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Gary Armida's Blog
Class of 2013 Hall of Fame BallotPosted on December 27, 2012 at 02:39 PM.
More than any other year, the current Hall of Fame ballot is one of the most difficult in recent memory. And, that statement doesn’t even take into account the whole steroids controversy. A voter has the daunting task of completing a ballot that contains so many Hall of Fame worthy players on it.
The process is quite simple. A writer who has been a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America for 10 years is eligible to vote. Each voter is given a ballot that allows him to vote for a maximum of 10 players. A player must receive over 75 percent of the votes in order to be inducted into the Hall. The voting criteria is based on performance on the field and does include a character clause that mostly pertains to a player’s character on the field.
That character clause is the part that is sparking the most controversy, but voters would benefit from the idea of keeping it simple. If a player is caught cheating by Major League Baseball, that player would fail the character clause portion of the voting criteria. That would preclude a player like Rafael Palmeiro from securing a vote on this year’s ballot. It will eventually preclude Manny Ramirez from getting in as well. And, if a player admits to cheating like Mark McGwire or Alex Rodriguez, he would also fail that portion of the voting criteria.
With that process in mind, I did have difficulty filling out the ballot this year (for the record, I do not have a vote). There are 15 players who deserve consideration and a handful of others like Don Mattingly whose careers deserve further scrutiny. And, there are two players--Jack Morris and Dale Murphy--who have compiled noteworthy, special careers. In the case of Murphy, this is his last year on the ballot while Morris still has one more. Neither player get my vote this year because of the amount of players with better resumes and more deserving candidacies. Murphy was a special player, but he falls short based on this year’s ballot. Morris had special moments, but his career falls short of the Hall, especially this year.
The numbers speak for themselves. During a 22 year career, Bonds hit .298/.444/.607 with 601 doubles, 762 home runs, 2,227 runs scored, 1,996 RBI, and 514 stolen bases. He compiled a WAR of 158.1 and an OPS+ of 182. Those numbers are some of the greatest statistics of all-time. There is no argument that Bonds is one of the greatest hitters of all-time along with the elite names of Ruth and Mays.
The popular thing to do when discussing Bonds is to break his career into two. Many will point that his first act before suspected steroids use was Hall-worthy (which it was), but that is an act of suspicion without proof. The US Government couldn’t convict Bonds so his candidacy has to be about the statistics he compiled. He won seven MVP Awards and finished second in the voting two more times. As much negativity surrounds his career, he was never proven to cheat, therefore he has to be included amongst the elite. A Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds is one that lacks one of the greatest to ever play. That would tarnish the Hall’s image more than having him in it.
24 years, 354 wins, a .658 winning percentage, and a WAR of 133.9 are enough to state the validity of candidacy. But, that would ignore that he pitched 4,916.2 innings, struck out 4,672 batters, and pitched to a 3.12 ERA during Major League Baseball’s most offensive era. Even that wouldn’t include his MVP Award and his seven Cy Young Awards. In short, one can make the case that Roger Clemens was one of the handful of greatest pitchers of all-time. Like Bonds, he is under suspicion for steroid use, but was never proven guilty by the United States Government. Unlike Bonds, Clemens fought and won. Without proof, he must be in the Hall.
Mike Piazza is one of the new players on the ballot who is facing a much more difficult opponent. Like Jeff Bagwell, Piazza is fighting the opponent of innuendo. Piazza has never been connected to cheating in any way other than suspicion by writers. He never failed a test, has never been linked to drugs, and has never had to offer an awkward explanation. Yet, there will be some voters who will leave Piazza off the ballot.
That would be leaving off the greatest offensive catcher in Major League Baseball history. In 16 seasons, Piazza hit .308/.377/.545 with 344 doubles, 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI, and 1,048 runs scored. His career WAR of 56.1 is low compared to other players on the list, but WAR doesn’t favor catchers. Consider that Johnny Bench hit .267/.342/.476 over 16 seasons and was considered the offensive standard for catchers. It is easy to see that Piazza’s offensive statistics dwarf those of the Bench, who was a great offensive catcher.
Aside from Buck O'Neil being excluded from the Hall of Fame, perhaps the biggest injustice is Tim Raines still not being in. Raines had the misfortune of playing during the same era as Rickey Henderson and suffers from being the “other guy” who played in Montreal. In 23 seasons, Raines hit .294/.385/.425 with 1,571 runs scored, 430 doubles, 113 triples, 170 home runs, 980 RBI, and 808 stolen bases. His 66.2 WAR ranks seventh amongst the potential candidates on this year’s ballot. Raines also suffers from the fact that he played from age 35 through 42 as a bench player, leaving a less than spectacular last impression. Few remember the blazing fast leadoff hitter who averaged .301/.394/.437 with 29 doubles, 8 triples, 10 home runs, 62 stolen bases, 80 walks, and just 59 strikeouts from the age of 19 through age 30. Few players were as talented, fast, and dominant during the early 1980’s.
