Earlier this past week, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America released the list of players on the ballot for 2014 election for the Hall of Fame. There are 20 newcomers and several returnees trying to get into Cooperstown this year.
Slam Dunks On the First Ballot: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas
Maddux and Glavine combined for 650 wins, close to 9500 innings, six Cy Young awards, 18 All-Star appearances, and 18 gold gloves. Along with John Smoltz (who will be on the ballot next year), they formed one of the most dominant rotations ever. Thomas hit over 520 home runs and is fifth among all players in the last 40 years in OPS. The Big Hurt did it without ever being one of the accused in the steroid era. Slam dunk.
Maybe Not This Time, But Soon: Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent
Mussina won 270 games with the Orioles and Yankees. He never won a Cy Young, but he finished in the top six in the balloting nine times. His 3.68 career ERA would be one of the highest ever in the Hall, but pitching in the AL East in the steroid era helps his cause. Moose’s career 123 ERA+ is better than Tom Glavine. I’ll bet you he’d be an easy choice if Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas weren’t also on the ballot.
Kent is the all-time home run leader for second basemen with 377 blasts. He also has the most 100 RBI seasons at the position with eight. He protected Barry Bonds at his peak, and even stole an MVP from him in 2000. There are some suspicions, as his numbers immediately took off at the age of 30 when he arrived in San Francisco after being just an above average hitter with the Mets. But hey, the five All-Star was also on Survivor last year. What’s not to like?
Why Didn’t They Get In Already?: Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Tim Raines
How does somebody with over 3000 hits not get in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot? That’s the biggest reason why the fact that not a single player was elected last year. Biggio may not have been of the greatest hitters, but he was consistent and played three or four different positions well in his 20 year career. Piazza had 427 HR and a .922 career OPS, both highest ever for a catcher. Their omissions last year and probably this year are likely due to the suspicion of PED use. Simply absurd that voters are using mere suspicion and not concrete proof as grounds for keeping them out.
One of the most ridiculous snubs for the Hall since Bert Blyleven is Tim Raines, who is on the ballot for the seventh time. He’s arguably second behind only Rickey Henderson for greatest lead-off man of all-time. His case is getting stronger every year, as he has received more votes each, peaking at 52.2% last year. However, with several strong candidates in the coming years, it may be a while before Rock gets in. He had a career .385 OBP, averaged close to 5.0 WAR per full season, and won a batting title with Montreal in 1986. He also helped the Yankees win two World Series in the 90s. Then of course, he’s fifth all-time in stolen bases with 808, never getting caught more than 15 times in one season.
Juusssttt Short: Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Jeff Bagwell
Walker, McGriff, and Martinez were three of the most feared hitters of the 1990s. Walker won three batting titles and an MVP. McGriff just missed the 500 home run club. Martinez won two batting titles and single-handily kept baseball in Seattle. Bagwell slugged .750 once and hit close to 450 homers. However, the cloud of the steroid era seriously hurts their causes. Martinez has the anti-DH bias against him, and Walker had his numbers juiced by Coors Field. Bagwell’s career ended prematurely due to arthritis. All four didn’t truly have the longevity as elite players.
Curt Schillling is a very interesting case. Other than Roger Clemens, all other eligible members of the 3000 strikeout club are in the Hall. Out of those guys, only Schilling, Maddux, Pedro Martinez, and Ferguson Jenkins had less than 1000 walks. The guy was an absolute horse, and formed one of the most dominating 1-2 punches ever with Randy Johnson. That 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts cannot be ignored.
Juicers I Would Put In Anyway: Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds
In a vacuum, it’s impossible to argue against Clemens or Bonds. Clemens won 354 games and seven Cy Youngs (and an MVP), and struck out almost 4700 batters, third of all-time. Bonds, obviously, is the home run king and won seven MVPs and led the league in average, OBP, slugging, and OPS many, many times.
Of course, the performance enhancement drug cloud will keep both (and many others) out of the Hall for the foreseeable future. At the very least, for as long as the current voters of the Baseball Writer’s Association are calling the shots. I will take a more liberal, lenient point of view. Cheating has been apart of baseball since the beginning. Gaylord Perry and Ed Walsh made Hall of Fame careers often using the spitball. Hank Aaron and others of his time were rumored to have used amphetamines (also known as greenies). Why are steroids and HGH any different? If I’m a voter, I’d let some of these players in, but I’d be a hard judge. Bonds and Clemens are in, but eventually.
Juicers I Wouldn’t Put In Regardless: Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro
Before that fateful 1998 season, Sosa was a Dave Kingman type hitter, hitting just .257 and striking out over 25% of the time in over 4000 career at-bats. His peak was fantastic but lasted only about six or seven years. That’s why I wouldn’t vote for him, not for the steroid reason alone.
I’ll use similar criteria in judging McGwire. Only once over a full season did he hit over .300, as he hit just .263 over his career. He did have a .982 career OPS and a 163 OPS+, but he was a very incomplete hitter like Sosa. He claims to have used PEDs due to his long injury history, so one has to wonder if he would have ever put up those numbers if he wasn’t ever healthy. No to Sosa, no to McGwire.
Yeah, Maybe Try The Veterans’ Committee: Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell
The case for Jack Morris has been discussed over and over again, so thankfully this is the last time we will regardless if he gets in or not. His supporters point to his success in the 80s, as he had the most wins of that decade. They’ll bring up his reputation for being a big game pitcher, as he won four World Series and pitched one of the greatest games ever: a 10 inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 Fall Classic. His detractors will point to his mediocre 3.90 ERA which rates out to only five percent above league average during his career. Personally, I think if Morris manages to get in (he received close to 68% of the vote last year), you have to put in Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina, as they have better numbers pitching in the steroid era.
Now, as for Smith and Trammell, it’s highly unlikely either will get in. Both have not gained much momentum in the balloting in recent years, despite the fact that Smith is formerly the all-time saves leader and Trammell put up a solid offensive career at a time shortstops still were light hitters.
Verdict: Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Biggio, (also Piazza, Clemens, Bonds, Raines, Mussina, and Schilling)
Remember, voters can fill in up to 10 players on their ballot. These are the guys I would vote for if I had to pick 10. I personally think Biggio is going to get in this year along with Maddux, Glavine and Thomas. The other guys may have to wait longer with Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., John Smoltz, and Trevor Hoffman coming on the ballot in the next few years. Tough crowd indeed.