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Hall of Fame Roundup

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

[AP photograph, from Sports Illustrated]

A few brief comments on various topics related to baseball’s Hall of Fame.

1. Marvin Miller. The results of the voting by the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee for Managers and Umpires were announced today. Former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog and former umpire Doug Harvey were elected. The results of the voting by the Veterans Committee for Executives and Pioneers were also announced. The committee had 12 members and approval by 9 was required for election to the Hall. No one received that many. Former Tigers owner John Fetzer fell one vote short, while Marvin Miller and long-ago Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert fell two short.

Can you imagine? Once again, Marvin Miller falls short. Who has had more impact on the game in the last half century? Can you name anyone? How does he keep falling short? For the record, the committee members were “Hall of Famers Robin Roberts and Tom Seaver; former executive John Harrington (Red Sox); current executives Jerry Bell (Twins), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Orioles) and John Schuerholz (Braves); and veteran media members Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Hal McCoy (Dayton Daily News) and Phil Pepe (New York Daily News). Maybe this suggests the answer. Are executives unwilling to give proper credit to a labor leader? Can they be so parochial?

For background on Miller, you can look at the page about him at the website of the Major League Baseball Players Association, of which he was Executive Director from 1966 to 1983. Here’s part of the mini-biography at their site:

Club owners had ruled baseball with an iron fist for nearly a century prior to Marvin Miller’s appointment as the MLBPA’s executive director. Players had no ability to choose their employer as they were tied to their original club by a “reserve clause” in every player contract that provided for automatic renewal. Salaries and benefits were low, working conditions abysmal.

A gifted economist for first the U.S. government then the United Steelworkers of America, Miller brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the players’ cause. With a combination of charisma and clarity of vision, Miller convinced the initially skeptical players of the strength they could wield through solidarity and collective bargaining.

In 1968, Miller led a committee of players that negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement in the history of professional sports. The agreement raised the minimum salary in baseball from $6,000 – the level at which it had been stuck for two decades – to $10,000 and set the tone for future advances.

In 1970, Miller helped players negotiate the right to arbitration to resolve grievances – an achievement Miller considers the most significant of the union’s early years. The impartial dispute resolution process paved the way for nearly all of the gains the players would achieve in ensuing years.

2. Edgar Martinez. Still to come, next month, are the results of the balloting for player membership. Let me take the opportunity to remind you that this is Mariner great Edgar Martinez’s first year on the ballot. No one expects him to be elected this year. He will need to be one of those players for whom momentum and growing support develops over the years that he remains on the ballot, as people come to a better understanding of his career. Of course, this may not happen. Last year’s election of Jim Rice, in his 15th and last year of eligibility, is an example for which such a process did happen. Two months ago, I wrote about the 300/400/500 club — those players who over the course of their careers
hit .300, had an on-base percentage of .400, and slugged .500. There was nothing original about my comments on this. I simply referred to some research of Joe Posnanski that he had included in an article at the SI website. There were two points to this: that Chipper Jones has had an extraordinary career, and that Edgar Martinez did too. They are on the short list of club members who have played 2000 games, along with Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker, Mel Ott, Harry Heilmann, Frank Thomas, and Manny Ramirez.

A month ago, Posnanski wrote a post in which he discussed Martinez’s HoF case at greater length. I would have quoted it at the time, but we were in Florence and I was off blogging duty. With the HoF vote approaching, Pos asked, “Who is the best eligible hitter who is not in the Hall of Fame?” After running through some candidates, Pos writes:

But I tell you what, I think there’s actually a better answer than any of those for the greatest eligible hitter who is not in the Hall of Fame. I’m cheating a little bit because this player is not quite eligible … he will be on the ballot this year for the very first time. But he will not get voted in, and I suspect he will not come close to getting voted in. And I think he might be the best hitter (non-steroid/gambling division) to not make the Hall of Fame.

That hitter, of course, is Edgar Martinez.

Look:

– Edgar Martinez’s career average is .312 — since the end of World War II (not including active players) only seven men with 7,500 or-more at bats have a better batting average (Gwynn, Boggs, Carew, Musial, Puckett, Clemente, Larry Walker).

– Edgar Martinez’s career on-base percentage is .418 — FOUR ONE EIGHT. Only Bonds, Mantle and Frank Thomas have a better on-base percentage using the same criteria (since 1945, 7,500 at-bats, non-active).

– Edgar Martinez slugged .515 — the same as Willie McCovey. Admittedly, it was a different era (and Edgar only once hit more than 30 home runs), but the point here is that Martinez was not a slappy hitter.

– Edgar led the league in hitting twice, in on-base percentage three times, in runs once, in RBIs once and in doubles twice. I’ve often said that one of the great MVP rip-offs in baseball history was when Mo Vaughn won in 1995 over Albert Belle — who hit 50 homers and 50 doubles in a strike-shortened season, one of the great hitting years in baseball history. Edgar, you could argue, had an even BETTER YEAR than Belle (.356/.479/.628 with 121 runs, 116 walks, 113 RBIs, a 185 OPS+).

Best I can guess, Martinez will not get a lot of Hall of Fame support despite being one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, … .

Pos has more to say. See his post.

3. Juan Marichal. Today’s NYT sports section had a great piece on Juan Marichal and John Roseboro, the Giant pitcher and Dodger catcher who had a famous and horrific encounter during a game in 1965, with Marichal at the plate turning on Roseboro and using his bat to hit Roseboro on the head. A familiar photo of the incident is at the top of this post. (Name the third player in the photo!) I can only guess what the response to the incident would be now, with repeated replays and discussion on ESPN and worldwide availability on youtube. But it was bad enough then. As the article explains (and see also a NYT blog post from last week), Roger Guenveur Smith has written a one-man play now appearing at The Public Theater in which he portrays both Marichal and Roseboro. And on Saturday night, Marichal and his family attended a special performance, as did Roseboro’s daughter. There too was the president of the Dominican Republic, Marichal’s home country. Marichal and Roseboro had long since reconciled. Indeed, Marichal spoke at Roseboro’s funeral.

What this has to do with the HoF theme is that Marichal’s arrival at the Hall was delayed because of the incident, which has long marred his reputation. In case you need reminding of how great Marichal was, you might have a look, here, at his stats. I can’t imagine a single league had a more dominating trio of pitchers at any one time than the National League in the 1960s with Koufax, Gibson, and Marichal. More recently, one might mention any three of Pedro Martinez, Maddux, Clemens, and Johnson, two of whom are still pitching and all four of whom pitched at least parts of their careers in the NL. I wouldn’t want to choose between the two groups. Giants all. Well, actually, onlly Marichal was a Giant, until last year, when Johnson became one, but, you know. And Clemens is a complete jerk, even if he never did hit anyone over the head with a bat. He did throw a bat. But I’m getting away from the point, which is that the article in today’s NYT is worth a look.

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Categories: Baseball
  1. ljkarst
    December 8, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    Why, it’s Sandy Koufax, of course! Robin and I have a framed photo of him in our living room, pitching a no hitter.

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