It is impossible to discuss Curt Schilling without speaking of the postseason. One of the best postseason pitchers of all-time, Schilling compiled an 11-2 record along with a 2.23 ERA in 119.1 postseason innings. But, that ignores a pretty remarkable regular season career as Schilling pitched for 20 years and won 216 games. His .597 winning percentage along with his 3.46 ERA in 3,261.1 innings is remarkable considering he wasn’t even a full-time starter until his sixth season in the Major Leagues. Along the way, Schilling struck out 3,116 batters and walked just two batters per nine innings. While he never won a Cy Young Award, his 76.1 WAR is fourth best amongst candidates. Combining a stellar regular season career with one of the greatest postseason careers of all-time makes Schilling a definite Hall of Famer.
Last season, Bagwell received just 56 percent of the vote, falling well short of the 75 percent needed for induction. The only reason for the low total is the innuendo of playing during the steroids era and having a chiseled physique. It is the only reason why he wouldn’t already be in the Hall. The lifetime Astro compiled a 15 year career that saw him hit .297/.408/.540 with 1,517 runs scored, 488 doubles, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI, and 202 stolen bases. His 76.7 career WAR is third best on the list of candidates. A writer would be wrong for not including Bonds or Clemens on his ballot because of suspicions, but at least those suspicions played out in court. Bagwell has never been named or connected with steroids. His statistics are inline with the elite Hall of Fame first basemen. He needs to be included.
There is a different bias when it comes to Martinez, the lifetime Seattle Mariner. Martinez compiled most of his statistics as a Designated Hitter, making him the first candidate whose position really is DH. While Paul Molitor is in the Hall of Fame having compiled the best portion of his career as a DH, Martinez really is the first legitimate DH candidate. Many hold this against him as he never had to play the entire game. But, the argument is invalid because the DH does exist in Major League Baseball. If it does exist, it should not be held against a worthy candidate.
Martinez is a worthy candidate as he played for 18 seasons and compiled a slash line of .312/.418/.515 with 1,219 runs scored, 514 doubles, 309 home runs, and 1,261 RBI. He also walked (1,283 times) more than he struck out (1,202 times). His 64.4 career WAR is actually remarkable considering he doesn’t get any credit for defense. As one of the best hitters of the modern age, Martinez is should be enshrined. Keeping him out because he was a DH is a copout.
Trammell will likely be the most debated candidate on this ballot because of his statline. His .285/.352/.415 slash line doesn’t look spectacular nor do his 185 home runs hit over a 20 year career. But, Trammell is a deserving candidate for his complete game. Adding 412 doubles, 55 triples, 1,231 runs scored, 1,003 RBI, and 236 stolen bases make his offensive resume look more impressive. Trammell’s career WAR of 67.1 is sixth best amongst candidates, but he is penalized because of a few reasons. First, he started his career before the offensive explosion from the shortstop position became popular, making him a bit forgettable. Secondly, his last five seasons were injury riddled. Unlike Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Cal Ripken, Trammell never changed positions. The demands of the position didn’t allow him to get those milestones like 3,000 hits, but his peak years were downright impressive as he hit .297/.362/.451 with an average of 29 doubles, 4 triples, 16 home runs, and 72 RBI between the ages of 25 and 32. Few shortstops have put together better statistics, especially ones who played their entire career at that position.
Walker compiled one of those sneaky elite level careers while playing for the Expos, Rockies, and Cardinals during his 17 year career. Some will say that Coors Field helped elevate those statistics, but if that’s an argument, then games should not be played in Colorado. For his career, Walker hit .313/.400/.565 with 1,355 runs scored, 471 doubles, 62 triples, 383 home runs, 1,311 RBI, and 230 stolen bases. With a 69.7 career WAR, a MVP Award, and three batting titles, Walker has put together a deserving career. And, for those Coors Field criticism, consider that Walker’s power was developing in Montreal and that he slugged .587 during his final year in Montreal.
The final selection on the ballot, Lofton gets the nod over Craig Biggio. Lofton’s 17 year career wasn’t as celebrated as it should’ve been, giving him a similar feeling as Tim Raines. But, Lofton maintained his excellence over the course of his career, much better than Biggio, who hit just .254/.306/.425 during his final three seasons. In contrast, Lofton hit .308/.371/.412 during his final three seasons. Despite missing the 3,000 hit milestone, Lofton’s career is plenty worthy.
Over the 17 years, Lofton compiled a WAR of 64.9 by hitting .299/.372/.423 with 1,528 runs scored, 383 doubles, 116 triples, 130 home runs, 781 RBI (out of the leadoff spot), and 622 stolen bases. His prime seasons, 1992 through 1996, saw him produce at an elite level. During that snippet of his career, he hit .316/.382/.437 with an average of 26 doubles, 8 triples, 8 home runs, 52 RBI, 108 runs scored, and 62 stolen bases. Biggio likely gets in over Lofton, but that doesn’t take away from the fact the Lofton may have put together one of the more underappreciated careers in recent memory.
Maybe Next Year:
Craig Biggio: He was close this year and got edged out by Lofton. With over 3,000 hits and a remarkable durable career, Biggio will get in, possibly even this year.
Sammy Sosa: He isn’t on my ballot because of anything other than having other, more deserving candidates. 609 home runs will get him in.
Bernie Williams: He’s an underrated candidate because he wasn’t a slugger during the steroids era. But, he was the key piece to the Yankees late 90’s dynasty and is worthy of consideration.
Fred McGriff: Every year I write one of these columns, McGriff is on my ballot. This year, he was pushed off because of the influx of elite talent. His 493 home runs and remarkable consistency should be rewarded.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
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