The Hall of Fame, The Last Word

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame has always been a conversation piece for fans of baseball. Especially when it comes to who deserves and does not deserve entry. Many hours have passed between friends of mine and myself arguing the merits of certain players. I am the most exclusionary, my friends, less so.

My friends argue what is, I argue what should be. They argue from the perspective of the BBWAA and VC, I argue from an elitist perspective. I find the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) and especially the VC (Veteran’s Committee) too lenient, to inclusive, not rigorous enough in its choices, my friends don’t have this arrogance.

My thoughts are quite simple, my criteria is quite easy. It still has a touch of an argument and opinion to it, but it is definitely not as lenient as the BBWAA or the VC.

BBWAA

BBWAA

In order for the reader t get a better idea of what I speak, let’s give a basic criteria of what the BBWAA thinks merits a player to enter the Hall. Although it is not an exact science, you can, if you review selections over the decades, see a tendency, a loose but still limited criteria, that the BBWAA use as a whole, to allow entry into the Hall. Here are what seems to be the minimum points:

1) Don’t cheat or gamble – See Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, and Joe Jackson on this point.

2) Become the best or thought of as the best at a particular part of the game over a long period of time (at least 7 years usually) – See Ozzie Smith, Nolan Ryan, and Rickey Henderson as examples.

3) Be good enough to stay in the game for a long period of time gaining 300 wins, 3000 hits, 500 Home Runs etc. or coming very close to it – See Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and Bert Blyleven as examples.

Now if you include the VC you can expand that further to include the players who fit this criteria but were not thought great enough by the BBWAA. Guys like Ron Santo, Joe Gordon and Bill Mazeroski are examples of this.

Now that we have a pretty good idea of what the BBWAA and the VC consider worthy, I’s time to show what my criteria involves. Mine is much simpler. The starting point, the default point of view so to speak, is no one deserves entry. It’s like a driver’s licence, it’s a privilege, not a right.

My first point is the same as the BBWAA. If you cheat or gamble you stay out. My second point is you must be thought of as the greatest at your position in either or both leagues for your generation of ball players. If it can be argued that you were the best, then you are in.

Since about 35-40% of the league is pitchers, they fall under a different criteria. For starting pitchers, did they rise above the winning level of the teams they played on, and did they do it over a long period of time (around a decade or more). For relief pitchers, return to the criteria of the players in that if they were considered the best in their league, or both leagues, for their generation then they enter.

Hall of Fame Plaques

Hall of Fame Plaques

Different people have different opinions on what is great. What I mean by great is those abilities that directly lead to an increase in wins for the team. For example, if you steal 200 bases in a year which leads to your team scoring an extra 100 runs for the year, which created an extra 10 wins for the team but you also got caught stealing 200 times which cost your team 10 wins, then you, in this particular category, are an average player not a great player. Another example is if you won 30 games as a starting pitcher but lost 30, and your team went 81-81 then you are, in this category, an average pitcher.

With my criteria, the Hall of Fame would shrink by almost half. Borderline players would be out. Those players who have flashy stats but never really contributed to their team’s improvement would be out.

When speaking to my friends and other who have a good, if not great, knowledge of the game, about this subject, I usually have agreement for the most part up to this point in my argument. But once I show it being implemented, I lose almost everyone. Since I am writing a post not a book, I will cut to the chase and show you how quickly I lose people (and probably you as well) by using just one example. It’s the example that will show in a bright shiny light whether you are actually in agreement with my criteria or not.

Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan

The example is Nolan Ryan. If you want to draw a line in the sand and state those that think my criteria is correct, both in theory AND PRACTICE, then the line starts with Nolan Ryan. Do you think a pitcher who doesn’t contribute anything more than what an average pitcher would contribute deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? With all of Ryan’s seemingly super-human feats of baseball greatness, the man was never more than an average pitcher with a stellar fastball. Have I lost you yet?

Nolan Ryan, Angels

Nolan Ryan, Angels

Ryan is in the Hall for two main reasons: his strikeouts and his no-hitters, neither of which contributed to his teams winning anymore than they would’ve if Ryan wasn’t there and an average .500 pitcher was there instead. With all of Ryan’s flash, the man was the most famous .500 pitcher in history. When Ryan won 20 games he lost 17, when he struck out 300 he walked 150. For every shutout, no hitter, one or two hitter he threw, he also would lose because of a home run or walk given up in places where the great pitchers of the game would get the out.

