I like to write about baseball. A lot of us web geeks are baseball geeks, y’know. Last year, I wrote a post about what my Hall of Fame ballot would look like—if I had one. I decided to follow that up since baseball history and the Baseball Hall of Fame are a couple things I’m quite passionate about.
This year’s ballot is seen as a weaker one (no Ripken/Gwynn slam dunks this time around) that will give some holdovers a chance of getting in. Before getting into those holdovers, I want to cover the players on the ballot for the first time. I’ll start with the players who do not get my “vote” first.
New Candidates: The “No” List
- Brady Anderson: Three exceptional seasons, but spread out and with the career totals not warranting much of a look. Excelled in the playoffs.
- Rod Beck: Died tragically this past June. Had some dominant seasons but is way down the non-Hall reliever chart.
- Shawon Dunston: Not much on offense, but a defensive treat.
- Chuck Finley: 200 game winners don’t grow on trees anymore. Good pitcher for a long time, but he’s no Hershiser and Hershiser is off the ballot after two seasons.
- Travis Fryman: 5-time All Star and 1-time Gold Glover had nice power for a 3B/SS. If he kept it going longer, he would warrant a look.
- David Justice: If he could have stayed healthy, he would have been a great candidate. But he and his .878 OPS and 129 OPS+ were always on the DL.
- Chuck Knoblauch: One of the better offensive second basemen and a solid defender until he developed a tic that made him unable to field his position. He retired too early to be considered.
- Robb Nen: Pitched the minimum number of years to get on the ballot. Five more like the ten he had would have made a great Hall case.
- Jose Rijo: Dominated when healthy. Too bad that was so rare. Posted fantastic ERAs from 1990-1993.
- Todd Stottlemyre: Another average pitcher that managed to throw 14 seasons as a big leaguer. Not an easy feat. That’s why these guys get on the ballot.
New Candidates: The Lone “Yes”
- Tim Raines: He didn’t get 3000 hits (“only” 2605). But that’s because the guy had a great eye and drew 1330 walks. (Neither Babe Ruth nor Ted Williams had 3000 hits.) The 3977 times on base give him a .294 average and a sweet .385 on base percentage. His .425 slugging percentage pushes his OPS+ to 123 (100 would mean he hit the league average). This is remarkable given the fact that he also stole 808 bases (and holds the record for highest success rate of anyone with 300 or more steals). His longevity, a streak of dominance, and impressive final totals makes him an overwhelming yes for me.
Here is where some may disagree with me. I believe the Hall shouldn’t be as hard to get into as some. Why? Well, it hasn’t been in the past. We have a lot of players in there that have already lessened the honor of getting in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a huge honor. But I don’t think it should just be Babe Ruth and Ted Williams in there. I believe the Hall should welcome guys like Jim Kaat (283 wins and 16 Gold Gloves) and Bill Freehan (11-time All Star, 5 Gold Golves, excellent hitting catcher).
So, since the list is longer, I give you my “Yes votes” for returning candidates first:
Returning Candidates: The “Yes” List
- Rich Gossage (71.2%): I’d guess this is the year he gets in, and it’s way overdue. I mean, really. What’s the case against him? The only way you could be against Gossage getting in is if you are against relievers getting in altogether. And that’s crap. There are few in—and Gossage was actually a much better candidate than Bruce Sutter. He saved 300 when that was a big deal. He posted a 3.01 ERA. Sure Rollie Fingers had a 2.90 ERA, but you have to consider ERA+. Fingers posted a 119 ERA+ while Gossage was 126. Find the flaw with Gossage and let me know. He was intimidating. He dominated. He had longevity.
- Jim Rice (63.5%): For a while, nobody was more feared. Injuries took him down early, but what has stalled his induction more than that was his frosty relationship with the media. It was tough to love Jim Rice. But it was easy to respect him. Despite just 14 full seasons, he collected 2452 hits, 382 homers, 1451 RBI, a .298 average, a .502 slugging percentage, a 128 OPS+, and an MVP years in one of the most dominating campaigns ever (1978). I’m not just a homer on this. I have no emotional attachment to Jim Rice. He’s just a Hall of Famer.
- Andre Dawson (56.7%): I don’t feel quite as strongly about Dawson as some, and that probably has to do with his rate stats (.279/.323/.482). But one also has to remember, he played in some very offensively poor years, giving him an OPS+ of 119. And the defense. He had the kind of glove and arm (eight Gold Gloves) that pushes a borderline candidate over. The 438 home runs, 1591 RBI, and 314 stolen bases sure help. He’s also a Rookie of the Year and MVP Award winner.
- Bert Blyleven (47.7%): If I only got one vote (for new or returning candidates), Blyleven is it. This one stumps me. He won 287 games. Everyone ahead of him is either a Hall of Famer or a cinch to be one (except for 19th century pitcher Bobby Mathews—but I don’t know his story). He’s 13th all time in innings, with 12 HoFers ahead of him. He’s fifth all time in strikeouts (third when he retired). Again, all legends along there with him. Ninth in shutouts. Yup, 8 HoFers ahead of him (and the 13 pitchers after him). His ERA was 3.31 against a league ERA of 3.90, good enough for a 118 ERA+. Seriously, what’s the deal here? He was only an All Star twice? He never won a Cy Young Award? Maybe All Star and Cy Young voters were as clueless as the Hall of Fame voters.
