Hall of Fame Musings
With all that’s going on in the world and now with the Yankees, it’s easy to forget that the 2021 Hall of Fame voting will be announced in a week.
It’s a flawed ballot, with three unpopular players (Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds) in their ninth year of eligibility, bunching at the top within shouting distance of 75% threshold. As of the latest accounting of the Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker (http://www.bbhoftracker.com/ ), which tabulates publicly revealed ballots, here’s the leaders with about 38% of the voting disclosed:
Schilling – 74.5% Clemens – 71.8% Bonds – 72.5% Scott Rolen (4th year) – 64.4% Todd Helton (3rd year) – 54.4%
An interesting historical note: omitting the current candidates, every player who reached at least 50% in voting eventually were inducted, with the sole exception of Gil Hodges. So, history would indicate that all of these players will be likely be getting a plaque.
Alas, as we know there are some unique cases here. What will happen?
Here are my thoughts about the players on the ballot. I do not get a vote, but it didn’t stop me from indicating how I would vote if given the opportunity.
Schilling – I know he’s a bit of a pariah, at his own doing, but when you look up “clutch” in the dictionary there’s his picture – 11-2, 2.43 career postseason. This in addition to a 216 win, 127 ERA+ career. He’s an interesting case, having garnered all of his career All-Star, Cy Young and MVP consideration after age thirty. Reluctantly gets my vote. Clemens and Bonds – I lump them together. We know both had legendary careers. Both are strongly suspected of PED use. Neither failed a PED test. Both played well during the limited portion of their careers which included PED testing. If Joe Torre and perhaps eventually Dusty Baker are HOF managers, is it fair to deny Clemens and Bonds, who were part of their manager’s success? They get my vote. I’m not excited about it though. Omar Vizquel – A renown wizard in the field, he received 52% of the vote last year, his third on the ballot. That seemed to position him for eventual enshrinement. I’m not sure he’s deserving of that though, as there are more than a thousand MLB players with an OPS+ higher than his career mark of 82. Recent domestic abuse allegations hurt his candidacy, and per the HOF tracker, he’s losing votes. No vote from me.
Scott Rolen – Definitely gets my vote. He’s long been a favorite of mine. Rookie of the Year in 1997, eight time All-Star, eight time Gold Glover. He will likely be the biggest mover and shaker of this election, increasing his vote from last year’s 35%. His six remaining years of eligibility should be more than enough to gain Hall of Fame entry.
Billy Wagner – Wagner’s 2.31 ERA, 422 saves and 187 ERA+ jump out at you. Can a pitcher with 903 career innings and poor postseason performance gain entry to Cooperstown? I don’t think so.
Gary Sheffield – A feared hitter in his prime, disclosed that he used PED unknowingly, was a part of BALCO chatter. He’s in his seventh year on the ballot, currently at 46.3% and if he gets “in the neighborhood” as he approaches his last years of consideration I think he’ll be scrutinized higher. I’ll punt this year. Todd Helton – Does former Rockie teammate Larry Walker’s induction open the door for Helton? The first ten years of his career produced an unworldly slash of .332/.432/.585, five All-Star games, three Gold Gloves. Yea, it’s Colorado, but you still have to be pretty darned good to sustain that level of production for a long period of time. I’d vote for him.
Manny Ramirez – What a hitter. Sadly, violated the PED policy twice, so there’s no further consideration from me. Jeff Kent – This is Kent’s eighth year on the ballot and last year was his highest ballot count – 27.5%. For a player with a .290/.356/.500 slash over a very good seventeen-year career (spent mostly at second base) and a decent hardware collection (MVP award, All-Star selections, Silver Sluggers) that seems a bit curious. He’s got my vote though.
Andruw Jones – I’ve joked that I can’t vote for him because of the damage he caused in the 1996 World Series. Averaged 34 homers per season in his 20s, winning nine Gold Gloves. Among the best fielding center fielders in MLB history. His career fell off a cliff at age 31 when he left the Braves. I’m going to think about it another year. Sammy Sosa – The playing numbers are impressive – 609 career numbers. The recent numbers – 13.9% voting in 2020, his eighth year of eligibility, are not. I struggle with Sosa and will continue to another year.
Andy Pettite – Andy Pettite is one of my favorites. His Game Five effort in the 1996 World Series is one of my favorite games of all time. His career numbers resemble those of Jack Morris, who is enshrined. Admitted/proven PED usage puts some doubt over achievements for me, which in this instance takes a borderline case and makes it a very difficult “no”.
Bobby Abreu – It’s amazing how a lifetime .291/.395/.475 with 2470 career hits, 288 home runs and 400 stolen bases gets so little respect. I know he wasn’t a particularly good outfielder, but he did a lot of things really well for a long time. He probably won’t get Cooperstown fame, but he gets my vote.
Tim Hudson – Hudson presents a really interesting case. His career numbers (222 wins, 120 ERA+) compare well to Schilling’s, but he doesn’t have the peak to for me to vote for him.
Mark Buehrle – Would be definite inductee for the “Hall of Very Good for a Long Time.” Had 214 wins, 117 ERA+, and was a model of consistency, throwing over 200 innings every season from 2001-2014 (and 198.2 in 2015). Five time All-Star, but had Cy Young votes in only one season. No vote from me….this year. Torii Hunter – Real good player, real good guy. Is sitting at 4.7% in his first year on the ballot. I’d rather vote for him than some others, but can’t do it. No vote from me.
Dan Haren – Started thirty or more games eleven seasons in a row, which is a pretty impressive 21st century achievement. Nice career, but he would not get my vote for the HOF.
Barry Zito – Zito was an ace from 2001-2003, averaging 18 wins, 225 innings and a 3.17 ERA per season, taking the Cy Young in 2002. Parlayed that into a $126 million contract with the Giants in 2006 and was 63-80, 4.62 ERA during his tenure in San Francisco. Pitched well in the 2012 postseason as the Giants won the World Championship. Not enough for my vote though. Aramis Ramirez – His numbers show a better career than I remember. Batting .283 with 2303 career hits and 386 homers puts him in a class not occupied by many MLB players, but not enough for Cooperstown. Shane Victorino – A great story, a Rule 5 player who turns into an All-Star, Gold Glover and World Series Champion. Fine career, but not Cooperstown material.
AJ Burnett – I’ll always fondly remember his masterpiece in Game Two of the 2009 World Series. Won 164 games and made $144 million over his career. Not a Hall-of Famer.
Nick Swisher – Swish was a fine Yankee. Hall of Famer in attitude and spirit, but not on the field.
LaTroy Hawkins – Failed as a starter, but then carved out a nice sixteen-years out of the bullpen. No vote from me. Michael Cuddyer – Had some nice high points in his career, including a batting title in 2013. Not enough of those high points to get my vote. While Schilling, Clemens and Bonds are close, there’s a real chance nobody gets elected. Remember, last year all three were trending higher with their prior publicly revealed ballots than their final voting. Here’s a thought: if they all fall shy this year they are joined by Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz next year in what may be the most disliked slate of all time. It would then be final decision time for Schilling, Clemens and Bonds.
What in interesting 2022 induction ceremony it could be.
Thankfully, we’ll have 2020 inductees Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller to honor this summer.