Circle of Greats: 1968 Election

This past Tuesday I posted a proposal for a series of votes to elect members to a circle of baseball greats, with competitive elections organized by player birth-year. The post seemed to generate enough interest to try out the voting in practice to see how it goes. The comments to that thread offered a number of creative and productive suggestions regarding changes to the rules that I had initially proposed, and this first vote will incorporate several of those proposed changes. I’ll review the rules, as now amended, after the “Read the rest of this entry” thingamabob.  

(1) Each vote will bring in a class of eligible players that will include all players born in a particular year who played at least 10 years in the majors or, alternatively, reached 20 Wins Above Replacement (baseball-reference version) — that is, 20 overall Wins Above Replacement for position players and 20 pitching Wins Above Replacement for pitchers.

(2) In order to count as an eligible ballot, your vote must include three eligible players, no more and no less. The one player who is named on the most eligible ballots in a voting round wins induction into the “Circle of Greats”.

(3) Each vote (after this first one) will also include as eligible players, in addition to that particular birth-year class, a set of holdovers whose eligibility has been extended from previous rounds of voting. A player’s eligibility can be extended as follows: (a) Any player who appears on 50% or more of the eligible ballots cast without winning the election has his eligibility extended for four additional rounds; (b) any player who is not elected, and appears on fewer than 50% of the ballots, but is one of the top eight players in that round in terms of how many ballots he appears on, has his eligibility extended for one more round; (c) any player who does not make the top eight in ballot appearances but does appear on 20% or more of the ballots has his eligibility extended for one more round. Eligibility extensions can be cumulative, so that a player who appears on at least 50% of the ballots three rounds in a row would go into the next round with a bank of nine rounds of extensions.

(4) My only suggested guideline as to who to vote for is to rely on the player’s contribution as a player in the major leagues, not for play in other leagues and not for contributions in non-playing roles such as manager, umpire, executive, journalist or broadcaster. Other than that, you the voters need to decide which players most deserve to be inducted into a group called the “Circle of Greats”.

(5) For now, you should cast your votes in the comments. Voters are encouraged to explain, discuss and debate your votes, but somewhere in your comments you should specify the three players you are voting for, so that your ballot can be tallied. Voting will remain open for seven days (to the minute) from when this post appears, after which the voting for this round will be considered closed (you can continue to comment, of course, but votes after that will not count). For the moment I’ll keep manual count of your votes and report the final tally. At some point we may move to a poll mechanism, but initially let’s see how the manual count process goes. Also for now, I propose to bar vote-changing — that is, each voter’s first eligible ballot in a round is fixed, and any later ballots by that voter will not count. But I’m open to further discussion on that question.

Enough with the preliminaries. Here are the lists of eligible position players and pitchers born in 1968. Pick your three guys and vote. It’s your civic duty.

Position Players:
Roberto Alomar
Carlos Baerga
Jeff Bagwell
Derek Bell
Chad Curtis
Tom Goodwin
Dave Hansen
Jeff Kent
Chuck Knoblauch
Randy Knorr
Derrick May
Brett Mayne
Jose Offerman
John Olerud
Keith Osik
Dean Palmer
Eddie Perez
Mike Piazza
Curtis Pride
Tim Salmon
Gary Sheffield
J.T. Snow
Sammy Sosa
Matt Stairs
Ed Taubensee
Frank Thomas
Jose Vizcaino
Bernie Williams

Pitchers:
Pedro Astacio
Rod Beck
Brain Bohanon
Giovanni Carrara
Mark Clark
Scott Erickson
Chris Haney
Pat Hentgen
Todd Jones
Darryl Kile
Curt Leskanic
Al Levine
Ramon Martinez
Kent Mercker
Davew Mlicki
Mike Mussina
Denny Neagle
Hideo Nomo
Paul Qunatrill
Scott Radinsky
Shane Reynolds
Rudy Seanez
Brian Shouse
Russ Springer
Rick White
Mike Williams

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Brooklyn Mick
Brooklyn Mick
9 years ago

As much as I wanted to select a pitcher, I couldn’t take Mike Mussina (career ERA+ 123) over Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, or Frank Thomas. I considered Roberto Alomar, Jeff Kent, and John Olerud, mainly due to the defensive “reputations” of Alomar and Olerud, and the fact that Kent hit more home runs than any 2nd baseman in history. But in the end I’m not so sure that Alomar’s (10)and Olerud’s (3) collections of Gold Gloves are commensurate with their respective career dWAR ratings of 2.4 for Alomar and -2.1 for Olerud. Kent’s -0.7 dWAR and career OPS+ of 123… Read more »

Artie Z
Artie Z
9 years ago

Three votes: Bagwell, Piazza, Thomas Two of the greatest first basemen in history and the most devastating offensive force ever behind the plate. It’s tough to leave off Alomar and Mussina because I would vote for both of them for the HOF, but I’d rather have Bagwell, Piazza, or Thomas. Sheffield, Kent, and Sosa were fantastic players but not quite at the level of the others (in my view). Bernie, Knoblauch, and Salmon all deserve mention for outstanding careers and in a weaker year I could see voting for one of them, but not for this year. I fully expect… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago

Bagwell, Mussina, Piazza.

