I deeply apologize to you, dear readers. I have been quite busy with other projects and have failed you. We have two Hall of Fame ballots to discuss for baseball and I haven’t talked about either one! Shall we? Yes, I believe we shall!
Author’s note: They went and elected people to the HOF while this article was in draft mode, the jerks. Therefore, I will keep my original Veterans’ Committee piece, but will say who won at the end (so you don’t try to cheat).
First, the Veterans’ Committee will consider the “Today’s Game” Ballot, which includes players from 1988 to the Present. Like the normal HOF, you need 75% of the vote, which means 12 ballots. There are ten candidates:
Harold Baines: Baines was a very good player for a very long time, but if you’re a guy (or gal) obsessed with peak, he’s not your pick. He’s well regarded, which is a point in his favor, but he barely cracked the 5% mark. He’s a better version of Tony Perez without Joe Morgan in his corner. Compared to other OFs, he’s terrible, and he’s not a good enough DH to make it ahead of Edgar Martinez. Baines, offensively, just wasn’t a huge force. 121 OPS+ just isn’t hugely impressive. Pass.
Albert Belle: Belle is the opposite of Baines in many ways. Belle was awesome at his peak, especially 1995. He was also an asshole and made few friends. Belle’s peak is noteworthy. By rate statistics, Belle is an amazing offensive hitter. He only had two seasons of under 100+, and in one of those, he had all of 25 PAs. That said, his career was extremely short. If he’d played five more years, he could have approached 600 home runs, and this would be a much more interesting conversation. The combination of his personality and short career will doom him. Pass.
Will Clark: I kind of like the idea of Clark in the Hall of Fame. He was actually surprisingly good (I genuinely didn’t remember much about him before going to B-Ref). He’s not outstanding, but he’s a better candidate, arguably, than Baines or Belle. He was even pretty decent defensively, winning a Gold Glove. He’s even better than the average 1B in the HOF (although Perez is one of them, so…) That said, he’s not remarkable enough to really make the Hall. He lacked overwhelming power, and that’s almost sine qua non for a Hall of Fame 1B. He had one season of more than 30+ HRs, a career slugging percentage of < .500, and an OPS+ of only 137. Pass.
Orel Hershiser: Hershiser was solid. He peaked young–1987-1989–but was a perfectly serviceable innings eater for much of the rest of his career. He’s well regarded and pitched on a memorable team in 1988. That said, it’s hard to get excited about a pitcher with an ERA barely over league average and some frankly terrible FIP numbers in the 1990s. Pass.
Davey Johnson: Johnson, as a player, is not in the conversation. As a manager, he had an amazing career with the Mets, but settled into being quite good overall. In 17 seasons, he had 14 seasons over .500. He got into the playoffs seven times, but never quite reached the heights of 1986. His playoff record is a significant negative, however. Pass.
Mark McGwire: Big Mac was really, really good at hitting homers. Everything–good and bad–feeds off of that. He’s done a decent job of rehabilitating his name, especially his bizarre interview with Bob Costas. His offensive capabilities are undeniable, and in a neutral world, he’s a definite Hall of Famer. The question is the slippery slope argument: if McGwire gets in, you’ll have to let in other confirmed cheaters who were better players (see Clemens and Bonds). I would let him in, but I’m not sure the Hall will. Hit… but likely a pass from the actual committee.
Lou Pinella: A long career of barely above averaging managing. He was on some bad teams, some mediocre teams, and a single World Series title. He’s a better case than Davey Johnson, but only because of his lengthier career. Pass.
John Schuerholz: As a GM, he’s one of the best all time. Hit.
Bud Selig: I can’t imagine him not getting in. He essentially ended labor disputes, presided over significant expansions in the number of teams and playoffs spots, and saw baseball’s popularity explode. Hit.
George Steinbrenner: As an owner, it’s hard to think of a more successful individual. He took the Yankees when they were a joke and made them into a juggernaut again. Hit.
My ballot: McGwire, Steinbrenner, Selig, Schuerholz.
So who actually won? Click below!
I was exactly 50% right: Selig and Schuerholz made it in. I’m not surprised Mark McGwire didn’t make it, but I am somewhat surprised that Steinbrenner didn’t. I thought the Yankee bump would push him over the top.
As for the real ballot, we’ll focus on the newbies, then I’ll give you my full ballot.
Casey Blake: Blake was surprisingly decent for a short period and became, if not great, at least pretty good after age 30. If this sounds like damning with faint praise, it probably is. Off the ballot, probably won’t get a single vote.
Pat Burrell: He played for a dozen unremarkable years. He didn’t really have a peak. His best year was 2002, where he was only pretty decent. Off the ballot, might get one or two votes, but probably not.
Orlando Cabrera: A good fielding shortstop who had exactly one above average offensive year. Because of 2004 in Boston, he’ll get some attention, undeservedly so. Off the ballot, might get 2-3%.
Mike Cameron: Finally! An interesting player! Cameron combined great defense, reasonable power, a few walks, and all the strikeouts. Two good years, but none that were outstanding. A fun little player but not a Hall of Famer. Some PED guilt will only make this worse. I think he deserves at least 5%, but I doubt he’ll get it. Off the ballot, might get one or two votes.
J. D. Drew: The poster child for lost potential; if he’d been healthy, he could have been Jim Edmonds or close to it (which is not the insult it seems to be). Even as is, Drew was a good player. 125 OPS, a .384 OBP, and an underrated glove make him more attractive than most of the players on this list. Off the ballot, maybe 2-3% of the ballot.
