Just Another Guy and His Theoretical Hall of Fame Ballot

bonds

I don’t have a Hall of Fame ballot. Shocking, I know. Until the BBWAA comes to its senses and recognizes the brilliance of this poorly maintained and brutally underutilized blog, however, I’ll just have to work in the fantasy world. So here it is, for your reading pleasure, my fake Hall of Fame ballot.

As I’m sure you know, the Hall of Fame voting process is quickly turning into a farce, with many writers and former columnists essentially using their ballot as a platform to voice some sanctimonious or ideological opinion. It’s become less about who the best players are and more about my way of thinking about the game is better than your way of thinking.

One writer sold his ballot to Deadspin. Another wrote a pouty blog post about how he wouldn’t vote anymore because people on the Internet were being a bunch of meanie-heads. One refused to vote for Greg Maddux because he refuses to vote for any player in the Steroid Era, no matter what. Another submitted a ballot with only six names, leaving off three players whom he had voted for last year, for reasons no one can explain.

It’s really become silly. Everybody has their pet player and can vehemently argue, point by point, why said player is better than that other guy’s pet player (mine is Ted Simmons. Why one of the ten best catchers in history can’t get into the Hall of Fame, I’ll never know). Every year around this time, articles get written, many writers get very angry about stuff, the vote is tallied, and then we forget about it for another year.

Basically, we’re almost at the point where many, many people are going to stop taking the Hall of Fame seriously. The steroid flap has only made it worse, but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe then we won’t have to read 800 articles a week on why Jack Morris is or isn’t a Hall of Famer, and why you’re a stupid idiot if you think differently. Maybe then we won’t get articles from voters who are submitting a blank ballot to make a “point”, apparently not realizing that no one gives a shit about their “point”. So yes, maybe it will be a good day when we all stop taking this whole thing so very seriously.

So with that out of the way, here is my Hall of Fame ballot if I had a vote. I’m sticking to ten slots because that is, ridiculously, the maximum that BBWAA voters are allowed to put on their ballots. Keep in mind that if you disagree with any of my choices, I’m just going to brand you history’s greatest monster and go pout in front of my Bill James Historical Abstract.

1. Barry Bonds

PEDs or no, Bonds was the most iconic player of his generation, and he has a legitimate claim as the greatest hitter in baseball history. He was Hall-bound even before he beefed up in 1999, supposedly by chemically-enhanced means. If he isn’t in the Hall of Fame, there’s no point in even having the damn thing.

2. Roger Clemens

If Bonds was the most iconic position player of his generation, then Clemens was the most iconic pitcher. Similar to Bonds, a decent case could be made that Clemens is the greatest pitcher in the history of the sport. He posted an ERA+ over 200 three times, and one of those was in his age-42 season. Ridiculous. Again, if he isn’t enshrined, there’s no point in taking the Hall seriously.

3. Greg Maddux

The ballot’s best pitcher, non-PED division. Maddux would sail in unanimously if it weren’t for a collection of assholes who believe that no player should ever be inducted with 100% of the vote. Maddux’s two best seasons were probably 1994 and 1995, when he put up a combined 265 ERA+ (!). In 1992, Maddux allowed seven home runs in 262 innings, despite pitching most of his games at Wrigley Field, a homer-friendly park. In ’94, he allowed four dingers in 202 innings. This, of course, being right when home run totals were beginning to skyrocket. That’s unbelievable.

4. Tom Glavine

He isn’t seen as a shoo-in Hall member, for reasons I don’t fully understand. He was a legitimately great pitcher in his peak years, which included two Cy Young Awards and a dominant performance in a World Series-clinching game. He also has the longevity, racking up 304 career wins. The Braves rotations that he was a part of in the mid-to-late 90’s were some of the best in history. He’s a no-doubter in my eyes.

5. Frank Thomas

I had completely lost perspective on what a great hitter Frank Thomas was in the mid-90’s with the White Sox. Even in the offense-happy environment of 1993-2003, Thomas stood out. Just how great was he? Look at it this way: In 2013, Miguel Cabrera led the majors with a 187 OPS+, but nobody else eclipsed the 180 mark. In 2012, no one came close to reaching a 180 OPS+ (Buster Posey led the league at 171). By comparison, from 1991 to 1997, the Big Hurt averaged a 182 OPS+. That’s…insane. He was still imposing into his decline years, including finishing fourth in the MVP voting in his age-38 season with the A’s. He contributed negative defensive value, of course, but he was such a good hitter that it hardly mattered.

