As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I’m beyond thrilled that someone cares what players would be on my hypothetical Hall of Fame ballot. Now that the best pitcher (Bert Blyleven) and the best hitter (Ron Santo) not previously in the Hall have been elected, we can go back to the contemporary candidates, of whom several are more than worthy of induction. I’ll look at the 41-man ballot in three groups: absolutely out, absolutely in, and worth a discussion.
This is essentially the entire new class, as most of these guys had solid careers, but were far short of Cooperstown:
From fewest rWAR to most:
Tony Womack– Though I’ll always love him for the ninth inning of Game Seven of the 2001 World Series, he was not good at baseball, which I believe should be a requirement for being inducted as a Hall of Fame player.
Jose Lima– I’ll never forget Lima’s celebration when the Dodgers finally won a playoff game, but there’s not much else worth remembering about Lima’s career.
Mike Matheny– Maybe he’ll be a Hall-worthy manager.
Danny Graves– For some reason, I always thought his name was Denny.
Felix Rodriguez– The only way he’ll get a vote is if someone mistakes him for a Felix Hernandez/Francisco Rodriguez hybrid.
Terry Mulholland– A long, maybe underappreciated career, but not an especially good one.
Tim Worrell– The second-best reliever named Worrell of the last half century.
Mike Remlinger– Mike Remlinger was a pitcher.
Matt Lawton– A Reggie Cleveland All-Star, perhaps?
Jeff Nelson– I always hated Jeff Nelson. This didn’t help.
Ruben Sierra– One of the first baseball players I remember from my youth. It’s hard to believe he’s on the same ballot as Matt Lawton and Felix Rodriguez. In 1991, he may have seemed like a Hall of Famer in the making. He’d earn negative three WAR over the next fifteen seasons.
Phil Nevin– One of my favorite players in the late ’90s, for absolutely no reason.
Vinny Castilla– One of the all-time great beneficiaries of Coors Field. Every time I take a baseball quiz on Sporcle, I try Vinny Castilla, in case he drove in 184 runs in 1997 or something.
Eric Young– He was fast.
Jeromy Burnitz– Little known fact: Burnitz spelled his first name with an O.
Carl Everett– One of the oddest human beings I’ve ever known about.
Rick Helling– Umm…
Jeff Fassero– Jeff Fassero had more career WAR than Vinny Castilla and Carl Everett?
Joe Randa– There’s something about promising young third basemen who never amount to much that makes me think they’re still promising young third basemen. I guess Randa’s retired. I wonder if that means Joe Crede will never turn into a superstar either.
Scott Erickson– Possibly one of Marshall’s enormous brothers on How I Met Your Mother
Bill Mueller– Won a batting title for the 2003 Red Sox. According to fangraphs, he was the fifth most valuable player on the team that year, and was ahead of David Ortiz only because Ortiz had no defensive value.
Javy Lopez– The first guy on this list who made me think is there a what-if scenario I can use to make this guy sound like a Hall of Famer?. Catchers who have hit 43 home runs in a season:
1. Javy Lopez.
Edgardo Alfonzo– Ten more seasons like 1997 and 2000 and he’s in.
Lee Smith– I need more than “once held the saves record”. An intimidating pitcher, but one whose numbers don’t compare to the best at his position, which is a position that doesn’t include many Hall-worthy players.
Brian Jordan– World class athlete, slightly-above-average baseball player.
Juan Gonzalez– I’m glad to see he got another year on the ballot. The man could hit. Then again, a lot of guys could hit in the mid-to-late ’90s.
Tim Salmon– A great, under-the-radar career. After Dizzy Trout, maybe the best player ever whose last name was a fish. Better than Kevin Bass, anyway.
Jack Morris– Fewer WAR than Brad Radke. I can’t wait until he falls off the ballot and we’re spared this nonsense about “pitching to the score” that people use as an excuse for his 3.90 ERA during a pitcher’s era.
Brad Radke– It speaks volumes that his 4.22 ERA over 2,451 innings was worth more to his teams that Morris’s 3.90 ERA over 3,824 innings. Like Morris, a decent pitcher. Like Morris, nothing resembling a Hall of Famer.
