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Hall of Fame Musings

Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports


Having reached the age where I can remember the entirety of the career of almost everyone on the ballot, I think I have a more informed opinion than I used to.

I fall into an interesting middle ground. I am neither a small Hall nor a big Hall person. I tend to focus on the "Fame" part more than most people do. Give the people what they want. At the same time, fame in itself isn't enough. I think you should have been among the best at your position for several years, at least, to be considered.

Regarding the DH, it is still (last time I checked) only half of a position. That doesn't mean that no DH belongs in the Hall, but it does mean that a player who was almost exclusively a DH should be held to a higher standard than a player who put up equivalent batting statistics and also provided value with a glove.

Regarding performance enhancing drugs, I want to compare players against their eras. If almost everyone was juicing and a certain player was still the best, I'm willing to bet he's the best.

Bobby Abreu

Somehow, Abreu never finished in the top-ten of MVP voting, was named to only two All Star teams, and won just a single Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. If there's a player who was negatively impacted by the steroid era, Abreu might be the guy. During his natural prime (ages 24-30) he was worth 41.6 bWAR; over the rest of his career he was an average player. Still, he spent seven seasons among the best at his position, and his career numbers are nearly identical to Vladimir Guerrero. Yet while Vladdy is in the Hall, Abreu is on the cusp of falling off the ballot. While I'm unsold on his credentials, he certainly deserves a longer look. Vote: Yes.

Barry Bonds

Look, fair or not, the guy holds the home run record. In 2007 at the age of 42, he posted a .480 OBP. The closest anyone has come to that figure in a full season since is Chipper Jones, with his .470 OBP in 2008. Only Juan Soto in 2020 managed to surpass it.

I don't like Bonds. I never have. But to ignore the fact that he was certainly the greatest player of the steroid era is ridiculous, and I believe in acknowledging that the steroid era existed. Plus, there's a fan and media favorite on the ballot with a positive test, so voting for that player and not Bonds would be kind of ridiculous. Vote:Yes.

Mark Buehrle

Buehrle was a solid pitcher for a long time, playing mostly in hitters parks. He was probably better than most people remember, but he would never have been considered one of the top-five, if even one of the top-ten, starting pitchers in baseball at any point during his career. Vote: No.

Roger Clemens

Basically the argument here is the same as the argument for Bonds. First to strike out 20 in a game, and only to do it twice. One of only nine players in history to win over 350 games. One of only four people in history to strike out 4,000. Vote: Yes.

Todd Helton

Here's another tough one for me. I generally liked Helton more than most throughout his career. He played his whole career with one team, and I do think that means something. JAWS has him right about average for a Hall of Fame first baseman. I think he's solidly "Hall of Pretty Good" but I would probably vote for him with a less crowded ballot. But I don't think he's at risk of falling off the ballot this year, so Vote: No.

Tim Hudson

Do I think he belongs in the Hall? No. Do I think he is good enough to merit a closer look with a less crowded ballot? Yes. Unfortunately, the ballot is absolutely crowded, with fifteen players I could justify voting for. Vote: No.

Torii Hunter

He was a great defensive center fielder at a time when defense just wasn't valued as much as it is now. He won nine gold gloves and two silver sluggers. He was a five time All Star and robbed Barry Bonds of a home run in the 2002 game.

He's also well below the average Hall of Famer at his position, wasn't much above-average with the bat, and doesn't hit any of the counting stats. He never hit .300 until a late-career burst. Vote: No.

Andruw Jones

Jones is the picture of a player who was the best at his position and then fell off, abruptly. For a decade, he was incredible. Then he turned 30 and disappeared. But here's the thing: if he'd suffered a devastating injury and been forced to retire after 2006, he'd have been in the Hall of Fame almost a decade ago. By that standard, I think he should be there now. Vote: Yes.

Jeff Kent

I'm very much on the fence with regards to Kent. While I don't think there's definite proof regarding PED usage, his aging curve is suspicious. At the same time, he was certainly among the top second basemen in baseball for a period of years. He's below-average when it comes to second basemen in the Hall, but the list of second basemen who have won an MVP and not been elected is small: Kent, Dustin Pedroia and Jose Altuve (neither of whom has ever appeared on the ballot) and Larry Doyle, who played in the dead ball era. I think it likely that Pedroia and Altuve will both get there eventually. Kent is also in his ninth year of eligibility, so I think there's some need here for him to get votes if he's to ever make it in. Vote: Yes.

Tim Lincecum

Maybe he'd get some votes if Paul Goldschmidt hadn't completely owned him. Next!

Joe Nathan

Nathan is firmly in the class of players for whom simply being on the ballot should be recognized as an accomplishment, much like LaTroy Hawkins last year. He'll likely get a vote from someone, but wouldn't get one from me.

David Ortiz

And here is the first controversial opinion in my book. As I mentioned above, I can make a case for fifteen players on the ballot. Ortiz is in that group. With Edgar Martinez joining the Hall, the door for the top designated hitters is open, and Ortiz is certainly on that list. He hit 500 home runs, he's a World Series MVP and 10 time All Star. He'll get into the Hall. But there are multiple people in their last year on the ballot or in danger of dropping off that need the votes, so I don't think he'll go in this year. Vote: No

Jonathan Papelbon

Choking your teammates isn't the path to the Hall. Vote: No.

