No introduction, let’s get right to it.
My Hypothetical Ballot:
- I believe that Bagwell and Raines will be the only ones to get inducted this evening, and it’s long overdue. Bagwell wasn’t just a destroyer of worlds at the plate (.297/.408/.540, 149 wRC+ [weighted runs created plus, where 100 is average], 449 HR); he also registered a pair of 40 HR/30 SB seasons (1997, 1999) and finished with 202 stolen bases for his career. He’s seventh all-time in wins above replacement1 for first basemen and never fell under 4.0 WAR in a single season from his rookie campaign in 1991 to 2003, where he posted a disappointing 3.7 mark.
- Raines played in the shadow of Rickey Henderson, but he was still the best at what he did in the National League. According to Fangraphs’ baserunning metric, which not only factors stolen base success rate but other elements such as taking the extra base, Raines is ranked second all-time behind Rickey at 100.4. He posted a 125 career wRC+ and registered a mark above 130 in nine of his seasons. Raines doesn’t have the fancy round number of 3,000 hits, but thanks in part to a .385 on-base percentage, he reached more times than Cooperstown residents Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock, and Roberto Clemente.
- Since I started to really follow Hall of Fame voting, I’ve considered myself to be a “PED guy”. Fair or not, usage of performance enhancing drugs was accepted in that era, so I’ve accepted that as well. I also have an assumption that the offensive numbers were bloated partially because of expansion diluting the pitching pool, but that’s a research project for another day. Regardless, Bonds and Clemens were two of the best at what they did – PEDs or not – and while they won’t get in this year, it seems that they’re trending in a way that they’ll gain induction before their 10-year limit is up.
- Martinez is the greatest DH ever to play the game and has a lifetime slash of .312/.418/.515 and a career wRC+ of 147. I know that some may feel that because he didn’t play the field, he doesn’t deserve induction – which is ridiculous, considering that he had nearly twice as many plate appearances (8,672 PA) as the number of batters Trevor Hoffman faced in his career (4,388 TBF). Others think that the recently retired David Ortiz was better, even though Edgar has a 15-point edge in WAR (in almost 1,500 fewer PA) and a seven-point cushion in wRC+ (147 to 140).
- The case against Larry Walker is that he played most of his games at Coors Field. Those who believe that is a knock on Walker’s credentials must not understand park-adjusted data like wRC+, which says he was 40 percent above average (140 wRC+) for his career and had a three-year stretch from 1997-99 where he posted a 177, 159, and 167 despite those numbers getting knocked for the thin Colorado air. Regardless of ballpark, Walker could hit with the best of them, slashing .313/.405/.497 against same-handed pitching along with registering a 126 wRC+ on the road. Oh, and he wasn’t too shabby of a fielder in right, collecting seven Gold Gloves during his career.
- A model of consistency in the offensive boom of the 90s, Mussina had nine full seasons of a 3.50 earned run average or lower, a career fielding independent pitching number (3.57) lower than his career ERA (3.68) – which when adjusted to his peers, was 21 percent better than the league average according to FIP- (79) – and a healthy strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.58. He was overshadowed by guys like Pedro Martinez, the aforementioned Clemens, the Atlanta Braves’ trio, and Randy Johnson, but Mussina’s 10 years of 5.0+ WAR – including a seven-year stretch from 1995-01 where he matched or bettered that – shows that he was one of the best pitchers of his era.
- Pudge was the best catcher of his era, combining elite defense (317.1 Def score on Fangraphs, 84.9 higher than second place among catchers) with slightly above-average offensive value (104 wRC+). He had an eight-year run from 1997-04 where he was consistently above-average at the dish, despite barely reaching base via walks (5.0% career BB%). There’s the PED allegations with him as well, which I initially thought would hurt his chances, but he has a realistic shot to make it on the first ballot.
- Curt Schilling has an absolutely awful view of the world, and the incident where he tweeted out a shirt that supported lynching journalists is absolutely despicable. I honestly think because of that he might not ever make it in, but his on-field credentials warrant inclusion despite his off-the-field flaws. Just by WAR, he’s ranked as the 20th best pitcher of all-time, and that includes the early 1900s hurlers who threw 300-400+ innings every season. His postseason career was outstanding, registering a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts, including a 1.12 mark in the Diamondbacks’ run to the 2001 World Series.
- By far the toughest choice on the ballot was choosing between Manny and Vladimir Guerrero. I think both are Hall of Fame talents, and see the latter being inducted in the near future. Ramirez is another PED guy, but he’s one who failed tests and was suspended with the system in place. Despite this, I think he should be Cooperstown bound simply because was one of the greatest hitters baseball has ever seen. He slashed .312/.411/.585 for his career, had a wRC+ of 153, and bashed 555 homeruns. From 1994 to 2010, he managed to only fall below a 140 wRC+ twice (1994, 2007) and closed the Cleveland chapter of his career with seasons of 172 and 181 wRC+. His 2008 Mannywood season is one of my favorites, as he registered a 210 wRC+ and hit 17 homeruns in 53 games with the Dodgers, then slashed .520/.667/1.080 in eight postseason contests.
Who Just Missed:
- Vlad might have been the most fun hitter ever, as there wasn’t a pitch he wouldn’t swing at and get his bat on. His offensive numbers (.318/.379/.553, 449 HR, 136 wRC+) are Cooperstown-esque and he possibly had the strongest RF arm of all-time (10+ OF assists from 1997-04), but there just wasn’t enough room to fit him and Manny on my hypothetical ballot, and I decided to go with the better hitter.
- Speaking of fun hitters, maybe Gary has a case for that. We all imitated his bat wiggle growing up and for good reason, because he was a special talent at the plate. He hit 509 homeruns, walked in 13.5 percent of his plate appearances – including back-to-back years in 1996-97 where he drew a base on balls over 20 percent of the time – and posted a 141 wRC+ for his career. PED links, poor defense, and his attitude make it seem like he’ll never get into Cooperstown, but I think that he deserves it.
- I always flip-flop between wanting to support McGriff, but I do like the point that Tom Verducci made in his column about how nobody from the Steroid Era was harmed more than Tom Emanski’s favorite player. The difference between some of his statistics (both traditional and advanced) is larger than what it could be if it would have been a level playing field. (And although there is no links to McGriff and PEDs, it’s hard to be 100 percent sure of his innocence.) I don’t know if I’d ever vote for him unless there was an open spot on my hypothetical ballot, but I am (again) willing to listen to his case at least.
Previous Hypothetical Ballots:
- 2016: Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Edmonds, Griffey Jr., McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Trammell
- 2015: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Trammell
1 – WAR calculated by Fangraphs.