BBA Tabs Bags and Larkin

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance recommended the induction of Jeff Bagwell and Barry Larkin to the Hall of Fame this week in one of four annual elections conducted by the BBA. Larkin received the highest percentage of votes, 84.25%, in the five-year history of the alliance’s balloting.

What strikes me about this election is how difficult the 75% standard is. Unlike the BBWAA, much of this electorate is comprised of SABR-minded bloggers, myself included, who have been programmed for years to worship Tim Raines’s on-base abilities, and who have access to enough information to see that Alan Trammell’s candidacy is just as strong as Larkin’s. Raines and Trammell finished fourth and fifth, respectively, behind Edgar Martinez, but barely garnered 100% of the vote combined. Mark McGwire received over 40% of the vote, which he’s never done on a BBWAA ballot, but Rafael Palmeiro got just 29%, less than Lee Smith, Jack Morris, and Don Mattingly.

I’ve shared my ballot in this space, but I haven’t discussed my expectations for the choices of the writers, whom I hold in significantly lower esteem than the mostly uncredentialed members of the BBA.

I see Larkin getting in, just barely achieving the necessary 75%, not only because he’s obviously qualified, but because the voters know there’s a logjam coming with many qualified-but-tainted candidates like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds due to hit the ballot in the coming years. I think voters with odd fetishes for making players sweat it out for a few years will see that clearing Larkin from the ballot will make their jobs easier in the near future.

With much of the world seeing past the illusion of Jack Morris’s win total, I think Bagwell is the only other candidate with a chance to be elected this year. Unfortunately, Bagwell is quickly becoming the most aggravating case in recent history. His Baseball Hall of Fame case is as clear as U2’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame case, but countless writers have decided that, because he hit balls a long way and did so in the late 1990s, he must have cheated. It offends me to even discuss the heinous nature of using such unfounded assumptions to keep a guy like Bagwell out of the Hall, so I’ll let The Common Man do it for me over at the BBA’s best blog, The Platoon Advantage. In short, TCM suggests that any writer who assumes that Bagwell is guilty of using banned substances based on no real evidence can be assumed to be guilty of plagiarism based on no real evidence.

Stunningly, Bagwell got just 41.7% of the vote last year, in his first year on the ballot. Of the 58.3% who chose not to vote for him, I think we can break them into four camps:

1) Those who refuse to vote for any player on the first ballot, or make a distinction between “first-ballot Hall of Famers” and other worthy players. While I do not condone either action, I feel confident that the majority of these voters voted for Bagwell this year, and as such I hope they comprise a majority of the 58.3%.

2) Those who didn’t think Bagwell’s numbers were Hallworthy. Believe it or not, I’ve heard this case. “As a first baseman in the steroid era, he needed 500 homers or 3,000 hits to get in”. While I fear that some voters might truly base their ballots on magic numbers like these, I have some confidence that these voters might look a little deeper this year, and even if they only see his 202 stolen bases and not his .408 OPS or his 79.9 WAR (per baseball-reference), realize that the only retired first basemen who were markedly better than Bagwell were Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. If there’s such a thing as a “first-ballot Hall of Famer”, Bagwell is practically its definition.

3) The steroid idiots. My least favorite thing about the internet is how easy it is to abuse its anonymity by dismissing anyone who disagrees with ones own opinion as an idiot. I do my best to respect differing views and assume the best about people I’ve never met. That said, anyone who has withheld a vote from Jeff Bagwell because he was shaped like a steroid user or because he played with steroid users is, frankly, probably an idiot. And maybe a plagiarist. If this is 25% of the electorate, the Hall of Fame is doomed. I have some faith that it isn’t.

4) Those who just weren’t paying attention. Based on past election results, I believe that somewhere between two percent and five percent of Hall voters probably didn’t even bother to look at Bagwell’s numbers. They just thought back to the days when they cared about baseball, remembered liking Don Mattingly and Jack Morris, voted for those two guys, and went back about their daily lives, oblivious to the glorious privilege of having a Hall of Fame vote. Maybe one of these guys closed his eyes this year, pictured Bagwell’s menacing stance, and checked off the box next to his name before watering his Chia Pet and going to bed.

I see Bagwell getting 60 to 70 percent of the vote this year. Unfortunately, that may be as high as he gets for a while.

