Hall of Fame fashion - who's cap is he wearing?
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What team should these multi-team 60+ WAR players represent?

This is my response to TangoTiger's January 24, 2014 blog entry:

The cap a player wears in the Hall of Fame is a choice that should not be left up to the player. He might just not like the relationship he had with the team where he generated most of his fame and unscrupulously decide to wear the cap of another team just to spite them. Even worse, he might accept bribes from one team or another.

In his article, Tom Tango lists the more modern players with 60 WAR-r who had a significant portion of their careers with multiple teams. Here are my thoughts on those players: 

Barry Bonds did establish himself as Hall of Fame bound with the Pirates. In each of his last three seasons with Pittsburgh, Bonds fielded Gold Gloves and batted the top OPS. He won two MVP awards and many felt he earned the other. However, that was only a fraction of Bonds’ fame and achievements. Bonds kept that pace up for the next 8 seasons, then turned it up a few more notches and produced four of the greatest seasons in history from age 36 to 39. Ignoring the steroids allegations, etc. this blows away David S’s theory of the cap should go where a player became as a “Future Hall of Famer”. Clearly the scale tips heavily to San Francisco for Bonds.

Although, Ricky Henderson had a three and a half year stint with the Yankees during his prime, a half year and a championship with Toronto, a division title with San Diego, and his final outstanding year as a 40 year old Met, Henderson’s racked up most of his Hall of Fame credentials during his 13 years over four stints with Oakland - including his MVP year, his runner-up MVP year, his single season record breaking stolen base year, and his Bash Brothers World Championship year topped by a post season in which he was unstoppable.

Alex Rodriguez has produced far more WAR-r with New York than either Seattle or Texas. I wonder if his Biogenesis relationship is such a big turn-off, that most folks would prefer to see him there in a Mariners cap than be reminded of this ugliness in a Yankees cap. A-Rod generated 38.5 WAR-r in Seattle, but he was only there for five full seasons. He reached his plateau of greatness in his last year there. Going by David S’s standard, there was already talk of Hall of Fame for Rodriguez by then. A-Rod continued his peak in Texas all three years, producing an astounding WAR-r total of 25.6. Then suddenly as the current Gold Glove winner, his career as a shortstop was over. Since then he’s produced 52.3 as a Yankee thirdbaseman over 10 years after 64.1 in his 8 year total as a shortstop. Put the shortstop A-Rod in the Hall of Fame, please. Seattle developed him, while Texas traded him, so make him a Mariner.

Joe Morgan’s case isn't so close: by all measures it should be Cincinnati.

Reggie Jackson was better and had more years with A’s. His Yankees’ post seasons were more memorable, but he did quite well during his five post seasons and three championships with Oakland. That’s enough not to be shouted down by a 3 homer World Series game.

As noted, Rafael Palmeiro’s greatness is heavily weighted towards one team: the Rangers.

Bobby Grich’s greatness, however, is almost perfectly split between the Orioles and the Angels. He made the ACLS five times: twice with Baltimore, three with California. He made three all-stars with each team. He received MVP votes thrice with Baltimore, twice with the Angels. The real difference is that Grich was a better fielder as a younger Oriole. He produced his Angels WAR in less than half as many Orioles seasons, so his greatest greatness was in Baltimore.

Adrian Beltre’s career WAR-r is almost evenly split between three teams. His highest total is with the Dodgers and he had that one incredible year there, although, he was very inconsistent. There was no talk of Hall of Fame there. He established himself as a great fielding third-baseman in Seattle, but he never even made an all-star team there. It was during his first year with Boston that he became a perennial MVP vote getter. Now, he’s had three years in Texas including a solid World Series performance. Clearly, he will be a Texan Hall of Famer, if he is a Hall of Famer.

Scott Rolen did have slightly more WAR-r with the Phillies, but his two World Series appearances were with the Cardinals and won it the second time. A Cardinals cap it should be.

