When it comes to Hall of Fame voting... there really isn’t a wrong way to do it. By its very nature, which bases itself entirely in subjectivity, you cannot be wrong as long as you have an argument befitting your stance.
Small-Hall voters tend to vote in favor of preserving the integrity of the game, not letting even suspected steroids users gain one of their ten votes. Oftentimes, these voters won’t use their full ballot.
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are voters who don’t care about who used and who didn’t use, and vote entirely based on statistical performance along with what their presence meant for the league. Did Barry Bonds use steroids? In the minds of these voters it generally doesn’t really matter if he did or didn’t. You can’t really tell the story of his era without at least mentioning him.
There are counterarguments to both stances, and every stance in-between, but as the Hall allows all in (except for those banned from the sport), provided you have a stance and a way to support it, you can’t really be wrong in the classical sense of the term.
So what did our posters have to say?
2019 HoFers - On to Lansdowne Street
What they said - Steroid users can eat dirt. If you were a jerk who played by the rules, no matter how big a jerk you were, maybe you can still get in. Unless you also did steroids. Then no, sorry, you lose. No cheaters. Voted for Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Mariano Rivera, and Roy Halladay. And that’s it. Small hall.
Personally, I don’t care a ton about the character clause. I try to use it as a tiebreaker if I’m undecided on my 10th slot like I have been the last few years. This is why I haven’t voted for Curt Schilling, even though by sheer statistical performance and playoff reputation he’s just as deserving as anyone else. The way I view it, I don’t think we can make an accurate judgement of a players character the way we think we can. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve never met Barry Bonds. I’ve never met Edgar Martinez. I have little way of knowing how nice either one is other than word of mouth. Did one of them cheat? Did both of them? Maybe, that’s something else.
Of the players OtLS chose, I find myself going back and forth on both Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling frequently. Some days I’ll feel like one is a Hall of Famer. Others, I’ll think neither is. Sometimes, both. They both have some level of statistical success required to get in, and both also have playoff success. Both also are relevant to me, because as a Red Sox fan I remember both of these talents pretty clearly, at least from the early 2000s on.
Without a ten player voting limit, I wonder how their support would look.
If Only I Had a Ballot - kalinis
What they said - They voted for Edgar Martinez, Rivera, Mussina, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Schilling, Fred McGriff, Halladay, Larry Walker, and Omar Vizquel, filling up their ballot with the maximum 10 votes. Also gave brief explanations for all 10. Definitely appears to not care as much about PEDs.
A lot of who kalinis voted for would be on my ballot as well, the biggest exception being Omar Vizquel. Now, Vizquel had a great career along with great longevity, but I’m not certain he’s one of the 10 best players on the ballot this year. He was a pretty sub-standard hitter, who got by on his glove. Not that glove-first players have no chance, but they have to hit worth something or have an otherworldly glove.
The standard bearer for me in this situation is Ozzie Smith, a man who hit similarly to Vizquel, but had a far superior glove. I’m not saying Vizquel has to be better on the whole than Smith. That would be patently unfair as very few people can claim to being better than Ozzie Smith. But I don’t think Vizquel is all that close and that makes Vizquel very very fringe for me.
My 10 are as follows:
Mariano Rivera - I’m not saying Mo needs to be first ballot, but I think as arguably the greatest closer/reliever in baseball history he should be at least on everyone’s shortlist right now. When I look at him compared to Trevor Hoffman, a reliever who got in on his third attempt, I just don’t think they are all that close. Rivera’s peripherals looked better pitching in a significantly harder park, and he also has the a playoff pedigree. Rivera had a 0.70 post-season ERA in 141 innings, which is ridiculous. That’s 11 earned runs. Hoffman gave up 5 ER in 13 innings in the playoffs. While this isn’t the sole reason Rivera is better, it just highlights how important one player is to the history of the game in comparison to the other.
Roy Halladay - Unfortunately, Halladay will not get to see himself enshrined, but Halladay should at least merit first-ballot discussion. The top 5 pitchers by fWAR between 1998-2013 - the years of Halladay’s career - were Randy Johnson, Halladay, Pedro Martinez, CC Sabathia, and Javier Vazquez. On the topic of longevity and sustained success, he had it. The biggest question probably becomes if his peak was good enough. In his 9-year peak (in my opinion) between 2003-2011, he was the best. And it wasn’t particularly close. Number two was CC Sabathia, and following them is a cluster of Roy Oswalt, Johan Santana, and Vazquez. CC is arguably a HoFer in his own right, and Halladay simply outclassed him. No debate for me.
Todd Helton - Every year, I get more empathetic towards players who played their careers in Colorado. It’s unfair to ding a hitter for playing there. MLB determined that the park is fair and part of the game, just like the DH in the AL, or relief pitchers. If relievers and DHs can get in, perhaps so too should hitters who played in Coors. Of the hitters to call Coors home, none was greater than Todd Helton (OK, in terms of WAR to games played, Larry Walker was, but let’s talk about that later). To put up 55.1 fWAR as a first baseman anywhere is impressive. Most people I speak with believe Joey Votto to be a HoFer, so why not Helton?
Edgar Martinez - This is his last chance on the BBWAA ballot. Even if he misses induction he could still get in later, like Jack Morris. He definitely has the numbers for it. The biggest issue becomes that he didn’t play defense, but the DH is part of the game, and I’d hate to see David Ortiz get dinged for the same reasons when his turn comes around. He’s probably either the greatest or second greatest DH to play the game. Both deserve to be in.
Roger Clemens - I don’t really care about the post-playing career scandals or steroids. Just based on how much he meant to the game of baseball, I’d argue he’s deserving. His numbers speak for themselves, and he stands out as one of the most important figures of the 1990s and 2000s.
Barry Bonds - Basically the same as the above. He’s the home-run king, whether people like it or not, and even if he juiced to get them. Somebody on SB Nation once made a video about what it would be like if Barry Bonds played without a bat and never swung. The results are as ludicrous as you’d expect, and while there’s no way pitchers wouldn’t take a chance with a no-batted Bonds in the box, it’s just crazy how rarely pitchers even tried to challenge him.
Larry Walker - Remember that sweet stuff I wrote about Helton? Well it goes doubly true for Walker. His three year peak from 1997-1999 was something to look at. Imagine hitting .369/.451/.689 over a period of three years, and only winning a single MVP award to show for it (OK, so there’s more to the game than hitting hard). Sorry, Mike Trout.
Manny Ramirez - I don’t care about steroids/PEDs as stated above, and Manny Ramirez may be one of the single most relevant personality to his era. I doubt he’ll ever get much support for the Hall, because he simply wasn’t Bonds or Clemens good, which is the only reason they are in that debatable category. But if we look at things outside of a steroid scope, it’s weirdly easy to forget just how good Manny was when he was active. I know I don’t have to tell Red Sox fans he was good though, see for yourself if you don’t believe me.
Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina - Like I said above, I go back and forth on both players. I didn’t feel it right to vote for one, and not the other. If I had only one vote left, I would have used it on Billy Wagner instead, but since I have two votes, I’m going to use one on each. I think Schilling is the better player, but he has the character clause working against him, which really brings them about level for me. Both are deserving talents. It’s nice to have a chance to reward both, even though I don’t have a real ballot.
Close but not quite -Billy Wagner, Fred McGriff, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Omar Vizquel, Andy Pettitte. I think these six have at least fringe cases, but just don’t have enough spots to really justify on any of them. I really like Wagner, and think he’s underrated. McGriff might be criminally underrated (and it’s his last chance, too!). Berkman, Oswalt, and Vizquel are all in the hall of very good, but probably not good enough to be in the top hall in all of baseball.