Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hall of Fame Restructuring? Sure, the Juice Bar

Bill James wrote the book Whatever Became of the Hall of Fame? Therein lies the lament of those who got in and didn't and sometimes why. Veterans Committee members helped elect friends, and marginal candidates got in because they did.

Do we need a Super Hall of Fame, the real pantheon of greatness, that contains only the best of the Ruth, Matthewson, Williams, Cobb, Mays, Aaron, and so on? Or do we need the "Juice Bar" wing, where Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, A-Rod, and others can be recognized, with a flavorful asterisk?

It would be crazy to think that Red Sox players didn't participate in what we recognize as wide-spread cheating scandals. Certainly, we know Manny Ramirez did (failed drug tests), and one has to wonder about MANY others with either oversized muscle and physiques, or whether suddenly outsized performance. None of us can name names, but wink-wink, nod-nod, we all have an idea.

The separate but equal argument holds that both position players and pitchers cheated, ergo nullifying the advantage. That opinion also suggests that we can't know, so we can't judge. We can know who's on the list of 103, but we probably won't.

Did performance-enhancing drugs really make a difference? I wrote an article years ago comparing top sluggers of all time (pre-1980) first five full seasons average homers to their peak home run years. The same analysis showed dramatic and statistically signficant differences to "steroid era" performance. For example, during his first five years, Hank Aaron averaged 28 homers (peak 44)...and his best year he hit 47 in Atlanta in the "Launching Pad". As for Rafael Palmeiro, during his first FULL five years he hit 78 homers, average 15.6, peak 26, and during his best year he hit 47 (twice). Is it plausible that contemporary players, at advanced ages, improved that much relative to historical greats?

Looks like normal aging to me.

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