Sunday, December 8, 2019

BTRTN: A House Impossibly Divided. Now What Are We Going To Do About It?


Sure, the report issued by the House Intelligence Committee is stunning in its scope and precision in articulating the impeachable offenses committed by Donald Trump. Wake up, lefty: it is not going to change a thing. Read this piece at your peril. Steve is going to tell you that now is the time to roll up your sleeves and go to work.  

For longest time it was going to be Mueller.

The great patrician Princeton patriot and imperturbable nonpartisan pillar of propriety, Robert Mueller would be the perfect person that conservatives would actually listen to when he pilloried the President about impeachable offenses. Certainly, we all felt, Republicans would listen to Mueller, and when he spoke, they would turn on Trump in an instant.

Then, in an instant, they didn’t.

But progressives did not lose hope. If not Mueller, then surely, Obi-Wan, there is another.

Then had been that brief dream that Don McGahn would willingly publicly testify about what he supposedly told Mueller. Nope.

There was Anonymous. Who does not understand that remaining anonymous serves no purpose.

John McCain tried, but he died just as his influence was waning.
  
When senior officials – like H.R. McMaster, James Mattis, and John Kelly -- started to leave the White House, there was the hope that one of these seeming patriots would speak publicly to the behavior that they had witnessed and condemn the President as unfit for office, and the dam would break. Republicans would turn on Trump. Guess not.

When Mitt Romney was elected to the Senate with more popularity in his own state than Trump, the hope was that he would be emboldened to openly challenge the President within his own party. Eh, nah.

More recently, there was the whistleblower, and then a parade of dignified and credible career foreign service experts Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, William Taylor, and Alexander S. Vindman, whose testimony in aggregate utterly devastated Trump’s assertion of a “perfect phone call.” 

There were gushing comparisons to John Dean when Trump loyalist Gordon Sondland openly broke from the White House and said that yes, there was a quid pro quo, and yes, “everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

Now there is a fantasy that John Bolton can do what no one has been able to do.

Even better, we are now on round two with Don McGahn. Now that the courts have ordered that McGahn must testify before Congress, progressives are a abuzz that surely Pompeo, Mulvaney, Barr, and other high-ranking Trump loyalists can be forced to testify under oath… and that this will finally turn the tide. 

We’ve even heard pundits breathlessly whisper that if all else fails, Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the Senate trial and will amaze everyone by taking an activist role, wounding Trump in the most critical phase of impeachment. 
 
Then, Adam Schiff’s committee turned in an utterly devastating portrayal of a White House oozing slime out of every pore. Trump’s approval rating among Republicans? Immovable. 

Through it all, and in the face of Einstein’s theory of insanity, there lingers the belief that somehow, at some point, someone with credibility in the conservative community will rise up and declare that the President has no clothes.  Someone will have the guts to publicly announce the obvious: that the presidency of Donald Trump represents a clear and present danger to our democracy, our rule of law, and our standing in the global community. 

It is still widely believed among progressives that such a mythical being exists – some sort of Big Foot with a single horn – and will be able to revitalize the power of fact and convince Republicans that they must abandon Donald Trump.

Wrong.

Turns out Trump was right along about one thing. He could go out and shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and his supporters would not budge. 

In fact, if Trump did shoot someone, he would probably say that the shooting was perfect, just like the phone call.

The perfect crime. Just like hijacking the office of the Presidency for personal gain.

And what would Republicans say about that shooting on Fifth Avenue?

Some would say it didn’t happen. 

Some would say it happened but he didn’t do it. 

Some would say that it doesn’t matter, because you can’t prove it. 

Fox would tell you that it was just so much fake news perpetrated by The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, or CBS. 

White House lawyers will assert that the police have no right to conduct any investigation of any kind into the actions of a sitting president.

Some Republicans would say that he did it, but because he is the President, and he had every right to do it.

Some would say that the investigation into the shooting was an illegitimate exercise undertaken by the President’s adversaries deep in the bowels of the police department who were using the excuse of the shooting to attempt an illegal coup on the president.

And, of course, there would always be the final line of defense in case somebody actually had a iPhone recording of the President pulling the trigger and blowing someone’s brains out. Republicans would say that it was a bad thing to shoot somebody, but it was not an impeachable offense

Republicans will recite whatever set of words that enables them to look themselves in the mirror without feeling shame, whatever the words they need to say that get them through the night as Jiminy Cricket flatlines on their shoulders. 

After two weeks of unambiguous testimony that impeachable offenses have occurred, no minds have been changed. 

And when Republican Congressional Representatives began to champion that idea that it was actually Ukraine that meddled in the 2016 Presidential election and not Russia, any fantasy that reality would play a role in this process was sealed. Turns out Republicans would rather advocate for Vladimir Putin than for the Constitution, the entire intelligence community, or fact. 

Republicans are eagerly lining up to do the work that the President of Ukraine would not. It didn't even take a $400,000,000 quid pro quo. Just saving their own skin and their own jobs. 

