The list of eligible candidates on the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is probably one of the best, if not the best pool of candidates since the inaugural class was inducted in 1939. This class has everything to offer, from sure fire first ballot Hall of Famers, to steroid era stars, and a guy who is trying to get in on his 15th and final try.
I’ve gone back and examined my mock ballot from last year and I have not changed my mind on any candidate (sorry Craig Biggio), so the write-ups for those candidates will not change much, if at all. Now, there is a limit (for some reason) on the number of candidates you can select, as no more than 10 can be picked. In order to be elected, a candidate must be selected on 75% of the eligible Baseball Writers of America ballots. After looking at the numbers and reflecting on some personal memory, I’ve actually composed a ballot of 9 candidates. As always, we’ll get things started with the new candidates.
First-Time Eligible Players
Maddux could be the guy who is listed on the most ballots of all time.
Not really much to debate on this one. 355 wins, 4 Cy Young Awards, 18 Gold Gloves, Greg Maddux will go down as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the sport. The only question is what idiot leaves Maddux off the ballot, but of course, we have those who NEVER vote a guy on their first try, no matter who the hell they are. His best years were undoubtedly with the Atlanta Braves, where Maddux won 3 of his 4 Cy Young Awards. In fact, Maddux won his Cy Young Awards in consecutive years, starting with the Cubs in 1992 and concluding the run in 1995, when he went an outstanding 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA, in which he won his only World Series championship.
The one knock on Maddux might be his postseason performance. Over 13 years, Maddux went just 11-14 and his teams greatly underachieved in the postseason, winning that aforementioned 1995 World Series in a strike-shortened season. That being said, it’s not a huge knock, and surely not a reason to deny Maddux Hall of Fame entry.
It would be hard to imagine Greg Maddux not going into the Hall of Fame without Tom Glavine at his side; however, Glavine is no sure lock to get into Cooperstown in year 1. At some point, Glavine will enter the Hall of Fame; however, it may take awhile for the eggheads of the BBWA to figure that out. Glavine was Mr. reliable, as he rarely missed a start and 6 times he led the league in Games Started. Over 22 years, Glavine won 305 games , 2 Cy Young Awards, 20 games on 5 separate occasions from 1991-2000 and finished in the top 5 of the Cy Young award balloting 6 times. He also won the 1995 World Series MVP as he went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA against Cleveland, including his 8 shutout inning performance in the clinching game 6.
Glavine was the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series clinching victory
His finest years were certainly with the Braves and his time with the Mets at the end of his career was not that impressive, as his loss totals and ERA rose from his days in Atlanta. Much like his long-time teammate in Greg Maddux, he did not enjoy much postseason success as he went just 14-16 over a 12 year period, culminating with that 1995 World Series championship.
Out of all the things that impresses me the most about “The Big Hurt” Frank Thomas is not his 521 home runs, near 2500 hits, or back-to-back MVP’s, but his outstanding LIFETIME .419 On-Base Percentage!! That’s right…Frank Thomas was on base nearly 42% of the time he came to the plate in his career. His single-season number peaked in 1994 when he had an iconic .487 OBP to go along with his .353 BA that year. Thomas slugged 40 or more home runs five times in his career and finished in the top 5 of the MVP balloting 6 times, including a 4th place finish in 2006, when he resurrected his career with the Oakland Athletics.
Not a lot of right handed batters were more feared than The Big Hurt
Unfortunately for Thomas, his ending with the White Sox did not go well, as he had an injury riddled 2005 season in which he saw no postseason action for the White Sox as they won the World Series. Thomas would go on to put up stellar numbers for a guy his age in 2006 and 2007 before wrapping up in career with Oakland in 2008. There are no known connections to Thomas with steroid abuse, and if you go with my Bagwell argument, his numbers look normal, given that guys accused of steroids were hitting 50, 60, or even 70 home runs in a given season. Look, I could go on and on about the guy’s numbers, but I don’t need to. Outside of Albert Pujols, Thomas might be the greatest right-hand hitter I have ever seen, and I can’t wait to see him give his speech on induction day.
Mike Piazza is undoubtedly linked to the steroid era; however, he was never named in the Mitchell report and he is nowhere near the accusation level labeled to first time ballot nominees Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa. Much like Jeff Bagwell, I’m not going to use the entire steroid era against him. Piazza is a logical choice if you never connect him to steroids. No catcher has hit more home runs (429) than Mike Piazza.
