"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Hall of Mirrors

So this Hall of Fame vote is going to be a train wreck and there’s nothing that can be done about that. It’s too bad, because players that deserve a fair discussion aren’t going to get one with the stable of candidates bulging with elite players who may have used setroids.

This problem gets personal for us as Bernie Williams has already been dumped from the ballot while Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and probably Mike Mussina are likely to encounter similar ignorance. Of course Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera won’t be largely delayed, but looking down the road doesn’t promise a smooth path for any player who isn’t a certified member of the G.O.A.T. club, certified “clean” division.


Of course the glow of the anointed warms a body for a spell, but the Madduxes, Jeters and Riveras can’t boil the blood like the Morrises and Posadas. And those raucous debates are being pushed to the margins by the glut of all-time talents with steroid taint.

This is a shame because Hall of Fame is a great place for Yankees and their fans, and that debate around each election is especially fun when Yankees are involved. Moreso, reflecting the Hall of Fame back on Yankee history is a favorite diversion. One barely has to squint to assemble entire rosters of Yankees related to the Hall of Fame.



Infield: Yogi Berra, C; Lou Gehrig, 1B; Joe Gordon 2B; Tony Lazzeri, 3B; Phil Rizzuto SS

(Lazzeri has to shift to 3B to fill out the infield. He played 166 games there over eight seasons, so it’s not crazy.)

Outfield: Mickey Mantle, LF; Joe DiMaggio CF; Babe Ruth RF

Bench: Reggie Jackson, OF; Dave Winfield OF, Earl Combs OF, Bill Dickey C

(I guess Reggie could be a starter on the team below, but I prefer him here.)

Rotation: Whitey Ford, Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Jack Chesbro

Relief Ace: Rich Gossage

Of course, Rizzuto is just warming Jeter’s spot and the Goose is about to get some help in the bullpen. Absurdly stacked lineup, but the back-end of the pitching plumbs the depths of HOF standards. 



Infield: Frank Chance, C; Johnny Mize, 1B; Home Run Baker, 2B; Wade Boggs, 3B; Joe Sewell, SS

(Here we have to take some liberties. Frank Chance didn’t become part of a famous poem hiding behind catcher’s gear. Nevertheless, he did play 187 games there, just none for the Yanks. Home Run Baker never played second base, but the defensive spectrum may have been inverted back then and he probably could have hacked it at second better than Boggs. And Sewell made it into the HOF for his days at short, but he only played third base for the Yankees.)

Outfield: Wee Willie Keeler, LF; Rickey Henderson, CF; Enos Slaughter, RF

Bench: Paul Waner OF, Leo Durocher IF

Rotation: Catfish Hunter, Phil Niekro, Clark Griffith, Gaylord Perry, Stan Kovaleski, Burleigh Grimes, Dazzy Vance

This is a fun team because all of the starting position players save Frank Chance made real contributions to the Yankees. Six of the eight players fit easily within the top 200 Yankees and even Enos Slaughter was around to play in 15 World Series games and notch a salami against the Dodgers in ’56. The pitchers beyond Hunter and Niekro were just passing through. 



Infield: Thurman Munson, C; Don Mattingly, 1B; Willie Randolph, 2B; Frankie Crosetti, SS

(Crosetti is probably too far away from the HOF to make this team, but we need a SS.)

Outfield: Charlie Keller, LF; Bernie Williams, CF; Tommy Henrich, RF

(I know there are no campaigns to elect Keller and Henrich, but they lost a lot of playing time to WW2, so let’s give them a boost.)

Bench: Roy White, OF; Elston Howard, C; Gil McDougald IF

(I remember reading Bill James entry on McDougald, something like “McDougald could have been a Hall of Famer elsewhere, but he was fated to be a Yankee,” and feeling McDougald got the better fate. I think that’s what James meant, too.) 

Rotation: Ron Guidry, David Cone, Tommy John, Allie Reynolds

Bernie Williams and Willie Randolph are interesting cases to compare. Both up-the-middle All Stars on fantastic teams. Both highly respected indivduals. And if they could flip-flop in the timestream, they might both be in the Hall of Fame.

