EVALUATING BASEBALL'S 2017 TODAY'S GAME ERA COMMITTEE BALLOT

Mark McGwire Mark McGwire
02 Dec
2016
Not in Hall of Fame

Index

With the second revamping of its veterans committee structure in the last six years, the Baseball Hall of Fame seems ready to address the twin challenges of the logjam on the writers' ballot and of an evaluation process that until now has given scant attention to candidates from the last few decades of the game.

The Hall of Fame has scrapped the three committees that have existed since 2010, each responsible for a specific era of baseball history—the Pre-Integration Era (covering the period from 1871 to 1946), the Golden Era (from 1947 to 1972), and the Expansion Era (from 1973 to the present)—in favor of four committees:

Early Baseball (1871 to 1949)

Golden Days (1950 to 1969)

Modern Baseball (1970 to 1987)

Today's Game (1988 and later)

Moreover, the frequency with which those committees will meet has been weighted toward candidates from the last half-century. Starting in 2020, the Early Baseball Committee will meet once every ten years, while the Golden Days Committee will meet every five years. This leaves the Modern Baseball and Today's Game Committees to alternate their meetings every year except in years that end in 0 or 5. Leading off is the Today's Game Committee, which convenes this year at the annual baseball winter meetings and will announce its results on December 5.

This is welcome change—and a crucial one. In the last few years, not only has there been a ballot logjam on the writers' ballot, the slate of players exclusively voted upon by the qualified members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), but in 2014 the Hall of Fame had reduced the number of years that a player could remain on a BBWAA ballot from 15 years to 10 (provided the player received at least five percent of the vote during each election).

In addition, there has been increasing criticism of the Hall and its post-BBWAA voting process, with the "veterans committee" (using the generic term) still devoted to scouring baseball's distant past for Hall of Famers while ignoring the growing logjam of players from the most recent half-century who have exited the BBWAA ballot but who may indeed have been Hall of Fame-caliber players.

So, while the former Golden Era Committee elected former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo to the Hall in 2012—long considered to have been a significant oversight—the cockeyed emphasis came into glaring view the following year when the BBWAA, with a ballot overstuffed with qualified candidates, could not elect a single player—but the Pre-Integration Era found three inductees including catcher and third baseman Deacon White, who last played a game with Benjamin Harrison had been president. (It should be noted that the BBWAA and the veterans committee have always operated independently from each other.)

Furthermore, the Hall has waived all waiting periods for candidates who fall into any of the four new categories. Indeed, Mark McGwire, the slugging first baseman who had been practically a national hero in 1998, when he broke Roger Maris's record for the most home runs hit during a single season, and then had become one of the poster children for performance-enhancing drugs (PED), is one of the five players on the Today's Game ballot.

The optimistic view to this restructuring of the post-BBWAA election mechanism is that it addresses the increasing disparity in the growth of Major League Baseball in the last few decades, with the corresponding quality of play yielding more qualified candidates who have been perhaps unfairly overlooked or have simply been forced off the BBWAA ballot because it has been recently overstocked; concurrent with this has been the seemingly equal emphasis on baseball's bygone days, which has been the focus of scrutiny ever since the Baseball Hall of Fame came into existence 80 years ago. (The Veterans Committee was created in 1936 to ensure that players and others from baseball's earliest days would not be forgotten.)

However, there are two aspects to the downside to the recent restructuring. One has to do with the waiving of any waiting period, which might not be a liability. From the players' perspective, each player had to wait out a five-year eligibility period following their retirement before qualifying for the BBWAA ballot, and then each had a potential maximum of fifteen years for consideration until 2014, when that period was shortened to ten years. In other words, there was time for reflection on that player's legacy and qualification for what is arguably the most exclusive of the major Halls of Fame in any endeavor.

But as for the non-players, that immediacy could prove problematic. On the ballot this year is Bud Selig, who served as the official Commissioner of Baseball from 1998 to 2014, when he handed the reins to Rob Manfred effective for the 2015 season; furthermore, Selig had been the acting Commissioner since 1992, when he assumed the post following Fay Vincent's resignation in September. Selig's tenure has been one of the most eventful and contentious in baseball history. Shouldn't it be given more time for evaluation?

