Hall of Fame balloting season always seems to generate lots of discussion. As an argumentative and opinionated individual, I always enjoy questioning writers’ choices on their ballots. That said, I’m not sure how much I’ll like being on the other side of this debate. As a member of the IBWAA, I have a “mock” Hall of Fame ballot. The 75 percent threshold is the same as the BBWAA, but the IBWAA voted to increase the maximum number of names allowed on the ballot from 10 to 15 starting with this vote. All of the player names are the same, aside from Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, and Barry Larkin. Larkin has not yet met the necessary vote threshold in the IBWAA vote, while Piazza was elected in 2013 and Biggio got in last year. Below is a full list of names; my choices are highlighted (an asterisk signifies a first-time candidate). I found 11 names to pick from and I have my reasoning for my choices on each and every player listed, which you can read below. Whether or not you agree or disagree with my choices, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section and on twitter.Who I Voted For
Jeff Bagwell: He could rake with the best of ’em, but he had other tools, hitting a career .297 and stealing 30 or more bases in two separate seasons. He didn’t take steroids and the few links that critics have made are unfounded. The knock against him is the era he played in and an early retirement. I can’t defend the era issue, but he gets points for not cheating on the game. Also, for anyone arguing that Bagwell didn’t achieve enough milestones in his career, I suggest that you take into account the 1994 strike. Bagwell, like many others, was in the midst of the best season of his career; he won the National League MVP hitting .368 with 32 doubles, 39 homers, and a league-leading .750 slugging percentage. Had that season continued, it is likely Bagwell nears or tops 500 career doubles and 450 career homers, milestones that would easily help his Hall of Fame case. Also, he had one of the coolest batting stances ever, which doesn’t help his case here, but is something that deserves mention.
Randy Johnson: The Big Unit won 303 career games and five Cy Young Awards, including four in a row from 1999-2002. He struck out everyone in sight for 22 seasons, pitching past his 46th birthday. In my opinion, Johnson deserves first ballot entry, but with the poor recent results from the BBWAA, nothing can be ensured. Also, this.
Jeff Kent: A career .290 batting average, 377 homers, and 560 doubles are great totals for someone at any position. Kent accomplished all of this while playing second base, even winning the 2000 NL MVP. His home runs are the most all-time by a player at his position. While his WAR is a bit on the low side, it is still ahead of plenty of already enshrined second basemen, which I believe strengthens his case.
Barry Larkin: He’s already in Cooperstown officially and it’s only a matter of time before he gets the necessary number of votes from the IBWAA.
Edgar Martinez: A career .312 hitter who somehow amassed 2,247 hits while playing in at least 130 games just 12 times. He also hit over 500 doubles and was the poster child for a generation that utilized a full-time designated hitter. Plenty of voters will penalize Martinez for playing a majority of his games at DH, but I find that unfair. I believe that good fielders can get a boost, but I’d consider Martinez on part with Jeff Kent, who I chose for similar reasons.
Pedro Martinez: Three Cy Young Awards, a 2.93 ERA, and one of the best career peaks ever. There were also a lot of whiffs in a short career for Pedro. Only the oldest of voters would argue against him as a first-ballot entry, and that is only because he won 219 games as opposed to 300. Of course, that means Jonah Keri should be able to celebrate next year if the voters would shock everyone and keep Martinez out this season.
Fred McGriff: The Crime Dog amassed career totals of 2,490 hits, 493 of which were home runs. Another casualty of the ’94 strike, he likely gets to 500 long balls and 2,500 hits, two milestones that would have had him enshrined already. 10 hits and seven homers should not keep McGriff out of Cooperstown, though I could understand why he will likely miss out on Cooperstown and end up in the theoretical Hall of Very Good.
Mike Mussina: He won 270 games and was a consistent ace for over a decade. Of course, this was during an era of strong hitting, so his raw numbers are lacking compared to pitchers from other eras. He also missed 3,000 strikeouts, which is another hit to his resume. Good defense might help him out, but plenty of voters will find his case shaky at best. I think 270 wins over a stellar career that ended in New York should get “Moose” enshrined eventually, but I’d consider him a long shot for 2015.
