Major League Baseball's off-season has frozen due to the lockout, but there are lots of baseball-related topics to discuss. Hall of Fame votes are on the horizon and there are fifty players up for enshrinement across three different ballots. Let's take a look at the candidates:
Early Baseball Era (pre-1950)
Bill Dahlen ranks ninth all-time among shortstops in career WAR, ahead of recent inductees Derek Jeter and Alan Trammell. His career total of 75.2 is 50th all-time among all non-pitchers. He gets my vote.
I've said before that I know next to nothing about the Negro Leagues, certainly not enough to have an educated opinion on which players do or do not deserve a plaque in Cooperstown. I'd vote for Buck O'Neil for his lifetime contributions to the game of baseball. Donaldson, Fowler, Harris, Johnson, Redding, or Scales may be every bit as deserving as any pre-integration inductee.
Lefty O'Doul won two batting titles in his six full seasons and finished his 11-year career with a batting average of .349. That's the fourth-highest mark in major league history. However he played just 970 games and his 1,140 career hits are far too low a total for even a "big Hall" ballot.
Allie Reynolds won six World Series with the Yankees in the mid-20th century, earning two top-three finishes in AL MVP voting before the Cy Young Award was a thing. His old-school stats (wins, ERA) are impressive but his strikeout to walk ratio and WAR totals are pedestrian for a Hall of Fame finalist.
Golden Days Era (1950-1969)
✔Dick AllenThis is a fantastic ballot. It appears that Dick Allen has the best chance of being selected from this group. His 1,848 career hits are a low total for a Hall of Famer, but the three-time slugging champ produced plenty of power in an era that lacked the long ball. These "golden era" greats have been scrutinized for decades, but Allen has enough momentum to earn 75% of the votes this time around.
Ken Boyer has the highest career WAR of any player on this ballot. His 62.8 total ranks 14th all time among third basemen (12th if you count Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez as designated hitters.) The 1964 NL MVP was an 11-time All-Star and 5-time Gold Glove winner, although those accolades mean less than they did 35 years ago when he was struggling to earn 20% of the BBWAA vote.
Gil Hodges was one Veterans' Committee vote away from induction (for that matter, so was Allie Reynolds). Being a standout run producer for the 1950s Dodgers helps his case, and I'd give him an extra point for managing the 1969 "miracle" Mets to a World Series victory. However his modest WAR total as a first baseman has been surpassed by modern stars from Albert Pujols to Carlos Delgado.
Jim Kaat is 31st all time in wins and one of the best fielding pitchers the game has ever seen. His strikeout to walk ratio is very good, though he averaged less than 100 whiffs per season. He also gave up a ton of hits and his ERA+ in a pitcher-friendly era is a modest 108. I am impressed that a player whose greatest contributions were classified as pre-1969 pitched effectively until 1983!
We all know Roger Maris as the single-season home run king (at least in the pre-PED era.) He won back-to-back MVP awards on a team with Mickey Mantle in his prime, and earned seven All-Star invites. However his 38.3 career WAR is the lowest of any player on this ballot and his 275 career round-trippers rank below 41 right fielders including Reggie Sanders, Tim Salmon, and Ruben Sierra.
Minnie Minoso could be a dark horse candidate to earn enshrinement. One of the greatest players in White Sox history, Minoso's career spanned an astounding five decades. His career .387 on-base % is the highest of any player on this ballot and his 53.8 WAR ranks 20th all-time among left fielders.
Danny Murtaugh managed the Pirates for fifteen seasons, leading the team to World Series titles in 1960 and 1971. I'd mistakenly assumed he already was a Hall of Famer before researching my All-Time Teams series. Murtaugh's .540 (regular season) winning percentage isn't eye-popping, but it is equal to that of Terry Francona - who also has two rings.
Tony Oliva won three batting titles in his eleven full seasons with the Twins. He led the AL in hits five times from 1964-1970 and his career .304 batting average is the highest of any player on this ballot. His overall career totals are more impressive than Maris - even with 55 fewer home runs, their career slugging averages are dead even. That said, his 43 WAR ranks well below several non-HOFers at his position including Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith, and Rocky Colavito.
If Billy Pierce pitched for the Yankees, he'd have been enshrined long ago. The White Sox ace finished his career with a near-equal amount of strikeouts in a near-equal amount of starts as New York's legendary lefty Whitey Ford, and he's not far behind in wins or WAR. While his contemporary has six World Series rings and a plaque in Cooperstown, Pierce's lack of accolades hurts his candidacy.
Maury Wills brought back the stolen base, which had been dormant since the dead-ball era. No National Leaguer swiped 50 bags in a season from 1924 to 1959. Wills topped the half-century mark in 1960, then set a modern-era record with 104 steals two years later. His base-running earned him NL MVP honors that season, but his lack of power resulted in nearly identical on-base and slugging averages (.330/.331)
I'm personally pulling for Hodges, Oliva and Boyer to get in - though I wouldn't mind Minoso or Pierce. Since it's so hard to separate one or two of them from the rest of the pack I'd be surprised if anyone other than Dick Allen earns enough votes from the committee.
