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Please note: this article was written in 1998.

So What about McGwire and El Presidente? Should they be in the Hall of Fame?

There is strong sentiment right now that Dennis Martinez is a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher. This is based in part on the fact that he is, at this point, tied for the record for most wins by a Latin American pitcher. The sentiment is also based on a few other things: his longevity (he's 43 years old, and broke in with the Orioles in 1976! To give that some perspective, he was a 5 year veteran when Cal Ripken broke in); the fact that he overcame a very significant drug and alcohol problem in the 80s, and the fact that he is apparently a magnificent human being. These things all may be true, but the fact is that he is not a Hall of Fame pitcher.

Martinez never won more than 16 games in his career, doing that three times. He only had four years when his ERA was below 3.00, and his career ERA is very high for a Hall of Fame pitcher at 3.68. The only significant statistic where he led the league was in complete games, a comparatively insignificant statistic. He was only an All-Star four times in his 22-year career. If he was truly a Hall of Famer, his peers would have recognized it sooner.

As for setting the record for wins by a Latino, that is only a pseudo-record. It is not a real record like 61 home runs or 2531 consecutive games. It is one of those records that is so obscure and conditional that it is essentially insignificant.

Lastly, and most significantly, I think, is that Bill James has a second scale for evaluating Hall of Fame performance. It's called the Hall of Fame standards list. In it, James rates the average Hall of Famer at exactly 50 points and molds a system to fit the scale. He gives points for significant milestones like number of wins over 100 and number of strikeouts over 1000. You get a number that you can compare to 50 and get an idea where the player stands.

El Presidente rates at 32 on this scale. James states that "above 35 percent, a player becomes a viable candidate." But only 16% of the players who rate from 35 to 39% are in the Hall. It is extemely doubtful that Martinez will receive any more points under this system, so his score stays at 32.

There is at least one pitcher in the Hall with a lower percentage - a 19th century pitcher, Jesse Haines, as only 27%, but look at the list of other viable candidates with their scores: Vida Blue (36), Bert Blyleven (49), Lew Burdette (31), Mike Cuellar (35), Ron Guidry (38), Tommy John (44), Jim Kaat (44), Mickey Lolich (37), Dave McNally (35), Luis Tiant (41).

Furthermore, he has only 243 wins. This puts him behind such non-Hall of Famers as Tommy John (288), Bert Blyleven (287), Robin Roberts (286) and Jim Kaat (283). None of them are in the Hall; who should Dennis?

No, Dennis Martinez is not a Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, much as I love him as a player, neither is Mark McGwire. At least at this point.

McGwire only rates an anemic 16% on the Hof standards list, though, unlike Martinez, he can and currently is raising his numbers. His numbers are artificially low because of the number of games he's missed to injury. His sore heel bedeviled McGwire through most of the early 90s - he only played 27 games in 1993 and 47 in 94. He did have 387 home runs going into the 98 season. That will obviously go up dramatically. He has 983 RBI. That will also go up like crazy. He has the unique record of lowest home run to hit radio in history. Is that a pseudo-record? Now when the person you're beating is Babe Ruth.

I guess I'm trying to make a case for him making the Hall after playing 4 or 5 more years, breaking 500 home runs and 1300 RBI. After this season, he will have been an All-Star for 8 of his 13 years in the majors, which indicates the high esteem his peers and fans see him in. If he breaks Maris's record this year, and if he hits 500 home runs in his career, I think it will serve to influence Hall of Fame voters' minds. No player with more than 500 career home runs is not in the Hall, and only four with 400 are not in the Hall. 500 is the key here, I think.

Neither of these rating systems James uses has any real influence whatsoever on Hall of Fame voters' choices for immortality. In fact, James himself discusses at least four even more complicated systems for predicting a player's eventual enshrinement. Under one system, you compare a player's peers to see if enshrinement is warranted. In Martinez's case, the question will be, how many pitchers with 240 wins are not in the Hall of Fame (I don't have the numbers, but I'm quite sure that a number of fine pitchers are not in.). In McGwire's case, the question is how many players have hit 450 home runs and are not in (possibly 2 or 3, but certainly no more than that).

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