Where does it go from here?

The House vote on the inevitable Articles of Impeachment will fall strictly along party lines. Trump will be impeached, but – again, voting strictly along party lines – the Senate will fail to convict him, and he will remain in office. 

In a little more than six weeks, President Donald Trump will go on national television when the Senate impeachment trial has ended and announce that he has been fully vindicated, wholly exonerated, and that it has been proven – once and for all – that the deep state efforts to stage an illegal coup on his Presidency have been thwarted, once and for all. He will instruct William Barr to open an investigation into the parties that caused the United States to “waste billions of dollars on endless witch hunts” to undermine him. My bet? In a flourish akin to spiking the football in the end zone, he will announce the name of the whistleblower on national television… yet another illegal act, another hail of gunfire on Fifth Avenue that will go unpunished. 

The failure of the impeachment will only embolden Trump to do more to subjugate his party and slide his grubby hands onto the levers of power in Washington, D.C.  

We will emerge from the impeachment and acquittal of Donald Trump at the most polarized point in our nation’s history since Fort Sumpter.

We are a house divided against ourselves. 

Perhaps we could probably muddle through if we were simply dealing with a house that was divided into two equally valid perspectives.

But it is not. 

It is a house divided into a half that believes in facts, and a half that does not.

It is a house divided into a half that plays by the rules, and a half that does not. 

It is a house divided into a half that seeks illumination and information, and a half that searches for propaganda and justification. 

It is a house divided into a half that worries about the world it will pass to future generations, and a half that is only concerned about immediate gratification and its pocketbook.

It is a house divided into a half that believes in science, and a half that believes whatever it wants to believe.

It is a house divided into a half that believes that all men and women were created equal, and a half that is clinging to a decaying status quo of white male privilege. 

It is a house divided into a half that wants to be united, and a half that wants to be divided. 

To be sure, it is a house that stands in Washington, D.C. at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. But it is also thousands of small homes across America, where talk of politics ruins Thanksgiving, rends families, or has simply been declared impermissible by desperate heads of household hoping that the center can hold. It is a house shaped like the United States, with clusters of blue rooms on each end, and a large swath of red rooms in the center. 

It is, in the end, one large house that was long united, but now is a house divided against itself. 

And it cannot stand. 

What are we going to do about it?

My brother Tom and I were recently invited to speak about the Democratic Presidential race by a women’s political advocacy group based in Stamford, Connecticut called “Women On Watch.” And, WOW, in addition to having a great acronym, they have a profound slogan: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” 

Democracy is not a spectator sport. 

Our government and our elected officials are failing us… we, the people.

A vast number of elected officials of the Federal government are failing to living up to their oath to uphold the Constitution. They are hiding the truth, and hiding from the truth. They are placing their own good ahead of the good of the citizenry. They are waging an internecine war in Washington, D.C., designed for the purpose of maintaining hold on the levers of government, even if that means destroying the constitutional underpinnings of the government itself.

This sloppy, brutal internecine war is causing our government to grind to a halt. 

The government is not doing the work that must be done. Anyone who believes that Trump will be brought to justice through the institutional mechanisms of government designed for oversight, checks and balances, and the rule of law must now take a moment to google “Einstein’s definition of insanity.”

When the government is unable or unwilling to function, the only hope for our democracy and our country lies with its people. The only way we are going to be certain to find our way out of this horrific mess is if every citizen accepts his or her responsibility to act

There is only one truth that matters now: there are more of us than there are of them. If every eligible Democrat votes for the Democratic Presidential candidate in 2020, we will win. The math is that simple, and it is that obvious. 

But that also points out the grave danger: in the end, the matter of whether the majority of our citizens lean left of lean right is utterly irrelevant.  The only issue is who comes out to vote. 

It is just that simple and it is just that clear.

The impeachment and the trial? Hey, if you think that the outcome is going to be different than we laid it out there, have at it. Stay tuned to MSNBC all day. But just understand: simply watching the impeachment proceedings is a spectator sport.
 
Democracy, however, is not a spectator sport. It requires action.

The fate of democracy rests with you and me. We, the people. 

As we enter the year of the most fateful election of our lifetime, the question will become: what action are you, personally, willing to take to protect our nation and our democracy from another four years of destruction under the depraved leadership of Donald Trump?

Yes, there is polarization in our country, and we often think of it in terms of progressives vs. conservatives, Democrats vs. Republicans, Red States and Blue States. 

But the form of polarization that will have the most impact on our nation in 2020 is between activists and abdicators.  

If Democrats sit on the sidelines of the 2020 election, expecting others to do the work of democracy, we could easily fail. This election is a call to arms for all citizens. It is now time to act. It is time for all hands on deck. 

There are a countless reasons that people do not get involved in political campaigns. People say they are busy. They have other commitments that are judged to be more important. They think that the efforts of one individual won’t make a difference. They think that they live in a solidly blue state so their efforts will not actually change the outcome. They simply don’t know how to get involved. 

