I think I’ve said all I can say about this year’s crazy Hall of Fame ballot – 6,000 words, in fact, or about the equivalent of 20 pages, double-spaced, in Microsoft Word. 3,000 words in Part 1, 2,000 more in Part 2, and 1,000 in Part 3.
I haven’t written anything that long since my thesis, which was also on baseball. Well, I like baseball.
I wanted to publish all three parts before the new year because a) the ballot deadline was December 31st and b) I wanted to post it before other sportswriters revealed their ballot. I was curious to see how mine compared with theirs. This morning, Joe Posnanski revealed his ballot, and to no one’s surprise, we have the same exact ballot. Ten-for-ten. Of course, when the official voting is released next week, ten players won’t get elected. Some have predicted that Maddux will be the only one. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say four get elected: Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, and Biggio.
It’s no secret that I think Joe Posnanski has one of the most rational and thoughtful minds of anyone that covers the sport. I’ve mentioned him quite a few times on the blog. We think about a lot of things similarly, and a lot of my writing is influenced by his. It’s pretty eerie how similar our Hall of Fame posts are. His was 6,000 words too. Here are a few samplings from each of our posts:
Me: His numbers from 1992 through 1998 are absurd: 127-53, 2.15 ERA, 0.968 WHIP. He won four straight Cy Youngs from 1992 through 1995 and finished in the top 5 four other times. He won 18 Gold Gloves, the most ever. Maddux was, of course, one of the smarter players in the game. He was disciplined, repetitive, and he would outwit hitters with breathtaking consistency.
Joe: There’s no way to sum up Maddux anyway. You could go with the four Cy Young Awards, the 355 wins, the 2.15 ERA from 1992-1998 — much of it during the heart of the Steroid Era. But, no, it was more poetic than that. Maddux wasn’t a pitcher as much as he was a zen master.
Me: In addition to having one of the best nicknames of all time, The Big Hurt has numbers that few can match. After his age 29 season, he had a career line of .330/.452/.600 with an average of 36 home runs, 118 RBI’s, and 119 walks in his seven full seasons. From 1991-1997, he won two MVP awards and finished in the top 10 every year.
Joe: The Big Hurt is a great nickname, no? From 1991 to 1997, Frank Thomas hit .330/.452/.604 and averaged 36 homers, 118 RBIs, 107 runs scored, he won two MVP awards, led the league in on-base percentage four times, OPS four times, walks four times.
Me: Piazza should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer last year – he’s only the best-hitting catcher in the history of the game. A lot of people remember him as being a poor defender, but the advanced metrics say that he was actually a valuable backstop in the earlier part of his career.
Joe: He’s probably the best hitting catcher in baseball history. Piazza was a suspect catcher — well, he couldn’t throw — but he had some strengths defensively as well.
Me: Jack Morris is going to come very close to making the Hall of Fame this year. But Mussina had a much better career. It’s not close.
Mussina: 270-153, 3562 innings, 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+, 1.192 WHIP, 3.58 SO/BB, 82.7 WAR
Morris: 254-186, 3824 innings, 3.90 ERA, 105 ERA+, 1.296 WHIP, 1.78 SO/BB, 43.8 WAR
I just don’t see any viable argument where you vote in Morris and not Mussina.
Joe: By the way, I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Morris and not vote for Mussina. I literally do not get it. Even by the plainest standards, Mussina won more games, lost fewer, had a superior won-loss record, a lower ERA, struck out 300 more batters, walked 600 fewer, had a lower postseason ERA, virtually the same World Seres ERA, and even won five Gold Gloves to Morris’ zero.
Me: By WAR, (Tim Raines) was the best player in the National League from 1983 to 1987. I would also argue that he was the best base stealer in baseball history – or at the very least, the most efficient. He finished with the same career WAR as Manny Ramirez even though he had almost 400 fewer home runs. He reached base more times than Tony Gwynn.
Joe: One of the best players in baseball from 1981 to 1987, perhaps the best pure base stealer in the history of the game. Here’s a simple argument for Raines: In a career that was almost identical in length to his contemporary Tony Gwynn, Raines reached base just 18 fewer times and he scored 200 more runs. If Gwynn is a slam dunk Hall of Famer (and he is) then Tim Raines belongs in the Hall of Fame as well.
Me: Say what you want about McGwire, but there is one inexcusable fact: he was the best home run hitter in the history of the game. No, he didn’t hit the most home runs. He no longer has the single-season record. But, he hit more home runs per at bat than anyone.
Joe: He was better at hitting home runs than anyone who ever lived. He hit a home run for every 10.6 at-bats. Nobody in baseball history is even close to that, not Ruth, not Bonds, not anybody. I know people dismiss that entirely because of his admitted steroid use. But those home runs happened anyway.
Well, as they say, great minds think alike.