Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Logical Hall of Fame Ballot

Earlier today, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) failed to vote a single player into the Hall of Fame for the first time since 1996. When forced to answer the question of what they'd do with players from the so-called "steroid era," the writers assumed guilt without evidence in many cases and continued to deny admission to people who deserve a spot (#freeTimRaines). Jon is going to eviscerate these geriatric assholes later tonight, but for now I'll just write who I think deserves to make it.

My Twelve Picks (I know there is a limit of 10, but with how much these guys have screwed up in years past, I need more than 10 spots).

First, a note on steroid users and alleged steroid users. Baseball writers have only cared about the character clause of the thing in recent years. They certainly didn't mind putting in greenie users (like Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, and tons of others in an era where taking amphetamines to give yourself energy before games was the norm) or awful human beings like Ty Cobb. Steroid users for me can be lumped in with everyone else who did something to enhance their performance illegally. The spitballers, ball cutters, greenie takers, and PED users all did something illegal to boost their performance. These other guys made the Hall of Fame and plenty of players benefited from the unique circumstances of their era (lack of integration, high mounds, big stadium, took greenies, etc.).

Today, the same writers who made these guys heroes and championed the long ball after the PR nightmare of the 1994 strike turned around and denied these guys entry into the Hall of Fame in a hypocritical move. I'm all in favor of letting the best baseball players in because this is a museum to celebrate important members of the game, not a chance for baseball writers to preach morality.

1. Tim Raines--He was a poor man's Rickey Henderson and Rickey is one of the top 15 guys who ever played baseball. Being buried in a small market (Montreal) hurt him as did cocaine use and a lack of warmth to the media. Obviously it isn't about a guy's numbers, but how nice he is to a bunch of newspaper hacks who watch him change naked before waiting to hear cliches. Raines played in the wrong era. Today, he'd be revered for walking more than he struck out (by almost 400), stealing bases at a career 84.6% rate (and he had the 5th most all-time), and posting a career on-base percentage of .385.

2. Craig Biggio--Biggio came the closest to the 75% necessary for induction with 68% of the vote and it seems likely that he will get in soon. Biggio was always a very good player who stuck around to get 3000 hits and was an above average player as a second baseman (he did play the outfield for some of these years but was primarily at second) for twenty years. Biggio is a fine player who never really excited you or anything, but positions matter a ton in baseball and to give his team offense from the second base position for all those years is incredibly valuable.

3. Barry Bonds--Even if Bonds failed a steroid test, I'd still include him. Bonds was one of the most important baseball players of all time, holds the home run record, and dominated the game in a way like no hitter since Babe Ruth. I don't care for the arguments that he would have been a Hall of Famer before he started roiding because that presumes we know when he did, which is stupid. Bonds deserves to make it because of his stats. We can't pretend to know how much steroids helped him, but we can look at his numbers next to other guys roiding and other guys playing clean and see that he's one of the top ten players of all time.

4. Pete Rose--The Hall of Fame is a museum dedicated to the all-time greats of baseball. The idea that guys shouldn't get in because of character reasons is nothing more than writers' moral grandstanding. Rose deserves to be a part of this museum just as much as steroid users like Bonds and bigots like Ty Cobb. Betting on the game is idiotic and worthy of a lifetime ban from baseball, but as a player, Rose deserves induction for being an all-time great.

5. Roger Clemens--Clemens was an unbelievable pitcher for his entire career. He was a power pitcher even when he didn't bring the heat anymore, and basically perfected the split-fingered fastball. He obviously did steroids just like Bonds, but again, who gives a shit.

6 and 7. Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell--The all-time greatest offensive catcher, Mike Piazza, not being inducted on the first ballot is a travesty. Bagwell also deserves induction as an amazing player who is lightyears better than his teammate Biggio, who will certainly make the Hall before him (if Bagwell ever makes it). The writers refusing to vote for these guys because of their muscles and their time period are simply assuming their guilt without a shred of evidence and should be forced to watch Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith argue until their eyeballs bleed.

8 and 9. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa--These guys were too important to baseball not to make it in even if both did steroids and really only brought power to the table. Sosa hit over 60 homers four times and McGwire belted 70 in a single fucking season.

10. Curt Schilling--I've gone back and forth on this a lot mostly because of the fact that Schilling finished his career with only 216 wins. This is due to him playing for four different teams before starting full time at age 25. Schilling's performance in the postseason isn't all that matters (which is why Jack Morris doesn't even come close to getting in), but he is one of the greatest playoff performers of all time, and that adds to his case. Schilling's low win total is going to be part of the new norm in baseball as bullpens become more sophisticated and pitchers throw fewer innings. His K/BB ratio is off the charts, and as much as it pains me to say it, he deserves to make it.

11. Rafael Palmeiro--If a writer was going to exclude anyone for steroids, it should be someone who actually failed a drug test and was suspended for taking PEDs. However, to beat the dead horse one more time: I don't care. Palmeiro hit over 500 career homers and had over 3000 hits. He was never the greatest player in the league in any given year, but he was consistently one of the best. Palmeiro is like Mark Teixeira if Tex stayed at this level for 8 more years.

12. Edgar Martinez--I hate the DH rule but as long as it is part of the game then a guy who hits every single day and has an amazing career deserves to make it. The DH isn't the same as closers, however. 600 at-bats is still a huge impact on a team in a way that throwing 65 innings when your team already has a lead is not. Martinez, even after penalties for not taking the field, amassed 69.9 WAR.

Three more guys deserve to be mentioned because they are super close, but I just think they are better candidates for the Hall of Very Good.

Kenny Lofton--He's similar to Raines but worse in just about everything. A 107 career OPS+ isn't enough for a guy despite the added value he brought with his defense and baserunning. Also, he was a huge prick the year he was on the Braves and they ended up giving him back to the Indians after one year.

Larry Walker--The Coors Field thing benefited his career so much and turned average hitters like Vinny Castilla into titans.

Alan Trammell--Not enough offense, even from a shortstop. Fair to say I don't know enough about him to really make a strong argument either way, but 12 is already a lot of guys to take.

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