Kapler: I idolized Rose — but he should not be in Hall of Fame

Gabe Kapler modeled his game after Pete Rose.

Pete Rose inspired my style of play, but should not be in the Hall of Fame.

When I was 8 years old, I was struck by a car and broke a few ribs. I could care less about the pain, but missing my Saturday morning baseball games was excruciating. Those mornings at the park were like my drugs — I was addicted to baseball. As a way of cheering me up, my parents brought home the dirtiest, ugliest, smelliest dog the pound had to offer and presented this mangy mutt to me. I named him Pete, after Pete Rose.

I idolized Rose. He was not just the guy with the mountainous pile of hits; he transcended the sport of baseball through his desperate affinity for dirt and gambling. He was a romantic — and in many ways still is — about baseball. Folks were able relate to Rose, an imperfect character who maximized his natural gifts through all-out grit.

Rose’s baseball card entitles him to a plaque in Cooperstown, NY; nobody can fairly dispute that. But he broke baseball law with full understanding that if caught, the consequences would be severe.

I still admire Rose’s style of play and what he accomplished between the lines with every iota of my soul. I also have patience and understanding for him as a human being. We all have rooms in our homes that could benefit from a good spring-cleaning.


So Rose lies where he should; in an uncomfortable bed that he hastily made – outside of the Hall.

For this same reason, we must walk the line and keep others who have knowingly turned their noses up at rules out of the Hall of Fame. I wrote about this here.

On this year’s ballot, we have a plethora of deserving choices to celebrate and can find men with fewer exposed character flaws than the publicly-known PED users.

No one offered me a vote, but if they did, my ballot would include these men (I didn’t have to think twice about any of them):

Frank Thomas

I believe in my heart that the name of the game in baseball — from an offensive perspective — is getting on base and not making outs. Additionally, if a hitter is able to score a run with no help from another player by hitting a home run, he becomes uber valuable. Big Frank got on base at a .419 clip for his career. That’s better than Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson. Thomas created his own run — by homer — 521 times; more than Lou Gehrig and Ernie Banks. He’s in.

Jeff Bagwell

When comparing Bags’ stats with Frank’s across the board, it’s a pretty close race. Frank leads in most categories, but not by a huge margin. Bagwell gets in for me because of the on-base and HR tools, but he swiped 202 bases in his career and played on both sides of the ball helping him move closer to Frank comparatively.

Tim Raines

When Raines took off on a base-stealing mission, he was almost never caught. Among players with 500 or more SBs, he had the highest rate of success in this category. This causes Raines’ slugging percentage of .425 to tick up as those singles became doubles and doubles became triples. In the end his WAR exceeded that of Harmon Killebrew and was nearly identical to Robin Yount.

Greg Maddux

Maddux had a WAR of 114.3. Better than Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton. Normally, I’d back up WAR with peripherals. For a top-five WAR guy all time, I don’t feel I need to.

Curt Schilling

For my former teammate with the Boston Red Sox, I’m going to use FIP, a stat that removes factors outside a pitcher’s control such as defense and illuminates his ability to limit base runners via the base on balls, strike men out and suppress HRs.  In this category, Schill is better than Maddux and Fergie Jenkins. Schilling owns the honor of being first all time in strikeout-to-walk ratio in the modern era and did his finest work in the postseason posting a FIP of 3.06 and an ERA of .223 in 19 starts.

Mike Piazza

Like Frank Thomas, Piazza got on base and hit for power. Analyzing just the combination of those two skills, he was the best among catchers and ranks first in slugging, first in OPS+, first in homers and first in offensive WAR. Piazza’s wOBA, my favorite all-encompassing offensive stat that appropriately measures the way a batter reaches base, was better than Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter and Yogi Berra — all Hall of Fame catchers. Of the men on my list, Piazza was the player most commonly speculated of PED use, but he was never on a list, never in trouble with the law, never had a failed test …

Mike Mussina

More advanced metrics are the path to a strong case for Mussina to enter the Hall. His WAR of 83 smokes the average Hall of Fame pitcher (roughly 73 WAR). Pitching in the AL East in hitter friendly parks hurt his ability to truly dominate and frankly, he wasn’t an intimidating plate appearance, but neither was Maddux. Mussina’s strikeout to walk ratio of 3.58 was stronger than Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan. Moose deserves a resting spot in the HOF.

All stats according to Fangraphs.com.