This year’s Hall of Fame ballot has 18 candidates I would strongly consider voting for. This presents a number of issues, aside from the fact that I don’t have an actual vote in the election, because my hypothetical ballot can only include ten players. In addition to this issue, the Hall of Fame rejected the writers’ requests to make all ballots public and expand the ballot to allow writers to vote for more than ten players. I think this clearly demonstrates that the folks who run the Hall of Fame don’t want steroid users to be enshrined and that they don’t want the writers who don’t vote for the users to be ridiculed. I think they should permit more than 10 players per ballot, so voters can vote for all players they think are worthy of a spot in Cooperstown. I also think that all ballots should be public to increase accountability. You can read more about what I’d do to the Hall of Fame voting process in this piece that I penned a little over a year ago. Until the process gets fixed, though, I’m stuck with only ten slots on my ballot that means nothing. Here are my ten guys (in alphabetical order):
I’ve talked about how I feel about PED users time and time again, and after Bud Selig’s election to the Hall of Fame, I don’t see how anybody can still be holding the PED guys out. Choosing not to elect the steroid era guys is willful ignorance at this point, considering that many of the current Hall of Famers, including all-time 3B WAR leader Mike Schmidt (I’m not including A-Rod because he split time between third and short), have admitted to using amphetamines, which are a performance enhancer. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan’s ill-conceived letter to the Hall of Fame electorate in November can be summarized as follows: ‘Don’t let the steroid guys in because they cheated the game, but our amphetamine guys are okay.’ Absolutely ridiculous. Performance enhancers are performance enhancers, regardless of the form, or era, or anything else.
So it is with all that in mind that I put Bonds on my ballot for the second straight year. Bonds is the all-time leader in HR, walks, intentional walks, and ranks in the top five in career WAR, slugging percentage, OPS, runs scored, total bases, RBI, OPS+, and I’m sure a handful of other stats that are not as readily available. Not to mention he has over 500 stolen bases, which makes him the only player ever with at least 500 HR and 500 steals.
I could go on but I’ll spare you because Bonds’ list of accolades and achievements is longer than literally every other player in baseball history. I’ll leave you with this, though: if you take any two players in the Hall of Fame and add up their MVP awards, it will be less than Bonds’ 7 MVPs.
Clemens is on my ballot for the second straight year as well. I already went through all the steroid stuff in the Bonds write-up, so I’ll make the Clemens write-up quick. Clemens is 8th all-time in rWAR and 3rd among pitchers. He led his league in ERA seven times, strikeouts five times, ERA+ eight times, FIP nine times, and WHIP three times. He is the only pitcher to win a Cy Young award in three different decades, and he did it at least twice in each decade (he won seven times: 1986, 1987, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001, and 2004). Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers to ever play baseball and should be rewarded by getting enshrined in Cooperstown. I don’t think it will be this year, but it will happen before his time on the ballot runs out.
I voted for Vlad last year in his first year on the ballot, and he gets a spot on my ballot again this year, in what should be his final year (he’ll get in). Guerrero only played 16 years but put up a pretty insane .318/.379/.553 in those sixteen seasons. He was also a bastion of consistency, playing 150+ games in 10 of his 16 seasons, and one of those seasons was a nine-game cup of coffee in September. Vlad amassed 449 career HR and 2590 hits (that’s about 178 hits per full season) and did so while hitting every pitch in his time zone. Here’s exhibit A. For as much of a free-swinger as he was, though, he only struck out 10.9% of the time while walking 8.1% of the time. Vlad also has an MVP to his name. He should get in safely in 2018.
I have a love-hate relationship with Chipper. I love him because he named his kid Shea after Shea Stadium, the old home of the Mets. I hate him because the reason he did that was that he raked so much against the Mets. I’m also pretty certain this is not the first time I have typed those word on this blog.
Chipper has the credentials to get in and should probably get in this year, his first on the ballot. He had a .303/.401/.529 career triple-slash, hit 468 career dingers and aged incredibly well. Proof of that fact: two of his best seasons were at age 35 and age 36, when he triple-slashed .337/.425/.604 and .364/.470/.574 respectively. He also amassed 85 rWAR over his 19-year career, which is good for sixth all-time among third basemen. All of the 3B ahead of him are all in the Hall or will soon be: Mike Schmidt, Eddie Matthews, Adrian Beltre, Wade Boggs, and George Brett. Chipper is next.
I don’t think Edgar will get in this year, but I think he will get in next year. Regardless, I’m throwing him a vote because I think he deserves it (duh, why else would I vote for him?) and because it would be a shame to have arguably the best DH ever not in the Hall. I wrote a whole post on why Edgar belongs in the Hall of Fame here, so while it is a bit of a cop-out of a write-up, I’ll just refer you to that.
