Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 Hall of Fame Ballot

Each year, the BBA (Baseball Bloggers Alliance) votes on the Hall of Fame ballot.  Last season was my first time to vote in the election, and I took the time to hash out some of my thoughts about the HoF, the voting and the process I use to vote players in.  It was one of my biggest posts, and you can find part 1 here and part 2 here. 

For those who want to just skip to the end of those links, or don’t feel like clicking on them, I can tell you that I voted for Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Dale Murphy and Jack Morris.

So for this season, I considered the 36 candidates on the ballot with the same ideas that I used last time.  I looked for the magic numbers (500 HR, 300 Wins, 3,000 Hits).  I looked for players who came close to those numbers and won a ton of awards in their time.  I considered players who played in the steroid era who had good numbers, but not magic ones, and never were implicated in PED usage.  I considered players with great stats in 1 or two categories, but not much else.  I considered compilers.  I looked for a lot of things.  If I had any question about a player, they did not get my vote, as they would have another chance the next year (most of them).  Another year of consideration for individual players is preferable to a hasty pick being made, that can’t be undone.

In addition to considering my ballot, I also considered the voting process and how the hall works.  I tried to think about things I would change or patterns.  I’ve come to a few conclusions, which I will also detail in this post. 

So let’s get right into it, starting with the voting process.

Last year, people were outraged that no one made the Hall of Fame.  That led to a look at who was voting and the overall voting process.  The people allowed to vote for Hall of Famers are members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who have been in the BBWAA for at least 10 years.  They have to have been active members of the BBWAA for 10 years prior to the date of their first vote.  That means no players, coaches, executives or other Hall of Famers are eligible to vote for the new batch of Hall of Famers.  The argument against players voting is that they would be too open to teammates and people who played in their eras, as opposed to others who didn’t.  The argument against coaches and executives is that they would give too much consideration to their former players.  All are valid considerations, though perhaps somewhat unfair.  However no concern is expressed about writers who have covered a certain team for 10 years being perhaps more lenient to guys on the team they spent their careers covering.  I’m not saying that I think former players, coaches and executives SHOULD be able to vote, but the reason against them voting doesn’t seem to hold up when you consider any partiality from the writers.  And that’s not just a guy who covers the Astros being more likely to vote for Bagwell and Biggio, but also a guy who covers the Yankees not voting for as many Red Sox, or Cardinals writers who didn’t think much of Andre Dawson.  However as I don’t have a good answer for this one, I think I’ll table it for now.

What I don’t like is the fact that the Hall vote is anonymous.  By allowing guys to hide behind their votes, they can safely exercise biases without fear of public reproach.  I don’t think there is any reason that the vote has to be anonymous.  Right now, each voter can vote for whomever they wish, without having to explain it.  And, in a situation like last year, each and every voter can express shock and outrage that no one made it into the hall, but no person can be held responsible since we don’t know who voted for whom. 

One lady who covered the Dodgers for 10 years was famous for acknowledging that she voted for Shawn Green, but not Mike Piazza.  There was an individual out there that voted for Aaron Sele.  However players like Craig Biggio and Jack Morris fell short of the votes needed to get in.  My issue isn’t with players not getting into the Hall, because last year’s class wasn’t great.  My issue is that someone voted for Aaron Sele and we don’t know whom.  And they will get to vote again this year.   I like that you don’t have to vote for anyone.  The rules state that you can vote for as few as 0 or as many as 10.  I don’t like the cap on the max you can vote for either, but voting in too many people has never been an issue.  So if I could make one change to the Hall vote, it would be taking the anonymity out of the process, making it public and making people defend their votes.  That way people would perhaps put more thought into their votes, and anyone who votes for Aaron Sele wouldn’t be allowed to vote again.

