
30
82
5
.307
.357
.551
5
Ray Knight
CIN
82
2
24%
3.1
150
551
64
175
10
79
4
.318
.360
.454
9
Dave Concepcion
CIN
63
0
19%
4.9
149
590
91
166
16
84
19
.281
.348
.415
10
Dave Parker
PIT
56
0
17%
6.7
158
622
109
193
25
94
20
.310
.380
.526
 
MVP Finish
Name
Tm
Pts
1st
Share
rWAR
W
L
ERA
G
SV
IP
H
BB
SO
6
Joe Niekro
HOU
75
1
22%
3.2
21
11
3.00
38
0
263.2
221
107
119
7
Bruce Sutter
CHC
69
0
21%
5.1
6
6
2.22
62
37
101.1
67
32
110
8
Kent Tekulve
PIT
64
1
19%
3.2
10
8
2.75
94
31
134.1
109
49
75
 
The 1979 Pirates had the best record in the National League, winning 98 games. Dave Parker, in my view, was clearly the best player on the best team, yet he finished 10th in the voting. I view him as being much more valuable to the Pirates than Stargell or Tekulve, who both finished ahead of him in the voting. Of course, this era was one in which relievers were starting to get deified by writers, but I’m still amazed that Tekulve got a first place vote.
 
The comparison of Parker to the 39-year old Stargell is striking when you look across multiple categories. Parker played 32 more games, had almost 200 more at bats, had 74 more hits, scored 49 more runs, drove in 12 more runs, had a batting average 29 points higher, an OBP 28 points higher, and won a Gold Glove, not to mention an rWAR 4.2 higher (which, of course, no one would have known at the time). Stargell had more home runs and a higher slugging percentage. Stargell didn’t even play enough to have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. But, Stargell was seen as the "leader", and that carried a lot of weight with the voters.
 
And as far as the other candidates…..well, I’m the biggest Reds fan around, but I’m scratching my head over how Ray Knight and Dave Concepcion could have be seen as more valuable than Parker. Well, Concepcion did have a good year as the Reds were able to win the division. But Ray Knight??? 10 home runs, 79 RBI’s? Yes, Knight stepping in at 3B softened the blow of losing Pete Rose to free agency, but gimme a break. I don’t know how in the world that guy got 2 first place votes.
 
Now, I’m not saying Parker should have won – Winfield and Hernandez both had excellent years (as did Schmidt, who finished a distant 13th), and the voting is what it is, but I think Parker, especially given how well the team did, should have at least been top 5. I haven’t formally studied it, but I’d say it’s rare for someone who objectively was the best player on the best team in the league to finish as low as 10th in an MVP voting. That would be interesting to look at.
 
So, who’s your #1 during that time frame of the late ‘70’s? I think a lot of people would go with Schmidt, but Parker’s definitely up there. He’s in the discussion, and he was in the discussion at the time. And he has an argument as the best player of that time frame.
 
If you’re willing to accept an even shorter time span? If you consider just the 3 year span of 1977-1979, it’s probably among Parker, Schmidt, Brett, George Foster, and Jim Rice. Top 5 rWAR in that narrow slice:
 
Player
rWAR
G
PA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
SB
CS
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS+
Mike Schmidt
23.0
459
1,958
316
415
79
17
104
293
43
19
.260
.382
.526
143
George Brett
21.6
421
1,886
303
538
119
41
54
257
54
29
.313
.365
.524
139
Dave Parker
21.1
465
2,055
318
602
121
27
76
299
57
30
.327
.390
.546
150
Jim Rice
19.1
481
2,144
342
620
93
36
124
383
21
13
.320
.376
.596
153
George Foster
18.4
437
1,881
289
500
75
12
122
367
10
10
.301
.375
.582
157
Dave Winfield
18.0
474
2,013
289
534
86
22
83
307
52
25
.297
.366
.508
147
 
Who’s the best in that group? I don’t know….it’s pretty tight. You could even argue Foster or Rice. But I think Parker’s got as good an argument as anyone.
 
One last Parker chart. Here is a list of players with highest # of career MVP Award Shares. As you probably know, Award Shares is a Bill James creation, where your "share" of an award is your voting points as a % of the available maximum points in each vote.
 