More seriously for the Modern Baseball and Today's Game Committees, each is a body comprising a much smaller number of voters than the BBWAA electorate; committees under the previous structure typically numbered 16 members composed of Hall of Fame members (both players and non-players), baseball executives, and media figures and baseball historians. By contrast, the number of BBWAA voters in the 2016 BBWAA election was 440, down from the previous year as the Hall of Fame had also instituted a rule that disqualified a voter who had not written actively about baseball for 10 years, which was a positive step.

But although the post-BBWAA committees must also elect a candidate with at least 75 percent of the vote, that voting body is much smaller than the BBWAA electorate. And although the integrity of the veterans committee has not been called into question for quite some time, there is still a sense of a "star chamber" decision having been reached, particularly with respect to player candidates, most of whom had an opportunity on the BBWAA ballot.

Make no mistake: The committee restructuring is a strong step toward more efficiently evaluating legacy; however, given the recent term restriction on the BBWAA ballot from 15 years to 10 for a player candidate, there is the potential for candidate election by a much smaller and much more elite body. Again, and given the composition of the various committees, there is a potential of greater influence by baseball's oligarchs and lesser influence from its hoi polloi.

Still, it will take a few years to see how effective the revamped post-BBWAA election mechanism actually is. For this year, let's examine the candidates under consideration.

The 2017 Today's Game Committee Ballot

This year's Today's Game Committee has ten candidates to consider, five players, three executives, and two managers. The five players are Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire. The three executives are John Schuerholtz, Bud Selig, and George Steinbrenner. The two managers are Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella; .both Johnson and Piniella are former players as well, and although their playing records are included for consideration (as with the 2014 Expansion Era Committee election of Joe Torre), their notability is primarily for their managerial careers.

The seven players have all appeared on a BBWAA at least once while this is the first time that any of them have appeared on a post-BBWAA ballot. The table below summarizes their voting history on a BBWAA ballot.

2017 Today's Game Candidates, BBWAA Voting Summary

Player

First Appearance

Years on Ballot

Debut Percentage

Ending Percentage

Highest Percentage

 
Baines, Harold

2007

5

5.3

4.8

6.1

 
Belle, Albert

2006

2

7.7

3.5

7.7

 
Clark, Will

2006

1

4.4

4.4

4.4

 
Hershiser, Orel

2006

2

11.2

4.4

11.2

 
* Johnson, Davey

1984

1

0.7

0.7

0.7

 
McGwire, Mark

2007

10

23.5

12.3

23.7

 
* Piniella, Lou

1990

1

0.5

0.5

0.5

 
* On the Today's Game ballot primarily as a manager.

Other than Mark McGwire, whose travails on the BBWAA ballot have been exhaustively documented, only Harold Baines maintained any sustained interest, hovering around the elimination threshold of five percent for five years before finally dipping below that threshold in 2011. No doubt Baines, who played 1643 of his 2830 games as a designated hitter, felt that bias toward the DH position—discounted by some as being a "role" and not a "position"—that has dogged Edgar Martinez, still on a BBWAA ballot although his time is growing short for election.

Mark McGwire
Will Mark McGwire have better luck on the Today's Game ballot--so soon after the writers rejected him on their ballot?


Otherwise, all five of the players are contemporaries, having retired within two years of each other. As players, Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella belong to an earlier period; both first came up in the mid-1960s, both coincidentally with the Baltimore Orioles, with whom Johnson is associated, while Piniella hung on until his age-40 season whereas Johnson retired following his age-35 season. Two of the three executives, John Schuerholtz and Bud Selig, are on a Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

The 2017 Today's Game Player Candidates

Of the four position-player candidates, two of them—Will Clark and Mark McGwire—are first basemen while Harold Baines and Albert Belle are outfielders; although Baines is remembered primarily as a designated hitter, he did start 984 games in right field.

Here are the four position players on the 2017 Today's Game ballot, ranked by bWAR, Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference, with other qualitative statistics, including fWAR (as calculated by FanGraphs), listed alongside it and explained below the table. Also included are the playing records of the two manager candidates.

Position Players on the 2017 Today's Game Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Position Player

Slash Line

wOBA

bWAR

fWAR

OPS+

wRC+

McGwire, Mark

.263/.394/.588/.982

.415

62.0

66.3

163

157

Clark, Will

.303/.384/.497/.880

.381

56.2

52.0

137

136

Belle, Albert

.295/.369/.564/.933

.396

39.9

41.1

144

139

Baines, Harold

.289/.356/.465/.820

.358

38.5

38.4

121

119

* Johnson, Davey

.261/.340/.404/.744

.336

27.5

28.9

110

112

* Piniella, Lou

.291/.333/.409/.741

.330

12.5

12.3

109

107

* On the Today's Game ballot primarily as a manager.