The fact that my vote represents a straight “Hall of Stats” ticket is mere coincidence. 🙂

Tom
Tom
9 years ago

Bagwell, Thomas, Mussina

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago

Alomar, Thomas, Piazza

Brandon
9 years ago

Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell.

Max
Max
9 years ago

I hate to sound like a broken record, but Piazza, Bagwell and Thomas.

Did you know that if Thomas and Bagwell make the Hall, they will be the first HOFers born on the exact same day? May 27, 1968.

Jeff H
Jeff H
9 years ago

Vote: Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Piazza.

Bagwell – average 5.78 WAR per 162 games!
Thomas – WAR per 162 of 4.86 and 156 OPS+
Piazza – WAR per 162 of 4.75 and 143 OPS+, one of the best hitting catchers of all-time.

Mussina will have to wait his turn.

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago
Reply to  Jeff H

Jeff, since you’ve cited WAR/162 for Thomas (4.86) and Piazza (4.75), I feel obliged to add that Mussina’s WAR/33 GS was 4.81, right between them. So I can’t see either of the hitters clearly deserving an earlier “turn” than Mussina on that score.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

But you have to make some allowance for the fact that Piazza was a catcher, deflating his offensive numbers due to the toll taken on his body. It also clearly shortened his career, deflating his total career WAR. Catchers should not be graded on the same WAR scale as other players for this reason. I would set the WAR threshold for a Hall of Fame catcher at somewhere around 45, which makes Piazza a shoo-in.

1. Bagwell
2. Thomas
3. Piazza

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

bstar @21: “you have to make some allowance for the fact that Piazza was a catcher” True — that’s why I voted for him, along with Mussina and Bagwell. As to my use of WAR/33 GS as the pitching equivalent of WAR/162 for a position player: I dunno, it just seemed right to me, since most top pitchers make 33+ starts per year, and 32 GS would represent less than 1/5 of a year, and it didn’t occur to me to use a fractional number. But I’m OK with using WAR/32.4 GS, and acknowledging that Mussina grades below Thomas on… Read more »

Ed
Ed
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Is Mussina the most underrated pitcher of all time? (or #2 behind Blyleven) I was shocked to see his career WAR. Would have never guessed it was that high. On the all-time list, he’s right behind Carlton and right ahead of Gibson, despite pitching fewer innings than either of those two (a LOT fewer than Carlton). And yet, why is it that no one thinks of him as being in Carlton or Gibson’s class?

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Further to Ed’s comment #61: I think there’s a general perception that Mussina had a very low peak for a HOF candidate. I grant that he does not fit with the high-peak HOFers, but if you compare him to the modern HOF group as a whole, his peak is just fine. Compare him to the 50 HOF starting pitchers who had at least 1500 IP since 1901: 7+ WAR seasons — Mussina had 1 such year. Nineteen of the 50 HOFers had either no 7-WAR seasons (10 guys) or just 1 (nine). 6+ WAR seasons — Mussina had 3. Twenty… Read more »

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

JA @57, your WAR/full season numbers had Mussina edging out Piazza, not Thomas or anyone else. That’s why I brought up a different WAR scale for catchers. If you either do that or adjust your pitcher “full year” number, Mussina finishes 4th behind Bagwell, Thomas, and Piazza in the WAR rate stat category. But not by much. Your WAR/actual year argument is certainly compelling, though.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Also, where did the 33 GS come from as a full season? I would use 162/every 5th game = 32.4 GS. Using that number, Mussina’a WAR per 32.4 GS would be 4.72, less than Bagwell, Thomas, and Piazza.

qx
qx
9 years ago

Mike Piazza, Jeff Kent, Frank Thomas

Hartvig
Hartvig
9 years ago

To keep the trend going: Piazza, Bagwell & Thomas My biggest regrets are Alomar & Mussina I’ve decided on PED users to go by the “would they have made it without them” philosophy: I think that Sosa is a clear no (and I think his defensive contributions early in his career are grossly overstated) and they at least move Sheffield down a couple of notches. In another year I may have voted for Kent as well. Finally, just wanted to give a nod to Olerud & Salmon- 2 favorites of mine in their playing days that certainly don’t belong here… Read more »

Chuck
Chuck
9 years ago

Alomar, Piazza, Mussina

David Horwich
David Horwich
9 years ago

Bagwell, Mussina, Piazza. Tough choices.

