If you’re a baseball fan then in the past month you’ve probably read at least 20 hypothetical Hall of Fame ballots from people who don’t actually get to submit Hall of Fame ballots. If you’ve made it past the first sentence then you’re about to read mine. This post is a pretty simple undertaking; it is a list of who I would vote for if I were a member of the BBWAA and submitted a ballot for the Hall of Fame. As any non-BBWAA writer I’m limited to hypothetically voting for 10 eligible players. Were it not for that limit I would probably vote for 14 players, but my hands are tied by the rules. I’m writing this post so that I may establish my own standards for enshrinement. After all, every voter and fan has their own standards, and mine aren’t as simple as regarding every player who accumulates 500 home runs, 3,000 hits, 300 wins or 60 career Wins Above Replacement as a Hall of Famer. I’ll explain my thinking as I go along. My Ten:
Greg Maddux- 5008.1 IP, 132 ERA+, 355-227, 3371 K, 113.9 fWAR
I really can’t imagine anyone keeping Greg Maddux out of their personal Hall of Fame. Whether you prefer longevity or peak, dependability or dominance, Maddux fits the bill. He threw 25 years’ worth of 200 inning seasons and was 32 percent better than a league average pitcher over that time. From 1992 to 2002 his ERA+ was 171 over 2576.1 innings. Feel free to read that sentence again. At the very least we’re talking about a top-10 starting pitcher of all time and a guy who was the best pitcher in the game for much of the 1990s. While he won’t be the first unanimous selection he is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Barry Bonds- 12,606 PA, 173 wRC+, 762 HR, 514 SB, 1996 RBI, 164.1 fWAR
Roger Clemens- 4916.2 IP, 143 ERA+, 354-184, 4872 K, 139.5 fWAR
Whether or not you’re willing to vote for these two solely depends on whether or not you’re willing to send supposed steroid users to Cooperstown. If you are then both Bonds and Clemens are Hall of Famers to you. And if you’re a self-righteous guardian of baseball’s integrity even though it has been tarnished at every point throughout the game’s history then you’re probably not going to vote for these two. On numbers alone there simply isn’t a case to be made to keep either of these greats out. Bonds may be the best hitter who ever lived and Clemens is his pitching equivalent. In my mind, there are exactly two choices for voters regarding the steroid era. You have the option of either blacklisting every player who played between, say, 1993 and 2005 from Cooperstown, or you can acknowledge that those years happened and induct the best players from that era. Bonds and Clemens are on my ballot because I don’t believe that a museum- which is what the Hall of Fame is- is meant to abridge and revise history in order to paint a rose-tinted image of the past. Museums are meant to preserve history and present periods of time as they were, not as we wish they were. Does this outlook reward cheating? Perhaps. But at least it doesn’t pretend the Hall is something it’s not or prohibit from induction, without evidence of guilt, rewarding candidates such as…
…Jeff Bagwell- 9431 PA, 149 wRC+,449 HR, 202 SB, 1529 RBI, 80.3 fWAR
…Mike Piazza- 7745 PA, 140 wRC+, 427 HR, 1335 RBI, 63.6 fWAR
These are two guys who, while obviously not on the same level as Bonds or Clemens, clearly have the merits for Cooperstown. Piazza is, without a doubt, the greatest hitting catcher of all time. Bagwell was probably underrated in his day but that shouldn’t prevent us from appreciating what a force he was. Since 1990, only 8 men have a higher wRC+ than Bagwell. Their names? Barry Bonds, Mike Trout, Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, and Miguel Cabrera. He ranks 7th all-time in fWAR among first basemen, ahead of Rod Carew, Eddie Murray, Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew, Wille Stargell, Johnny Mize…you get the picture. Neither had the longest of careers but both were absolutely dominant for an entire decade, which, for me, is enough. You can draw your line where you will, but if a guy is on the short list for best player in the game for 10 whole years then he’s earned my hypothetical vote. Unfortunately, both could fall short this year. They both received a shade under 60% of the vote in 2013, and expecting a boost to the necessary 75% in a year with the most loaded ballot in recent memory requires more optimism than I currently have. Maybe the voters will eventually learn to look past Piazza’s bacne or Bagwell’s lack of classic milestones but I wouldn’t expect to see these two deserving men enshrined in 2014.
