MLB Hall of Fame Ballot Part 3: Just Misses
By Patrick Gunn
Yesterday, I revealed my Hall of Fame Ballot for 2021, and it was a difficult ballot to make. Even in a weaker season, there were several players who just missed going on and a few players I removed last minute. I’m going to discuss a few of the players that missed out below
Before getting into that, I just want to talk about Todd Helton’s candidacy a little more. I apologize for brushing off his DWIs and still saying he’s a Hall of Famer. Having two shows a pattern and it’s not something that should be taken lightly. I mentioned it in my piece because I feel like it’s a part of Helton’s story that rarely gets mentioned in his case and that it is a serious issue.
My editor in chief, Paul Semendinger, gave a great reason against Helton’s campaign in the comments of my article. Needless to say, I will take that more seriously in future years discussing Helton’s candidacy, and I will do more research on Helton when considering him as a person.
In terms of character, I removed two players – Andruw Jones and Jeff Kent – from my ballot for character issues. Namely, Jones’ domestic assault case and Kent’s decision to donate money in support of Prop 8, a bill that kept gay marriage illegal in California, in 2008. Those were issues that I could not ignore and I will not be voting for either player in the future.
Omar Vizquel is another player with serious domestic assault issues who I would not support for the same reason (not to mention he’s not even a Hall of Fame player, in my opinion). Curt Schilling also fell off my ballot because, well, his comments about the media and the election and everything on his Twitter are harmful (to say the least).
With those out of the way, let’s get to the other players who just missed that I would consider voting for in the future.
BARRY BONDS & ROGER CLEMENS:
I went back and forth on their cases. Both two of the greatest players of all-time, with serious steroid allegations and long legal cases regarding their cases.
So, what was the difference between these two players and Andy Pettitte? Well, I respect Pettitte for coming forward and clarifying him taking HGH, whereas Bonds and Clemens’ legal cases did nothing to clarify their cases. Bonds’ case ended out of court without a definite conclusion other than the fact that he was charged with obstruction of justice. Judges ruled that Clemens was not guilty of his charges despite a difficult trial.
There is a part of me that feels jilted that Bonds and Clemens broke records while potentially cheating, but there’s not enough evidence to support that claim. I also hate leaving players off my ballot for “allegedly” cheating; that argument kept Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell out of the Hall for several years. With that said, those players did not have long, arduous legal cases about their potential steroid usage.
I respect other voters who chose to put Bonds and Clemens on their ballots, I may “vote” for them next year. For now, I just feel like there is too much ambiguity to say yes to either player.
I hope that Buehrle stays on the ballot another season because I think he’s got a decent case. He threw over 200 innings for 14 consecutive seasons, averaging 4.2 Wins Above Replacement per season. He also had a 3.81 ERA over that stretch, with a low walk rate of 2 BB/9.
Not to mention Buehrle has a great reputation as a fantastic defensive pitcher, helped the White Sox win a World Series in 2005, and threw both a no-hitter and a perfect game. Legitimately, Buehrle has been a part of some of Chicago’s most memorable moments in sports over the past 20 years.
The reason I kept Buehrle off my ballot is that while he pitched consistently, he never threw great. His 4.10 FIP screams average, while his low strikeout rate of 5.1 K/9 sells him as just a decent player who lasted a long time instead of a true Hall of Famer, with a decent ERA+ (117) rather than an otherworldly one. I would be willing to reopen his case, but Buehrle just misses my ballot for now.
Like Buehrle, Hudson is another pitcher from the 2000s era who also has a decent case. He has a better ERA (3.49) and FIP (3.79) than Buerhle, with a long career of success with Atlanta, Oakland, and Atlanta.
My issue with Hudson is his low strikeout rate (6.0 K/9) and a few seasons of dominance. Also, his ERA+ (120) is not too much stronger than Buerhle’s while he has a lower WAR overall (56.5 on Baseball-Reference for Hudson, vs. 60.0 for Buhrle). Overall, I think Hudson has a slightly better case than Buerhle but he’s right now in the camp of good, not great.
It’s nice to see Hunter getting four early votes for the Hall via Ryan Thibodaux’s ballot tracker. He had a solid career and a great reputation. I wish I could get more enthusiastic about his case. Hunter’s slash line (.277 BA, .331 OBP, .461 slugging percentage) are good but not Hall-worthy, and his OPS+ (110) suggests that he played closer to a league-average player.
Defensively, he won a lot of Golden Gloves, but his defensive Baseball-Reference WAR (4.0) paints him as a solid but not spectacular player. Also, his overall WAR (50.6) and JAWS (40.7) puts him below the average Hall of Fame Center Fielder (which has a WAR of 71.3 and a JAWS of 58.0).
Hunter is a genuinely great human being who had by all means a great career. But he’s not a Hall of Famer.