Nolan Ryan, Astros

Nolan Ryan, Astros

You might say, as dozens have said to me before, “Ryan was always on bad teams so no wonder he lost so many games.” This is the lamest argument I have ever heard. A great pitcher, one who is Hall-worthy, takes his team, puts it on his back, and carries it to the post-season, or at minimum wins at a better average than the team does generally. Ryan saw this first hand as a rookie back in 1969 when Tom Seaver brought the Mets to the World Series. If Ryan was a great pitcher his teams would have done better when he was pitching for them. They didn’t. In fact with Ryan being a strikeout pitcher, his reliance on his teammates is reduced. More strikeouts means less ground balls and fly balls that bad defensive teams might misplay into errors or extra hits.

Tom Seaver

Tom Seaver

When Ryan played he was never thought of as the greatest pitcher of his generation. Men like Seaver, Palmer, Carlton, Jenkins, Hunter, Blue, Richards, were thought of as better, and only the first three deserve Hall entry using my criteria, with Jenkins at the borderline. Lets compare what a typical season for the great pitchers of the ’70s and compare that to Ryan’s:

Compare with Nolan Ryan

PlayerW-LIP/HK/BBE.R.A.
Nolan Ryan14-13232/169246/1203.19
Tom Seaver16-11250/207190/732.86
Jim Palmer17-10249/211139/832.86
Steve Carlton15-11245/219194/863.22
Fergie Jenkins15-12243/224173/543.34
Catfish Hunter16-12240/206140/663.26
Jim Palmer

Jim Palmer

As you can see all the pitchers stats are comparable, but only Palmer and Seaver stand out. But Ryan, with a better strikeout count, a better hits to innings pitch percentage than all the others still couldn’t rise above those pitchers in wins. It was the walks and untimely home runs. Even Jenkins, also on a bad team, pitching in an offensive park (Wrigley) managed to win on a more frequent basis. It was because of his lower walk total and tenacity. Ryan, with his 3.19 E.R.A. should’ve won many more games than he did, if he is a great pitcher. If his team scored 1 run He should find a way to pitch a shut out. If his team scored 2 runs then he should find a way to give up one. The greats do this with much more frequency.

Ryan is on a level below these pitchers. Here are four more Hall of Fame pitchers:

Compare with Nolan Ryan II

PlayerW-LIP/HK/BBE.R.A.
Nolan Ryan14-13232/169246/1203.19
Gaylord Perry15-12248/229164/643.11
Don Sutton14-11235/209159/603.26
Phil Niekro14-12233/217144/783.35
Bert Blyleven14-12245/229183/653.31

Again Ryan fails to achieve what they achieved, although he is coming closer.

How about some non Hall of Famers:

Compare with Nolan Ryan III

PlayerW-LIP/HK/BBE.R.A.
Nolan Ryan14-13232/169246/1203.19
Luis Tiant15-11224/198155/713.30
Mickey Lolich14-12229/212178/693.44
Jim Kaat13-11202/206110/483.45
Vida Blue15-11233/205152/833.27
Tommy John13-11219/223105/593.34

All the pitchers above had had some Hall of Fame interest from the VC, some may make it in the future. But even these pitchers looked over and rejected by the BBWAA win at a better rate than Ryan. We didn’t even include comparisons to many other pitchers during the ’70s who were considered better than Ryan but did not last long enough to reach the Hall. Pitchers like J.R. Richard, who played on an awful Astros team yet won 60% of his games for a decade. Ryan couldn’t do that with the Angels or the Astros.

Nolan Ryan, Rangers

Nolan Ryan, Rangers

Ryan was a fan favourite, his longevity was amazing, especially because he didn’t need to change from a power pitcher to a control pitcher later in his career (he was unique in this). His strike out totals and number of no-hitters is also great (better than every pitcher mentioned in this post, better than every pitcher in the history of baseball). But those feats are meaningless if they don’t translate into an improved team winning percentage. Ryan was the Vince Coleman of pitchers (if Coleman lasted another decade). If Coleman stayed in the league longer, was less injured, and stole 100 bases each year for 15 years, it still wouldn’t merit Hall entry because his lack of hitting skill and low walk totals always more often than not cost his team as much or more than the stolen bases added.

