It’s significantly later than I had originally planned, but at long last here is the ballot that I would cast if I were a voter for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The format is the same as last year — first, I’ll list the players that I would cast a vote for if I had a chance, then the players who I would consider to be possibilities for the future, and finally I will name those players who I would remove from the ballot entirely. Also, just so you’re aware, I’ve plagiarized the comments that I made last year on many of the names who are still on the ballot.
Hall of Famers
Roberto Alomar (1st Year)
An All-Star for twelve straight years from 1990 to 2001. A ten time Gold Glove winner. Four times a Silver Slugger. These things all demonstrate that Alomar was absolutely an elite second baseman in his era. Alomar also compares favorably to the most recently elected second baseman, Ryne Sandberg (most recently elected by the writers, that is). Alomar had a career .300 batting average and an 814 OPS. Sandberg, on the other hand, was a career 285/795 hitter. If Sandberg is a Hall of Famer with inferior offensive numbers and similar accolades, Alomar seems to fit as well. It should be noted that most Hall of Fame second sackers have better numbers, led by the ungodly numbers of Rogers Hornsby (358/1010) — but Alomar is a worthy addition to the Hall. I can’t come up with a solid reason not to vote for him. I don’t expect that Alomar’s infamous ‘spiting on the ump’ incident will seriously impact his chances — and I don’t think it should. My stance on it is basically an extension of my view of PED’s — a single incident just isn’t enough to disqualify someone in my mind. To my knowledge, Alomar didn’t make a habit of running around and spitting on people, so to me it’s simply not worth thinking about any further. Alomar is worthy of the Hall.
Bert Blyleven (13th Year) — 62.7% in 2009
Despite some difficulties with Blyleven’s candidacy, I think the scales come down on the side of Bert being a Hall of Famer. Whether this determination is colored by my Twins bias and my enjoyment of his color commentary for the Twins – well, that’s for others to decide. On the plus side, Blyleven is 5th in career strikeouts (3,701) and no one is going to catch him anytime soon (Jamie Moyer is the closest active player with 2,342). He also struck out 2.8 batters for every batter he walked – that puts him miles ahead of all-time K leader Nolan Ryan (just over 2.0), in the neighborhood of Roger Clemens (2.96), and well below Randy Johnson (3.2). Looking at the pitchers near Blyleven on the K list, he’s better than the majority of the top 20 – Fergie Jenkins beats him, as does Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez utterly blows everybody out of the water with about a 4.2. But Blyleven is clearly amongst the best in terms of K-BB in the history of the game.
Blyelven is also 9th All-Time with 60 shutouts – the man liked to finish what he started. The amazing thing about this stat is that it is incredibly predictive of Hall of Fame pitchers. Other than Blyleven, the top 23 pitchers in this category are in the Hall of Fame. Luis Tiant, at 24, is the first guy besides Bert who isn’t in the Hall. Standing alone, that means nothing – but it is another indication that Blyleven’s stats are in the same league as other Hall of Famers.
As for ERA, Blyelven’s career 3.31 ERA isn’t great by Hall of Fame standards – but it’s better than quite a few players (Early Wynn, Fergie Jenkins, Dennis Eckersley, and Lefty Grove for example). In other words – I’m neutral on ERA.
The most oft-heard argument against Blyleven is that he won just 287 games, and this doesn’t meet the magic number of 300. But that number didn’t prevent Fergie Jenkins (284), Juan Marichal (243), or Jim Palmer (268), amongst others, from getting into the Hall. Bert pitched a couple more years than Jenkins, so one argument could go that someone with 22 years in the game should have crested 300 – but with his other numbers being so solid, I find it hard to argue that the lack of wins is entirely Blyleven’s fault.
Perhaps more compelling is the argument that Blyleven was never a truly dominant pitcher – he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting twice, and that was as good as it got – and he was an All-Star just twice. He also never led his league in ERA, Wins, or even K/9. Nevertheless, that doesn’t take away from the fact that he put up some brilliant numbers in his career, not all of which were dependent simply on longevity (as his 3.31 ERA shows). Bert belongs in the Hall, and with a jump of over 15 points in his vote total, I’m hopeful that he’ll make it in one of his last three years on the ballot.
