Making More Room in the Hall
Mike B. | On 30, Dec 2013
Lately many voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame have been disclosing their ballot as they cast them for the 2014 induction class. While I’m not a member of the BBWAA, I am a member of the Baseball Bloggers Association. I didn’t even have to stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night to have a vote in their election. And while the BBA has absolutely no impact on the actual election, I—like all voters—took the election very seriously and will now disclose my votes and rationale.
With the largest ballot in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame, this is a tougher task than one would imagine. It isn’t as easy as just choosing a couple sure-fire selections. Then, add in a generation of steroid use and you have to make a decision on your feelings regarding PEDs before you get started.
My take on steroids has always been that players who have failed drug tests, been in the Mitchell Report and/or summoned to Congress should not be in the Hall of Fame. I reserve the right to change my mind some day, but today’s not that day. Those players are known to have cheated themselves and the game, plus cheating baseball and it’s fans of a lot of money they likely earned from PEDs, so putting them in the Hall of Fame doesn’t seem like their place. So, no Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa on my ballot. I actually think it’s possible Sosa and Palmeiro don’t get the necessary 5% of votes to remain on the ballot.
And even a better reason to keep the PED users out is that I think I can fill my ballot with clean guys. Reward those that probably did it the right way before rewarding those we know did it the wrong way.
Maddux is the one guaranteed lock on the ballot. Bob Ryan even wrote a story weeks ago stating that Maddux should be the first unanimous selection. As more and more voters reveal their selections, I can’t imagine anyone standing up and admitting they didn’t vote for him. Someone won’t, because some writers don’t believe anyone should be a unanimous selection since legends like Babe Ruth were not.
Just because your grandfather was stubborn, doesn’t mean you should be too. Maddux won 355 games and had an ERA that was higher than 2.50 just once from 1992-98. It was all the way up to 2.72! He dominated the steroid era without a dominating fastball, but instead throwing the ball in a spot the size of a teacup on every pitch. At 6-foot and 170 lbs, he very much earned the nickname Clark Kent while getting out a game’s worth of hitters that made themselves Superman through injections. And while we’ll never be completely certain a person was clean, Maddux seems to be the safest of safe bets. You could name your kid after him and not have to worry about him turning up dirty.
You could say almost everything about Glavine that you did about Maddux. While he’s five pounds heavier, he seems pretty clean and his 305 wins in the middle of the steroid era should get him the chair right next to Maddux next summer in Cooperstown. He finished in the top three of the Cy Young voting six times, while winning the award twice. The 10-time All-Star should be elected with Maddux to the Hall of Fame just for filming this commercial. It was funny then, even funnier now as it looks to be a poke at steroid users while Maddux and Glavine use the fast lane to blow by them into the Hall.
The back-to-back AL MVP in 1993 and ’94 was nicknamed “The Big Hurt,” and was the opposite of Glavine and Maddux in appearance while dominating the same era. Thomas looked every part of the Auburn tight end that he was, but with extraordinary plate awareness. He won the batting title in 1997, but had an on-base percentages over .400 from 1990-2000 every year but once. He had just a .381 tally in 1998. If not for injuries, Thomas would have 3,000 hits easily. With 521 career home runs, a .301 batting average and .419 on-base percentage, he should also be a sure thing.
I’m not sure I ever thought Biggio was a lock of a Hall of Famer when he was a player, but in baseball we have these benchmarks that almost guarantee admission. For Biggio, earning 3,000 hits gets him into the Hall. He was close last year and should have been admitted, but too many old guys didn’t feel he was a first ballot kind of guy. Biggio hasn’t accumulated any more hits this past season, yet the voters will likely appreciate his career numbers a little more and get him in.
Bagwell is like the light version of Thomas. He hit .297, with a .408 on-base percentage for his career. He was the MVP in 1994 along with Thomas. His 449 home runs seem paltry in an era where guys hit 600. Worse for his candidacy is that some speculate Bagwell used steroids. It’s unfair to speculate. His name has never been mentioned in a report and the eye test is unfair to everyone. If steroids weren’t a factor in the game, Bagwell would be voted in easily, thus he gets my vote.
Everything about Bagwell is true about Piazza. On top of it, Piazza is without doubt the greatest offensive catcher of all-time. You can’t leave the greatest offensive catcher of all-time out because he looks like he might have used something he shouldn’t. No proof, give him a vote.
Smith retired from Major League Baseball the all-time leader in saves at 478. He’s since been passed by Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. I assume each will be inducted into the Hall when they become eligible. Rich Gossage and Rollie Fingers have already been inducted as relief pitchers and closers. Dennis Eckersley was both a starter and reliever, but would never have been inducted had he not been a closer, so I’m not sure why Smith has such trouble getting votes for induction. I think the evolution of the closer is tough for old voters to understand. We have benchmarks like 300 wins, 500 home runs or 3,000 hits for players that almost guarantee induction. With closers, we don’t really know what that number is. To me, Smith deserves induction as his role in the evolution of the closer, but 400 saves seems like a good benchmark for the old guys to use (an average of 40 saves for 10 years) and he has that too.
This is Morris’ last year on the ballot and with the marquee names on the ballot, I’ll be surprised if he is elected. His numbers have been rising each season, but he’ll need to gain 8% of the vote to gain induction and that’s a lot in one year. I think a lot is made of Morris’ 3.90 career ERA and that he allegedly pitched to the game, giving up runs dependent on the score. Has anyone seen this comment? I feel like this is something that’s been misconstrued over time and what really was stated was that Morris was a workhorse who always found a way to win. If it was a low scoring game, he’d find a way to win 2-1, but he would also find ways to win the 6-5 game. Regardless, the Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum of the game’s history. Morris was the ace of the 1984 Detroit Tigers and 1991 Minnesota Twins that won the World Series. He was also a member of the 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays that won it all. That has to count for something. If it doesn’t, his 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is one of the best games of the last 50 years and should be enough to push him over the line.
Like Morris, almost all the same is true for Schilling. Schilling was a member of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies and an ace with Randy Johnson on the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, not to mention a key figure on the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Helping break an 84 year curse, while injured helps catapult your career statistics into Hall of Fame stature. The Bloody Sock game is his crowning moment, just like Game 7 in ’91 was Morris’.
Just like Morris, he’s running out of time but gaining steam. Raines was the second best leadoff hitter in his generation behind Rickey Henderson (who is already in the Hall). It probably hurts Raines’ candidacy that the team he did his best work with, no longer exists in the Montreal Expos. It also doesn’t help that stolen bases is one of those statistics that doesn’t have a benchmark. Regardless, his 808 are a lot in any generation. He’s fifth all-time and everyone ahead of him is in the Hall. His .294 career batting average and .385 on-base percentage should be enough to get his induction, just like Bagwell. He hit .290, with a .395 OBP in 109 games, in 1998 at age 38, so he had major production even after his best days. A seven time All-Star demonstrates that he was a player of his generation.
That’s 10. That fills my ballot without anyone who allegedly used steroids. It also doesn’t include guys like Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell or Mike Mussina. I’m not sure if they are Hall of Famers, but that is something to look at another day because my ballot is full for the 2014 class (even if it doesn’t count).
Photo: Getty Images