Hall of Fame voting never ceases to amaze
As the calendar moves from 2016 to 2017, the annual Hall of Fame debate is yet again one of the hottest flames on baseball’s “hot stove.”
Each year some of the same arguments are made by fans and media alike about who should be in, who shouldn’t, and the myriad reasons why. Players from the steroid era have made the ballot at the same time as the explosion of social media which has created debates that have gone from friendly chatter on a bar stool between the Cliff’s and Norm’s of the world to downright vitriol from anonymous people and world-renowned media members.
This has helped and hurt the Hall of Fame in different ways.
Tim Raines was an afterthought on the ballot just a handful of years ago, and now in his final try, I’d be surprised if he didn’t make it. This is directly correlated with writers like Jonah Keri and Jay Jaffe banging the Raines drum to the point where it’s hard to ignore the fact that pound-for-pound Raines was (stats wise) 90% the player Ricky Henderson was.
Where it’s hurt the ballot — and Hall of Fame — is the seemingly never ending battle between the analytic baseball community (Rob Neyer) and the old guard who go with their eyes and gut more than anything (Patrick Reusse.)
Of course, there’s a happy medium between the two. As math has become more accepted, stats that were once the gospel like batting average and ERA have generally been exposed as not being as important as, say, OPS or xFIP. Wins don’t matter if you are a starting pitcher as much as it used to, and neither do RBI’s for hitters.
Throw in rampant PED use from the 1990’s into the mid-aughts, voting rules having an integrity clause, and many voters who haven’t covered the game for decades, and you get a complete cluster.
One of the great follows for any baseball fan is Ryan Thibodaux, who tracks every Hall of Fame ballot and puts it in a fantastic spreadsheet. It gives great insights on which players are up, down, in, or out, and holds the writers accountable because they can no longer hide.
Most of them make absolute sense:
Some are perfectly fine as they stand by not voting for players suspected of PED use:
But many straight up make no sense at all:
In my personal opinion, you can’t sit on Mt. Pius and pick and choose who you vote for based on PED suspicions. Would I bet every dollar in my name — yes, all $178 — that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens did steroids and/or HGH? Of course. But besides hearsay, it’s never been proven.
Consider this scenario; in 2002 Andy Pettite admitted to using HGH. That same season he gave up a double to Manny Ramirez who failed two drug tests in his career. If guys on both sides of the ball were using, what’s the difference? Bartolo Colon has failed a drug test in his career, if he gives up a home run to admitted PED user Jason Giambi does that tree in the forest make a sound?
Are the drugs Mark McGwire used worse than the amphetamines Hall of Famer’s Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt used to get through a day game after a night game?
How many Alcoholics and philanderers like Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth are in the Hall? That’s so much better than the juice Pudge Rodriguez might have taken?
Didn’t bandbox parks built from 1992–2010 have a bigger affect on players numbers than drugs? Why punish Larry Walker for playing most of his career in Denver, but ignore the implications of Nolan Ryan’s numbers playing in pitcher’s parks like Anaheim and Houston?
What about expanding to 30 teams by 1998? The dozens of pitchers added to rosters weren’t all exactly Sandy Koufax and Dennis Eckersley.
Were the balls juiced?
How on earth do we know players like Jim Thome and Randy Johnson didn’t use but David Ortiz is guilty as charged?
Jim Rice was a complete prick to the media and he’s in the Hall as was/is Curt Schilling who stands no chance.
It seems odd to me that the only players in baseball that are held accountable with the writers are gamblers like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose as well as players who maybe used steroids. If you flunked tests like Ramirez or admitted to use like McGwire, then I can understand not voting for them in the same vain that Jackson and Rose gambled, but picking and choosing selected guys with no connections to drugs — Frank Thomas, first ballot! Jeff Bagwell, hey not so fast — is absurd at best.
Add Bud Selig’s entry into the Hall this summer and you’re really asking for trouble. Why should the commissioner and a top enabler of the steroid era get in and not the players?
The Baseball Writers Association of America have made a couple of huge steps recently, specifically dumping many members who haven’t covered the game in years, as well as making all ballots public starting next year. Also players now can only be on the ballot for 10 years instead of 15, and younger writers are gaining eligibility. It’s safe to say voting will look vastly different in a decade.
The only solution I propose is by 2025 add a new committee to the Hall to take a look at guys from the late-80’s to mid-aughts who fell off the ballot. We will certainly have more information on what might have transpired, and time will give everyone more perspective on players ranging from Kenny Lofton to Alex Rodriguez.
Really at the end of the day it’s hard to have a shrine to the sport when there’s generations of stars missing.
My hypothetical ballot:
- Jeff Bagwell- Not only a feared power hitter, but a very skilled first baseman and great base runner. Has never been implicated to steroids, but there are definite suspicions.
- Barry Bonds- If he had retired after the 2000 season he still would have had three MVP awards, nine All-Star appearances, and eight Gold Gloves. Case closed.
- Roger Clemens- Like Bonds, Clemens was a monster before he ever pitched for the Yankees and Astros. By the time the Rocket was 35 he had five Cy Young awards. No doubter.
- Vladimir Guerrero- Not only put up the numbers but between his Andre the Giant-sized strike zone and his cannon for an arm Vlad might have been the funnest player to watch of his generation.
- Edgar Martinez- Arguably the greatest designated hitter of all-time. He wasn’t moved from third base because he was particularly atrocious there, Mariners Manager Lou Pinella just moved him there and it worked to the point he never went back out to the field. Why punish Martinez then?
- Mike Mussina- This one is particularly baffling. He spent his entire career in the AL East which was beastly during his time, and his numbers stack up with Jim Palmer and Whitey Ford. Moose was the most underrated starter of his generation.
- Tim Raines- His eight-year peak stacks up with the best hitters of the 1980’s, and he beats Henderson in many statistical categories. Two things working against him is he played most of his career in Montreal so he went unnoticed by many fans and he finished his career as a bench player, quietly fading into retirement. This year, his final on the ballot, Rock gets in.
- Manny Ramirez- He failed two tests, so why not just put that on his plaque? Steroids or not he scared opposing players shitless when he stepped into the box.
- Curt Schilling- I can’t hold his political beliefs and bad business decisions against him. He was an ace on three different World Series teams and his postseason stats are legendary.
- Larry Walker- The numbers don’t lie. Three batting titles and an MVP during the peak of the steroid era isn’t a fluke. Yes he played in Colorado during his prime years, but how is that his problem? Has never been implicated with steroids.
- I’d also vote for Pudge Rodriguez if I could choose more than 10 and I’d also give a long look to Trevor Hoffman and Sammy Sosa as well.