Tom Glavine- 4413.1 IP, 305-203, 118 ERA+, 2607 K, 64.3 fWAR
Mike Mussina- 3562.2 IP, 270-153, 123 ERA+, 2813 K, 82.5 fWAR
I pair Glavine and Mussina together for two reasons. First, their numbers and careers are comparable. Glavine threw more innings and won more games, Mussina pitched slightly better and racked up more strikeouts. Glavine might actually be undervalued by Wins Above Replacement considering he consistently posted ERAs better than his peripherals would indicate. In fact, Glavine accumulates 88 RA-9 WAR, a form of WAR developed by Fangraphs which uses runs allowed instead of FIP. Both were consistent and durable aces who were more steady than exciting, and thus were largely overshadowed by some of the ridiculous pitching talents of their day. It’s difficult for me to see how anyone could have one of these pitchers on their ballot and not the other. I say that because the second reason I paired Mussina and Glavine together is precisely because a large number of voters are indeed going to have one of these pitchers on their ballots and not the other. More specifically, Mussina is likely going to be left off a lot of ballots that include Glavine. Why? Because Glavine has 300 wins. It’s really that simple.
Curt Schilling- 3261.1 IP, 216-148, 127 ERA+, 3116 K, 83.2 fWAR
In terms of overall career value (at least as measured by WAR) Schilling is right in line with Mussina and Glavine. However, Schilling tossed more than one thousand fewer innings than Glavine and about a season and a half’s worth of innings less than Mussina. Schilling was really “only” a capable major league starter for 15 seasons, while Mussina had 17 seasons as a full-time starter and Glavine had 20. Their career values are nearly identical, then, because Schilling was simply more dominant. Mussina and Glavine threw more innings but the innings that Schilling threw were of a higher quality, in large part because Schilling was able to miss more bats than either of them. (In 5 separate seasons Schilling posted a K/9 over 10, which, yes, is absurd.) All three are easy Hall of Famers to me, and I think Schilling will get elected in the next few years. We’ve seen guys get enshrined after receiving a lower percentage of the vote than the 38% Schilling received in his first year on the ballot last year, so I’m not terribly worried about him being snubbed. I think the biggest bullet points on Schilling’s resume are his 3116 strikeouts (the voters love their round numbers) and his numbers in the playoffs. He started 19 playoff games, won 11, and posted a 2.23 ERA in the height of the steroid era. That’s about as good of a playoff resume as you’ll see, and certainly seems like the type of thing the old school voters will recognize.
Frank Thomas- 10,074 PA, 154 wRC+, 521 HR, 1704 RBI, 72.4 fWAR
Frank Thomas, 1990-2000: .321/.440/.579, 169 OPS+
Albert Pujols, 2001-2011: .328/.420/.617, 170 OPS+
And last but certainly not least:
Edgar Martinez-8672 PA, 147 wRC+, 309 HR, 1261 RBI, 65.6 fWAR
In my mind, leaving out the greatest DH of all time would be one of the greatest snubs in the entire Hall. And make no mistake, Martinez is the greatest DH of all time. When comparing DHs there is nothing else to examine but their impact at the plate and David Ortiz is a distant 2nd with his 138 wRC+. I think everyone remembers that Martinez was a great batter but it seems most voters overlook just how great his bat was. His game was one that practically begged to be underrated- he was a classic doubles and walks hitter who only topped 30 home runs once. Martinez was a full-time DH, never playing more than a handful of games in the field in any season after 1994. Despite not making any contributions to his team with the glove, Martinez was a consistent 5 WAR player from 1990 to 2001. If he has played third base very poorly over this time frame I don’t think there’s any question he’d be a Hall of Famer already, but by DHing instead of hurting his team in the field he apparently irked enough traditional voters to keep himself on the Cooperstown backburner.
I would absolutely vote for Craig Biggio, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, and Larry Walker if it weren’t for the 10-player limit and my lack of a BBWAA membership. I also wouldn’t argue too hard if you had Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Kent or Fred McGriff on your ballots, although I think they each fall just short. Hell, both Biggio and Trammell are borderline candidates for me, but I’ve been berated by enough of my saber-inclined friends to bump them into my Hall. It should be pretty clear that my ballot won’t come close to matching the results tomorrow, so if I had to guess I’d say Maddux, Glavine, and Biggio make the cut tomorrow. Of course, after the results comes everyone’s favorite part of Hall season- two weeks of lambasting the writers whose ballots differed from your own hypothetical ballot. Who else is amped for that?