Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Correct Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

All this Ferguson stuff is making me sick, so let's take our minds off that for a second with some sports. A couple of years ago, when no one was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, we were upset. Last year, by failing to vote in "Hall of Very Good" pitcher Jack Morris, the voters made up for their 2012 debacle a little bit. JUST A LITTLE THOUGH. Here at The Whole 42 Minutes, we take the Baseball Hall of Fame very seriously for some reason. So to follow up on that last linked post -- Sean's logical HOF ballot from 2012 -- I'm doing the 2014 edition. The candidates were just released, and here they are.

Side note before we begin: Kenny Lofton, someone who I publicly believed should be in the Hall of Fame, is no longer even on the ballot because he didn't receive 5% of the voters' votes. That's a shame. I'll always remember you, Kenny.

First-timers who deserve a spot

Randy Johnson: Randy Johnson has a legitimate case for the Mount Rushmore of pitchers. He's either the 4th- or 5th-best pitcher ever on my list. 303 wins, 5 Cy Youngs, 2nd-most strikeouts ever, and a 75 ERA- over a 22-year career. Also a World Series MVP in 2001, for what that's worth (something!). He's the definition of a first-ballot HOFer.

Pedro Martinez: Pedro Martinez is the quintessential guy who deserves a spot in the HOF even without the gaudy counting stats. Everyone sort of agrees that Pedro might have had the highest peak in baseball history, including maybe the 2 best single seasons ever in 1999 and 2000, and that, along with an otherwise very good career, is more than enough to be enshrined. Pedro is my 2nd-favorite player of all time (David Ortiz has to be mine by default), and I'm so glad that it's finally his time. He'll have a great HOF speech.

John Smoltz: Always the 3rd mentioned in the Braves' big 3 starters, Smoltz may have had the best stuff of them all. What separates Smoltz is his stellar career as a starter and as a reliever. 213 wins is only 6 fewer than what Pedro accumulated in his career, but Smoltz just happened to be approximately the best closer in baseball for 3 years. His 1.12 ERA in 2003 is pretty staggering, and that goes along with a really stellar career. As a starter, Smoltz was consistently excellent, as his career 81 ERA- and 3000+ strikeouts show. This guy's a no-brainer Hall of Fame caliber pitcher to me.

Non-first-timers who BEEN deserved a spot

Craig Biggio: Though Craig Biggio isn't the most obvious Hall of Famer, he is one nonetheless. 3000+ hits, switching from catcher to second base to outfield while still producing great results at the plate, and 65 WAR are enough to warrant his entry. He'll make it this year no problemo...at least I think he will.

Mike Piazza: Don't get it twisted: best hitting catcher ever. Piazza spent almost his entire career as a catcher -- he played first for one half-season with the Mets and DHed in his last year while a member of the Athletics. The fact that he produced 140 WRC+, 427 homers, and .390 wOBA while being a pretty good catcher (and yes, he wasn't terrible!) is pretty remarkable. He's the 6th-best catcher of all time, and there are more than 5 catchers currently in the Hall of Fame. Piazza is relatively likely to make it in this year anyway also.

Jeff Bagwell: Hey voters who hate steroids! Here's your guy! How has this guy not been voted in yet? The right comparison here is with Frank Thomas, who was voted in on his first ballot. Let's compare these two players:

WAR: Jeff Bagwell 80.2, Frank Thomas 72.4
Home Runs: Bagwell 449, Thomas 521
wOBA: Bagwell .405, Thomas .416
Total Zone: Bagwell 0, Thomas -67 (!)
WRC+: Bagwell 149, Thomas 154

These two players are so similar, and they should be beacons of non-steroid users to the old fogey voters. So why is Bagwell not in the Hall yet but Frank Thomas got in on the first ballot? Because he didn't hit 51 more home runs to reach the arbitrary round number of 500? Jeff Bagwell isn't in the Hall of Fame because we live in a base-10 world. Great.

Tim Raines: Enough has been said about Raines, and it's obvious to most people who put any faith in advanced stats whatsoever that he's a Hall of Famer. And needless to say, if he's kept out of the Hall, lupus wins.

