Ballots for Hall of Fame voters are due today. While I am a member of the BBWAA, I have not been in the organization for the requisite 10 years, so I do not have a vote for the Hall of Fame. But I still have opinions, and so, here is my hypothetical 2014 ballot. If you’re interested, here is my ballot from last year, where I voted for Bagwell, Piazza, Schilling, Biggio, Raines, Walker, Martinez, Bonds, Clemens, and Trammell. Because of the 10 vote limit, several of those players are getting bumped this year; hopefully the BBWAA does away with the arbitrary limitation and lets people vote for whoever they believe is worthy of enshrinement in the future.
On to my 2014 picks, listed in order from strongest to weakest candidate. For players who are holdovers from last year’s ballot, I just copied and pasted what I wrote a year ago.
1. Greg Maddux, SP, +114 WAR, +123 RA9-WAR
There is no argument for keeping Greg Maddux out of the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t exist. He is inarguably one of the 10 greatest pitchers of all time, and is probably in the top 5. He dominated during the period in which offensive levels were at all-time highs, combining both a high peak and sustained longevity. No player has ever gotten unanimous support for the Hall, and Maddux won’t either, but any ballot that doesn’t include his name might as well be discarded as a vote from someone who doesn’t care about the process. This is the easiest Hall of Fame selection in recent history.
2. Jeff Bagwell, 1B, +80 WAR
Bagwell’s a top 10 first baseman, and regardless of what kind of suspicions you might have about his physique, there’s no evidence that Bagwell used PEDs, and keeping one of the great players in the history of the sport out of Cooperstown because he was too muscular is the height of silliness. Even if we’re not bound to “innocent until proven guilty”, we should at least put the burden of proof on the person making the assertion. Presuming that Bagwell used PEDs because he played in the 1990s and had big biceps simply shouldn’t be good enough for anyone. It’s a stain on the entire process that Bagwell has not yet been elected, and the Hall of Fame loses credibility every year that goes by without him as a member.
3. Frank Thomas, 1B/DH, +72 WAR
Right now, we have Miguel Cabrera. 20 years ago, we had Frank Thomas. From 1990 to 1997, the lowest wRC+ he posted in any single season was 168. His offensive peak is one of the highest we’ve ever seen, and Thomas is in the conversation for best right-handed hitter of all time. He wasn’t a great defender or a great baserunner and he got injured a lot in his 30s, but we’re still talking about 10,000 plate appearances and a .301/.419/.555 slash line. A hitter like this belongs in Cooperstown.
4. Mike Piazza, C, +67 WAR
Ditto everything I said about Bagwell. I don’t know if Piazza used PEDs or not. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. There’s no evidence that he did, and we shouldn’t be keeping clear Hall-of-Famers out of Cooprstown because of the possibility that they used steroids. Even if you believe that guys who used steroids don’t belong in Cooperstown — I don’t, but for sake of argument, go with me here — you have to weigh the benefits of preserving that kind of standard against the cost of keeping a deserving player out because of a false accusation. I’d rather induct both an unknown PED user and a guy who never touched steroids than keep both out, assuming they’re both deserving from an on-field perspective. To me, rejecting a worthy player because we falsely believe they did something they did not do is worse than accepting a guy who used steroids into the Hall of Fame. I’m not advocating for Piazza and Bagwell because I’m naive enough to think that there’s no chance either had chemical assistance — I’m advocating for them because I don’t believe in assailing someone’s reputation without proof.
5. Curt Schilling, SP, +84 WAR, +81 RA9-WAR
I hear Schilling talked about as a borderline player from a performance standpoint, but if you actually look at his career numbers, that’s an impossible case to make. 3,200 innings, prevented runs at a rate of 20 percent better than league average for his career, had an incredible peak from 1997 to 2004, and is one of the best postseason pitchers of all time. There are only 22 pitchers in the history of the game who have thrown 3,000 or more innings and posted an ERA- of 80 or below. He’s one of the very best pitchers of his era, and he’s better than most pitchers already enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
6. Mike Mussina, SP, +82 WAR, +83 RA9-WAR
Mussina’s not going to get elected this year, and probably not any time soon. In fact, there was some concern that he might get pushed off the ballot after one year, following in the footsteps of guys like Kevin Brown and Kenny Lofton. That appears unlikely now, but there’s little question that Mussina is being greatly undervalued by the Hall of Fame voters, as his career track record stacks up with most of the pitchers already enshrined in Cooperstown. He’s 19th all time in FIP-based WAR, and 31st all time in RA9-based WAR, and that’s without accounting for the fact that he spent his career in the hardest division in baseball during his playing days. Whether Mussina felt like an ace or not, he was one, and is one of the best pitchers of all time.
7. Tom Glavine, SP, +64 WAR, +88 RA9-WAR
Glavine is essentially a modern day Jim Palmer, putting up better overall numbers than his peripherals would suggest for almost 20 years. While I’m no big fan of ERA, it is pretty clear that Glavine had a runner stranding skill that evaluations of his BB/K/HR rates will miss out on, and over 4,400 innings, it’s better to give him credit for the runs he prevented than to use an ERA estimator to try and isolate his individual contribution. Glavine might not have ever had a run of dominance like some others, but consistent excellence is also worth rewarding, and Glavine belongs in Cooperstown.
8. Craig Biggio, 2B, +65 WAR
Craig Biggio is Roberto Alomar without the abrupt collapse at the end. Here, look.
A HOF with one and without the other doesn’t make any sense. The voters got it right with Alomar. Now it’s time to get it right with Biggio.
9. Barry Bonds, OF, +164 WAR
I don’t think PED use should be an automatic disqualifier from Hall of Fame consideration. The sport’s history is filled with terrible people who did a lot of lousy (and illegal) things, and if we threw out every player who used drugs or abused their bodies, we’d have a Hall of Fame that could fit inside a pick-up truck. I also don’t think that PED use should just be glossed over or ignored, and when we have evidence that a player used steroids, it should factor into our decision over whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I’m sympathetic to the idea that we don’t want to reward cheating. This isn’t such a cut-and-dried issue for me as it seems to be for others, on both sides. But, at the end of the day, Bonds had one of the five best careers of all time. No matter how much of a penalty you want to apply for the character clause, it doesn’t overcome what he did on the field. He’s an integral part of the game’s history, and he belongs in its most famous museum.
10. Roger Clemens, SP, +140 WAR, +142 RA9-WAR
The Barry Bonds of pitching. Everything I said about Bonds applies here too. He was simply too great of a pitcher to keep out of the Hall of Fame.
If the ballot did not contain a 10 player limit, I would also cast my vote for Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, and Larry Walker. But, for this year, these are my 10. Let’s hope several of them get in, or else we’ll be in for an even bigger headache next year.
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