Now for the BBWAA Ballot. There are thirty names on this year's list, and unlike in past years there aren't a lot of average players who hung around for the requisite ten years. Nearly all of these players were stars at some point in their careers. Let's look at each player position by position:
Starting Pitchers: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Tim Lincecum
Timmy! Three rings, two Cy Young Awards, four All-Star nods.. has it really been five years since Lincecum last pitched? Wow, time flies. He sure looked like a Hall of Famer those first few years. Peavy has some hardware, too: a Cy Young, two rings, and the pitching triple crown in 2007. Hudson won more games than John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez - but he never won a Cy Young or a World Series. Buehrle somehow has more WAR than David Ortiz and Sammy Sosa. If he'd pitched into his forties he'd have a real shot as a Jim Kaat/Tommy John kind of candidate for the 21st century. Pettitte has the postseason pedigree, but he's probably on the bubble even if you overlook his admission of PED use.
Fun fact about Curt Schilling - while many (including Schill himself) believe that the BBWAA writers are punishing him for espousing extreme political views.. his vote totals have gone up in each of the last four elections. He could easily get the "final ballot bump" this winter if he didn't insist on giving writers a reason to exclude him. Roger Clemens will get in on the same day that 75% of the voters decide to ignore steroid use, lying about steroid use in front of Congress, and blaming one's spouse/friend/teammate for said steroid use.
Relief Pitchers: Billy Wagner, Joe Nathan, Jonathan PapelbonWagner's vote totals in his first four years were stuck in the teens. Last year, his sixth on the ballot, he earned 46.4% of the vote. His 187 ERA+ (fifth all-time among relievers) and 422 saves (sixth all-time) have him on track to becoming the first left-handed closer enshrined in Cooperstown. Joe Nathan's ERA, WAR, and save totals compare favorably to Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. Papelbon is tenth all-time in saves, made six All-Star teams, and closed out the 2007 World Series for the Red Sox.
First Basemen: Todd Helton, David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira, Justin Morneau, Prince Fielder,
That's a lot of star power at one position. Howard hit more home runs than all but twenty first basemen. However his 14.7 WAR ranks 30th out of the 30 players on this ballot. Fielder had better on-base and WAR numbers than Howard but still falls far short of Hall standards. Morneau has an MVP award and a slightly higher WAR than Fielder, but fewer base hits. Teixeira was the best defensive first baseman of the bunch, and his 409 home runs are a higher total than every non-DH in this group.
"Big Papi" ranks 17th all-time in home runs with 541 - five more than Mickey Mantle - and won three World Series with the Red Sox. However he was primarily a DH and tested positive for... something? .. according to the New York Times.
Other infielders: Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Jeff Kent, Jimmy Rollins, Omar Vizquel,+ is the second lowest of any position player on the ballot, ahead of only Omar Viqzuel. With 11 Gold Gloves and more career hits than any eligible non-HOFer not connected to PEDs, Vizquel's candidacy is unique - and it may have already peaked at 52.6% of the vote in 2020.
Rollins and Kent have nearly the same amount of hits in nearly the same amount of games. Both middle infielders have earned NL MVP honors. Kent is the all-time leader in home runs by a second baseman. Rollins stole 470 bases and was a far superior fielder. Rolen won eight Gold Gloves at third base, and his 70.1 WAR is the highest total of any player on this ballot who doesn't trigger the "character clause".
A-Rod has more positive PED tests and suspensions than Bonds and Clemens combined - which leads me to believe his vote totals will be lower than theirs (at least this year.) If one gets in, they'll all get in. Then the question becomes: what about Manny Ramirez? Rafael Palmeiro? Sammy Sosa? Mark McGwire? It's a Pandora's Box for sure - and one that may arguably open if David Ortiz is elected. Or, if you believe Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and/or Ivan Rodrguez cheated, it already has.
I've always been strictly against rewarding cheaters. However I wasn't convinced that Piazza, Bagwell, or Pudge were in that class. I'm not convinced Ortiz is, either. Not because I'm a biased Red Sox fan (there's no denying Manny popped PEDs) but because the commissioner himself cleared Papi.
Outfielders: Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Abreu, Sammy Sosa, Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford
Carl Crawford led the league in stolen bases four times and swiped more bags than anybody on this ballot except Barry Bonds. He also started a record label that produced Megan Thee Stallion, so you can thank/blame him for that. Remember what I said about Billy Pierce? It doesn't work for Torii Hunter, whose Yankee comparable Bernie Williams earned the same percentage of Hall votes. Bobby Abreu is the Rick Reuschel of position players - an 'advanced stats' stud with a high WAR who doesn't quite fit the "fame" criteria of the Hall.
Sosa and Sheffield are strongly linked to PEDs. Sheffield got more than twice as many votes as Sosa last year because he was a better pure hitter. Both players quit on their team at one point in their careers, and both were mediocre fielders at best. "Slammin Sammy" slammed a hundred more homers than Sheff. Sheff walked 500 more times than Sammy. Manny Ramirez was a better hitter than both of them. Barry Bonds was a far better hitter than Sosa, significantly better than Sheffield, Ramirez, and nearly every other player you can think of - roids or not.
And then there's Andruw Jones, who produced like a first-ballot Hall of Fame lock in his twenties. Once he turned 30, he suddenly devolved into a lumbering part-time DH with zero speed or defensive value. And he still amassed 62.7 career WAR, the second highest total of any non-cheater on the ballot. I have two questions regarding Jones: can you put a guy in the Hall for half a legendary career? And if we're inducting Braves center fielders with 400 home runs and a mediocre batting average.. does that mean Dale Murphy deserves a plaque in Cooperstown?
BBWAA members can vote for up to ten of these thirty players. I would vote for four:
Who gets your vote for the Hall of Fame, on the BBWAA ballot or the
Veterans Eras Committee?
Thanks for reading!