With MLB Hall of Fame voting season comes heaps of mock ballots from fans and writers alike, all of whom do not have a vote. Additionally, the GMs are being tough on the bloggers, with most big name free agents still unsigned and very few trades going down up to this point. There hasn’t been a ton to write about, so I’m going back to the Hall of Fame.
The writers that do have a vote sometimes share their ballot, and you can find any ballots shared before the official tally is released here. I obviously don’t actually get a Hall of Fame vote, but if I did, my ballot would shake out as follows (in alphabetical order):
Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Houston Astros (Stats)
Bagwell, along with Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman, is probably guaranteed a Hall spot in this upcoming class. Pretty much every hitter on the ballot this year was associated with steroids in one way or another, but Bagwell’s 449 HR and twelve (of fifteen) seasons playing 140 games or more speak to his incredible durability and power-hittting prowess. He finished his career with six appearances in the top-ten for MVP voting, picking up one first place finish. For me, Bagwell is a shoo-in, and I find it highly unlikely that he misses out on the Hall this upcoming year based on the fact that he was missing 15 votes last year and now he doesn’t have to compete with Piazza or The Kid for votes.
Barry Bonds, LF, San Francisco Giants (Stats)
Yes, Bonds was caught up in performance enhancing drugs. No, Bonds never failed a Major League Baseball drug test. That doesn’t mean he didn’t use. Either way, I can’t leave him off my ballot. Bonds’ stats look like something straight out of a video game, and he put up these ridiculous numbers for 22 seasons. He is the MLB all-time leader in walks, intentional walks and homers. I mentioned this in a previous article, but Bonds’ intentional walk total is more than the sum of the IBB totals of the next two players (Pujols, who is second at 302, and Hank Aaron, who is third at 293). He was the most feared hitter in the league for nearly a decade. In 2004, he got walked nearly twice as much as he got a hit, thanks to his league-leading and MLB-record 120 intentional walks drawn. His OBP that year was .609. That means he reached base more than half the time. He also won seven MVPs over the course of his career, four of which were in a row (2001-2004). The dude was Hall of Fame worthy without a doubt. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Roger Clemens, SP, Boston Red Sox (Stats)
Clemens is yet another player caught up in the PED nonsense. He definitely used, but he definitely never failed a Major League Baseball-administered drug test. He was flat-out dominant during his 24-year career, notching 4672 strikeouts and a career 3.12 ERA. Keep in mind, this is an ERA compiled during the height of the steroid era. Not to mention that he led the league in ERA (1.87) in 2005 at age 42. How can you keep a guy with 7 Cy Young awards off your ballot? He took performance enhancing drugs and lied about it, that’s how. But since we’re only supposed to be considering his on-field performance, I have to give Clemens a vote. I can’t keep perhaps the best pitcher of all-time out of the Hall though. Leave that to the writers whose vote actually counts.
Vladimir Guerrero, RF, Montreal Expos (Stats)
When I think of Vlad Guerrero, I think of hits like this. In case you can’t watch that video right now, it’s a clip of Guerrero getting a single off a ball that bounced in the dirt first. If the ball was in Vlad’s time zone, he was making contact, and that’s evidenced by his .318 career batting average and the fact that he only struck out more than eighty times twice in his 16-season career. He also added 449 HR and 181 swipes in his career. He won one MVP. That’s a surefire Hall of Famer in my book.
Trevor Hoffman, RP, San Diego Padres (Stats)
If it weren’t for a pesky guy named Mariano Rivera, Hoffman would be the career leader in saves. Hoffman had a career 2.87 ERA in 1089.1 innings pitched over 18 seasons. His 601 saves are second-best all time to the Sandman, and from 1995-2009 (that’s 15 seasons), aside from his injury-shortened 2003 campaign, he had 30 or more saves each season. He also had a career K/9 over 9 (9.4) and a 3.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Hoffman was arguably one of the best relievers of all time, and the fact that he garnered 67.3% of the vote in his first year bodes well for his chances in this upcoming election. There are only five players who were primarily relievers in the Hall of Fame, and I fully expect Hoffman to become the sixth this year.
Edgar Martinez, DH, Seattle Mariners (Stats)
For Martinez, I think it’s going to be too little too late. He’s more than deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame, but many voters refuse to put a guy who never played defense in the Hall. As far as I’m concerned, Martinez was the best DH of all-time, and the best at anything in Major League Baseball deserves a plaque in Cooperstown. Martinez boasted a ridiculous .312/.418/.515 career slash line, 309 career HR and 2247 hits. He also had over 1200 RBI and runs, though he did strike out more than average for a player in the 1990s. Mariano Rivera, in his autobiography, said this of Martinez: “The toughest [hitter to face] – and thank God he retired – Edgar Martinez. Oh my God.” That speaks for itself. Martinez was for real, but unfortunately I don’t think he will be able to pick up the 30+% of the ballot he needs to in order to get elected, since he will run out of eligibility following the 2019 election.
