Gwynn and Ripken First Balloters! McGwire will wait.

Cooperstown Class of 2007 

Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken will go into Cooperstown this year, very deservedly while Mark McGwire and his 583 HR’s and rippling bicepts will wait.

A quick look at the credentials. 

                Gwynn                         Ripken                       McGwire

Years           20                               21                               16

MVPs            0                                 2                                 0

WS              0                                 1                                 1

lgldBA          8                                 0                                 0

lgldHR          0                                 0                                 4

lgldRBI         0                                 0                                 1

lgldOPS         0                                 0                                 2

GG’s            5                                 2                                 1

 

Most indellable mark on baseball as of now.

Gwynn – His legacy is not as great as the others.  His mark is his consistency.  He played all his career in backwater San Diego.  He led that team to 2 WS appearaces 14 years apart.  He had no standout season. He was a model of consistency.  His stolen bases declined in at the start of the 1990’s when he turned 30.  He was averaging 25 steals before that time and about 10 after.  At the age of 37 he had probably his best year in which he set career marks for HR (17) RBI (119) and hits (220).  He rarely struck out, he became more disciplined at the plate as his career went on.  He averaged less than 30 strikeouts in his career and less than 20 K’s after 1990.  He often grounded into more double plays than he struck out.  A pure contact hitter; he also did not walk often, averaging around 50 walks per game.  As a result his OPS suffered.  His career mark was .847 with only one year over 1.000.  Apart from that he is a Pete Rose/Rod Carew type where he was a singles hitter.  He didn’t break in until he was 24, having less than 200 hits before that birthday.  He put up some of the best marks of our lifetimes .394, .372, .370, .368, .353, .351.  He connected for over 3100 hits, good for the top 20 all-time and a lifetime average of .338.

Ripken – His Streak what else is to be said.  Like Gwynn he played his entire career for his hometown Baltimore Orioles. His 2632 consecutive games streak broke Lou Gehrig’s seemingly unbeatable record.  However, I don’t think the strenght of the streak is strong enough to get him into the hall on it’s own.  Ripken broke in when he was 20 and by the time Gwynn became a regular Cal had won an AL ROY, AL MVP, a WS had 50 homers and almost 200 RBI’s.  While not as consisent as Gwynn, Ripken had some truly terrible seasons in which he led bad Orioles teams, he spotted some of the best seasons at the plate and in the field for a shortstop.  His average would bounce from the .250’s to the .320’s his HR would bouce from the mid teens to the low 30’s.  For such a dangerous hitter he did not draw many walks.  He struck out more than he walked in his career and had a OPS of .787, lower than Gwynn’s.  He was great in the field in his early career, he made only 3 errors at SS in 1990, he won a couple of GG’s.  He may have redefined the shortstop’s role and paved the way for other big, slugging shortstops.  His career stats are good enough to qualify for the hall.  Surprisingly, he had a few more hits than Gwynn and he hit 441 HR.  These records, arguably, were only made possibly by “The Steak” he didn’t miss a games and rarely missed an at-bat in 17+ seasons.  His 11551 at-bats is fourth all time.  Gwynn played about the same number of season but had 2200 less at-bats.  The Streak defines Ripken and gave him the abilitiy to turn average production into great career numbers.

McGwire – His 70 HRs is his legacy on the ballfield.   In a career filled with injury, Big Mac overcame to hit 583 (7th all time) homeruns in 6100 at-bats, at that pace, if he had as many at bats as Hank Aaron, he would have hit well over 1000 homers.  So how could voters leave McGwire out of the hall?  Hall voters tend to vote away from first balloters (Gwynn and Ripken were first timers).  McGwire’s other numbers are not spectacular.  McGwire ‘averaged’ 50 home runs over 162 games, however, over 16 seasons he hit 50 or more 5 times.  He hit 40 or more 7 times.  McGwire was a one-trick pony if there ever was one.   He has the fewest hits of all 500 homer club, not even 2000 he also has the fewest RBI’s.  He also has the fewest 30+ HR seasons.  The hall has not admitted individuals who have not made a mark over a period of time – thats the reason George Foster, Roger Maris, Fernando Valenzuela will not get in the Hall.  McGwire, had only 6 or 7 solid seasons, and those seasons were only good because he hit a tonne of homers, nothing else.  McGwire also has the controversial stigma of steroid use hanging over his head.  I feel that this should not keep him out of the hall unless he is given a ban.  Voters should not exercise ethics when they elect players, what McGwire did or didn’t do off the field should not affect the voting as long as he isn’t banned.  The hall voters elected miserable, hateful and ‘unethical’ men like Ty Cobb and Steve Carlton and I am sure if Joe Jackson and Pete Rose were reinstated, regardless of guilt, they would both be elected as first balloters.  Anyways, BigMac’s 583 hrs is a good record but I feel it is far behind the legacy that Ripken and Gwynn laid out and that alone should keep him out of Cooperstown for the time being.      

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  • I agree with almost everything you’ve said.

    Nice to see the Gywnn SB respect, most leave that out.

    I agree on Ripken being inconsistant. I personally think it’s a shame that Cal had a higher % of votes than Gywnn, but the streak & being a media darling had a lot to do with that.

    McGwire was truly a one trick pony, as you showed. Pre 60+, he’d hit 30 – 40 but have a hard time knocking in 100. Not much of an RBI guy. He’s also one of those HR guys that can’t score a run without the dinger. From 87 – 92 he averaged 36.3 HR a season but only scored an average of 82 runs. This type of stat is ALWAYS over-looked. My all-time power fav, Thome averaged 39.3 HR from 95 – 04, but scored 102.4 times a season.

    Still, Big Macs 70 was a larger postive to MLB baseball than his memory lapse negative a few years back. I agree with you (weird, eh?) about sports writers voting on merit, not crap like their personal ethics, etc.

  • Early

    Gwynn said it in an interview today “my type of player gets overlooked today”. I again, surprise, agree with you in that I think Gwynn is the best player between him and Ripken. The “Gwynn type player” is not as useful today (Ichiro like). I think Gwynn is just being humble here, there are very few like him and a Gwynn type player is valuable in any league type on any team ever! He would have gotten my vote if someone would recognise fan sufferage!!!

  • Early

    I would have given Gwynn my vote. He said in an interview today, “my type of player doesn’t get noticed very today” (meaning Ichiro). I think this is Tony just being humble. Gwynn was great from the early 80s when baseball was in a state of entrophy to the late 90s when homer and slugging records were being routinly destroyed. Gwynn was a complete player, great athlete and loyal leader. “His type” of player is needed on any team, that plays any type of ball in any era!!