Here are the players with the 50 highest award share points:
 
Key:
Hall of Fame
Not Yet Eligible
Eligible but has Steroid Cloud/Questions
Inelgible List
 
Rank
Player
# of MVPs
Award Shares
1
Barry Bonds
7
9.30
2
Stan Musial
3
6.96
3
Albert Pujols
3
6.91
4
Ted Williams
2
6.43
5
Willie Mays
2
5.94
6
Mike Trout
3
5.91
7
Mickey Mantle
3
5.79
8
Hank Aaron
1
5.45
 
Joe DiMaggio
3
5.45
 
Lou Gehrig
2
5.45
11
Alex Rodriguez
3
5.23
12
Mike Schmidt
3
4.96
13
Frank Robinson
2
4.84
14
Frank Thomas
2
4.79
15
Miguel Cabrera
2
4.68
16
Jimmie Foxx
3
4.22
17
Yogi Berra
3
3.98
18
Eddie Collins
1
3.86
19
Hank Greenberg
2
3.69
 
Brooks Robinson
1
3.69
21
Pete Rose
1
3.68
22
Charlie Gehringer
1
3.56
23
Rogers Hornsby
2
3.34
24
Eddie Murray
 
3.33
25
George Brett
1
3.30
 
Willie Stargell
1
3.30
27
Reggie Jackson
1
3.28
28
Harmon Killebrew
1
3.23
29
Ken Griffey Jr.
1
3.20
30
Dave Parker
1
3.19
31
Mike Piazza
 
3.16
32
Jim Rice
1
3.15
33
Carl Hubbell
2
3.07
34
Manny Ramirez
 
3.06
 
Joey Votto
1
3.06
36
Joe Morgan
2
3.04
37
Dizzy Dean
1
3.03
38
Paul Waner
1
2.99
39
David Ortiz
 
2.95
40
Vladimir Guerrero
1
2.94
41
Al Kaline
 
2.93
42
Jeff Bagwell
1
2.89
43
Mel Ott
 
2.87
44
Ernie Banks
2
2.83
45
Roberto Clemente
1
2.80
46
Johnny Bench
2
2.77
 
Derek Jeter
 
2.77
48
Juan Gonzalez
2
2.76
49
Bill Terry
 
2.72
50
Mickey Cochrane
2
2.70
 
Of the top 50 players, one is ineligible for election by the current rules of the Hall of Fame since he’s on MLB’s permanently ineligible list (Rose). Of the other 49, 6 are not yet eligible (Rodriguez, Trout, Pujols, Cabrera, Votto, and Ortiz). That leaves 43.
 
39 of the 43 (91%) are in the Hall of Fame (I counted Jeter as "in" since he’s a lock to be elected this year). Of the 4 eligible who aren’t in, 3 have at least some steroid connections/questions hovering over them - Bonds, Ramirez, and Gonzalez (I suppose we could have a discussion over whether Gonzalez isn’t in because of steroids or because voters didn’t think he was good enough). Of course, A-Rod, even when he does become eligible, will be in that group as well.
 
The one remaining name? Dave Parker.
 
I’m not blind to the "case against". His career rWAR of 40 isn’t very impressive. He sidetracked his career through drugs and weight issues, and in the course of doing so he may have cost himself a shot at 3,000 hits (he ended with 2,712), which would have made him a lock. His home run total of 339 isn’t very impressive for a big guy (he was always more of a doubles hitter).   He spent a good part of the latter part of his career as a defensive liability and then, finally, as a DH. His OBP is low. His peak was too short. 
 
Granted. But Hall of Fame consideration, to me, often contains a great deal of "feel" and subjectivity. Was someone impactful? Is he worth remembering? Is he worth honoring for what he did do? The NFL doesn’t have any stigma around electing players with brief but powerful peaks like Gale Sayers and Terrell Davis. Players who were impactful, if only for a short time. And I haven’t even brought up Parker’s legendary arm, which is a nice addition to anyone’s plaque.
 
As to the others on the ballot……
 
I don’t have real strong feelings. As mentioned before, they all have their strong points, and they all appeal to various segments and perspectives. 
 
Regarding Marvin Miller, about whom there are very strong feelings on both sides……
 
I’ll tell you the truth…..I really don’t know what to do about him. I understand his vigorous supporters’ position - he certainly had influence and tremendous impact on the game….I’m just not sure that honoring him with a plaque is the right course of action, and I’m not even referring to his stated wish to not be inducted at this point. 
 
What I wonder, and I don’t really know the answer to…..is there is precedence for honoring someone like Miller in any other Hall of Fame? The NFL has contributors (mostly executives) and Hockey has "builders" (again, I think mostly executives), but I don’t think any of them have anyone analogous to Miller, although I could very well be wrong.
 