Gary Carter’s regular season WAR-r is 55 for the Expos, 11 for the Mets. One championship shouldn’t make THAT much difference and he did have a great play-off series for Montreal in ’81, albeit on the losing side. Rightly, his cap is the Expos’, despite Carter’s stated preference for the Mets (his employer at the time).

Many Ramirez did out-rame himself in Boston over Cleveland, especially with those two World Championships. However, if those Boston years are tainted by steroids, then  . . . well, he won’t get elected in that case, anyway.

Carlton Fisk correctly chose to wear a Red Sox cap for the Hall of Fame. Although, he played more years with Chicago, his better years were with Boston and accumulated significantly more WAR-r there.

Carlos Beltran is a close call, but an easy call. He had an extra year with the Mets and generated about an extra year’s worth of WAR-r. His peak was that half year with Houston, when he led them to the play-offs and hit over 1.500 in it before bowing out in the Championship Series. He never made the post-season with Kansas City, although he did help out Missourians with two post seasons in St. Louis. We won’t count that, but will count his run in the play-offs with the ’06 Mets. A Met he should be.

Robbie Alomar did have his two best years at the plate with Cleveland. However, his two championships, as well as the plurality of his WAR-r and Gold Gloves are with Toronto, the team whose cap top’s his likeness in Cooperstown.

Buddy Bell may have had a few more at bats in Cleveland, but his best years clearly came in Texas.

A January 2010 Chicago Tribune article claims Andre Dawson was “disappointed” that he is not wearing a Cubs cap in the Hall of Fame. I’m glad he didn’t have the choice. He accumulated less than 19 WAR-r with Chicago while winning one of the most contentious MVP awards ever. With Montreal, Dawson accumulated 48.4 WAR-r along with six consecutive Gold Gloves and was runner-up MVP twice. He made the post season once with each of those teams.

As a young baseball fan from the New York area in the '60s and ‘70s, it surprised me that Reggie Smith had more WAR-r with Boston (34) than the Dodgers (19) and Cardinals (11) combined. Except for his rookie season of 1967, Boston just wasn’t the strong 90+ game winning rivals to the Yankees until after Smith left, so his years there were relatively unnoticed by me. He only made two all-star games and never reached higher than 17th in MVP voting. In his first year with St. Louis, he was 11th. His real fame came in Los Angeles with three post seasons, a World Championship, and twice finishing fourth in MVP voting. I wouldn’t be upset if he wore a Dodgers cap, if he were ”elected”.

Dave Winfield’s case is a tough call. He does have a 4.4 edge in WAR-r with San Diego over New York counting the 8 seasons he played with each. He only made the play-offs once with the Yankees and famously had a poor ALCS and World Series - although he was excellent in their Division Series and helped Toronto to a World Championship a decade later. I’m inclined to go with the Padres on this. Essentially, my premise on leaving it to the Hall of Fame to decide is to take the emotional component out of the decision, yet I confess the emotion of sticking it to the unappreciative Yankees in favour of the Padres gives them an even stronger edge in my eyes.

Mark McGwire is another interesting case. His most Famous accomplishment - the then record 70 home runs came as a Cardinal. However, he also led the league in home runs a couple times with Oakland, where he spent most of his career, won the most championships, and accumulated vastly more WAR. His ’88-’90 Bash Brother A’s had the best record in baseball three years in a row averaging 102 wins per season. If he enters the Hall of Fame, it should be with an A’s cap.

Yes, Gary Sheffield’s career was nomadic. His largest WAR-r total came with the Dodgers, but his Marlins’ tenure produced nearly the same and includes his only World Championship - a post season in which he excelled. He never even reached the play-offs with Los Angeles. He should be best remembered as a Marlin.

Yes, Keith Hernandez’s career with the Cardinals gets the edge over the Mets. He won a championship with each of them.

Despite their greatness with other teams, we know Roger Clemens should be a Red Sox.