Tim Raines: 808 stolen bases and a peak that included seven consecutive All-Star Game nods and a .310 batting average. He also has the 8th-best career ever for a left fielder, according to JAWS. Everyone ahead of Raines is in, aside from Barry Bonds (PEDs) and Pete Rose (gambling), and plenty of players behind him – Jim Rice and Ralph Kiner included – are also enshrined in Cooperstown. Had Raines played more of his career in a bigger market that wasn’t Montreal, he would probably already be in. The semantics of where Raines played should not keep him out.
John Smoltz: He’s ahead of Early Wynn, Whitey Ford, and Rube Waddell, according to JAWS. Smoltzy is also the first pitcher to win over 200 and save over 150 games in his career. He reinvented himself twice, first as a reliever after injury and then at the age of 38 as he moved out of the bullpen and back into the rotation. His eight All-Star Game appearances spanned nearly two decades and are more proof that he deserves to get into Cooperstown.
Alan Trammell: A career .285 hitter at shortstop, Trammell spent his entire career with the Detroit Tigers. He has a higher career JAWS rating than Derek Jeter and also played defense, something Jeter never did. Every single retired shortstop of the modern era ranked above Trammell is in Cooperstown, which is why I voted him in.
Curt Schilling: I rooted for him in the “Bloody Sock” Game and enjoy his work on ESPN (though not necessarily his religious/political views). I also own a copy of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the video game released by his development company, 38 Studios. However, I do not feel he is deserving of the Hall of Fame because the storylines that have surrounded his career shrouded the truth of his performance. He was a very good pitcher who had some memorable moments in his career, but I do not think it is enough to vote him in.
Don Mattingly: He had a really good prime, but he only played 14 seasons. In my opinion, the only way for a player to get into the Hall of Fame after having such a short career is to have a legendary peak, a la Sandy Koufax. Mattingly was very good during his six-year peak stretch, but he was not Koufaxian.
Carlos Delgado: Delgado hit 473 long balls, but that power is not HOF-caliber at first base. He’s another member of the Hall of Very Good, evidenced by just two All-Star nods and three Silver Slugger awards.
Larry Walker: This was a toughie because his raw numbers are very good. However, Walker played a lot of his career in Colorado, where his numbers have been heavily Coors-aided. He never hit more than 23 homers in a non-Colorado season, which is why I cannot buy his inflated total power numbers.
Nomar Garciaparra: Just like Mattingly, Nomar only played for 14 years. In only half of those seasons did he qualify for league leaders, another fact that diminishes his career totals in the counting stats. Nomar had a great peak, but it was not Koufaxian. Had Garciaparra logged a few more full seasons, he’d have a better case, but the aggregate totals just aren’t enough.
The Steroid Guys: I understand the case for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Gary Sheffield, but all four of these guys have been linked strongly to steroids. Until one of these guys gets in, the floodgates for the rest of the cheaters will stay closed. Period. I also have a personal hatred against Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa. Sheffield, on the other hand, is a player whose swing I loved. I am also a fan of his post-playing career as an agent. But that doesn’t excuse his links to steroids and is the reason I omitted him from my ballot.
The Relievers: Eddie Guardado, Tom Gordon, Lee Smith, and Troy Percival all made their names as top-tier relievers. As good as they were when they played, I believe only the best of the best relief pitchers deserve HOF votes. I will vote for Trevor Hoffman, Joe Nathan, and Mariano Rivera as they begin to appear on ballots because they have better cases, in my opinion.
The Rest: Everyone else who wasn’t mentioned before didn’t even get a second look from me because they just aren’t Hall of Fame worthy. Any votes that these players get should be considered gifts because, in my opinion, none of them are worthy of Cooperstown.
Again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this year’s Hall of Fame vote. Remember, this is my personal ballot and this is how I reasoned who I voted for.