Sure, you’re busy. We all are busy. But in 2020, it is time to realize that the future of democracy in America is actually more important than two of your weekly visits to the gym. It is more important than binge watching a new series on Netflix or the cooking show on HBO. It is more important than polishing your Instagram avatar. It is time to look in the mirror and ask yourself where the future of this country and this planet stands on your priority list. No one is asking that you consider this election to be more important than your family, your faith, your health, or your employment. But it is yours to ask whether this election is more important than the hours devoted to hobbies, relaxation, and self-indulgence.

Can’t figure out how to get involved?

Join an organization. Women on Watch is a great model. It is nothing more nor less than a group of concerned citizens who wanted and needed a mechanism to turn their frustration, alienation, and anger into productive action.

Live in a state that is so deeply red or blue that you feel nothing you do will matter? Your efforts may indeed have more consequence if you join a national organization like Indivisible. Check out their website. Their mission is “to cultivate a grassroots movement of literally thousands of local Indivisible groups to elect progressive leaders, realize bold progressive policies, rebuild our democracy, and defeat the Trump agenda.” 

Go for it. 

Or, just google “progressive organizations in the United States.” Talk to a friend who is involved. You may think there are dozens of reasons not to get involved, but there are hundreds of ways to get involved. And a million reasons you must get involved.

Think it won’t make a difference? If millions of progressive Americans had not risen and committed to action to help Democrats in 2018, we would not have flipped the House of Representatives, and there would not be an impeachment inquiry or the stunning report that that Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee just released. 

This country was founded when ordinary citizens realized that their very freedom was contingent on their own personal decision to take action.

What are you going to actually do in 2020 to rescue our nation from a collapse into ignorance, xenophobia, bigotry, and deceit?

Is it worth forgoing a few spin classes, a few cocktail hours, and a few movies?

The time to answer that question is now

Don’t wait. 

Don’t wait until that adorable six-month old grandchild of yours turns seventeen and asks you what you did when the country was about to fall irretrievably into the hands of Donald Trump and his Republican pimps, who destroyed our democracy, our standing in the world, and our climate.

Because that day will come. 

She will ask: “What did you do, Grandpa? What did you, personally, do?"

"Did you support him? Did you oppose him? If you opposed him, what did you do to fight him?”

Seeing the blank, helpless, guilty look in your eyes, she will pause. 

”Or were you too busy?”



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Thursday, December 5, 2019

BTRTN: Our Annual Analytically-Based Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Predictions


Occasionally we take a break from politics and turn our attention to weightier matters, such as our annual prediction of who will be elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  It is a Ruthian task, indeed.

SOME BACKGROUND

NOTE:  We realize that votes for the baseball Hall of Fame are being publicly tabulated as sportswriters announce them publicly.  We are publishing our predictions earlier this year to “get ahead” of most of those announcements.  To the extent that any are out there this soon, we have avoided peeking at them, so these are “pure” predictions guided only by our own statistical methods and judgment.

Each year we analyze the baseball Hall of Fame ballot to answer two questions:  1) which nominees will be elected in this year’s voting, receiving at least 75% of the vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America (we also predict what percentage each nominee will receive), and 2) who amongst the nominees deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?  The two lists are never identical. 

For the first question, we use various statistical models to come up with an initial estimate of the percentage of the vote they will receive, and we use judgment to massage and finalize that estimate.  For the second question, we have developed a methodology to compare nominees to their predecessors to determine their HOF-worthiness.  

This year the Modern Baseball Era Committee (you might still think of them by their former name, the Veteran’s Committee), convenes to consider players who missed in the sportswriters’ ballot.  Essentially this group gives them a second chance.  We don’t attempt to predict what that committee will do -- that would be just an outright guess, as there is no real track record to analyze (unlike with the BBWA).  We certainly never saw Harold Baines coming (selected by last year’s “Today’s Game Era” committee).  But we do pass judgment on whether we think any of the nine player nominees are HOF-worthy.


HOW DID WE DO LAST YEAR?

We rather immodestly bill ourselves as “The Best MLB Hall of Fame Predictors” (we may be the only ones) and last year did nothing to hurt our claim to that title!

We predicted accurately that first-timer Mariano Rivera would be elected (we really went out on a limb there, good for us!); that Edgar Martinez would make the big jump he needed on his tenth and last chance to make it on the writers’ ballot (a good call); and that Mike Mussina would make it on his sixth try (our best call).

But we missed Roy Halladay, who made it on the first ballot; we predicted he would get 65% of the vote but he actually got 85%.  We made it clear that we considered Halladay a HOF-worthy player, but did not expect him to be enshrined on the first ballot.  He was the first player since Thurman Munson for whom the five-year window was waived after his untimely death.  The waiver did not help Munson, but it might have helped Halladay.

We did well on those who came next in the voting, the close-but-no-cigar grouping of Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.  We did not quite foresee the big jumps that Larry Walker and Fred McGriff received in their 9th and 10th years, respectively, but we were right that McGriff would not make the grade in his last year.  We came quite close on the other repeaters, which is, of course, not so hard to do. 