Jeff H
Jeff H
9 years ago

Frank Thomas is tops on my list. The Big Hurt had 8 straight 100+ RBI, BB and Runs scored seasons while his “lows” were all star caliber in avg .308, SLG of .536 and an OB% of .426…Simply unheard of. Mike Piazza is second. From the ages of 24-32 he never hit below .300 or had fewer than 92-93 RBI(and that was due to a lack of AB’s, 405 and 435). To this day I still Disagree with his 2nd place finish for MVP in ’97(.362/.431/.638, 201 hits, 104 runs, 40 HR and 124 RBI. I know Larry Walker was… Read more »

John Z
John Z
9 years ago

IMO Frank Thomas is the best of the best of veterans born in 68′, while I’m not a huge “Big Hurt” fan the man could simply rake. He was just extremely consistant with a bat on his shoulder. Kent would get my vote but he was surely with fans and media and that really turned me off, and Piazza, Sosa and Sheffield are linked with steroids and yes I know this is not part of the equation. with that said my list would look something like this:
1. Frank Thomas
2. Mike Mussina
3. Jeff Bagwell

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
9 years ago

Tom @4 and John Z @15 got it “right:”

Bagwell, Mussina, Thomas

That’s my preferred order, too, not that it matters. Really, really wanted to vote for Piazza, but them’s the breaks.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
9 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

To be clear, I actually disagree with the reasoning John Z puts forward; I have no problem voting for steroid-accused players. I just happen to think that Bagwell is the best player on the ballot, followed by Mussina and Thomas. Then I have Piazza, Alomar, Sosa, Sheffield, Olerud, Kent, and Knoblauch. But that’s based purely on stats, not at all on ‘roids or anything else.

Cubbies
Cubbies
9 years ago

Bagwell, piazza, Thomas.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
9 years ago

Bagwell, Thomas, Piazza

DanFlan
DanFlan
9 years ago

Thomas, Bagwell, Piazza

Chad
Chad
9 years ago

Bagwell, Thomas, Piazza, with apologies to Alomar and Kent.

Ed
Ed
9 years ago

Alomar, Bagwell, Piazza

Phil
9 years ago

Alomar, Thomas…and Piazza over Bagwell.

PP
PP
9 years ago

Thomas, Bagwell, Piazza

Should move on: Alomsr, Sheffield, Kent Mussina, Sosa

Scott
Scott
9 years ago

Alomar, Thomas, Bagwell

Adam Darowski
9 years ago

Gosh, this is really, really hard.

Hard to believe a guy like Alomar can’t sniff this list.

1. Jeff Bagwell
2. Mike Piazza
3. Mike Mussina

Kills me not to put Thomas, but them’s the breaks.

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
9 years ago

This is too hard.
I can’t do it.
Thomas, Bagwell, Piazza, Alomar, Mussina.
Can’t cut out two of them.
I’ll pass on this game.
___________________

I like, though, that there is a player on this list whom I had never heard of:
Keith Osik

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago

Piazza, Alomar and Mussina.

Why are we limited to three?

Doug
Doug
9 years ago

Bagwell, Alomar and Piazza.

Pretty easy, actually. These three just seem to be a notch (or more) above the rest (well, maybe half a notch above Mussina and Kent).

Doug
Doug
9 years ago

Oops. Somehow missed Thomas. He’s clearly on same level as the three I voted for. I’m sure Frank will get in, though, in this round or a future one.

Mike L
Mike L
9 years ago

Birtelcom: “Thingambob”?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xrfbKTG_xE

Mike L
Mike L
9 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom
Mike L
Mike L
9 years ago

More importantly, I’d go Bagwell, Piazza, Mussina. Hate leaving Thomas off, though.

Mike
Mike
9 years ago

It would help if all of the players were linked straight to b-r so voters wouldn’t have to search for each player. It’s obviously not a big deal, but it would certainly be a nice touch.