Slash Line: Grouping of the player's career batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS, or on-base percentage plus slugging percentage.
wOBA: Weighted on-base average as calculated by FanGraphs. Weighs singles, extra-base hits, walks, and hits by pitch; generally, .400 is excellent and .320 is league-average.
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
OPS+: Career on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 OPS+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.
wRC+: Career weighted Runs Created, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 wRC+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

Here are the bWAR and other qualitative statistics of Orel Hershiser, the sole pitcher on the 2017 Today's Game ballot; statistics are explained below the table.

Pitcher on the 2017 Today's Game Ballot

Pitcher

W-L (S), ERA

bWAR

fWAR

ERA+

ERA–

FIP–

Hershiser, Orel

204–150 (5), 3.48

51.7

48.0

112

89

93

W-L (S), ERA: Grouping of the pitcher's career win-loss record (and career saves, if applicable) and career earned run average (ERA).
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
ERA+: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA+ indicating a league-average pitcher, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.
ERA–: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA- indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.
FIP–: Fielding-independent pitching, a pitcher's ERA with his fielders' impact factored out, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 FIP– indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

The table below combines both position players and pitcher into a ranking by bWAR with their fWAR values also listed.

All 2017 Today's Game Candidates, Ranked by bWAR

Rank

Player

bWAR

fWAR

1

McGwire, Mark

62.0

66.3

2

Clark, Will

56.2

52.0

3

Hershiser, Orel

51.7

48.0

4

Belle, Albert

39.9

41.1

5

Baines, Harold

38.5

38.4

6

* Johnson, Davey

27.5

29.9

7

* Piniella, Lou

12.5

12.3

* On the Today's Game ballot primarily as a manager.

The table below combines both position players and pitcher into a ranking by fWAR with their bWAR values also listed.

All 2017 Today's Game Candidates, Ranked by fWAR

Rank

Player

fWAR

bWAR

1

McGwire, Mark

66.3

62.0

2

Clark, Will

52.0

56.2

3

Hershiser, Orel

48.0

51.7

4

Belle, Albert

41.1

39.9

5

Baines, Harold

38.4

38.5

6

* Johnson, Davey

29.9

27.5

7

* Piniella, Lou

12.3

12.5

* On the Today's Game ballot primarily as a manager.

In terms of value as measured by Wins Above Replacement, it does not matter whether the candidates are ranked by bWAR or fWAR because although there are differences between the valuations as done by Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, the variances are not enough to change the rankings. Mark McGwire deserves serious consideration for the Hall of Fame while Will Clark and Orel Hershiser qualify for the threshold. No other candidate is in the discussion, while Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella must be evaluated on their managerial careers.

But what about the players with respect to other players at their position who are in the Hall of Fame? Sabermetrician Jay Jaffe has developed "JAWS," the Jaffe WAR Score system, to compare a player at a position against all players, in aggregate, who are already in the Hall at that position by using their WAR values. Note that Jaffe's system uses the Baseball Reference version of WAR, and the usual caveats about the limitations of WAR apply.

The JAWS rating itself is an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak. Jaffe also assigns one position to a player who may have played at more than one position, choosing the position at which the player contributed the most value. The purpose of JAWS is to improve, or at least maintain, the current Hall of Fame standards at each position to ensure that only players at least as good as average current Hall of Famers are selected for the Hall.

The table below lists all five players on the 2017 Today's Game ballot, ranked by JAWS, along with other JAWS statistics, which are explained below the table, as well as the average bWAR and JAWS statistics for all Hall of Fame players at that position. The table also contains the players' ratings for the Hall of Fame Monitor and the Hall of Fame Standards, also explained below the table. Also included in the table are the two manager candidates on the ballot.

All 2017 Today's Game Candidates, Qualitative Comparisons to Hall of Fame Players (Ranked by JAWS)

Player

Pos.

