Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 Hall of Fame "Ballot", Part II

Most baseball fans above the age of 10 have been waiting a long time for this year's Hall of Fame ballot. Later today, the Baseball Writers Association of America will release their yearly Hall of Fame voting results.


Before the news cycle gets into the voting results, let's get our proverbial, non-existent, virtual hall of fame "ballot" finished.

Part I of this two part series left us with 20 players to consider for a maximum of 10 virtual Hall of Fame votes. Our remainder:

Sandy Alomar Jr.
1. Jeff Bagwell
2. Craig Biggio
3. Barry Bonds
Jeff Cirillo
Royce Clayton
4. Roger Clemens
Jeff Conine
Steve Finley
Julio Franco
Shawn Green
Roberto Hernandez
Ryan Klesko
5. Kenny Lofton
6. Edgar Martinez
7. Don Mattingly
8. Fred McGriff
9. Mark McGwire
Jose Mesa
10. Jack Morris
11. Dale Murphy
12. Rafael Palmeiro
13. Mike Piazza
14. Tim Raines
Reggie Sanders
15. Curt Schilling
Aaron Sele
Lee Smith
16. Sammy Sosa
Mike Stanton
17. Alan Trammell
18. Larry Walker
Todd Walker
19. David Wells
Rondell White
20. Bernie Williams
Woody Williams

Left with difficult decisions, let's try to make succinct sense of what we can and have some fun with this...

There were four easy "Yes" votes, going to:

Edgar Martinez
One of the 25 best hitters of all time. Martinez hit for a high average, with power, and had enough patience to walk more times than he struck out. He led the league in On Base Percentage 3 times, won 2 batting titles, led the league in runs scored once, doubles twice, and RBI another time. Martinez didn't play in more than 65 Major League games until after his 27th birthday. Over a 14-year period, from 1990-2003, he averaged over 20 Win Shares per season. Owner of a career .312/.418/.515 slash line, Edgar Martinez is probably the best Designated Hitter of all time.

Craig Biggio
Over the same 14-year period we mention above for Edgar Martinez, from 1990-2003, Craig Biggio averaged over 25 Win Shares per season. For all the minuses tallied by Martinez for being a designated hitter, Biggio is credited for performing at a high level, while manning three demanding, up-the-middle positions defensively. I thought Joe Posnanski put it nicely, in his 2013 Hall of Fame ballot column: "Only player ever to play 250 games at catcher, center field and second base, but then he's the only player to play 100 games at all three positions as well. In fact, he's the only player to play even 50 games at all three positions."

It looks like no-one will get elected by the BBWAA this year, but Biggio should be one of the next guys in, along with Greg Maddux, at least, next season.

Tim Raines
It's almost infuriating that Tim Raines has not been recognized by 75% of the voters as a Hall of Fame player. Maybe his cocaine problems have affected his vote totals more than most people realize.

Tim Raines was probably the 2nd best leadoff hitter of all time. He was certainly the 2nd best leadoff hitter of his era, but his era included the G.O.A.T: Vince Coleman Rickey Henderson.

In 1986, Raines won a batting and OBP title, and followed it up in 1987 with an almost identical Batting Average  higher OBP, and placing 9th in the National League in Slugging Percentage. Raines made seven consecutive All-Star teams.

Tim Raines reached base safely over 4,000 times and has a higher career WAR than Tony Gwynn, according to both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs. It should only be a matter of time until Tim Raines makes it to Cooperstown.

Jeff Bagwell
Much like with Raines, it's only a matter of time before Jeff Bagwell gets into the Hall of Fame.

Maybe 2014 will be a big year for inductions, particularly of teammates. Frank Thomas should get in, which will get Bagwell in. Biggio is on the doorstep, and another set of teammates: Maddux and Glavine are near locks. We're still years away from having to worry about Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.

Bagwell hit the scene in 1991, promptly winning Rookie of the Year. In his 4th big league season, Bagwell won the National League MVP. He proceeded to earn over 20 Win Shares every year of his career until he was only able to play 39 games in his final season, 2005. What is it with 14-year spans and this group? For the 14-years between '91 and '04, Jeff Bagwell averaged 27.4 Win Shares per season.

We now have 16 players left for no more than 6 votes. Let's start taking candidates away from the list of 16. Among this group, I'm actually able to select 10 that I will not "vote" for, then we'll see if each of the remaining six get the nod of approval. So, these ten (10) carefully considered "No" votes go to:

David Wells
With a better Hall of Fame case than many expected before taking a closer look, Boomer was a great pitcher, for many years, who threw strikes - routinely among the best in BB/9 rates. He pitched in the postseason for six different franchises. Not that it matters, but he played well for teams on the East Coast, West Coast, the Midwest, and Canada. What's interesting is if his being on this ballot affected the voting for the next player on this list...

Jack Morris
With a gritty and ornery groundswell of votes the past handful of years, it looked like Morris was destined to enter Cooperstown this Summer, after Bert Blyleven did so last year. For one reason, or another, it looks like some voters are saying "not so fast." Having an ERA+ lower than David Wells maybe should not matter. Maybe it hasn't mattered to any voters. It surely cannot help the case for Jack Morris.