After a player’s first season on the ballot they need to get 5% of the votes to make it back to the ballot a second year.  19 of the 37 players on last year’s ballot didn’t return this season after they failed to garner 5% of votes.  Add to that Dale Murphy, who in his 15th and final season on the ballot garnered 106 votes, good enough for 18.6% and a 4.1% increase over the previous years.  You only get 15 tries, so he’s out as well (despite my vote….which doesn’t count for the actual Hall of Fame btw, just the Baseball Bloggers Alliance) making 20 of 37 candidates fall off the ballot.  This year we will see most of the guys on the ballot fall short of getting the 5% necessary plus Jack Morris will be gone after this season as he will either make the Hall or lose his eligibility.  So the system works well for the most part.  The only change I would make today, is to take the anonymity out of the voting process.

Now to this year’s ballot.

The easiest part is eliminating about 80% of the players listed.  The ones I eliminated off the bat were:

Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Hideo Nomo, Kenny Rogers, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow and Mike Timlin.

There were some fine players in there, but none that really even considered any HoF merit.

Then there were the noteworthy players who were easily NOs in my book, but still had very good careers.  They were as follows:

Moises Alou:  303/332 HR, 1,287 RBI/1,109 R/106 SB….he had 2 Silver Sluggers and 2 Top 5 MVP finishes not to mention finishing second in the Rookie of the Year Voting in 1992; won a world series and had a long career; lost 2 seasons due to injury but always hit above 300….great player, but not a Hall of Famer in my book

Luis Gonzalez:  283/354 HR/1,439 RBI/1,412 R/128 SB…won a Silver Slugger and had 1 Top 5 MVP finish….won a World Series and led the league in hits one year…great player but not a Hall of Famer

Jeff Kent:  290/377 HR/ 1,518 RBI/1,320 R/94 SB….won an MVP and finished in the Top 10 4 times, won 2 Silver Sluggers….one of the best offensive second basemen of all time, but still not a Hall of Famer

Edgar Martinez:  312/309 HR/1,261 RBI/1,219 R….won 5 Silver Sluggers and had 2 Top 10 MVP finishes (1 Top 5)….won 2 batting titles, led the league in RBI and R once (not the same year), led the league in doubles twice and on base percentage 3 times….the best overall offensive player on this list so far, but being a DH hurt him not only in this vote, but also in awards, where he didn’t win many....I don’t think I could vote for a DH…at least not right now

Don Mattingly:  307/222 HR/ 1,099 RBI/1,007 R…won an MVP and had 2 more Top 5 finishes…3 Silver Sluggers and 9 Gold Gloves….a great player for a bad team….but not quite Hall of Fame worthy in my book

Tim Raines:  294/170 HR/980 RBI/1,571 R/808 SB…came closer to voting for Raines than anyone else…3 top 10 MVP finishes (1 Top 5), 1 Silver Slugger, career average was impressive as were the 2600+ hits, but he played 23 years and seems like a complier…..his SB numbers are what merit his consideration, but almost all of those came early in his career….was truly one of the best base stealers of all time with an 85% career mark (84.6 to be exact)….won a batting title and led the league in steals 3 times, including stealing 90 bases in 1983 and had 6 seasons with over 70 steals….but despite being one of the best base stealers of all time, he had no power, was a corner outfielder and wasn’t great in the field…great base stealer with a good career AVG, but a bit of a compiler

Lee Smith:  478 Saves/3.03 ERA….had an average WHIP (1.26) and subpar career BAA (288)….led the league in Saves 4 times, but never really excelled anywhere else…got surpassed by other far superior closers after holding the all times Saves record for a while

Alan Trammell:  285/185 HR/1,003 RBI/1,231 R/236 SB…great player, one of the best offensive shortstops of all time….like Jeff Kent, compared to others in his position he is great….4 Gold Gloves and 3 Silver Sluggers…3 Top 10 MVP finishes (1 Top 5)…never led league in anything or reached any magic numbers…very good player, especially for a shortstop….not a Hall of Famer

Larry Walker:  313/383 HR/1,311 RBI/1,355 R/230 SB….won an MVP and had 2 other Top 5 finishes (4 Top 10)….3 Silver Sluggers and 7 Gold Gloves….played the majority of his career in Colorado, which inflates all hitters numbers….won 3 batting titles and led the league in HR once….great 5 tool player but not a Hall of Famer as he never hit the magic numbers, even in the greatest hitter’s park of all time