Overall, we were off by an average of 3.3 percentage points per nominee, our best performance since 2015.  Here are last year’s results for each nominee, including our assessment of whether they deserve to be in the HOF.  The “PED” guys are, in our view, not worthy.

2019
Year on Ballot
Should be in HOF?
BTRTN Proj. %
Actual %
Act vs Proj  pp diff.
Mariano Rivera
1
Yes
99
100
1
10
Yes
81
85
4
Roy Halladay
1
Yes
65
85
20
6
Yes
76
77
1
7
Yes
58
61
3
7
PED
60
60
1
7
PED
59
59
0
Larry Walker
9
Yes
40
55
15
Omar Vizquel
2
No
40
43
3
Fred McGriff
10
Yes
28
40
12
Manny Ramirez
3
PED
21
23
2
6
Yes
16
18
2
Todd Helton
1
No
40
17
24
Billy Wagner
4
Yes
11
17
6
Scott Rolen
2
Yes
14
14
0
Gary Sheffield
5
PED
9
14
5
Andy Pettitte
1
PED
8
10
2
Sammy Sosa
7
PED
6
9
3
Andruw Jones
2
Yes
7
8
1
Lance Berkman
1
No
6
1.2
5
Miguel Tejada
1
No
2
1.2
1
Roy Oswalt
1
No
4
0.9
3
Placido Polanco
1
No
1
0.5
1
Kevin Youkilis
1
No
1
0.0
1
Derek Lowe
1
No
1
0.0
1
Michael Young
1
No
1
0.0
1
Freddy Garcia
1
No
0
0.0
0
Vernon Wells
1
No
0
0.0
0
Ted Lilly
1
No
0
0.0
0
Travis Hafner
1
No
0
0.0
0
Jason Bay
1
No
0
0.0
0
Jon Garland
1
No
0
0.0
0
Darren Oliver
1
No
0
0.0
0
Juan Pierre
1
No
0
0.0
0
Rick Ankiel
1
No
0
0.0
0



754
795
114



# on ballot
35



avg. off per player
3.3


WHO WILL BE ELECTED?  THIS YEAR’S PREDICTIONS

On to this year!  Considering only the sportswriters’ ballot, here we go:  BTRTN predicts that the MLB Hall of Fame will soon vote in THREE new members:  Derek Jeter, Curt Schilling and Larry Walker. 

BTRTN agrees that each of those three should be in the HOF;  and we think the ballot includes four other players that also should be in the HOF, but will fall short in this year’s balloting: Andruw Jones. Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen and Billy Wagner.

Among the Modern Baseball Era group, we think that Lou Whitaker, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson and Dwight Evans are HOF-worthy.  And much as we love the rest of the group – Don Mattingly, Steve Garvey, Dave Parker, Dale Murphy and Tommy John – we think the writers were correct in their first go-round in not admitting them to the HOF.

Back to the writers’ ballot…this is the first year in quite a while when we did not feel there were at least ten HOF-worthy players on the ballot.  For years there has been a glut of candidates, caused by a particularly large number of great first-year candidates who kept others from moving up, and also by so many players who used performance enhancing drugs.  Those players were caught in limbo, with too few supporters to surmount the 75% entry threshold but too many to drop them below the 5% cutoff for retention.  But with the help of the new 10-year voting period (versus 15 before), a number of them are now gone.

But still there are quite a few who remain:  seven are on the ballot, including first-timer Jason Giambi.  Our model has an adjustment factor for PED-taint and it is a powerful one.  But in terms of whether the PED gang should be in the HOF, we at BTRTN are quite clear:  we think not.  

This year is a difficult ballot to predict.  Among the first-timers, only Derek Jeter is HOF-worthy, and the next most qualified first-balloters, Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee and Jason Giambi, will struggle to hit the 5% mark.

That makes it an excellent year for the close-but-no-cigar folks to move up.  We believe that Schilling and Walker will benefit greatly from this, and jump into the “Yes” column after eight long years. 

But, given the incremental nature of support for PED players, we do not see Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds making a similar jump.  Instead we see them making progress toward their inevitable entry, which will likely come next year, when there are exactly zero HOF-worthy first-timers.  The top players in next year’s class are Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle and Torii Hunter, fine players but a long comedown from Jeter, Rivera, Halladay, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Ivan Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr., John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, who all were first-timers over the past five years.  Plenty of votes will be available for returning candidates.

All of this makes “total votes” a real problem for prediction.  For the last five years, there has been a total of roughly 7.5 to 8.5 votes per ballot, but this year, even with upping the “bumps” the repeaters might get, we can only get to just 6 votes per ballot.

Here’s the summary chart of this year’s ballot, including our predictions.