Bernie Williams
Smooth as silk, Bernie Williams swung a bat that crushed baseballs and plays a classical guitar that breaks hearts. Hey, Bernie had a great run and a career he would probably change nothing about, if he could. Playing Centerfield for the New York Yankees is about as glamorous a role as an athlete can have. Winning a handful of championships in that role provides Bernie with a certain immortality that makes the Hall of Fame almost seem quaint by comparison.

Don Mattingly
Speaking of Yankee immortality, let's talk about Donnie Baseball. Some suggest that the fact that his Yankee teams were lousy made Mattingly seem almost more heroic. He was the one True Yankee out there, fighting the good fight, short-handed, with few quality teammates to help him out. Unlike Bernie, he never went to the postseason. What would have happened if times were different? What if Bernie was one of the few great Yankees of the 1980's? What if Mattingly played the role of Tino Martinez for Joe Torre's World Champions? Would either Hall of Fame case be stronger?

Joe Torre will likely be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Manager (and player) in the next few years. It'll be interesting to see if Mattingly can follow in his managerial mentor's footsteps by achieving great success managing the newly fully operational, high-powered Dodgers.

Dale Murphy
Nice guy. Great peak in his career. Unfortunately, for Murph, when he started to age, his performance didn't gradually wind down. His career basically jumped off a cliff, while lighting itself on fire. Murphy was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career through his age 31 season, having made 7 All-Star teams, won 2 MVP awards, belted 310 home runs, and had a 132 OPS+, while playing stellar defense. After that, he played six more years, hitting just 88 more HR's with a paltry .307 on-base percentage.

Barry Bonds
His numbers scream Hall of Fame. Even his number before he, allegedly, started doping in 1999 are worthy of the Hall of Fame. Yes, Ty Cobb was a racist jerk - Cap Anson, too. The Hall of Fame has other cheaters and degenerates, but that doesn't mean prior mistakes must be duplicated, does it?

In this case, I'm actually not saying that I'm right and disagreements are wrong. There really is no right or wrong of what a Hall of Fame is, or should, be. We all have a different value system. Some value RBI, Wins, and Saves, while others may lean towards Wins Above Replacement, wOBA, and xFIP. Maybe the character clause is important to you and means something different than it does to anyone else.

My only point is that the Hall of Fame is not a right that any successful player can demand. It's not even a privilege. It is an honor. If given an opportunity to choose if we should honor Barry Bonds or not, I will always choose the negative.

Roger Clemens
The same goes for Clemens. What's worse, for me, than the cheating with these guys is the lying. The smug attitudes of deny, deny, deny, deny, until people don't even want to talk about it anymore is the worst.

Sammy Sosa
I'm a Cubs fan, who for a while in the early 2000's would give Sammy Sosa standing ovations before his at bats at Wrigley Field. Why not? He was the most prodigious home run hitter we had ever seen. Topping 60 HR's three times, and leading his league in homers two other times.

The problems I have voting for Sosa are multiple. First, he was kind of a one-trick pony. While he was fast and had a strong arm, he never was able to harness those talents to be a good base runner or defender. He struck out a ton and for a while, failed to hit curve balls like Pedro Serrano.

Most sadly, he was also a liar. He probably lied about his corked bat being only for batting practice, but for the sake of brevity, let's give him a pass on that one. What upset me the most was when he went to Congress and claimed to need an interpreter. Sure, his English may never have been much better than Scottie Pippen's but after years of Sammy telling my to drink Pepsi, I don't need him to go to Capitol Hill and say he no speakee Eeenglish.

Rafael Palmeiro
Aside from his own problems with telling to truth to Congress, Raffy does not have the pure career numbers to be a no doubt Hall of Famer. Times are changing. Although Palmeiro hit the magic numbers of 500 and 3,000 hits, he would be in the Eddie Murray compiler wing of the the Hall. Palmeiro was very rarely in the Top 10 of any offensive categories during any season of his career. Still, being a top 30 hitter for close to 20 years will get you noticed.

Mark McGwire
Big Mac was also less deserving than his 500+ Homerun resume presumes. Yes, he's one of the bet home run hitters of all time. He hit them more frequently than any other player in history, even Babe Ruth. However, McGwire didn't do much more than hit home runs. You know what? Screw McGwire, La Russa, and their whole clan. If McGwire is not here to talk about the past, then he's not getting my "vote" for anything in the past.

We are left with six players, with space on our ballot for each one of them. We will use the space. They all get a "Yes" vote.

Larry Walker
If I like to give Bagwell credit for prodigious power numbers in spite of spending years in the Astrodome, I have to discredit Larry Walker a little for Colorado. It's strange trying to be unbiased, when we're conditioned, as fans, to be passionate. We're taught to pick a side, find favorite players, and support them loyally.

I want both Bagwell and Walker to get in, and it's easy for other fans and actual Hall of Fame voters to fall in an overwhelming number of subconscious personal bias.

As it goes, I'm reminded that I liked giving Andre Dawson credit for the damage to his knees from playing in Montreal. Larry Walker could use some of that bias, too! The injuries that plagues Larry Walker throughout his career probably had something to do with patrolling the concrete outfields of Montreal.

