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Brian Kenny’s hypothetical Hall of Fame ballot is… interesting

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Brian Kenny is not an official Baseball Hall of Fame voter. If he did have a vote, however, it’d go a little something like this:

In the interest of full disclosure: I do not give a hoot about the Hall of Fame. I lost interest in the whole thing years ago when baseball opinionmakers bestowed upon themselves the job of being the moral vanguards of the game. But as Kenny is a self-described fan of analytics, bringing logic and reason to the mainstream where it has long been absent, I was shocked by some of his inclusions and omissions and felt they were worth discussing. I’ll be making Sabermetric-heavy arguments since that’s the language he speaks.

Firstly: Fred McGriff? And no Jeff Bagwell?

PA ISO wOBA fWAR
Bagwell 9431 .244 .405 80.3
McGriff 10174 .225 .383 57.2

Even if you use Baseball Reference’s version of WAR rather than FanGraphs’, McGriff still loses 52.6 to 79.5. Aside from being a much better hitter, Bagwell was capable of swiping bags as he had ten double-digit stolen base seasons in his 15-year career and stole a total of 202 bags in 280 chances (72 percent) over his career. McGriff stole 72 in 110 chances (65 percent) over 19 years. Bagwell, for the most part, was an above-average defender for most of his career while McGriff was a below-average defender.

McGriff didn’t have much of a peak, so the peak-vs.-longevity argument doesn’t mean anything in this debate. McGriff posted his highest fWAR, 6.6, in 1988, his first full season in the big leagues. In the six seasons that followed, he typically hovered between 3.6 and 6.4. Bagwell peaked at 7.8 twice, in 1994 and in 1999.

Furthermore, if one was to rank Hall of Fame first basemen by rWAR, McGriff would rank 10th out of 16, behind Tony Perez at 54.1. Five of the seven behind him played in the Dead Ball Era. Bagwell, meanwhile, would rank third behind only Lou Gehrig and Johnny Mize.

Secondly: Where is Mike Piazza? Piazza is the greatest-hitting catcher to ever play the game. His 427 career home runs exceed the 389 of Johnny Bench for the all-time record among catchers. Piazza retired with a .390 wOBA (Bench? .362). His 59.2 career rWAR would rank fifth among 14 Hall of Fame catchers, just narrowly behind Yogi Berra at 59.3 and still trailing Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and Bench.

Thirdly: Where are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens? Kenny explains he won’t vote for players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. But for someone who fancies himself a proponent of evidence-based analysis, one would think he would apply that here, too. There are plenty of rumors with Bonds, but he only ever failed a drug test for amphetamines. You know who else used amphetamines? Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Mike Schmidt among others. Clemens never failed a drug test.

That being said, there are a couple inclusions that I did like. Kenny made sure to make room for Mike Mussina, who will likely be the most underrated pitcher to appear on any ballot during his 15-year period of eligibility. Kenny also cast a ballot for Alan Trammell, whose support had wavered between 13 and 24 percent before jumping to 37 and 34 percent over the last two years. Trammell’s 70.3 career rWAR would rank seventh among 20 Hall of Fame shortstops, tied with the recently-inducted Barry Larkin.

It’s a tough ballot and no one’s going to nominate ten players that won’t aggravate some large swath of baseball fans for inclusions and omissions. But it was just interesting to see Kenny break from the general consensus of the camp to which he himself subscribes. Interesting discussion for sure.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.