Last week VEB introduced their community Hall of Fame vote. If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to go and vote in the poll. It’s a fun way to have your say in the Hall of Fame voting process and to see where we, as a community, differ from the baseball writers.
Our vote is fake. The real vote is taking place now among members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Applications were due at the end of December and the Hall of Fame will announce the results of the vote on January 25.
I do not have a vote. I will not have a vote anytime soon. Still, I have thoughts on how I would vote and whom I would vote for if I was awarded a vote.
What follows is not my votes according to the VEB poll above. My ballot there would be different. Instead, it is how I would vote if I were a member of the BBWAA and had to play by the rules of the Association.
Here’s my ballot:
What I want to do here is group my ballot by categories and discuss the players in each category.
There are a lot of considerations when filling out a Hall of Fame ballot. Not only does a voter have to consider whether or not a player is worthy of the Hall of Fame, but they also have to consider whether said player is worthy of simply remaining on the ballot. If I were a Hall of Fame voter, I would almost always use all 10 of my votes – even for players that I don’t necessarily think are Hall of Fame worthy. Keeping those players on the ballot allows the conversation to continue, minds to change, stats to develop, and narratives to be re-written. Too often players are simply removed from eligibility because the BBWAA as a group didn’t do due diligence and allowed a pre-conceived narrate to reign instead of an honest assessment of a player’s candidacy. (See Jim Edmonds.)
That’s out of the window for final-year candidates. At this point, there is no “keeping them on the ballot” discussion. It’s just me deciding “are they worthy? Or are they not?”
Barry Bonds: NO
Roger Clemens: NO
Sammy Sosa: NO
The official rules for election set by the Hall of Fame vaguely outline what has been known as the “character clause”. Here’s the actual wording:
Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
There is sufficient evidence to conclude that each of the players above earned at least a portion of their prodigious statistics while using performance enhancing drugs. When they started using performance enhancers and what percentage of their stats earned while clean is both nearly impossible to determine and somewhat irrelevant to the character clause. Using PEDS violates both the “sportsmanship” and “character” aspects of the clause.
Earlier in the voting, I might have kept these three on the ballot just so conversation could continue. Now that’s no longer an issue. For me it’s simple: do they meet the qualifications for the Hall of Fame? No, I don’t think they do. So all three are out.
Curt Schilling: YES
79.8 fWAR. JAWS (a Hall of Fame monitor available at Baseball Reference) has him above the average HOF pitcher. All kinds of black and gray ink (league leader and award winner). By almost every statistical tool that we have, Schilling is a Hall of Famer.
The problem with Schilling is that he’s become awful grumpy in his dotage and has been pretty vocal with some of his more extreme political views. That does call his character into question, but this is an election to a baseball Hall of Fame. Not sainthood. His largely post-retirement windbag’iness didn’t threaten the integrity of the game and how it’s played while he was playing it. So, he’s in for me whether he likes it or not.
SOLID HALL OF FAMER CANDIDATES
Scott Rolen: YES
Scott Rolen is obviously a Hall of Famer. I’ve made my argument at VEB before and you can find it here in a lengthy article. When a candidate is “arguably as good defensively as first-ballot HOF’er Brooks Robinson” and “nearly as good offensively as first-ballot HOF’er George Brett” then they are a clear Hall of Famer. I still don’t understand why he’s not getting more support but the trend remains up. Rolen will get in this year or next year.
Andruw Jones: YES
Andruw Jones has a very impressive defensive history with 10 Gold Gloves and some advanced metrics in the middle of his career to support his defensive brilliance. Offensively he’s pretty “meh” as a candidate but his career 67+ fWAR is among the best in history in center. Just above Edmonds. It’s a travesty that Edmonds was not elected. So, I’m a solid “YES” on Jones and really hope the veteran’s committees circle back on Jimmy Ballgame.
Billy Wagner: YES
Relief pitcher, like DH, is a position in this game. So, relievers should get significant HOF consideration by their own merits and not be judged by the standards of other positions (like starter.) Wagner is 6th all-time in saves and fWAR from relievers. His K/BB ratio, FIP, and ERA are all very impressive. I think he should be in. But he’s probably right on the line for me when it comes to other relievers. (See Joe Nathan and Jonathan Papelbon below).
THE SECOND WAVE STEROID CANDIDATES
Here’s where things get somewhat wonky. Clemens, Bonds, and Sosa are a “NO” for me in their final year of eligibility because they used steroids. So, all steroid users have to be no votes, right? The situation isn’t so cut and dried, especially for those who played during the testing era and have already suffered league-enforced punishment for PED use.
David Ortiz: YES
Is DH a position in baseball? Yes or no? The answer is yes. Regardless, then, of your personal feelings about the DH, the players who played the position should be judged by their own merits. With that established, it becomes a matter of setting parameters for what makes a DH Hall of Fame worthy. Among Designated Hitters, Ortiz ranks fifth all-time with 51 career WAR. Everyone above him on Fangraphs’ leaderboard is in the Hall of Fame. Several players below him are in the Hall of Fame. While his WAR total is a little lower than I would want for a position like OF (that has a lot of HOF representatives) it’s among the all-time best at DH, which includes a hefty defensive WAR penalty.
