WHO’S GOING TO THE HALL?
It’s that time of the year again. The ballot for the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame was released this week, with several players with Yankees connections on the ballot. Some players should be prepping their speeches for Cooperstown. Others are lucky to see their names on the ballot. Whatever the case, here’s a case for every former Yankee on the ballot this year.
Mariano Rivera – First Time on Ballot, Yankee from 1995-2013
Here’s a player who should be planning his speech for Cooperstown. Rivera has made his mark on Baseball History with his bat-breaking cutter. That cutter led him to a career 2.21 Earned Run Average and become the all-time saves leader (652). He was even better in the postseason, posting a 0.70 ERA with (fittingly) 42 saves. The only question about Rivera’s candidacy is whether or not he’ll be the first player ever to be included on every ballot.
Mike Mussina – 6th Year on the Ballot, Yankee from 2001-2008
One of the most underrated players of his era, Mussina had a fantastic career. His ERA is a little higher than most hall of famers (3.68), but he more than made up for that with strong peripherals (7.1 Strikeouts per nine versus 2 walks per nine, 3.57 FIP) and a high innings. Not to mention Mussina pitched his entire career in the high offensive AL East during the steroid era. Most voters early on in his run saw him as a player without a major moment in his career. Unfortunately, he just missed being a part of two Yankees World Series teams (2000 and 2009) and came very close to a no hitter on several occasions (missed a perfect game by one batter in 2001). However, thanks to the recent statistics revolution, Mussina’s hall case is on the rise. Last year, he was on 63.5 percent of ballots, with that number most likely rising this year with a less crowded ballot. While the chances of him jumping to the necessary 75 percent are slim this year, Mussina has a good chance to jump over 70 percent. And who knows, maybe Mussina gets enough of a push to give a speech at Cooperstown this summer.
Andy Pettitte, First Year on the Ballot, Yankee from 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012, 2013
This is a more complicated case. While Pettitte certainly was a great innings eater and a core member of the Yankees’ championship run in the late 1990s, his overall numbers don’t quite meet Hall of Fame Standards, with a high ERA (3.85), no major awards (only three all-star selections), and not strong enough peripherals to impress the sabermetric community (6.6 Strikeouts per nine, 117 ERA+). Also, the fact that he admitted to HGH in 2002 due to injury might not sit well with some voters. However, due to his grace admitting this issue, Pettitte has not lost respect from the league like Clemens. Also, last season, Jack Morris, who career mirrors Pettitte (3.90 ERA, 5.8 strikeouts per nine, 105 ERA+), was elected into the Hall by the veteran’s committee after a campaign filled with heated discussions. So, Pettitte is very much a borderline candidate whose campaign should at least warrant some discussion.
Roger Clemens, 7th Year on the Ballot, Yankee from 1999-2003 +2007
So, by the numbers, Clemens should be a lock. He’s crossed many Hall of Fame thresholds (354 wins, 4672 strikeouts, 7 Cy Young Awards) and has fantastic peripheral statistics (3.12 ERA, 2.96 Strikeouts per Walk, 143 ERA+). Yet, unlike Mussina, Clemens has yet to receive more than 60 percent of votes. This is mainly due to the questions surrounding Clemens’ usage of steroids during his career. Technically, Clemens has never been proven to have taken steroids, but his name did appear on the Mitchell Report in 2007 and his former trainer claimed to have injected Clemens with steroids. Whether or not voters will loosen their opinions on steroid use is still up in the air, but for now all fans can do is wait and see if Clemens will cross the 75 percent mark.
Lance Berkman First Time on Ballot, Yankee 2010
While he didn’t have the strongest tenure as a Yankee, Berkman still had a solid career. His career slash line (.293 batting average, .406 On base percentage, .537 slugging, 144 OPS+) is comparable to sure fire hall of famer Miguel Cabrera (.315 batting average, .395 on base percentage, .551 slugging, 151 OPS+). Unlike Cabrera, Berkman lacks the benchmark Hall of Fame numbers most voters will look for (366 home runs, 1,905 hits, four top-5 MVP finishes) due to his relatively short 15-year career. Also, his weak defensive play may hinder his chances of being elected. His stat line should appeal to more analytically inclined voters, and with designated hitter Edgar Martinez on the verge of getting elected this year, Berkman may see more voters as his tenure increases.
