Friday, July 10, 2009

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Writer

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle decided to write an article about Roger Maris. I decided to write about that article.

This is our 236th post. Let's do this thing.

Every time another slugger of recent vintage becomes linked to steroids, an array of old-timers weighs in on his viability for the Hall of Fame. After the New York Times reported two weeks ago that Sammy Sosa had tested positive in ostensibly confidential screening from 2003, Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg said that his fellow ex-Cub did not deserve a place in Cooperstown.

It's true that a lot of ex-ballplayers tend to this, and truth be told, it's getting kinda annoying. To all of the Hall of Famers who are reading this right now (which I'm fairly certain is roughly 68% of all inductees), I beg you to put an end to this trend. We the people all know that each and every one of you were perfect in every way. Nobody ever did anything illegal back in "the good 'ol days." Ty Cobb never bet on baseball or threatened players' careers in the middle of games by constantly going into bases spikes up, Gaylord Perry never rubbed vasoline on the top of his hat, Hank Aaron never took amphetamines. Real ballplayers threw back a bottle of whiskey each day and did pushups till their all-natural muscles couldn't bear to lift them anymore.

We get it. You guys were magnificent, incorruptible creatures. Let's move on.

Mark McGwire's rejection by the voters so far suggests that Sosa, his sidekick from the 1998 home run record chase, can hold off on writing an induction speech. But veterans won't get a say on this generation's integrity or Hall of Fame credentials for at least 15 years. Until then, the call belongs to a group of sportswriters.

In all honesty, I'm not sure if I'd vote Sosa in anyways. His numbers are good, but don't let those 609 home runs fool you too much (that sounds like a downright idiotic statement, I know). It's a tough call. That's a satirical banter for another day, though.

The old-timers, however, do have a solution. The Hall's Veterans Committee can make a statement about steroids and home runs without rushing to judgment or even punishing a single player. In fact, this solution is a feel-good maneuver: Bring Roger Maris into Cooperstown.

That's your "feel-good maneuver"? Complicating an already complicated voting process by letting in a player who isn't even remotely worthy? To whom would this make feel good? Yankee fans? Billy Crystal? Barry Pepper? Can I ask any more questions in a single paragraph? No?

His record of 61 home runs can never be restored. It's impossible, even though the report on Sosa supported a very strong suspicion that no one in major-league baseball ever hit 62 home runs in a season without chemically inflating his muscles.
There's simply not enough proof to strip the statistics from the three men who surpassed Maris a total of six times: Barry Bonds, McGwire and Sosa. But the Veterans Committee can rewrite history, cleaning up some of the damage left by other, very negligent guardians of the game.

I agree, there's not enough proof to strip the statistics and records from McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds. Is there enough proof that Roger Maris is deserving of being inducted into the Hall of Fame? Thus far I have seen no such evidence. The only support for induction that's been given is one season. Better yet, ONE STATISTIC from that season.

The committee has repeatedly rebuffed Maris, whom the sportswriters also snubbed. But his 1961 season deserves a fresh look. Can anyone argue that it isn't more impressive today than it was in the entire 37 years that Maris held the home run record?

Eh, I actually think it would be more impressive if the mark were set today, seeing as the game has expanded quite a bit since the cool whiskey-wielding 60s. Also, it is hilarious--and at the same time extremely aggravating-- that she says Maris has been "snubbed" by the sportswriters. This man has a career WAR worse than Julio Franco, Tony Fernandez, Devon White and even--gasp-- JIM RICE! Yeah, I went there.

So far, Maris' overall career totals have been the impediment to induction. He finished with 275 home runs and a .260 batting average over 12 seasons, numbers that don't warrant a place in Cooperstown.


Why is this article being written again? Oh, that's right, to convince us that Maris deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Maris' claim to a plaque would be that one magical summer. Yes, winning back-to-back MVP awards in 1960 and '61 should count for something, but the 61 home runs are his ticket.

To say that Roger Maris being inducted into the Hall of Fame would be a grave injustice is an understatement. Nay, if Maris were inducted it would serve as the SINGLE GREATEST MOCKERY IN THE HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS!... Okay, so I followed up an understatement with a slight exaggeration. I'll leave it up to you to find the middle ground.