From most rWAR to fewest:
Jeff Bagwell– Bagwell accumulated more Wins Above Replacement than any first baseman in baseball history except Lou Gehrig, Cap Anson, Jimmie Foxx, Roger Connor, and Albert Pujols. The former four have been dead for a total of 283 years. In 1994, Bagwell batted .368/.451/.750. I have nightmares about his batting stance and I rarely rooted for an opposing team. I have no idea why Bagwell didn’t get 100% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
Barry Larkin– Larkin won a World Series and an MVP. The year after his MVP season, he slugged .567. The next year, he got on base at a .440 clip. He was a shortstop. And a Hall of Famer.
Alan Trammell– Trammell was a brilliant shortstop with an OPS 10% better than the league average throughout his career. He should have won an MVP award in 1987 (8.4 rWAR) and had a case for another in 1984 (6.6 rWAR on a championship team). Not quite Larkin, and maybe not as worthy as his double play partner, Lou Whitaker, but better than at least ten shortstops currently in the Hall.
Tim Raines– Every year, I get a little less militant in my support of Raines’s candidacy. On one hand, he reached base more times than Tony Gwynn. On the other, he had fewer rWAR than Kenny Lofton. He stole bases at a greater rate (84.7%) than any other base stealer, but he slugged .500 just once and had fewer career homers than Richard Hidalgo. I still think he’s a Hall of Famer, and here’s a powerful reason why: He struck out 966 times during his career. He walked 1,330 times.
Mark McGwire– I addressed steroids in last year’s post, so I’d rather not talk about them again. I still watch baseball because of the summer of ’98. McGwire hit 583 homers and got on base 3,018 times. I can’t picture a Hall of Fame without him.
WORTH A DISCUSSION
From fewest rWAR to most:
Don Mattingly– A great hitter with a sweet glove for a few years whose career fell of a cliff by the time he was thirty, Mattingly’s case requires a bonus for his “Donnie Baseball” personality. I actually liked the guy, but I wouldn’t give him that bonus, and a first baseman with 222 homers is not a Hall of Famer without it.
Dale Murphy– Mattingly as a center fielder. Murphy’s closer to the Coop than Mattingly, with two MVPs and 44.2 rWAR, but he’s not quite there.
Bernie Williams– Inarguably the best new player on the ballot, Williams was a classic .300/.400/.500 hitter and a center fielder on four championship teams. His .381 career OBP is identical to Raines’s, and he hit more homers (287) than Mattingly. The Hall seems to have higher standards for center fielders than corner guys, and Bernie might be a top-20 all-time fielder. The argument against him is that contemporaries Ken Griffey, Jr., Jim Edmonds, Andruw Jones, and maybe Kenny Lofton were better, and among them, only Griffey is a surefire Hall of Famer.
Fred McGriff– Like Williams, McGriff was better than a few Hall of Famers at his position, but he was also worse than a few contemporary first basemen, namely Will and Jack Clark, who are out.
Rafael Palmeiro– Last year, I voted “No” on Palmeiro. Without saying much, Jonathan Mitchell swung my vote to the other side. However they were accumulated, Palmeiro’s numbers are enormous. 569 homers. 585 doubles. 3020 hits. 66 rWAR. He cheated. His teammates cheated. The pitchers he faced cheated. On a somewhat level playing field, he was among the best. That’s a Hall of Fame case.
Edgar Martinez– The one guy I endorse every year about whom I couldn’t have a heated argument. One of the best hitters in baseball from age 27-40, Martinez was hampered by a late start and no defensive value. If anyone’s case is hurt by the WAR revolution, it’s Edgar’s, as his 67.2 rWAR are almost all offensive, so while his offensive numbers compare favorably with Paul Molitor’s and Reggie Jackson’s, his total contributions look more like Alan Trammell’s and Ron Santo’s. Everyone that I mentioned in this paragraph should be in the Hall.
Larry Walker– Last year, I considered Walker’s case the least black-and-white of anyone on the ballot. This year, I’m completely convinced that Larry Walker was a Hall of Famer. He hit well in Montreal. He hit historically well in Colorado. He hit well in St. Louis. He fielded and ran well everywhere he played. He earned more WAR (which is park-adjusted) in a nine-year span than Hall of Famers Jim Rice and Lou Brock earned in their careers. He’s one of the great on-base machines of all time. He’s a Hall of Famer, and not necessarily a borderline one.
So, BBA, here’s my ballot: