Quick and Dirty Guide to the Hall of Fame Ballot Part II: Todd Jones to Rafael Palmeiro

Capsule comments on each of the players whose fates will be revealed in January -- with derision reserved for the steroids-obsessed puritans of the BBWAA -- and so long already, Jack Morris.

Todd Jones: A two-time 40 saves guy but generally mediocre by closer standards; temporarily subsided into middle relief in his early 30s due to a sustained bout of ineffectiveness that saw him post a 4.99 ERA over a four-year span.

Jeff Kent: An oddity, a middle infielder who at his best hit more like a first baseman. He wasn't a great defender, but he hit so well that it didn't matter (see the Pirates' George "Boots" Grantham for a kind of antecedent). Due to hitting behind Barry Bonds, he had the most 100-RBI seasons (eight) of any second baseman. He's also the career home run leader at second and one of two players at his position to finish with a slugging percentage of .500, the other being Rogers Hornsby. Unless you're really disturbed by his fibbing about breaking his wrist or think he should be penalized for not shouting "J'accuse!" at Bonds after each home run, there is no argument for not giving him a vote.

Paul Lo Duca: A Mitchell Report guy, and exactly the kind of guy for whom being there made sense. He was a 25th-round draft pick, a fringe talent, who needed the help to play his way into a career and the big money that comes with it. The irony is that as a catcher who could hit for average, he probably would have had something of a career regardless. He played in all or part of 11 major league seasons, just over the Hall of Fame's 10-season cut-off, and was a regular for seven. He has no business being on the ballot except maybe as a way of pointing out how many good catchers remain outside the Hall -- seeing Lo Duca might inspire someone to rethink Gene Tenace, Ted Simmons, Bill Freehan or, in 2017, Jorge Posada.

Lo_duca_medium Paul Lo Duca (Getty Images)

Greg Maddux: In 1992, Tom Seaver was elected with 98.8 percent of the ballots cast. If there is any justice in the world, Maddux will hit 100 percent. He's on the short list for the greatest pitcher of all time, although like fellow NL right hander Pete Alexander, a good comp inasmuch as a pitcher who predated him by most of a century can be, he did it as much with guile and command as raw stuff -- not that it matters -- it's results alone that count.

Edgar Martinez: Here's another thing, O BBWAA: Being a designated hitter makes a player more valuable, not less so. Were the DH never to have existed, players like Martinez and David Ortiz wouldn't have simply ceased to exist -- teams don't forgo hitters of that ability just because they're poor fielders or (in the case of Martinez or Paul Molitor) they have a tendency towards fragility. They would have been forced onto the field and their teams would simply have taken the defensive hit, just as the Red Sox do with Ortiz during interleague games and just as countless teams have done with other weak defenders in the years since the DH came into existence. Did the Phillies look at Ryan Howard's 40-plus home runs and miserable glove and trade him to an AL team? Nope -- they signed him to a 10,000-year extension. What the DH allows teams who have a Howard type to get the most out of him without paying a tax on his production in the form of runs given back when in the field, which is to say get the most value out of him -- exactly what teams are supposed to do. Once you dispense with that specious argument, you're left with one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time.

Also_edgar_martinez_medium Edgar Martinez (Getty Images)

Don Mattingly: You know the story. He had the ability of a Hall of Famer and several seasons during which he played up to that level, but due to a combination of physical and family problems his career had no back end. He'd be far from the worst Hall of Famer if elected, but what seems more likely is that he wins a World Series with the Dodgers and can be elected as a hybrid candidate along the lines of Red Schoendienst.

Fred McGriff: Very solid for a very long time without anyone ever thinking he was the best player in his league. Given his 493 home runs, he's probably the player most injured by the 1994-1995 labor foolishness, and it seems silly to penalize him on that basis -- had the games been played, he would have had one of those aforementioned big round numbers that the voters can substitute for critical thinking. It's fascinating that the weak logic of the steroids obsessives doesn't bring him more support. After all, he could almost be billed as the Last Clean Home Run Hitter. You'd think that label would be attractive to the simple-minded.

Mark McGwire: People like to quote the first line of A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," and that seems concise and profound. If you read the actual book, you find out that Charles Dickens took the idea and drove it into the ground: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." It's a good book, quick reading by Dickens standards, but Good Grief, Charlie, quit while you're ahead. Similarly, we had Mark McGwire, a big, strong guy whose main baseball skill was that when he made contact with the baseball it went an awful long way. To that skill Major League Baseball added expansion, shrinking ballparks, an attenuated strike zone, and a tighter baseball. For his part, McGwire added weight training and Androstenedione, a chemical supplement then legal in baseball. Add up all of the above and you got up to 70 home runs a year, and everyone loved it. They said it made baseball fun again. That we now pillory McGwire for the same accomplishments, though only the faux-omniscient can claim to know what percentage of that increase was on the magic powder and what was due to environmental factors and McGwire himself, seems the height of hypocrisy. It was the best of times. Now, retroactively, it was the worst of times. We too should have quit while we were ahead.

