2020 Modern Era Ballot not a Clear Image

Somehow Marvin Miller, among the most influential figures in baseball history, remains out of the Hall of Fame. The Modern Era vote will hopefully remedy that.
IntroductionYesYes*
Yes?No+No
My BallotModern EraAfterword

The 2020 Modern Era candidates for the Hall of Fame were announced Monday, with the 10-person pool representing quite a mixed bag. Each of those 10 candidates will have their candidacy evaluated and discussed below, but first some context is required. Voting for this ballot will be done by a 16-member committee. Each voter can select up to 4 of the candidates to list as worthy of induction. The threshold for induction is 75%, just as it is with the BBWAA electorate.

Also before we begin, let me quickly give an overview of the metrics I will be using.

Score: A WAR-based number meant to give the best representation of a player’s career achievements. It is similar to JAWS in that it uses both career and peak values, however there are several key differences between the two systems, such as a broader focus on sustained performance and more emphasis on the very top of a career.

Mean and Median Score: These are fairly self-explanatory, as they represent the mean and median scores of Hall of Famers at a position.

HoF100: This compares a player’s score to the mean and median at the player’s position. A score a 100 indicates that a player is an obvious Hall of Famer, while the range of 75-99 shows a deserving but not so obvious candidate. Players with scores from 50-74 may not be deserving, but are worthy of serious consideration. Under 50 indicates a very weak case.

Percentile: This assumes that the distribution of Hall of Fame players at a position is normal (though it never is), and calculates what percentage of Hall of Famers a player would be ahead of at the position based on mean and median. With the explanations out of the way, onto the candidates.

Dwight Evans (RF)

  • Score: 636.6
  • Mean: 682.3
  • Median 667.95
  • HoF100: 84
  • Percentile: 43.80

Evans played in parts of 20 seasons with the Red Sox, compiling an impressive 67.1 bWAR and 65.1 fWAR. More impressive was his consistency, averaging 4.0 bWAR and fWAR per season for a span of 16 years, all but the first and last two of his career. Hurting his candidacy is the fact that Evans was only a 3-time All-Star and had just 4 top 10 MVP finishes, peaking at 3rd place in 1981. Known for his fielding prowess, he won 8 Gold Gloves in his career. He was not, however, a glove-first corner outfielder, 7 times recording a wRC+ over 130 for the season, and owning a career mark of 129. In 7 different seasons he topped reached 4.5 bWAR, and did this 5 times with fWAR. Evans seems a very deserving candidate.

Steve Garvey (1B)

  • Score: 442.5
  • Mean: 727.0
  • Median: 717.9
  • HoF100: -48
  • Percentile: 6.98

Honestly, I’m confused as to why Garvey is even on the ballot. He had a long and very good career, playing in 19 seasons and making 10 All-Star appearances, but the totals are underwhelming. Just 37.8 fWAR and 38.1 bWAR for a career do not add up to a Hall of Famer, nor does the fact that his best season by either of the two measures was 5.1 (bWAR in 1975). Garvey does have a significant amount in the way of awards, with 4 Gold Gloves, and MVP, and 4 other top 10 finishes. What he does not have is a high peak, topping out at 138 for a single season in both wRC+ and OPS+. A very good player, Garvey is, but a Hall of Famer, he is not.

Tommy John (P)

  • Score: 591.3
  • Mean: 710.6
  • Median: 712.0
  • HoF100: 28
  • Percentile: 23.55

Best known for his eponymous surgery, John had an incredible 26-year career of productivity. Only a 4 time All-Star, John twice finished second in Cy Young voting, once in each league. Unsurprisingly his peak came in the early years of his career, as his posted 16.2 bWAR and 14.4 RA/9 WAR from 1968-1970 while in his age 25-27 seasons. A decade later would come his second peak, putting up 21.0 fWAR in 1977-1980. Much of John’s value comes from the absurd length of his career, as well as his durability, with John averaging 222.8 IP per season from the time he was 22 until he was 41. Coupled with his consistently above-average (though rarely spectacular, with only 3 seasons with a FIP- under 80) performance, the workload helped John to 62.1 bWAR and 79.4 fWAR. Compared to Hall of Fame pitchers, however, John’s lack of a truly outstanding peak and low WAR/IP keeps him just a bit short, though his high raw Score makes me sympathetic to his case and unwilling to completely rule him out as a deserving candidate.

