The Hidden Saving Grace for Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and the BBHOF
With my mind on the Hall of Fame after seeing Derek Jeter’s recent ceremony at Cooperstown, I got to thinking about the upcoming Class of 2022 ballot.
On the ballot will be 4 former players who are in their last induction cycle: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa. While Bonds (61.8%), Clemens (61.6%), and Schilling (71.1%) have all gotten close to induction their cases are going to be much more interesting on the ballot.
However, if they don’t get inducted by the BBWAA these players may still make the Hall of Fame sooner rather than later. Here is how:
Part I. Are they Hall of Famers?
Separate these players from their names and just consider the statistics as they are. Let me give you a list of each players metrics and let’s see if you think these numbers are worthy of the Hall of Fame (they are):
Bonds: .298/.444/.607 (1.051 OPS/182 OPS+), 2935 Hits, 762 HR’s, 1996 RBI’s, 162.7 bWAR
Clemens: 354-184 Record (0.657 WP%), 3.12 ERA (143 ERA+), 1.173 WHIP, 4916.2 IP, 4672 K, 139.2 bWAR
Schilling: 216-146 Record (0.597 WP%), 3.46 ERA (127 ERA+), 1.137 WHIP, 3261.0 IP, 3116 K, 79.5 bWAR
To make it even more clear, according to Hall of Fame metrics and awards won:
Bonds: 7x NL MVP, 14x All-Star, 8x Gold Glove, 12x Silver Slugger, 340 HOFm (Average HOF ~ 100), 77 HOFs (Average HOF ~ 50), 69 Black Ink (Avg HOF ~ 27), 289 Gray Ink (Avg HOF ~ 144)
Clemens: 1x AL MVP, 7x Cy Young, 2x Triple Crown, 11x All-Star, 332 HOFm, 72 HOFs, 100 Black Ink, 320 Gray Ink
Schilling: 3x Top-5 Cy Young Finishes, 6x All-Star, 171 HOFm, 46 HOFs, 42 Black Ink, 205 Gray Ink
So, regardless of your opinions about steroids, personalities, or off-the-field circumstances, the discussion shouldn’t be whether or not they had playing careers worthy of the Hall of Fame. It’s evidently clear that they all did.
I want this to be stressed because of the main point of this post: how these guys will make the Hall of Fame if the BBWAA writers do not elect them when the ballot goes up at the end of this year. It’s clear they have the on-the-field metrics to warrant their inclusion among the games greatest players.
Tangent I. The Beauty of the Football Hall of Fame
The problem with the ballots for the Baseball Hall of Fame is the thing that makes the Football Hall of Fame and their induction process so much better. No, I’m not going to complain about the limit of up-to 10 votes per ballot and the strategic voting that is perceived as necessary for voters to keep on-the-cusp players on the ballot while not voting for obvious Hall of Famers (which can be seen with every member of the BBHOF outside of Mariano Rivera).
The problem with the ballot is the character clause. It’s used as a convenient excuse by BBWAA writers to purposefully not vote for players (see above) who should clearly be in the Hall of Fame. To me, what happened on the field is most important.
The Football Hall of Fame does not have a character clause. O.J. Simpson is in their hall of fame. As a player, O.J. Simpson deserved to be- and rightfully is- a hall of fame player. Regardless of what he did off the field.
I’d highly recommend that people watch this 22-minute video from NFL Films about the voting process into the Football Hall of Fame. In it they discuss the importance of the playing career of each considered athlete. That’s something I wish the BBHOF cared strictly about as well.
PART II. The Veterans Committee – Today’s Game (1988 to Present)
Now, the beauty of the Baseball Hall of Fame is the various committees that meet to make sure that players from all periods of time are considered for the BBHOF for when their time on the ballot is over. It helps to make sure that players who weren’t appreciated in their time can one day get into Cooperstown. (*cough* *cough* Thurman Munson and Graig Nettles)
For the players above in their 10th year on the ballot, if they miss induction for the Class of 2022 they will immediately be eligible for induction with the Today’s Game committee. That committee will be comprised of a mixture of 16 people Hall of Famers, executives, and veteran media members. These people often played with, coached, scouted, signed, or followed these players closely. This more intimate knowledge of players often helps induction odds for those players no longer on the ballot.
Now, the committee will deliberate between a variety of players whose careers took place between 1988 to today. Here is a list of the 5 highest batters and pitchers from 1988-2021 by fWAR who are not yet in the BBHOF and could be considered by the committee:
Barry Bonds – 155.8 fWAR
Rafael Palmeiro – 69.6 fWAR
Jim Edmonds – 64.5 fWAR
Kenny Lofton – 62.4 fWAR
Mark McGwire – 61.5 fWAR
Roger Clemens – 112.4 fWAR
Curt Schilling – 79.8 fWAR
Kevin Brown – 76.3 fWAR
David Wells – 56.9 fWAR
Chuck Finley – 55.6 fWAR
So, if the committee was looking to select the best players to put into the Baseball Hall of Fame (or at least deliberate on their cases), it would make sense to include each of Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling as they are the Top-3 by fWAR (and bWAR) who will be eligible for their consideration by the next time they vote.
Why this is so important is because the Today’s Game committee is meeting at the 2022 MLB Winter Meetings. While Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling may miss being voted into the 2022 Hall of Fame class, they each have an incredibly good shot at the Class of 2023.