In a few weeks, The Hall of Fame will announce its 2012 inductees. I obviously don’t vote for the Hall, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about this year’s candidates (and subsequently writing 1,500 words on it). Be forewarned: this is an extremely long post that will probably only interest baseball fans.
I separated the ballot into three sections: the guys I would definitely vote for, the guys I am undecided about, and the guys I would definitely not vote for.
The guys I would definitely vote for:
Barry Larkin: The writers almost voted in Larkin last year, and he will probably get elected this year. His numbers as a shortstop are up there with the best ever: .295/.371/.444 with a 116 OPS+, 2,340 hits, 379 stolen bases, 68.9 WAR, 12 All Star selections, and an MVP in 1995.
Tim Raines: Raines has been gathering a lot of momentum lately, and I think he has a very good shot at getting the 75% needed for induction. He finished his career with a .385 on-base percentage. How good is that? Most Hall of Famers are well below that, and only FOURTEEN players in all of baseball had a higher OBP last year – and Raines maintained it over 23 seasons. He was probably the best player in the National League from 1983 to 1987 when he hit .318/.406/.467 with an average 114 runs and 71 stolen bases per season. Raines was also one of the most efficient base-stealers ever – he didn’t steal quite as many as Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson, but he was also caught much less than either of those guys:
Raines: 808 stolen bases, 146 caught stealing (85% success rate)
Henderson: 1406 stolen bases, 335 caught stealing (81% success rate)
Brock: 938 stolen bases, 307 caught stealing (75% success rate)
Jeff Bagwell: There has been a lot of speculation over Bagwell’s connection with steroids, but I’m of the mindset that you’re innocent until proven guilty. Bagwell put up some absurd seasons with the Astros – three times he had a season with a .450+ on-base percentage, and he finished his career hitting .297/.408/.540 with a 149 OPS+. Add in his 449 home runs and 1,500+ runs/RBI’s, and I think he deserves to get in. Oh, and his 79.9 WAR is the second-highest ever by a National League first baseman.
Edgar Martinez: Edgar’s five-year prime from 1995 through 1999 was absurd: .334/.455/.579 with an average of 27 home runs, 44 doubles, 102 RBI’s, and 112 walks. Even though he was primarily a DH, I think his raw offensive numbers are deserving of the Hall of Fame- the .310/.410/.510 career combination has only been done by 15 other players.
The guys I am undecided about:
Larry Walker: From 1997 to 1999 Walker put up numbers that were absolutely ridiculous. His average season: .369/.451/.689 with 121 runs, 36 home runs, and 104 RBI’s. His lowest batting average in those three seasons was .363, his lowest on-base percentage was .445, and his lowest slugging percentage was .630. How many players in the history of baseball have put up three consecutive seasons like that? Zero. Ruth, Gehrig, and Hornsby all came close, but neither of them were quite able to post three straight seasons with the minimum .360/.445/.630 requirement. Walker also added a batting title (his third) in 2001. The problem with Walker was that those four great seasons came with the luxury of playing in Coors Field, which in the nineties was a launchpad for hitters. He also did not become a great player until his thirties, and his prime only lasted about four years.
Bernie Williams: Bernie was always one of my favorite players. His consistency was remarkable: he hit higher than .300 every year from 1995 to 2002. But his defense in center field was awful, especially toward the end of his career. Even if you only look at his offensive numbers, I don’t think Bernie quite put up the numbers for Cooperstown.
Alan Trammell: I never saw Trammell play so it’s hard for me to judge his candidacy. His career WAR of 66.9 is right up there with other shortstops in the hall, but I’m not sure his raw offensive numbers are good enough.
Rafael Palmeiro: For a a few years after Palmeiro retired, I was sure that I would vote for him if given the chance. I’ve gone back-and-forth a number of times, but right now he’s off my ballot. The numbers are clearly there: only one of four players to have over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. But Palmeiro has the unfortunate stigma of being one of the few that were actually caught and suspended for steroid use. McGwire later admitted it, but baseball didn’t test during his time. Bonds and Sosa never faced a suspension (though the allegations are overwhelming). Couple Palmeiro’s suspension with this and yeah…I’m not sure I can vote for him.
