Ryan Braun’s acceptance of an MVP award under the false pretense that he earned it sticks in my craw. Further alarming is how he reversed his recent suspension on a technicality of the process.
Braun’s MVP travesty is the inspiration of this essay.
This is not directly about the above MVP chart, which shows that 9 out of the last 22 MVP awards were steroid-bogus.
This is about cheating. And how to clarify an HOF measurement. Here we go…..
Baseball already has Black Ink and Grey Ink. These are Jamesian measurements of career player stats that reveal how talented a hitter was in the context of his own time — against his playing peers.
Bill James defined both measurements in his book, The Politics of Glory.”
A player’s Black Ink score is found when taking the offensive category in which he led the league and multiplying it by a predetermined factor for that specific hitting category. Leading the league in HR’s is worth 4 points. Leading the league in runs scored is worth 3 points, etc.. Mantle led the AL in HR’s 4x and earned 16 Black Ink points. He led it in runs scored 5x and earned another 15 for that. Counting all categories, Mantle amassed a Black Ink score of 64.
The point scale is tiered. Four points for leading in HR’s, RBI or BA. Three points for leading in runs scored, hits or slugging. Two points for leading in doubles, BB, or stolen bases. One point for leading in games, at bats or triples.
Grey Ink’s computations are nearly identical to that of Black Ink. There is one critical difference. Grey Ink charts how many times you finish in your league’s Top 10 for a category, not how many times you lead the league.
Let’s focus on Black Ink.
The average Black Ink score for an HOF’er is 27. Babe Ruth soars above the common HOF’er with a tally of 161. Cobb is 150. Hornsby 125. Teddy Ballgame is 125. Musial is at 116. Wagner is 109. Brouthers is at 79. LaJoie and Aaron are at 76. Rounding out the Top 10 Black Ink scores is Gehrig at 75.
Mike Schmidt is the #11 position-holder at 74. Just south of the Iron Mike are the ignoble narcissists, Bonds and A-Rod. Barry sits at 69. Alex has 68.
The B.I. leader list looks clean after those two steroid users until you get down to Mark McGwire in 42nd place. Though not sniffing the rarified air of the Top 20, Big Mac still ranks ahead of Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson and Frank Robinson.
As the man shouted when he came home suddenly to find his cat trying to mount his beagle, “That’s just not right, man !!”
I’ll come back to that inequity in a bit.
The Top 10, with the exception of Brouthers, represents the all time elite of well rounded offensive players. You can make the case that six of them are the greatest players of all time.
The Top 50 is impressive, studded with Yaz, Killebrew, Foxx, Mantle, Gwynn, Henderson, Ott, Greenberg, Brett, Boggs, Speaker and Crawford.
At 60 deep in Black Ink, you have 11 other non-HOF’ers who are banned, or are still active, or played too long ago, or miss by a smidge. These include Pete Rose, Albert Pujols, Ross Barnes, Harry Stovey, Gavvy Cravat, Tony Oliva, Tip O’neil, Sherry Magee, Harry Davis, George Burns, and Dale Murphy.
Those 11 excluded individuals are not in the HOF for sound reasons. That makes the B.I. list look better and better as a HOF litmus test.
Check out the all time list at www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/black_ink.shtml
The quality of the B.I. Top 60 is self-evident. James was really onto something. The measurement is useful.
But what to do about the cheaters ? Let’s create a reduction factor called Red Ink that deducts B.I. points. Red Ink would subtract points earned in those years after which the player displayed an acutely changed physique while delivering an sharply increased offensive performance — after 1985. We can debate the starting point. 1985 is the year that Jose Canseco bulked up in the minors and started spreading the word. I’m open to a discussion on that issue.
This is how Red Ink would affect Barry Bonds. He bulked up in the offseason of 1998, after MM hit 70 chemically-aided dingers. Big Head Barry subsequently led the NL 7x in BB’s, 1x in HR, 2x in batting, and 4x in Slugging. That’s 38 Red Ink points. Subtracting 38 from his current total of 69, and Barry’s revised net B.I. total is 31.
31 points moves Barry well down to 60th place, just 4 points above the average B.I. score for a HOF’er. Barry Bonds is just an average HOF’er.
There is justice in Bonds’ adjusted score. It is widely believed that Barry had a HOF quality career before he hit the juice. He’d had made it if he stayed clean. Red Ink reveals his true place among the greats.
Do the same exercise with McGwire and he falls to a Black Ink score of 10.
The non-juiced Mark McGwire is not a HOF’er. Period. He’s a fraud. Sorry A’s & Cards fans.
The list of MVP winners atop this essay shows the tainted MVP winners in Red Ink. With the sincere-sounding-yet-still-guilty Ryan Braun the latest to cheat his way to an MVP award, we are reminded that wherever there is big money there will be cheating. Many have cheated and lied before Braun and he isn’t likely to be the last.
Let’s start striking the numbers. Strike the Red Ink MVP’s. Strike their bogus Black Ink points. Strike them from the HOF ballot, even Bonds, who would have made it on natural abilty.
Let’s be ever vigilant in preventing cheaters to enter the hall or bask in the radiance of falsely earned hardware.
And that applies to David Ortiz as much as it does to A Rod, Yankee Fans.