Gary Sheffield, 5th Year on the Ballot, Yankee 2003-2005
Sheffield’s career has been mostly overlooked by voters. Despite strong offensive numbers (509 career home runs, .393 career on base percentage, .514 slugging percentage), Sheffield’s career has been marred with controversy. From his ties to PED usage to consistently fighting with ownership, Sheffield was difficult to deal with. His bat was the only thing that kept him employed. With a peak voter percentage of 13.3, Sheffield’s chances of being enshrined in Cooperstown are slim.
Andruw Jones, 2nd Year on the Ballot, Yankee 2011-2012
Overshadowed by the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. and teammate Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones has a very solid career. Not only did he put up pristine power numbers (434 home runs, .486 slugging percentage), he was a stable defensively in center field for the Braves, winning 10 Gold Gloves. His strong defense helped him earn a 62.4 WAR. However, Jones had a relatively short peak and his other offensive numbers (1933 hits, .254 batting average, .337 on-base-percentage) are not as attractive. This led voters to shy away from him last year, with Jones only appearing on 7.3 percent of ballots. That’s really a shame, especially given his strong defense. While he wasn’t as good as Griffey, Jones warrants more of a look than he’s getting right now.
Freddy Garcia, First Year on Ballot, Yankee 2011-2012
A solid starter for the bulk of his career, Garcia was always available to throw quality innings during his peak. That peak, however, was too short and not strong enough to warrant an election into Cooperstown. His career numbers (156 wins, 4.15 ERA, 107 ERA+) are nowhere near Hall of Fame levels. He still had a solid career and was a major part of the White Sox’s 2005 World Championship.
Travis Hafner, First Year on the Ballot, Yankee 2013
Yes, Travis Hafner was a Yankee. In fact, his season in New York serves as a great analogy for his career. He got off to a great start (.318 batting average, .438 on base percentage, .667 slugging percentage), then he got injured, missed a good chunk of the season (only had 19 at-bats after the all-star break) and his numbers fell suit. He certainly had some great offensive season during his career with the Indians (led the league with a .657 slugging percentage and a 181 OPS+ in 2006), but due to injuries, he never had the chance to hit at this level over his career. He was a great hitter in his peak, but he falls well short of Cooperstown.
Ted Lilly – First time on Ballot. Yankee 2000-2002
Like Garcia, Lilly was a solid innings eater and a dependable cog in the rotation for several teams. And, like Garcia, Lilly had much too short of a peak to make to post the numbers that are worthy of Cooperstown. He did manage a solid career though. He even was a part of the A’s magical Moneyball season in the second half of 2002 after the Yankees traded him.
Derek Lowe – First time on Ballot, Yankee 2012
Yes, the former Red Sox pitcher was briefly a Yankee after the Bombers signed him as a free agent after the Indians released him. His tenure with the Yankees was solid, posting a 3.04 ERA down the stretch and even making two postseason appearances for the Bombers that season. As for his overall Cooperstown resume, he’s not too strong of a case. He had a short peak and his overall stat line (4.03 ERA, 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings, 33.2 career Wins Above Replacement) are not Hall of Fame Worthy. However, at least he has a World Series Ring.
Vernon Wells – First time on the Ballot, Yankee 2013
The outfielder had some fantastic years with Toronto at the start of his career. However, Wells never was able to stay consistent and his overall slash line is far short of Cooperstown. In fact, he’s more known for not living up to the high expectations of his hefty contracts. He was a three-time all-star and will be remembered by Yankees fans for getting thrown out by current Yankee Aaron Hicks.
Kevin Youkilis – First time on the Ballot, Yankee 2013
Another famous Red Sox turned Yankee, Youkilis is fondly remembered for his odd batting stance and his ability to hit. He was called the “Greek God of Walks” in Michael Lewis’ book “Moneyball” and this patience certainly translated to the majors (.382 on base percentage). However, his short career and even shorter peak puts Youk well below Hall of Fame standards. However, his unique career will still be fondly remembered by baseball fans.