Andy Pettitte

How is a confirmed PED user who never won a Cy Young Award not only still on the ballot, but increasing in support? Rafael Palmeiro fell off it abruptly, despite having a career that was extremely notable from a statistical standpoint. Obviously, this is Yankee and postseason bias at work. There are multiple pitchers with better JAWS scores on the ballot this year who won't get another shot. Pettitte probably will. His JAWS score also trails Tommy John, Orel Hershiser, Kevin Appier, and Chuck Finley and is only one spot ahead of Frank Tanana. Vote: No.

Manny Ramirez

Here's another confirmed PED user. But he's also a career .300 hitter with over 500 home runs, a 12 time All Star, and was one of the best hitters in baseball, regardless of position, for a long time. He also had postseason success. Vote: Yes.

Alex Rodriguez

Another media darling who is a confirmed PED user, but also happened to be the best at his position for a long time. When he is elected, which I think will happen, the hypocrisy of the voters keeping Bonds and Clemens out will be clearly evident. They all should be in, in my opinion, as they were as much products of their era as anything else. But Rodriguez is in no danger of falling off the ballot this year, and I have no problem with making him wait, as the voters seem certain to do. Vote: No.

Scott Rolen

Third base is an under-represented position in the Hall, with only 15 elected, and that's counting players like Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez, even though they reached the Hall because of their time spent as DH. There are two players in the top-ten of JAWS scores at third base not in the Hall, and Beltre is certain to make it. Rolen is the other. He's in his fifth year on the ballot. Hopefully he will eventually get there, as there are even more quality third basemen in the major leagues now who will muddy the waters in the coming years, such as Nolen Arenado, Evan Longoria, Josh Donaldson, and Justin Turner. Vote: Yes.

Jimmy Rollins

Rollins will get a bit of support, largely from the people who have supported Omar Vizquel's candidacy to this point. But he was a below-average bat who was decent, but not great, in the field. He was a key part of a Phillies team that won two pennants and a World Series. He may need a closer look, and in a year with a less-crowded ballot would deserve some votes to stay on the ballot and get that closer look, but this is not such a year. Vote: No.

Curt Schilling

Look, I don't like his politics. I don't like his attitude. I'm also concerned for his health (physically and mentally). If he is elected (which he won't be) he probably wouldn't even show up to the ceremony, and everyone might breathe a sigh of relief if he didn't. He specifically requested that voters not vote for him. Schilling only missed by 16 votes last year and likely would have made it this year without that publicity stunt, but he's already lost four votes out of 27 ballots made public so far.

But he's a Hall of Famer. By JAWS, he ranks 21st all time, with only Roger Clemens ahead of him and not elected. Both are in their final year this year, and both will probably eventually get in when a steroid era committee elects them. That would be a shame if Schilling, who has been extremely vocal about not using, was sullied by affiliation with such a committee, but politics can be a cancer, regardless of your political views. Vote: Yes.

Gary Sheffield

Another probable user. Also one of the most feared batters of his era, with a unique stance and mannerisms. He hit 500 home runs. But here's an interesting list: Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Cabrera. Those are the six players with more True Total Bases (total bases including walks, times reached on error, and times hit by pitch) than Sheffield who are not in the Hall of Fame. I anticipate that they will all eventually get in (posthumously in the case of Rose.) Simply put, Sheffield has been underrated for a variety of reasons. Vote: Yes.

Sammy Sosa

We all know why Sosa isn't in the Hall. But come on. PED use or not, he hit sixty home runs more times than anyone else in the history of the sport, and somehow never led the league in any of those seasons. Over a five year period from 1998-2002 he hit 292 home runs. Yes, he was always an adventure defensively, struck out a bunch, and didn't draw as many walks as should have been expected for a player with his power. But the fact his, he was more consistently powerful than many of his PED-era peers, and was a fan favorite in Chicago for a long time, helping to restore the Cubs to relevance (and almost to a pennant in 2003.) He belongs in the Hall, and this is his final year on the ballot. Vote: Yes.

Mark Teixeira

Perhaps this is unfair, as his numbers (when defense is included) do compare in a lot of ways to Ortiz and he actually played the field for most of his career, winning four gold gloves. But he was also a left handed bat who played in two extremely friendly parks and barely reached 400 home runs. With a less crowded ballot, maybe I feel differently about him. Vote: No.

Omar Vizquel

He's now in his fifth year on the ballot and looked like a lock to get in, as part of an overreaction to the PED use rampant among the better shortstops of his era. Simply put, Vizquel was a great defender. One of the best. But you'd be hard-pressed to argue that he was ever among the top-five shortstops of his era. I never really felt he belonged in the Hall, and the recent allegations that have come to light have certainly ended his candidacy. Vote: No.

Billy Wagner

He's hung around on the ballot, and was certainly a top closer for a while. But I class closers with designated hitters as positions that need to be absolutely incredible to get in, especially since they only have 3-4 plate appearances or batters faced in a game. For me, Wagner doesn't quite qualify. Vote: No.