03 January 2014

My 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Cooperstown is truly one of the special places that dot the sporting landscape, there really is nothing quite like it. It has to be on one's bucket list to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and thus it is a shame that the induction process has become defined by charlatan voters who use their votes to generate publicity and a spotlight on themselves by submitting blank ballots (and not for the reason) or not submitting them at all, various forms of intellectual inconsistency (Jonah Keri wrote a great piece on this last year), or continuing to submit ballots just to spite the so-called "bloggers" (Murray Chass is truly definitive of everything wrong with the system). That all seemed to come to a head last year with no players being inducted last year (I wrote a lengthy response to that vote).

The result of that is now a jammed ballot this year with the circumstance that the silly ten-person limit on the ballot is not enough for the amount of deserving candidates, meaning the backlog will only get worse. After all, generally only one or two people are inducted each year and with some very strong candidates coming on the ballot in future years, the going will get tougher.

Having gotten that off my chest (and I could add much more), here is my hypothetical 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.

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. 

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 these wild days of baseball to where there were not even serious suspensions for using steroids. Not to mention that there are Hall of Famers that used amphetamines (and are guys like Aaron, Mays, Mantle and Schmidt going to be removed from the Hall?).
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. 

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 era where everybody knew something was going on and nobody said or did anything about it. So like Bonds, if we have to look at his career prior to when the allegations allege that usage begins, and thus if Clemens' numbers after 1997 were wiped out, he is still a clear Hall of Famer.

Tom Glavine
It would be easy to dismiss Glavine as merely a guy with 300 wins and not just more than that, but that would also be rather foolish and lazy. His career WAR is 81.4, higher than the average starting pitcher at 72.6, and his JAWS score of 62.9 clears the average standard of 61.4. He is 21st in wins at 305, 30th in innings at 4,413 and 1/3, and 12th in starts with 682. Glavine was not a  bigstrikeout guy but was a precision pitcher as well as a horse and the numbers solidify his Hall case.

Greg Maddux
If I am sure about anything with the Hall voting this year (and I have learned to never be that sure of anything with this process), it is a lock that Maddux will sail into Cooperstown on his first chance. He won't be unanimous (because Joe DiMaggio was not unanimous, dammit!) but he will be north of 90 percent for certain. By traditional statistics (eighth most wins, second most wins for a lefty, fourth most starts, 10th most strikeouts, tied for most Cy Youngs, most Gold Gloves) and advanced (sixth all time in WAR), he is a Hall of Famer. Not even the most disingenuous of voters will prevent him from getting to the Hall.

Mike Mussina
How many players can truly say that they went out on a rather high note? Mussina definitely fits the mold as he got his only 20 win season in his final season. In a very strong offensive era, Mussina was one of the elite pitchers in baseball even as he was overshadowed somewhat by guys like Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens. His career WAR and JAWS both exceed the average starter in Cooperstown and he was an excellent strikeout pitcher (19th in K's with 2,813, ninth in strikeouts per nine among pitchers with over 3,000 innings at 7.1 and second in strikeout-to-walk ratio with over 3,000 innings since the distance from the plate to the mound was lengthened to the current mark at 3.58) as well as an excellent one in preventing runs.

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 immense 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.

Frank Thomas
Babe Ruth. Ty Cobb. Stan Musial. Tris Speaker. Frank Thomas. Met Ott. Chipper Jones. Those seven hitters are the only seven hitters to have maintained over at least 10,000 plate appearances a .300 batting average, a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. Thomas and Jones are the only ones to reach the mark after 1960 (H/T Jay Jaffe). You cannot deny that the Big Hurt was a Hall of Fame hitter, even as he did not get to 2,500 hits, and while he was mediocre at best in the field, his WAR is eight wins clear of the first base average of those in the Hall.

There's the list, but as I said there are guys that I would vote into the Hall that I had to exclude due to being at the maximum number on a ballot.

Craig Biggio
There is a good chance that Biggio is inducted this year as he was only 38 ballots shy a year ago. 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.

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 rather the move was due to injury issues from 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 an elite and Hall-worthy hitter (by any metric) because of it.

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.

And let's not forget that there are candidates that I left off the ballot because they are not deserving in my mind. Here are the notable exclusions.

Luis Gonzalez
The Diamondback legend is another of the guys that has been suspected of being on the juice, after all he was a middling-to-decent journeyman that ended up putting up strong numbers when he got to the desert. His numbers end up looking solid on their own but in an aforementioned strong offensive era, they fail to stand out.

Jeff Kent
Kent is a guy that looks like a quality Hall of Fame candidate, after all he was one of the strongest offensive second basemen in the last 50-plus years but when you get the full picture of his resume, he is shown to not be a worthy admission. His WAR and his JAWS both fall short of the standard, and it really is not that close. The fact that he was a pretty mediocre fielder does not help matters that much. That said, I do have an open mind and may be convinced at some point down the road but for now, he's a no.

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. But save for his home run totals of 493, which would look great a couple decades ago but in a 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 67.7% last year. But all you have to do is look at the numbers (as well as numbers of similar players who are very comparable if not better but didn't get anywhere near this close to the Hall) and you see that Morris just is not a Hall worthy pitcher, nor is he really that close. He would lower the bar and if guys like Frank Viola (who was nowhere close and he actually won a Cy Young, unlike Morris who was never close), Dave Stieb (who some argue was the best pitcher of the 1980s), or even David Wells, whose numbers are very similar to Morris's (and one more pitcher we'll get to later) were nowhere even close to Cooperstown, nor should Morris. This is his last year on the ballot so they may be enough to push him over the top, as does the awful argument that Morris was clean and thus deserves votes.

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.

Kenny Rogers
I loved Kenny Rogers, even as the son of a TV news cameraman and we know about that one time, but while he was aptly named the "Gambler" after the famous song by the legendary country singer of the same name, and he was a rock solid pitcher, he is not a Hall of Famer by any definition of the term. But, and I know I do cite Jay Jaffe a lot in these Hall of Fame posts, look at Rogers's numbers compared to those of the aforementioned Jack Morris. If Morris is a Hall pitcher...

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. So it was a tough call on my end. 

No comments:

Post a Comment