Mike Piazza started with the Dodgers but will likely go into the Hall of Fame as a New York Met
He was the 1993 NL Rookie of the year, 12 time all-star, and finished in the top 5 of MVP voting four times, finishing 2nd on two separate occasions, including 1995, when noted steroid user Ken Caminiti won the award. His defining moment as a player occurred at the first Mets home game following the 9/11 Terrorist attacks, when he hit a two run homer in the eighth inning to center field to give the Mets a 3-2 lead, in a game they would ultimately win. Roger Clemens may have won the on field battle with Mike Piazza, but Piazza will win the off-field battle as he is enshrined into Cooperstown, while Clemens may have to wait it out….possibly forever. A knock against Piazza is that while he hit .308 in the regular season, he hit just .242 in 5 postseason appearances.
I’ve long been against Jack Morris in the Hall of Fame, and as I sat down to write my piece on Curt Schilling and why he should be in the Hall of Fame, I realized that the same argument I am using to Schilling in the Hall of Fame was the same reason that I was going to keep Jack Morris out. So, on December 24, 2012, I finally decided it was time to put Jack Morris in the Hall of Fame, but more on him later.
With blood soaking through his sock, Schilling through 7 sharp innings against New York in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS
Over the course of 20 years, Curt Schilling won 216 games, struck out over 300 batters in 3 separate occasions, and completed dominated the postseason over a 15 year period, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA. In 133.1 innings pitched, he struck out 120 batters, and most notably, arrived in Boston in 2004 to help deliver the Red Sox their first World Series title since 1918. His most memorable moment by far was pitching Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS on a bad ankle, in pain, while blood was dripping on a sock. He closed out his career by winning a game in the 2007 World Series, his final with The Red Sox and in baseball. He also won a World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, sharing co-MVP honors with Randy Johnson (another sure lock first ballot hall of famer). While he was not the most dominant regular season starting pitcher of his ERA, there was nobody you wanted on the mound, especially in the latter part of his career, in the playoffs starting a game other than Curt Schilling.
Time may be up on Jack Morris. With a loaded ballot in 2014, I was hoping Morris would get that final bump in 2013, but he is still about 8% points away and I’m not sure he’s gonna change that many minds in his final year. As I have mentioned before, what bothers me about Morris is that he had a 3.90 ERA in a dead-ball era. What has changed my tune about Morris is some recent data that was revealed to me. His ERA may have been inflated because Morris often pitched late into games, something that you do not see happening much in this era of baseball. 33% of his starts turned into complete games. 47% of his starts….Jack Morris pitched through the 8th inning. A staggering 68% of games, Jack Morris made it through the 7th inning.
Jack Morris threw a 10 inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series
In the postseason, Morris pitched just like he did in the regular season. He had a lifetime 3.80 ERA in 13 starts, but five of those starts turned into complete games, including his defining moment in the 1991 World Series, where he threw a 10 inning shutout against the Atlanta Braves. He also had a 3-0 record in the 1984 postseason, including 2 wins in the World Series. He also won 21 games for the Toronto Bluejays in 1992, helping that team win the first of its two World Series titles. No pitcher won more games in the 1980’s than Jack Morris and on try #14, it’s time to give Jack Morris his due. Call me a convert, but I’m now a believer.
As I mentioned previously, I want to analyze Bagwell’s numbers and compare them to his peers, particularly in the amount of home runs Bagwell hit. I took a quick look at Bagwell’s home run numbers for the 9 seasons in which Bagwell hit 30 home runs or more. Bagwell played in at least 147 games (with the exception of 1994) during this span. Bagwell’s home run numbers look normal compared to some of the totals that were being put up between 1996 and 2003. It should be noted that Bagwell never hit 50 home runs (although he may have in 1994) and only passed the 40 home run plateau three times. Bagwell did play a good portion of his career in the homer unfriendly Astrodome, but his numbers did not rise all that much when he moved to Minute Maid Park in 2000. The most staggering thing to me was in 1997, when Bagwell finished 5th in the big leagues in homers, and hit one fewer home run than Tino Martinez (44). I mean, Tino Martinez hit 44 home runs in 1997? If we should speculate if anyone who used steroids, maybe we should look at Tino Martinez.
- 2000: 47 (Sosa, 40) Tie for 3rd
- 1997: 43 (McGwire 58) 5th
- 1999: 42 (McGwire 65) Tie for 10th
- 1994: 39 (Williams 43) 3rd*
- 2001: 39 (Bonds 73, Sosa 64)
- 2003: 39 (A-Rod, Thome 47)
- 1998: 34 (McGwire 70)
- 1996: 31 (McGwire 52)
- 2002: 31 (A-Rod 57)
*Strike-shortened season. On pace for 57 with full 162 game schedule
Jeff Bagwell hit 449 home runs over his 15 year career
To summarize, Bagwell hit .297 with 449 home runs and 1529 RBI’s during his 15 year career. From a moneyball perspective, Bagwell’s most impressive stat might be his career on base percentage of .408, a 111 point bump from his batting average. His career adjusted OPS of 159 sits just behind Hall of Famers such as Nap Lajoie and Honus Wagner, and just in front of HOF players such as Ralph Kiner, Willie McCovey, and Mike Schmidt. He won the MVP in 1994 and finished 2nd and third in MVP voting in 1999 and 1997.