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

Ave. HoF bWAR

Ave. HoF JAWS

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

McGwire, Mark

1B

62.0

41.9

51.9

17

65.9

54.2

170

42

Clark, Will

1B

56.2

35.9

46.0

25

65.9

54.2

84

42

Hershiser, Orel

SP

56.8

40.4

48.6

79

73.9

62.1

90

34

Belle, Albert

LF

39.9

35.9

37.9

38

65.1

53.3

135

36

Baines, Harold

RF

38.5

21.3

29.9

70

73.2

58.1

66

44

* Johnson, Davey

2B

27.5

23.4

25.5

71

69.3

56.9

38

19

* Piniella, Lou

LF

12.5

16.2

14.3

163

65.1

53.3

20

14

* On the Today's Game ballot primarily as a manager.

Pos.: Player's position under evaluation in this table.
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
WAR7: The sum of a player's best seven seasons as defined by bWAR; they need not be consecutive seasons.
JAWS: Jaffe WAR Score system—an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak.
JAWS Rank: The player's ranking at that position by JAWS rating.
Ave. HoF bWAR: The average bWAR value of all the Hall of Famers at that position.
Ave. HoF JAWS: The average JAWS rating of all the Hall of Famers at that position.
Hall of Fame Monitor: An index of how likely a player is to be inducted to the Hall of Fame based on his entire playing record (offensive, defensive, awards, position played, postseason success), with an index score of 100 being a good possibility and 130 a "virtual cinch." Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
Hall of Fame Standards: An index of performance standards, indexed to 50 as being the score for an average Hall of Famer. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

Based solely on JAWS, no player candidate (nor manager candidate as a player) meets the threshold for the Hall of Fame. McGwire comes closest, falling roughly 2.5 wins below the JAWS threshold and nearly four wins below the bWAR threshold set by the first basemen already in the Hall of Fame. Otherwise, both Clark and Hershiser are significantly below their respective thresholds and will require other factors to determine their fates, as will the other four candidates.

First Baseman Candidates: Will Clark and Mark McGwire

Coincidentally, both Will Clark's and Mark McGwire's careers began in 1986, and they retired within a year of each other. How did they stack up against first basemen of their era?

The table below lists both Clark and McGwire along with six notable first basemen whose careers began within five years of Clark and McGwire's Major League debut in 1986 (in other words, between 1981 and 1991), ranked by bWAR, with other qualitative statistics, including fWAR, listed alongside it.

Contemporary First Basemen and 2017 First Basemen Candidates on the 2017 Today's Game Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Player

Slash Line

wOBA

bWAR

fWAR

OPS+

wRC+

(B) Bagwell, Jeff

.297/.408/.540/.948

.405

79.6

80.2

149

149

(A) Thomas, Frank

.301/.419/.555/.974

.416

73.7

72.0

156

154

(C) Thome, Jim

.276/.402/.554/.956

.406

72.9

69.0

147

145

Palmeiro, Rafael

.288/.371/.515/.885

.380

71.6

70.0

132

130

McGwire, Mark

.263/.394/.588/.982

.415

62.0

66.3

163

157

Olerud, John

.295/.398/.465/.863

.377

58.0

57.3

129

130

Clark, Will

.303/.384/.497/.880

.381

56.2

52.0

137

136

(B) McGriff, Fred

.284/.377/.509/.886

.383

52.4

56.9

134

134

(A): Denotes player who is in the Hall of Fame.
(B): Denotes player who is on the BBWAA ballot for 2017.
(C): Denotes player not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame.

The table below lists those six contemporary first basemen along with Clark and McGwire, ranked by JAWS, along with other JAWS statistics and ratings for the Hall of Fame Monitor and the Hall of Fame Standards. Also included are the JAWS statistics for all first basemen in the Hall of Fame.

Contemporary First Basemen and 2017 First Baseman Candidates on the Today's Game Ballot, Qualitative Comparisons, Ranked by JAWS