Manny is another steroid guy, but I don’t think that should matter. His career numbers speak for themselves, and those include his pretty obscene .312/.411/.585 career triple-slash, 555 HR, and 2574 hits. He had 69.2 career rWAR, which isn’t insane, but is still quite good, and is just outside the top 100 all-time. He’s also 8th in career slugging percentage and OPS, and his HR total ranks 15th ever.
I don’t know if Manny will ever get in, though time is on his side (he still has eight years after 2018). Assuming his vote percentage climbs around five points this year, it will look good for him to get in at some point.
Schilling was the last guy I put on my ballot, and he actually was not on my ballot last year, so he gained my vote. It wasn’t so much a product of me thinking his case is that much better than someone else who was also eligible, but it more has to do with the fact that three players got inducted last year, so three spots opened up on my ballot. One of those went to Chipper, one to Thome (I’ll talk about him in a bit), and one to Schilling.
Schilling, despite never winning a Cy Young award, struck out 300+ batters in two different seasons (and was 7 away from 300 in 2001), a feat accomplished only by six other pitchers in history (Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan, who did it six times each, Sandy Koufax, who did it thrice, and Pedro Martinez, J.R. Richard, and Sam McDowell, who did it twice a pop). He ranks 15th all-time in career strikeouts with 3,116, 26th in pitcher rWAR with 80.7, and 48th all-time in ERA+ with a 127 mark. Schilling deserves to be in the Hall, and will likely get there before his time runs out, but it probably won’t be in 2018.
Sosa is probably my most controversial pick on here. He has a solid probability of falling off the ballot this year, and I think it’s pretty much solely due to his steroid use. It’s definitely not because of his career numbers, which include a .273/.344/.534 career triple-slash, 609 HR, and 234 stolen bases. He only amassed 58.4 rWAR in 18 seasons, but his seven-year peak (43.7 rWAR) was just as good as that of Chipper Jones (46.6), Larry Walker (44.6), Edgar (43.6), Thome (41.5), and Vlad (41.1). I don’t expect Sosa to ever make the Hall, but people can’t deny his membership in the 600-HR club (he’s one of nine) and the fact that he and McGwire helped save baseball with the 1998 HR race.
In the current Ryan Thibodaux HOF poll, as of publishing, Thome is polling at 97.4%. That bodes pretty well for his Hall of Fame chances. Granted, less than 10% of the electorate has revealed their ballots to the public, but Thome is as sure a bet as any guy on this ballot to make it into the Hall, and yes, that includes Chipper Jones and Vlad Guerrero.
Thome, in his 22-year career, hit 612 HR, triple-slashed .276/.402/.554, and walked almost 17% of the time. He did strike out 24.7% of the time, but when you produce 72.9 rWAR over your career, a nearly 25% strikeout rate is okay. Thome, in addition to his on-field play, was also an incredible guy off the field. In a 2007 poll of 464 MLB players, Thome was ranked as the second-nicest, behind Sean Casey. Everyone who Jim Thome has ever met likes him (maybe that’s not true, but it may as well be considering how well-liked he is). He’ll be in Cooperstown in short order.
Wagner, in the Ryan Thibodaux HOF poll, is currently sitting at less than 11%. That’s a travesty. Don’t believe me? Click here.
Guys who I voted for last year, but not this year
This is more of a matter of principle than whether I think he should be in or not. I think Hoffman belongs in the Hall of Fame, and I would vote for him if I could vote for more than ten guys, but I just can’t justify voting for Hoffman over Wagner. Until Wagner is in the Hall, Hoffman will probably not be getting my vote. Not that it matters, because Hoffman will probably get in this year anyway. You can refer to the Billy Wagner post for some of Hoffman’s career numbers, but his main selling points are these: 2.87 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 601 saves.
Guys who I would vote for if I had more space (alphabetical order)
Jones is another player who didn’t have a particularly long career but had a great peak. Of all the eligible hitters on this year’s HOF ballot, Jones actually had the third-best seven-year peak according to fWAR: 46.6. That’s barely behind fellow teammate Chipper Jones (no relation), who had a seven-year peak of 46.6 rWAR. His .254/.337/.486 career triple-slash isn’t insanely inspiring, and his 434 homers aren’t a ridiculous total, but considering he only played 17 years, that’s a pretty good dinger total. I also have gone this entire paragraph without mentioning his defense; advanced defensive metrics weren’t really in full swing when Jones played, but he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves in center field, which is no small feat. I think Jones belongs in the Hall, but due to the sheer overcrowding of the ballot this year, and in years to come, I find it unlikely that he’ll get in.
