I love Hall of Fame voting because it’s like MVP voting. Everybody has a different definition of what makes someone a Hall of Famer. For example, I don’t consider Omar Vizquel a Hall of Famer, because he hit roughly 20% below average for his entire career and coasts off his defensive value. Others do not consider Scott Rolen a Hall of Famer because of reasons. What those reasons are remains to be seen.
I like seeing what people think about the Hall of Fame, because said Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of baseball excellence. If you make it into the Hall, enough people thought you were incredibly important to the game of baseball to the point where they decided it was worth spending money to put a plaque of your face and your career highlights in a museum in New York.
In this respect, I like it more than MVP voting since it feels like it’s more idiot-proof than MVP voting. (Ed. note: Disagree!) The MVP voting can be influenced by a single person because of the lack of voters in comparison. 30 people vote on each MVP award. 425 people voted for the Hall of Fame a year ago.
So what did OTM think? We’re going to do it a little differently this time around. I’m just going to list who you voted for, link your ballot, and offer a small commentary on one player who stood out to me. I’d like all discussion of each ballot to take place in their individual thread to keep things simple!
This poster voted for: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield.
The player on this list that sticks out most to me is actually Andruw Jones, and it’s not because I disagree with his inclusion. Quite the opposite. I see somewhere between 15-18 players worth considering for the Hall of Fame on this ballot. I see close to 15 players that I’d actually vote for if given the chance. Andruw Jones fits into both categories, but he falls out for a lot of people (as well as myself in recent years) because there’s just so many deserving players on the list (like in every other year in recent memory).
So why is he deserving? First off, 67 career fWAR is a good start. This puts him in the top 100 position players all-time, tied with Barry Larkin. Largely, this is a result of a fantastic 10 year peak from 1997-2006, where he accumulated 60.9 of his 67 career fWAR. In the other 7 years of his career, he only amassed 6 fWAR. The rise of Andruw Jones as one of the top players in the game was well publicized because of his talents as a multi-tool talent in the heartland of late 90s baseball. The fall of Andruw Jones is also well known. Once he left the Braves, he was no longer the same player. He started striking out more, hitting for less power, and being unable to stay on the field for much of the season.
Just how dominant was Andruw Jones? Over his 10-year peak, only two position players were better: Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds. And both of those players have their own questions unrelated to a decline in their 30s. He belongs in the Hall of Fame, but so do a lot of players.
This poster voted for: Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner, Todd Helton, Derek Jeter.
The one who stands out to me here is Billy Wagner, because again, I feel like people are often overlooking him. The reasoning is fair. He was a reliever, and unlike the most recent reliever inductees, he didn’t save a record breaking amount of games. Those types of relievers have a hard time getting in.
And yet, Wagner closed out over 400 games successfully. That’s one bullet point down. He also did it with fantastic peripherals, striking out tons of batters, and walking few. What gets me with the Wagner debate is that I feel we’re looking too much at counting stats, and not at his talent level.
Let’s compare Wagner with two recent relief inductees: Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. For convenience, here’s a link. Rivera and Hoffman, as expected, hold the lead in saves, innings, and overall games pitched. But if we start looking at strikeouts per nine innings, Wagner blows the two away. The walks are a little higher as well, but his strikeout to walk percentage is significantly better, and the ERA predictors, FIP, xFIP, SIERA also all side with Wagner’s pitching ability.
I’m not arguing that Hoffman or Rivera shouldn’t be in. Both players were definitely worthy of induction. But I always saw relief pitching in the era as a trifecta of those two and Wagner.
From 1980 to the present day, the top 5 relievers (by fWAR) were Rivera, Hoffman, Lee Smith, Wagner, and Doug Jones. Jones is the name that doesn’t fit here, as his numbers indicate he was in the second tier of relievers of the era. Rivera, Hoffman, and Smith are all in. It’s time for Wagner to get his due.
My Hall of Fame Ballot
I want to make one thing clear from the outset. When I vote for a player, in theory, I don’t care about steroids, I don’t care about cheating. Character clauses mean little (for the most part, although there is one glaring exception that I’m sure everyone already knows) to me, and I’m focused on only voting for people who I think actually changed the game of baseball in one way or another from my perspective. I want to feel good about the players I vote for.
I feel good voting for Bonds. It is my personal belief that Bonds is a Hall of Fame player, whether or not he took steroids. His alleged cheating is irrelevant to me in this respect. Unless he was cheating his entire career (which we’ve been unable to prove, and in America, I like to believe we’re innocent until proven guilty), he showcased Hall of Fame talent even early on.
As a kid, growing up during the twilight of his career, it was incredible to see the things he could do with a bat. The power was one thing, but he still showcased an incredible eye, and even managed to steal a surprising amount of bases at his advanced age. To this point, he’s the only member of the 500-500 club (for 500 dingers and stolen bags). He’s also the only member of the 400-400 club, but that’s a little less impressive, so why bring that up?