Alan Trammell
To younger readers,
Alan Trammell may as
well be Casey Stengel.
Trammell suffered by being the 2nd best defensive shortstop in the time of Ozzie Smith and 2nd best offensive shortstop in the time of Cal Ripken. He was the best all around shortstop of his time. With a career that compares well to recently inducted Barry Larkin, Trammell should be a close call during his 15th year on the ballot.

Fred McGriff
We voted for the Crime Dog in the past, and with the influx of talent coming to the ballot, this is probably our last chance to do it again. While McGriff is often viewed as a compiler, who didn't even have the decency to compile 500 home runs, he was actually a star player during a prolonged peak. McGriff, like a few others on this list, was good for 20+ Win Shares per year for over a decade.

Kenny Lofton
Some people have claimed that Tim Raines doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame because if he were in, then Lofton would have a great case to make it, as well. Well, guess what? Kenny Lofton DOES have a great case for the Hall of Fame! He was one of the best leadoff hitters and base runners in history. There are a few things going against Lofton. First, he came up with an Indians team that was loaded with talent, so it was hard to stand out as one of the best in the league. Then, he started getting traded every other year to a new contender. He made the post-season a bunch in this role, which made him more visible to a national audience. What I wonder is if he would have had more Hall of Fame support if a single fanbase viewed him as thier own and propagated for him.

Mike Piazza
The best offensive catcher of all time. He couldn't throw anybody out, but his hittin made up for it. Some think he's a no-doubt steroid user, but there's never been a failed test or a smoking gun. The biggest claim against him is that he was seen with bacne during suspicious times. I'd like to know the truth, but for now, that could have seriously just been a heat rash.

Curt Schilling
As a testament to open-mindedness and the human spirit, I am pleased to vote "Yes" on Curt Schilling. Before looking closer at his numbers, I thought no way this huy was a Hall of Famer. I thought he was a late bloomer ho had a handful of good years i his 30's and lucked out by winning titles with the Big Unit in Arizona and Red Sox Nation in Boston. Boy, was I wrong. Those championships were not something Schilling lucked into. He was a major reason his teams won. Schilling has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of any starting pitcher since 1900 and an impeccable post-season record, that I initially thought was his only real argument for the Hall of Fame.

In summation, our 2013 Hall of Fame ballot is:

How much for a reenactment?
Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Kenny Lofton
Edgar Martinez
Fred McGriff
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Alan Trammell
Larry Walker

***

Some actual Hall of Fame writers have complained that filling out their ballot is no longer fun. Boo hoo. Poor baseball writers of America. So sad.

Surely, the process of voting was more fun when there was less to choose from. A voter could take to time to seriously consider the handful of serious candidates. After making their decision on each one, the voter would still have room on his ballot to give a Hall of Fame vote as a tip of the cap to a favorite player, like Tim Salmon received 5 last year.

A good number of ballots this year have been beneath the 10-name maximum, but as we'll see in 2014, '15, and so on, the number of viable candidates will be so high, that 75% consensus will be difficult for players other than Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas in the near future.

As everyone's sensibilities change in time, and the name of qualified candidates increases, this process will epitomize a royal rumble until ten names stand out.

There's a good chance none of the players on my ballot this season end up being elected. Next year, Tom Glavine probably joins Maddux and Big Frank as first-ballot guys. Maddux and Big Frank, no doubters. If my feelings don't seismically shift next winter, my ballot next season will have at least 13 strong contenders.

Other newcomers of note in 2014 include Luis Gonzalez, Jeff Kent, and Mike Mussina. Starting off with the pitcher, Mussina doesn't have 300 Wins, but he has a slightly higher WAR number on Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and a higher PWARP on Baseball Prospectus. It should be noted that while it's a small difference in Career WAR and PWARP, Mussina did it in 850 fewer innings. I don't believe Jeff Kent or Luis Gonzalez are Hall of Famers, let alone first ballot guys in an environment such as this, but other people will value them enough to vote for them.

I never thought I would be in the Schilling for Hall of Fame camp, until looking closer at his numbers this winter. What if my sensibilities change again, and next winter, I don't care about the ways of Bonds, Clemons, and Sosa. Who knows how long until some of these guys get 75% of the vote.

Crazy. Well, the 2014 talk is for another time. This year, I think Craig Biggio and Jack Morris have a shot, but I don't think anyone will actually get to 75% on this vote. That could lead to less tourism for Cooperstown during next Summer's Hall of Fame Weekend. Imagine the excitement for next Summer's induction ceremony, if it stands with the three current honorees, a player, a pioneer, and an umpire, each of them born over 145 years ago. The player, Deacon White, born 1845, was an actual flat-lander, believing the world was not round. Bring your kids!

A year without the big bucks of tourists from different pockets of the U.S. could be the wake up call that Cooperstown gets to change the voting system. At least in 2 summers, we know that Maddux will get 75% of the vote. I mean, we know that, right?

What would your Hall of Fame ballot look like? Let us know in the comments section. Thanks!

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