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November 30, 2000
Hall Of Fame Roundtable
Commentary on this year's candidates
Ballots for the Hall of Fame were recently mailed to voters. Over the next few days, we'll comment on the candidates, their merits, and their chances, and follow that up with the second Internet Hall of Fame ballot to be hosted by baseballprospectus.com, where you can vote for your candidates.
I'm in favor of a big HoF class to right past wrongs. Here's my ballot:
I really want Lance Parrish on this ballot, because he was basically the best catcher the AL had in the '80s. Pudge Fisk is most definitely included when I say that, although Fisk's defensive problems don't really get to be a major issue until the end of the decade. Perhaps it's a weak field: it was the era of Rich Gedman and Mike Heath, after all.
In the end, I decided to leave Parrish, Tommy John, Ron Guidry, Tom Henke, and Dave Righetti for the Veteran's Committee.
For me, Righetti illustrates a major problem for the years to come: how seriously do we take Rags versus Randy Myers versus John Franco in the as-yet-to-be-held debate on the greatest lefty closer of all time? I don't have an answer, since for a single-season great lefty closer year, I don't think of any of them; I've still got Willie Hernandez' 1984 on a pedestal. In terms of consistency, since there isn't a stage during any of their careers when I'd want them over their right-handed peers (whether it's Gossage or Sutter or Lee Smith or Henke), I think it's a silly category, like "Best switch-hitting shortstop of all time," and not a criterion that ought to be used, but it will get considered.
Use the votes for Andy Van Slyke as a shopping list for a purge of some of the worst elements of the BBWAA. I suspect they'll overlap with the constituency who won't remember Lou Whitaker existed almost exactly.
I nearly lost my lunch when the local sports guy was talking about the new HoF candidates. Callers were totally psyched about all three of Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, and Don Mattingly making it into the Hall.
Well, we agree on Winfield. But Mattingly? It'd certainly cement his place as the most overrated player of all time.
Total Baseball rates Mattingly with a Total Player Rating of 11.3, meaning he was worth about 11 games over an average player over the course of his career. Sure, TPR isn't perfect, but it's a reasonable first cut, and if we double Mattingly's value over an average player, we still end up at ~20 runs better than an average player over the course of his career.
HoF Worthy? Uh...no. And not particularly close.
Mattingly supporters talk about his peak as being particularly impressive. Let's take a look at his best 5 seasons:
Year Games BA OBP SLG 1984 153 .343 .386 .537 1985 159 .324 .379 .567 1986 162 .352 .399 .573 1987 141 .327 .383 .559 1989 158 .303 .356 .477
In context of era, those are pretty good numbers. Of course, Mattingly was a left handed hitter in Yankee Stadium, and the raw park adjustments don't often take that into account. Considering that Mattingly played first base, these numbers don't impress me that much. It's Tony Gwynn lite with a bit more pop.
Outside of this peak, Mattingly was positively brutal. His career numbers ended up at .307/.363/.471 in 1785 games. His peak above represents 773 games, so you know those other thousand were a bit on the Hal Morris side.
Is that a fair comparison?
Hal Morris, career 1246 G, .306/.361/.433. Don Mattingly, career 1785 G, .307/.363/.471. Don Mattingly, offpeak 1008 G, .289/.346/.413.
This is a player who was, on balance, not as valuable as TPR indicates. For the majority of his career, Mattingly was a hindrance to the Yankees' success, and a player that should have been replaced much earlier.
Classy guy? Absolutely. Beloved? Absolutely. Do I wish there were more players like him? Yes.
A Hall of Famer? Basically, Mattingly had 2/3 of Tony Perez's career. Tony Perez doesn't belong without a ticket.
Puckett's a tougher call. Numbers comparable to Mattingly, with slightly more longevity, and playing a more difficult defensive position -- badly. I think Puckett gets in by the skin of his teeth. .318/.363/.477 while playing center and winning two rings over 1,783 games, with no seasons where you were a demonstrable hindrance is enough to get my vote.
Gary Huckabay can be reached at email@example.com. Chris Kahrl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.