There were players who were PED users that I dismissed right away.  It’s easy to take a hard stance and say that no PED users should ever get in.  I’m not sure that I feel that way, but I have no issues with someone who does.  However I think it is naïve to think that will happen, as inevitably someone will be enshrined and, after the fact, we will find out that they took PEDs.  So while I’m still on the fence about PED users (more about that below) until I figure something out I won’t vote for any that I know of.  However, I definitely would never NOT vote for someone who played in the era if there is no proof of him taking PEDs, or at least no serious discussion about it.  I think that’s incredibly unfair as well, and if I vote for someone who later turns out to be a PED user, then I’m okay with it.  The PED users on the ballot for me that I immediately dismissed were as follows:

Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

There is another group of PED users that I don’t think enough people consider.  And that’s the individual who was going to be a Hall of Famer BEFORE they took PEDs.  It’s easy to say that taking them undid all the good of the beginning of their career, but that’s also kind of naïve as well, in my opinion.  Those individuals are as follows:

Barry Bonds:  Holds the all time records for HR (762) BBs (2,558) and IBBs (intentional walks 688).  He’s also a career 298 hitter with 1,996  RBI and 2,227 R.  He’s the only member of the 500/500 club off the strength of his his HR and 514 SB.  That being said, we know he took steroids.  He’ll argue he never knowingly took them, but he took them all the same.  But he didn’t start taking them until 1999.  Before that he had already won 3 of his 7 MVPs (with 4 more top 5 finishes) all 8 of his Gold Gloves and 7 of his 12 Silver Sluggers.  He scored over 100 R in a season 7 times (leading the league one year), led the league in HR once (with 46 in 1993) and RBI once (123 also in 1993).  He stole 52 bases one year and over 40 two other years.  He was a 6 time 20/20 player and a 2 time 30/30 player.  And he led the league in walks 5 times before 1999.  Assuming his career ended in 1999, we may already be looking at a Hall of Famer.  Barry Bonds was the best offensive player in baseball, but the long ball was what got all the attention.  That’s what he wanted and that’s what he went after.  He would have been a Hall of Famer, but he chased the title of best offensive player in the game.  And he came close, but at a cost.

Roger Clemens:  Clemens is another of the greatest players of our era.  And that was before he started taking PEDs.  It is widely believed that started taking them in 1998.  Prior to that, he had five 20 win seasons, 5 Cy Youngs, 6 ERA titles, 1 MVP and he led the league in Ks 5 times.  Prior to that 1998 season,, he already had over 200 Wins.  He had a record that favorably compared with the career numbers of two fringe Hall of Famers (Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling), but his ERA and K numbers were far superior as were his award totals.  He was much more dominating and was an easy Hall of Famer before he took PEDs. 

They are both still NOs in my book, but I think deserve some separation from others who only came close to HoF level performances because of the PEDs they took.  I’m not sure about what to do with PED users because a hard stance leaves off some of the greatest players of our generation.  And while people have been okay with that in the past (Pete Rose), I’m not sure I like that idea.  But, again, until I figure it out, I’m not voting for those people.

That leads us to the last two groups.  The YES group and the MAYBE group.  And that’s what I’ll break down first, starting with the MAYBES.

Fred McGriff:  McGriff, the Crime Dog, had an impressive career.  He was a 284 hitter with 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, 1,349 R and a 509 slugging percentage.  Those are fantastic numbers.  He was 7 HR shy of the 500 HR threshold, one of the magic numbers.  However that number has lost meaning with PED users breaking it with impunity.  So this is a classic situation of a player who had a good career and didn’t take PEDs seeing his numbers’ luster pale in comparison to guys who took drugs to rack up homers.  I like McGriff.  He was huge in the Braves winning the World Series in 1995.  And his career 284 AVG shows he was more than just a slugger.  However, he also played for a long 19 years, which enabled him to compile some impressive stats.  He did lead the league in HR twice (89 and 92) but never hit more than 36 HR in those years.  His career high in a single season was 37 HR. He won 3 Silver Sluggers and was a 5 Time All Star.  But his defense was not great.  And while he had 6 Top 10 MVP finishes, only 1 was inside the top 5 (4th in 1993).  He was a good player who played for a while, but never was the best guy.  In fact, at a stacked position like first base, he was rarely in the top 5 players at his position as he played with guys like Frank Thomas, Mo Vaughn, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.  So for me, the question is did McGriff compile stats in a long career or was he a great player that was overshadowed by those who took PEDs and played with him.  