Player

No. of Years

From

To

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

(B) Bagwell, Jeff

15

1991

2005

79.6

48.2

63.9

6

150

59

(A) Thomas, Frank

19

1990

2008

73.7

45.2

59.5

9

194

60

(C) Thome, Jim

22

1991

2012

72.9

41.5

57.2

10

156

57

Palmeiro, Rafael

20

1986

2005

71.6

38.7

55.2

12

178

57

Ave of 19 HoF 1B

NA

NA

NA

65.9

42.5

54.2

NA

NA

NA

McGwire, Mark

16

1986

2001

62.0

41.8

51.9

17

170

42

Olerud, John

17

1989

2005

58.0

38.9

48.4

21

68

39

Clark, Will

15

1986

2000

56.2

35.9

46.0

25

84

42

(B) McGriff, Fred

19

1986

2004

52.4

35.8

44.1

31

100

48

(A): Denotes player who is in the Hall of Fame.
(B): Denotes player who is on the BBWAA ballot for 2017.
(C): Denotes player not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Will Clark and Mark McGwire find themselves in some elite company. Frank Thomas is already in the Hall of Fame, elected in 2014 in his first year of eligibility. Jeff Bagwell, dogged by rumors of PED usage in his six years on the Hall of Fame ballot, garnered 71.6 percent of the vote last year and is a very likely inductee in 2017. Jim Thome is eligible for the 2018 BBWAA ballot, and with both a clean image with regard to PED and 612 career home runs, seventh all-time, he seems a likely inductee in the near future.

On the other hand, Rafael Palmeiro, only the fourth hitter in Major League history to collect at least 3000 hits and at least 500 home runs, could not shake his high-profile PED associations and fell off the BBWAA ballot after 2014, having never received more than 12.6 percent of the vote. Fred McGriff could be a poster child for the Hall of Fame threshold, an outstanding and durable power hitter whose output was consistently excellent if not elite, and that is what has hurt him on the seven ballots he has been on since 2010, having never cracked the one-quarter mark for votes cast in that time—and his time is running out as he has until 2019 to attract three-quarters of the vote in one of those three years.

At least McGriff, an archetypal slugging first baseman, has fared better than John Olerud, who scarcely registered on the 2011 ballot before disappearing for good, his fate now in the hands of some future Today's Game Committee—should it recognize him. Yet Olerud, who led the American League with a .363 batting average for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, the year in which they won their second World Series, was a slick-fielding first baseman—scooping up three Gold Gloves in his career—who hit for a high average and also for some power—500 career doubles and 255 home runs. Moreover, he was an early sabermetrics darling as he got on base just shy of four of every ten plate appearances, a .398 clip, as he walked 1275 times and struck out just 1016 times.

Of the eight first basemen in our sample (and we are not even including current and recently-retired players such as Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz, and even Todd Helton), Will Clark most resembles John Olerud—and that does not bode well at a position that prizes home runs and run production above all else. Despite winning one Gold Glove in 1991, Clark was not the defensive ace that Olerud was; Clark was league-average, worth over his career two defensive runs above average while Olerud was worth 97. But Clark was a high-average hitter who could also draw a walk while hitting with decent power—440 doubles, 47 triples, and 284 home runs in 7173 at-bats.

"Will the Thrill" burst onto the National League in 1986 as a sweet-swinging 22-year-old rookie first baseman for the San Francisco Giants, hitting a home run in his first at-bat off no less than Nolan Ryan, and he quickly became one of the best in the Majors. For a seven-year period from 1987 to 1993, Clark posted a .301/.376/.505/.881 slash line, yielding a 148 OPS+, as he averaged, per year, 166 hits, 32 doubles, 5 triples, 24 home runs, 89 runs scored, and 95 runs batted in. He finished in the top five for Most Valuable Player voting in the NL four times, coming in second to teammate Kevin Mitchell in 1989.

From 1988 to 1992, Clark was named to five consecutive NL All-Star squads, with a sixth nod in 1994, his first year with the Texas Rangers. As injuries began to impact Clark's playing time, the Giants did not pick up his contract after the 1993 season, and he signed with the Rangers, with whom he gained a second wind. In his five years with Texas, Clark hit over .300 every season except in 1996 although his home run totals diminished; from 1994 t o1998, Clark posted a .308/.395/.485/.880 slash line, generating a 124 OPS+, averaging every year 137 hits, 29 doubles, 15 home runs, 76 runs scored, and 79 RBI.

Signing a two-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles, Clark remained a .300 hitter but was hardly a factor as injuries limited him to 156 games between 1999 and 2000; he did get his 2000th career hit as an Oriole. At the 2000 deadline, Baltimore traded Clark to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 31.

Back in the National League, Clark seemed revitalized: In 51 games and 197 plate appearances, Clark ripped off a blazing .345/.426/.655/.1.081 slash line with 15 doubles, 12 home runs, and 42 runs driven in, helping the Cardinals into the postseason. Clark hit one home run during the three-game Divisional Series sweep of the Atlanta Braves, a three-run shot off future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. During the Championship Series against the New York Mets, Clark hit a torrid .412 with another home run and two doubles while posting a .500 on-base percentage, but the Mets shut down the Cardinals in five games. But despite this late-career surge, Will Clark had called it quits after the 2000 season, retiring at age 36.

