As if the Hall of Fame vote isn't fun and controversial enough, ESPN.com unveiled its annual Hall of 100 list -- the 100 best players of all time. And for this list, it doesn't matter if you used steroids, greenies, extract from sheep testicles or elixir of Brown-Sequard. No judgments here! The only thing that matters is what you did between the lines. We don't even care if you snorted a few lines between innings.
Anyway, I'm here to offer some expert commentary on a few issues regarding this year's update. I offer only my assessment of the truth. If you can't handle the truth, well, I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to somebody who questions the manner in which I provide it!
Wait, sorry, I just finished watching "A Few Good Men." OK, four questions:
No. 1: Is Derek Jeter's final placement (No. 31) too high, too low or just right?
This question is more complicated than defending freedom. Or not. We can go the easy route. Jeter's career WAR on Baseball-Reference is 71.8, which ranks 88th, just below Larry Walker and Harry Heilmann and just above Rafael Palmeiro and Ted Lyons. None of those guys are ranked close to 31. Or even in the top 100.
But we can play with Jeter's ranking a bit. For example, let's leave out the 19th century guys. Frankly, I wouldn't put any 19th century guys in my top 100, no offense to the 19th century. That eliminates 12 players ahead of Jeter and gets him up to No. 76. Then there are players who are just ahead of him in career WAR that I feel comfortable in saying that I'd rather have Jeter over without digging too deep: Walker, Heilmann, Luke Appling, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, Lou Whitaker, Paul Molitor. I love Thome and Thomas, awesome hitters, feared, all that, but shortstops are hard to find. Bobby Wallace, an obscure turn-of-the-century shortstop. Reggie Jackson. Yes, even Reggie, career WAR of 73.8. I think I'd take Jeter's career over his. So that's nine more slots. He's up to 67th.
OK. What if WAR is penalizing Jeter a little too much for his defense? The defensive metrics used at Baseball-Reference hate Jeter's defense; they treat him as if he played shortstop wearing cement cleats. Maybe he did. They value him at 246 runs below average on defense. That's bad. That's all-time bad. It's the worst career total in history -- 51 runs worse than the No. 2 awful defender, Gary Sheffield. Are the metrics wrong here? I'm not saying they are; I generally believe in the metrics and different systems all have evaluated Jeter as a bad defender. But they could be wrong, or at least a little wrong. Let's say Jeter wasn't 246 runs below average but 146 runs. That still would make him the fourth-worst defender of all time. One hundred runs is worth about 10 additional wins (every 10 runs is worth about a win). Now we've bumped him further, to about No. 45.
Then we have the postseason stuff. I believe Jeter won a few rings. How much extra credit do you give him for that? He also hit .308/.375/.464 in his postseason career with 111 runs in 158 games, facing better pitching than in the regular season. If you want to give him a lot of extra credit, maybe you can justify moving him to No. 31 overall.
Now, I don't think Jeter is the 31st-best player of all time. That's Albert Pujols territory -- he's No. 29 on the Hall of 100 and 33rd on the career WAR -- and I'd easily take Pujols over Jeter. So to answer the question: too high.
No. 2: Should Alex Rodriguez (No. 23) be higher considering his numbers?
Our beloved A-Rod slipped four spots from last year, no surprise considering he didn't play. Again, steroids don't matter. Wall art doesn't matter. Fashion photo shoots don't matter. Enjoying popcorn doesn't matter.
I'd say No. 23 is a little low. A-Rod is 17th all time in WAR and nine of those ahead of him were born in the 1800s. The overall caliber of play in the early 1900s wasn't as strong as it is now -- there was more variation between the best players and worst players -- so it was easier back then for the best players to exceed the level of their peers and thus compile a huge WAR. If you don't believe in this concept then you have to believe that nine of the top 20 players of all time were born in the 1800s, which is pretty silly.
I'd comfortably rank A-Rod in the top 15 and maybe as high as No. 10.
No. 3: Will Felix Hernandez (No. 114) eventually crack the top 100?
I'm surprised he moved into the top 125 considering he has just 125 career victories. Of course, we have a smart panel of voters here at ESPN who understand that Felix has been victimized through the years by some horrible offenses in Seattle. His career WAR of 45.4 puts him 124th ... among pitchers. So 114th overall seems a little high. But he's certainly on a top-100 path. He turns 29 in April and has averaged 5.5 WAR over the past five seasons. If he can average 5.0 WAR over the next five seasons that gets him to 70.4 career WAR and easy top-100 status. And if he remains healthy into his late 30s, he has inner-circle Hall of Fame potential.
No. 4: Where's Ichiro Suzuki?
What's with all these Mariners? I promise you that my editor selected these questions, not me. Anyway, Ichiro wasn't even included on the ballot due to failing to meet our qualifying standard -- he wasn't one of the top 150 position players according to Dan Szymborski's metric called GAR (greatness above replacement). Not named after Edgar Martinez (another cheap Mariners reference).
I asked about Ichiro's exclusion but rules are rules and what Ichiro accomplished in Japan doesn't factor in here. Even though his MLB career didn't start until he was 27, Ichiro ranks 190th in career WAR at 58.8. Obviously, that's not going to climb much -- if any -- higher, but Miguel Cabrera's career WAR is 59.4 and he ranks 47th on the Hall of 100. In his first 10 seasons, before he started slipping, Ichiro averaged 5.5 WAR per season. I'd say that peak value alone probably warrants him top-100 merit.
So send in your protests and let's get Ichiro on the ballot next year.