This past week, we asked you to fill out a hypothetical Hall of Fame ballot. Hall of Fame voting is a topic I care a lot more about than I have any right to. For me, the game will always be about the present and the future, of course, but I also have a soft spot for the stories of yesterday. It is those stories of yesterday that helped get me into the game today.
While I was initiated into baseball by Pedro Martínez and Nomar Garciaparra, it was the stories about Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and so many other baseball players that truly made the sport feel alive, and free. The information about their careers filled more space in my head than my elementary school and middle school homework, much to my teachers’ chagrin, but now I get to talk about baseball all I want, so who is laughing now?
It’s me. I’m the one who is laughing.
We had 6 FanPost Friday responses this week. I will also be voting, which makes for 7 voters in the electorate. We will be close to the official Hall of Fame rules here. A player only gets into the Hall of Fame if they secure 75% of the ballot. That’s a little unfair in this context, with 7 voters. They would need to secure 6 of the 7 votes, as 5/7 is only 71.4% of the vote. To make it fair, we will require only 70% of the vote to get in (and thus, 5 of the 7 votes). We won’t actually eliminate anyone from the ballot, but if you want to pretend, just think of anyone who failed to get a vote as eliminated.
Now, for the votes.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Todd Helton, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Abreu, and Scott Rolen (10/10)
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Todd Helton, Curt Schilling (5/10)
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner (10/10)
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen (5/10)
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, Sammy Sosa (9/10)
My own methodology was actually very simple this time. I saw 9 players I definitely wanted to put on my ballot, and had a hard time deciding the 10th player... but more on that in a bit.
First and foremost, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are the easiest players to vote for on this ballot. It becomes easy if you ignore steroids, and remains easy even if you think they should be dinged a bit for them. Both players appeared to be on a Hall of Fame trajectory before it is widely accepted they even started using. And based on the era, it’s likel even more players were using that we will never find out about. Bonds and Clemens were just the two most prominent to get caught.
Bonds is the all-time home run king. It is impossible to tell the story of baseball without talking about him, and I’m not going to try to tell it without him there. Whether he was using steroids or not is irrelevant. It happened. He also has historic OBP skills that we may never see again. He was once intentionally walked with the bases loaded... and the strategy worked. His 2558 walks are an MLB record, as are his 688 intentional walks. He led the league in OBP 10 times, once recording an absurd .609 OBP.
Clemens may not be the king of any one stat, but his seven Cy Young seasons are also impossible to ignore. I never watched Clemens pitch for the Red Sox, but based on the numbers he was putting up in Boston, it sounds like I certainly missed out. Clemens was electric, even in old age. Whether he was using or not, his pure talent is impossible to fake.
The next grouping of players is my second tier: Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones, Sammy Sosa, and Todd Helton.
Rolen to me represents a player that I hope shoots up actual ballots this year. Last year, he finished at 39.8 percent of the vote. Early on this time around, he’s polling around 60.6 percent, which would be a huge jump for him, going into his fifth year on the ballot next year. Why he’s getting this much support is pretty clear to me. Among MLB third basemen, he ranks 11th all-time in fWAR. The players ahead of him are all no-doubt Hall of Famers (at least in terms of numbers). Several names behind him are as well. His 69.9 fWAR speaks for itself, even if he wasn’t as flashy offensively as other players on this list.
Sheffield, Ramirez, and Sosa are a trifecta of players several have doubts about, largely due to the steroid era being what it was. All three were huge parts of the era, and they all have important stories to tell. Sheffield’s talent was one of a kind. His precision with a bat and on the base paths cannot be understated, and no matter what substances he may or may not have taken, you can’t fake a good eye.
Sammy Sosa was part of the greatest single-season home run chase in modern baseball history, as his battles with Mark McGwire (who I maintain should be in as well!) helped to revitalize the sport in the eyes of several children. He may not have walked away with a home run record, but his 609 dingers rank ninth all-time.
I shouldn’t have to say a word about Manny Ramirez. He is without a doubt among the most skilled natural hitters I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. My old username before I became a writer here (outofleftfield) comes from his wild antics in left field.
If there was an all underrated segment to my vote, I’d be putting Andruw Jones in that slot. A lot is made out of his lack of counting stats despite having played 17 years, but he was still a 67.0 fWAR player. You know who else is around a 67.0 fWAR player? Rolen, and I voted for him. Like Rolen, Jones was a phenomenal defender, and had a nice power skill set early in his career as well. It’s a shame he wasn’t the same player after he hit 30, because if he’d retained even a little bit more of his production, I think we’d be talking about him as a no-doubter.
Billy Wagner is among the best relievers of all-time. He lacked the innings count that a lot of Hall of Fame relievers get, but his rate statistics have him clearly in the elite tier of relievers. Of relievers who threw 800 career innings, he ranks first in strikeouts per nine innings, second in ERA, and 6th in fWAR.
I could write a book on Todd Helton’s case. Or I could point to the similarities between his case and long-time teammate Larry Walker, who made the Hall of Fame last time around. Helton may never have won an MVP, but his consistent excellence from 1998 to 2007 where he hit .332/.432/.585, with an average of 30 homers a season) is enough for me to find room for him on the fringe of the ballot.
That leaves just one last spot. Ultimately, I came down to debating three choices: Curt Schilling, Andy Pettitte, or nobody. I’d voted for Jeff Kent in the past, and I know that Omar Vizquel has a following, but I couldn’t find any room for either one of them with these two in the discussion for the last slot. This year’s newbie crop, led by Torii Hunter and Tim Hudson, is also the weakest in years, which plays a factor.
I chose to ultimately vote for Pettitte. Not because I think he was a better pitcher than Schilling, because he wasn’t. And not because Pettitte was a cleaner player than Schilling, because he wasn’t. And not because I really liked Pettitte, because I didn’t. I chose to vote for him because it’s just what made me feel good. My discourse on the topic is fairly lengthy, so I’ll just plug this debate I had with myself on twitter for you to peruse at your leisure. I gave it a lot of thought. I just ultimately decided I don’t want to vote for Schilling. That’s that.
Above, I have provided the final results. In yellow are your 2020/21 Over the Monster Hall of Famers: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Todd Helton, and Manny Ramirez. In orange are the two players who would be elected if we’d stuck to 75%, to be closer to real life rules.
That’s all she wrote. Thank you for participating, see you all next Friday!