There are some negatives to Jeff Bagwell’s hall of fame numbers. He wasn’t the greatest fielder (1 gold glove in 1994 despite leading the league in ERRORS at his position), and was only top 5 in range factor at his position in 8 of his 15 seasons. He also only hit .226 in 33 postseason games with only 2 home runs and 13 RBI’s. But in the end, as I pointed out at the beginning, Bagwell’s numbers to me look…well…normal and Bagwell deserves a place in Cooperstown this coming July.
If you think Tim Raines played forever, it’s because he did. This is only Raines 5th year on the ballot as he played 23 seasons from 1977-2002. He enjoyed two nice bumps in voting, going to 30.4% in 2010 and 37.5% in 2011. Andre Dawson campaigned for Raines’ candidacy along with Lee Smith (discussed below). Given that Raines still has a lot of time left on the ballot, it is possible he may get voted in some day. Raines was a decent hitter during most of his career (.294/.385/.425), collecting 2605 hits and belting 170 home runs and driving in 980 rbi’s. Raines is most known for his ability to steal bases, as he stole at least 70 bases six straight years from 1981-1986.
Raines was a full-time player up until 1996 before moving to a bench role from 1996-2002. The thing that maybe hurting Raines is that he might have hung around too long, diluting his statistics. I am not going to hold that against the man they call “Rock”, so let’s take a look at what Raines did on average from 1981-1995.
2032 Games, 7746 AB, 2194 hits, 1128 walks, 770 stolen bases, .283 batting average
Tim Raines ranks 5th all time in stolen bases with 808
Raines had 808 lifetime stolen bases, which is good for 5th all time on the MLB stolen bases list. 95% of those steals came within that 15 year period. You know what, that is one heck of a 15 year career. Stolen bases and the ability to get on base is a big part of this game. And his Hall of Fame similarity score on baseball-reference.com? Yeah, it is just ahead of Lou Brock
Alan Trammell (Post from 2012)
In his second full year on the ballot, Barry Larkin received 62.1% of the vote, up from the 51.6% he got in his first year in 2010. With a relatively soft ballot this year, many experts believe Larkin will secure at least 75% of the vote and be the only person to join the late Ron Santo on induction day in Cooperstown.
My only beef with Larkin is that Alan Trammell (24.3% in his 10th year in 2011) is nowhere close to being inducted. If you just take a look at the numbers, Larkin and Trammell both had very similar careers
Larkin: 2340 hits, 198 homers, 960 RBIs (.297/.371/.444)
Trammell: 2365 hits, 185 homers, 1003 RBIs (.285/.352/.415)
The similarities do not stop there. Barry Larkin won the MVP in 1995 and Alan Trammell was a close second to George Bell in a 1987 vote. Both players spent their entire career with one team. Larkin with the Reds and Trammell with the Tigers. In 19 seasons, Larkin had a .975 fielding average, Trammell had a .976 fielding average in 20 seasons. Barry Larkin won 3 gold gloves from 1994-1996). Alan Trammell won 4 gold gloves from 1980-1984. Larkin is 26th in career assists at shortstop, Trammell is 28th. I can go on and on and on. But my point is simple, if you are going to elect Barry Larkin, you have to elect Alan Trammell.
CLOSE BUT NOT QUITE ENOUGH
OK…..let’s take a look at the career statistics for two pitchers:
Pitcher #1: 305-203, 3.54 ERA, 4413.1 IP, 2607 K’s, 1.314 WHIP (22 years)
Pitcher #2: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 3562.2 IP, 2813 K’s, 1.192 WHIP (18 years)
Pitcher #1 is Tom Glavine, who I reviewed earlier. Pitcher #2 is Mike Mussina. More than likely, Tom Glavine is going into the Hall of Fame this year. More than likely, Mike Mussina will not be joining him. I cannot help but wonder if Mussina would have hung around a couple more years if he could have bolstered his case. He retired in 2008 after a year in which he won 20 games and finished 6th in the Cy Young Award voting. In fact, Mussina finished 4th, 5th, or 6th a total of 5 times and had a 2nd place finish in 1999 (behind Pedro Martinez). He also won 7 Gold Gloves. Much like Glavine, Mussina was not often injured and made the majority of his starts.
