This is the time of year when a fans appreciation for the long history of baseball and the players associated with the game come into focus. It’s also the time of year when I need to stay away from sharp corners; for nothing makes me want to bang my head against the wall more than the annual announcement of results from the Baseball Hall of Fame voting.
Like all the other no-voters out there, I’ve always felt that I know best when it comes to the HOF voting. I mean, I can never be wrong when my vote doesn’t count. Right? Except this year, I really don’t know if I can be right. Which is not to say that I’m wrong, it’s just that with the current ballot I don’t think any one voter could be “right or wrong”.
The 2014 ballot for HOF election has 36 players on it, 16 of whom are very legitimate candidates for enshrinement and an addition 6 that are least worthy a modicum of consideration.
How did that happen? Well, it’s not like all these great players showed up this year. Some have been on the ballot for 10+ years (Trammell, Morris), some are borderline HOFers (Smith, Mattingly), some are caught up in the PED scandal (Bonds, Clemens), and of course some are first-timers (Maddux, Glavine).
I want to, and it would be easy to, blame the baseball writers for this backlog of great players on the ballot; but the truth is that there is a combination of factors.
The writers do deserve some blame. Some refuse to vote for first timers on the ballot, like Biggio last year and Barry Larkin or Roberto Alomar in years past. But they’ve also let legitimate HOFers like Raines and Trammell languish on the ballot for far to long. And now that situation is only going to get worse because the voting procedure is a problem.
The writers are limited to voting for ten players. It might seem like plenty, and most of the time it probably is, but when you look at the ballot this year, 10 is not enough. I’m not sure that allowing voters to chose more than 10 would help, I think we would end up with more “throw away” votes for players like J.T. Snow and Mike Timlin. However, requiring voters to pick 10 might help. Sure, we would still get some throw-away votes, but it would force the writers to consciously vote “against” players instead of just voting for the ones that they want.
And of course, the players are to blame. They are the ones that took the PED’s in the first place. Since McGwire first hit the ballot in 2007, I’ve kind of been against the PED players getting into the Hall, but over the years I’ve softened that opinion. The lack of complete information about who did or who didn’t use; coupled with undefined quantitative effects of use has me leaning toward a “performance-only” stance when it comes to voting. I will factor in PED’s as a side issue, or tie-breaker if you will, like Alomar spitting in Hirshbeck’s face.
So here is my look at the 2014 HOF ballot in order of years eligible to be voted on.
Jack Morris: Very very good pitcher, not a HOF pitcher. I know, game 7 of WS, I get it; but, postseason era without that game is 4.26
Don Mattingly: Again, good player, but just doesn’t stack up to others at first base position.
Alan Trammell: Yes he should be in HOF, but he falls victim to ballot overload. He is number 11 or 12 on my list.
Lee Smith: I’m torn on Smith, in a less crowded year he might get my vote, not this year.
Mark McGwire: “Performance-Only” he is a yes, but with so many on ballot and the fact that he really is only a marginal candidate when compared to other first baseman (it’s true); I’m going to use my “tie-breaking” PED position and say no for 2014.
Tim Raines: Yes Yes Yes. He had the bad fortune of playing the same time as the greatest lead-off hitter of all-time, R Henderson, otherwise he would have already been in.
Edgar Martinez: Great hitter. Another guy I would like to vote for but he falls just below my 10 cut line.
Fred McGriff: Really close, super consistent for 19 years; a no until backlog clears up.
Jeff Bagwell: Yes. I’m not playing the rumor game here. Numbers are really good in totality against HOF players and particularly other first baseman.
Larry Walker: Did Coors help that much? Not sure. Outside my top 10.
Rafael Palmeiro: Oh this is a tough one. Had an actual positive PED test, but numbers are so huge, 3020 hits and 569 HR’s, that he gets my begrudging vote. Don’t be surprised if real voters give him less than 5% and he falls off ballot.
Craig Biggio: Yes. I’m a big Saber-metric guy, but the crazy thing is, Biggio actually comes up a little short in some comparative analytics, yet he gets my vote. 3000 hits is still 3000, even if it is just an arbitrary number.
Mike Piazza: Yes. Falls in the Bagwell category. Great at his position but comes under rumor scrutiny. I’m not playing that game.
Curt Schilling: Will go in someday. Don’t just look at the win totals, look at K-BB ratio, ERA+ number and his post-season record. He IS who people think Jack Morris was.
Roger Clemens: Personally not a fan, but this isn’t a fan-favorite vote, this is for HOF based on performance. He gets my vote for being one of the best of all-time.
Barry Bonds: Yes. See Roger Clemens above, same comment.
Sammy Sosa: “Performance-Only” he is a yes, probably number 10 on my ballot. Surprisingly, despite 600+ HR’s he is still just under average compared to other HOF right fielders in the Hall when you look at some comparative metrics. I again use my “tie-break” to drop him off.
Greg Maddux: One of the greatest pitchers of all-time. He is this years only sure fire lock to get inducted. One of my greatest pleasures in life was to be able to see him pitch in person multiple times.
Frank Thomas: Yes. Top 10 RH hitter in history of game. Should go in this year, but might fall victim to “first-ballot” voting.
Mike Mussina: He should go in, and will some day, but not this year. When you really look at the numbers, he was real close, if not better than Glavine.
Tom Glavine: Yes. HOF pitcher all the way. Will probably go in with Maddux as the writers create their own HOF stories voting in teammates together.
Jeff Kent: Good, but not great. Has an MVP award but doesn’t stack up as well as I thought he would against other HOF second baseman.
So there it is, my rundown of the 2014 HOF candidates. The results will be released tomorrow and anything less than 4 inductees will bring about my usual disappointment.