Sunday, January 3, 2016

If I Had a Vote: 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame

On Wednesday, January 6th, the latest class to enter baseball's Hall of Fame will be announced.  This remains one of the most interesting and controversial processes in all of baseball.  This is less about the actual process and more about who is on the ballot.  Many "Steroid Era" stars are hanging around the ballot in limbo.  A good number of the voters believe that any players connected to PED's in any way should not be allowed in the Hall, while others still vote for some of the biggest stars of the last 20 years.  This has created a log jam on the ballot of borderline Hall of Famers that are not even being considered serious contenders because all anyone can talk about is the PED guys.

If you don't know how the Hall of Fame balloting works for baseball, here is the process.  Once a player is five years removed from the league, they are placed on the Hall of Fame ballot.  A player must receive 75% of the votes to make it into Cooperstown.  If no players reach this number, no one gets elected that year (last happened in 2013).  If a player receives less than 5% of the votes, they will not be on the ballot next year.  A player can stay on the ballot for 10 years (this number used to be 15 years, as shown by several players still on the ballot after more than 10 years that were grandfathered into that system).  Voters can put as many as ten players on their ballot, and as few as none.

This system, along with the current players on the ballot, have led to some very interesting times for the Hall of Fame.  Some writers refuse to vote for anyone from the "Steroid Era," even the obviously clean ones like Greg Maddux.  Others refuse to vote for anyone on their first ballot, which has led to no one ever being a unanimous choice for the Hall.  This has led to too many players on the ballot with voters not having enough votes do get everyone in that deserves it.  Some voters have recognized the problem and requested the Hall to let them vote for 12 players.  This request was denied.

So let's look at this year's ballot.  There is really only one player guaranteed to make it this year, but could be up to three.  Let's first look at those on the ballot not getting my vote.  Those not on their first ballot received at least 5% of the vote last year.

The Rest of the Candidates
* = shot at another ballot
+ = deserves another ballot

Alan Trammell (15th, 25.1% last year)+
Lee Smith (14th, 30.2% last year)*+
Tim Raines (9th, 55% last year)*+
Jeff Bagwell (6th, 55.7% last year)*+
Jeff Kent (3rd, 14% last year)*+
Nomar Garciaparra (2nd, 5.5% last year)*+
Jason Kendall (1st)
Troy Glaus (1st)
Mike Hampton (1st)
Luis Castillo (1st)
Randy Winn (1st)
Garret Anderson (1st)+
Mike Lowell (1st)
Mark Grudzielanek (1st)
Mike Sweeney (1st)+
David Eckstein (1st)
Brad Ausmus (1st)

Honorable Mentions
Four of these five are perfect examples of players not getting the attention they deserve when it comes to the Hall.  That's because of guys like the fifth one on this list.  Sammy Sosa finds himself on the Honorable Mention because of all the PED users, his stellar career achievements seems to be most closely tied to performance enhancers.

Sammy Sosa (4th, 6.6% last year)
Jim Edmonds (1st)
Billy Wagner (1st)
Gary Sheffield (2nd, 11.7% last year)
Fred McGriff (7th, 12.9% last year)

My Ballot
1.  Ken Griffey, Jr. (1st)
This is the only player guaranteed to be a part of the Class of 2016.  This is also a big one for me because he will be the first player inducted as a Seattle Mariner.  Griffey may have been the most natural ball player of his generation.  He was the best defensive outfielder for a decade, and he had one of the smoothest swings you will ever see.  He left it all out on the field, which cost him several years due to injuries.  He was never even considered to be a PED user.  In fact, the opposite was most likely true.  He was such a natural that he never needed to do anything extra, which led to the injury-plagued end to his career as his body started to break down.  Even with that, he ended his career with 630 home runs and an 83.6 WAR.

