Who belongs in the Hall of Fame in 2013? Here are a few thoughts
I’m always fascinated by the Hall of Fame ballot. Each year it contains players that make me go, “Huh, I’d forgotten about him.” Which seems like it should automatically disqualify that person from consideration, right, because how could you forget about a legitimate Hall of Famer?
Of course, most of those players will appear on only one ballot. To remain on the ballot they must receive at least 5 percent of the votes, and many won’t receive that many. Some may not have a single vote cast for them.
A player is elected if he receives at least 75 percent of the vote. As long as he receives at least 5 percent of the vote, he stays on the ballot for 15 years. The voting is conducted by writers who have been members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) for at least 10 years.
Who is on the ballot
This year’s ballot contains 37 players, including 24 first-timers.
Returning to the ballot (with their year on the ballot) are Jeff Bagwell (3), Edgar Martinez (4), Don Mattingly (13), Fred McGriff (4), Mark McGwire (7), Jack Morris (14), Dale Murphy (15), Rafael Palmeiro (3), Tim Raines (6), Lee Smith (11), Alan Trammell (12), Larry Walker (3) and Bernie Williams (2).
First timers on the ballot are Sandy Alomar Jr., Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Roger Clemens, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Mike Piazza, Reggie Sanders, Curt Schilling, Aaron Sele, Sammy Sosa, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, David Wells, Rondell White and Woody Williams.
Surprising names on the ballot
Did anyone else, when reading the list of first-timers, have to pause to remember someone? For me, it was Woody Williams. Took me a moment to place him as a pitcher for the Blue Jays and Padres. There are others on the first-time list that obviously won’t receive many votes. Nice players, some had a few good years, but they will never have a plaque in Cooperstown.
One thing that struck me on the list of players returning to the ballot is that it’s tough to get elected if your last name starts with M. Six of the 13 returnees fall into that category.
Who I would vote for
Unfortunately, I don’t qualify to vote for the Hall of Fame. But that won’t stop me from listing who I would vote for if I did. Voters can list a maximum of 10 players on their ballots, although there is no minimum number – in other words, a voter could turn in a blank ballot.
Here is who I would vote for, with a brief explanation why.
Don Mattingly – I’m not sure if Mattingly really belongs in the Hall of Fame, but he had virtually identical numbers to Kirby Puckett in virtually the exact same time period and Puckett is a member of the Hall. I wrote an entire hub about this, linked below.
Jeff Bagwell – He was a power hitter playing most of his career in a park not well suited for power hitters. He hit 449 career home runs and 488 doubles (which probably would have been closer to 460-500 if not for the strike in 1994). That combination of doubles and homers is rarer than you’d think. Here is a list of players with more than 449 homers and 488 doubles: Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Eddie Murray, Manny Ramirez, Dave Winfield, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols, Frank Thomas, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson and Chipper Jones. Bagwell was also a durable player, playing in 156 or more games in a season 10 times, including in all 162 four times.
Craig Biggio – Teams always like to be strong up the middle – catcher, second base, shortstop and centerfield. In his career, Biggio played three of those four. He had 3,060 career hits, good for 21st all time and he is fifth all time in doubles with 668 (only Tris Speaker, Pete Rose, Stan Musial and Ty Cobb had more). He also had surprising home run power, belting 291 for his career, tying him with Jim Wynn, one less than Rusty Staub and just 10 fewer than Rogers Hornsby. He also stole 414 bases. A very solid Hall of Fame career.
Roger Clemens – Clemens was accused of using steroids, swore he didn’t, was accused of lying about it and taken to court, where a jury acquitted him. As I wrote in a previous hub, this makes it hard to classify him as a steroid user. Given that, let’s look at Clemens’ numbers: Wins 354, ninth all time; strikeouts 4,672, third all time; games started 707, seventh all time; innings pitch 4,916, 16th all time; shutouts 46, 26th all time; and if you believe in the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stat, his is 133, third all time (behind only Cy Young and Walter Johnson). In addition, he won seven Cy Young awards and one MVP. He had the lowest ERA in the league seven times and a career ERA of 3.12. Simply put, he was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the major leagues.
Barry Bonds – While his issues with steroid use seem well documented, he was never caught and suspended for it. By all accounts, if he did use steroids, he started in 1999 in response to the big homer numbers put up by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Up to that point he had hit 411 career homers, 403 doubles and had stolen 445 bases. His .966 career OPS after 1998 would have been 15th best all time. Assuming he would have had a normal, non-steroid enhanced aging process, it’s still likely he would finished with around 525 homers, 500 doubles and 500 stolen bases, certainly Hall of Fame worthy. Yes, he was a jerk and I didn’t like him. But Ted Williams and Ty Cobb were jerks, too.
And those are the five I would list. I could make a case for Edgar Martinez, who had a great career as a DH, and Sammy Sosa, who belted 609 homers but was fairly one-dimensional. Curt Schilling had some great seasons, although some not so great years too. He also had some outstanding post-season performances (although people forget that if Mariano Rivera had been able to nail down the save Schilling would have been the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series). Mike Piazza was one of the best hitting catchers of all time but really wasn’t very good as a catcher.
Of course, my votes mean nothing to the actual Hall of Fame. I’m sure the actual voters will draw some different conclusions. But one thing I think we’ll all agree on is that we’re not voting for Woody Williams and his career 132-116 record and 4.19 ERA.