Jay Jaffe dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Monday to discuss his new book, The Cooperstown Casebook: Who’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Who Should Be In, and Who Should Pack Their Plaques. In the book, Jaffe used his JAWS system, which he developed more than a decade ago, to help fans – and, perhaps more importantly, Hall of Fame voters – objectively analyze players based on their production.
Under Jaffe’s system, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are slam-dunk Hall-of-Famers.
“You judge them on their numbers,” Jaffe said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “We don’t have to love everything about them. You don’t have to induct every single one of them. In my system, Bonds and Clemens are at or near the top of their positions. Bonds and Clemens deserve it. Mark McGwire, to me, is borderline, and Sammy Sosa is a step or two below. Despite the 600 home runs, he had a very concentrated career where he had high value, but he didn’t have a lot outside of that. I don’t think you have to automatically induct those guys, but you should judge those guys based on the idea that there was nothing stopping them from doing this.
“Now, when you get to Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez or Rafael Palmeiro and we’ve got positive tests – we’ve got guys who knew what the consequences were and broke the rules – I think you can treat them differently,” Jaffe continued. “To me, that’s a more legitimate place to draw the line than it is to just say all these guys (shouldn’t get in). You could talk to baseball fans of all ages across the spectrum, and the only guarantee you will get on this topic is that somebody out there disagrees with you. I respect that. What I’ve tried to do here is tell this lengthy story. Instead of just shaking my finger at these guys and say, ‘You cheated, you’re out,’ is to tell this lengthy story for how we could look at this in the broad context of baseball history.”
The book also rethinks the way players – and the game – should be assessed. For example, only 15 of 27 players with 500 home runs are in the Hall of Fame. Granted, some of those players are not yet eligible for the Hall, but having – or not having – one number shouldn’t necessarily guarantee or preclude a spot in the Hall.
“We don’t have to be married to these numbers as automatics,”Jaffe said, “because there were times (when) it was easier to compile them than others.”
There is also character to consider. Well, sort of.
Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby and Tris Speaker were reportedly members of the KKK.
“It was not uncommon in the first half of the 20th century for players to be members of the KKK,” Jaffe said. “I guess there was less stigma attached to it (at that time).”
Fred Leib, who covered baseball for roughly 70 years, connected Hornsby and Speaker to the KKK in his 1977 memoir, Baseball As I have Known It.
“This is a guy who saw as much baseball as many man during his time,” Jaffe said.
Jaffe then pointed out an important distinction about the Hall’s character clause.
“The Hall of Fame is not a church. There is no moral purity in there,” he said. “The character clause, if it’s enforced, is supposed to have to do with what’s on the field. So when you’re talking about Shoeless Joe Jackson or Pete Rose or whomever, those are disqualifiers, whereas Curt Schilling, the stuff he’s saying now, that’s a completely separate category. That had no bearing on how he helped his teams win.”