The last spot on my ballot was between Mussina and Schilling, and I picked Schilling but it really was splitting hairs. Mussina pitched two fewer seasons than Schilling but threw more innings, racked up more wins (not that wins matter, but some people care), and had a nearly identical career ERA+ (123 to 127). Schilling and Moose both deserve to be in the Hall, and both will get in at some point.
I’m fairly certain “Hall of Famer” isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Scott Rolen. But let me try to convince you:
Rolen won 8 Gold Gloves, hit 316 HR, triple-slashed .281/.364/.490, and picked up a cool 70 rWAR in 17 seasons. That’s an average of over 4 WAR per season. WAR is not the end-all-be-all stat in any of these discussions, but Rolen was one of the top-10 best 3B ever and certainly deserves very serious consideration. He would have my vote if I wasn’t restricted to only ten guys.
The fact that Santana has not gotten a single vote among the revealed ballots according to the Ryan Thibodaux poll is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t want to give away all my good Santana stats, because I’ll be posting a Santana-related blog before the Hall of Fame voting wraps up, but he really is not getting the consideration he deserves. Santana only pitched for 12 seasons, but picked up 50.7 WAR (in 12 years!!) 1988 strikeouts (career K/9 of 8.8), and had one of the best peaks of any live-ball era pitcher. His WAR7 of 44.8 ranks 29th among live-ball pitchers and his career is surprisingly similar to that of Sandy Koufax. Santana led the league in strikeouts, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, hits allowed per nine innings, and K/9 in three straight seasons (2004-2006), and led the league in ERA in two of those seasons. Santana, unfortunately, is being grossly overlooked by the Hall of Fame electorate.
I was debating putting Sheffield on my ballot over Sosa or Schilling, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I think Sheffield might have been a better hitter than Sosa, but his defense was abysmal. The only reason I would have to put him over Schilling is that Curt said something bad stuff on Twitter, but Sheffield wasn’t a saint during his playing days. That being said, I think Sheffield is being held out of the Hall due to his alleged steroid use. His 509 HR, .292/.393/.514 triple-slash, 2689 hits, and 60.3 rWAR over 22 seasons look like Hall of Fame numbers to me, though.
This may be seen by some as a questionable pick, because Vizquel was a well below-average hitter for his career. His defense was insane though; Vizquel has 45.3 career rWAR and 46.8 of that came from his defense. I think Vizquel is pretty easily the weakest candidate of all the guys I have included so far in this article (and including the guy I’m going to write about next), but it’s not really up for debate whether he was one of the greatest defenders to ever play the game, and I think he should be rewarded for that.
Much like Schilling and Mussina, I think Walker and Vlad are two peas in a Hall of Fame voting pod. I’m going to do a write-up on why I think Walker belongs in the Hall of Fame within the next month most likely, but I’ll give you a sneak preview now.
Walker has a .313/.400/.565 career triple-slash. He hit 383 HR and stole 230 bases in 17 seasons, and compiled 72.6 rWAR. I know he played in Coors Field, but Walker’s OPS+, a metric that adjusts for run environment (basically the era a player played in) and park factors, is 141. Vlad’s OPS+ is 140. He also has a better OPS+ than current Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr. (yes, seriously), George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Murray, and Rod Carew. He also has a better OPS+ than future Hall of Famers Alex Rodriguez, Todd Helton, and Robinson Cano (though his case is a little more questionable).
I understand the Coors Effect, but the fact of the matter is that Walker deserves to be in the Hall, so the fact that he’s polling under 30% right now is pretty ridiculous. Stay tuned for more Walker Hall of Fame talk.
Guys who maybe shouldn’t be on the ballot
Livan Hernandez: He was literally a below average pitcher for his career (95 ERA+, 100 is league average).
Jason Isringhausen: He has 300 saves, which is kinda neat but also irrelevant. Too bad his WHIP is over 1.30 and he has a lower K/BB (1.90…yeah, I know) than Jamie Moyer (who, by the way, is also on the 2018 ballot).
Brad Lidge: He only pitched 11 seasons and amassed a whopping 7.8 career WAR. He was pretty good for a few seasons, but for a reliever, he really didn’t do anything super special. Plus, he only pitched 603.1 innings.
Hideki Matsui: I love postseason heroics as much as the next guy, but Matsui only played ten seasons. He was pretty good in those seasons, but not remotely close to Hall of Fame worthy. Plus, the only guy I’d put in the Hall of Fame with only 10 seasons under his belt is Mike Trout. And he’s only got seven.
Kevin Millwood: There is not a single pitcher in the Hall of Fame with an ERA over 4. Millwood’s is 4.11, and he shouldn’t be the first.
(Image Credit: Associated Press / Times Free Press)