If I had a vote...
If I had a Hall of Fame vote, what would I do with it?
The ballots for this year's Hall of Fame nominees have been distributed, and hopefully returned in the timely manner that is required for a full and total tally for this year's potential inductees.
Rules changes over the past couple of years has narrowed the ballot down, lowering the eligibility to ten years, and requiring a minimum percentage to be carried over to the following year's ballot.
That being said, there were thirty-two players on this year's ballot.
Some media members who do vote have released their final ballot. If I had a vote, this is how I would have voted, and why.
First off, the first list of names that I would have eliminated right away are:
- Brad Ausmus
- David Eckstein
- Garrett Anderson
- Jason Kendall
- Luis Castillo
- Mark Grudzielanek
- Mike Hampton
- Troy Glaus
- Mike Lowell
- Mike Sweeney
- Randy Winn
All of the above had productive major league careers. A few were even All-Stars. But as good as they may have been, they were not among the greats of the game.
The next list contains players that I had a hard time eliminating from my mythical ballot. These were multiple All-Stars, league leaders, perennial MVP candidates, but they are just not at that level that would make me cast a vote for them over a more deserving player.
That list is:
- Alan Trammell
- Nomar Garciaparra
- Jim Edmonds
- Billy Wagner
- Edgar Martinez
- Lee Smith
With the exception of Trammell, each of these players should be on the ballot in 2016.
Now we get into the grey area of the voting. There are no parameters that have been set forth by the voting committee as to any sort of criteria there may be for induction to the Hall of Fame. Well, beyond the required playing time, and five years removed from active duty. The voting is totally subjective. While baseball is driven by statistics (as is this humble blog) there is more anecdotal evidence used to ascertain a player's greatness. Stuff that is between the lines, the intangibles that separate one player from another.
Luck, happenstance and opportunity also play a big factor in determining where a player winds up playing his career, be it major market or small market.
But there are also ways that a player can improve their performance, or enhance it in some way. I am referring to the steroid use that has run roughshod over the game and caused statistical anomalies over the past twenty years.
Some players were discovered, and subsequently suspended. Many more were suspected but never proved. A few were all but discovered, but by timing and circumstance, were able to skate by without punishment.
One thing that a subjective vote does, is give the voter the ability to play judge and jury in these cases. As such, the following players, whose statistical performances put them in the elite players of the game, would be left off of my ballot.
Those players are:
- Barry Bonds
- Sammy Sosa
- Mark McGwire
- Roger Clemens
A few of them admitted to steroid use, some have denied it, some even diverted attention by naming teammates who were using steroids. At any rate, the above players are off of my ballot for performance enhancing reasons.
The next player that will not be on my ballot is Gary Sheffield.
A talented player? Yes. One of the greats? Yes. Steroid user? Not sure, but not my reason.
He was drafted in the first round of the 1986 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, the sixth overall pick of the draft. Dwight Gooden's cousin was a hot shot infielder out of Tampa, and was fast tracked to the Brewer's infield, making his debut in 1988, splitting time with Dale Sveum at the end of the season.
Gary struggled a bit at the plate and in the field, so the Brewers tried him at third base, where he didn't want to play. Shortstop was his position, and he made a race issue out of the fact that Bill Spiers was given the shortstop job, while Sheffield remained at third base. Sheffield even admitted that he was purposefully making errors at third base in order to force a trade from Milwaukee. That trade happened in 1992, and Sheffield was on his way to San Diego.
My problem with him, and with the Brewer's ownership, as well as MLB is: Why was there no punishment involved? Like a two-year old throwing a tantrum, Sheffield got what he wanted, a trade out. The Brewers got what they wanted, Sheffield gone. But what about the fans of the Brewers? Did they get compensated in any way for the atrocious and malicious errors made by Sheffield? How did this not affect the sanctity and integrity of the game?
Was this a black spot on the Selig regime in Milwaukee, and then onto the commissioner's office?
Nonetheless, as a player has admitted that they did not put forth their best effort on the field, I have no compelling reason for them to be on my imaginary ballot. So sorry Mr. Sheffield. No vote for you.
OK. That's out of the way. I present to you, bottom to top, the ten players that would have my theoretic Hall of Fame ballot vote:
- Tim Raines.. An offensive force in the early and mid-nineties. Won the batting title in 1986. Was part of the collusion settlement in 1987. Was forced to sit out until able to re-sign with the Expos on May 1, 1987. Proceeded to hit a grand slam on his first day back in the majors. Scored 100 or more runs six times in his career. Stole 70 bases or more in six consecutive seasons.
- Curt Schilling.. Won 216 games, finished 2nd in Cy Young Award voting 3 times in 4 years. 6 time All-Star who led the league in wins twice.
8. Larry Walker.. Obviously benefited form playing a substantial amount of time in Colorado, but also had one of the best throwing arms in right field during his playing career. Between 1997 and 2001 averaged .357, winning 3 batting titles and 1 MVP in the process. Was a five time All-Star and has won seven Gold Gloves.
- Jeff Kent.. While he never led the league in any offensive statistic, he did drive in runs, and a lot of them at that. He drove in 100 or more runs in six straight seasons, and in eight out of nine seasons. All while playing second base, a position not known for offense. Won the MVP Award in 2000. Was a five time All-Star.
- Fred McGriff.. Offensive star of the nineties, anchoring the clean-up spot for the Braves and the Padres. He drove in 100 or more runs on eight occasions, and hit 30 or more homers in ten different seasons, leading the league twice. He was a five time All-Star.
- Mike Mussina.. This one was a tough one. I am not a Yankees fan, and I know that I do have a sort of a non-Yankee bias, but Mussina's stats made me open my eyes. Apart from being the last major leaguer to win 20 games in his final season, he also finished with a very impressive .638 winning percentage. He only won 20 games once, but did win 15 or more games ten more times, while pitching in an era of offensive dominance and relief pitcher prominence.
- Trevor Hoffman he was the main guy, the top closer in the game. The first one to 500 saves. That was BM of course (Before Mariano). He saved 30 or more games on fourteen occasions. He finished second in Cy Young Award voting twice, and was as high as seventh in MVP voting. He had five seasons where he finished with an ERA below 2.25.
- Jeff Bagwell had eight consecutive years of driving in 98 or more, and nine out of ten years with the same. Won the MVP Award in 1994, when he hit .368. He scored 100 or more runs in six straight years, and scored 88 or more runs in eleven straight years. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in six years.
2. Mike Piazza Is widely regarded as the greatest hitting catcher of all time. He hit over .300 in nine consecutive seasons, and had seven top 10 MVP vote seasons. He hit 30 or more home runs in nine seasons, drove in 90 or more runs in ten straight seasons and was a twelve time All-Star.
- Ken Griffey Jr. aka Junior. The natural. The number one draft choice of the Seattle Mariners in the 1987 draft, he made his much anticipated debut in 1989, and didn't disappoint. A five tool player, he was a phenomenal player to watch. Injuries in the middle of his career led to a lot of 'what-if' conversations, but he still winds up in the rarified grouping of the All-Time greats. For the record, nine 30 home run seasons, eleven 90 RBI seasons, eight 90 runs scored seasons, one MVP, five other top 10 MVP seasons.
So, for your perusal, my humble list for the Hall of Fame.