Mike Trout is going to go down as potentially the best player in the history of baseball. Until then, Bonds has a claim to it, alongside names like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and the other top players in the history of the game.
If you read my blurb about Bonds, you probably have an idea of where I’m going with Clemens. I actually love that both guys are eligible at the same time, because it makes them an easy package deal.
Bonds has an argument for the best hitter of all time. Clemens has the same argument for being among the best pitchers of all time.
I feel like Clemens’ case is a little more dubious than Bonds’ however, with regards to the character clause, and what I remember as a much longer legal process around clearing his name.
I won’t comment on whether or not I believe he cheated. I don’t think it matters. Like with Bonds, I believe he was most likely a Hall of Fame talent whether he was on the juice or not.
The biggest knock against Larry Walker is where he played baseball for part of his career. I want to draw the line here though. Even if you believe that Coors Field artificially improved his numbers, he didn’t play his entire career there, so we can see what type of player he was outside of Colorado.
He was already a consistent 20/20 threat with the Expos, with a strong batting line, with what appears to have been decent defensive acumen.
Now we can’t ignore the truth. Larry Walker was a good player before, but he became a monster after the age of 27. From 1995 to 2000, Walker crushed to a 1.059 OPS. It is really hard to produce a 1.000 OPS in one season, let alone average it over a six year period. And I wasn’t even looking at the full picture. I intentionally left out some of the best years of Walker’s career into his mid-30s. He actually maintained a +1.000 OPS over his entire decade in Colorado.
Once Walker left Colorado as a 37 year old for St. Louis, you would have been forgiven for thinking he’d collapse. Walker still hit to a .900 OPS over the season’s worth of games he played there, retiring before overstaying his welcome (something far too many players do).
This is Walker’s last chance before falling off the ballot. I hope he gets in, but even if he doesn’t, I have the feeling he’ll eventually make it in via something similar to the Modern Day ballot that is current deliberating on Dwight Evans and Lou Whitaker.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I think Rolen is actually the most criminally underrated player on the ballot. For a more full sized report, you can read this comment on Bosox’s Hall of Fame Ballot thread.
The long and the short of it is that I believe him and Derek Jeter to both be worthy inductees, who I felt were roughly the same in terms of overall value. The biggest difference in my opinion is one played incredible defense, and the other was the face of the New York Yankees.
It’s not like Rolen was Omar Vizquel with the bat. He hit well above average while being a phenomenal defender at the hot corner.
Jeter may be unanimous. He’s probably not the best player on this ballot, but it is what it is. If you really want to read a blurb on why he belongs in the Hall of Fame, read one of the million articles about how he’s the best thing since sliced bread. I’ll agree with probably half of it, at least.
I have two reasons for voting for Manny. The first is he’s basically my favorite player to play in a Red Sox uniform. My original moniker (outofleftfield) is a play on Manny Ramirez and his zany personality (and the turn of phrase of something being odd, or out of left field).
The other is that Manny Ramirez is one of the best pure hitters I’ve ever seen play the game. He was nearly a 1.000 OPS hitter for his career, without ever having called Colorado home.
The biggest argument against him is that he was 100% a cheater. We have confirmation of it. That’s why he’s down here at #6, instead of near the top like Bonds or Clemens. It’s not our place to be the arbiters of who played the game the right way, or if a player cheated without definitive evidence. But I do think Ramirez should be lower priority than other players who we cannot prove definitely cheated.
This is where my ballot becomes more fringe. If you left Helton or Sheffield, or whoever is below this off, I wouldn’t be particularly disappointed. This is where I feel players fall into the 50/50 maybe they are, maybe they aren’t category. I wrote about Jones at length already, and the rest of these four players have similar black marks that keep me from thinking they are a clear Hall of Famer.
Pettitte, like Ramirez, is a known cheater. He is below Schilling in terms of true talent level. Pettitte vs. Schilling was an interesting debate for me. But I couldn’t feel good voting for Schilling with how he’s carried himself in his post-playing career. Maybe that’s wrong, but it is something that could have been totally prevented. Pettitte cheated, but he’s been much more forthcoming about his flaws, and I find that easier to support.
Sheffield is another player I feel doesn’t get his due because of the stink of the steroid era, and how it has effected so many top players of the era (look at Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for example). I just like Sheffield as a player better than Sosa, but it’s close.
Todd Helton is my last player to discuss. I chose him because of the players left on the ballot (Bobby Abreu, Jeff Kent, Jason Giambi, Cliff Lee, etc) he was simply the best player available. He’s helped by the Coors factor, but we shouldn’t hold that against him (or Larry Walker). As far as I know, Coors is still a park that is ruled legal by Major League Baseball. He played within the rules of the game, and became a legend in Colorado, playing his entire career there.
And that ends the Flyby for this week. Who is on your ballot?