6. Alan Trammell

Trammell’s numbers don’t look impressive next to those of a guy like Alex Rodriguez or Nomar Garciaparra, who came along right as Trammell’s career was winding down. Thus, I think he got unfairly forgotten about when the era of the slugging shortstop commenced in the late-90’s and early-aughts. That’s too bad, because Trammell OPSed .804 from 1982 through 1990, a period of years when very few shortstops were hitting much of anything at all. If he had won the 1987 AL MVP (he got jobbed by the voters, who went with George Bell), I truly believe he would have been voted in years ago.

7. Jeff Bagwell

Bagwell gets lumped into the steroid group with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, despite never having failed a test and never even having anecdotal evidence linked to him, a la Mike Piazza and his bacne. The ‘roid argument against him basically boils down to: he was really buff and he played in an era where a lot of other players were using, so he must have been guilty. That’s just beyond stupid.

The simple fact is that he put up imposing numbers despite playing a large portion of his career in the Astrodome, a park that was historically a nightmare for hitters. He was one of the three or four best first basemen in the game for a period of about twelve years.

8. Curt Schilling

I just read today that Schilling owns the best career K:BB ratio in the history of baseball. That’s…impressive. Schilling didn’t truly become a great pitcher until about 1996, when he was 29, and thus his peak was relatively short, but from 1997-2004 he was one of the five best starting pitchers in all of baseball. His peak was also substantially better than a number of pitchers who are already in the Hall (Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, to name the first that come to mind). He gets extra credit for his extraordinary postseason numbers, too. However, we won’t dock him points for bilking the state of Rhode Island out of $75 million in taxpayer money to finance his disastrous video game company, but we probably should.

9. Craig Biggio

He had roughly as good of a career as Robbie Alomar, if not better, and Alomar waltzed into the Hall, soooo… It certainly helped Biggio that his home run total was aided by Minute Maid Park as he hit his decline phase, but in the 90’s there were few better second basemen. In both 1997 and 1998, you could have made the argument that he was the best player in the NL.

10. Tim Raines

Raines never struck me as a Hall of Famer when I was growing up, but there were about three or four seasons in the mid-80’s where he was probably the best player in the National League. It’s not his fault that he played in Montreal and nobody noticed. He was no longer a star once he hit 30, but he was very good as late as his age-38 season. Often compared by his proponents to Tony Gwynn, Raines had almost an identical OBP and scored nearly 200 more runs than Gwynn despite just about the same number of plate appearances.

The Woulda-Beens

This next group is made up of players who would be on my ballot if the Hall of Fame didn’t have the arbitrary limit of ten names.

Jeff Kent

Maybe I’m biased because he was a great Giant and all, but the most home runs ever by a second baseman and a great peak do it for me. Plus, he really wasn’t as bad of a fielder as a lot of people seem to think, at least not when he was with the Giants and the Astros.

Mike Mussina

Perhaps some might say that it makes no sense that I’d take Schilling over Mussina, but Schilling had the better peak. Moose was almost underrated in the sense that many fans don’t realize that he truly was a great pitcher, as opposed to just really good. Many of his best years came in the offense-inflated late-90’s, so some of his ERA numbers don’t look as shiny as they might have, say, in the early-70’s or late-80’s. He was better than a handful of 300-game winners who are in the Hall.

Edgar Martinez

He’ll get in eventually. Like Thomas, he had absolutely no defensive value, but he was such a good hitter that it didn’t really matter. How good was he? He ranked third or higher in the American League in OPS+ five times, and ended at 147 for his career. By comparison, Jim Rice, a player who got into the Hall based almost entirely on his hitting, ended at 128. If the Mariners hadn’t inexplicably kept Martinez in AAA until he was 27, he would have had even better counting numbers.

Mike Piazza

He has perhaps the best pure offensive numbers by any catcher in history. If that doesn’t merit inclusion, I don’t know what does. He was awful with the glove, of course, but never so bad that he wasn’t still one of the league’s most valuable players every year from 1993 to 2002. Unfortunately, he’s lumped into the steroid group, despite the only evidence being Murray Chass’s creepy reporting on his shirtless back.