Andre Dawson (9th Year) — 67% in 2009
After putting Dawson in my maybe category in 2007, I moved him into my “yes” category in 2008. Nothing has changed my mind since I made that decision. Dawson was a career .279 hitter with 438 HR’s over 21 years. In that time, he also picked up 8 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers, Rookie of the Year honors in 1977, an MVP award in 1987 (along with 2nd place finishes in 1981 and 1983) and topped it all off with 8 appearances as an All-Star. His 2,774 hits in 21 years are a litter lower than I would expect from a Hall of Famer, but the total package is outstanding, and I’m now convinced.
Edgar Martinez (1st Year)
If you’re going to be elected to the Hall of Fame as a Designated Hitter, you need to have some pretty solid offensive numbers. Martinez fits the bill. In 18 seasons, Martinez hit .312/933 with 309 HR’s. That 933 OPS would be the 16th best in the Hall, and he’d be amongst the top 50 Hall of Famers in doubles (29th) and homers (37th) and above average for an offensive Hall of Famer in batting average and RBI. Call me convinced. When you’re offensive numbers rank right in the middle of a group of Hall of Famers, it’s good enough for me. Martinez belongs in the Hall. Excluding him simply because he amassed most of his numbers as a DH would be as silly as . . . well . . . as silly as insisting that pitchers hit (and if anyone actually reads this post, rest assured this is a joke — I find the National League’s insistence of showcasing horrible hitters once every nine hitters to be a charming feature of the game).
Hold-Overs (a.k.a. the Maybe’s)
Andres Galarraga (1st Year)
Galarraga was a career .288/846 hitter with 399 HR’s and 2 Gold Gloves and 2 Silver Sluggers to go along with five All-Star appearances and six Top 10 finishes in MVP voting. For now, I view him as a bit behind Mattingly in terms of hitters I would put in the Hall — although I am quite impressed by the combined .288 average and 399 HR’s. I’m keeping him on my Maybe list, but more than likely I will relatively soon drop Galarraga into my ‘no’ category. Anyone want to try to look closer at the numbers and try to convince me?
Barry Larkin (1st Year)
Larkin was a .295/815 hitter in his 19 year career, and was a 12 time All-Star, 9 time Silver Slugger, MVP in 1995, and won three straight Gold Gloves from 1994 – 1996. I need to look far more closely at the other shortstops in the Hall and consider whether Larkin, with 2340 hits in 19 seasons, is deserving. But all that hardware demonstrates that he was an elite NL shortstop offensively and non-too bad in the field. I’m actually inclined to think I might eventually get to ‘yes’ on Larkin, but I’m not quite there yet.
Don Mattingly (10th Year) — 11.9% in 2009
This one is fairly difficult for me. His .307 career batting average fits comfortably in with the current Hall-of-Famers, and he hit 222 HR, so he wasn’t a slouch in terms of power. He also won 9 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, and an MVP Award. But I just can’t pull the trigger – his BA/Power numbers are more in line with a Hall of Fame 1B from the 1910’s than with one from the 1980’s. This is closer than I originally thought it would be – I’d put him in the top 5 of the “best of the rest” on my ballot – but in the end I have to leave him off, at least for this year.
Fred McGriff (1st Year)
Apparently I just can’t make my mind up on first basemen. McGriff was a career .288/886 hitter with 493 HR’s. Those numbers compare pretty well to the other first basemen on this ‘maybe’ list. Also like Galarraga, McGriff finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting 6 times and made 5 All-Star games. McGriff did not have the reputation for defensive excellence that the others had, but he has a solid batting average and great homerun numbers. McGriff is very much on the line for me, and I need to think about it more — but I’m inclined to think that I just might bump him up to a yes more easily than the other 1B on the maybe list.
