BBWAA Watchdog is dedicated to exploring the voting records of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Their general secrecy about their members, their refusal to open their ranks to journalists outside of the print media, and, primarily, their awful voting history for baseball's highest awards, demand that their collective words and deeds be documented and critically examined.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Case Study - Phil Rogers

It’s a bit hard to come by BBWAA members who are writing up their Hall of Fame thoughts this time of year, so please pardon the delay in getting another case study written up. I’ve resorted to digging up articles on past votes for this one.

Phil Rogers, the national baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune, is today’s example of BBWAA logic. A couple of years ago, he wrote a very nice column in support of Andre Dawson’s Hall of Fame case for ESPN. Last year, he lent his views on the ballot to ESPN again, checking off the following names:

Tony Gwynn
Cal Ripken
Goose Gossage
Andre Dawson
Jim Rice
Jack Morris
Bert Blyleven
Alan Trammell
Harold Baines

Now, under normal circumstances, I would be loathe to criticize any voter who threw his support toward Gossage, Rice, Blyleven and Trammell, four guys who I think are clearly deserving of election but have been under-supported for years. But there’s something screwy about Rogers’ ballot that simply cries out for criticism, so here goes.

First let’s deal with Dawson. I have personally stated in the past that I would vote for Andre Dawson, not because he’s terribly qualified for the Hall of Fame under ideal conditions, but because a series of hideously bad selections in the past have left Dawson in the position of being better than nearly half of the right fielder who currently carry the label “Hall of Famer”. Note the following career WARP3 scores:

Andre Dawson – 108.8
Tommy McCarthy – 33.8
Elmer Flick – 92.3
Sam Rice – 83.2
Kiki Cuyler – 86.5
Harry Hooper – 93.0
Ross Youngs – 59.1
Sam Thompson – 94.6
Chuck Klein – 79.0
Enos Slaughter – 104.2

That’s nine, count ‘em, nine Hall of Fame right fielders who had lesser careers than Andre Dawson, so I’m not at all opposed to voting for him. That said, I hard a hard time with anyone who voted for Dawson but then didn’t vote for
Dave Parker. While it’s true that Parker’s WARP3 score falls far short of Dawson’s (85.8), it’s still right in there with the Kiki Cuylers and Sam Rices of the baseball world. More importantly, since Rogers and most other writers could care less about such new-fangled stats as WARP, is the fact that Parker fares very nicely against Dawson when the traditional numbers are compared. Here are their respective 162-game averages:

At-Bats – Parker, 615; Dawson, 612
Runs – Parker, 84; Dawson, 85
Hits – Parker, 178; Dawson, 171
Doubles – Parker, 35; Dawson, 31
Triples – Parker, 5; Dawson, 6
Home Runs – Parker, 22; Dawson, 27
RBI – Parker, 98; Dawson, 98
Steals – Parker, 10; Dawson, 19
Walks – Parker, 45; Dawson, 36
Strikeouts – Parker, 101; Dawson, 93
Batting Average – Parker, .290; Dawson, .279
On-Base Percentage – Parker, .339; Dawson, .323
Slugging Percentage – Parker, .471; Dawson, .482
OPS+ - Parker, 121; Dawson, 119

Umm, aren’t these guys pretty close? Granted, Dawson was a far superior defender, and he obviously has all of the character points in his favor in this debate, but it’s a much closer argument than you’d think. I have personally waffled back and forth on both guys, and I usually come to the conclusion that Dawson gets a sympathy vote due to all of the crappy right fielder already in the Hall, while Parker’s coke habit prevents him from being granted the same courtesy, but minus that factor I would vote the same for each. It would be nice if someone in Rogers’ position would take the time to explain why he voted for Dawson but not Parker. You know, maybe put in a little bit of effort. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

This is particularly true when the voter in question handed in a ballot that included a vote for
Harold Baines. Using Parker as the foil again, the Baines vote looks like nothing but a blatant case of a hometown writer throwing a guy a bone.

Here are the 162-game averages again:

At-Bats – Parker, 615; Baines, 567
Runs – Parker, 84; Baines, 74
Hits – Parker, 178; Baines, 164
Doubles – Parker, 35; Baines, 28
Triples – Parker, 5; Baines, 3
Home Runs – Parker, 22; Baines, 22
RBI – Parker, 98; Baines, 93
Steals – Parker, 10; Baines, 2
Walks – Parker, 45; Baines, 61
Strikeouts – Parker, 101; Baines, 82
Batting Average – Parker, .290; Baines, .289
On-Base Percentage – Parker, .339; Baines, .356
Slugging Percentage – Parker, .471; Baines, .465
OPS+ - Parker, 121; Baines, 120

Sorry Phil, but on a day-by-day basis, Dave Parker was just a better player than Harold Baines, and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Baines was an absolute defensive nightmare for the vast majority of his career while Parker was a Gold Glover for a while. (Well, I guess I just did.) Sure, Baines wins the character battle again, but by enough to qualify for the Hall of Fame when a clearly better player, Parker, doesn’t make Rogers’ personal cut list? I don’t see it.

Even if you think Parker is a bad example, which he is to a degree, then consider Rogers’ omission of
Dale Murphy. Again, these are 162-game averages:

At-Bats – Murphy, 592; Baines, 567
Runs – Murphy, 89; Baines, 74
Hits – Murphy, 157; Baines, 164
Doubles – Murphy, 26; Baines, 28
Triples – Murphy, 3; Baines, 3
Home Runs – Murphy, 30; Baines, 22
RBI – Murphy, 94; Baines, 93
Steals – Murphy, 12; Baines, 2
Walks – Murphy, 73; Baines, 61
Strikeouts – Murphy, 130; Baines, 82
Batting Average – Murphy, .265; Baines, .289
On-Base Percentage – Murphy, .346; Baines, .356
Slugging Percentage – Murphy, .469; Baines, .465
OPS+ - Murphy, 121; Baines, 120

Now throw in Murphy Gold Glove defense at a prime defensive position, his back-to-back MVP awards (by the way, Baines’ top finish in the MVP voting was 9th in 1985), and his legendary stellar character and it’s pretty clear that Dale Murphy was a much better baseball player than Harold Baines. The only thing he lacked was longevity, but had he gone the DH route like Baines, who’s to say Murphy couldn’t have played just as long as Baines did?

So why do Andre Dawson and Harold Baines appear on Phil Rogers’ Hall of Fame ballot while Dave Parker and Dale Murphy do not? Easy, Dawson and Baines played huge chunks of their careers in Chicago, and that’s Phil Rogers’ town. He’s out beating the drum for their admission to the Hall of Fame for the simple fact that he knows them, he likes them, he saw them play a lot, and therefore he’s decided they should be in Cooperstown despite the fact that he passed over extremely similar players on the same ballot.

Well, if Rogers is voting for these guys out of sheer familiarity and nothing more, hasn’t he just hung an enormous “I’m not objective” sign around his neck? And, if so, isn’t he a walking, talking example of why the baseball writers shouldn’t be voting in the first place?


Anonymous said...

Dude, Rogers spent most of the 80s and 90s in Dallas, where he went to college. He's not biased, he's clueless.

Paul White said...

Thanks for the info. The bias factor is still valid, in my opinion, because Rogers covered Baines for two years when Baines was with the Rangers and is acquainted with him again for the past few yers now that Baines is a coach for the White Sox. Plus, with a decade in Chicago under his belt, Rogers has to pander to a readership that largely loves both Dawson and Baines.

That said, the fact that he's clueless is well-taken.