Steve Finley, still looking smooth... - Christian Petersen
The debate that has been bubbling under the surface of the Hall of Fame balloting for the past couple of years finally reaches boiling point this year, as we reach those whose final season in the majors was 2007. That includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa - but also a good crop of players with Diamondbacks links.
There's 37 names on the full ballot: 13 reached the voting threshold needed last year, to be re-listed (along with inductee Barry Larkin), and 24 new names with the necessary five years of major-league inactivity have been added to the selection. Leading the returnees is Jack Morris, named on two-thirds of the ballots, so we'll see if he gets closer to the 75% needed to reach Cooperstown. Others who received more than 40% last time were Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith and Tim Raines. Let's take a look at the newcomers who pulled on a Diamondbacks jersey, even if it was only for a fraction of their career in some cases.
Jeff Cirillo: bWAR 32.0, AZ bWAR 0.2
Cirillo finished a long career with the D-backs, after we picked him off waivers from the Twins in 2007 - he played 28 games for us down the stretch and went 2-for-6 in the postseason. Those were his only playoff appearances at the end of his 14th and final season, mostly spent with the Brewers, but also with four other times. Given he only had 50 PAs with the Diamondbacks, including the playoffs, you've probably forgotten Cirillo. Perhaps his most memorable moment was pitching a shutout inning - are you watching, Mark Grace? - as he finished out a 9-0 blowout at the hands of the Brewers. HOF potential: one and done.
Royce Clayton: bWAR 16.4, AZ bWAR -0.1
We're dealing with someone who has little more than longevity to offer, in a career which covered 17 seasons and over 2,100 games in the majors, enough to put Clayton 176th on the all-time list. In the modern era, only three men - Bill Russell, Jose Vizcaino and Luke Sewell - managed to have more years without producing a 100 OPS+ season. Clayton's best was 98 for Texas in 1999, but he did make the All-Star game in 1997 while with the Cardinals. He played in one campaign for the Diamondbacks, in 2005, and was our everyday shortstop, starting 131 games, with a 74 OPS+. Not the lowest WAR on this year's ballot though: that'd be Todd Walker's 8.3. HOF potential: zero votes.
Steve Finley: bWAR 40.4, AZ bWAR 17.0
That's more WAR than Jack Morris, incidentally. Finley still sits second in career bWAR by a Diamondback, trailing only Luis Gonzalez (who'll likely be on next year's ballot), and in the same spot for OPS, putting up an .851 over parts of six seasons with Arizona. Not bad for a center-fielder, especially one with Gold Glove-caliber defense; he won five overall, one and a half with the D-backs (one was for a year in which he was traded mid-season to the Dodgers). A two-time All-Star, being the Arizona representative in 1999, and was named on MVP ballots in three years, reaching a high of 10th place in 1996. HOF potential: gets votes, but might struggle to reach 5% and be re-listed.
Shawn Green: bWAR 31.4, AZ bWAR -0.2
Green made the top ten in MVP voting three times; Cirillo never received a single point. But it's interesting that over their entire career, Cirillo put up more WAR, and in over 1,800 PAs less. No doubt that at his peak, Green was superior - from 1999-2002, while with Toronto and Los Angeles, he put up 22.2 WAR. But outside of that? Pretty weak sauce. His first five seasons tallied a total of 2.2 WAR, and his last five, which included some seriously underwhelming and overpaid time in Arizona, only 3.3. He may get a boost from being one of the very few players with a four home-run game, but I wouldn't vote for him. HOF potential: sees some token love, isn't back for 2013.
Reggie Sanders: bWAR 36.7, AZ bWAR 3.1
Only had one season with the Diamondbacks, but if you're going to have one, it might as well be the one where we win the World Series. And Sanders was an integral part of that process, hitting 33 home-runs in the regular season, a career high, then 7-for-23 in the World Series [though he was left on the bench for Game 7] This was a career of steady, rather than spectacular production: only once in a 17-year career did Reggie reach four WAR,. in his 1995 season with Cincinnati, which also saw him receive his only All-Star and MVP nods. That kind of thing tends not to impress the BBWAA electorate very much. HOF potential: no votes.
Curt Schilling: bWAR 76.9, AZ bWAR 19.8
Curt's bloody sock is already enshrined in Cooperstown - will the rest of him join it? His numbers are certainly comparable - the average Hall of Fame pitcher has 67.9 career WAR, and Schlling's best years are there or thereabout to. That he didn't win a Cy Young is largely down to him pitching at the same time as Randy Johnson. He finished runner-up three times, but managed only a total of two first-place votes. However, the undeniably abrasive Schilling may have rubbed too many people the wrong way to get in on his rookie attempt, though I'd guess he might make it eventually. The question is, which cap would he wear? HOF potential: not this time, but he'll be back.
The 'Roid Boys
The topic of performance enhancing drugs and the Hall has been discussed before, in particular with regard to the candidacy of Mark McGwire. He makes his seventh appearance on the ballot, but has yet even to reach one-quarter of the vote, never mind the three-quarters needed for induction. Two candidates this year take the topic to a whole other level, to an extent that has already led to claims - and they may not be entirely hyperbole - that this year's list is "The most controversial ballot in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame."
Let's put PEDs aside for this paragraph. With a 58.7 WAR, McGwire's credentials are debatable - the average 1B in Cooperstown has 62.3 WAR, so he'd be no lock for inclusion, even if he was as pure as snow. But in Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, at 158.1 and 133.1 WAR respectively, you have sure-fire, no doubt, first ballot entrants. All time, those numbers mean that Bonds trails only Babe Ruth among position players, and Clemens just Cy Young and Walter Johnson among pitchers. Under other circumstances, the class of 2013 would be one of the finest ever.
But it's not all about performance. Here's the instructions to voters, per the BBWAA:
Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
Put bluntly, voters will have to decide whether Bonds' and Clemens' issues with integrity, sportsmanship and character are perceived as outweighing their undeniable qualities in the areas of record, playing ability and contributions to their teams. While there is no "smoking syringe" in regard to either man, there is strong circumstantial evidence for both - not least that, as measured by OPS and ERA respectively, the two had the best seasons of their careers at ages 39 and 42, in defiance of normal aging [As a yardstick, Ruth and Walter Johnson both had their best years, by the same measures, at age 25].
Of course, there are arguments for their inclusion, too. There are some real bastards present in the Hall of Fame, so it's hard to proclaim Cooperstown as a bastion of virtue. And given the now widely-admitted rate at which players from earlier eras popped amphetamines - likely even higher than the steroid abuse around the turn of the millennium - it's basically certain that some major users of PEDs are already enshrined there too. But the counter argument is that previous mistakes do not condone future ones, and it's also often pointed out that a player has up to 15 years to be voted in - but once in, they can't be voted out, regardless of what revelations come out.
Votes must be in by the end of December, and the results will be announced on January 9 - live on the MLB Network. It'll certainly be interesting. Who, if anyone, would get your votes?