And, I don’t even mean just sports….I mean any Hall of Fame. For example, is it incumbent for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to honor agents or other individuals who represent the interests of the artists? There must be individuals who have had some kind of role in protecting artists’ rights. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has a category for "non-performers", which seems to include behind the scenes/technical people or people or composers or executives or radio personalities or people like that, people who are part of the industry who help to promote the popularity and appeal of the industry and the development of the craft. But I don’t think there are any people who essentially represent legal interests of the artists themselves. 
 
I realize an industry of music artists isn’t perfectly analogous to an industry of professional athletes, and there are differences for sure, but just as a general concept, would you normally think to honor those whose job it is to protect performers’ interests? I don’t know if there are any instances like that, but it seems to me that it would be hard to fathom why an industry’s Hall of Fame would specifically honor those types of individuals. 
 
Yes, I know they honor executives all the time. Probably way too much. You kind of expect that, because executives are trying to promote the appeal and popularity of their industry, even if their actions aren’t always of the highest integrity and if they’re often self-serving. I still think that’s a little different, and to be expected.
 
Miller was the executive leader of the player’s union who fought the system and rules and made things better for the players. That was his role. He didn’t represent the interests of the industry per se – he represented the players and their interests. You can argue that his role resulted in baseball being overall healthier for his efforts, but that really wasn’t the part he was there to play. Is there anyone else who’s done anything in that realm in any other field who is honored in similar manner in an industry’s Hall of Fame? That’s an honest question. 
 
I don’t think it serves the question to simply take a stand and maintain that "it’s disgraceful" that he’s not in, as many have done. That doesn’t move the discussion forward. I think it’s a legitimate question to ask whether or not someone in his capacity really should be considered for such an individual level of recognition and honor. 
 
Miller had an amazingly successful record of representing and fighting for the players, and you can conclude that the game is better off for it as well. I’m just not sure that a plaque specifically honoring him is the right course of action. An exhibit explaining his role and the role of the union and the impact and influence as part of the game’s history? Absolutely. It helps to tell the story of the game and its development, how we got from "then" to "now". I’m just not sure that recognizing him individually in the Plaque Gallery is the right way to go.
 
And….when you consider his stated desire that he doesn’t want to be inducted at this point, and that his family is fully supportive of that desire….well, I just don’t see the point of putting his name back on a ballot every couple of years just so he can be voted down. I don’t think it serves anyone’s interest at this point. I think it’s best to just honor Miller’s request and leave it at that.
 
Well, I didn’t mean to get off on that much of a tangent. Anyway, I wouldn’t truly be disappointed with any of the candidates making it or not making it, including Miller. If I were a voter and forced to choose, though, I’d probably just use 2 of my 4 slots and go with Parker and Murphy.
 
But for me, Parker, looking at the total package, is the one that appeals to me most, and would get a yes from me. Though very unlikely, I’d like to see him inducted. I realize not many would agree with me.
 
Wrapping it Up
 
I think Whitaker’s case, ultimately, is a philosophical one. It comes down to how we consider and define greatness, and how we decide who should be recognized and honored in the Hall of Fame. In my opinion, greatness is not found in the accumulation of a bunch of good. I need something more. 
 
And seasons matter.
 
The word I like to keep in mind in the context of a Hall of Fame, regardless of what industry or field that it seeks to repreent, is "illustrious". I think members should have that characteristic. I really don’t know what was illustrious or especially memorable about Whitaker’s career, especially if you detach him from Trammell. He was a good player. He provided value. But I don’t see anything that lifts him out of the sphere of goodness into the arena of greatness. But then again, you can say that about a lot of people that are in the Hall of Fame.
 
So, will I be upset if he’s elected? No, I won’t. And I’ll be personally happy for him and everyone who’s been rooting for him. I’ll just have to remain in disagreement over what a Hall of Famer is and should be. 
 
Thanks for reading.
 
Dan
 
 

COMMENTS (35 Comments, most recent shown first)

DMBBHF
Crawjo,

It's a fair point that Murray's individual seasons share that characteristic with Whitaker's. That being said, Whitaker's Hall of Fame case and Murray's Hall of Fame case are not even remotely comparable, which is clear when you look at their entire resumes. I suspect you know that.

And, no, being statistically similar to Barry Larkin's career totals, in and of itself, doesn't ensure that you're a Hall of Famer, although I will say it depends how you define it. Define it better, as in which specific stats are you referring to, and I'll tell you whether or not I agree with you.

