My 2014 Hall of Fame ballot

Jonathan Daniel

I have no interest in joining the BBWAA, least of all for their Hall of Fame balloting, which includes one voter who sold their ballot to Deadspin, and also Murray Chass, who appears to vote purely to annoy Rob Neyer. But it's still fun to consider who you might vote for, and that's what the SnakePit did yesterday. The results were pretty interesting, and I look forward to seeing how they compare to the actual results later this week - right now, indications are three of the four we elected (Maddux, Glavine and Thomas) will get in, along with Biggio. But as "that guy," who only had three names on his ballot, I wanted to explain my thought process a bit more.

Guess my main philosophy is, past errors don't need to be compounded, Last week, Neyer wrote about, "The vast legion of voters who simply [refuse] to make a meaningful distinction between the steroids of the 1990s and the amphetamines of the 1970s and '80s (and '90s). Frankly, I cannot take the steroids argument seriously until someone does make that meaningful distinction." Actually, it's pretty simple. Just because previous electoral colleges voted in players who popped greenies like they were M&Ms, doesn't mean we have to honor cheaters too. There wasn't an African-American elected for the first 25 years of voting either: these days, we simply know better.

BBWAA members in that early time either weren't aware of or didn't care about amphetamine use: which, isn't particularly significant.  But now, absolutely no-one can claim the former. And given the Hal of Fame rules specifically state that the factors for selection should include "integrity, sportsmanship, character," I can't reconcile PED use with any of those aspects. While Barry Bonds may have been the second-greatest hitter in the history of the game, the apparent complete lack of those three aspects, when he was at his (chemically-enhanced) peak, combine to cross him off my ballot in perpetuity.

As far the standard of play required, iIt makes sense to compare a player to those who have been elected at the same position previously. However, that average includes some electees who, frankly, should never have got in, and almost certainly wouldn't in the present era. The likes of Rube Marquard (203-177, 103 ERA+), whom Bill James has called "probably the worst starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame," or outfielder Tommy McCarthy (102 OPS+), help dilute the talent pool. I don't want to decrease the overall quality any lower, so I tend to look for players that are better than most of those already enshrined.

I found shoe's Fanpost particularly helpful in this regard, allowing me to eliminate a good number of players who either weren't good enough, or weren't good enough long enough, to merit significant further consideration. However, there did seem to be a surprisingly-large band of players with performance or around the HoF standard for their position, worthy of some additional consideration. Ten, in fact, came in between +5% and -6% from the Cooperstown average. Most weren't quite enough to get me to pull the trigger, but I'm happy to listen to arguments for or against them over the coming years.

That's another important point: there's no rush. Cooperstown doesn't distinguish between players selected unanimously on a first ballot, and those who scrape in on their 15th year with the bare minimum of votes. However, once a player is in, they can't be removed if we discover they were a bad choice. That's largely why I'm conservative, and err on the side of caution. Player evaluation has evolved a hell of a lot in the past 15 years, and likely will do so further (particularly, I predict, in the area of defense). These future insights will help us come to a better appreciation of players abilities and assess their Hall of Fame credentials more accurately, especially in borderline cases.

Trammell is one such borderline case, and the discussion over the decade-plus he has been on the ballot, has convinced me enough of his merits that I'm finally willing to commit. There are 16 Hall of Fame shortstops with less WAR than him, compared to only seven with more, so he would seem to be in the upper tier there, and is a case where the increasing awareness of, and ability to measure, defensive skill, have enhanced his credentials over the years. I can see why some voters - indeed, easily the majority in the past - haven't supported him, but I think he'll get in eventually, albeit more likely via the Veteran's Committee.

Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell are two names often linked, more or less tenuously, to PEDs, and are cases where waiting makes sense, to see what (if anything) comes out of the woodwork. Bagwell's stats show a sustained late power spike that seems suspicious - and ended exactly when random steroid testing was introduced in spring 2004 (his ISO dropping almost 50 points, from .246 to .199 that year). While there's no more than that for now, it seems good enough for caution. Piazza admitted to using androstenedione, Mark McGwire's favorite, earlier this year, so I'm also throwing up an amber light on his ballot.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens... No. Just... no. And on the other side, Greg Maddux's credentials are so good, they don't really need any further explanation. I did consider not voting for Frank Thomas, on the basis of him having been a DH for the majority of his career, with less than six seasons' worth of starts in the field. But on further analysis, even discounting the later portion of his career, he was arguably the best hitter in baseball over the eight-year period when he was mostly a first baseman, from 1990-1997. He was a double-MVP winner, with a further couple of finishes in the top three. Yeah, I'll forgive him for playing in the American League.

That's my opinion. Yours may be entirely different. And you know what? I'm perfectly fine with that. Have a philosophy, be open to new evidence and tolerant of others' views. Seems like a good idea to me on this topic.

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