Bernie has several HOFesque hitting seasons, albeit without the career counting stats. He has the memorable postseason moments that sometimes rate. There was nobody out there taking up Bernie’s flag and he dropped off the ballot in his second time around.

Bernie had little support because the defensive statistics currently favored by the cognescenti show him to be among the worst fielding centerfielders of all time. And certainly at the end of his career, he was clearly pretty bad out there. So the group most likely to support him (the SABR people who, in the very recent past, would have placed extremely high value on the excellent-hitting center fielder of a dynasty team) wanted nothing do with him. The mouth breathers looking for 3000 and 500 wouldn’t touch him. And most of the bloggers aren’t exaclty weeping on their keyboards to see a beloved Yankee get kicked to the curb. He deserved better, even if he didn’t get ultimately get in. 

Willie Randolph came up for election in 1998, a year when 11 second basemen hit double digit home runs. Randolph was an excellent player, whose speed and abilty to take a walk combined with his defense at second made him a central figure for perenially contending and occaisionally triumphant Yankee teams. He received 1.1% of the vote and was dropped in his first year.

I don’t remember any discussion of his candidacy at all, though admittedly, I wasn’t paying close attention. Now the same fielding statistics that reduce Bernie Williams to an after-thought elevate Randolph to a very credible Hall of Famer. Randolph’s career fWAR (62) is wedged right between Roberto Alomar’s and Ryne Sandberg’s. Today, Willie Randolph would be given a much longer look than he was in 1998, even if the result were the same.

This rotation may be getting jammed up soon. David Cone suffers from the same issue that dogs many of the star pitchers of the recent era – when hitting stats skyrocket, pitching stats suffer. It’s hard to get your ERA under 3.00 when the league is scoring almost 6 runs a game. Pettitte and Mussina may be on the way to keep Coney company.

And of course we have players whose careers have been truncated by tragedy, segregation, WW2, and injury. Howard battled segregration AND had to serve in the military before he could start his career. Keller lost possibly his two best years to service (his 27 & 28 year-old seasons) and then his back finished him at 30. Mattingly fell apart at 29! This team may not have the all-timers, but I get the sense these players receive the most love from the fans (Munson over Reggie, Mattingly and Randolph over Winfield and Henderson, Cone over Clemens, Bernie over Jeter.)



Infield: Jorge Posada, C; Mark Teixeira, 1B; Robinson Cano, 2B; Alex Rodriguez, 3B; Derek Jeter, SS

Outfield: Tim Raines, LF; Ichiro Suzuki, CF; Gary Sheffield, RF

Bench: Jason Giambi, 1B; Carlos Beltran OF; Bobby Abreu OF; Johnny Damon, OF; Andruw Jones, OF

Rotation: Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte

Relief Ace: Mariano Rivera

Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia have a lot of work to do, and both took turns in their careers recently that bear monitoring, so let’s leave them alone. Mark Teixeira is nowhere near the Hall of Fame and is falling further away with every pop-out and popped tendon sheath. Jason Giambi also is not getting into the Hall of Fame on merit. I also skirted over guys like Lance Berkman and Pudge Rodriguez who didn’t even play a full season with the Yankees.

So then let’s break this down (ignoring steroids) into those that are clearly in and those that will cause a debate. Rivera, Jeter, Clemens, Arod, Unit, and Ichiro are well above any statistical line voters can draw. Posada, Raines, Sheffield, Beltran, Abreu, Damon, Jones, Mussina and Pettitte are not necessarily.

I eyeball this as Posada, Raines, Sheffield, Beltran, and Mussina are HOFers. Abreu, Damon, and Pettitte are not. Jones probably is, but I just don’t understand defensive statistics well enough and his hitting doesn’t get him there alone. (I expect Raines, Beltran and Mussina to actually get in.)

The future team would be a helluva a lot more fun to contemplate if Robinson Cano were still around. Maybe Brian McCann gets back to an All-Star-level and his strict adherence to baseball etiquette eventually puts him over the top. Otherwise, hope the Alabama Hammer puts nails in the ninth inning for a decade or so, because it’s about to get lonely on this squad.