Also, roughly half of the voters didn't consider Larkin a Hall of Famer on the first go-round. That's a good debut, but he certainly wasn't obvious to everyone. I know many people felt he was a little too injury prone for their tastes. So the problem with the if one then the other argument is that, once Larkin is in based on his individual merits, if you then think that Trammell is close enough to Larkin and therefore he should go in, and then you think Whitaker is close enough to Trammell and therefore he should go in, and you do so without considering the complete evidence of each candidate's individual case, then it absolutely has an inevitable downward effect. Being similar to another Hall of Famer is one consideration. You should always look at the full weight of the evidence for each candidate.

And Mark Ellis is an obvious red herring in this discussion.


7:30 PM Dec 7th
 
crawjo
A lot of the marks against Lou Whitaker could be applied to Eddie Murray. Murray also has only two of the top 100 seasons ever by a first baseman, according to RWAR. And he doesn't have ANY in the top 70. He also generated seasons of high consistency, but not really many *great* seasons. (He has one 7 WAR season), but fewer 4 and 3 WAR seasons than Whitaker.

The problems with this article are many. First of all, if you are statistically similar to Barry Larkin, you are a HOFer. Being against "if one than the other" arguments doesn't work as well when you are talking about guys who are clear HOFers. It does work for borderline cases, but if Barry Larkin is borderline, then you'd have to remove a lot of players from the HOF.

Second of all, I think terms like "solid," "good" and "consistent" better apply to, I don't know, Mark Ellis than Lou Whitaker. Second basemen who are consistently above-average hitters and who can get on base at the rate Whitaker did are better than merely "good." He was the best second baseman in the AL over a very long period of time. The writer here speaks of him as if he was just a solid contributor, rather than the best player at his position in his league for an entire decade.
1:49 PM Dec 7th
 
villageelliott
Daniel: Please send me your spreadsheet: villageelliott@yahoo.con

Brian, I was pretty sure that is what you meant, but I could not resist posting "Baseball's Sad Lexicon."

Re: Most years/Games played as keystone combo:

Both Whitaker and Trammel debuted Sept. 9 1977. Whitaker retired in 1995, Trammel a year later. Whitaker appeared in 2308 games at second, 32 as a DH. and turned 1527 DPs. Trammel appeared in 2139 games at short and, DHed in 60, and 72 others at various positions. He turned 1307 dps at short, 8 at 3rd, 2 at short.

While I couldn't find the exact numbers, I think it safe to suggest they played over 2000 games as a combo, turning over 1200 dps in that time.

The only combo I recall in my lifetime that would challenge their record would be
their slightly older contemporaries with the Dodgers: Davey Lopes and Bill Russell. Let us check.

Lopes debut in Sept, 1972, played eleven games and spent the next nine of his sixteen year career as a Dodger. Russell debuted three years earlier and was a Dodger for all of them. Thus Russell were an actual Combo for only nine years, the same as Tinkers and Evers..

It is not even close. I think I was confusing their Games together with Number of games in which same infielders appeared.

Without doing the research, I am going to suggest while it is possible, even likely that I am forgetting an even more prolific keystone combo (Fox-Aparicio, Cano-Jeter spring to mind) than Lopes and Russell, I doubt any other combo is within 500 games of Whitaker and Trammel.
5:48 PM Dec 3rd
 
shthar
How many Hall of Famers have had Tommy John surgery?


1:44 PM Dec 3rd
 
thedanholmes
I have a file with more than 1,500 players in it, that contains the career WAR, WAR7, and WAR (5 years consecutive) for all players in the study. It also has other data that can be very helpful to make rankings. All the players can be sorted by position.

If anyone would like that file (spreadsheet or flat file format), just let me know and I can send it along. There's no reason to keep using the data Mr James created years ago, when updated numbers are available.

DH
12:23 PM Dec 3rd
 
ventboys
Interesting article, Dan, and well said regarding Miller.

I don't personally think Miller genuinely did not want to be voted in, so much as he wanted to say he didn't as a final middle finger to his lifelong adversaries, a final act of defiance to show that they never beat him, never bowed him.

The case for Miller is harder to argue than the case against, simply because it requires the discussion to ignore a basic element of the case. The case against is almost exclusively an argument of propriety, rather than merit. That's a far easier argument to sell.

Ironically, the case against the reserve clause was won by focusing not on the merits but the propriety of the clause. Peter Seitz determined that the clause was valid -- no argument that it was "wrong" or anything -- but that it meant what it literally meant, not what generations of non-skeptical, non-thinking sycophantic followers of the game just assumed it meant.

Marvin Miller was a great advocate for the players and his family should probably get 10 percent of all those huge salaries, but that's an argument about merit. Miller did not work for baseball, or work with baseball. He worked against baseball; he was a baseball adversary.

If you keep it simple, and keep the wording simple, the choice is arguably ... well, simple. Marvin Miller should get a statue in front of every player's union-related building in the world. But the American Union would sooner honor Jefferson Davis than baseball would honor Marvin Miller. To honor Marvin Miller would, to baseball, be akin to honoring its enemy.

That said, the committee that votes isn't strictly "baseball" -- so they might well vote him in. And that's fine. The Hall of Fame exists because of its confusing rules, its controversial decisions and the endless arguments about what constitutes a Hall of Famer. If they elect Miller, that opens the door for Scott Boras.

And how fun will THAT argument be?


11:05 AM Dec 3rd
 
Brian
Elliott - What I was referring to is how many seasons and games the two played together as a DP combo, both playing at high levels. I couldn't find the stats - but my recollection is they are way ahead of everybody else in games played as a DP combo - it isn't close.

In terms of pure fame, I agree they come in behind Tinker/Evers/Chance by a comfortable margin- unless you were a Magnum PI fan.
9:34 AM Dec 3rd
 
mikeclaw
I'll be surprised if Whitaker goes in. I want to see the makeup of the committee - these newfangled committees are mostly about cronyism. Harold Baines got in because he had a committee stacked with his former managers, GMs and teammates.
Prediction: If there is a Yankee bias on the committee this year, it's Mattingly and Munson. If there is a Dodger bias its Garvey and TJ. Follow the nepotism.

8:28 AM Dec 3rd
 
villageelliott
""But that isn't even what people are doing when they are tying Whitaker to Trammell. What they are saying is here these two players came up as teammates and DP partners in 1977. For years and years they played these positions at mostly all-star, mostly gold-glove, mostly silver-slugger , sometimes MVP levels. Unlike, say Yount and Molitor, neither moved off of those positions until near the end of their careers. Neither were traded away. The Tigers were one of the winningest teams of the 1980s, and they were the anchors.

And there is no precedent for this. They gained a good deal of fame for this. The duality of their careers is historic. The argument is not that he gets in because Trammell gets in. It is that what they did together is worthy of Hall of Fame consideration or at least a point in their favor."

Brian,

I disagree that "there is no precedent..." I submit here is an iconic precedent know as:

"Baseball's Sad Lexicon"
Franklin P Adams: 1910

These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double-
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
5:50 AM Dec 3rd
 
Brock Hanke
I still use the rankings from the Bill James New Historical Abstract, because the ranking system includes career accumulate, 3-year peak, 5-consecutive-year prime, the player's average Win Shares per 162 games, and a timeline adjustment for the distribution of talent's progress over time. Compared to that system, JAWS is, well, what should have been the first baby step towards the New Historical system. Why anyone uses it when the New Historical is right there to look at, I do not know.

Anyway, remembering the the New Historical was published in 2001, and, therefore, contains no data for any years after that, Lou Whitaker is ranked #13 at second base. It is true that Lou's strong point is his career Win Shares, and that his peak and prime are lower than most of the players around him. But still, with a system that seriously includes peak and prime, Lou Whitaker ranks #13. There were about 17 second basemen in the Hall of Fame at the time (there are more now). So, according to a system that takes full notice of any weaknesses in peak, prime, etc, Lou should be in the HoF. He'd be in the Outer Circle of the Hall, but he does qualify, and by a system that isn't almost totally dependent on career accumulation. Ryne Sandberg ranks #7 and shows as clearly better than Whitaker.

Dave Parker ranks #14 in Right Field. That's a similar case in terms of the rankings, although Parker's strengths are in peak and prime.

Ted Simmons ranks #10 at catcher, and is probably the strongest candidate on the Modern Era ballot.
5:37 AM Dec 3rd
 
MarisFan61
(oh -- sorry, I see that my abbreviations for Whitaker and Randolph might not be that clear, because unfortunately Randolph's first name starts with W. :-)

W = Whitaker
R = Randolph​
4:41 AM Dec 3rd
 
MarisFan61
Dan: Glad you gave Willie Randolph all those mentions.
You consider Randolph a hair below Whitaker. I can't really separate them.

For fun, here's some of their comparative Win Share stuff.
(data from this site)

Career total Win Shares:
W 351, R 312

Top 3 years (not necessarily consecutive):
W 29,26,25; R 31,23,23

Best 5-year-run:
W 116, R 114

OK, OK, Lou is a hair ahead. :-)
4:38 AM Dec 3rd
 
77royals
The Hall of Fame is, and always has been, more than just a statiscal analysis.

And their charter clearly states that.