Mike Mussina:  Mussina’s numbers are incredibly impressive.  He went 270-153 in 536 starts.  In 3,562 IP, he struck out 2,813 hitters and gave up 3,640 hits and 814 BBs (29 intentional).  He averaged 7 Ks and 1 walk per 9, but also 10 hits per 9.  His WHIP was 1.19 but his BAA was 255.  He didn’t win any Cy Youngs, but finished in the top 5 of Cy Young voting 6 times (9 Top 10 finishes).  He also won 7 Gold Gloves (including one in his final season) and was a 5 time All Star.  This is another instance of a great player with great stats, but also one who played a long time (18 years).  He, like McGriff, didn’t win a lot of awards and was never really considered the best pitcher in his era.  He came closer to a Cy Young than McGriff did to an MVP finishing second in 1999 (Pedro Martinez won that year).  He was never clearly the best pitcher in any category.  He led the league in wins and shutouts in 1995 with 19 and 4 respectively.  He led the league in IP once and games started twice.  He was clearly a good player who had good stats.  So, like McGriff I have to decide if he was a complier and a lack of awards shows that he was good but never truly great, or a player who was always great, but played with PED users that made his numbers look lesser in comparison. 

That was the maybe group.  The last group was small.  It’s the first ballot guys who got definite YES votes from me.:

Greg Maddux:  Easiest vote for me.  Could challenge Tom Seaver for highest ballot percentage to get into the Hall.  354 Wins.  3.16 ERA.  3,371 Ks in 5,008 IP.  He won 4 Cy Youngs and finsished in the top five of Cy Young voting 5 more times.  He won 18 Gold Gloves and was a 8 time All Star.  He finished in the Top 5 of the MVP voting twice.  He was one of the best pitchers of all time, and he did it with finesse, not power.  May have had the best command in history.

Tom Glavine:  Another easy vote. 305 wins, 3.54 ERA, 2,607 Ks in 4,413 IP.  He won 2 Cy Youngs and finished in the top 54 more times.  He was a 10 time All Star with 4 Silver Sluggers.  Like Maddux, was a finesse pitcher with great command.  Was a star pitcher in a great era for hitters.

Frank Thomas:  The Big Hurt was a fixture at first a long time before he became a DH.  He hit 301 with 521 HR, 1,704 RBI and 1,494 R.  He won 2 MVPs with 4 other top 5 finishes (3 more top 10).  He was a 5 time All Star and won 4 Silver Sluggers.  He was a great hitter in an era of some of the best hitters.

Taking those guys from this years ballot, and the three guys that I voted for last year (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris) I have a total of 6, not counting the maybes.  That’s not bad.

I’m still on the fence about Curt Schilling and Mike Piazza.  They were maybes for me last year, and will be maybes again this year.  They have time, and when I’m sure, I’ll put them in.  But once they are in, they are in.  So I want to be sure.  Keeping that in mind, I’ll reserve my vote for Mussina and McGriff until I’m sure also.  No rush to get them in there.  My only concern would be seeing a player like them fall off the list after not getting 5% of the vote.  But if a player falls off the ballot, then I guess it’s clear that they weren’t worthy. 

So, my final ballot included votes for the following players this year:

Jeff Bagwell

Craig Biggio

Tom Glavine

Greg Maddux

Jack Morris

Frank Thomas

Let me know your thoughts.  Reach out to me on Facebook HERE, or just leave your comments below.

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