The Hall of Fame is a cool place to visit. I went there three times from the ages 12 to 18, but then I haven’t been back in 20 years. So even for big time patrons, it exists mostly as a topic to argued over in the winter before spring training starts. To me, that dwarfs the problem of Barry’s plaque – which I may or may not ever see even if ever gets one. We are losing the chance to discuss Jorge Posada’s piss-stained hands until we are pinstriped in the face. And over the years, that’s become the most popular wing of the museum.


1 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 6, 2014 1:25 pm

Great piece, Jon. I know he wasn't a Yankee for long--and I certainly don't have many good memories of his time in the Bronx--but Kenny Lofton is another guy who got no HoF love and he was pretty damn good. If Keith Hernandez and Will Clark and Don Mattingly are lumped together as near-misses I'll always think of Lofton alongside Bernie.

2 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 6, 2014 1:41 pm

From the HoF perspective, Bernie reminds me so much of Roy White, of whom I believe Bill James once wrote that he did nothing great, but did everything well, and so was destined be overlooked by Hall of Famer voters.

Of course he never played for the Yanks, but I think we all consider Ken Singleton to be an "honorary" Yank due to his broadcasting over the years, and I'd say he could be described the same way.

[0] Interesting point about Randolph and modern defensive stats. I always believed Willie was a Hall of Famer, but I am biased. :) He does seem like a prototypical veterans' committee selection, but I think the 2B line begins behind Bobby Grich and especially Lou Whitaker.

Speaking of defensive metrics . . . Jay Jaffe's JAWS system, now using b-r.com's version of WAR(P), has Thurman over the HoF standard for catchers thanks to whatever defensive metric bWAR uses. I'd like to think that more modern voters would give a lot more discussion to Munson, too.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 6, 2014 1:49 pm

[1] My brother wrote about Lofton and Bernie together for his 2013 Annual. I will ask him if we can post here, because it's worth a read - both for the player comparison and his disection of WAR.

Basically: Win Shares (as well as our real-time experience) gives Bernie a clear edge. WAR (as well as SABR's current view) gives Lofton a farily massive edge. Defensive statistics causing the huge disparity.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 6, 2014 2:01 pm

3) Please do. That'd be a fun post. Much as it pains me, I think Lofton over Bernie is probably right.

5 thelarmis   ~  Jan 6, 2014 4:04 pm

great post and comments.

bronx banter at its best!

6 ColoYank   ~  Jan 6, 2014 7:25 pm

I've been a Yankee fan so long, and all the fans in my family (I'm the fifth of ten kids) are all Yankee fans, too. I've often thought it would be fun to sit a few of us down and have a draft of Yankee players, and see who would come up with the best team. If I picked first, it'd be Ruth, of course. 2: ? Who would you pick?

7 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jan 6, 2014 8:36 pm

[0] Great stuff. Happy to see the love for Willie Randolph, as a skinny 2B growing up I loved his game.

[6] Wow, GREAT idea. After Ruth..well, is the idea to build the best TEAM? Because then you'd maybe take Yogi as getting that produciton from C is invaluable..but I think the answer would have to be Mantle at #2, Gehrig at #3, Joe D at #4, Jeter at #5, Yogi #6..?

Only on the Yankees would Joe D NOT be the greatest player in team history. What a franchise!

Oh, and Steve Balboni goes #256.

8 Sliced Bread   ~  Jan 6, 2014 9:04 pm

Great piece, Jon.

I think Bernie's overall career is more "one for the ages" than Lofton's. The Championships count. Throw in Bernie's switch-hittedness, the batting title, his postseason RBIs.

Lofton was a terrific player,and a much better fielder than Bernie. But #51's far superior power numbers make up the difference. Just as a whole, I think Bernie was a bigger star, and even if he wasn't entirely a more special player than Lofton, he definitely had a career , and an impact on the game that was more worthy of the history books in my opinion.

9 Sliced Bread   ~  Jan 6, 2014 9:21 pm

6) Mantle.
7) yup, same 1-6 for me.

