My Hypothetical Hall of Fame Ballot
It’s Hall of Fame season folks!
In a couple of days, we will know who will be the newest player(s) to be inducted into Cooperstown. This year’s ballot is full of controversy as the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and other PED users are up for nomination for the first time. I personally do not look at PEDs when evaluating who I would put in the Hall of Fame. There are too many uncertainties about how large the effect of PEDs are on players and the fact is, almost everybody in that era was using them. There is also no definite way of telling who used aside from the ones who admitted it. Guys like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza are accused of doing PEDs simply because they played in the steroid era and had big muscles. But do we actually know if they took anything? Or were they just gym rats?
Anyways, this year’s ballot is full of worthy candidates. There are roughly 15 players who you could make a valid argument for this year. The Hall of Fame’s 10 player limit rule is likely to come into effect this year, as worthy candidates will be left off plenty of ballots. Plenty of other strong candidates will be eligible within the next few years, so we could be reaching a point where nobody is getting voted in simply because of overstuffing of the ballot. Hopefully the writers can get it correct this year and induct the rightful candidates, but as usual, that’s a longshot. So, without further ado, here is my hypothetical Hall of Fame ballot.
The Returning Candidates
1. Jeff Bagwell, 1B Astros: How can you deny a guy with a .297/.408/.540 career batting line and a career 76.7 WAR? Bagwell is one of the best first basemen of all time and he accomplished all his magnificent feats playing in just 14 full seasons (short by Hall of Fame standards). He has peak (check out his 1994 season) and a long period of sustained performance, which is exactly what voters look for, but unfortunately for him, he had big muscles.
2. Larry Walker, OF Expos/Rockies/Cardinals: Walker is a real borderline Hall of Famer as he achieved most of his historic accomplishments in the hitter-friendly compounds of Coors Field. But his numbers are still so mind-boggling that he most-certainly deserves a place in Cooperstown.
3. Edgar Martinez, 3B/DH Mariners: If the Hall of Fame is ever going to accept designated hitters, Edgar would have to be the first. Martinez, who played over a quarter of his career games at third base, didn’t become a full-time starter until age 27, so his counting numbers are somewhat low. Still, he managed to accumulate a 64.4 career WAR and a .312/.418/.515 batting line. His batting numbers are just too overwhelming to ignore, even with his horrendous defensive attributes.
4. Alan Trammell, SS Tigers: Historically underrated, Alan Trammell was the core of the Detroit Tigers for two decades beginning in 1977 (at age 19) and ending in 1996 (Age 38). Trammell, fell short of most of the offensive milestones voters look at, yet Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system rates him as the 11th best shortstop of all time, ahead of the likes of Hall of Famers Lou Boudreau, Barry Larkin, and Luis Aparicio, and just one spot behind Derek Jeter. A lot of Trammell’s value also rested on his defense (22 career dWAR), but he was constantly overshadowed by Ozzie Smith during his time, and he won just 4 Gold Glove awards. The fact is, Trammell should have been in the Hall of Fame years ago, but the voters ineptitude at evaluating players has deeply hurt his chances.
5. Tim Raines, OF Expos/White Sox/Yankees/A’s/Orioles/Marlins: Raines is arguably the best player not in the Hall of Fame who has been on the ballot for at least a year (excluding the 2011 and 2012 newcomers). Relentlessly overshadowed by Richey Henderson throughout his career, Raines was one of the best players of the 1980′s compiling a 47.1 WAR from 1981 through 1990 with the Montreal Expos. Raines had both peak and longevity, and any way you look at it, he belongs in the Hall of Fame aside his counterpart in Henderson.
The First Timers
6. Barry Bonds, OF Pirates/Giants: Steroids aside, in my opinion Barry Bonds was the best player of all time and Cooperstown would not be relevant without him in it. His career WAR of 158.1 is second only to Babe Ruth, he is the all time home run king, and he ranks in the top 6 in nearly every single significant offensive category. You could go on and on with his statistics, as they are mesmerizing to view. The Hall of Fame’s character clause and his suspected steroid use are enough that he likely won’t see his bust in Cooperstown anytime soon, but he is still possibly the most deserving candidate of all time.
7. Roger Clemens, SP Red Sox/Blue Jays/Yankees/Astros: Same goes for Clemens as does for Bonds. Clemens may be the best pitcher of his generation, and it would not be right to keep him out of the Hall.
8. Craig Biggio, 2B/C/OF Astros: Writer Joe Capozzi wrote that Biggio wasn’t dominant enough to be a Hall of Famer. From 1993 to 1999, Biggio’s peak seasons, he accrued a 40.6 WAR, including 9.3 in 1997 alone. Biggio’s peak, longevity, and ability to excel offensively and defensively at three key positions (C, 2B, and CF), more than qualify him for a spot in Cooperstown.
9. Curt Schilling, SP Orioles/Astros/Phillies/Diamondbacks/Red Sox: Curt Schilling, along With Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, and a few other pitchers, exemplified dominance in the late 1990′s to early 2000′s. Schilling thrice struck out 300 batters in a season, and if it weren’t for Johnson, he would’ve won multiple Cy Young’s. Plus, we all know of his postseason dominance, especially compared to that of Jack Morris (2.23 postseason ERA by Schilling, 3.80 from Morris), who has been perceived lately as the greatest big game pitcher of all time. His 76.9 career WAR ranks 20th all time among pitchers who began their careers after the year 1900.
10. Mike Piazza, C Dodgers/Marlins/Mets/Padres/A’s: Perhaps the greatest offensive catcher of all time, Piazza’s PED use is mere suspicion just like Bagwell. For a 62nd round pick, he sure turned out well.
Jaffe wrote an excellent piece describing Piazza’s Hall of Fame case here.
If there were 2 more spots….
Mark McGwire, 1B A’s/Cardinals: From 1987 to 2001, McGwire was one of the games premier sluggers, if not the best. McGwire led his league in home runs four times, walks twice, OBP twice, slugging four times, and OPS+ four times while averaging 50(!) home runs per season over his career. When you hit 583 home runs and post a career .982 OPS, you belong in the Hall of Fame.
Sammy Sosa OF Rangers/White Sox/Cubs/Orioles: I’m on the bubble with Sosa as his career WAR (54.8) is low by hall standards and he lacked the true peak seasons (just 2 seasons above a 5.5 WAR) needed for election. Considering all that, his power numbers are too difficult to ignore and he was one of the most recognizable faces of the late 90′s. He was a lesser player than his counterpart listed above, but he still squeezes in by my standards.
Kenny Lofton, OF: This one I went back and forth on, and I will probably end up supporting his candidacy, but for now I’ll put him in the “Just Missed” category. Lofton may be one of the most underrated players of all time, and I would have no problem with him being inducted into Cooperstown someday.
A while back, Bill Baer wrote an excellent piece supporting Lofton’s Hall of Fame candidacy, and I highly advise you to check it out.
Jack Morris, SP: Morris is one of the best examples of why pitcher wins do not matter, but unfortunately for him, he has become a center point in the “Sabermetric Revolution.” And as I stated above, under Schilling’s commentary, he is getting a lot more credit for his postseason success than he should be. He had a fantastic career, and by all means, would be an inductee into the Hall of Nearly Great, but that’s just it. He wasn’t great.
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