Mark McGwire (4th Year) — 21.9% in 2009
The McGwire saga in the Hall of Fame voting remains one of the more intriguing things to watch each year. It seems that McGwire has polarized the electorate — he won 23.5% in 2007, 23.6% in 2008 and 21.9% in 2009, so voters don’t seem to be very willing to change their minds on him. I’ve stated before that I wouldn’t base my decisions on PED use, but my stance has changed slightly — if there was a fair amount of proof (and I’m not talking the amount or kind of proof that would be necessary to convict in a court of law; I just want something more than a wink and a nod allegation) that McGwire used PED’s for a significant part of his career, I would at that point likely exclude him. If he’s only linked to use late in his career, or for only limited periods of time, I would be more inclined to vote for him. Part of the reason I put him on my maybe list, then, is because I just don’t know where he fits on that spectrum — and after all, there’s nothing wrong with using those 15 years of eligibility to fully consider his candidacy.
Of course, there’s also the issue of his performance on the field and whether it’s enough to get him in. Last year, I stated that a player with a career batting average as low as McGwire’s (.263) was to me a dubious Hall of Famer. I’m going to stand by that as a general proposition, but I’ve largely been swung around to the view that great performance in another area can compensate for a low batting average. That’s why I believe that Harmon Killebrew (.256 career BA) is Hall of Fame worthy — because 573 HR’s for the era he played in was a remarkable number. Do McGwire’s 583 HR’s measure up?
For now, that’s the question I can’t answer. McGwire hit a bunch of homers, to be sure, but he did it in an era when homerun numbers have become inflated. It’s also the statistic that would benefit the most from juicing. More than likely I would eventually support McGwire’s inclusion in the Hall as one of baseball’s great sluggers, but there are just far too many questions about his candidacy to say that I would support his election this year.
Jack Morris (11th Year) — 44% in 2009
Another close one – but Morris’ 3.90 career ERA is a bit too high, and his 1.78 K-BB ratio is a bit too low to earn him consideration for his control. He did win 254 games – which I don’t think disqualifies him at all, since he has a .577 winning percentage. His failure to ever win a Cy Young (like Bert, he finished 3rd twice) is another strike against him, because unlike Bert he doesn’t have a dominant category to boost his candidacy. Borderline, but probably not quite a Hall of Famer. In the last five years of his candidacy (starting this year) my focus as a voter would be on whether Morris should get in as one of the great pitchers of the 1980’s and early 1990’s — but again, the fact that he doesn’t have a Cy Young to back that up is problematic.
Dale Murphy (12th Year) — 11.5% in 2009
His .265 batting average is a concern, but his 398 HR, 5 Gold Gloves, 2 MVPs, and 4 Silver Sluggers make him a serious candidate. I have reservations about Murphy having just 2111 hits in 18 seasons, though. If I had to make a final decision on Murphy right now, I’d vote no — but I’m willing to reconsider.
Dave Parker (14th Year) — 15% in 2009
No glaring weakness, like Murphy’s batting average. Parker hit .290, with 339 HR and 2712 hits in 19 seasons, while picking up an MVP award, 3 Gold Gloves, and 3 Silver Sluggers. But, while those numbers are very nice, what exactly makes him a Hall of Famer? He was a very good, but not great hitter. He had very good, but not great, power. He could field pretty well. In the end, I think he misses the cut – he’s a great player, but not a Hall of Famer.
Tim Raines (3rd Year) — 22.6% in 2009
Raines played for 23 years and compiled a .294 batting average, 170 homers, and 808 stolen bases (good for 5th all time). He was basically the National League version of Ricky Henderson, and while he’s nowhere close in terms of stolen bases, he has a much better batting average than Henderson and was a more patient hitter (Henderson walked a lot, but he struck out a ton, too). Raines also went to 7 All-Star Games, picked up a Silver Slugger award, and had one top 5 finish in the MVP voting. I’m inclined to put him in the “great, but not Hall-worthy” category for now, but as with the rest of those players I’m sticking him in my “Maybe” list in case I later change my mind on him.
Lee Smith (8th Year) — 44.5% in 2009
Smith picked up 478 saves in his 18 years, which was the record until Trevor Hoffman passed him in 2006 and kept piling on. His career ERA is also solid — but when you compare Smith with the dominant closers of this era (Mariano Rivera, Hoffman, Billy Wagner) he doesn’t quite match up ERA-wise. His 2.57 K’s per BB is also a bit low. My biggest problem with Smith last year was that he has 21 more losses than wins, but it was a mistake for me to focus on that category because it’s pretty meaningless for closers (heck, it’s pretty meaningless for all pitchers). I think Smith is stuck between era’s a bit — he was a closer as far back as the early 80’s when the position was first starting to evolve into what it is today, and he closed games out into the 90’s when that evolution was pretty much complete. I lean towards a no vote for Smith, but he’s close enough that I reserve the right to change my mind in future years.