2020
Year on Ballot
Should be in HOF?
BTRTN Proj. %
Derek Jeter
1
Yes
99
8
Yes
76
Larry Walker
10
Yes
76
8
PED
68
8
PED
68
Omar Vizquel
3
No
54
7
Yes
25
Scott Rolen
3
Yes
25
Billy Wagner
5
Yes
24
Manny Ramirez
4
PED
22
Todd Helton
2
No
19
Gary Sheffield
6
PED
12
Andruw Jones
3
Yes
7
Bobby Abreu
1
No
7
Andy Pettitte
2
PED
6
Sammy Sosa
8
PED
6
Cliff Lee
1
No
5
Jason Giambi
1
PED
2
Rafael Furcal
1
No
1
Eric Chavez
1
No
1
Josh Beckett
1
No
1
Brian Roberts
1
No
0
Alfonso Soriano
1
No
0
Paul Konerko
1
No
0
Carlos Pena
1
No
0
Chone Figgins
1
No
0
Raul Ibanez
1
No
0
Brad Penny
1
No
0
Adam Dunn
1
No
0
J.J. Putz
1
No
0
Jose Valverde
1
No
0
Heath Bell
1
No
0


WHO SHOULD BE IN THE HALL OF FAME?

This the second question we ask annually:  putting aside what the writers think (and, this year, the Modern Baseball Era Committee), who do we think is “HOF-Worthy”? 

To do this, we use the following analytic methodology.  We compare each player to Hall of Famers at his position across a number of key statistics, both traditional (hits, homers, RBI’s and batting average) and non-traditional (OPS+ and WAR).  We show the average statistics for all the Hall of Famers at his position, and then divide the Hall of Famers into halves, separating (using WAR) the top half of the HOF from the bottom half.  And we also include these stats for the “next ten,” the ten players at the position who have the highest WARs but are not in the HOF.  These latter two groups define the so-called “borderline.” 

Our general feeling is that a candidate, to be worthy of the HOF, must be at least as good as the “average” HOF’er at his position across these stats.  Borderline won’t do.  As you will note, the “lower half” HOF’ers are really indistinguishable from the ones who just missed, the “next 10.”  This is because there are more than a few players in the HOG who simply don’t deserve to be so enshrined.

We also pay some consideration to how many All-Star teams a player was named to, and how many times a player was in the Top 10 in MVP voting (or Cy Young voting for pitchers).  And postseason play can certainly be a factor as well, as you will see with a certain bloody-socked pitcher and a tragic pinstriped hero.

Note that because we don’t think that PED-tainted players should be in the Hall, we omit them in the following analysis (most have Hall Worthy credentials, though Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte and Sammy Sosa are subject to debate).

The Modern Baseball Era candidates are noted by a (MB) designation after their names.


BY POSITION ANALYSIS

For ease of getting to the “answer,” note that the players we consider “HOF-worthy” are highlighted in yellow., and the others are not.

Catcher

Both players under consideration are Modern Baseball Era Committee candidates.

Ted Simmons was a terrific offensive catcher.  It was shocking how little support he received in the writers’ ballot because there are only a handful of catchers who were more productive offensively:  Piazza, Bench, Yogi, Fisk, Carter and Pudge.  And Simmons did not pad his stats as a DH for years after his catching prime, that’s a bit of a myth (he was a DH in only 11% of this total games). He sits at or above the average HOF catcher all measures (see the chart below), and toss in eight All-Star selections and three Top 10 MVP’s – and you’ve got a deserving Hall of Famer.

Thurman Munson is a tougher call, but we would include him in our HOF, too.  (And for those of you thinking I am a kind-hearted Yankee fan, reserve your judgment until you see where I netted out on Don Mattingly and Tommy John.)  Munson played only 11 years before the tragic plane crash that took his life, and made the All Star team seven times, with an MVP and two other Top 10 MVP finishes.  He starred in the postseason as well.  His WAR is well above the borderlines, and his OPS+ is in with the bottom half HOF’ers.  He did not have the power of Ted Simmons, but he was a far better defensive player, and the captain and leader of two championship squads.  I think he belongs.

CATCHER
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
ASG
MVP10
Top Half
0.288
2151
307
1265
124
63


Avg HOF
0.288
1868
221
1056
120
51


Bottom Half
0.287
1544
121
816
115
38


Next 10 non-HOF
0.282
1733
146
889
106
38


Ted Simmons (MB)
0.285
2472
248
1389
118
50
8
3
Thurman Munson (MB)
0.292
1558
113
701
116
46
7
3


First Base 

Todd Helton is one of those exceptionally difficult cases, which alone is a strike against him.  You have to take into account the “Coors Field” high altitude effect that inflates Rockie player stats.  WAR is a park adjusted figure, and Helton's falls between the average HOF and the borderlines.  His OPS+ is down with the borderlines, and if you break this down further, Helton’s home/road OPS’s are 1.048/.855.  That .855 is a problem.  We think Helton is a tough pass.  (Rockies' fans will take solace in our view of Larry Walker, below).

