The 2013 Hall of Fame class and the Keltner List

Over a year ago I applied the Keltner List test to Sammy Sosa and figured I’d do the same thing for most of the eligible candidates just for fun. Bill James came up with the Keltner List back in 1985 and I’ll let Wiki explain.

The Keltner list is a systematic but non-numerical method for determining whether a baseball player is deserving of election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. It makes use of an inventory of questions (mostly yes-or-no format) regarding the merit of players relative to their peers. Enshrinement in the Hall of Fame is one of the highest honors in sports, with only 234 players having been inducted as of 2011. Election to the Hall is also permanent. However, selection for the Hall is by election; no “cut-offs” or objective criteria exist (other than rules about how players become eligible for election). It can therefore be difficult for voters and fans alike to determine which former players are deserving of the honor.

The Keltner list comprises 15 questions designed to aid in the thought process. Each question is designed to be relatively easy to answer.

So there you have it.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

I’m sure people have argued at one time or another that the following eligible candidates were the best in the game: Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. It’s possible some argued that Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker were the best at one time or another.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

All of the players named above were at one time probably the best player on their team. From this point forward, I’ll only be using those players named in the first question.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Arguments can be made that at one point in time or another that each of those 10 were the best at his position. Bonds, Clemens and Piazza are perhaps the best ever at their respective positions.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

6 times between 1997 and 2005 the Astros reached the postseason. Clemens was a part of two of those teams and others as well. Schilling, Bonds and Edgar, yes. Walker, Raines and Sosa, perhaps.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

I consider the prime to be prior to age 30 so the answer for all of them is yes as far as I’m concerned.

6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Barry Bonds is the best player ever not in the Hall of Fame and there can only be one.

7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Yes. All of these players are more than qualified for the Hall of Fame based on career WAR.

8. Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Yes, see number 7.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

 Unfortunately, the answer to this question is yes for several of the players: Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and McGwire. Possibly for Piazza and Bagwell and maybe others, but really, who can know who took steroids with any certainty and to what degree the stats were helped by it?

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, Piazza, Edgar (DH) yes. Obviously Schilling, McGwire are no. I’d assume the others are too, but I’m not positive and too lazy to look it up.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

  • Bagwell won 1 MVP, finished in the top 10 6 times (4 AS)
  • Biggio finished in the top 10 3 times (7 AS)
  • Raines 3 top 10 finishes (7 AS)
  • Edgar 2 top 10 finishes (7 AS)
  • Walker won 1 MVP, finished in top 10 4 times (5 AS)
  • McGwire 5 top 10 finishes (12 AS)
  • Clemens won an MVP, finished 6 times in the top 10, won 7 Cy Young Awards, finished in top 10 CYA 11 times (11 AS)
  • Bonds 7 MVP awards, 13 top 10 finishes (14 AS)
  • Piazza 7 top 10 finishes (12 AS)
  • Schilling 2 top 10 MVP, 4 CYA top 10 (6 AS)
  • Sosa 1 MVP, 7 top 10 finishes (7 AS)

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?

See question 11

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

Yes for all of them.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

I don’t know how to answer this question. No player here was like Jackie Robinson. None of them invented a pitch, were responsible for rule changes that I’m aware of or had much or anything to do with new equipment.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

I’m going to pass on this question considering so many others have failed to uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider.

 Sadly, it appears that no one may get elected to the Hall of Fame though it seems more likely at least one gets in since MLB Network decided to announce it live.