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Chat Excerpt: Boswell on Hall of Fame

From this morning's live Q&A with Thomas Boswell:

Hall of Fame: Tom, what did you think about the results of the Hall of Fame voting?

Tom Boswell: If ex-Expo Andre Dawson belongs in the Hall, then Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn should be cheering this morning because that means, if they play out long full careers, they'll be in Cooperstown, too.

Which makes you wonder if The Hawk really belongs.

I enjoyed him. I'm happy for him. But if I still voted, I wouldn't have voted for him. His career is identical to Dwight Evans. Both had eight Gold Gloves in the outfield. They played the same years. Dawson had 2,882 RBI-plus-runs in 2627 games; Evans had 2,854 in 2606 games. But Evans was a key player on top Red Sox teams, Dawson played for losers. (Not his fault.) Both drove in 100 runs four times. Dawson stole over 300 bases, but Evans had vastly more walks and a better OPS .840 to Dawson's mere .806.

To Dawson's credit, his offensive numbers were almost identical to Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Tony Perez and neither of them had any gold gloves or significant steals.
Dawson's line is .279-.323-.482-.806. Zimmerman, who just turned 25, is .284-.347-.478-.825. And, after a break out season, Zimmerman's numbers will probably get better. If he plays until he's 38, he'll have Dawson numbers -- or better -- across the board and, after his first Gold Glove this season in '09, will probably have a pile of defensive awards.

Just saying, every time a marginal candidate like Dawson makes it, the door gets cracked open wider for others.

The Hall vote also underlines why Dunn should care so much about becoming an adequate first baseman. If he does, it may put him in Cooperstown in 20 years. The rule of thumb for decades has been to double a star player's stats on his 30th birthday if you want to know where he will end his career statistically. It doesn't always work. But it does most of the time. By that measure, Dunn, who turned 30 after the '09 season, would end up with 632 homers, 3,114 RBI-plus-runs, a .903 OPS and 1,826 walks (in the top four ever). There is no way a player with those numbers -- if he has a half-decent defensive position -- does not get into the Hall.

Of course, that means Dunn has to stay in shape for many years, hard for a huge dude. But he's been very durable his whole career. Anyway, if he needs motivation to hit the gym or take another 1,000 balls off the bat at first base, this Hall vote ought to provide it.

Two other points: Alomar missed by a few votes because of the spitting incident. Otherwise, he's instant first-ballot Hall of Fame. Good, that's a fitting punishment. He'll make it next year and shouldn't have to wait any longer.

The push for Blyleven, who only missed Cooperstown by five votes, drives me crazy. I followed his whole career. His reputation was that, more than any other top stuff pitcher of his era, he would find a way to lose or not to win. He's just not a Hall of Famer in my book. His high career strikeout total means nothing. It's a flashy stat but it's no different than getting a routine pop up.

Blyleven only won 20 games one time and more than 17 only twice! And he pitched in the era when top starters got 4-5 more starts a year and winning 20 games was easier. Blyleven had nine seasons with 36-to-40 starts and averaged 38 in those years. When manager Chuck Tanner got him in Pittsburgh the word went around that Chuck had decided, over Blyleven's protestations, to take him out of late-and-close games because he'd never had the stomach for it. "Take him out before he can lose." Tanner never said it in public. But Blyleven's winning percentage got better.

I'll concede that I'm tougher than most on Hall of Fame voting. Maybe too tough. I remember sitting on a national TV set -- three feet from Don Drysdale -- explaining why big bad Don shouldn't have been voted into the Hall of Fame that day! I think Charlie Gibson got me into that pickle.

By Alexa Steele  |  January 7, 2010; 3:18 PM ET
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Next: Monday grab-bag: Chapman, Dawson, Coghlan


Man Boz, you are a tough customer. The fact that Chuck Tanner figured out that late inning releif guys might have a big role (Kent Tekulve) for a club is not Burt's fault.

I wonder if you voted for Nolan Ryan? I mean he did not have a dominant won-loss record, ALL of those K's might just as well have been pop-ups too and the No-No's are just a few complete games without hits, a W is a W, right?

Blyleven's march to Cooperstown drives you crazy? Wow. The guy pitched a gazillion innings of 3.31 ERA ball, won at least 15 games 10 times, SIXTY career shut-outs, 242 complete games. 5-1 with an ERA under 3.00 in 6 post season starts.

If Nolan Ryan (only 8 seasons with 15 or more W's, winning percentage is considerably lower, 2-2 post season -- only 1 post season game start W, and who carries some imfamous stats like most BB's and WP all time) is in on the first ballot -- then Burt should be in.

And note that I did not even venture into speculation that Ryan may have juiced. He did manage to be a power pitcher until he was 46 (maybe there is something in that Texas water as Roger Clemens had similar amazing power and longevity skills too!), to lead the AL in K's when he was 42 (with Kevin Brown, Raffi, Ruben Sierra, Julio Franco, a young Sammy Sosa, Pete Incaviglia among other questionable dudes on his club). Did not even mention that.

Give Blyleven a break.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 7, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, wrong. For his entire career, Nolan Ryan's DEFINING trait was his incredible inconsistency. He was either great or awful and in almost equal measures. His career record is 324-292 because that is what it should be.