Alan Trammell (9th Year) — 17.4% in 2009
Solid career numbers (.285/185/2365) and awards (4 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers). But like Parker, Trammell is a really good player who I just don’t quite consider to be a Hall of Famer right now. If someone can come up with a compelling argument in his favor, I would certainly consider it.
Off the Ballot
Kevin Appier (1st Year)
Appier finished his career with a 3.74 ERA and 1.294 WHIP. That’s a better ERA and WHIP than Jack Morris in a career that was just 2 years shorter and that started while Morris was still going strong. However, Appier won far fewer games (169 to 254) and averaged 26 fewer innings per year (although his strikeout numbers were actually superior). The biggest difference, though, is that Appier was simply never as dominant as Morris was compared to other pitchers in his era — he finished in the top 10 of Cy Young voting just once and made just a single All-Star game. His numbers were stronger than I thought they would be, but he does not make my maybe list.s
Harold Baines (4th Year) — 5.9% in 2009
Baines was in my “maybe” category for two years, but having thought about him more I decided last year to make a firm decision on him. His .289 BA and 384 HR’s are arguably suitable — but he spent most of his career as a DH, played 22 years and only picked up 2866 hits, never finished higher than 9th in the MVP voting, and won just 1 Silver Slugger award. In the end, that’s not good enough.
Ellis Burks (1st Year)
Burks had one outstanding year (1996, when he hit 344/1047 and finished 3rd in MVP voting with an All-Star appearance and Silver Slugger award). Aside from that, Burks finished with very nice career numbers (291/874 with 352 HR’s) — better, in fact, than I would have thought — but his 2107 hits in 18 seasons are pretty low. I’m surprisingly close to moving him to my maybe category, but there’s just not enough there for me to pull the trigger.
Pat Hentgen (1st Year)
Hentgen had a career 4.32 ERA and 1.39 WHIP with 131 career wins. He won a Cy Young and appeared in three All Star games. Nice career, but not Hall of Fame worthy.
Mike Jackson (1st Year)
Candidate number 1 to receive 0 votes this year. Jackson had 142 career saves and a 62-67 career record along with a 3.42 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Nothing HOF worthy here.
Eric Karros (1st Year)
Karros hit .268/779 in 14 seasons with 284 HR’s. The low average could be counterbalanced by some outstanding category, but there isn’t one.
Ray Lankford (1st Year)
Lankford hit .272/840 in 14 seasons with 238 HR’s. While his OPS is quite a bit superior to Karros, he has a similar problem in terms of batting average and was just a one-time All-Star.
Shane Reynolds (1st Year)
A 4.09 ERA and 1.314 WHIP coupled with 114 wins does not a Hall of Famer make.
David Segui (1st Year)
David Segui? Really? Alright, he’s on the ballot, so I’ll write a sentence or two about him. He hit .291/802 with 139 HR’s primarily as a first baseman. He’s not even close to the overall numbers of the first basemen in my maybe category, and never got a sniff of a major award.
Robin Ventura (1st Year)
Ventura hit .267/.806 with 294 HR’s and picked up 6 Gold Gloves along the way. Ventura had a very nice career, but I’m comfortable saying that he was not a Hall of Famer.
Todd Zeile (1st Year)
A .265/769 hitter with 253 HR’s and no major awards. If Ventura couldn’t turn the trick, neither can Zeile. The most interesting thing for me in looking up Zeile’s career numbers was that he didn’t catch as much as I thought he had — 1990, his second year in the bigs, was his last behind the plate (although he caught two games in 2004). I was just starting to follow baseball seriously when Zeile was a newcomer, and remembered that he had converted from behind the plate. I just thought he had spent more time there in the bigs. In any case, Zeile is not a Hall of Famer.