Thursday, June 26, 2008

Giambi In the Hall? Yeah, Sure! Wait...

Somebody asked me today if I thought Jason Giambi was going to the Hall of Fame. Not as a visitor, but as an elected member.

My first reaction was to quote another controversial Yankee, 1960s pitcher Jim Bouton: "Yeah, surrrre!" First of all, the voters would have to get past the steroid question. And then there's his defense, his failures in the clutch, and...

But wait: He has, at this moment, 381 career home runs. Steroids or not, that's nothing to sneeze at. It's more than the following Hall-of-Famers: Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez with 379, Carlton Fisk 376, Ralph Kiner 369, Joe DiMaggio 361, Johnny Mize 359, Yogi Berra 358, Gary Carter 324, George Brett 317, Al Simmons 307, Rogers Hornsby 301, Chuck Klein 300, Ryne Sandberg 282, Joe Morgan and Brooks Robinson 268, Robin Yount 251, Goose Goslin 248, Hack Wilson 244, Roy Campanella 242, Roberto Clemente 240, Earl Averill 238, Gabby Hartnett 236, Paul Molitor 234, Jim Bottomley 219, Kirby Puckett 207, Joe Medwick 205 and Bill Dickey 202.

Let's get some of the misleading stuff out of the way first:

Cepeda, Kiner, DiMaggio, Wilson, Campanella, Molitor, Puckett and Medwick all missed significant time due to injuries. (In Wilson's case, boozing caused teams to give up on him.) DiMaggio and Mize also missed significant time due to serving in World War II. Perez, Mize, Brett, Simmons, Hornsby, Yount, Goslin, Clemente, Averill, Molitor, Bottomley,

Puckett and Dickey were much more renowned as contact hitters. Dickey, Fisk, Berra, Carter and Hartnett were catchers, who generally don't hit as many home runs anyway, and were elected as much for their defense as for their offense, which was also true of Sandberg and Morgan, and Robinson was elected almost exclusively for his defense, although he did win both regular-season and World Series Most Valuable Player awards, and collected over 2,800 hits despite playing in a pitcher's park, so he was a very good hitter.

That leaves Klein, who had the benefit of a very short right-field fence.

Barring further injury, Giambi will finish with over 400 home runs, maybe 450, but almost certainly not 500, which, prior to the steroid questions, was considered an unofficial "automatic induction." He also won the American League MVP in 2000, and nearly did so again in 2001. He's had 7 seasons of at least 100 RBIs. He's had 4 .300+ seasons.

The players with between 381 and 499 who are in are: Johnny Bench 389, Al Kaline 399, Duke Snider 407, Billy Williams 426, Cal Ripken 431, Carl Yastrzemski 452, Dave Winfield 465, Willie Stargell 475, Stan Musial 475 and Lou Gehrig 493.

Kaline, Ripken, Yaz, Winfield and Musial all have over 3,000 hits. Bench was a catcher and his career was injury-shortened. Snider might not be in if he didn't play in New York. Same with Williams in Chicago. And Stargell and Gehrig were each one of the great power hitters of their or any era.

Players between 381 and 499 who are eligible but not in: Albert Belle 381 (injury-shortened & steroid-tainted), Jim Rice 382 (not enough for a Fenway guy), Frank Howard 382 (huge guy's last good year was at 34, fits the steroid profile even though they almost certainly weren't available, will never get in anyway), Harold Baines 384 (newly eligible, 2,866 hits gives him a shot), Dwight Evans 385 (see answer for Rice, but was also an excellent defensive right fielder), Graig Nettles 390 (not enough for a Yankee Stadium short-porcher, and his .247 BA dooms him, but a great 3rd baseman), Joe Carter 396 (won't get in, not even with the big one he hit), Dale Murphy 398 (not enough for a guy who played in Atlanta's "Launching Pad"), Andres Galarraga 399 (Coors Field and the new Turner Field in Atlanta, not enough), Darrell Evans 414 (.248 BA dooms him), Andre Dawson 438 (would have had 500 if not for injuries, will get in eventually), Dave Kingman 442 (.236 BA is pathetic) and Jose Canseco 462 (even if we didn't know about the steroids, it's his only stat that qualifies him).

Players between 381 and 499 who are not yet eligible: Larry Walker 383 (won't make it), Chipper Jones 402 and counting (might make it), Mike Piazza 427 (also .308 BA, he'll get in), Juan Gonzalez 434 (how do you say "Steroids" in Spanish?), Carlos Delgado 442 and barely counting (2 more good years might have done it), Jeff Bagwell 449 (he'll make it), Gary Sheffield 484 and counting (if they give him a pass on steroids, he's got a shot) and Fred McGriff 493 (eligible in 2 years, tough call since he fell just short of 500, but he did play on a World Series winner in Atlanta).

By that standard, I don't think Giambi makes it, even if we don't consider his steroid use.

But you never know: If he hangs on and helps the Yankees win this year, and they take a chance on him, or someone else does and he helps them win, it could be another answer.

In the meantime, I welcome his resurgence, and hope that he keeps it up through the end of October 2008.

*

UPDATE: Rice, Dawson and Piazza have since been elected. Giambi retired after the 2014 season. He finished with 440 home runs, and a 139 career OPS+ -- meaning that, over the course of his career, he was 39 percent better at producing runs than the average player. He was an All-Star 5 times, but never a Gold Glove winner.

It also didn't help that the Yankees won the World Series the year after he left. He's reached the postseason 9 times, with 3 different teams (2000-01 A's, 2002-07 Yanks, 2009 Rockies), but only won 1 Pennant (2003 Yanks) and never won a World Series.

On its Hall of Fame Monitor, on which a "Likely HOFer" is at 100, Baseball-Reference.com has him at 108, meaning he should get in. But on their Hall of Fame Standards, which is weighted more toward career statistics, and on which the "Average HOFer" is at 50, he's at 44, meaning he falls a bit short.

They have his 10 Most Similar Batters, which is (more or less) weighted toward players of the same position, as Delgado, Paul Konerko, Canseco, Stargell, Willie McCovey, Galarraga, Mark Teixeira, Bagwell, McGriff and Andruw Jones.

Stargell and McCovey are in. Bagwell and McGriff should be. Delgado, Konerko and Jones could be. Canseco, Galarraga and probably Teix never will be. So 2 in, 4 should be, possibly as many as 7.

It's not encouraging. He'll be eligible in the election to be held in January 2020, but, even if HOF voters decide to forgive everybody who used PEDs for using them, he'll never get in. He just doesn't have the numbers or the other achievements.

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