I assumed with equal confidence Greg Maddux would go in as a Brave. However, it has been widely reported recently that Maddux will be wearing neither a Cubs cap nor a Braves cap, because it was “impossible” for him to chose. Come on, Greg, try a little harder. Tony LaRussa is going the same route, but has a stronger case for remaining neutral.

Randy Johnson accumulated about the same WAR-r with the Mariners as with the Diamondbacks (37.6). However, it took him 9 years instead of six. He also had more post seasons with Arizona and won his World Series ring with them. How about that 3-0 record in that Series with a 1.04 ERA - after going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in that NLCS!

I disagree with both the Hall of Fame AND Tom Tango regrading Gaylord Perry's cap. He accumulated only an extra 5 WAR-r in his 8 years with the Giants (38.2). In only four years with the Indians Perry slung 33.3 WAR-r. Three of his four best seasons were with Cleveland. Perry only pitched in one post season (far fewer teams had a post seasons during his career) and that was during an NLCS loss with the Giants in which he was 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA. Bah! 

There shouldn’t be any controversy if Pedro Martinez goes to the Hall of Fame with Boston’s bonnet.

Steve Carlton’s Phillies career vastly outweighs his earlier Cardinals era.

Nolan Ryan had one more season with the Astros than the Angels, but pitched far more innings with the Angels and did have more of his Cy Young candidate years there. He was a marvel at aging spinning no-hitters and still leading the league in strikeouts at age 43. That’s Hall of Fame stuff right there. Some of it was with the Rangers. His greatest impact seasons, however, came not in Texas, but in California.

Ferguson Jenkins belongs with the Cubs and it is not close.

We need to look more closely at Mike Mussina. With Baltimore he pitched 9 seasons for 47.6 WAR-r. His Orioles made to the the ALCS twice and he pitched brilliantly his second time there. With the Yankees, he pitched 8 years, notched 35.1 WAR-r, and pitched in the post season every year but his last. His Yankees made it to the World Series twice, but lost both times. I give the edge to his Baltimore years, where he was a Cy Young vote getter 7 times, while only picking up Cy Young votes as a Yankee once.

OK, now the “interesting” Kurt Schilling: for the Phillies, he pitched 8 years picked up 36.8 WAR-r and pitched solidly in a losing World Series effort. With Arizona, he only pitched 3 years, but dominated with 26 WAR-r and dominated even more in the post season on his way to a World Championship: 4-0, 55 innings, 0.98 ERA. Arizona won their division again with Schilling the next year, but lost in the Division Series, although not by any failing on Schilling’s part (1.29 ERA). Then Schilling went on to win two championships in his four years with the Red Sox, although his in-season WAR-r only totaled to 17.8 - not at all shabby, but his peak was clearly with Arizona. This is a quantity vs. quality case more extreme than Gaylord Perry’s. Ultimately, Schilling earned his biggest Hall of Fame credentials in Arizona.

No fewer than four teams have some legitimate claim for Kevin Brown’s immortal cap. Texas had him first and for the longest number of years. WAR-r gives him 17.8 credit there. That took 6 years, but he did grab an ERA title. However, in his only two seasons with the Marlins, Brown pitched 15.0 WAR-r - and swam with them all the way to the championship. In one of those Marlin seasons, Brown again led a league in ERA. However, by WAR-r measuring, his best season was actually his one year as a Padre (8.6 WAR-r), thanks to his 257 innings of 2.69 ERA. He pitched in the World Series for them, too. With the Dodgers, Brown worked another 20.5 WAR-r in five more seasons and happened to earn his third ERA title - each with a different team. That 20.5 WAR-r makes Brown’s contribution to the Dodgers slightly the greatest of all his teams. He made no play-offs there, however, so I would put him in a Marlins cap.