Paul Konerko was a fine White Sox slugger with excellent power stats, over 400 homers and 1,400 RBI.  But he falls well short of HOF standards in the all-important OPS+ and WAR stats, more of a compiler than a superstar.

Carlos Pena does not deserve to be on the ballot.  There has never been a HOF batter, apart from a catcher, with less than 1,500 hits, and Pena did not come close to that.

The two Modern Baseball Era Committee first baseman are all difficult cases as well, which is, of course, why that committee is taking up their case again. 

Don Mattingly and Steve Garvey both have standard stats that are in line with the borderline HOF first basemen – but below the average HOF’er at the position.  Mattingly was the best player in the game over a four-year period before a cranky back robbed him of many productive years and ultimately forced an early retirement.  Garvey racked up 10 All-Star selections and five Top 10 MVP votes, extremely impressive recognition for the Dodger great.  But both fall well short of even the borderline groups in both OPS+ and WAR, and that’s the knock-out blow.  

FIRST BASE
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
ASG
MVP10
Top Half
0.311
2566
363
1588
152
83


Avg HOF
0.306
2395
316
1450
143
67


Bottom Half
0.301
2210
265
1300
133
50


Next 10 non-HOF
0.290
2162
261
1172
130
52


Todd Helton
0.316
2519
369
1406
133
61
5
3
Don Mattingly (MB)
0.307
2153
222
1099
127
42
6
4
Steve Garvey (MB)
0.294
2599
272
1308
117
38
10
5
Paul Konerko
0.279
2340
439
1412
118
28
6
2
Carlos Pena
0.232
1146
286
818
117
25
1
2


Second Base 

Jeff Kent is the all-time leading home run hitter among second baseman, and is third in RBIs behind Rogers Hornsby and Napoleon Lajoie.  He also won an MVP once, was a Top 10 in the MVP balloting three other times, and a five-time All Star.  He hit three homers and had seven RBI’s in his only World Series.  He was simply one of the greatest power-hitting second basemen ever and the best in modern times.  His WAR may be a bit low, but it is better than the borderline groups, and his OPS+ is above the average HOF second basemen.  If he had been a little nicer to sportswriters over the years, he might be doing better in the voting to date.  But he is unquestionably a Hall of Famer.

Brian Roberts should not be on the ballot, though at least he managed to surpass 1,500 hits and even made two All Star teams.

Lou Whitaker is a near-clone of his 20-year double play partner, Alan Trammell.  Trammell was on the ballot for the full 15-year period but never elected.  He finally, and deservedly, was selected by the Modern Baseball Era Committee two years ago.  And now it is Whitaker’s turn.  He too was snubbed by the writer’s and is being considered by the Modern Baseball Era group.  Whitaker’s stats are either in line with the average HOF second baseman, or, in the case of his home run total and OPS, exceed them.  Throw in five All Star games and you’ve got a Hall of Famer.  Let’s hope the committee sees it that way – they seem to like Tigers, have selected not only Trammell in 2018 but Jack Morris as well.


SECOND BASE
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
ASG
MVP10
Top Half
0.314
2780
181
1259
132
90


Avg HOF
0.298
2442
160
1089
120
69


Bottom Half
0.283
2103
139
920
107
48


Next 10 non-HOF
0.285
2051
133
889
116
52


Lou Whitaker (MB)
0.276
2369
244
1084
117
75
5
1
Jeff Kent
0.290
2461
377
1518
123
55
5
4
Brian Roberts
0.276
1527
97
542
101
30
2
0


Shortstop 

Derek Jeter is, of course, a no-brainer.  The Yankee captain is perhaps the second greatest shortstop of all time, surpassed only by Honus Wagner, assuming you exclude Cal Ripken, who spent many years at the hot corner (and Alex Rodriguez, who did that as well, and also was on PED’s for many of his peak years).  Jeter compiled enormous standard stats over his long career, but also excellent modern stats as well, hanging with the top half of HOF shortstops in both OPS and WAR.  And 14 All Star selections and eight Top 10 MVP’s speak for themselves.  Not to mention his superlative postseason stats, many indelible moments to remember (the “Mr. November” homer, the dive into the stands, the backhand toss out of nowhere to nail Jeremy Giambi, the 5-5 performance punctuated by a homer for his 3,000th hit, and on and on), and the utter professionalism he brought not just to the game and to baseball, but to sport as a whole.  The only shame is that he never won an MVP.  And the only question with respect to his HOF candidacy is whether he will, like  teammateMariano Rivera last year, be a unanimous selection.  And I bet a few writers hold him out, tsk-tsk’ing his defense (his “runs saved” was indeed a truly awful -152 from 2003 on).  Shame on them if they do!  This guy was the ultimate winner and leader of five Yankee champions.