10 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 6, 2014 10:32 pm


11 monkeypants   ~  Jan 6, 2014 10:45 pm

[0] Rivera, Jeter, Clemens, Arod, Unit, and Ichiro are well above any statistical line voters can draw.

Is this really true for Ichiro? According to baseball-reference he is currently #124 in WAR for position players, situated right in and amongst Darrell Evans, Chase Utley,and John Olerud, and several spots below Abreu (whom you rank as borderline out).

I know he has collected 4000 hits between MLB and AAAA, and he's a fun and unique player to watch, but at the end of the day---from a statistical perspective---he's an interesting, slap-hitting, strong defensive, speedy corner OF. Maybe as a CF he's a slmdunk case, but as a RF...? No, the the stronger arguments for him to get in the HoF are actually not statistical. Unless he can hange around for 3000 MLB hits, at which point he meets one of the mouth-breather thresholds.

12 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jan 6, 2014 11:13 pm

[11] 'strong defensive, speedy corner OF' is not something to take lightly. Solely using WAR as a measuring stick is also faulty. Is there any rational argument to be made that Darrell Evans was better at the game of baseball than Ichiro? I would say Ichiro is by FAR a better baseball player than Mark McGwire, a big guy with one particular skill only. The most important skill is power, sure, but it's only one.

Ichiro would likely be a HOFer even if his name was Jon Smith (rough equivalent of the name 'Ichiro Suzuki', it's as plain-Jane a name as there is in Japan.) The fact he he has the non-stats story to go with it, I think he gets in easily, and deservedly so.

13 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jan 6, 2014 11:19 pm

[12] Please excuse the numerous typos above, poor effort even by my low typing standards!

14 monkeypants   ~  Jan 7, 2014 12:26 am

[12] You're making my case for me! All I said was that Ichiro is not a slam dunk HOFer from a statistical perspective, which is what Jon claimed. Instead, you are argue his case by citing his all-aroundness and his non-stat story. You *say* that Ichiro is better at baseball than Mark McGwire even though you admit that McGwires skill set was more valuable. That's as non-staty an argument as you can make, no? And that's all I was arguing.

BTW, McGwire not only hit for more power than Ichiro, he was more imprtantly far better at getting on base (OBP, a.k.a not making outs).

BTW 2, yes, one could make teh rational argument that Darrell Evans was a better player than Ichiro. I'm not sure I agree with that, but it's not an unreasonable position to take. Ichiro's peak value is higher, but Evans ad a longer productive career. Depending on the metrics used, the two rank very closely. Now, you happen to like Ichiro better from an aesthetic (also moral?) persepctive, but that again only speaks back to my main argument.

BTW 3. Yes, using WAR as the *only* metric is a flawed approach. In fact, Ichiro fairs very well accoring to JAWS, because his 5-year and 7-year peaks are so strong. According to JAWS he is the 18th best RF of all time, which is certainly a very hall-worthy position (and Darrell Evans ranked only the 19th best 3B..so Ichiro wins!). On teh other hand, Ichiro's WAR is realtively unimpressive, his bWAR is much worse (but he does have mightly fine defense); his career OBP is around #400, his career SLG is nearly #800, his OPS (#629) and his OPS+ (#657) are thus unsurprisingly low; his greatest offensive strength is his ability to make singles, yet his BA is still only #56 (very good, butnot so remarkable..sandwiched between Puckett and Ken Williams); his hit total (2742) is impressive but by no means an automatic HoF ticket-puncher (at #55 he's behind Al Oliver).

All this is to say, one can make a strong case for Ichiro as an HoF, if you look at his numbers in their peculiar context, if you sort through various metrics, if you value defense highly (and accept the often debated defensive stats that boost his overall statistical value), and especially if you look past his statistics at the non- and less-objective qualities he brings to the game. But at the same time his HoF case from a *stistics-only* perspective is not a slam dunk case, and Jon was incorrect to state that he is "well aboveany statistical line voters can draw." That was my ony point.