Curt Schilling: Curt Schilling bankrupted my home state, is aggressively dumb, and I'll love him forever. According to FanGraphs WAR, he's 18th all-time in career WAR among pitchers. 18th!!!!!!!! In this metric he is a top 20 pitcher EVER. His career ERA- is 80. Two-time World Champ. He really actually is a Hall of Famer. He just is. He doesn't have the win totals. That's the only thing keeping him out. 216 wins instead of 300, even though he was on shitty teams for like 2/3 of his career. It's hard to get wins when your team doesn't, y'know, WIN ALL THAT MUCH. Oy.

Mike Mussina: Have you guys heard about Curt Schilling being 18th in FanGraphs WAR among pitchers? MIKE MUSSINA IS 19TH. Enough. And he has 270 wins! WHAT IS THE ISSUE HERE PEOPLE?! Put him in. Put him in today.

Just for some context, the only people who you'd even consider not putting in the Hall of Fame who are in the top 30 for career WAR for pitchers are Tommy John and Jim Kaat. Everyone else, you're like oh yeah no totally he's in (except Roger Clemens for some, who is actually #1).

Mark McGwire: Steroids.

Roger Clemens: Big steroids.

Barry Bonds: A steroid or two.

Guys I'm on the fence about

Alan Trammell: He's like 95% of Craig Biggio. I think ultimately, he belongs, but the huge movement to get him into the Hall is maybe a bit unwarranted, and there are others who deserve that crusade more. But a great great player whose talents were definitely underappreciated.

Edgar Martinez: So he's a DH basically. Excellent career, really awesome stats, good contributor to great teams, but his value is diminished by being a DH. I mean, he played in the field for about 600 of his over 2000 games, but he was mostly a DH. When the time comes for David Ortiz to be on the ballot, people will remind me of what I said here. And this is what I'll say. Firstly, Ortiz is a steroid guy and won't get voted in anyway unless things change drastically. Secondly, I think that ultimately, despite the fact that he's a DH, Edgar Martinez belongs in the Hall of Fame. And thirdly -- and you can hold me to this -- as it stands, I don't think David Ortiz is a Hall of Famer.

Larry Walker: Gaudy stats, extremely valuable player, Coors Field. He might still deserve a spot though. He was really really good. Gun to my head, he's not on my ballot.

Players who just missed the cut

Lee Smith: The most saves ever when he retired. That's just not enough for me, especially since there have been so many great closers since Lee who have been better than he is. That may not necessarily be fair, but ultimately, it means Lee Smith is someone who deserves to be remembered, but not that much.

Fred McGriff: Fred McGriff is a player I really liked, but he's just not quite there, especially with all the hitting talent (steroid and non-steroid) of his era.

Sammy Sosa: 600 home runs, helped jumpstart baseball in 1998 with Mark McGwire post-strike, and a really likable player. Just not quite there in his career production. He's close because of his influence and the gaudy home run total, but I'm gonna have to pass on Sammy.

Gary Sheffield: 500 home runs ain't what it used to be. Hall of Very Good to me, but I wouldn't be devastated if he made it (he never will because of steroids).

I understand that I said that 14 guys deserved to be in the HOF, and the ballot has room for only 10. But since the voters refuse to keep out obvious HOFers because of steroids, there's a backlog of deserving players. If I were filling out an actual ballot, this would be it, in order of HOF deservingness:

1. Barry Bonds
2. Randy Johnson
3. Roger Clemens
4. Pedro Martinez
5. Jeff Bagwell
6. Curt Schilling
7. Mike Mussina
8. Mike Piazza
9. Tim Raines
10. Craig Biggio

Smoltz and McGwire would have to wait one more year, but that wouldn't be a problem because Johnson, Pedro, and Biggio are almost certain for this year, with Piazza and Bagwell having decent shots. Looking ahead to 2016, the surefire first-balloters are Ken Griffey, Jr. and (I gotta believe) Trevor Hoffman. No one else will ever make it from that class. So there'll be plenty of room for everyone on my hypothetical HOF ballot over the next two years! YAY.

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