Well, it’s that time of year again. The Baseball Hall of Fame will be announcing its new inductees on January 6th and, until then, we’ll all get to argue with our idiot friends about why their favorite player, although actually pretty good, does not deserve immortality in Cooperstown. It’s also a time where idiots like me, who have no real business voicing their idiot opinions, get to do so nevertheless. So let’s take a look at this year’s ballot and let the arguments begin.
First, the Steroid Guys. Yes, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were absolutely bona fide Hall of Famers before their foray into performance-enhancing drugs. Yes, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire helped ‘save’ baseball in 1998. But I don’t think it’s quite time that we honor these men with shiny plaques. I think the best possible solution to the problem is to let their peers on the Veterans Committee deal with them. If their contemporaries vote the Steroid Guys in, there’s really nothing left to be said about it. But as for now, I won’t be voting for them in this hypothetical blog posting. So I’ll preemptively stamp NO on Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire and Gary Sheffield.
Secondly, I’m not that in to relief pitchers. I know, I know. I would probably vote for Mariano Rivera in the future, but for the most part, relief pitchers are just guys who aren’t good enough to start or go 7 innings. There are plenty of examples of that, including Rivera. Plus, a ‘save’ wasn’t even a thing until the sixties. And the actual amount of work most of them do is grotesquely minuscule compared to the starting pitchers on the ballot. I could go on, but I don’t do that here. Just know I’m also giving a NO to Lee Smith, Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman. That being said, let’s get started.
1. Mike Piazza
(on 69.9% of ballots in 2015)
The only thing that prohibited Piazza from being a first-ballot Hall of Famer (instead of a 5th, which he’ll likely be) is the vague assumption that he might have done steroids. Other than that, he’d be in. Piazza was the best catcher in baseball for most of the nineties and at least the best catcher in the National League from 1993-2002. During that time, he made 12 All-Star rosters and received MVP votes in 9 different seasons, including finishing second in 1996 and ’97 and third in 2000. Plus, his career numbers are comparable to Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Gabby Hartnett, Bill Dickey and Duke Snider. Not bad for a 62nd round draft pick. If you’re still not convinced because of Piazza’s steroid whispers, just consider that a) if he really did them, it’s amazing that we don’t know by now and b) how much fun it would be to picture Roger Clemens’ seething face watching Piazza’s induction speech from home.
My vote: YES.
2. Jeff Bagwell
In a perfect world, Bagwell could have gone in with his Killer Bees teammate, Craig Biggio last year. For like, 15 years those guys WERE the Astros. But like Mike Piazza, Bagwell also has PED whispers. Nevertheless, his resume is fantastic. Bagwell was one of the best NL first basemen in the nineties, when there was especially tough competition to be that. He received MVP votes in 10 different seasons, including winning the award in 1994 and getting second two other times. Bagwell’s career numbers are similar to Frank Thomas and Willie Stargell. And JAWS has him ranked as the 6th best first baseman of all time. It goes Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols, Jimmie Foxx, Cap Anson, Roger Connor and then Jeff Bagwell. Pretty impressive. Oh, and the Red Sox trading him to Houston for Larry Anderson is probably the second-worst trade in their team’s history. So there’s that too.
My vote: YES.
3. Tim Raines
I know as a baseball nerd I’m supposed to say YES, but I just can’t find a good enough argument for the guy. Raines never came close to winning an MVP award. He played for 23 years, but doesn’t have any sure-thing milestone numbers other than stolen bases. And I feel like people have to do rhetorical gymnastics to portray him as anything other than a marginal pick. I really wish I could say YES, but I can’t. He’s an A+ Vince Coleman and a C+ Rickey Henderson. However, I will say that spending $40,000 on blow in 1982 does make him the Wade Boggs of Cocaine.
My Vote: (Regretful) NO.
4. Curt Schilling
I would guess that Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez had to get in before most voters were willing to give Schilling a real chance. And it also probably didn’t help that Curt Schilling has always been a gigantic asshole to the press. Actually, Schilling is a Born Again, George W. Bush backing, Iraq War loving, homophobic Creationist. So I don’t think we’d get along too well either. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t an outstanding pitcher. Schilling finished second in Cy Young voting three different times, has over 3,000 career strikeouts and three World Series rings. You remember the Bloody Sock in 2004 and the outstanding 2001 performance with Randy Johnson that earned them Sports Illustrated‘s co-Sportsmen of the Year. I’d say Schilling is the 6th-best pitcher of my lifetime (behind Clemens, Greg Maddux, Johnson, Martinez and Mike Mussina). And although his career numbers are closer to Kevin Brown, Bob Welch and Orel Hershiser, I think his multiple postseason performances push him over the hump. Plus, homeboy was on the ’93 Phillies. That team deserves SOMEBODY in the Hall.
My vote: YES.
5. Edgar Martinez
Two years ago, Frank Thomas proved that a true DH can make it into the Hall of Fame. But Edgar Martinez isn’t exactly the Big Hurt. Thomas has 521 career home runs and two MVP awards. Edgar has the career numbers of Will Clark and John Olerud. Yes, he held his own on teams with Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez and sometimes had seasons with higher WARs than both of them. And he’s the only DH to ever win a batting title (which is bizarre, if you think about it). But when the career totals are iffy, being a lowly DH makes it easier to say NO.
My vote: NO.