Anyway, my vote is Bagwell, Piazza, and Thomas.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Good point. I’m actually surprised that this site doesn’t use the player linker automatically. Also, here are partial results to this point, in case anyone’s interested. If not, I’ll give the good ol’ fashioned **************SPOILER ALERT****************** Through 27 ballots (28 if we count Voomo’s blank, which doesn’t count as per the rules – suck on that BBWAA; blank ballots don’t count!!!), here are the standings: Piazza – 23 (85%) Bagwell – 21 (78%) Thomas – 19 (70%) Mussina – 9 (33%) Alomar – 7 (26%) Kent – 2 (7%) If these hold (and I understand the rules correctly), all six… Read more »

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago

@10, Hartvig, I understand the “would they have made it without them” philosophy, since I’ve used that myself, yet it’s also a slippery slope as evidenced by Piazza and Bagwell. None of us know who take PEDs, but I think it’s likely both of those players did. Meanwhile, someone like Mike Mussina is generally being slotted behind both of these players for Hall induction, yet I’d guess he’s in that group of players who didn’t take PEDs. He was renowned for his refusal to do weight training, even during his later years when he was losing velocity and the Yankees… Read more »

Hartvig
Hartvig
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

Yeah, I don’t even try to pretend that I know for sure if I have it right. And it’s hard to keep all the factors in mind- if you keep Palmeiro out because he wouldn’t have made it without cheating, does Fred McGriff get extra credit because his performance suffers by comparison? Do we know for certain who did & didn’t cheat? Are steroids a bigger sin than amphetamines or the spitball? For reasons it would take far too many words to explain I think it’s necessary to make some adjustments for 2 factors- PED’s & racism- in ways that… Read more »

Artie Z
Artie Z
9 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

Here is my question (this is not meant as an attack on MikeD or Hartvig’s response or a question just for them) – why is it only the big guys who take a hit? Why doesn’t Juan Pierre or Kenny Lofton or Jose Reyes get dinged? I don’t know what they looked like under their shirts – maybe they were (are) super-ripped just not huge. After years of cyclists, track stars, and swimmers being accused of all sorts of doping and PEDs, why is it just the home run hitters who come under suspicion? My gut feeling is that HR… Read more »

Hartvig
Hartvig
9 years ago
Reply to  Artie Z

I’m fully aware that it’s possible to use steroids & not end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m also fully aware that we will never know for certain who was clean and everyone who wasn’t. But we do know for a fact that some people did use: Clemens, Bonds, Canseco, McGwire & others. Some by their own admission, others by our legal system or drug tests plus there’s the Mitchell Report to go by. As far as relying solely on physical appearance (plus change in performance) that is pretty much limited to Sosa. And it not just his increase in… Read more »

Jason Z
9 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

As far as relying solely on physical appearance (plus change in performance) that is pretty much limited to Sosa…

Not completely true. Sosa is one of 104 players
according to the NYTimes who tested positive
in baseball’s “anonymous”, 2003 survey.

At the time there were no penalties.

Although Sosa’ name was wrongfully leaked, it
doesn’t alter the truth.

Judge Sosa based on your eyes and feel no guilt.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

MikeD, why in the world is it “likely” that Jeff Bagwell did steroids? What proof do you have? Is it just his body, which he pretty much always had? Also, there’s really no jump in his numbers that we see other than the rise in offense in ’93 and ’94 onward, a trend which the entire league also followed. I see no artificial spike in his numbers after that. Where are they? He found his power stroke in ’94 at age 26 and put up an all-time great season with an OPS over 1.200. He put up 4 more 1.000+… Read more »

Hartvig
Hartvig
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Another thing to consider with Bagwell is the Astro’s moving to (then) Enron Field in 2000- his triple crown numbers stayed pretty consistent for a few years but his OPS+ was showing normal decline as he aged.

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

bstar, I wouldn’t take it too seriously. It’s an opinion. We all have them. The PED era of MLB was ignored, and thus approved, at worst tacitly, and one can argue directly by MLB, the owners, the commissioner, the players, the media and, yes, the fans. No PED user, suspected or proven, has been banned from MLB and put on its ineligibility list that includes the likes of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. In other words, jut as MLB was fine when it knew that players were taking PEDs, MLB is also more than fine if suspected and proven… Read more »

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

…at “best” tacitly, at worst directly…

One day I’ll take up proofing my notes again before hitting send!

Larry Hartzell
Larry Hartzell
9 years ago

Piazza, Bagwell, and Alomar.

Brendan Bingham
Brendan Bingham
9 years ago

Bagwell
Piazza
Kent

Brent
Brent
9 years ago

Piazza, Thomas and Alomar. Bagwell and Mussina are fine candidates too.

T-Bone
T-Bone
9 years ago

Bagwell
Thomas
Piazza

Jimbo
Jimbo
9 years ago

Thomas: The best power hitter.