Mussina could become this generation’s Bert Blyleven
One thing that is going to go against Mussina is that he does not really have a career defining moment. If anything, his career paralleled Bert Blyleven. Then again, we’ve seen people like Jack Morris get career defining moments and still not get in. Mussina could never pitch Baltimore to a World Series and he was never considered the ace of the staff when he was with The New York Yankees. He went just 7-8 in the postseason and never won a World Series. And as much as I hate to see it, I never would have gone out of my way to watch Mike Mussina pitch, like I would have Tom Glavine. I don’t want to close the door completely on Mussina for the Hall of Fame, but perhaps I just need more time, and I don’t want to give anyone an entry into the most prestigious class in baseball, without being 100% sure.
Look….I get it. How can I keep a guy out of the Hall of Fame who accumulated 3,000 hits over the course of his career, with one team, without one ounce of suspicion that the player used performance enhancing drugs? How can I keep a guy out who is the all-time doubles leader amongst right-handed batters? Well very easy…..I can.
Let me ask everyone a question. The Hall of Fame is for the best of the best. The players that caused concern every time they stepped out to the plate or stepped onto the mound. The players that made fans say “I have to go to the game to see “insert player here” play. Craig Biggio is none of those guys. I’ve been a baseball fan all my life and quite frankly, I had no desire to ever see Craig Biggio play on TV, much less in person.
Will Biggio become the first non-steroid link player to have 3,000 hits and not make the Hall of Fame on his second try?
Biggio managed to stay healthy over the course of his 20 year career, which allowed him to accumulate 3,060 hits. Only once in that timeframe did he have over 200 hits. In addition, he padded his stats (pun intended) by using that elbow pad of his to step into pitches, get hit, and get on base. Despite the fact that Biggio had decent speed (414 stolen bases), his doubles to triples ratio is quite laughable. In 1999, Biggio had 56 doubles and ZERO triples. He followed that up in 2004 by recording 47 doubles and ZERO triples. Now, I have no video evidence to back this up, but did Biggio kind of slow down as he reached second base in order to pad that doubles stat? I was hoping to turn to the postseason to build a case for Biggio, like I can for Jack Morris and Curt Schilling, but even in the postseason, Biggio had a .234 average over the course of 40 games and disappeared (like the rest of the Astros), in the 2005 World Series.
Bottom line is that I think Biggio is a good player that had a lot of good seasons. But let me ask you this question, if Biggio wound up with 2,960 hits, would you consider him to be a Hall of Fame player? Biggio is going in to the Hall of Fame at some point, it may not be this year. It would mark the first time a 3,000 hit player who was non-eligible (Rose)/non steroid era player (Palmeiro) would not get into the Hall of Fame on their first try. We’ll see what happens on January 9th, but there’s nothing you can say that will make me believe Biggio is a Hall of Fame type player.
This is a tough one here, mainly because outside of Mariano Rivera, I really do not know how to measure the save category when it comes to one’s HOF candidacy. Lee Smith was the lifetime holder of saves at 478 until he was recently passed by Trevor Hoffmann and Mariano Rivera, yet Smith only received 45.3% of eligible votes in 2011 on his 9th try, and even lost support last year. He had a lifetime ERA of 3.03 and struck out 1251 batters in 1289.1 innings pitch. Despite pitching 18 seasons, Lee Smith only pitch in 2 postseasons, and was dismal in those appearances (4 games, 0-2, 8.44 ERA). He pitched for 8 teams over 18 years, although he did spend 8 years with the Cubs. To me, if someone was that valuable, you think he would have hung around in one spot longer.
Lee Smith finally cracked the 50% barrier and got 50.6% of the vote. This is Smith’s 11th time on the ballot, and with the number of big names coming onto the ballot (and a 10 player ballot limit), time may be running out for Lee Smith.
I still don’t know how I feel about a full-time DH for the majority of his career being in the Hall of Fame, but Martinez is in his 4th year, and has not garnered much new support since getting on the ballot. He got 36.2% in year one, 32.9% in year two, 36.5% in year three, and 35.9% in year four. I haven’t seen his name mentioned much lately, so I’m not expecting a big jump for Edgar in year five.
It’s not really worth writing a paragraph, it really isn’t.
From the Baseball Hall of Fame Web site:
5. Voting: 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.
Pardon me while I throw the integrity clause against guys who should be no doubt Hall of Famers, but never will be (Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro)
PREDICTION: Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, and Biggio (barely), get the Hall of Fame call