A new yearly tradition: I’m going to start this post with the terrible votes from the previous year. On the 2016 ballot, Mike Sweeney (24.7 career bWAR), Jason Kendall (41.5), David Eckstein (20.8), and Garrett Anderson (25.6) all received real votes from real writers. My tradition might be short-lived, though. In December, the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted to make all ballots public after the collective vote is revealed (up to now they have stayed anonymous unless the writer chooses to go public). However, that starts next year. So, we have one more year to soak in the terrible vote. Who's name will get a checkmark in 2017? J.D. Drew? Tim Wakefield? How about Matt Stairs? We’ll all find out on Wednesday night.
Before Paul and I reveal our pretend ballots, I’d like to provide you with links to two great resources:
The first will help you determine how you would vote. That’s important to consider before critiquing another’s vote. The second is just plain fun. Ryan does a great job of collecting ballots that have been made available before the voting is revealed. At the time of writing, he had just under half of the expected 435 BBWWA ballots. And some very interesting numbers are popping up, especially for Bonds and Clemens. Remember, a player needs 75% to get in and can be on the ballot for 10 years.
And with that, here's how we would vote. As with any Hall of Fame discussion, you will definitely disagree with us. We even disagree with each other.
Last year, my stance on steroid users getting into the Hall of Fame changed. Prior to 2016, my perspective was the same as Peter's: if you used performance enhancing drugs during your career, you shouldn't be allowed into the Hall. However, after reading guys like Ken Rosenthal and Jerry Crasnick make the case for inclusion, I simply changed my mind. Like I wrote last year, I wouldn't enjoy seeing Bonds or Clemens get inducted, but I'm no longer content to keep the two greatest payers of our generation out of the Hall of Fame for something we have little clarity about. As Rosenthal wrote last year, "The core problem in judging players from the so-called Steroid Era is that we don't know who did what and to what extent, the effect that the substances had on players, and whether some benefited more than others from the drugs."
Beyond Bonds and Clemens, I'm sticking with Schilling, Raines, and Hoffman. Schilling ranks right up with some of the best (24th best bWAR amongst pitchers) and is the best postseason pitcher of his generation (in five postseason starts with his team facing elimination, Schilling had a 1.37 ERA — his teams won all five games). According to WAR, Raines was the best player in the NL for a five-year stretch from 1983 to 1987 and Hoffman's longevity (16 years) and success (all-time saves leader) make him a Hall of Famer in my book (or blog).
The new additions are Manny and Pudge. Offensively, Manny is without question deserving of the Hall of Fame. From 1990 until the present, only one outfielder ranks ahead of Ramirez in OPS, SLG, and OBP: Barry Bonds. Ramirez ranks 15th all-time in home runs, and ninth among outfielders. Defensively, Pudge is the greatest catcher ever to play and ranks third overall in WAR among catchers (surpassed only by Johnny Bench and Gary Carter).
The beauty of doing these posts every year is that you can reuse content for the players that didn’t get voted in. First, the holdovers: Schilling, Mussina, and Raines. Schilling and Mussina were fantastic pitchers during an era when hitters dominated. Like I said last year, Schilling’s career WHIP is lower than Clemens' and Mussina’s bWAR is 82.7, just 0.9 behind Ken Griffey Jr. Both pitchers were consistent and played for a long time, which makes their career marks all the more impressive.
Schilling: 3,261 IP 1.13 WHIP 3.46 ERA 3,116 SO 80.7 WAR
Mussina: 3,562 IP 1.19 WHIP 3.68 ERA 2,813 SO 82.7 WAR
Grant Brisbee made a great point in his piece from Monday: "If it isn’t right to vote in every hitter with gaudy statistics because he played in an artificial, high-offense era, why wouldn’t you give the pitchers of that era extra credit?" I give Schilling and Mussina credit for pitching through the steroid era. Their stats would have been better had they pitched today (or 50 years ago).
Before moving on to Tim Raines, I would like to address the comments Schilling made right before the presidential election. For those that didn’t see, Schilling shared a picture of a shirt worn at a Trump rally with the words: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” Schilling added, “Ok, so much awesome here.” He later said it was 100% sarcastic, but there is no defense that would make me less disappointed in him. Those feelings led me to tweet this and then remove him from my ballot on Episode 79 of our podcast. But, as I thought more about the incident and read other baseball journalists discuss it, I don’t think it should disqualify him from the Hall of Fame. I’ve met two Hall of Famers in my life (Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins), and they were both pleasant (Fergie less so). But, I’m positive there are dozens and dozens of terrible human beings with their plaques in Cooperstown. That’s just they way the world is. So, is Curt Schilling an idiot? Absolutely. Should he be in in the Hall of Fame? I think so.
Moving on to more fun things, Tim Raines is finally getting into the Hall, polling over 90% on the ballots so far. That's good, because I think he's deserving. Tim’s career WAR of 69.1 is higher than Tony Gwynn's. Yes, Gwynn was a great hitter. But, I think Raines did more to help his team win. Raines' career OBP of .385 (just shy of Gwynn’s .388) also helps his case, along with 808 steals (84.6% success rate).
The only new person on my ballot is Jeff Bagwell. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why I didn’t vote for him last year. I probably suspected him of steroid use, but that was irresponsible. I did more research this year, and there is no compelling evidence linking him to PEDs. Bagwell’s numbers are good enough to get in: 79.6 WAR 449 HR .408 OBP .540 SLG 202 SB.
My ballot does not include Bonds, Clemens, and Pudge Rodriguez. All three players would be deserving if not for their use of PEDs. My thoughts haven’t changed from last year, but I’m not convinced I’ll always feel this way. To me, these players cheated their fellow players, the fans, and themselves. A consequence of that action is not getting elected into the Hall of Fame. Their careers are not missing from the Hall, as some claim. You can walk through the museum and see their accomplishments. But as I sit here today, I don’t think their plaques belong on the wall. And that is still sad for me to type.
You may be asking, what about Vlad? Or Edgar Martinez? Larry Walker? Hoffman or Wagner? The Crime Dog? I have always been a “small hall” guy. The Hall of Fame is full of guys that shouldn’t be there. All of these people were great at baseball. But, are they the greatest? It’s close, especially on Vlad, but I say no.
Well, you're probably glad we aren’t actual voters. We enjoy having these conversations and hope you do, too. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. Make sure to check back next week when we break down the 2020 presidential eleciton...