In '76-through-'79, when I watched him constantly, he was 62-61. And that's just what he should have been. He had 38 starts in which he gave up one or zero runs. Wow! What a great picther! He also had 56 starts in which he gave up four-or-more runs and had a hideous ERA too high to bother computing since it included so many 5-to-9 run games that nobody ever wins very often. And he also had 27 nondescript starts were he gave up three runs. That's nothing special. So, 38 times, he was brilliant. That's what people choose to remember because it is more fun, more romantic. But 83 times he either stunk or was mediocre. And it happened every year. That's what OTHER TEAMS remembered. And that's why they always kept after him. "We'll get him." He'd lose his control, his mechanics for one of two or three innings, he'd walk two or three and get in a jam and "boom" somebody would light him up. And, when his masterpiece was spoiuled, he had some "quitter" in him, too. You could see him droop. It happened over and over and over. It was so predictable you could hardly believe it. The truth is that he was a slightly above .500 pitcher who couldn't master his own art or consistently control his own abilities, even at the end of his career. So was Blyleven. The same consistent inconsistency. But at his best, Ryan was amazing. However, that is NOT how baseball measures performance. The standing are computed on W-L record. And consistency, over a 162-game season, is enormously important. It's not a value judgment. It's the nature of the game.

From '76-'79, when Ryan was striking out over 300 a a year, he averaged 14 starts a year in which he gave up 4-or-more runs. That's typical of his whole career. In half his starts, he might as well have worn "Please beat me" on his jersey. From '93 through '98, six seasons, Greg Maddox gave up four-or-more runs an average of SIX times a season. About HALF as often. That is the difference between a great and consistent pitcher in his prime and an inconsistent over-rated pitcher in his prime.

Posted by: Thomas_Boswell | January 8, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

I cannot argue with any of that Boz. I presume from the "sorry wrong" language at the top that you did not vote for Ryan for the Hall.

While I agree with literally everything you typed, neither you nor I or the standard bearers for the HOF. If Ryan was a dead-bolt lock, without question First Ballott HOF player, then Blyleven should also be in.

Entry standards to Cooperstown are not slipping; the horse is out of the barn, they have done slipped.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 8, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Since the Post forbids its qualified members of the BBWA from casting HoF ballots, doesn't that put them in the same category as the voters who submitted empty ballots? Those empty ballot guys are currently the scorn of the cognoscenti and geeks of the HoF universe. Should not that scorn be extended to Boswell, Sheinin and other Post staffers who are not voting their ballots?

You know, I bet the Moonies let their guys cast ballots before they canned them. What's with the high horse the Post is placing itself on?

Posted by: JennEric1 | January 8, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

JennEric, as I understand it, the logic behind the Post not allowing the sportswriters to vote on awards is a matter of conflict of interest. It's not unusual for player contracts to have incentives based on Gold Gloves and similar awards. They're trying to avoid a situation where the appearance of a quid-pro-quo might compromise the reporter's work, so they don't ever vote on anything, period, full stop. Not everyone agrees, obviously, but that is the policy.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 10, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

and IIUC, the voting is based on ballots cast, not all possible ballots distributed, so no, it's not the same as submitting an empty ballot.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 10, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

"Blyleven only won 20 games one time and more than 17 only twice!"

Good grief, I didn't realize Boswell was still one of the dinosaurs. I thought, from his long-delayed recent discovery of OPS, that maybe he had read something new during the past decade. Alas, he's still touting runs and RBI (which are so highly dependent on who's hitting around you as to be rendered laughable), and then... this ugly smudge, above.

Tommy boy, how to explain this to you... pitchers don't "win" games. TEAMS win games. There are (don't faint) nine guys out there. I know the guy on the hill has been getting credit (or blame) for what the other eight guys do ever since the century when "bleeding" was still the recommended treatment for all manner of illnesses, but that doesn't mean that you are honor-bound to perpetuate the idiocy.


And strikeouts, there is something worth mentioning. I used to think it was an overrated stat that was, as in Crash Davis' words, fascist. Not so, it turns out. Although it is "just an out" in terms of how much it does help sort out the lucky outs (and benefits/damage from good/bad defense) from real pitching skill. They are a valuable indicator of what the pitcher has done, again as opposed to what the other 8 guys did.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 11, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Good God, I didn't even see this one...

Thomas_Boswell wrote:

"For his entire career, Nolan Ryan's DEFINING trait was his incredible inconsistency. He was either great or awful and in almost equal measures. His career record is 324-292 because that is what it should be."

Yeah, I guess he must have been especially "inconsistent" in 1987, when his record was an atrocious 8-16, right? He "lost" twice as often as he "won", so he must not have done his job as pitcher, right? I mean, "wins" are a real stat, right? They have nothing to do with the team you're on, do they? I mean, your team doesn't have to score runs for you to win, or play defense behind you, do they? It all happens on the mound, according to you dinosaur writers.

Oh wait... Nolan Ryan actually LED the NL in ERA that year, Bozzo. HE WAS THE BEST PITCHER IN THE LEAGUE THAT YEAR. Do you get it yet?

WINS. ARE. A. GARBAGE. STAT. Please cease referring to them in serious discussions.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 11, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

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