Don Mattingly (1B)

  • Score: 542.1
  • Mean: 727.0
  • Median: 717.9
  • HoF100: 2
  • Percentile: 16.45

In a 6-year span from 1984-1989, Mattingly slashed .327/.372/.530, with a 147 OPS+, and a bWAR/fWAR average of 5.5/5.3. In the rest of his career he averaged 0.8 bWAR per season. It is this dichotomy that makes Mattingly such a hard case to evaluate. His HoF100 and Percentile heavily suggest passing on him, as do his career WAR totals both hovering right over 40. But my humanity wants so badly to disagree. That stretch from 1984-1989 is the definition of Hall of Fame worthy. He finished in the top 7 in MVP voting 4 consecutive years, winning the award in 1985. All 6 of the seasons included an All-Star selection, while 3 merited Silver Sluggers, and 4 earned Gold Gloves. Yet the remaining 8 years of the career produced nothing. I want to say yes to Mattingly, I really do. Yet reality demands a different answer.

Marvin Miller (Executive)

Miller is a completely different beast than the others. Quite obviously he was not a player. Executive is the term listed for him on the ballots, but I don’t exactly think that does him justice. With the possible exception of Branch Rickey, Miller is the singular most important non-player in baseball since the National League began. As a refresher, what Miller accomplished was the overturning of the reserve clause, creating free agency. He also headed the MLBPA, negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement, and organized large-scale player strikes. These are clearly seismic changes in baseball’s landscape. The question at hand, however, is whether Miller belongs in the Hall of Fame. Well, allow me to compare him to other executives in Cooperstown, and see if he fits. The most recent Hall of Fame executives elected were Bud Selig and John Schuerholz, both in 2017. The aforementioned Rickey is in, of course, as are people such as Pat Gillick and Bill Veeck. Miller is certainly not out of place among these names. In my opinion he is currently the singular biggest snub from the Hall of Fame. Hopefully the voting committee remedies this soon, as having a figure with as much impact as Miller kept out of the Hall is a clear black mark on the voters now.

Thurman Munson (C)

  • Score: 583.1
  • Mean: 608.6
  • Median: 630.2
  • HoF100: 81
  • Percentile: 42.62

Maybe it was a form of the Mandela effect, but I was stunned this summer when I visited Cooperstown to find that Munson was not enshrined. There are 15 catchers in the Hall, and I was sure Munson was one of them. The totals don’t look all that impressive for him, with a Score lower than that of Tommy John. The career WARs aren’t enormous either, 46.1 according to Baseball Reference and 40.9 on FanGraphs. Put a catcher filter in your mind, however, and realize that at that position, these numbers are incredible. His first and last seasons, both partial ones, aside, Munson averaged 4.8 bWAR. The hardware makes a strong case for the former Yankee captain as well, making 7 All-Star teams in his 11 seasons, while also having an MVP, a Rookie of the Year, and 3 Gold Gloves. He owns a career 116 wRC+ and OPS+, both elite for a catcher. Of course, no discussion about Munson can be complete without noting that his career was tragically cut short due to his passing away in a plane crash. Hopefully the end of his life does not overshadow the fact that Munson is a very deserving candidate for the Hall of Fame.

Dale Murphy (CF)

  • Score: 593.9
  • Mean: 761.4
  • Median: 664.1
  • HoF100: 52
  • Percentile: 31.38

Murphy was the most difficult of all 10 candidates in deciding whether or not I thought he was deserving of induction. He gives us a less extreme version of the Mattingly case. Murphy played for 18 seasons, producing 46.5 bWAR and 44.3 fWAR, not outstanding career totals. In half of his career, a 9-season peak from 1980-1988, Murphy averaged 5.1 bWAR and 4.8 fWAR, an incredible and clearly Cooperstown worthy run. In this span he maintained a 137 OPS+ with 7 All-Star appearances, 5 Gold Gloves, and 4 Silver Sluggers. He won NL MVP in 1982 with a slash line of .281/.378/.507, then followed it up with another MVP and a .302/.393/.540 in 1983, a season which included a 151 wRC+ and 7 plus WAR no matter the source. Add in a 6-win season in 1980, consecutive 5-win seasons after the two MVPs, and a 7.7/7.1 bWAR/fWAR in 1987, and Murphy assembled quite an impressive period of dominance. The problem with Murphy’s case is that outside of his peak he produced only a singular win above replacement. I’m not exaggerating, it was 1.0 by both WARs. Unlike with Mattingly, Murphy’s peak was long enough that it makes up for his lack of productivity in the other half of his career. Unfortunately, he is compared to other center fielders, the position with the highest mean score by far, lowering his HoF100, yet his 52 and his outstanding peak make him a compelling case, one who would not quite be out of place neither in the Hall of Fame, nor with the group of players just a bit short of its ranks.