Vladimir Guerrero: Few players are more memorable and fun than Guerrero was. A notorious bad ball hitter with prodigious power, early in his career he had a bit of speed. His one defensive tool was his arm, but at its height, he was a gunslinger extraordinaire. Only one of his full seasons — his last season — was below average offensively. If he’d played 20 years, he would have gotten 500 homers and 3000 hits. On the ballot, should get 10-15% of the vote, could be 20-25% if people ignore the PED rumors.
Carlos Guillen: Had a few years of highly respectable offensive input combined with defensive acceptability. If he played in a different era for longer, he might have gotten some support. He’s totally drowned by his peers, many of whom were significantly better than him. Off the ballot, maybe 2-3% of the ballot.
Derrek Lee: Lee had an out-of-this-world 2005 where he nearly joined the 50-50 club (50 homers and 50 doubles). He was a legitimate MVP candidate, maybe more so than Pujols (who won that year). Unfortunately for Lee, the rest of his career was not nearly so impressive. He was merely very good, combining offensive production with defensive prowess. Not even remotely a Hall of Famer, but I could see him lasting two or three years on the ballot. On the ballot, 5-7%.
Julio Lugo: The best thing that we can say about Lugo is that he played professional baseball. Off the ballot, might get one vote if somebody is sufficiently drunk and/or related to him.
Melvin Mora: You have to respect Mora for his weird career arc. Before the age of 30, he was either bad or merely acceptable. He developed power from 2003 to 2005, as well as 2008, all of which were over the age of 30. Interesting, but not exceptional. Off the ballot, no votes.
Magglio Ordonez: Consistently average or above average for most of his career, losing 2004 and 2005 to injury cost him a real shot at a Hall of Fame career. He has a fair rate career, but lacks the counting stats to be worthy of any sort of consideration. Off the ballot, maybe 4%.
Jorge Posada: Posada was a good, if not great offensive catcher for most of his career. Three years of 5+ WAR is nothing to sneeze at, while his defense was, if not exceptional, at least solid. There’s also the Yankee factor. That, alone, will keep him on the ballot and probably buy him at least 10% of the vote. On the ballot, 10% of the vote.
Manny Ramirez: Sometimes, with all of his goofiness and the PED test failure, I think we forget exactly how amazing Manny was as a hitter. His OPS+ for his career was 154+, putting him in company with a whole bunch of Hall of Famers. For ten years, roughly 1996 to 2006, he was among the very best hitters in the game, yet never finished as high as second in the MVP race. He was a terrible defender, but so was Gary Sheffield, and I’d argue Manny was the better hitter of the two. He ranks 10th All-Time in WAR by a left fielder, and only Barry Bonds, Tim Raines, and Pete Rose aren’t in the HOF. The PEDs will prevent a first-ballot election, or even a fifth-ballot election, but his body of work is completely worthy of the hall. I am certain he will stay on the ballot, at the very least. On the ballot, 10% of the vote.
Edgar Renteria: Renteria was quietly a good hitter with great defense for about four years, then vanished off the face of the earth. I liked him as a player, but he’s not even in the Hall of the Very Good; maybe the Hall of the Mostly Decent? Off the ballot, maybe one vote.
Arthur Rhodes: Non-closer relievers are almost certain never to see the Hall. Rhodesy (I may be the only person to call him this, and I do not care) was very good at not closing games, but apart from a weird 20th place appearance on the MVP ballot in 1997, he wasn’t all that exceptional. Off the ballot, no votes.
Ivan Rodriguez: Do you want to hear me talk about Pudge again? I don’t think you want to hear me talk about Pudge again. Of all the first timers, he’s the closest one to getting in on the first ballot, and rightfully so. He’s third all-time in catcher WAR, between Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. I don’t necessarily think he’ll get in (although he should) because of vague rumors about him taking PEDs. He will get a healthy share of the vote, though. On the ballot, 40% of the vote.
Freddy Sanchez: Remember the year Freddy Sanchez won the batting title? No? It was 2006. Now you know everything you need to know about Freddy Sanchez. Off the ballot, no votes.
Matt Stairs: If Stairs could field even a little bit, we’d be looking at a stealth HOF candidate. Every productive year of his career came after the age of 27. All of them! He hit very well for somebody who wasn’t in the field all that often. If he’d gotten reasonable playing time earlier in his career, we’d have an argument here. He had the second best walk rate of players during his career, behind only Bonds. This little article is a fun look back at his career. That said… Off the ballot, maybe two votes.
Jason Varitek: Varitek was a pretty good defensive catcher who occasionally hit well. Like Matt Stairs, he made the majors for good at an older age, 27. Unlike Stairs, he was never exceptional offensively, although he was quite good in a number of seasons. He was never healthy enough to be truly outstanding, but I imagine he’ll still get some votes because Boston. On the ballot, five to ten votes. Might crack 5% for one year.
Tim Wakefield: Wakefield is not a Hall of Fame pitcher. Not even remotely. I love knuckleballers as much as the next guy, maybe more. He was pretty good when he was on, but he was also off quite a bit. Given the legions of better qualified pitchers (Wake is 271st all-time, just behind Ice Box Chamberlain and just ahead of his contemporary, Livan Hernandez), I doubt he’ll make 5%, but he’ll get a vote or two. I think he’s earned that. Off the ballot, one or two votes.
My ballot would be Bonds, Clemens, Tim Raines, Pudge, Manny, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, Guerrero, Edgar Martinez, and Trevor Hoffmann.
I will eventually report back with who actually wins. I promise!