The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Something That Got Lost In The Shuffle

Don't know how this happened, but I forgot to comment on Rafael Palmeiro getting his 3,000th hit last week, putting him in the company of only 25 other men. Since then Raffy's hit safely 10 more times, moving him up to a tie for 24th all-time with Wade Boggs. His 3,001 hit made Palmeiro the number one latino on the hit list, and he's only a handful of homeruns behind Sammy Sosa in the homerun category. And while 3,000 hits by itself is a major baseball accomplishment, when you add that to Palmeiro's 568 homeruns he joins only three other men to have ever acheived both (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray).

Alot has been said about whether Palmeiro is worthy to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some seem to think that since Palmeiro played in the matchbox ballpark and 'roid era, he doesn't deserve it, no matter what his numbers say.

I say most should reserve their judgement, because Palmeiro's not done yet. It's perfectly reasonable to expect Palmeiro to get another 50 hits and 8 home runs this year, moving him up to 19th all-time in hits and 8th all-time in homeruns. If Raffy plays next year, he could very well finish with 140 more hits and 25 more homeruns moving him to 14th all-time for hits and 6th all-time for homeruns. By doing this, Palmeiro would also become only the third player to have 3,000 hits and 600 home runs (Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are the other two), want to keep a guy out of the Hall with those stats? Want to add one more year to this hypothetical? Let's say that Palmeiro's age, health, and diminishing skills allow him only 100 hits and 17 homeruns in 2007. This would give him a total of 3,300 hits (good for 10th all-time) and 618 homeruns (5th all-time) for his career. At the end of this hypothetical, he's got more hits than Willie Mays and more home runs than Mark McGwire.

As far as whether Palmeiro took steriods? If he did, I'd say he's one of the few ballplayers they didn't work for. Since 1993, Palmeiro has hit safely 2,042 times with 469 homeruns. He had a low of 23 HRs in the strike shortened-season of '94 and hit a high of 47 twice, not a wide variation there. You would think that one taking steriods would see a dramatic rise in production for at least a season (a la Bonds). But in my opinion one of the biggest arguments against Raffy on steroids is the fact that his stats have actually declined as he's gotten up to and past 40. His average has declined every year since 1999 with a slight bump up this year and his HR totals have gone down every year since 2001. So as Palmeiro starts to lose muscle mass and bat speed with age, as one would expect, his stats actually drop- not plateau or even spike as other contemporary's have.

So what's going against Palmeiro? Namely the fact that the pitching is so watered down nowadays, but it also seems that Raffy's consistency and ability to actually play all season long (not like Bonds or McGwire) works against him. There's also this underlying thought with all these sportswriters that we're about to see a deluge of baseball players cracking 500 homeruns and/or 3,000 hits. If you take a look at the stats, that's not true. Junior Griffey has 500 plus homers right now, but is nowhere near 3,000 hits (800 or so left to go). After Griffey on the homerun list is Jeff Bagwell (449), Frank Thomas (448), and Gary Sheffield (435). Sheffield might get to 500, but anyone think Bags and Thomas can be healthy enough to do it? Next up on the 3,000 hit list? Craig Biggio, 2,734 hits. Think Biggio can stay healthy for another couple of seasons? After Biggio is Bonds (2,730), Julio Franco (2,497), and Steve Finley (2,396). There's some names further on down the list that could break either landmark if they stay healthy and keep producing for several more seasons, but really the only major league players with a decent shot of breaking 3,000 and 500 are Bonds and A-Rod.

So the guy didn't crack 50 homers once, or just happened to bounce back and forth between two franchises for 17 season at all the wrong times, that doesn't mean he wasn't a great player or that he doesn't deserve to not be in the hall.