2.  Trevor Hoffman (1st)
I feel guys like Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner get overlooked for how good they were simply because Mariano Rivera was in the league at the same time.  At a time in the league where relief pitchers are becoming more and more integral to the game, it is time for the Hall of Fame to start recognizing relievers more as all-time greats, something they have been hesitant to do in the past.  Hoffman had 601 saves in his career, second all time only to Rivera and over 120 saves clear of third place (Lee Smith).  It was also impressive how Hoffman did it.  He was a pitcher that never had the triple digit fastball.  He never blew people away, which was rare for a closer.  He was a true pitcher that had one of the best changeups the league has ever seen.  He will be in the Hall.  I just don't know if he will get in his first year.

3.  Roger Clemens (4th, 37.5% last year)
Here is the first of the PED guys on my ballot.  Roger Clemens was a Hall of Famer before there was or was not any PED's in his system.  If he took anything, all it did was help him extend his career well into his mid-40's.  Before that, he had already won more Cy Young Awards than anyone else ever.  He ended his career with 354, in an era where 300 wins just doesn't happen anymore.  He deserves to be in the Hall, and I think others are starting to agree.  I have seen several Hall of Fame voters come out and say this year that it is time to let these players in.  How can you have a museum of baseball's greatest and not have Roger Clemens a part of it ...

4.  Barry Bonds (4th, 36.8% last year)
... or Barry Bonds.  Similar to Clemens, any alleged PED's simply extended what was already a Hall of Fame career.  He ended his career with, although tainted in most minds, the career (762) and single season (73 in 2001) home run titles.  For a power hitter like that, he finished his career with a .298 career batting average and an absurd .607 slugging, only bested by Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmy Foxx on the all-time list.  In a lot of ways, he changed the way the game was played.  He single-handedly popularized the defensive shift, which is seen all the time in the game today.  He belongs in Cooperstown.  The way I see it, if guys like Ty Cobb, who was known as the dirtiest player in history, and Gaylord Perry, known for his illegal spitball, are in the Hall of Fame, then the alleged PED users belong too.  They can't be left out just because they partook in a less traditional form of cheating.

5.  Edgar Martinez (7th, 27% last year)
I will continue to preach this message as long as he is eligible.  Edgar Martinez is one of the best right-handed hitters of the 90's.  The only things keeping him out of the Hall of Fame is he played his entire career in Seattle and he primarily played designated hitter throughout his career.  It seems the Hall of Fame needs a slam dunk to break through on some of these hang ups they have.  That slam dunk will be David Ortiz in six years when he is eligible.  Until then, a DH is most likely not getting in, which means Edgar will most likely be left on the outside looking in.  He is another great example of a guy that would end up on a lot more ballots if Bonds, Clemens, and company would just get in already.  Instead he will hang around for another few seasons and probably not get in.

6.  Curt Schilling (4th, 39.2% last year)
Schilling's numbers are not near as impressive as someone like Clemens, but that doesn't mean he isn't a Hall of Famer.  He went through the 90's as one of the top pitchers in baseball, and then he showed in the 2000's that he was one of the most clutch postseason performers of our generation.  Some might argue he is comparable to a guy like Jack Morris, who missed the Hall in his last chance last year.  However, he belongs there right next to his bloody sock.

7.  Mike Piazza (4th, 69.9% last year)
For Mike Piazza, it isn't a matter of if, it is a matter of when.  Getting this close to the Hall in only his third vote, he will be getting in, maybe even this year.  He deserves it too.  You could argue he is the best offensive catcher in baseball history, with a .308 career average and 427 home runs.  Many people have left him off their ballot because of PED suspicion.  However, there is no evidence compared to guys like Clemens, Bonds, and Sosa.  It's more of an assumption.  How else does a 62nd round pick end up being an all time great?  I think players have been underestimated before.  Put him in.

