The long-dormant Baseball Bloggers Alliance is building steam again and reestablishing its Hall of Fame vote, after skipping this season’s player awards. As it seems most Hall of Fame simulators do, the BBA continues to mimic the and counterintuitive and often harmful rules the real Hall puts on the BBWAA, limiting ballots to ten names even at a time when the ballot includes far more candidates who are qualified, if not laughably overqualified, by the Hall’s established standards.
It would be depressing to spend thousands of words rehashing the merits of players who have been snubbed again and again this decade, so I’ll instead list the players worth debating, along with their Hall Ratings from Hall of Stats (where 100 represents a borderline player and higher is better), and a quick “yes” or “no” indicating whether I think they belong in the Hall of Fame, regardless of the 10-name cap. Then I’ll whittle the list down to the ten for whom I actually voted earlier today.
Barry Bonds (359) Yes
Roger Clemens (291) Yes
Ken Griffey, Jr. (171) Yes
Curt Schilling (171) Yes
Jeff Bagwell (162) Yes
Mike Mussina (162) Yes
Larry Walker (150) Yes
Mike Piazza (146) Yes
Alan Trammell (141) Yes
Edgar Martinez (134) Yes
Tim Raines (127) Yes
Mark McGwire (123) Yes
Jim Edmonds (120) Yes
Sammy Sosa (115) Yes
Gary Sheffield (114) Yes
Jeff Kent (101) No
Fred McGriff (92) No
Nomar Garciaparra (90) No
Jason Kendall (86) No
Troy Glaus (67) No
Billy Wagner (65) Yes
Trevor Hoffman (62) Yes
Lee Smith (62) No
Of the 23 candidates who wouldn’t totally embarrass the Hall of Fame, I support the candidacies of 17. As I’ve written before, Sheffield and Kent constitute borderline-type players for me. I wouldn’t be offended by a Hall without Sheffield or by one with Kent, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, so Kent gets slashed.
I should also note that I’m not completely sure how the Hall of Fame should treat relief pitchers, but that Hoffman always felt like a Hall of Famer to me and his numbers are far better than those of Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers, and Wagner was clearly a better pitcher than Hoffman. Wagner’s 2.73 career FIP bests every modern pitcher, including Mariano Rivera, and his 187 ERA+ is second only to Rivera’s 205. Wagner’s in, while Hoffman shares borderline territory with Sheffield.
If I wanted to make cases for the guys for whom I just denied, I could cite the following comps:
Kent’s 101 Hall Rating is better than Bobby Doerr’s 97 by about the value Doerr probably gave up to World War II. Kent was a better hitter; Doerr a better fielder, and both are probably overrated offensively due to park factors (Doerr) and era adjustments (Kent).
McGriff’s 92 Hall Rating is similar to Tony Perez’s 94. Perez rode his position on the iconic Big Red Machine teams to the Hall of Fame, while the Braves’ postseason struggles in the ’90s may have kept McGriff out back when there was room on the ballot for those who liked his 493 home runs.
Nomar Garciaparra has the same Hall Rating as Joe Sewell, another short-career shortstop who was a tough out in his prime. I wonder if Nomar will ever benefit from a future Veterans Committee as generous as the one that elected Sewell in 1977.
Jason Kendall never really felt like a Hall of Famer, but he had a better Hall Rating than Roy Campanella. Campy’s clearly not a fair comp, as he missed time on both ends of his career, so I’ll note that Rick Ferrell is somehow in the Hall of Fame with a 52 Hall Rating. Kendall wouldn’t be one of the 10 worst Hall of Famers.
I really only named Troy Glaus above because his Hall Rating was better than the two relievers whose candidacies I support, but his 67 is actually higher than that of three Hall of Fame third basemen- George Kell (65), Pie Traynor (60), and Freddie Lindstrom (50). Glaus should obviously line up behind Graig Nettles, Ken Boyer, Sal Bando, and several other third basemen, but with the position so underrepresented in the Hall, his inclusion wouldn’t be quite as silly as you might think.
Lee Smith has the same Hall Rating (and basically the same saves-record narrative) as a guy whose candidacy I do support, so it’s not hard to imagine a Hall of Fame with him in it.
Anyway, back to my BBA ballot. I had to cut seven candidates for whom I’d like to vote. Here was my logic:
- Sheffield, as noted above, is a borderline candidate and I don’t feel bad about cutting him.
- Ditto Hoffman. I’ve seem way too many ballots with Hoffman’s name checked, but not Wagner’s, simply because he found himself in more situations in which his team had a 1-to-3-run lead in the ninth inning. My vote for Wagner, but not Hoffman, will offset one of those ballots.
- Sosa is qualified, and it’s hard to accept a Hall of Fame without the guy with half of all the 60-homer seasons in baseball history, but he simply falls short of too many guys on this ballot.
- McGwire, with even more power than Sosa and far superior on-base skills, is a no-brainer for me, but like Sosa, he just falls short of too many of these other guys. His run on the ballot comes to an end this year, and the BBA won’t come any closer to inducting him than the BBWAA, so this lost cause misses my ballot. That hurts.
- Tim Raines is out. Here’s a guy with an actual chance to make the Hall of Fame this year (and I think he really will next year), but he’s at-best the 11th-most qualified player on the ballot (and I’d probably vote for McGwire ahead of him as well). I sincerely hope he gets in, and I appreciate those BBWAA voters who see his momentum and check off his name ahead of other candidates they may find more qualified, but he’s sadly short of my top ten.
- Roger Clemens gets the axe. Clemens may be the greatest pitcher in baseball history. He may also be my least favorite person in baseball history. Of course I think he should have sailed in on the first ballot despite his legendary assholery, but if not for the extent of his sins outlined in the Mitchell report, the writers might not be as militant about keeping cheaters out of the Hall and we might not have this backlog problem today.
- I’m voting for Jim Edmonds instead of Ken Griffey, Jr. I know, this is lunacy. Griffey is more qualified than Edmonds and fellow newcomer Billy Wagner, who also makes my cut. He was better than Martinez and Trammell, for whom I’m voting on principle because of how criminally under-supported they are. He was an icon of my generation, a fun player to watch who seemed to be capable of anything. All that said, I’m a little sickened by Griffey having come to represent the guy who did it the right way, as if we know for certain that he never used steroids and Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell did. He played in the same era and put up reasonably similar numbers to those guys. He benefitted from his home park the same way Larry Walker did (Walker hit .282/.372/.501 outside of Coors Field; Griffey hit .272/.355/.505 on the road for his career). His Hall Rating is exactly the same as Curt Schilling’s. Of course he’s a Hall of Famer. But so are all these guys who keep getting less than half the vote while Griffey’s flirting with unanimity. Edmonds, on the other hand, looks like he’s going to fall short of the 5% he’d need to stay on the ballot another year. One of the greatest defensive players I’ve ever seen also hit .284/.376/.527 for his whole career, with 393 homers and another 13 in the postseason, and we’re about to kick him to the curb? That’s not right.