And I hope that never changes.

There is more to being a Hall of Famer than just the numbers they put up. If it wasn't so, Rose and Jackson and many others would be in right now.

I agree they need to have certain numbers to get in, but it's more than that.

Any individual should be able to consider a player, through a combination of their numbers, career achievements, reputation, having seen them play, and perception; and make a simple decision.

They either are, or they aren't.

Whitaker is.

2:29 AM Dec 3rd
 
OldBackstop
Oh dear.
12:02 AM Dec 3rd
 
MarisFan61
OBS, I think you're playing with fire again.
Don't worry, I won't be one who reports you, but others might well.
You're playing with fire. I know that you might not care.
11:35 PM Dec 2nd
 
OldBackstop
Great article.

Lou was an accruer.

Miller's dying words, basically, were don't put me in the HoF. His family will boycott and undoubtedly do media interviews all week talking smack. Like, if thedanholmes dying words were "please don't say they called me PansyBoy" would it be cool for everyone to be like "Well, we all knew him as PansyBoy, so let's just engrave that on the tombstone."

It wouldn't be a sign of respect to put Miller in, it would be a sign of DISRESPECT.​
11:21 PM Dec 2nd
 
thedanholmes
One needn't make an argument that Miller's leadership of a players' union is the reason he should be in the Hall of Fame. That's an incredible accomplishment, but unfortunately the fans who are nothing but sycophants for ownership will rail against it because "players make too much money!"

No, the brilliance of Miller was his visionary understanding of the economics of baseball. He understood what the end of the reserve clause meant, what the advent of arbitration meant, and he was prescient in his view of how free agency would impact the game.

Marvin Miller understood the owners position in the labor situation better than the owners did. And his leadership on the labor side was crucial in delivering a new game that has been more competitive. He guided the creation of the current free agent system, shaping it so it didn't destroy the game, even protecting MLB and ownership from themselves.
10:16 PM Dec 2nd
 
DMBBHF
Brian,

Thanks for the reply. You made some valid points, but here's a few things I would say in response.

Regarding Trammell - I think you're right that he's probably around the median of the currently elected shortstops. What I mean by "borderline", though, is not that he's down around the level of the lowest level inducted shortstops and therefore "borderline" by those standards, but that I'm personally "on the border" (or "on the fence", if you will) on whether or not I think he was a worthy candidate. I think he had a "borderline" case by the standards I use, and I could have gone either way on him. Hope that makes sense.

I partially agree with you on the Whitaker/Trammell connection. They are indeed linked because of their long parallel careers, and I mentioned that in the article. But literally every article I've read in support of Whitaker for the Hall of Fame also calls out their statistical similarity, and nearly everyone comments that they are high (top 5) on each other's Similarity Score lists. So, I think it's both observations - it's what they did side, by side but also that their career totals are close to each other that makes them "doubly connected" in the public consciousness.

And to answer your question directly - no, I don't think he had a great career. I have to care about the quality of the seasons along the way. I understand that for many, the career in aggregate is the thing that they like to focus on. I'm just not one of those people.

Thanks!
Dan
10:14 PM Dec 2nd
 
bjjp2
Dan,
Fleisher agreed to the first salary cap in professional sports. There’s the extra thing you’re searching for.
9:30 PM Dec 2nd
 
Brian
Should be Jeremy Lin - once he becomes eligible
9:22 PM Dec 2nd
 
Brian
Yes, Larry Fleisher is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. So is everybody else. I think I got some votes after a college intramural basketball game when I hit a few shots off the bench. Or perhaps an outstanding performance playing pop-a-shot in a sports bar. Or was it my Strat-O-Matic NBA coaching?

Here are some other basketball Hall of Famers:

1) A fan who attended 41 SAcramento Kings games in a row.
2) The first purchaser of NBA League Pass
3) An 8th grader who won her church free throw contest 3 years in a row.
4) Vitalis- (the sponsor of the 1972 NBA one-on-one tournament)
5) Jeremy Lin (one he becomes eligible)


9:20 PM Dec 2nd
 
Brian
Keeping in mind I am a Tiger's fan:

1) I don't consider Trammell a "borderline' Hall of Famer. He is probably slightly below the median of Hall of Fame shortstops.

2) I disagree with your tying one player to another argument. Bill James was correct that if you took the least qualified players, and made your arguments by comparison to them, it was a lowest common denominator argument that blew open the doors to the Hall. But - if you are tying Trammell to Barry Larkin, or Ozzie Smith, and you think those guys are solid , legitimate Hall of Famers then to me it is a valid argument.My issue with Ozzie is that he had one of the highest vote totals ever. Trammell, who I personally felt was a better overall player, was not even close. I think it is an absolutely valid to make that comparison and argument.

