08 January 2013

My 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Cooperstown. There is truly nothing else quite like that place. It may sound hokey if one were to describe it as special, but that may seem so to someone who has not made the trek to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Only the game's greatest will end up enshrined in the Hall and thus it is a shame that we have some of the biggest hacks in journalism who get to decide who goes in.

On that note, what players would be on my Hall of Fame ballot were I to have one?

The Ballot
Jeff Bagwell
Essentially, the controversy behind Bagwell's case is that there are inklings that he used. Never mind he never failed a steroids test. Never mind he was not in the Mitchell Report. Pretty much, some writers are opposed to his candidacy because he once used androstenedione in 1998, a full six years before that drug was illegal. His case shows that the time period that you play in is so important as Bagwell, whose numbers should clearly get him in, played at a time when PEDs were rampant in baseball and it has proven very hard to come out with your resume unstained. 

Craig Biggio
There is a good chance that Biggio is the only player inducted this year, considering there is also a real chance that nobody gets inducted because you writers with look-at-me ballots that are blank or with only one guy. But to me, the Biggio case is a fascinating one because he has a good case on the traditional standpoint due to his 3,000 hits but it is close on the new age statistical front, although the fact that he played well at every position the club asked him to. He was a key face of the franchise during the team's great years and if you break it down for each position, he's right at the standard. He deserves to get in. 

Barry Bonds
Now this is where it gets fun. Did Bonds use steroids or some other type of PED? I think he probably did, although as every defender will say, he never failed a test. And honestly, my opinion on the alleged steroid users has evolved over the years. Everybody knew that steroids and PEDs were out of control in the late 1990's into the 2000's, the media knew it, the front office executives knew it, the fellow players knew it, everyone knew it but nobody went seriously public with it because the league was still digging its way out of the 1994 strike and the home run chases brought positive press to the sport. It isn't fair to say that every player was using but this was the "Wild West" days of baseball, as Jay Jaffe refers to it, to where there were not even serious suspensions for using steroids.
Back to Bonds, the rumors trace back to 1998 but if you take out the numbers after that time, Bonds is still a Hall of Famer. Yes he did probably cheat the sport but it was not like he was pulling a Brady Anderson with his power coming out of nowhere and he would be far from the only bad apple in Cooperstown. 

Roger Clemens
The Clemens case is similar to Bonds' in that he probably did use, although it has not been proven via a negative test. The evidence is there and thus it is hard to try and prove that he never did. But also like Bonds, the allegations predate testing and came in the league's "Wild West" era where everybody knew something was going on and nobody said or did anything about it. So like Bonds, we have to look at his career prior to when the allegations allege that usage begins, if Clemens' numbers after 1997 were wiped out, he is still a clear Hall of Famer. 

Edgar Martinez
Essentially, the case against Martinez is that he spent much of his career as a DH and did not have to play in the field. Never mind that Paul Molitor (Class of 2004) spent much of his career as a DH and he was inducted in his first try. Plus, not only are Martinez's numbers better than Molitor's, but Martinez was not moved to DH because he was an awful fielder, he actually was a decent guy at the hot corner with the glove, but because of injury issues that he had early in his career. I do understand the reason why a DH is at a disadvantage in terms of the Hall, but it really would be a shame to withhold one of the elite hitters because of it. 

Mike Piazza
Like Bagwell, Piazza has been tainted by just rumors that he used, never any actual proof. And yes, I refuse to count as proof the fact that he had "backne," because that is really an embarrassing reason to keep someone completely deserving out of the Hall. Yes, he certainly was no Gold Glove player behind the plate but considering he put up awesome offensive numbers for his position, ranking as the best offensive catcher ever, as well as the fact that he lost a decent number of games each year due to being a catcher and the fact that he never played in a good hitters' ballpark (Dodgers Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, Shea Stadium, Petco Park and O.co Coliseum). 

Tim Raines
The fact that Raines has still not gotten into the hall is yet another reason that the writers are a farce. Raines was overshadowed during his great years because of the fact that he played at the same time as Rickey Henderson and because he played in Montreal. It also doesn't helped that when he was his early years in the majors he battled a cocaine problem but so did Molitor and supposedly Dennis Eckersley did as well and both are in. And if you look at it, Raines' numbers are pretty close to those of Tony Gwynn, who nearly got 100% of the ballot his first year, and it doesn't help that so many writers still look at baseball like it is the 1970's and therefore show an abhorrence for advanced statistics. 

Curt Schilling
What will likely hurt Schilling's case is the fact that he had a (well-deserved) case as a malcontent, as well as the fact that he did not get to 300 wins and never won a Cy Young. Never mind that playing on some awful Phillies teams hurt his win total. Anyways, while Schilling may not have the wins, his extraordinarily good strikeout numbers are what put his case over the top as he is third all-time strikeouts-per-nine with over 3,000 innings and his total of 300 strikeout seasons which put him in rarefied air. What also makes him deserving was his great success as a postseason pitcher, as he went 11-2 in postseason starts (4-1 in the World Series) and led his teams to four pennants and three titles. 