6. Alan Trammell
Maybe some day in the future, the Vets Committee can make all of Detroit happy by inducting Trammell and Lou Whitaker into the Hall together. And the sports media can attempt to appreciate their 19 seasons together with the Tigers, where they completed more double plays than any other combo in history. But as of now, he ain’t gettin’ in. Trammell was good, but he wasn’t quite Robin Yount or Cal Ripken Jr. or Ozzie Smith or Barry Larkin (you know, Hall of Famers). He was on Magnum P.I. once though. And that will have to be his consolation prize.
My vote: NO.
7. Mike Mussina
Now that all the top tier pitchers from his era are in the Hall of Fame (sans Clemens), I think it’s time to take a look at Mussina. I said that about Curt Schilling a little earlier, but Mussina was actually a better pitcher than Schilling. I also actually think he was better than John Smoltz. Mussina was one of the best pitchers in the AL for a decade. And although he never won a Cy Young, he received votes in 9 different seasons and should have won the award in 2001. Mussina won 270 games in his career, including 20 in his last season. His career numbers are comparable to Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer and Carl Hubbell. And he’s got 7 Gold Gloves to boot. Simply put, Mike Mussina is the best pitcher in the history of baseball who is not in the Hall of Fame. Sans Clemens.
My vote: YES.
8. Jeff Kent
I honestly thought I’d be able to look at Kent’s power numbers and try to slide him into the YES column by comparing him to other second baseman. But Kent wasn’t quite Craig Biggio or Roberto Alomar or Ryne Sandberg or even Lou Whitaker. I don’t even think he’s as good of a candidate as Chase Utley. And if I really wanted to be mean, I’d say he also sucked at defense and didn’t deserve the MVP award he won in 2000. But I wouldn’t do that. The man went on the DL one time after “washing his truck” for Chrissakes and I wouldn’t want to kick a man with that kind of bad luck.
My vote: NO.
9. Fred McGriff
After the Devil Rays released McGriff in 2004, nobody came calling. And the Crime Dog had to retire with 493 career home runs. That’s seven (SEVEN!) short of being an automatic selection for the Hall (sans the Steroid Guys). Think about how stupid that is. Because of that, I wish I could vote YES, but I still can’t. Sure, with 400 + home runs McGriff has similar career numbers to David Ortiz, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Billy Williams and Gary Sheffield. But he never finished higher than 4th in MVP voting, so the peaks aren’t really there. What would his Cooperstown plaque say, “6th-best first baseman of the nineties?” Because that’s kind of what he was. JAWS ranks him as the 29th-best first baseman of all time. Which is totally not helping. If he’d just gotten that call and hit seven more… Then I’d start a petition to get the cap on his plaque to sit high on top of his head and say, “Baseball World” like in the Tom Emanski Baseball Fundamentals commercials. But sadly, he’s still just seven short.
My vote: (Very regretful) NO.
10. Larry Walker
Are players from the Colorado Rockies not allowed to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Just wondering. Because nobody who’s ever played for that team is in it. And that’s got to be the reason Walker is finishing so low in the vote totals. It’s not like Walker wasn’t good in Montreal. He just happened to be much better once he got to the high altitudes of Colorado. Or so it would seem. In Walker’s MVP season in 1997, he hit more home runs and had a higher OPS on the road than at home. And that was in the nineties, when Walker’s advanced stats were just as good as all of the Steroid Monsters. He has three batting titles and seven Gold Gloves. And the career stats of Miguel Cabrera, Duke Snider, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize, Vladimir Guerrero and Lance Berkman. And JAWS lists him as the 10th best right fielder of all time. It’s not like everybody in Denver is doing that.
My vote: YES.
11. Nomar Garciaparra
Boy, things sure started out hot for No-Mah, didn’t they? It looked like he was going to be in the same conversation as A-Rod and Jeter for the great shortstops of his generation. But if career numbers matter, Garciaparra is well short of a Hall of Fame career. He’s the 12th-best shortstop of my lifetime. Even the previously-cursed Red Sox couldn’t win it all until he went to the Cubs (conspiracy!) in the middle of the 2004 season. At least he has Mia Hamm.
My vote: NO (MAH).
Okay. Time for the 1st ballot guys. And I have to say, most of them don’t even pass the sniff test. Like, I could analyze the pitching career of Mike Hampton, or tell you that JAWS has him as the 301st-best pitcher of all time. David Eckstein is the 112th-best shortstop of all time. Mike Sweeney is the 101st-best first basemen. And so forth and so on. Jason Kendall, Brad Ausmus and Randy Wynn never got a single vote for MVP or Cy Young throughout their entire careers. Not to say that they weren’t good players. These guys made All-Star rosters. But I’m just saying most are not really worth analyzing. Except for two. And they are…
12. Ken Griffey Jr.
YES. First ballot. 630 career home runs. An MVP award in 1997. 13 All-Star Games. 10 Gold Gloves (only trailing Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays as an outfielder.) And no known allegations of steroid use. He’s as automatic as it gets.
My vote: YES!!!
13. Jim Edmonds
While the 8 Gold Gloves are impressive (and like Griffey, holy shit did he make some bonkers catches – that ’97 catch at Kauffmann???), the offensive stats aren’t there. I’m curious if he gets the necessary votes to stay on the ballot. But he probably shouldn’t.
My vote: NO.
In summary, my picks are Piazza, Bagwell, Schilling, Mussina, Walker and Griffey. I’d assume it will be Griffey and Piazza this year. Or just Griffey. But we’ll obviously have to wait and see. The good news is, we can start all over in 2017 with Pudge Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero and Jorge Posada and so forth and so on. Because, after all, if you’re a baseball fan and an idiot like me, isn’t this part of the process the most fun anyway?