Vince Coleman

Vince Coleman

In the end, who would you rather have pitching on your team for a pennant run, Seaver, Palmer, Koufax, Gibson, Marichal, Drysdale, Ford, Spahn, and the list goes on and on, or Ryan? It’s a simple and obvious answer and makes what I said in my criteria have merit. If I still haven’t lost you anyway.

When Graded Cards Become Ridiculous

Is there so much mistrust in the hobby that graded cards have become the norm for collecting vintage cardboard? It serves its purpose, in that, it gives you a card in a grade you wish to have, but cant you use your own two eyes to see the approximate grade of a card and avoid the premium of a card graded by a third party? The most annoying thing about graded cards is how people who send the cards they have in to get graded think that it makes their cards worth so much more than a non-graded card. Not just the 5-10 dollars more, but sometimes hundreds of dollars more. It cracks me up.

I figure that everyone who collects cardboard would have a brain in their head. They would, like me, look on a graded and ungraded card as similar items with the graded card having a slightly higher price because of the cost to get it graded. In other words if I see a mint card that’s ungraded (by my observation using the standards that have been in the hobby for decades) and the same card that is graded, I would want and assume that I could pay the same price for both cards with the added amount it cost the seller to grade the card put on the graded version.

Depending on what grading company you use, how many cards you send in, and what discounts you take advantage of, the cost to grade 1 card is less than 20.00. So why do i see a non graded ’89 upper deck Ken Griffey Jr. mint card selling for $40.00 yet a graded one selling for $350.00? It’s a joke right?

1989 UD #1 Griffey Jr. PSA 10 eBay Listing

1989 UD #1 Griffey Jr. PSA 10 eBay Listing

You collectors out there aren’t falling for the greedy seller’s need to fleece people of there hard earned cash are you? Or, perhaps I’m the idiot and people don’t mind paying a hefty premium on cards that are graded, especially those that gain Gem Mint status., even when there are literally 1000s of those exact cards graded and ungraded that already have or will have the same designation. I always thought scarcity was one of the main drivers of price, but it seems it’s more the grading of cards that is the most important thing.

Is a Gem mint graded card that has 100s of copies worth the prices? It seems so. You do realize that just because there are only 5 graded gem mint designations for a card, or 3, or 2, that it doesn’t mean they are the only ones in existence. Especially for cards that are not from the pre 70s. As more and more people grade their collections, more and more cards populate that gem mint area of the hobby.

The perfect example of this craziness was a recent purchase I noticed on ebay with the help of reading an article on sportscollectorsdaily.com.

How much would you pay for a really nice ungraded copy of Nolan Ryan’s 1978 Topps #400 card? If you looked it over and saw that the corners were sharp, the centering was dead-on, there where no stains or blemishes and the sheen was very nice as well, would you fork over 30.00? Perhaps, or you might realize that the card is not even close to being Ryan’s rookie card (its 10 years on) and try and buy it for a more reasonable 15.00-20.00.

Now what about a graded version of the card? If you would pay 30.00 for what looks like a pristine copy of it ungraded, what would you pay for it graded? 60.00? I mean if you would pay 30.00 for an ungraded, why not 60.00 for a nice graded psa 9? it gives the seller 30.00 for the card, 10.00 for the cost of grading it, and an extra 20.00 for his troubles. Sounds reasonable right?

Well looking at the sold and listed 1978 topps Nolan Ryan on ebay, be prepared to pay 500.00 to 1,299.00 for this card. It’s a joke right? You are in agreement with me correct? Well if that doesn’t blow you mind enough, what do you think someone would pay for a Gem Mint 10 copy of the card? A card that is 10 years from his rookie card, in a set produced in large numbers from 1978? Would you believe $17,877.00. No that is not a typo.

21 bidders bid 41 times over 10 days to reach that crazy number. here is the page:

1978 Topps #400 Nolan Ryan PSA 10 eBay Sale

1978 Topps #400 Nolan Ryan PSA 10 eBay Sale

I wonder what will happen to these cards decades in the future. will they keep going up in price, or will they die. what happens when the plastic yellows and the printing fades on these encasing? Will the owner remove the card having it return to ungraded status, or will he send it back to a grading company to have it regraded taking the chance that time has not brought the card down from its gem mint status? It seems a predicament that I would want to avoid especially when it involves 1000s of dollars.

Anyway, I think it might be time to go through my collection and start sending off my cards to get graded so i can charge 1000% more for the cards I own. Hell, I think i might start buying boxes of vintage 70s and 80s cards and start grading all of them so i can make millions lol.