This Is Why No One Respects You, Hall of Fame

(This isn’t about the Dodgers. It’s a slow week.)

As you’ve no doubt noticed, Hall of Fame voting has grown increasingly contentious in recent years, as an aging electorate, some of whom haven’t covered the sport in years, continues to distinguish themselves only through continued ignorance and embarrassment. If they’re not trying to cling to arcane stats for pitchers, they’re pretending that they have supreme moral authority (and total knowledge) over the steroid era, or waiting one year too long to induct a deserving Ron Santo decades after his last plate appearance, or bringing down the overall quality of the Hall by inducting a completely undeserving Jim Rice (not even the best player in his own outfield), or most recently & egregiously of all, defending an accused child molester in a completely tone-deaf fashion.

Every year, it gets worse, and the inherent conflict of interest in allowing the writers to vote makes the entire institution seem like a complete joke. I’ll grant, of course, that there’s always going to be disagreement. That’s half the fun of this time of the year, and there should be disagreement and argument, at least when they’re based on facts. But then you get the mental gymnastics required to put in a ballot like the one that USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale submitted this year

Sent Hall of Fame ballot in mail today: Larkin,Palmeiro,McGriff,Morris,Trammell

…and it makes your head hurt. Larkin is absolutely deserving and Trammell is defensible; I don’t want to have the Morris argument again. But you’ll notice that he has two first basemen… and neither of them are Jeff Bagwell. My first thought was, “wait, are you really keeping Bagwell out because of a pie-in-the-sky guess that he was a steroid user while actually voting for the busted Rafael Palmeiro?” As it turns out, no; Nightengale says that he would vote for a suspected PED user. His objection to Bagwell is more due to his on-the-field play.

Palmeiro’s numbers across board are much greater than Bagwell’s.

…ookay. It’s clear that Nightengale is only looking at home runs and (completely meaningless) RBIs, since that’s about the only areas where Palmeiro comes out ahead. It’s certainly not in slash lines:

Bagwell: .297/.408/.540 (.948)
McGriff: .284/.377/.509 (.886)
Palmeiro: .288/.371/.515 (.885)

Or advanced offensive stats:

Bagwell: .406 wOBA
McGriff: .382 wOBA
Palmeiro .380 wOBA

Or WAR, thanks to Bagwell’s superior defense, and let’s show that in a nice WAR graph from FanGraphs:

As Bill from The Platoon Advantage put it,

To match Raffy’s career #s Bags would have to find a way to hit .264/.235/.439 in 6.5 more seasons, somehow dropping 89 BB/HBP

So really, the only thing at all Palmeiro was better in – besides, you know, for lying to Congress – was collecting more homers. Except what Nightengale seems to be forgetting is that A) Palmeiro had nearly 4,000 more plate appearances than Bagwell did to accumulate them, and B) Bagwell spent the first decade of his career hitting in the cavernous AstroDome, a pitcher’s park nearly on par with PetCo Park.

So sure, Palmeiro’s a better candidate, if you stick your fingers in your eyes and ignore just about all of the facts. And people wonder why the Hall of Fame has lost a lot of its luster?

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