My Hall of Fame Ballot
by Owen Hetherington
January 2, 2022
With Major League Baseball engaged in a lockout this offseason, there has been more concentration on the Hall of Fame debate, especially on Twitter and other social media platforms. The Hall of Fame ballot is always a talking point of the offseason, but this year’s ballot is arguably the most controversial in the game’s history.
On January 25, the BBWAA will announce the results of its 2022 Hall of Fame vote in Cooperstown. There is plenty of baggage for great players on the ballot this year, and quite frankly, I do not envy the writers who must decide who is enshrined in Cooperstown. Nevertheless, I am going to go through the process of selecting players on the Hall of Fame ballot and justify my decisions.
Attempting to minimize the 30-player ballot to a maximum of 10 selections is a challenge. All 30 players on the ballot had special careers in their own unique ways. Each player achieved greatness on the diamond in different ways, but I was able to eliminate 13 players from consideration. With all due respect to the following players and fans, I do not believe these 13 players had Hall of Fame caliber careers.
· Bobby Abreu
· Carl Crawford
· Prince Fielder
· Ryan Howard
· Tim Hudson
· Torii Hunter
· Tim Linceucum
· Justin Morneau
· Jake Peavy
· A.J. Pierzynski
· Jimmy Rollins
· Mark Teixeira
· Omar Vizquel
Trimming the Ballot Even Further
After initial eliminations, there are 17 remaining players who I believe are worthy Hall of Fame candidates. As we all know, voters can select 10 players, which apparently Steve Marcus, who has submitted a blank ballot for the second consecutive year, has yet to figure out.
To start, the first player I’m going to cut from the ballot is Curt Schilling. Many voters believe the character clause is enough of a justifiable reason to remove Schilling from consideration. However, I am removing him from consideration because he asked to be removed from the ballot after not receiving the 75% threshold last year.
Do I think Schilling is a worthy Hall of Fame pitcher? Absolutely. But, in a crowded ballot, I don’t believe someone should be selected to the Hall of Fame if they ask not to be. He seems to be at peace with his decision.
Three relief pitchers that were initially included after trimming my ballot down were Johnathan Papelbon, Billy Wagner, and Joe Nathan. Among pitchers with 900 IP, Wagner is first in strikeout rate, and has more strikeouts than Mariano Rivera despite a difference of over 300 innings between them. Wagner’s 2.31 ERA is the lowest among retired LHP with at least 500 IP in the live ball era. In my opinion, Wagner is a safe vote for the Hall.
Joe Nathan also pitched in over 900 innings, but had less strikeouts, more walks, a higher ERA, and higher FIP than Wagner, which is why he was left off my ballot. Papelbon’s main issue is pitching under 800 innings. Papelbon finished with 725.2 IP, which is less innings pitched than any current Hall of Famer. For this reason, Papelbon was also eliminated from my ballot.
With a few more names to eliminate, I wanted to look at the starting pitchers. Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Mark Buehrle were all aces for World Series winning teams. Throughout his 16-year career, Buehrle put together an impressive 214 wins, including a perfect game and a no-hitter. He was a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner. While Buehrle did manage to win a World Series, his performance on the biggest stage of the game will not help his Hall of Fame case, as he racked up a 4.11 postseason ERA and 4.91 World Series ERA. For this reason, I eliminated him from my ballot.
Andy Pettitte is an interesting candidate. On the “yes” side you have a 256-game winner who contributed to 5 World Championships and 8 pennants. On the “no” side, you have a pitcher with a career ERA of 3.85 who never won a Cy Young Award, was only selected to 3 All-Star squads, and has a link to Performance Enhancing Drugs. However, Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case is simple. Whether you use wins, or WAR, or ERA+, he’s a second-tier Hall of Famer but above a solid 20 pitchers who already have plaques in Cooperstown. Pettitte helped the Yankees win far more than he caused them to lose. Pettitte holds the all-time postseason records for wins (19), innings pitched (276.2), and games started (44) and was a member of five World Series Championship teams. Pettitte gets the nod from me and is in my eyes a worthy Hall of Famer.
Final Ballot Selection Process
At this point, there were 13 players left on my ballot. Instead at looking at players to leave off, I decided to look for players that should be on my final ballot.
Scott Rolen was an easy choice for the Hall of Fame as he is one of six third basemen to accumulate over 300 home runs, 2,000 hits, and an OPS+ above 120, joining the likes of all-time greats George Brett, Chipper Jones, Eddie Mathews, Ron Santo, and Mike Schmidt.
Todd Helton was another easy choice for me, as he posted a 133 career OPS+ while playing in the hitter friendly environment Coors Field, which to me validates his high counting numbers.
Andruw Jones has the reputation of one of the greatest defensive center fielders of all time, ranking in the top two in Total Zone, DRS, and UZR, and hit over 400 home runs, locking himself on the ballot as well.
David Ortiz hit over 500 home runs and had a career OPS+ above 140, a mark that only 20 other players surpassed. He’s a 10-time All-Star and 7-time Silver Slugger at designated hitter. Ortiz totaled 1,192 extra base hits (8th all-time), 541 home runs (17th all-time), 1,768 RBI (23rd all-time) and 632 doubles (12th all-time). During 85 postseason games over nine seasons with the Twins and Red Sox, Ortiz hit .289 with 22 doubles, 17 homers and 61 RBI in 85 games. He’s a three time World Series Champion and a clear candidate for the Hall.
New on the ballot this year is Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season for steroid use. While I don’t condone his choice of steroid use, the numbers speak for themselves. He was a three-time American League Most Valuable Player and finished in the Top Ten of the AL MVP voting in seven other seasons. Rodriguez was a 14-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger at shortstop and third base. He ranks fourth all-time in RBI (2,086), fourth in home runs (696), seventh in extra base hits (1,275), seventh in total bases (5,813), eighth in runs scored (2,021), 19th in at-bats (10,566), 22nd in hits (3,115), 27th in slugging percentage (.550), 27th in games played (2,784), 33rd in doubles (548) and 36th in walks (1,338). Whether you like it or not, A-Rod is a Hall of Famer.
Manny Ramirez is also another candidate that has dealt with suspensions from steroids. In major league history, only 8 players have had over 2,500 hits, over 500 home runs, and had a batting average over .300 for their career; Henry Aaron, Miguel Cabrera, Jimmie Foxx, Willie Mays, Mel Ott, Manny Ramirez, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams. Ramirez was one of the most consistent hitters for most of his 19 seasons in the big leagues. His career 81.8 offensive WAR ranks fifth among all left fielders. This puts him behind only Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, and Pete Rose. Even with horrid advanced defensive metrics, he is still eighth in overall WAR among left fielders. There have been 282 players with 8,000-plus plate appearances and Ramirez ranks top-15 in slugging (.585), OPS (.996), and OPS+ (154) among them. Bonds and Frank Thomas are the only players to debut in the last 50 years and log at least 8,000 plate appearances that have an OPS+ higher than Ramirez’s 154. Ramirez is a clear Hall of Famer.
Unlike Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were not suspended during their career for steroids but have been the poster boys for the steroid era in Major League Baseball. The stats that Bonds and Clemens put up would make them easy choices for the Hall of Fame, but the steroids and other off the field issues for Bonds and Clemens are currently keeping them out.
Both Bonds and Clemens get the nod for me to be in the Hall of Fame since Bud Selig was elected to the Hall of Fame after his retirement, despite turning a blind eye to steroids during his tenure as commissioner. If Selig can get in with the steroid controversy as a part of his legacy, then so should Bonds and Clemens.
The final choices for my ballot are the following: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, David Ortiz, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, and Billy Wagner.