Mark_mcgwire_medium Mark McGwire (Getty Images)

Jack Morris: His last year on the ballot, and hallelujah. In considering how to approach what must be the 10-millionth thing to be written regarding Morris's suitability for the Hall, I thought back to some of the great battles of history. It seems to me that when you're in the midst of a battle, it must often be very hard to tell which side is winning and which is losing. Running through the mud with a rifle is not the same as being a book-reader with a map who can see all the movements from the air. Say you were a Confederate at Gettysburg who had participated in some segment of that battle where the South did very well, say in routing Dan Sickels' men from the Peach Orchard, and then suffered a blow on the head and missed the rest of the battle. You might very well wake up and be shocked to learn that your side had lost. You might even refuse to believe it. At that point, you would be presented with the evidence: "Look, Bob, we know how you feel, but consider the following: First, all of your friends are dead. Second, you are presently in the back of a wagon with a bunch of one-legged guys and that wagon is pointed south. I ask you, Bob, if we had won, would the wagon be pointed south?" If at that point you refused to accept the truth, no doubt they would have referred you for whatever the Civil War equivalent of a psychiatric consult was.

Morris-love works the same kind of denial on its adherents. If all you had seen of Don Larsen was his perfect game, if the only thing you knew of Roger Maris was 1961, if your only experience of Jack Morris was the 1991 World Series, then it would be excusable for you to think that any of those gentlemen were Hall of Famers. It's only when the whole record is placed before you and you see that it's just sort of okay, very good perhaps but not great; when you are told that the idea that Morris pitched to the score had been debunked ten times over (as if any pitcher would consistently damage his own record); when you are pointed to a dozen pitchers that were better and still you insist that you know better, well, the softest thing we could call that would be "denial." Truly, though, insisting on your own version of reality in the face of the facts is not denial, it's insanity.

One other thing. I know you've seen this before, but humor me:

Pitcher of the 1980s?

Name

GS

W

L

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

ERA+

RS

Pitcher A

331

140

109

2328.2

2019

825

1380

3.32

126

4.3

Pitcher B

332

162

119

2443.2

2212

858

1629

3.66

109

4.8

In case it's not obvious, the last column is run support. Pitcher B is Jack Morris. Pitcher A is Dave Stieb, the best pitcher of that arbitrarily-selected span known as the 1980s. We could also repeat the exercise this way:

Pitcher of the 1980s? Revisited

Name

GS

W

L

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

ERA+

RS

Pitcher A

288

123

103

2078.1

1984

557

1480

3.64

113

4.4

Pitcher B

332

162

119

2443.2

2212

858

1629

3.66

109

4.8

This time Pitcher A is Bert Blyleven.

Jack_morris_medium Okay, okay, actual Jack Morris this time. (Getty Images)

Mike Mussina: If we're going to continue to have Hall of Fame pitchers, we're going to have to rethink the traditional statistical markers. With just one 20-win season and a couple of 19s on his resume and "just" 270 career wins, Mussina didn't hit the numbers that for too long meant automatic enshrinement. What he did do is prevent runs at a time of exploding offense. He ranks 15th among postwar pitchers in terms of park- and league-adjusted ERA, he and Juan Marichal (with whom he is tied) nestled comfortably between Tim Hudson (who will likely drop beneath them before he is finished) and Dave Stieb. Voters have so far failed to respond to pitchers like David Cone who had careers that were statistically indistinguishable from that of Juan Marichal and Don Drysdale but for the fact that he won fewer games. Mussina should be treated better, but it might take awhile, not to mention a generational change in the voters, before he makes his way in.

Hideo Nomo: A lot of fun until hitters learned to lay off those pitches in the dirt. Historically important because he pulled the cork out of the Japanese talent pipleline that had been stopped up since Masanori Murakami in the mid-1960s, but not a Hall of Famer.

Rafael Palmeiro: Wagging your finger at Congress about PEDs and then getting caught taking them is at least a seven out of 10 on the hubris scale. Palmeiro has never offered an explanation for all of that, which means that hypocritical finger is basically our last look at him. Even though I doubt the efficacy of so-called PEDs, I find it difficult to get past that. That said, Jim Frey and Don Zimmer, the then-general manager and manager of the Cubs (respectively), still deserve to be mocked for the December 1988 deal that sent Palmeiro and Jamie Moyer to the Rangers for a pile of players that boiled down to Mitch Williams -- it's the rare deal in which a team forgoes approximately 2,800 hits, 500 home runs, and 250 wins in return for 148 innings of relief work. Palmeiro was a solid player for a very long time while rarely rising to the level of the best players in his league. While neither his 3,000 hits nor his 500 home runs should entitle him to automatic consideration, his achievement of both suggests his high level of consistency -- only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray got there before him.

Rafael_palmeiro_medium Mr. Palmeiro goes to Washington. (Getty Images)

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