But that isn't even what people are doing when they are tying Whitaker to Trammell. What they are saying is here these two players came up as teammates and DP partners in 1977. For years and years they played these positions at mostly all-star, mostly gold-glove, mostly silver-slugger , sometimes MVP levels. Unlike, say Yount and Molitor, neither moved off of those positions until near the end of their careers. Neither were traded away. The Tigers were one of the winningest teams of the 1980s, and they were the anchors.

And there is no precedent for this. They gained a good deal of fame for this. The duality of their careers is historic. The argument is not that he gets in because Trammell gets in. It is that what they did together is worthy of Hall of Fame consideration or at least a point in their favor.

3. The lack of great seasons, other than 1983, is a legitimate argument against him. It is fair to say that "greatness" is more important than "value." But here's another question: Despite the lack of multiple great seasons, do you think that Lou Whitaker, all things considered, had a great career? I tend to think he did. And to me, the purpose of the Hall is to honor great careers. So I would vote for him.



9:05 PM Dec 2nd
 
DMBBHF
bjjp2,

Thanks for the mention of Larry Fleisher. I hadn't realized that he was in the Basketball Hall of Fame. That's a good call out.

It makes me wonder what might distinguish him from Miller. In reading about him, in addition to his role with the player's association, it seems he also was involved in the merger between the ABA and NBA and fostered relationships between the NBA and other leagues around the world, and was also influential in promoting basketball around the globe. In other words, maybe his role in basketball wasn't always an "antagonistic" or combative one between labor and management, like Miller's tended to be. Not saying that explains it or that it's completely fair to characterize Miller that way, but it does make me wonder if there are some other variables at work that would make basketball more inclined to honor Fleisher.

Manushfan,

Well, I appreciate your opinion, but simply saying "oh he's a HoF" carries significantly less water than anything I said. That's like saying something is "obvious". Clearly, it's not obvious. At least I proposed several reasons why I don't think he is Hall of Fame quality. What specific reasons make you think he is?

Also, I'm not holding it against Lou that he's specifically not Biggio or Alomar. Can you tell me where I said that? I think I might know the sentence you're alluding to, but that's not what that sentence is saying, which either means you didn't read it carefully enough or I didn't phrase it clearly enough, either of which is possible. What I am holding against Lou, specifically, is that he was merely good for a long time and not great, and that he didn't have impactful seasons compared to a bunch of other second basemen, not just Biggio and Alomar. That's all.

Thanks,
Dan
8:36 PM Dec 2nd
 
villageelliott
"Or, another example: Golden Earring. Remember them? "Radar Love"? "Twilight Zone"? They’re still playing together with essentially the same members after 50 years. Anyone want to put them in the Rock Hall of Fame based on extreme longevitya? Although, I have to admit, "Radar Love" does have a pretty cool drum solo….."

I'll be their Huckleberry.

While it is unfair to consider Golden Earring a "One-Hit Wonder,"*---See: "Twilight Zone" --- I consider "Radar Love" to be transcendent and include it in my "All-Time Top-Ten," not just for the "cool drum solo," but for its introductory bass line.

*: Is there a "One-Hit Wonder" Hall of Fame? There should be...​
3:04 PM Dec 2nd
 
ksclacktc
Whitaker was not HOFer IMO, saw his whole career and you're correct he was good not close to great. I would argue Bobby Grich has a better case if you had to choose one or the other. Whitaker as HOFer is a WAR accumulation case, a formula. He is like Harold Baines, another reason why adding up totals doesn't make you a HOFer. They are a like in that they're the short, fat guy careers. Don't get me wrong, tall, skinny careers aren't enough either. I want more, and don't have much interest in the HOF discussion now that we've started promoting people because of WAR.
2:03 PM Dec 2nd
 
pgups6
Fantastic. These are the thoughts I had on Whitaker but haven't seen it broken down and conveyed so well.

The point about "each season means something" is good one, and is the sticking point I have with a Larry Walker. Walker's season percentages are tremendous, but his per season counting numbers are not aligned because he missed so much time. That should be taken into account.