Luis Tiant had his single best season with Cleveland: 21-9, 258 innings, 1.60 ERA. That was 1968 - the Year of the Pitcher, but it was good enough for a 186 ERA+ and 8.4 WAR-r. Tiant had injuries including a fractured scapula (shoulder) in the early1970s, but the Red Sox revived him where he had his 6 next best seasons. He was part of that 1975 A.L. champion Red Sox, so there is no question Tiant should be seen with an olde English B on his cap.

Here in Toronto, I heard Roy Halladay on the day he retired saying he would wear a Blue Jays cap, if he made it to the Hall of Fame. That’s fair, but Doc did have his two best seasons by WAR-r in Philadelphia. He had all his post season appearances for the Phillies and spun a perfect game. He has one Cy Young award with each team. Doc was a runner-up his other great year in Philly and was runner-up another time with Toronto. He also finished third once and fifth twice for Toronto. In all, Toronto’s WAR-r tally edges Philadelphia’s 48.5 to 17.2. With no World Series rings in either city, Halladay rightly chose Toronto for his home cap.

As you probably all know, Dennis Eckersley started off as an outstanding starting pitcher his first three years with Cleveland and his next three with Boston before he slid into mediocrity - mainly with the Red Sox. His career revived somewhat with the Cubs until his third year, he was back as a mere innings eater. Then with Oakland, Eckersley was turned into the best reliever the world had ever seen. Although, he didn’t generate as much WAR-r (16.1) as Oakland’s “closer” as he had as Boston’s workhorse (21.9), it was those years with Oakland that Eck gained most of his Hall of Fame credentials, so it is right that he is there with an A on his cap.

Another complicated case: Tommy John. His 7 years with the White Sox totaled 24.0 WAR-r with no play-offs. There were no play-offs (just a World Series) until his last three seasons there. He was property of the Dodgers for the next 7 years, but totaled only 15.1 WAR-r. However, he missed an entire season recovering from a radical new elbow ligament transplant surgery that now bears his name. He helped lead those Dodgers to back-to-back World Series in which they lost both times to the Yankees. Then John spent four years with the Yankees tallying 16.4 regular season WAR-r and helped lead them to a World Series against the Dodgers, which the Yankees lost. After about three seasons with the Angels and a half season with Oakland, John returned to the Yankees at age 43 and produced another 4.7 WAR-r before his final negative WAR-r at age 45. In Cy Young voting, John picked up votes twice with the Dodgers and twice with the Yankees. In seasons of more than 5.0 WAR, John had three with Chicago, none with L.A., and one with New York. This is the most difficult choice of all the multi-team greats. The tie breaker for me is that he had his famous surgery as a Dodger. His dedication during his rehabilitation proved that pitchers could recover from it. That’s what his cap should remind us.

Well, David Cone’s case is also complicated. His best WAR-r total was with the Mets (21.2). He actually tied that total as a Yankee, but dragged it lower with a miserable last season there (7.20 ERA). He came back with a semi-decent final season in Boston, so it can’t be ignored. (That’s not counting a brief disastrous comeback with the Mets a couple years later.) Cone’s peak was his two years with the Royals sandwiched by two excellent part seasons with the Blue Jays. The first Toronto stint included a World Championship. His stint with the Yankees, though, led to four more championships. Cone and the Yankees benefit from that good timing. If he ever makes the Hall of Fame, he might as well be there as a Yankee. 

Breadbaker already did a Jim Bunning analysis. I’ll say this: it might inconsistent to give Gaylord Perry a Giants cap instead of an Indians cap, but give Bunning a Phillies cap instead of a Tigers cap. However, even though I am also a Tigers fan who remembers him as our ace, I have to agree he deserves a Phillies cap. Quality should count some degree more than quantity. Besides, as with the Yankees and Winfield, it sort of serves the Tigers right that he is representing the Phillies in Cooperstown. I always figured the only possible reason Detroit traded Bunning was to get rid of a political agitator. I could be wrong. I was just a kid. Bunning was the player’s representative and Don Demeter was a very weak return for a number one starter.

John Carter