Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hall of Fame Ballot Part 2

So this is part 2 of my Hall of Fame Ballot.  I broke down some of the smaller issues (which we learned aren’t that small) in the first part, which you can find here.  This second part sees my tackle the big issue and I tell you which guys received my vote.

There’s one major issue here.  And it’s steroids.  It’s been an issue in the past.  But this season, we have three guys who we know were juicing and have great numbers because of steroids.  This is the first year of eligibility for Bonds, Sosa and Clemens.  The unholy trinity.  Even within this quagmire, we have two levels.  Let’s separate them.  Some guys were going to the Hall of Fame before they took PEDs.  Some weren’t.  Sosa likely wasn’t going to make it without the juice taking him to 600+ HR.  So he’s the first guy I’ll dismiss.  The other two are a different story.

Barry Bonds started his career in 1986.  He was a 5-tool player.  By 1994, he had led the league in HR, RBI and R in a season, (though not the same one) stolen 52 bags in a season and had four years with a batting average north of 300.  He was a 6 time 20/20 player in that time, including being a 30/30 player twice.  He’d also gone to 4 All Star games, won 5 Silver Sluggers, 5 Golden Gloves and 3 (!) MVPs.  He was a 12-time BB leader and now has more career BBs and IBB (those being walks and intentional walks) than anyone in the game.  He was well on his way to being a hall of famer before the steroids.  However, after taking them (he is believed to have started them in 1999) he won 4 straight MVPs and Silver Sluggers, led the league in HRs with his record breaking 73 in a season while winning two batting titles.  However he stopped winning Gold Gloves and his stolen base numbers dropped precipitously.  His career high from that point on was 15, after stealing 30+ bases 9 times prior to that.  What’s the point of all this?  The steroids made his power numbers improve greatly, but he was a better all around player before that.  And due to that all around talent he was showing, he was likely heading to the Hall.  But he chased the long ball and the all time home run numbers, and became more one dimensional, though he did end up breaking all the records he sought.  PEDs made a Hall of Fame player an icon.  But it’s almost certain that he’d be in the Hall without the drugs.  Should that matter in this vote?  No matter what you think about his career after 1998, he would have likely been HoF bound before he took the PEDs.  Is that worth recognizing?

Roger Clemens started his career in 1984.  He is believed to have started juicing in 1998.  Prior to that he had five 20-win seasons, 6 ERA titles and led the league in Ks 5 times.  He had 5 Cy Young’s in that time and 1 MVP.  He already had over 200 Wins.  He, too, was headed for Cooperstown before the PEDs were taken.  Should guys like Clemens and Bonds receive more credit than other steroid users, who would never be Hall of Famers if they didn’t cheat?  It’s easy to say no and take a hard stance for ideological reasons.  But it’s a legitimate question, one that I haven’t settled yet.  Will we ever accept the steroid users?  It’s hard to know at this point, although at this moment the answer is clearly no.

At the end of the day, I’ve decided a few things:

1.              If a player was a giant in his era and had good numbers I think he’s worthy of a vote, even without the “magic numbers”.  If the numbers are good enough the awards can put them over the top
2.              If a player played during the Steroid Era, and had good numbers without taking PEDs, then that fact might push him over the top.  It’s not enough to make a guy a HoF contender on his own, but if he’s VERY close, that might get him my vote.
3.              While I think some guys may be HoF worthy, I think being a first ballot Hall of Famer is a special honor.  So there are guys who I won’t vote for on their first ballots that I may vote for later.
4.              PED users are a special case.  At this point, I don’t want to vote for them.  Beyond that, guys who are only on the Hall bubble because of steroids definitely don’t deserve to get in.  Guys who would have been Hall of Famers anyway, are more worthy, but perhaps still not worthy enough.  And while I’m unsure about them, I won’t vote for them.  Certainly not the first time.  Possibly ever.

So with that in mind, the only players on the ballot that I haven’t talked about yet are Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero, both steroid guys.  It’s not their first time on the ballot, but they are still no’s in my book.  I will be voting for someone this year.  A few guys.  And after a lot of consideration, the players who are getting my Hall of Fame vote are:

Jeff Bagwell, Dale Murphy, Jack Morris and Craig Biggio.  I may vote for others in the future (Piazza, Schilling), but for this season, I’m only voting for those 4 guys.

Biggio was the easiest choice as 3,000 hits is still impressive.  Biggio also hit a ton of doubles, stole a ton of bases and was good in the field.  Bagwell had numbers that compared favorably to steroid users.  And he did that playing against steroid users and never gave in to temptation to start juicing.  So while his numbers made him come close, his strength of character took him the rest of the way.

As for the older guys, I really like that complete game to Saves comparison that Morris suggested.  It showed how solid and dominant he could be.  He piled up over 200 Wins with a ton of Complete Games.  His ERA, WHIP and K numbers may be lacking, but he was still a dominant pitcher.  Not everyone in the HoF is an All-Time great.  But Morris was pretty great in his own right.

And last we have Dale Murphy.  His numbers were good, but not good enough.  His dominance in the game, that was worth a lot.  I saw it as enough to push him over the top.  Mattingly didn’t quite have the numbers or awards of Murphy, which makes him fall short in my opinion.  This is the last year for Murphy and Morris.  I think that makes them worth my vote, as there is a difference in players who make it in the first vote, as opposed to their last.

That’s my ballot.  I’d love to know what some of you think.  Share your votes with me or tell me what you think of the guys I voted for.

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