I don’t have a Hall of Fame vote. I should, but that’s another story.
If I did have a Hall of Fame vote, here’s what my ballot would look like:
- Vladimir Guerrero. Let’s start with last year’s most egregious oversight: Guerrero is unquestionably a Hall of Famer. These old school BBWAA guys love to withhold the “first ballot” designation from certain players, but thankfully these lunatics are slowly going the way of the brontosaurus. Vlad simply checks all the boxes: 9 All Star Game selections; 8 Silver Slugger awards; and an MVP Award in 2004 to go along with all the counting stats — 2590 hits, 449HR, and a lifetime .318 average / .553 slugging. In his second-year on the ballot, Guerrero is a lock for induction.
- Chipper Jones. I will brook no argument here. Chipper is a Hall of Famer. If he’s missing on anyone’s ballot, I might have an aneurysm. His numbers are eerily similar to Vlad’s: 2726 lifetime hits, 468HR, .303/.529 BA/SLG to go along with 8 All Star Game selections and an MVP trophy. I suppose you could tip the scales by including Chipper’s batting title and 1995 World Series ring, but no matter how you slice it, Chipper is a deserving first ballot guy. (I wonder how those writers will parse Chipper’s “first ballot” induction alongside Vlad’s snub last year. I find it laughable that race / culture doesn’t have something to do with that. But I digress.) The offensive catalyst of those great Braves teams deserves the Cooperstown welcome he’ll surely receive this summer.
- Trevor Hoffman. Smart baseball fans have long known the save is an overrated statistic, an antiquated metric that mistakenly values the ninth inning as a singular location of leverage in any given ballgame. Sure, sometimes the final three outs are the most difficult…but not usually. Plenty of games are decided in the 7th or 8th with lesser pitchers on the mound while the “closer” sits in the ‘pen. So, I get the bias against closers. I mean, Lee Smith was one of the filthiest closers of all-time, amassing 478 career saves, yet he never garnered more than 50% of the BBWAA vote (75% needed for induction). That being said, Trevor Hoffman was a truly great specialist. If your going to hold to traditional closer usage, you want a guy like Hoffman, who converted 88% of his opportunities. And I’m compelled by the guy’s story, too: drafted as an infielder; converts to pitching; left unprotected in the 1992 expansion draft; injured his shoulder in a freak beach accident; developed a changeup that became his signature pitch; retired as the all-time saves leader. This is his third year on the ballot and after just missing out last year, I think he’s a lock this go around.
- Edgar Martinez. The bias against Martinez is similar to Hoffman — he’s regarded by some as a “specialist” for spending the majority of his career as a designated hitter. And by the purist’s standards, he only played “half the game.” I’m been sympathetic to that argument for a long time but I’ve changed my mind about that for a few reasons. To begin with, the same standard is never used to diminish the work of starting pitchers who spend the bulk of their careers in the American League. Pedro spent his peak years playing in Boston and I didn’t hear anybody accuse him of only playing “half the game” when debating his candidacy. The DH isn’t going anywhere, no matter how you feel about it. In addition, David Ortiz is going into the Hall in a few years, so it’s time we start recognizing the greatness of those whose primary position is in the batter’s box. Edgar has long been touted as a HoFer by his peers and now, in his ninth year on the ballot, he might finally have a legitimate chance at induction.
- Mike Mussina. This is getting silly. Mussina is a Hall of Famer. Wins Above Replacement (or WAR) is a sabermetric reduction of a player’s value to a single statistic, measured against a replacement-level player. Mussina’s lifetime WAR of 82.7 is higher than that of Bob Gibson, Tom Glavine, Don Sutton, John Smoltz and Jim Palmer. He spent his entire career in the American League East, winning 270 games with a 3.68 ERA.
- Fred McGriff. I say this every year, but McGriff’s greatness is lost on us because he played in the steroid era. But there’s not a whiff of controversy attached to his name. You can feel confident that those 493 home runs were legit. He has no chance at induction, but I’d still vote my conscience here.
Those are the guys who would be getting my vote. Of course, there’s no way that all six are going to be inducted. Realistically, Vlad, Chipper, and Hoffman are slam dunks. I think Edgar makes it this year for an induction class of four.
Obviously, there are a few notable omissions from my ballot.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. It will be interesting to see how these two fare on the ballot this year. I suspect the trend that began last year will continue as more young writers seem willing to overlook the PED scandal associated with Clemens and Bonds. But I could never vote for them. I know they were two of the greatest players I’ve ever seen. But numbers matter more in baseball than in any other sport. And their numbers are forever tainted because they artificially prolonged their playing careers with performance enhancing drugs.
Jim Thome. Thome seems like one of those guys who belongs in the “Hall of Very Good” but not quite the Hall of Fame. I think he’s a good player who stuck around long enough to amass some impressive numbers, namely 612 home runs and 1699 RBI. And with no PED-suspicion hovering over him, he’ll likely be enshrined someday, possibly even on the first ballot. But he’s the only member of the 600 HR club to never win an MVP. He led the league in HRs exactly once (or half as many times as Fred McGriff). Again, I think he’ll get in. But I don’t think I’d vote for him just yet.