I liked making a Hall of Fame ballot post last year, so I decided to make a second one this year. In fact, let's just pencil it into the regular posts for the foreseeable future. There are few topics in the sport of baseball that are hotter than the Hall of Fame voting. The controversy mainly swirls around whether or not to vote in players from the steroid era. Some are known users, while users are speculated users. I stayed away from known steroid users on my hypothetical ballot last year last year, but would not shy away from these players if I had a vote this year.
The reason for my change? Look at the known steroid users. Read the Mitchell Report, or just Google Search steroid users and you will see that they represent a fair cross section of the baseball population. You have fringe players like Larry Bigbie and Adam Piatt. You have star pitchers like Roger Clemens and star hitters like Barry Bonds. Of course, there are players of all sorts of abilities in between those groups of players and they all used. So, really if a large section of players was using then what advantage did steroids really provide? Sure the power numbers have come down in baseball since the end of the steroid era, but when you look at a player like Barry Bonds, who has a known timeline of steroid use, the steroid years do not make or break his candidacy into the Hall of Fame. He's a Hall of Famer.
Arguments calling for a "moral take" on the Hall of Fame ballot are comical given that players like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb were far from "good" people, but yet they are no-brainer Hall of Fame players. For my money this year the bigger argument revolves around the fact that voters can only add ten players to their list of names on the ballot. It's a bit of an issue this year, and might become a bigger issue if the Baseball Writes Association continues to vote in players at a snail's pace.
Here are the players on this year's ballot:
The ballot: Moises Alou, Jeff Bagwell, Armando Benitez, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Sean Casey, Roger Clemens, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Tom Glavine, Luis Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Jeff Kent, Paul Lo Duca, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Kenny Rogers, Curt Schilling, Richie Sexson, Lee Smith, J.T. Snow, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, Mike Timlin, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker.
That's a lot of names. If I had a vote I would put them on my ballot based on the strength of their candidacy. Several of the players on the ballot would be a tough decision to decide between, but there are a few on this list who should be a slam dunk Hall of Famer.
San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates
Bonds has 762 home runs which is the all-time career Major League leader whether you like or not. JAWS rates Barry Bonds as the all-time best left-fielder ahead of Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, Carl Yastrzameski, and Pete Rose. Bonds had a career WAR of 162.5 (Ted Williams is 123.2) and an OPS+ of 182, which is actually lower than Ted Williams (higher than everyone else). Bonds also has a career OBP of .444 and is the all-time career leaders in walks. Really, I could sit here all day and make a huge list of Bonds career accomplishments and it would be never ending. The guy is a slam dunk.
Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres
If you are an anti-steroid Hall of Fame person than you should not have a problem with this vote. Maddux might have been the best pitcher of his era. At worst, he might have been behind Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. Third is not bad when those two are your competition. JAWS rates him as the tenth best starting pitcher of all-time and if you are into counting stats than you should love Maddux's 355 wins and 3,300+ strikeouts. Maddux also has a career ERA+ of 132 and a career WAR of 104. Both are very impressive numbers. Again, slam dunk no brainer Hall of Famer.
Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Houston Astros
Clemens is a lot like Maddux. Best, or close to the best, pitcher of his era. Clemens won over 300 games, struckout over 4000 batters, won a bunch of Cy Youngs, and a few World Series rings too. The "Rocket" had an ERA+ of 143 and a career WAR of 139. The real problem with Clemens has been that he has made a huge ass of himself trying to defend himself from the steroid mess. Never a real great idea. Still does not change the fact that Clemens was a great starting pitcher and deserving of the Hall of Fame.
Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Oakland A's
In my opinion, the biggest snub job of the Baseball Writers during the past five years. Piazza falls into the category of guy that people suspect of being a steroid user, but there is not any evidence he actually used. This guy belongs in the same category as the three names above him on this page. Piazza should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer and is the best catcher of his generation. One of the best offensive catchers ever. JAWS rates Piazza as the fifth best catcher of all-time behind Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, and Carlton Fisk. Piazza was a better career OPS+ than those five players, but is behind them in WAR (along with Yogi Berra). Piazza's name is keeping some pretty good company.
Atlanta Braves and New York Mets
Glavine fits in with Maddux. Steroids are not a factor here and Glavine was one of the best pitchers of his generation. If you are into the counting numbers, Glavine reached the 300 win plateau and won twenty games more than 5 times during his career. While Glavine is not the best of a generation pitcher, he's one of the better pitchers of his generation. He was an excellent control pitcher who picked on the outside corner of plate than kept moving the ball off further off the plate. JAWS has Glavine rated as the 30th best pitcher in MLB history right in front of Nolan Ryan. Two pitchers could not be further apart in style than Ryan and Glavine, but Glavine got the job done for more than a decade.
Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland A's
This is another guy who I could see the Baseball Writers "suspecting" of steroids. Thomas was on offensive lineman at Auburn before the Chicago White Sox made him a first round draft pick. Thomas hit more than 500 home runs, had a career line of .301/.419/.555, and a career OPS of .974. His OPS+ for his career was 156 and his offensive WAR was 79. I am not going to deny that Thomas was a terrible fielder. There was a reason why he spent a huge chunk of his career as a DH. JAWS rates Thomas as the ninth best first baseman ahead of Willie McCovey. Love the Donruss baseball card sign in this video...
Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland A's, and Florida Marlins
I was really impressed to see one of my favorite St. Louis sports writers, Bernie Miklasz give my man Tim Raines a little Hall of Fame love this week in his column about his Hall of Fame ballot. Basically if you love Lou Brock you should love Tim Raines more. He was an on-base machine for years. Many will point out the fact that he did not reach 3,000 hits, but we walked so much that he was on-base way more than many guys with 3,000 hits. He also stole more than 800 stolen bases winning four stolen base crowns during the 80s. If it weren't for Vince Coleman he would have won another four or five crowns.
Bagwell actually is rated higher than Thomas in the WAR ratings at 6th overall. Bagwell did not get to 500 home runs and he did not get to 3000 hits. If you ignore the counting stats and look other places he was an impressive player. Bagwell is mainly punished in Hall of Fame voting for having a short career. His OPS+ was 149 and his WAR was 79.5. Both very impressive figures. Bagwell should have been in the Hall last year, but again falls into the category of "suspected" steroid user because he played during the wrong era.
I am not sure why Biggio is not in the Hall. He's got great counting number stats and if you are into the more complicated math he's great there too. Bill James once thought he was the best player in the game. Biggio started his career as a catcher, switched to second base, ended up in the outfield, and then returned back to second base. He was a great player at every position he played. He crossed 3,000 hits and ended his career with more than 660 doubles which is good for fifth all-time. Should have already been in the Hall.
Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals
I will go with a pot stirrer for my final candidate. McGwire was one of the greatest home run hitters of his generation. It's about the only stat he has in his candidacy which makes him a person who is likely to wait a long time to see the Hall. JAWS has him rated as the 16th best first baseman of all-time which puts him ahead of Tony Perez, Harmon Killebrew, and Orlando Cepeda. Big Mac deserves a shot in my opinion.
If more than 10 players were allowed on a ballot I could have also voted for: Larry Walker, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, and Sammy Sosa. Just my two cents. Who's on your Hall of Fame ballot?