Mussina: The best pitcher

Alomar: The best all-rounder.

koma
koma
9 years ago

Mike Piazza
Mike Mussina
Sammy Sosa

Hub Kid
Hub Kid
9 years ago

1. Jeff Bagwell 2. Frank Thomas 3. John Olerud I didn’t think that I had a particularly liking for the first base position, but I guess I do. Olerud’s too good to go voteless, even though my objective analysis would rank him lower. Mussina, for example is certainly more worthy a “Great”. Perhaps I am still holding a small grudge because I liked him better as Baltimore’s ace than as a Yankee. As for Alomar, I left him out because he is already in the HOF and I wonder if that is part of why he isn’t getting many votes… Read more »

deal
9 years ago

Mussina – Piazza – Stairs

In my first opportunity to cast a Circle of Greatness vote I am honored to select Matt Stairs for a single great moment he had for the Phillies.

My other 2 choices are more conventional.

Mussina would be held in higher regard if he won a World Championship – which he would have had the Yankees held a lead w/ Mariano Rivera on the mound in gm 7 of the 2001 Series.

theancientmainer
theancientmainer
9 years ago

1. Thomas 2. Piazza 3. Alomar Maybe Bagwell suffers because he was a National Leaguer his whole career, and I’m a life-long Red Sox fan- The Big Hurt is a no-brainer to me, easily one of the 3 most impressive hitters of the 90’s, and I’ve just seen sooo many highlights of Piazza and Alomar, they’ve both acieved mythic status in my mind as two of the all-time greats, without having to look at their stats (though I have)… but Bagwell, I dunno, he’s a couple of years short and a couple of p.e.d.’s too far over the line in… Read more »

Jason Z
9 years ago

I have decided that steroids is a non issue for me. My votes will be based strictly on what they did on the field. The reason being is that we will never know definitively who did what when. John Z @15 mentions Piazza, Sosa and Sheffield. I know from friends who played college ball with and against Piazza that the rumors go back that far. That being said, they all said he could always rake. This should not be a shock to any of us who came up in the 1980’s either lifting weights or playing high school ball. College… Read more »

Nick Pain
Nick Pain
9 years ago

My vote is:

Mike Mussina
Jeff Bagwell
Mike Piazza

Mussina and Bagwell were easy for me, but the third spot between Alomar, Thomas, and Piazza was tough.

brp
brp
9 years ago

Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas

Dan McCloskey
Editor
9 years ago

I guess another drawback of doing the voting this way is that someone could allow previous votes to influence theirs. I’m not going to do that, of course, so my votes go to:

Jeff Bagwell
Mike Piazza
Roberto Alomar

Obviously, Mussina and Thomas are the top runners up, but I wanted to vote for guys who were among the best at their position in history in this inaugural round. Bagwell and Piazza are definitely in the top ten at their respective positions, and Alomar is arguable.

The Diamond King
9 years ago

Piazza, Bagwell and Thomas. All were dominant to an extent that I rarely felt with Mussina.

Take that all you statheads! I FELT it! Just kidding, I’m a stathead too.

JDV
JDV
9 years ago

You’ve started with 1968…a year that pleased the baseball gods greatly. I can’t stop at three. I forfeit. And I anticipate great angst when you get to some of the leaner years from which no one would make 1968’s Top Fifteen.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  JDV

JDV, if it helps, remember we’re not really voting for who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, we’re voting for the three best players in this group. It’s not a yes/no on the HOF vote at all. I think we can all pretty easily see 5+ deserving Hall members, maybe 7 or 8 if you’re a big Hall guy. But that’s not the point. The point is to pick the BEST 3 of the group. This should help with lean years also, which may not contain 3 guys who are HOF’ers to vote for, but there should be… Read more »

ATarwerdi96
9 years ago

Bagwell, Thomas, Piazza

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
9 years ago

1) Mike Piazza 2) Frank Thomas 3) Roberto Alomar (in that order) I also considered: – Jeff Bagwell (toughest to leave out) – Jeff Kent (kinda tough to leave out) – Mike Mussina(tough to leave out) – John Olerud – Gary Sheffield (tough to leave out) – Sammy Sosa (sorta tough to leave out) – Bernie Williams (not tough to leave out) REASONING: 1) Mike Piazza – arguably one of the three best catchers ever, behind only Bench and Berra. He was clearly the best hitting catcher, and his defensive shortcomings were overstated in that while he was not a… Read more »

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Minor error: you misspelled Artie Z’s name(he’s #2 on your list). On the other hand, you corrected ancientmariner’s own misspelling of his screen name. 🙂

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Haha, of course there could be egg on both of our faces if ancientmainer is from the state of Maine.