The last point, "All Around Skill Set", is one I struggle with and go back and forth in my own mind. Lou was a good five tool player for a long time. Now, take in comparison to someone like Molitor who was a great hitter but not known for his fielding (and actually moved from the infield to play most of his career at DH). Just like Lou, Molitor is 20th in WAR7 for 3Bs. Molitor had only three AL Top 10 WAR seasons (highest was 8th in 82). Because Molitor had a great bat for a long time (but wasn't a five tool player), Molitor was a first ballot Hall of Famer. With that in mind, should an all around player for a long time get that same benefit? In comparison to a Molitor, should Lou's longevity in the field offset? I don't think they are equal, but just food for thought.

Overall, for a Hall of Famer, I would like to see a stronger peak as well. A player who was one of the best overall players in the game, not just one of the best at their position.

And for the record, I have no problem as Molitor with HOF. He has tons of gray/black ink and played well during the postseason, was just using him for comparison purposes.

Thanks Dan!

11:31 AM Dec 2nd
 
Manushfan
Oh he's a HoF. I don't think your argument holds as much water as you think it does, and it seems kinda silly to hold against Lou that he's not Biggio or Alomar.
11:20 AM Dec 2nd
 
bjjp2
Larry Fleisher, former head of NBA union, is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
6:01 AM Dec 2nd
 
MarisFan61
Re what WDR said about T. John winning 300 if he hadn't missed a full season: I'm not gonna say the expected thing about "if he hadn't had that surgery," but just that he also would have had 300 if not for the 15 games that I swear Dave Righetti blew for him in 1988. :-)
2:33 AM Dec 2nd
 
3for3
Whitaker gets too much benefit from WAR because they set replacement level so low. Yes, average seasons have value, but not as much as WAR gives them, when evaluating a career. Would 25 years of WAR 2.5 make a HOFer? Not for me.
1:40 AM Dec 2nd
 
3for3
Whitaker gets too much benefit from WAR because they set replacement level so low. Yes, average seasons have value, but not as much as WAR gives them, when evaluating a career. Would 25 years of WAR 2.5 make a HOFer? Not for me.
1:40 AM Dec 2nd
 
wdr1946
One test of ability is the number of seasons of 6+ WAR or 4+ WAA. Whitaker had two such seasons, although he had many good but not great seasons. If I had a vote, the only ones I would vote for would by Tommy John, who would have won 300+ games if he hadn't missed a full season, and won 288, and Marvin Miller for his historical importance. Whitaker, Mattingly, and Parker were very good, and wouldn't disgrace the Hall if elected, but whether or not to include them simply isn't clear. Maybe or maybe not.
11:23 PM Dec 1st
 
DMBBHF
Thanks for the comments, guys.

Maris,

On your last point, you may be right, and it might just be that no one's truly comparable to Miller, which probably makes it hard to put him in the right perspective. I just feel that Halls of Fame tend to celebrate the accomplishments that are central to the industry itself, and representing the rights of labor, I think, tends to fall outside the scope of most Hall of Fame mission statements. Just my opinion, of course.

Bruce,

You know, I almost quoted that line from Steel Magnolias about "I'd rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special". Parker, even with the bad, had lots of really wonderful moments, and I don't feel like I can say the same about Lou.

Of course, quoting from Steel Magnolias probably gets me kicked out of the "guy" club....which is why I didn't do it. :)

I also have a soft spot for Parker because he did a lot to put the Reds back on the baseball map after their early '80s swoon. His 1985 season was exactly what the Reds needed at that time, and he did it without any real help in the lineup.

Thanks,
Dan​
11:18 PM Dec 1st
 
evanecurb
Dave Parker was great. In the five years that you cite, he indeed has a case as the best player in baseball. He was a good enough outfielder that he played centerfield in the minor leagues. However, after 1979, Parker put on a lot of weight and was caught up in drug use. He did stage a very good come back in Cincinnati in the mid-1980s, returning to All Star level play. But for three or four years, he was one of the highest paid players and one of the least valuable for the money. This gets us back to the central question of your article, doesn’t it? We Whitaker never had a bad year, but Dave Parker had several in a row.


9:52 PM Dec 1st
 
MarisFan61
Great article.
By which I mean, in part, you think like I do. :-)
(But, a lot besides that.)
And i love the comparisons to the world of music.
(Some time we ought to do lists of "Peak" and "Career" music HOF'ers. Really.)

Interesting that your ear tells you Whitaker probably gets in this time. My ear hears nothing on that, and I would have thought he doesn't.
I think there's a higher chance that your ear hears better :-) but just to make it interesting, I'll say that Whitaker comes close but misses, and by more than just 1 vote.

I'm more for Miller than you are -- and I think if there were a truly analogous figure in Rock, he'd either already be in or be seriously and commonly considered for that Hall of Fame.
9:33 PM Dec 1st
 
 
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