Mark McGwire

I’m really torn on Big Mac, and I could be swayed either way. At this point, though, all the home runs (yes, even with the chemicals and the offense-crazy era) and his eye-popping .394 career OBP would give him my vote. Not that it means anything, but how many people remember that he started his career as a third baseman?

The Players Who Missed

These are the players on the ballot who would not make the cut on my own fake list.

Jack Morris

He’s the guy who elicits the most emotional arguments from both sides of the fence, and this year is (finally) his last on the ballot. I don’t see it, personally. Some claim that he wouldn’t have a case without his brilliant performance in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series, but I think that’s a bit unfair. The guy won 254 games, after all, and starred in the 1984 World Series, as well. However, his case is more about durability than greatness, and I think the Hall should be reserved for great players. You have to strain incredibly hard to find even one season where Morris was a great pitcher.

Fred McGriff

McGriff is a tough one, too. He played forever, had an awesome nickname, and the two years he led the league in home runs were before offense really started to blow up in baseball. Once again, though, I think his case is more about durability. He nearly made it to 500 home runs because he played nineteen seasons; I’m not sure he was ever considered one of the ten best players in the league at any point. Maybe that’s a poor standard, but Crime Dog falls just short for me.

Rafael Palmeiro

Unlike many on the ballot who are considered “steroid guys”, Palmeiro actually failed a test, and his finger-wagging display in front of Congress will probably wind up as his legacy that and shilling for Viagra). I think it’s silly to exclude players from the Hall solely on the basis of PED use. I hold this opinion for myriad reasons (short story: just read this), but we can certainly dock players points for it. Palmeiro was already a borderline case before taking PEDs into account. With the failed test and all, I have no reservations about keeping him off my list.

Sammy Sosa

From 1998 to 2001, Sosa averaged 61 home runs per year. In other words, over a four-year period, he averaged a home run total that stood as the major league record for 37 years. Other than those four years, though, Sosa just wasn’t a great player (well, other than 2002, I suppose). Up until 1998, he was your standard flawed, 1990’s-era slugger who hit a lot of home runs, hit for a low average, and struck out a lot. Only Sosa did that without walking much, and by the time he hit 30, his fielding had fallen in a ditch and died. If Big Mac is borderline, Sosa certainly doesn’t make the cut.

Lee Smith

I’m sure Smith is a nice guy and all, and he had a fine career, but he shouldn’t even sniff the Hall of Fame. His whole case is based on his 478 saves, but as we all know, the save is a pretty silly statistic. Smith pitched forever and got the job done in the ninth inning more than anybody in history until Trevor Hoffman came along and broke his record. He was just never a dominant reliever, though. Like, ever. For relievers, Hall of Fame eligibility should begin and end with the standard that Mariano Rivera set, and Smith isn’t in Rivera’s league.

Luis Gonzalez

His 2001 season was one of the great one-year power spikes ever, although some out there like to claim that it’s evidence of steroid use. If he really was on the juice, wouldn’t Gonzo have sustained that level of power? Gonzalez was a damn fine player who saw his home run totals jump the minute he was liberated from the Astrodome. No one is calling him a Hall of Famer, though.

Don Mattingly

Great peak. Amazing mustache. Very short career. If back injuries hadn’t derailed him before age 30, he probably would have been destined for Cooperstown.

J.T. Snow

Snow isn’t anywhere near a Hall of Famer, but I just had to mention him, because this is the only year he’ll be on the ballot. I’ll also take the opportunity to link to an old post of mine detailing my all-time favorite J.T. Snow moment (which also doubles as my favorite all-time Duane Kuiper moment).

A lot of times, with great fielding first basemen, pundits will say stuff along the lines of “he saves x amount of runs every year by preventing errors”. This is probably patently ridiculous, but watching Snow throughout the years, you kinda started to believe it.

Snow’s best year with the bat came in his first year with the Giants, in 1997, when he hit .281/.387/.510, with 28 home runs. What Giants fans might forget about that year, is that he didn’t even hit his first homer until May 11, and had only the one bomb when June hit. After 2000, Snow would have years where he barely hit enough to be a starting first baseman, and fans started to get on him, and Andres Galarraga was brought in not once, but twice to act as a platoon-mate. Snow did go 11 for 27 in the 2002 World Series, and had an inexplicable monster year with the bat in 2004, when he hit .327/429/.529 at age 36.

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