Alan Trammell
I have never understood why it has taken so long (and likely will take even longer, if ever) that Trammell has not gotten into the Hall. Everybody knows that historically, shortstops were traditionally awful hitters and strictly defense-first players. Trammell was ahead of his time with being an excellent hitter and an excellent fielder but got overshadowed by Cal Ripken, Jr. and late in his career by guys like Barry Larkin, both of whom are in the Hall. Trammell's case was probably hurt because he was a fiasco managing the Tigers but his numbers are very comparable (if not a tick better) to Larkin's and honestly, if Ozzie Smith is in, no reason why Trammell shouldn't make it. 

That is my ballot. Yes I do not have a full ballot as my ballot has nine guys but that is because I had a tough time making a significant case for a tenth guy. Here are the guys that did not make the cut.

Kenny Lofton
Lofton came closer than you would expect to being on my ballot and a reason why I think that many are not taking him more seriously as a candidate is because he was such a journeyman late in his career as well as the fact that he was always pretty underrated during his peak years. The advanced statistics leave him a little shy but he does greatly take advantage of being an awesome field in his best years.

Fred McGriff
McGriff is a guy that folks want to be in the Hall of Fame when you have guys getting on the ballot with ties (some legitimate and substantiated, some absolutely ridiculous) to performance enhancing drugs (Dale Murphy is the same way). But save for his home run totals of 493, which would look great a couple decades ago but in the greater offensive era, it doesn't look that impressive, his resume is lacking because he was never considered an elite player (no MVP's, one top five finish) and was never much in the field.

Mark McGwire
If you wipe away the steroid chargers (and later, admission), you would think on the basis of his home run totals that he would be a cinch for the Hall. But what if I told you that even with the homers, he is a borderline case regardless. And I did consider McGwire for my ballot even though he did admit to using because of what I said earlier, guys in the media knew what was going with steroids and them failing to dig deep on the issue makes them as much of the problem as guys in the front office not doing anything about it either. Plus, McGwire did admit to using but in a time where they were not testing. But I chose to leave out McGwire because when you look at the entirety of his profile, with a low hit total, an awful career in the postseason and pretty mediocre fielding leaves him on the outside looking in.

Jack Morris
Morris has a reputation of being an all-time postseason pitcher, with Game 7 of the 1991 World Series being probably the greatest postseason pitching performance ever. And it has been on the back of that performance to where Morris has been steadily gaining votes towards a potential induction, getting to 66.7% last year. But you know what, if you vote for Morris, you almost have to vote for David Wells, who is one his first year on the ballot, because not only was Wells a very good postseason pitcher in his own right, his statistics are very similarly to Morris's and he has greater values in WAR and Jay Jaffe's JAWS, which is a combination of career and peak WAR.

Dale Murphy
Murphy's case is that the peak years of his career are Hall of Fame worthy but the downfall in the resume is that he had a short peak and fell off dramatically after he turned 31. When you use advanced statistical metrics to determine his case, he does fall short and it really is not that close. That said, considering his prime, if he were to somehow find his way to the Hall (highly unlikely, but hear me out), I would not carry a torch and pitchfork and riot in Cooperstown. Actually, I would never do that anyways because I absolutely love Cooperstown and have been wanting to go back for years.

Rafael Palmeiro
The case for Palmeiro, if you wipe away the steroid taint, is a classic one for induction from the traditionalist standpoint considering he has over 3,000 hits and 500 homers. In fact, considering he is either clear or pretty close in terms of WAR and JAWS to the Hall, I think that Palmiero, of those guys like McGwire and Sosa, has the best case to make the Hall. What really hurts him is the fact that he is the only one to fail a PED test after he famously wagged his finger with defiance at Congress, although he was not having a great season that year anyways.

Sammy Sosa
I'm going to rehash the steroids thing here because I've written it multiple times in this post already. But like McGwire, he is a borderline case regardless of the steroids issue even with 609 home runs. His WAR for his career comes about 15 points shy of the Hall standard, even though his prime is one point in the clear, which could lead to some to say that this is an enhanced (no pun intended) Dale Murphy resume because of a strong peak but everything else being subpar. Plus, something to note that even with those huge homer years, he only finished in the top five of the MVP vote once, when he won in 1998.

Lee Smith
Lee Smith goes down in history as one of the best relievers ever, after all, he did retire with the most saves of any closer before being overtaken by Trevor Hoffman and later Mariano Rivera. But considering so few relievers have gotten in to the Hall due to the fact that it is such and up and down position, you have to be a truly great one to make it in and that I think leaves Smith shy, although I would not mind completely if he were to get in since he is more deserving than Bruce Sutter (Class of 2006), in my opinion.

Larry Walker
Honestly, I came closest to having Walker on my ballot of anybody else on the ballot and the biggest reason why I chose to leave him just short, even with an open spot, is not because of the fact that he spent much of his career in Denver but more because he struggled to stay healthy for the entirety of his career. And even then, using advanced statistics, he still is good enough to make the cut.

Bernie Williams
Williams was a key piece of the Yankees' dynasty in the mid to late 1990's in the 21st Century and had himself a very good prime (hence some comparisons to Dale Murphy's Hall of Fame candidacy). That said, I find hard to take his profile for the Hall seriously. He was never a real candidate for AL MVP, which proves that he was very good without being great. And not to mention truly awful defense, no matter what those Gold Gloves try to say. 

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