Tim Raines, LF, Montreal Expos (Stats)
Raines played 24 years in the big leagues. He had 2605 hits (170 of which were HR), 1571 runs and 808 steals. He’s fifth all-time on the steals list, with only Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton (no, not Reds CF Billy Hamilton), and Ty Cobb ahead of him. Those four guys are all in the Hall of Fame. Any player with 800 steals should be in the Hall, but Raines also compiled a .294/.385/.425 slash line over his career, not too shabby for a leadoff hitter. In his tenth and final year on the ballot, Raines will likely get in, especially considering that he only needs about 5 percent more votes than he got last year.
Manny Ramirez, LF, Boston Red Sox (Stats)
I have a feeling Manny won’t make the Hall. It’s not that he doesn’t have the credentials (555 career HR, .312/.411/.585 triple slash, 2574 hits, eight straight seasons in the top ten for MVP voting and 1831 RBI in 19 years) it’s that he is one of the folks who got caught up in PED usage. I guess “caught up” makes it sound like he was just in with the wrong crowd, but Manny was a user. He served one suspension for a failed test in 2009, but retired in 2011 before serving what would be his second suspension for a failed test. Great ballplayer? Absolutely. But his reputation precedes him, and while there were some great moments of Manny being Manny, a lot of the writers do not look favorably upon Ramirez’s antics, and the writers certainly do not forgive him for taking PEDs and disrespecting the game. Ramirez (statistically, at least) will go down in the history books as one of the greatest right-handed hitters of the steroid era, but he did ‘roids, and that does not go over well with the Hall of Fame electorate.
Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, C, Texas Rangers (Stats)
Pudge was, plain and simple, one of the greatest catchers ever. He hit 298 HR as a catcher (sixth all-time for the position) and 311 total in his career. He also had 2844 hits and a slick .294/.334/.464 over the course of his career. He also played spectacular defense, winning 13 gold gloves during his tenure in the majors. He also won an MVP. The credentials speak for themselves. Pudge will get in, even if it’s not this year.
Sammy Sosa, RF, Chicago Cubs (Stats)
I debated this last spot for a while. It was between Schilling, Mussina and Sosa, and for the reasons I outline below, I had to pick Sosa. He saved baseball. Well, he and McGwire saved baseball. Yes, Sosa failed a drug test in 2003 (it was anonymous, so there was no suspension), but without the home run race of 1998, baseball as we know it may not exist. I said it in an earlier article, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Sosa will probably fall off the ballot this year (or next) because of his steroid use, but he did hit 606 HR in his career, good for eighth all-time, and added 2408 hits, 234 steals and one MVP award in his 18-year career. It’s definitely a long shot, but I truly believe that Sosa deserves to be in the Hall.
Notable Guys that Just Missed
Curt Schilling, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (Stats)
Schilling definitely deserves to be in the Hall. He was an insanely good pitcher, eclipsing 300 Ks in a season twice (almost three times; 293 in 2001) and leading the league in complete games four times. He had 3116 strikeouts over the course of his storied career, and I would definitely put him in if any of the above guys weren’t on the ballot. Unfortunately for Curt, his off-field antics after his playing career ended have hurt his Hall of Fame chances. If he never got on Twitter, I think he’d probably get 50 more votes than he will get in this election. He’ll be in the Hall eventually, though. And I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him over guys like Sosa and Edgar Martinez, who either need the vote more (Sosa) or are running out of time (Edgar).
Mike Mussina, SP, Baltimore Orioles (Stats)
Mussina also had a great career, but it was just short of what Schilling did. He played fewer seasons, and while he did have more IP than Schilling, Schilling had him beat in strikeouts, WHIP, ERA, walks, and ERA+ (a sabermetric ERA stat which factors in ballpark, run environment and many other things…read more here). I’m not saying that Mussina doesn’t deserve strong consideration for the Hall, but I’m saying that unless Schilling gets in, Mussina shouldn’t get in either.
Wagner and Smith are both in the top-six all time for saves, I just couldn’t justify putting either of them in over the guys I have above. I don’t really think saves are a great metric for evaluating someone, but these two guys without question got the job done many, many times. Smith runs out of eligibility this year, and my guess is that he won’t make it. Smith does have a good shot at getting in with the veterans committee, though, and Wagner will likely end up the same way as Smith (always getting enough to stay on the ballot, never enough to get in until the veterans committee.)
Guys Who Definitely Should Not Have Been on the Ballot
Danys Baez, SP, Cleveland Indians (Stats)
Who? If I’ve never heard of the guy, he probably doesn’t deserve to be on the ballot. Also, he had a career ERA over 4. Nope.
Julio Lugo, MI, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Stats)
He had 13.6 career WAR according to baseball reference. In 12 seasons. Mike Trout has almost 50 WAR in five. You don’t have to be Trout to get into the Hall, but don’t be Julio Lugo.
Arthur Rhodes, P, Seattle Mariners (Stats)
He didn’t start. He didn’t get saves. He didn’t have a career ERA under 4.
Freddy Sanchez, IF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Stats)
Just over 1000 hits. No thanks. 48 HR and 13 SB in 10 seasons. No thanks again.
(Image Credit: Otto Greule/Getty Images)