The committee already has admitted several people with career statistics that don't overshadow Maris'.

I literally just looked up every single non-negro league player ever voted in by the Veterans Committee. Overall, there are roughly about 100 (yeah, it took me a while). Since WARP from BP is the only thing that goes back far enough it will be used as the main tool of comparison. Out of all of those Hall of Famers, I found five with a career WARP3 total less than that of Roger Maris. I will now list those five players, along with a modern day player who's overall career production mirror that same player. Here we go:

Hall of Famer (Modern Day Player)

Tommy McCarthy (Scott Podsednik)
Heinie Manush (Adam Kennedy)
Rube Marquard (A.J. Pierzynski)
Chick Hafey (Cliff Floyd)
George Kelly (Mark Kotsay)

Yup, that's right, voting in Roger Maris would be saying that he is slightly better than an Oakland A's second baseman with a .329 Career OBP and a .260 Career EQA (Kennedy). And for that this man deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.

I grew up listening to Richie Ashburn do Phillies radio broadcasts and knowing that he was my mother's favorite player, so I should be pretty biased. But Ashburn does not belong in Cooperstown any more than Maris does. He was a .308 hitter with a .396 on-base average, and he was a beloved announcer. But he didn't hit for power, didn't steal many bases and never finished higher than seventh in the MVP balloting.

Richie Ashburn... You chose RICHIE ASHBURN. I gave you five perfectly awful-as-shit players, and you decided to settle with Richie Ashburn??? Tommy McCarthy compiled a 15.9 Career WARP3 over 13 seasons. That's right, he averaged a WARP3 of 1.2 per season. In fact, in six of his thirteen seasons he had a negative impact in production (including a season in which he was worth -5.5 wins!). And yet, you did not choose this man. Nope, instead you decided to go with someone who is widely considered to be one of the best centerfielders of all time. Let's see how this comparison holds up:

Career WARP3
Ashburn- 76.2
Maris- 34.6

Best 5 Year Stretch
Ashburn- 35.8 ('51-'55)
Maris- 23.1 ('60-'64)

Career OBP
Ashburn- .396
Maris- .345

Ashburn's five year peak was more valuable than Maris' entire career. Yup, the only way this would have been a good comparison is if back in 1952 little boy Richie had decided to call it quits after his first few seasons in the big leagues. Unfortunately for this article, though, history was not nice to its credibility. There are hundreds of players in the Hall of Fame. A handful of them probably don't deserve to be there, but I am of the opinion that Ashburn is definitely not one of them.

Some people might argue that drugs were around in Maris' day. But even the earliest steroid users lifted weights, a practice most baseball players mocked well into the '70s, saying it would damage their swings.

So now Roger Maris should be rewarded because of a common misconception throughout baseball prior to the 1970s? Okay, I'm cool with that. Although, to be fair, we must now include all the pitchers who didn't throw a split-finger for the first 100 years of baseball, because the pitch had not yet been invented. Let's be just here, people!

My favorite part of the article comes here at the very end: Maris' plus and minuses.



Oh man. I'm excited. Are you excited? I'm excited.

-- Did not do steroids

I would venture a guess that there are over 100,000 players that have met this same criteria.

-- Two-time AL MVP (1960, '61)

Eh, that's pretty cool, I guess. But you're still only citing two seasons, and it's debatable whether or not he deserved those MVP's in the first place.

-- 61 home runs in a season, breaking Babe Ruth's record. All who have surpassed Maris have been linked to steroids.

One season. This entire article is basically endorsing Maris' Hall of Fame candidacy on one season. He had a .372 On-Base Percentage in that season.


Here we go. By now I think I could write a fuckin novel on "Maris Minuses."

-- 275 home runs and a .260 batting average over 12 seasons.

That's the end of the article... I am now going to watch the movie "*61" so that Barry Pepper can make me not hate Roger Maris.

1 comment:

Goose said...

You know, she has a point. A Maris election would be so ridiculous and undeserving that it'll make those cheaters ever regret taking the stuff. They could have just had a better than Mark Kotsay career and awaited their plaques without argument. It's brilliant!

Somehow, I doubt she was thinking that.