December 10, 2013

2014 Hall of Fame - Part I - Red Sox players

There is a large list of solid Hall of Fame candidates on this year's ballot. Several sportswriters are struggling with the maximum of 10 votes per ballot. Even if you want to exclude the known cheaters  from consideration there are several names who will be left off ballots who are much more worthy than some recent questionable inductees.  Among these are several former Red Sox players as well as Canadians or players with a strong Canadian connection.

This post will include my thoughts on the Red Sox on this year's ballot (alphabetically). My next post will look at the Canadians and the players who played in Canada, and finally I will have a wrap up post with my full ballot. 

RED SOX players

Sean Casey - If there was a Hall of Fame for nice guys the Mayor would be an easy 1st year inductee. He was voted the friendliest player in baseball and I never heard anyone say a bad word about him.  And although his time with the Red Sox was brief, with him just being a backup 1st baseman for a season, he was a 3 time all-star with some power who finished his career with a .300 batting average. He's also made the Irish Hall of Fame and the Reds' one which includes all time greats such as Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver and Frank Robinson.  His friendliness may garner him a few thank you votes from the BBWAA, but he will drop off the ballot this year.  NO

Roger Clemens - if you just look at the stats, this is a no-brainer. But the Hall of Fame criteria also includes integrity, sportsmanship and character. And I'm not quite totally sure how to handle the whole PED thing yet. But not even considering that issue, in my opinion, Roger Clemens never exhibited much integrity, sportsmanship or character on or off the field.  He's not getting my vote.  NO

Eric Gagne - He had three great seasons as a closer, but outside of that he had a grand total of 35 career saves, with an ERA well above 4.  He almost single handedly prevented the Red Sox from getting to the 2007 World Series, although he still got a ring.  Three seasons isn't enough for Hall of Fame consideration. NO

Todd Jones - Another player remembered mostly for his time outside of Boston. In spite of 300+ career saves, he only finished a grand total of seven games for the Red Sox, none in a save situation.  He had a long career, playing 16 years, which helped him accumulate all those saves, but he was never really one of the elite relievers in the league.  He'll be another one and done. NO

Hideo Nomo - It's easy to take a cursory look at his stats, and just gloss over him. But if the Hall of Fame is for those that changed the game in some way, Nomo deserves some consideration here. He burst on the scene with the Dodgers in 1995, and his impact with Nomo-mania, was reminiscent of Fernando-mania a decade and a half earlier.  He was an easy choice for Rookie of the Year, led the league in strikeouts and was among the leaders in many other pitching categories. To prove his first season wasn't a fluke, the following season he was 4th in Cy Young balloting, and threw a no-hitter. Against the Rockies. At Coors Field!  It wasn't until 2001 that he played for the Red Sox, and in his first appearance he threw another no-hitter, becoming the first Boston pitcher to do so in my lifetime.  And he again led the league in strikeouts.  But aside from his specific on-field accomplishments, what he really did was open the door for Japanese players to be considered MLB ready.  Ichiro, Dice-K, Matsui, Darvish and all the other Japanese stars all owe Nomo some credit for being given an opportunity to show their ability in the MLB.  Nevertheless Hideo Nomo is not a Hall of Famer. NO

Curt Schilling - A postseason hero! All Red Sox fans remember the bloody sock, but that's just the tip of his playoff accomplishments.  In 1993, he was the MVP of the NLCS leading the Phillies into the World Series, and down 3 games to 1 he threw a shutout in Game 5 to give Philadelphia some hope. In 2001, he teamed up with Randy Johnson to lead the Diamondbacks to their only Championship. He started 6 games that postseason and was 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA.  And of course, he was a big part of the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox Championships, ending up with an ERA of 2.23 and an 11-2 record in his playoff career.  But being good or great in a handful of games does not (should not!) define a Hall of Famer’s credentials.  I always thought Schill was a pretty good starter, but when I watched him pitch, “all time great” didn’t usually cross my mind, as it instinctively did when I watched Pedro for example.  So I started looking at the numbers, and the more I looked the more I was convinced he is Hall worthy.  He 'only' won 216 games, and there are very few Hall of Famers with less than that, and his 3.46 career ERA is good, but doesn't jump off the page.  However, he played in a very high scoring environment, and his ERA+ of 127 is the same as Tom Seaver's.  He also had a historically good strikeout to walk ratio ending up with the 2nd highest ratio in history - better than Pedro Martinez or Mariano Rivera.  Although I wish sometimes he'd keep his controversial thoughts to himself, I can't deny that he does belongs in the Hall.  He's got my vote. YES

Lee Smith - 18 seasons, 478 saves, career ERA of 3.03.  One of the most dominating relievers of all time, including 2 1/2 seasons in Boston.  He should have been in by now. YES

J.T. Snow - A gold glover!  But I don't think that can compensate for being a league average hitter as a first baseman.  If he was a shortstop or catcher this paragraph might be longer. NO

Mike Timlin - Let me start by saying that I love Mike Timlin. He was one of the few Blue Jays I rooted for when I lived in Toronto, and I was ecstatic when Boston picked him up.  He has a great sense of humor and doesn’t mind laughing at himself.   He was on the mound with the tying run at 3rd base, and made a good play on a bunt in extra innings to earn the save in the clinching game of the first World Series championship ever won by a team outside of the US for the Jays in 1992.  These are all good anecdotes, but what about the numbers?  Timlin is one of only 15 players to pitch in over 1000 games, finishing up with 1058 good for 8th all time. But longevity alone isn’t enough as only one of the seven ahead of him (Eckersley) is in the Hall (with Rivera likely joining him soon).  Eckersley of course had an amazing peak as a closer with 390 saves, to go along with 149 wins as a starter. I hear Rivera was a fairly decent closer as well.  Timlin? Well, he was mainly a setup man throughout his career (although he did close games for parts of 5 seasons and amassed a grand total of 141 saves in his 18 seasons). His ERA? Always good, usually above league average, finishing up at 3.63, good enough for an ERA+ of 125.  So, longevity isn’t enough, and he has good but not eye popping numbers otherwise.  If I wasn’t such a fan of his, I would have just put a NO next to his time, and continued on. NO

Honorable Mention

Jeff Bagwell - I suppose we could include him on this list as well as he was almost a Red Sox.  (Although I still think trading him for 2 months of Larry Andersen was a smart move - I mean with Boggs and Scott Cooper on the depth chart ahead of him, where would he play in Boston??) * Anyhow, I could list a bunch of numbers, such as 449 HR, .408 OBP 149 OPS+ and his multiple awards including MVP,  Gold Glover, Silver Slugger and many more.  But without digging too deep, I just like to think about 1st basemen or right handed hitters who were better than him.  It’s a short list – Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Pujols, maybe Frank Thomas at 1B.  Mays, Aaron, Schmidt, Manny, A-Rod as better right handed hitters.  Are there more?  Not many. By any measure, Bagwell compares well to all-time greats, and very favourably to average Hall of Famers. YES

That’s all the Red Sox players on the ballot.  My next post will discuss players of interest to Canadians.

* Before you criticize my line of thinking, please check your sarcasm detector.  Feel free to contact Lou Gorman, may he rest in peace, on this issue instead.

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