- Lee Smith (39.8%): I’m in favor of more relievers being put in the Hall, so I must support the all time save leader (before Trevor Hoffman passed him), right? Well, yes and no. I don’t really care much about the save stat. It’s very empty and circumstantial. However, Lee Smith is a Hall of Famer. His 131 ERA+ (3.03 vs. 3.97 league average) dominates Gossage and Fingers. His strikeout ratio was just sick. 478 saves saves. That’s a gaudy number. He was a 7-time All Star. I just don’t get it. It can only be traced back to a reliever bias. Voters just don’t like ‘em.
- Jack Morris (37.1%): I go back and forth on Big Jack. I’m a big, big ERA (and ERA+) guy. Big time. So, how could I possibly support a pitcher who would become the HoFer with the highest ERA if inducted? That’s why I go back and forth. He won the most games of anyone in the 1980s. He has a great winning percentage. He dominated (I mean dominated) October. Perhaps my feelings of Morris are a bit skewed because I stayed up to watch Game 7. I’m not hurt that he’s not in, but I’d love to see this workhorse get in.
- Mark McGwire (23.5%): Last year, I wrote “I’m not a police officer. We don’t have a positive drug test (though I’m not naive, and supposedly the government has damning documents). But MLB has allowed him to reach the ballot, so I feel it is the voters’ responsibility to vote on the merit of his candidacy. They did not allow this debate to happen with Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. MLB needs to take this matter into its own hands and not let Hall of Fame voting be as vague as the enigma that is the MVP award.” I believe the playing career speaks for itself.
- Tommy John (22.9%): Why are some records not taken seriously? Like, playing 26 seasons. It’s considered a bad thing? Tommy John could keep a job in the bigs for 26 years. He won 288 games. He started 700 games. He won 20 games three times. He posted a 3.34 ERA compared with the league’s mark of 3.69 (110 ERA+). He ranks 15th all time in batters faced in a career (12 HoFers, Blyleven, and Clemens ahead of him). He was 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA in the postseason. He pitched until he was 46. He has a friggin’ surgery named after him. Can’t all of these things add up to a Hall of Fame career?
- Alan Trammell (13.4%): Another that I go back and forth on, I wouldn’t mind seeing Trammell get in. For a defensive shortstop, 2365 hits, 185 homers, 236 steals, a .285 average, three Silver Sluggers, and a 110 OPS+ are quite excellent. He also had four Gold Gloves and an MVP award. Some guy named Ripken overshadowed him throughout his career. He deserves more love than the 13.4% he got last year.
Returning Candidates: The “No” List
- Dave Concepcion (13.6%, and his last year on the ballot): He has his supporters out there, but every single one of them must have seen him in person. His offensive stats aren’t Hall-worthy at all. His OPS+ of 88 was well below the league average. But with five Gold Gloves, he must have been a treat to see.
- Dave Parker (11.4%): I will tell you this. I like Dave Parker, but he didn’t reach any of the magical milestones. And for a guy that didn’t do that, one number really jumps out at me: 339. He has both a .339 career on base percentage and 339 home runs. For him to have a chance, one of those would have to be much better.
- Don Mattingly (9.9%): His peak is as good as anyone, but injuries really dragged him down. I’ll tell you two things. First, I’m shocked he hasn’t gotten more support. Second, if he did get in, I’d have no problem with it whatsoever. It’d be one of those short-career-Puckett-type inductions. But alas, he has no chance at this point, and I’m not passionate enough about him to put him on the yes list.
- Dale Murphy (9.2%): While Murphy is on my “No” list, he’s the one on the “No” list that I support the most. In fact, if you catch me on a good day, I call him a “Yes”. Five Gold Gloves, four Silver SLuggers, back-to-back MVPs. I wish he had gotten those two extra home runs because I really think he’d be looked at differently if he was a 400 home run hitter.
- Harold Baines (5.3%): With 2866 hits and 1628 RBI, we have a new leader among eligible non-Hall of Famers in both categories. Baines played forever and was a really good player. That’s what he was. A really good player. Right below Hall status, in my mind. And for a really long time. That is nothing to take lightly. I’m a Baines fan. Over 22 seasons, he posted a 120 OPS+. That is very, very impressive. It’s much easier to do that in 12 years than it is in 22. I will say this, though. Baines (2866 hits, 384 home runs, 1628 RBI, .289/.356/.465, 120 OPS+) is no less Hall-worthy than Hall of Famer Tony Perez (2732, 379, 1652, .279/.341/.463, 122 OPS+).
So, there it is—my Hall of Fame ballot. If you’re going to make me rank the my choices in order, I’ll offer:
Yeah, that’s how much I like Blyleven. Of course, my favorite pitcher ever is Nolan Ryan and the two were actually quite similar. McGwire… since he made the ballot, I rate him on playing career alone. Then Raines, Gossage, Rice, and Smith round out my slam dunks.
So, tell me. Who is on your ballot?