8.  Mark McGwire (10th, 10% last year)
Many people would say McGwire and Canseco started the Steroid Era.  No one can argue the numbers he was able to produce though.  Also, his success now as a hitting coach in the league shows his success as a hitter was more than just a needle.  This is his last year on the ballot, and unless something miraculous happens, he isn't getting in.  However, making is to his tenth ballot is a slight accomplishment at this point and something others can't claim, like Rafael Palmeiro.  There will be a time all these get guys get in.  It will just take awhile.

9.  Larry Walker (6th, 11.8% last year)
This is one I have added in that was on my Honorable Mention last year.  Larry Walker is one of those players where it is easy to forget how good he actually was.  He had a career .313 average and a 72.6 WAR.  The main reason he isn't getting in?  His stats are viewed as inflated due to his many years playing in the high altitudes of Denver.  For some reason, the voters have made a habit of making excuses for greatness, trying to find reasons for Hall of Fame numbers other than the player being Hall of Fame caliber.  Whether it is suspected PED use or where they played or they didn't play the field or they weren't a starting pitcher.  Stop making excuses!  Maybe players put up Hall of Fame numbers because they were good.  If writers in the past treated Hall of Famers the way they are treated now, the Hall of Fame would be half as big as it is now.  Start voting players in or stop voting.  Okay, rant over.

10.  Mike Mussina (3rd, 24.6% last year)
Mussina seems to have been forgotten the last few seasons due to Hall of Famers like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson getting in.  He is not necessarily in that category of player, but that doesn't mean he isn't a Hall of Famer.  I heard someone discuss Mike Mussina's candidacy for the Hall of Fame and made an impressive comparison.  Mike Mussina's career stats are impressively similar to Hall of Famer Jim Palmer.  Look at these stats and try to explain how one is a Hall of Famer and the other isn't.

Mussina Palmer
Years 18 19
Wins 270 268
ERA 3.68 2.86
ERA+ 123 125
WAR 82.7 68.1
K/9 7.1 5.0
WHIP 1.192 1.18

There is my Hall of Fame ballot.  Let me know what you think.  Finally, here is my prediction on what will be announced on January 6th.  I predict three will be in the Class of 2016.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Trevor Hoffman
Mike Piazza


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Nice article! Here are a few thoughts I have.

    1. I hate the Hall of Fame voters. Griffey should be the first unanimous choice, but he won't be because some holier-than-thou-art idiot voters will submit ballots with no names on it to protest the steroids era, even though Griffey was obviously clean (or maybe they'll protest because of only getting ten names). This form of protest is so stupid and is destroying the integrity of the Hall of Fame to a far greater extent than permitting PED users like Bonds or Clemens in the Hall. It's also why the last ten years of Hall of Fame voting don't really count for me.

    2. The player on your list that I'm really intrigued about is Schilling. As you note, he simply doesn't have the numbers to be a surefire choice, but if he deserves to get in, it's solely on the basis of his postseason performance (perhaps another parallel with Jack Morris). His is also, of course, a "bad character" guy who I'm sure voters are eager to chastise.

    3. Clemens and Bonds deserve to get in. Again, the total hypocrisy of the Hall is on complete display here: The Hall contains Bonds' home run ball, along with several other items of memorabilia from Clemens' and Bonds' careers (along with items belonging to Pete Rose too). So you'll commemorate their accomplishments, but not permit them entrance as a players? The Hall of Fame is for tourists and baseball fans, and if you're not going to put in the sport's most popular players, what is the point?

    4. Same thing with McGwire, although I feel slightly less strong about him than Clemens and Bonds (unlike those two, he needed PEDs to reach legendary numbers). The dude has obviously been embraced by the sport since he is now a hitting coach and seems to be on his way up the ladder of someday becoming a manager. So you'll permit the guy to work in baseball but not be honored? Again, total rank hypocrisy.

    5. I love him, but Hoffman doesn't deserve to be that high. He'll get 50% of votes this year. And I love that Garrett Anderson is officially on the ballot. Garrett Anderson, really?? How dare you vote for Pete Rose, Clemens, or Bonds... but Garrett Anderson is there!!!

    Those are my angry thoughts.