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12 Responses to BBA Tabs Bags and Larkin

  1. So glad Bagwell made it in the BBA vote.

    Also, no offense to U2 but Rush is by far the most overlooked band for Rock N Roll HOF. It’s not even close. Rush, talent wise, is like Barry Bonds. U2, talent wise, is like Tim Raines. Both deserving but one has way more talent. Just my two cents on that. Haha!

    • Bryan says:

      I’m actually not a U2 fan (don’t love Rush either). I was just looking for a band against whose Hall case no reasonable person could argue. I wanted to pick a band in the Hall to demonstrate how ridiculous Bagwell’s exclusion is. He’ll get in around 2018 when the steroid smoke starts to clear.

      • Assuming he stays on the ballot. It gets about 18 deep of legit candidates in 2014 alone. I don’t think he will fall off but, man, there is some seriously great talent coming soon.

      • Bryan says:

        I wonder if the witch hunters will look at the Bonds-Clemens-Sosa ballot and start giving Bagwell credit because (a) he never failed a test or was linked to steroids in any way and (b) he didn’t have the late 30s/early 40s peaks that those guys had. I could see him showing up on both those ballots and the steroid-indifferent ballots, where he’ll always be one of the ten strongest candidates, even if the ballot (ranked by rWAR) is:
        Bonds
        Clemens
        Johnson
        Bagwell
        Thomas
        Mussina
        P.Martinez
        Glavine
        Schilling
        Walker
        E.Martinez
        Trammell
        Biggio
        Palmeiro
        Lofton
        Smoltz
        Raines
        Sheffield
        McGwire
        Sosa
        Piazza
        McGriff
        Williams

      • Makes me wonder how many moral police will send blank ballots in or at least ballots with no offensive players.

  2. Yeah, Jonathan I think you missed the point regarding the U2 comparison. In the analogy, they’re Eddie Murray: maybe a tad over-rated, but clearly a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. (OK, Bryan probably didn’t mean to call U2 over-rated, that was me editorializing 😉

    Rush, however, is definitely Jeff Bagwell. Clearly Hall of Famers, but discriminated against because of a mis-perception that their music was a bit too synthetic. 🙂

    • I got the point, I just had to rep Rush when I got the opportunity. Haha!

      They only got “too synth” in the early-to-mid-80s. Musically they are phenomenally underrated and that says a lot when they are usually rated pretty well. It’s crazy when Alex Lifeson, probably a top 90-115 guitarist of all-time, brings your talent level down.

    • Bryan says:

      Do I think U2 was overrated? Absolutely! The analogy ended with their Hallworthiness. Maybe I should have used the Rolling Stones instead.

  3. Bryan, unfortunately I think you may give the collective wisdom of the BBA a bit too much credit. It appears to me to be far from a group full of SABR-minded bloggers. Quite a bit more SABR-inclined than the BBWAA, but there is definitely an old-school element.

    Great post, BTW. I love the theory that 2-5% of BBWAA voters are so clueless that they’re barely even paying attention. Well, I don’t love it, because if that’s true, it sucks, but it’s a great theory.

    • Bryan says:

      To assume that all BBA members think like you and me would certainly be giving them too much credit, but based on our awards voting, particularly the General Chapter’s voting, we’re certainly a little more data-driven as a group than the BBWAA. I also think we’re more open-minded, although it’s hard to reconcile being more data-driven and more open-minded at the same time. There are going to be dissenters in any group this size, which is why I think 75% is way too demanding a standard for the Hall of Fame, but it says something that more than half of us voted for Raines and less than a third voted for Morris.

      I’d like to compare Jack Morris’s Hall Case to Zack Morris’s R&R HoF case, but I don’t want you and Jonathan getting on my case about how talented the Zack Attack’s bassist (Lisa Turtle?) was and how they should have sailed in on the first ballot.

    • Theo says:

      You may be overestimating the BBWAA somewhat. Some of them haven’t even covered baseball in decades. I think the BBA’s votes are very solid; without having the benefit of individuals campaigning for players (which there are for the actual Hall vote), over 75% managed to voted in Bagwell and Larkin. Tim Raines and Edgar Martinez both got over 50% to finish third and fourth, and deserving candidates Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, and Larry Walker finish fifth through seventh. Compare this with the BBWAA next week, which will likely see Jack Morris and Barry Larkin as the only players to get over 50% of the vote, and Lee Smith finish fourth.

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