Mark McGwire: McGwire is in a similar position to Palmeiro. But unlike Palmeiro, McGwire didn’t have the ability to hit .300. He was a pure power hitter who was looking to hit a home run every time up. No one in the history of baseball has had fewer at bats per home run than Big Mac.
Fred McGriff: McGriff’s numbers are probably Hall-worthy in another time, but unfortunately for him he played in the ultimate offensive era. He was about as consistent a player as there was, but he was never dominant – he only finished in the top 5 in MVP voting once.
The guys I would definitely not vote for:
Jack Morris: There tends to be a view that Morris was the ultimate “winner.” The stats weren’t always pretty, but he won the big games and pitched to the score. I’m not sure how true that is, so I’ll just look at the raw numbers: 254-186 with a 3.90 ERA and 39.3 WAR. Very respectable numbers, but not Hall worthy.
Lee Smith: Smith was a great reliever who held the saves record until recently. But he only had six seasons with an ERA under three. In comparison, Trevor Hoffman had 12, Billy Wagner had 13, and Mariano Rivera has 15 and counting.
Don Mattingly: A great Yankee and a great player, but his career ended far too early. He retired at age 34.
Dale Murphy: One of the best hitters of the 1980’s, but after he turned 31, he was never the same. Doesn’t quite make it.
Juan Gonzalez: If you like home runs and RBI’s, Juan Gon put up some amazing numbers. From 1995 to 1998, he AVERAGED 43 home runs and 140 RBI’s (and won two MVP’s). But he had the luxury of playing in a massive hitter’s park with an insanely loaded Texas offense. And there are also numerous allegations of steroid use.
Tony Womack: Womack’s game-tying hit off Mariano Rivera in the ninth-inning of Game 7 will forever be ingrained in my memory. He also had a stint in New York where he was mostly terrible – he was so bad at second base that the Yankees moved him to left field (and inserted a young player named Robinson Cano in his place).
Bill Mueller: Mueller was always one of the more underrated players in baseball, but he never was quite able to stay healthy. Only twice did he play in more than 150 games.
Brad Radke: A great Twin. Not a Hall of Famer.
Phil Nevin: Nevin was infamously the first pick of the 1992 draft, five spots ahead of Derek Jeter.
Tim Salmon: One of the rare players to play his entire career with one team (the Angels). Doesn’t quite have the numbers.
Ruben Sierra: There was a period in 2003 and 2004 where Ruben Sierra re-emerged as a great player with the Yankees. I particularly remember one afternoon in 2004 where he hit a walk-off homer to win a 1-0 game. But…no, not a Hall of Famer.
Eric Young: I’ll mostly remember EY as being a terrible analyst on Baseball Tonight.
Brian Jordan: Jordan was a great outfielder and had some solid years with St. Louis and Atlanta. Definitely not a Hall of Famer though.
Vinny Castilla: In 1997 he hit .304 with 40 home runs…and he was sixth in the Rockies’ order.
Javy Lopez: Lopez put up an all-time great year for catchers in 2003: a .328 average with 43 home runs. However, he was never the best catcher in the league and was overshadowed by guys like Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez.
Terry Mulholland: He went 124-142 with a 4.41 career ERA.
Jeromy Burnitz: A .253 career average. Struck out in 24% of his at bats. No.
Most of the new additions this year, with the exception of Bernie, were fairly easy to place. The problem is going to come in the next four years, when the ballot becomes overcrowded with guys tainted by steroid or HGH use. Only a few are shoo-ins.
2013: Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa
2014: Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Frank Thomas
2015: Carlos Delgado, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz
2016: Jim Edmonds, Ken Griffey, Jr., Trevor Hoffman, Andy Pettitte, Billy Wagner