Will Clark was an outstanding first baseman who produced a few thrills during his career, but injuries throughout that career stifled his production, which hampered his chances for the Hall of Fame as good-hitting first basemen are hardly underrepresented. His career is notable enough to warrant a second look, particularly after his one-and-done in 2006, but Clark did not produce the counting numbers nor exhibit a dominating run of seasons to warrant a Hall of Fame induction.

We noted previously that the waiving of a waiting period for a candidate can be a double-edged sword. In the case of Mark McGwire, he just finished his tenure on the BBWAA ballot in 2016—and here he is on a veterans committee ballot one year later. McGwire is just under the threshold for first basemen in the Hall of Fame already, and he is a better candidate for the Hall than a number of first basemen already in the Hall. The reason McGwire did so poorly had nothing to do with his performance and everything to do with his use of performance-enhancing drugs, to which he finally admitted using at various times during his career in January 2010; this was followed by his mea culpa that he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame under any circumstances, the kind of self-abnegation we are used to seeing associated with Communist China and the public confessions that followed group indoctrination sessions to correct aberrant behavior.

Not only am I tired of having written in support of McGwire's Hall of Fame case, I'm tired of writing that I'm tired of having written in his support. The epitome of the Three True Outcomes hitter—a home run, walk, or strikeout—it isn't that McGwire has a .588 career slugging percentage, which is seventh all-time, or an OPS+ of 163, which is eleventh all-time, or even that he hit one home run every 10.61 at-bats, which is the best all-time, even topping Babe Ruth, who is a full at-bat behind McGwire with 11.76 at-bats per home run. It is not even that no hitter ever reached 500 home runs in fewer at-bats than did McGwire, who needed just 5487 at-bats to do so. Rather, what is remarkable about McGwire is that he had just 300 fewer walks than hits, 1626 hits to 1317 walks, so that despite a pedestrian batting average of .263, he tallied a .394 on-base percentage, 131 points higher than his batting average. Those 1317 walks include only 150 intentional passes.

Mark McGwire was one of the candidates most affected by the 2014 rules change limiting players on a BBWAA ballot from 15 years total to 10 years; McGwire had been in his eighth year of eligibility when the rule was instituted, giving him just two more years instead of seven. We will never know whether he could have reached the 75 percent necessary for induction although the collateral results of players such as Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens may suggest an answer.

But regardless of any of this, Mark McGwire will not be elected by the Today's Committee in 2017. It is not that the members may not think that he is worthy of the Hall. Rather, it is that they may indeed think that he is worthy—but it is too soon for the post-BBWAA mechanism to elect McGwire. Recalling our previous analogy, electing McGwire is tantamount to the oligarchs dictating to the hoi polloi that they know better who is a Hall of Famer. Electing McGwire, who publicly admitted his PED usage, could damage the credibility of the newly revamped post-BBWAA committees, and the members of the committees know it, the BBWAA writers know it, and the fans know it.

And Mark McGwire knows it. He knows that he is being set up to be pummeled once again, shown the promise of a Hall pass only to be smacked upside the head with it. The canary in the coal mine when it came to players with PED association, McGwire took the initial brunt of the opprobrium before the other PED reprobates began to appear on the BBWAA ballot, and he is serving the same function now for the post-BBWAA committees.

How soon Mark McGwire appears on another Today's Game ballot—or whether he returns to one at all—remains to be seen. But for 2017, the one player most qualified for the Hall of Fame will not be elected.

Prev Next »

Last modified on Saturday, 03 December 2016 16:10

Add comment

Three ways to comment:

1) Login with your social account:


2) Register an account with us:

Click here!
Benefits of Registering

1) Comment on articles without restriction!  No more captchas or spam-filters!


2) Have your say!  Make your voice heard by voting in the polls.


3) Discuss in the forum.  Join the conversation, or start your own.


4) Start a social group or fan club.  Join one that already exists.  Share photos, events, updates, private messages and more with people who have similar i
nterests.


5) Customize your profile to make it your personal space on the web.

3) Or post as a guest:


Security code
Refresh