15 monkeypants   ~  Jan 7, 2014 12:38 am

[12] BTW 4:

If you goes with JAWS, which as a singlemetric ranks Ichiro most highly (18th best all time RF), it is interesting to note that he comes in behind Larry Walker (#10), Dwight Evans (#15), Reggie Smith (#16), Sammy Sosa (#17), and just ahead of Boby Abreu (#19). He's ahead of several HoF RFs, but his career JAWS (51.1) is also far lower than the HoF average (58.1).

I don't know how much the small amount of time he played in CF cuts into his RF JAWS score, but otherwise, it looks like Ichiro ranks as a somewhat borderline HoFer as a RF...and that is using as a single metric the stat that rates him most highly.

16 JoeG   ~  Jan 7, 2014 4:02 am

Under "Not Quite HOFers", are we to assume that Graig Nettles is the missing 3rd baseman? He'd get my vote.

17 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 7, 2014 9:29 am

[16] Yes, sorry! Must have got chopped off in the cut and paste. Nettles for sure. No love for him in the vote but he has a definite case.

18 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 7, 2014 10:35 am

[11] I doubt the voters will ignore the first 7.5 years of his career. No, those statistics don't count towards his MLB record, but they are clear evidence that a Hall of Fame caliber player was in full bloom for the entirety of his career. And his MLB statistics, as a natural extension of his ever-present talent, are clearly above any criteria ever employed by Hall of Fame voters.

Even if you take the view that he materialized in Seattle at the age of 27 like the Terminator, Hall of Fame voters have demonstrated more than once that they can spot Hall of Fame brilliance displayed in a shorter than usual time span due to extraneous conditions (war years, career-ending injury, segregation).

This is his statistical record, which is a slamdunk for the HOF:

Rookie of the Year
10 time all star
10 time Gold Glove Winner
3 time Silver Slugger
7 time league leader in hits
2 time batting champion
all time single season hit leader
2742 hits (an average of 211 hits per season)
6 seasons w/ bWAR (& fWAR) over 5
Avg 4.5 bWAR per season (4.2 fWAR)

19 monkeypants   ~  Jan 7, 2014 1:30 pm

[18] You make my point as well. For example:

Hall of Fame voters have demonstrated more than once that they can spot Hall of Fame brilliance displayed in a shorter than usual time span due to extraneous conditions...

Yes, a subjective approach that puts objective statistics into context.

Even your statistical slam dunk litany makes my case, because I am not convinced that any one or even two of those criteria would suffice, Basically, one has to look at Ichiro as an almost unique case, whose peak was very high (but only so if we accept his defensive reputation, because other wise he's simply a decent hitting RF) but did not play long enough because of circumstances out of his control to build up the traditional counting stats, and whose profile for a corner OF is rather unique.

Also note that much of the slam dunk "statistical" case you make is not statistical in a meaningful sense. The MVP, Rookie of the Year, All Star appearances and Gold Glove Awards are themselves *subjective* recognitions. So what you're really saying is that his case is strong because he had a high statistical peak in a career shortened due to unusual circumstances, and he was regularly recognized by his peers, the fans and sportswriters as one of teh very best in the game.

In other words, what I argued.

20 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 7, 2014 3:42 pm

[19] OK, let's combine things then. Ichiro's case for the HoF, based solely on his playing record, which includes the statistics he compiled and the awards he's won, is far above any statistical line the voters are likely to draw.

Ichiro is not a perfect player. He was a singles hitter in a power era. He did not walk. And his defense, which was obviously good, is hard to quantify. And HoF voter in general at times have placed too much emphasis on batting average and hits and stolen bases.

Those things are all true, but even with them, he's one of the three or four greatest players ever, in the global history of the game, at getting hits. That gets you in the HoF with room to spare, right?

21 monkeypants   ~  Jan 7, 2014 5:09 pm

[20] I never argued he was not deserving of the HoF, only that his case requires some subjective factors and considerale contextualizing. Now, that being said, in the past I would have argued against his HoF case, but I have become convinced that he's quite deserving of a place among the all-time greats.

So yeah, put him in with some room to spare.

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