Ortiz did test positive for steroids in a random sampling several years ago. However, the results of this test have been brought into question even by the Commissioner. He did not face punishment for that positive and only tested positive the one time, despite facing frequent testing. That leaves him as a YES for me.
Alex Rodriguez: YES
ARod is a much tougher case. By numbers, he’s a certain Hall of Famer and one of the best players in the game’s history. However, he was found guilty of using steroids in the early 2000s and faced a huge suspension from the league.
That suspension matters. He broke the rules, yes. But he also paid the price for doing so as judged by the league according to the game’s rules. That makes him distinct from players like Bonds or Clemens. Do I, as an independent entity, need to take it upon myself to issue further punishment? I lean ever so slightly toward no.
If this was his final year, I would probably offer a stronger opinion on his roids issue. For now, though, his stats include lost time to punishment and they are still more than enough to keep him on the ballot. For that reason alone, he’s a clear “YES” for me.
Gary Sheffield: NO
Sheffield ties in closely with Bonds and the steroid candidates above. He admitted to using steroids back in the early 2000s but never had a positive test. That’s probably enough to make him a “NO” vote for me. Statistically, his case, at 62.1 fWAR, is borderline. The combination of having admitted steroid use with no punishment faced from the league and his borderline status are enough to push me ever so slightly toward “NO”.
Manny Ramirez: NO
See the Sheffield argument above. Sheffield and Manny have very close profiles offensively. Ramirez’s is a little better statistically. However, he was implicated in steroid use pre-testing AND THEN STILL had two lengthy suspensions for performance enhancing drugs during the testing era. I guess, technically, Ramirez “paid” for his cheating, but come on, man? Twice? That repeated violation is hard to overlook. In the end, there are other players I want to vote for.
Andy Pettitte – NO
Pettitte admitted to using HGH but denied using steroids. He does have an fWAR above 65 but that amounts to just below average HOF credentials for a starting pitcher. He was never suspended for PED use. Does he belong in the Hall on merit? I’m not sure that he does. Does the unpunished HGH admission hurt his cause? I’m sure that it does. Add it up and he’s just barely on the outside.
KEEP THEM ON THE BALLOT “YES” VOTES
Todd Helton: YES
Bobby Abreu: YES
Jeff Kent: YES
Joe Nathan: YES
Are these four candidates Hall of Fame worthy? Close but not really. All of them, though, should remain on the ballot for continued conversation. It takes 3 “YES” votes to overcome 1 “NO” vote and the BWAA still has voters who refuse to vote for anyone. So, if I had an actual BWAA ballot, I would almost always vote for 10 players knowing that at best just 1-2 of the most worthy have a chance to get elected.
Let’s start with Helton, who has the JAWS numbers but is a bit low on Fangraphs WAR for first baseman. The problem here is that there have been a ton of high-output first baseman in history and Helton doesn’t do enough of anything to place him in the upper echelon at the position. Ultimately, he’s more Will Clark than he is Johnny Mize when considering era, and that puts him firmly in the “Hall of Very Good.” With 10 votes, though, I’ll keep him around.
Abreu has a sneaky good candidacy, with an HR total below 300 but high stolen bases, tons of walks, a solid career slash line, and nearly 60 career fWAR. JAWS has him below average, though, as a HOF’er. I’m fine with him continuing on the ballot but he’ll never get elected.
Then there is Jeff Kent, who just doesn’t quite have the offensive numbers to earn election. His WAR is well short by my standards and by JAWS. He doesn’t have the defensive pedigree to make up for it. Some years – like this one – Kent would get my vote. Down the road, if more worthy candidates emerge, I could see him getting cut from the list.
Lastly, there’s Joe Nathan, who is just ever so slightly behind Billy Wagner in all the stats listed above. We still need a more precise line for who is and who isn’t a Hall of Fame reliever. So, he’s my 10th vote this year and maybe this year only, if better candidates emerge soon.
JUST MISSED THE CUT
Mark Buehrle’s case is probably better than you think it is. He used longevity and solid pitching to rack up over 50 career fWAR. Anytime you are over 50, you’re close to HOF caliber.
That means Tim Hudson is close as well, coming in at 48.9.
Jonathan Papelbon is essentially the same as Joe Nathan. Why is Joe Nathan on and Papelbon off? It’s just the way the ballot falls. I only have 10 votes and Nathan is barely on as it is.
Jimmy Rollins, lastly, is just not there offensively. His 49.4 fWAR is noteworthy but he’s well shy of the WAR totals of the average shortstop.
That’s it. That’s my ballot. And, yes, since I’m a “vote for 10” kind of guy, the bottom names would shift around quite a bit for me, depending on who is on and who is not on the ballot in any given year.
Of this ballot group, probably only Ortiz, and Rolen will get elected. Schilling derailed his own candidacy. And Jones should be in but likely won’t make it. The writers have 10 years to debate ARod but I think he’s ultimately in.
Got your own ballot? Disagree with me? (I’m sure many will.) That’s what the comments are for!