Omar Vizquel has done well in the balloting in his first two years, establishing a track record (37% in his first year, 43% in his second) that will likely leading to the HOF in a few more years.  Our feeling is that while Omar deserves strong consideration, we don’t think he is quite HOF=worthy.  With an OPS of only 82 – that means 18% worse than the league average over his career – he is well below both the bottom half of HOF shortstops and the Next 10. The main thing going for him is his 2,877 hits, a testament to his longevity – he did play 24 years.  He was a fine player defensively, with 11 Gold Gloves, but no Ozzie Smith or Mark Belanger, with 129 runs saved in his career versus their 239 and 241, respectively.  (Craig Counsell had 127.)  We pass on Omar.

Rafael Furcal does not deserve to be on the ballot, despite three All Star selections.


SHORTSTOP
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
ASG
MVP10
Top Half
0.290
2597
173
1241
116
76


Avg HOF
0.286
2336
120
1053
109
63


Bottom Half
0.282
1997
51
809
100
46


Next 10
0.276
1995
92
903
105
49


Derek Jeter
0.310
3465
260
1311
115
72
14
8
Omar Vizquel
0.272
2877
80
951
82
46
3
0
Rafael Furcal
0.281
1817
113
587
96
39
3
0


Third Base 

Scott Rolen should have avoided retiring the same year as Chipper Jones.  In fact, he should have avoided overlapping his entire career with Chipper, and in the same league, no less.  And, maybe he should have avoided playing third base, a position the HOF does not favor (there are fewer third basemen in the HOF than any other position).   Rolen was a terrific, if underrated player.  Chipper may dominate Rolen in every category, but Rolen in turn is solidly above the average third base HOF’er in all the power categories, right in line with the average HOF third basemen in OPS+ and WAR, and he was a great fielder, too.  Not to mention seven All Star selections.  We believe Rolen should be in the HOF.

Eric Chavez was a solid player in his prime, and that prime was cut short by injuries.  Nevertheless, he really does not belong on the ballot, having never once made an All-Star team or earning a Top 10 MVP ranking in any year.

Chone Figgins falls well short of Eric Chavez as a candidate, although he does have one All Star game and one Top 10 MVP year to his credit. 


THIRD BASE
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
ASG
MVP10
Top Half
0.290
2715
372
1403
134
89


Avg HOF
0.296
2383
248
1203
125
68


Bottom Half
0.303
2052
124
1037
117
47


Next 10 non-HOF
0.270
2086
256
1103
117
56


Scott Rolen
0.281
2077
316
1287
122
70
7
1
Eric Chavez
0.268
1477
260
902
115
38
0
0
Chone Figgins
0.276
1298
35
403
92
22
1
1


Outfield/DH

Larry Walker’s candidacy, like Helton’s, suffers from “Coors Field Syndrome,” as critics devalue his otherworldly home OPS of 1.068 and focus instead on his very-good-but-not-HOF-worthy .865 on the road (very similar to Helton’s split).  But, unlike Helton, Walker sports a 73 WAR (as noted, this is a park adjusted stat) that is above average for a HOF outfielder, as are his power stats.  Walker is on our ballot. 

Andruw Jones is an interesting case, with those 434 homers and a 63 WAR that also reflects his outstanding defensive skills:  his 253 "runs saved" is exceeded only by Brooks Robinson. That is, more than both Belanger and Ozzie.  That is truly impressive.  His relatively low111 OPS+ is the big knock, but we think the power, defense and WAR add up to a Hall of Famer.

Bobby Abreu is an exceptionally difficult case.  His power stats are above average for a HOF outfielder, but his OPS+ and WAR are borderline.  And when you throw in the fact that he only made two All Star games in his career (putting on quite a display in the Home Run Derby in one of those years) and never once was a Top !0 MVP, it is hard to make a case that he was one of the very best players of his generation.  No HOF for Bobby.

Alfonso Soriano has nice power stats, particularly for a guy who played 40% of his games as a second baseman.  But his OPS and WAR are simply too low to merit serious HOF consideration.

Raul Ibanez brings back fond memories for me for the power display he put on in the 2012 postseason for the Yanks, but apart from that smile, there is not much to recommend him for the HOF.

The three Modern Baseball Era Committee outfielders are truly vexing.  All are truly borderline, meaning they all deserve very strong consideration and yet you can also see why the writers never gave them the keys to the HOF.  Each had power stats that were above average for outfielders.  But I can distinguish from amongst them from there.

Dwight Evans has two things going for him – a WAR that is right in line with average group and very good defensive credentials with 66 runs saved.  He suffers from being unsung in his time, a teammate of Yaz, Fred Lynn and Jim Rice on excellent Red Sox teams in the 1970’s.  But I think he is HOF-worthy.

Dave Parker and Dale Murphy, however, despite seven All Star games apiece, fall short of even the borderline groups in both OPS and WAR, and that leaves them on the outside. 