Dave Parker (RF)

  • Score: 525.8
  • Mean: 714.8
  • Median: 667.95
  • HoF100: 37
  • Percentile: 26.27

At his best, Parker was an incredible player. He just wasn’t at his best for very long. In the 5-year period from 1975-1979, Parker racked up an average of more than 6 WAR per season, including an MVP in 1978. His lowest wRC+ in that time was a 132 in 1976, a season in which he was merely a 4-win player. In the five years after this peak, however, he failed to even record 2 WAR in a single season. Parker (who I think I’m legally obligated to mention was nicknamed the “Cobra”) had something of a resurgence in 1985, finishing second in MVP voting and posting a 4.7/5.4 bWAR/fWAR season. He’d falter again after that year, never topping even 1.5 WAR in another season. Parker’s entire case rests in the 1975-1979 span during which he was 5th among all players in fWAR. He also has some support in awards, adding 3 Silver Sluggers, 3 Gold Gloves, and 7 All-Star selections (including an All-Star Game MVP) to his 1978 MVP. If Parker had done anything with the remainder of his career, he’d likely already have been inducted, but he did not, and thus should not be.

Ted Simmons (C)

  • Score: 601.4
  • Mean: 608.6
  • Median: 630.2
  • HoF100: 93
  • Percentile: 47.05

It really makes no sense that Simmons isn’t already in the Hall of Fame. With a 93, he has the highest HoF100 on this ballot, and is only a tick below the average Cooperstown catcher. In a 21-year career, Simmons produced a total of 54.2 fWAR, 11th all-time among catchers, and 50.3 bWAR. Throughout his career he posted at least 4.5 WAR on 6 different occasions, and was at or above 3.0 in 6 other years. For a catcher, 12 well above average seasons is a very strong case. In his best prolonged period, a remarkable 9-year run (1972-1980), Simmons averaged 149 games per season, a staggering number for his position. He was named to 8 All-Star teams, 6 in that span, and won a Silver Slugger in 1980. Perhaps most incredibly, he maintained a 132 OPS+ for that entire stretch, never dropping below 116 in a season. In fact in 5 of these seasons he owned a wRC+ of 130 or higher. The case against Simmons lies in defense, where he was often considered poor, despite throwing out a league average percentage of base stealers in his career. He wasn’t a very good defender, but adequate enough that the value his bat provided isn’t mitigated by his glove. It also hurts that his contemporaries included the likes of Bench, Carter, and Fisk, all of whom are considered among the top half dozen or so catchers in history. The memory of Simmon’s greatest is obscured when compared to these greats, but this does not meant that he himself is unworthy of standing beside them (Bench and Fisk at least) once again, this time on the stage during Induction Day.

Lou Whitaker (2B)

  • Score: 673.1
  • Mean: 710.7
  • Median: 699.15
  • HoF100: 90
  • Percentile: 46.18

Look at that score. Look at the HoF100. Whitaker not already being in the Hall of Fame is absurd. Clearly the best player on this ballot, there is really no argument against him. If you want great seasons, he reached 5.0 bWAR 4 times (3 times by fWAR). Longevity? He averaged 138 games played for a 16-year span. Consistency? He had just one full season with less than 3.0 WAR. I could go on extolling the virtues of Whitaker’s career totals (75.1 bWAR, 68.1 fWAR) or making a case with his awards (a Rookie of the Year, 5 All-Star selections, 4 Silver Sluggers, and 3 Gold Gloves), but I won’t. I don’t need to. The case for Whitaker is clear. I only hope the voting committee can see this.

My Ballot

As I mentioned at the onset of this article, the voting committee can only list a maximum of 4 names on their ballots. I will be holding myself to this restriction as well, though I certainly do not wish to. Without further ado, my four votes would go to:

  1. Marvin Miller
  2. Lou Whitaker
  3. Ted Simmons
  4. Dwight Evans

Narrowing the field down to 4 was a difficult task, especially in deciding between Evans and Munson for the final spot. The first 3 seemed very clear, as the cases of Whitaker and Simmons qualify them easily worthy of enshrinement, and Miller is a must-vote. Evans (84) and Munson (81) are nearly identical in terms of HoF100, leading to some agonizing from me over the final spot. Ultimately I chose Evans, preferring the candidate with a slightly lower, but still impressive, peak and a long career of productivity to the one who (through tragic circumstances) has an argument based only on peak. Additionally, this is a bit of a strategic move, as I view Munson as more likely to be considered by the committee again should he fall short of induction this year than Evans. With a fifth vote I would definitely include Munson. That would be it for me, however, if the vote were a simple yes/no to each candidate. I see Murphy as having a strong argument, but one weaker than or comparable to those of people like César Cedeño, Bernie Williams, and Andrew McCutchen. I could be persuaded otherwise, but for now I’m a no on Murphy. Parker, Mattingly, and Garvey are candidates I would not even consider (unfortunately, in Mattingly’s case), and John seems like a firm no as well, though I’d appreciate him staying on the ballot so his candidacy can be given more thought. Hopefully the voting committee sees things similarly, and elects at least a subset of the 5 pretty obviously deserving candidates.

Join the Conversation

4 Comments

  1. Yes Marvin Miller should be a part of The HOF. He is responsible for free agency. His work laid the foundation for free agency in all major sports.

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