OUTFIELD/DH
Avg.
Hits
HR
RBI
OPS+
WAR
ASG
MVP10
Top Half
0.317
2898
314
1496
145
91


Avg HOF
0.313
2560
242
1286
136
70


Bottom Half
0.309
2175
161
1047
127
46


Next 10 non-HOF
0.282
2096
241
1052
126
59


Larry Walker
0.313
2160
383
1311
141
73
5
4
Dwight Evans (MB)
0.272
2446
385
1384
127
67
3
3
Andruw Jones
0.254
1933
434
1289
111
63
5
2
Bobby Abreu
0.291
2470
288
1363
128
60
2
0
Dale Murphy (MB)
0.265
2111
398
1266
121
47
7
4
Dave Parker (MB)
0.290
2712
339
1493
121
40
7
6
Alfonso Soriano
0.270
2095
412
1159
112
28
7
2
Raul Ibanez
0.272
2034
305
1207
111
20
1
0
Adam Dunn
0.237
1631
462
1168
124
17
2
0


Starting Pitchers 

Curt Schilling’s ERA+ is a sterling 127 and his WAR is a hefty 81, both up there with the top half of HOF starting pitchers.  And you also have to consider his postseason performances, bloody sock and all.  His stats are phenomenal:  11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.  We’re not fans of his off the field, but Schilling is a Hall of Famer.

Tommy John is a remarkable case.  His “brand” has evolved from “solid major league pitcher” to “career saving arm surgery” (of which he was the pioneer) to “upscale men’s underwear” (which I believe is unrelated to him but nevertheless ubiquitous on satellite radio ads).  What he is not, however, is a Hall of Fame pitcher.  He is perhaps the ultimate compiler, and he went at it for 24 seasons, the last 14 of which with a new elbow, courtesy of a tendon in his leg.  For all that compiling, however, he failed to reach the magic 300 number.  And thus his other stats must be weighed, and the damning one is his ERA+ of 111, well below even borderline standards for the HOF. 

Cliff Lee and Josh Beckett were both absolutely dominant pitchers over relatively short stretches of their careers, only average in other part, and oft-injured as well.  Each had short careers, 13 for Lee, 14 for Beckett, not enough to run up the win total.  If you are not going to be a compiler, a la Don Sutton, you’d better be brilliant, a la Sandy Koufax or Dizzy Dean.  And Lee and Beckett were not that, as evidenced by their ERA+ and WAR’s, both low by HOF standards, well below the average HOF starter and even the borderlines in most cases.  And there has never been a HOF starter with fewer than 150 wins (Dean had 150), so at least for a few more years that is probably a good minimum standard.

Brad Penny does not deserve to be on the ballot.  His ERA+ was 99, which means it was below the league average for his career!

STARTING PITCHERS
W
W/L Pct
ERA
ERA+
WAR
IP
ASG
CY10
Top Half
313
0.593
2.98
124
89
4700


AVG HOF
267
0.599
2.99
123
69
3989


Bottom Half
222
0.604
3.00
122
50
3277


Next 10 non-HOF
237
0.568
3.07
116
64
3758


Curt Schilling
216
0.597
3.46
127
80
3261
6
4
Tommy John (MB)
288
0.555
3.34
111
62
4710
4
4
Cliff Lee
143
0.611
3.52
118
44
2156
4
5
Josh Beckett
138
0.566
3.88
111
36
2051
3
2
Brad Penny
121
0.545
4.29
99
19
1925
2
1


Relief Pitchers 

There is not an extensive history of relief pitchers, so we have changed the comparison categories accordingly.  Here we compare the seven “pure” relievers in the HOF (Rivera, Gossage, Fingers, Hoffman, Smith, Sutter and Wilhelm, but excluding Dennis Eckersley who started many games before becoming a reliever) with the 15 relievers who reached 300 or more saves but were turned aside on the first ballot by HOF voters (none met the 5% threshold).   

Billy Wagner’s statistics are amazing, and some keen voters – too few -- have noticed this because he has made it to a fourth year on the ballot.  He has well over 400 saves and a 1.00 WHIP that is – incredibly – equal to Rivera’s (and better than Trevor Hoffman’s 1.06).  His stats compare favorably to the big seven.  Wagner is on our ballot – he is simply one of the greatest relievers ever.

J.J. Putz, Jose Valverde and Heath Bell were all fine relievers, with fine WHIPs and ERA+, but none accumulated 300 saves and none had a WAR approaching even that of the borderline group.  And they were pure closers, only one inning per game types, which helped them achieve ERA’s comparable to some of the HOF’ers who included more one-two innings types.


RELIEF PITCHERS
Saves
WHIP
ERA+
WAR
IP
IP/G
ASG
CY10
Avg HOF (ex-Eck)
416
1.14
143
35
1496
1.5


Non-HOF 300+ Saves
331
1.27
129
18
1004
1.2


Billy Wagner
422
1.00
187
28
903
1.1
6
2
J.J. Putz
189
1.15
138
13
566
1.0
1
0
Jose Valverde
288
1.20
133
12
630
1.0
3
2
Heath Bell
168
1.27
112
7
628
1.1
3
1


That’s it!  The Modern Baseball Era Committee announcement is this coming Sunday, December 8th.  And then come back on Tuesday, January 21nd with the writers’ selections and see how we did!